Lately I’ve been longing for something new, and not just anything new but a change in my circumstances. Once again in the past couple of days when I inquired about how long the wait might be to secure a low income apartment in a senior apartment complex I was told “up to two years.” After all this time (five years now) of searching for an apartment in low income senior apartment complexes, I want to hear a different answer–a “yes” instead of a “wait” or a “no.”
I came across the following two verses in Isaiah 43:18-19 this afternoon as I was contemplating doing another online housing search:
Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I [God] am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The opening verse took me back to ten years ago in April when I lost my job in Houston, and after a massive years-long job search I never found another one. And almost five years ago, I lost my last apartment when the house where it was located was sold and the new owners wanted to use my apartment for their own purposes. Since then, I’ve been living in hotel rooms as my only source for housing due to my low income on Social Security (I started receiving it in mid-2014 when I turned 62) while conducting my low income senior housing search. I never dreamed after losing my last apartment in March 2014 that a housing search would take years, and end up like my years-long job search which produced zilch. It’s almost as if a brick wall has been built in front of me as I haven’t been able to move forward in any direction (jobs, housing) no matter how hard I try.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.”
These past ten years have been some of the toughest years of my entire life. It’s very hard to forget the circumstances around what happened to me back then that caused me to lose a job that I only had for seven months, and it has lead–for reasons still unknown to me to this day–to long term unemployment as I never found another job in my field again. I moved a thousand miles for that job, never dreaming it was going to end a scant seven months later, and I lost a whole lot more then that job when I lost that job, too.
It’s been hard to not be able to get any type of closure on what happened back then, and why it has essentially left me unemployed for the past decade–a full ten years before my normal retirement age. The financial loss alone over these past ten years has been staggering, but even more than that, it affected my lifestyle, and it touched every area of my life.
The major corporation that owned the institute (a college) where I was employed ten years ago (they owned over 100 for-profit colleges and universities nationwide) filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on July 2, 2018 (source here), after several years involving some major lawsuits (click here for just one example from a 2015 lawsuit resulting in a $95.5 million dollar settlement), huge financial losses, and several rounds of layoffs over a five-year period of time starting in 2012 (click here for an example of layoffs in 2016).
Due to the circumstances surrounding that job loss, three months after I was fired I found some physical evidence on my laptop of what had been going on behind my back while I worked there, and I sent that evidence along with a four-page letter to my lawyer who I met with a few days after I was fired in order to have her review the separation agreement I had received. The evidence I found and sent to her six months later was rock solid, yet I never heard back from her. I did receive a certified notice from the Post Office that my letter had been received in her office. From my one meeting with her for an hour regarding my separation agreement six months earlier, she didn’t strike me as the kind of person who would not at least acknowledge receipt of my letter especially in light of the information I provided in that letter.
If I had found another job shortly after losing that job I would have considered that experience to be a “bump in the road” and I would have moved on. I’d still have my career and still be earning a salary, and I would have continued to contribute into my Social Security account and a small retirement account I started in my 40’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t find another job, and the lack of a steady paycheck from the day I was fired was crushing. I stopped counting the number of jobs I applied for when it reach 500 two years later (but I didn’t stop applying for jobs). I was single and self-supporting, and nobody was going to pay my bills but me, but I couldn’t find a job.
So it’s been hard to forget the past, especially looking out of a hotel room window now for over four and a half years that I never dreamed I would be looking out of ten years after I lost that job. Sometimes the things God wants us to forget are really huge and still ongoing and impacting our lives.
However, during this time my faith has grown exponentially in ways I never expected. God has seen me through some incredibly tough stuff I never thought I would encounter and, in some cases, survive on more than one occasion. He has made me strong in areas that were my weakest, but it’s been a long and sometimes arduous journey, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight. And it’s still ongoing.
My story doesn’t look like a typical Christian “success” story of the kind we so often like to hear in America–re: the “rags to riches” stories that happened because we (1) faithfully tithed or (2) “fill in the blank” with the happy kind of stuff we hear in those rags to riches stories. Living in a hotel room for over four and half years on a Social Security income and receiving financial help from my 95-year-old father to pay for it doesn’t look or sound very “successful” to probably most Christians or anyone else living in America today. We tend to have a somewhat warped view of what “success” is supposed to look like as Christians in America. It resembles our culture’s view of success and not God’s view of success.
“Behold, I [God] am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
During these past ten years, God has been showing me many things I was too busy to notice during all those years I worked. I have learned the incredible value of fasting, and I don’t say that to sound “spiritual.” I’m not the type to put on pretenses or play “religious” games. And I’ve learned just how incredibly important even a few words from the Bible can be at just the right time to guide and direct. And when I haven’t known what to pray, the Psalms became my prayer book. I look back over all the stuff I’ve gone through; all the places I’ve traveled by car; and how the little money I had to live on was stretched in ways that sometimes seemed impossible to believe; God has come through for me each and every time in the most amazing ways that only I would recognize. During this time I went through three years and two months between when my last unemployment check arrived ($275/wk) in May 2011 and my first Social Security check began ($1000/mo) in July 2014 with no income at all, and God guided me through it. In fact, there are no words to describe all I have learned about trusting God over these past ten years.
I’ve also learned much about what is going on in our society that I didn’t really notice when I was working. Outside of Christian circles, I’ve been sometimes shocked at how belief in God (as in the God of the Bible) is often seen as a joke by some (not a small number), especially in the younger generations. Since I never married and I didn’t have children, I wasn’t aware of how fast things were changing in our culture especially in the generations starting with the children of Baby Boomers (my generation). Also, when I was working, my friends were mostly Christians, and the Christian community can be very insulating when it comes to noticing what is really going on in our society outside of Christian circles (or in some cases inside of them, too).
Also, over these ten years I’ve acquired many new interests and renewed some older interests, like writing. In fact, I started this blog as a way to record my experience with long term unemployment back in 2010, and it has broaden considerably from that subject over these years. I now have almost 600 blog posts on this blog, and I started a second blog in April 2018 that has almost 50 blog posts on it to date.
I cannot begin to put a dollar value on what I’ve learned and experienced and seen God do first hand in providing for me and guiding me through these past ten years. While I’ve had some considerable material and financial losses from losing that job ten years ago and never finding another job, I have gained a whole new world that has opened up to me through my writings, and my travels, and my experiences that the “brick wall” that I’ve constantly run up against in my job search and housing search can’t stop. And no job or any amount of money can replace all that I have learned.
Also, I’ve learned to let go of a lot of the anger I had for so long after losing that job when–no matter how many jobs I applied for or how many interviews I sailed through at the beginning of my job search–I never found another job. I was sure back then God was going to lead me to the right job as He knew I was single and self-supporting, but He had something different in mind as stated in Isaiah 55:8-9.
And, I’ve learned a lot about what is going on in America today that I didn’t know was going on, and much of it has come from when I started traveling by car to different cities starting in 2012 to look for work, and also when this “hotel saga” got it’s start in late September 2014. I had no idea how many people are forced to live in hotels as their only housing option (which has been my only housing option, too, since it started in 2014). It is an entirely different world living in hotels with all kinds of people coming and going. It is also living in very close quarters in a very small space with complete strangers living only a few feet away in any direction from your own room. It’s been a real learning experience, and I don’t see people my age living in hotels, so it’s not a social outlet. By it’s very nature it is a transient way to live.
So, I guess you could say that the “new thing” God has been doing in my life over this past decade has been to broaden my world, and to get me to really see what is going on out there in it. I had no clue about most of it when I was still working.
“I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Now we come to the part that I’m still waiting to find out about. I’m not sure what it will look like when it finally arrives as I’ve learned over these past ten years that God is always full of surprises. Ten years ago I thought it would be a new job. Five years ago I thought it would be a new apartment to live in after losing my old apartment to the new owners. And neither of those things happened.
While I am still waiting to find a more permanent and affordable place to live that isn’t just another hotel room, who knows but that God might have something totally different in mind that I haven’t even thought about, or maybe that I have only thought about in passing. He can break down a brick wall with no effort at all, but it has to be in His timing.
Over this past decade I have learned to take each day as it comes. That’s all any of us get anyway. God knows us thoroughly, inside and out, and far better then we know ourselves. He knows how I’ve grown weary of living in a hotel room, but then He reminds me that there are probably a bunch of other folks living here who wish they could move on, too. So I am grateful to have a roof over my head, even if it is a hotel room, and I will continue to wait and see what that “new thing” is that He will bring into my life.
I’ll end this post with the same two verses I began it with–Isaiah 43:18-19: Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I [God] am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way…
In the wilderness . . .
And rivers . . .
In the desert . . . .
YouTube Video: “(God Makes) All Things New” by Steven Curtis Chapman: