The First Key- My Career

I have worked in the lovely world of retail since I was 16. Every person’s dream job, I know. My first job was in a small children’s boutique in Visalia and since I didn’t finish college, I was stuck. I’ve been blessed with the gift of leadership though, so once I moved down to the LA area I was promoted to management within a month of starting a retail sales job. I have been in the riveting world of retail management ever since. My most recent longest position was the Store Manager for Skechers shoe company in Orange County. It started out as a great position but was extremely stressful and I quickly became very unhappy. I had a boss with little integrity and made me promise after promise of advancement with zero follow through. If you know me at all, you know that I don’t sit still well. I am a busy body that needs to be challenged and grow or I get bored and frustrated. After being there barely one year I began the job search for another company to transition too. After almost 2 years of searching, I finally got a job as a Store Manager for another footwear company that valued me and was half of the stress and chaos of Skechers. When I was done with the training program and really got into the daily grind of my new job, a harsh reality set in. It wasn’t just Skechers I had been miserable with, it was retail. It was laying in bed at night and not being able to sleep because I couldn’t get my sales associates to add on a freaking handbag with every shoe purchase. This was my BIGGEST stress, and a real one. My position required it of me and I had to deliver. Seriously, shoot me now. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

After really feeling the renewed call to ministry/missions at the start of this new job, I was trying to plan and figure out how I would get myself out of this job and into a more meaningful one. I started planning to relocate to the Los Angeles area to get more information on non-profit organizations and opportunities where I could be used. My thoughts went back and forth…
“I can’t quit my job because I have adult bills and responsibilities and can’t receive unemployment if I quit. I can try to get myself fired, but because I’m a responsible person with integrity, I could never do that and have that on my resume.”
I started to become very unhappy every day at work, though I had only worked there for two months. I was praying for direction on how can get myself out of this position and set myself up for the rest, and heard nothing.

I have always been very hard on myself. I am very self aware and can point out everything I do wrong and when and where. Though I am very comfortable in my skin and I really like the person that I am, I struggle with the things that I really want to do better.  I had really began to dig into my prayer time and the Word but it was never as much as I had wanted for myself. I have a habit of feeling like if I mess up one day, it cancels out all of the good I did the day before, which is not at all what God tells us in scripture. A couple of weeks after feeling unhappy at work, I came up to Basileia, my brother’s church in Los Angeles, as I had started to do every Sunday. It was Father’s Day.  The pastor’s wife Anita, whom I had never met, came up to me after the service and said she felt like God wanted her to tell me something. We introduced ourselves and I immediately braced myself for what she had to say. She told me that God sees all of the small things that I had been doing to get closer to Him and that they are not small to Him. She sat there with me while I wept and she prayed for strength for me that week. She said she wasn’t sure why, but she felt like I needed strength.

Three days later, God removed my first key from my chain, my career.
In fact, it was a lot of keys. You see, I had a really important job with lots of responsibilities, which my keychain was proof of. I was let go of those responsibilities under my ’90 day probationary period’ for no real reason, accept speculation from my assistant that lied in order to get rid of me. I was hurt. I have never been fired from a position before and I give my all to everything I do.  How could God be allowing this? How could I have this on my resume now?  How could he allow me to feel such rejection and disappointment without me even doing something to deserve it?  I cried all the way home and voiced my frustrations to my Dad on the phone as I drove. As I was explaining it, I realized how well God knows me. If I had actually done something worthy of getting fired, I would have never forgiven myself. I would have tortured myself and wondered how I could have done things differently, as the patterns in my past have shown. God removed me completely from that job with no questions asked.  After the tears subsided, I began to feel the strength and encouragement that my Pastor’s wife had prayed over me just a few days before. I was so grateful that I wasn’t in that job anymore. Though I was frightened by how I would have to figure out the next stage, a load had been lifted off my shoulders and I found such joy. I felt that God was in control and He didn’t need me to make things happen. He’s got this.

My Keychain: My Spiritual Heart

The Childhood Journey:
My spiritual journey has been a long and bumpy road. I was born into a Pastor’s family and grew up on the front row….literally. The fish bowl lifestyle that comes with that can be rough, but as a whole, I think we made the best of it. To give you a glimpse, people would voice their opinions and tattle every little thing to my parents about my life. Even as a small child from what I wore to church, to not closing my eyes during prayer. During High school, I had friends of mine upset with me because their parents would use my name during arguments with them….”I bet Cynthia doesn’t speak like this to her parents”, and “I bet Pastor Randy doesn’t have to deal with this from his kids”. You can only imagine the pressure as well as the frustration that comes along with that.   And just imagine when those same people saw you mess up or make a mistake. Yup. Good times. Luckily I was blessed with amazing parents who never encouraged or allowed that pressure to get to me and always put things in perspective. Through it all I had a good relationship with the Lord and was strong in my faith. Thank the Lord for great family.

Passion in the Midst:
I’ve always had a huge heart for missions. I was blessed enough to travel starting in Jr High to Mexico, Trinidad, Ecuador and Aruba, all on missions trips ministering to children and families with little to nothing. I never wanted to come home. I got very involved with Royal Family Kids Camp as well which is an incredible ministry to abused and neglected kids in the Foster Care system, and I did that for about 7 years. At one point, I also got my Foster Care license and went through all of the training for that as well. I have missed being involved in those ministries for a long time. There is so much going on in the world outside of our cushy lives, and it feels good to be a part of the bigger picture.

The Adult Journey:
I got married the month after I turned 22 and within a couple months of turning 25, my husband had left me. No reason, no explanation, no regard to the 6 years together, no questions asked. As you would imagine, that challenged my faith. I spent the first few months leaning on the Lord and praying for him to heal the hurt and bring my husband back to me. After a few months of the pain not getting better and my depression worsening, I gave up. I thought that this “God” I had believed in either doesn’t exist, or was a horrible ‘Being’ that was perfectly fine with my misery.  I believed that for a couple of years….not just a couple of minutes. Even when he came back a year later and said he made the biggest mistake of his life by leaving me, it didn’t matter. I decided to distract myself from reality in any way possible in very unhealthy ways. It took me about 2 years before I found my faith again, through therapy and my amazing family and friends.  I have been in one more long term relationship but faith was not at the center. I was alone in my relationship with God and wouldn’t leave my relationship. God removed me from that relationship this last November.

The Recent Journey:
At the start of a new job position in April of this year, my friend Camille invited me to a church service that both of our parents were attending in Anaheim. The sermon was directed towards Pastors and people in full time ministry which I am not, but it was a good service. I would categorize it as a motivational service, versus an emotionally touching one. The pastor was speaking about his church in Chicago I think, and how they are powering through the recession and not slowing down on God’s calling for their church. I am not used to church services at all these days, not to mention motivational ones. I haven’t been involved in a church since I moved away from my home town in 2005. I have attended sporadic churches when I had a Sunday off but never found one that I loved. Unfortunately my work schedule wasn’t flexible in allowing me to attend regularly anyhow. When the Pastor finished speaking I leaned over to my Dad and said I’m so tired of living without a purpose and I began to weep. I know that we all have a purpose and I have seen the ways that God has used me in my work environments and with acquaintances, but I long for more. I have always felt that I am called to go and do more but I have always had a relationship or job that kept me from listening and responding to that calling.

That following Sunday, my brother was leading worship at his church in Los Angeles so I went up to visit his service. They had a guest speaker that day and the service changed my life. The man spoke on our call and responsibility to serve the poor. About it not being an option, but its a requirement of being a follower of Christ. The entire message was burnt into my heart and I cried through the entire thing. It just confirmed everything that God had already been working on in my spirit. At the end of the service he asked for people to stand up if they felt God calling them to give “sanctuary” to others and I couldn’t stand up fast enough. I received prayer from an elder in the church and I drove an hour home to Orange County. I spent the entire drive pondering how God was going to use me and wondering what that would look like. I immediately told my family about it and asked them to pray for this journey to come.

The Current Journey:
This is not the first time I have felt this call on my life. The past few years I have even tried to work for local non-profit organizations so that I can serve while remaining in my comfort zone and relationships. I’ve worked for years to build the life that I have, to pay for the things I have, to accomplish the things I have.  There is no way that God would make me give up those things in order to help others!!

Of course, God had a different plan.
And this is where I believe my journey is just beginning….