Tuesday, May 14, 2013

a long year. and some good news!

Since many of you have had our family in your prayers or have been asking me about the "job situation",  I thought it appropriate to let you all know that- finally- Jonathan has been offered a full-time, permanent job!

but, for those of you that don't know the full story (and most of you don't), I'd like to share with you what our last year has been like. and yes, this is "one of those" super long posts :]

 When we moved to Salem, OR one year ago (in April 2012) we came for a four month long, unpaid internship. Jonathan shadowed a recreation therapist at the state hospital for 10 hours a day, 4 days a week and soaked in as much experience as he could. He loved it. He would come home to me and say, "If I worked at the hospital here we would stay for a very, very long time." And we daydreamed about it all summer long. We dreamed of living in this beautiful, hilly green area for the summers to come- picking berries and going to the beach and camping in the amazing forested state parks. We fell in love with Oregon and couldn't imagine living anywhere else.

About halfway through his internship, he decided to take the big TR Exam which would qualify him as a nationally certified recreation therapist (granting him the job title but not the job). A former professor/career advisor back at BYU-I in Rexburg thought he was crazy- a lot of preparation and studying would go into this test and he should wait until his internship was over. It cost us a lot of money for him to take it, and we were already completely broke- but he felt that it was the right time, so he went ahead and took it. And he passed!

We were elated- here he was, all certified and doing his dream internship that would surely lead him in the right direction. His co-workers at the hospital told him he was one of the best interns they've ever had and that they really liked having him around. We were so very full of optimism.

As the four months came to an end, things got bleak. There was no promise of a job at the hospital. He waited around and asked around for any indication. Then one day the hiring manager called him into her office and told him that unfortunately, there were no open positions at the time. She told him to keep checking the state website and would he consider a part-time, temporary position as a mental health technician? He said no, because he knew we'd need a full-time paying job to pay off our debt and future bills (we came to find out later he wouldn't qualify for it anyway). At the time it seemed like a wise decision to only accept what would provide us with all that we needed.

We still had lots of hope, and he applied for dozens of full-time jobs online- in and out of state. He had interviews....many interviews--on the phone and some in-person--but when they required that he fly on a plane to interview in person we just couldn't do it. We didn't have the money, and it seemed unwise to invest in a job that we didn't know would work out. We began to feel desperate. We had had no income for 6 months and our debt was burying us. Our families were so kind to help, but there was still so much need. We were running on empty. After all, providing for two adults and two children is costly and there was just no way around that.

At last Jonathan was offered a job in Tennessee. It didn't pay well-- but it was a job. It was in a remote location, far from doctor's offices and grocery stores-- but it was a job. It offered no room for promotion or solid career experience--but it was a job. We were so torn. I couldn't stop crying and crying, and finally, after he had already accepted the job and after I had sent a check for an apartment there- it hit us. This wasn't the right job. We had jumped the gun because we were desperate, even though it felt off. We asked ourselves, "Are we being too picky? Do we need to be more humble and just take what we can?" But it was more than that...we were being humble and accepting that Heavenly Father had a plan for us and this wasn't it. And even though we didn't know what was ahead or how we would pay for those bills, we had to put our trust in the Lord.

So we stayed in Oregon...broke, job-less, miserable. Job prospects were plenty- many of them we felt good about, some of them we even prayed about. But something always went wrong and he wouldn't get it. A few times he was told, "We wanted to offer you the job but an internal employee decided to take it." Many of these jobs required experience, but how was he to get his foot in the door when no one would let him in? Would we ever catch a break?

Waves of sickness came and went over our family, and it seemed that I spent most my time in a dr's office and at the local pharmacy. I continued to use WIC and food stamps, grateful for government welfare but feeling that there were so many others that needed it more, which made me feel selfish. I know I was wrong for feeling that way but during those months, that's how it was. I avoided talking to anyone at church or playgroup because I was ashamed. I felt less than... we live in a wealthy area with doctors and lawyers and dentists aplenty. It was a dark time, and even though we didn't want to keep praying, we did. We knew that there had to be an end to this....eventually.

It was like that for the next 10 months. There were very bad days- weeks even- when I felt our family relationships crumble. Days when Jonathan and I questioned our marriage and future together. Satan had us in his grip--he led us to feel worthless and doubtful and terrified. Not to mention the enormous feelings of envy that ensued every time I'd get on Facebook and see so-and-so's newest thang or thingy-ma-bob.

Don't get me wrong, through it all we tried our hardest to count our blessings. We tried to be grateful and see the good side and laugh it off. We made comments like, "Some day, we'll look back on this and be so glad we aren't dealing with this anymore." or "When you get a real job it doesn't matter how much it will suck because anything is better than no job!" or "Perhaps one day I will be able to help someone else in this situation and that is why we're going through this crap now." But all those comments- as good as they sound in theory- were hurting us more. We weren't living in the NOW- we were living in the "some day"s.

We slowly learned to appreciate the goodness in our lives as it came to us--in the present. We saw our kids overcome their illnesses and be healthy & happy again. We made friends that sincerely welcomed us into their thoughts and prayers. We found ways to have fun as a family that didn't cost us anything. I could go on...but basically, we accepted our situation and tried really, really hard to find some sunshine in the storm.

There were still times when all seemed to be against us. It was not an easy year for us...in fact, it was hardest year we've had since being married. But it was also the most humbling... and strangely, the most fulfilling.

We were just beginning to feel like ourselves again when news from the hospital came that there were to be a few brand new openings. Jonathan applied right away for the therapist job and we anxiously awaited the interview. It took 8-ish weeks for the openings to be approved with the people downtown (they had to be approved before they could be posted online and applied for ). Finally the job posting was up and everything was in progress.  There was also a posting for a full-time, temporary recreation specialist- not what he wanted exactly but much MUCH better than his other options. After all, he could work at the hospital that he loved- get back in the game- form strong relationships with his superiors and possibly get a more permanent job down the road.

He got prepped by his old supervisor on what kinds of questions he would be asked during the big interview. He was ready. WE were ready! We wanted this to trial to end so we could go on with our lives.

While we waited for the interview date, Jonathan got a part-time job with UPS and helped deliver packages during the holidays. It was better than nothing, but it wasn't much. Still, we were grateful. The days following the interview were long ones, and it was something to keep him busy.

Christmas came, and the people in the ward showed us kindness beyond measure. It was then that we realized just how selfish we had been. We had spent so much time feeling sorry for ourselves for all the things we didn't have. Really, the only word I can think of for it was self-absorbed. I made a promise to the Lord that I would think of others more than myself.

He went to his interview, extremely nervous because everything was riding on this moment. Well, as luck would have it two days latter he got the news--he did NOT get the job. We learned that he was up against applicants with years of experience and master's degrees even. He never had a shot-- regardless of how well-liked he was. His four-year education just could not compete. That's how it is with state jobs- it is the law that they take the applicant who is the most qualified.

To say we were bummed would be a huge understatement. It was by far the darkest, most horrible time in this whole process. We truly thought this would be it. How perfect would it be to say that he eventually got his dream job back at the place he started, after being tested for 6 long months?

We felt stuck. What were we doing here? Shouldn't we just leave already? There are no jobs here...none for him at least. Why did Heavenly Father lead us to Oregon in the first place? Sure, we've had a good time but also a VERY trying time. We kept praying and felt that we should stay put and let some more peace into our hearts. Believe me, this was not easy. All those feelings of being humbled and accepting what was dealt to us faded away. I felt only one emotion now- and that was anger.

We wanted to be angry... but anger doesn't fix anything. Why spend our days feeling resentful when we could just brush it off and say, "You know what? Life is hard but I'm gonna be happy anyway, dangit!" That's how we made it through that time...just forced ourselves to smile and show our children that all was well-- even if it wasn't.

We went to our bishop to seek advice and comfort. He told us to hang in there and try to acquire some income any way we could. But we were trying...and we were hanging in there...and everyone else had said the same thing. I don't think that everyone understood that my husband was trying his very hardest to get a job- any job. We weren't just sitting around at home and watching tv all day. I was being a mother to our kids and he was home, not able to help me because he was busy finding jobs online and applying all day, every day. It was a terrible thing to have him there but not have him at all.

And then, our ward boundaries changed. We had a new bishop that invited us over to his house for dinner. He was kind, much like our old bishop, but a bit more personal about what we were going through. He told us, "God has tested you this long. I strongly feel that it will be over soon and you will be on the right path." As we were leaving his house, he put his hand on my shoulder, looked right at me and said "You will be okay. I know it. Hang in there."

They were the same words that our other bishop had said, that our friends and family members had said. But they felt different. I still don't know if it was because we were in a better place emotionally that night, or if it was the man who spoke them, or the way he said them. Tears welled in my eyes and for the first time, I believed it.

Randomly in the hallway at church, our old bishop walked by Jonathan and recommended him to Ashley Furniture, who needed someone to assemble furniture in their warehouse for a few months. He accepted the job and fully enjoyed being able to put tables and couches together while chumming it with the other guys there. It was good for him and he felt productive, which made me happy. On Valentine's Day (a few days after working at the warehouse), he got a phone call from the hospital that he would be hired on as a recreation specialist. And just like that, he was back at the hospital. We could hardly believe it. He worked at the warehouse until he started back at the hospital in March.

 Just a few weeks after working there, he got word that they would be opening some more therapist positions- quite a few more this time, actually. We kinda laughed it off and said, "Yeah..okay. Sure, like it will do any good for us." But he applied anyway and scheduled an interview. I told him a dozen times to put no expectations into this- that if it didn't work out then we would give up on the hospital after his temp job was done and move away- to anywhere, just out of this place. He felt the same way as me and there was no excitement this time around. We were just gonna do it and see what happened. We fasted and prayed, not that he would get the job but that we would be able to understand God's will for our little family. That, no matter what the outcome, we would not get angry. And for the next few weeks, there was a very clear- very valid- feeling of peace. Just peace. We still didn't know what would happen but we did know that it would all work out. We would be okay :)

He wasn't as nervous this time. He was calm and content with the situation. I have never seen him like that before and I loved him all the more for it. His interview went "good" he told me later and we didn't talk about it much after that. He got a call for second interview. Still, we didn't get our hopes up. I started wondering what life would be like in Utah or Idaho, because if this didn't work out we agreed we would move away. We stayed peaceful and tried to be happy.

On the day of his second interview, he called to tell me that he thought it went well and would probably get the official word in a few days. A few hours later he texted me:

"How are the kids tonight?"

to which I replied, "Fine. Just don't know what to do for dinner. We can't officially go out to celebrate since we don't officially know..."

I wanted an excuse to go out to eat, and not cook dinner with kids crawling over me....so I used him getting a job as one, when we didn't even know if he got it. So yeah, basically I just didn't want to make dinner :]

Then he called me and said, "It's unofficially official. I just spoke to M who was on the interview panel and he says they are giving me the job...but first I have to do a drug test and background check before I get the offer letter..."

he continued to talk about some other stuff  while I went into a trance...

"....so do you still wanna go out to eat?" he concluded.

and that's when I perked up a little and said, "Wait. So, you got it?"

"I guess so. So...yaaaay.... haha"

"Wow. Um, congratulations honey."


And that is how that conversation went. I promise you- we WERE grateful, but after living so long like this, it just hadn't set in yet. It didn't feel real. Everything that had gone through made us emotionally numb and we couldn't truly be happy about this, not yet.

A week has gone by. We were walking around Ikea and he got a call that the official offer letter was in his inbox :] I can honestly say that, although it still hasn't set in, we are truly excited for this new adventure. And for all of you that have supported us through this trial, thank you for being there. We have such wonderful friends and family!


whew...that was super long, sorry. I do think its important to write down these experiences so we can look back on them later. Although most of it I would like to forget, I don't think we could feel truly happy without remembering what it took to get to this point. Those times that we felt blessed while praying, or laughed at something our kid did, or talked through the tears to feel better were brighter moments because of the darkness surrounding them... and I don't ever want to forget that.


The Garlands said...

Congrats again Lindsey and Jonathan. That's so awesome. We'll be seeing hopefully at least once a year. Who knows we might end up over there too for an internship. ;)

Mark & Rachel said...

Congrats!! I totally understand where you are coming from in all of this. We went through much more unemployment than I would care to remember. We were actually getting ready to leave Idaho and move in with family until we figured something out. We spent thousands of dollars flying, car rentals, etc for various job proposals. Never did I think we would end up buying a house in Idaho, but I know without a doubt that this is where we are suppose to be.

Photographs n Memories said...

What a great post. Such an example of faith through trials. I'm sure it was hard, but your family's example of faith is inspiring. Thanks for posting this and being bluntly honest through it all. Shows strength and growth as individuals and as a couple. Congrats on an exciting job. And more years of living in beautiful Oregon.