Greetings, world! It’s far past time that I revive this space on the interwebs, but it doesn’t feel quite right to dive back in to sharing thoughts on random topics without somehow first acknowledging my absence.
Also, it seems necessary to acknowledge that we are here in the midst of a pandemic. I have more thoughts to share on that at a later time and this post is going to be one of the few you may read in current times that isn’t centered on the pandemic – I think we need those, too.
It’s okay to remember that there was life before COVID-19 (faraway as that may seem), and there will continue to be life after it, as well. And it WILL end – there will come a day when this will all be a memory, just like every other part of life. Will it shape and change us? Of course, but that doesn’t have to be something to be scared of. Every experience in life that we have shapes us – it just doesn’t always feel as big and drastic as what we are currently going through. And as hard as it is to imagine at the time, the challenges and changes that come our way can lead us into situations that are better and brighter than anything we could have imagined – as my biggest story of 2019 which I share below illustrates spectacularly…
Scattered. If I had to describe how I felt for most of 2019, the word would be scattered. 2019 was quite a year.
In January came the culmination of months of preparation as I tested for the rank of Shodan – first-degree black belt – in karate. It was an awesome experience that I never dreamed I would have, and it still feels surreal every time I pull out my karate uniform and see that my belt is black.
Between testing and graduation there is a probationary period during which your rank is called Shodan-Ho. We received special white belts with a black stripe down the middle to wear until graduation, when we would receive our black belts. Going through that probationary period was more significant than I expected, as it was during those months that I began to feel more like a black belt, even though it would still be a while after graduation before I actually felt like I “owned” my rank.
In April finally came the long-awaited graduation day. The night before, my family surprised me with a party to celebrate. My parents, brothers, and a couple of friends were able to attend graduation and we went out to eat afterward, which was fun. One of the special moments that made my day happened when I was having my graduation book signed by the high-ranking black belts – one of the ninth-degree black belts remembered me from the test back in January and told me that he really like my kata. It was quite a compliment, and I have to admit that was a karate fan-girl moment for me.
Summertime was exhausting and challenging, and after a difficult month, at the end of August came an unexpected plot twist in my life. Long story short, through no fault of my own, or the doctors or staff at the dental practice where I worked for nearly seven years, my position was unexpectedly terminated by the management company who now owns the practice, with two days notice. It was a surprise but not a shock, and the only reason I can give for that, is I know the Lord was preparing me for it. Although I had no inkling of what was to come, the direction of my thoughts in the few days leading up to it were preparatory for moving on, to say the least. Even earlier than that, I remember one moment distinctly when I was walking in our back yard, maybe mowing the lawn or something, and thought, “One day this will all be a memory. It will be, ‘Remember when I was a dental assistant?’” I just didn’t know how soon it would be that the reality would turn into memory.
Even as the events unfolded and it hurt so much to say goodbye to the bosses and coworkers I had worked closely with for seven years, I had peace through the whole experience. As a matter of fact, I felt that I should be praying harder and searching more diligently for work, and I did pray and ask God to lead me to the next job He had for me, but I had this underlying sense that God had already chosen my next path and I was simply supposed to wait until He brought everything together.
And He did.
Over the summer I had started exploring the idea of supplementing my income with writing work, hoping that if I could learn a skill like copywriting it would allow me a flexible way to earn some money on the side. I mentioned this offhand one evening in July when I was texting a coworker, and she mentioned that a local nonprofit whose mission was to prevent substance misuse and addiction among youth was looking for writers and offered to put me in touch with the Executive Director, whom she knew. I had no idea what sort of writing help they were looking for and if I had the skills necessary (or if I would even have the time to commit, since my work schedule had become quite unpredictable), but I accepted her offer and she quickly gave me her contact information.
On July 19th, I emailed the Executive Director, who replied and requested my resume and a writing sample. So, with the help of a couple of my coworkers, I put together my first-ever resume (I got my first two jobs without ever needing one!) and sent it off with a couple of writing samples. On August 3rd, we set a meeting for September 5th, late in the afternoon to accommodate my work schedule.
Early in the week of August 25th, I opened my Bible and was looking for nothing in particular to read (not my usual approach to Bible study – I usually have a book that I’m going through) and came upon the book of Nehemiah. In case you need a refresher, Nehemiah was an Israelite man who was in exile in a city named Susa and he was King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer (the one who had to taste the king’s food before he ate it to see if it was poisoned). When he heard about how desolate Jerusalem was, with its protective wall broken down, it saddened him greatly. When the king asked him what was wrong, Nehemiah expressed his desire to return home to help rebuild the city and its wall. The king granted his request and Nehemiah asked the king if he would give him letters to the governors of the surrounding nations so that they would grant Nehemiah favor and safe passage as he traveled.
That idea of sending word ahead to grant favor stood out to me, and I pondered it a bit. So a couple of days later, when I found out that I would be losing my job, I prayed and asked God to somehow, some way prepare the way before me and grant me favor with whomever I would need it from to get hired. It was a prayer that I had no idea how or if it would be answered, but I offered it up anyway.
On Monday evening, September 2nd, my first weekday of unemployment, I was looking on Indeed.com (someone at church had suggested looking at that website) at administrative assistant positions in the area (I had looked into such a position several months prior and it sounded like something I would enjoy). Lo and behold, I saw an opening for an administrative assistant position at the very organization where I had scheduled the meeting for writing work nearly a month ago. I quickly texted the job description to a friend, who wrote back, “It’s you! Apply, apply, apply!” I threw together a cover letter (after Googling “How to write a cover letter” – I tell you, it’s truly a miracle I got this job) and resubmitted my resume through the job posting.
The next morning, I also sent an email to the executive director, confirming our meeting for later that week and saying that I had seen the posting and would love to be considered as a candidate for the position, if we could discuss that at the meeting (which was then four days away). She replied that she was glad I was interested in the position and that we could discuss it at the meeting, and that gave me hope.
The day of the meeting, I dressed in a nice sweater and put on the only pair of dress pants I owned, plus a pair of shoes that were an acceptable style about ten years ago (but was too cheap to buy new ones since the need to wear them came so seldom – and I wasn’t going to buy a new pair of shoes for one interview when I didn’t know when I’d be getting a paycheck again). I had affectionately dubbed them my “granny shoes” and considered every time I wore them a character-building exercise in not worrying too much about what people think of my appearance. To fill my insecurity over the lack of style in my shoes, I told myself that if this person I was meeting didn’t want to hire me because of my shoes, I wouldn’t want to work for them anyway (and I was also banking on the fact that most people don’t notice shoes that much). 😉
Granny-footwear firmly in place, I kept my posture straight and approached the unassuming building that I had previously passed countless times before, never actually knowing what happened inside of it. I noted first off that the windows were open (fresh air is a rare and precious commodity when you are used to working in the fumes of a dental office). I was greeted by the executive director herself, most everyone else having already left for the day, but she did introduced me to one young woman who appeared to be close to my own age. My initial impression of the office itself was that it was very cozy and homey, even though between the time of my first and second meetings there I honestly could not remember what half of it looked like. It’s funny what our brains don’t take hold of when we are nervous.
The executive director lead me down a hallway on the left side of the main room, down to her office, and we sat at a round table, worn and comfortable looking. It was the type of table that separated in the middle so you can put leaves in it, and it was cracked apart just a little. We sat down on opposite sides of it. Nervousness kept me from leaning back against the chair.
“So, you were able to get out of work early?” she asked.
“Well, actually…” I recounted the story of the previous week that I had yet to grow comfortable telling.
After a few minutes of introductory conversation, she said that she wanted to have me come back for an interview for the administrative assistant position. We discussed my education and the fact that I was homeschooled, and she said, “Someone must have done a good job with you for you to write at the level you do.” I immediately filed that one away to tell Mom – the announcement of a homeschooling education always brings with it a variety of reactions, so it’s always a big encouragement to have a positive one, especially from someone who has a master’s degree in education. As the meeting progressed, her gracious manner put me at ease and I could feel myself relaxing a bit. She said that to be fair, they still had to advertise the position for a couple more weeks, but that I could expect to hear from them sometime near the middle of the month.
In the meantime, I arranged to work a couple of days a week at the farm down the road from me – it was a funny sort of full-circle arrangement, since that was the job I had left to enter dentistry. It was field work, days starting at 6:30 am picking lettuce, beets, brussels sprouts, beans – so many beans! – cabbage, pumpkins, winter squash, and more. I don’t mind hard work and it was nice to be outside, but it is not, as they say, my jam, and the days were long. I was grateful for the work and the extra bit of money to help tide me over, but I was equally grateful it was only for a few days. I did, however, get to drive the gators, which was a highlight of my time there. Not having had the opportunity to do that the first time I worked there was my one “regretful wish,” so it was a fun bit of redemption. It’s the little things that matter. 😉
One day after coming home from the farm, I was walking through the house with my phone in my hand and I glanced down and saw that a phone call was coming through from the organization where I had the meeting. I answered it; they wanted to set up a time for an interview. It was set for Thursday, September 19th at 11 am.
Having already sat down with the executive director once before, I was less nervous for the interview than I was for the first meeting. As through the whole series of events, the Lord’s surpassing peace was there underneath all the surface tension and the “What if” questions: “Where in this town am I going to find a job that I’m qualified for with no college degree? Will I end up in a good working environment like I had or will I have to try to stay positive and upbeat among a group of negative people? Am I going to end up in a retail or a restaurant job (not that those are bad, it’s just another area that’s not my jam)? Will I have to commute far and lose even more free time? At least I could listen to podcasts and try to write by dictation like some people do.” The anxious thoughts tried to swirl, but in this case, they didn’t take hold for long.
It’s in times like these when that verse, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus” really comes alive for me, because it is exactly that, a peace that transcends all human logic. The way that I have gotten both of my jobs exemplifies that 1) above all, God answers prayer, and 2) that He can open doors for opportunities despite not having all of the credentials that “everyone” says you need.
At the interview (still wearing my granny shoes and hoping they wouldn’t cost me the job), I again sat at the round table with executive director in her office, this time also with three other women who worked there. I had prayed a lot that God would give me the words to speak at this interview, because having to verbalize things on the spot (especially to answer questions about myself) is NOT my strong suit. But overall, I really felt that He gave me a “yes” to that prayer and it was actually an enjoyable time.
At the end of the interview they did a unique exercise; they handed me a pen and a pad of paper and asked me to write a few paragraphs about my “best day ever.” It was hard to come up with one particular day but I went with an abbreviated version of this story. They said they’d check my references and get back to me. I went home and finished packing up and we headed off to Franconia Notch for a weekend camping trip with the whole family.
The next morning, I received an email from the executive director saying that I had done well at the interview and they were just checking references and would get back to me next week. Later on that same day, however, we were on our way to Bridal Veil Falls for a hike. My phone starting ringing and the name of the organization flashed up on the screen. I was driving so my mom hit the button for me and I answered. It was the executive director, telling me they had checked my references and would like to offer me the position. She wanted to meet with me the following Monday to discuss the details and congratulated me before we hung up.
I couldn’t believe it – and yet I could. Three weeks after losing my job I had another. As we walked up a dirt road to the trailhead I was busy texting my bosses and coworkers and friends from my former workplace, who had all been eagerly waiting to find out if I had gotten the job. “I told you we would tell them you’re the best thing since sliced bread!” one of the doctors, who was also one of my references, texted back. The mood was celebratory to say the least, and I was flooded with gratitude and praise to the Lord for how He had orchestrated everything.
Monday afternoon I got home from the farm job, quickly took a shower and ran out the door for my third meeting with the executive director. This time I wasn’t nervous, I was excited. We went over the details of the job offer, and after what I grown accustomed to under the management company, it was better than a dream come true. (On a side note – another answer to a quirky prayer: I had asked God to let them offer me a certain hourly amount, which was actually a little lower than what I was currently making. The amount offered was 50 cents over that number!)
Afterward I stopped in at the dental office to talk about the good news in person (this is one of the best parts of the story.)
After giving me a hug and congratulating me, my former coworker (different from the one who originally connected me with the organization) told me, “Okay, now that you’ve got the job, I can finally tell you this.”
She continued to say that one of the weekends between when I had the first meeting at the organization and before they called me for the interview, she ran into the executive director in the local Walmart parking lot.
She said, “I stuck my neck out and stopped her, and I said, ‘I know it’s a Saturday and you’re doing your errands, but if you have a minute I’d love to bend your ear about Diana Nesbitt.’ The executive director said, ‘Yes please do,’ and I just laid it all out for her. She listened very receptively and said that the information I gave her was very helpful.”
Immediately I remembered Nehemiah, and my prayer. “Wow. Thank you for doing that. That’s amazing,” I said – because I truly was amazed. Even though, again, it wasn’t a shock, because that’s who God is, the fact that He answered my specific prayer to prepare the way before me by causing my coworker’s path to cross with that of the executive director’s so that she could give a favorable impression of me…it was amazing, and very special to me.
It might sound strange, but because of pieces of the story like that, I felt so loved by the Lord through these events in my life, even though they were challenging to experience. As the next chapter of my career path began to open for me, I marveled at the kind and gracious way the Lord directed me and answered prayers for direction. It was never my plan to stay in dentistry for forever, but because I get attached to people and also because of what was happening at the office at the time, it would have been very difficult for me to sever those ties voluntarily, especially without having another step in place first. But for years, and I mean years, I have asked God to give me direction for what He wants me to do with my life. Since the time I was a young teenager, I have waited and pleaded and poked at doors and found them closed, then berated myself for not forcing my way through them. I’ve tried to peer into the future but found it as dim as trying to drive in fog with your high beams on. Very little outward change has happened in my life from the time I was a teen to now, and I often wondered when my life would begin. Other people have things “happen” to them that push them forward into a new phase of life…their parents expect them to go to college, they meet someone and get married, opportunities arise, or they have a natural drive that urges them forward. I lacked any such thing – there was no “inciting incident” (the event in a story that pushes the main character over the threshold into the action of the story) for my story, nothing to force me forward. For years, I pushed against this, wanting to move forward but not knowing which way to go and not seeing wisdom in advice like “You have to just do things! You can’t steer a car that’s not moving!”
This was the almost-constant cycle of my thoughts – what’s in the future? How do I get there? When is my life going to begin? Until one evening in 2018 (I’ll save the full story for another time), I realized that maybe what I should be doing is focusing on what I know to do and not on what I don’t know (sounds obvious, I know). Maybe Jesus was waiting for me to follow Him and obey in whatever I knew and eventually, the revelation would come. So I gave myself the rest of the year off from asking God to lead me into the future and I would instead try to focus on obeying Him in the present. There wasn’t a dramatic outward change, but it was a significant mental shift for me. It was like I was still driving in the fog, but instead of peering into it with my high beams, the low beams were on and I was just trying to follow the road instead of peering at what was too far beyond my line of vision.
Later on that year, I joined Write that Book, a brand-new Facebook subscription group for writers led by an author named Tricia Goyer. The information I gained from that group about writing and publishing answered so many questions about writing and gave me a greater sense of direction in that area than ever before. (It also inspired me to attend my first-ever writing conference in October, which was a great experience.)
2019 came and I left my low beams on, still asking for wisdom and direction, especially in the area of work, but this year I was also asking God to remember the prayers of years past and to be faithful to them. James 1:5-8 is a passage that I love to claim when I am seeking direction from the Lord: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.”
And in the fall of 2019, God proved Himself faithful, and my “inciting incident” came. I know just as little about what my future holds as I did before (I feel like now I’m not even using low beams, I’m just looking down at the ground in front of me and looking for the footsteps to follow), but I have reassurance that God has not forgotten His plan for me and I know that where I am now is far more in line with the dreams and passions He has placed in my heart than where I was before. And even if this field of work is not where I am meant to stay forever, I know that nothing is wasted – because oddly enough, the skills and experience I gained in the dental world are what allowed me to even be eligible for this position.
So for the past six months, my main focus has been adjusting to my new job and getting to know my new work family, all of whom I already dearly love and feel like I have known longer than just six months. I still keep in touch with my dental office family as well and stop in for a visit when I can.
As I look back over 2019 and the challenges leading up to the blessing I am now living, I continuously marvel at God’s kind guidance and generous answers to prayer. I don’t deserve any of this, nor did I earn it – I merely asked, hard, and fought to trust Him and surrender to whatever He would bring my way, and I’m extremely thankful for what He did. Though the path ahead is still unknown, I know more than ever that the One who leads me is faithful to my cries for wisdom.
Now to just survive a pandemic….