I’d forgotten that it snows in winter on WordPress. As I log on this evening, on New Years Eve Eve, it’s these cascading freckles of snow that remind me of the crazy year that is nearly done in its falling.
2013. What a year. A wonderful, turbulent year. Are the years really any different? Don’t we struggle just the same every year? Smile just the same every year? Cry just the same every year? There’s always a new drama, a new obstacle. And in what I believe has been my very hardest year to date, it’s also the year that I grew closer to God.
I was baptised on the 22nd May 2011. I thought I knew Him then. But in 2013’s darkest moments and fits of depression, I felt God’s presence like I never had before. Because He takes us through the storms to show us that he’s with us and that he cares more than we could ever contemplate. I don’t want to get all preachy and religious on you but when I think about the miracles I have experienced this year, I get so incredibly excited. So I want to share the following with you:
The stress I faced in my previous job drove me away from God and deeper into myself. I blamed God for my lack of boyfriend, the lack of excitement at church (mainly due to the lack of males) and then the stress on top of all of that was enough to make me bury my head in the sand. But after skipping church for a while and digging my heels in, ignoring God became tiring. It required so much effort. Anger is exhausting. So on finally returning to church, I felt overwhelmed. Something had shifted and all of a sudden I felt like I was home. The band were playing One Thing Remains and as the lyrics ‘Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me’ swirled around my head and as I tasted that truth on my tongue, I knew that God had never left me. Because whenever we feel far from God, it is not He who has moved.
Despite my childish tantrums, despite my constant rejection, despite my ignorance and sin, God still loves me. I knew then and there that I needed Him back. And so I prayed. I asked for His help and for His strength and my heart began to feel lighter. I still cried in the office toilets, and I still stepped outside for gulps of fresh air when the nitpicking got a little too much but I didn’t feel so alone anymore.
Then came the end of my contract and when it wasn’t extended I faced the loom of unemployment. The big empty stretch of nothingness. I can honestly say that being unemployed was soul destroying the first time around and the thought of experiencing it again was one of pure despair. I had no idea at the time that God was releasing me from a very unhappy time in my life, freeing me up for far greater things.
I’d applied for a Seasonal Bookseller role at Waterstones whilst on my last week at my previous job. I’d poured my heart and soul into the cover letter and said a big prayer asking God to allow me to find a suitable job quickly. Whatever it may be.
And you know what? The day after I’d finished my old job, I got a call from Waterstones inviting me to interview. And the following day I had the interview and walked out of the building a half an hour later with a job. God had answered my prayers. No two ways about it. I had been unemployed for a meagre 24 hours. I call that miraculous.
So I had a new job. I had the chance to sell books all day, every day, something I’d always wanted to try. I had a smile on my face, a weak one, but a smile nonetheless. So I prayed some more. I prayed for a chance to work in the Children’s department. And lo and behold, one afternoon as I popped my coat in my locker, I bumped into the manager of the kids department. Twenty two like myself, she was approachable and friendly and we got chatting. She asked what I was interested in and I said ‘Children’s books’, going on to tell her about my dissertation on Roald Dahl, my module in Children’s literature and my experience in Children’s Publishing Houses. There and then she said, ‘Perfect, I’ll put in a request to have you in the kids department!’ I literally beamed and the next day I was assigned to the Kids floor. Then I prayed for the future. As much as I loved bookselling, I needed to get back on the publishing horse. There was a need in me greater than selling the books, I wanted to be part of marketing and promoting them. (I also longed for a job without crazy hours. Starting at 7am or finishing at 11pm is not ideal.) I’d applied for a Children’s Marketing and Publicity role at the same time I’d started at Waterstones but hadn’t heard anything. So I prayed for movement in the situation, for peace and for further opportunities. Several arose. Then I got the call I was hoping for. I was invited in for an interview for the Children’s Marketing and Publicity role that I desperately wanted.
However, the proposed interview slot was slap bang in the middle of my Waterstones shift. I was worried, so I asked God to move mountains. He did. My managers bent over backwards to be flexible, in a job where I was meant to be the flexible one.
So off I went. I was extremely nervous when I turned up to the snazzy offices, immediately feeling out of place. It seemed that my good friend Mr Self Doubt had turned up for moral support. I signed in and waited a while on a black leather armchair, coughing, stroking my eyebrows and counting to ten at least eight times in an effort to calm myself. I was eventually met by a smiling woman. I prayed that they would be friendly and kind to me, they were. I asked that my passion would be obvious.And it was because despite the thick veil of nerves I wore, they liked what I had to say, so much so that they called me in for a second interview. I was worried about the preparation time for this second interview as I had to plan a presentation whilst working crazy shifts across a six day week. But it just so happened that this second interview fell not only in a slot before my late shift so no shift maneuvering was required, but it also fell after my four day break in Bath, giving me four long days to prepare. I began to realise that God’s timing really is impeccable.
Whilst we were driving home from our wonderful four day retreat, with my interview looming the next day I felt panicked. I began doubting myself and as the cars flickered past on the motorway, I felt myself sliding into self doubt mode. And in that very moment my phone went off. It was an email. From a prestigious Children’s publisher, a publisher who I greatly admired. The email regarded a job I’d applied for a few weeks ago. They were asking me in for an interview. This was a job I wanted but didn’t think I stood a chance at getting on account of the fact that in the job description they had asked for applicants with 2 years experience in the industry. I only had seven months under my belt. Yet they were impressed with my cover letter and wanted to give me a shot. Once I’d stopped smiling and squealing with excitement, it occurred to me that this was God showing me that with him all things are possible, he could and would surmount the insurmountable. He overcame death. Needless to say, self doubt flew out the small crack in the window, flying into the car next to us and shattering into thousands of tiny pieces.
After a fretful night sleep, the day of my second interview dawned. I was nervous but filled with excitement. I couldn’t wait to show them what else I had to say. I saw the security guard as I entered the building and he greeted me with, ‘You’re back! Didn’t I say you would be!?’ This jokey reassurance made me smile, I wanted to be the one to see that security guard everyday. The interview went very well, again my passion and enthusiasm carrying me through. I had this odd sense that the pair interviewing me were almost rooting for me. I left Hammersmith, once again flushed and with the note of ‘We’ll see you soon’ ringing in my ears. I brushed it off thinking it couldn’t mean anything. Only it did because the next day I was called in for a third interview. And once again, my managers let me rush off at the drop of a hat. I must add that I was going to an interview to meet the top publisher dressed in my Waterstones shirt, worn jeans, comfy, baggy and very green cardigan and converse. Hardly interview get up, but it made for great conversation, broke the ice and showed that I was busy working hard, selling the books they published in between these interviews. Which seemed to go down very well indeed.
I returned to Big W from that unexpected interview, to the support of my amazing colleagues and also an offer of a permanent job at Waterstones if I didn’t get the publishing job. God was boosting me up when I needed it most.
At this point I must mention how wonderful a time I had at Waterstones. I met some amazing people and made so many great friends, who buoyed me up and made me laugh, my confidence in myself and in my abilities coming back bit by bit. God knew what I needed, a change of scene, a change of pace, managed by understanding and genuinely caring managers, and most importantly a release from pressure and a damn good laugh. It was an invaluable experience.
That night I fell asleep in my creative writing class. I can’t say it was my finest moment, but my tutor is a cool dude and took pity on me. On returning home I shovelled in some food, but had a restless night, unable to lie on my front as usual. Something didn’t feel right. Something wasn’t sitting right in my stomach. But I put it all down to nerves about my employment fate.
At 4am I was truly fed up. I got up, headed for the toilet and was promptly sick. Shakey and feverish I returned to bed, acknowledging God’s timing once again. It felt as though God had postponed this bout of ill health so that I was well enough for the third interview. An interview which could not be postponed because the top dog I was meeting with was a very busy lady and only had the one meeting slot available to meet me before she left for her Christmas break. His timing is to the minute.
The next day lying crook in my bed I received a phone call. A phone call that contained the best news of the year. They wanted me. The job was mine!
God is my rock. I’m not ashamed to say it. I need to work on that, believe me. I think only two people at Waterstones know I’m a Christian. I get scared telling people because they’re opinion of me immediately changes, I can see it in their eyes. But as I enter this new job, this new year will be the year that people know. Because how can I be ashamed of the one who blesses me so continuously, despite my daily sin and screwups. I’ve tried to walk alone and it was the hardest and unhappiest time of my life. My OCD was rife, I was bitter, jealous and my heart was very hard. It’s still hard, but it’s softening. Jealousy will always be a problem for me, and I’m trying hard to eradicate my ‘That’s not fair! When is it my turn?!’ kind of attitude, but only God can fully change me. I know this now. No amount of self loathing is going to make me a size 8, and I have to stop comparing myself to others. I’m me, and I like me better when my eyes are set on Christ. So this next year, I won’t be making 14 resolutions that I’ll break before the day is out. I’m not going to lose weight, or give up chocolate, or read 2014 novels, or declutter, instead I’m going to pray. Everyday. I’m going to find out just what prayer can do, for the people around me, for my family, my friends, for my colleagues and for myself. I’m not going to panic when I see another facebook friend engaged, or when another romantic relationship is made public knowledge. I’m going to trust, because I’ve seen the wonders God has already done in my life. I’ve witnessed how very quickly he can change things around for the better, even though its the most painful thing at the time. He can transform despair into hope, tears into gladness, He has the whole world in His very hands. If I can trust Him with my life, I can trust Him to bring me the man I will love all the days of my life. His plans, his timing, are infinitely greater than my wildest imaginations.
And as I look back on this past year, I see that more than ever before.
‘Kneeling on this battle ground, Seeing just how much You’ve done, Knowing every victory, Was Your power in us. Scars and struggles on the way, But with joy our hearts can say, Yes, our hearts can say, Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did You leave us on our own. You are faithful, God, You are faithful.’ – Matt Redman
The most important thing I can take from 2013, is that God is with me, with us, with you if you want him to be. I’ll leave you with a segment of my baptism testimony (which I’ve amended slightly), which is now even truer to me than it was back then.
‘He has a wonderful plan,
Of which 2014 is a part,
I’ve given my life to Jesus,
He has this heart.
He is my rock,
On whom I wholly depend,
His love is unconditional,
No cost, no end.’
Happy New Year everyone, let’s make it a brilliant one!