The day after I was fired from The Research Company, I packed my suitcase for our family vacation at Kiawah Island, South Carolina. I was in a state of shock, thinking that for the first time in my adult life, I had no job to return to. My husband, David came in and handed me a little book, The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. David said our friend had sent it to me. Guess I’ll have plenty of time to read now, I thought, and tucked the book in between pairs of shorts.
The next day, I walked with my family along the beach, wanting to enjoy the wide smooth shoreline underneath a cool blue sky. The final scene at The Research Company kept pushing to the surface, stealing my sunshine. On most occasions, I totally relaxed at the coast, but this time it was hard to release my despair.
We came in for a break from the afternoon heat. I pulled out my book, an unexpected gift from someone who knew I was in pain. It reminded me of many such offerings I’d received during cancer treatment. Somehow the book would be used to help me through this.
I read the prayer that’s found in the Bible in Chronicles 4:10 (KJV):
And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause Pain!” So God granted him what he requested.
How does this relate to me, I thought as I read the first chapters, then put the book down to take a nap. Over that week and the ones that followed, I prayed the prayer many times, inserting my name in place of Jabez. The portion of the verse that stayed with me was the enlarge my territory. I started applying for positions with research companies and wondered if I might land a job that would take me to interesting places.
Eventually, I received an offer from Duke University. When I clarified the ‘must be able to travel’ portion of the job description, I learned the study would require me to spend 70% of the time in Canada. Not that I didn’t like Canada, but I didn’t want to be away from home that much with my boys now entering 10th and 11th grades.
As I explored other research jobs, there were similar travel requirements. I was surprised when the door opened for me to return to school nursing. No travel beyond the sixteen miles to my school. How could God enlarge my territory if I was going back to a familiar place?
I was received into the opening arms of McDougle Middle School, a healing center after being torn down by The Research Company while in cancer treatment. One gift that came out of that was my serendipitous journey to Sedona that became a pilgrimage. Within a few years of returning to the school system, I benefitted from our two-month summer break by taking my first intentional journey to Jekyll Island. After that, I made it a practice to take time for a pilgrimage every summer.
As my confidence grew, I casted a wider net, going from the familiarity of the South to the Northeast, Northwest, and recently, Scotland. Thinking back to the Jabez prayer, I see how God has enlarged my territory through my yearly pilgrimages. My travel came through a vehicle that I was totally unaware of when I walked that shoreline at Kiawah Island. God had surprised me once again.
How about you?
Have you been surprised by unexpected turns in your life?
How did you see good things come out of what seemed like destruction?
Are there ways that you saw a greater good in how things turned out than how you’d imagined?