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Finding Unexpected Purpose

In 2006, I graduated from physical therapy school. I was so excited to begin working as a physical therapist. My first official position was at a small clinic with only two other part-time therapists. Those first two years were about gaining experience while I was still learning how to most effectively manage my time with patients. Although I enjoyed that first job, it was clear when it was time to move on. My daughter was an infant and I was working several late evenings per week. She was in daycare all day, then often be asleep for the night by the time I got home. It was time to do something different as I was not willing to sacrifice this precious time with her. Being a working mom is hard enough and the guilt can be overwhelming even with evenings free.

This necessary change led me to accept a position somewhat out of my comfort zone in a larger clinic with multiple experienced therapists. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy working with so many different personalities and certainly didn’t think I had the skills to match their expectations. But I took a chance and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only did I gain lifelong friendships, I loved the work I was doing and had a schedule which allowed me to be an engaged parent. I was making a difference, making community connections, and could not have been happier with work.

Life was going smoothly… until it wasn’t.

We received some unexpected news: the orthopedic physicians who owned the clinic were taking their practice in a different direction. They were dismantling as a group and therefore, so were we. We were all devastated. Not many people can say they work with their close friends everyday but I did. We tried to keep the group together but no one place was hiring a horde of therapists at that time. We grieved the loss of everything we had worked together to build and went our separate ways.

It was a rough few weeks as I attempted to find another position with a somewhat flexible schedule. I had two very young children by this time and did not want to disrupt their lives by changing daycare locations as my current daycare had a firm pickup deadline of no later than 5:30. Even that was a personal exception made for us due to our work schedules. But after multiple interviews, it seemed my only option was to work evenings again and thus, find a new daycare that would no doubt be more costly. I had been praying God would open the right door but nothing really fit like I had hoped.

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Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

I remember one morning I dropped the girls off at daycare and came home to pray over some offers I had received. I knew it was time to make a decision. All available options included longer commute times, later evenings, childcare changes, and less time at home. I feared the resultant strain on my marriage and missing time with my girls that would be inevitable with all available options.

As I sat in my dining room praying over the offers on the table, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and let it go to voicemail. I had important things to pray over and could not be bothered with a telemarketing call. They left a voicemail and it turned out, the call was from a well-known therapist in the area who owned a clinic very similar to the one we just closed. My previous supervisor had accepted a position with him and a few weeks earlier, had arranged for me to fill in for a day when one of their main therapists was suddenly hospitalized with a cardiac event. I was very thankful for the opportunity that day and had mentioned if they had any positions open I was definitely interested. However, that was several weeks earlier and I had heard nothing. To be honest, I felt a little like Joseph when the chief cupbearer had forgotten him. But just like Joseph, I was remembered at exactly the right time.

This clinic owner had left a message regarding a different type of opportunity. I immediately called him back and after a divinely arranged series of events, I accepted his offer. However, it was not in the main clinic as I expected. I would be managing a remote location inside a senior living community treating 100% geriatric patients. Orthopedics and athletes were my passion at the time. This would be very different. However, the hours were as flexible as I wanted them to be as long as the clinic was successful and best of all: NO EVENINGS! We talked about this as a temporary arrangement until something opened up elsewhere as I really desired to be in the busy, bustling atmosphere of the main clinic. That’s where my heartbeat was….  Or so I thought.

God knew something I didn’t. He knew where my talents would be best utilized and it turns out, He also knew my heart better than I did. I spent the next six years in that senior living community falling in  love with the residents and working as part of a family just as I had so strongly desired. I would occasionally fill in for a therapist at the main outpatient clinic from time to time and it was nice to keep those skills active but my heart was now with seniors. I had found my home and never planned to leave. But the unexpected happened again. My boss gently informed me one day that after eleven years, the senior living community had decided not to renew their contract with our small company. They wanted to streamline their services and rather than use a local business, their corporate office had chosen to use the same national provider for all of their communities. I was out of a job I loved once again.

To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I grieved that job as one grieves the loss of a friend, sobbing at night and repeatedly asking God, “Why?” God, you led me to this job and now you are taking it away? Why does this keep happening to me?” But once again, God had a bigger plan than I ever could have imagined.  You see, I had also prayed for a small weekend job as finances had grown tight. Although my current job in senior living was wonderful, it paid significantly less than the orthopedic clinic. My husband and I had both agreed a pay cut would be less disruptive than a long commute with evening hours at the time and although we were correct, a little help every now and then would be a great thing. Ideally, I would find a position to fill in every other Saturday when needed. I cried to God stating, “God I asked you to provide an opportunity for extra provision but instead you took away my job?” Have you ever asked God for something and it seemed He gave you the opposite? Was I being punished for being greedy?

Once again, I was job hunting. I was angry and bitter that our loyalty was not honored as we had been providing excellent service to the residents of this community for over eleven years. I was confused as to why my amazing boss, who had other clinics, did not have a position elsewhere for me. What had I done to deserve this yet again? What was happening?

I had no idea… BUT GOD DID.

Although I initially viewed them as the enemy responsible for pulling the rug out from under me, I ended up accepting a position with the newly contracted company so I could keep my flexible schedule and stay with my beloved residents at this senior living community. The good news: the pay was higher and I had even more flexibility than I did before. But God wasn’t done. Several years later, an opportunity for a management position at another senior living community fell right into my lap. I had not been looking but when this opportunity came to me and I couldn’t say no. I accepted the position and have made a career in senior living. It turns out that is where my heart is most full.

God Knew the Whole Time

I never would have guessed it, but God knew the whole time. I now work in an environment where not only can I make a difference in the physical health of seniors, but also an impact on their spiritual health. As residents share their faith with me, it opens doors to conversations and relationships I never thought possible in a work environment. Do you know how many of our seniors have been believers their whole lives but still don’t fully understand grace and salvation? Do you know how fearful they are? I have had many conversations with seniors who are “hoping” they will go to heaven but are not really sure they’ve done enough good as the regrets of their lives come to the surface in their last years. It’s much more common than one might guess.

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Photo by Todd Cravens on Unsplash

It’s not only a blessing to take part in restoring their mobility, but also when the opportunity arises, restoring their faith through conversations. Why? Because God knew where I needed to be the whole time. Oh, and remember that prayer for that occasional weekend job to earn extra money? It was answered too. When I left one senior living community for another, I was able to keep my employment at the previous contracted company on an “as needed” basis working Saturdays at my convenience.

Although my career journey has included many hurts, lots of questions, and has at times been very confusing, God knew what He was doing even when I didn’t in those first eleven years. Did you catch that? The process I mentioned took a whopping eleven years! Now in the grand scheme of a career, that’s not that long. But I want to emphasize this in case anyone is struggling to understand why their prayers have not been answered. Maybe the answer is not a “no” but rather a “you’re not ready yet”.

Don’t ever doubt God will answer prayers. Instead, be willing to accept the unexpected answers.

Friends, don’t ever doubt that God will answer prayers. Instead, be willing to accept the unexpected answers that come from some of the most unexpected places. God gives us all unique gifts and He knows just where they will be best utilized. I encourage you to trust Him and follow where He leads you knowing He knows much more about our hearts than we do and He has a plan for all of us.

God truly does work all things for good, even if it takes us several years and hindsight to see it.

What prayer are you waiting to be answered? Keep your eyes (and mind) open for the unexpected answers as they often look very different than we anticipate. God truly does work all things for good, even if it takes us several years and hindsight to see it. I am very much looking forward with eager anticipation to where God will lead me next, but also enjoying His blessings in the present. I pray the same for you, dear friends.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

romans 8:28 ESV
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Stand up, shake off the dust, straighten your crown, and walk forward confidently grounded in truth. 


Straighten Your Crown is a place to find encouragement grounded in Biblical truth to navigate the challenging circumstances we encounter in a broken world by responding in faithful obedience.


2 Comments

  • Tammy hipp

    A lot of heartache , confusion and uncertainty , but with faith you climbed that mountain to where God needed you most. Proud of you.

  • Jen Roland

    Heather, This post really resonated with me, especially the part about God giving you something you loved and then taking it away. Hearing how God had had a bigger plan for you than you ever could have imagined, and that it took 11 years to come to fruition, gives me hope. Where I am right now is definitely not where I thought I would be, but I will keep praying, following His lead, and trusting that His plan is good. Thank you for this!

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