If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere. ~
Frank A. Clark quoted in Hello Failure! Thoughts for the Graduate
Tears spilled down my cheeks as I drove to work that January morning. Crying out to God, I begged Him to give me a way out of my job. I didn’t have it in me to face another day, much less weeks, months and possibly years of walking into that office. The hopelessness was suffocating.
I’d been excited to get a part-time job at an architectural firm while still in college. This was my dream—drawing plans of buildings and seeing them come to fruition. Even though the first few months there were intimidating, I looked forward to the assignments I worked on each day. After graduating with my degree, I was hired full time. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
But the job wasn’t all creativity and designs as I’d hoped. I got to work on some gorgeous homes, but most days I worked on commercial buildings. That wasn’t too bad until our firm landed the contract to design or remodel Bi-Lo grocery stores. Suddenly I was spending every day drawing rows of shelving, coolers and video rental counters. Almost every store had virtually the same plan, just scaled to a different square footage, so I was basically copying the same thing over and over again. Back then it was all done by hand, so there weren’t many shortcuts.
After I’d been there about three years, Bi-Lo headquarters asked our firm to provide a draftsman to work at its corporate office for a few months. Unfortunately, I was chosen. Now I spent every working hour in a dark, windowless room drawing Bi-Lo stores exclusively. Suffice it to say, I was not the most enthusiastic employee. Though I completed my work and did a good job, inside I was withering away.
Shortly after I finished my Bi-Lo gig, my sister-in-law, Sandra, and I began talking about opening a gift shop. We are both creative types and love decorating and design, so we began implementing a plan to make it happen. But so far, everything we’d looked at renting or buying didn’t seem feasible. My frustration mounted.
On that cold and rainy January morning, 1990 had just begun and I was in the same situation. I didn’t see any way of making my dream come true.
But not long after, God opened a door. A floral and gift shop on Main Street in my small town, just a few blocks from home, came up for sale. Even though Sandra and I had no prior experience arranging flowers, we were eager students. We negotiated a deal with the owner and hired a floral designer to train us.
By March of 1990 we both eagerly turned in our resignations and started a new life that was one crazy adventure after another. We loved it! Not only did we own our own business, we got to work together and be creative every single day.
It wasn’t all a bed of roses, pun intended, though. Many weeks we’d work 60-80 hours. The holidays were exhausting, especially Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day. Some days we even worked through the night, never even getting a chance to go home.
Then financial problems developed. Because we’d been too trusting and allowed our customers to open an account without a credit card to back it up, we had a hard time getting many of them to pay their bills. That, coupled with having to guess how many flowers we’d sell every day and ordering the right number of gift items to have on hand was a daily gamble. Many days our gamble didn’t pay off.
After five years of pouring our heart and soul into the business, we decided it was time to sell—not only for financial reasons, but for our families as well. We both had husbands and small children who needed us at home.
Although it sounds like a sad ending to a would-be fairy tale, it’s not. During those times of struggle, working hard, and trying to pay our bills, God drew me closer to Him than I’d ever been before. I began reading my Bible and going to church more, desperate to understand why He’d brought me to this place of difficulty. God pursued me during one of the most painful times of my life, and I’ve never been the same. He taught me many lessons that I’ve never forgotten—the most important one being that even though God opens a door, that doesn’t mean He’s calling us to an easier life. Many times He uses that opportunity to grow us in our faith. As James 1: 2-3 says, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. It may not have been evident at the time, but this trial did bring a spiritual joy I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Are you desperately searching for a new way of life? Do you have a dream that you’ve almost given up on? Don’t give up. Trust God to reveal His plan to you. Be diligent in prayer and read your Bible. Even though it may not end up being the fairy tale you’ve planned, trust that He has something even better in mind.
Have you anticipated a fairy tale when God had something better in mind? I’d love to hear about it!