SELAH!

Retirement or Promotion?

When I started in the workforce at the very young, and very green, age of 17, the word "retirement" never entered my mind.  However, as the years passed by, it became clear to me that someday I would retire, that in fact, I needed to retire, because God had a greater plan for my life. 

When I started working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in January 1995, I knew that God had placed me there because I actually got hired three days before my 37th birthday, which is the cut-off age for hiring.  Now, some people would say that was a coincidence, but when you serve God, coincidences no longer exist because the Bible clearly states that God is in control of everything, including our lives.  I know that He was in control of mine the whole time, because I tried to quit three times the first year there.  Finally, one morning I was sitting in my bath tub praying that God would allow me to find another job.  As clear as if someone was speaking to me in an audible voice, God spoke to my heart.  He said, (and I quote), "I have placed you where you are."  That was all I needed to hear.  I was in God's will and whatever He chose for me I knew was best.  Guess what...God was right.

Now, after I had been working for about 4 years at the prison, I began to have a lot of pain in my hip joints.  Since most of my immediate family members and cousins on my Dad's side of the family had osteoarthritis, I knew what the problem was.  When I went to see a surgeon, he scheduled a hip joint replacement surgery for my left hip.  Four months later, the right hip joint replacement surgery was performed.  After about five weeks, I recuperated and returned to work.  Everything was going well and God had yet again interceded for me and I was promoted to Warden's Secretary in December 2002.  Another reminder that God was in control of my life.

Shortly after becoming the Warden's Secretary, I started having a lot of pain in my right wrist and hand along with a lot of numbness.  Eventually, this led to carpal tunnel surgery.  Now, you may be thinking that I was falling apart, but God works in mysterious ways.  His ways are not our ways, and our ways are not His.  Thank God!  Just keep in mind that each of us has a special calling from God and a work to do, and there are different "seasons" in our lives which must be fulfilled in order to accomplish God's will.

Then, when I turned 50 in January 2008, I noticed that my priorities were changing.  My career that I had worked so hard for all these years, no longer had the same "umph."  Although I loved working, it seemed that I had a drawing toward something else.  As I prayed about my feelings, I started realizing that it was time to place more emphasis on "living" rather than on "making a living."  About that same time, I started having severe pain in my finger and thumb joints in both hands.  I began to notice that my fingers were twisting side-ways at the first joint.  I could barely hold or grab anything with my thumbs without having pain.  Along with the pain, I started dreading annual refresher training every year, because I had to qualify with three different weapons in order to keep my job with the prison.  I started having difficulty due to the lack of strength in my hands.  Since my job required typing all day long, I noticed that the pain didn't stop with my fingers, it started radiating up my arm and into my shoulder.  You talk about worrying.  I didn't know what I was going to do.  I still had seven years to fully retire.  I still worked as hard as ever, prayed for God to help me, to give me strength to work, and to reveal to me why I just couldn't shake off this feeling of wanting to really live for a change.

One Sunday morning while I was studying for my Sunday School class that I teach, I became overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit with a feeling that I needed to pray.  I knew that God was leading me in a different direction, but I didn't know how or where.  My husband, Joey, the Pastor, had gone to the church to unlock the doors and get it ready for the Sunday morning worship service.  When he returned, I was standing in my kitchen praying and crying out to God.  I asked him to come and pray with me.  When he did, the Holy Spirit came over me and I gave out a message in tongues.  Joey, through the Holy Spirit, interpreted the message of tongues, which told us that He (God) was going to take us to places where we had never been taken before, and that He was going to be with us and bless us.  Immediately, the Holy Spirit confirmed to me in my spirit and I knew where one place would be and that was me not working on a public job.  God was about to do something greater with my life, but I surely didn't know how.  All I knew was that I had my answer.  Some how, some way I needed to retire.  

Now, what I'm about to say next may confuse someone out there reading this.  You may not agree with me, but that does not excuse or diminish in any way how God accomplishes His will.  God will use anything or anybody He chooses.  Scripture says in I Corinthians 1:27, "but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise."  We may not understand or agree, but that doesn't mean it's not so, because I know without a doubt that God allowed the osteoarthritis to come into my body in order to allow me to take an early retirement.  Paul had a thorn in the flesh, but that didn't stop him from doing God's will for his life.  He accepted that thorn and went on to do the Lord's work by preaching to the Gentiles, and said, "Not that I speak in respect to want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."  (Philippians 4:11)  God is in control...no matter our state.

Soon thereafter, surgery was scheduled for me on my right hand to replace the first joint in my long finger and the joint in my right thumb.  That was on October 8, 2009.  I knew I had to make application for a medical retirement, because I could not continue working with my hands in the condition they were in, even after the surgeries.  With a strong sense of everything was going to work out okay, along with a few reservations of not knowing exactly what was going to happen next, I completed my retirement paperwork.  I had my whole church praying real hard for me. 

Here's where I want to share how God performed miracle after miracle to accomplish His will for my retirement.  Now, I know there are skeptics out there, but that's okay, too.  I know what God did for me.  The things that happened could've only come by and through Him.  You would just have to know how things work to understand how great God moved in them for me.

I had saved about three months of annual and sick leave that had accrued over the years.  After the first surgeries on my right hand, I had to have joint replacement surgeries on my left long finger and thumb, as well.  So, I had some leave I could use and still receive a pay check until a decision could be made on my retirement.  You see, there was no guarantee that I would be approved for a medical retirement.  I simply went on faith.  I mailed my medical retirement paperwork to the appropriate Federal government office on December 26, 2009.  As a requirement of the Federal government, I also had to apply for Social Security Disability Benefits prior to my Federal government application, which I did on December 17, 2009.  Now, for a working girl who had never had to apply for unemployment benefits for almost 35 years, I didn't have a clue as to how anything worked concerning retirement or disability benefits.  By this time, my leave had almost been depleted.  God performed the first of many miracles for me at this time.  I made a request to the Warden, my boss, that she consider giving me advance leave so that I could continue receiving a pay check.  She so graciously did, and gave me six more weeks of leave.  That gave me leave through the middle of March 2010.  I thank her and God for doing that for me.  Time was ticking by so fast, and I knew that if a decision was not made soon, that leave would run out, too.  I continued to pray. 

The first notice I received was to be at the Social Security Office on December 23, 2009, to speak to a disability agent concerning my application.  I went and everything went well.  Next, I received a notice that I was scheduled for a medical exam on February 2, 2010.   I went to that and was seen by two different physicians, who gave me no indication of anything.  My leave was ticking away day-by-day.  After my surgery, and before I had applied for a medical retirement, I had donated six hours of annual leave into the Voluntary Leave Bank Program at work.  This placed me in a pool of recipients should I ever need leave donated to me during an emergency.  Well, this was surely an emergency for me, so I applied.  I prayed so hard during this time that God would move for me to be approved for the leave.  He heard my prayer and I was approved for four more weeks of leave.  That put me through the middle of April 2010.  This was the second miracle God performed for me.  

I received notice that I had been approved to receive Social Security Disability Benefits on February 28, 2010, and would receive my first disability check in May 2010.  I was told by staff at the prison that I was the first person to receive approval for Social Security Benefits before being approved for a Federal government retirement, that they were aware of.  This was the third miracle God performed for me.  But I still hadn't received any word from my Federal government retirement application.  I continued to pray.

Just to let you know, I needed to be approved for retirement from the Federal government, because this would ensure health insurance coverage not only for me, but also for my husband.  This had been the only health insurance we had for the past 15 years.  I could keep my health insurance plan even though I was retired.  This was a blessing from God, too!  So, I waited and continued to pray.

I finally received notice that I had been approved for medical retirement on March 24, 2010.  My fourth miracle!  Time was still ticking away though.  I still had to receive a separation date from the Federal government, which would determine the date of my last pay check.  I was officially separated on April 10, 2010, and wouldn't you know it, God was still in control!  Remember, I had enough leave left to receive a pay check through the middle of April.  Well, I needed one more miracle, and God knew that.  He already had it planned how to sustain me during this time.  When you start with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, they hold you back two weeks of pay.  You're getting ahead of me, aren't you!  Yep, that was my fifth miracle.  I received one last pay check for the last two weeks of April, which was just enough to sustain me until I could receive my first pay check on May 19, 2010, from the Social Security Disability Office.  Now, you tell me, was God in control or what?!  Yes, He was!  It couldn't have worked out any better for me if I had've planned it myself!  God is a good God.  He knows what's best for us, and He's in control!  All we have to do is sit back and watch Him work!

To put the "whip cream on top of the pie" so-to-speak, a very wise Christian brother of mine told me that God had not only allowed me to medically retire, but gave me a promotion!   Psalm 75:6-7 says, "For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.  But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another."  What a wonderful gift He gave me and promoted me, too.  I surely don't deserve this gift, but God who loves you and I so much and gave His only begotten Son to die for us all, watches out for our souls and loves us more than we could ever know.

I'm now ready to do what God has in store for me for the remainder of my life.  I dedicated 35 years to my career.  During this time, I also served God and worked for Him as much as I could, but I felt limited due to my job.  I just hope I can live long enough to dedicate another 35 years in full service solely to Him.  Thank you, God, for my promotion!