We sit on my back porch talking about our shared love for the way the liquid amber leaves are just starting to change colors while sipping coffee. I’ve learned to only pour her half a mug. “My husband and I used to share just one cup,” she told me once.
My neighbor is more than twice my age. She’s also one of the most wonderfully unexpected new friends I’ve had in a long time. Conversation flows easy. We talk about the weather and art and the places she’s traveled. I tell her the funny thing my nine-year-old said. She’s mindful that I have a full workday ahead, but I never feel anxious or rushed when we’re spending time together.
As our back porch date winds down, I ask what she has going on the rest of the day.
“Oh, I have to try to figure out this issue with my insurance company and write a letter. I think I’ll ask my niece to help me.”
Her husband passed away a year ago, and their health insurance company has continued to automatically deduct his monthly premium, she explained.
“Well, I would be more than happy to help you with that,” I reply. “I actually have a lot of experience dealing with insurance companies.”
She says that is kind, but she’ll ask me next week when I’m not busy over the holiday weekend. I tell her I’m not busy. My new friend is wildly capable and very independent. I also know, that, like all of us, she is not meant to do life alone.
A couple of days later I pick up the phone and ask if tomorrow afternoon would be a good time for me to come over and help her write the letter. The next day, I carry my laptop across the street and sit on my neighbor’s tweed couch. We read through her notes from when she spoke to the insurance company. I ask for all her pertinent information and quickly type out a letter with all the requirements needed to request a refund and stop future payments. I read it aloud.
“What do you think?” I ask.
“It’s perfect!” she says. Then, “I’ve been losing sleep over this for months. Thank you so much.”
And on an ordinary fall afternoon, I knew again that a decade of questioning and discomfort was worth it. You see, for more than ten years I worked in medical billing. I was thankful for the flexibility of working from home and the paycheck to help my family. But that job was not my joy. For years I sat at my dining room table typing in charges and payments, aching for work that felt more meaningful, that used my true gifts, and developed my passions. For years, I prayed for a new season, for different work. And for years, God simply said, Wait.
Now that I am in a season of doing work that I absolutely love here at (in)courage and as an author and speaker, it’s easy to see the past through rosier glasses. But in the moment? Week after week, year after year, of waiting and longing and believing I was created for more and yet more never seemed to come? It wasn’t easy. It was stretching and painful.
And this is why I need to pause today to preach again to my own heart a truth that perhaps you need to hear too: God wastes nothing.
As Paul says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
All things. Our hard seasons, long waits, and unwanted circumstances are not out of God’s reach. He can and will use it all — even if it takes years to see it.
I had the confidence to offer to help my neighbor with this particular task because I had years of experience working with medical insurance companies. This skill set and knowledge base have also served me well in helping my own family navigate confusing billing and coverage issues. And I’m trusting God that even as I’m deeply grateful for the fact that my current daily work has nothing to do with authorizations and deductibles, He will continue to use the fullness of the experiences He’s given me to show His love and care to me and others.
Which makes me wonder: Is there something in your life today or in a past season that seems like a waste? A circumstance you’re prone to wish away? What if, instead, you leaned in? What if God is ready and waiting to use the very thing you want to escape as a gateway to a deeper connection for you and someone in your life?
We get to experience and express the kindness of God when we trust Him to use every part of our experiences.
Also? It’s been a couple of months since I wrote that letter. My neighbor got her insurance refund last week.
Ruth Mills says
Our pastor uses the phrase “No loose molecules”. Such a comfort nothing is wasted! I picture being in heaven & getting to see how the details interconnected like clues along the way of a well-written, tightly woven mystery novel. Of course I may be too distracted singing praises to care anymore Bless you for encouraging me today.
Becky Keife says
Oh, I love both of those pictures you’ve painted!
This has really got me thinking. I don’t like being retired. I didn’t want to retire but I moved to Colorado 2 years ago to be near my daughter after my husband died. I was a school counselor. I loved my job. I was also very active in my community and church. I had great plans. Two months after my move, the pandemic hit. I have been at loose ends since. I am torn between keeping safe and healthy and the need to get involved in something meaningful. I have started being a little more active at my church but there are limits. Finances are becoming an issue, too, so I find myself saying no to invitations other than my hiking group which requires a little gas for the car now and again. So, I pray and wait and hope something will turn up.
I understand about things coming to a hault once the pandemic hit. I was a substitute teacher and suddenly there was just empty time, empty days. God had put on my heart a few years ago the desire to volunteer at a food pantry. I started to learn about organizations with food pantries near me, how they were run, but I never did volunteer. We had a new non profit organization move close to my home that I felt like God was nudging me towards. I was obedient and signed up to volunteer, early pandemic. I answered phones, volunteered in the daycare but nothing that really felt like it fit. After 5 months they mentioned they were opening a food pantry. I was so excited, my niche! That was over a year ago and I have been a key part of working out the kinks and ordering inventory for our clients. We now serve 120 clients a month that can come in and shop for their needs. God is wonderful and He is faithful to lead you to purpose, in his timing of course. Praying that God will whisper a fresh purpose for your new season of life.
Becky Keife says
Liz! I’m so encouraged by your testimony. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story.
Becky Keife says
Madeline, I’m pausing to say a prayer for you, sister. I’m so sorry for the loss of your husband — and all the disappointments and isolation of the last two years.
Beth Williams says
Praying for you on the loss of your husband. Asking God to bless you spiritually, financially, & emotionally.
Abba Father, please be with & comfort Madeline today. Give her a discerning heart to know your will for her life. Show her how to get more involved in her church & community. Bless her finances in ways only you can do. Guide her steps in this journey you have her on. AMEN!
JENNIFER E HASSEL says
Well said. I sometimes think of the years David spent still tending the sheep after he had been anointed by Samuel. He was told he had an important job to do but then had to wait for the right time to actually do it. Waiting isn’t one of my strengths. Yet in hindsight I frequently see how what you said is true: “God is ready and waiting to use the very thing you want to escape as a gateway to a deeper connection for you and someone in your life.” Thank you for your essay.
Becky Keife says
Such a good point about David! Thanks for being here today, Jennifer, and sharing your thoughts.
Julie Garmon says
This is beautiful. Just beautiful.
Becky Keife says
Thank you, Julie!
Joan Moore says
Much needed words of encouragement! Thank you. ❤️
Becky Keife says
I’m so glad it was timely for you, Joan.
Thank you for sharing your story. It is very relatable to long wait seasons in my life. When God presents us with the opportunity to not waste our experiences, well it almost brings me to tears. I am so humbled. I have an similar story and was able to use my wait time to help another just yesterday. Also, enjoyed your writing so much, I bought your book. Thanks for sharing your talents.
Becky Keife says
So grateful to know this resonated with you. And thank you for your support. I hope The Simple Difference encourages your heart in fresh ways.
Becky, you don’t know how much I needed to read this. I have been a secretary for about 5 years. It’s a job and I am so grateful to have one but it doesn’t spark joy in me. I also long for marriage and children and to move from the city. I often feel like I am in a season of wait. Thank you for reminding me that God will use even this. This time will not be wasted. God works all things out for our good and His Glory. Thank you for sharing, friend! 🙂
Brenda M. Russell says
I am so thankful for today’s message. I have not thought about having challenges with Rheumatoid Arthritis as being something that could be used to help someone else with their health and wellness.
This is a new perspective that can also assist in healing relationships with husbands and wives and extended family members. First, I am so thankful to God for His forgiveness and loving kindness that gives me a spiritual foundation of encouragement and compassion along with righteousness only because of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Why don’t we usually seek to forgive before anything else when we are hurt and rejected? You know, it really does take maturity and healing in one’s emotions to yield forgiveness to others.
Although some people mature sooner than others. If a person decides to wait just in case one will ask God to change his/her heart so that person can say, “I was wrong, please forgive me.” That would be a blessing. But if one does not go that route, do your part to forgive and move on. This is so difficult to do but with the help of the Holy Spirit, it can happen.
My prayers and thoughts to others who have walked a path of hurt and rejection without without closure from that relationship.
God bless the Peacemakers
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I needed to hear this today in the midst of our “country song” year (2021). What encouragement regarding your job and God having you in the place (and for the length of time) He needed you to be. I so often feel I was made for so much more, but have to remember I was made for HIS purpose, not mine.
Nancy Ruegg says
I love that you and an older neighbor have become such good friends. Tomorrow I will spend the day with a group of women who, for the most part, will be much younger than I am. I’ve been praying I can be a blessing to those with whom I have contact. Wouldn’t it be delightful if I found a young friend among them! Each generation has much to offer to others. Sometimes in our age-segregated associations we forget that.
Beth Williams says
God has us all on a journey. There are ups & downs along the way. God uses each hill, valley, trial or tribulation to teach us something. We may not see it at the time, but later in life it will be used by God. I took care of my aging parents & their health//dementia/psych issues for 10 years. It was hard at times. I would get frustrated. Out of that experience I gained some patience. My faith & trust muscles grew immensely. Readily able to trust God with what ever He throws my way. Now God has seen fit to give me a good part-time job as ICU Step down clerical in a hospital. Getting to help RNs, CNAs with patient care. Easily empathize with families in there with the patients. In God’s economy nothing is wasted.
I have been writing, composing and singing songs since before I got married. I had dreams that I would continue in this and do more for the Lord with the support of my husband. Unfortunately, I didn’t get what I dreamed of getting. 20 years passed and one day, as I whined about not doing what I really enjoyed all these years, I heard: “Be faithful where you are. Keep on serving in the many, small, seemingly insignificant ways I show you to. When the time comes, I will bring you into the dream I put in your heart.”
I trust God to keep me faithful where I am now. He will make everything beautiful in His Time and these years of waiting will not be a waste.
Chu Hui Davies says
This is a beautiful reminder that the sacrifices we make when the kids are going will be used. Thank you for speaking into my longing for a job that fits in with my passion and the bills and the family.