Jason and Michelle’s Climb

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 NKJV

Being laid off from a company I invested thirteen years in, actually pouring my life into, was a devastating blow, but also one of the best things that could have happened to me. My fear was such that, no matter how miserable I was working there, how underpaid and underappreciated, I wasn’t about to leave on my own. I thought that if I were to leave, or in this case, get let go, my lack of degree would prevent me from finding anything new. The fact that I had crushing medical debt resulting in a very poor credit rating, and a very sick wife, I thought my prospects for the future were far less than ideal. That fear kept me from leaving, but God heard the cries of my heart, and He answered in His time.

After I was let go, an online friend put me in touch with his recruiter, to help me find a new job. I also signed up with LinkedIn, putting a simple profile together to highlight my technical experience. True, it didn’t show education, but it did have eight years of technical support and three years of Microsoft CRM 4.0. It was something at least. I went back down to Southern California on interviews and got set up to get unemployment income. It was a stressful and scary time, but still I trusted that the Lord would provide. The recruiters I was referred to wasn’t that much of a help, unfortunately. The LinkedIn profile, though, proved to be more fruitful. Soon after my profile went online, I had a recruiter contact me, one who dealt exclusively with Microsoft CRM. She was actually able to get me set up on a couple different interviews.

After being out of work about two months, just before my old medical was set to expire, I was hired by a consulting company that worked exclusively with Microsoft CRM. One of the owners of the company actually had written a couple different books about it. The experience I gained at my previous company gave me the foothold that I needed to be hired. Not only that, but my income increased to just above what it was eight years prior when the old company restructured and moved us to Monterey. The Lord proved, once more, that He was watching over and guiding me. Despite the fact that we weren’t walking as closely as we should have been, He still reached down and guided me to where I needed to be. He let me lose that job, where I was overworked and miserable, and He put something better in my path.

When I first started with that company, I had to drive 120 miles one way to the office three times a week, but eventually, it came to a point where I was working exclusively from home. I was able to learn even more about Microsoft CRM at a number of different clients, with a variety of scenarios. My manager saw my skill and said that he felt I was being underpaid and even underutilized at times. He said he could see my income increasing dramatically over time. It wasn’t something that happened while I worked there, but I did see some pay raises along the way. More importantly, my knowledge and experience grew and I even added some Microsoft Certifications to my list of accomplishments. I was happy working at this company and saw that I could grow with the company in time.

Michelle still struggled with health and doctor’s visits, but not like they were before. She was no longer able to drive, but thanks to the consulting job, I was able to have flexible hours to be able to take her to appointments during the day and still work a full eight hour day from home. With unlimited vacation, I was able to take occasional vacation time to help deal with her health issues and surgeries. I went from the stress of the previous job, where I practically had no life, to a job that had a much better work-life balance. We soon returned to church, but it was haphazard and inconsistent at first. I didn’t want to “explain” our absence, because they only sounded like hollow excuses. I was afraid of being judged. Then there were still times we weren’t able to go due to Michelle’s health, but not like it was before. Things were actually getting better overall.

Finally, we did start returning with some regularity to Calvary Chapel Monterey Bay. I didn’t get involved in any Ministry, but Michelle did help out as a greeter. It was good to get back to church. God had been proving Himself faithful, and it was good to share with other Christians the good things that were going on. My job was even going well, up until it was acquired by another consulting firm. Acquisitions are hard. I went through it, to an extent, when the previous company absorbed their independent sales reps. Now, I was going through it again. There were some people that were let go as part of the process, but I was not one of them. Even though I had survived the transition safely, I still was a little concerned about how I could grow within the new company. It wasn’t bad working there, in fact the working environment really didn’t change, but there still was this shadow of uncertainty.

Not long after, I had a recruiter contact me from the same recruiting company that I worked with four years prior. She had heard about the acquisition and wanted to know if I was looking for another position. I told her that I was looking and would be interested. This was entirely different than last time I was looking. This time I was working in a stable company and wasn’t desperate for a new job. This gave me a much more relaxed time during my interviews. I also now had almost seven years experience working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, which now outweighed my lack of degree. As I interviewed, I spoke to Michelle about the opportunities, as well as talked to our church so that we made the decision God wanted us to make. What’s even more interesting about what happened is that I gave the recruiter a figure that I wanted before I’d accept another job. I actually thought I was pricing myself out of range, as it was probably 50% to 75% higher than the salary I was currently making. I figured it could still be negotiated down if necessary, and still be a decent raise.

That just showed how little I knew about recruiting at the time. It also shows that God’s promise to give us a future and a hope never fails. I was interviewed for the IT department of a fitness company in Carlsbad, California. Not only did I “ace” the interview process, but the recruiter negotiated an even higher salary than the base salary I had suggested to her. I was hired at a salary almost double of my current income, and it included full moving/relocation expenses. Michelle and I were moving to north San Diego county. Instead of being seven hours away from family and old friends, we would now be just 90 minutes away. We spent thirteen years in the beautiful Monterey County, and now we were moving to an area I had said I always wanted to live in. We were moving to the same city we had our third honeymoon in. Not only that, but I was hired as a senior developer for the company’s Microsoft Dynamics Online implementation. About ten years earlier, I was told I would never be a good enough developer. About twenty years earlier, I thought I’d be working a dead-end job for the rest of my life. God, in His infinite love and mercy, even despite my unfaithfulness at times, had proven His promises to be true. He was giving us a future and a hope.

For the two years I was at that company, I worked in the office. The office, though, was just a 15-30 minute drive on streets, depending on traffic. I wasn’t able to have lunch with Michelle anymore, and taking her to appointments mostly stopped. She started using Uber to get to her appointments. It was a very stressful job at times, but I loved working there. The team was amazing to work with and the benefits were good. I was even able to lose 70 pounds in less than a year at one point, which was wonderful. God continued to shine His blessings on us. Despite that, we really didn’t find a church to go to. We went to Calvary Chapel Vista a few times, but never really got settled there. There really wasn’t much of an excuse for that. We were still dealing with Michelle’s medical issues. We still had our mountains of medical debt, but we weren’t adding to the debt anymore. My benefits and income was finally to a point where I was able to pay for the medical issues as needed. Unfortunately, the very large cost of living increase caused by the move, combined with the medical bills, didn’t really allow us to get ahead, despite the increase in income. I was able to get a new car, though, at a high interest rate, to at least work on starting to rebuild the shattered credit.

One of the things that was most surprising during this time was the increase in the calls and contacts from various recruiters. Calls from recruiters I’d spoken to in the past, direct emails and messages from LinkedIn. I actually found myself in a position where my experience was in demand. I could look back over my life even more clearly now and see everywhere the Lord had worked in my life. From the first ISP that offered me a job without even being asked, to the second ISP that God used to answer my prayer, followed by the third ISP which gave me the necessary experience in order to work for my Christian Brother. That Brother in Christ helped me build more experience and pushed for me when the company restructured. Even in what seemed like a dark and stressful time, God was still moving and giving me the experience I would need so that when He finally pushed me out of the nest, I was able to rise by the power of His grace from one consulting company to another, and then to the role of Senior Developer in an IT department of a large fitness company. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says, there is no doubt in my mind that this was all the work of a living God who loves us more than we can imagine, or sometimes even deserve.

Michelle’s health issues were still a struggle, but the addiction issues she once faced were in the past. She didn’t completely avoid narcotics, because sometimes they were unavoidable, but when she had them, she got off them as quickly as she could. A lot of the struggles we faced in Monterey were left in Monterey. Michelle’s growth, through the strength of the Lord, continued.

This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.

II Timothy 2:11-13 NKJV

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