Failing Retirement

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“So you failed retirement?” The question was asked in jest and I laughed, but it made me think.

I retired several years ago from a career that I felt God had designed for me. He had given me the skills and abilities that I used every day, developing and writing help systems, business practices, and other documents. When one job ended, He always provided the next, exactly when I needed it.

Although I liked what I was doing, I was more than ready to take it easy. My jobs were always demanding and often the days and weeks were longer than they should have been. For many years I had gotten up every morning and gone to work wishing that I had more time for other things that I wanted to do.

For the last four years before I retired, I had very little time for social life and sorely missed being in a small group and having a place to serve. So when the day came that my coworkers wished me well, and I walked out the door for the last time, I felt a great sense of relief that it was over and had great expectations for a wonderful future.

However, as often happens, it didn’t turn out quite the way that I expected. I had moved to Tacoma to be near my daughter, and then my daughter moved. I was not able to find a church where I felt I belonged. Because I had moved I didn’t have friends to get together with, so I was very isolated.

Then the financial realities hit. The refrigerator died, the water heater went out, there was a dental emergency… well, you get the picture.

It became one of those dark valley times for me. I felt like a total failure. I would get up in the morning and read my Bible, because that is what I have always done. I prayed, but it didn’t feel like God was there. I questioned… What good were all these skills and talents if I wasn’t using them? Was my life over? Did anyone care?

Thankfully, God was there and He wasn’t going to leave me to wallow in the darkness.  Someone who knew I was looking for a church suggested that I try Discovery.  Three weeks after my first visit, I was invited to join a small group, something that I desperately needed.

Week after week I came and listened to messages that gave me hope. But the most important message for me was one that Pastor Jon repeats often:

If I woke up this morning, that means God isn’t done with me yet. He has a purpose for my life.

I began to look for places to serve. At first it was just small things like helping with data entry and handling the emails and other communication for our small group. Eventually I would join several other women to help with Women at the Well.

Meanwhile, to help with my finances, I applied for a job as a substitute office professional with the Tacoma School District. I began to substitute all over the Tacoma School District, using those skills that God had given me in a different way. Now as I go to work each day, I find that it is also a place to serve. It may be giving a smile to a worried parent, silently praying for the distraught teenager in the counselor’s office, being a calming presence in an office where a colleague has passed away, or helping a busy secretary catch up on paperwork. I believe that each day I go to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

So I guess you might say that I have failed retirement, but I prefer to think of it as living out God’s purpose for me at this stage of my life… and I am thankful.

Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
Psalm 100:2-4