Puzzle Pieces

puzzle-654957_640Now that my series on the Beatitudes is over, it seems quite appropriate to share about some of the most recent blessings that God has given me. Yesterday I shared about my experience with appendicitis and the blessings of the Lord’s peace and healing and love.

Today I would like to share another testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness and grace, which may be of encouragement to you.

What I find most interesting about this testimony is how so many seemingly-unrelated events came together in God’s grand design. Puzzle pieces that seemed random and disconnected were found to come together in a beautiful picture only God could have envisioned.

So let me share some of these puzzle pieces with you. The hard part is deciding where to start!

puzzle-1318352_640I was homeschooled for my entire education, something I will always be grateful for. It shaped my character, taught me in the ways that I learned best, and gave me the freedom to pursue my varying interests with fervor. I learned quickly, and so my mom chose curriculum that met my skill level and challenged me. Especially in the early years, I remember there being a lot of memorization – from a young age I was learning to memorize long poems like “Hiawatha” and portions of the Declaration of Independence. I had a knack for it.

puzzle-1318352_640I was a very logical sort of kid. My idea of fun was to line up a collection of toy figures and move them one step at a time from one side of the room to the other. Coloring books had to be done start to finish, without skipping a page. Everything that I did had to be methodical and in order. Even today I continue to read my Bible in order, Genesis to Revelation – skipping around from one place to another just doesn’t happen.

puzzle-1318352_640Pretty early on in my life, I discovered a love for writing. By nine I wanted to write a book. At eleven I actually did. In my early teen years I completed a 40-chapter novel that was my “pride and joy.” No, the books were never published, but I was still proud of my work.

puzzle-1318352_640Around the age of eleven, my Poppop gave me an old laptop of his. My cousins called it a “dinosaur,” but I loved it. Thanks to this gift, I quickly learned my way around a computer, mastered typing in months, and learned the ins and outs of Microsoft Word.

puzzle-1318352_640As a young girl, I always had an interest in business ventures. Some of my earliest memories include setting up “roadside” stands in an attempt to sell chalk-decorated strips of bark, or paper cutouts, or stinky beach shells. You can imagine I wasn’t very successful. Later, as I got older, I helped my brother with his handmade pen business, writing out labels and assisting with brochure design. I remember, too, driving by old mom-and-pop stores and wishing I could grab a bucket of paint and spruce them up a bit. I knew that a face-lift could go a long way.

puzzle-1318352_640Combining my talents of writing, editing, and computers, I started a magazine for homeschoolers when I was 14. It was emailed out to a small list of subscribers who were amazed at what my siblings and I were able to create. And looking back, I think we did pretty well, considering our main software was the old 2000 version of Microsoft Word and the default Microsoft Paint program. I certainly learned a lot about Word, graphic design, page layout, and photo editing.

puzzle-1318352_640In 2009 I got involved with the first-ever National Bible Bee competition. It was perfect timing, as I have mentioned in a previous post, because at that point in time I was seeking a closer relationship with the Lord, and I was already devoting regular time out of my day to Bible reading and Scripture memorization. The Bible Bee worked to draw me even closer to the Lord as I discovered a personal relationship with Him. I participated in the Bee three times: in 2009, 2010, and 2012. I had to memorize hundreds of verses and got to study different books of the Bible in-depth. Each year, I qualified to compete at the national level, although I never made it to the semi-finals or final round.

puzzle-1318352_640When I was in high school, my siblings and I became part of a homeschool co-op called CHASE. While I was there one day, one of the moms made an announcement about a ministry opportunity with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). By the time I actually inquired further into it, the application deadline had passed. But they decided to extend it for my sake, and I was accepted to work as a summer missionary with the organization that year.

puzzle-1318352_640Training for CEF involved going away to training camp for a week. On the very last evening that I was there, I met a girl named Laura, and we totally hit it off. I’ve always felt that God foreordained that friendship, and we still keep in touch today.

puzzle-1318352_640Around the same time, I enrolled in a program called CollegePlus, and officially began it that September. This allowed me to get a huge head start on my college education, as I basically just did college for my senior year of high school. By the time I graduated, I’d earned enough credits to be a college sophomore. The following October after graduation I started classes with Liberty University Online as a junior.

puzzle-1318352_640After finishing my summer with CEF, I desired to continue working with the ministry, so I got involved with CEF’s after-school Bible Clubs. My new church, which we had only just started attending the year before, was running a Bible Club at one of the local elementary schools, so I volunteered to help out. Not only was I continuing to share the Gospel to kids who may not have too many opportunities to hear it, but I was also starting to feel more at home with my new church as I worked alongside the children’s pastor and other church members.

puzzle-1318352_640When I initially started the CollegePlus program, I planned on earning an English degree. My dream job was to be an editor at Moody Press. But my research showed that there was little job growth in the editing field, and I had doubts as to whether that was in God’s plan for me.

puzzle-1318352_640So I started looking into other degrees. CollegePlus had two main partner colleges at that time: Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, and Liberty University Online. I wanted to go with the Christian option if I could, so I started looking at the degrees that Liberty offered. Someone had suggested that I look into something computer-related, knowing how much I enjoyed doing projects of all kinds on the computer. That’s how I came to find Liberty’s Web Development degree. I didn’t know a line of code, but I knew I liked computers and had always had a desire to see businesses succeed, and I had a bit of experience in design and layout.

puzzle-1318352_640As I prayed about it one day, God brought to mind an activity I had done recently, where I had written down my three greatest strengths. I had written “communication,” “creativity,” and “memorization.” And I realized that all three play heavy roles in Web Development, perhaps more so than in editing. And I felt like it actually had a purpose outside of just myself – I could help businesses be “bigger and better.” And so I made my decision to pursue that degree.

puzzle-1318352_640Around the time that I started with Liberty, my friend Laura (whom I had met through CEF) was making plans to go down to the Gospel for Asia’s School of Discipleship in Texas. As part of that prep, she started her own blog. I had been thinking about starting a blog for a while (I’d even decided on the name), but I had thought it would be neat to create one myself once I knew how to code well enough. Good thing I didn’t actually wait that long! Laura’s blog inspired me to finally act on my desire. She told me that her blog was on WordPress, so that’s the platform that I chose to go with, too.

puzzle-1318352_640One month later, I found out that the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP), which is very well-known among the PA homeschooling community, was in need of someone to help with their WordPress site, updating content and such. I only had a month’s experience with WordPress, but I applied, and was given a volunteer position, which I still continue. CHAP’s site was a lot bigger and more customizable than my blog, so I learned even more about working with WordPress on the front end.

puzzle-1318352_640School went very well for the most part. I did my best. My hard work and initiative were recognized by professors and fellow students, even if I was an online student. Being homeschooled helped to prepare me for the independent learning that goes along with doing school online. I had to create my own schedule to ensure that I met all the assignments deadlines, do my work without being told, and learn where to find answers when I got stuck – all valuable skills.

puzzle-1318352_640After multiple attempts, I also got a job at Chick-fil-A, where I enjoyed a friendly work environment and increased my self-confidence level. I continued to work with the Bible Clubs as well, helping to start a brand new one and basically leading it myself for a year-and-a-half.

puzzle-1318352_640As I began my senior year of college, I knew I needed to get more serious about finding an internship or job. But I couldn’t seem to find anything that matched my skill level and was of interest to me. My parents suggested that I reach out to whoever had done my church’s website. Thanks to my involvement with the Bible Clubs, I felt no awkwardness in going to the children’s pastor for info. Pastor Don got me in touch with Kelly, the owner of Cassidy Communications. I spent a delightful couple hours at her office, talking about the work that she does. Kelly herself handles the design aspect, not the coding aspect, of websites, but she was able to explain that she uses WordPress as the basis for the sites. She put me in touch with her developer, Kim, who explained a little more about that.

puzzle-1318352_640One thing that I thought would be really cool is if I could work for a Christian company. I knew the chances were pretty slim, but I held out hope. There was one Christian organization that probably would have offered me a position, but they wanted me to raise money for my salary, and I didn’t feel like that was what the Lord wanted me to do. I reached out to some Christian web development companies I found online, but most never responded, or if they did, said they had no need of any help.

puzzle-1318352_640Over Christmas break I had looked at job listings and noticed several wanted knowledge of the Bootstrap framework. I decided to look into it, and found a great tutorial online, and discovered how much easier it could be to create a mobile-friendly website.

puzzle-1318352_640After talking with Kelly and Kim, I decided to explore what was involved in creating custom WordPress sites. It was an entirely different way of coding than I was used to, but I saw its potential. I created a WordPress/Bootstrap site of my own for practice, and I thought I could foresee my future as working with WordPress sites.

puzzle-1318352_640Graduation was quickly approaching – like a looming deadline of when I needed to find a job. I cracked down on the job search, applying to as many positions as I could find that sounded promising. One company was ready to hire me on the spot – they sent me paperwork and everything – but there were some red flags, and my parents advised me to pass it up. I interviewed with another company that same week and quickly realized the position was not what I was expecting it to be – and I had the feeling it was going to be a more stressful environment, which I knew from experience I didn’t want.

puzzle-1318352_640But good came out of those failures. I signed up for job alerts on Indeed.com, and set the search radius to 30 miles. For a little while, nothing really turned up that I felt confident I could do.

puzzle-1318352_640One Thursday night I went to the young adult group meeting at church. I was feeling pretty weighed down by stress and worry, wondering if I was going to find a job. Graduation was only a month away. So as Pastor Brennen started off with a time of silent prayer, I decided to take the time to turn my worry over to the LORD. As I prayed, God reminded me not to worry about tomorrow, for worry doesn’t accomplish anything, but instead to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” For the first time in over a week, I felt at peace.

puzzle-1318352_640The very next afternoon, I scrolled through the job listings in my inbox. A new one caught my eye: “Web Developer (WordPress, PHP/MySQL).” PHP and MySQL are two of my favorite programming languages, and WordPress is, of course, familiar to me. The location was Clinton, NJ. Previously I had ignored any New Jersey listings, but I remembered my search radius – Clinton couldn’t be that far away. The description was written in an engaging manner, and the work environment sounded fun, and I could actually meet all the requirements. There was no “5+ years experience” clause, only “Bachelor’s degree.” It sounded promising, but with the past two interviews still fresh in my mind, I didn’t want to move too hastily. I was leaving in a few minutes for work at Chick-fil-A anyway, so I forwarded it to my parents to see if they saw any red flags right off the bat. And I headed off to work.

puzzle-1318352_640My mom took a look at the job listing and recognized the street name it was located on. Some good friends of my parents, the Kileys, went to church on that same street – maybe they would know something about the business. She called her friend, and it turned out the business owner, Lance, went to the same church as them. So then the Kileys told him about me. I was still at work when my mom texted me to say the owner was very interested and I should go ahead and apply. So I did.

puzzle-1318352_640It turned out to be one of the most interesting application processes I’ve ever been through. Lance sent me an email to ask me to come in for an interview, and included half-a-dozen coding problems he wanted me to answer. I answered as best I could, and went in the next day for an interview. Turns out he had also gone through Liberty Online himself several years back.

The interview went very well, but before he made any decisions, he wanted to test me out. He created a whole list of tasks he wanted me to work on. I spent my weekend on that task-list, dealing with the learning curve and worrying that I was working too slow. But even though the learning curve was a little rough, I was enjoying what I was doing, and I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do.

I was to go in two more days the following week, and he would have an answer by the end of the second day. It was pretty tortuous waiting, wondering what the answer would be. I knew I could learn fast, but could I learn fast enough? I knew I had potential, but would he recognize it? And if he didn’t hire me, after giving me such a generous chance to demonstrate my abilities, who would? I emailed a bunch of friends, asking for prayer – that either I would get the job, or that if I didn’t, that I wouldn’t get too discouraged.

puzzle-1318352_640Thankfully, he didn’t make me wait as long as I thought I would have to. Like I said, I was to go in two days that week, and he’d give an answer on the second. But on the first day, as I was sitting at the desk working my way through a task and thinking to myself, “I’m not fast enough – there’s no way he’s going to hire me” – I was suddenly startled to hear Lance’s voice telling me, “You can go ahead and give your two weeks’ notice [at Chick-fil-A].” It took a moment to sink in. Really? For real? I got the job? As he came over to shake my hand, I literally felt a weight lift off my shoulders. God had given me my dream job!

puzzle-1318352_640So isn’t it amazing how all those little puzzle pieces came together? My personality, my schooling, my hobbies, my friends, my ministry opportunities, my church – so many seemingly-unrelated puzzle pieces came together, and will continue to come together, for God’s grand purpose and design. He set up the right people, the right events, the right timing, to open the right door for me, and now I am very happily employed as a Web Developer at Ascent Digital Media. And I am excited to see how God continues to connect the pieces in this grand puzzle called life.

 

As some of you are graduating high school or college, or just facing big decisions in life, I hope this post will be an encouragement to you. The Lord does hear our prayers; He does know our desires; and if we trust in Him, He will open to us the right door to the right place at the right time.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.

Psalm 37:4 NKJV

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