Not on my bucket list–no way! Not a fond dream or even a distant fantasy–never! Yet I’ve spent 13 years writing a book. I was working one of those 60-70 hour a week jobs and had a husband and four children and grandchildren. I didn’t even have a housekeeper to help. There was not a free moment in my life. So how on earth did this book writing gig happen? Better yet. . .WHY? Did I lose my mind?
Let’s go back 25 or so years. I had just turned 40 and was working for James River Corporation. We had adopted an inner city high school and had done great work with the staff to turn around their teen pregnancy issues. Once those young people began to see that there was a life beyond poverty, they wanted jobs–good jobs. But there was a great divide between them and the path to education, training and experience that would lead to those good jobs and the life they wanted so deep in their souls.
My CEO heard about our work with them and called me into his office. We had a good conversation and he challenged me to bring him the answer for solving this problem for these kids. He had a heart for them, but he also said that with a retiring workforce and the dramatic expansion of technology, workforce development was going to be the #1 issue in our country. IF I could solve it for this inner city group of kids, I’d solve it for our business and our country. Could I just say that this concept was way above me. I just needed help getting some inner city kids a chance at life.
I went home that night and was completely overwhelmed. My husband was stirring the spaghetti sauce on the stove. As I set the table I told him of the challenge given to me and that I had a week to get back to him with a plan. Weren’t there government agencies working on this sort of thing? A week? Me? That was just insane. Would he fire me if I couldn’t deliver? In frustration I exclaimed, “You’d need the wisdom of Solomon to figure this whole thing out.” Not taken aback as he listened to my rant, my husband Hank said, “Well, I’ll finish getting dinner on the table so you can go upstairs and tackle Proverbs.” He was being flip, but I had not an ounce of humor left in me. So I went upstairs; I needed to get alone–alone with God. I got down by my bed and poured my heart out to God. I told Him I needed wisdom, buckets of it, and I needed it now. I didn’t need it for me, but those kids needed help and my boss had promised money and support they would need IF I could figure this out. I couldn’t afford to fail. Their futures hung in the balance. In humility and tears, I begged God for wisdom.
As I got up off my knees and dried my tears. It was if God told me to take my husband’s advice and get into Proverbs. I picked up my Bible and started in Proverbs 1. There were all those big words that all seemed to mean the same thing. Why all those words? What did they really mean? Not having anything else concrete to try, I decided to look closer at them. I put each of those words on the top of a page from a yellow tablet. Then I began to read. If one of those words showed up I wrote out the verse and reference on the corresponding page. It took all night. That was ok. It wasn’t like I was going to sleep that night anyway. At least this activity kept my mind busy.
When I finished Proverbs, I had filled yellow pages everywhere. So I began to read them, one after the other. Suddenly it jumped right off the pages. There was a progression to wisdom: knowledge, then understanding and finally wisdom. I was so excited. I had my answer for my boss. I got to my typewriter (yes, this was before we had personal computers in our home) and typed out a proposal. In essence it said, IF we gather all the knowledge holders together, we will find understanding; and once we all move to understanding, we can find wisdom for these young people.
My CEO loved the concept and agreed we should move quickly. He opened doors for me to the President’s office–yes, the President of the United States. He in turn introduced me to the Secretary of Education who invited me in to talk with him and his staff. We sat at a big table in the Department of Education in downtown DC. They were excited because indeed they were that government agency working on this, and to have a Fortune 100 company and a local school willing to pilot ideas was just what they needed. Next thing you know we have the blessing of the Governor of Virginia, who gave us the Commissioner of Labor & Industry and the Superintendent of Schools to serve on our little ad hoc group. We already had a local school but the school board got involved. The university gave us a rep to join the table. And we began to meet. As word spread, other knowledge holders joined in the conversation. shared knowledge, we grew in understanding, we created and implemented strategies we thought would work. . .and they did. Right action. WISDOM!
I was the Joseph in the room. I didn’t have doctoral degrees after my name like ALL of them. I had a Bible college degree. I didn’t have some big title or fancy office. I was even new to the area. But I had a very BIG GOD.
These inner city kids graduated and went to college; they got good jobs. They were on the path to success and we were so excited. Our efforts started spreading to other inner city schools in the region and other companies started getting involved in the strategies and even provided financial support. The school dynamics changed; the community began changing. It was working and spreading. Long story short and compressing years of work, Congress provided School to Work funding for states to allocate to localities, and our team was invited to Pittsburgh to meet with two reps from each state’s education department to do a show-and-tell of of our pilot. So for two days we spoke, distributed PowerPoints, and answered thousands of questions. They were told IF they would come back to the Department of Education with their state’s plan for implementation of these strategies, their allocation would be released for distribution to their local school districts. I had gotten down on my knees and asked for Wisdom, followed God’s plan, and it impacted a nation. This is my Joseph story.
I gave God my heart. I believed Him for a miracle. I followed His plan and God did the rest. Miracle after miracle–too many to put in a blog. Watching God do all of this simply because I asked amazed me day after day. Oh, what a great God who is ready to answer prayer and work for and through us.
This story continues. . .next blog. God began to reveal more and more of Himself. And I’ll share Him with you. Don’t miss it. Get your family and friends to join this story–it will change their world as it has mine. But for today, let’s share our Joseph stories with the world. Has God done something totally impossible for you? Maybe He opened doors you couldn’t budge. Let’s testify of our great God. I’d love to hear your story before we continue on with mine. Start testifying in the comment section. Let’s brag on our great God. (And if you have a dilemma and you need God to show up, we’ll pray with you.)
Let’s start community.