Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Story - from rags to general manager!

I'm feeling a little sluggish this week - not sure why - and don't feel very inspired to write a post, so thought I would simply share a little about how almost three years ago I became the general manager of a used furniture store. Not something you think about when you're imagining what you'll be when you grow up!

In the fall of 2003 - after a lot of thought and overcoming a lot of fears - I returned to school to complete my bachelor's degree. I enrolled at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois in their REACH program which is designed for adult learners. Once a week I made the 45 minute drive from Wheaton to Deerfield to attend class from 6 to 10 p.m. Between classes I had about 20 hours of homework to complete - it was the hardest, but most rewarding, thing I have ever undertaken. I received my degree in "Communication and Organizational Leadership" in May of 2006. What a day that was! I don't think I stopped smiling the whole time.

With this brand new degree in hand and the luxury of looking for a job working for an organization I was passionate about - I had lunch with Chris Ellerman, CEO at Outreach Community Ministries, someone I knew from church, and an organization my husband and I had financially supported for years. When Chris and I met there wasn't a position within the agency that fit my skills - but he provided lots of good resources and suggestions in my job search.

Well, the summer went by and I couldn't find a job - any job - let alone working for an organization I cared about and I was getting discouraged. Meanwhile, Jubilee Furniture - this used furniture store that was suppose to be open for eight Saturdays starting in February of '06 was going strong and Chris realized he was going to need to hire a general manager to run the place. When Chris heard I was still unemployed, we met and he showed me the job description for the position and it included stuff like: "must be able to repair furniture," " must work every Saturday," and "must recruit for volunteers, customers and donors," and lots of other stuff that was overwhelming and scary. I think I read it and laughed saying, "Chris, there's no way I can do all of this!" Regardless, two months and multiple interviews later - it's quite a process to get hired at Outreach - I was the new general manager of Jubilee Furniture Co.!

The journey hasn't been without bumps - many bumps - like the microburst that touched done on March 31, 2007 and extensively damaged the Wheaton Christian Center building where Jubilee Furniture is located. We ended up closing the store for FIVE months while the building was being repaired and lost over half of our inventory. And I have times where I work too many hours and push myself too hard and wonder why I do it - certainly not for the money - and I get discouraged. But then a donor gives me a glimpse into their life - like both Laura (Hi Laura!) and Lee did recently - and I'm encouraged. Or we're able to help someone get back on their feet by passing on furniture to excellent organizations like World Relief or Bridge Communities - and I'm encouraged. Or I hear a story from a staff member at Outreach of someone impacted by our services and programs - and I'm encouraged.

And ultimately I'm encouraged knowing that today - right now - I am doing what I feel God has called me to do.

May that be so for you too!

Oh, and I'll post photos tomorrow morning of some of the new stuff in the store!