My Journey: Through a Layoff

I went to Braum’s for milk and eggs and cried over the receipt in the car because the total was more than I expected—eggs had gone up. A dozen eggs was now more than a gallon of milk and I hadn’t noticed before.

by Bethany Proffitt

My husband sells big equipment to oil refineries. He is good at his job and enjoys what he does. I have struggled in my role as his supporter because he is more successful than I ever dreamed and we are living a very good life. I am thankful to him and for him. However, I often wish that he could be home more or that he could slow down a bit.

Over the past year, he started to check the price of oil more and more frequently and often gave me an update at dinner. I wished that the price of oil didn’t matter to us, but it did. The farther it fell, the less likely he was to sell equipment to refineries. I tried not to care.

One night in the summer, he held my waist, but he was holding on to me, not holding me.

He said with a catch in his voice that oil had closed at some scary low number that I can’t remember now. It was real. It couldn’t be ignored any longer.

There was talk at work. Managers were meeting behind closed doors. There was a furlough. One week of unpaid vacation in July. He knew that it was a bandaid. His company was in trouble. By August he was fully expecting to be asked to move to Houston because that was the writing he was seeing on the wall. He began to look for a new job because we weren’t willing to move. One morning, I received a text. “Laid off” it read. I called him. No answer. A few minutes later he called. He was in the car, headed home at 9:30 on a Monday morning. When I saw the box of his office belongings and him standing there at our house, dressed for work, in the middle of the day, my mind flashed to The Company Men, a movie I had recently watched starring Ben Affleck which chronicles a year in the life of three men as they are laid off when their big company is forced to downsize. Ben Affleck’s character, was unemployed for nearly a year and his family slowly and painfully lost their belongings, cars, and home. I was terrified to think how easily that could be us.

It was going to be alright, I thought; he was already looking for another job. But what if it wasn’t?

Our savings account was not at the level that we normally are careful to maintain, we had become too comfortable. We had more than we needed but were scared to think we could actually lose everything. I told myself that even if we did lose everything, we would still have each other and that we would be ok, even in a worst case scenario.

The next two days we controlled our fear with reason. He would find something. We wouldn’t lose everything. It was going to be okay. Things that would have been stressful normally seemed almost catastrophic now. Jury summons awaited him in the mailbox the day he was laid off. The second day, he was showing me jobs he was applying for on his phone, when I dropped it and shattered the screen. All I could say was, “I’m sorry, honey,” as I wept for the first time after the lay-off. I went to Braum’s for milk and eggs and cried over the receipt in the car because the total was more than I expected—eggs had gone up. A dozen eggs was now more than a gallon of milk and I hadn’t noticed before.

On day three, he secured a contract job with hourly pay, working for a former manager who had started a new company. That job was the relief that he and I both needed in order to move from crises management to problem solving. We didn’t have to panic so much. He still needed to find a job, but there would be a paycheck in two weeks. We would be able to pay our bills. It began to look less likely that we would lose everything. More importantly, the feeling of desperation was eliminated, an answer to prayer. He could take a more deliberate and thoughtful approach to his job search now.

A month went by. Most of the opportunities that he found didn’t ultimately pan out, but he did receive a couple of good job offers. Though both were great offers, neither seemed quite right. Then, a dream job was offered. This is how God works sometimes. When Keith was laid off, one of my prayers was that his next job would be the job, not just a job.

My husband thinks of himself last and is so dutiful to our family that he would work in a job that he hated if it meant supporting the family well. But I didn’t want him to have a job he hated. I didn’t want him to even have a good enough job. I wanted him to have a dream job. Six months before all of this, we had a conversation in which I was encouraging Keith to dream about what he would do if he could do anything. It was difficult for him to do at first, but then a dream emerged. He described his dream job to me, and it was everything he loved and none of the things he hates about the types of jobs he has had so far. It also seemed unattainable without significant risk and sacrifice for our family, unless he could work for a particular guy that he knew who was already doing this type of work.

Week four of being laid off, he received a phone call from that particular guy, cautiously offering him a job.  It was exactly the dream job that he had described to me six months earlier. We are praising God for his provision and the exquisite detail in which he not only met our needs, but orchestrated for Keith to have the job that he almost didn’t dare to even dream about a few months ago. I have never felt so cradled in the palm of God’s hand than I have in the last few weeks.

Bethany Proffitt is the mother of four kids, two boys and two girls, and wife to Keith.  They call south Tulsa home.  Read more of her writing here, here, and here.

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