Way back in January, when I had my accident, I was forced to withdraw from or extend most of my seminary classes - there was simply no way that I could keep up my studies while undergoing intensive physical therapy several times a week. Nevermind the fact that I was in a wheelchair and on some type of pain medication for much of the time. Thus, instead of graduating in June 2009, I would extend my schedule and complete my degree by the summer of 2010. So far, so good.
As for work (and income), I had been on Active Duty Special Work (ADSW) orders with the California National Guard since March 2008 doing officer recruiting for them. My history with them over the last year or so has been... well, interesting, to say the least. After an unexplained break in my orders from Nov 08 - Jan 09, I was given one more set of orders from 26 Jan - 28 Feb 09. As I was led to understand, the state would not be renewing my orders, but I would be able to continue doing my job, only I would be under the auspices of the National Guard Bureau, which oversees all the national recruiting programs.
However, a week into my new orders, I went and got myself hurt, which totally threw a wrench into the well-oiled machine that is the National Guard.
As I lay recuperating in the hospital, my boss called my wife to see how I was doing. After chatting for a few minutes, Tamara shared with him her concern about how my orders were due to expire in a few weeks, and what would we do then? "Don't worry," he assured her, "we'll take care of him and keep him on orders for as long as he needs so he can continue to receive a paycheck and get medical care." And, true to his word, that's exactly what happened - until September rolled around.
I had been receiving 30-day orders at the end of every month that extended me for the following month (why they chose to do it this way, I have no idea). At the same time, they were working on enrolling me in the Active Duty Medical Extension (ADME) program - sort of a Wounded Warriors unit - that would keep me on orders until I was well and fully fit for duty again. Although the ADME process was only supposed to take 2 weeks to accomplish, they somehow managed to drag it out until sometime in early October. The completed packet wasn't sent to the medical board until October 8th, over 8 months from the date of my accident.
Anywho, around the last week of September, I start expecting to see a new set of orders show up in my inbox. When none appear, I start calling the folks up at HQ in Sacramento to see what's going on. Unsurprisingly, I am unable to reach anyone on the phone, nor do I get any response to my emails (this lack of communication had been endemic ever since I began working there). Finally, on October 8th I managed to get in touch with the new head recruiter at HQ who had taken over for my old boss. She informs me that my orders had ended on September 30th (duh) and that they wouldn't be renewed (what?!?). The reason I was given was that there had been budget cuts, and that I was just dead weight who was just sucking up their limited financial resources while not adding anything to their bottom line (Ok, maybe she didn't actually say it in those words, but that was the distinct impression I received).
To put it bluntly, unless there was some regulation that required them to keep me on orders, they weren't gonna do it. Period.
We went 'round and 'round on that point, but it was a battle I couldn't win. The rules, such as they are, were worded in such a way as to allow various interpretations - depending on who's doing the reading. And the budget-conscious folks at HQ weren't going to be very liberal in interpreting them in any way that would be favorable to yours truly.
So there I am, just now learning that my last paycheck was over a week ago and that I'm on my own as far as finances are concerned.
"But wait," you say, "what about that ADME packet that was finally submitted?"
Ah yes, thanks for reminding me. My last hope - to be transitioned over to a medical unit that would be able to continue to pay my wages while helping me down the road to full recovery. Surely the good folks on the medical board will see all the evidence and clear the way for me to be admitted to this program, right?
Umm, no. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
On November 18th, over a month after submitting the packet (and 9 1/2 months after my accident, for those of you who're counting), I learned that my request had been denied. I still haven't received official notification of the fact, so I have no idea what they based their decision on.
So now I'm six weeks out from my last paycheck, I have no real job prospects, and I can't even file for unemployment since the Guard hasn't seen fit to send me my discharge papers. The bills are piling up, my family healthcare has been cut off, we're having to apply for food stamps, and to top it off I'm struggling to get through a Greek Exegesis class that I'm woefully unprepared for since I had to drop out of Intermediate Greek earlier in the year.
So how do I feel?
Yes, you heard it right - despite all that's occurred, fairly or unfairly, my response is one of joy.
How can this be? Well for starters, I still have a lot to be thankful for. I'm alive, when the accident could've easily have been fatal. I'm recovering, when I could be crippled or worse. I'm not in pain, when it could be chronic. I have a wonderful wife and two beautiful kids when I could be alone in all of this.
But more than that, I have joy because of who I am in Christ. I'm his child, deeply loved by Him, and nothing can take that away, according to Romans 8:38-39. I am where He has put me, doing the work He has given me to do, and my strength comes from Him. Because of this, I can join Paul in saying, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:12-13)