Each time someone asks me why I’m here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania all the way from California, all I’m able to tell them is, “God called me here.” On May 19th, two years ago, I flew out of the Burbank Airport in the San Fernando Valley where I was born and raised. I often look at my current situation and wonder if I was an idiot for coming here. I’ll bet some of my friends wonder why I would be so foolish to leave everything to follow some vague call.
Bonnie leaves home in 2018 from the Burbank Airport
I wouldn’t blame them. I’ve often wondered this myself. Heck, I remember plenty of well-meaning people in Los Angeles telling me I should not ever leave my family, especially when they knew about my autism. In this time of COVID-19, it’s become even easier to expect these answers. Why was I was called by God to leave my family, friends, and a really good job to chase after a dream that hadn’t been fulfilled?
I still feel like a prisoner in my own skin…
What was God doing if not teasing me? Why did I have to be all alone? Or if I had to stay in Pennsylvania, why did He call me to leave Oakmont, Pennsylvania where I lived for a time and made many new friends?
Sometimes I wonder if Abraham wondered the same thing. I don’t entirely know what God is planning for me, but the more He helps me look back the more I realize He’s been growing me. Even before leaving California, He told me that I was not going to Pennsylvania only because of Sight and Sound Theater where I dreamed of working. While the answer is still not clear to me yet, I’ve been seeing His developing me into an independent woman of God.
Had I still been living in California, I would have grown, but not in the same way: I would not have experienced a first-hand education of being completely on my own. I might not feel as bold to speak the truth about God with whoever I might meet. I might even still be afraid to experiment with cooking and too scared to take driving lessons. I could have stayed a dreamer without putting big plans into action or 100% trust in God to help make those plans happen.
In many ways I still don’t understand all social behaviors. I still feel like a prisoner in my own skin, often resentful of my family for many different reasons. I probably wouldn’t have any idea how to handle people trying to manipulate or control me, though I am still working on both. Back home I did not trust God as much as I do now, hiding behind some of my major fears. And as great as my last job there was I don’t think management would have tried to encourage me to rise to a promotion.
Since living in Pennsylvania, I’ve done things and gone places I’ve never imagined were possible. I did not think it would be possible to live in Lancaster, but here I am. Even if my parents believed I could , I certainly never thought I would be capable of living a life of independence in the world—and not just because of my autism.
…miraculously the manager hired me on the spot.
But God, who defies our version of “normal” and challenges us to rise above, knew I could and helped me financially, physically, emotionally, and especially spiritually. He knew how to shape me, and I had to learn how to trust Him. When He thought better than to give me what I wanted, I would get angry but eventually would learn that He did it to grow me in a unique way.
For instance: before getting a job at Giant Eagle Grocery Store I begged God to let me work as a hostess at the nearby restaurant instead. I knew what I was capable of. But He pointed again to Giant Eagle and miraculously the manager hired me on the spot. There I learned to listen to people, make them laugh, relate to them, and try to be a joy or a comfort to them when they came to my checkout stand. I also had to learn restraint and patience with them if they were in a hurry or being rude.
When I moved to Lancaster, Sight and Sound and the Disney Store were two places I not only knew I’d be perfect for, but really wanted to work there as well! It broke my heart when both places turned me down, but still secretly hoping for Sight and Sound when the time was right. And while I was glad to get a job at Cracker Barrel I was also slightly bummed. It took my working there a while before I realized that had I gotten what I wanted the previous year—when I wanted to work at a restaurant!
But I know now I would not have been ready. God was building up my character through the jobs He helped me find. It does make me wonder if He is preparing me for Sight and Sound or something bigger. I’ve been more social and more aware of people behaviors while at Cracker Barrel than I’ve ever been.
God develops people in different ways, whether He has them stay in one place or go somewhere else. Abraham was called to leave his family and go to a land without so much as a map. Because he obeyed and trusted God, Abraham became the father of nations, most notably Israel.
Moses was called into the Midian Desert and waited there forty years until God told him to return to Egypt to rescue His people from bondage. Moses reluctantly obeyed. And because of that Moses was granted favor every step of his journey, was able to lead Israel for forty years and given the rare privilege of seeing a bit of the Lord Himself and knowing His Name.
God kept Daniel in Babylon, and because he chose to obey the Lord in a foreign land rather than rebel or escape back to his land which lay in ruins, he was given the gift for interpreting dreams, intelligence to qualify as advisor to at least three kings, and was rescued by God’s angel from a pack of lions.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
Two years later, I don’t know if I can say that “I’m living the dream”, but I’ve been definitely following God’s call. It has not been an easy ride and I still cry out for my family and friends every now and then—maybe even more now that the virus has me mostly shut off from everyone!
However, it does not change my mind. Unless God calls me, I’m not going back to live in California or with my parents, even if they come to live in Lancaster (which is unlikely). I’m also grateful God actually relates to my pain and is not annoyed at my tears. Why God still has me here, I have no idea. But I’m grateful for how far He’s brought me in this journey and am anticipating whatever “crazy thing” is next.
Are you ready for whatever “crazy thing” God has in store for you whether its purpose is immediately apparent or even a small change possibly leading to something huge?
eileen j huhtala says
Bonnie, you certainly got to the core of life’s journey. Thanks for reminding us of the Bible’s example of God’s guidance.
Bill Bjoraker says
Great story of Faith , Bonnie !
You and father Abraham ! … you have a destiny !
Jean Paradiso says
Thank you for sharing. Thus was a blessing to me. Praying for you as you walk by faith. Proud of you.
God Bless. Love, Hugs, Prayers. 💕🙇
Moreblessing Chasiya says
Praise God very inspiring!! I also had to leave my birt country and wondered what God has in store for me. You remind of the Bible verse, ‘The just shall live by faith’
I will also encourage my daughter to start journaling her faith in God.
God bless you Bonnie , love and prayers to you 🙏🏽🙏🏽
Sam Ahulu says
It was spiritually uplifting to read your reply to Bonnie. Like you, I have had to leave my motherland in my search for self actualization, and I could not have felt the hand of God more in my life.
Karen Eve says
You have always been such an amazing person and you continue. Although last time I saw you in person, you were a very young girl, watching you grow up from afar has been great. Blessings
Jean Pergande says
My brother and sister-in-law live in Coatsville, Pa. and I went to see a production with them at Sight and Sound when I was there years ago. My niece and her family live near Lancaster. It is beautiful in Pa. and I especially loved the rural areas.
You are blessed and I appreciate that you are able to share your story.
Tim Laursen says
You are an inspiration to us all! May God continue to bless you as you submit to His will and His voice.
Pamela LaChapell says
Your story reminds me once again that when God closes a door He opens a window. Our faith grows when we are granted 2020 hindsight and get to see why God said “No” to something we badly wanted. He is faithful and His plans for us are always going to be better than any plan we could come up with for ourselves. Thank you for this great reminder. It will help me when God’s next “crazy” assignment is presented to me. And it will surely come.
Hope you take this comment as the high compliment it is intended to be:
If EVER there was / IS a beautiful chip off the ‘old block’s of her parents… and a hifalutin’ crowned queen of God’s glory thru two people’s progeny: well, it’s YOU, Thank you, Bonnie O’Connor.
(P.S. I learned more as a cocktail waitress (abt human nature, egos, & peeps) than I ever learned in studying to be a counselor, or in my work as such. You keep on going, Lovely Woman.
Deirdre (one of your most tickled Aunts & grateful Admirers)
Corey Sylvester says
You are quite a special young lady. You definitely are related and have your Mom’s genes. Both women of Valor. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Our G-d is building for you your personal testimony. I see a book in the making……
caren linden says
Thank you dear Bonnie for sharing your struggles & faith journey so beautifully. It was inspiring to me & im sure it will be to many. , including your self as you go & grow from glory to glory in the strength of Yeshua & by His amazing grace. Blessings upon you & therest of your journey as you follow closely after Him!
Tracy Kirscher says
I love this Bonnie, such honesty….just like your mom!! With such honesty you minister to more people than you know. Thank you for blessing me today!
Robert (Robbie) Specter says
What a beautiful way of sharing your life and purpose. May God continue to answer your prayers and meet your needs!
Francesca Canzano says
Hello, Bonnie! I have been catching up with your family blog, and was most eager to hear more of your story!…Your childhood friend, Cassandra, has also been growing in her independence, although in opposite circumstances—She stayed in California while we moved away to Arizona. She already had her license to cut hair, but did not learn to drive until after our move (We gave her my old car)….With the hair salon closures she has had to pause in her work…Please keep your old friend in your prayers that she would continue to open her heart to God’s Love…We have a loving relationship with her and will be visiting CA in a few weeks….Keep up the good work, Bonnie!!