Thursday, July 10, 2014

Grace to Cover our Road Blocks

I think sometimes, the deeper we find ourselves spiritually...the more intimate we become with the Lover of our Souls, our Creator...the easier it is to think that because we're at a new level of faith and belief that we will no longer have to fight the same fights we've battled in the past. No, we've overcome them and found a new level of freedom, right? Wrong. Know why? I was reminded tonight that the Enemy of our Souls is in no way, shape or form creative, or imaginative or sophisticated. His tactics don't change. It's impossible for him to change. He knows what he knows, and he does only what he knows. If he throws a road block at you and finds it unsuccessful, he'll back you up and try the one previous to that, or the one before that, or the one he used 10 years ago because he's running out of options.

I found myself tonight putting words to my thoughts that have been scrambling through my head over the last several days. I found myself surprised that the struggle I'm distracted by is even a struggle. This isn't right. This isn't me, I keep thinking over these last few days. Truthfully, this struggle never really was a major struggle before, years before, just a distraction. But now, because of my maturity spiritually and where I am in life, it's shocking to me that I wouldn't even get stuck in it. And how did I get caught up in it and stuck? Simple. I pissed the Enemy off and he went back to his list of "what throws Karen off" and picked one and threw it on my road.

I've had the most intimate, life-changing, dare I say Kingdom-changing encounters, with God through the Holy Spirit in the last few months, but last weekend was one of the most intense of them all. Three full days of encountering Him, learning Him, knowing Him in a whole new way, with the Holy Spirit praying on my behalf in a language unknown to me and most importantly unknown to my Enemy. When I'm praying in the Spirit, it's a language that the Enemy cannot comprehend, interrupt or choose to twist and use against me. He just cannot understand it, and therefore he cannot attempt to thwart it. I know that must royally piss him off. So, in anger and haste, he threw a road barrier at me and I didn't have my headlights on for a second there, didn't see and ran right smack into it and got stuck. The best part about this story is that although I was surprised I ran into it and got stuck, Jesus was not. After my conversation tonight with a dear friend, I left thinking, "thank you God that on the other side of that road barrier there wasn't a huge hole I fell in to. I just got stuck in the barrier itself, not the pit behind it. Even though, at the very last second, right before impact, I saw I was going to hit the barrier and get stuck, much like an out of body experience watching it happen in slow motion, I couldn't stop my car from hitting it head on. Still in my out of body experience mode, I saw the impact, and I saw myself stuck, but I couldn't figure out how to get unstuck.

Tonight, this is what Jesus gently whispered to me:
Forgive yourself, my sweet child. It was an accident. You took your eyes off the road for a quick second and couldn't miss hitting the barrier. But my blood has covered even this. My death and resurrection, over two thousand years ago, covered even this today. Forgive yourself, Karen, and then surrender everything back to me. You know, oh I know you know, I am the Giver of all things - life, joy, pleasure, satisfaction, love, relationships, favor, freedom. You know this to be true. You've experienced it before, and I am the same today as I was yesterday and will be tomorrow. It's who I am. So, forgive yourself and surrender. That will get you back on the road, driving onwards. My grace is sufficient for all things; it covers all things. I never left your side. I will never leave you or forsake you. I'll move you out and away from the barrier, and my grace will cover the barrier you hit like a blanket, making it now invisible and non existent to you. No more fluorescent orange staring you at the face, reminding you of the accident. Even more, my grace will remove any scratches or dents or broken parts from the impact. Oh, don't worry...there will be another road block the Enemy of your soul will try to throw in your path. This one didn't quite work out for him as he hoped. So he'll pull out another oldie-but-goodie in the next curve in the road, that split second you take your eyes off me. And guess what? I won't be surprised then either. I'm omniscient- all knowing. And my grace still reaches further and lasts longer than any road block or road barrier He can try to stop you with. And, you'll have to forgive yourself again, knowing you already have eternal forgiveness, knowing I didn't move or change when you took your eyes off of me. And I'll blanket that road block with my grace again. Don't you see there's absolutely nothing you can do to make me love you less?? LIVE IN THAT FREEDOM! It is for freedom I have set you free, with the gift of mercy and grace shed on that cross all those years ago. You are my beloved. You are mine.

These are the moments I live for. He's a good, good Father. It's who He is. And, I'm loved by Him, it's who I am.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Abiding Fruit

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16 ESV)

You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as [a]presenting all that I Am], He may give it to you. (John 15:16 AMP)

You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you. (John 15:16 MSG)

Fruit. More Fruit. Much Fruit. Abiding Fruit! How the heart of Christ is set upon fruit! And it is not only quantity that He seeks, but quality too; not only much fruit, but fruit that abides, remains, lasts. God has been using this tree analogy with me for many months now.

When trees are not perfectly healthy, or are suffering from drought, they sometimes drop their fruit. The trees may bear much fruit, but are not able to ripen, and so the fruit falls to the ground: the fruit does not abide. Or they may bear fruit that, and once the fruit is ripe it will not keep: it does not abide. It must be used at once, while other trees will keep, and can bear being carried far, or can be stored for use in winter. Or, there are trees that bear fruit only for a few years, and then fail, while others continue fruit-bearing till old age: the fruit abides as long as they live.

If I look back over my own life, I can see how I’ve been each of these types of trees. Looking back has a way of propelling you forward differently, doesn’t it? I desire to no longer begin any season of life well, with lots of zeal for the work God has laid before me and then, somewhere along the way, lose my connection with the source of life and allow my fruit to stop ripening. I want mature fruit. Fruit that has a lasting impression on everyone around me. Fruit that has long-term influence and not just temporary influence. Fruit that abides as long as I live.

Jesus meant that the branch that abides in Him should bear fruit that abides, should have permanent results for time and eternity. When the connection between you (the trunk and the branch) and Jesus (the water of life, source of life) and the Holy Spirit (the root system in which the water flows from the source) is close and the communication is never ceasing, the power flowing through the trunk and branches is to be seen in the fruit produced.

One great secret to having fruit that abides is that we know that Jesus has appointed us to bear fruit, and with our whole heart we accept and take up the appointment. When I think of someone being appointed, I think of a government official or someone highly ranked who has received a special position. He first has to be chosen for the appointment, and then he has to accept the appointment. Then you see him give his whole life, all his time and energy and attention, to fulfilling this role. And throughout his time in that position, his influence and possibility for future promotion depend on his faithfulness to giving everything he has to this position. It is often apparent that people who are appointed into these special roles make everything else in their life subordinate to this role. For this role alone they now live. As little as a tree chooses where to be planted, or a branch chooses the tree it grows on, did I choose Christ. No, remember, He chose me. To allow the Holy Spirit to let this sink into my heart is so important in my knowing that because He chose me, He has a purpose for me. And I know from the Word that He is committed to His purpose, and He will be faithful to complete His purpose in me. I have been planted as a strong, healthy tree for a purpose- to bear much fruit. And I have been planted/appointed, to bear this fruit not because of my own anything, but because Jesus saw fit to choose me to do so. I was planted by the Gardener, and this should give me the desire and confidence to see my root system grow stronger and deeper and closer to the Life Source. But fruit that abides comes from a tree that abides.

Jesus also says “Abide in Me, and I will abide in you.” This means to make Jesus everything in every moment. This looks like taking up my appointment seriously, turning away from everything that makes me busy, or distracts me, or takes my mind off of Christ, and making bearing fruit the first, the last, the only thing I spend my life doing. That’s the purpose of the Holy Spirit, by the way. He has been given to me to make Jesus all to me and in me that He has purposed. He is given to enable me to believe this and to put it into action, to abide. For this very reason, I cry out to God and say “Fill me with the Holy Spirit! Give me more of Him!” More of the Spirit in me will allow me to see that my fruit is from Him, and that He is at work in me making fully-ripened, healthy, tasty, effective, influential, lasting fruit.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

If I Were Praying the Greatest Prayer in the World

excerpts taken from this Desiring God Holy Week post...

It is Thursday, the night before Jesus’s crucifixion. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prays the greatest prayer in the world. What hung in the balance was the glory of God’s grace and the salvation of the world. The success of Jesus’s mission to earth depended on Jesus’s prayer and the answer given. He prayed with reverence and his request was given. 

I'm trying to put myself in his place and imagine my response if I asked God to take that cup and the angel showed me it was necessary for me to drink of it. I've asked for much less to be taken away and wanted to have a temper tantrum when it didn't. But Jesus in fact chooses to pray two more times and asks for strength to drink the cup. Jesus did not go on praying for the cup to pass. He went on praying for success in drinking it.

"This was the greatest act of obedience that Christ was to perform. He prays for strength and help, that his poor feeble human nature might be supported, that he might not fail in this great trial, that he might not sink and be swallowed up, and his strength so overcome that he should not hold out, and finish the appointed obedience.

He was afraid lest his poor feeble strength should be overcome, and that he should fail in so great a trial, that he should be swallowed up by that death that he was to die, and so should not be saved from death; and therefore he offered up strong crying and tears unto him that was able to strengthen him, and support, and save him from death, that the death he was to suffer might not overcome his love and obedience, but that he might overcome death, and so be saved from it." {Jonathan Edwards}

Evidently, by the time Jesus was done praying in Gethsemane, the Father had not only made clear that there is no other way than the cross, but also that this way would succeed. The Lamb would have the reward of his suffering. When Paul says, of Jesus’s resurrection, “Therefore, God has highly exalted him” (Philippians 2:9), the “therefore” refers to Jesus’s unwavering obedience unto death. God saved Jesus from death because he was obedient. His prayers were answered.

If Jesus had not been obedient unto death, he would have been swallowed up by death forever and there would be no resurrection, no salvation, and no future world filled with the glory of God’s grace and God’s children.

Obedience is the word I take from this. I may not be praying a hard, life changing, it-feels-like-I'll-be-swallowed-up prayer today, but I know it's around the corner. Whether we feel prepared for what God brings us to or not, we are called to obedience. May I be increasingly growing my love for Jesus now, in the not-so-hard days, so that my response is obedience, because of this great love, when He needs me to drink of the cup to fulfill His plan. Yes, Lord. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Part Five of my Journey to my Calling: How Crippling Fear Confirmed my Calling

It was the first Monday of January, and only 4 days after I had passed the pre-license real estate course test. I had no idea what to expect but I woke up excited and ready to begin this new season of life as a real estate agent with the number one real estate company in the United States. There was a threat of snow fall and I was concerned that they would cancel the start of my training class at Keller Williams. I’m always in favor of a snow day, except for this day. Thankfully, they did not cancel and I arrived to a class of about 20 other new agents and a lively instructor, John, who is also the assistant team leader of our office. 4 hours later and I couldn’t have been more convinced that this was exactly where I was supposed to be and exactly what I was called to do. That feeling was priceless, and honestly, something I experienced after every single day of training. I was the only person in my training class who had not taken the state license test yet, and everyone was so kind to give me lots of advice after class on how to pass it. Two new friends, one of which failed the test the first four times he took it and the other who failed it three times before passing, offered to bring in all the materials they used to study that helped them finally pass. They had paid hundreds of dollars after all was said and done to take a few crash courses to prepare to pass, and received many different study guides. I was also able to borrow the main book that prepares you for the state test. This was a book I was told I needed to pass the test up front. After receiving a 94 on the course test I was weighing whether it was worth the cost to purchase and was told I probably didn’t need to spend $100 on the book. Without this book and the extra study guides I was able to borrow, I am convinced I probably wouldn’t have passed the test on the first round. I love all the many ways God gives his perfect provision to carry out his plans.

Exactly one week after beginning training, I was scheduled to take my state test. I had  a deep confidence that this was where I was supposed to be, but was still a bit nervous that my recall wouldn’t be strong enough. I’ve had issues with my memory because of my thyroid disease. The information is still in there, but the ability to recall the right information has been a huge issue in the last two or three years. Thankfully, I had my great group of community covering me in prayer, and one of my greatest friends reminded me that God’s memory and recall in perfect! Amen. The test was very difficult. They’ve changed the questions to be very situational and subjective. Out of the four answers they provide, generally two or three of them are correct, but you have to determine which is the most correct. I was told to use ear plugs to quiet all distractions around me, and I got in a zone. I skipped every question I didn’t know the answer for sure the first time and wrote those down in one column on my scrap sheet of paper. I also skipped all the math questions and wrote those in a second column to come back to. Math questions make your brain change the way it thinks, so I was told it’s good to separate them and do them all together at once, so you don’t force your brain to think in different ways back and forth. After three and a half hours, I felt unsure of about 15 questions and I knew if that was true that I probably passed. I submitted my test, took a selfie with the computer camera to verify who I was, and cautiously walked out to the main desk. A lady was waiting by the printer and handed me a certificate with a big grin on her face and a happy “Congratulations!” followed. I was almost brought to tears. It was official. What God called me to, he equipped me for. Soli deo Gloria! I got in my car and immediately called my family and a few friends to share in my excitement, and of course the floodgate of tears ensued.

There were many days during our training when I felt overwhelmed by all of the things I needed to do to start my business. I felt a deep assurance that this was going to allow me to love on people, bring counsel and comfort to a process that is normally stressful and unpredictable, and still explore all of the things I love about business. I was thrilled to get started, but as with any one in a new sales position, I felt ill equipped to begin. John had been leading us through all of the models of how to build a business, how to consult with a buyer and a seller, how to gain listings, etc. We were expected to make at least 10 connections per day (10 actual conversations about our new career, not just 10 phone calls), follow those conversations up with 10 hand written note cards, add 10 new people to our database each day, and preview at least 10 houses on the market each week. I was on board at first, though apprehensive. After several days of calls, I pulled back and told myself I needed to pump the brakes a little. Thankfully, John and Robben hijacked one of our classes to hammer in the importance of these things and accountability for completing them. Later that day I sat down with Robben and she asked me what was causing me not to make my calls, what I was afraid of. After all, fear is normally what cripples one from moving forward. I thought on it for a moment and answered honestly that I was afraid of someone on the other end of the phone giving me a name when I asked who they knew that may need my help buying or selling a house this year. I didn’t feel prepared enough to have a consultation with anyone yet. I can BS with the best of you, but buying or selling a house is one of the biggest financial decisions anyone can make, and I refused to BS my way through the process with anyone. I am just not comfortable doing that. What was Robben’s response? I’m never going to know everything, I’m never going to have all the answers, it’s ok to let my clients know that and to ask for help. She shared a great example with me. When you go to the doctor, typically the nurse comes into the room first. She pulls out your chart and a checklist, if you will. She probes you for details on your current situation. If you’re on top of it and being an advocate for yourself, as you’re discussing these things you have questions that arise. In my particular situation, I may ask about medication for a symptom I’m having and ask the nurse if taking that would have any effects on my thyroid medication. Would I rather her BS her way through it and make up an answer, just so she doesn’t look unprofessional, or would I rather her say, “let me ask the doctor, find the right answer and get back to you?” Definitely the latter. And point taken. Robben also kindly reminded me there was almost nothing I could do wrong that she couldn’t fix. Lastly, she gently said to me, in her soft, motherly-love tone of voice, “Karen, I think you’re just going to have to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Woosh! Yes. I’m so thankful for the leadership I have around me. They have been so instrumental in reshaping my mindset. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process, and there have been many, it’s how important having a positive, encouraging mindset is to being successful. Henry Ford said it well, “Whether you think you, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out. Robben shared this with our class that morning: It is better to be told to wait than to wait to be told. Action takes courage. Inaction comes from fear. Action builds courage; inaction builds nothing. It was time to stop allowing myself to operate out of fear. I heard Jonathan Helser say, “the exact place where you’re hit with crippling fear is the place where you’ve been created to do great things. Insecurity comes against you because when you walk out who God made you to be you make the enemy insecure and vulnerable.” I could not have heard this at a more perfect time. I spent eight months in a waiting season (for this very season) where God spent a great deal of time teaching me about courage. It was time to put feet to all that he had deposited in my heart over that time.

A couple of weeks flew by and I hit another wall mentally. I was having a hard time sticking to a morning routine, and one particular day where my body wouldn’t allow me to get out of bed in time for a continuing education class I wanted to attend, I was beating myself up. In God’s perfect timing, I happened to have a meeting with my coach and mentor that afternoon. I thought about hiding this issue from her, as I’ve faced so much judgement and a lack of understanding from so many people for this in the past. I felt nudged to bring it up, though, and I did. She noticed how down I was, and said I was being too hard on myself. She told me that Gary Keller, the founder of our company, was a low energy person and he has discussed several times how important it is for him to find the right balance in his personal life and career. He starts out his morning with a designated quiet time of meditation, then cooks breakfast for he and his wife each day, and then begins his work day. Without this schedule, his day turns out differently. So Nan asks me, “what is it for you that helps you keep your head on straight and keeps you balanced?” I answered, “time with Jesus. When I start my day focusing on Him, who He is, and who I am in Him, I feel invincible.” So responds, “and did you do that today?” I hadn’t. “Do you think that has something to do with how you’re feeling right now?” Um, yes. For sure. She called me out, y’all. And I’m so grateful.

I know that starting my day with Jesus changes everything. But actually making space for that each day is a different story. After having no consistent schedule for almost a year, I needed help to be disciplined to create that space. Nan then showed me a video on youtube where Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist, discusses the importance of a positive mindset for success. During the video, God showed me that I’ve always been allowed to be average. In all of my jobs, I never had any leaders who really truly cared about my development, personally or professionally. I’m the kind of person who, if given an inch, will take a mile. I’m not particularly fond of this trait, but it’s true. If you give me an inch towards average, I’ll take a mile. Inversely, if you give me an inch to be great, I’ll take a mile towards greatness. No one had ever called greatness or excellence out of me, so I hadn’t given it. Again, it was time to pick up courage and move forward. What you allow to occupy your thinking has a powerful impact on who you are and what you become. If you want your life to flourish and prosper, start by looking at what’s going on in your thought-life. Left unchecked, negative thoughts will take root in your heart and will sabotage your future. In Shawn Achor’s book he says: Because our brains' resources are limited, we are left with a choice: to use those finite resources to see only pain, negativity, stress, and uncertainty, or to use those resources to look at things through a lens of gratitude, hope, resilience, optimism, and meaning. In other words, while we of course can't change reality through sheer force of will alone, we can use our brain to change how we process the world, and that in turn changes how we react to it. Happiness is not about lying to ourselves, or turning a blind eye to the negative, but about adjusting our brain so that we see the ways to rise above our circumstances. The happiness advantage is about learning how to cultivate the mindset and behaviors that have been proven to fuel greater success & fulfillment. The most successful people are the ones who capitalize on the positive and reap the rewards at every turn. Our interpretation of reality changes our experience of that reality.

On that note, it’s important to remember, most importantly, our identity precedes our behavior. Ephesians 5:1-2 says “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” If we live out of a place of knowing we are dearly loved children of God, we will have the ability to mimic, to seek to follow the actions of, God. And the way to truly know yourself as God’s beloved is to spend time with him. Psalms 84:5 “What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!” There is a link between our uncompromising relationship with God and the road to a full, stable, flourishing, and overcoming life.

Gosh, I love my coach, Nan. God uses her to get me back on the straight and narrow, and at all the right times. I could write a blog double the length of this one about how grateful I am for the investment she’s already made in me (and that’s saying something)!

The purpose of writing all of this out is so that I can come back at a later date and recount all that God has done in my life and all the details He used to show me His love. I could probably write a story per day of His faithfulness or His loving kindness. From the way He orchestrated my first buyer’s consultation with a couple at my church who couldn’t have been easier to begin with- they knew what they wanted, they didn’t grill me on anything, and they showed me grace even though I was brand new- to my first seller’s consultation with neighbors who allowed me to truly educate them about the market and counsel them through the selling process. Even though neither of those appointments have led to a closing yet, and may end up not moving forward, I see His love and care through the details of each of those situations. The same is true for my first contract I just came under with an investor buyer buying a foreclosure. And how he allowed me to create my LLC at no administrative cost. And how he’s given me some business through being “agent on duty” at my office to take all the random calls or walk ins that day, even though many of the newer agents who’ve taken that duty on other days complain that it was a waste of time. And how he allowed me to receive 1 of maybe 30 or 40 awards out of 250 agents in my office’s 2013 awards ceremony with the “most likely to do the job with little guidance” award. I wasn’t even a part of our office in 2013! And how he allowed me to win a $250 gift card at a broker’s open house that will pay for a training class I wanted to pay for that day before the price went up. The stories go on and on. Jesus is my Father. He’s my provider. He’s kind. He’s faithful. He’s my advocate. He’s my gentle counselor. He fights for me. He’s working on my behalf. He will bring glory to Himself through me because I choose to commune with Him. My heart and vision for my business is to be kingdom minded, to serve every person God connects me to. But out of my time with Jesus over the last month, He continually speaks to my heart that my priority is not building a business. It’s not a certain number of transactions I have on my goal list. It’s not even serving people. My sole priority to spend time communing with Him and the Holy Spirit, and out of that, He will give me the eyes to see the opportunities He has for me to walk in that will afford provision and allow me to serve. Yesterday, the great John Piper reminded me: glorifying God is not something we do after communing with him, but by communing with him. Many deeds magnify the glory of God's goodness, but only if they flow from our contentment in communion with him. As I walk forward into this calling, may I always start from a place of communion with Jesus, and may any deeds He affords me bring glory to His goodness.

Friday, March 21, 2014

God intends His own glory

I find myself not being able to leave Exodus 6 quickly. More specifically Exodus 6:6. My great God and Father has rescued me from my oppression and brought me into a place of freedom like I've never known. It is for true freedom that we are set free, and I now know what that looks and feels like and pray I never return to a place of discontent, fret, worry, stubbornness, (self) control. I could not have written thoughts more suited to my own feelings better than Matthew Henry:

We are most likely to prosper in attempts to glorify God, and to be useful to men, when we learn by experience that we can do nothing of ourselves; when our whole dependence is placed on Him, and our only expectation is from Him. Moses had been expecting what God would do; but now he shall see what he will do. God would now be known by his name Jehovah, that is, a God performing what He had promised, and finishing his own work. God intended their happiness: I will take you to me for a people, a peculiar people, and I will be to you a God. More than this we need not ask, we cannot have, to make us happy. He intended His own glory: Ye shall know that I am the Lord. These good words, and comfortable words, should have revived the drooping Israelites, and have made them forget their misery; but they were so taken up with their troubles, that they did not heed God's promises. By indulging discontent and fretfulness, we deprive ourselves of the comfort we might have, both from God's word and from his providence, and go comfortless.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Part Four on my journey to my calling: Extravagant Love

If you haven't read my earlier posts, feel free to catch up with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I remember walking through the door of the Keller Williams office Bobby works in with excitement and wonder. As I sat there listening to Bobby tell me his story, tears welled up in my eyes over and over. I felt like such a girl, barely able to control my emotions. His story, although on a different timeline and with longer years for each of his positions, was almost exactly my story. He knew exactly what I had walked through, and the thoughts I had wrestled with. I could see understanding in his eyes as he spoke, and it couldn’t have been sweeter. It’s no wonder he had a big grin on his face at Catalyst as he was listening to me share my work history and a little of what I felt like God was stirring up in and changing in my heart. Bobby continued on, sharing more of his experience getting started in real estate, how his mentor helped him, and about the leadership and vision behind KW. He told me that the core values of KW are God first, family, then business. And he mentioned that to Gary Keller, the founder, the God in that statement means Jesus. Of course not everyone in the company tows that line, but it’s always nice to hear the leadership of the company you may join was founded with principles of faith in Jesus. It was sweet music to my ears to hear that KW leadership really does strive to live by their mission and their values. When I met Bobby’s team leader who manages his office, it was a breath of fresh air to answer him honestly and fully when he asked me what I had been doing with my time since being laid off, and to have that well received. I learned how KW likes to be known as a training and education company that also “happens” to be in the real estate business. When a company invests in training and education, they show how successful they want you to  be. At Home Depot, I tried to no avail several times to implement better training. If you wanted training, it was up to you to make happen. After walking around to see more of Bobby’s office and the people there, I felt intrigued. But I mostly left our meeting feeling blown away by yet another seemingly small detail that felt like huge confirmation to me that I was moving in the right direction- Keller Williams felt like it would be my new home. Having my career story be so similar to the guy who the Lord used to intersect me and open my eyes to this opportunity felt like a sweet nudge from the Lord reminding me that He knows exactly what I need to feel pursued and loved on.

In the mean time, I was finally able to get ahold of this popular Rich Richardson guy. He seemed great on the phone and was nice enough to get me on his calendar. I remember him asking me pretty early in the phone conversation if I was looking to get into commercial or residential real estate. I told him I felt pulled towards residential, although I had no reason or explanation as to why. It took several back and forth emails to get on his schedule, so I was pretty bummed when, on the way to meet with him, I was in a car accident that blew my front tire out and wouldn’t allow me to get to him that day. I felt rattled after the impact, but totally calm in my spirit. The other girl was visibly disturbed and complaining about how much of a hassle it was and how her neck was already hurting. When I gave Rich a ring to let him know what happened, he said a good friend had just gone to the hospital and that this now freed him up to go spend time with him. I clearly remember saying, “Well, Lord. I’ve learned for sure that your timing is perfect. I’m choosing to trust that even today.” It wasn’t until a few days later, when it seemed like it may be two more weeks before I could get back on Rich’s schedule that I was annoyed.

While I was waiting to figure out a day that would work for for Rich, Bobby invited me to come to a 3rd quarter stats meeting with him the week following my accident. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I arrived at a theater to over 500 agents crowded in the room. There was a lot of information coming at us, and at one point Bobby leaned over and whispered to me to make sure I wasn’t overwhelmed. Quite the opposite. Numbers are my friend, and analyzing numbers and trends in numbers through graphs and charts are my happy place. I seriously love diving into numbers to make sense of them. What I was hearing is that 3Q 2013 was up in all of greater metro Atlanta for all FMLS data ~26% over 3Q 2012, but this group of 6 KW offices that Bobby is a part of was up ~48% in 3Q 2013 over 2012. I saw several charts that broke that out into price ranges, areas of Atlanta, the sale prices vs listing prices, how many days houses were on the market in each price/area, etc. What I heard was that this was the perfect time for me to be getting into the business. More confirmation. A few days later, I was on a road trip with one of my best friends. I was giving her the long version of everything that had been unfolding since Catalyst. She’s so kind to listen and let me relish in the details. After all of the details she heard and my rave reviews of the stats meeting that week, she asked me what else I needed to hear to officially say I was going to get my real estate license. She said, based on what I had shared, she would have more than enough confirmation to know that this is where God was leading. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I told her that I just felt something strongly holding me back from making a decision until I met with Rich. Renee just laughed. She knows I’m pretty indecisive sometimes. So she followed that question up with another. “Ok. Well what are you going to ask Rich? What other answers do you need?” Again, I couldn’t put my finger on what else I needed to hear, I just knew I hadn’t heard it yet.

A few more days went by and miraculously I was able to get on Rich’s schedule not much more than a week after our original appointment. It was Halloween day, and surprisingly it wasn’t a real busy day of business, but there were many people around the office with their children. Rich took me into a conference room and I gave him a brief rundown of what God had been up to in order to get me to my meeting with him. Rich shared some of his story. Although the track of his career wasn’t similar to mine, he did have a background in the corporate world. The great thing about my time with him was that he didn’t sugar coat anything. But he also was my kind of person. He sees people the way I do, and loves on them well. He told me that if I made it past my first year, I’d be doing well. And if I made it past year two, I’d be golden. He said the first obstacle I’d face would be finding someone who’d bring me on to their office, inexperienced. In my head, I was sort of laughing because he didn’t know that Bobby had basically offered to mentor me and that I already knew the office I’d begin with. He said my biggest obstacle in the first year would be finances. After having not earned any money in almost 8 months, the investment to get started, and to market myself, would seem large. But, I told him that I wasn’t concerned. God had provided everything I needed thus far, and today wasn’t going to be the day His promise would fail me. Even still, he asked me if I had figured out the minimum income I could live off of. I gave him my number, and he said that may be a bit of a stretch for my first year, after all the expenses I’d have starting my business. Noted, but not filed away.

Since my meetings with Bobby, I had been trying to decide whether to take the pre-license course in a classroom or online. Bobby had referred me to a course instructor named Nan Ellington and spoke so highly of how well she taught and controlled the classroom. But when I looked her up, I could see that she didn’t have another course available for three months. That wouldn’t work for me. If I was going to pursue getting my license, the time was now. I looked around to find other viable online course options and couldn’t really distinguish which would be the best to join. As I was sitting with Rich, I asked what his thoughts were regarding online versus classroom course work. He said that they have someone who teaches the course ‘in house.’ I told him I thought I might be more inclined to sit in the classroom, but wasn’t sure if it would work for my timeline. Then he said that he would take me to meet the instructor. Her name was Nan Ellington. (Are you smiling with me?)

On our way down the hall to find Nan, we stopped in an office and Rich introduced me to Robben. He briefly told her I used to work for Home Depot and that I was a high I and D in my DISC profile, asked her if she had 10 or 15 minutes to spend with me and then, smoothly, he handed me off to her. To be honest, I don’t think I ever have been able to recall the first 15 minutes of our conversation. I do remember her pulling her chair around her desk and sitting next to me while we were talking. At some point, she asked me why I was considering becoming a real estate agent, and I responded (not knowing a thing about her) that I wasn’t sure of her beliefs but that I felt God had been preparing me for something different for awhile and that he gave me a vision at a recent conference that this was IT. I told her about Bobby and our couple of meetings, and that several people had referred me to meet with Rich. After attending the stats meeting two days prior, I was pretty convinced that Keller Williams was where I was supposed to be. I realized about 15 or 20 minutes into the conversation I had no idea what Robben’s role was. So when I asked her, you can imagine my internal response as she told me she is the Team Leader of Rich’s office. I was basically having an interview with her and I had no idea. What in the world had I been saying to her? I didn’t even know. I asked her what her thoughts were for taking the pre-license course. I told her I was hoping to learn under Nan, but that I didn’t think she was available anytime soon. Robben mentioned that just the day prior Nan had finished a course. My response? “Bummer. Bad timing!” Robben said, “Nope. I believe there’s only perfect timing.” I agreed. So she said I could take the course online. As she thought through how long that might take me she said, “You know what would be perfect timing? If you took the course online and finished by December, then you could join us for our Ignite training in January. We only offer that a few times a year, and if you wait for the next classroom course, you’ll miss it. The course just teaches you how to pass the license test. Our ignite training teaches you how to build a career worth having, and a business worth owning. You being ready to join us in January is perfect timing.” Her words were so reassuring and encouraging. Then she took time to walk me through some of her office’s stats and essentially sold me on why this office was the best office in the group. One of the things, she mentioned, that made her office so special was Nan Ellington. Nan is the mentor who comes alongside all new agents in their first year of business and coaches them into great productivity. After all this talk about Nan, I knew I needed to meet her. And when I did, I knew we had a kindred connection.

I learned almost immediately that Nan knows people deeply. She can read your learning style, she enjoys digging into your strengths and DISC behaviors. Her passion is to spend time developing people. But she also has many years of experience in the real estate business to add to the equation. She shared several stories of her success in opening the eyes of agents to their unique giftings, and then watching them blow up with success from there. One story was of a girl who joined a team of agents, where each agent takes on a different role for the team. This girl was the “buyer agent.” But she wasn’t experiencing great success, and in fact was struggling. After talking with her for awhile, Nan said to her, “you don’t really love to know people well. Why in the world would you choose to be a buyer’s agent, where you have to get to know a client’s needs and desires, and also spend hours with them in a car while looking at properties? Why aren’t you a listing agent, where you mainly hold a house open for many buyers to come through on their own?” The girl had an A-ha moment, and is now a listing agent having great success. If you know me, you know that I have been deeply longing for someone to come along and challenge me, help develop me, and call greatness and excellence out of me. I knew in that moment that Nan would be that person for me.

After I walked out of the Brookhaven office, I sat in my car for a few quiet moments, almost stunned. All along I just assumed Bobby’s office would be the right fit for me, because he had offered to come alongside me. But the missing piece I couldn’t quite put my finger on was this office, and these 2 ladies in leadership. Another friend asked me that evening what she knew Renee had asked the week before: “Now do you have enough confirmation to say this is what you’re moving in to?” As I shook my head no, she cocked her head and gave me a questioning look. I explained to her that this whole process had been about surrendering control and waiting on God to show me when to make a move. Just because I had a huge list of crazy good confirmations surrounding this, didn’t mean I could assume that it was God telling me to move forward. He had been so faithful to lead me, and I wanted to give him the same respect here and wait for Him to confirm this to me with His own words. So, I scheduled a day within the next week to unplug from my friends, social media, and life and sit at my Father’s feet with the intention of hearing His voice.

I was staying with a friend at the time, and as God would allow it, she and her family happened to be away from their house literally all day, until around 9pm that night. I was getting over a nasty virus, and decided to rest on the couch with my computer and bible on hand. I spent the day intermingling worship, reading and studying. At one point, I was reading some from Charles Spurgeon and Jesus led me to Psalms 119 (which, incidentally, I learned this week is the very middle of the bible and the longest of the Psalms.) In reference to Psalms 119:5, Spurgeon wrote this:

There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in His service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because this is where we get the real nutriment out of them. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it. Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word.

I just read that over three times and still can’t get enough. And what perfect timing to read this on such a day as one of solitude that I had scheduled to muse upon the things of my Father to find nourishment. I read through Psalms 119, over and over again. In the NASB version, I kept seeing “revive me through Your righteousness.” “Revive me in Your ways.” “Revive me according to your lovingkindness.” “By your precepts, you have revived me.”  There is definitely a theme in this Psalm. I started reading several other versions over and over as well, trying to soak these words into my brain and make them my prayer. As I read through The Message version, I started highlighting verses I wanted to take hold in my brain. Then I started copying and pasting them, so I could come back to them. As I read through, different verses in random order would stand out and I would grab them and paste them. I started realizing that God was creating my own prayer out of Psalms 119 for this very day as I was trying to navigate the road signs and determine if they were my cue. I just read it out loud again to a dear friend earlier tonight and couldn’t make it past the first few sentences without having to wipe the tears away and catch my breath. It is so beautiful and something I will cherish forever.

Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders. I'm a stranger in these parts; give me clear directions. My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous! - insatiable for your nourishing commands. I'm single-minded in pursuit of you; don't let me miss the road signs you've posted. You're my place of quiet retreat; I wait for your Word to renew me. I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great spoil. Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble. Let your love dictate how you deal with me; teach me from your textbook on life. See how hungry I am for your counsel; preserve my life through your righteous ways! Let your love, God, shape my life with salvation, exactly as you promised. Don't ever deprive me of truth, not ever - your commandments are what I depend on. I choose the true road to Somewhere. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set before me. Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise to do everything you say. I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile, be gracious to me just as you promised.  I'll run the course you lay out for me if you'll just show me how. I’ll follow your directions, I’ll abide by your counsel; my life's an open book before you. And I'll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom. See how hungry I am for your counsel. Teach me good discernment and knowledge for I believe in Your commandments. You are good, and you are the source of good; train me in your goodness. Let your love dictate how you deal with me. Give me back my life, just as you promised. Give my request your personal attention, rescue me on the terms of your promise. Look upon my affliction and rescue me; plead my cause and redeem me; revive me according to Your word. Your Word and truth are dependable as ever. If your revelation hadn't delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came. But I'll never forget the advice you gave me; you saved my life with those wise words. Your mercies, God, run into the billions. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me - my whole life - one long, obedient response. Provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word. Let my cry come right into your presence, God. Let praise cascade off my lips; and let your promises ring from my tongue. After all, you've taught me the truth about life! Every order you've given has been right. I've banked your promises in the vault of my heart. Train me well in your deep wisdom. Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth. Your words are so choice, so tasty; I prefer them to the best home cooking. I'll follow your directions, I'll abide by your counsel; my life's an open book before you. Put your hand out and steady me since I've chosen to live by your counsel. Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well, use your decrees to put iron in my soul. With your very own hands you formed me; now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you. Following your guidelines, revive me. I love it when you show yourself off!

Even after this special prayer He put on my heart, I still pressed on, expectant to hear His voice. By the time my friends came home that night, I still hadn’t felt like I had heard the words “Yes, this is the way I’m calling you into. Walk forward.” So I made my way upstairs to my room and closed the door. I had to turn on some instrumental music, to drown out the muffled conversations downstairs that were distracting me. It was late in the evening and I told God ever so firmly, “God, I’ve been waiting all day to hear you speak to me. This day is almost over, but I will not let it end without hearing from you. So no more praying, no more studying, no more worshipping. I’m just going to lay here quietly and do my best to listen intently.” In the total darkness, I sprawled out on the bed and got comfortable. Like the best of us, I fought off stupid, distracting, meaningless thoughts that were trying to take over. I prayed for God to clear my mind of all thoughts, to create space for only His thoughts to come through so that I would know they were from Him. Maybe about an hour into my lying there, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to remember back in May when I was driving to the chiropractor’s office and He said “See, I have you on this wide open road. I need you to just keep driving (trusting) until I turn you to the right or to the left. I’ll do that when I’m ready.” I felt Him nudging me to recall that conversation fully, and I felt Him saying THIS was HIm turning me to the right. All of these road signs of confirmation were my directions to get to this turn. He also gave me a word picture with 2 big circles overlapping each other. One circle encompassed all of my passions, and the other circle encompassed all of my strengths. The portion where they overlap is what many people refer to as the “sweet spot.” God showed me that this move into real estate would be me walking into my sweet spot where my passions and strengths collided. No longer would I feel physically exhausted at the end of the day, as I did with my prior jobs. With those, I had the strengths to be great, but lacked the passion to be excellent. This would be what propelled me into excellence.

Within the next week, I had signed up for the online real estate pre-license course, and completed it by the end of December. It was by the strength of the Lord that I could finish such a long, dry course online on my own schedule. I do not recommend online courses :). I studied from sun up to sun down for a week (through Christmas and New Year’s Eve) to prepare for the course test. You have to pass the course test to be eligible to take the state license test. I had been barely squeaking by on all of my practice tests, so I was nervous to schedule the real deal. But I knew I had a window of 2 days after New Year’s Eve to take and pass the test, in order to join the KW Ignite Training the next Monday. As God would have it, showing Himself off, I made a 94 on a test that apparently most people don’t pass the first time. Where He calls you, He WILL equip you! I can’t wait to share how He equipped me for the state test and all of the details He’s orchestrated to continue to show off since then. Part 5 coming soon!

Monday, February 10, 2014

How to Define True Success

Every day I'm learning more and more about how my mindset is the key to progressing and moving forward in my business, or staying stagnant. I'm learning a great deal about where my mental blocks are as well as the areas where I lack confidence. It's time to put feet to my goals, hopes and desires, but, if I'm being honest, I'm facing a battle in my mind every single morning. I know for sure that the enemy doesn't want to me to succeed. I'm finally in a place of total freedom from everything that once entangled me. Even more than that, I'm in my sweet spot- where my passions and strengths overlap and allow me the opportunity to do what I'm great at and love it at the same time.

So I'm focusing on being intentional every day about praying for my actions to be prosperous and successful, and for increased courage & confidence along the way. God brought me back to Joshua 1:8 today. He has made it my starting point in each new endeavor over the last several months. God promises that meditating on His word and living by it will, "make my way prosperous, and then I will have good success." I know this to be true. He's proven it to me so many times. Essentially this would be an equation that looks like this: I study the Word + act accordingly = God makes my way prosperous and successful. Yet, I still sometimes get wrapped up in what I contribute to the right side of the equation. Interestingly enough, it's God's name on the right, not mine. It isn't I read the Word + act accordingly = Karen has the ability to make my way prosperous and successful. The only effort He requires of me, what He boils it down to, is that I study His word, keep it always on my lips (literally, as well as the lips of the mouth that speaks in my head!), model what I study, and He will do the rest. This is such good news! He doesn't define success by how many buyers or sellers I help this year. He defines success as knowing and doing His word. Period. Gosh y'all, that just brings so much freedom from the fear that can cloud my head about not being "successful" at building this business because I feel too new, inadequately prepared still, don't know enough people, etc, etc. Why do I revert so easily to fooling myself that I am really in control of any of those things anyways? Now that I've learned (the hard way) to look only to Him for approval, if He defines my success this way, then I'm freed up to press in to Him hard and lay my burden about the rest at His feet. If you are a part of a conversation with me anytime soon and I mention any type of inadequacy, you have my permission to remind me of this. In fact, please do. 

"Success is a journey, not a destination; the doing is often more important than the outcome." ~Arthur Ashe

Sunday, January 26, 2014

generosity through transparency

'keep open house; be generous with your lives. by opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." {matthew 5:16 msg}

some people call me transparent. i see transparency as what fosters authenticity. and Jesus was authentic. he was transparent. because i like to know someone deeply, i find it refreshing when others are transparent in return with me. transparency in my friendships is probably the key thing that has launched the immense growth i've had in my relationship with Jesus since i've been a part of Passion City Church. you can't have true community without true transparency. and Jesus designed us for community. 

'the man who isolates himself seeks his own pleasures and rages against wise judgement' {proverbs 18:1-2}

what is man's all? it is to reflect the image of its creator. that is where we find our truest meaning and greatest fulfillment. 

while some might prefer me to be less transparent- more translucent or opaque- in order to make them feel more comfortable, i want to follow the lead of my Father. and more importantly, i want them to find the freedom to open up with God.

- allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen
- having thoughts, feelings or motives that are easily seen
- easy to perceive or detect

- allowing light, but not detailed images, to pass through
- semitransparent

- not able to be seen through; not transparent
- hard or impossible to understand

i think Peterson gets it right in his paraphrase of this verse- transparency is not about self-exaltation. it's about generosity. it's about allowing ourselves to let light pass through us- penetrating, life-giving, life-changing, loving light. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Part 3 of my journey to my calling: Renewed Courage in the Waiting

Over the five weeks I was waiting to hear from City of Refuge in August, I was starting to lose steam. I was able to spend hours each day with the Lord, but I wasn’t always pressing in for a word of hope to cling to for each day. Over Labor Day weekend, at the last minute I was given a free ticket to attend the Influencers Conference with a few friends from church. This was the first of its kind in Atlanta, and I knew nothing about it. I had had the opportunity to go to stay with a friend at the beach that weekend for free, but had a prior commitment for Sunday that I couldn’t back out on. I was pretty torn and disappointed that I couldn’t go to the beach, because I felt like I desperately needed a change of scenery to get me back on track. Little did I know, I “couldn’t” go to the beach because I was supposed to attend this conference. Because the church hosting this conference, which originally started in Australia and was brand new to Atlanta, there was only a small crowd of about 1,000 people in attendance. Brian Houston, head pastor of Hillsong Church, spoke most of the weekend, and Jesus Culture led worship, with their pastor Banning Liebscher speaking some too. If you know any of these names, you know what a treat it was to only have 1,000 people in attendance! Brian’s first talk was called “Anchor.” He opened with Hebrews 6:18-19, “So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” He spoke about the story of  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw them into the fire for worshipping God instead of worshipping his gods. They responded with, “We do not need to defend ourselves in this matter. If we are thrown into the furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it. BUT EVEN IF HE DOESN’T, WE WILL STILL CHOOSE TO NOT BOW DOWN.” (emphasis mine.) Brian was encouraging us to act out of this same heart of trust in our God who is able to deliver us from the fire. I had no idea when God would choose to deliver me from the fire. At this point, it had been a long journey, and I was ready to be delivered. But what a great reminder that these 3 guys were in a literal, red hot fire, and they still chose to have trust in their God that he would eventually deliver them. Then Brian read Psalm 112:6-8, “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” He reminded us that just because we may never truly be shaken, if we are steadfastly trusting in the Lord, it doesn’t mean that we will escape feeling a shaking. We are designed to take the shaking but not be shaken loose, and that comes out of being anchored strong in the name of The Lord! My charge for that day? Get back to being strongly anchored in the Word of God and in the name of God. We build our hope through the name and word of God. Our hearts can instruct us only in what they know. So, I needed to get back to “knowing” the word of God. We are not built to live without hope. In Psalm 42:5 David had to tell his soul to hope in God. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.” We have to keep re educating our soul to find hope in God so that it doesn’t come unhinged. David describes his soul as disquieted, but he redirected from anxiety to God’s name and God’s word! How powerful!
Banning Liebscher followed up two amazing messages from Brian with two powerful, mind shifting messages of his own. My two biggest takeaways from his messages were 1) if you're going to fulfill God's call on your life it takes faith and a massive amount of courage. The enemy comes to disarm you of your courage, to dis-courage you, to cripple you. And 2) most times, in the season after a word is spoken over you, you will see the exact opposite happen. When God promised to bring Israel out of Egypt into the land flowing with milk and honey, they then spent three days in the wilderness. timeline was a bit more extended than three days, but my courage was renewed after being reminded of this. I was losing steam because I wasn’t building myself up with courage. My level of preparation in these things is what determines the outpouring on my life.
In one of my mornings spent with Jesus a few days later, I came upon Romans 15:4-5 that says, “God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you.” I wanted to experience the oil of gladness, and not despair. Courage, and not discouragement. So I dug into the word deeper. I also read Colossians 3:16, “Let the word [spoken by] Christ have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness and wisdom.” The word “dwell” here is the greek word enoike. It means to dwell in one and influence him. This encouraged me and spurred me on to dig in and to truly be influenced by God’s Word. That’s where my courage would rise up from. I wanted His Word to dwell richly me in every day. And to let it permeate every single part of my soul and dwell in me till it’s flavor was rich everywhere within in me. Tim Keller says, "Faith is not the absence of thinking, but it is thinking and acting on the basis of the Word and promises of God." I’ve definitely learned that to be true.
At some point, I listened to another message from John Piper pertaining to 2 Peter that God used in order to remind me to find a promise to cling to from the Word for each day...something that would last the whole day, or maybe even several days. But to press in and not stop until I found one. On September 30th, I wrote in my journal:
May grace (God's favor) and peace (which is perfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and freedom from fears and conflicts) be multiplied to you in [the full, personal, and correct] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2 AMP)
Peter cannot get past his second sentence in chapter 1 without exposing one of his deepest convictions: that knowing God is the means by which grace and peace become large and powerful in our lives. If you want to enjoy God's peace and be the aroma of his grace in the world, your knowledge of him has to grow- the knowledge of His glory and excellence, knowing and trusting His precious and very great promises. Be firmly established in your faith- firm, stable, unshakeable. Faith in Christ is a power to be experienced. And God's power flows in the lives of those who rely on who God is and His righteousness. We must, day-by-day, go to his Word and search for His promises. Fix one or two in your mind and hold them there before you all day.
I used to view “waiting” as something akin to being a bench warmer. It’s taken several painful journeys for God to teach me that waiting on Him IS playing the game. And as such, it requires phenomenal endurance, strength, training and courage. To embrace a season of waiting is to embrace the authority of God, to willingly acknowledge that He has complete control. And it’s impossible to do that and not come to a place of greater peace. God desires for us to train our hearts to trust the heart of God with greater and greater stamina, so that if He should say to us, “Wait another month…wait another year…wait indefinitely,” we might courageously and willingly respond, “Yes, Lord!” If we do that, we’re not only out on the field, we’re winning the game. And who we become while we are waiting is as important as what we are waiting for. If you can learn that now, whatever your age, bless you. It’s taken me too long! :)
During the four days between my meltdown at church and the Catalyst conference later that week, I had a moment with the Lord where I realized just how great this waiting time had been for me. Truly. I mean, I was able to spend HOURS on end, in my bed (my happy place, ha!), reading, worshipping and just talking to Jesus. I had some of the sweetest moments of my life during those long months of waiting for His vision. To be able to hear His voice so clearly through the words of scripture I was reading, or through commentaries on chapters I was studying, or through worship songs He led me to was such a gift. I finally came to a place where I was able to truly declare (and really mean) that if He never allowed me to have another job ever again in my life, I would still be ok. Sure, I had a mortgage and bills to pay, but He’d taken care of me thus far, why would he stop? If my days of not having a job looked like spending several hours with him, and Him providing service opportunity after opportunity of really fun things to do, I no longer needed anything else. I told him that as long as I was communing with him in this intimate of a way, and able to hear His voice as clearly as I was, I no longer needed a title or job to define me. If you know me well, you know that deep down inside, I was proud that I’d only worked for Fortune 20 or Fortune 100 companies up until that point. I was proud of the titles I had held, and the money I was able to make. But now, I no longer cared at all about what company I was going to work for, what the title or job description was, where it was located in the city of Atlanta, or even if I made $3 a year or $300,000 a year. I decided I just wanted to keep waking up every day and feeling as FULLY ALIVE in Christ in my next job as I was without a job. My faith and my job had always been, unfortunately for the most part, separate. I even want to cringe after writing that, because who admits that? I do, apparently. I loved Jesus, but most people in that building would’ve never known. So, living fully alive in Christ in my job was now THE single, and most important, criteria when analyzing a job opportunity. I did not want what God had down in my heart through this waiting period to dwindle, just because a job came back into the picture. forward back to the Catalyst Conference. Janelle and I were able to attend together, and right before the first session began, a guy who looked somewhat familiar to me came and asked if the 1 seat next to me was empty. I said yes, and he joined us. After that session was over, he asked us a couple of questions, and we came to realize that we all attend Passion City Church. I had trained him for our Touch Team several months prior. He, Bobby, mentioned that he had wavered back and forth on whether to attend the conference or not. He said he couldn’t really afford to take 2 days off from his business, but then he realized he couldn’t afford not to either. And when an email was sent out a few days prior giving all door holders at Passion City a huge discount on last minute tickets, he jumped in with both feet and committed. I was ecstatic, because, in a small part, I was a part of the conversation that led to our door holders getting that discount code, and what a blessing to hear how significant it was in his life. Bobby then said he tried to find any other friends from Roswell to carpool with him and to be able to share in the conference together, but he wasn’t able to find anyone. I remember telling him, “isn’t it so great of God to “randomly” sit you next to Janelle and me, who will make friends with a wall if we had to, and allow us to connect? We’d love to spend this conference with you. I’m so glad God did that for you.” (remember those last two words for later.)
Later that evening, after overhearing me share an update on my job progress, or lack thereof, Bobby asked me some more questions. He first asked me what type of job I was looking for. And that point, as nice as he was, it took everything inside of me to hold myself back from saying, “I’m SO tired of people asking me that question!! I don’t have a daggum clue, and I can’t give you an answer. I’m just waiting on God!! Don’t you know that?!?” Thankfully, I skipped that thought and just told him I didn’t know, but I did know that God was stirring up several passions in my heart, either new or renewed, but I just couldn’t put any of the pieces together, and that was the main reason I was at Catalyst. I was hoping God would finally put the pieces together for me. I told him what my past experience was, and he just politely smiled. Then, he asked me what I thought the passions were that God was stirring up most in me. During my interview process with the solar company, I ran across my DISC behavior profile test that I had completed several times while at Home Depot. Even though I had read through the reports on my natural behaviors several times, I had never read a few words on page 2 until I was reading them before my interview with the solar company. They said that I place my highest priority on building relationships, and connecting people. Interestingly enough, I knew that about myself to some degree, but when I read those words in writing on that paper that day, something in my head shifted. I realized how deeply I REALLY LOVE PEOPLE. So I mentioned this to Bobby and said that I’d love to do something that allows me to build relationships and love on people. And the next words of out his mouth changed the course of my life. He asked, with a great big grin on his face, “have you ever considered real estate?” I promptly said no. It was my go to response, of course, since one thousand people had asked me “have you ever considered (fill in the blank here) before?” literally over and over during those 7 months. Not one time did their suggestion or idea spark any interest in my heart. They always fell flat. So I had become accustomed to shooting a no really quickly back to any suggestion. But as soon as this particular no came out of my mouth, I felt the Holy Spirit grab me and say hold up a second. And in that moment, He reminded me that a year ago Philip, the director of Bright Futures that I had been serving with, sat me down and tried to get me to seriously consider real estate. He knew I would be great at it. But, at the time, I was still totally wrapped up in working for select companies, with select titles, and real estate did NOT fit in my box. Oh, can you hear me laughing now? Because I am. It’s funny to me. God is so patient with me. I told Bobby that I would pray about it that night. I also said that I had no idea what it would take to get started or what it would look like. He said that it would take about $2,000 to get started and about 4-6 months before I’d be making money. The $2,000 didn’t seem like a huge number to me. I didn’t really have it to spend, but it didn’t feel impossible. The 4-6 months of not making money felt impossible. But I decided to pray about it anyways.
A few minutes after our conversation, the evening session began. Our Passion worship team had come in to lead worship for that evening, and I could feel the atmosphere shift in the room even during soud check, when no one was around. It was maybe the most powerful time of worship I have experienced. The last song that Kristian sang started with the words: Promise Maker. Promise Keeper. You finish what you begin. When this song began, I was in a very calm state, standing still with my eyes closed and my arms out in front of me and my palms facing up. And in that moment, I saw Jesus standing in front of me. He took hold of my hands and said “Karen, I am a promise maker and I’m a promise keeper. And I WILL finish the work I began in you. You are not forgotten. I love you.” Tears were just rolling down my face. Even if I didn’t receive his vision for my next “footstep”, as I desired so much, THIS was enough for me. I saw Jesus. Funny enough, the night before when I couldn’t fall asleep, I was reading a book by Beth Redman, and happened to read through the chapter called You are not Forgotten.
Fast forward to the next day. Session after session, I was feverishly typing notes into my phone as fast as my pointer finger would go. There were some powerful messages. Mind shifting. I ran into an old friend from PCC who moved up north to go to seminary school over our lunch break, and we had a quick 20 minute catch up. I told her what Janelle had spoken over me the previous Sunday and told her I was desperate for God’s eyes to see what was next, but at that point in the conference I hadn’t had any breakthrough moments yet. After lunch, and during the second to last message, that moment started coming at me. Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey was speaking. Brad from Catalyst had asked Cory if twenty years ago, after graduating law school, Cory saw himself where he was today in twenty years. Cory said he struggled with his vision and path for the future. He said he started working for a non profit straight out of law school, and many of his advisors around him thought that was the worst idea. They hammered him to get on with a top law firm. Cory struggled with how to move forward. Should he take his path, or the path that all these people wanted for him? At some point, he said, someone gave him the best advice, which was to find his mission, his purpose, and to stay true to that. So he had to take time to figure out what his mission was, and then he kept that front of mind with every decision he made. And that’s how he ended up where he is now- with great influence, loving his job and the opportunities God brought his way, and running for a seat on the Senate. I was so tired during his talk, and couldn’t focus much on anything else he said but this part. Something clicked when I heard that. Afterwards, Janelle needed to leave early and I was saying goodbye to her. She allowed me to process some things out loud. I told her about how I saw Jesus during worship the night before, and that I hadn’t received a vision from Him, but seeing Him was enough for me. Then I mentioned how much Cory’s talk struck a chord with me. I told her I needed to figure out what my mission was, and that from that I believed God would show me my next job. And then I, kind of off the cuff, mentioned my talk with Bobby from the previous night. I told her the same things as I wrote above, and said I focused in on telling him about how I want people to be a major focus for me. If you could’ve seen Janelle’s face when I told her that story. She had the biggest smile on her face, coupled with a “HELLO?!! are you hearing yourself!” look. She said, so calmly, “um, Karen. I think that’s your mission. That’s your purpose. PEOPLE ARE YOUR PURPOSE! Connecting people, and getting to know people, and helping people feel known- THAT’S WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL FULLY ALIVE!!”
Oh man, more tears came down my face. Yes, that was it. My eyes were opened to see, that people are my purpose. It all seemed to come into focus now. After all, Bobby said at the end of our talk, “You know real estate is all about people, right?” hmmmm. Wow! I said to Janelle how crazy this was, and how much of a relief it was to now KNOW. I told her how Bobby said it would cost about $2,000 and take about 4-6 months to get started, and that the $2,000 didn’t seem too big, but the 4-6 months did. She looked me square in the eyes and said, “I don’t know why you’re even bringing that up right now. If God called you to this, He WILL provide.” I agreed. My mind was blown. I had waited for this for so many months. Years, really. And now I had the eyes to see. Janelle needed to head out and I was so tempted to leave early with her since I was so exhausted and on information overload. But there was a strong tugging in my heart to stay. So, I did. Andy Stanley was the last speaker, and spoke directly after my conversation with Janelle. He gave a great talk about Leadership 101. In the very middle of his talk, he stood up from his chair, told everyone they needed to stop what they were doing and look up at him. He said, “Someone here needs to hear this word. Everyone listen. Eyes up front on me. There’s someone in the audience who needs to hear this: Do not EVER let money or finances stand in the way of what God has called you to.” And then sat back down and continued on with his talk that had nothing to do with that word. I wanted to jump up from my seat and scream out loud that that word was for ME! And I knew, without a doubt that God was calling me into real estate.
Two days later, at church, I ran into the one and only Bob Day. Bob is on our financial oversight board at church, and has been super successful in commercial real estate. He is also a connector of people. So I asked him who he thought I could meet with to find out more about real estate. He said while he was talking, God told him I needed to meet with Rich Richardson and to call him the next day for his information. The next night, I was babysitting for a friend. When she and her husband came home, they asked me about Catalyst. So I told them the story and Meredith said they knew several people in real estate they could connect me with. When I asked her to share a name, she looked at her husband and said, “I think Rich Richardson would be a great person for you to meet with.” And over the course of that week 5 other people mentioned Rich as well. Mmmm, k...clearly I needed to meet this Rich Richardson guy! So I set up a meeting with Bobby, from the conference, and with Rich. More to come on how those played out and how God gave me some incredible confirmation that I am definitely a connector of people.