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.

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