Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Part 1 of the journey to my calling: Leaving my job at Home Depot

I’ve wanted to sit down and write this story of God’s relentless, patient, long-suffering and abundant lovingkindness over the last 2-3 years for awhile now, but it’s felt too big to put on paper. I should’ve been writing the pieces of this story along the journey. I’ve literally spent as many as 4 hours recounting all the details of part 3 and 4 of this story to friends in person. Those are some good friends, to indulge me like that! But, with my terrible memory these days, I want to be able to read this again in six months, in six years and beyond to help remember. Reminding ourselves of God’s faithfulness is what helps us build our courage back up to press on. I can’t promise this will be a quick read, but if you’re in need of some remembering or recounting of the ways God loves us on in every detail, this will be worth it for you. Part 1 today, Part 2, 3 and 4 coming over the next couple of days. (I told you this was long!)

If you didn’t know me well during the years I worked at Home Depot, consider yourself pretty lucky. Renee McKenzie can tell you firsthand that I cried or screamed almost on a daily basis over the last 2 years of working there. To make another super long story short, and to help set the scene for where this change all began, it’s important for me to remember God brought me through and out of that situation. I worked there for about 5 years, and at some point, out of my own pride and stubbornness, I began digging a deep hole for myself. One that I could not, in my own strength, get myself out of. Not all of what I went through there was of my own doing, although parts of it were. Some of it was just pure injustice. In fact, I think it began with injustice. And out of that, anger and bitterness was born. There were multiple things that happened to either tarnish the relationship and trust I had built with other people towards me or to tarnish my name with people I needed on my side. The last thing was a project I was piloting alone for the entire company before rolling it out to everyone else. It went very awry and fast, to the tune of almost $20million of inventory going to the wrong places. Inventory that would never sell in those places. It wiped out our vendors, and therefore it wiped out our future 3 month supply, and it caused me and my buyer to completely miss every financial goal we had for the year end after having had a pretty decent year. The guy who lead the project was a jerk and didn’t believe me enough to even look into the issues I brought to him, let alone make any changes. My manager, and senior manager were not on my side either, and didn’t want to make waves. So I asked my buyer (who held all of the power anyways) to step in to make things change. I knew he was on my side and I knew his words held power. I wanted to do the right thing for my business, truly. But, I also wanted to stick it to the jerk who wouldn’t own up to his errors. Little did I know just how much visibility this “small” soon to be big project had with every level of leadership in the company. That was the worst decision I made to date. I should’ve kept going up the chain in my own line of business until I felt heard. Instead, I took the easy route. And at the end of the day, my manager and senior manager disowned me, and the project lead made it his life’s work to make sure everyone in the company knew I was trouble, always negative, never supportive of anything and to attempt to get me fired. Over the course of a year, I tried to leave that team. I’d take almost any other job in that building at that point. I interviewed for more than 40 jobs, and each time was the second to last person in the process. On many occasions, I was told the job was mine, but then the offer wouldn’t quite reach my desk. Why? Because either my senior manager or the project lead would find out about it and call the hiring manager to make sure I didn’t get the offer. For more than a year, my closest friends begged me to just quit. They were tired of seeing me mistreated, and tired of hearing me complain. But I was stubborn and kept saying I hadn’t heard the Lord tell me to leave. And with over 5,000 jobs in that building, surely there was ONE out there for me. I was bitter, and stuck inside my head, and although towards the end I was turning to Jesus for help and rescue, I still was not ready to let go of all the control. Even when I was put on notice that the next wrong move I made would get me fired, I still wasn’t ready. I was able to spend a weekend with my aunt, one of my spiritual mentors, during the last several months of being at Home Depot. She said she felt like the Lord was saying He was taking me through the fire of refinement and that He wanted to break me of my stubbornness and show me what true submission looked like. She also told me He said for me to just be quiet. Somewhere inside of me, even though I was hanging tightly to the control, I was trying to release it little by little and allow Him the room to change me. So I hung on to her words, and those of several others confirming the same things. I was desperate and waiting for Him to get me out of the mess.

A few months later, and about a couple weeks before the final straw, I served at Lift, a worship leader collective at our church led by Louie and our worship team. Christy Knockels gave a talk that changed my focus and my life. I learned that this pruning process I was going through was for my protection in the long run. I really understood that only Jesus can give me the stamp of approval that my soul searches for, and that sometimes He withholds approval from others because He wants me to know that only He can provide that need for approval that He himself created in me. I walked away with a new mindset that I would surrender my position for His presence- the deep longing to be promoted out of this job, surrendered in place of knowing Him more fully and feeling His presence constantly. I walked away knowing how dwelling and delighting in Him was much more necessary than anything else. Psalm 37 verses 3 through 6 became my life verses. “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day, and stamp you with approval at high noon. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

A short time after that I remember crying on a friend’s couch after taking a personal day off of work to ignore the hurtful conversation I had the day prior when I was told I had one more strike left, and she asked me “now do you feel like it’s time to cut your losses and quit?” “No,” I said, “I still don’t feel like that’s what God is saying to me.” I think every person around me thought I was just plain nuts. But looking back, I definitely did not hear God say that to me...until He said that to me. After one really intense week, I have a pivotal conversation with a trusted co worker who the Holy Spirit used to finally knock some sense into me. I rallied the troops around me- all 10 or 11 older women from Passion City, who the Lord put in my life to come alongside me with wisdom and lots of grace. I asked them to cover me in prayer over the course of that weekend as I felt the need to completely unplug from people and life and get on my knees before God to hear if He was really asking me to leave my job. That Sunday morning, after a couple days of feeling a lot of confirmation, I still wasn’t completely sure. I told God, very candidly, that I felt Him leading me towards leaving, but something in my mind was holding me back from saying yes. I couldn’t put my finger on what the issue was, and I told him, “you made my brain. You figure that part out. You figure out what I need to hear from you to be 100% confident that you are telling me to quit my job, even while I have a mortgage and no other means to help me.” And right behind that, he gently said to me, “your issue is that you don’t really trust that I will provide another job for you. You think there is a chance I will leave you hanging. This is your chance to put into practice everything you’ve learned about me. If you trust me, you will say yes to this. Step out and see that I WILL provide.” And so I did.

The best, most restful, life-giving, faith building 2 months of my life followed, and then I took a job in sales for building products. The way that job came about is a God-story in itself. It could’ve only been God. But, in the back of my head, I felt something stirring in my heart that felt bigger and way different than this job in sales. Nonetheless, buying and/or selling were on my list of next roles to venture in to, and this job encompassed both supply chain management aspects as well as sales. It would be a great “get my feet wet” in sales role. Two people in my life said that this job would be a great stepping stone. Little did I know, it really would be just that. 9 months later, after the company realized the economy hadn’t bounced back enough quite yet, they let me and the other new guy go. I was stunned and mostly upset about how shady it all went down. But, the day before being laid off, I received 2 checks from my mortgage company, after beginning the process of refinancing my mortgage many months earlier. They were for the previous month’s mortgage, which I didn’t need to pay, and the remaining balance of my old escrow account. I knew immediately when I was laid off that God was already in the details of this part of the story. Those checks were a way for me to know that He was already on the scene, working things for my good and for His glory, even five months prior when the refinancing process began. Let’s be honest, He knew waaaay before five months, but to see that His hand was at work even before this all went down was mind-blowing. He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides.

...Part 2 tomorrow.

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