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!

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