It’s been awhile since my last blog post and quite a bit has happened since then! After having moved in complete faith to sell almost all I had and pack up to move from DC to Colorado, I find myself right back where I started less than a year ago. In that time I have experienced a lot. After moving to Colorado I quickly got plugged into a good community in church and the Vail Valley, did a lot of great work for the new startup I was working for, experienced some of the most breathtaking beauty of the mountains, saw God continue to bless me with miraculous provision, and made a lot of great relationships. I truly have been blessed to have experienced all of it. After having been in Colorado for about 6 months I finally started to get a sense of rootedness and settling in. I was excited about the path God had me on where I was.
However, I’ve learned that when we live by faith and surrender more of our lives to God, He accomplishes His purposes in ways that we don’t really expect. By the 9-month mark in Vail I didn’t end up being part of the ministry I was looking to join, was unemployed because the startup company I worked for had to discontinue operations due to a need for further funding, and I had suffered a pretty severe shoulder injury snowboarding. I started to fall into discouragement, disillusionment, and at one point even depression. I questioned why God would have so clearly and supernaturally ordered my steps for it all to end up seemingly “not working out”.
For several weeks while I was unemployed and unable to do much physical activity because of the injury, I experienced despondency and questioned where my life was headed and what God was up to. However, that down time gave me ample opportunity to reflect, rest, pray, spend time in the Word, and process what I was going through by journaling and talking to friends and family members. Though I was antsy and wanted to get up and start “doing”, I felt that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit encouraging me to just rest, wait, and trust that He had something else in store for me. I was reading some really incredible books about grace, rest and how God takes care of everything if we will just cease all striving and self-effort; believing that He will “make all things work in a pattern for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Despite my perceived need to get up and make things happen, I learned to trust Him to make it happen. The reality is, I didn’t even have the energy, strength, motivation, or will to do anything on my own anyway, so apparently God had me right where He wanted me.
As I was reflecting on what I felt truly passionate about/gifted at/called to, I knew that it involved writing, speaking, coaching, counseling, teaching and inspiring/encouraging people in some way, whether in the context of ministry and/or business. I just had no idea how all those things could fit together in an integrated, practical course of action that could serve as a sustainable living. I had just started reading a book by a Christian author named Donald Miller called Scary Close. This book was about a lot of the dysfunctional tendencies of the author, especially in regard to his dating relationships, and his healing journey of God setting him free from a lot of it. One night at 3 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep, I was reading this book and really felt the life of God flowing through me as He was speaking to me through the author’s words. I was busy highlighting and writing all kinds of notes throughout the book when at one point I seemed to very clearly hear Holy Spirit tell me that being a writer was what I was called to, and to pursue this as a full-time vocation. Because I sensed the life of God flowing through me at the time I was able to receive it despite my doubts and the seeming impracticality of it.
When I woke up the next morning and started journaling about it I realized that, even though it seemed impractical and nebulous in so many ways, it was somehow the only thing that actually made sense and tied everything together. Many authors who publish a book are able to use that as a platform which leads to speaking, and by virtue of what they’re writing/speaking about, it also leads to coaching, counseling, teaching and ministering; resulting many times in ministries/businesses that allow them to live out their calling. It also provides a good living and a personally fulfilling vocation in a very unconventional, off-the-beaten-path kind of way. Great examples of this include John Eldredge, Mark Batterson, Donald Miller, among many others. It all seemed to click into place at that moment. The only problem was that I had absolutely no clue how to get started on all of it.
The only thing I could think of at the time was that I needed some kind of external structure, as well as a syllabus/curriculum of some kind that could help me “sharpen my iron” and develop practical skills. I also saw the benefit of being in a supportive community of people who could help me to clarify and refine this vision, in addition to having relationships and a network of people who could open doors and provide opportunities and resources along this path. The only thing I could think of was some kind of educational or graduate program like Seminary or something that could integrate all of these things in a single program. I also needed to have this provide some source of income while I was doing it. My immediate thought was to use the GI Bill from my military service, which could not only pay for all of the education costs but also provide a monthly stipend for income while I was doing all of this. Even still, though, I had no idea where to even start looking for such a program and told God that He was going to need to basically just drop it in my lap since I didn’t have a clue.
While journaling and praying the next morning, just like last summer I sensed God say that He was going to do all of this and literally just serve it up to me on a silver platter; my only part was to continue to rest and believe Him in faith. Just like last year, this seemed too easy and too good to be true. It went against everything we’ve been trained and taught in this culture, where everything depends on our own efforts, human planning and cleverness. But I had been reading these books on grace and rest that emphasized that it was precisely from surrendering everything and putting all of our trust in God to do it on our behalf that we would live the Kingdom life God has called us to. It still felt like self-justified laziness, passivity and irresponsibility to me, though, so I called a friend and fellow brother in Christ from back in the DC area. I needed a reality check and a sounding board from someone I could trust and could tell me if I was off-base in my thinking. We talked and prayed for over an hour about all this and he agreed with me that all I needed to do was stay in the Word, keep praying and believing, and that if it was God’s will for me to be in such a program, He would indeed be the One to bring it to me. It was very encouraging and affirming.
This friend of mine co-hosts a radio show in the DC area about God’s grace and interviews people each week who have some kind of redemptive story and message to share with the world. As we were just wrapping up our conversation and about to get off the phone, he offhandedly mentioned a man he met a day or two before that might be on the show. This person was a Believer and retired Army veteran who had a motivational speaking and coaching business that helps people find their mission and purpose in life. This Army veteran explained that he had gone through a program for military veterans who are in the middle of a civilian career transition and trying to find their next step. He said that this program was instrumental in helping him start his speaking and coaching business; some of the very things I was interested in myself. Immediately I perked up and asked if I might be eligible for this program. After hesitating for a second, my friend said “Oh my gosh, I think we were supposed to have this conversation”. He put me in touch with the CEO of the Program, called the Dog Tag Fellowship Program. She responded within about 30 seconds and asked me if we could do a phone interview to see if perhaps the Program would be a good mutual fit.
The next morning I talked to the Senior Program Director and she told me all about the program: it is a 5-month structured syllabus/curriculum where the Fellows receive a Certificate of Business Administration from Georgetown University, learn practical hands-on skills of all aspects of small business in a bakery. This serves as an incubator for veterans who are considering either starting their own business or finding a job that is a perfect fit for them. All of this is done in the context of a supportive community and a place where they help Fellows reflect on their lives and get clarity on creating or refining their vision and next steps. Not only all that, it was all paid for by the Program, which also offers a monthly stipend for living expenses. It was literally everything I had just been praying for!! Plus, I wouldn’t even need to use my GI Bill for it! After talking with the Program Director about my own vision/goals and what I was looking to get out of the Fellowship, the real shock came when she offered me a last-second spot for their next Cohort, which was starting in about 10 days. I couldn’t even believe it. I was very skeptical I’d be able to pack up all my stuff, find the right person to replace me on my lease who would be a good fit for my current roommate, and find housing all within the next week, but I promised I’d think and pray about it.
After talking to CEO the next day, I decided that I would do everything I could to make it in time. There were a ton of practical details that had to be worked out but as I had recently gotten into the habit of, I just said, “God, if this is Your will, then the responsibility is on You to work out all these practical things because you know what I need. I leave it in Your hands”. Within 4 days I had received the perfect person to take over my lease, had all my stuff packed up, said all my goodbyes and was driving on the freeway from Colorado to DC. The night before I pulled into DC, still not knowing where I’d stay once I got there, my really close friend called me and told me he had just moved back to DC, signed a lease the day before at this really nice, new place and that he was going to be gone for a good portion of the next month, so I could crash with him until I found a place to stay. I can’t even make this stuff up.
At the time of this writing, I have been in the Program for about 6 weeks, and will be meeting with the Army veteran with the speaking and coaching business hopefully this week to talk about how we can possibly work together in some way. Through the Fellowship’s network connections I’ve been able to register for some more in-depth coaching programs outside the Fellowship, as well as personalized coaching sessions with the Program Director (oh yeah, did I mention she’s also an accomplished leadership coach and offered to coach Fellows for free?). 2 days ago I moved into an amazing place right in the heart of the District. This place seemed to have fallen through at the last second because it looked like I wasn’t going to have a parking spot, but through a miraculous last-second turnaround the landlord was to convince his neighbor to let me use the neighbor’s own private, off-street parking spot. For those of you who are familiar with life in the District, you know that is a miracle in itself! Not only that, but the place is fully furnished (since I sold all my stuff last year before I moved to Colorado), has a short-term, flexible lease term (since I don’t know how long I’ll be in DC after the program ends Nov.17) and is in about the best location you could possibly ask for. The landlord said that since he bought the place in 1987 he’s never worked as hard to get a tenant in here or seen anything work out like this before.
It hasn’t necessarily been an easy road this last year, but through it all I’ve learned more and more how to live by faith, rest in God’s amazing grace, and trust Him to work all things together for the good. He can work it much better than I could ever ask or imagine, and I am really starting to feel like I’m about to step into the passion, purpose and calling of God for my life. More to follow!