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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mentoring Matters (check out my life!)

What kind of life do I have? How could my life have ended up differently?
I don’t know about you who are reading this, but my life could have turned out completely different than my current reality. My life is certainly very complicated at the moment. When I am asked, “How are you doing?” I reply, “I’m not sure how to answer that question?” I’m 53 years old and have incredible energy that I know comes from something other than myself. I feel that the major life/career adjustment I was compelled to make on January 1 of this year, and the process began in January of 2010, was definitively and actively coordinated by ANOTHER. Security in position, finances, and influence was abandoned. It was very clear that I would probably have to work three jobs in this transition. It was clear that I would not be able to bring home the same amount of income despite working these three jobs. It was also clear to me that I would be doing two things with certainty, and need to be open to the “wild card” job.
So I began the journey of building a non-profit (Highway City Community Development) into the transformative agent we believed it should be in our community. I began the process of applying to become an adjunct professor at two of our local universities. One door closed very quickly due to our state budget issues. The other door opened up (Fresno Pacific University) in a very unexpected way and I am relishing the teaching time. I kept looking for the “right” third job. The simple matter was that our family couldn’t continue to absorb the $2,400+ loss in take home pay. We had done pretty well in financial management, but not completely. Hindsight sucks, because it is so accurate. I wish we had done a bit better. On the other hand, the only reason the first two jobs could be accomplished was through accumulating debt. This is an interesting paradox, yet one that my family must live with.
I knew the third job would need to be a “graveyard” type of employment. Certain jobs were pretty easy to rule out because it was clear they didn’t “fit.” Other opportunities were something to think about but I was worried about my integrity if an organization invested in training me and then I need to quit because one of the first two jobs broke open in a financial sense. One day while networking the person asked if my interns might need employment. Valley Teen Ranch is an awesome work dealing with foster care, adoption, and group homes for troubled male teens. I gladly took the job descriptions to give to our organization’s graduating interns from our Urban Leadership program. As I perused the descriptions a night shift job description caught my eye. I could be a substitute night shift worker.
I then went to the CEO and asked if she would mind if I applied knowing it might be for a short duration. Connie is a great friend and inspiration to what I was primarily doing (HCCD). She was a great encouragement. So I spoke with Janet, the HR person. She gave me the low down and said it was perfectly fine to use my laptop at work! So, I became a nightshift Child Care worker for Valley Teen Ranch in June. It helps my family, it helps Valley Teen Ranch, AND I can do research, reading, and writing while doing bed checks and clocking in every half hour (make sure I’m not sleeping!).
So I’m working two full time jobs and one occasional job (if adjunct professor can be put in that role) just as I felt I would be doing. That actually feels pretty good. On the other hand, I do get tired and periodically question my move to this situation. Three things have helped me to feeling secure in this season of transition, fatigue, and expectation. One, I have an amazing wife. She has been completely on board with the decision to transition and encouraging me and communicating herr deep respect for me as her husband and father of our children. Quite frankly, this has been more than a little important.
Second, if you haven’t figured it out by now, my faith in Jesus and the faith that He was/is directing this move is foundational. All my Christ-following years (almost 23 years) He has directed my path in amazing ways. So much unexpected, never thought it could happen, and “are you sure I’m the one?” have marked my life with Christ. It hasn’t been very often that the journey has been “easy” or considered “safe.” He has asked considerably of me in the areas of giving up comfort, ease, and safety. Each time I have stepped into the unknown He has made a new reality for me. What I would have disqualified myself from He has made me experienced in. Being in the center of God’s will IS NOT the safest place to be. But, it is the most fulfilling place to take a stance.
Finally, the third thing that has sustained me in this journey, and the chief reason for the blog is my mentor. His name is Jim. Quite simply, if you do not have at least one “Jim” in your life I feel very sorry for you.
Jim has been my mentor for 18+ years. He has traveled with me through some very significant transitions in my life. He has shared his life with me. I have observed his life and marveled that I would be allowed to have this person in my life. He has vast experience in the fields I feel so strongly called to be in, a great marriage (not without struggles for sure which he has shared from their journey), good adult kids (pretty close to my age), and grandchildren he adores. He mentors me in all areas of my life. He encourages me, confronts me (gently), spurs me on, and advocates for me when my doubts start to cloud the vision I feel led to move toward.
Today was one of those days. He made a simple, astute statement which changed everything for me. It released doubt, even a little self-imposed guilt, and served as a great cheer for what I was trying to achieve according to my call in life. He said, “Building a dream requires a lot of effort that just can’t be measured.” That was crucial for me to hear. I’m working toward a “dream.” I’m sure it is not my dream. If it was I would have quit long ago. Even when things look totally crappy (probably not the most eloquent word but you get my drift I’m sure) this vision of what could be is always front and center.
Wives are great and critical supporters. God has to make the call and direct the steps. But, God has orchestrated that we move forward in community. He set up the idea of mentors. Whether Moses for Joshua, Elijah for Elisha, Jesus for the Apostles, or Paul for Timothy, he knew that we needed an experienced, godly person to be there with us to help us see more clearly how God is working in our lives.
If you haven’t thought this to be important, I plead with you to seek out a mentor who can relate to the whole of your life. Jim has been this for me. If you don’t think this is important I will pray for you (you are in a dangerous position). If you have this in your life, verbally let them know how much they mean to you.
I don’t know what my life would look like without Jim. So many of the steps I felt I was being led to make seemed so unconventional. The truth of the matter was that they were and he had already traveled the road less traveled. Jim has been willing to share his downfalls, shortcomings, and ill advised moves. But, he has also shared the victories and given me hope in my own circumstances. He has never said, “do it my way.” He always says, “let’s figure out how God will use you in this situation.” He has confronted my shortcomings with love and with a great desire to see me become the man of God he believes I can become. He has been a fierce advocate for me even if it could have been detrimental to him. Simply put, he has believed completely that God is working in my life and has a great desire to help me see this and value that work in my life.
You need this in your life. Mentoring matters. Get one. And prepare to be one for others. That has also been taught to me. Thank you Jim. Thank you for believing in me being used by God. Thanks for crying with me, laughing with me, laughing at me, and setting a great example for how to follow Christ even when we might mess it up a bit.
To those reading this, you need to know Christ. It is that pure and simple. Once there, find another who is farther up the road with experience in your passions. Chances are they are around you and it is time to approach them. I will pray you gain at least as much as I have gained from Jim.
God bless your journey together,
Jeff

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