How to Make Healthy Change ~ Interview Part 2

On this week’s Unleashing the Champion Within, we have a special guest, Ross Stewart. Last week, Ross shared how he felt Called to Change. This week Ross is sharing How to Make Healthy Change. This is a transcription from the podcast of part two of the interview.

Cindy Stewart:  Today we have part two of our series with Ross Stewart. Last week in Episode 72, we talked about when we’re Called to Change. You can go back and read or listen to it.

This week we’re going to talk about Healthy Change. There’s a big difference between when you’re called to change and moving into change that is healthy and good for not only you, your family, your economics, all those different elements.

Ross is going to share a little bit of how he went from being called to change, to actually implementing change in his life.

Welcome, Ross. Thanks for coming this morning.

Ross Stewart:   Hi. Thanks for having me.

Cindy Stewart:   Okay, so you’re going to tell us a little bit about how to change your life. You had some dramatic change in a healthy way, that brought life to your family.

Give us just like a two-minute breakdown on what you talked about last week. Then we’re going to dig into what healthy change looks like and what are those steps.

Ross Stewart: Just as a little just recap of what we talked about last week:

The first thing that I had to do and I’ve been through a lot of change, but I just had to listen.

I had to listen to the promptings of The Holy Spirit. I had to listen to what God was speaking into my life. I had to listen to the people that I trusted around me and I had to make some decisions based on that.

We didn’t get to it, but the other part of that was just trusting the people that were around me and trusting what God was speaking into my life. I was in the midst of a lot of big decisions, and getting married, and changing career paths, two things that were huge.

Ross Stewart:   The most important thing that I could say would be to seek counsel. One would be to seek the counsel of God obviously in prayer and fasting, and the other would be to seek the counsel of people that you know and that are close to you, and that have your best interests in mind. There was a lot of talking with family, there was a lot of talking with close friends, and people that had been speaking to my life for a long time. I just was prepared to take what I was hearing and to follow God’s leading in that.

Cindy Stewart:   I think we forget the value of community. It’s not everybody, because everybody has an opinion, but not everybody has been put in your life to help you go to the places you need to go, to invest in you, to pray for you, to listen to what you sense God is saying to you and to help sort through all those things.

To have those handful of people, your wife, your family, your pastor, a couple of close friends, when you have those handfuls of people that you know is going after your best in prayer, going after your best and spending time with you and encouraging you, that makes all the difference in the world.

Cindy Stewart:    So many times I think in this world we think we’re all independent. We’re almost like little sailboats all in this giant ocean sailing by ourselves. Really, God has called us to find those few people to do life with. There’s an outer ring of people and there’s an inner ring. It’s that inner ring that will help you really get to where you need to go.

If you don’t have a community around you, ask God to open up the door to those few people, those three or four people that can do life with you and will tell you the truth when you need to hear that, will spend their time in prayer for you, will also just be that silent listener and be able to take in what you need to share. So find yourself a community.

Cindy Stewart:    Let’s talk about healthy change and how did that actually work in your life?

Ross Stewart:   I think one of the big things is that there was a huge sense of trust between myself and my wife. This is talking about career specifically.

We got married in October and then in April of the following year, I submitted my letter of resignation from coaching basketball and from teaching effectively, because my jobs were tied together. If I wasn’t going to coach anymore, I was also going to forfeit my opportunity to teach in that specific position.

Now it took from October when we got married to April, for us to come to that decision. There were a lot of things riding on that decision. There had to be a very high level of trust, not only  between myself and my wife, but between myself, and my wife, and God, and understanding that there was this call on my life. The Holy Spirit had implanted it in me and we were going to follow that together. It was a healthy risk that we took knowing that God had something much better for us.

Cindy Stewart:   There’s a scripture out of Acts and honestly, I know it’s Acts 15 but I don’t remember the actual verse number, but it says, “When it seems right by The Holy Spirit and it seems right to us, then we move forward.” Sometimes we’re not on the exact same page so there’s patience and just time that will get us to where we both sense the rightness of it.

Ross Stewart:   Right. So what we did and basically we went through a process of seeking out other possibilities. There was still, even though we took that risk, there was a lot of things up in the air. We didn’t know where that next opportunity was going to come from. We knew that there would be plenty of opportunities to interview for new teaching jobs in new areas.

We also moved across the bay as well, so if you know anything about the Tampa Bay area, there’s Tampa and then on the other side, there’s St. Petersburg. My wife and I lived in St. Pete. I was teaching in Tampa which is about a 35 to 40-minute difference, so not only had we just gotten married, not only had I just resigned my position, but we had also moved across the bridge so it provided another… I want to say opportunity, but really it was another challenge to the entire process.

Ross Stewart:    We spent a lot of time in talking about that, a lot of time seeking out other opportunities. What we did is we basically decided that come this summer, we would wait, I would go to an open interview for new positions in the school district that we had moved into, so that’s what we did.

Cindy Stewart:    You found a position, right?

Ross Stewart:   Yeah, so I found a position almost immediately which is a blessing for sure. At the same time that I was seeking a full-time position for the following fall, my church gave me an opportunity to work part-time during the summer just to fill in some hours to help them with some operational tasks.

The church that I’m currently employed at is only five years old so there’s still a lot of operational and system things to work through. They wanted to give me an opportunity just to come in for 20 or so hours a week and work with them in that respect.

Cindy Stewart:   So how did that position feel, knowing that you were not going back to teaching and all of that?

Ross Stewart:   There was an inner struggle with me and there was an outer struggle between myself and my wife, because I found a position and was offered a position in the school system, so I knew that I was going to have a job that provided me with retirement, that had medical care and that sort of thing, but on the other side I really knew that teaching wasn’t my passion. It wasn’t what I wanted to pursue.

I was working this part-time summer job before school got in and that was… it was so exciting to me. Our location, our church has three locations now, but at the time that I was working during the summer, we were in the process of launching that third location.  

That blew my mind, the fact that a church could be one body but in multiple locations, and that I could be a part of that because I was… if you know anything about personality tests, I’m a C on the disc which means that I’m very organized, I’m a very steady person. I like systems, I like operations. The fact that I could be a part of that, something so amazing happening, just because of my personality style and my natural bent towards systems and operations, that really just was awesome because my original thought about the church is that you had to be a pastor to be on staff.  If you weren’t a pastor then there wasn’t a place for you on a church staff. That’s really not the reality which is so awesome.

Cindy Stewart:   Let me ask you something. The summer was like a bridge. It took you from your full-time job as a teacher basketball coach to waiting for that other job as a teacher, but then there was this bridge that opened you up to a whole different perspective.

What was kind of the turning point of deciding you weren’t going to go all the way across the bridge into that next teaching role?

Ross Stewart:   Yeah. It took frank conversations with the people around me. It took real conversations with my wife, telling her that even though I got this job in the school system I know that it’s not the one for me.

It took prayer. It took so many hours of prayer for us to really come to this conclusion. Then with the people that I was working part-time with, the executive pastor at our church and some of the people that work there, it took really frank and honest conversations.

It took me moving. It took me taking action steps to ensure that I would be where I wanted to be, because if I wouldn’t have said anything to them, I wouldn’t have told them, “Hey, I really feel called to be here. I really feel like there’s a position for me here. Is there anything that we could do to work it out?” Honestly, my wife didn’t agree with it right away.

Ross Stewart:    Again, there weren’t as many benefits so she would have had and she did, have to absorb some of those things. We were going to take a temporary pay cut so that was a big thing. We had just bought a house and so there was a lot of that stuff going on, but it really took some active faith and a lot of long conversations, and a lot of prayers to get me to that point.

Cindy Stewart:   Sometimes those conversations are hard to have. Your feelings get hurt or you think maybe you’re not quite hearing what I’m saying, or maybe this is a great opportunity but maybe it’s not for now since the opportunity is presenting itself. How did you find that trust together to move forward?

Ross Stewart:    I think it all goes back to faith and it all goes back to just what the Bible says about being faithful and trusting. Just a couple verses that we really meditated on here, one in Jeremiah it says… This is Jeremiah 17:7, it says, “But blessed is the one who trusts in The Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” In Proverbs 16, it says, “Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers and blessed is the one who trusts in The Lord.” Then a very famous one, one that everybody knows, Proverbs 3:5-6, it says, “Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not onto your own understanding. In all of your ways submit to Him and he will make your paths straight.”

Ross Stewart:   Really, once we submitted our ways to Him, once we said, “God, this is what I want, this is what she wants, this is what we want together. Just, we submit all of this to you. We’re going to lay it all down at your feet and we’re going to say, hey, whatever you want from us is what we’re going to do.” As soon as we did that, He took this curvy path, this indistinguishable event in the future and He just straightened it right out.

Cindy Stewart:   That’s good.

Ross Stewart:   That was really amazing for us.

Cindy Stewart:   Then you just knew that okay, you’ve got the green light, both of you have the green light, it’s a go. I guess it just all came together with the company too, with the church that you were going to work for too. They sensed it, you and Temple sensed it, we as your parents sensed it, and then it all came together. What was that next thing to make it be complete?

Ross Stewart:    I guess the biggest thing that I took out of it was taking these action steps and I just had one thing that kind of stuck with me that I keep saying to myself over and over again, as I relive this experience, and it’s this quote.

It’s “Believe great things about God, ask great things of God, and attempt great things for God.”

Cindy Stewart:    That’s good.

Ross Stewart:    Really, it’s all about the attempt. It was all about knowing that it was the right thing, getting confirmation from everybody around me, but then really sealing that deal. Really coming together and partnering with the people that could make it happen. It all happened at the perfect time.

When it’s God’s will for your life, everything does fall into place. There’s not too much straining. There’s not a whole lot of effort that you have to put into it. It all just kind of falls together and pulls itself together so that it really worked out well for us.

Cindy Stewart:   Now was there anything specific you needed to do to kind of help prep you for your new career, this new step of launching into something that… really, as I was saying that I was thinking about when you worked in the construction, it had the same logistical side to it. It just didn’t have the same focus.

In the construction, it was building buildings, that kind of stuff, but in this side, it’s building people. It had the same logistical coordination and all that, but this took it to where it met your calling, as well as, your talent. Was there anything specific you had to do to prepare to step into this job?

Ross Stewart:   Yeah. I mean, on the logistical side, like the actual on that side there wasn’t too much that I had to do to actually prepare. I think that most of the preparation came on the emotional side and the spiritual side. It came to me righting my heart and getting ready to step into whatever that passion was.

I think probably just the biggest thing that I had to prepare for was… is that mind shift change from going from a secular community in the teaching industry to going to just a faith-filled ministry. I think that that is where a lot of the actual skills translate, the mindset definitely does not.

Cindy Stewart:    Oh, definitely, yeah.

Ross Stewart:   I think that there was a huge just shift in mindset, like hey, it’s not about grading papers anymore, it’s not about all those little things that you do when you’re a teacher.

Everything that you’re moving toward is to bring people closer to Christ and that is your sole focus, no matter what you’re doing. It was a huge mindset change and a shift, so I think that was probably the biggest preparation that I had to do.

Cindy Stewart:   Now when you started your new job, I was thinking about, you know when you do new things that are really out of the element that you’ve been in for so long, like you said in the secular business, now you’re moving into the Christ business really, even though you did that in the school environment too, but were you nervous about the change?

Ross Stewart:   Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re always nervous when you go into a new position, or you go into a new career or calling, or purpose. You’re always expecting the best but you know that there’s a lot of preparation that has to be done. You know there’s a lot of learning that goes into it.

The good thing about where I landed was there were just so many… just strong people that were there. There was a lot of people that were willing to take me under their wing and teach me how things were done, and there were people who had gone through the process before and were able to kind of give me some helpful advice and some insights.

Ross Stewart:   I think one of the biggest things in starting any new career, or calling, or purpose, or passion, or whatever it is, is to seek out people that have done it before. Seek out people that have been there in your position. Ask as many questions as you possibly can. Be a sponge, right? Be a sponge.

Cindy Stewart:    Yeah, be a sponge for sure.

Ross Stewart:    Try to find out as much as you can about everything that you can and use people that are there, and people that are excited to see you prosper, and excited to see you become part of the team. Use those people to your advantage to learn, to learn and to really get a good hold on what you’re doing.

Cindy Stewart:    That’s good. Now just as an FYI for anybody who’s thinking, was there anything in hindsight, you know, hindsight’s 20/20, that you might not have worried as much about, or stressed as much about. Were there anything that you spent a little bit too much time on that you thought if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t worry about that element of it?

Ross Stewart:    Yeah. I’ll tell you a funny story at the end too. I think that it’s so much harder when you’re going through it than when you are seeing it on the back end. Actually, my pastor said something very funny the other day. We were talking about the attitude in a staff meeting and he said, “We live life forward, but we understand it backward,” which is so apparent to me. It’s the old saying hindsight is 20/20.

We live it forward so we’re in that moment where man, this is such a tough decision. I don’t know what to do. Is this the right thing? Is this the wrong thing? Then you look back on it six months or a year later and you go, oh, obviously it was the right thing to do. Why did I ever bother? Why did I ever wonder?

My charge to anybody that’s listening to this that’s going through this process is that listen to God. God has got you and He’ll always have you. If you think that you’re going through and there’s no way that it’ll possibly work out, then you’re not trusting in God enough. You’re not having faith.

Ross Stewart:    I’ll just give you just a little funny story. Just recently, and again, this is the very beginning of the year, so just recently we needed to get a new air conditioner in our house. That was a huge point of tension for us because when we bought our house six months ago, we knew we were going to need it but we didn’t do anything about it on the front end. We’ve been kind of carrying this weight on our shoulders for like six months.

Like okay, it had to be done, it had to be done, it had to be done. It kept breaking in our house and so we eventually just bit the bullet and we went with this company, and they offered us some free financing of it and all that stuff. We’re like, man, how are we ever going to pay this thing off?

Ross Stewart:   It’s funny the way that God works on the hindsight. That’s how I’ll preface this, but when I originally took the job it was a lower paying job. Right? It was less money than I had made before but at the end of the year, I was given a bonus and I was given a raise for the next year.  The funny thing is that the amount that the air conditioning costs in our home to fix, and replace, and all that stuff, was exactly the amount of my raise and my bonus for the winter.

Ross Stewart:    God is so funny. We are so worried about this air conditioning system. We’re so, oh my gosh, how are we ever going to pay it off. This will never get paid off. We just got out of debt, we’re right back in it, and all this stuff and then God comes in with this little just… this little miracle, this little ditty that we never expected. In my mind, to just to round it off and just to come full circle is that in hindsight, you wouldn’t worry about anything.

Cindy Stewart:  That’s true.

Ross Stewart:    If we had faith enough moving forward, we wouldn’t worry about anything, but we are human and we worry. I think that I would have less worry in the little things, less worry in the worldly things, and the areas of money or retirement, or all that stuff. I mean, it’s important. That stuff is vitally important but at the same time, it’s not ours to control. It’s not ours, to begin with, so everything that we’re given is a gift from God and if He’s giving it to us, then we shouldn’t have to worry about it anyway.

Cindy Stewart:   That is so true. You know what’s interesting with that story is we never know how things are going to filter into our lives. We never know where it’s going to come from. Probably if you would have said, “Okay, we’re going to go ahead and do the air conditioner because I know that my business is going to give me money and da, da, da, da, da,” or that “One of our in-laws is going to send us a check,” or “We’re going to win the lottery,” which we don’t play, if we were trying to figure it out ourselves and do… make our decisions based on that, then we would never figure it out because God uses the most surprising ways to take care of us. That is so good.

Cindy Stewart:   I just want to encourage you guys. Healthy change really allows us the opportunity to be part of what God is doing. Unhealthy change keeps us in that place of worry and anxiety. Those points of building a community around you, and really being a sponge, and learning from other people, and just being in that place of waiting, that your spouse, the person you’re making the decision with, may not be on the same page at the exact same moment, but prayer, trust in God, and really just waiting gives times for everybody to hear from God instead of saying, “Well, I’ve heard you need to do what I tell you to do.” I love that whole, really the holistic approach of moving forward and moving into the change where we can live in a place that God has for us for this season.

Cindy Stewart:   Thank you so much for coming, Ross. I appreciate it. I hope you enjoy this series, Part One: Call to Change, and Part Two, Healthy Change.

I know that if you’ll take the things that Ross shared, the points and the application, and really the insight that he gained, that you can make some dynamic changes, following the call in a healthy way.

Remember, invest in yourself because you’re the best investment you can make, ’cause when you invest in yourself, everybody benefits.

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