One of the biggest dilemmas we face in life is whether or not what we’re doing is “right.” Are we at the right job? Are we with the right person? Have we surrounded ourselves with the right people? Stephanie Kaihoi, Executive Director of Legacy Living Ministries, talks with us today about why mentorship is an excellent way to know if your life is headed in the right direction and how we must train ourselves to listen for God’s movements in our lives.
4word: Tell us a little about yourself and your professional and personal journey up until now.
Stephanie: I was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. God called me to Himself during my parents’ separation. It was during those years that I found Jesus to be the only thing constant in my life. God used this crisis as a catalyst for my spiritual growth (Psalm 40). I can’t take any credit. At the time, I felt utterly alone and confused if God was even real. Then God intervened…in a real way. He broke into my “why” questions and brought older women into my life who invested in me. Through these spiritual mentors, I began to develop an active love relationship with God. Courage began to surface and confidence emerged. I no longer felt alone. I felt supported. I felt known. My mentors provided a safe place for me to bare my soul. During high school, my life story quickly became my ministry. I connected with others who were facing similar trials and encouraged them to find mentors of their own. I couldn’t deny that God was pursuing me.
From high school, God led me to attend Moody Bible Institute, where I graduated in May of 2007 with a degree in Communication Studies. During my senior year, God gave me a unique opportunity to write a six-week devotional study for young women titled Finishing With No Regrets. Looking back at the time, I see His fingerprints all over these early years out of college. He was teaching me to be faithful with the little doors He was opening. He was reminding me He was indeed alive and active just like His word (Hebrews 4:12). I can’t imagine where I’d be today without the Lord and these “gatekeepers.” I call my mentors “gatekeepers” because they opened doors for me. They saw potential in my life when I couldn’t, and they pushed me to deeper places personally, professionally, relationally and spiritually. Their legacy lives on as I pour into others. It’s an honor to give back to God what He first gave me.
In 2009, God once again broke into my everyday normal routine and strategically and radically rocked my career plans. After a “forced” three-month sabbatical, I sensed Him calling me to create Legacy Living Ministries, a ministry committed to training women of all ages how to engage in an active love relationship with God, apply His Word, and disciple like Jesus. Doesn’t that sound amazing? What an honor.
This ministry has demanded everything at times, but I continue to find it a privilege to serve as Executive Director as we continue to provide biblical resources and practical training to women in all stages and seasons of life. Through our national and international trainings and conferences, we see God bring a diverse group of women from every generation and from all different backgrounds. We often have the joy of welcoming over fifteen different denominations and over forty different churches and ministries at our events. I can’t help but see the Spirit of God at work in these rooms full of His daughters. We see women engaging with each other and with God in real, profound ways. These faces and precious relationships formed are what gets me up every morning. God is not done with us. He is calling us to deeper places with Him.
4word: Would you say it’s been easy for you to find your path in life? Or have you had to really search for God’s plan?
Stephanie: Seeking His plan for my life has come through both everyday routines and unexpected crises. Sometimes I have seen God break into my life through a broken relationship or a job change. Other times, I have had to really search for Him and seek His perspective amidst the noise and confusion. His answer sometimes comes through a phone call with one of my mentors or during one of my walks with Him around my neighborhood. It’s humbling to admit, but I’m reminded more times than not how often I can squeeze the life out of something when God’s not leading it.
Looking back over my life, I see elements of His tight grip on me (I think He knew His grip needed to be tight). Growing up in a single-parent home wasn’t easy. I learned to become incredibly independent and self-sufficient. This trait allowed me to push through some pretty ugly moments and messy relationships early on, but today, I often struggle to hear God’s voice because mine is the loudest. I’ve had to practice learning the art of silence and active listening to Him.
For those of you who are leaders, making His voice the loudest sometimes feels impossible. I get it. Life is moving fast and people want to know what to do. It is in these moments, when He feels quiet that I begin to recognize my great need for withdrawal. I am learning how to seek His face and wait for Him to respond (Isaiah 55, Jeremiah 29:13, Acts 17:27-28, James 4:8).
Practically speaking, this has come through regularly setting a timer on my phone for five minutes. I sit in silence (with a pen and paper) and ask God to bring His Word, a song, a picture, a phrase, etc. I just want Him to know I’m listening. I have found the rhythm of being quiet has gotten easier, and His voice has increased in volume. Withdrawing has helped me grow in my understanding of His plan for my life. I’ve also learned (often the hard way) I need to leave my home and get away to a quiet environment where I can stop, pray, listen, journal and process. At first, I feared the quiet but actually I now long for it.
God uses moments of need to reveal His restorative presence. During these times, I sense Him move my feet forward to face the next challenge or obstacle heading my way. Other times, God has used my husband who I often ask, “Will you pray over me? I’m struggling to see through the fog.” My mentors, who are still investing in my personal life and leadership, have also been very helpful in helping me see God’s plan for my life. Where would I be without my village? Where would any of us be without those gatekeepers, without the Lifter of our head (Psalm 3)? Finding God’s plan has come from searching for it, but it’s also good to remember God is already at work. He’s inviting me to join Him and I need His help to identify where that is and His strength to follow through with it.
4word: As humans, we want to know what’s going to happen with our lives. How can we learn to give up control and just listen for God? What are some areas of your life where you’ve had to learn to let go?
Stephanie: Let’s face it. We want information. Not just the headlines, but also the details – the content. We think knowing gives us power and not knowing, then, must feel powerless. My mentor recently shared with me, “Women are so afraid of the unknown, so we find control to be our comfort because we think what we know will carry us. But often what we really need is to give up what we think we know in order to grow in our relationships with God.”
There’s something deeply frightening about surrender, and yet, there’s great power when I loosen the grip. Over the last 10-15 years, I’ve had to let go of control in a lot of areas (I’m sure you can relate): friendships, complicated family relationships, work and rest balance, my marriage, our finances, the prospect of having children, the ministry, possessions, my 5 and 10-year plans, etc. The more I surrender the more I find God to be faithful.
I also find new things popping up that are seeking my attention. These are pieces of my faith journey that God is inviting me to trust Him with, regardless if I know the plan. Recently, I was encouraged by reading Mary’s story when she encountered Gabriel and heard she was going to give birth to Jesus, the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). I was struck with the reality that there were probably a bazillion thoughts and questions running through her mind. What about this? How will my family respond? How am I supposed to know how to raise a Messiah? What am I supposed to tell Joseph? And yet, God only told her what she needed to know then and what He didn’t say she didn’t need to know.
I had a big lump in my throat when I sat with this story this past summer. God was speaking to me through His Word. I’m a planner at heart and love to know how it’s all going to work together. In that moment, God was tender and kind amidst my control, and He was lifting my perspective and changing me. I sensed trust settle in where I didn’t have it before. Since July, I’ve recounted this story many times…I only need to know what God is saying today. What I don’t know, I don’t need to know. He will tell me the next step. I am invited to trust Him and enjoy the ride.
4word: How can we become more observant of God’s presence in our lives? Why is this an important skill to learn?
Stephanie: One thought: create a kindness calendar. One of my mentors shared this idea with me and I love it. It’s been a creative way to simply list something each day where I saw God break in. I carry around a small pocket calendar and write one way God was kind to me that day.
God really does provide gifts every day to His kids. Sometimes they come in the form of a meeting that went well at work, or an impromptu conversation with an old friend ,or saving on car insurance. There are so many passages on declaring God’s kindness and goodness in our lives (Psalm 34:1-3; 73:28; 86:5, 1 Tim. 4:4), and actually declaring them and writing them down gives room for God to get the credit He deserves. As we write down small things that happen throughout our everyday lives, we will become more in tune and aware of all the other ways God is revealing Himself to us. This discipline gives us a sense of hope and joy as we see God work in our everyday lives.
4word: How can professional women create a “safe place” for each other to congregate and feel supported and valued?
Stephanie: Creating safe places for each other may take time, but one conversation is all it takes to begin the journey of establishing transparent and authentic relationships with others. When we are honest and vulnerable, others feel more comfortable to extend the same authenticity to us. I think women long to feel known but are unsure of how to cross over the bridge of self-protection to embrace vulnerability.
I also think the importance of watching what comes out of your mouth is significant. We have to become self-aware and choose to initiate safe places for those in our lives. Another way we can find support is to surround ourselves with other people who value the same things. Pray and ask God to reveal a few people in your life whom you can begin pursuing more honest conversations together.
4word: What are some tips you can share for discovering what season of life you are in, and how God is “breaking into” your everyday life, even if you don’t always see it?
Stephanie: Identifying what seasons we are in or how God may be breaking into our everyday lives doesn’t have to feel like rocket science, and it is possible. Ask God to help you begin observing if He’s showing up in your everyday life. You may find asking these questions to be a helpful start:
- Ask Him if there are any themes or types of struggles that keep surfacing in your life.
- Is God trying to get your attention?
- Is He inviting you to think differently about something?
- Is He inviting you to embrace the current season you are in?
- Has God burdened your heart for a cause?
- How would you describe your current life to someone?
- Have you recently experienced a loss of some kind (job, personal, death)?
- Have you had any major accomplishments or breakthroughs happen in your personal or professional life?
- How has God been kind to you this week?
- Have you had any difficult conversations with someone? Have you invited God to sit with you in these moments and share His perspective with you?
God IS at work. He IS breaking into our everyday lives. If we have trouble seeing it, we can invite others into our life who may be helpful in observing and reflecting on what God may be up to. Being willing to engage in these conversations is the first step. However, this first step will help you get from here to there with God.
4word: Part of discovering God’s plan for our lives might include Him using others to reveal what He has laid out for our future. Share with us why you believe mentorship is so vital to finding our life’s path.
Stephanie: I honestly don’t know where I’d be without God strategically putting women five, ten, twenty, or forty years older than me to invest in my life. They have become a foundational part of my personal, spiritual and professional development. They ask me the tough questions and give me safe places to ask tough questions too. They have prayed for me and encouraged me through every season of my life (high school, college, marriage, starting a non-profit organization).
Who wouldn’t want that? If I didn’t have mentors in my life who modeled what a godly professional woman looks like (joys and flaws in all), I wouldn’t have examples of real women to follow.
We were never meant to do life alone, and yet so many of us feel like we are alone. Finding a few mentors in your life to consistently learn from and invest in provide a space to foster life-giving relationships. Some of the best friendships I have pursued are with women who are in different stages of life. When I listen to my mentors, my faith is moved and increased as we sit and share stories of ways God is breaking into our everyday lives.
I personally believe so much in the power of sharing life that a portion of our ministry is focused on providing training for women interested in these topics. If you live in the Dallas area or know someone who does, I want to personally invite you to attend our Mentoring With No Regrets Training on Friday, November 20 @ 7 PM. Mentoring With No Regrets (MWNR) is a ministry that provides biblical and practical discipleship training to women of all ages (typical age range: 16-90). If you have a desire to grow in your relationship with God, then this training is for you! If you enjoy ministering, mentoring and investing in others, then this training is also for you! The topics for this mentoring training include how to see the activity of God in your everyday life and how your story can become your ministry. This is an intergenerational training, so bring your friends, daughters, granddaughters, moms, aunts, and grandmothers!
You can register online at: www.MentoringWithNoRegrets.com. Early-bird registration ends November 8, so register today!
How has God made Himself apparent in your life? Was it through times of personal reflection? Through a mentorship with a dear friend or confidant? Maybe both? As Stephanie so eloquently shared, finding “evidence” of God in our lives is definitely achievable. We just need to set ourselves up to hear Him.
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Stephanie Kaihoi graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2007. In 2009, she founded Legacy Living Ministries. She loves ushering people into an active love relationship with Jesus and finds it an honor to offer biblical and practical resources to women of all ages. Stephanie treasures time alone with Jesus, being with people, mentoring young women, teaching God’s Word, serving in her local church, learning Spanish as a second language, and most of all enjoying a weekly date night with her husband, Trevor, of 10 years. They reside in Northeast Minneapolis, MN.