(I, Rachel co-sister at SSS had the privilege of interviewing Julie Baker, the founder of Horses & Heroes, Inc., successful realtor, business owner, wife, mother, and friend. I have gotten to know her and witness her keen listening ear. What you are about to read is insight into her journey from fear, learning from her “mis-takes,” and transforming them into purposeful living).
Super Soul Sisters (SSS) chose you for this interview because you are an inspiration. You fulfill many roles in your life and still seem to find time and energy for new dreams. You have found a way to listen and respond to calls that have presented themselves to you. It takes a keen ear to listen, a wise mind to discern, and a brave heart to follow and you seem to have developed those. So our readers understand what we are talking about, can you tell us how you would define a call? And is there another word you use for “a call.”
Julie Baker (JB): Thank you Rachel for this opportunity to provide insights into what brought me to this point. My story is not a unique, unblemished story of linear success. My story is one of emotional pain, overcoming hardships, and the possibility for authentic transformations. My story is one of learning to yield to God, whole-heartedly yearning, praying and asking for Him to change my heart, my thoughts and my actions in order to be the woman He created me to be. It was not until I was honest with myself and I stopped trying to live up to unrealistic expectations to be the “perfect child” that I was willing to listen and transform through grace.
How do I define a call? For me, “calls” are moments where I feel the inspiration to say or act in a specific manner or do a specific task. Sometimes the calls happen during my sleep and other times it is in the middle of the day. Usually, it happens during quiet moments.
SSS: In our modern culture we are inundated with information and it can both inspire new ideas and overwhelm us. I have often felt drawn to many things but have learned that not every opportunity is meant to be taken. How do you discern when a call is really meant to be answered?
JB: By developing wisdom to a calling. Being called to act, say or do something without the comfort of understanding is frightening. Just as Mary was called to be an unwed-young mother of Jesus, I am sure she felt frightened and confused. She was instructed to trust, not be afraid, and to be confident with her calling. I believe God calls us moment by moment, day by day, and it is up to us to learn what that call feels, looks like, or sounds like.
Learning to recognize and trust your calling is a process. As a younger person, I don’t think I always recognized when God called, or I lacked confidence to trust His call and myself. As I ponder past moments that I felt I was called to act, speak, or do, I unfortunately think of more times that I did not respond, to act, speak or do. Fear, confusion and lack of trust kept me bound, silent and unable to respond. I think of other times that my lack of response left me feeling disappointed and as if I failed some sort of test. These feelings of failure did however cause me to be more sensitive to other opportunities to act, say or do.
As a young person, I often chose what felt right in the moment, even if I knew it was wrong. Those bad decisions lead to temptations and destructive paths of confusion and depression. When we are paralyzed by fear of failure, we do not attempt to respond to our “calls.” The looming question, “What if I fail?” overrides the thought of “What if I succeed?” I recall feeling I had a bigger calling but I was fearful and timid, unable to trust myself in making bigger decisions. Thankfully I had some great influencers in my life who helped me understand that mistakes are just that, mis-takes. We get to learn from them and make different choices next time!
My litmus test now is to identify my current state of emotion, mindset and the integrity of a thought or idea. If I am in the middle of chaos, turmoil or negative thought patterns, it might be a diversion or distraction. I stop and consider if my mind and body are at peace or turmoil? Do I feel anxious, fearful, worried or angry? If the answer is yes, I know it is most likely not in-line with a true calling from God and is a road that looks inviting yet leads me back to confusion.
SSS: When and how did you first start to experience calls?
JB: I believe we are all born with natural interests and tendencies that may help direct us to our calling. For me, I had a love of horses and animals as a very young child. I was always bringing home the stray cats and dogs, tending to wounds, feeding them and learning compassion while I cared for them. This common thread of caring, healing and practicing compassion has developed into a calling much larger than I could have imagined. Now if I could just figure out what my specific calling is. I felt it had something to do with horses and my developed interest of helping those affected by trauma.
I employed a business coach to keep me focused and intentional about my real estate business. She pressed me for years asking, “Julie, why are your driven to sell real estate?” For years I could not answer her question. Then she would say, “well, when you figure it out, it will scare the hell out of you and will make you cry.”
Oct 13th, 2014 my “why” was revealed. (This date also marks the anniversary of my oldest-daughter’s birth and the unfortunate anniversary of a suicide within our family). I was aware of a nagging sense to Google how to use horses to help people heal. After ignoring this nagging “poking” for several minutes, I reluctantly went to my computer to Google something about using horses to help people.
Man was I in for a surprise when my Google search brought up the EAGALA website (Equine-Assisted Growth and Learning Association). This entity trains and certifies professionals all over the world to utilize a mode of therapy know as Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine-Assisted Learning. The therapy is incorporated as a viable modality of treatment for both in-patient and out-patient programs. With more than 15 years of research and documented successes all over the world it is the “gold-standard” in equine-assisted therapies. I became increasingly more interested and excited the further I read and when I clicked on the tab “Military Designation” and discovered it was being used to help military work through trauma..BAM! Tears flowed. I felt exuberated and terrified at the same time. This was the moment in time that my calling became crystal clear.
The experience was emotional, undeniable, and scared the you know what out of me!! Within a few short minutes my ambiguous cloud of ideas became a laser-focused mission with clarity of the name and purpose. I can utilize my God-given love of working with horses to help traumatized people heal. Wow! I was unaware this was already a thing! After this emotional reveal, Horses & Heroes Inc. became a business entity and a specific and deliberate business model was laid out before me, almost like a recipe I would follow step by step.
The story of Horses & Heroes is still unfolding and many days I struggle with decision making and some worry about what the future holds. Then just as soon as I become quiet, ask for guidance, and understanding, He places the perfect person in our path, or reveals His plan and provides glimpses of how we need to focus and grow.
SSS: Some people say we each listen in different ways. For some it might be through the mind/thoughts, others the heart/feelings, or even the gut/intuitions and physical sensations. How has this “listening” developed for you?
JB: I tend to have a strong intuition about the right or wrong directions to take. It has taken me decades to learn to recognize the moment in which God is calling me to act, or recognize the call to yield, pause, listen and respond. I have failed more times than I have succeeded. However, I have learned to consider my failures as mis-steps (mistakes) where I can strive to improve next time. After experiencing some success with trusting my intuition and having it verified that I was correct, I have developed a keener sense of trust within myself.
SSS: In the past few years you have answered some big calls. As a wife, mother, business owner, and founder and director of a non-profit, what struggles and successes have you had in trying to find balance?
JB: I hope I can keep this answer to the point and brief! I cannot say that I was tuned in to callings as a young wife and mother. I was only 20 when I married my high school boyfriend and we began our lives as an active-duty military couple. We were married 5 months when I became pregnant with our oldest daughter. Not much thought or planning was devoted to growing our family but it happened quickly! I was the mother of 3 young girls at the ripe old age of 24! We were not going to church, my day was filled with diapers, cleaning and cooking. I enjoyed being home with our kids, yet I was restless. As my girls got older I pursued my career, finished college and found myself in a corporate job with an expense account, business car, laptop and a great salary. I was still restless. I could not shake the sense that I needed to be doing something “that mattered.” I wanted to have more say over my schedule, be present for my kids and my husband.
Fast forward 25 years. Now my girls are grown and I am remarried and we have a son together. I still very much enjoy being a wife and mother, yet there is still a stirring within that lets me know I have not listened to a calling to use my talents towards something even greater. I don’t know how anything could be greater than being present for your children, but I knew I was being asked to do something else. I have experienced success and great failures in my relationships and businesses at this point.
Early 2014 I was at a point in life that felt hopeless, dark and my days lacked joy. I sold my franchise business to another owner who drove it into the ground, and I was on the hook for his debts. I was at rock bottom, broke, and everything in my world seemed to be crashing in. I lost interest in the things I loved about life and realized I was in a pattern of negative thinking allowing fear to block me from finding true happiness and peace. I started to think about the dreams and aspirations I had as a young girl. They seemed foreign and unfamiliar. Why could I not go back to that person and start over? What kind of woman does He need me to be in order to hear His calling and reveal my “why.”
I knew things had to change, and the change was from within me. I was burdened with thoughts of fear, uncertainty and unworthiness. Was it too late for me to turn things around? Was I equipped with the mindset necessary to find joy, happiness and effectively respond to what God wants for me? There are many quotes about the power of change, however, the quote that resonates with me is this:
“Rock bottom is good solid ground and a dead end street is just a place to turn around” – Buddie Buie
Fear fought to keep me bound with feelings of uncertainty, however, that is when I realized my best and only option was to focus on what God wants from me. What did I have to lose? So I started to pray, “God please change my mind and my heart and transform me into the woman you need for me to be.” Go back and look at the date that I had my revelation about my calling, Oct 2014. Things happen quickly when we yield from fear to God’s will.
SSS: Through your journeys, including the ups and downs, what have you learned about self-acceptance?
Today I am able to be comfortable with myself and acknowledge my talents and weaknesses. I embrace both, and surround myself with people who have strengths where I am weak. I am able to laugh at myself and be okay with knowing that I will continue to fail. I will fail daily. I am comforted by knowing that God supports me through all of my mistakes and if I take the time to be still, quiet and listen, He will gently guide the way.
Through prayer and asking for God to transform me into the woman He intends me to be, I feel more equipped to respond to His call. I am not ruled by fear of failure. I can, on most days, step out with confidence and courage to do what I need to do. The biggest change has been that I have learned to remove the veil of “being the perfect child.” I am comfortable with being transparent, authentic, vulnerable and broken.
As long as it has taken me to get this far, I am sure it will continue to be a life-long process of learning to listen and respond with a keener ear to my calling.
SSS: Inspired by the Beatles song “All you need is love” and this line in particular: “There’s nothing we can do that can’t be done with love,” What have you learned about love during your journey, and what do you think the world needs to know (or hear) about love?
JB: Great question! I think we each have our own perception of what love is. I know my 20 year old self would answer this question very differently than my 50+ year old self.
If I could go back and have a conversation with my 20 year old self I would say that love isn’t always fun, happy and it does not come easy. Love is up all night with a crying babies. Love is choosing forgiveness when you would rather be angry. Loving others requires us to focus on the best attributes when it may be easier to focus on flaws.
I have learned that love is not an emotion. Love is a decision. The feelings we associate with love are important and real but once the feelings start dissipate, that is when real love is tested.
If you are interested in learning more about Julie and her projects, she has graciously shared her professional information with us:
Licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty Partners Inc.
- Email: JulieBaker@kw.com
- Web site: www.JulieBaker.kw.com
- CEO, Founder of Horses & Heroes Inc.
- Email: email@example.com
- Web site: www.HorsesandHeroes.org