Stacy Kocur serves as our Director of Communications and Development, also known as our CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer).
I have a wild streak in me - a need for adventure and to be challenged and the need for healthy doses of adrenaline. But even though I prefer to take the least-traveled path and often jump in without a plan, I always need to know how it's supposed to end. I always need to know why. Even as a kid, I tended to read the last page of a book before I cracked the first chapter. I needed to KNOW.
Twelve years ago next month, I discovered this place called Fortress and felt undeniably called to return. I didn't understand; it was all about kids, and I... well, I really am not much of a kid person. I mean, I love my OWN kids, of course. And I love my friends' kids, but only because I love my friends. But in general? Let me put it this way: when it's my turn to teach Sunday school, it's the longest 3 months of my life. Every time.
So when I was so strongly called to this place, I wondered WHY. I deeply believed in our mission - to provide kids born into generational poverty the resources and hope to break the cycle. Even so, I made it clear that I didn't especially want to work with kids. So WHY was I HERE? Soon, I started a scrapbook ministry for the moms in the Fortress neighborhood. I thought, "There it is. THIS is why."
Then through fellow Fortress volunteers, I developed the best friendships of my adulthood and I thought, "YES. THIS is why."
Then I began volunteering in other ways, using my creative talents for the organization, and I knew that THAT was why.
In 2008 when I badly needed a distraction from some brokenness in my marriage, I was asked to pull together a fundraising auction, which turned out to be a great success and launched a whole new era in fundraising for us. THIS, I knew in my heart, was why I'd been called to Fortress.
At the same time, I'd been praying about returning to the workforce, but wondered if I was even hirable after seven years as a stay-at-home-Mom. Plus, it was 2008; no one was hiring during the recession. Immediately following that first auction, I was offered a paying job here and I jumped at the opportunity. Finally, I was beginning to understand the "why". Again.
Along the way, I realized that I'd landed my dream job, that I was working in the exact place and utilizing the exact talents and developing the exact skills that I never knew were my dream. I was WRITING, and making money doing it. I was PAINTING, and earning money for that, too. I was being CREATIVE and it all had so much meaningful purpose. At the age of 40, I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and it was in the nonprofit sector at Fortress.
I wasn't making much. At first, I was working 20 hours and volunteering the other 20. Over the next few years, I acquired more skills and experience and eventually began earning a modest salary.
Then in 2012, my marriage imploded for good. I was faced with being a single mom, and I knew I couldn't survive on the money I was making at Fortress. I grieved deeply because I was about to lose everything that meant anything to me at all: my family remaining intact, and the passion I'd found in my job at Fortress. I would have to find something that paid more, a daunting proposition since the economy was still shaky.
Then the miracle happened. Our Board of Directors promoted me to Director of Communications and Development, which came with a raise substantial enough that I could stay here and survive as a single mom. I'll never be rich materially, but you can't imagine the joy I get waking up each morning knowing that what I do is making a difference - and not just a small one, but a life-changing one. And not just an immediate one, but an eternal one. What a blessing to be part of what God is doing here in Near Southeast Fort Worth in the beautiful families and precious children who are living here. And how fortunate am I that I get to act as our Chief Encouragement Officer as I share our story with potential donors? It turns out - and no one is more surprised at this than I am - that I'm actually pretty good at what I do. Who knew?
There's a Bible verse that we often use with our kids. From Jeremiah 29:11: "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans not to harm you, but to prosper you. Plans to give you hope and a future." We remind the kids that God KNOWS the awesome plans He has for them, but they are still responsible for making the good choices that will bring that plan to life. Stay in school. Stop fighting. Respect your Mom. Don't get pregnant. Eat your veggies. Do your homework. Try your hardest. Say no to drugs. Be kind to little kids and old people and animals. Love God.
One afternoon that summer of 2012, my eyes were drawn up to the west-facing windows as I walked into our building. The evening sun was streaming in through the burglar bars and looked like a poorly FXed movie set; the orange shaft of light didn't even look real, yet it was. The verse - one that I'd recited to our kids a million times - was bathed in sunlight. It was as if I were reading it for the first time.
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans not to harm you, but to prosper you. Plans to give you hope and a future."
In that moment, I finally realized that His promise was good for ME, too. I melted into the concrete floor, racked with sobs and the release of so many years of wondering WHY. I thought I'd known at various points all along, but in that moment - in that very moment - I finally knew. It was as clear to me as if God Himself was holding me in His arms and looking into my eyes and telling me with His own voice. He had always known what was coming. He knew I'd be a single mom and that I'd need a career. Not just a job, but a career. He knew that I could never be happy in any ol' 9-5, but that I need deep, clear purpose and a great deal of challenge and variety or I'd get bored. I never would've believed it if He himself had told me back then. But He knew. He had a plan. Thank GOD I was obedient to the calls along the way. That alone is a miracle, because I tend to not be real good about following rules. I mean, left turn signals are stupid.
And all these kids? I love them with my whole heart and I'd take any one of them home with me forever if I needed to, because they're MINE now and I love them. (Still please don't make me teach Sunday school ever again!)
Only God knows how my story ends.
He's really good at teasing the wild streak in me - providing humbling adventures, worthy challenges, and protecting me from accidental overdoses of procrastination-induced adrenaline. He hasn't let me read the last page this time, but for once, I'm not obsessed with the WHY, because I finally trust the Author and He knows the plans He has for me.