God Has A Plan and Worry Isn't Required
Mark was an All-American pole vaulter from the University of Arkansas with degrees in geophysics and mechanical engineering from the University of Alabama. That’s where he met his wife Jamie, a self-professed tomboy from Mississippi who was one of three women in the undergraduate mechanical engineering program.
Starting his career with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in 1989, Mark felt he had found the perfect company for his career aspirations. It was professional, well-respected, and filled with capable people. Jamie applied her talents to a position with the Environmental Protection Agency. She found the agency too bureaucratic and inefficient, but worked there for five years until her second of three children was born. She and Mark hoped his income would allow her to stay home with their kids.
Mark had flourished in his career with Andersen. For the seven years he spent there, he was assigned projects in the Atlanta area, where they had moved when they married in 1990. He worked long hours but traveled only occasionally. Then the reality of life in the consulting industry struck when he was assigned to a full-time project for a client in Houston. It required him to be away from home nearly five days a week. Mark and Jamie were determined to find a better career option.
“I was largely motivated by money at the time,” Mark explained, “and I had always wrestled with a desire to have my own business.” Accordingly, Mark and Jamie decided to get involved with Amway. Amway offered a great opportunity but required a huge commitment.
“We were pretty miserable. I was working between 70-80 hours per week for two different organizations, we had two children, going on three, and I was assigned to a project in Houston,” Mark lamented. They decided change was necessary—on several fronts. While both were brought up in Christian homes, they were never faithful at tithing. Together, they committed to begin giving 10 percent of their income back to God. They also knew that lowering their monthly expenses would provide them more career flexibility, so they downsized from a house on a golf course in an affluent suburb to a more modest house 20 miles away, reducing their mortgage expense by 35 percent.
Mark left Andersen and went to work in the information technology field at a financial institution for a year, and then spent three years with Alltel, a telecommunications company. Although he liked the work, he was working outrageous hours in a high-pressure job, and, according to him, “my family was being severely compromised.”
It was Christmas 1998 when job demands nearly caused Mark to miss the Klee’s annual trip home to visit family for the holidays. That, combined with a particularly powerful Sunday sermon about giving an account on the Day of Judgment for our lives on earth, resulted in genuine change for Mark and Jamie.
In May 1999, Mark resigned from Alltel with no idea what was next for him and his family. He only knew that he was working too hard, was too preoccupied with making more money, and was compromising his family life. “One thing I remember when I resigned is how often people remarked that they wish they had the guts to do the same.”
The Klee family immediately took a vacation to the beach to begin to make up for lost time. Mark bought and read more than 20 books related to the real estate business. “I had always enjoyed construction and working with my hands and thought that while I determined what to do with my career, I could buy a house that needed some work, fix it up, and sell it for a profit.”
As good fortune—or rather God’s hand—would have it, Mark’s previous employer contacted him a few months after he left and invited him to work part time. He agreed to work no more than two days per week, and they paid him just what he needed to cover his recently reduced monthly expenses. That gave him the opportunity to grow his newfound interest in real estate into a business that could support his family long-term.
Mark has developed his real estate business considerably since he began learning the field in 1999. He buys and sells distressed properties, has begun to buy houses and provide lease/purchase options to prospective buyers, and now provides real estate information to other investors via a subscription service on the Internet and training seminars.
“I enjoy the work I do, I’m able to work from home most days, and I set my schedule according to what’s important to me and my family,” Mark said, marveling at the change. His day also includes more than an hour of quiet time in prayer and reflection each morning. “I am still amazed at the inspiration and peace that my quiet time provides,” he said.
The changes the Klee’s made also allowed Jamie to home school their children, now ages 14, 12, and 8. “We’re together as a family most days, all day,” she says. “When I compare that to how we existed a few years ago, I’m still amazed at the change.”
Mark: “A couple has to come together and decide what’s important to them and make choices accordingly. We had priorities in our life, but our choices weren’t reflective of those priorities.”
Jamie: “Every time we made good, biblical decisions about our work, our finances, or our lives that reflected what God had put on our heart, we have been blessed for those decisions. We trust that God has a plan for our lives and when you have that confidence, worrying isn’t required.”