Friday, September 28, 2012

Why I Work

Several months ago I overheard a discussion about why mothers should not work.  I was astounded by how critical they could be towards another sister who was making a choice for her family.  There are so many reasons why we choose to work and I was shocked and offended by the level of judgement. 

I will admit that for much of this year I have been "overemployed." Our family goal is to reduce the number of hours that I work but my workload can be quite varied.  Setting aside extenuating circumstances, I would still choose to work. 

God has blessed me with a wonderful husband and three beautiful children who are at the heart of the decisions that we make.  To truly embrace who God created me to be, I have to identify all the different parts of me.  One of the strongest parts of me is my drive to achieve and accomplish goals.  I find great satisfaction at work.  Over the course of the last two years, I have regained a small portion of my own self worth by becoming part of a project that has great value for the whole system.  Again I am able to interact with wonderful colleagues who provide me with a variety of opportunities that expand my personal development. 

Working or Staying at Home is a personal family choice.  I don't think there is one right answer for everyone.  Most days I love that I can take my children to work me with.  Some days it is overwhelming to know that I must produce at work while also caring for the kids.  Some days I feel guilty that my children spent their summer at work instead of playing or going to camp.  Today though, my son had a meltdown at work--not because he didn't want to be there, because he couldn't stay longer and ride along on a delivery.  Without work, I wouldn't feel fulfilled.  I am a better wife and mother when I am able to work. 

We have only to look to Proverbs 31 to find that we all have value when we embrace and pursue our God-given gifts and talents. 

Proverbs 31:15 "She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family..."

Proverbs 31:16 "She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard."

Proverbs 31:24 "She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes."

Proverbs 31:27 "She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."

I will never be able to embody all the attributes of the Proverbs 31 Wife but I know that I have the freedom and responsibility to live in a way that best exemplifies what Christ created me to be--

A Wife, A Mother, A Businesswoman

All the time, a warrior in this world living radically.

Proverbs 31:30-31 "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

On a recent morning I was sitting at what should have been an innocuous, routine meeting.  Casual conversation turned to the subject of summer activities.  I mentioned that we had recently traveled to Guatemala. 

Their response was not what I expected.  Quite flippantly, they responded, "how great of you to spend your vacation doing humanitarian work."  Continuing, they mentioned being told by a number of people how their specialty was needed in lesser developed countries.  Unfortunately, "if they're going away, they're going to relax."  I drifted back to my defensiveness and didn't mention anything else about my trip (see previous post The Mission at Home) for the rest of our meeting.  Even though I have known this person for many years, my opinion was shaken because I expected a level of respectfulness and interest. 

Just ten short hours later, I was sitting at dinner in Dallas.  To my left was a gentleman who I would have never expected to be genuinely interested in my trips to Guatemala.  After all, we were there to discuss integrated business systems and tools.  I was able to share about the work that we had done and the great needs that exist.


 
 

For his part, he has just launched a coffee company that purposefully donates 5% of the sales proceeds to charitable organizations.  Patrons are able to choose to support Christian missionaries, a homeless community ministry, or, as the name would suggest, The Red Panda Network.  I would urge you to consider supporting D-Mac on his journey to support those who are making a difference.  How much easier could it be to help a greater cause?  Just sit back and sip a cup of Red Panda Coffee.

One day, two cities, and two completely different reactions but just what I needed to remind me that there are those who need to hear the message and those who are called to serve.

      

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Put First Things First

My daughter's first grade class has been studying Sean Covey's 7 Habits of Happy Kids during their Social Studies time.  I was surprised by the choice because some of the habits seem counter-cultural to a world of entitlement and helicopter parents. 

Today we inadvertently focused on Number 3 "Put First Things First."  Her teacher's description for this lesson is "Work first, then play!"  I imagine there are a large portion of families in the class who think that their children shouldn't have to work. 

One of the best things that my parents did for me was to make me work, starting young.  I can remember standing on the gates when I was little with a hose and spraying the hogs in the summer.  Through 4-H we all learned the responsibility of raising livestock and were at the barn morning and night.  We try to teach our children responsibility even at their young ages.  They all have age-appropriate chores around the house and the older two are currently earning money for a special toy they want by helping outside and in the shop.

Today we all five worked together to seed and straw the field where we removed two barns.  In just under three hours we were able to seed and straw about an acre.  The two year-old picked up rocks, the older two raked and spread straw.  Together, we got the job done.  What a difference it will make when the grass starts coming up and how much easier it was when we all helped.

Amazingly enough, there wasn't even any whining while we were working.  The "High" for both of the girls tonight at supper was going for ice cream as a treat for their hard work this afternoon.

Mamas Especiales

The women who care for the children at Dorie's Promise are called Special Moms.  This team of 32 women serve as the mothers, mentors, and spiritual guides to the children who have been abandoned, abused, or rescued from their families and former home life. 

These wonderful women work twelve-hour shifts every other day, regardless of holiday.  Dorie's Promise provides them with a stable income to help provide for their families.  Even with stable jobs, they are not exempt from the trials and tribulations of life in Guatemala.  They have suffered great loss in their families.  They are struggling as single mothers.  They arrive at work each day after long trips on the "chicken" bus because they cannot afford a vehicle.

Once they are at Dorie's, you only see their heart for the children and love of their job.  I have become especially close with two of the women who work there.  Seeing them again was exciting and I continue to pray for them.  I can't wait to go back in a few months.

Mama Nohemi


Mama Carol

Friday, September 14, 2012

Redeemed Brokeness

In the last few weeks I find myself humming my new favorite song, "Sweetly Broken" by Jeremy Riddle.  One song--a realization, a challenge, and a hope woven together. 

"To the cross I run, To the cross I cling" I wish I could say this was true.  Too many times I insist on being responsible to do everything myself.  I don't want to pass my responsibilities to anyone else.  I certainly cannot be seen as incapable of handling the challenges I am given.  Nobody likes a whiner.

"I'm sweetly broken, wholly surrendered" Getting to the place where I can accept that the obstacles and distractions of this world are turned over to God and my focus is living radically for God without fear of the consequences. 

Broken (excerpted from Webster's Dictionary)
  • Shattered
  • Damaged
  • Interrupted
  • Violated
  • Weakened
  • Crushed
  • Disconnected
I think that this year is really a journey of brokenness that I need to embrace.  When all is stripped away, I'm left here alone, with nowhere to hide, and only one place to go.  It's really about my choices, my reactions, my complete reliance on God's goodness and fulfillment.  The path of brokenness is not fun, I don't recommend seeking it, but maybe it will be life changing. 

What if  rejection, loneliness, exhaustion, disappointment, and attacked could become  Encouraged, Confident, Motivated, and Joyful? 

Redeem (excerpted from Webster's Dictionary)
  • Win back
  • Clear
  • Restore
  • Fulfill
Matthew 11: 28-30 "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Real Church Service

"Church Service" conjures up thoughts of a schedule.  I see my self-assigned seat in the back row--easy to slip back into after the praise songs.  If I allow myself, I can imagine being in the sanctuary listening to a sermon, can see those who surround us each week.

If we stretch a little bit further, we can identify a specific type of service that reflects musical style and preference.  Most would consider it "worship" style and define the style as traditional, contemporary, or mixed.  Whether hymns or praise songs, organ or electric guitar and drums, it doesn't really make the experience.  Worship is really about our personal experience and allowing ourselves to focus on our reverence for an awesome God.

The type of music, dress code, and time of day do not define real church service.  Not diminishing the importance of the gathering of believers to learn, grow, and support each other, I believe that we fail if we focus on those we see each Sunday morning. 

Matthew 9:12 "On hearing this, Jesus said, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."

Real Church Service begins when we intentionally look beyond ourselves, our friends, and our neighborhoods to serve a loving God.  Too often we become comfortable and complacent in our lives.  I live in a large home.  I have a comfortable balance in my checkbook.  I have a circle of friends who follow the teaching of Jesus Church.  Without much effort, I could relax and become blind to the struggles of other people.  I could become obsessed with the challenges of my privileged American life.  As I have been known to tell my children, this world doesn't revolve around them, nor does it revolve around me. 

In the eyes of God I am no better than someone who sleeps on a park bench, scavenges through a garbage dump, or even works the system to increase their monthly check.  Everyone is loved and we are called to share the message of hope and love where we are sent--near or far.  Until the last few years, I would have never guessed that I would long for trips to Guatemala and dream about one day visiting Africa.

Matthew 28:19-20 "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

The inspiration for this post came from Pastor Bobby, one of the coolest people I have ever met! In a few shorts days I gained so much respect for him and truly appreciated our time together.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Mission at Home

Flying to Guatemala and spending a week was the easy part.  Coming home is the challenge.  The times when I have felt closest to God were when I was able to get away from the chaos of my daily life on mission trips.  Guatemala is a refuge away from the pressure and stress of the everyday.  On this last trip, the cellphone didn't work and I had deactivated the distraction of Facebook.  It was about being where God wanted me to be and doing his work.

Coming home is difficult.  As soon as we landed at DFW airport and my cellphone turned on, the cloud of stress was immediately hovering.  The reality of life was back and already I had an issue to handle immediately.  The freedom of Guatemala was gone, the high of willful obedience crashing down with a few sentences in a text message. 

Challenge #1:  Maintain an obedient spirit while managing the demands of my life.

People ask how our trip went and I don't know how to respond.  I feel myself holding back because I know how powerful the experience was and I hold that close to my heart.  I'm not sure if they are asking to be polite or if they truly have a desire to hear about the beautiful country I love that struggles daily.  Without having traveled, or feeling the call to travel, the details of missions can be cumbersome and the meaning can be lost for many people. I don't want to be a hindrance to them by not sharing and I can't expect everyone to feel as strongly as I do. Some people just are not called to go.

Recently a friend who has also gone on several mission trips gave me an idea.  She suggested 3 versions of reply--30 seconds, 3 minutes, and 30 minutes.  The length of response corresponds to the person's true heart and desire to know about my trip and the reality of life in a lesser developed country. 

Challenge #2:  Find a way to share God's love and my love for the Guatemalan people with everyone.

Visiting with families who are struggling makes me more aware of the excesses of my own life in America.  I am intolerant of Americans who complain about material goods and life's inconveniences.  Sorry, but it's the truth.  Even though we have tried to teach our children about the reality that our friends face in different countries, we still fall into the materialistic trap of our culture.  On a recent school morning I found myself once again relaying, in a not-so-patient manner, how fortunate my daughter was that she had a closet full of clothes and schools.  She didn't have ANY shoes to wear that matched her outfit that day because of the "closed-toe" shoe rule for school. 

Challenge #3:  Be patient with those who have not witnessed extreme poverty and do not judge them.  Instead, help them to see and be the difference.