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Working Mom’s Devotional: Not Ready For Christmas?

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Not ready for Christmas?  Me neither.  If I could just stop time this week.  There are just too many gifts to buy, presents to wrap, and cookies to bake.  The teacher gifts alone can drive me mad.  And then there’s my travel schedule.  Four cities in five days.  Who has time to get ready for Christmas?

Not me.

Sometimes, I think if I was a “really good mother” I might finally feel prepared.

But then I look at Mary.

She wasn’t prepared either.

When I look at the birth of Christ I am comforted by Mary’s lack of planning. It doesn’t appear she attended birthing classes or decorated a nursery. She didn’t have a birthing coach, and she was far away from family and friends, traveling to Bethlehem. (She also didn’t bake cookies or run around buying teacher gifts at the last minute!)  The amazing thing is that God had prepared her.

I had read the story of Mary and Elizabeth since I was a child but only recently was struck by God’s complete brilliance in using the birth of John the Baptist to prepare Mary for her own labor and delivery. When the angel Gabriel visited Mary and foretold the birth of Christ, Elizabeth—John the Baptist’s mother-to-be—was already six-months pregnant. (Luke 1:56) Mary went to visit Elizabeth and stayed with her three months. Six plus three is nine, so Mary must have stayed for John’s birth. Assuming she did, she would have watched and learned about labor and delivery firsthand from her older cousin Elizabeth. So Mary didn’t have to attend birthing classes or rent a video. How else would a young virgin in the middle of Bethlehem know how to give birth with an inexperienced husband in a stable?

In other words, God is in charge of preparing the way for Christmas, not us.

So, how does Mary teach us to respond?

She says“yes” and trusts God with the details.  When the angel Gabriel first appeared to Mary to announce the immaculate birth, listen to her response:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  (Luke 1:38) 

Can getting ready for Christmas really be this simple?  Like me, are you struggling to get it all done this year?

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[Dear Readers, As many of you have noticed, I’ve taken a break from blogging during this season.  Thank you deeply for the kind notes and encouragement.  Life is complicated, but God is good and I hope to ramp up writing again in 2015.  I miss you dearly!  Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.   Warmly, Susan]


 

***Excerpts above from Chasing Superwoman.

Working Mom’s Devotional: Not Now God!

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“Your license expired over a month ago.” My husband boomed as I walked into the door after a long week.

“That’s impossible, I just renewed it two years ago.”

“No, really.  We just got a notice in the mail.  It expired on your birthday.”

Rats!  I hate it when he’s right.  Worse yet, I just don’t have time to get my license renewed.  At least that’s what I told myself all weekend.

I’ll just get it done Monday morning.  I’ll get to the license bureau right when it opens, and it will take me ten minutes.

Unfortunately, Monday had its own set of issues.  In addition to the usual scramble of early morning emails, packing lunches, and getting three kids out the door for school, I woke up with an eye swelled up the size of Texas!

Really, God?  I don’t have time for this!  Not right now.  I already have a busy day, I’m already driving around with an expired license, and I’m going to have to live with this picture for four years!

(As Bob Costas knows all too well, eye infections can sneak up unannounced.)

All vanity (mostly)  aside, most of us don’t have a spare minute in our schedules to wait in long lines at the license bureau or take care of unexpected eye infections.  When the ophthalmologist told me I needed to put warm compresses on my eye four times a day, I almost laughed out loud.  I’ll get right on that.  In between carpool and conference calls. 

Yet in the midst of my chaos, I hear God calling.

Stop.  Slow down.  Listen.  Come to me.

It’s a big relief.  But it’s also harder than it sounds.

During this season of Lent, I am reminded each day how far I have to go.  Even though I wrote Chasing Superwoman some six years ago, I wonder.  Has anything really changed?  I’ve traded in daycare and diapers for carpool and texting.  And I have less time that ever!

Yet in the midst of my struggle, I feel God’s grace stronger than ever.  I need him more than ever.  And I’m reminded why Jesus went so far to mend my broken Mondays.

So I take a license picture that gives me a good laugh for the next four years.

“Be still an know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

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Do you feel annoyed by the unexpected demands on your schedule?  Am I the only one who struggles to find time for doctor appointments and license renewals?

Jen’s Story: Being a Steward of Our Skills and Our Relationships

As we continue our Story Series, we’re meeting working moms all across America —  moms who are working hard, serving their families, and loving God.  Jennifer Davis is one of these moms.  Jen is a faithful reader (another online friend through Chasing Superwoman) who sends me notes of encouragement and blesses me with her simple yet powerful words.

Jen, please introduce yourself (and tell us the many hats you wear).

My name is Jen. I am a mathematician working as a software engineer for an aerospace and defense company. I am mother to two young daughters. I am married to a wonderful man who shares my passions for God, family, friends, and biking. I am the older of two children, and (maybe as a result) my greatest strengths tend to be seeking achievements and continually learning.

What key events have marked your journey?

I will talk specifically about my journey as a working mother. In high school, through my own elementary reading of the bible, I came to believe that God wanted all women to be stay-at-home moms (SAHMs); so that became my plan. I didn’t date anyone in college, so upon graduation I went off to graduate school to pursue my passion for mathematics. Through observing and talking to a female professor with young daughters, I became comfortable with the idea of being a working mom and having my future children attend day care. I realized God had gifted me with some special skills, and I wanted to be a good steward of those skills and use them in the marketplace. I met my husband (whose skills are on the creative side where the jobs don’t pay so well) in graduate school, and he agreed with a plan for me to keep working after we had children. I completed my Ph.D. and landed a job as an engineer for an aerospace and defense company.

Four years later we had our first daughter. After eight weeks, I went back to work half days and loved it. It was great to see all my co-workers again and to use a different part of my brain. After a month of half days, I went back to full time and my heart broke. I missed my baby so much during the day. I wondered if God really did want all moms to be SAHMs and if my emotional turmoil was a sign of that.

I Googled “Christian mom working,” bracing for a list of articles condemning mothers of young children who worked outside the home. Instead I found encouragement. I found Kimberly Chastain’s Oasis for Christian Working Mothers and her article “What does the Bible say about Christian Working Moms?” I forged onward. My boss, who has been very supportive, told me I could go part-time if I wanted and choose the number of hours to work each week. I went to 35 hours per week (what we could afford) and arranged my schedule so that I could be home with my daughter on Wednesdays. This made the emotional difference for me to have more time with her during the week.

I continue to evaluate how I spend my time, but I am in a place of peace about work and family.

How do you integrate your faith, home, and work?

Work and home are pretty compartmentalized for me. I tend to leave work at the office. I try to live out my faith both at work and at home. At work this means caring for co-workers, avoiding gossip, and being a diligent and responsible employee. At home, this means teaching my older daughter about Jesus, telling her I love her every day, and living out a life of faith for her to observe. It means prioritizing my husband before my daughters (as difficult as that can be), doing date nights, and learning about God together.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

My dad once told me “Sometimes there are little inconveniences in life, and you just have to deal with them.” It stuck with me. So often I can become frustrated when things aren’t going my way or are not going as expected. When I remember these wise words, I take a step back, breathe, and try to think of the best path forward given the new (albeit unwelcome) circumstances.

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Jen, thank you so much for your example and your story!  You encourage us to use the resources and talents God has given us – and to be a steward of our skills and our relationships.  And thanks for sharing another great resource —  the Oasis for Christian Working Mothers.

Working Mom’s Devotional: You Are Not Alone

Working Mom's Devotional

About twice a month, I get an email from a working mom I have never met.  It goes something like this:

“Thank you for encouraging Christian working moms.  Ever since I had children, I feel alone in my church.  I even feel like I’m less of a mother because of my career. I really believe that God is using me in my work, but sometimes it’s really hard to find mentors.  It’s just nice to see that I’m not alone.”

These messages warm my soul and pierce my heart.  I totally get it.  I too have felt like a spiritual orphan as a working mom, especially in the early years.  When my kids were in diapers, I was lucky to get to church on Sunday let alone connect with like-minded women of faith.  Heck, I even wrote a whole chapter about my struggles with the church in Chasing Superwoman.

But I’m here to tell you there is life after daycare and diapers.  That God is bringing together like-minded women who are striving for excellence (not perfection!) in our home, work, and faith.  We’ve featured many of these women in our Story Series. .

Yet the one constant in my life isn’t my work, my family, or even a growing “community” of working moms.  It’s the One who made me – the One who gives me the strength for what lies ahead.  The One who assures me I am never alone.

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God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  (Hebrews 13:5)

Thank you God for being the one constant in our lives. Thank you for this busy season of life – and for bringing so many wonderful women of faith together.  We know that the seasons of motherhood will change.  That our kids will grow quickly, and people may come and go with each new chapter.  But you always remain the same. Thank you that you never leave.

Ami’s Story of Faith, Loss, and Love

As we continue our “Monday Story Series” I’d like to introduce you to Ami Neiberger-Miller, a public relations consultant and writer who lives near Washington, DC.  Several years ago, Ami posted a review of  Chasing Superwoman on her blog, and we’ve been friends ever since.   

Ami, please introduce yourself (and tell us the many hats you wear).

I am a mother, stepmom, and wife – as well as a hopeless idealist, advocate for nonprofits and associations, media maven, and writer. My life was chaotic long before my house had diapers in it and a sandbox in the backyard. I became a Christian at age 8 and have always felt that faith is demonstrated through actions, not just words. I joined my first nonprofit board at age19 (a Habitat for Humanity affiliate) and never stopped working as an advocate to make a difference.

What key events have marked your journey?

Like many women, the key events in my life have involved my relationships with others. Marrying my husband more than a decade ago, who had three kids from a prior marriage, was a key event that also forced me to grow and change. I found it much more challenging to be graceful when it was my own home and dealing with other people’s needs, than I did in a more public setting. Thank goodness for forgiveness. Adopting our daughter three years ago, after the older kids were all grown, was another key moment that was filled with joy.

What is your greatest struggle?

My brother, Christopher Neiberger, was killed in the Iraq war on August 6, 2007 by a roadside bomb, three days after his 22ndbirthday. The sixth anniversary of Chris’s death is tomorrow, and I’ll probably spend at least part of the day at section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery reflecting on my journey, honoring his life, and perhaps visiting with some of his Army buddies. I divide my life into “before” and “after” his death. On a spiritual side I have wrestled with how a loving God allows senseless and random evil. I have also struggled with how others in the church have at times responded to us as survivors of a traumatic loss. I would say that his death has helped me see many things differently.

My definition and understanding of what “sacrifice” means changed when Chris died. My ability to tolerate people stressing over small things like the metro being late, or yelling at their kids in a store, has also diminished and I am less patient at times with others, because I see them squandering the joy they could have. My definition of a bad day also changed – I know what a really bad day is, and most days are not that bad. I hope that I am now a more generous and understanding person but I am not sure I am there yet. I try to appreciate my family more, help others  coping with traumatic loss through my work in my practice and as a spokesperson for families of fallen troops, and to live my life like every day counts.

How do you integrate your faith, home, and work?

I am extremely fortunate that I am able to work from home 2-3 days per week so I am near our three-year-old and her activities quite a bit, even if  I am working,  Commuting is a major expense and time suck where we live, so re-capturing some of that time for other things keeps our lives more sane. And when I am commuting – I try to use the time to nap, catch up on email or do some writing. I could not do even half of what I do, without the help and support of my husband –who has spent the last year and a half as a stay-at-home dad. We have struggled to find a faith community in the last few years, but we are persistently searching. Finding a church where our daughter can spend part of the worship service with us, where all of us can be nurtured, and where all our family can feel accepted is important to us. I get a daily devotional via email, but I miss the structure of a more comprehensive and focused study with other women on a weekly basis.

We also find that eating meals at the table and saying grace together as a family are important. My schedule can have some unpredictability because I am subject to the whims of breaking news and the ever-cranking 24/7 media cycle. So it’s important to me that I plan ahead to meet my family’s needs, regardless of what happens to my schedule – that includes keeping certain things for meals and household needs stocked around the house. And sometimes I just have to pinch hit – it’s important for me to remember my faith when pressure hits. I once had to have a very important and time-sensitive conversation with a reporter while in a grocery store with my daughter, who was about 2 at the time. I took a cupcake off a shelf and let her eat it in the shopping cart while talking to him about adjusting a story before it mass-ran on the wire. She was covered head to toe in frosting and my client got a much-needed story adjustment that helped them assist more hurting people.

What is the best advice you have ever received? 

Remember what matters in life – people, not stuff. Do not allow the tyranny of the urgent to overshadow the moments you have with your family. Turn off your electronics at least some of the time, and especially do it when you have “family time.” Do not feel you have to be perfect or “get it right” all of the time. At some point we have all had messy homes, kids that don’t act perfectly, a Bible study we are too exhausted to read, and a desk that looks like a tidal wave of paper and email drowned it. Focus on what matters to you, and cut yourself slack on the smaller things. And don’t worry about what other people think – so long as your choices are right for you and your family – you will be ok.

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Thanks so much Amy for sharing your story!  We are blessed to have you as a friend and fellow working mom on this journey.  Amy also writes a blog on media relations for nonprofits and associations, as well as work-life balance, and you can follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

Does Amy’s story strike a powerful or familiar cord?  If so, please let her know!