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Working Moms: Are Friendships Worth The Time And Effort?

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Most working moms don’t have enough time with our own families.  Between working all day and barely keeping our homes in order, who has time to invest in friendship?  For many of us, time with friends is a pure luxury.

Yet I’ve come to realize that meaningful friendships aren’t just a luxury, they are a necessity.   The key is investing in the right relationships.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

In Powered By Happy, author and executive Beth Thomas encourages us to “Hang With a Gang That Get’s It.” (Chapter 4)  In other words, spend time with people who build you up.   Friendships are worth the effort, but we must invest wisely.

1- Avoid Negative Circles and Gossip Sessions

A reader recently explained to me why she no longer attends bible study.  As a new mom with little time on her hands, she decided that “group prayer” was really nothing more than a “gossip session.”   Not only did she decide the study was a waste of time, the negativity actually started to bring her down. 

Have you ever noticed how exhausting it can be to spend time with people who constantly complain?  While a little venting is healthy, it can be draining to spend dinner with a friend who complains about her boss the entire evening or can’t seem to move the conversation off of her ex-husband. 

I am not suggesting that we only spend time with people who have it all together.  I am suggesting that we spend time with people who are more interested in the solution than the problem.   Let’s face it, negative people – and positive people — are contagious.

2-Develop A Personal Board of Directors

Thomas likewise encourages us to develop a group of mentors – or, as she calls is,  a “personal board of directors.”

Who are the women and men you trust most to give you advice and counsel?  Who are the professionals you most want to emulate?

Over the last year, I have been intentional about spending time with a core group of mentors.  Specifically, I try to have coffee or lunch with a woman I admire at least once a week. I’m not talking about women who lead storybook lives of “happiness.”  These are real women who struggle with the tough issues – like career disappointment, broken relationships, and serious illness.  Yet all of these women are rock star mentors because of their faith in God and positive attitudes.

What does a “personal board of directors” look like?  I personally think it should be a diverse group  –  in terms of age, family status, and career path. (I also believe that women benefit from male mentors.)

 A couple of years ago, I approached a neighbor who has three amazing, grown children who love God and each other.  Even though our career paths are completely different, I asked her,

“Would you mentor me?  You obviously did something right with your children.” 

She was both flattered and humbled.

3-Seek To Be a Mentor

Likewise, we should look for opportunities to invest in others.  A little over a year ago, a brand-new lawyer named Acacia sought me out as a mentor. 

My response?  

Here’s what I thought:  I am a wholly inadequate mentor because I haven’t figured it out.  I don’t want anyone to emulate me.  I don’t have time.  Yet I do have the desire and passion.

Here’s what I said:  “I have no time.  I am completely overcommitted.  You will often have to email me three times before I respond.  But never take my non-responsiveness as disinterest.  I’d love to meet with you on a regular basis.”

So we started meeting.  And praying.  Believing that God had brought us together for a reason.

Acacia is now a dear friend and a true mentor to me!  I’m so glad I didn’t put this relationship on hold or wait for mentoring to become convenient.  Together, we are blessed to co-chair The Gathering of Women – a sold-out event of some 200 women who will meet this Friday.  One of our goals is to connect professional women of faith who need mentors!

It’s easy to dismiss relationships during this busy season of life. (And if you’re in the middle of nursing and diapers, you must give yourself time and grace.)  Yet investing in the right relationships can give us strength and encouragement, as well as the community we desperately need.  

Are you too busy to invest in meaningful friendships?  Have you considered gathering your own “personal board of directors” or serving as a mentor to someone else? 

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Looking for additional mentors?   Be sure to check out these authors I know and admire:

Work, Love, Pray: Practical Wisdom for Young Professional Christian Women and Those Who Want to Understand Them, by Diane Paddison (2011) (Recently trending as a top book on Women & Business)

The Christian Mama’s Guide to the Grade School Years: Everything You Need to Know to Survive (and Love) Sending Your Kid Off into the Big Wide World (Christian Mama’s Guide Series), by Erin MacPherson (Just released with my endorsement!)

And in Working Women of the Bible, we discuss 13 incredible, timeless mentors!

Overcoming Negative Thoughts And Worry: It’s Time To Take Control!

 What holds your happiness hostage?  For many of us, worry and negative thoughts are at the top of the list. 

Whether we’re worried about being a good parent, the family finances, or our performance at work, worry can downright consume us and rob our happiness.  And since this is National Stress Awareness Month, let’s not forget that worry and stress are completely connected.  Research shows that worry and stress are leading causes to both physical and psychological illness.

So what’s the solution? 

Powered By Happy provides some amazing wisdom.  Chapter Three, Avoid What Holds Your Happiness Hostage:  Minimizing Worry and Negative Thoughts, is my favorite chapter.  Importantly, Thomas doesn’t minimize stress and worry.  Instead, she challenges us to do something about it!  Here are some of my favorite tips.

Tip #1 – Identify What Worries You Most

Thomas challenges us to write it down – to answer the question what worries you most?  It’s a simple but necessary step to overcoming stress – defining the root of the problem. 

For example, Thomas suggests writing down everything that worries us for one week.  “Get some three-by-five-inch index cards, and every time a worry pops into your head, write it on a card.” (p. 51)

At the end of a week, you may discovery that your worries have been in vain – or even a waste of time.  Or you may discover a reoccurring theme – an area of your life that is causing you most stress, or a constant worry that you can’t seem to let go. 

In any event, you’ll be better informed to tackle negative thoughts and worry if you identify the source. 

Tip #2 – Confront Worry With Action

Once we identify what worries us most, we’re ready to take action. 

Take your top 5 worries.  What’s the worst thing that can happen?  Is the solution within your control?  Regardless of the outcome, what are some positive steps you can take to address the concern?

For example, if you’re financially strapped, you can take steps toward adjusting your budget, paying off debt, or increasing your earning potential.   While a solution may not be quick or easy, we can do our part to affect what we control and at the same time accept what we can’t control.  By writing down the “worst case scenario” plus our action steps, we confront worry with action.

I firmly believe that inaction breeds worry.  An idle mind breeds fret and discontent.  Have you ever noticed that the stress before starting a new project at work or the anticipation of a tough personal situation is often worse than the situation itself?

Tip #3 – Separate Fact From Fiction

The imagination is a powerful thing.  Most of us spend too much time worrying about things that never happen.  In fact, we invent stories in our minds based upon “what if’s” and work ourselves into a frenzy.

Thomas tells a powerful story about a situation at work where her imagination ran wild.  Basically, once she sent her boss a project, she felt insecure the next time she saw him.  She interpreted his actions as dismissive and thought to herself, he must hate the project!  It was terrible!  After spending months worrying about the project, she later learned that he hadn’t even reviewed the project  — he had forgotten all about it altogether.

In other words, we impute our negative thoughts and imagination onto the motives and words of others.  Most of the time, other people are not thinking about us in the first place!

I found this tip to be the most powerful in the entire chapter.  Don’t worry about what you don’t know.  Stop basing worry on imagination instead of the truth. 

Tip #4 – Take Control With A Baby Step

While these tips are all helpful, we’re not going to be able to stop worrying overnight.  What if we took the next 24 hours and committed to take every negative thought and worry captive?  To turn those worries over to God as we sort out the next step? 

Other baby steps include making your “worry” list or planning a favorite activity to de-stress this week. 

So, what worries you most?  What tip do you find most helpful as you tackle worry and stress? 

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Join us next week as we continue discussing Powered By Happy, Chapters 4 and 5.

Are Some People Wired for Unhappiness?

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Are you in need of happiness rehab?  You’ve come to the right place.  Join us as we continue Powered By Happy, by Beth Thomas.

Last week,  we talked about creating our own definition of happiness.  This week, we wrestle with choosing our own happiness.

I usually hear two primary objections to “choosing happiness”:

1)  Some people are born unhappy; and

2)  Happiness is dependent on circumstances.

To start, are some people just wired for unhappiness?  In other words, is there a happiness “gene” that makes some of us see the glass half full while others see it half empty? 

Yes and no.

I once heard Whoopi Goldberg speak powerfully on this subject.  She explained that about half of our happiness is based on heredity.  Which means at least half of life is what we make it!  While it may be easier for some of us to choose happiness, we all have a viable choice. 

But what about the second objection?  What if our circumstances are lousy?

Here’s the good news.  We need not be held hostage by circumstances.  While many circumstances are within our control, we can make the choice to accept what we can’t change.  It’s called “learned optimism.”

As Thomas states, “Happiness is based on how you deal with the cards you have been dealt.  You have a choice.  You can let the cards get you down, or you can turn them over and play your best game.” (p. 29) 

When I “play my best game” I know that God is in control of my circumstances and I’m free to be the woman he created.  Nothing more.  Nothing less. 

Still not convinced?  A key motivation for mothers is the happiness of our own children.  Studies show that children primary learn optimism (or pessimism) from us!

As we discussed last week, happiness is not the absence of pain or the masked response that everything is always “fine.”  But after we define our own happiness, we need to figure out what’s stopping us.  And what we can do about it!

Which objection do you struggle with the most – objection number one or number two?   Do you face other obstacles to happiness? 

We’ll continue our discussion of Powered By Happy next week with some amazing tips on minimizing worry and negative thoughts (Chapter Three). 

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Thanks so much for supporting the recent launch of Working Women of the Bible!  I’m grateful for this recent review at Publishers Weekly.  We’re now fully stocked online with a variety of retailers including Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and Christianbooks.com.   You can also find Working Women of the Bible in a number of bookstores, including LifeWay Christian stores. 

Looking for a Mother’s Day gift?  Be sure to check out these great resources from several authors I know and admire:

Work, Love, Pray: Practical Wisdom for Young Professional Christian Women and Those Who Want to Understand Them, by Diane Paddison (2011)

The Christian Mama’s Guide to the Grade School Years: Everything You Need to Know to Survive (and Love) Sending Your Kid Off into the Big Wide World (Christian Mama’s Guide Series), by Erin MacPherson (Just released with my endorsement!)

Powered By Happy: What’s Your Definition of Happiness?

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Most of us are striving to be happy in our jobs.  Yet some 75% of Americans are not happy at work. 

Instead, we’re grumpy, overwhelmed, and altogether stressed out.  We don’t just live with a happiness void, we carry the disease of dissatisfaction.  A serious epidemic!

What’s the problem?

In Powered By Happy, a revolutionary yet simple book by executive Beth Thomas, Thomas challenges us to stop whining and start making our own happiness.

Where do we start?  Create your own definition of happiness. 

For example, Thomas encourages us to change our view of what it means to “have it all” and stop allowing other people to define our happiness.

Pretty simple, yet powerful stuff. 

What does your definition of happiness look like?

This answer can and should be different for each of us. As a business executive who reached the top with small children, Thomas actually changed her definition of happiness after she landed her “dream job.”   The result?  She quit a job that required her to constantly travel during a time when her young children needed her at home.  (And, yes, she kept working.)

Does this mean no working mother of small children should travel?  Of course not.  But it does mean that intelligent women can stop living by someone else’s definition of “success.”  Women are so busy trying to “have it all” that we forget to stop and define what it means.  Some of us are chasing a definition of happiness that we never signed up for.  It’s time to be intentional about happiness – both personally and professionally. 

I am not suggesting we pretend that everything is “fine” and put on a happy face.  If our definition of happiness is the absence of pain, we will be sorely disappointed.  As Thomas notes, it’s easy for a mother to say, “I just want my kids to be happy so I can be happy.” 

Been there.  Done that.  Not a bad motivation.  But it sets us up for disappointment when our definition of happiness is dependent on someone else’s response to our actions – or when we define happiness strictly through the happiness of others.

We’ll be talking more about the power to choose happiness next week.   To start, consider your own definition of happiness. 

Don’t overthink it.  Write down the first thing that comes to mind, and keep it simple.  As I read Powered By Happy, I jotted down the following happiness definition:

“Being fully engaged at home, work, and community to love people and love God and to eat dark chocolate and drink red wine in the process.”

What’s your happiness definition?  Have you ever written it down? 

Ready to get happy at work?  Grab a copy of Powered By Happy:  How To Get And Stay Happy At Work and join me next week for Chapter Two!

Grace For the Race, By Dena Dyer

More often than not, life can feel like a race.  But there’s good news for busy moms who need encouragement, laughter, and a spiritual kick in the pants on the journey. 

Meet author Dena Dyer.  Dena is a kindred spirit who loves chocolate, community, and  Jesus.   And she writes Grace for the Race with heart and humor.

This encouraging devotional is for moms of all ages and stages.  Dena celebrates her roots, laughs at her mistakes, and invites us to join her in defying the unattainable standard of “perfection.”  From struggling to nurse her firstborn to being annoyed at the neighbor kids, Dena hits home with a healthy dose of reality.    In her words, “I’m betting that since Jesus was a carpenter, He doesn’t mind a little dust.” 

A woman after my own heart!

But Dena doesn’t stop with a rant.  Instead, she turns her readers to higher ground.  Each devotion is filled with a spiritual truth, a practical story, and a powerful take-away.    Grace for the Race has a universal message – grace not guilt —  for all mothers.  Dena doesn’t “pick sides” between working and stay-at-home moms, something I particularly appreciate about her message.

“Let’s not judge one another for the decisions we make about working or staying at home, nursing or bottle feeding, cleaning or hiring help, and homeschooling versus public schooling.”

Dena also talks candidly about the storms of life  — such as her battle with depression and struggles to let go of her deepest fears.  This isn’t another one of those “feel good” devotionals that takes us ankle deep.  Instead, Dena takes us deep into our souls – to the point where grace alone sustains our journey.   Why else would we dare to keep running?

“And, I might add, it’s the grace that helps you forget childbirth and the early weeks so that – against all common sense – you decide to give your child a sibling.”

Do you need some grace for your race?  Check out Dena’s devotional here!