As we continue our Story Series, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Alyson Jones. Alyson has both heart and style, which makes her an excellent lawyer and even better mother. I laughed out loud when she told me about the four pieces of literature that occupy her nightstand: 1) Newspaper/Huffington Post on-line; 2) Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns; 3) Lean In; and 4) Working Women of the Bible. Her story resonates with us because she’s authentic — she’s not afraid to be a “real” woman and embrace grace.
Alyson, please introduce yourself (and tell us the many hats you wear).
I am a working mother of two young boys, living in the deep south: Jackson, Mississippi.
What key events have marked your journey?
I do not have any major triumphs or catastrophes that define me. My initial influencing factor in my first 30 years has always been my father. He is a Cuban-American, who came to the United States when he was 11, and he epitomizes the word “work-ethic.” He is Catholic, and his demonstration of faith is completely introverted. I have never heard my father talk about God. He has attended mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening) ever since I can remember, and the general unspoken rule is that if you want to go with him, you are welcome to, but he will never ask you to attend. That rule goes for me, both of my brothers, and my mother. The next part of my spiritual journey, age 30 and continuing now, is one that my husband’s faith brought to me – Southern Presbyterianism. For this, you talk about God everywhere and invite everyone, all the time, to join with you! I love having these two worlds combine because both are so very important to me – a deep, personal faith that can only be instilled by self-discipline, as well as a wide-open demonstration of showing grace and faith in God.
What is your greatest struggle?
My greatest struggle is keeping balance, which I know is becoming somewhat of a cliché, but it is true. I want to be really good at everything I do, and I have to learn to let go of that expectation daily. Because, in fact, when I get the call that my child has the stomach bug and I have to leave work, the truth is, I am not my best at work. Alternatively, when I am preparing for three days for a client meeting without leaving the office before 9:00 p.m, plus traveling to attend the meeting, I am not really good at home.
I struggle every day with analyzing whether I am making the right decision to work outside the home. I am a lawyer, so my personality lends itself to analyzing every side of the problem and finding a solution. I found my way to Mississippi after attending undergraduate at Ole Miss, then law school at Tennessee. I fell in love with an incredible man who moved back to Mississippi to farm, and I started my law career here. It is the deep south. Mississippi is not a friendly environment for a working mom; it is just not.
For example, a couple months ago, our own Governor decided to speak out at a public forum about how working women are at the root of the educational gap in our Country. He went on to explain his statement by saying that he simply meant that the stress of dual- parent working families effects children. At the heart of what he said, and none of us can deny it, is that work adds stress. With my over-analytical mind, I have been analyzing my life in context of his statements ever since.
How do you integrate your faith, home, and work?
I try to stay involved with my church. I thrive on structure, and the church provides that for my faith. I would like to think that I could set aside a certain amount of time each day to focus on the Bible, because that is desperately what I need, but that is unrealistic for me right now. Instead, by staying involved in church, I am able to surround myself with people who feed me Bible verses, ask me to Bible studies that I may be able to squeeze in once a quarter, and force me to get involved with children’s activities so that I actually know what my children are learning. By integrating people with strong faith into my life, I believe I am able to have a more grace-centered demeanor at both work and home. (My children and co-workers may disagree with this statement!) In order for me to deal with my struggles, it is imperative that I understand and can lean on the fact that God does not want me to be perfect and loves me despite my inability to be “good” at all that I do.
Fitting faith into work and life is not easy, but it is essential. We will rarely find a purpose in our daily grind, and it is almost a guarantee that we will spend time searching for something that may be missing or will make our life circumstances better. Working Women of the Bible and the Bible itself help paint a picture of how to get through our lives. The Bible does not over-analyze or criticize, but instead, it features real-life struggles, much like our own, that have been around since creation and still hold true today. Some of these struggles do not have solutions, but they are real, have withstood the test of time, and provide a fountain of wisdom for modern-day working women.
I am still on my journey of coming to Christ. It takes a lot of relinquishment of self-control. I have not this mastered this journey, but I have come a long way.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Trust your gut. Of course, that has to be done with a proper analysis of consequence, but if something deep down is stirring you up – whether in decisions at home or at work – trust that feeling from deep within.
Thanks Alyson for sharing your story! Does Alyson’s story strike a powerful or familiar chord? If so, please let her know.