All posts in Working Women of the Bible

Alyson’s Story: Being A “Real” Woman of Grace

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.

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Thanks Alyson for sharing your story!  Does Alyson’s story strike a powerful or familiar chord?  If so, please let her know.

Working Moms: Do You Feel Guilty For “ME” Time?

Beach

I haven’t take a “girls” weekend in years. Which is why I was more than ready for a beachfront weekend with my very best friends in the world – my four sisters!  For three nights and two whole days I had no schedule, no carpool, and no billable hours.

Yes, it was paradise.

The only problem? 

Mommy guilt.  It gets me every time.  I got home from work late Wednesday evening, and I informed my kids that I would be leaving the next day for the weekend.  Abby (age 7) gave me a scowl:

“I can’t believe you are leaving again!”

My heart sank.  I already spend too much time away from my kids when I am working, so most of my non-working time is naturally spent with my family.  Shouldn’t I put “me” time on hold for at least another decade?

Don’t get me wrong.  It took about two minutes on the beach (see above picture) to get over the guilt.  And a 5:00 a.m. flight on Sunday morning that enabled me to spend the remainder of the weekend with my family.

Most of us live with this attitude of self deprivation.  Just Monday, in response to Working Mom’s Devotional:  I Can Do It Myself God, I received the following comment from a reader. 

Just the other day my husband said, “Hey, the neighbor ladies are meeting for drinks – they just posted it on Facebook.” And I responded that I was too busy painting the walls of our loft. …On a Friday night. (I mean, the kids were in bed, I had to use that precious time wisely!)

See what I mean!  It’s not just me.  It’s really difficult to justify “me” time when other demands take priority.  Sometimes for good reason.

Yet relationships with others – including our friends, sisters, and neighbors – are vital to our personal and spiritual growth.   We can’t serve others unless we’re connected!

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

Do you feel guilty for “me” time?  Are you connecting with others and investing in key relationships? 

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Please join us in the coming months in building some community right here online.  Starting Monday, we will launch a “Story Series” with our readers. 

Speaking of stories, the Working Women of the Bible tell some of the best stories I know.  Please help spread the word!

Why Work-Life “Balance” Doesn’t Work

I frequently am asked the question:  “How do you achieve work-life balance?”

My standard response used to be, “Well, I pray and I maintain a sense of humor.”

But then I got to thinking.  Who am I really kidding?  Most weeks, there is no balance in my life.  Why don’t I just admit it?

And I don’t think I’m alone.  The word “balance” just doesn’t describe the lives of most working professionals I know.

In a recent Harvard Business Blog, Work-Life Balance Isn’t The Point, professor Christine Riordan explains why “balance” is a misnomer:

The term work-life balance implies that one dedicates an equal portion of time to work and life. Catalyst, a research firm focused on women in business, uses the phrase work-life effectiveness, and suggests striving for a situation where work fits with other aspects of your life.” (emphasis mine)

Think about it, balance, by definition, requires “an even distribution of weight.”  If things are off even a milligram, balance is destroyed. 

Which means if we expect perfect balance between home and work, we set ourselves up for failure.

In a world of technology, social media, and careers that demand nothing less than a chunk of our flesh, it’s no longer realistic to compartmentalize. The days of “my time” are over (I’m not sure they ever even existed for most women). Every time I try to draw a line in the sand, it backfires. So as much as I try to separate my personal life from my professional life, I’ve learned by necessity just to blend them together.

How does this play out in real life? For many working women, our work spills into our homes. We get calls at home late at night, usually when it’s inconvenient. Our cell phones ring in the pediatrician’s office. We bring our laptops on vacation. But the opposite is also true. The pediatrician always calls us at the office. We work at home when our kids are sick. Maybe we even take our entire family on a business trip and turn it into a vacation.

Some would accuse us of lacking balance. My response? Balance is out. Blenders are in. Why fight it?

As we strive for work-life “effectiveness” we embrace integration rather than “balance.”  By God’s grace, we accept that the weight will never be evenly distributed.  We’re ok during the weeks when our home life demands our greatest time and energy.  And we’re also ok during the weeks when our work requires our full attention and completely pulls us in.     

Do you strive for work-life effectiveness?  Are you ready to say goodbye to work-life balance?

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Excerpts above from Working Women of the Bible, Chapter Nine.

Care to share your story of work-life effectiveness?  Send an email by June 20 to sdimickele@gmail.com and stay tuned for details!

How To Get What You Want From An Unreasonable Boss

Working Mom's Devotional

Esther, the Queen of Persia who saved the Jewish people from annihilation in the fifth Century BC, is a master at tackling problems at work.

To start, she understands how to influence an irrational, pompous boss. If she were alive today, she’d offer a pricey yet wildly popular seminar: How To Get What You Want From An Unreasonable Boss.

She makes it look so easy with a simple, three-step formula:     

Step One:  Take the Initiative

Esther doesn’t wait around for her boss, King Xerxes, to fix a crisis. When she learns the Jewish people are in danger – and that a plot to destroy the Jews is brewing in the King’s inner circle – she quickly takes action. Never mind that the King doesn’t like to be interrupted when he is busy sitting on his throne. Never mind that the penalty for approaching him in the royal throne room without an invitation is possibly death. Esther takes action.

Esther shows us that taking the initiative at work means having the guts to walk into the boss’s office and make the ask. 

Click here to continue reading about Esther at The High Calling. 

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Sometimes, it’s difficult to know when to ask, when to hang low, and when to push the envelope.  The Working Women of the Bible give us insight into these timeless questions.

We’re committed to sharing the stories of working women who are striving to integrate their faith, home, and work.  Do you have a desire to share your story?  Send an email to sdimickele@gmail.com by June 20 and stay tuned for details!

Working Mom’s Devotional: Where Do We Find Our Competence

Working Mom's Devotional

As I study Deborah – the only female judge in the Bible – she appears overly competent.   Isn’t it remarkable that God chooses a woman to deliver and lead Israel during a time of intense spiritual and political turmoil?

We know three things as Deborah takes center stage:

1.“Again, the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (Judge 4:1)

2.The King of Canaan “cruelly oppressed the Israelites for 20 years.”(v.3a)

3.The people “cried to the Lord for help.” (v.3b)

In other words, things are bad. Really bad. This is more than taking office during a recession. Israel is in enemy hands. The people have turned away from God.  For 20 long years, they have been oppressed.

Deborah is God’s answer to their prayers.   He choses her to prophesy, judge, and ultimately lead the people into battle. 

The question is obvious:  Why her?

Based on the world’s standards, she is unqualified: she has no military training, plus she is a woman in the 11th or 12th Century BC!

But based on God’s standards, she has everything she needs.  He has prepared her for this very moment.  And she is quick to say “yes.”

“Certainly, I will go with you.” (v. 9)

But do we really think she wanted to go into battle?  Or did she think to herself, you’ve got to be kidding me God!

Going to war wasn’t her plan.  If we look at the text, we see she is willing to follow God’s plans.  When Deborah directs the leader of the army, she does so with God’s authority.  “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you.” (v. 6)  This isn’t about her.  She is confident that God will prevail over the enemy.  (v. 7) 

In other words, her willingness is based on what God has already promised, not on her own strength.  Her competence is based on who God is, not on her own credentials.

How do you define your competence?  In being a good parent?  In having success at work?  In a level of educational or professional achievement?

Like Deborah, God asks us to lead.  Will we rest in his competence to get the job done?

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God, thank you that Deborah is ahead of her time.  Help us to learn from her example.  Teach us to be available, willing, and able.  Help us to follow your plans, even when it takes us outside of our plans.  Help us to base our competence on your competence.  Like Deborah, give us the courage to lead.     

(Excepts above from Working Women of the Bible, Chapter 3.)