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Working Mom’s Devotional: Are You Present At Work?

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Christian. Working. Mom. | Susan DiMickele

Here’s the word for January 2015:  PRESENT

I’m going to focus on this single word for the entire month of January.   Last week, I asked myself if I am really present at home.  This week, I’m asking a different but related question:  Am I really present at work?

Am I engaged in what I am doing, or am I constantly preoccupied with my next meeting, next project, or next client?

This week, I attended a meeting with the National Association of Women Business Owners.  The topic at my table was Executive Presence.  We had a vigorous discussion as to what Executive Presence is and isn’t, whether it can be taught, and whether some people are just born with it.  But one thing’s for sure:  we know it when we see it.   And a woman with Executive Presence makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room.

Here’s the example we discussed.  When a woman is constantly checking her phone to see what time it is, what impression does she give?  Does she give us the impression that she is engaged and interested in the meeting?  That she is diligent because she obviously doesn’t want to miss her next meeting.  That she has command over her time and her schedule. That she is prepared.

Probably not.  Instead, she is projecting that she is more concerned about her next meeting. That she is worried about something or someone else. Or worse, that she is disinterested, bored, and that we are wasting her time.

Before we throw stones, let’s think about how many times we are that woman.  It’s not intentional, and it may not even be conscious.  But by projecting that we are not PRESENT, we are diminishing our Executive Presence.  Never mind that it’s rude and self-centered.  It’s actually bad for business.

Do you recognize this behavior in yourself or someone you know?  How can you take steps to be present at work in 2015?

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The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things.  But only one thing is needed.”  Luke 10:41-42a

[Note to self:  it is somewhat ironic that I am drafting this post about being “present” while sitting at a volleyball tournament, but here is my rationale:  1) My daughter is not playing in this match; and 2)  I am still under grace. Can anyone relate?]

Looking to connect work and faith in your local community with other like-minded women?  Check out 4word Women.  And if you live in Columbus, Ohio please join us this Wednesday as we launch a local 4word Chapter!

Acacia’s Story: “I Saved You For A Purpose”

As we continue our Monday Story Series, I’d like to introduce you to Acacia Perco.  Acacia and I met several years ago at a legal function (yep, she’s another Lady Lawyer!), and we immediately knew that God had brought us together for a reason. 

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

I am a wife, sister, lawyer, equestrian, and closet actress.  I am a true country girl at heart, being born and raised in the boondocks of Pataskala, Ohio on a horse farm with one older sister, 14 horses, 20 sheep, and 4 dogs.  My parents introduced me to Jesus as a child, and despite my sometimes wayward heart, He has remained faithful to me.  

What key events have marked your journey?

As a young child, God brought me through a horrific accident and miraculously saved my life.  A farm has all kinds of trouble for a young child to find.  As the rebel of the family, trouble seemed to follow me everywhere.  Just a week before my 7th birthday, I suffered a kick in the head by one of our horses.  My father found my near lifeless body when I failed to return from my jaunt to the field with my trusty horse at the time.  I was quickly life-flighted to Children’s Hospital in Columbus, where the surgeon told my mother that if I made it through, she wouldn’t want what was left over – meaning I would be a vegetable for the remainder of my life.  After spending a week in a coma, I came to the morning of my 7th birthday.  I spent the summer in rehabilitation, and by the grace of God was able to return to school with my 2ndgrade class in the fall.  No worse for the wear, I continued through high school, departed for college, and engaged in typical shenanigans that mark our early twenties.  Despite my wild escapades with fraternity boys and sorority soirees, God did not forsake me.  Near the end of my senior undergraduate year, the Lord vividly spoke to me and told me He did not save my life for me to live for myself, but for Him. 

In the fall of 2008, I set out for Ohio Northern Law School in a remote cornfield town, Ada, in northwestern Ohio, After a trying three years, I sat for the bar exam, and married my best friend a month later.  I entered the practice of law in a small firm, focused on litigation and business law.  As a newly married young attorney with a husband consumed with the pressure of working full time while attending law school at night, the world seemed daunting and I often felt isolated as a woman in my field.  While my mother is my ultimate role model and closest confidant, I had no mature Christian women to look up to in my profession.  The winter of 2011, I met Susan DiMickele, who was speaking at a panel discussion on being a Christian working mom.  I shared my story with her over lunch and we began meeting with other lady lawyers for coffee, conversation and prayer. 

About a year later, Susan and I connected with The Gathering in effort to expand our small coffee meetings to include women from all areas of marketplace.  In the spring of 2013, the Gathering officially launched the Gathering of Women, a faith-based group within the Gathering created to encourage and equip women in the workforce to become women of integrity, character, faith and service who transform their community through word, deed and prayer. 

What is your greatest struggle?

My greatest struggle is saying no. As an over-achiever, it is easy for me to say yes.  Yes to more assignments at work, yes to my friends for parties and get-togethers, yes to hosting the girls’ night, yes to volunteering at church, yes to my 5:30 a.m. running group, yes to my Wednesday night yoga class.  My default is to over commit.  God is teaching me that to be useful for Him, I need to prioritize and take steps to not self-inflict an overloaded schedule on myself.

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

Admittedly, I am not the best at balancing these competing demands – I tend to overload and then wonder why there is so little time in the day.  But thankfully God is not finished with me yet (see Phil. 1:6!). I am working to carve out time during my day for prayer and devotion, realizing that my life demands may require meditating on scripture over lunch and sending up prayer throughout my day.  I know that my day is best aligned and my mind at peace when I begin my day in God’s presence.   

My husband works full time and attends school at night, so our time together is precious.  It’s just the two of us right now, so I do not have the wisdom of those with children in the equation, but I am learning that family relationships take work and I need to pursue engagement in order for our marriage to thrive.  Thankfully, my hours at the office are fairly regular.  What is a struggle for me is turning off the work portion of my brain, which is analyzing legal issues and mauling over my clients problems, and turning on my brain to engage with my husband.   I  saw my marriage struggle as a result, and now I commit every evening over dinner to consciously turn off my legal brain and spend time enjoying our time together.

What is the best advice you have ever received? 

A few good ones:

“Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

“You only have one chance to make a first impression.”

“Remember whose daughter you are.”

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Thanks Acacia for continuing our story series!  We know that God has a purpose and isn’t finished with you yet.  For those of you in Central Ohio, you can connect with Acacia at The Gathering and join her growing network of professional women. 

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

Paying It Forward: The Secret To Happiness?

Paying it forward is good for business.  It’s also the right thing to do.  Yet we live in a society that rewards instant results.  Not future possibilities. 

What have you done for me lately? Does it contribute to the bottom line? Show me the money!

Yet paying it forward – at home and at work – it vital to our happiness.  (It will also bring us greater long-term success, so long as we properly manage our expectations.)

We can start paying it forward three ways:  STOP, LOOK, and ACT.

Step One:  STOP

We must STOP keeping score.  There is a lot of talk in our business communities about “building relationships” and “investing” in others before expecting results.  We need to take it to the next level.  If we stop keeping score, we give to others freely — without expecting anything in return.

It’s easy to invest in people who will reciprocate.  “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”  Yet if we’re not careful, unmet expectations will crush us.  What happens when we don’t get scratched back? 

If we give without expecting in return, we’re blessed by giving, not receiving.  In fact, we should regularly give to people who aren’t in a position to reciprocate. 

Every once in awhile, we’ll be caught by surprise when the people we least expect are in a position of influence.  When they become our advocates, they will know our initial investment was sincere. Trust-based relationships don’t keep score.    

Step Two:  LOOK

LOOK around at the people you admire.  Do they give without strings attached? Do they “pay it forward” because it’s the right thing to do?

In Powered By Happy, Executive Beth Thomas encourages us to make a list of the ways we can make other people happy.  As I read her words, it dawned on me.  God is the ultimate Master of paying it forward.  When Jesus died on a cross, he was doing it for me without any guarantee of my response.  I wasn’t even born yet!

Jesus provides an incredible role model.  His selflessness inspires us to give without strings attached – to extend grace to others, even when they don’t “deserve” a favor.  If God can “pay it forward” centuries before my birth, I too can take a long-term view of people. 

Step Three:  ACT

Paying it forward actually works.  But don’t take my word for it.  Try it for yourself.  Pick something you know you can do – but something that will challenge your natural instincts and test your limits. 

For example, I really hate sitting in traffic.  When I take my 6th-grader to school, there are a line of cars in the “drop off” a mile long.  Inevitably,  instead of getting at the back of the line, some parent always cuts in front of me.  I find this so annoying!  For months, I would try to inch up as far as possible to the car in front of me – to give the signal that there is no way you are pulling out in front of me!   Then, one morning, I  decided to let someone cut.

Nick yelled, “Mom, what are you doing!  This guy is cutting in front of you.”

I gave the other car a friendly wave, and he waved back.  It was exhilarating. 

Granted, it was only a baby step.  But baby steps count.

Are you ready to STOP keeping score?

When you LOOK for role models, who pays it forward best?

How can you take a simple step and ACT? 

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!

Should Working Moms Say “No” To Travel?

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“Should I take a new job that involves travel?”

A reader recently posed this tough question.  In short, she’s a working mom who loves God and her family.  She has a new opportunity to take an amazing job, both personally and professionally.  The only downside?  The position involves a healthy chunk of out-of-town travel.

Lots of moms just say no.  And for good reason.  As a working mom who travels on a regular basis, I know from experience that travel has its limits.  Traveling for work is not a “vacation.”  When I get home, I am completely exhausted and want to zone out at the same time my family needs me to engage.

But let’s be honest, travel also has its benefits.  Some mothers tell me a night in hotel room – alone – is a dream come true. Personally, I dread this aspect of travel, yet I still maximize other benefits.  Like having time to write, visit new cities, and get airport massages!

Regardless of the cost/benefit analysis, there is no substitute for being at home.  But if we travel, here are three key questions. 

Question #1:  Will our travel control us, or will we control our travel?

There is a season of life when our children really need us at home.  During the preschool and early elementary years, children have a hard time understanding when Mom isn’t around.  What’s worse, if we have no control over our travel, we soon become resentful every time we miss a birthday, can’t be home to care for a sick child, or skip an after-school event.  Yet we don’t have to be there for everything.  Thus far, I haven’t missed a birthday (knock on wood) and I can typically drop everything when my children are sick.  Yet I’ve missed my share of ballgames and performances.  (My son will never let me forget that I missed the second grade musical!)

Having reasonable control over travel is imperative for a working mom.  It’s one thing to be away for an evening; it’s another thing to be away for a week.  After one night, my family barely notices I’m gone.  After two nights, we all miss each other.  And after three nights, everyone becomes unglued, including me!

Travel can easily control us if we don’t take the reigns.  It’s about applying the 10% Rule and knowing our limits.

Question #2:  Can we involve our families in business travel?

Some of the best vacations with my family have been tacked onto business trips.  Before I had children, my husband would meet me for a long weekend after a long week’s work.  And my children have enjoyed a few travel perks – including a recent trip to Disney – by occasionally tagging along.

But traveling with my family is the exception, not the norm.  Most of the time, it’s just not feasible.  Schlepping three kids on an airplane costs a fortune, and we can’t exactly yank them out of school on a regular basis.  Not to mention the primary purpose for a business trip is work! 

Yet we can still  keep our families involved.  We can tell our children where we are going, how long we will be gone, and what we are doing on a trip.  My oldest child has presented school projects about cities I’ve visited.  I send my children post-cards from around the world, and we get on Wikipedia and even look at the good old-fashioned map.

We must find creative solutions to make travel positive.  I try not to complain about my travel schedule in front of my kids.  Instead of saying, “I am sick and tired of being gone, and I really hate airports!” I try to say things like “I’m sorry I’m leaving tomorrow, but we’re going to plan something really special this weekend.”  

Question #3:  Are we prepared to protect our family time?

The more I travel, the less social I become.  This is by necessity. A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriends invited me out dancing to hear one of our favorite local bands.  It nearly killed me to say no!  But I had been traveling all week, and I knew I had to protect my family time.  Which means I can’t waltz home on a Friday night and announce to my husband and kids, “Good to see you. I’ve had a long week and I’m headed out.”

To outsiders, my social life may look pathetic.  But the more time I spend away from my home, the more I long to be at home. I’ll rekindle my social life when I’m an empty nester!

It’s goes without saying – travel is hard on a working mom and her family.  We must pray for wisdom.  The good news?  God promises to give wisdom generously to those who ask in faith. 

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5

I can’t tell you whether to say NO to your travel schedule.  But together, we can wrestle with the questions. 

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Struggling with a travel schedule or a crazy job?  You may enjoy the following posts:

How To Talk To Your Kids About Your Work

How The 10% Rule Is Changing My Life

Working Moms:  Are You Emotionally Present?

Tips For Traveling Moms

Looking for more resources for working moms?