Christian. Working. Mom. | Susan DiMickele
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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.”
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 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?
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!