All posts tagged Story Series

Jen’s Story: Being a Steward of Our Skills and Our Relationships

As we continue our Story Series, we’re meeting working moms all across America —  moms who are working hard, serving their families, and loving God.  Jennifer Davis is one of these moms.  Jen is a faithful reader (another online friend through Chasing Superwoman) who sends me notes of encouragement and blesses me with her simple yet powerful words.

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

My name is Jen. I am a mathematician working as a software engineer for an aerospace and defense company. I am mother to two young daughters. I am married to a wonderful man who shares my passions for God, family, friends, and biking. I am the older of two children, and (maybe as a result) my greatest strengths tend to be seeking achievements and continually learning.

What key events have marked your journey?

I will talk specifically about my journey as a working mother. In high school, through my own elementary reading of the bible, I came to believe that God wanted all women to be stay-at-home moms (SAHMs); so that became my plan. I didn’t date anyone in college, so upon graduation I went off to graduate school to pursue my passion for mathematics. Through observing and talking to a female professor with young daughters, I became comfortable with the idea of being a working mom and having my future children attend day care. I realized God had gifted me with some special skills, and I wanted to be a good steward of those skills and use them in the marketplace. I met my husband (whose skills are on the creative side where the jobs don’t pay so well) in graduate school, and he agreed with a plan for me to keep working after we had children. I completed my Ph.D. and landed a job as an engineer for an aerospace and defense company.

Four years later we had our first daughter. After eight weeks, I went back to work half days and loved it. It was great to see all my co-workers again and to use a different part of my brain. After a month of half days, I went back to full time and my heart broke. I missed my baby so much during the day. I wondered if God really did want all moms to be SAHMs and if my emotional turmoil was a sign of that.

I Googled “Christian mom working,” bracing for a list of articles condemning mothers of young children who worked outside the home. Instead I found encouragement. I found Kimberly Chastain’s Oasis for Christian Working Mothers and her article “What does the Bible say about Christian Working Moms?” I forged onward. My boss, who has been very supportive, told me I could go part-time if I wanted and choose the number of hours to work each week. I went to 35 hours per week (what we could afford) and arranged my schedule so that I could be home with my daughter on Wednesdays. This made the emotional difference for me to have more time with her during the week.

I continue to evaluate how I spend my time, but I am in a place of peace about work and family.

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

Work and home are pretty compartmentalized for me. I tend to leave work at the office. I try to live out my faith both at work and at home. At work this means caring for co-workers, avoiding gossip, and being a diligent and responsible employee. At home, this means teaching my older daughter about Jesus, telling her I love her every day, and living out a life of faith for her to observe. It means prioritizing my husband before my daughters (as difficult as that can be), doing date nights, and learning about God together.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

My dad once told me “Sometimes there are little inconveniences in life, and you just have to deal with them.” It stuck with me. So often I can become frustrated when things aren’t going my way or are not going as expected. When I remember these wise words, I take a step back, breathe, and try to think of the best path forward given the new (albeit unwelcome) circumstances.

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Jen, thank you so much for your example and your story!  You encourage us to use the resources and talents God has given us – and to be a steward of our skills and our relationships.  And thanks for sharing another great resource —  the Oasis for Christian Working Mothers.

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.

Elizabeth’s Story: Living Life As A Blend

As we continue our story series, I’m pleased to introduce you to a fellow author and working mom, Elizabeth Knox.  Elizabeth just released her first book, Faith Powered Profession, and she has a deep passion for helping us connect our spiritual values with our work. 

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

I’m a wife, new mom, daughter, sister, friend, first-time author, part-time program manager, slow runner, 4-season-loving gal. I have made Washington, D.C., my home for the last 10 years.

What key events have marked your journey?

I grew up in rural northeastern Pennsylvania – gorgeous rolling green mountains, with wonderful parents and siblings. When I graduated from high school at 17, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to study in college. I decided to delay college for one year and I repeated the 12th grade as a Rotary Exchange student in Khon Kaen, Thailand. (At several points during my childhood we hosted exchange students so I had been introduced to the concept from a young age.) It was an amazing experience, and while I was there — in a 95% Buddhist country — I met missionaries and became a Christian.

At the end of that school year, I returned to the U.S., and spent my freshman year of college at a small university in Pennsylvania. For my sophomore year I did a National Student Exchange to the University of New Mexico (like spending a semester studying abroad, only at another school in the US). I liked it so much that I stayed! I made great friends and received a great education, but it also confirmed that I love the East Coast. So I spent a year working in my hometown and getting to know my parents as an adult, and then I attended the Maxwell School at Syracuse University to earn my masters in public administration.

I moved to D.C. right after graduate school and started working in the Defense field. After 5 years here, I saw a tall, handsome Texan at a party. We started chatting he offered to drive me the three blocks home. We sat in his car and talked ‘til the wee hours of the morning. We have been married for three years, and about 10 months ago we had our first child – a little boy who is an absolute delight!

I also have a passion for professional Christian women. Several friends and I were trying to figure out how to deal with challenging situations at work and stay true to our faith. I couldn’t find many resources on that subject at the time, so I thought about writing a book. I tested the ideas out as a Bible study with other professional women at my church, and when it worked well, I started writing. The book – which was just an idea four years ago – was just released on September 1st!

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

I try to remember every day that my “job” is to glorify God. Being a wife, mom, and a working professional are some of the ways to do that. And glorifying God is my motivation to do each area well. 

I try to live my life as a blend, realizing that each part of my life – my faith, my family, my job, my hobbies – all influence one another. Things I practice in one area are transferrable to another: leading a team at work and leading a small group at church use similar skills, the daily discipline of reading and studying the Bible is applicable to the discipline required to prepare for a race. Loving my family well means doing my job well. If one area is suffering, it’s not too long before other areas start feeling the strain. It motivates me to prioritize my faith, my family, my job, and my health.

What is the best advice you have ever received? 

My Great Uncle Red has been the source of some really good advice:

  • Never judge anyone by his or her first impression, but always make a good one yourself.
  • Know how to give a really solid handshake.

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Thanks Elizabeth for sharing your story!  To connect with Elizabeth, you can visit her blog  and order your own copy of Faith Powered Profession: A Women’s Guide to Living with Faith and Values in the Workplace.  (We’ll be talking more about this book in the coming months!)

Does Elizabeth’s story strike a powerful or familiar chord?  If so, please let her know.

Dee Ann’s Story: The Power of Forgiveness

Today, we continue our Story Series with Dee Ann Bennett, a working mom and sales professional who has much to teach us about perspective and forgiveness.  Dee Ann and I connected several years ago after she read Chasing Superwoman, and I’m so blessed to share her story. It gives me chills.

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

I am a Christ Follower, a wife, a mom of two little boys, a bible study/women’s ministry leader and a sales professional for a Fortune 1000 company. I was raised by a single mom and at 7 years old, I was baptized and invited Christ into my heart forever.

What key events have marked your journey?

The key events that have marked my journey are many but at the age of 7 years old, I was sexually abused by a family member multiple times. I didn’t tell anyone in my family until I was 17 years old. This abuse would forever change the direction of my life but ultimately, it brought me closer to God and showed me my desperate need for Him.  

Another key event that has recently marked my journey started in the Spring of 2011 when I started to get strange symptoms. After 2 1/2 years of testing and symptoms, it was determined that I have clinical Multiple Sclerosis.  Although I do not have a definite diagnosis and I always hope for God’s healing, I know that no matter what, God has the best plans for me even if that includes MS.    

What is your greatest struggle?

My greatest struggle is wanting to get even or get justice when someone hurts me. In early June 2010, I received a Facebook message. The Facebook message simply read “Hey, How’s life treatin ya?” Normally, a message like this would be fine but this message was from the man who sexually abused me as a 7-year-old child. I prayed  as to how God would have me respond. I replied to him with compassion and mercy, not because he deserved it, but because I had truly forgiven him for what he had done to me. I expected his response to be one of regret for what he had done or repentance. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I received a response back that was full of hate and disdain for me. His response felt like the devil himself had written it. I decided to do something with my righteous anger. That day, God broke my heart for this issue to where I couldn’t ignore the hurting women around me. I had to do something, so God directed me to start a sexual abuse recovery group at Hope Church where I am a member. I led two studies over a period of 9 months where women came and could share their struggles with sexual abuse and rape in a safe environment. Now that the group has ended, my church calls me anytime a woman has been raped or needs someone to talk to in regards to childhood sexual abuse. It’s an honor to be able to serve in this way.   

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

Being that I am a straight commissioned sales person and I deal with people’s money, I do have a lot of stress in my job. Faith has to come first.  Our family rarely misses church and I rarely miss my Monday night small group unless I’m sick. It’s not attendance that God is looking for but it’s about our heart. We also truly cherish the times we pray together at meals, bedtime and on road-trips and vacations. I find that when work is getting overwhelming, I need to de-stress quickly, so what I will grab the dog, pick up my kids from school and head to the local park to just hang out with them.

What is the best advice you have ever received? 

“You can never out-give God and you are never more like Jesus than when you are serving others.” The best times in my life have been when I serve others even in a small capacity. My stress at work and my “first world” problems like my car breaking down or my sales are down this month, pale in comparison to what’s going on across the globe.

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Thank you Dee Ann for your courage — not only your courage in life and faith, but the courage to stand up for abused women and publicly share your story. 

Does Dee Ann’s story strike a powerful or familiar chord?  If so, please let her know. 

Monica’s Story: The Secret To Contentment

Today, we continue our story series with Monica Flores, a fellow writer, executive assistant, and working mom.  Monica is a constant encouragement to me in my writing journey as we have both lamented about the lack of faith-based resources for working moms.  I love her raw honesty and wit.   

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

I am first a Christ-follower, wife, mother, and executive assistant.  I love singing, reading, good food (the proof is evident on my hips!), good coffee, travel (though time and money limit this more than I’d like) and home decorating.  I have been called “crunchy” from time to time for my passion for natural birth and crusade for “real” food, but don’t worry, I still shave my legs (most of the time!).

What key events have marked your journey? / What is your greatest struggle?

I have spent too much of my life discontent because my life does not look like as I expected it to. I have struggled throughout my adult life to learn contentment and find joy in living the life I have.

I am a planner by nature, and this is a very useful skill in my career as an Executive Assistant and Project Officer and in my role as wife, mommy and even friend.  But I would by lying if I said that this has always served me well.  You see, beyond planning logistics, I have invested my heart in expectations of how my life would be.  I have made these plans an idol and sacrificed my own joy at their feet.

· I struggled with my career because life circumstances, choices, and God’s provision led me in a direction that did not include finishing college. (I plan to eventually, but as an honor student this was a tough pill to swallow. There’s more to this story, but I digress).

· I struggled with being single into my late 20’s because I’d always planned to marry younger.· I next struggled with my pregnancy because we planned to wait until we’d been married for two years to get pregnant, and instead I got pregnant two weeks after our honeymoon.

· I struggled with the birth of my son, because I had a natural, mid-wife attended, water birth planned, and my breech son was delivered via C-section. And let’s not even begin to describe my horrific battle with post-partum depression.

· I struggled with mothering my newborn because I planned for extended breastfeeding and due to latch issues, post-partum stress and depression and food allergies, I was only able to do so for 6 weeks.

· I struggled with being working mother because I had always planned to be a stay at home mom, and really wanted to homeschool.

Are you seeing the pattern here?  I have spent over a decade planning and struggling, planning and struggling.

Of course, each one of these diversions from my plans has led me to meet people, have experiences and learn lessons that I would not have otherwise. There has been so much joy and so much beauty along the way, but there has also been grief.  I have had to grieve the loss of my own plans.  

So where am I now?  Well as a family we now have two weeks of homeschooling under our belt.  But even that has come in an unexpected manner– you see, I’m still working full time, and it is my husband who is staying home and teaching our son.  I can honestly say that while getting here has been a long and sometimes arduous journey, I am so content and blessed at how God’s plans have proven so far superior to my own. 

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

I love this question because integrating these things is key to really living, and is definitely something that requires intentionality; but I do find that when all is at its best, integrating the three comes rather organically, for one reason– I am one person. I wear many hats, but I am not three different women. Though my walk, my family/home life, and my job may require different things of me, I find that when I am the most genuinely myself and seeking Christ first, integrating the three is seamless. 

Spending time reading the Bible, even just a bit at the start of my day helps keep me focused as the day unfolds. I am a big fan of the You Version app and it is often the very first thing I see each morning.  Even spending time in prayer and worship as I go throughout the more mindless bits of the daily routine is a help. A pastor of mine once showed us how little time it takes to quiet ones heart and pray– mere minutes really, and something that can truly be done anywhere, my sweetest days are those in which I have stolen moments throughout to focus on Jesus.  

As for practical tips on managing home and work, I talk about some of those on my blog.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

I have received lots of good advice, but the best has been oft repeated by my mentors in the faith, and comes directly from Matthew 6:33:

 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (ESV)

It doesn’t matter what “things” my heart is chasing after day by day (be it a deadline, or a goal or something my son is needing) seeking Jesus is always the “right” answer.  Seeking Him first always manages to take care of everything else.  It’s too simple, and often seems trite.  But it’s true.

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Thanks Monica for continuing our story series!   Please connect with Monica’s at her blog, A Little Verbose,  for more great tips and encouragement. 

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