Sunday, April 16, 2017

Changing the Way we See Work as Christian Working Mothers

I don’t know all of you, I don’t know your hearts or your day to day life. I don’t know why you are working and what kinds of ups and downs you face as a Working Mom. Everyone is so different.

Some women feel clearly called to work outside the home.

Some women have found themselves needing to work to make ends meet.

Some women are single and have no other source of income so have to work.

My experience is different from yours and yours from mine.

But I do hope what I share in this post can be something that we can all connect with and find hope from. 

I am excited to share this because it is something that is changing the way I view my work. I do love what I do. I am lucky in that my work is meaningful and I use my gifts and skills and feel good about the work. But what I don't feel good about, at times, is the void of time I am away from my kids. My kids are now both in school, so it is a bit of a different feeling; however- my youngest who is in pre-school still gets to me. There are days where he wants me to stay home, where he asks me not to go to work and it hurts. There are days I wish I worked only half a day so I could help out in the school and be more present. My older son is going through a lot and I wish I understood what his life was like in school- these are the days I think I should be homeschooling. I have doubts, I have questions, I'm sure some of you can relate.

Usually on those particularly difficult days, I feel particularly distant, anxious or sad about something going on in the lives of my kids and I feel like maybe I should be home with them to “fix it” or to help them sort it out. On days like that I do my best, I pray with them, I pray for them and I check in at the end of the day and typically I see how the Lord has met the needs of my children and all is well.

But somedays the tension remains. I wake up with it, I feel it throughout the day and I feel it at the end of the day.

So I have started asking God to help me see this tension in a new way. Is it there because I truly am not supposed to be working? Do I need help with something? Am I focusing too much on the house, dinner, vs. being present with the kids? Am I missing something that God is wanting me to do? I don't feel convicted of sin. I do know that.

I prayed through these questions and the Holy Spirit led me to a few specific things but also to an overarching idea.  I was looking at needs and what I was doing to meet those needs, all day, every day. My focus was on what I was doing and accomplishing and then determining/assessing my success based on that. Not an unusual thing- most women do this, whether you stay at home or work. We want to do what is right and best for our spouses, our children and our home.

But what the Lord led me to grasp is something even better. To start looking at the tension I feel (which really boils down to what I am not able to accomplish, control or change), as an opportunity for sanctification.

Our goal is to become more like Christ. As a believer in Jesus Christ, we are saved upon belief, the moment we admit we are sinners, admit that our sin is keeping us from God and accept that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, determining to believe in Jesus and follow Him. We are saved.
But the rest of our lives are all about being sanctified. What is sanctification?

Sanctification is God’s will for us. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says- “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”.

The word sanctification is related to the word saint; both words have to do with holiness.

To “sanctify” something is to set it apart for special use; to “sanctify” a person is to make him holy. 

Sanctification is a state of separation unto God; all believers enter this state when they are born of God.
1 Corinthians 1:30- “You are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” This is positional sanctification. It is a done deal upon belief in Jesus.

Progressive sanctification is growing in the Lord.
2 Peter 3:18 says- “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
While we are set free from the eternal punishment of sin when we believe in Jesus, we still sin every day.

But we are to pursue holiness.
1 Peter 1:15- “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”
We can pursue sanctification by applying the Word of God to our everyday life.
John 17:17 says- “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

Sanctification has in view the setting apart of believers for the purpose for which they are sent into the world.
John 17:18-19: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” We are sanctified and sent because Jesus was.

Working Mamas- think about this and let it sink in. You are set apart, in your day to day life as a worker and a mother. You have been sent into the world, just as Jesus was sent, for a purpose- which is to pursue holiness. You are to pursue earnestly that purpose by applying the word of God to your life. When you do this, other will see.
Matthew 5:16- “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Maybe, just maybe (and I say maybe because I cannot presume to know everyone's situation), God is allowing this tension that oftentimes comes when a mother works outside the home,  as an opportunity for you to become more like Christ. For you to pursue holiness. For you to be changed and for you to bear witness in a powerful way.

How would you see each day- if you looked at it in this way?

If you woke up in the morning knowing that this day you have before you is on purpose.
That you have a purpose- which is to seek holiness, to become sanctified and to apply the Word of God to all areas of your life.

Your life can be a stunningly beautiful witness for the Lord, right where you are, right now. Believe it sisters and pursue it. Instead of working being a burden, maybe we can see it as a blessing and as a tool that the Lord will use to make us more like Him!

When the tension comes, lay it down before Jesus and ask Him to USE it to make you holy and more like Christ. I hope this encourages you!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Gift of Being "Un-Fine"

Friendship is tricky.
I remember from a young age always wanting people to like me.
I remember the neighborhood kids.
I remember the girl I would sit next to on the bus.
I remember the girls I would sit next to at lunch time.
I remember the middle school days of trying to figure out who was my best friend and who was not.
I remember the high school days of being one of the mean girls and purposefully ignoring a friend because someone else told me to and I didn't want that friend to be mad at me.

Friendship can be a tricky web of hurt feelings, trying to fit in, trying to find acceptance/approval and yet this is the exact opposite of how our holy God defined friendship for us.

Jesus is the ultimate example of the best kind of friend we could ever have.

Jesus went first.
Jesus loved us before we were capable of loving him.
Jesus didn't hold grudges.
Jesus forgave us when we denied him to his face.
Jesus was incredibly patient with us.
Even while we refused to let him into our hearts, he never stopped knocking.
Jesus knew when to give us space. He never stopped loving us, but he backed away when we needed time to figure out the best way to receive his love. 
Jesus was always able to see the best in us and he gave up his life so that we can live out the best version of ourselves by the power of His blood.

His death on the cross saved us from slavery to sin and gave us freedom.

And yet – there are many places in our lives we are still learning how to be free.

Friendship is one of those for me.

One of the things I have learned along the way is that in order to be a friend you have to be willing to show your ugly/ "un-fineness".

In a brand-new book,  Never Unfriended by  Lisa Jo Baker, this is one of many topics that are covered.

And it is so closely related to what Christianity and salvation are all about.
So many of us are so unwilling to answer the question – "How are you?" with the not so expected answer of, "I'm not fine".

When we learn that the God of the universe is holy and that we are not because of our sin – the first thing we have to do is announce to him that we are not fine and that we need him. And when we admit this – and we learn about Jesus and what he has done for us, we are able to enter into the holiest and most beautiful friendship ever.

I love that this book – which completely meets its promise of teaching "The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships" – does not talk about surfacy issues.

If you're looking for a book that simply talks about how to be kind and how to have good communication skills and how to be popular, this is not the book.

This book is meaty, raw and deep. It touches on so many areas where we have been wounded with regards to friendship. And it tells us how to move on from there so that we can be the kind of friend that nourishes, strengthens and blesses others.  

Lisa Jo states in her book – "I am convinced that the shortest distance between strangers and friends is a shared story about our broken places. Nothing is riskier or more vulnerable than cracking open the doors of our messy, guest – unready homes, let alone the doors of our actual lives. We get so used to being neatly package people in stories and families that we can forget how to be anything but "fine" when someone asks."

She shares a story of how a friend of hers connected with her once and offered to bring her dinner. She indicates that the first thing she did was reply – "No thanks, we're fine".

Because isn't that what we do? We don't want to admit that we have needs and that we need help in that we're not always fine.

So Lisa-Jo explains that she decided to pick the phone back up, call her friend and say 4 words – "Thank you, yes please."

And she said that the kindness of her friend was a kind of kindness that can "unglue" a person.
And she is so right.

This year I have had several things happen in my life which have rendered me to a point of having asked for help. I broke my foot which kept me out of work for 3 weeks and relying on others for 6. And I'm just coming out of a season of illness where my family struggled and battled being sick for 3 weeks. When I broke my foot, I sat in my living room angry with God for a while. There was a women's retreat coming up, there were things to get done around the house and I didn't understand why God would allow me to not be able to walk. God was very clear with me and told me that he had a lesson for me to learn. So I texted a friend and asked her if she would set up a meal train for me. I was nervous that no one was sign up for it. I don't even know why I felt that way! I belong to a church where I have many people who love me – but this was the first time where I had to openly ask for a need to be met. It wasn't long before the meal train was full and I sat back and received complete kindness, graciousness and love from the people in my church because I was willing to say that "I was not fine".

And I agree with Lisa Jo that this type of kindness "unglues", a person.
This kind of kindness unclenches the fists of control that we try to have when it comes to friendships and allowing others to see who we really are. This kind of friendship is "what grace tastes like" (Lisa Jo Baker).

If you want to read more and learn more and be completely strengths in an empowered and excited about friendship – I encourage you to check out this amazing book.

Never Unfriended