full-time mom

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Stuck: Letters from Prison

Published March 29, 2014 by joypatton

letter-writing-picLately I’ve been thinking about and having conversations with other people about the idea of being imprisoned in a metaphorical, spiritual sense.  It’s a season when you just don’t feel like you have what you need to do what God has called you to do.  I have been through the wasteland and discovered who I am and who God is and who God says I am.  But now, I just feel stuck.  I don’t lack the vision, but I do lack the resources…the time, the money, the magical networking connections and coincidences that make a project go. It’s a time that feels like God is intentionally keeping my world small.  I dug the ditches, but he has to make it rain.  I set the sails, but he has to make the wind blow.  There is no rain, and there is no wind.

Maybe it’s a career that you want to have, but just can’t get the right opportunities.  In fact, you land exactly where you don’t want to be.  Maybe you are a full-time working mom that would rather be a stay-at-home mom, but the money just isn’t there or you feel like you’re working alone.  Maybe you dream of adopting a child, but your life circumstances make that impossible.  Maybe you want to serve more at church, but the real job in the real world takes everything you have.  Maybe you have big plans for what you would like to do, maybe even kingdom work, but you deal with a chronic illness that robs you of energy and keeps your world small.  Maybe it’s been a series of unfortunate events that has taken away people or events, and you feel like you are starting over.  Maybe, like me, God gave you a dream, but the dream doesn’t put money in the bank, at least not as much as your family needs.

Almost a years ago, the walls had closed in so much that something needed to change.  I had publishers that were interested in my book, but none that actually pulled the trigger.  I was booked to speak for a women’s retreat, and then I was unbooked.  I was told there was a teaching spot for me at church, and then there wasn’t.  So I did an online Bible study that was very successful, and then I tried another one that didn’t work so well.  The entire year felt like a series of “yes’s” followed by “no’s.”  The walls were closing in, and the money was tight too.  We had cut everything I was willing to cut out of the budget, so it was time to make a change.

Reluctantly, angrily, I started looking for a job, a very depressing process when you haven’t held a full-time job in 13 years and haven’t even had a part-time job for three.  I sent my resume off into cyber space with no response.  It didn’t stand a chance next to people who had actually been getting real experience while I was at home with preschoolers.  I made excuses about how I could never find something that would fit my schedule or pay enough to cover childcare expenses.

But when I told some friends I was looking for a job, I got a part-time job as a personal assistant that could work around my schedule.  This job got me working again.  I remembered how good it felt to be paid for the work you do, something full-time motherhood doesn’t grant.  I also realized that my purpose in life was very simple: to love and serve people no matter where I was.

Then at the end of the summer, we decided I really needed to be working full-time, another Facebook post got me a another part-time job as a PR assistant.  This prompted me to find a full-time childcare solution for my 4-year-old.  I worked in the morning in Nolensville and then drove to downtown Nashville in the afternoon.  I was still loving and serving people, and my work was appreciated.  That felt good, but I began to realize that I really missed teaching.  I was made to teach.

Then I found out about a long-term substitute teacher position at my son’s middle school.  I was offered the job, even though it meant having my own son in class.  But the benefit was that I got to know his friends and teachers.  When the teacher I was subbing for came back, I started subbing every day.  I remembered that I loved teaching.  One day when I was subbing, I met the principal and told her that “Any day I’m teaching is a good day.”

The depression and the anger slowly lifted, but the uncertainty remained.  But God had a plan, a plan that he unfolded right in front of my eyes.  I interviewed for a high school English teaching position that was opening mid-year.  The principal offered me the job at the end of the interview.  What??  So here I am, loving and serving people, teaching senior English, Film as Literature and Creative Writing at a school that “does things differently” with a different kind of students.  It’s a perfect fit for me.

I was talking to a fellow teacher this week.  He asked if I still felt like I was still in prison.  I smiled and said, “I’ve been moved out of the maximum security part and now I’m on a work relief program.”  I don’t know when this sentence will end.  I don’t know if the walls will magically fall down, and I’ll discover this is my new dream.  I do know that I really love my job.  I am grateful for God’s provision for our family and for group health insurance.  Any day I’m teaching is a god day.  Anywhere that I can love and serve people is a good thing.

That’s the trick of prison: learning how to be who you were made to be, to be fully alive and not give up hope.  Joseph modeled that for us in his prison experience.  He was still a leader.  He still used his gifts.  He still interpreted dreams, and he never lost hope.  At least not in the parts that we see.  He ultimately trusted God with his dream, and that’s what I must do as well.


The Executive Mom – Part 1

Published September 1, 2011 by joypatton

According to the results of my personality test a few years ago, I have the personality of a CEO or a field marshall. I could be running a major company, but instead I’m running a major household consisting of a husband with two full-time jobs and four children. This year I started subscribing to Michael Hyatt’s blog and have really enjoyed the variety of topics he addresses. Recently he had a blog about what to do when you feel overwhelmed. I feel this way as a full-time mom and found his words of wisdom helpful. I’ve adapted his list to make it more “mom-friendly.”

1. Decide to make a change. Some of us are overwhelmed almost every day, but we don’t know what to do to change or maybe aren’t convinced that we need to change. Sometimes we think this is just how it is or that it’s just a season we are in. All we have to do is hang on until it’s over. Personally I’m tempted to believe that once all the kids are in school every day, my life will truly begin and I’m just holding on until that day. Sometimes we tell ourselves it’s just our personality to be disorganized and frazzled, and we can’t do anything to make sense of the chaos. I’ve found though that the first step to solving any problem is to recognize that it is a problem and admit that you are overwhelmed. You can change it until you see it.

2. Identify your three highest payoffs. The questions Michael Hyatt asked were “What are the things that only I can do? Where do I add the most value?” First of all, no one else can be my husband’s wife and no one else can be my kids’ mom. I add value to my husband and to my children when I take these roles seriously. I know women who would honestly say that spending time gazing into their baby’s eyes or playing on the floor with their pre-schooler was one of their biggest payoff activities. I do those things, but they are not a big payoff for me. I love being a wife and a mom, but there are other things I also love doing.

Outside my vocation as a wife and a mother, my biggest payoff activities that I have been uniquely created to do are leading, teaching/speaking and writing about the Bible for women. These are the things I love to do and that I’m gifted at doing. When I take on activities outside of the home, they have to fit into one of those three categories. This year I am leading a new ministry for our women’s ministry department at church. I had the unique experiences and qualifications to do carry out the task because it was a ministry I started in my community a few years ago. Teaching and speaking is on the back burner this year in that I am not teaching a weekly Bible study at church. However I am open to other teaching opportunities as they present themselves. I decided not to teach on a weekly basis so that I could focus more on writing. This year I am planning a few “writing days” into each week and looking for publishers. I’m not in a season where I can do all of my big payoffs at the same time as the same level. But I do try to keep pieces of those things in my schedule. Sometimes I feel guilty for having a meeting at night or hiring a babysitter to watch the kids so I can write. However I have learned that when I come home from a meeting or out of my room on my “writing day,” I have more energy and smile a little bigger. It’s easier for me to devote my full attention to my kids and be fully present with them. Figure out what your biggest payoff activities are, make the time to do them and stop feeling guilty when you get to.

3. Identify my biggest productivity sinkholes. These can be things that need to get done, but just sap your energy for doing your payoffs. For me as a mom, it’s the laundry and the dishes. Those things are never done, no matter how much I do in a day. As soon as I turn on the dishwasher, dirty dishes appear in the sink. If I spend my whole day doing those things over and over, it’s mind-numbing. So I’ve limited these sinkholes, and it’s working well. I only do two loads of laundry each day during the week. Saturday is my catch up day, and Sunday I rest from laundry all together. Once my two loads are done for the day, I give myself permission not to do any more. It’s allowed me to put an end to how much time the laundry sucks out of my day. I also typically only run the dishwasher once a day. Television is also a productivity sinkhole for me. I will ditch something I know I should be doing for a movie I’ve been wanting to see. This morning it was really hard to turn off the Today show and come write a blog. But I traded a sinkhole for a high-payoff activity and will feel better all day. What are your productivity sinkholes?

4. Review the productivity basics. Michael Hyatt referred to the book The 4-Hour Work Week (Ha! He should try being a mom!) by Tim Ferriss and the basics of elimination, automation, and delegation. Elimination: What are you doing that is no longer worth doing? As my family has grown I had to let go of some of the things that I used to do. I am no longer on the Homeowner’s Association Board. Even though it was a leadership area, it was not something only I could do. I don’t knit baby blankets anymore. I used to do this while I watched TV, but my TV-watching became less of a priority as I made my writing more of a priority. Now I give myself permission to buy baby gifts instead of making them.

Automation has been the most effective in the area of our finances. I am the money nerd in our family, and now that we have a steady paycheck, I have put a lot of the bills on automatic draft. This is very helpful and means I don’t have to “pay bills” every day. I typically sit down and do it once every two weeks. The other part of automation is routine. We have a consistent routine for the kids in the morning and after school. They know what is expected of them and what they need to do. Occasionally they do it without a reminder. But even if I have to remind them, it’s a not a battle because it’s an automatic that you finish your chores before you have a friend over. If you are new to making routines, I strongly recommend that you write them down (or draw pictures for the pre-schoolers). That way everyone is on the same page.

The last aspect is delegation. I think this is something modern moms often overlook. You might be thinking you don’t have anyone to delegate things to, but you do. I have four kids that I delegate work to. They make their own beds, pick up their own rooms and on Saturdays they are the ones cleaning the toilets (even my two-year-old likes to help). Honestly the list of household chores I ask my kids to do is longer than I can list here. Kids can work too, and it’s good for them! It builds self-esteem when they are a contributing member of the family. Carpool can be another great way to delegate! It’s also a great way to build community and have touchpoints that build friendships with other women.

I have three other sections from Michael’s blog to talk about. But we will save that for another post…In the meantime, which one of the four sections hits closest to home for you? What are your biggest payoff activities?

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