Are You a Woman of Kindness…Or Just a Nice Woman?

by Katie McCoy

blog_june20

Are you a kind person or a nice person?

If you thought those two adjectives were basically the same thing, think again! Kindness and niceness might look similar, but underneath the surface, the two attributes are completely different. And that difference can make all the difference in your relationships, both personally and professionally. In fact, for some of us, replacing niceness with kindness just might be the key between peace and frustration both at home and at work.

Here’s why: Kindness comes from confidence. Niceness comes from fear.

 

  • A Woman of Kindness speaks what is true with love and conviction. A Nice Woman speaks what is pleasant to avoid upsetting others.

 

Whether it’s addressing the person on your team who chronically falls short, or the friend whose personal blind spot is affecting your relationship, kindness has the courage to speak up for someone else’s ultimate good. Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do is tell someone what they don’t want to hear, but need to hear. In fact, Proverbs 27:6 says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Painful truth from a sincere friend is trustworthy, but empty compliments from someone with a different agenda leads in the wrong direction.

Do you speak trustworthy words? Or do you find yourself more concerned with avoiding an unpleasant conversation? It’s not always easy to do, but true kindness doesn’t settle for superficial niceness. Instead, true kindness cares about others enough to tell them the truth from a spirit of compassion.

 

  • A Woman of Kindness addresses conflict directly. A Nice Woman dodges it altogether.

 

Kindness can handle conflict in an emotionally healthy way. Niceness tries to ignore or downplay in order to avoid a negative response. As a result, while our actions might look like kindness on the outside, the inside is just people-pleasing niceness. In her book Leading Women Who Wound, Sue Edwards describes how easily we can act like we’ve moved on, forgiven, and overlooked an offense, but, in reality, we’re just avoiding a tough conversation: “If I want real resolution and lasting peace, I must be willing to dig into difficult issues. Only then can honest resolution restore the relationship. Only then can I see my adversary in the grocery store and not dodge down another aisle.” (99)

Ironically, it’s possible to be nice without being kind, and to be kind without necessarily being very nice! It may not feel nice to address the need for a change or a decision you disagreed with, but it takes kindness to stop sweeping it under the rug and work to resolve the issue and repair the relationship.

 

  • A Woman of Kindness fulfills God’s expectations. A Nice Woman fulfills other people’s expectations.

 

If you’ve ever felt trapped in the revolving door of living up to other people’s expectations, you know how exhausting it can be! When we settle for niceness, our decisions are based on how people might perceive us. We filter our words, actions, and even personal views through the lens of others’ opinions. In his book, Loving Kindness, Barry Corey describes how mere niceness deters us from fulfilling God’s expectations. “Niceness may be pleasant, but it lacks conviction. It has no soul. Niceness trims its sails to prevailing cultural winds and wanders aimlessly, standing for nothing and thereby falling for everything.”

When we pursue kindness, however, we direct our lives to reflect God and to live for what He expects of us. Micah 6:8 actually tells us what this is: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” To love and value kindness is one of the basics of being a woman of God. And when we focus on becoming the women God created us to be, we fulfill His purpose for our lives and do what He – not everyone else – expects.

 

  • A Woman of Kindness sets healthy personal boundaries. A Nice Woman lets people walk all over her.

 

It’s funny how the first word most of us learned to say as toddlers – “No!” – is often the toughest one to say as adults. We don’t want to seem rude or selfish, so we end up saying “yes” to something we can’t sustain (see #3!). But here’s where switching out niceness for kindness can change your life: It allows us to say “no” when a request or opportunity doesn’t fit our values, priorities, or commitments…even if that means disappointing others.

Perhaps you can’t take on an additional travel weekend because it would take too much time away from your family. It might feel like you’re not being very nice, but you’re certainly being kind and considerate toward your family. Maybe a coworker takes credit for your work and the nice thing to do would be to sweep it under the rug, but instead you can value truthfulness and excellence in a way that is also kind (plus, you’ll help prevent it from happening to someone else on your team – also kind!). Pursuing kindness instead of niceness also keeps us from feeling a false sense of guilt and being unnecessarily apologetic.

 

  • A Woman of Kindness invests in what is life-giving. A Nice Woman invests in what is life-draining.

 

When we’re motivated by God’s love for us, we’ll have the power to love others with life-giving kindness, instead of life-draining niceness. Since kindness is among the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), a kind woman is God-centered and God-controlled. Her acts of kindness will flow out of a heart that is filled with God’s love for others (1 Cor 13:4) and she lives in the abundant life that Jesus died to give her (Jn 10:10). When we settle for niceness, we’re not living in God’s love. Instead, we’re living in fear – fear of disappointing others, fear of what people think, fear of disapproval. And sooner or later, the weight of that fear becomes absolutely draining (Can I get an amen?!)

But, for the child of God, fear and love are completely incompatible. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”  If we’re living in the confidence of God’s love for us, we won’t be controlled by fear. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Philippians 2:3 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”  This takes more than hollow niceness. It takes tough-minded, stout-hearted kindness.

Bottom line: Jesus commanded us to be kind. But He never talked about being nice. So don’t settle for empty niceness. You were created to live and love more authentically than that. Instead, resolve to be a woman of courageous kindness.

 

Katie McCoy serves as Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at Scarborough College of Southwestern Seminary. She is also the editor of BiblicalWoman.com. Katie loves hanging out with her college students, shopping with her mom, and eating all things chocolate. She’s also a self-professed political news junkie.

Five Tips for Taking Better Pictures with Your Phone

by Sarah McAffry

blog_june13

If you’re anything like me, you find yourself reaching for your real camera less and your phone more and more. We can’t deny the convenience of the phone as a way to document our families and capture quick images for sharing on social media, so here are some tips to help you do it well!

1. Lighting

Lighting is the single most important factor in your image. Pay attention to where the light is coming from. If you’re outdoors, see where the sun is. While backlighting is good for your real camera, the phone doesn’t take great pictures that way. Make sure the sun is hitting your subject’s face to get the best lighting. If it’s really bright outside, it might even be better to find some shade. The soft, even light you find there is the best! If you’re inside, it’s likely dark which can cause blurry pictures. Open up the blinds and move closer to the windows to get as much sun as you can on your subject. It’s usually best to turn off your inside lights because they cast awful shadows!

2. Subject

Before you think about taking a picture, first consider what you’re photographing. What is the most important piece of your image? Is it your baby’s toes? Is it the city scene? Whatever it is, make sure that is the focus of your image. Scoot in close to draw the attention to your subject. In this picture below, I wanted to photograph the necklaces that my son wears everyday, so instead of taking a picture of him, I scooted in close to just get his hands holding the necklace. It makes the image so much more dynamic that way! And it makes the subject of the photo sharp and clear. Don’t be afraid to get super close!

3. Composition

Have fun with the composition of your pictures. When you’re composing for a square picture, it’s usually best to put your subject right in the center of the frame. However, if you’re taking a horizontal or vertical picture, there is more freedom to move your subject around to the sides of the image. In the photography world, we call this the “rule of thirds.” Just think of the frame like a tic-tac-toe board and remember that your subject doesn’t always have to go right in the middle. Consider placing your subject along the dissecting lines to change things up and add some variety!

4. Horizon Line

It seems like such a simple thing, but make sure that your horizon line is always perfectly straight. If you’re photographing a sunset over the ocean, keeping the horizon line straight is super important because that line is dominant in your picture. But remember this even when the horizon line isn’t as obvious. This will give your photo a sense of balance and stability. Thank goodness for us, Instagram has an adjust feature that lets us fix this in editing if we get it wrong the first time!

5. Editing

My editing philosophy is to get it right in the camera. That’s the first goal! But if your picture is a little dark or dull, using Instagram’s brightness and contrast options are a great first step. If you want to venture a little further in the editing world, I highly recommend the Color Story app. I use it for pretty much every picture I take on my phone. The filters work just like Instagram’s filters, but they’re more subtle. And you can layer and adjust them until your image is perfect!

I have fully embraced the phone as a way to capture images for sharing quickly, but I encourage you to find a way to print them too. I print ours out at the end of each month and have a special photo album just for phone pictures. The images need to exist in our life and not just disappear in some folder on our phones. Generations after us will look back at our lives through the lens of our phones, so we need to do it well!

15994517_10154415166011799_8728746924404229166_o 17349744_10154598728551799_2074379039990576680_o-1 17434632_10154600855256799_3682739480266283063_o 17434953_10154606083696799_7855372506159880683_o 17973552_10154687178726799_6077514797128227627_o 17991752_10154698502576799_8069939002467171839_o-1 18155961_10154721160701799_534185923898508015_o

17990302_10154681421506799_2363748904485461013_o

 

 

 

 
Sarah McAffry is a portrait and commercial photographer based in Knoxville, Tennessee. She started working as a full time photographer in 2009 after making a leap of faith leaving her job as a high school teacher. Her little side job quickly turned into a booming full time career, and she has since retired her husband. Sarah is passionate about photographing graduates and educating photographers. Her work has been published in national print and online publications such as: Debut Magazine, Senior Style Guide, Wedding Chicks, Grey Likes Weddings, Ruffled Blog, Baby Lifestyles and more.

Avoiding the Summer-Long Netflix Binge: How to Empower your Kids’ Summer

by Somer Phoebus

june6blog

Over the last month, we have been talking about preparing for productivity in the summer. Schedules change, kids take over, and your desire is to make memories — not to-do lists! But one thing we haven’t talked about yet is “assisting” your school age children in making sure their summer is productive too…instead of ending up with a three-month Netflix binge-fest! Of course, we desire freedom and relaxation for our kids, but we also want them to function as human beings – not tweenage/teenage zombies who wake up at 1pm and spend the day raiding the refrigerator.  So, here are my top five tips for helping those precious children of yours be more productive… without creating rifts in your relationship.  

#1: No sleeping the day away.

I think having your kids out of bed between 8-9am is ideal. Here’s why: We need routine – ALL of us. So enforcing a wake time allows them to start their day with a routine. Sometimes, we try to make bedtime the rule and what happens is they go to bed and toss and turn for two hours because we let them sleep until noon. Plain and simple: the earlier they get up, the earlier they go to bed. Before you know it, they have created their own routine.

Teenagers do need a lot of sleep, but waking up late means waking up lazy! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want lazy children in my house all day.

So…how do you establish this without them losing their mind? Allow them to have some free time when they first get up. Don’t summon them from bed right into a list of chores. Everybody needs a minute in the mornings — give them theirs.

#2: Give them household responsibilities.

Here’s the key: you must be extremely clear of the how, when, what, where, and why in the creation of this list. A vague chore list will result in both of you being frustrated.

Another suggestion: Try not to make the list full of things they really can’t stand doing. Think about your to-do list everyday. I doubt that you allow 90% of it to be things you despise doing. If you have a kiddo who is an organizer, let them organize. If they love to be outside, give them chores outside. Think about what they are really good at when you assign tasks.

If you’re a swHw woman, you should be familiar with delegating well and knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Don’t let that teaching go out the window just because it’s your child. Right seats and right roles work at home too!

#3: Let them create their set schedule, and remind them to schedule in freedom.

If you’ve been in Productivity Academy with me, you know how important it is to schedule your day. Those responsibilities that we gave them in #2 need to be scheduled into their day, but we should try our very best to let them decide when they want to accomplish them.

This will require discipline from both of you. If they say they want to do their chores in the evening, let them, even if you would prefer morning.  However, if they come to you because a friend invites them over and they have yet to finish their work, you have to say “no.” The chores have to be finished, and then the fun happens. Sticking to your guns here will teach your kids to schedule ahead.

#4: Invest in training, classes, or resources in their areas of interest/giftedness.

If your child is an athlete, look for opportunities for them to train and workout. If they are musically gifted, get them extra lessons. If they love to serve others, help them find somewhere to volunteer. Be thinking about how you can encourage them in their gifts with their extra time. Asking them to wake up early and “be productive,” but not equipping them with the right tools to do so doesn’t make sense.

#5: Spur them along in their walk with Christ.

Encourage their daily quiet times (Yes – that goes on their schedule!) Then, have open conversations about what God is teaching them. We have to be careful with this one though. As a student pastor’s wife, I’ve seen parents push so hard they’ve put a wedge between their child and a walk with the Lord. It’s unintentional, of course, but devastating nonetheless. That’s why I encourage you to SPUR them, not boss them.

We will never have control over our child’s relationship with Jesus, so we might as well get used to letting go of it right now. But I will tell you, you do have power in the situation and that power is through prayer! Bold, loud prayers that you can pray in the quiet of your heart, or out loud and over your child at anytime. My prayer for my girls stays mostly the same, and it is simply this: “Dear Lord, capture their hearts!” It’s simple, but powerful.

And just in case we need the nudge ourselves: be an example in this. We can’t expect them to make time for God if we don’t.

What works in your home? I’d love for you to add your tips in the comments.

Dear Leaders, Help Your Team Stop Doing Tasks

by Michelle Myers

may30blog

“That’s it!” I exclaimed excitedly, during a brainstorming session. “We’ve got to stop doing tasks. From now on, every team member needs ownership areas.”

Don’t you love when you have an A-HA moment that you’ve been waiting on?

So our team has done this in the last few months. We’ve done away with tasks and implemented ownership areas.

Why? Because tasks are tedious. Tasks can just as easily get done as they can be forgotten. Tasks sound insignificant. And just from the sheer definition of the word, tasks sound like someone is getting bossed around.

On the other hand, ownership areas don’t get missed because responsibility is clear. Ownership areas simultaneously show your trust in your team and give them authority to make decisions they’re fully capable to make.

So I’m challenging you: Effective immediately, stop doing tasks and start assigning ownership areas.  You will do yourself and your team a huge service with this simple change in verbiage.

How it helps your team:

Competence + Authority

For lack of a better word, if you’re the “boss,” there will be plenty of tasks your team feels they need to run by you if you’re the “owner” of every area.

In a recent podcast I listened to with Andy Stanley, I loved that he distinguished between authority and competence. As the boss, just because you have the authority to make all decisions, that doesn’t mean you’re the most competent person on the team to make the decision. (And if you’ve hired right, each person on your team should be better than you in some area…if not multiple areas!)

Ideally, you assign each ownership area to the most competent person on the team in that area.  So now, you’ve not just given the most competent person a task, you’ve given the most competent person the authority to own that task in the future.

Responsibility + Accountability

Having an ownership area immediately creates a sense of responsibility that merely doing a task cannot. If someone knows no one is going behind them to “check their work,” great teammates will rise to the challenge and truly give it their best. Not-so-great teammates will probably crumble and look to move on (which isn’t always a bad thing!) When every teammate thrives on responsibility and accountability, team synergy goes through the roof.

It also allows the appropriate contributions to both be recognized and evaluated. When an ownership area succeeds, the owner of that area gets to celebrate a big win. I’ll be honest; this might be my favorite part. I love that our whole team immediately knows who to thank and high five when we have a victory! Plus, winning as a team is much better than celebrating alone. (Bonus: This also increases team loyalty. People aren’t as likely to leave when they feel like they’re winning!)

The opposite is also true. When an ownership area struggles, the owner gets to accept the blame, correct the mistake, and prepare better for the next time. This isn’t a time to have a teammate walk around with their tail between their legs; but quite honestly, there’s usually great opportunity for growth through making a mistake. When your team has to go through this process of ownership, correction, and future preparation, they will inevitably grow in their skill and in their leadership.

How it helps you as a leader who develops ownership areas instead of tasks:

Repeat yourself less.

When you assign an ownership area, no one wonders who does that task the next time it comes up. Once an ownership area has been delegated, every time that assignment occurs, the owner of that area knows it belongs to them instead of wondering if they’ll be doing it again.  Even when new tasks pop up, if ownership areas have been clearly defined, the appropriate people will typically step up without you having to ask.

As a leader, few things make me feel more loved by my team than when they own a responsibility to keep as much off my plate as they can. This communicates not only their care for me, but also how importantly they believe in our mission.

Lead more effectively.

Ownership areas repeatedly help you identify your teammates who are winning and your teammates who are struggling. Winning teammates need to be celebrated. It might be appropriate for special incentives or recognition. Depending on the size of your organization, you might not know every moving piece of your team. But when a win happens, you should know who to thank and celebrate. Ownership areas allow you to easily reward your team.

The opposite is also true. If no one takes final ownership but you, it’s hard to identify where systems are breaking down or which link in the chain needs to be mended. But let me be clear: just because a teammate is struggling, that doesn’t mean they’re a bad teammate. Maybe they’ve been assigned the wrong ownership area. Maybe they haven’t been properly trained. Or maybe there’s a personal issue that needs to be addressed. Either way, problems don’t get fixed unless they’re addressed. Ownership areas don’t make problems easier, but they do make them simpler to track down.

Get to spend more time doing what adds the most value to the organization.

When leaders are bogged down with details that they either aren’t as competent in or could be easily decided by someone else, they step outside of their personal areas of greatest contribution to the team. Having ownership areas where the team shares the responsibility allows the leader to actually have time to lead (which does require time!) and do what they do best.

This shift has made such a positive impact for our team. Full disclosure: it will require some time up front to train and assign, but after a few weeks of settling into the new normal, everyone on the team will feel more valued, have clearer expectations, and work more effectively.

If you’d like to move away from tasks and toward ownership areas, here are a few questions to send your team for evaluation:

  1. What areas/tasks do you do that you feel adds maximum value to the team?
  2. What current tasks are you currently doing that limit your effectiveness in what you do best?
  3. What systems help you function at the highest capacity in your role?
  4. What systems need to be created for you to be more effective?
  5. What’s something I currently do that is helpful for you?
  6. What’s something I could do to lead you better?

Michelle Myers is the founder of she works His way. An entrepreneur at heart, she also helps runs two other businesses with full teams. If you’d like information about scheduling a consulting call to see how Michelle could help your business/team thrive, fill out this form.

What Does Prayer Mean to You as a Mom?

By Erica Zoller

may25blog

When my husband Andy and I were newlyweds, our prayers sounded very different from one another. We were raised in different denominations, and although we were both Christ-followers, our prayers sounded very different. I was casual in my approach; a conversation, rather. More of a “Hey, God. What’s up?!” Andy was more formal; “Thee” and “Thou”, constantly reminding God who He was by {all} His names. I viewed God as more of a father figure, and because of my relationship with my own earthly father, I had a casual dialogue. Andy viewed God in the “Creator of the Universe” sense and showed signs of deep respect, reverence, and awe.

Neither was right – and neither was wrong. Our prayers were simply different. As we shared the discipline of prayer with one another, we grew to have more of a common voice and tone. Sometimes our prayers would be in desperation, other times joyous praise. We would hold hands, bow our heads, or hit our knees. There were times we would lift our hands and sing scripture laced songs back to Him. Other times we were filled with so much grief and sorrow that we rested in the comfort of the prayers others were praying over us.

Andy and I share a deep closeness with each other and our Heavenly Father through prayer. Without it, I don’t even want to think about how we would be able to handle life’s blows. Had Andy and I not been in conversation with Jesus daily, I honestly don’t think our marriage would have survived our daughter’s birth.

Unknown to us during pregnancy, our firstborn, Emery, was born with a genetic abnormality that caused her to have life-threatening heart complications. What was supposed to be the bonding, snuggling, and getting-to-know-you time with my first baby quickly became day-in and day-out of testing, appointments with every ‘ologist under the sun, and so much fear and anxiety of “what if?”. I was a shell of a mom going through the typical newborn motions, coupled with non-stop research on her condition. Truth be told, I didn’t think she would survive. Because of that, I put up walls to protect myself from heartache in the event she didn’t make it.

My prayers became repetitive, “Please, God. Don’t let her die. Heal her.” I didn’t know what else to pray. I had the prayer knocked out of me. I became detached. Andy would hold me close as I sobbed, and he would pray for us. I could feel God’s peace through Andy’s prayers, but I was literally prayed-out. Others prayed and interceded on our behalf. We were desperate for the prayers of our friends, family, and anyone who had heard Emery’s story to carry us through the unknown.

James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” We are called to pray in both bad and good times. Why is it so much easier to pray out of desperation and worry than it is praise?! When we are crying out, we become vulnerable and claim our dependency in God. Desperation can yield fruit. When you cry out to Him, you are literally handing over your prayer to the Lord, knowing fully He hears you and He will respond. You are admitting it isn’t something you can take care of or manage on your own, because let’s be honest, as moms, we have probably tried to fix it ourselves before bringing it to God. By crying out, you are admitting that He is greater than you.

James 5:14 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” While it should be my desire to have prayer as an intimate part of my relationship with the Lord, we are NOT called to pray alone. We need to drop the “I can do it all” attitude and seek the prayers of believers.

It was through the multitude of other believer’s prayers that we witnessed healing in Emery’s heart. Science and statistics were preparing us for immediate surgery, while the Almighty Hand of God was healing our daughter’s heart before our eyes. Our pleas of desperation turned to praise. Our praise turned to elation. Our elation and thankfulness to God for what He was doing in her life turned into prayer. While Emery’s heart isn’t completely “healthy” today, we praise Him for every day we have with her this side of heaven.

What does prayer look like to you as a mom? Is it something you do when you have nothing left to give at the end of the day and you flippantly throw up your arms saying, “Jesus take the wheel?”  Guilty. Is it at dinner time after you’ve taken a bite of your food, only to see the judgmental glances of your children staring back at you? Guilty. Is it before you put them on the bus or send them out the door with their car keys praying for their safety and protection? Is it only before bedtime? Maybe just Christmas or Easter?

Deepen your relationship with Him, your children, and your spouse, and make prayer a HUGE part of your life.

Although Andy and my style of prayer has changed over time and continues to change based on our circumstances, one thing stays constant: our necessity to bring EVERYTHING to Him in prayer. No matter how you pray or what your pray, DO IT! If it burdens you – it burdens Him. If it delights your heart – it is THRILLING to His!  It is imperative we pray for our children, we pray with our children, and we pray with our spouses and other believers over our children.

Truth from a Toddler

by Teeny Pineda

may18blog

My spunky little girl, Harper, will be two this month. She’s full of personality and her facial expressions are priceless. She makes us laugh every day. We cannot wait to see how she will be as a big sister (Baby girl #2 coming in September!)

When Harper was born, James and Michelle came to me with an amazing offer. They wanted me to start working from home and be able to raise Harper without having to send her to daycare. The offer brought me to tears (Post-partum hormones may have had something to do with it). Working from home has been more of a blessing than I could have ever imagined. I have gotten to see every milestone that Harper has reached.

Recently, Harper has starting talking. She is at such a fun age and we love hearing her try to mimic what we say. A few weeks ago, she started saying something that caught my attention the second she said it. I was working on my phone while sitting on the floor playing with her, and she looked at me and said, “Away.”

It honestly scared me. I put my phone down and played with her immediately.

That night, I couldn’t get what Harper said out of my head. I started thinking about all the times that I think I’m multitasking, and really, I’m absorbed in my phone or computer and ignoring Harper. My phone and computer have become addicting. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. It’s hard to be fully present with Harper when I am so wrapped up in myself that I can’t even put my phone down.

I knew that day that I had to get stricter about my work hours and my play hours. The older Harper gets, the more she knows and understands. The last thing I want is for her to hate my job and hate that I work. I want to be truly present in her life.

Here are a few of my tips that I have implemented in my life to help manage my time and be fully present in Harper’s life:

Create a work schedule.

Plan your schedule around nap times, school drop off/pick up, etc. Stick to your schedule, and let your co-workers know in advance so that they can expect when to receive things from you and when you’re free to talk.

Work when you’re productive.

For me, I’m more productive at night. I am NOT a morning person. The other day I woke up at 5:45am on my own and got up to work, and by afternoon, I needed a nap. Mornings are not my time, and that’s ok! I do better at night.

Write out a daily to-do list.

I’m a list person. I enjoy crossing things off my list. Sometimes, I write things down, even if I’ve already completed it just to cross it off. (I know I’m not alone!) This has helped me stay on track during the day, prioritize my tasks, and get things done on time.

Delete social media apps on the weekends.

 Michelle was the one who introduced me to this idea. It’s truly a game changer when it comes to family time and being engaged. How many times do we check social media accounts daily? Do me a favor. If you own an iPhone, go to Settings > Battery and check the Battery Usage. If you click the little clock icon, it will show you the amount of time you spend on each app each day. You’re about to be amazed (or possibly appalled!) at how much time your day is spent on social media. Delete your apps during the weekend. If your job doesn’t allow you to disengage on the weekend, try to pick another day each week to get unplugged.

Play without guilt.

Once you’ve got your scheduled work hours created to complete every task you’re responsible for on time and with excellence, PLAY. As Michelle and Somer have already reminded us this month, they don’t stay little forever. Let’s enjoy them.

Often times, Harper wants me to play with her all day. You and I both know that it’s not realistic for me to be able to do that. So when she says “Away,” and I can’t put my phone or computer away at that very moment, I tell her, “Mama’s working right now, but when I’m done with this, I will play with you.”

Sometimes, she’s ok with it, and sometimes that’s not the answer she wanted. It’s a learning process! We aren’t perfect, of course, but hopefully, these tips will help us pursue ways to ease the tension between work and family.

If you’ve got any tips to add to my list, please comment below!

Firsts and Lasts

By Somer Phoebus

may11blog

I was raised by extremely loving parents. (By the way swHw ladies, my mother worked full-time my entire life.)  I realized at a fairly young age what a gift that was. When Kent and I became parents, we looked a lot to the advice of our parents. I’m so thankful they shared their wisdom only when we asked, never when it was unsolicited. (You know what I mean!)

When our daughter, Kennedi, was getting ready to head off to kindergarten, I was talking with my Dad and dramatically complaining about how big she was and how fast time was flying. I was a working mom, so I carried bitterness with me that was a byproduct of the guilt I felt because I got up and went to work everyday instead of baking muffins and playing with play-dough. I felt I was justified in my pity party. After all, she was a baby in my arms just yesterday and now, I was packing a lunch and letting go of her hand outside of a classroom. It was okay for me to cry.

After my Dad saw my sad face, he looked at me (and my Mom who was also struggling a bit) and nonchalantly said, “Well, I’m excited! Do you understand what the alternative is to a child growing up, Somer? You need to be thankful!”

In the moment, I was pretty annoyed with him. I mean, what did it hurt to let me whine a little?!

He was so right though. I was ruining the moment I was in because of bitterness from moments that were long gone.

As parents, we so often live wishing for the past and never fully enjoy the present. As a student pastor’s wife of 18 years, I see it everyday. The inability to be okay with time flying and to let go, as God has called us to do as parents, has us making some pretty significant parenting mistakes. In our desire to hold on tight and make sure every single moment of their childhood is micromanaged by us, we are raising lazy, dependent, entitled kiddos who think the world should revolve around them, instead of grasping that the world revolves around God.

So in light of all of that, here are three things I’ve learned in the last 16 years that I pray will encourage my momma friends in the thick of raising children right now:

  1. If God has called you to be a working mom, you better do it well, with the right attitude, and with your eyes wide open. (And if your situation requires you to work, then it’s a calling. God is not surprised by your situation.)  He has something for you in the place that He has you. Don’t miss it because you stubbornly believe your plan is better.
  2. It is 100% okay for your child to be the most important thing in your life, next to God and your husband. But priority and worship are two different things! We make our child a priority; we DO NOT worship our child. If you allow your world to revolve around them, guess what? That means when they leave your home, IF they leave your home, they will expect the rest of us to feel that way… and that’s going to make their adjustment to the real world even harder.
  3. God’s plan is SO, SO, SO good! Watching our children grow up is exciting, and like my Dad said, an absolute blessing. And spoiler alert: you will get to hangout with your kid in heaven too if they know Jesus as their Savior, so white-knuckling this earthly time we get, instead of enjoying it, is unnecessary. Look at eternity, friends!

I’m in the midst of some BIG firsts and lasts right now…

  • Last night, my 8th grader had her last middle school orchestra concert.
  • This weekend, we will go shopping for her first formal dress.
  • Last week, I drove my unlicensed 16 year old to school for the last time.
  • The next day, I watched her pull out of my driveway as she drove herself to school for the first time.   

And I’m okay! I’m excited! God is so good that He has allowed me the opportunity to raise these girls of His. And with that responsibility, I get a front row seat to see what amazing things He will do in and through them.

So let’s remember: The eternity God has planned brings crazy joy no earthly “last” can ever take away. Our story doesn’t end here, so let’s make sure we live, and parent, accordingly.  

The Question Every swHw Mom Should Ask Her Kids

By: Michelle Myers

If you identify as a she works His way woman, I’m betting you thrive on accountability. From your walk with Christ, to your marriage, to your business, and probably even your health and fitness, I’m sure you have several accountability systems in place.

But have you ever sought accountability from your kids?

God has blessed me and my husband, James, with two sons and a new baby girl. Noah is six, Cole is three, and Shea is eight months.

Michelle, they’re so young. What could you possibly get accountability from them about?

Easy. I ask each of my boys (and I’ll start with Shea as soon as she can talk) a very simple question at least once a week:

How do you feel about Mommy’s job?

My wording choice never varies. I don’t want to know what they think about my job, or what they think I actually do. (Even though their answers to that question are pretty hysterical!)

I want to know how my job makes them feel.

About two months ago, Noah (who is my early riser) came downstairs about 5:45 am on a Friday. I normally get out of bed at 5:00 am, start the coffee pot, and then head to my office for my Bible reading and prayer time. Around 6:00, I’ll look at my to-do list for the day, and I’ll typically knock out a few daily tasks before the boys wake up around 6:30 am. So Noah was about 45 minutes ahead of schedule, and I was still finishing up my journaling.

I pulled out a coloring book, gave him a comfy pillow, and got him settled on the crazy comfortable rug under my desk while I went back to my journaling. About 15 minutes later, I figured I couldn’t get much done, so I pulled him up into my lap for one of our “accountability chats.”

“Buddy,” I asked him. “How do you feel about Mommy’s job?”

“Well, he said, kinda softly. “I don’t like it when I wake up and you’re still in your office. I have to leave for school pretty early, so we don’t have much time to be together.”

In that moment, I could have justified my actions. I could have told myself that he had gotten out of bed 45 minutes earlier than normal. And that I technically wasn’t working. I was just journaling after reading God’s Word.

But when I thought about a normal day, I realized I would typically finish up whatever task I was working on before I would come out of my office to fix his breakfast and start our morning routine.

And he’s six. If I’m in my office, he assumes I’m working. And in his defense, it’s not exactly abnormal to find me working with a Bible open on my desk either.

But even if all of the facts checked out, I didn’t ask him about the facts. I asked him how he felt. And in honesty, in his six-year-old way, he told me that he wanted all of the time he could get with me before he left for school each morning. And even if it was just mere minutes, he didn’t want those minutes taken away.

I’m going to call that a mom-win for sure.

I looked him in the eyes and played with his hair. “Noah, I am so sorry. You are right, and I’m going to do better. Tell you what. I’m going to listen for your feet at the top of the stairs. And no matter what I’m doing, as soon as I hear you, I’m going to jump out of my chair, turn off the light, and meet you in the kitchen before you hit the bottom step. Deal?”

“Deal!” he said with a big smile and threw his arms around my neck.

I would have never known the minutes I lingered in my office bothered him if I hadn’t asked. So Momma, even if your kids aren’t old enough to initiate that conversation with you, they might be old enough to voice their feelings. I started asking my boys this question at age two.

The older my kids get, the more in depth I’m sure my questions will become. But for now, this simple question is enough to spark positive changes to make sure my kids don’t just know they are my priority, but that they always feel like the priority over my work.

And due to the frequency of my asking, I pray the day comes that if they ever don’t feel that way, they call me out. Quickly.

So we have a new morning routine, just as I promised Noah. And you know what? I don’t always get as much done in the early morning hours as I used to.

Yet I know a day is coming when I’ll have all the time in the world to tackle my to-do list and drink a cup of coffee while it’s still hot.

But instead of thinking about how awesome that is, I’m sure most days, my mommy heart will ache to hear the little pitter-patter of his feet at the top of the stairs…and he’ll be all grown up, living somewhere else.

But that day is not today.

So I will take my interrupted mornings, full of giggles, snuggles, unintentionally iced coffee, and my sweet six-year-old boy who treasures his mornings with his mommy before school.

And each week, I’ll ask the same question, so I get more moments just like it.

You Asked & We’re Telling!

In case you didn’t hear the news, we are SO excited to announce that we are open for new members! In a LIVE video today, we dug into the heart of who we are at swHw, the women we aim to serve + what being a member looks like. We’d LOVE to encourage you + equip you with our Biblically-based business training portal. We’re open today through Thursday, May 4th. We can’t wait to meet you!

Join here: tinyurl.com/swHwmember

Unforgettable Customer Service

by Teeny Pineda

unforgettable-customer-service-2

Have you ever experienced terrible customer service? Or exceptional customer service? Both are unforgettable… but only exceptional customer service happens with intentionality. (I doubt many people who would like to keep their jobs seek to be terrible!)

Customer service is crucial in business AND in ministry. I emphasize AND because often times, I feel like ministries leave this emphasis out. While “customer” may not pertain to the ministry, service is perhaps the most genuine way we can align ourselves with God’s love.

When someone emails or calls with questions or concerns, they should know by our reply that they are dealing with a Christian. And by that, I mean they should see that our mannerisms and attitude are like Christ. We are slow to anger. We are patient, and we listen to them.

There have been many emails that I have received in my years of various customer service roles where my flesh wanted to immediately send them an email back and basically say…. “I’m sorry, but no.”

But then, when tempted to anger, the Holy Spirit reminds me, “Teeny, what a great opportunity to show someone My grace.”

It’s been the times where I have shown grace to someone that stick out to me most. The majority of the time, when I show grace, the customer’s response back proves to me that it was the right decision. We don’t always know the full story, and sometimes, helping someone out can turn his or her day around.

When I get an angry email from a customer, I can typically tell when it’s an emotional anger versus an irrational anger. Meaning, instead of just reading their words, I try to think about what they’re feeling.

For example:

“There is NO WAY that this shirt you sent me is a medium! I always wear a medium, and this shirt must be like a XXS! So the tag may say medium, but it is DEFINITELY not one! I hope you have plans to give me my money back because there is no way I can wear this shirt EVER!”

In situations like this, I know the facts. I know our website has a size chart. I know that if there are any items we offer that vary in size/style from what we typically carry that we include size ordering instructions and an extra link to the sizing chart in the product description.

But instead of presenting those facts (which although they may be true, are not at all helpful at this point), I try think about what she’s feeling. At the end of the day, she ordered a new shirt that she was excited to wear. She opened it, tried it on, and it was too small, so she couldn’t wear it. Her actual emotions, which probably stirred from disappointment with a twinge of unjustified embarrassment, come across at anger at me, even though she’s probably more frustrated with herself for not double-checking the size chart.

My reply back would go something like this:

“Oh no! I’m so sorry, [her name]! I’m so glad you contacted us immediately! I’m happy to help you exchange for a new size or return the item, whichever you prefer. Here is a link to our size chart. You’ll find your particular item in the second chart. I’m also including instructions below for an exchange in case you’d like to go that way so we can get you a different size in the mail ASAP. Again, I’m so sorry for the mix-up, and we hope we get to see you rock this shirt very soon!”

If I had to break it down into steps, I would say:

1. Stay calm and collected in truth…even if they’re emotional.

2. Apologize…even if you didn’t do anything wrong.

3. Offer multiple solutions…so they feel like they get to make a choice on what it best for them.

4. Simplify the process for them (and for you!) in your response as much as possible by including pictures, links, and lists of specific action steps.

5. End by emphasizing the potential positive outcome.

And here’s the motivation behind it all:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” – Colossians 3:12

As believers, the Bible tells us that we should be kind, humble and patient. We should also treat others with respect. And in business, that means good customer service. No, not just good; our customer service must be seasoned with excellence and grace.

And bigger than absorbing the blame and minimizing customer embarrassment/frustration/anger… our customer service can offer a small glimpse of the unconditional, unstoppable love of Jesus. We may never know exactly how God chooses to use our small acts of obedience, but we can be assured He never wastes them!