I'm not willing to trade

Monday, September 11, 2006


Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her.
Proverbs 3:13-18, NKJV


Last time, I wrote about my realization that this season of my life is “next” and about my decision to stop actively pursuing whatever may come after that. The reason for this post is to expand on one thing I wrote: “Continuing in a great career which still allows me to be engaged in my family’s daily life is NEXT.”

I do have a great career. While working a full time job, I started as a part time independent computer consultant and trainer in 1994 and incorporated as Pragmatic Computing (PC, Inc. - isn’t that cute) in 1st quarter of 1996. Then I rode the Y2K wave all the way into the new century. As companies upgraded their time and billing software, they upgraded their productivity software - and I did everything I could to make sure I was there to help. Monday through Thursday I scheduled classes for staff in the mornings and afternoons and for attorneys in the evenings. Fridays would usually be spent “floating” around the company assisting and troubleshooting. Countless hours at home and between classes were spent creating curriculum, arranging facility and computer rentals, learning every nook and cranny of the software I was teaching and preparing books and handouts for in class time. I longed for the weeks when I trained at companies other than law firms, because I got the evenings off! I had thrown myself into my career and achieved things I never thought I could. I generated an income I never thought I would. After a few years, I was physically and emotionally worn OUT and missed my family. I had discovered the price for all this “success” was too high and that I had defined success by worldly standards that I didn’t really buy into. My journal entries from that time in my life spells it out. This demanding, consuming schedule was NOT something I wanted for my family.

So, rather than ramp up our lifestyle to match our income, my husband and I stayed steady, made what we hoped were wise financial choices and prepared for me to cut back at work to focus on our family. I was able to cut WAY back on my business for the last five years. I retained a few of my favorite clients and only accepted new clients by referral. On average, I worked 10 to 20 hours per month. It was the right decision for our family at the time.

Last month, my daughter entered kindergarten and, armed with my family’s support, I believe we all are ready for my business to constitute a larger percentage of our lives. This time, I have a very different idea of success and have defined limitations for work which I fully intend to keep. So, I’m putting more time and effort into my existing business. But this time, I’m not willing to sacrifice what is important to my family for financial gain or career advancement. While those things would be wonderful, I’m not willing to trade my life (and my family’s life) for them. I’m still only accepting new clients by referral. I’ve gotten some new referrals and some of my current, but inactive clients have been calling. My hours are picking up, seemingly all on their own, but, barring a RARE exception here and there, I limit my work time to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, while my kids are at school.

We’ll see how I do. I’m very determined now, but I haven’t had to turn down any work yet. That will be the real test of my resolve.

The scripture at the beginning of this post was from the NKJV. But I also like what “The Message” has to say:

You're blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight. She's worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary. Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her. With one hand she gives long life, with the other she confers recognition. Her manner is beautiful, her life wonderfully complete. She's the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her. Hold her tight-and be blessed! Proverbs 3:13-18, The Message

what’s next?

Friday, June 02, 2006


To everything there is a season, A timefor every purpose under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV


Last year, I led music and one of the sessions at the woman’s retreat for my church. It was . . . comfortable. Time consuming, but not difficult. It was a natural expression of combining my work experience, my music and my faith.

So the big question: Is this “next” for me?

Do I begin speaking and leading music at retreats? Just women’s retreats? Pastoral retreats and seminars? Church staff retreats and seminars? What about Christian parenting? Do I limit myself to a certain religious denomination? When do I work? Weekends? Week nights? During the day?

I spent months bench marking existing speakers and vocalists, working on topics and outlines, recording songs for a possible CD, asking friends and fellow Christians for advice and opinions, learning, preparing and just praying for guidance. I developed my topics, modified my website and updated my mission statement. But I hadn’t really answered the one big question: When? When would I actually do this?

Then I had surgery and a week later, led music at this year’s retreat. I left home on a Friday afternoon and returned Sunday afternoon - and I realized: This is not what I want. Not now. Maybe later. But not now. This is not “my” time. This is my family’s time. My kids missed me. My husband missed me. I missed the whole weekend with them. I missed them. When I say this is my family’s time, I mean my whole family - myself included. I’ve been talking about being in “flux” and wondering what was next. I’ve been whining about how I hate being in flux and wishing I knew what was next. Maybe it was the surgery. Maybe I had a heightened awareness of what’s important in my life. But Sunday afternoon, I realized:

I’m an idiot. THIS is next. Raising my children is NEXT. Supporting my husband is NEXT. Doing devotions with my children every night is NEXT. Helping my children with their homework is NEXT. Listening to them is NEXT. Continuing in a great career which still allows me to be engaged in my family’s daily life is NEXT. Learning is NEXT.

NEXT is NOW.

Thank goodness I’m not just starting now. I’ve been doing these things for years. I’ve just finally realized that I don’t need rush this season of my life or add more to it that will take away from my goals as a mother and a wife. It will be over way too soon anyway. I remember being terrified at the thought of being responsible for another human life. Terrified at the thought of active parenting. Active parenting requires effort. Seeking knowledge. Trying different parenting techniques. Failing, even when trying my hardest.

What kind of character will my children have as adults? Will they remain faithful to God? I'm excited and scared to see how this turns out. In the meantime, I’m committed to giving my family the best of myself, not the leftovers. So rather than adding more stuff to my plate and hats on my head, I’m strengthening my core. (Not pilates, although I probably should do that too.) I’m stripping away all the things that are counterproductive to my goals as a wife and mom - NOW.

Pray ALWAYS?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.
Luke 18.1 NRSV


Pray always? How can we always be praying?

We have STUFF to do:
bacon to bring home, errands to run, kids to chauffeur, dentist, doctor and haircut appointments to keep, family to care for, church commitments to fulfill, houses to clean repair, meals to cook eat, things books to buy!

Seriously.

He didn't mean pray ALWAYS, as in ALL the time!

sigh.

Actually, we can pray all the time. Not the “in a quiet place, head bowed, hands folded, knees bent, toes asleep” kind of prayer, but the prayer that serves as an ongoing conversation with a constant companion.

For me, it’s not a spoken prayer - I’ve got enough people laughing when they see me singing in the car, I don’t need them thinking I’m having a conversation with one of my daughter’s imaginary friends. This prayer is a silent and private sharing of everything that crosses my mind. It’s an intentional conversation, not the hope that God will eavesdrop on my thoughts so I can tell myself I’ve been in “fellowship” with Him.

An intentional, private, ongoing conversation with a constant companion. That’s the kind of prayer that provides the daily peace I crave. It’s the gentle assurance that everything will work out because God is with me - right with me. All the time.

If I look around and realize I’m just talking to myself, it’s because I walked away from God right in the middle of a conversation - off on some tangent, abandoning him, without even the “I’ll be right back” I would afford an acquaintance.

It always amazes me that I can come back. And I always do.

Posted by Julie Stiles Mills at 3/21/2006 12:52:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post