Christian Working Mom Interview July 2008
Welcome
Survey Announcement
Blog/Online Bible Study
CWM Coaching Tips
Interview
Final Thoughts
Welcome

We have a special treat this month for the Christian Working Mom Interview. Our interview is with Carolyn Custis James, an author of several books and a woman who has a passion for sharing what the Bible says about women. I have read almost all of her books and they have encouraged me. Also, her books have deepened my knowledge of the Bible and how God sees me. Her most recent book is the Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules. You will discover new things about the biblical book of Ruth you have never known before. My own Sunday School class is using this book right now and we are thoroughly enjoying the book and growing spiritually as a class. In the interview Carolyn has new insight into what the Bible says about CWMs. I know you will enjoy the interview. Welcome and a big virtual hug to all my CWM sisters in Christ all over the world.

Survey Announcement

I just wanted to let you know when you fill out a CWM Survey they are anonymous and there is no way to track it back to you. Sometimes I have women leave comments on their surveys and want me to respond. I have no way of responding. If you would like to send me a question or comment, just send it to Kimberly@kimberlychastain.com.
Thanks.

Blog/Online Bible Study

There have been some new questions posted by other CWMs on the CWM Blog. Please come and join the discussion. You will find the CWM Blog at http://christianworkingmoms.blogspot.com. Also, you can find the CWM Bible Study at http://cwmbiblestudy.blogspot.com. May we share our wisdom and insights together.

CWM Coaching Tips

Hiding God’s Word in your heart is a comfort and a strong defense for when people or Satan want to attack you. Come join other CWMs as we memorize Bible verses together and did deeper into God’s Word. You can find the CWM Coaching Tips
at http://www.kimberlychastain.com/cwmtips.htm.

Interview

I want you to know a little more about Carolyn Custis James. Listen as Carolyn’s shares about herself. My husband and I were married six years when our daughter was born. I had finished my seminary education, and Frank (my husband) was in the middle of a Ph.D. program. We were both working to make ends meet. Before Frank’s academic studies ended, God would take us through two Ph.D. programs, including four years in England for Frank’s D.Phil. from Oxford University.

I never imagined being a working mom. But I’ve always worked. My daughter has seen me launch my own business as a computer software consultant in England, develop a ministry (www.whitbyforum.com), write books, and start an international network for women in vocational ministry (www.synergytoday.org).

I’ll be the first to admit, it hasn’t all been easy. But looking back, I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. I’m glad my daughter saw her parents teaming up to do what God was leading us to do. I’ve been amazed and stretched by the career opportunities I’ve had. And I’ve learned a lot about myself through the challenges I’ve faced along the way.

As working moms, we offer our daughters (and our sons) a gift when we follow God’s calling on our lives. And just maybe, by watching us, our daughters will enjoy a greater freedom to obey God’s calling on their lives.

Often women in our CWM community feel guilty about being a working Mom and that they are breaking the rules. In your book The Gospel of Ruth you share that Ruth breaks the rules on numerous occasions. What can we learn from Ruth that applies to us as CWMs?

Well, before I say anything about Ruth or Naomi, I should warn you that my book on Ruth—The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules—is not the same old book of Ruth we’ve always known. My work builds on recent research of leading Old Testament scholars. And I’m discovering this ancient book contains amazingly good news for women—working moms included! There isn’t time here to unpack all the details. For the full story, I hope you’ll read the book. But in the responses that follow, I hope you’ll sense the fact that a fresh wind is blowing over our lives and be encouraged.

Your question about guilt hits the nail on the head for me. Guilt seems inescapable for a lot of women and as working moms we seem to be especially vulnerable. A little voice inside our heads keeps telling us there’s a right way for a woman to live her life, and we aren’t doing it. If the little voice doesn’t stir up guilt, plenty of other voices chime in, often within Christian circles, to criticize moms who work out side the home.

You may have already discussed this at some point on this website, but the New Testament command for women to be “keepers at home” is actually a call to work, for in the ancient world the home and the workplace were one and the same. Everyone in the family worked. Historically speaking, in most cultures, the only kind of mom has been a working mom. So those voices aren’t exactly telling us the truth. God calls women to live their lives in lots of different ways.

One of the many things I love about Ruth is the fact that she shuts out those voices—over and over again—in order to do what God has put in her path and on her heart to do. She is bent on following God’s calling on her life and she follows him heart and soul. No signs of reluctance. No sideways glances to see whether others approve of her or not. The approval she seeks is God’s. She exhibits a shocking fearlessness to step out, to speak up, and to do what needs to be done, despite the cost to herself. She is living out the gospel.

Ruth is a powerful role model for Christian women today—whether we are working moms or stay-at-home moms or never moms at all. She lives wholeheartedly for God, and throws her full weight into the mission He gives her, even if it means going against the currents of her culture.

When God calls Ruth into the workforce, she doesn’t hold back. She not only works hard, she uses her wits to figure out a way to beat the system, so to speak. Instead of bringing home a meager fistful of scraps (a reasonable expectation for a gleaner), she crosses the line by boldly suggesting a different way of doing things to the wealthy landowner, a man who proves as remarkable as Ruth. After one day’s work, Ruth hauls home a whopping 29 pounds of winnowed barley—at least a half month’s pay for an average male harvester! Naomi is completely bowled over, and her hope in God revives.

When God blesses Ruth with a son, both she and Naomi invest themselves wholeheartedly in raising this small boy. It is an awesome responsibility with spiritual repercussions that will ripple on for generations. You can spot traces of the theology of both women in the Psalms and in the life of King David. Ruth’s great grandson banked on lessons these two women learned about God in the school of suffering. And when David faces down Goliath, it’s clear he inherited Ruth’s stubborn determination to live for God, no matter how overwhelming the circumstance.

I love Ruth’s story and, deep inside, I want to be like her. She teaches me that every part of my life belongs to God, and I need to live wholeheartedly for Him. My work matters. My parenting matters. He has called me to both. And He is working in me and through me no matter which piece I happen to be focused on at the moment.

While you were writing the book The Gospel of Ruth what spoke most to you personally?

Well, you’ve really pushed my button. I’ve been living in the book of Ruth for years now, and it has touched my life in so many profound ways, I could talk forever about how God has changed my life through this ancient story. Let me mention three highlights, but believe me they are only the tip of the iceberg.

The book of Ruth gave me a greater understanding of God’s heart for His daughters. The ancient patriarchal world measured a woman’s value by counting the number of her sons. Yet here in God’s story, two childless widows—barren Ruth and post-menopausal Naomi—command the spotlight. The culture counts them out. They probably counted themselves out too. Naomi certainly did. Yet instead of discarding them as worthless, non-contributors, God gives Ruth and Naomi leading roles in the story He is telling. At this crucial period in human history, God recruits two childless widows to advance His purposes for the world. This puts a whole new slant on how I look at my life and gives me fresh hope that even at my lowest points, God is working through me too.

The book of Ruth gives a breathtaking picture of what gospel living is all about. All three main characters—Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz—make enormous sacrifices for the sake of others. They are rule breakers in the sense that they move beyond the religious status quote to find bigger and better ways of living for God and loving their neighbor. They challenge me to do more with my life and to refuse to be content with any progress I have made to live as God’s child in this world.

The book of Ruth casts an amazing vision for how God means for his sons and daughters to serve Him together. This vision is completely lost if we reduce Ruth’s story to a romance. In the biblical culture, marriages were carefully negotiated transactions designed to benefit both families. Given the high premium placed on producing sons, a barren woman would never do. Besides a man with Boaz’s sterling reputation in the community would never dishonor his family by stooping to hunt for a bride among scavengers in his field.

The relationship between Ruth and Boaz takes on entirely new dynamics when we recognize the social disparities between them. It was completely absurd to think he would ever listen to (much less learn from) her. Yet because of their shared relationship with God, the improbable happens. Huge social chasms are bridged. True listening occurs. Godly ideas are promoted. A man and a woman join forces and make enormous sacrifices to provide for Naomi and rescue her dying family from extinction. Their alliance has given me hope that God will transform relationships between His sons and daughters in our day.

I think as women often our emotions can get in the way of our beliefs about God. You wrote an excellent book entitled, When Life and Beliefs Collide. Can you address the issue of how to trust God when we don’t “feel” like trusting?

Emotions and plenty of other things make it hard to trust God. One of the biggest encouragements for me has been discovering that when I struggle to trust God, I’m in good company. The Bible is packed with the stories of God’s people—seasoned, mature believers—who struggle intensely to trust God.

Naomi is one of the best examples. We overlook her by brushing her aside as a bitter complaining woman, when she’s actually a female Job. Just like Job, her whole life has gone up in smoke. Standing in the smoldering ruins of her life, she’s convinced she has also lost God too.

I’m learning from Naomi that these times of struggle are important. These are sacred places where God draws us through our pain to look at Him more closely, where He does some of His best work in us, and where our relationship with Him grows deeper.

Struggling to trust God is part of every Christian’s journey. Our struggles expose our need to know God better, so that when the road gets rough or the darkness closes in, our faith will have more to grasp.

Busy working moms often “don’t have time” to refuel spiritually, much less to dig deeply into the Bible to know God better. We miss the day-time Bible studies and are often too tired to attend an evening gathering. A suggestion that can help is to read Scripture to your children and talk with them about what God is revealing about Himself. The New Living Translation is an excellent, easy to understand version.

What are the joys of being a Christian Working Mom for you:

I’ve been blessed to do two things I love. My work has given me amazing opportunities to contribute, to support my family, to develop and grow as a person. Some of the deepest joys I have ever known have come from my relationship with my daughter—watching her learn and grow, spending time together. I never imagined doing both at the same time. But this is God’s plan for me. In many ways, it is a great adventure. It has certainly brought me a lot of joy.

What are the struggles of being a Christian Working Mom for you:

Like other working moms, I’ve had my struggles—important struggles, places where God is working in me. I’ve felt the guilt, the sense of being left behind when other moms are getting together and deepening their friendships during the day, the constant challenge of juggling work and family, the frustration of never having enough time (or enough of me) to get everything done, the raised eyebrows of people whose approval matters to me. Frankly, I’m not sure these struggles are unique to being a working mom. I’m an empty nester now, and some of these same struggles are still with me. Having said that, they certainly haven’t outweighed the joys of being a working mom.

What is God teaching you right now?

I tend to be an intentional learner. More than anything, I want to learn and grow and change. My learning is a combination of questions I’m asking from my own struggles, questions I hear other women asking, my ongoing study of Scripture, and lots of reflecting on what I’m finding.

We’ve been focusing on working moms. But we are only one group of women who can feel out of step with God’s best for us as women. Singles, childless, widows, divorcees, broken women, moms of prodigals, the physically disabled, and the elderly are only some examples of women whose lives don’t fit the formula. I’m studying Scripture in terms of all women, not just one particular group.

My work centers on unpacking the Bible’s message for women—all women. I’m regularly stunned by what the Bible has to say about us, challenged by how God’s word raises the bar for us, and deeply reassured that nothing can ever put His purposes for us beyond our reach.

Words of Encouragement for other Christian Working Moms

If you aren’t encouraged already, I hope you’ll read my books (in your spare time). I believe what I’m discovering will fuel your passion to know and walk with God as you serve Him as working moms!

Final Thoughts

If you would like to see all of Carolyn’s books you can click here to see them.
Carolyn thanks so much for pointing us to God and the great things God has to say about women. You have encouraged me today and I’m sure you have encouraged countless CWMs all over the globe.

My prayer for all my CWM sisters is that you will drink in today how God sees you and the big plans he has for your life.

Till next time,

Kimberly M. Chastain

Kimberly M. Chastain, MS, LMFT is the Christian Working Mom Coach and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is the author of 2 ebooks and an online Bible study. To find out how to receive coaching tips by email daily, go to http://www.kimberlychastain.com/cwmtips.htm. You can find more information about Christian Working Moms at www.christianworkingmom.com For a free, initial coaching session send an email to free@kimberlychastain.com.