April 11, 2012
Two winter's ago I read and reviewed Jamie Martin's book Steady Days. Hers was the first mothering book I read that highlighted the importance of a mission statement.
No doubt there are other mothering books nowadays and even not-so-recent titles that talk more about this. (I will be sharing some mission resources at the end of my mission series.) Jamie's book just happened to fall into my hands at the end of a very long break (from about the time my children were babies till just a few years ago) from reading parenting how-to type books.
I had a discouraging time of it with parenting and mothering books in the early years of my children's lives so I took a long hiatus from that genre of reading. Instead I looked to the wisdom of local mothering mentors (whose advice I sought after observing their own beautiful family lives), the direction of my husband, and a few choice books recommended by close friends.
All that to say, I'm sure other mothering books talk about defining your mission but Jamie's was one of the first I had read.
Even while reading Steady Days I didn't think I particularly needed a written mission statement. From decisions I had made a long time ago, as a young woman, my personal mission seemed pretty obvious to me.
Please note this post is not about my mothering mission but my personal mission, though the two are intertwined. My mothering mission is very much wrapped up in our homeschool goals and purposes. This post and the ones that follow are about me personally, not my parenting goals.
I wanted to grow in my faith, love my husband, love the kids, feed my husband, feed the kids, teach the kids, use my gifts to manage our home, be a blessing in my community and so on. And if I thought about it more deeply, which I didn't, I think I would have said my mission also included sharing nature and celebrating beauty in everyday living - something I've always been drawn to.
My tasks and responsibilities were laid out before me and I didn't really need a mission to motivate me or keep me on track.
That doesn't mean I was rudderless. I just didn't have it written down.
For years now I've been very intentional about my life. This intention of course carries over into my personal and mothering decisions, many that were/are decidedly against the norm in our culture. To walk a path like this you have to have a fairly strong internal compass, even if you don't have a written mission statement.
That's how things were going along until last winter, when I took some time dig a little deeper into who I am and what makes me tick - with the express purpose to craft a mission statement.
What changed last winter? Why did I need a mission statement where before I didn't?
It wasn't what changed last winter, it was what had changed a few years earlier when I discovered the world of blogging mothers.
You see, after years of mothering - navigating the baby, toddler, preschool and early elementary years I had found my groove. I know what kind of mother I am.
I was confident in my discipline strategies and communication techniques. I was seeing the fruit of the early years where I laid down a very strong foundation. My kids felt secure in my love and I felt secure in theirs. I felt good about what I was doing as a mom, and who I was as a mom.
Where I seriously lacked confidence though was in the world beyond my cozy home, specifically the mommy blogging world. I knew I wanted to grow in that domain. I wanted to become a better writer, eventually earning money from my creative endeavors.
And I realized this - if I want to feel comfortable in my own skin as I watch other creative mompreneurs - writers, artists, and teachers grow and flourish in their unique talents, services and products - I needed to get really grounded in who I am as a mom, writer, homeschooler, homemaker, adventurer, etc.
Who is Renee Tougas? What's she all about? Where is she going?
I needed a roadmap for the journey. A roadmap for my journey.
I know when I have read before about women taking time to evaluate and reflect - digging deeper - it's tempting to think, "lucky them, on some quiet, lakeside retreats sans children and household responsibilities". I assure you, for me that was not the case.
I worked my personal development into my day, sometimes going to bed at 9pm with a pen, paper, the computer and a few resources at hand.
Because my mind was in the zone, so to speak, thoughts would come to me at other times, often (as most ideas do) while I was cooking. So I kept a pen and paper handy and scribbled down notes furiously as they came while stirring soup and cutting veggies. I do this now all the time with my writing.
I listened to webinars, downloaded resources from the Internet, and read books that were somehow related (and sometimes not) all with the intent of understanding myself better.
I share this to give you ideas of how you can work a similar process into your own busy life as a mom.
In trying to define my mission, what I was really trying to answer is "who am I?" and "how does this guide what I do?"
To get to the bottom of this I asked myself the following questions.
You'll notice I don't have the typical Christian spiritual questions in that list, questions like:
These are questions I've already answered in my life and I return to those answers over and over again when I';ve strayed off course either in terms of going my own way (not listening to the Spirit), or feeling attacked with negativity and lies.
I know who I am in the grand scheme - a precious, chosen, child of God.
I know what my purpose is - to glorify God, love Him with my whole being and love my neighbor as myself.
That is the foundation underneath this further reflection.
With that as the foundation, what I wanted to define was a roadmap for me - an established homemaker, mother and wife. A woman who loves her family and has chosen a first career in serving them but is now ready to branch out, to bloom in other areas. A woman who is ready to contribute to the world outside her home but is still firmly committed to remaining at home and loving and serving family first and foremost.
I'm not going to share all the answers to those questions but I will share my answers to the first. Here's what I wrote in my Who Am I document (the place I used for gathering all my thoughts):
1. Why am I asking this question, why does this matter?
With everything being so up in the air, and the restructuring really of how we do family life ,I need a filter, or some other measurement tool, to evaluate each opportunity that comes my way. I need to make sure I am investing my time, resources, heart, head and soul into the work that is going to most sustain me, inspire me, contribute to our family, and fulfill God's unique mission for my life.
Also, having been a stay at home professional mother and homemaker for twelve years I am entering a new world of online entrepreneurs, writers, artisans and savvy business people. I am a newcomer to this scene, wanting to succeed but wanting also to make sure I don't lose focus of where my heart truly lies - at home with my family.
I have a couple more posts coming on mission. The next has practical tips for crafting your mission as well as shares my mission. I also want to share some books and resources that have helped me in this process.
All the photos in this post, except the portrait of me, are from a Who am I project I did in 1999 (oh yes, that's 13 years ago). The year I became a mother. In those days I went to a moms group at a church, MOPS or something like that, and we did this collage there (there was no Pinterest but this would be a cool Pinterest board also). This collage very much represented who I was and who I wanted to be.
I have saved that collage all these years, mostly filed away in a memory box, and I love how it still shares the heart of who I am and what I want to do with my life. I love that continuity. I know I'm allowed to change and grow, indeed I want to, but I am very much the young woman I was at twenty three or twenty or eighteen. And I like that.
It occurs to me just now in putting these photos in this post that perhaps this collage was my mission statement for these foundational years of my adult and mothering life. Maybe I did have a mission statement after all! Go figure.
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