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By Janelle Schroy
Editor’s Note: This is a part of the Vocational Perspectives series. While a variety of women from different sectors, seasons and statuses will be profiled, it is intended that the reflections deepen anyone’s understanding of faith, work and leadership whether they are male or female. Understanding one’s vocation across the many roles, responsibilities and yearnings is a human reality, not a gender-specific one. For an introduction to this topic read this two–part article by Laura Gossman. Kate Harris in her book Wonder Women also provides a unique language and perspective on vocation that helped inspire this series. Harris also offered further reflections to the same questions we are asking our interviewees in a series of two Fieldnotes articles.
Vocation evokes in me more of a holistic concept of life and calling as opposed to the very limiting words of “job” or “career”. I don’t feel comfortable saying that my role as a stay at home mom is a “job”. Although I do feel that one’s “job” most certainly ought to be something one enjoys and feels called to, the word still carries with it the muck of the world in the sense that so often a “job” is what pays the bills with rather than what makes the heart soar. The word “vocation” on the other hand feels much more rich and right because it is alive and moving––heartfelt and tangible.
Because my husband and I started our own ministry organization based on the very specific callings and passions we have together as a couple, I can honestly say that I am doing exactly what I am called to do. I don’t work a typical nine to five job, so much as I live and breathe the very thing that most grips my heart. I almost constantly think about how I can make God’s kingdom become more of a reality in and through local churches.
So if someone were to ask me what my vocation is, I might say something like “I reflect God’s calling to the global church to rightly execute thoughtful justice on behalf of the poor. My vocation is releasing the church to intentionally push back the forces of darkness that come in the cloak of poverty.”
On the other hand, I also might say something like “I shape and mold the hearts of three little girls, constantly seeking to direct them to become more like Jesus.”
BOTH statements describe my vocation – which is SO fluid in my life.
While I hold an American passport, there are two spaces – a local office and my home’s kitchen and playroom where I work out my vocation which currently have addresses in Cape Town, South Africa. That’s both deeply wonderful and infinitely challenging.
As every mom who is working part-time or full-time, these two parts of my beautiful vocation are always begging for more of my attention and focus but I feel deeply convinced that both are right and good and necessary right now.
I intentionally avoid using the language of “this is a season” of life, which gives me the distinct feeling that I am white-knuckling the way through the “season”, waiting desperately for it to end so that I can get back to “real life” that I really want to have. This seems wrong and sad on so many levels.
I’m a strategist, so I really have embraced the rigors of pregnancy, birth, nursing, mothering, guiding and instructing my three girls in the last four years because I see it as a fun logistical challenge to sort out how I’ll continue in my leadership role in ministry at Paradigm Shift, while simultaneously being fully committed as an “at home” mom. One of the ways I am able to accomplish this is I delegate as much as I possibly can, from grocery shopping to banking to errand-running, planning crafts for my children, etc. so that I can spend as much time as possible with my children. So instead of hiring a nanny, I hired a well-educated, highly capable personal assistant.
This setup means I get in four hours of work a day, twenty hours a week, but my children, since they are napping for three hours, are only awake and in someone else’s care for one hour a day, five times a week. I like that they can have someone I trust do a directed educational activity with them (because I hate doing crafts!), and in exchange, I get four hours of work time, without sacrificing much time of me being the primary caregiver. With a pack ‘n play by my desk, my baby is constantly at my side so I can nurse her, rock her, hold her and engage with her as needed.
There are days, however, when my baby doesn’t settle in the office and it is impossible for me to get any work done. That’s okay. On those days, I just go home. She’s my first priority, and I have the flexibility and freedom to make that call as needed. I feel no guilt from it. Most days, she’s a joy to have in the office and I love the coherence of having her close while I pursue the work God has for me to do there.
There are other puzzle pieces of life that are in this picture too – some easier to figure out than others. For example, I run a mom’s group through my local church every week, which is a source of community for my children and me, and an outlet of ministry. My children and I also participate in various clubs and activities together during weekday mornings.
Puzzle pieces that are bit tougher include developing same gender friendships. For my husband and me, these relationships are few and far between. We feel deeply lonely at times, but are thankful we have each other! We also haven’t worked out how to fit in growing friendships as a couple with other local couples in our church in the same life stage. The complications of children’s sleep schedules and cost of babysitters, etc. have become very real impediments to “double dates” and such!
I also miss being able to travel for speaking engagements with my husband as I used to. Instead, I create other ways to have a leadership voice in public discourse. For example, I write for magazines, or a record a video message that is played at a women’s conference, I blog on our ministry website, etc. There will come a time (when I am not nursing a baby or pregnant!) when I can travel and speak more often. But for now, like the Uniform Project that Kate Harris describes, I get creative within my constraint of being meaningfully tethered to my small children.
It’s like a puzzle that works out differently at each stage. I know all the pieces need to fit, but certain pieces might be bigger, requiring more significant amounts of time or energy at different stages. I don’t really like that conceptually, though, because it becomes about sorting logistics and my personal quest “Can I do it?” rather than seeing it as applying creativity as I find a path towards coherence.
Together with her husband (Jedd Schroy), Janelle is Co-Founder and Chief Strategist at Paradigm Shift where she directs the international expansion projects while developing long-term strategy for the organization as a whole. Janelle has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science/International Affairs from Westmont College, and is a passionate mother of three beautiful girls.
Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email the editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.
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