"So do you volunteer anywhere?" she asked me in her broken English. At first I didn't understand her question because her spoken word was not clear.
"Volunteer?" I repeated, making sure I understood her correctly. I stopped picking out the thread of the pants I was working on and looked in her direction.
"Yeah, you know, like PTA or helping homeless people." She didn't turn to look at me but continued cutting the jacket she was altering.
I wondered if she was asking me these questions because a bit earlier we had talked about me being a Christian and needing Sunday's off so that I could attend church. Time seemed to stop as I debated in my head whether or not to tell her the truth. Truth is always the better option but I didn't want to come across as pretentious.
"Um, well yeah. I do volunteer. I just started a small non-profit outreach that helps kids and young adults take hip hop classes. We don't charge anything for the classes so this helps kids that can't afford classes to attend. We use only Christian hip hop music."
She stopped what she was doing and looked at me. She seemed baffled.
"You mean the classes for the kids are free?" she inquired.
"Yeah. Actually that's why I need this job. I need to pay my teachers and the studio rental." I then went on to describe our entire outreach and what we did over the summer....and the money we raised to start it....and how we are now offering a weekly class. I explained that we rent studio space and I have 3 amazing dance instructors. I tend to get really excited when I talk about the outreach.
"So you work this job to give the money away?" She seemed even more perplexed and asked the question in such a way as though there was a right and wrong answer. I felt like I really didn't know what to say next.
"Umm, yes," I stammered with hesitation.
She looked at me for several long seconds before she went back to work on her jacket.
"I like you," she said matter of factly, while pinning the sleeve on the jacket.
I felt relieved that the conversation was over and went back to picking thread out of pants.
|my green smoothie and my carrot juice in the thermos|
Non-profits cost money. To make any kind of impact with the students we are trying to reach, well it takes time. Time to build trust, time to build relationships. We were never under any impression that what we were embarking on by starting a non-profit outreach for teens and young adults was going to be easy.
While lives are slowly being impacted, expenses need to be paid.
Plain and simple.
We had been paying most of the expenses to keep the outreach going past our initial summer camp out of our own pocket but my husband recently informed me that finances were getting a bit tight due to adding the outreach to our family budget.
We prayed about it and prayed about it some more. We are relatively new in our town and we do not know many people well enough to help us figure out fundraising. To be quite honest, I'm a horrible fundraiser but something needed to change if we were going to keep the outreach going.
An opportunity came up at my husband's job that allowed him to change his hours and he offered to get a part time job in conjunction with his full-time job to help pay for some of the expenses.
The idea that I could also look for a part time job was thrown out in our ongoing conversation and at first we were both opposed to the idea since we are a die hard homeschool family, and I am, and have been for 8 years our children's primary teacher.
To be honest, the thought of re-entering the work force after 11 years of being a stay at home mom was a bit scary. Granted, I am not a very good stay at home mom, meaning - my house is never immaculate. I am not very organized so it's inevitable that one can find piles of something in random areas of our house on a regular basis, not to mention cob webs in corners, dust bunnies under chairs, and toilets that need to be scrubbed. I can boastfully say that I am pretty good at not self imposing a certain standard of domesticity that seems burdensome - though I have not figured out if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
The only thing I think I do a relatively good job at is feeding my family well and schooling my children. For someone who didn't know how to cook until about 8 years ago, that's a feat in itself. As far as schooling my children, God had to seriously pull up his sleeves in helping me grow a bit of patience because at the onset of homeschooling I had zero patience as a mom, much less as a homeschool mom. I can look back on the years of schooling my children and see that it was only and nothing but the hand of God along with the work of the Holy Spirit guiding me. God has and continues to redeem my motherhood. If nothing else, in that I can humbly boast.
In spite of initially not wanting to get out into the land of working folk, I began to feel a pull to see what kind of jobs were out there. I began a casual job search and asked a few gals from church to pray about this. Eventually I felt inclined to write up a resume and cover letter and send it to a few local non-profit agencies and social services organizations. I am thankful that over the 11 years of being a stay at home mom, I volunteered quite a bit so there were some decent things to add to my resume, because other than that, the last paid job I had was in 2003.
After getting a few emails on certain positions for full time work, I began to feel torn.
Did I want a "real" job now.....with the potential to be compensated well but sadly keeping me away from my kids the entire day and relying on my husband to take over homeschool duties for the entire week? I don't think I am ready for that much of a loose reign on my kids and their school work.
Also, the reality that in January I will add to my already full plate two classes for a masters degree I am pursuing and it caused me to second guess everything. I knew I was not yet ready for a full-time career position in the work world.
I had long conversations with God and my husband about my concerns. We knew God placed on my heart to start this outreach so somehow we knew it would all work out. We just didn't know how.
Then a gal from church told me about a job as a seamstress.
Initially I disregarded it. Being a Mexican woman that came from poor beginnings, the idea of working a low paying/menial job was almost an insult. For heavens sake, I sacrificed years of motherhood that seriously affected the lives of my two oldest daughters to keep myself in college to get a degree so that I wouldn't have to work low end jobs.
Yes, I sew on a regular basis, but I sew out of pleasure, not necessity.
I told my hubs about the seamstress position and he immediately thought it was a great idea. I looked at him like he was cray-cray. I disregarded him and the job position.
Then God started working on my heart....and it wasn't pretty.
Inevitably, I gave in and called the shop owner. She told me it was a part time position and told me to come in so that she could see what level of sewing skill I had. I had never worked with industrial sewing machines before so I knew there was going to be a slight learning curve. Surprisingly she was pleased with my sewing and offered me the job.
After that first day of sewing, when I was back in the safety of my car, in the parking lot, I could not contain the mixed feelings I was having and I just started crying.
I cried because my new boss (its weird to say that) is a really sweet Chinese immigrant that recently opened up her 8th store in Seattle. She speaks humble words of encouragement through her very broken English. She does not bark orders or get mad when mistakes are made, but instead comes close and shows with patience what and how something needs to be done. Yesterday she shared that when she was 23 and still living in China, she was robbed and stabbed 23 times, needing a complete blood transfusion. She shared with me this bit of information after I clumsily sewed my finger and blood began flowing profusely, causing her to feel faint. Way to go, right?
I met a talkative Native American/Tahitian woman who recently found out that she was Native American due to being adopted at birth. She found herself desiring to know more about her birth parents so she began digging through her records and her past. It was pretty amazing hearing her story. She has really good customer service skills and even shared with me that she goes to a local church.
I also met an older, but not older Caucasian lady who sports blue hair. She is a hard worker and is pretty talented with the sewing machine. She needs as many hours as she can get because she relies on the job to support not only herself but her father as well. I am going to enjoy getting to know her better.
In the quietness of my car, I cried because of the epiphany I had. Last year God had put on my heart to start an outreach for teens and young adults, but I didn't have the courage to get it going until the beginning of this year. Because realities of life are never one dimensional but rather complex in nature, through the process of inquiring and securing the job as a seamstress to help pay for the expenses of running the outreach, God lead me to women that he deems I could benefit from. Since I know all things work together for his glory, I am sure that knowing these ladies will help me to grow to look more like Jesus.
Initially I didn't want the job. For some reason, an ugly superiority attitude infiltrated into my mind and heart, or maybe it was always there. Considering the job prompted me to feel like I was above taking a job as a "lowly" seamstress. How dare I think that a college degree somehow places me above others that don't have one. What an ugly self righteous attitude! I can't believe that was lurking in my heart. Even though it was a surprise to me, my good and merciful Father knew it was there.
Through wrestling with whether or not to take the job, He reminded me that my identity is not tied to what I do for work or how the work is perceived. My identity is not based on how much education I have or don't have.
My identity is based on nothing but the work of Christ on the cross .....and that is enough!!!
I serve a great God who uses all things to bring him glory and his desire and goal for his children is for us to look more like his Son. He will use whatever means to accomplish that.
Right now, for me that is the teen outreach, my lack of fundraising abilities, my husband who has a job that allows him to change hours and his desire to step up as a homeschool dad 2 days a week, the gal from church who walked by the alteration store and saw the help wanted sign, my initial reaction to the seamstress job that helped reveal ugly things in my heart so that I could repent, and the lovely ladies I now get to work with and get to know better.
Praise God for whom all blessings flow!
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philipians 2: 5-11