She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable.
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Who is “She”? “SHE” is one of over 73 million women in the workplace in America today (facts provided by the Department for Professional Employees). She is your mother, your sister, your neighbor, your friend. Or perhaps “SHE” is YOU.
I heard someone say recently how relieved she was to find out the passage in Proverbs 31 describing this ambitious and able bodied superwoman was a COMPILATION of characteristics, not necessarily one singular person we were to emulate. Whew! What a relief!
While we can’t do it all, most of us are trying to do something professionally. We account for about half of our nation’s workforce, a dramatic change from a generation ago when that percentage was around 38%. Some women work to fulfill creative pursuits, others to satisfy a career passion, but many work because it is necessary just to supply basic needs for themselves or their families.
Some work part time, some full time and some, like I, work at different seasons of their lives. If you choose or can afford to be a stay at home mom while raising a family or if you are in a position to be a fulltime volunteer, you are still a working woman. You just aren’t bringing home a paycheck with your name on it every week. I respect and honor your efforts just the same.
But for those women working “for pay” jobs in the modern day marketplace, striking a balance between being the brave warrior who puts on her armor and goes to battle each day and the loving nurturer who takes her friends and family into her warm embrace can be challenging. It’s a bit like trying to blend Joan of Arc and Florence Nightingale into one person.
No one does this better than my friend, Lynn Pangburn. A top notch real estate agent, Lynn has held the number one ranking in her company for volume of sales for the past five years. She is listed as one of the top ten in our region. She’s dynamite in high heels…all five feet of her! And her heart is as tender as anyone you will ever meet.
I recently sat down with Lynn over lunch to talk with her about how and why she is able to achieve this sometimes difficult balance of tough-as-nails-negotiator with the let-me-cry-with-you friend that she is. I share with you her answers to my questions in hopes that they may bring insight or encouragement your way.
Darla: First of all, talk to me about how you balance your life. You’re a working machine, you lead 200 women in Bible studies each year, you are a trained lay counselor on your church’s counseling staff, you’ve raised a son, you’ve hosted more showers and celebrations in your home than anyone I know and you still have time for one-on-one. How do you do it?
Lynn: My secret is my intimacy with the Lord on a regular basis. When I spend time with Him first thing and make that a priority He seems to multiply my time and keeps me calm about everything I have to do.
Darla: Talk to us about time management.
Lynn: I’m definitely a Type A personality. I live by lists every day and make use of every minute. I prioritize what needs to get done each day and I’ve become pretty good at multitasking.
Darla: Would you consider yourself more of a “Martha” (the one busy preparing the meal for Jesus when He came to visit) or a “Mary” (the one sitting at His feet being taught by Him)?
Lynn: Definitely a Mary! I’m much more interested at getting to the heart of the matter than with all of the fluff. I’d rather not engage in a lot of small talk. I want to know what you’re really thinking and what’s truly going on with you.
Darla: Lynn, how have you been able to maintain your feminine and gracious demeanor in the business world and yet be a ferocious advocate for your clients?
Lynn: Well, I never take” no” for an answer! I don’t take things personally – it’s just business, so that takes the emotionality out of it. I’m also very aware that GOD is my provider. I work strictly on commission and have been a single mom for the past nine years so my work is very important to me but I have peace from God that He will supply all of my needs.
Darla: I know you were a buyer for a chain of retail stores before you went into real estate. What was that like and why did you change careers?
Lynn: Yes, I was living in Dallas at the time and made frequent trips to New York City as the buyer for over 150 stores. It gave me great experience at negotiating skills but because of all the travel, when my son turned two, I decided to go into real estate to afford me more flexible hours as a mom.
Darla: What advice would you give working moms who are trying to balance both job and family responsibilities?
Lynn: Well, first of all I think there’s a fine line between being a “doer” and “having to control everything”. I now counsel couples who have a spouse who is willing to help with family chores or childcare not to criticize the other’s way of doing things.
Darla: Yes, I wish I had taken that advice myself, Lynn! As a stay at home mom I usually felt that my way of caring for our children was better than my husband’s. Looking back, if I had let him do it “his way” without comment or criticism, he might have offered to help more often.
Lynn: We both know your way probably WAS better! (We both laugh).
Darla: Any other advice for working moms?
Lynn: Seeking good childcare is key. If a mom is not comfortable with the care her child is being given she is unable to focus and do her best work. Also, if you’re a mom who has to work, don’t allow yourself to feel guilt. It serves no purpose. Learn to let things go. Spending time with my son was more important to me than cleaning my house so I spent most of his waking hours doing fun things with him then if I needed to, I tackled my work after he had gone to bed.
Darla: Great advice, Lynn! One more question before we go. I’d like you to address the subject of intimidation from men in the workplace. How do you handle it?
Lynn: Number One Rule: Be prepared! Information is power and if you have all of your facts and figures lined up, have done research on your subject and are perhaps even able to offer up some new information there really is no argument for that. I deal strictly with facts and logic and am very determined in those kinds of situations.
Darla: Lynn, you’re great at what you do. When my mom was ready to sell her condo we called you to list it and you had found a buyer and sold her property before we even had the sign in the yard! No wonder you’re so respected in your field.
Lynn: Ultimately it’s all about relationships. I realize that I have a position of influence in my clients’ lives and I try to honor their trust in me.
Darla: You’re a wonderful role model for younger women who are entering the marketplace arena. You’re the “SHE” described in Proverbs 31:25. “She is clothed with strength and dignity; She can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting my friend Lynn. Her strong work ethic and tender heart never cease to inspire me. I want to leave you with two scripture passages which should challenge us all. The first one is from I Thessalonians 4: 11, 12. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody”.
The second scripture is one which applies whether you are changing diapers or performing brain surgery. It’s found in Colossians 3:23. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…”
Be blessed, my sweet sisters and know that whatever work you have chosen to do is important and worthwhile. And so are you.