Saturday, May 1, 2010

Clothed with Strength and Dignity: What I Wore on Black Friday

Unfortunately, many of us have received the dreaded “pink slip” in recent months. Theresa shares her experience and offers hope for others in a similar situation.

Clothed with Strength and Dignity: What I Wore on Black Friday
By Theresa Ceniccola

I wasn’t one hundred percent certain, but the empty pit in my stomach told me this was it. My time had come. Call it intuition, but when my boss set an unannounced private meeting on my calendar for a Friday afternoon during a recession, anxiety became my friend. I barely slept that night, bargaining with the Lord as I tossed in turned in my bed. When the sun finally peeked through the curtains I was filled with a sense of urgency and panic.

What does one wear to work on the day she gets laid off? The thought itself seemed superfluous and irrelevant, but at the same time oddly appropriate as I perused the options in my closet. Should I pay tribute to “Black Friday” by dressing head to toe in the obvious color?

Maybe I should wear something slightly outdated or mildly tattered in hopes that my boss will take pity on me and change his mind at the last minute. On the other hand, I could present a brave front wearing my power suit as an outward symbol of the inner strength I was searching so desperately to find. Perhaps I should let my whimsical side prevail by sporting a pink slip under my skirt. (No, I don’t actually own one, but a pink slip would have been a welcome reminder to retain my sense of humor.)

In the end, I opted for business casual – after all, it was Friday. I wore a simple olive sweater and tan dress pants that probably should have been pressed. I added a funky beaded necklace I purchased at the gift shop where I worked – using my employee discount, which I would sorely miss.

As I rushed through my usual routine in the mirror, I instinctively reached for the waterproof mascara, normally reserved for days at the beach or a girls’ night out at the movies. I knew I would need the reliable smudge-proof formula. I recited a litany of my favorite prayers as I drove to the office, too preoccupied to be mindful of their meaning, yet finding comfort in the familiar sound of the words in my head.

My qualms were confirmed when my boss closed the door behind me as I entered his office. I knew instantly that he was uncomfortable. His words were rehearsed yet awkward. “You are aware of the current economic situation,” he began. I mentally pleaded with him to get to the point. I remember hearing the words “economy” and “termination” and “sorry.”

“Breathe,” I instructed myself. Despite my best efforts, I felt the tears surface against my will. I wanted to ask questions – to clarify the details – to negotiate. But the words simply could not emerge in any intelligible manner. I managed to utter a feeble request, “Isn’t there any other option?”

He struggled to conceal his sympathy. “We have no more work for you,” he responded. Ouch. My thoughtfully assembled attire was meaningless now. It provided no protection from the pain and hurt. No escape from reality. Holding back my tears, I managed to express my gratitude for the opportunity to work with a wonderful organization and for the friendships I had formed. There was nothing left to say.

The floodgates released as I left the office and I had to stop twice on the way home because I couldn’t see well enough to drive. I called my husband and invited him into my state of shock and despair. We spent the next 24 hours crying and praying. Despite my devastation, I was keenly aware of the gift in my situation. Here I was, holding hands with my husband and praising our Lord aloud. Other than blessings before meals, and the bedtime routine with the kids, prayer is a private activity in our house. I could not help but reminded of the words of Matthew 18:20 – “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

The remainder of the weekend, we alternated turns keeping the kids occupied so they wouldn’t notice our world was coming to an end. Whoever decided it was best to terminate workers on a Friday clearly did not have young children at home. I would have preferred to mourn in private after I put them on the school bus under the illusion that everything was just perfect. Instead I grieved in stolen moments in between basketball games, birthday parties and Sunday school. Sleep eluded me, yet I was drawn to my bed as if there were some healing powers in my covers. I emerged on occasion, wearing my weekend uniform of flannel pants and a comfy sweatshirt.

On Monday morning, I found myself alone in the closet, once again searching for the perfect outfit for the occasion. Then the Lord whispered in my ear a familiar phrase from a favorite scripture, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31: 25

So I dusted off some of my classic favorites and tried them on for size: grace and honor, hope and faith, kindness, wisdom, ambition and honesty. I was surprised how well they fit. And I have a feeling they will always be in style. As timeless as the Word of God.

Months later, I understand and accept God’s plan for the once unwelcome change in my career. Despite the emotional turmoil, the endless soul searching has yielded an opportunity for growth and transformation. My new professional direction allows me to spend more time with my children and to truly be present in their lives. While I pray that others are not faced with the same unexpected challenge, I also offer my personal tips for surviving job loss with strength and dignity.

How to Dress Divinely in Times of Despair

• Remember that God has a plan for you – even when you don’t have one for yourself. Most of us control freaks know this is true, but it’s very difficult to internalize. I relied on my journal to pray and write to God asking Him for patience and courage to follow His plan.

• Find one positive thing in your situation and enjoy it. Perhaps you can spend more time with family, sleep in late or work in your garden. For me, it is a blessing to be able to be home when my children get off the school bus every afternoon.

• Be honest with yourself and others. People respect a straightforward approach and in today’s economy, there is no shame in losing a job. The disgrace comes from how you convey your story to others. I found it refreshingly healing to admit that life is difficult but through hard work and faith in God, something wonderful will develop.

• Seek comfort and support from others and be willing to accept their assistance. At first, it was difficult for me to ask for help – to acknowledge that I needed someone to watch my kids so I could go on a job interview or that my children could use some hand-me-down clothes. It was even more humbling to decline social invitations because they were no longer in the budget. But, I found that friends truly did want to help me and these were simple ways they could show their kindness.

• Remain open to God’s call. When I told friends about my situation, many of them gave the standard reply, “When God closes one door, He opens another.” This response, although comforting, became cliché after awhile. But the message at heart is significant – God was calling me to create a change in my life – one that I never would have made on my own. I had to remain open to this call and believe in the world of opportunity that He opened for me.

Theresa Ceniccola is a writer and corporate communications professional living in Virginia Beach, VA. With more than 20 years of experience in healthcare, Theresa has covered topics from cardiac surgery to patient safety and family-centered care. She recently answered God’s call to write personal stories to inspire others. Theresa’s passion for writing allows her to spend time with her husband and their three children. Theresa is co-founder of Write to Health, a guided journaling practice dedicated to encouraging people to discover the health benefits of writing. Her own journal writing enriches her personal relationship with Christ and provides a sacred place for ongoing spiritual reflection. Theresa is active in community organizations including her home church, Susan G. Komen and Girl Scouts.

Starting a Home-Based Business from Scratch

Does working from home sound appealing to you? Before you make the leap, read these tips from Glynnis.

Starting a Home-Based Business from Scratch
By Glynnis Whitwer

There are several ways to make money from home: telecommute for a company, invest in a multi-level business like Mary Kay or start a business from scratch. That’s what my husband and I did when we started

I love the cottage-style look, and have read decorating magazines for years. When we wanted to make some money from home, we started with something I loved, and started selling home accent pieces with a cottage look. However, we quickly realized after starting the business, that our decorative office products were the most popular items on our site. So now we focus on those items.

A business you start from scratch can combine things you love, or a dream you’ve had for years. It could be assembling gift baskets, planning children’s parties, or making and selling specialty cookies. A start-from-scratch business almost always starts with your unique talents or experience.

If you have never owned a dog, never worked in a pet shop, and never had experience or instruction in obedience training, then you probably shouldn’t start an animal behavior business. Just because you want to learn a skill doesn’t mean you’ll be successful at it. In other words, start with something you know.

You may have the perfect vision of the business you want to start. If not, the possibilities are almost endless. But how do you make a decision on what’s right for you?

My friend and fellow author, Janet Drez, author of “Putting the Pieces Together: A Christian Woman’s Guide to a Successful Home-Based Business” advises women on what type of home-based business to choose. She recommends asking yourself questions such as:
• What did you enjoy most about the last two positions you held?
• What did you like least?
• What did you study in high school or college that you enjoyed?
• What hobbies do you enjoy?
• What do your friends and family tell you you’re good at?
• What is your family background? Traditions?
• What are your spiritual gifts? (1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11)
• What types of people do you enjoy being around?
• Do you need a business which is done mainly in your home (bookkeeping) or are you able to make appointments?
• If there were no limits or feasibility issues, what type of business do you think you’d like to start?
• Where would you like to be in two years in all areas of your life?

Armed with this information, you can proceed to brainstorm the variety of business opportunities available. If you need some ideas, here is a list of businesses that women have successfully run from home.

• Catering
• Florist
• Gift Buying
• Party Entertainment
• Photography
• Accounting/bookkeeping
• Computer Instruction/Consulting
• Foreign Language Translation
• Personalized Stationery
• Website or Blog Design
• Ballet/Dance Instructor
• Cheerleading/Coaching/How to Try Out
• Clothes Recycling – Children
• Interior Design for Children’s Rooms
• Etiquette for Children
• Memoir Writing
• Tutoring

The ideas are unlimited. Start with prayer, and then take steps towards owning your own home-based business.

Click here to buy work@home A Practical Guide for Women Who Want to Work at Home.

Glynnis Whitwer is the editor of the “P31 Woman” magazine, and the author of two books, including “work@home” and “When Your Child is Hurting.” Glynnis has worked at home for over 10 years, and her husband Tod joined her in 2005. Together they raise five children, run an environmental consulting firm and an online store: Read more about Glynnis at

Would My Kids Say That I Love Being a Mom?

Here’s a sneak peek at Lysa’s new book “Am I Messing Up My Kids? … And Other Questions Every Mom Asks…

Would My Kids Say That I Love Being a Mom?
By Lysa TerKeurst

This week I got a note from a friend of mine who is the young mom of three little boys. She's in that stage of complete and utter exhaustion. If you’re not in this season now, you can probably remember being knee deep in poopy diapers and scratching your greasy head, while simultaneously discovering the pattern on your over-sized sweatpants is, in fact, a collection of snot.

Her e-mail so touched my heart because I realized I am no longer there. But in the midst of being in that hard season of life, I thought I'd never get out of it. I truly felt like motherhood would be full of poop, snot, exhaustion, and over-sized sweat pants for 18 years. And, I felt super guilty for not loving every minute of it.

I'm in a different season now. (Though I still find myself wearing those over-sized sweat pants!) And I realize it's my responsibility to call back to those behind me with encouragement, support and love. So, to all my young mama friends- here's my call back to you...

Sweet young mother- I struggled so much when my kids were little. People would tell me to appreciate these years, for they pass by in a blink. I'd go home blinking my little eyeballs to death wishing they would pass a little quicker.

But I must say, God used those years to grow me and stretch me more spiritually than anything else I've ever been through. Even when you only get little snippets of time with God, His lessons are there moment by moment.

Just the fact that I survived my first daughter is evidence of God's amazing grace working in my life. She once bit my face leaving me with a hole- A HOLE !- in the side of my cheek. With everything in me, I wanted to march her back to that hospital that aided me in birthing her and demand some DNA testing. I was certain I'd brought home the wrong child.

That is until my mama told me she'd been praying for years for me to birth someone just like me. Ahem. Payback for her was pure bliss.

Anyhow, moment by moment I survived. Life did not pass me by. Opportunity did not pass me by. And my ministry was right there waiting for me when I changed that last diaper. Your dreams, goals, aspirations and hopes for how your future will look, will be right there waiting for you as well.

Those years where I only did little people ministry within my home worked out some kinks between me and the Lord, and perfectly prepared my heart to be so much more real and authentic. I came to realize my desperate need for God like never before.

I came to realize my desperate need for grace like never before. I came to realize that even a rule-following girl like me can be pushed to cuss. And then I realized even more grace than before.

Hold on sweet sister. There is nothing wrong with you when you feel like you love those little people, but some days you don't like them very much. It's okay. We've all been there. This too shall pass. And when it does, you'll actually miss parts of it. And you'll actually not miss some parts of it too!

You see, it’s all part of a grand plan God has to knit you into His story. Day by day, He is weaving, stretching and developing something so incredibly magnificent. Some days you’ll feel like your life is just a tangled mess. But those knots are necessary to ground us in the Lord and make the fabric of our life strong. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

If you will hold on to that precious heart of wisdom, you are in the process of gaining day by day, and you’ll start to see the beauty, even in the imperfections of your life. And a mom who embraces beauty despite imperfections, is a woman whose kids know she loves being a mom.

As I walked up the front steps of my house last night, I paused and breathed in the most glorious air of familiarity. Home. My favorite place in the world. The place where I do life.

A land of missing hamsters, brace faced teens, homework posters, dented cars, wood eating squirrels, a shotgun toting husband and more dust bunnies than I care to admit. Where conversation abounds, tears are shed, frustrations aired, and laughter swells to fill our crazy life.

This is the dream of my heart.

So, after all is said and done, the thrill of my day is scampering back to the square little place we've staked out in the world- this place where my people gather each night with an amazing sense of belonging.

This place where it's okay to wear ragged jeans, no makeup, and forget I even own a brush. With all its beautiful imperfections, this is my place. My home.

And yes, yes, a thousand times over yes, I love the privilege of being called Mom.

Overflowing with practical ideas, short Bible studies, and plenty of encouragement, this inspiring resource will help overwhelmed mothers turn to God's grace as their lifeline.

“Am I Messing Up My Kids? … And Other Questions Every Mom Ask is a re-release of “The Bathtub is Overflowing, But I Feel Drained.”

Click here to buy this book from P31 Ministries.