Interview with Helen Lee

I did this interview with Helen Lee a couple years ago while blogging at Missional in Suburbia…

Helen Lee is a busy mom living in the Chicagoland area and she is also the author of a wonderful book that is soon to be released; “The Missional Mom: Living With Purpose At Home And In The World.” Helen has graciously agreed to allow me to interview her and  my prayer is that this interview, and her book, will be a tremendous encouragement to all the moms (and dads too!) who are working hard everyday to raise up and train their children in the way they should go!

Question: What motivated you to write, “The Missional Mom: Living With Purpose at Home and in the World”?

Helen: I had been aware of the growing trend of churches calling themselves “missional”, then had the chance to write about this trend in more detail for Leadership Journal. As I began to speak with missional church leaders and understand more about what the word meant, I was captivated! At the same time, I’d been thinking for a while about writing a book about Christian motherhood, and one day the idea came to me that being a “missional mom” was exactly what I wanted to think and write about. So for the past year and a half, I spent time finding a number of women I felt embodied the spirit and substance of living missionally, learning from them and from their life choices, and I finished the book this summer. It comes out in January 2011 from Moody Publishers, and I am hopeful that it will be encouraging, inspiring, and challenging for today’s moms in their own life and faith journeys.

Question: You mention in your book that many women today are not finding joy and fulfillment in their role as mother. What do you have to say in this book that will inspire and give moms a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in their day-to-day life?

Helen: I think that today’s moms are pulled in so many different directions, and one of the reasons they have a hard time attaining a sense of joy and fulfillment in their lives is due to a sense of internal tension; “am I living the life that God intended me to live?” Part of that tension comes from either not knowing their calling, not feeling the freedom to pursue it, or erroneously misunderstanding their calling. In the book, I write about this idea of calling and suggest how today’s moms might consider rethinking their own sense of purpose and mission. I think once you have the proper perspective about your own mission in life, you can live with much more freedom and passion than if you are constantly struggling with the question of, “Is this what God has intended for my life?”

Other factors that weigh today’s moms down are the strong cultural pressures on moms to produce “perfect,” “successful” children. In the book I try to identify some of the more insidious of these pressures that moms might not even realize might be affecting them–hopefully as they understand these cultural influences better, they will be able to make choices to free themselves from those influences, which I believe will help them attain more joy and fulfillment in their lives as moms as well.

Question: What would you say to all the busy moms out there who don’t think there is enough time in the day to be missional?

Helen: I understand all about busyness! I have three young sons, 8 years old and younger. I also homeschool, so you can imagine that my life is very full. But there are so, so many ways we can be missional that won’t even add a minute to our day–there are lifestyle and attitudinal changes you can make that can make a huge difference in your life and especially in the lives of your children that will have longstanding effects. For example–you can start talking more in your household about the global needs in the world, and help your children to be aware of those needs. You can pray with them on a regular basis about children in other countries who are suffering and who are in great need, and this opens a child’s heart and mind to the idea that we have a responsibility to care for “the least of these.” You can encourage your kids to donate their own money to help others, you can reduce consumeristic and materialistic attitudes in your own home, which can all help your family live more missionally…the list goes on and on! Being missional isn’t just about “doing” missional things–although that is part of the picture–it is a way to live and those are just a few examples of changes that can any mom can start making regardless of how busy she is.

That having been said, though, we all make time for the things we care about. Even if it’s only an hour a week or month, every mom can take steps in her life to build in active missional living–which, as Scot McKnight says in the book, comes down to a simple question: asking “how can I help you?” in every situation. We can all take time to help a neighbor, a friend, someone in need. And we need to build that discipline in our lives, no matter how busy we are, no matter how much we would prefer to just live our own private lives, because ultimately loving and caring for others is at the heart of what it means to love God.

Question: Highlight some of the cultural pressures you see at work today that makes it difficult to raise children who love God more than anything else on earth.

Helen: I mentioned a couple above that are worth repeating: materialism and consumerism are two huge pressures. It’s very difficult to live counterculturally to the constant messages in our culture that we must always attain more wealth and more stuff in order to truly be “happy.” Achievement-orientation, I feel, is another. Here in America, we like saying that every person has a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What that usually means here in this country is the pursuit of material success. But I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that we are either entitled or guaranteed happiness or material success. I see a Christ who sacrifices everything to save the world, and who calls us to be willing to do the same. God may choose to bring material blessings into our life, (and many of us are blessed beyond measure, compared to the majority of the rest of the world), but it’s not something to seek after, or to train our children to seek after.

I have a friend who is a pastor of a missional church, and he regularly asks his congregation, ‘How many of you who are parents pray for your children to be missionaries or to go to full-time Christian ministry?” It’s a good question to ask ourselves as parents, to test our desires for our kids and see if we are wanting for them a future that is based on a specific idea of success that might actually not be God’s ideal. The issue is not whether our child will end up in ministry, but whether we ask ourselves, “Are we as parents praying for our children to fulfill God’s calling on their life, whatever that calling might be?” It can be a very challenging prayer–but God is not asking us to do anything as parents that he did not do himself, which was to offer up his own Son to give his life for the world.

Question: What are one or two things that you hope moms take away from your book?

Helen: One: that God has a purpose in mind for you, and that motherhood–while vitally important and a critical role in your life–is not the only purpose and not even the primary purpose for you. (The book will explain that concept in much more depth!) Two: that as mothers, we have an incredible opportunity to help our children embrace missional living. Three (sorry, I couldn’t stop at two!): that living missionally can be the key to helping a mom experience more joy and fulfillment in her life as a mom.

Thanks to Helen Lee for taking the time to join the conversation here at Missional in Suburbia! Wonderful stuff, lots to think about! We would love to hear your thoughts, questions and comments…

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