I’m so excited to introduce you to Helen Lee — a fellow author whose ideas I strongly resonate with. Helen is the author of The Missional Mom and here she shares her thoughts about missional living and hospitality. How can you live out your mission? Keep reading to be challenged and inspired!
Kelli, I’m honored to be interviewed on your blog! As for an introduction, I am a homeschooling mom of three boys 9 years old and under; wife to classical pianist Brian Lee, and co-founder of Redbud Writers Guild and Best Christian Workplaces Institute. Not all at the same time, of course. =)
You’ve written a book called The Missional Mom. Where did the idea for this book begin for you?
To understand my motivation for writing the book, we have to go back nine years, back to when I was a new mom with the first of my three boys. When I became a mother, as much as I loved and treasured my new baby boy, I have to confess that I found the transition to motherhood very challenging. It wasn’t just the physical changes that you go through as a mother, but it was also an internal struggle for me. I found myself wrestling with so many questions about what my life was supposed to be like now that I was a mom. Such as:
• Was motherhood supposed to be my only calling in life?
• What was I supposed to do with my experiences and education that God had given me before I was a mom?
• Why did the idea that I was supposed to completely immerse myself in motherhood and nothing else feel uncomfortable to me?
And the very process of asking these questions brought feelings of guilt, that I was a bad mother to be even asking these questions! So it was a very confusing time. As a writer I knew that to work through these questions, I’d need to write about it.
How would you define the term “missional”? What does it mean to live with a missional mind-set?
There has been so much written about this word that it’s daunting to try to encapsulate it into a few sentences! But for me, being missional means to embrace your calling as God’s missionary in whatever context he has placed you, and embracing his mission for you as your primary calling in life. For the Christian mother, who often mistakenly assumes that once she becomes a mom that motherhood is supposed to be her primary calling in life, I feel as though the missional perspective offers a great corrective.
Once you become a mom, your mission does not change! You are still primarily called to be God’s witness (locally and globally) and disciple-maker, and of course your home is a big context in which that happens. But by no means is it intended to be the only one. Embracing a missional perspective as a mother means that you understand your primary calling as God’s ambassador in this world, and you integrate motherhood into that calling.
And, as Scot McKnight explains so succinctly in the book, being missional is about asking a simple question: “How can I help you?” Mothers have so many opportunities to ask that question in their daily walks of life. In their neighborhoods, in their children’s school, in their workplaces–asking the question means you are taking a proactive posture and initiating in people’s lives rather than retreating into one’s own home life and ignoring the needs around you. Being a missional mom means the opposite of only focusing on one’s family; it means embracing God’s call to have an impact on the world around us, and helping our families to also be a vehicle God uses to help, serve, and love others.
Who’s somebody (or more than one person) who’s a “hero” to you when it comes to missional living? How or why does this person’s example inspire you?
My book is a collection of the stories of so many “heroes” who inspire me towards missional living. Women such as Arloa Sutter, founder and executive director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries, who started the ministry out of a desire to be obedient to God’s call to love those who are poor, and whose obedience God used to build a ministry that now touches thousands of people in Chicago. The thing is, Arloa did not know when she first began that her initial steps of reaching out to others would result in a ministry the size and scope that Breakthrough is today. But she embraced the calling that God had given her, step by step, day by day, and now she can look back and see how God has used her offerings of time, talent, and treasure in tremendous ways.
I’m not just inspired by women like Arloa who have built a tangible ministry, however; any time I hear about a mom in particular who demonstrates an obedience to the call of God to be His witness and disciplemaker, I feel a sense of awe and wonder.
In your own experience, how does missional living relate to hospitality?
Hospitality is clearly a missional value, in my mind. However, by “hospitality” I don’t just mean that we have pristine, guest-ready houses offering gourmet meals. Hospitality in the missional sense means that you are taking initiative in other people’s lives, that you are willingly embracing discomfort to build relationships with those who are different from you, that you are recognizing that all our possessions are not ours in the end, but the Lord’s to be used for the purpose of connecting with others. Hospitality ultimately means welcoming the stranger, and even bringing them into your family, such as in adoption. I think it is very difficult to live missional lives without reflecting hospitality in some way in and through our families.
How can a woman, whether or not she’s a mom, begin to see each day differently — through a “missional” lens?
In my mind, living missionally is all about having an outward orientation in our lives, as opposed to continually being focused on our own lives, homes and families. As Rick Warren so famously says in The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” And how right he is. But we so easily get caught up in the fallacy that it is about us, or our kids, or our spouses. Christians, however, are a called people, called to God and to his mission in the world. Living a missional life is all about claiming–or reclaiming–the basic essence of who God has made us to be.