What's Shaping You: Josie Barton

Austin has been reminding me for several weeks now that he needs this blog post ready to post by tomorrow. Generally, this means I’d like to have it written and edited a few days in advance of tomorrow, but for this phase of my life, writing it 24 hours in advance of the absolute final deadline is making me feel pretty good about myself. That’s because one of the things that’s shaping me is…

 

Time and a Half

Scott always says that every season in your life feels like the busiest one, and that certainly feels true for our family right now. About two years ago, we made the decision for me to quit working full time and work two less-than-part time jobs from home instead. It was a hard transition for me, as being a work-from-home mom made me feel pulled in a million different directions. But the bright side was I got to be home with Abbott, our somewhat surprise pregnancy with Branch didn’t throw off our financial situation too badly, and our pace of life was significantly calmer than it would have been had I been working a 40-hour week. When Branch spent 24 days in the NICU (but who’s counting?), I was able to be present with him with no pressure. When my husband was off of work, we got to spend family time together with no real worries as to if my work responsibilities were being affected. The last two years have been gloriously unhurried, and it was a gift to have them.

But, even though the pace of life was wonderful, the situation wasn’t a perfect fit for me. I love my kids so much it hurts my heart, but it is hard for me to be home with two babies for what essentially ended up being 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trevor is always great about letting me get out of the house when he gets home, but my kids were not getting the best parts of me. I was trying to keep the house clean, spend three to four hours a day on the computer, but also engage in creative play and respond to their basic needs and… Well, there are lots of moms who can do all of that seamlessly, but I’m not one of them. Several months ago, Scott offered to add a role to my job at the Foundry as Creative Team Director. I don’t consider myself the world’s most creative person, but I do like to be able to mobilize people who are, so I took the role (and a few extra hours a week) happily. Shortly after that, Stadia began talking to me about the possibility of adding extra hours. Once that ball got rolling, it was a whirlwind until we landed on me as a full-time, 40-hour a week, kids-in-childcare employee, helping to plant churches globally and mobilize US churches to get involved in the work, too. I never imagined my career going down this path, but I literally couldn’t be happier to be fully immersed, in both of my roles, in the work of church planting.

But, when I say fully immersed, I mean fully immersed. If you haven’t done the math, 40 hours a week with Stadia + 15 hours a week with the Foundry = 55 hours a week of work. To be fair, that is spread out over seven days (since Sunday is a church work day!) and there’s a lot of flexibility to meet those hours however I’m able to within a week. Even so, I went from working 25 hours a week in both roles to working 50 or more hours a week in both roles. I am so overwhelmingly happy to be doing the work I’m doing, but there are moments when I’m also just overwhelmed. Trying to figure out these new roles, and how to do them well in a way that glorifies God and honors my employers, is something that is shaping me in huge ways right now.

 

Family Time

As you can imagine, a change in jobs means a change in how our family is interacting, as well. For two years, I’ve been home with my kid(s), and as strange as it sounds, the mental work of being present with them made it so that when Trevor got home, I disengaged. I was on my phone, I was going out to engage with grown-ups – I was not always present with my family. With my new career roles, I find that when I get home at the end of the day and unpack the kids from the car, it’s much easier to want to engage than it was before. I want to cook a meal because I haven’t been running to the pantry sixteen times a day to grab snacks or slather “peady budder” on bread for my peanut-butter-tarian. It’s easier to put the phone down because I want to watch Branch take steps or talk about a TV show that Abbott really likes. Working full-time is not a cure-all, obviously – in fact, some people find the opposite to be true. But for me, knowing I’m doing work that has a permanent Gospel-impact each day – and that, when I’m home, that work is on pause until the next morning – helps me to use the time I have more wisely. Now, it’s obviously a process and I’m not saying I’m Mary Poppins all of a sudden, but I like where our family time is headed and I’m excited to be finding a rhythm that works well for all four of us.

This new commitment to our family time is also forcing me to take a really hard look at my own heart, my own resentments, and the depth of sin that I still need to let Jesus touch. It’s so easy to fall into a rut, to stop communicating because it’s just too hard, or to imagine that the problems I have are a result of the shortcomings of my husband or my children. I didn’t think I was doing that, but moving into this new phase of life has shown me that I was not tending to my marriage or my family as well as I told myself I was.  Sure, I wasn’t totally neglecting anyone or anything, but I was coasting and “leaving well enough alone.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my family to be doing “well enough.” I want us to thrive and grow, but I wasn’t doing anything to make that happen. I think moving from complacency to thriving is the work of a lifetime (as soon as you stop, you’re complacent, right??), but I’m grateful that God is revealing this part of my heart to myself through the time I’ve been spending with my family in this period of transition.

 

Awful Top 40 Music

Well, not everything that’s shaping me is as serious, deep, or life-changing as what’s above. As I work from the church office or Starbucks or the comfort of my couch, I need a soundtrack. Music elicits emotion, and though I’m far from the most knowledgeable person about music, I get deep levels of joy from being surrounded by it.

Now, because I’m not a musician – or should I say, not an instrumentalist – I’m less concerned with quality of music than many of my amazingly talented bandmates are. I’m much more concerned with the way the human story is being told, how easy it is to understand the emotion being portrayed – and, honestly, how well I can dance to it.

Top 40 Music, objectively, is terrible. I understand that. It’s all plug and play, and even if musicians are legitimately talented, who could know, because all Top 40 music is surprisingly the same. And yet, there’s something about it that engages me. Part of it is the dance-ability of it all. Some songs are just fun. But if you listen to a lot of Top 40 and are able to ignore some of the less appropriate overtones, what people are singing about is the condition of a human heart whose desire is not set on the Eternal. Many of the songs speak to a longing for something that can’t be obtained, or grief for a loss, or pleading for affirmation. These songs are telling the human story in a way that many humans resonate with. You might not love Zayn and T-Swift, but can you honestly tell me that you’ve never wondered, in some form or fashion, “…if I dodged a bullet or just lost the love of my life?” Have you never pleaded, along with Adele, “If you’re gonna let me down, let me down gently?” Or lamented like Wrabel, “I feel okay in the day, but at nighttime – you know how I get when I’m alone?”

These songs tell the stories of all of us when our minds are not set on things above –and for me, that happens more often than I’d like. It’d be great if my eyes were always, permanently, 100% fixed on Jesus, but they aren’t. I long for things I can’t have, I grieve in ways that don’t reflect the hope of Christ, I search for affirmation. Many of the things Top 40 artists sing about, I seek after, too. It’s easy to listen to the songs and think they’re just about sex, fame, and power, and those themes are certainly present. But if you listen a little deeper, what you’ll really hear are people who are searching for wholeness in a world that can’t provide it – and we’ve all been there. Listening to Top 40 has reminded me that I have Christ’s “hope as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul”, and that I don’t need to run after the things the world runs after to find peace.

And it’s helped me to dance.

 

Speechless and The Path

Ok, I’ll wrap it up. Part of what I do to relax is watch a few TV shows that I really, really like. Well, okay, I watch many TV shows, but there are two right now that are really resonating with me.

The first is called Speechless. It’s a sitcom about a family whose eldest son has cerebral palsy, and it follows the family through the ups and downs of their normal, day-to-day life. Besides the fact that it’s exactly my type of humor and cracks me up, I absolutely love that this show is throwing aside the stigma of the “poor families” who live life with someone who is differently abled. My sister doesn’t have any physical limitations, but she does have Downs’ Syndrome, and I’ve never for one second understood why people feel the need to lament that fact. I imagine if I got the news as an expectant mother, there would be a period of grieving, as there is anytime an expectation is lost or goes unmet. But I don’t know why people feel bad for us in our everyday lives. My sister is amazing, and she’s happy. Yes, there are problems that arise from her having Downs’ Syndrome, but our lives are not less happy as a result. I love that this show is hitting on that fact. Families can be happy and functional and enjoy life, even if their everyday looks different than yours. People with disabilities are not inherently better (or worse) than anyone else – they’re still people, with the same hopes, dreams, and shortcomings as other people. The show reminds us that people are people are people, and I love that.

Another show that is hitting me right now is a Hulu original called The Path. While not recommended for younger viewers, it’s a fascinating look into the culture of a religious cult. It’s caused me to examine some things that Christians take for granted and ask, “Why do we do those things? How does that look to people who aren’t Christians?” Now, I understand that “the message of the cross is foolishness”, so I’m not saying we need to bow down to culture and water down the message of Christ. But it’s been a great reminder that our traditions and the things we do because we’ve always done them cannot be the central message that people walk away with. The first and most important thing we need to be displaying is the hope, love, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Everything else we do is just a means to achieving that end, and as soon as we hold on to any of those things as “sacred cows”, we are missing the heart of the Gospel and the heart of Jesus. It’s making me ask myself, what do I hold onto doggedly that isn’t actually a part of the Gospel message of Christ? What are things that I just like and feel comfortable with that aren’t really needed for people to understand how much Jesus loves them? It’s good to search my heart and admit to my own idols, and I love that a TV show not intended to make me think more about Jesus has had that effect, anyway.


I’m so grateful to serve a God who can use any old thing to turn me into someone who looks more like Him – and even more grateful that the work isn’t yet done.


Josie