A few days ago I posted an interview with Candace Cameron Bure. She answered some telling questions about her life as a wife, mom and actress. One of the comments to the interview was from Dionne Edmonds, who very sweetly yet emphatically requested that I stop being in the interviewer role and become the interviewee.
So. . . upon request, I’m answering the questions this time.
Thanks for asking, Dionne, and I hope that you and the others who’ll read will be blessed by something in my nutty life.
1. Tell us about your family.
a.) Your husband: How did you meet?
My husband’s name is Jerry. We met when I was speaking at a luncheon in March 1998. At the time, he was the Director of International Operations for Hilton Hotels. Each quarter the company held a luncheon for their executive team. The woman that invited me had never heard me speak nor had she ever met me. I had simply been referred to her. After she called to make the arrangements, she asked if I would send my details to her in the mail so that she could let her executive team know who would be speaking. The packet that was sent included a photo. For some reason, seeing my photo made her want to match me up with “our handsome director Jerry Shirer.” When this strange woman called me back to tell me about this great guy who she was certain would be perfect for me, I thought she’d lost her mind. I had never met her and was certainly not interested in meeting a guy at that point in my life.
Lo and behold, I’ll never forget the moment, 3 months later, when Jerry walked into that luncheon and I laid eyes on him. He was beautiful. We spoke for only a few moments at the luncheon but he called me that very evening. The rest. . .as they say. . . is history. And one other note – Jerry had been attending my father’s church for 7 years. Since my church is so large, we’d never met.
How did you know he was “the one” and how long have you been married? What does your husband do?
I was very hesitant to get serious with Jerry. I had been in a very hurtful relationship and was in many ways timid about starting again. I made that very clear to Jerry and asked if we could be friends. He was fine with that but was also very clear about his feelings and his certainty about his desire to move forward with me. I knew he was the one for me about 6-7 months after we meet. There wasn’t a specific instance when it hit me. It was just a progressive awareness that came to me over time. He was like a soothing balm to my emotional wounds and his care, concern and protection of me was overwhelmingly stunning. I remember feeling relaxed and like I could finally just “breathe”. When I thought of everything that I’d asked the Lord to give me in a husband, Jerry was it. We’ve been married for 11 years and, seriously, he is the best decision I’ve ever made. . . or like my son said to me the other night . . . he’s the best decision God ever made for me.
Now we are in ministry together. My poor man – little did he know that marrying me would mean a call out of corporate America and into ministry – women’s ministry at that. HA! It’s been 8 years ago now that he felt God compelling Him to start and oversee Going Beyond Ministries. Jerry runs our entire ministry. He does all the real work so I can study, write and speak.
b.) Your children: How many do you have? What are their names and how old are they? What other interesting facts should we know about them and your lives together?
We have three boys: Jackson is our oldest. He will be 8 in November. Jerry Jr. just turned 6 and Jude, our surprise baby, is 21 months. They are a wonderful mix of tenderness and energy. Each one has a distinct personality that keeps us on our toes. We are continually amazed that three kids by the same parents could be so incredibly different. It’s amazing.
I think one of the most fascinating things about our lives together is that because of the unique way Jerry and I work, the kids get to be with their father just as much as me – which I think is phenomenal since they are boys. Particularly in the African American community, there are not many young boys who get to be with their fathers as much as my children do. I’m so grateful to have a husband who is not only a hands-on, wonderful father, but has the ability to be there since he doesn’t work on a job that takes him away from us 60-70 hours a week. I’m not sure my sons will realize the rarity and beauty of having their father so readily available to them until they have children of their own.
2. In our conversations about being a single woman on the blog, many women voiced concern that it seemed that men are intimidated by successful single women. Before you were married, did you come across many men who were intimidated by your success? What was different about your husband?
I’m not sure intimidation is the right word but I did run across a few men who were “unsettled” by me and my life. I was fairly young when I got married (24) but I did date a few men before I met Jerry. So, while my ministry was far from being established at that point, I was a graduate student and had begun speaking publicly. For the most part, I didn’t feel like it made anyone feel intimidated but there were some cases where I could seriously see them weighing whether or not they could deal with a woman who had such a demonstrative and ambitious personality. It was an interesting dynamic.
Also, because I have a family that was pretty involved in ministry and fairly well known, I could often see that there was a major adjustment that was overwhelming to a man that I was close to. Suddenly, they became “Priscilla Evans’ friend” or “Dr. Tony Evans’ potential son in-law”. That can be hard for a strong man to cope with. I understand that.
It seems like God just wired Jerry for all of that pressure. Because he certainly has dealt with that, but it hasn’t affected him as it may have someone who may have felt “swallowed up” by my father’s position and people’s familiarity with him. He is a very strong man who leads our home, but celebrates the position God has placed my father in, as a pastor and nationally known religious figure, very well. He has never made me feel like I have to *not* be who I am, or disconnect myself from the rich godly heritage I have. I’d faced that before and it was very uncomfortable. Jerry always seemed to celebrate my gifts and talents and since we met, he’s encouraged me to reach for the stars.
3. When you started having your family, were there some things you valued that you had to relinquish in order to fully engage in motherhood? Are any of these more difficult than others to come to grips with?
Are you kidding? Absolutely! I have a very spontaneous and foot-loose personality. I don’t particularly care for detailed schedules and I’m not innately organized. None of my personality meshed with the need motherhood brings to schedule, organize and think ahead. I was completely stunned and overwhelmed by the whole thing. So I’ve literally had to ask the Lord to re-invent me in this season of life so that I’m not frustrated by what it requires. He is doing that slowly but surely and I’m grateful.
I’ve also had to relinquish the idea of what family life would be like. I thought I’d have the kind of home that was always clean, with a fresh homemade dinner on the table and neat children to present to their father when he walked in the door in the evenings. That doesn’t happen and I’m learning to be ok with that. So, while I try my best, there are just some things that I’ve learned to give myself a break on and gratefully, Jerry has too!
On another note, before children, I really cherished being well rested. Because of the freedom in our work schedule I could take an occasional nap when needed and get a full night sleep. That never happens anymore. Motherhood has required me – and ever other mother I know – to relinquish sleep. URGHH!
4. What is the best part of motherhood for you? What is the most frustrating part?
The best part of motherhood is that I really believe that God gave me sons for a reason that is going to blow me away later in life. The first year of our marriage, Jerry told me that he felt strongly that God was going to give us sons – all sons – for the purpose of raising up a godly line of Shirer men. His family has not had that. When we began having children, it was obvious that Jerry had indeed heard from God because they were all male. The best part of motherhood for me is the anticipation of what God has in store for this new line of Shirer men. I feel strongly that I am, right now, in the midst of the main thing God put me on this earth for – to help start a whole line of men that will be godly leaders and warriors for Christ. I’m literally sitting on the edge of my seat to see what God is going to do with and through them.
The most frustrating part is having to get up early on Saturday mornings.
5. What projects are you working on right now in your career? How are you balancing that with the daily demands of raising a family?
During the summer I try my best NOT to work on any projects. I find that it is futile to put anything major on my plate during these months. It only frustrates me because my attention cannot be fully attuned to my children (although I sometimes wish I had something else to do 😉 and I want to relax and play with them. I don’t like having a busy life – and life with children is busy all by itself. Compounding that with additional responsibilities completely overwhelms me. I’m sure there are other women that can multi-task more efficiently but I can’t. When the kids are home, I need to be all about them, or I feel like my head is spinning. HA!
I will tape another Bible study resource in November and will be re-writing Discerning the Voice of God around the same time. I won’t start working on either of these projects until the children have gone back to school.
In general, we look at the whole year on a calendar before we plan any speaking engagements or writing projects. I try to consider what will be going on with my children in different months to determine what I’ll actually have enough energy left to complete. I feel like they’ll only be little once so I better be present and not miss anything.
6. On a practical note, what does a day in your life look like and how do you manage it? Do you have help, or do you tackle most of it on your own?
My day starts around 6:30 or so. I try to get a 30 minute jog in every other morning. it’s during that time that I talk with the Lord and have a bit of quiet time. When I come back home, the house will be awakening and the chaos of life begins. There is breakfast to be made, kids to get dressed, teeth to brush etc. Most often, I try to play outside with the kids while I’m already sweaty. So I make them get dressed fairly early and we take a walk, go fish in a nearby pond or just kick the soccer ball. Then they watch a little tv while I clean up.
Since my kids have cousins their same age, we’ll often have a play/lunch date scheduled. Then we come home for naps and quiet time. Shortly there after it’s time for me to think about dinner, baths, reading time, etc. It’s chaos.
There’s no way I could do it by myself. As I’ve mentioned, my husband is a full time parent right along with me so much of the day we do together. While one of us takes the big boys to do something, the other will stay home with the little one or take him to do something that is more age appropriate. Also, gratefully, I have a mother-in-law that is a professional grandmother. She loves helping me with the kids. And often my reality doesn’t allow me to be with the kids all day. While I sometimes feel like a stay-at-home mom, technically, I’m not. So, during the school year, I’ll drop the little one off at Granny’s house for a few hours while the big boys are at school so I can attend our staff meeting, or get some writing or studying done. Thrilled to have her in my life.
7. What part does your relationship with the Lord play in all of this?
Wow. It’s a huge factor. In fact, I’ve experienced God more intimately in this season of life than ever. I think it has alot to do with the fact that as a mom, your life is spent pouring out your time, energy and emotions. I find myself completely depleted unless I look to Him to fill me back up. And, it’s so easy, in the busyness of the day to forgo spending time with Him – not because you didn’t want to but just because you are too tired to. You attempt it but fall asleep at the first sign of downtime. So, I’ve learned how to “practice the presence of God;” speaking with Him and listen for Him speaking to me throughout the regular rhythms of my everyday life. The constant deliberate tuning into God is something that I don’t remember doing so consistently before I was a mom. It is one of the blessings that this season of life has given me – teaching me to commune with God throughout the day. I’ve learned that while having a “sit down, full on” quiet time is my ideal, I can still commune with God if that doesn’t happen.
8. Finally, what final words would you offer to encourage women who are in the throws of balancing their lives and are finding it a bit overwhelming?
Consider this word picture shared with me by Jill Briscoe: Picture each priority in your life as a box. If you try to keep each equally filled it might look balanced but it isn’t. Full boxes = exhaustion. But if you ask the Lord which boxes should be first in line for this season of your life, reorganize them accordingly and then only fill up the first ones in line, voluntarily leaving the others only minimally filled, you’ll have will peace. That is balance – filling up what God wants you to and leaving the rest for another season in life.