Ora et Labora #1

The following is the first in a series of interviews with Christians who work outside the home; meet my friend, Amanda.

GM: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog. Could you please tell me a little about yourself.

Thanks Kathy.  

I am first and foremost a Mum of 3 children (girl-13, and 2 boys -11,10).  I grew up in a Catholic family with my parents and 4 other siblings.  We had a wonderful family life, despite constant poverty knocking at our door.  We went to a catholic school (Sacred Heart College) which at that stage was not co-ed in high school and were given faith guidance by the then Fr Geoffrey Jarrett.  I graduated in 1995 and went to UTAS to study Architecture.  A year into this course it was moved from Hobart to Launceston, unable to afford to move/ travel for study  I was given the option to complete my training as a traineeship with a prominent architect at the time, Patrick Yeung.  After having my children I opted for architectural design and documentation contract work from home, which eventually lead to opening my own business in architectural design and drafting in 2004. In 2008 I became quite ill and within a weekend I was hospitalised and closing the doors on my practice.  It was a tough couple of years for the family, but eventually in 2010 I took up a 1 month architectural contract, 3 days a week, school hours, with Hobart City Council (stayed for 18 months).  In June 2011 I opted out of full time work (5 days a week) with Hobart City Council, to follow something…I was not sure what…but something deeper. 

GM: How does your faith influence your everyday decisions in the workplace?

It is interesting.  Whilst I did not prance around work holding up my rosary beads and calling for repentance, people would always treat me with a quiet respect.  They would move uncouth conversation away from me citing, ‘Amanda is not the kind of person who would enjoy this conversation’, or ask me questions regarding differences that were happening, ‘Amanda usually knows these things…’  The printing room became my unofficial counselling room. I think it was important for me follow the virtues.  Confrontations are difficult for me and of course on a building site there are many of these.  Calling on the Lord’s help was a second nature (I took refuge in the fact that ‘if your brother does not answer when you knock, persistence will make him’, hopefully our Lord would hear yet another cry for wisdom).  I would take time with decision making so I could weigh up the actual issues and resolutions.  Design was often accompanied by the rosary on my head phones, it allowed a peaceful place to start and thought outside of the somewhat extravagant designs requested.  I was supportive of my boss and made it a point to only speak positively of him.  Coming to him from a position in my own mind of always speaking well of him, I found I did not carry that anger or frustration into the conversations that colleagues did, which made for a better chats. 

GM: How do you gauge the impact that working has on your family or personal life? Do you take any steps to minimize negative results? What are the positive results?

Initially working was great.  The extra money was helpful to cover bills.  I was happy – I was using my ‘grey matter’ and positive feedback grew my self confidence.  It wasn’t long before I found things getting a little stressful and most of it hinged around me not sleeping too well.  I would fit paid work in during the day and ‘housework’ in during the evening…not a good combo.  My health suffered which in turn meant the family struggled.  I felt conflicted, all women work, don’t they? I mean this is the very first question you are asked…’where do you work?’ almost like we are defined by our job.  Other families are coping, what’s wrong with me? 
The answer was my selfishness!

I had a vision of my children growing up as good stewards of God’s creation, yet they were passionless.  They were not on board with the programme of ‘working’.  For me the only choice was to leave work and sort out my family.    

GM: Do you have a favourite scripture verse regarding work?

Ironically yes – “And Mary kept all these things in her heart”
Often there are days you go to work and you feel less than happy to be there for a number of reasons pressures from home, relatives or friends.  It is not the time or place to complain about what is happening at work.  These things must be kept in your heart from where constant prayer is offered up for those intentions.


GM: John Paul II said that ‘labour enters into the work of salvation’ – how does that apply to you?

To walk in to work with a smile and positive calmness is a witness in itself to God.  I believe when people see how you deal with hardships and trials in your life, that they come to question and express ‘I want what they have…’.  We cannot bring people to God as it were until we first befriend them.  To befriend does not mean to agree with all they do.  Having a strong quiet presence allows what you do speak to have more impact.  I am a believer in praying for those in charge (managers, team leaders, the board, teachers etc) – that is bringing salvation.  A person can be a wonderful witness to the goodness of our Lord if they live their virtues in the workplace.  The degree to which this is difficult can become a prayer in itself.

GM: What do you believe to be the human value of your work?

My father had many sayings he would constantly repeat to us.  By far his most ‘famous’, aside from ‘…this corner is reeeally dangerous so you have to slow right down…’ was ‘DO SOMETHING YOU HATE:  IT BUILDS CHARACTER’.  This is what I see work as being.  A character building journey.  It won’t all be roses but through the fire the phoenix will arise, the iron must be melted in a furnace before it can be moulded.     

GM: What makes you aware that your work has significance in God the Father’s eyes?

Feedback was not a common occurrence.  Usually a good job was met with silence, and not so good job was met with a question, ‘why did this happen?’.  The lack of feedback in a gratitude driven society was noticeable.  In the end, that’s what I was grateful for.  It meant I stayed focussed on what God thought of the work I did.  On my walk home in the afternoon I would think back on the day recounting positives and where I needed to try harder.  I believe in relationships, in the interactions we have with others as being positive, in understanding my colleagues.  I knew in my heart that my work interactions were the significant part of working, the conversations where I could questions peoples views and provide support for those facing hardships were important. Making people matter by hearing their story was important.  Faith and good works are the key to entering Heaven, good works to be done can be found everywhere, including in places of employment this is what makes work significant in God’s eyes.    

GM: How does your relationship with Jesus Christ affect your work?

I believe that Jesus opens doors for us to make a difference. He can turn not so good days around into praises for Him.  The number of times I have asked God for help in certain situations, the number of times I ‘did what Jesus would do’ and sought advice from His example is countless.  My relationship with Jesus is at the heart of all I try to do.  It means that I can focus on doing a good job for His glory.  It means ‘problems’ are challenges that I know He believes I can overcome.  It gives me freedom to be me, knowing He has my back. 

GM: Are you aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit as you work?

When I am working outside of my confidence level, I am fully aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit pulsing through me, giving me direction and ability to do what is required.  For this I am very grateful.  The Holy Spirit gives me wings to soar about my abilities and transcend the dissolution that dwelling on my lack of skill to complete tasks so often rears.  He is the quiet whisper that assures me, in the end, no matter how I worry, God’s will, will be done.  I just have to let go.

GM: What advice would you give to mothers considering entering the workforce?

This is a tough question.  One part of me wants to say “do you really need to?” All mothers have different reasons for entering work.  Ensure ‘work’ is not going to be all consuming and that you can remain family focussed.  At the end of the day that is your Vocation – to be a Mum. This MUST come first.  After all, monkey see, monkey do.  The children will grow up to be as we treat them (if we are never home, they will not learn the importance of family.  We can teach them through catechism but where is the example?).  Never underestimate your role as a Mum – it is the backbone of society, the foundation of the next generation, the corner stone for all that is to come…


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