Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Dear Sugar: Jamie Ivey, on Adoption, Race, Nosy Strangers, and Doing It All

Dear Sugar,

I'm just a *tad* obsessed with today's guest.  Jamie Ivey is a mom-by-adoption and birth, a speaker and writer, a podcast hostess (with the mostest---couldn't help myself!), wife, and woman of faith.  Her commitment to hospitality, loving Jesus and people, and empowering fellow women is incredibly inspiring.  Let's get at it:     

Rachel:  GIRL!  You do so many things.  You have a fabulous podcast called The Happy Hour, you write, you speak, you travel, and you host incredible female-empowering events.  Oh, and you're a wife and mom by birth and adoption.  Many of us are like you in that we have a career, a family, and passions and talents.  And we feel SO much pressure to do it all.   Do you have a secret you can share with us?  I mean really, how do you do it:  keep up with your kids, keep your marriage hot, and still pursue your career?   

Jamie:  I’m most certain that there’s no secret sauce to doing it all. In fact, I’m also most certain that there is no such thing as doing it all! A few years ago I took an inventory of all the things I was saying yes to, and it was overwhelming. I was saying yes to lots of things, but not doing any of them well. I decided then that for the next year I would only say yes to things that were under 4 certain categories. It was a great indicator of how sometimes we have to say no to things so that we can do well the things we do say yes to.

I’m also intentional with the things that matter the most to me – my people. I will always choose a family night at home over a PTA meeting. I will always choose a date night with my man over an early bedtime. I will always choose watching my kids do their thing at school over a girl’s night out. So in reality I don’t do it all, I just really try and focus on the things that matter to me.

The myth is that anyone can do it all. There’s no such thing. I always say that when I’m mothering my kids, or out on a date tending to my marriage I am not working in that moment. When I’m on the road working, or at an event for my podcast I’m not mothering in that moment. Whatever moment I’m in, I focus on doing that the best that I can. Most days from 4-9 it’s all about mothering, and from 8-3 all about working. (Key word there is “most” – I’m still learning this too friends!)

Rachel:  At least once a week, a random stranger stops me and my four babies in the store, at the park, etc. to ask a question about adoption.  Your family's story, like mine, includes transracial adoption, and transracial adoption is not only obvious, but also fascinating to the public.  Now that your children are older, do they answer strangers' questions?  Do they prefer you answer?  How do you handle the occasional interrogation?  What do you think families new to adoption should consider before responding to strangers?  (Like, what do you wish you knew THEN that you know now?)   

Jamie:  When my kids were younger I used to take offense to any question about how my family looked different. Now I am much more interested in sharing the beauty of our family than being offended these days. Most people don’t ask questions in front of my kids anymore since they realize that my kids are old enough to answer. As a family we talk about these questions as they come towards me, and even role play some in how to answer questions that might come from friends and their parents.

My advice to parents who are just beginning this journey into their family that is formed different than most families, and looks different than those around you, is to always look for ways that you can speak positive messages about your family and educate while doing so. For example, when someone asks me if I know my kids real mom I simply answer this way, Oh yes, we do know his birth mom, and have a great relationship with her. You see, I didn’t make them feel stupid, and I didn’t get offended when they assumed I wasn’t his real mom, but yet I answered in a positive way, and educated the person along the way. 

Rachel:  When I was onThe Happy Hour podcast, we talked about raising our kids and their privacy, especially for adoptees.  Now that your kids are a bit older, what do you see as the pros and cons of sharing your children with the world via social media: either a story, a picture, or both?  What rules or guidelines do you have in place so that you are respectful of your kids while still being open with your readers?

Jamie:  When my kids were younger I shared all the stories – potty training, first rides on a train, sick in the middle of the night, first day of kindergarten, all of the things! Now that my kids are older and have an opinion on such things I share a lot less with the world. Most times if you see a photo of one of my kids on social media, I have asked them if I could share that photo and/or that particular story. Sharing my family with the world has been such a positive thing. It’s a great way for people to see a normal family that just looks different than they may be used to. It helps people see adoption in a positive light as well.  I now look at things through this lens – would it be okay for my kids to see this photo of them, or read this caption about them in 10 years? If it’s a no, then I don’t post. If it’s a yes, then go right ahead.

Rachel:  Let's talk about being a woman of faith and today's political and racial climate.  Personally, and I know some of my readers feel the same, I feel stuck and frustrated. There are so many people who are not WOKE to the realities people of color, women, immigrants, people with special needs, etc. face.  And sadly, many of those who turn a blind eye are fellow Christians who are in positions of political power.  Because of this, I think many who aren't Christians tend to turn away from even considering the redemptive love of Jesus.  Those of us who GET IT are working extra hard to show the world that we DO care and that ALL people matter to Jesus.  Where do you stand on this?  What insight or encouragement can you offer those who are WOKE women of faith and are struggling today? 

For all of you women that are WOKE, keep it up! I think one of the biggest hinderances we can feel is that our reach isn’t big enough, or our influence isn’t wide enough, or our followers aren’t grand enough and therefore we won’t make a difference with what we are saying. I say that is a lie. For many generations before us they made huge impacts with the gospel and the love of Jesus and not a one of them had an Instagram account, or email list of thousands.

We need to be women who are tending to the people that God has put in front of us. For most of us, that’s the people in our homes – whether that be children, parents, or roommates. For some of us, it’s the online community that listens to our voice, and for the even less of us, it’s the audiences that listen to our voices at events.

The lie that will soften your voice is that no one is listening to you. Friends, you have people listening to you, so tell them what you know to be truth about the gospel and God’s love for them. Then they will tell and the ripple effect will be massive.

Don’t let the lie of “I have no one listening” to cause you to be ineffective. God has given you a voice, use it for his truths, and speak those to the people around you.

Rachel:  You have a book coming out in January.  Can you give us a sneak preview?  (I cannot wait to read it, and I don't even know what it's about!)  What can we expect from a book by Jamie Ivey?  

Jamie:  Ah, yes my book! It still seems super surreal to type those words – my book. IF YOU ONLY KNEW releases in January of 2018 and I’m beyond excited to share this story with anyone that will read it! For many years, I was scared and ashamed to admit how much I had struggled in the past. I made bad choices, turned my back on God, and then when I finally gave my life to Him, I worried that I was too much of a mess to be used by Him. Finally, I began believing what He said about me, and it changed my whole life. That’s what this book is about!

I’m excited about this message, and it is humbling that I get to put a book out with my words inside of it and my name on the cover. I still think I’ll believe it when I see it on the shelves of the bookstore! So, go buy it so I know it’s really happening!! ;)

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