When was the last time you slowed down and really enjoyed something? For many women, this is a luxury we feel we said goodbye to back in our school years! So how do we invite that joyfulness back into our lives in the midst of everything else we’re trying to juggle? Margaret Elizabeth McKissack, wife, mother, and lone female member of the leadership team at Buckner International, talks about staying true to her passions while putting faith first, and how she manages to add enjoyment into her life.
4word: As a working mom, do you ever struggle to find enjoyment in your life? Are there certain things you do to invite joy into not only your life, but your family’s, too?
Margaret Elizabeth: As you read this interview, you’ll quickly pick up on the fact that my life is busy! It is easy to feel weighed down by packed schedules, long to-do lists, and full inboxes. One of my greatest desires is to live in the moment and experience joy in all that I do. I can only find find true joy day-to-day if I ask God to order my steps and lift up the things that are most important in my life and in my schedule. I constantly fight against being over-scheduled or over-planned. I also ask God to surprise me with the “un-planned.” Setting priorities and staying organized is key. Learning to say “no” is also critical. I try not to live by such a rigid calendar and strive to build out a schedule that allows for spontaneity. Every week looks so different for our family due to work and personal schedules. We try to sit down on the weekends and walk through the week to understand how we will be spending our time individually and as a family. We talk about how to simplify and how to help each other get through the week. It’s a team effort! We depend on each other, family and friends to manage all of life’s activities, and I feel so blessed by the support of my loved ones.
4word: How does working at Buckner International help you further your personal mission and passion for helping families in need?
Margaret Elizabeth: When I was a sophomore in college, my mom asked me to join her on a mission trip to Guatemala through Buckner International. The purpose of the trip was to work in a government orphanage for girls. I quickly answered, “Yes!” I was studying Latin American Studies and Business in school and knew this experience would allow me to practice my Spanish and see the world in a new way. Little did I know, God would use this trip to change my world. My eyes were immediately opened to the needs of children who could not grow up in a safe, healthy, and loving family such as the one that God had provided to me. On a second trip, I befriended a girl who lived in the orphanage as part of a witness protection program; her boyfriend was the leader of one of the largest gangs in Guatemala. That's when I knew I had to equip myself to be a voice for children and youth.
During nearly seven years with Buckner, I have served in various roles, and today, I work alongside our President and CEO, Dr. Albert Reyes, and six other incredible executive leaders who are taking Buckner to the next chapter in its history of serving the most vulnerable people in the world. As Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives, I focus on a variety of projects including corporate strategic planning, board and donor relations, fundraising, public relations, and talent and development.
4word: As the lone woman on Buckner's leadership team, have you dealt with any work-life balance struggles as a working mom? Is your leadership role allowing you to make positive changes for women in your workplace?
Margaret Elizabeth: I began working in my current role exactly three months before the arrival of my first child. When our CEO approached me about this position, I was amazed by the timing of this offer! I was about to begin the greatest journey of my life in becoming a mom when I was presented with the opportunity to take on new challenges and responsibilities within my organization. I was very curious about how to achieve work-life balance in this new phase of life and knew there would be much to learn about being a mom and a senior leader. After praying about this offer, I was exhilarated by the fact that this new opportunity was clearly in God’s timing. My boss, my team, and my organization have supported me through this past year during transition into new roles as a mom and as Senior Advisor.
I am in a unique position as I sit among the Executive Leadership of six men. I feel I offer a fresh and unique perspective to many issues, and because I am female, my work style is markedly different than my peers, allowing us to accomplish tasks in various methods.
4word: Putting God first in everything is one of your core "rules" for your life. How has putting faith first helped you?
Margaret Elizabeth: For a working mom and wife, the days can feel overwhelming; how will it all get done?! I must prioritize my relationship with God over all else. Although I am not always successful, I work to make it a practice to spend morning time in the Word and in prayer. This time with the Lord centers me for the day and helps me to focus on Him first, rather than my to-do list. I truly find that God gives me an order for my day and a peace about how to tackle the challenges and tasks ahead of me. He gives me energy to care for my family and to attack each project facing me. I constantly pray for His wisdom and creativity to assist me in all areas of my life. As I drive home from work, I pray to refocus my attention and receive a new energy to have very intentional time with my daughter and husband. While I am sometimes sad that I have few awake hours with my daughter during weekdays, I pray that I will be ever-present with her during that time and on the weekends and just soak up the amazing miracle of this life growing before my eyes.
Has Margaret Elizabeth’s story inspired you to stay true to your passions and prioritize God over everything else? We’d love to hear how! Share your thoughts in the comments below, and join us in thanking Margaret Elizabeth for talking with us!
Margaret Elizabeth McKissack serves as Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the President and CEO of Buckner International where she leads corporate strategic planning, board and donor relations, fundraising, public relations, and talent and development efforts. Margaret Elizabeth also serves as Campaign Director for the Shining Hope Dallas Campaign to expand Buckner’s Dallas ministries for children and families. Prior to her work in the CEO’s office, Margaret Elizabeth led program development and facilitated strategic collaborations with governments, corporations, non-profits, and universities. Margaret Elizabeth joined Buckner in 2010 to create the organization’s first Government Relations department to partner with the United States and international governments to provide best practices for the care of orphans, vulnerable children and families around the world. Margaret Elizabeth earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American and Iberian Studies with a minor in Business Administration from the University of Richmond; she earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. She and her husband Michael have one daughter and are excited to meet their second in August 2017!