Defining A Leading Lady – STRENGTH

 

In college I majored in communications. In all of my studies, there was a repeating theme: give the facts, be honest, but write and speak from a personal place of vulnerability. People connect with authenticity. Today, I’m going to be really honest and very vulnerable.

My husband is currently working four to five days a week in Atlanta, while I manage our household and the inner workings of a life with four children. I also write and consult on the side. We’re finalizing the adoption of our fourth child. My daughter is a competitive dancer (Yes, I’m a dance mom. No, dance moms are not as crazy as television portrays them to be). My boys are active in spring sports, and we’re preparing to move states in two months. My life is hectic on a normal day. This week it was another level, code RED. I already had a few extra errands and appointments when two of my four children fell ill with the flu AND strep throat.

As I sit here, in the parking lot of the dance studio, I’m tired from lack of sleep due to administering meds all hours of the night. I have a headache…again from lack of sleep. I’m worried about the health of my kids, their missed school work, and I’m running out of time in this day to complete all my errands. I have my daughter’s dance competition to pack for this weekend. I really need to start spring-cleaning so we can begin to show the house, and I just received a Powerschool notice that my adopted son is, once again, failing math. I’m wondering if I have what it takes to parent a child that has endured significant abuse, neglect, and starvation, and on top of everything, I’m behind on laundry. I HATE being behind on laundry. The weight of my circumstance FEELS overwhelmingly heavy, but if I allow my FEELS to strip the validity of my KNOWS, I’m setting myself up for defeat. Let me explain.

I FEEL tired. I FEEL like I can’t go on. I FEEL like I’m failing as a mother. I FEEL unproductive. I FEEL lonely and isolated.

I KNOW the Lord is my strength. I KNOW He has given me everything I need to face this day. I KNOW He created within me a mother’s intuition. I KNOW He has given me a grand purpose. I KNOW He has placed Godly influences around me to lean on for support when life gets tough.

Feelings are not truth. When I go to scripture, I find clear direction when I’m weary. “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” 1 Chronicles 16:11 (NIV) In my prayer time this morning, I felt a blanket of peace settle over me. God was saying, “I’m here. My strength is yours. You’ve got this.” I don’t know if God speaks in modern-day vernacular, but it’s what I heard, what I experienced. As I mulled the words over in my mind, I came to a conclusion. Strength isn’t a grand show of brawn or might. Sometimes strength is simply moving forward, taking another step, advancing despite the onslaught of emotions that beat us down. Strength is saying I FEEL one way, but KNOW the truth. Here’s the truth. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NIV). The scripture is clear. Your strength comes from a conscious decision to rely on the maker of heaven and earth. Let’s take a few moments to examine that further.

 

Strength is…DECIDING TO BE OKAY.

Not every circumstance can be changed, not every problem immediately rectified. Sometimes, strength is deciding to look to the heavens, acknowledge your blessings, take a deep breath, and stay the course. I once heard my pastor say, “Your next level may be one praise away.” Change starts with you, with your mindset. When the enemy begins to stir your emotions, tries to make you FEEL inadequate and alone, close your eyes and praise Jesus. Find your steady in the unwavering faithfulness of a God who is always with you.

 

Strength is…DECIDING TO TAKE ACTION.

Sometimes, a situation is out of our control. Other times, there are actions we can take to improve our circumstances. I’m overwhelmed in this season with housework and yard work. I can choose to forgo that new pair of shoes I’ve had my eye on and reallocate those funds for a little assistance around my house. For you, it may be that you despise the negativity of your work environment. Maybe you should invest in a good set of headphones or ask to switch cubicles. Maybe you’re lonely. Find a small group. Choose to intentionally connect with those in your same season of life. Sometimes strength is deciding, “I can do something about this.”

 

Strength is…DECIDING TO SEEK HELP.

Life is messy. Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes you find yourself in a maze of emotions and every turn leads to a dead end. Maybe you’ve experienced the death of someone dear to you, or even the death of a life-long dream. Maybe someone you loved walked away and left you feeling inadequate and vulnerable, or maybe it’s a million things piling up. Seeking guidance and support is also a sign of strength. It shows you are self-aware enough to know a breaking point is near. Sometimes strength is saying, “I can’t overcome this on my own, but I know God wants more for me and I’m going to choose to share my burden and find unity in the body of Christ.”

Just because you don’t FEEL strong, doesn’t mean you aren’t equipped with the strength of a higher power. “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”  Psalm 18:32-34 (NIV)

A Leading Lady decides to be strong. She decides to be okay, to take action, and to seek help when she needs it. You may not FEEL capable, but you KNOW a God who makes you strong. Advance, move forward, take another step and be encouraged you are never alone and your backup will never fail you.

Join us again next week here at FamilyMinistry.Church as we continue to define a Leading Lady.

 

Jess Bealer

 

Defining A Leading Lady – KINDNESS

 

My life had just been turned upside down. Frank’s company had relocated us to the Charlotte area. I had never lived beyond the city lines of my tiny East Tennessee town. I had three small children, knew no one, and survived solely on GPS. Frank traveled extensively, and I found myself alone and overwhelmed most days. I was still trying to lose excess baby weight and spent most days in the gym. One morning I pushed myself a little too far. I was doing some resistance training and found myself lightheaded and seeing stars. I woke up minutes later on my back staring at the drop ceiling of the YMCA, an oxygen mask held to my face. Frank was several states away, my kids were checked into childwatch, and I had no way to even get home. The staff at the YMCA checked my emergency contact information and contacted Frank. He called a new acquaintance we had recently made at church. She dropped what she was doing and came to my rescue. One hour later, her and her husband dropped me, my kids, and my car at my house. They picked up lunch on the way, and even helped put my toddler down for her nap. When they left my house, I was smiling, despite the rough start to my day.

This one small act of kindness was a defining moment in my life. Until then, I was unsure I was cut out for “big city life.” I was experiencing serious doubt about my solo parenting skills, and I felt isolated and apprehensive. It wasn’t until I realized I wasn’t alone, I had a tribe of people ready and willing to love and support me, that I finally felt at home and able to smoothly transition into the next season of my life. That next season would include volunteering in the children’s ministry at Elevation Church. That season led to the next one, in which both Frank and I took staff positions and began to develop an innovative strategy for family ministry that would soon receive worldwide recognition. And it all started on the floor of the local YMCA when a Christian man and woman came to my rescue.

If I were to ask, “Who is your closest friend? What do you admire most about them?” I guarantee in your assessment, you would include the descriptors, loving and kind. Benevolence is so often lost in today’s culture and when you meet someone who is a reflection of the love of Christ, not only does it stand out, but it draws you in. Love and kindness soothe, console, encourage, and bring hope. In 1 Corinthians 9:22 NIV, Paul says, “To the weak I became weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Paul is trying to teach us that the love of Christ is most often acknowledged and accepted by those you are ministering to when a relationship is first established. More often than not, relationships begin with a kind word or a loving act. As Leading Ladies we must steward the trust others have placed in us. We must act in a way that takes into consideration the interests of those around us. The greatest kindness we can offer is to lead from a place of love.

Your challenge this week, as a Leading Lady, is to open your heart and your eyes to the needs of those around you. Welcome the opportunity to say hello to the quite cashier at the grocery store. Offer your assistance to the overwhelmed mother struggling to load her minivan. Make time for heartfelt conversations with those you lead. Compliment a coworker on her new shoes or hairstyle. You never know when you might be the vehicle that propels someone into the next season or brings a smile when it seems all hope is lost.

Join me again next week as we continue to Define A Leading Lady or read previous posts here.

 

Jess

Defining a Leading Lady – FAITH

By Jess Bealer

Let’s be clear. As passionately as I feel that FAITH is a requirement for a Leading Lady, I feel equally as unqualified to suggest I set an example for those to follow.

In Matthew 17:20 Jesus explains, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

FAITH the size of a mustard seed? Have you seen a mustard seed? Hold it in the palm of your hand and you’ll barely be able to distinguish it from the flesh of your palm. It’s microscopic. The fact that I’ve never moved a mountain, not a single tree or even a pebble, is telling. Yet, I’ve seen God move despite my lack of FAITH. I’ve felt his comforting presence when waves of doubt threatened to capsize. God has never been and will never be intimidated by my uncertainty. He can and will work despite me. However, my trust in Him facilitates strength, endurance, and opportunity. Here are a few examples from my own life.

At 13 years old, my dad was told he had cancer and given a terminal diagnosis of eight months. My family was in tears, devastated by the weight of such horrific news. Three days later, I had an experience with God that forever changed me and redefined what it meant to have FAITH. I was getting ready for school, curling my hair, when God audibly spoke to me. He said, “Your dad will live, just trust in me.” I announced it to my family and believed wholeheartedly the words God spoke to me. 22 years later, my dad still lives. He stands in the pulpit and ministers to families each Sunday.

At 29 years old, my husband looked at me and said, “I know you don’t feel ready, but God has chosen us for a life of ministry.” I remember physically shaking my head and saying, “Are you sure? I just don’t know if I’m cut out for it?” Despite my hesitation, I obeyed God’s calling. Over the next five and a half years, God would use me to personally lead more than 200 children to Jesus and launch 15 Elevation locations.

At 35 years old, the Holy Spirit, once again, began to urge my husband and I to take a step of FAITH and go in a direction we never could have imagined or anticipated. It hasn’t been easy, but God is taking us on a journey that, no doubt, will conclude with his exaltation and my astonishment. That’s just how God works. His plans are always bigger and better than my own.

We all face seasons that are more difficult than others. When this happens, my FAITH tends to ebb and flow. I don’t always get it right. So many times I’ve tried to exert control over a situation I should have placed into the hands of a Savior who’s never failed me. Just like the song I sang in Sunday School as a child, “He’s still working on me, to make me what I ought to be.” I believe that FAITH is nothing more and nothing less than a surrendering to God’s will. Trusting He has a plan and a purpose that while unseen, is also unfailing and true. FAITH is a journey that lasts a lifetime, and while it may be frightening at times, we can find reassurance by recalling God’s past faithfulness in our lives. When we remember the miracles he’s performed on our behalf, we are able to anticipate the blessings and find peace in His promises.

Becoming a Leading Lady of FAITH means we do what only we can do, trust and obey, and God will do what only He can do, part the Red Sea and gift us with the promised land. It’s not always a grand gesture on our part. It’s more often a listening ear, a willing spirit, and a step in the right direction.

Check back here, at FamilyMinistry.Church, for additional Defining a Leading Lady articles in the upcoming days.

Defining a Leading Lady – CLARITY

 

A few years ago when preparing to launch a new portable location I asked my intern to wipe down the school’s water fountains. She smiled and nodded, but sighed as she walked away. A little later in the day as we were unloading supplies I asked, “Did I upset you earlier?” She explained how sometimes she felt insulted because I dumbed things down, shared too many details, and had a tendency to repeat myself. I asked for an example and she laughed and said, “You told me, in detail, how to wipe down the water fountains, explained what happened the last time you asked someone to wipe down the water fountains and they did it wrong, and you’ve reminded me about six times today to wipe down the water fountains. I got the message loud and clear, you want the water fountains to be clean.” I cringed and quickly apologized. I thought I was bringing clarity when in reality I was only creating frustration.

Over the years, I’ve learned clarity comes when you care enough about those you are communicating with to make a conscious effort to be cautious, clever and brief. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

Be CAUTIOUS

As a child and teen my dad would say, “Just because it can be said, doesn’t mean it should be.” He taught me that before you speak you should run it through a filter. Ask yourself these three questions.

Is it TRUE?

It has to be absolute, not just partially true, not an opinion that could and most likely will be subjective, but fully truthful.

Is it KIND?

Ask yourself, would you like for someone to say this to you or about you? If not, keep your mouth shut.

Is it NECESSARY?

So much of what we say is superfluous. It’s unneeded or useless. When we say too much, we often find ourselves regretting what was only meant to serve as a momentarily entertaining conversation.

Clarity starts with caution. Voicing the wrong sentiment or saying too much altogether can muddy the conversation and cause you to sidetrack. Use discretion when you speak. Don’t waste the time or relational equity focusing on nonessentials.

Be CLEVER

I’m not advocating for you to speak in rhyme or for every word out of your mouth to be a pun or parody, but in most circumstances there is a way to create innovative language that is also memorable.

Here are some examples:

We want to engage kids and empower families.

This explains the priorities by narrowing the scope and limiting the distractions created by highlighting everything.

We don’t “have to,” we “get to.”

This expounds on the mindset of servitude without the ten-minute speech.

Create Wow Moments.

We repeated this to volunteers frequently to remind them to go above and beyond when serving families.

The most effective form of communication is unforgettable and implicit. Say what needs to be said, but find sticky ways to get your message across.

Be BRIEF

I distinctly remember a British Literature class I took in college. Every day I would sit in the front row and attempt to focus and stay awake. The professor was highly intelligent, extremely knowledgeable, and immensely boring. It wasn’t because the subject matter was uninteresting; it was because my professor spent half the day chasing proverbial rabbit trails. She would start with Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales and within a few minutes we were listening to her recount her recent trip to England. By the end of the hour, most in the class were confused, bored and frustrated because it meant we were going to spend hours in the text self teaching material that should have been explained to us.

We’ve all sat through a lecture, a speech, or a class and thought, “Why doesn’t he get to the point?” or “How does she not realize no one is paying attention?” Yet, most of us have the unfortunate tendency to over share the personal when only the pertinent is necessary. Personal examples, if relevant, can help to illustrate a point but only if they are concise and draw direct correlations from an intangible thought to a concrete experience.

Don’t assume your audience knows anything, but say only as much as is necessary to clearly explain the point. In most cases, truth is straightforward and simple. Your speech should be as well.

The next time you find yourself leading a team meeting or preparing for a difficult conversation ask yourself how you can be more cautious, clever and brief.

Join us again next week on FamilyMinistry.Church as we continue to define what it means to be a Leading Lady in ministry.

Jess

The Defining Characteristic of a Leading Lady

 

Have you ever looked at the women around you and wished you could be more like them? I’m not necessarily talking about envy, just admiration and a desire to have more of one characteristic or another. I have a friend, a mom of four, who always has the best perspective when it comes to parenting. Another woman I worked with for years was the hardest working individual I had ever met. My own mother sets an example for all of us in patience and compassion, and I have yet another friend whose creative genius is unparalleled.

I have a genuine desire to be a better mom, to work hard but also show patience and compassion to those around me. And even though my artistic ability is limited to drawing Christmas trees and butterflies, I still want to operate in ministry from a place of creativity and innovation. I could sigh and wish “if only” or I can decide to become the best version of me. Yes, God gave me a defined skill set, but He also gave me the capacity to learn and grow.

I believe a Leading Lady in ministry isn’t defined by age or title, it’s defined by willingness. Are you willing to grow and learn? Are you willing to pick up a book in those rare moments of unscheduled bliss and commit to becoming the best version of yourself? Are you willing to switch out your favorite playlist for a leadership podcast a few mornings a week? Are you able to receive critique and use it to construct? Do you shy away from change or are you consistently looking for new ways to advance your ministry? Do you strive to stay current with upcoming trends or do you poke fun at your own expense because you are unwilling to invest time into that which is unknown and uncomfortable?

A Leading Lady is only leading when she is growing. Click To Tweet

When she stops growing her influence will begin to diminish, and I refuse to believe God’s will is for us to be less influential.  He never wants to leave you or I where we are…even if where we are is pretty great. He desires for us to grow closer to Him and then lead others into a closer relationship with Him.

Whether your past is riddled with failure and frustration, or you’ve established a reputation for consistency and capability, your willingness to grow, learn, change, and adapt will determine your success as a Leading Lady in the future.

Here are several questions we can ask ourselves to help us measure our WILLINGNESS to grow and learn:

What was the last book I read (or listened to) to completion? What did I learn from it? How did I implement those teachings into my life?

What was my response to the last critique (either personal or within the realm of ministry) I received? Did I brush it off or consider its validity?

How comfortable am I carrying on a conversation with anyone outside of my generation? Have I taken the time to learn what matters to them? Have I stepped outside my comfort zone and inquired of someone with a drastically different perspective than my own?

Have I allowed the comforting nature of routine to kidnap my once curious spirit and nimble approach to ministry?

Although I believe WILLINGNESS is the starting point, I’ve also learned that becoming a Leading Lady takes love, patience, kindness, discipline, clarity, strength, endurance, compassion, empathy, and about a dozen other traits that depending on what day of the week we cross paths, I may or may not exhibit. However if we, as women, want to unlock the untold potential that God has placed inside of us, we have to start somewhere. I hope you will join me over the next few months here on FamilyMinistry.Church as we continue to discover what it takes to become a Leading Lady in ministry.

 

Jess Bealer