Getting married is a lot about creating a new family with your spouse. A lot, but not all. It’s also about joining one (or more) existing families; families with unique history and traditions and cultures. Becoming part of a new family can be a great gift, but there are bound to be some growing pains. Both the joys and struggles of that process are highlighted around the holidays.
A few weeks ago, Melody shared how she wants to enable her children to feel the joy of the holidays, even if it means letting go of some of their old family traditions. I also asked my friend Kara for her perspective on the matter. Kara is married with two young children. At this stage in her life, she and her husband Mark want to establish some of their own holiday traditions, but they sometimes run into trouble with the in-laws on both sides. Kara and Mark love and respect their extended families; they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but they do want a chance to establish their own “holiday style.”
With that in mind, here are three ideas Kara shared about how she and her husband are approaching the holidays this year:
- Talk about it before hand – Even if we’re at the other one’s family for the holiday, what needs to happen for the other one to feel like it’s a real holiday? For example, what needs to be on the table for Thanksgiving dinner for it to really be Thanksgiving? In my family, the traditional pies were pumpkin, mincemeat, and apple. That’s what was on the table this year when we celebrated with my family. But it turns out blueberry was the standard Thanksgiving pie in my husband’s family. It’s a small thing to do to make a blueberry pie, but it makes Thanksgiving feel like Thanksgiving for him. Discuss things like when you go to church (midnight Mass? Christmas morning?), what meals you make, when you exchange gifts, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to set boundaries, and set them early – We like to be with our extended family. But to have space to establish our own family traditions, we need to have time to ourselves. This year we’re drawing some lines around our nuclear family time and our extended family time, and we’re telling our family about it in advance. This way – they can plan, and we know we have some protected time alone.
- Look for ways to compromise – be honest with your family when something matters to you, but also recognize when something doesn’t matter to you. If you don’t care what time presents are opened, give in to the family that likes to open them after breakfast, even if you’ve always done it before breakfast (or at 6am, like my family growing up). That way, you’re really only asking them to compromise when something is important enough to you (like burning a Yule log every year).
A little communication can go a long way towards making everyone feel like their opinions are important.
Are you experiencing “family growing pains” of your own? What’s your approach to family traditions?
December is here, and with it comes chilly temperatures, holiday festivities, and time with family and friends. Take a mini break from it all and check out our favorites from the week!
Video of the Week
Acapella group Pentatonix breathes new life into a Christmas classic.
A Pinterest Find
Cookies and Christmas are pretty much synonymous, so we couldn’t wait to share this round-up of best Christmas cookie recipes!
Women as leaders in the workplace- it’s one of our favorite topics at 4word! We believe in you, and the unique talents that God has gifted you with. You can absolutely impact the kingdom through your chosen profession! This week we spoke with Marsha Clark, of Marsha Clark and Associates, a training and consulting firm in Frisco, TX. Marsha has dedicated much of her career to helping women succeed. We think you will find her advice about women in leadership helpful and inspiring.
4word: When it comes to women in leadership, studies and statistics reveal that there is a significant gap compared to their male colleagues. Can you offer some insight into this data?
Marsha: Men tend to see the world as a hierarchy – think of a sports analogy: coach, start player, A-team, B-team, Benchwarmers. Women tend to see the world as a flat field – as Dr. Pat Heim describes it: Power Dead Even. These two lenses influence the way we view leadership (e.g., Male = directive vs. Female = collaborative), relationships (e.g., Male = loyalty comes and goes vs. Female = if you’re my friend, you’re my friend forever), and even what it means to be a good team player (e.g., Male = playing my role in the hierarchy and obeying the coach without question vs. Female = pitching in and doing whatever it takes to get the job done). This is just to name a few.
4word: What are some of women’s greatest obstacles to assuming leadership in the workplace? How can we overcome them?
Marsha: There are three big ones that come to mind:
Most HR-related processes (performance management, succession planning, etc.) claim to focus on the results. Both men and women get results; however, how they go about achieving the results can be very different. In fact, many of the HR-related processes focus not only on what you achieve but also how you achieve it. Organizations must be clear to focus on the ‘what’ and allow variances for ‘how’ results are achieved to ensure that women’s results are not unconsciously diminished.
Women are less likely to ask for what they want or what they need. We display behaviors like choosing not to ask at all, making a more modest offer and conceding more rapidly. Rest assured, women will ask on behalf of others! Where we often fail to ask is for ourselves – taking on significant responsibilities without asking for compensation or more senior titles, equal pay in our starting salaries, taking on the work of poor-performing employee rather than holding them accountable.
Women often struggle with setting and maintaining boundaries. We say ‘yes’ when we wish we had said ‘no’. We take on projects that require us to stay at the office longer rather than honoring our personal commitment to be home by 6:00 PM.
We don’t often get the recognition we deserve for the results that we achieve. The research shows that women deflect praise. When something goes right, we give everyone else credit or minimize the achievement. When something goes wrong, we point inward and blame ourselves. Men do exactly the opposite. As a result, we often hold the belief that if we work really hard, ‘they’ will notice and offer the praise, the promotion, the reward – in fact, that’s a myth. I offer women this little equation: Results + Recognition = Influence. By mathematical principles, if we don’t get the recognition we deserve, we minimize our influence. I suggest that women put themselves back into the story. When complimented say something like, “I am proud of the leadership I provided to Project XYZ, and I had a great team to work with.” I call it the “(I + We)” Principle. We take nothing away from our great teams when we also acknowledge our own part in it. Here is the learning point: If we take ourselves out of the story, we’re giving everyone else permission to do the same.
In answering this question, three out of the four bullets are things that women can do to make some fundamental shifts in our opportunities. I think when we begin to play to our strengths, ask for what we want and need, and acknowledge our achievements – in a humble and servant leadership kind of way – we can begin to shift the organizational culture as well.
4word: What qualities need to be developed before a woman will be seen as a leader?
Marsha: The first point that I would emphasize is women being authentic leaders. There is no cookie-cutter approach to being a successful leader. The more traditional list of competencies would be something like strategic thinker, good communicator, have integrity, build strong teams, and develop strong relationships. Those are all important, AND they can be displayed in a wide variety of ways – while also playing to our strengths. Know what you do well and surround yourself with people who have complementing strengths.
4word: Is there anything else that you would like to add about women in leadership?
Marsha: Women are great leaders!! We have demonstrated repeatedly that we can achieve results, build strong internal and client relationships, and that we can build and lead strong teams. I see things changing as I travel the world delivering women’s leadership programs. We have to keep challenging the status quo and supporting each other.
Have you faced any of these obstacles at your workplace? Let us know how you handled them! Your story will inspire and encourage other women in similar situations.
As a professional Christian woman who started 4word to minister specifically to professional Christian women, the most likely scope of my mentorship is pretty clear. Over the past few years though, I’ve had the unique experience of mentoring someone whose life looks almost nothing like mine. Nevertheless, I felt God’s call to be a part of this young man’s life, and the experience has enriched mine (and his too I hope) beyond belief.
I’m talking about Lopez Lomong. My male, South-Sudanese, professional athlete mentee.
I met Lopez in February of 2011, when we were both asked to speak at the Mentor’s Forum, a mentoring group for young professional men in Portland, Oregon. As Lopez shared his shocking and captivating life story (involving war, kidnapping, escape, and immigration), I felt God moving me to learn more about him. So I took a cautious first step and invited him and a friend to lunch the next week.
During lunch, Lopez shared that he had a vision of bringing hope to Southern Sudan. Lopez felt strongly that this was God’s calling for him, but he didn’t know how God would make it happen. For me it was a light-bulb moment. One of my closest friends from business school is Kevin Jenkins, CEO of World Vision International, a Christian relief organization interested in exactly the kind of work Lopez wanted to do.
I knew that God had brought me together with Lopez for a reason. I was able to connect Lopez with World Vision and see them work together to develop 4 South Sudan, a World Vision sponsored program to help provide clean water, health care, education, nutrition, and most importantly hope, to the South Sudanese. Their partnership has flourished. In August of this year, Team World Vision 4SouthSudan raised $500,000 to be used to build water wells in South Sudan.
I’m the first to admit that Lopez and I are an unlikely pair. But experiencing God make that first connection despite our disparate backgrounds gave me confidence to continue to open myself up to God’s work in both of our lives.
Lopez even lived for a short time with my family in Portland, Oregon, and my husband Chris and I had the honor of joining Lopez in celebrating the purchase of his own home and praying with him over it.
When Lopez is asked about his death-defying escape from his captors all those years ago, he likes to say simply that “I survived because God says I matter.” That phrase really sticks with me. For Lopez, everything comes back to that time in his life when, against all odds and by God’s grace alone¸ he survived. No matter how much we do as individuals, no matter how much we plan, God does more, and His plans go beyond our wildest dreams, let alone our comfort zones.
So seek out (or offer) mentorship and guidance and friendship where you can, even if the recipient seems unlikely. Yes, you may have special knowledge to share with or gain from those whose lives look the most like yours. But don’t underestimate God’s ability to work in the most unlikely circumstances.
Are you looking for a mentor? Or, are you feeling called to offer mentorship? Check out 4word’s Mentor Match Program. We are accepting applications for a new class of mentors and mentees now through January 10.
Whether you’re just waking up from your turkey coma or just coming in from your Black Friday adventures, take a moment to relax and browse through our favorites from the past week.
- FOX NEWS CHRISTIAN: Kirsten Powers, a Democratic commentator for Fox News, shares her inspiring testimony of how she went from struggling to believe that God was real to proclaiming herself as an evangelical Christian.
- MENTOR 101: Casudi Di Diego with #BEALEADER shares her tips for how to make the most out of your relationship with your mentor once you find the perfect one.
- J.F.K. LEADERSHIP LESSONS: Scott Eblin with Eblin Group lists three things that leaders can still learn from John F. Kennedy.
- MENTOR: The deadline to apply to be a Mentor or Mentee with the 4word Mentor Program is January 10, 2014! Click here to learn more about applying.
- GIVE: If you would like to give someone the opportunity to be a mentee this holiday season, you can! You can make your donation by visiting our Donation page. To donate specifically to the mentor program, just make a note of “mentor match” in your donation. If you would like to give to a particular mentee, email email@example.com after you make your donation.
Video of the Week
Need a daily dose of cute? Here you go!
A Pinterest Find
If you hosted Thanksgiving this year and have leftovers to spare, here are some creative ideas to reinvent those Thanksgiving dishes.
We are well into the Thanksgiving season; a time of year that reminds us of the blessings we experience everyday, and a time to pause and be thankful for what we have. For Lacie Stevens, Thanksgiving is more than a time to give thanks – it’s a reminder to continue a lifestyle of generous giving. As part of the engagement team at Generous Giving, Lacie has discovered her passion for radical giving and obedience to God’s call.
4word: What does it mean to be a radical giver?
Lacie: To me, a radical giver is someone who holds everything that they have (their time, their talent and their treasure) with open hands. Radical givers believe that everything they have belongs to God and they are His stewards. They seek His leading in how to use what has been entrusted to them.
4word: What are some ways we can focus on others rather than ourselves?
Lacie: As we open our eyes, we can see unmet needs all around us. However, we need to know if God has equipped us to meet a particular need. If so, then we need to get into action where our gifting matches the need. You may not be able to solve world hunger, but you can bring a meal to your lonely neighbor. It is essential to be an “On-Purpose Woman”. When we give and serve in our purpose and according to our passion, we help others, and in return, it brings us life and energy.
4word: What is the first step in becoming a radical giver?
Lacie: It starts with a heart change. We must truly believe that all we are and all we have belongs to God. We are not owners. We are stewards. When we know for sure that God owns everything, we realize that He does not need anything from us. Yet He allows us to co-labor with Him. We GET to give! We get to be a part of the miracles produced by life-changing generosity!
4word: What is the biggest misunderstanding regarding generosity?
Lacie: It is simply wrong to think that we need to have a lot of material resources in order to be generous. You can be generous with your spirit by thinking the best of others; you can be generous with your words by speaking kind thoughts out loud. You can even be generous in traffic by allowing that car into your lane. Even if giving is free, it is still fun!!
4word: Can you share about your journey in becoming a generous giver? What has that looked like for you?
Lacie: I was the child of divorced parents with wildly different ideas about money. Twenty-three years as a financial advisor taught me to keep and grow wealth, not give it away. But my divorce left me with a small amount of cash, virtually nothing else, and two sons to raise. As I started to rebuild my life, a friend invited me to a retreat put on by Generous Giving. My prior head knowledge that “God owns it all” became heart knowledge on that retreat, and that transformation rocked my world. I would love to say that this transformation made me instantly obedient to all that God has called me to give. It did not. I have wrestled with God when He called me to make a substantial gift to the expansion of the children’s ministry at church. I debated Him when He asked me to leave a $1,000.00 tip to a single dad who was our server at a local sports bar. Ultimately, I was obedient to both calls. God continues to help me grow in this area, and I love to give. I hope that as I grow, I will be able to report that I am, indeed, instantly obedient. But on every step of the journey, I am overflowing with joy as I give.
In 2012, my co-author and I launched a modern-day translation of God Calling, the best-selling Christian devotional ever sold. The first 51% of the profits have already been committed to Kingdom work. We are looking forward to the day when we will give away at least 90% of the profits. God’s abundant gifts to us can raise our standard of giving rather than our standard of living.
4word: What is the one thing about giving that you want our readers to take away from this article?
Lacie: God’s economy makes no sense. We cannot outgive God. My giving fills me with overwhelming joy, peace and freedom. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. The life of generosity is a journey and a grand adventure. So go have fun and give!
When it comes to giving, where is your heart? Are you willing to let God change you into a more generous giver? Visit the Generous Giving website for resources and more information.
There must be thousands of books out there about how to keep your marriage relationship strong, but where are the books about how to love your in-laws? I don’t mean that in a negative way! Even in the very best of circumstances, those relationships require real work and commitment. I’ve heard people say that you have to decide to love your spouse; I think the same is generally true of your in-laws.
One of the many great conversations I had at the 4word retreat a few weeks ago was about family dynamics at the holidays. My friends Melody and Kara represent two very different perspectives on the issue, and I asked them each to write a blog to share with you in the coming weeks.
First up is Melody. Melody is a 4word woman (and mentor!) who lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. Her children and step-children are all grown up, and her daughter is married. Melody loves her son-in-law and she wants to make him feel welcome, especially at the holidays, but she also feels drawn to try to keep up the family traditions her children grew up with. Sometimes those two goals conflict. Here’s how she deals with it.
My children are grown now, young adults, creating their futures and as we head for the holidays I am reminded of how that affects me….how it affects all of us. When my children were growing up, they were so excited by our many traditions and counted on them so much to make the holidays complete. At times, as a tired young mama, I just did not want to muster up the energy to re-create every tradition we started every year but eventually, these traditions became such a part of me and brought joy to all of us. But now, as my daughter has gotten married and both my children are torn between multiple family obligations, I am forced to look at those traditions in a new light.
Do I want to do things during the holidays that we always have, not only because they brought me joy, but because I remember the joy they brought my children? Yes, I really do. But now I look at the face of my married daughter as she strives to become a woman who is pleasing her husband and I realize that what I really want is to continue to see joy and excitement in her face.
That means it is time to let go of some of “our” family traditions and learn to conform into the new traditions that she is working so hard to create. Not only is it a new chapter in her life but it is also a new chapter in my life. I am now the matriarch in my family and it would be so easy to expect to continue as we always have and bring my son-in-law into what we so dearly loved. Perhaps what God really wants me to do is to embrace the new son I have been given and to recognize that he comes with beloved family traditions of his own. He and my daughter are learning how to fit his traditions and her traditions together to create something new.
Deep in my heart I know that the tradition that I value most is the tradition of bringing joy to my children during the holidays and now I believe the best gift I can bring them is to learn to be flexible. The “matriarch” in me is learning to let my children take the lead on some things. I am learning to create open communication to allow them to make suggestions and to express excitement as they implement new things to begin new traditions. Somehow through this process I am finding that I am still receiving the benefit of the greatest tradition for me….joy! I suspect this will continue to evolve as my son and my step-children begin their families and I am not sure where we will end up, but I do know that I want to be a part of whatever it becomes. My prayer is that God will continue to help me be aware and remain open minded and to take joy in watching my children become the adults that I so prayerfully hoped they would be.
Is the shape of your family changing? How does it impact your holiday traditions?
As you prepare for the Thanksgiving festivities next week, take a moment for yourself and peruse our favorites from the past week.
Video of the Week
We cannot wait for the Noah movie! Check out the trailer here.
- Women Reach a Milestone in Job Market — In his article on Wall Street Journal, Jonathan House shares surprising results from the latest Labor Department tally of payrolls, showing that women are actually recovering from the recession better than men.
- The Real Truth about ‘Boring’ Men and the Women Who Live with Them — Ann Voskamp writes on her blog, A Holy Experience, about why she prefers her husband’s “boring” views of romanticism to what movies and books have painted a true romantic to be.
- The Valiant Woman — As part of the Theology of Work Project on the book of Proverbs, this article on the Valiant Woman in chapter 31 highlights behavior that modern-day professional women should aspire to.
A Pinterest Find
Need some inspiration for Thanksgiving table settings? Here are some beautiful ideas to get you started.
Meet Jackie Parker. She’s the president of the Newell Rubbermaid Foundation and Vice President of Corporate Philanthropy at Newell Rubbermaid. Jackie’s passion for helping people and improving communities have made a noticeable difference for those influenced by the Newell Rubbermaid Foundation, but it doesn’t stop there. Jackie also gives of her time by influencing younger women in the workplace, most recently through the 4word Mentoring Program. Read on to hear what Jackie has to say about mentoring and using your spiritual gifts in the best possible way.
4word: What motivated you to become a mentor in our mentoring program?
Jackie: My life purpose is helping people to connect to their voice within to unlock their full potential. I do this through the operation of the Holy Spirit. I also have a coaching practice that allows me to do this.
4word: How does being a mentor build upon your spiritual gifts?
Jackie: Being a mentor allows me to release the gifts God has endowed upon me, which means I am open to receive more of his anointing when I am walking in agreement with His will for my life.
4word: What is your response to the phrase: “I don’t know what my spiritual gift is!”
Jackie: My first response is to find out if they have ever taken the time to learn about spiritual gifts? Have they ever explored what their gift could possibly be? If the answer is no, my next question is “Great! Would like for me to help you explore your gifts?” I would gladly take them through a few exercises on understanding the gifts of the church and how each member has a unique and special role to play. Next, I would have them complete a spiritual assessment using a tool that helps individuals through the discovering process.
4word: How can a busy, professional woman put her gifts to use?
Jackie: My answer is based on the assumption they have identified what their gift is. In order to use your gift, I think you have to stay in the word and stay in prayer. Stay in the present moment with the whispering of the voice of God. We often say in our prayers to God, to “incline thy ear to hear our supplications”. Well, in return I believe we have to tune our antennas up to hear the prompting of the Holy Spirit on what to say and when to say it. It’s also very important that we live our lives being conscious of how we quench the anointing from fully becoming operational. Our walk, our talk and our lifestyles can possibly keep your gift dormant and quiet just on how you live. We can literally get caught as professional women with business of image management and not “gift” management.
4word: What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding about spiritual gifts?
Jackie: I think the biggest misunderstanding regarding spiritual gifts is that people believe it’s only for a “select few”. The chosen few, if you will. People really look at other people and say they are special because they are walking in their spiritual giftedness and they want to mimic what they see. They want to be someone else’s uniqueness, not truly focused on finding out their own. God gave the church these gifts so we all could be united in perfecting the will of the church, which is salvation. It’s so important that each member of the body understands it role and purpose and how when functioning properly, the full body (the church) will be ready to receive it’s Bridegroom.
What is your spiritual gift? How have you been able to use your spiritual gift to the benefit of others?
Even though I’ve been a Christian for about as long as I can remember, God never stops surprising me. I guess that’s the way its supposed to be.
A few weekends ago I had the distinct honor and pleasure of gathering with a group of amazing women to reflect on the growth and direction of 4word. Sixteen of 4word’s staff, board members, and volunteer leaders from throughout the country gathered together on a South Texas ranch for a restorative and invigorating weekend full of praises and plan-making.
On that first evening when all of the women were gathered around the table for dinner I looked around and thought to myself with a smile, “these are my people!” What a stark contrast to all of those times in my life when I felt so isolated as a Christian “career woman” who never quite fit in. What a blessing today, to be able to look around at an incredibly diverse group of women and to know that they get it, that they get me, and they care about reaching out to others through 4word.
Okay, I’ll admit it, I cried.
More than once.
If you had been there, you might have cried too.
I can’t help but be overwhelmed by what God has done and continues to do in and through this organization and the women who are a part of it. A few years ago I felt called to start reaching out to support professional Christian women, but I really didn’t know how that would look, or what it would require. God knew. At times I’ve found this journey quite daunting, but at every turn, God has faithfully provided. He brought together the right people and resources at exactly the right times, and He keeps doing it. Over and over He reminds me that He is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
For the retreat this year, I had a big “ask.” There were more women coming than we’d ever had before. I knew going in that for me and for every woman there it would be challenging (and critical) to draw ourselves away from the many demands and joys of our everyday lives. Some women traveled great distances to get there, others were in the midst of a volley of work trips. It would be hard to decompress. Leading up to the retreat, I prayed that God would be at work in each of the women attending, and that He would enable us to turn our full attention towards Him and the women He has called us to serve.
As the retreat weekend progressed, I was blessed over and over to see God at work. Relationships developed as women fellowshipped and brainstormed together, formally and informally. I am so excited to see where those discussions take us as 4word moves on into another year.
I’d love to hear your ideas too! What could the women of 4word do to make a difference in your life?