Single working women in the church face pressures, anxieties, and possibilities that are endless. They have important stories to share with the church about God’s grace in the midst of conflicting and disempowering messages about stereotypical measurements of women’s success: beauty, youthfulness, marital status, and bearing children.
Today we are joined by Brenda Bertrand, a speaker and life coach who has researched, studied, and coached many single women of faith to reach their dreams for their future while reinvigorating hope in the present. She wants to invite the church and its members to re-imagine and re-engage their role in the experience of single women sitting in church pews.
4word: We often hear from single career women of faith that they feel alienated by the church. Can you elaborate on why that is?
Brenda: This is such an interesting question. As a 40+ (cough) year old single, I have heard about and experienced this “alienation.” It is such a bizarre tension between singles and the churches in which they attend and serve. First, I must say that there are many churches that understand, support, and empower their single parishioners. Kudos to them!
Yet, there are others that are challenged to graciously address the complexity of ministering to singles, especially career women. Successful on the outside, with deep, unmet longings on the inside, many single career women mourn what they never had- a partner and children. It may be difficult to lament with a woman who, on the surface, appears to “have it all” — a career, disposable income, and the freedom to travel, spend, and do whatever she wants. Churches may find it difficult to understand this sense of loss.
Since their issues do not fit neatly within traditional, women’s pastoral care issues, such as: barrenness, miscarriage, divorce, or widowhood, they are often difficult to understand and even more challenging to minister to. Unfortunately, church leadership is often composed of well-meaning people with hearts of gold who are disconnected from singleness and even more so from the experience of working outside the church walls. This disconnection causes ministers to be frustrated, as they don’t understand why the women complain about the sadness of this season in their lives.
4word: What can be done to change this perception?
Brenda: If we are honest, marriage and motherhood are often lifted as idyllic and the end prize of womanhood, while singleness is perceived as a thoroughfare, a place which one must begrudgingly pass through.
I want to challenge our church to be countercultural by presenting new images of women having it all. Being whom Christ calls us to be comes through surrender and grace, not human effort or marital status. I encourage churches to be places where we remind women of their worth, based on who God says they are and not on how fast they climb the corporate ladder, how much they give, how fast they sprint to the altar, or the number of babies they carry on their hip. The church should be a place where single women’s narratives are positively formed, not where negative stereotypes are reinforced.
I also want the church to be a place where we get honest. Some of our single women will remain that way — single. Others by default, exhaustion, or choice will marry non-Christian men. Some will decide to have children alone through alternative routes, while some will want to talk about their sex life, or lack thereof. The church has to be a place where these conversations are normal and not taboo. We may have to help women come to terms with the reality they did not expect: single and without a family of their own at 30 or 40, or single again at 50, or being a single parent in a traditional two-family church. These are hard realities that we cannot cover up or ignore. There is no reason why the body of Christ has to be silent on issues of prolonged and unexpected singleness.
4word: What are some of the unique issues that single career women of faith deal with on a daily basis?
Brenda: I have summarized the following challenges as constants amongst some of my most amazing single friends and my mentees. These are, in my opinion, some of the key areas that surface when I mentor and coach others (including myself).
God- Some single women live in the tension of being frustrated with God and depending on God. They have been told that God will provide a spouse, so they often think, talk, and pray about their singleness with God. Yet, some feel abandoned and ignored by the very God on whom they depend. They see their singleness, especially after much prayer, as God’s denial.
The stage of singleness impacts the relationship that single women have with God more than we are willing to admit. Singleness can enhance or deteriorate ones relationship with God – it varies from woman to woman and from moment to moment.
The All Consuming Career - Many Christian single women are highly accomplished. Due to their status as single, they have invested a lot of time in their careers. For some, their career trajectories were intentional; they would have been career driven whether single or not. Unfortunately, many in the church often see their choice to focus on careers as part of the explanation for their singleness.
For other women, they have pursued their careers by default. They started their education with a husband in mind but did not get married in college as they hoped. They continued into careers and have been climbing the ladder, hoping someone will call them down from their ascent. They fill the “extra time” they would have devoted to a spouse and children to their education and career. As a result, their career is the place where they experience the most emotional, spiritual, and mental frustration. Career choices are made with relationships (or the lack thereof) in mind.
Since relationally they feel “on hold,” their careers become the focus of their attention. They live in a frustrating tension of pursuing a career in lieu of the life they really want. They also spend a lot of time volunteering at the church. This is encouraged by the church leaders who equate singleness with having more time to serve God. Career and singleness is a topic that could have its very own series.
Self-Perception - Some singles struggle with “what is wrong with me” syndrome. Because they don’t often hear practical advice at church, they spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is wrong with them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As they see it, singleness is not a gift; it is judgment for some wrongdoing or inadequacy. These women need safe spaces to practically discuss their issues and spirituality as they risk challenging their perceptions of God and their own self-worth.
Single Men- This is a huge issue. Single men in church are often disinterested with dating women in the church. Some single men hang out with the ladies with no romantic intentions, causing women to be confused and frustrated with the perpetual “hanging out.” They want clear intentions and defined relationships. The issues of interpersonal relationships within and outside the church is a major issue.
With a broken narrative of an elusive God, an all-consuming career, and a deepening sense of inadequacy, some single women may need help reclaiming their authentic stories amidst this brokenness. Enter the church: If we stop dancing around these issues and instead discuss them head on, we will make progress in redefining singleness in the 21st century church. The experience of a single, Christian women is very complex, often comical, and highly courageous. God has some phenomenal women out there in the world and in the church – we should listen more closely to their stories.
4word: Where do we begin addressing these issues?
Brenda: What if we just followed Jesus’ model as he encountered women in his ministry? After each encounter with him, they had all that they needed. The grace Christ offered then is available to women now. He saw, listened, restored, healed, challenged, empowered, and advocated for every woman he met. Everyone was better because of their encounter with him. Jesus’ ministry model is a challenge to our church to be a place where women leave better than they came. What Jesus offers is greater that what our culture, work, and at times, even church offers.
My hope is that we minister to women as Jesus did: He saw them (Luke 13:12), heard them (John 4), protected them (John 8:1-11), healed them (Luke 13, Mark 5), used them as examples of exemplary faith, advocated for them, called them to lead (Matt 28:20), and called them to rest (Luke 10:32-48). Jesus’ encounters with women begin by hearing their stories and, with God’s Spirit and wisdom, conclude by sending them away having been heard, empowered with a new self perception, and valuing the potential of living a more empowering story.
4word: What advice do you have for those in the lives of single women?
Brenda: Let’s redefine singleness by treating it as a viable and constant season of life rather than a penalty. Singleness is a life stage that bookends the broader life cycle. People are born single, and most will spend a greater part of their adolescence and early adulthood single and most likely lose a spouse to old age. Singleness is not an in-between but rather a constant. Unfortunately, it has not been reflected as such in most pulpits.
With this in mind, we all wait, regardless of our marital status. We need to treat singles as equal citizens of the kingdom of God, not assuming that they are miserable and busily waiting for a wife swap or rescue team. We are not just waiting for a spouse- waiting is a part of the kingdom imperative to which they, and we all belong. There is possibly a reason why there are more scriptures on waiting than on singleness (Proverbs 13:12). I would encourage you to pray for your single sisters as you would your own soul: for strength, grace, and patience through every moment of every day.
In our waiting, there is an opportunity to be reminded of who we are and on whom our soul waits. Our words are powerful during this time, so let us all learn to wait on each other. And as we wait, let us mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.
Let us say to them (and each other), “I stand with you in your waiting. I walk with you through your lonely and alone moments, days, and years.” Let’s work together as a community to get our minds and tongues aligned with the grace and love in our hearts. God is in both the waiting and the fulﬁlled longings.
4word: Any comments or thoughts you’d like to add?
Brenda: I hope churches will become communities of care for all people. I also pray that every single career woman will healthily mourn unfulfilled dreams in her life and career and courageously create new ones, because the greatest human challenge, single or not, is to be grateful for the life that you have in hopes of the one you want.
I am excited to hear from the single career women at 4word! Email me or leave a comment below. Let’s have a conversation.
Singleness is a complex subject — one that the church has not always addressed well. Brenda challenges our view of singleness to be the norm, rather than a season or exception. As we consider her words, may we create new, Christ-like communities where women in all stages of life and career are celebrated and uplifted.
Do you need to reevaluate your attitude towards singleness and waiting? How can you develop a more godly, encouraging attitude?
Leave a comment on this blog post or on the Facebook post and be entered to win a complimentary Career Clarity coaching session with Brenda! Winner will be notified August 15.
Brenda Bertrand is a minister, speaker, and life coach. She recently completed a graduate degree at Princeton Seminary and is currently spending her summer as a beach bum in her native St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. During her working hours, she speaks, coaches, and ministers to people who are ready for what’s next in their lives and careers. She finds joy in doing her life work: journeying with others as they answer their soul’s calling. Connect with Brenda online at www.strikingly.com/brenda where you’ll find her upcoming online coaching groups and programs for working women of faith.
Both of my daughters are now at an age where they are starting to consider their careers in earnest, and as a result, I’ve been fielding lots of practical questions lately about the job application and interview process. This week I thought I’d share some of that advice for those of you who are also on the job hunt. Please feel free to chime in and add your own tips and advice in the comments section!
First Impressions. Start with a strong resume. In most cases, your resume is the first thing a potential employer will hear or see about you, so it’s crucial that it represents you well.
Don’t “pad” your resume with inflated accomplishments or experiences. It’s not true that “everybody does it.” Not only is it wrong, it’s also just a bad idea and will probably do you more harm than good.
Avoid distracting fonts or designs. Triple-check for typos, errors, and consistent punctuation, and then ask a few other people to do the same. Do not skip that step! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across typos in resumes, even at the very highest levels, and typos make a terrible first impression. This is one kind of error that is 100% preventable.
Write a specific and thoughtful objective statement tailored to the job you’re applying for. This is the biggest mistake I come across on resumes. Whenever I see an objective statement or cover letter that seems overly broad or generalized, I know immediately that the person either doesn’t understand their own strengths and gifts, or they haven’t done their research into the job opportunity. Either way, it’s a bad sign.
Show your persistence. Just because you’ve submitted your application and resume, that doesn’t mean your work is done! By following up with a phone call or email, you can help yourself stand out from the other applications by demonstrating your interest in the job and also your persistence. If I were advising my daughters Annie and Rose, I would tell them to call every two to three days to get the initial interview. After that point I would say to follow the instructions of the person they met with, but don’t let more than two weeks go by without some follow-up contact like a phone call or a thank you note, etc.
Interview with confidence. Once you land an interview, it’s time for the serious homework! Learn everything you can about your potential employer and what they do, especially as it relates to the position you are seeking. Look for relevant news articles, talk to people in the business, spend time on their website, and investigate their social media presence. If appropriate, try to get a sense of the company and its products/services in person. If you’re interviewing at Target corporate headquarters, for example, visit a few Target stores in your area. Make some observations that you can refer to during your interview.
If you get stumped by an interview question, it’s okay (and probably best!) to say “I don’t know.” But if you do that, it’s very impressive if you follow-up after the interview showing that you have worked to find the answer.
When it comes to family/life boundaries, I wouldn’t address it in an initial interview unless you’re actually asked directly about it. You always want to be honest, but that doesn’t mean you have to share everything about yourself right away. Focus first on the value that you bring to the company. Once they want you, then you will have the opportunity to share what it will take to make the relationship a win-win. You can do so in a positive way by emphasizing your commitment to the job but making it clear that you are seeking an environment that focuses on results and not face-time. If the company puts too much emphasis on face-time, there’s generally not enough flexibility to accommodate family boundaries.
As intimidating as job hunting can be, I try to remind my girls that it can also be somewhat nerve-wracking from the other side. Managers learn very quickly how critical it is to have the right people in the right jobs. Making a bad hire can be hugely disruptive to your team, and it can cost countless hours, energy, and resources. So, however anxious you are about landing the right job, know that your potential employer is just as anxious about finding the right person!
More than any single qualification or experience on your resume, an interviewer needs to know that you understand the job and understand what strengths you bring to it. If you can convey those two things with confidence, you’ll be a long way towards landing that next job.
What are your best tips for job seekers?
Welcome again to Friday! Check out our favorite articles, video and pin from the week as you prepare for a relaxing summer weekend.
Video of the Week
Rachel Berry shares with Christian Mingle an inspirational reminder that women should seek to enhance their internal beauty, according to Proverbs 31:30.
- 5 Things Men Shouldn’t Do When Negotiating With Women - Author and consultant Victoria Pynchon discusses five things that men should never do when negotiating with female colleagues in her article on LinkedIn.
- Do You React or Respond in Conflict? – Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs with Love & Respect Now caution parents against reacting during conflicts with their children and encourage them to consciously respond instead.
- Come Back, Weary Wanderer – Erica Wright pens an article on Biblical Woman about the bone-deep weariness that threatens to destroy people today and how it usually stems from our inability to trust when we cannot see what lies ahead.
4word Local Group Events
Take a look at these upcoming 4word Local Group event dates and see which one(s) you can attend. We’d love to see you there!
- Washington, D.C. - Jazz in the Garden event - July 18 @ 6:30PM
- Nashville - Launch event - July 22 @ Noon
- Portland - Lunch event - July 25 @ Noon
- Portland - BBQ - August 3 @ 2:00PM
- Los Angeles - Morning Brunch - August 9 @ 10:00AM
For details on these events, please visit our 4word Events page.
A Pinterest Find
Water is an essential part of our daily diets, especially in the summer, but it can be a little boring after a while. Here are 10 ways to add some extra flavor to your water!
Posted in friday faves
Tagged Bari Abdul, Biblical Woman, Caitlin Moscatello, Christian Mingle, communication, daily ritual, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, Erica Wright, flavored water, Forbes, free app, Geoffrey James, Glamour, hacking, Inc., Jessica Stillman, Jill Kransy, LinkedIn, Love and Respect NOW, micromanaging, Pinterest, Proverbs, quit your job, Rachel Berry, Rob Wyse, Sallie Krawcheck, Sarah Eggerichs, TED Talks, Victoria Pynchon, WiFi, work performance
Making decisions about your family and children is never easy. With so many options and possibilities, choosing the right one can seem overwhelming. For Sonya Crawford Bearson and her husband, the challenge wasn’t in making the choice for Sonya to stay home- it came after. Sonya shares her story of going from workplace professional to stay-at-home mom and the lessons she has learned along the way.
4word: Many women struggle with balancing the relationship between career and family. What did that balance look like for you?
Sonya: The short answer is that I opted out. When I became pregnant with our first child, my husband was in the process of looking for a new job, as he knew his would be ending in about a year. I was in my third year of a 4-year contract with ABC News, working as a correspondent based in Washington, D.C. When he was offered a job in his home state of Minnesota, we prayed about it and made the decision to move. I had been working very hard for 14 years in broadcast journalism, rising steadily in my career but working late nights, weekends, overnight shifts, and holidays and being on-call for breaking news. It’s a demanding job, and I didn’t see how I could make it work with a child or children and be the mother and wife I wanted to be.
4word: Was that a hard decision for you? What emotions did you experience?
Sonya: I feel like I’m supposed to say that it was a hard decision or that I really struggled with being at home after being a working professional, but the truth is, I haven’t. I believe it was God’s grace to put me in the Minneapolis area for the start of my career as a stay-at-home mom. I know moms who had a very difficult time making the transition, but I was blessed to be a part of “Right at Home,” a ministry for mothers who were making the transition from the marketplace to the home. In this ministry, which was later changed to “Moms in Step,” I found a great group of women who were committed to becoming a true community of believers. We were transparent with each other, helped each other physically, and supported each other emotionally and spiritually.
Motherhood introduced me to the world of women. In broadcasting, I spent most of my time with men — photographers, editors, producers, and even reporters. There were some women, but they tended to be like me — driven, rational, logical, and not very emotional. Even in high school and college, my closest friends were guys. I preferred sports to fashion, and I enjoyed the straightforward behavior of men rather than the clouded variety of many women. And after some bad experiences with women in my personal and professional life, I tended to enjoy the company of men. But when you have a baby, all that changes. When I was asked to be the director of our church’s ministry for moms, I couldn’t help but see the irony. In my roles as mother, wife, and director of a mom’s ministry, I felt accepted and celebrated. After suffering at the hands of women in my previous job, I now had a community of women that I loved and trusted.
4word: What was the most difficult part about staying home? What helped you adjust to your new arrangement?
Sonya: The part I did struggle with was the physical part of becoming a mom. It was very hard to go from running my own schedule to having to completely turn it over to a baby. When I was nursing my first, I felt like I was trapped in some sort of home-based prison. I was so frustrated that he didn’t do what the books said he would do if I did A, B, and C. As a task oriented person who loved the sense of accomplishing things, I was living the life of someone who barely got anything done. It drove me crazy!
As far as not being at work, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I knew there was no way I could do my previous job and be there for my family in the way I wanted. Since we were in a financial situation where we could make some sacrifices, and I could stay at home, I knew it was the right choice for us.
One of the keys here is that I know my husband respects me. He knows what I gave up and what I’m capable of, and we never play that game of whose job is harder. I have been in his shoes, and I know it’s not easy. He has been in mine, and he knows that he is exhausted after just a few hours with the children. We are a team, and we know we need to find time for ourselves as a couple, on our own, and with our own relationships.
4word: How have you seen God working through your decision to stay home?
Sonya: There are so many examples I could give, but here are some overall themes.
Surrender. There’s nothing like a child to teach you that you are not in control of as much as you thought. This starts from the moment that the baby won’t go to sleep when he should to the moment you feel like a failure when your kid makes a bad decision even though you’ve worked so hard to build a great relationship and Biblical foundation for his life. I have had to learn to let go and pray over the things I don’t have control over. I can’t just push through or will something to be. God is God, and I am not.
Humility. This is closely tied to the previous point. Nobody wants to be humbled, but this has been a season of being humbled. My discipler defines humility as being known for who you really are. When you haven’t showered for days and are responsible for two little lives, there’s not much of a filter left.
Community. We are not meant to do this life on our own. It is meant to be shared. We are meant to need help and to help others, and God is there in the midst of it all. That sounds like such a cliché, but it is so true. Whether it’s taking a meal to someone dealing with cancer, watching a child for a neighbor who needs a break, or listening to someone’s frustration and struggles with their husband or co-worker, these are all opportunities to be salt and light in the world.
Identity. You don’t realize how much of your identity is wrapped up in what you do, until you don’t do it anymore. I have met many mothers who struggle with what to say when they get asked the inevitable question, “What do you do?” We have all noticed how people lose interest or bypass us when they find out we are “just” stay-at-home moms (who never seem to be at home!). We also know the stories of women on the other end of the spectrum, who struggle with figuring out who they are when their kids leave home because they only see themselves as a mother. In both cases, it’s an issue of identity. We are not defined by what we do or even who we are, but whose we are. I am made in the image of God. I am His workmanship, His masterpiece. God sent His Son to die for me so I could be in a relationship with Him. My worth and my identity is based on that, not in how I look, how my kids behave, or in what I have accomplished.
Discipleship. When I worked in broadcast journalism, I longed for a mentor, someone to disciple me in the ways of God. As a mom, you are also hungry for good advice from those who have gone before you. This has been a fertile time for me to study and obey God’s call to make disciples and disciple-makers. I am involved with a ministry called Lionshare, which envisions and equips people to make disciples. That was Jesus’ original plan for changing the world. It has been exciting to see how God is using my natural skills, personal and professional experiences, and spiritual gifts to guide others on their individual journeys. But primarily, I know that my biggest influence is with my two sons. I am called to disciple them and teach them the ways of God in a society that usually values the opposite.
When God calls you to give up something, He has a plan for the new direction He is calling you towards. Following that new plan can be scary as you face the unknown and new circumstances. Like Sonya, you can surround yourself with community- friends and mentors who know what you are facing. Remember, we’re not meant to face the challenges of life alone.
What major life decisions have you faced? How did community help you during that time?
Sonya Crawford Bearson is a former broadcast journalist and Stanford University graduate who now happily spends her time taking care of her husband Darren and young sons. She is the daughter of Christian missionaries to South Korea who began her career in broadcasting at the age of 16, working for the Korean equivalent of the “Today” show. Sonya worked for many different media outlets including ABC News, NBC News, KNBC-TV, Orange County NewsChannel, and Public Radio International/American Public Media. Her most recent position was as a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for ABC News, and she has served on the boards of the Stanford Alumni Association, the Asian American Journalists Association, and Lionshare, a Christian ministry that envisions and equips people to make disciples. She was also the director of “Moms in Step,” a ministry for mothers at Woodridge Church in Medina, Minnesota for two years. Her life verse is found in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
With female executives stepping up to the plate and making their voices heard, women now have many more role models in leadership. Women like Mary Barra of General Motors, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, and Virginia Rometty of IBM are becoming household names and accelerating the conversation about female roles in corporate America. Government positions are seeing an influx of women in leadership. German chancellor Angela Merkel heads up a long list of women holding high positions both abroad and in the U.S. What is prompting this seeming explosion of women in leadership roles, are our voices and cries finally being heard, and how can we sustain this trend?
In the past, women have been discouraged from pursuing higher education, because our culture considered educated women to be unnatural. Many people believe that the education of women is a new and modern idea that springs from the Enlightenment. But in Scripture, you see examples of women with a deep understanding of their religious tradition. It is Scripture that leads us to believe that these women must have had some level of education.
Wisdom cries aloud in the streets, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks (Proverbs 1:20-21).
Today, more women are seeking higher education than men, and in terms of college degrees, the gender gap is widening quickly. This trend actually began back in 1978, when for the first time ever, more women than men earned associate degrees. Over time, this trend has also been replicated for bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
- By 2006, women dominated college degrees at every level, with more women earning doctorate degrees than men.
- In 2009, there were 25 percent more female college graduates than male college graduates.
- For the graduating class of 2013, the Department of Education estimates that there were 140 women graduating with a college degree for every 100 men doing the same.
Do our natural traits and tendencies as women better position us for leadership roles today and in the future? As work practices shift from compartmentalizing talent to collaborating as teams, our natural strengths as women seem to set us up well for leadership roles.
Allen G. Hedberg, author of Living Life @ Its Best, describes emotional intelligence as a set of competencies that enhance a person’s ability to relate positively to others in a wide variety of settings. It means being smart and effective in your interpersonal relationships. In Romans 12:15, Paul expresses the importance of emotional intelligence and empathy saying, “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We must show empathy in order to understand and relate to others.
A Lee Hecht Harrison survey of more than 600 employees found that empathy among managers is in short supply in today’s workplace. Empathy requires that individuals be honest, authentic, and present, while allowing themselves to be vulnerable. The Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology published a study suggesting that in stressful situations, women become more empathetic and open to others while men become more self-centered.
The Evolution of Women in Leadership:An Analysis of Effective Leadership Skills, a 2013 white paper that cites a 2008 McKinsey & Company study, offers insights into leadership behaviors that are important for addressing future challenges. The four most critical behaviors are:
- Intellectual stimulation
- Participative decision-making
- Expectation and reward
Of these four critical behaviors, women demonstrate the last three behaviors more often than men.
While the inherent talents of women may naturally position us to be leaders in our evolving society, teaching women how to lead is still important. With the demand for female leaders on the rise, professional industries are embracing the need for education and offering innovative programs designed specifically for women.
There are now organizations, research, mentorship programs, and peer counsels designed to help women grow as professionals. Harvard Law School offers a free report called Training Women to Be Leaders: Negotiating Skills for Success, and there are numerous training programs available at universities across the country and online. Organizations such as 4word, CREW, and The Christian Working Woman are providing support networks and content to help women reach their full potential.
Whether it’s a result of education, inherent qualities, specialized training, or a combination of all three, women are meeting current leadership demands in record numbers. While the road to this point hasn’t been easy, the unprecedented strides we are making reflect the evolution of the workplace as well as our advancement as women.
Are you a leader?
Katie Yee is a Business Development professional for Fuscoe Engineering, a civil engineering firm in San Diego, California. She has worked in the construction and real estate industries for over 10 years and has become passionate about encouraging and supporting professional women. As a mother of two young girls, Katie strives to be an example to them and other young women that hard work, faith in God’s plan, and a good sense of humor can get you far in the world, even in construction. She graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from San Diego State University and uses her passion for understanding and connecting people to promote others around her.
Pam Parish knew about living a quiet, successful life with her small but happy family. Then, she listened to God’s call to work for a church where Pam began to learn about living a life of significance. As God worked in her and her family’s hearts, they began a life-changing journey not only for them, but for countless children in need. She shares her story with us today.
4word: Your family has formed through untraditional means. What led to your interest in foster care and adoption?
Pam: I get this question a lot. Having seven daughters, six that came to us through untraditional means, leads a lot of people to wonder. Surprisingly, our initial interest didn’t feel like a “calling” at all. We had one biological daughter who was eleven and were unable to have additional children naturally. She really wanted a sibling, specifically a sister. We learned about adoption through foster care and decided to pursue that route. It was only after we really learned about the plight of children waiting in foster care that our hearts began to change. We had more room, in both our hearts and house, so we simply made ourselves available and said, “yes.”
4word: Why have you chosen to adopt older girls?
Pam: Our birth daughter was eleven at the time that we started this journey. By that time, we had no interest in going back to diapers or signing elementary school folders every day.
4word: Where do you find the resources necessary to meet the emotional needs of your daughters?
Pam: Prayer, training and great community are the most important resources for this journey.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking to God and asking Him for wisdom as a mom. There are a lot of issues and challenges that come with being abandoned, neglected and abused—I want to approach those areas of my girls’ lives with compassion and wisdom from the Lord.
Additionally, I am a big believer in training. I can’t expect to understand PTSD, attachment issues, or the grief process if I don’t get specific training on those issues. As a foster and adoptive mom, I try to learn something new all the time. I’m currently learning about adolescent neurology so that I can understand my girls as they transition into adulthood and healthy independence. Understanding these things helps me meet them where they are developmentally and emotionally.
Lastly, having a great community is critical. There are so many times that I need to pick up the phone and talk to another parent who can say, “I understand.” Our family looks like it does today because of the time, prayers, and love that our community of friends has invested in us over the years.
4word: What does transformation and restoration look like for your family?
Pam: Transformation and restoration looks like seven girls who all come from vastly different backgrounds calling us “mom and dad” and one another “sister”. It’s about all of us, as a family unit, having a sense that we belong to one another—regardless of how we got here. We’re a team through it all. That means we are for each other. “I’m on your side” is often heard in our house. Everyone’s journey is unique, and what helps one heal might harm another. We can’t base our family’s success on physical, emotional or psychological milestones.
Transformation and restoration are lifelong journeys for all of us. I want my girls to experience life, share memories, create traditions, and embrace family (with all its flaws). As we embrace the good, bad, and ugly year after year, we heal together. That’s what transformation and restoration look like.
4word: What do you want others to understand about abused and neglected children?
Pam: They’re lonely. They need caring adults to come alongside them and be with them in their fear and grief, not to fix it but to simply understand it.
Secondly, there are a lot of them—right here in our country. There are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system who need safe homes with compassionate and understanding adults. At any given time, 25% of those children are available for adoption; meaning the state has terminated the parental rights of their birth parents and is now their legal guardian. These children range in age from birth-18 years old and are waiting for a family who will adopt them and give them a safe place to call home forever. Over 20,000 young people “age out” of foster care at 18 each year in the U.S.- without family, without healthy connections, and without the resources to create successful lives for themselves. Of this number, 50% of the girls will end up pregnant or in forced prostitution within one year and many, up to 50% both male and female, end up in prison or homeless.
I guess what I want others to understand is that, even if you don’t foster or adopt, there is something you can do. Raise awareness, volunteer, find a family who is fostering or adopting and become a part of their caring community. Get involved. These children belong to all of us.
4word: To those who are considering adoption or foster care, but think that the needs are too great and overwhelming for them to meet, what is your response?
Pam: I understand. Uncertainty is a powerful deterrent. When we first started the process we had a whole list of things that we “couldn’t” parent—sexual abuse, violent outbursts, suicidal tendencies, attachment issues, and several more. Since then, we’ve parented all of those things and several more. I’ve learned that we could handle far more than we gave ourselves credit for and, with proper training, the “scary” issues really weren’t that scary at all.
As with anything unknown, it’s intimidating. Before we learned to drive, driving a car seemed scary. Then we learned, practiced, and grew comfortable driving. It’s the same way with parenting children from hard places. We have to learn, practice, and grow comfortable with things that we’ve never understood or had to deal with before.
4word: It sounds like your family has changed their perspective over the years. Can you share about that?
Pam: Eight years ago, I was a successful executive at a wireless software company. We were a family of three, living the life. Driving a nice car, working a high paying corporate job, and spending weekends on the beach—life was good. Then, God led us out of the corporate world to work for a church. The first message that I ever heard at the church that would become our home, Victory World Church, was titled, “Moving From Success to Significance.”
That message, at that moment, has defined my life ever since. There’s no way, sitting there in that service, that I could have ever imagined what God would do in our lives to move us from success to significance. My Mercedes soon gave way to a minivan, and our comfortable, predictable life as a family of three would transform into the beautiful chaos of a family of nine.
Today, my girls are all young adults beginning to launch into the world knowing that they always have a safe place to call home. I’m launching a new career as a nonprofit leader, developing an organization called Connections Homes that will connect young people ages 18-24 who’ve aged out of foster care, are homeless or otherwise have no family, with families who are willing to walk with them through life and build lifelong family connections. There’s a lot to be said about living a life of success, but it has no comparison to the satisfaction of living a life of significance.
Moving from a life of success to significance is scary and uncomfortable, but it is also rewarding. Not everyone is called to adopt six children like the Parish family, but you are called to something. Maybe you are meant to be the prayer warrior or encourager Pam talked about. Find your ministry and run after it with all your effort.
What needs do you see around you? What can you do to be a part of the solution?
Pam’s new book, Ready or Not: 30 Days of Discovery For Foster & Adoptive Parents, releases this week and can be found here. You can learn more about Pam, her family and her ministry by clicking here.
My friend and fellow executive looked slightly sheepish as he came into my office and closed the door. As soon as I saw him, I knew what was coming.
“Diane,” he said with a pained expression. “I have to ask you to talk to one of my people.”
I nodded, “Okay. Who is it, and what is she wearing?”
As one of few female executives in what is still a male-dominated industry, I’ve been called on countless times by male colleagues to speak to female employees about appropriate work attire. I’ve had awkward talks with women about casual clothes, tight clothes, rumpled clothes, short skirts, too much makeup, too much cleavage, overdone hair, over-dyed hair (as in, blue), and much more.
Despite what some of my male counterparts seem to think, the fact that I’m a woman doesn’t make it easy to talk to other women about their appearance at work. But if someone has taken the trouble to come to me on her behalf, I know that it’s important that she hear this feedback, so I push past the awkwardness and endeavor to deliver my message in the most positive and encouraging way I can.
I always arrange to meet in person and privately, outside of work. I make an effort to get to know her and to share some of myself as well. These kinds of talks are hard, and they don’t always go well. The best experiences in these situations come when I’m able to establish a level of connection and trust with her so that she feels safe and supported rather than judged.
I start with the facts. I note the incredible power of first impressions and how they are based mostly on visual cues like your appearance and body language. I share with her that someone has come to me with an issue related to her appearance, and, in as kind a way as possible, I get very specific and direct about what that issue is. I try to offer clear, practical guidance as to what she can do differently and make it clear that this feedback is coming from senior people who care about her and her career.
More than anything, I try to leave her feeling like I’m “in her corner.” I expect her to be sensitive at first, I certainly would be! But I know I’ve been successful when I see her make positive changes and when she returns my smile, sometimes even with a twinkle in her eye.
Why It Matters.
In the vast majority of the cases when men asked me to talk to someone on their behalf, I can honestly say that the men were respectful and professional. They valued the contributions their employees were making, and they were coming to me for help because they wanted to see these women do well in their careers. They believed that the message would be best received coming from another woman, and they wanted to give the employee the opportunity to adjust before involving the HR department, since that can become part of a permanent employee record.
I know many women who nevertheless bristle at this kind of wardrobe intervention. To some women, it feels like office dress codes are a way that men try to control or objectify women, or it may feel like giving in to chauvinism. Others simply want to be free to wear what they like, without having to worry about what other people think. Our outward appearance, after all, is a form a self expression.
I sympathize! I bristle at chauvinism too. But I dress modestly and conservatively for work, and I don’t worry too much about how that might be tamping down my femininity or self expression. I’m a practical sort of person, and the practical reality is that many men—and women too—find certain visual cues wildly distracting. And distractions hurt. They can skew people’s perceptions of your capabilities and character. Further, distractions make it harder for people to understand and retain what you are saying.
My friend Shaunti Feldhahn illustrated this beautifully with a study she conducted for her book, “The Male Factor.” She developed two short videos showing the same attractive businesswoman giving identical informative presentations. The woman wears the same suit in both videos, but in one, her wrap-style blouse is pulled down low, revealing her cleavage. In the other, no cleavage. Men were randomly assigned a version of the video, and then tested on the content of the speech. The majority of men who viewed the “cleavage” version could not identify the presenter’s name from a multiple-choice list. On average, they remembered 25% less about the content of her speech than the men who viewed the other version.
When I’m at work, I can’t afford that. I need to be effective and efficient. I need to get work done. If a few simple clothing, hair, and makeup choices can help me do that, I’ll happily make them.
The clothes aren’t that important.
What is important to me is the work that God has called me to do. I want to honor God’s gifts by serving Him to my fullest capacity. And so I make the choices about my appearance that best enable me to do that. In the traditional formal corporate setting where I’ve spent most of my career, that means clean, pressed, well-tailored business suits with closed-toed shoes and a modest blouse. I generally choose muted colors, especially if I’m meeting with mostly men. I have straight, shoulder-length hair, and I tend to leave it down, curled under at the ends but not falling in my face or eyes. I wear small earrings, a simple necklace, wedding ring, and just enough makeup to look professional. No flashy colors, patterns or jewelry. No cleavage. Not too much leg. Nothing fussy. Nothing that could be considered tight or “curve-hugging.”
Does this sound boring to you?
My daughters would probably say yes. I have to say though, it doesn’t feel boring! By getting the distractions out of the way, I make room for my energy and ideas and hard work to shine through. I feel confident and powerful walking into a room knowing that I will be heard.
Not every workplace calls for muted suits. The key is to figure out what is appropriate and avoid being a distraction. I happen to love bright colors, and when I’m working in a more relaxed setting or giving a speech to a group of women, I tend to opt for cheery blues and purples. If you work at a tech startup and all of your coworkers wear jeans and t-shirts, then go for it. But even in the most casual of offices, you need to present yourself as clean and well-groomed and remain sensitive to the “distraction factor” of tight-fitting clothing or too much skin.
If you’re having trouble figuring out the appropriate dress code for your office, look at women you admire in the company, pay close attention to what they wear and how they present themselves, and model your look after them.
Thinking carefully about how you present yourself at work and—when appropriate—encouraging others to do the same, will help you to pursue your calling and make the most of your God-given gifts in the marketplace.
What do you wear to work?
Happy 4th of July! Before you head out to grill out, check out this week’s favorite articles, video and pin!
Video of the Week
What’s more “4th of July” than a colorful fireworks show? Well, we found the show to beat all shows. Check out last year’s Guinness World Record holder for Largest Firework Display.
A Pinterest Find
Bring the “yum!” to this year’s 4th of July bash with these drink and snack recipes!
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Tagged 4moms, 4th of July, Courageous Thinking, Dallas News Business, Forbes, Hanah Cho, Hobby Lobby, Inc., Jeff Haden, Life News, Linda Lindquist-Bishop, LinkedIn, mentor, mentoring, Pinterest, Rob Daley, Robin D. Schatz, SCOTUS, Steven Ertelt, TEDx Talk, Texas Women Ventures, Thought After Thought, TWV Capital Management, Wendy S. Goffe, Women Living Well
We often speak with women who tell us that life took an unexpected turn and is now much different than they imagined. Today, we are speaking with Kelly McDermott, whose career has had some unexpected twists and turns. Through it all, she sees God’s hand at work, directing her and leading her to her sweet spot. Enjoy Kelly’s wisdom!
4word: Can you share your career path with us?
Kelly: I started my career with Bristol Myers Squibb in Portland, Oregon. Then, I handled the Excedrin Capsule withdrawal and moved to New York City, where I worked on brand management and merchandising. I moved to Dallas as a supervisor and became the National Recruiting Manager, National Training Manager, and then the Direct Operations Manager. At that point, the only option to keep going forward involved moving back to New York, but I am not a city girl, so I quit and went to work for Async.
At Async, I sold voicemail business-to-business which I loved, but the company was sold, and I ended up running the Southwest Region for Sprint focusing on telemedia. Then, I left to start my own call center and conference calling business and sold it to IPG. Afterwards, I went to work for EDS as the Global Relationship Practice Manager and ultimately became the Head Coach for Global Sales. In 2004, with two other EDS executives, we formed AdviSoar, a small consultancy focused on helping people sell multimillion dollar deals with our Developing Executive Relationships program. We also offer executive coaching for high potential executives to help them achieve their goals.
4word: Is this what you had pictured yourself doing when you were in college? How has that vision changed?
Kelly: I never dreamed of being a “sales girl.” I wanted to work and make contributions, to meet someone and be married. Looking back, I have learned that God was in every move. At each juncture, the skills and relationships I had developed were put to use in my next role. Because I have a diverse industry background, I can move fluidly among different executives and can easily identify patterns and opportunities and see how to embrace the best practices in many functional disciplines.
4word: When you look back at the path you have taken, how do you see God’s hand at work in your career?
Kelly: He was protecting me, providing for me, and guiding me to use the skills, talents and abilities He generously shared with me. I believe I am a steward of time, abilities, resources, and relationships, and I delight in being able to serve people through my work. My work is my calling, and I relish the opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
4word: Was it always easy to trust that God’s plan, combined with your solid work ethic, would lead you to where you needed to be?
Kelly: I trust God, and He has been amazingly generous to me. Trusting Him is definitely not easy. I am trusting Him now for the desires of my heart, and it is a walk of faith and obedience. I understand that the Lord wastes nothing, and I am a willing vessel to be used for His purposes. We need to be renewed daily in our walk with God, and He is ever present. I have committed myself to study what the Bible says about work and have committed to work according to His principles, commands, and character.
4word: What advice do you have for women who are trying to plan the future of their careers?
Kelly: God is a God of order. He created the earth in six specific days in a purposeful manner. He said to count the cost and make plans, however the plans should be submitted ultimately to God’s plan and His will for our life. We can know His will and flourish if we take the time to know His ways. As joint heirs of Christ, we get to co-labor in the Kingdom. We are salt and light in the world, and as we work with excellence, we can build a reputation that glorifies God. God wants us to have life and have it more abundantly.
I think that when you make a plan, it should be a complete plan and include relationship(s), vocation, health, education, recreation, and service. We are to grow in the fruit of the Spirit and be more Christ-like. The more fruit we have, the more attractive we are. And the more attractive we are, the more influence we have to illuminate a path for non-believers and to encourage and edify fellow believers. Every once in a while we should do a personal fruit inspection and solicit the feedback of others to help us grow as mature believers. Am I able to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? The more I radiate the fruit of the spirit, the more Christ-like I am becoming, which is God’s ultimate plan for my life.
As Kelly said, God created the earth in a certain amount of days with a certain plan in mind. His will for your life might seem chaotic at times, but take comfort in the fact that His hand is still guiding your every step and trust that He is ultimately leading you to His perfect plan for you.
How do you see God at work in your life and career? Are you willing to follow where God calls you?
An admired and respected business executive, Kelly McDermott has a 20 year accomplished record in building new lines of business and significantly improving corporate margins. She has been responsible for leading high impact teams at some of the world’s leading firms such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Western International Media, Sprint and EDS.
Kelly is an astute strategist with remarkable insight and clarity about what it takes to be successful. She has lead strategy development initiatives in several companies and has a demonstrated track record in the successful development and implementation of key business strategies in a variety of industries. She is a highly engaging speaker and facilitator that helps individuals link learning and new ideas with real world application. Her business acumen and ability to synthesize practical experience with a fresh outlook make for a rewarding and challenging exchange.