Monday, April 30, 2012

What Women Tell Me: The Need for Connecting in Community

By Anita Lustrea

If you polled a group of women to find out their deepest needs, I can almost guarantee that longing for deeper friendships would rank near the top of their list. A little more than a year ago the radio program I host, Midday Connection, conducted an online survey to determine women’s points of pain. Over 2,300 women responded and, of the macro themes in the survey, relationships were in the top three. As we drilled down to the most common sub-themes of pain, the longing for deeper friendships was number one across all demographic lines. Women are desperate for female friendships and often don’t know how to initiate or develop them.

The fix might seem like a no brainer—go to a women’s ministry meeting at church, join a small group, or take an art class. Go places where women go and get to know them. But unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy. One hindrance to closer relationships is the masks we wear. We are afraid to let others get too close. “Surely they wouldn’t like me if they really knew me,” we often say to ourselves. But we need to move past these thoughts and live into who God created us to be instead of living into the expectations of others (which is often what we choose).

Another barrier is that many of us have been burned by relationships that were choked with too much responsibility, maybe even ones that were co-dependent. Sometimes we’ve not seen friendships modeled for us in our family of origin, or we’ve lost a spouse due to divorce or death and we are afraid to try again. Whatever the reason, we need to pay attention to the risks of living without community. The Harvard Medical School Nurse’s Health study that reported those who had the most friends over a nine year period cut their risk of early death by 60%. Yes, you read that right….60%!

In addition to simply finding friends, however, we need to find safe people to be in community with. Henry Cloud and John Townsend give a great grid in their book Safe People.  A safe person, they say, has three characteristics: they draw us closer to God, they draw us closer to others and they draw us closer to our authentic selves.

Here are some practical steps on initiating and developing friendships:

1.      Invite 1 or 2 women to coffee. If they say no, ask someone else.

2.      If you have younger children, invite someone to a play date in a park.

3.      Don’t judge a book by its cover. Get to know someone’s story. You will be blessed and might be missing a gem of a friendship otherwise.

4.      Start praying for God to provide a friend. I’ve talked to countless women who have seen God answer this prayer.

5.      Look for “safe people” and run yourself through that same grid. Are YOU a safe person?

6.      Sometimes when we are desperate for a friend, we “throw up” all over them the first time we get together.  Friendships need to be mutual, and if they are to be a two way street, we need to slowly allow someone to get to know us—not tell all in one sitting. 

We are created for community. We are made in the image of a Trinitarian God. The pursuit of God and the pursuit of friendship go hand in hand. The two greatest impulses of our souls are upward and outward because we simply reflect the design of God. It’s no wonder that we are craving a deeper experience of friendship. And friends are essential to life and growth. Yes, reaching out can be risky, but my guess is that the person you reach out to is also in need of a warm smile and a future friend!

Anita Lustrea is the Executive Producer and Host of Moody Radio’s “Midday Connection”. She has authored, What Women Tell Me, available in the FullFill Store.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why "Emotional Leaders" Are Underrated

Sharon Hodde Miller

Earlier this year I served at a women's ministry retreat in which our leadership team encountered a difficult situation. It tested our leader in a public way, but her response exceeded my expectations. She was a vision of grace under pressure, responding with patience, wisdom, and discernment. It was a true leadership moment that had a powerful impact on me.

Following the incident, I chatted with a fellow volunteer who also thought our leader was exemplary, but for different reasons: she admired the way she suppressed her emotions. Unlike "most women," who have trouble navigating their emotions in difficult situations, a predisposition that supposedly inhibits female leaders, our leader did no such thing. And my fellow volunteer thought our leader was stronger for it.

At the time I was still processing the events of that day so I simply nodded my head and listened. Since then, I have come to realize that I disagree-rather strongly, in fact.

For decades (and perhaps longer), there has existed a well-established myth that women are emotional creatures and men are not. Linked to this myth is the idea that a woman's emotions are an obstacle to all sorts of goods-objectivity, logic, and level-headed leadership.

I say this is a "myth" for two reasons. First, both men AND women are emotional creatures. We may express our emotions in different ways, but we are equally creatures of emotion. Second, the belief that emotion is a limitation is based on a very particular understanding of strength and success.

Some of the most prestigious psychologists of the last century appealed to the male standard of behavior as a kind of "norm" against which women were measured. This bias was partially rooted in the fact that most of the psychologists were themselves men, but it was also due to the fact that the workplace rewarded male characteristics.

As a result of this workplace dynamic, many women adapted by playing down their female attributes and becoming more like men. Part of this transformation involved becoming "less emotional."

However, recent news stories have noted that the workplace is changing. Far more men were laid off during the Recession than women, and economists predict that the new "knowledge economy" will favor women's skills and training over men's. Cold, logical leadership appears to be declining in favor of the collaborative, sympathetic leadership that is more traditionally associated with women.

Clearly, emotion is not antithetical to good leadership. Returning to my experience at the women's ministry retreat, I suspect that our leader responded so well because of her emotion. She was sensitive to the complexities and feelings of those involved, and it was her sensitivity that led her to act the way she did. Her emotion was not a hindrance, but an asset.

Of course, emotional leadership is not uniquely female. Jesus himself showed emotion throughout the course of his ministry on earth. He showed compassion on a crowd of followers (Matt. 9:36), he expressed great anger at the Temple moneychangers (Matt. 21:12), and he wept openly with those who were grieving (John 11:35). From his example, it would seem that emotion-when expressed in the right ways at the right times-it not necessarily female but instead Christian.

So I say we dispose with this myth that emotion and good leadership are mutually exclusive. And let's also dispose with the myth that women leaders are hindered by their emotions. Some women are limited by their emotions, just as some men are. But the answer is not to suppress our emotions when serving in leadership. The answer is to harness those emotions for the good work of God.

Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer and student pursuing her PhD at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In addition to her own blog, Sharon is also a regular contributor to Her.meneutics, Ungrind, and Cultivate Her.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We Really Can Have it All

By Shayne Moore

Julia Child, the famous chef who changed how American women cook and think about food, began her career when she was 50.

Nancy Pelosi, the sometimes controversial Congresswoman, first ran for elected office when she was 47.

Miucci Prada, the world-famous fashion designer who changed the way women dress and think of beauty, delivered her first fashion collection at the age of 39.

As a stay-at-home mother of three young children I used to suffer in silence. I felt isolated from the world. I knew, of course, I had influence in my own home and with my own children. And I loved my job. I loved being the mom. I didn’t want anyone else but me changing diapers, making meals, and sitting on the floor doing puzzles. Yet, something nagged from deep within. I knew there was more to me than domestic goddess.

I watched as friends, both men and women, grew up into their lives. They created businesses, received advanced degrees, traveled the world, and slowly built solid and respectable careers.

When my youngest went to first grade I panicked. What was I qualified to do? I had been an at-home mom for almost 15 years. Who would hire me to do anything? I felt behind. I was starting from scratch and I was almost 40 years old.

One night while visiting my in-laws in Dallas I could not sleep. I stole quietly into the family room to watch a bit of TV. I landed on a program, a biography of Julia Child. Up until this point I knew very little of the famous chef except for her quirky voice.

By the end of the program I was crying in the dark room. Julia Child had an entire life as a wife and mother before her world-changing career. While, I may be one of the only people who have never seen the movie Julie and Julia, perhaps the movie touches on the same theme that brought such inspiration to me. I was surprisingly moved by Julia’s story of finding her influence later in life. It hit me hard and my unexpected tears informed me of something in my heart I needed to listen to.

I was inspired by learning that Julia started by taking cooking classes. She didn’t start with a TV show or a best-selling cookbook. And so, taking my inspiration from Julia, I did the same. I just started. I gave myself grace to do only what was in front of me. Some days it was all children, all family, all groceries, cleaning and laundry. Yet I began to carve out time for myself, slowly at first, but it grew as my family grew.

Today I no longer feel isolated or sorry for myself. Rather I celebrate the fact that as women living in our generation we really can have it all. Maybe not all at the same time, but God willing, life is long and the possibilities are endless.

Shayne Moore, MA is the author of Global Soccer Mom: Changing the World Is Easier Than You Think. She supports and works closely with World Vision, ONE, World Relief and is a member of the World Vision Speakers Bureau. She sits on the board of directors of Growers First, an organization partnering with rural farmers to fight poverty. With an MA in theology, Shayne is an active speaker and writes for her blog ( and is a founder of Redbud Writers Guild ( She lives with her husband, John, and three children in Wheaton, IL, and can be found at and on Twitter @GlobalSoccerMom. Look for her forthcoming book, Refuse To Do Nothing: Finding Your Power To Fight Modern Day Slavery (Intervarsity Press).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Who Are You, Really?

By Tricia Halsey

I thought I knew myself.

For three years I worked hard doing a job I absolutely loved. I poured my heart into bringing about positive change for other women, yet all the while paying little attention to myself.

Then God got my attention. He pulled me out of my position and left me without a job. An intervention that made me stop, step back and reevaluate where I was and where I needed to be.

At first the achiever in me wanted to charge, full-steam ahead, into the next opportunity that seemed to be a good fit-that is until I realized I had no clue what a “good fit” actually looked like. I spent so many years letting others define who I was and what I was good at that, although I often excelled, I didn’t feel fulfilled. While caring for others and striving to achieve, I forgot me.

After three months of unemployment, I realized that God was saving me from this “not real” me. My soul was in decay because I was not living authentically as he created me to live.

How common is it for us women to shrug off the hard work of deep authentic living and go for what seems easier-- losing ourselves in doing good? It’s far harder to dig deep into our souls to unearth and understand our talents and strengths, weaknesses and sins, passions and dreams than it is to simply put our focus on others. Living authentically is hard work.

Please don’t miss this:

You were created by God to have unfathomable influence and impact in the world, yet you will never-not ever-come close to fulfilling your potential if you do not know yourself.

What a tragedy when your potential for impact is minimized!

Seeking to know who you are, as God created you, is not a pursuit you should brush off. It is a matter of properly positioning yourself to partner with God in his work of redemption for immeasurable-incomprehensible-impact. Never forget that God commissioned you to join with him in his work of redemption. He has plans for you, but you must actively engage with him as a steward of the talents he’s given to you. The results could be far bigger than you can comprehend.

Ask yourself:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you feel uniquely gifted to do?
  • What are your strengths?
  • Even harder, what are your weaknesses, your fears and your unconfessed sins?
  • How do all of these weave together with your experiences and personality to distinctively position you for life-giving work?

Discuss, reflect, pray and confess with people you trust. Utilize tools like personality and strengths assessments. Seek counseling and find mentors. Most importantly, ask God to reveal who you are and what you can do best. He created you. He knows you and the potential you have. He will help you as you seek to use your gifts, but you need to ask. And you need to be willing to do the hard work.

Tricia Halsey has her MA in Leadership from Denver Seminary and is passionate about developing leaders and coaching women to embrace and live according to their full God-given potential. She is a wife and mother of two very busy young boys.