I was her boss, but she was my leader

These days, I think we spend far too much time criticizing and analyzing each other, and far too little time cheering one another on.

Then, the other day, I read this little piece by Sarah Bessey, one of the writers I respect most dearly in this world, announcing a synchroblog. A joining together of voices to honor International Women’s Day by celebrating the women who have been part of our story.

 

I considered writing about the chorus of women that have shaped me in one way or another. Because there have been many: both women I know personally and women I admire from afar.

 

But the more I reflected on my journey, the more I thought about Carol. And I decided to focus my writing today exclusively on her.

 

I thought about asking Carol’s permission before I wrote this, but I’m pretty sure she would have said no. So, I decided to ask forgiveness instead of permission.

 

I’m sure she would feel uncomfortable with something written only about her, because she would want you to know about all the people that are a part of her story. Because that’s who Carol is: humble and encouraging to the core.

 

Carol and I doing our best Audrey Hepburn impression at a Father-Daughter Sock Hop

I was Carol’s boss, but in many ways, she was my leader.

 

Carol began working for me when I was a young and inexperienced church leader. I made so many mistakes along the way, but yet Carol kept serving faithfully and cheering me on.

 

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Carol teach a group of children. Being new to children’s ministry myself, I was in awe. She was enthusiastic and warm, engaging and personal. And she had this miraculous ability to tie the random questions and statements of kindergartners back into the lesson, simultaneously making them feel valuable and the story feel seamless.

 

She made the most of every opportunity she had to teach, whether to a large group or small, to kids or adults. She felt honored that God would use her in any capacity, and sought to steward each opportunity she was given.

 

That is how she approached everything about her job. She had a deep desire to honor God in what she did and how she did it. Things were never about her. Her life displayed humility in its truest sense.

 

I watched Carol navigate life as a working mom before I had kids of my own. And I admired her.

 

She always worked hard, but her kids were continually the priority. She navigated difficult schedules with grace and without complaint. And in the midst of commitments pulling her in different directions, she still made time for the special moments with kids that make up a lifetime of memories: heart-shaped pancakes in February, Leprechaun mischief in March, and eggs filled with reminders of the real Easter story when Spring came around.

 

One running theme through my coaching times with Carol was helping her with her time management. And though I might have been able to help her with strategy, in those conversations, she helped me learn about what is really most important.

 

Because Carol had an amazing response to being interrupted.

 

If you anyone needed her for anything, as much as it was possible, she would drop what she was doing to be there. She turned around in her chair to look me in the eyes when I came to her desk, even if what she was working on was “more important” than my question.

 

When I talked to Carol, encouraging and helping me became the most important item on her to-do list.

 

Carol taught me that there need not be a thick line between supervisor and supervisee. That friendship and vulnerability can and should co-exist with power differentials.

 

I began working with Carol at a time my walls were thick, and my inexperience gave me the desire to prove myself. By her example, she helped me see the value of authenticity and the power of admitting, “I don’t know.”

 

To this day, when people ask me about my experience working at my old church, I say that my favorite thing about it was the opportunity to work with Carol. It was a joy to watch her grow in confidence over the years, without losing the humility that is core to her personhood. She is a treasure and a gift to anyone who knows her.

 

Thank you, Carol, for being an encourager, a teacher, a leader, a servant, and a friend. You birthed in me an authenticity, humility, and confidence that I would not have had without your influence. “Eshet Chayil!” You are a woman of valor.

 

What women have shaped your story? Please join this celebration by writing about them, or even just telling them about their influence. Also, head to Sarah Bessey's place to read other stories of Spiritual Midwives and Patron Saints.