10470238_1019000664782821_3748555308970693486_nI’ve spent the last eighteen years trying to teach our daughter and to train her to be more Christ-like. And yet, so often I’ve discovered, she’s the one teaching me. Last night our daughter Ashley shared an essay she wrote for an engineer leadership position she’s applying for at her university and I asked if I could share it here.

In the short essay below, she shares her experiences volunteering at the Hope Center in Omaha and what she learned from them. Something I myself need to keep in mind as I strive to lead, in whatever capacity the Lord assigns.

Learning to Lead by Ashley Slattery, University of Lincoln Nebraska student, 11796175_1116319855050901_6647543837368226488_nengineering major

When thinking back on the moments in one’s life that were impacted for the better by others, one doesn’t remember the boss barking orders as he props his feet up on his desk. No one thanks the professor who yelled at everyone for their lack of character growth. The true leaders are not those who command, but those who guide and encourage. Those who walk with their followers through life, get down on their level, and pull them up are the ones who are remembered for their impact.

One of the toughest, but best, tasks I have ever been charged with was teaching an art class for inner city kids at a local youth center. The kids all came from rough homes. Many had behavioral issues and a few even had PTSD. I was new. I didn’t know what I was doing, and they knew it. Therefore, they had no respect for me.

Try as I might, they would not sit down and do their projects that I had spent hours planning. Art wasn’t cool.

I desperately wanted to make an impact in these kids’ lives. I wanted my art room to be a place where they felt safe and loved. I wanted to show them that they had talents. I soon realized that I needed them to trust me first. So I started coming in early so I could play with them during free time. I became their friend, so I could also be their teacher.

photo by linlaoyou taken from pixabay.com

As I developed relationships with the kids, I realized that a lot of them didn’t want to do art because they thought they couldn’t. Because they expected to fail, they didn’t bother trying. So I brought art to their level. I taught them about legitimate street artists and other topics that were relevant to them and encouraged them.

I told them that if they did good, I would hang up their work, and the best paintings would be sold in an auction to benefit the program. I started having kids volunteer to come in early to help me set up, and stay after class to help me clean up. During free time kids would ask to work on their own projects and hang out in the art room. They were getting excited. By working with them instead of over them I had helped them discover their talent for themselves. Leadership is about relationships.


livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! First, to those of you who are parents and grandparents, you’re probably familiar with the saying, “Values are caught as much as taught.” We all know modeling is one of the most effective teaching methods. Are you, through your actions, helping to train up your children or grandchildren? Are you leading relationally or have rules and regulations dominated everything else?

For those of you who are local, on January 6th I’ll be speaking to a moms group in Plattsmouth on parenting to the heart–how we can help initiate life-change in our children, and this is all relational! You’re welcome to join us. I’ll share more info as the time gets closer.

And for all of us, what are your thoughts on leadership? Have you had similar experiences to Ashley’s, and if so, what did you learn from it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

BUT, before I go, I just have to say one more thing, and this is to my daughter: Love you, girl!

As a mom, I love to imagine what God might have planned for our daughter. I know He’s got a plan–an eternally valuable role–uniquely crafted for her. A crucial role in God’s kingdom.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I’ve learned, more often than not God’s plans are so utterly different than anything I could fathom. And yet, when His plan begins to unfold, it all makes sense. We can look back and see the people and events God placed in an individual’s life taking them one step further.

As parents, the best thing we can do, in my opinion, is to embrace and encourage every dream our children have, teaching them to move forward with an eyes-wide-open expectancy. Because we never know which flight of fancy will lead to their divine-calling.

Today’s post is from my daughter. Ashley has always been creative. As a child, she’d craft elaborate two-story houses from paper. I’ve always been impressed with her ability to look at an intricate weaving or piece of jewelry, figure out how it’s made, and replicate it. But although this impressed me, I never gave it much thought … until we visited El Salvador last summer.

While we waited for crusades to start, she studied a wide-banded, beaded bracelets she’d purchased from the locals. Within ten minutes, she’d figured out how it was made and how to replicate it. Our church was teaching orphans how to make jewelry, and she wondered if perhaps she could help with the instruction, teaching them to make the bracelet she’d just deciphered. Although she never got this opportunity (yet. Grin), she didn’t give up beading nor her desire to use her love of beads to bring joy and hope to others.

Today she shares her story, or should I say, the beginning of her story. 😉

Bracelets for the Beautiful by Ashley Slattery

About a year ago my church helped serve a meal at a homeless shelter, and while I was there these two little girls were fascinated with the bracelets I was wearing. I ended up giving the bangles to them and they were excited. It made me think, if it made those feel beautiful would it make others? so I decided to use my beading skills to make bracelets for homeless ladies, make them feel loved and beautiful like those little girls did that way. Last month I had an opportunity to do so. My family when to a homeless ministry called Taking it to the Streets in Omaha, and I brought 20 some bracelets with me and gave them to the ladies there. I loved seeing that my hobby could bless them. It truly amazed me that a simple craft  put a smile on their faces. It showed me that God truly does have a use in mind for every aspect of you.


God willing, Ashley hopes to teach the ladies down at Taking it to the Streets how to make jewelry. She hopes this will not only give them a marketable skill, but something they can feel good about–a hope-infusing sense of accomplishment. It’s hard for someone who’s been beaten down to strive for better. (Read When Helping Hurts, a phenomenal book about the psychological struggles inherent with poverty.) But often, success is contagious–motivating.

Thanks to July’s Reach Out Donors: Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Runand the Promise of Deer RunSandra Robbins with Shattered IdentityKatie Ganshert with Wildflowers From WinterJoAnn Durgin with Awakeningand Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity

Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.

Authors, agents, and publishers, if you or one of your authors/clients would like to donate a book to one of the Reach Out gift baskets, shoot me an email at the above address.