Merriam Webster defines a mentor as a “trusted counselor or guide”. Unconsciously, I’ve often added “older” to the definition, thinking that for someone to lead the way they must be older and more experienced. Recently, my definition of a mentor has been redefined; a mentor can also be younger than myself.
My two younger-than-me nieces have encouraged me step out on a new and unknown path. They believed in me and they cheered me on, even calling me out when I hesitated! They helped me learn, and grow, and believe new things.
What Exceptional Women they have grown up to be! A credit to their parents and an encouragement to all who know them.
As I consider the timeline of my life, there are Exceptional Women who walked before me, beside me, and even behind me, pushing from the rear. All of them are valuable and precious. Some of them are pictured above.
My League of Exceptional Women follows. It’s not a complete list. It’s also not a list of perfect women. These women have changed my life in one way or another because they are boldly the women God made them to be.
+ Mary, the mother of Jesus, who upon learning her life would be forever changed, in complete faith, said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” Scriptures says of her, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Mary encourages me to cling to unwavering faith, to believe the Lord’s promises, and to move forward no matter how crazy the world gets. (Luke 1)
+ Ruth, who walked with her mother in law at least 50 miles over rough and steep terrain, from Moab to Bethlehem, with no protection from man or beast. She left behind all she had ever known to follow the one true God. What a woman of courage and devotion! (Ruth)
+ The Samaritan Woman at the Well taught me it’s OK to come to the Lord as my imperfect, sinful self, to talk with Him, to ask questions, and then to go and tell me friends about him, too. (John 4)
+ The Sinful Woman at Simon’s House taught me that Jesus offers healing and forgiveness even when others will not. (Luke 7:36-50)
+ Mary of Bethany encourages me to open my Bible and sit at the feet of Jesus, to choose what is better over what is busy. (Luke 10:38-42)
+ My mother taught me to be strong and independent. Her focus on her family and caring for them drives my own. My “mother bear” instincts come from her. Her own strength of heart and strong will to overcome hard circumstances taught me how to be brave and to work hard.
+ My Aunt’s faith is like a beacon that shows me the way. She has endured hardships many could not overcome. Yet, she has a ready smile and inspires joy in all who know her. She points the way to Jesus and waves at you to come along.
+ My Mother in Law welcomed me as a daughter. She has been kind to me, showing me care and compassion in times of grief and celebrating times of joy. She has set an example for me to follow when I eventually welcome daughters into my own family.
+ My Step Mom has loved me as her own from the day she and my father married. She welcomed me into her heart and her family, no conditions, no requirements. She is also a brave woman, whose own trying circumstances, have not quenched her loving and happy spirit.
+ My Nieces encouraged me and believed in me when I was doubting. They are gifted, exceptional young women, forging their own path and have helped to forge mine. I love them; they are priceless to me.
+ One woman’s hard choice more than 50 years ago blesses my family every day. Her desire to pass on her faith paved the way for me to have a man of faith as my own.
+ My friend inspires me and brings me joy; she is an answer to prayer. If I say “why”, she says “why not”. If I say “I can’t”, she will tell me I can. Her honesty and authenticity to who she is draws me to her. We have bonded over our faith, common life experiences, raspberry wine, and a shared love of Scooby Doo.
+ My Sisters in Law are the sisters I never had. They unconditionally accepted me into their lives when, as an only child, I am not sure how to be a sister. They are brave women, living overseas to serve their Lord, overcoming cancer, showing care and mercy to all they meet.
+ Wonder Woman…Ok, that was a joke, but she’s still pretty cool. 😊
What makes an Exceptional Woman? In my experience, it’s not position, power, or beauty, though I believe all my ladies are beautiful. It’s faith, strength of heart, a loving spirit, courage despite fear or grief, willingness to extend grace, compassion, wisdom, authenticity, and honesty. And above all, willingness to extend their hand to another.
I am thankful for each of these Exceptional Women in my life, it wouldn’t be the same without them.
Who are the Exceptional Women in your life? Who can you be an Exceptional Woman to? How would our world be different if each of us extended a hand to bring another woman along?
In a world of mean girls, let’s all be an Exceptional Woman to someone.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.”1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)