Jena Nardella Talks Women

Sarah Markley,Kem Meyer, Lauren Chandler, Lindsey Nobles, Thomas Nelson, Women on Women, women women, Jenni Catron, Leeana Tankersley, Ann Voskamp, Jena Nardella, Heather Whittaker, Rachel Held Evans, Lauren Chandler

We’ve all seen the reality TV gold that happens when producers put enough beautiful women into the same small space.

Claws out.
Volume up.

But hopefully, even when life includes the same ingredients, some of us are working to live out an important distinction: real life doesn’t have to follow suit.

What if women…got along? Worked together? Pushed each other to be stronger?

Along these lines, today is the first post in a new blog series that interviews influential women on the topic of (shivers-up-your-spine) female-female collaboration.

With the killer lineup to come, it was crazy hard to pick a person to start with (They are all soooo good). But my heart pulled me toward kicking off the conversation with Jena.

Here’s the background story on Jena Nardella. At 22, Jena founded Blood:Water Mission alongside the band, Jars of Clay. (You’ll want to check her site out.) Since then Jena has been featured in Sojourners Magazine, Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, and the documentary film, Sons of Lwala.

But here is the real reason I start with Jena: The day we met we were surrounded by social justice leaders–the kind who have huge hearts and big opinions. In the course of the day, a heated discussion arose around some controversial issues. It was good discussion, but as is often the case, there was enough emotion in the room to
bring out the claws in any woman.

But not Jena.

Rather than turning up the aggression, Jena hung steady between her conviction and unwavering graciousness. And I’m confident that comes from a place inside her that works hard at relating well to others, including women.

I respect who she is and what she brings to our world. Here’s what came out of our conversation.

Women Issues, Women Quotes, quotes, women, women on women, women in the workforce, gender issues, women in society

Sarah: Can you tell me about a time another woman reached out to you that helped you believe in the good potential of women-to-women friendships?

Jena: A few years ago, I attended an intimate retreat with several influential Christian leaders. Out of 25 attendees, only 4 were women. It is not uncommon to feel greatly outnumbered by gender, and as a result, I generally have good rapport with male colleagues and friends. But I was fairly intimidated by one of the women participants.

She worked for an ad agency, and I admired from afar, but did not expect to get to know her very well. She was smart, articulate and comfortable in her own skin.

Over the weekend, Elizabeth approached me – wanting to get to know me and exploring ways that she could help me. We ended up collaborating for a year-and-a-half on a marketing and branding project for my organization.

Since then, Elizabeth has become one of my closest friends. We are similar in that we want to be influencers, writers, and be taken seriously as creative leaders. Instead of feeling competitive with one another, however, we have approached a relationship that is focused on encouraging the other toward her calling and gifts. It is rare to have a female peer relationship that is as equitable and life-giving as the one I have with Elizabeth.

Sarah: That’s amazing. And healthy. Thanks for sharing.
The faith arena sometimes seems to run shorter on female leaders than males. Any other great female leaders or writers that you look up to/read? And what grabs you about them?

Jena: I really admire Bethany Hoang, who serves as Director of the International Justice Mission Institute. She received her Masters of Divinity from Princeton University and applies her strong theological passion with her commitment to global justice issues. There are far too few woman leaders who serve as healthy examples of balancing external and internal responsibilities and callings. Bethany is a stunning example of a woman who balances work, motherhood, thought leadership, and a full vocational plate with grace and care.

Sarah: What’s some guiding philosophy that helps you view these women and others positively?

Jena: I think it’s important to remember that each of us has the power to be much more disarming with one another.  Doesn’t it feel wonderful to be approached by a woman who comes with genuine interest in you, with a belief that you are more likely to be a friend than a competitor? Isn’t that what we all want from each other? Sure, it feels safer to wear our guarded dispositions and measure ourselves up against each other. But it’s actually much more enjoyable to simply be honest in who we are and to take the courageous first step in taking off the competitive edge. You have to be fairly comfortable in who you are, with the guard down and all, but it ends up being such a gift to others. Elizabeth showed that to me, and it has opened a sweet partnership and friendship.


  • comment-avatar
    Janet Oberholtzer April 18, 2011 (9:34 am)

    Love this! Glad to ‘meet’ Jena here … she’s a great example of a confident, strong person.

    I look forward to more posts in this series.

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah April 18, 2011 (12:43 pm)

    Thanks @Janet. I’m personally so touched when people overcome lazy relationships and stereotypical patterns and dig deep to love each other. These women are going to speak to that. :)

  • comment-avatar
    jody fernando April 18, 2011 (6:44 pm)

    I love these ideas here… Sound along the lines a new book I’m reading “The Missional Mom” – have you seen it? What a great part of the conversation about womanhood!

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah Cunningham April 19, 2011 (7:33 am)

    @Jody, I haven’t but I will definitely look it up. Stay tuned to the series. There is some good stuff to come. :)

  • comment-avatar
    Brie September 6, 2011 (9:08 pm)

    I love this whole idea so much! I’m a SR. working on my Thesis in painting at Columbus College of Art and DEsign this year. And this is so much a part of the idea I am working to formulate right now. I am trying to do it with paint, but you said it SO GOOD! I”m so happy to see the thoughts in my head in words! Love this, great thoughts!