Kierra Sheard-Kelly: Be okay with embracing who you are, loving who you are, and making the separations that are necessary for your emotional health. What about you being the apple of God’s eye? That is what’s the important part of it. That’s why I live it out loud.
Owning The Person God Meant You To Be: Kierra Sheard-Kelly and Shannon Bream – Episode #247
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Whenever we have that feeling that we don’t quite belong, or that others don’t accept us for who we are, we can look to examples from the Bible of strong people of faith who owned who they were in God’s eyes, and went on to do great things in His name—even when others may have thought they were weird or different. God offers us the ultimate experience of acceptance, as He assures us in Romans 8:38 and 39, “nothing can separate us from the Father’s love.” Our guests today have had to look rejection and humiliation in the face and choose to believe that God had more for them, even when other people didn’t believe in them. We’re talking with gospel music sensation Kierra Sheard-Kelly and the chief legal correspondent for Fox News, Shannon Bream.
First up, Kierra Sheard-Kelly is a gospel singer and songwriter, author, actress, and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house where music was a second language, it wasn’t surprising that when Kierra reached her teen years, she followed in the footsteps of her famous mother and aunts, who made up the legendary Clark Sisters. But it would take a little longer for Kierra to really find out who she was—apart from the hit songs, apart from what others thought of her—and truly embrace the person she was uniquely meant to be.
Kierra: Hello, I am Kierra-Sheard Kelly, the author of Big, Bold, and Beautiful: Owning the Woman God Made You to Be.
So I started being this working woman. I went from traveling on the road to my mom to, “Now you’re all on your own.” So I had to figure some things out, of course, with the lessons that I had. But you have squad goals. Squad Goals has everything to do with your emotional state, how you’re creating, how you’re being pushed into your destiny if you’re being pushed into your destiny.
Finding Your Purpose and Your People
My Nana gave me the book The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren because there was something that my Nana knew that she couldn’t communicate to me, that, If I just give it to her in a book, I think she’ll get it. The book, tells you how you can identify those things. Sometimes it’s the things that are abnormal about you, sometimes is what comes naturally to you. My mother just said, “Kierra, just start singing,” and I just started singing, and now my career is based off what comes naturally to me.
I am a Jesus Calling reader. I really am. I got that from my Nana, too. The village is not just for the child, it’s for the adult. I think the Bible says—and I think that’s one of the scriptural references—the scripture is, “In the multitude of counsel, there is safety.” And so that’s one of my favorite scriptures because I literally have gotten so many answers from my advisors. And that can be my friends, my loved ones, my sibling, anybody that I feel like God has said yes to. And they’ve contributed so much to the path of my life.
“I literally have gotten so many answers from my advisors. And that can be my friends, my loved ones, my sibling, anybody that I feel like God has said yes to. And they’ve contributed so much to the path of my life.” – Kierra Sheard-Kelly
I tell the story, too, about when I was at a record company and I started saying, “I want to own my big.” Though I’m big and heavy in weight, and I know there were some things which my family encouraged me, “We want you to be healthy. There’s such a thing as being confident, but we also want you to be healthy.” But in the beginning, for anybody that’s trying to defeat an addiction, you have to own and accept and take responsibility for your actions. Right? So even if it is something that somebody has once upon a time made an insecurity, you still have to own it.
But this was a way to own who you are as far as you’re beautifully made different, if that makes sense. So I talk about when I was like, “I want to do full body [photographs],” and [my team was] like, “You can’t do full body shot. You got to do head-up shots.” And I’m just like, “No, I want to do a full body shot.”
Somebody said that I look like a Pillsbury Doughboy, and it came from [someone I trusted], that I didn’t expect it to come from. I mean, literally, I was growing through the journey and I kind of go back in the pages of my life and I’m like, “Let me just give this to somebody else so I can help them.”
I feel like my assignment is to pour into young women. I think when we’re going through experiences and we see that, I’m not the only one who is going through that. For sure, I can get through this. If she went through that, too, if she went through that bad relationship, if she spent poorly, or if she had a bad attitude, then I can get through this, too.
Living Out Your Faith Boldly
I think it’s important to let young people know that the Gospel is not just for preachers who are at the pulpit, not just for people with the mic, not just people who are in the spotlight. It is for everyone. I live my faith bold and proud by owning who I am, owning what God is doing in my life.
“I live my faith bold and proud by owning who I am, owning what God is doing in my life.” – Kierra Sheard-Kelly
People can identify their gifts, goals, and talents, but sometimes the thing that people point out and say, “That’s weird about you, that’s not cute about you, that’s ugly about you” . . . For me, people can tease me all they want to, but what connected me with some of my listeners in my demographic is the thing that people say, “Oh, that’s not cute.” People say, “You are big.” But [I say,] “Baby, but I’m changing the world.” So I think it is paying attention to everything, but being prayerful about it all and seeing what your skills are telling you.
Because you know Jesus, it doesn’t make you small, it doesn’t make you weird, it doesn’t make you abnormal. It actually puts you in a secure place, in a sure place, and allows you to kind of escape suicidal thoughts more than the average person that’s not in touch with Jesus. It allows you to escape depression more than it allows the average person that’s not in touch with Jesus, even anxiety, because there’s a different thing that we’re resting on. There’s a different being that we’re resting on, and there are different guidelines that we’re resting in.
“Because you know Jesus, it doesn’t make you small, it doesn’t make you weird, it doesn’t make you abnormal. It actually puts you in a secure place, in a sure place.” – Kierra Sheard-Kelly
Owning Who You Are
I would definitely encourage you to connect yourself with people that like you. I think that that’s how you can feel empowered and having people who are okay and not intimidated by who you are. You want people around you who will tell you the truth, too, and who are not afraid that they’ll lose a space in your life more than they are concerned with your anointing and your obedience to Christ. So I think that’s how you stay empowered.
Once you start owning who you are, it is such a liberating feeling. And it also allows you to connect with the research as you begin to attract the healthy relationships that you desire. You began to attract the healthy solutions that you deserve, and ven the doors that you want open, because first you have to accept it in order for you to walk in the door.
But at the end of the day, everything we do, the Word says, “Do it to the glory of the Lord.” There’s a glory that rests on your life, and heaven is rejoicing when you live it out and when you own it.
“There’s a glory that rests on your life, and heaven is rejoicing when you live it out and when you own it.” – Kierra Sheard-Kelly
Narrator: You can find Kierra’s book, Big, Bold, & Beautiful: Owning the Woman God Made You To Be, wherever books are sold.
Stay tuned to Shannon Bream’s story after a brief message.
2020 has brought a lot of challenges to many of our lives—but none more than our country’s first responders. The team at Jesus Calling has chosen 100 Jesus Calling devotions that have been specially selected for those heroes in our midst. There are hardcover editions of these 100 devotions for Medical Professionals, Firefighters, Law Enforcement and the Armed Forces. Find these Jesus Calling for First Responders editions exclusively at ChristianBook.com.
Narrator: Shannon Bream is a host for Fox News at Night, and also serves as the network’s chief legal correspondent. Growing up in Christian schools and attending a Christian college, Shannon’s environment was steeped in faith, which guided her through the ups and downs of the pursuit of her career. Though sometimes rejected and discouraged, Shannon stuck to the belief that she was supposed to work in news, all the while adopting an attitude of trust when it seemed like doors weren’t opening readily in that direction. Shannon’s determination and faith paid off, and now, along with her successful career as a host of a major evening news show, she’s also sharing stories from the Bible about fiercely faithful women, whom she’s written about in her new book, Women of the Bible Speak.
Shannon: My name is Shannon Bream. Professionally, I am the anchor of Fox News at Night and the chief legal correspondent for Fox News, author of Finding the Bright Side and a brand-new book called Women of the Bible Speak. It is about sixteen women and their lessons in the wisdom that we can apply today. I have been married for twenty-five years, and live in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C.
So my growing up years were all in Florida. I’m a seventh-generation Floridian and my dad, who has passed away, was always so proud of that, of our deep roots there. We really do love Florida and all of its quirkiness and wonderful things top to bottom.
My parents divorced when I was very young, just a year old, so I don’t have any memories of them together. But my childhood is this mix of growing up with my mom and our grandparents. And I’m so thankful for those years of going back and forth, visiting my dad as I got older, understanding more about this unusual situation and kind of having two different sets of family.
I grew up in Christian school. My mom was a teacher, and we were in church every time the doors were open, I say to people, so really the church was our community. It was sort of our family, the center of our lives. And in high school I went to a great Christian high school where I had teachers who poured into us. We had chapel and speakers. So I was constantly getting fed spiritually along with my education.
And that was true as well when I went off to Liberty University for undergrad. I traveled one year with a singing group at Liberty and got to see the world. We spent a good chunk of our summer in Brazil. And that was probably one of the things from my twenties, from my college years, that made the biggest impression on me, was to see how the gospel and that connection, the message of Christ, can connect you with people around the world. Even if you don’t speak the same language, you can have the same heart and be a part of the body of Christ.
“Even if you don’t speak the same language, you can have the same heart and be a part of the body of Christ.” – Shannon Bream
I went on to law school from there at Florida State back in Tallahassee where I grew up, and those were challenging years. It was very difficult academically and just a whole different way of going to school. I’d been at a Christian school environment K through 12 and then undergrad. So it was the first time where people weren’t on the same page as me about my beliefs, my faith, that kind of thing. So it was very interesting and challenging and very good for me to kind of see the world from different perspectives and know that there would be people who would respect where I came from and who I was and others who wouldn’t, but we’re called to get along and find a way to work together. And through those formative years, I had a lot of those experiences.
Experiences from the Miss America Pageant
Part of my college experience and law school as well was getting involved first in the Miss America pageant program. And, you know, it was something I’d watched as a little kid growing up with my mom and my grandmother. And we have little scorecards and we would pick our winners. And I love that these women seem so together. I mean, they’re getting their education. They’re talking about world issues. And I just was really impressed by them.
I competed when I was at Liberty University in the Miss Virginia Pageant. And much to everyone’s surprise, including mine, I won my first year in the competition and was off to Miss America just a few weeks later.
In the Miss America Pageant, you have a talent competition as well. I’d grown up playing the piano but had terrible stage fright. So that was a real challenge for me and a real stretching of my faith. So there I was at nineteen, kind of feeling in way over my head and overwhelmed, terrified that I was going to have to play the piano.
The night of the finals, you do the opening number everybody’s watching on live TV. Then they take you kind of back into a little holding area where you can’t go back into the dressing room because they know who the top ten are and they’re moving everybody’s things around. So you’ll be in your special competition area. They get your gowns ready and that kind of thing. And while we’re in this holding area during the commercial, one of the women who is hosting us says, “Don’t forget, if you make it, you’re going to perform in front of eighty million people.”
Most of the girls with this are cheering, they’re all excited. I want to fall on the ground like, Okay, now I don’t want to make the final ten because this seems like my worst nightmare. And sure enough, we went out from the commercial, andy name was announced as one of the top ten. I just had to pray over the whole thing—I had been for months—and really just give it to the Lord and say, “Listen, I believe that You brought me this far to bring You glory, to point this back to You. Please help me through this piano solo.”
That final day of competition, you’re in a bit of a bubble. But somehow the girls in my dorm had gotten this genius idea to go old-school and send me a telegram. And I got this telegram that said, “We’re praying for you. We’ll all be together and praying for you tonight.” So I just cherish that. And it really was something that, along with the Lord’s strength, got me through that performance that night on the stage at Miss America. And what a fantastic experience.
And I ended up entering the Miss Florida competition, which I did win and went on to Miss USA, where I again ended up in the finals there. And because of those experiences, I got through law school with no debt and had a fantastic experience representing my home state of Florida and got to travel around and do all kinds of things that I think prepared me for the path I am on and where I’ve landed now. So God was in all of that, had a great experience. It’s not for everyone, but for me, it was a lot of fun.
Progress, Rejection, & Determination
So my career path is a little bit unusual in that I did graduate from law school and practice for a few years in Florida as a sexual harassment attorney, doing race discrimination cases, employment law, that kind of thing. But always in the back of my mind, I’ve been this news junkie, very interested in journalism and telling those stories.
Law school very much interested me in that I enjoy the intersection of politics and law and that kind of thing, but I never could shake this other thing that I wanted to do, this other passion I had for news. So a few years into my legal career, I decided I would try to intern at one of the local news stations in Tampa, Florida, where I was working, and I landed at this one ABC affiliate there. And they said, “You can’t just show up here and take that. You’ve got to do this for college credits.”
I went to some of the local schools who said, “Well, unless you’re a mass communications student here, we can’t do authorized credits for you to go and do an internship.”
So, listen, I just wore people down. I got together my transcripts from law school and undergrad, back when faxes were still a thing. And I would fax them over to the departments of these various schools. Finally, the dean at the communications school at the University of South Florida in Tampa, he said, “I will grant you this exemption. What we’re going to do is you have to take a news writing class,” which I definitely needed. He said, “I’ll let you do that. And then I’ll also authorize the credits for you to go and take an internship at this local station.”
So I did the news writing class, which was super helpful. It’s very different than legal writing, which is what I’ve been trained in. And then I went over and did the internship at night and I would sneak over there nights and weekends whenever I had free time. And I would bug producers, photographers, reporters to let me go along with them. And it was really nice of them to do that, to sort of babysit this thirty-year-old intern at that point, was closing in on thirty.
So, listen, that very first job was not glamorous that I got after my internship, two a.m. to eleven a.m. I went in and I wrote copy for the morning show. I answered the phones, I made coffee, but I was loving every minute of it, despite the pay cut and everything else. I just thought, This is where I’m supposed to be.
And I was so excited for the opportunity and I started to gather little bits of tape here and there. And then suddenly one day my boss and his boss were gone. There was a management change at the station. So a couple of weeks into the new boss, I was called in to his office and the head of H.R. was sitting there and I thought, I am getting a promotion. This is awesome. But if the head of H.R. is sitting there, you are not getting a promotion. And he basically told me “You’re the worst person I’ve ever seen on TV, you’re not good. I don’t know why anybody thought that we should put you on TV. You’re never going to make it.”
And I’ll be honest, I cried. Not in front of them. I wasn’t going to do that. But I went and found one of these soundproof edit bays where they edited together the tapes and things for television. And I cried. I was so embarrassed and I was so hurt and I thought, Oh my goodness, I’ve blown up my legal career leaving to do this. What have I done?
So it took months and months and months of me sending out my tape, of me cold calling, of me sending my resume before I ever got a bite about another job. And it took a while and I learned a lot through that process, which was humility, that your job cannot be your god, it can’t be what drives your life. I preach this to myself all the time because I love what I do and it’s very all consuming. But I learned a lot of lessons in that hurt and it honestly kicked me out of the nest. It made me say, “All right, you’ve got to look at yourself honestly here about how bad you are, how good you want to be, what you need to do to make up the difference, how you can improve mentors and people that you can lean on.” And I found those along the way.
“Your job cannot be your god, it can’t be what drives your life.” – Shannon Bream
Waiting for Doors to Open
I went on to work in Charlotte, North Carolina, a fantastic market with wonderful people. From there, I got a call to take a local position with NBC in Washington, D.C. and it was there that I continued to try to get myself in the door with Fox. It was a new network, it was exploding. It was doing so well and I just couldn’t make any headway.
So finally, one day, my husband, who books professional speakers for a living, had booked Brit Hume, who was then anchoring the six p.m. show Special Report, for a speech. And my husband said, “You got to come with me. He’ll be in the green room. We’ll have a chance to talk to him, bring one of your DVDs, and you could hand it to him.” And I thought, This is super embarrassing and sort of stalker-like. I don’t know if this is a good plan. But I did go. I ended up meeting Brit as he was waiting to go on stage. And it was this moment of kind of, you know, putting together all my guts and my courage and saying, “I want to come work for you at Fox News.”
And he was very polite, but sort of laughed and said, “Oh, yeah, I get that all the time,” sort of blowing me off. And I felt a little embarrassed, but I was glad I stuck my neck out. And so I thought I would take a little walk at this point to sort of shake it off. And he and Sheldon, my husband, were still in the green room talking and he said, “Does she like to cover politics?”
And my husband said, “Well, when she was in law school, Florida State, she actually worked in the Florida legislature.”
And Brit said, “Wait a minute, she went to law school? Do you think she’d want to cover the Supreme Court for Fox News?”
And my husband was sort of like, “Wow, this has taken quite a turn.”
So I come back several minutes later not knowing this conversation has happened. And Brit literally says to me, when I walk in the room, “When do you think you could start?” And I am flabbergasted and thinking, Wow.
And from that point on, I was still under contract to NBC. So it was a tricky period because I wasn’t to be in negotiations with anyone else. It was very difficult because several times during the process, there were months of this that Fox would call and say, “Listen, we’re going to have to hire someone. We can’t leave this job open.” And I got to a point where I was walking around at a women’s conference with my best friend, kind of mulling over what I was going to do and how to handle this.
And we came around the corner to a book display that was up that said “When I lay down my Isaac.” And I said, “That’s exactly what I’m being called to do, not the guarantee that I’ll end up with this job, but that I have to let it go. It’s so precious to me, just like Isaac was to Abraham. And I believe this is of God, just like Isaac was to Abraham. But I’ve got to put it down.” And I did. And I said, “I just got to let it go with peace, that whatever God wants to be will be.”
And it wasn’t long after that Brit Hume actually tracked down my husband at his work, at his office, and called and said, “I know that Shannon can’t talk to us. But do you think when her contract is up with NBC, she’ll be interested in coming to talk to us at Fox?”
And my husband said, “Basically, that’s all we can say at this point.”
And that’s the story of how I ended up at Fox months later. And I’ve been there for fourteen years, primarily covering the Supreme Court, but now also anchoring Fox News at Night and now having the opportunity to author this brand new book under the Fox book label, Women of the Bible Speak.
Women of the Bible Speak
I think sometimes people have a misconception that women are sort of second-class citizens in the Bible or bit players. Every single one of these women are the stars of these stories, the stars of the show that God wanted their stories included in the scripture for us to learn from, to be encouraged by, to be challenged by, to be inspired by.
Jesus treated women as equals. They were studying with Him at His feet, which was not common in those days. Religious education, an esteemed religious teacher or rabbi as Jesus was considered by many back then, would have been primarily instructing young men and men in the temple about the gospel. But we see that women were close friends of Jesus. He had great respect for them and valued them.
When He resurrected, the person that He revealed himself to was Mary Magdalene, and that essentially made her the first evangelist to run and to go tell, “He’s alive.” I mean, He just took such care with His relationships with women. And so I thought that was a very beautiful, important thing to communicate to folks, that He interacts with women, too, who were on the fringes of society or outcasts like the woman who was caught in adultery. And He goes and makes every one of those people look at their own sin. And that famous line, “He who is without sin cast the first stone,” and they all kind of slunk away quietly, dropping their stones and leaving, realizing We’re all flawed, we’re all sinners.
“Jesus treated women as equals. They were studying with Him at His feet, which was not common in those days.” – Shannon Bream
And obviously, in the Old Testament, we have amazing stories of Queen Esther. We have Deborah, who was a leader of the entire nation of Israel, showing that God values women in their leadership roles as well. The God who intervened in all of these situations centuries ago is the same God today. I’m struck by the fact that these frustrations and troubles and challenges the women had, many of them are very common to today: family troubles, sibling rivalries, chronic illness, financial trouble, widowhood, infertility, betrayal. They’re just so many things that translate to now. And even if we don’t have the exact same problems or situations, we’re not asked to lead a nation into battle or to save an entire nation. There are common threads there about how God stepped up.
“The God who intervened in all of these situations centuries ago is the same God today. I’m struck by the fact that these frustrations and troubles and challenges the women had, many of them are very common to today. Family troubles, sibling rivalries, chronic illness, financial trouble, widowhood, infertility, betrayal.” – Shannon Bream
Narrator: As we wrap up our time with Shannon, she reads a passage from Jesus Always dated February 5th.
THE JOY I GIVE YOU transcends your circumstances. This means that no matter what is happening in your life, it is possible to be joyful in Me. The prophet Habakkuk listed a series of dire circumstances that he was anticipating, then he proclaimed: “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” This is a transcendent Joy!
I am training you to view your life from a heavenly perspective—through eyes of faith. When things don’t go as you had hoped, talk with Me. Seek My Face and My guidance. I will help you discern whether you need to work to change the situation or simply accept it. Either way, you can teach yourself to say: “I can still rejoice in You, Jesus.” This short statement of faith—expressing your confidence in Me—will change your perspective dramatically. As you practice doing this more and more, your Joy will increase. This training also prepares you to handle the difficulties awaiting you on your pathway toward heaven. Rejoice in Me always.
I just want women to know that all of that is universal. It translates across time to today, too. God sees us. He knows our challenges. He hears our prayers, the longings of our heart, and He is still intervening and working in our stories.
Narrator: Be sure to check out Shannon’s new book, Women of the Bible Speak, wherever books are sold.
If you’d like to hear more stories about knowing who you are in God’s eyes, check out our interview with musician Mike Weaver, from the Christian group Big Daddy Weave.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, baseball legend Darryl Strawberry shares his incredible story of turning toward God after a series of curveballs knocked him to the ground, and how that started a path to forgiveness that changed his life.
Darryl Strawberry: Baseball was fun, it was great, it was exciting, I was good. But at the same time, I had some real bad habits that had been introduced to me, and it led me astray from myself and who I could have really been. And you know what God did in the midst of that? He reminded me all these years that I was going through this life of trials and tribulations is because I wouldn’t forgive.