We had the good fortune of connecting with Denise Kendrick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Denise, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I was risk taker (verging on recklessly so)… until I held my first child in my arms. Being entrusted with the life of this tiny, helpless person brought every hazy, possible consequences into sharp focus. I became a neurotic about water safety. Gripped little hands excruciatingly tight in parking lots. Researched how small to cut the grapes I fed my toddler. The world seemed a more threatening place with this little life to protect. Somewhere down the road (and a couple kids later), I realized fear had become a driving force in my decision making. Not just in my personal life and family, but also in my career as the Director of a nonprofit ministry, Embrace. Fear of failure. Fear of making the wrong decision. Fear of vulnerability or embarrassment. Even, at times, fear of being TOO successful. The Bible is full of reminders that anxiety is fruitless and burdensome. Reminders that I conveniently dismissed because I felt like my worrying, particularly when it came to my children, was somehow beneficial. I’d become overly risk-averse in the name of safety and control. Calculated risks are key to success, and my worry had become an anchor holding me back. I needed to reframe the way I viewed risk. I started by leaning on structure to keep things moving forward. I walked myself through the prescribed steps for risk management decision making. Following flow charts and trying to view threats as opportunities for change or learning. It was a start. I dug into ways to mitigate negative outcomes, but each dreaded “worst case scenario” still hung over my head like a dark cloud. I would lay awake at night trying to shut off the steady steam of “what ifs” scrolling through my thoughts. I worried that life would not go on after a major catastrophe. This irrational line of thought made every decision feel like life or death. Then a major catastrophe happened. And the sun still rose the next morning. I was mortified, but my heart went on beating. It turns out, in my world, very few decisions are life and death. Years later I can even see how God worked through this failure for good. It’s not a way I would choose to become stronger, but I’m stronger for it. I’ve seen the worst case scenario, and life goes on. Coming to terms with the worst possible outcome deflates fear. This outlook hasn’t made me flippant about the cost of defeat. There are real and painful consequences. But I am still the ethical, resourceful, hardworking person I was the day before. Maybe with a bruised ego. Maybe needing to adjust my lifestyle. Maybe looking for a new job. This fresh approach has allowed me take more calculated risks in parenting and teach my children do the same. I’ve done my best to model how to prayerfully consider every opportunity. I try to tell my kids about my many mistakes and miscalculations, not just my successes. To teach them that really risk has two possible outcomes: you win or you learn. I don’t think many parenting books encourage risk-taking behavior, but I believe my children are bolder for it. They’re kids who start sidewalk businesses, climb tall trees, audition for the lead role in the play, ask the girl to dance, apply for ambitious jobs, and try to teach the dog to jump through a hoop. Sometimes they succeed but, when they fail, they learn that the sun still comes up the next day. But I still hold their hands pretty tight in parking lots.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am the co-founder and Executive Director of a small nonprofit ministry that equips and empowers local volunteers and congregations to positively impact the lives of children in foster care. I would never have imagined, 14 years ago, when this ministry launched as a volunteer effort that it would end up being my life’s work. After serving as the Director of Programs for many years I was promoted to the role of Executive Director. It was a big shift for me and I had to be intentional about learning new skills… and strengthening a few I hadn’t used in a while. After a couple of years in this position I’ve really fallen in love with leadership and become passionate about not just doing great things in our community, but building a culture within the organization that makes it a great place to work!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Historic Downtown McKinney is my go-to for one stop entertainment, shopping, and eats. My favorite lunch spot is Hugs Cafe. Great sandwiches, great service, and a great mission (to enhance the lives of adults with special needs through training and employment). I always make sure to swing by Landry Kate for trendy, affordable fashion and the Groovy Coop for fun vintage finds. Art galleries abound and live music is never hard to find when the mayor of your city is in a band (Maylee Thomas Band!). The patio at EJ Wills is a great place to unwind and eat heartily. Many patios are dog-friendly, so my four legged friends can come along as well.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m grateful for my husband, Bruce, who has not just weathered my shenanigans, but invested in them. He’s seen me at my worst and never stops believing in me. He let’s me set the pace for our hikes and runs and big decisions. Whether I’m laughing or crying or laying on a beach, he’s the one I want beside me.