Christi Smith, the founder of Living Beyond Ministries, once lived and worked within the outward glamour of the Miss America Pageant system and the high profile luxury retail industry. She now uses those experiences to teach about a more abundant life through Christ.
Christi regularly shares her inspiring message with women of all ages at luncheons and gatherings on the speaking and teaching circuit, and through her study guide entitled Living Beyond. Also a mom and wife, Christi—along with her husband Alan and their two children, Lily and Autry—lives on a mountainside near Nashville, Tennessee.
You once lived in a world of outward poise—from beauty pageants to the fashion industry—but you struggled with fear. What finally resolved such dichotomy in your life?
Fear is something that I can always remember feeling, even in childhood. The fear of failure, the fear of not fitting in, even a fear of feeling physical or emotional pain. So often, these fears held me back from experiencing the joys of relationships and budding friendships. I would not tryout for much of anything because I was afraid to fail or look silly learning a new skill. This insecurity and fear in my life was like a millstone holding me down.
However, in the midst of all that fear and insecurity, the Lord faithfully worked in my life helping me to catch glimpses of who He created me to be. I knew, even at a young age, that I had a desire and a draw to be more outgoing, creative and inspire people around me.
When I was sixteen I participated in my first pageant. Scared to death and literally shaking on stage, I won the title of Miss North Central Georgia Teen. This was a little puff of confidence to my tentative heart. This is where a seven-year journey in pageantry and the Miss America organization began. During these years I went through battle after battle of facing my fears and seeing God miraculously show me His faithfulness as I placed more confidence in Him and who He created me to be than I had in myself and my own abilities.
One of the most memorable fears that I faced was the fear of performing my talent (piano) on stage. As a person who struggled with insecurity, I never thought I was a good pianist although I had begun playing when I was seven years old. At every recital I would shake so terribly that my legs and ankles would vibrate uncontrollably until I stood up to return to my seat or exit the stage. In 1999, while competing for the title of Miss Gwinnett County, the Lord brought me to this scripture—Colossians 3:23-24, Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men (this was judges in my mind); knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
So as I waited backstage, hearing a phenomenal opera singer perform with no fear and complete passion, I proclaimed this scripture and committed that night’s performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue to Him. It was my first performance without fear and trembling. I also won the talent competition that night and the title.
There are so many more examples of Christ setting me free from the fear and insecurity that had plagued me for so many years. He used these unlikely experiences of pageantry and the fashion industry to place a holy spotlight on my weakness and prove to me that He is made strong in my weakness.
What led you to want to teach what you had learned personally?
As I shared, I had always felt a tug in my heart to inspire people and at the age of nineteen I knew the Lord was calling me to serve women. I hear so many stories from women, and have experienced so many personal battles with fear and insecurity that I cannot help but share this freedom with others. When Christ has set you free, you are free indeed—this is my story!!
I am free from my past failures, I am free from the fear of my future, I am free from the fear of what others may think or say, I am free to serve my God and experience the abundant life that Jesus came to give me (John 10:10)! So many of us desire this same freedom! How could I ever keep this to myself!
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
I have experienced MANY unexpected detours that He has used to show me His faithfulness and majesty. The close of my pageant years was not in a blaze of glory and success. It was in a pool of tears and confusion as I watched my years of preparation disappear in a matter of seconds. I was performing my talent in the finals for Miss Georgia America when the Lord threw out the big orange DETOUR sign and I completely forgot the second half of the Concerto in G Minor that I could normally play in my sleep. Needless to say that ended my bid for the title that night. I was devastated and confused. I wondered why the Lord had allowed me to go through that. How would I ever be used to minister to women? Why would they want to hear what I felt I had to say and teach without this prestigious title? This question plagued me for several years as I poured myself into my work for a major luxury fashion house.
In 2008, I had a reality check with Jesus. The detour was just about over. I had to learn another vital lesson, my value in His Kingdom work does not come from anything that man has to offer. No title or glamourous life will make me useful to God. I am useful in His kingdom, when like a child I come just as I am and trust Him completely in all things.
Romans 8:28 promises me and you, that God will cause all things, even painful and embarrassing things, to work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to His purposes.
Had I never taken that detour, I would have been more confident in my own accomplishments and abilities than I was in who God is. I would have become a “self made woman” instead of a daughter whose life had been fashioned by the Creator of the Universe who passionately pursued me all the way to the cross.
Let’s talk about your Bible study guide, Living Beyond: Women Living Beyond Emotions, Fears and Circumstances, which is available through your website. Please tell us about it.
This study is a wonderful look at the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. If there is anyone who had reason to shake his fist at God and sit in the soup of his own tears, fears and circumstances, it was Joseph, the son of Israel (Jacob). Yet, we see a man who goes from a prideful youth to a humble servant. He experiences success, then disappointment, over and over, yet he chooses to allow God to minister to him at the point of his need.
I don’t want to preempt the study, but this six week study is a precious time of realizing the fullness we have in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the powerful Holy Spirit.
One of the key verses in Living Beyond is found in John 10:10, The thief has come to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly. This is written to help us to understand and recognize the thief when he creeps into our lives through our roller-coaster emotions and the fears and insecurities that whisper to us as we lay awake in our beds dreading what the future holds.
I have been amazed as women who have done this study all over the country are choosing every day to live beyond their emotions, fears and circumstances! And living beyond doesn’t just entail dealing with ourselves only. When we choose to live beyond and live out our belief in Him and His Word, we will see the lives of others be impacted and the name of Jesus be lifted up!! What a blessing!
If someone is struggling with fear in one or more aspects of his/her life, what’s the first step to “life beyond” that fear?
Getting real with yourself and God is key to living beyond the grip of fear. Over and over in scripture the Lord says, I heard the cry of my people. He hears you and I when we call out to Him. Specifically pour out your fears to your Father who loves you with an everlasting love. Then get into the Word and seek out verses that express God’s promises of protection and provision for you.
The Psalms of David are wonderful when battling fear, as David experienced fear yet always found strength and confidence in God. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB) is another powerful verse when dealing with fear, For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear), but of power and love and discipline.
A few fun questions…
What is your favorite comfort food and why?
I must say that I love food . . . period. Some of my favorite comfort foods are dumplings in the cooler months. I love pumpkin breads and cheesecake in the fall with a hot cup of coffee. I honestly try to avoid comfort food in the summer, but we love to grill out in warmer weather.
This website features musicians as well as authors. What’s your current favorite song or artist on the radio or mp3 player?
I am embarrassed, but liberated, to confess that I was still listening to my 1980’s Walkman until February 1st, 2012. Yes, I have a cassette tape that has been in my Walkman for over seventeen years. Now that I have graduated to my new iPhone 4s, I love to listen to Toby Mac and Jamie Grace while doing what I call running (this is up for debate by true runners) and Travis Cotrell’s latest album, When the Stars Burn Down. I love the song, The Word of God Has Spoken.
What’s the title of the last GREAT book you’ve read?
Elisabeth Elliott is one of my great mentors and I love all of her books!
What verse or story in the Bible best describes your faith journey?
The great Exodus by the Israelites, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. I love this account of God’s Mighty Right Arm rescuing His people from oppression and delivering them to the promised land. Of course, they were all humans who struggled with doubt and fear and I completely relate to that. But ultimately, they take hold of the Promised Land with confidence in their God and His ability to do supernatural things through their very natural lives. It does in fact, require one to live beyond himself/herself to believe that marching around Jericho’s city wall for seven days and then yelling really loud will cause the walls to crumble and the battle to be won!
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
I have always had an inner strength and strong personality yet lacked the confidence to walk in who I was made to be. As I have surrendered my heart and my will to Jesus, I have begun to appreciate and recognize purpose in my life.
So I guess I have to say that at one point I was stuck behind the dark glasses of fear and insecurity that made it hard to see, so I took those off. Then I got bored living next door, so I put on some high heels and learned to walk. Now, I rest in God’s strength and follow where He leads. And maybe from time to time, my kids see me in a Wonder Woman outfit (I always did like her stylish costume you know!).
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
We have a great Boxer named Savannah. She is quite a remarkable dog. We bought her last summer after we left Metro Atlanta and the neighborhood life, to take up residence on the side of a mountain in Tennessee where we rarely see our neighbors on the farm next to us. I had not been a “dog person” since Alan and I got married and my sweet lab Anna was put down while we were on our honeymoon ten years ago. Savannah, however, has stolen our hearts and she even gets to come inside the house a few days a week.
We have been told she is very mild mannered for a boxer. I am glad! She really has a similar personality to our daughter—meek and playful.
Thank you, Christi! It’s nice to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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For more information about Christi, to purchase her printed Bible study guide, register for her online study course, or contact her about a speaking engagement, visit her website at http://www.christismith.org/.