Women & Work

Rebekah Norman, County Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent

Rebekah Norman

County Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent

Rebekah Norman serves as County Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent with the University of Tennessee in Clarksville, Tennessee.  She was born and raised in Tennessee. Rebekah holds a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and a M.S. in Animal Science, with her research focus in Ruminant Nutrition.  Joining the University of Tennessee Extension in 2004, she progressed from program assistant, to Extension Agent, to now County Director. As County Director, she leads program efforts in the county with a group of fourteen co-workers, and in her Ag and Natural Resource Agent role she works primarily with livestock producers and forages.  Her favorite livestock species are sheep and when she is not working, Rebekah enjoys anything outdoors—particularly hiking.

We are so excited to have you be our featured guest this month. Please share with us a little bit about your life story and how God has brought you to the career that you are in now.

Well, the most important thing I can say about my life story is when I met the Lord. I grew up in a Christian home and my dad was a pastor. I grew up knowing about God, but when I was eight years old for the first time in my life, I knew I was a sinner and that I needed God. I realized I had personally sinned against a God who really loved me. In my conviction, He gave me the grace to understand that He would save me, and when He did, that meant my life was going to change forever.

The first change I remember was that I was no longer afraid of dying. When my daughter came to the Lord she told me, “Mama, I feel like I’m taller now,” because the weight of sin was lifted from her. That really describes how I felt, too. And so I began my walk with the Lord. 

One of the most important things I learned as a younger, growing Christian was the importance of daily time with the Lord, in His Word.  Life has so many ups and downs, and a mature Christian explained to me that regular time with God would make my walk with the Lord much steadier.  I found that to be true. Although I had many questions about what I was reading, God gradually revealed Himself to me more and more.

I attended Middle Tennessee State University to study Horse Science and while a student there, I met my husband. We were married for twenty-five years. Those years were difficult, and after 25 years, the marriage ended. This was not something I had ever expected, but God knew, and He prepared me for this difficult season without me even being aware of what He was doing. I had returned to the university to earn an Animal Science degree and changed careers to Extension work so I had the means to support myself and daughter after the divorce. It is almost humorous—I knew I was to earn the Animal Science degree but had no idea what job I would find as a result. I was already familiar with the Extension world and ran into an Extension agent who mentioned an open position to me. I applied for the position and became established in my career. All this occurred without a divorce ever being on my radar! This began my career in Extension—and I can say with confidence that God planted me in this work and has also enabled me to experience career “success.”    

God took a woman who was basically frightened of her own shadow and put her into a leadership role! I smile now when I think of the first class I taught. I was literally shaking all over! I started as a program assistant, and one year later became an Extension agent. Eleven years later I became a county director. You may ask, what is “Extension?”  Extension is the community educational arm of all land grant universities. Extension’s role is to take research being conducted on university campuses and research farms and translate it to use in everyday life in local communities. My “program” area is livestock and forages, which means I provide educational events for agricultural producers including classroom instruction, field days, farm visits (for consultation purposes), etc.

As a leader, not only in your workplace, but also in your community, how do you encourage others to become successful in their personal work endeavors?

If anyone were to ask me for advice I’m always going to first and foremost talk with them about their personal walk with the Lord. God knows how He’s gifted individuals, and He has a particular path for everyone to walk in fellowship with Him and His son. Sometimes it takes unexpected and unique turns, but if He’s the center of it, a person will accomplish all in life that they are meant to accomplish. We won’t waste our time on rabbit trails, chasing after things that we think will satisfy (but come up empty) because instead, we are walking with our Creator who satisfies us with fat and rich food! (Isaiah 55:1-3

An example of this is how I got my master’s degree after I became an agent. I thought earning this degree would somehow change me—make me feel more valuable, make me “measure up,” etc. The degree was valuable for career advancement, but it did not change one single thing about who I was, my value, or how I felt about myself! 

To summarize—I think the way to find success in personal work endeavors and life in general, is to surrender to God and obey. Then someday we will know we have accomplished what we were made for—and there is no higher calling than that. 

How did you come to recognize the gifts God has given you and what were some of the motivations for leveraging those gifts for the kingdom of God and for His glory? How do you seek to represent Christ and image Him through your work?

When we speak of gifts, I first think of spiritual gifts. Over the years I have taken several “spiritual gift inventories,” and I have found them useful to get an idea of how God has gifted me. I have discovered that some gifts come and go based on God’s assignments for me. I think the best way to recognize spiritual gifts is to seek God and obey Him. As we step out in obedience, He gifts us for whatever task He has before us. For me, obedience is the best way to discover gifts. As He has changed my kingdom “assignments,” I have discovered that He provides the gifts we need at the time. 

Regarding my motivation for leveraging those gifts in Kingdom work, I can say that my motivation is a loving relationship with Jesus. Jesus has promised us exceptional fellowship with Him, found by walking in obedience to Him. I want that exceptional fellowship with Him!  John 14:21 Jesus said,  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and manifest myself to him. I want that!

How do you keep yourself encouraged that the work you’re doing is valuable and worthwhile when the world tempts women to believe otherwise? Are there any scriptures God has given you to keep you present in the work to which He has called you?

I’ll tell you just a brief story from many years ago. I had gone through a long season. I’m talking years of a very, very, very difficult relationship, and every now and then I’d have moments of clarity when I just realized how bad things were. I remember at one point crying out to the Lord about it and complaining that all these years were a waste. I will never forget His loving, but very firm and strong conviction–He reminded me that HE’s the judge of whether a season or a thing is a waste. He has the right to do with me as He wants, and I can absolutely trust Him that He will never waste anything. My only role is to do what He says, and I’ve got to trust His view of things.

Probably the verse He uses most frequently regarding my current station in life is Isaiah 55:7-9Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, let him return to the Lord that He may have compassion on him and to our God for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts and neither are My ways your ways, for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.

He reminded me that my thoughts don’t compare to His, and I will be very wise to seek out what He thinks about where I am. 


What are some challenges you have experienced, either in work or personal, and how have you seen God? How have you seen God at work around you? Despite them? How has God used the relationships that you have developed in challenging times for His glory and your good?

When I was offered the County Director role, I happened to follow an individual who had been in my position for a long time and was very loved. He was an older gentleman and the community lost him tragically. At times I have struggled with a sense of “not measuring up” to my predecessor—but God has reminded me that He is the one who chooses to use people where He wants. And He places us in situations for HIS glory, not our own!  

So I learned to let go of that feeling of trying to be like my predecessor and instead embrace who God wanted me to be in this role.  He gave me 1 Corinthians 1:26-29For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 

Through these verses, I have learned that any success or failure is not about me. It never is about me. I can experience fulfillment in whatever His purpose is for me and ultimately that purpose is for Him to be glorified.

I think He intentionally chose someone like me. After my divorce, I was afraid, shaky, and uncertain of myself. And what did He do? He put me in a job where I have to speak in front of groups and provide agricultural advice in a leadership role. God is not going to let us go through life fearful or have strongholds in our life. He came to set the captives free, and He has used this very challenging role in my life to bring me closer to Him and set me free!

Being a county director is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I would also say it’s the most rewarding. It has sanctified me in ways I didn’t know I needed to be sanctified in! If there is a behavior or an activity in the workplace that needs to be perhaps redirected, He’s taught me how it’s always about the behavior, and never about the person. He has worked with me regarding my concern about personal reputation—reminding me that I am to be concerned about His glory and His reputation—and He’ll take care of mine as He sees fit. I want to encourage anyone out there in a challenging role that God can use it. He intentionally puts His people in what we may think is too big of a job because He wants others to come to know Him. Think about it—if we are in a comfortable role and know we can do it, who gets the glory in that? It sure isn’t God!  

As a woman who has been following after the Lord for some time and has seen the ups and downs of life, what advice can you give to other women who are at the beginning of their career and life journey?


The first piece of advice I would give is to start memorizing scripture and cling to His word. Recently I’ve been memorizing Psalm 63. The first half of the Psalm reads, Oh God, You are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirst for you, my flesh faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips shall praise you. I will bless you as long as I live, my mouth will praise you with joyful lips. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food when I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the watches of the night. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

The harder it is to memorize, the more you are required to meditate on the words—I have found in my life that sometimes God does that because I need the extra meditation time! The time is transformative.

Whatever season of life you are in, cling to Christ with your heart, soul, mind, and emotions. Maybe because I have young grandbabies, the picture He gives me in my mind whenever I think of those verses is of a baby wrapping their arms around their mother’s neck and how the mom holds them up with her hand. That’s the picture I have of God doing for me.

He has called us to Himself for Himself and everything else is peripheral. If we can get that, and believe me I’m saying this to myself, then we will have everything we need in life. I have to remind myself that knowing him is the best gift in life we can possess and the best gift we can share. When I get to see Him face to face, I want to behold Him as a beloved. I don’t want Him to be some stranger.

Lastly, I would say your life is going to be very adventurous and you’re going to do things you never thought you could do. You don’t have to dream them up because God will do that for you, and He will be with you every step of the way.

Have someone in mind you’d like to nominate to be featured on Work Done Well?