How To Rise Above It All . . .

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I can’t help but think that in some place in the distant past, there was a woman who was just like me. Maybe she had the same cocoa colored skin, the same kink in her hair with flecks of gray, the same fullness in her lips and uneasiness in her eyes that hoped for a better tomorrow.

Maybe she worked on a cotton farm or was a cook in someone’s kitchen. Or maybe she was a domestic and made beds, and tended to other people’s children for a living, or was even a seamstress or maybe she couldn’t work outside the home at all.

I’m thinking maybe in the not too distant past she would daydream like me and stare out windows, big and small wanting the world to be safer for her sons and daughters. Thinking if she smiled enough, was kind enough, loved the Lord with all her heart that the world around her might – just might – change.

If I could tell her something, I would tell her that I know her heart ache. I understand her pain, and while the craziness of the world may appear to limit her abilities because of how she looks and who they think she is, that she’s unlimited in the will of God.

I’ve been on my knees in prayer a lot in the past two weeks, desperate for answers, wanting to understand why there’s so much chaos in the world but slowly I changed the conversation with God. I’m not asking why anymore; I can’t. My mother wanted to know why, my grandmother wanted to know why, my great grandmother wanted to know why.

I cannot ask why anymore.

I know now that to rise above the problems of this world my place is to fall on my knees in His presence. And when I rise, I do so with the full armor of God.

I came across this beautiful song that summed up perfectly where my heart longs to remain. It blessed me so, and I hope it blesses you too.

Touch The Sky – by Hillsong United

 

You are a redemptive story ….

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“It’s been a long time since we’ve been alone,” my sister said to me as we got into her car. “Too long,” I agreed and fastened my seatbelt. Despite the grim reason for our road trip, our movements and demeanor were light.

We were headed to our hometown to pay our last respects to our biological father. I guess I frame it as “biological” because unfortunately, he was not a consistent presence in our lives. Our connection was at best was … biological. I’ve written about my life without him before. I wished for more, but it didn’t happen the way I hoped.

Join the conversation online #worthliving and follow @marydemuth on Twitter and Instagram

Join the conversation online #worthliving and follow @marydemuth on Twitter and Instagram

During the 2-hour ride, we caught up with each other’s lives, laughed a little and even found ourselves at one point listening to an audio book I started. I looked at my sister with great admiration. Next to me was a woman who was beautiful, resilient, and a creative soul with a family of her own. A far cry from the chubby little girl whom I played jump rope, chased seagulls and drank Pepsi in the hot Carolina sun with.

And then it happened.

The conversation we both managed to avoid from the onset of everything that happened.  We talked about what his death meant to us. More importantly, we talked about what his life meant to us. While we managed to make it to the ceremony and back home to our respective families, I felt that the conversation was far from over. I still had a need to explore my feelings about this. Around that time I received an email from the author Mary DeMuth who was developing a launch team for her newest book “Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love For You Makes You Worthy.”

Without thinking, I replied to her email and asked to sign up. I received an advanced copy of the book, and as I began reading, I found myself stuck on this sentence for days:

“I lived all those years of my childhood believing I was unworthy of protection, unworthy of affection, unworthy of attention, unworthy of applause, unworthy of nice things.”

– Mary DeMuth

Picture of Mary DeMuth's Book: Worth Living

Mary’s Book along with my FAVORITE mug.

I think I re-read that sentence well over a dozen times. Probably two dozen, if I’m completely honest. I highlighted the text. I rewrote it in my journal and stared at the words as if they were the beginning and end of everything for me. I never knew anyone else could feel that sense of worthlessness I did as a kid. There was always something in the back of my mind that made me believe I wasn’t worthy. It’s the thought by which I hinged everything and how I lived my life.

I revealed this to my dad in an intense conversation one day. I hesitantly explained that his lack of trying to be in my life made me feel like I wasn’t worth the effort — to which he responded with a weary, “I’m sorry, baby.”

But here’s my truth, I didn’t have the type of relationship I wanted with my dad on earth, but I have a heavenly Father, who took care of all of my needs. Every. Single. One. If I told you where I came from to how I live now … it’s only God. This I believe.

“Worth Living” helped me during this grieving period. The lies that we all believe about ourselves should be overshadowed by the ten truths she talks about in her book:

  • You are wildly loved.
  • You are more than a to-do list.
  • You are uncaged.
  • You are weakly strong.
  • You are secure.
  • You are beautiful.
  • You are chosen.
  • You are destined for impact
  • You are worth more than a paycheck.
  • You are a redemptive story.

My connection to Mary was a divine connection. I’m convinced of that. I wanted to endorse her book in this way because I believe with all my heart that God gives you what you need when you need it. Worth Living was a beautiful reminder to me that I am a redemptive story. I am worthy of God’s love, and so are you.

Mary’s also planning on hosting a conference this fall called, The Re-story Conference, go here to learn all about it.

Enjoying the hum …

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I’m flawed. I make mistakes. Like, all the time. All. The. Time.

For a while there, I couldn’t see past them which prevented me from doing the things I love — like writing. I would pour my heart into a piece I wrote only to later (at times much-much later) find a typo or a poorly phrased sentence, and it would discourage me, so I would stop writing. I took it too seriously and wouldn’t dare publish or share anything until I believed it to be perfect, and you know what happened? Nothing. Nothing happened for ten years. TEN YEARS! All in fear of being judged or talked about or having the topic of my discourse weighed in the court of public opinion. The sad realization is that I cannot recoup the time I lost in not doing the thing I love. The good news is there’s no time like the present to pick up where I left off and just push forward. I use to be in love with the final product, and it got me nowhere; now I’m in love with the process. Hitting the backspace, trying to find a better word, re-reading what I wrote to see if it conveys my thoughts. I changed my thinking, and now I freely write from the perspective of a person who is flawed. 

It’s the same rhythm that you find in baking bread and feeling the silkiness of the flour in your hands or painting and relishing the sound of the brush strokes against the canvas, or crunching numbers, surveying the whole spreadsheet and working through the details to reach an end. It can be found in gardening, reading elementary age children essays, making widgets at a factory, and even driving a city bus. The joy is not necessarily in the end rather it’s in the hum of it all. Do you enjoy the hum? Do you enjoy the hum enough to be imperfect at it?

Consider this: making mistakes is better than faking perfection any day of the week. The adage is true; perfection is the enemy of good, and I’ve learned that done is better than perfect. Are you waiting on perfect to make something happen in your life? The conditions will never be better than right here …right now. Do the thing. Make mistakes but above all else, enjoy the hum.

When letting go saves your life …

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“I’m not sure how to let things go,” the voice on the other end of my phone said slowly. “I mean, I want to, but I’m not sure HOW.” I listened intently and nodded in agreement even though she couldn’t see me. There must be something in the air right now because I’ve discussed this topic with several people just this past week. We all know that we should “let go and let God” but how do we put that into practice. Even after this particular conversation ended, it was still on my mind. Last year, during one of my darkest hours I had this holy revelation where I realized every day we get up, we can decide to carry the burden of worry all on our own, or we give it to God. It’s a matter of choice, right? Barbara Cameron says “worrying is arrogant because God knows what He’s doing.” I chuckled when I found that. It was confirmation. So while I got it, I too was baffled about how to put it into practice. 

I’m a visual person and started meditating on this notion: how do you let it go? I asked that it be revealed to me in such a way that I not only get it, but I learn how to practice this. Immediately I saw the image of an airplane that had reached its weight capacity and this voice told me that I needed to lighten the load; otherwise, I’d crash. In haste, I opened the cabin door and started tossing out boxes and packages without looking. And for a moment, I stopped and worried about what would happen to the things I got rid of. Would it land in a deserted field? Or smash into a house below or even fatally injure someone?

I have an active imagination.

Here’s the thing: letting go, I mean REALLY letting go of something is difficult, and it’s hard. But it’s slowly killing us. Worry leads to more worry, which leads to stroking the flames of fear, and doubt and ultimately shame. So while we may want to concern ourselves with things out of our control we simply cannot. To the example, I cannot afford to worry about what happens to things after I push them off the airplane because I’m trying to save my life. I’m trying to stop the airplane from crashing.

Consider this for today: You cannot worry about what people think of you, that’s their business. You cannot worry about a situation that’s out of your control. You are fully equipped to decide. I hope you choose not to worry today.

Living in victory …

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If we believed everything our eyes see, we would think that the world is against us. Acknowledging and responding to perceived and real haters — those people and situations we believe aren’t for us— does nothing more than feed into the notion that we are not enough. It’s so easy to go down this path, after all, responding to Hater-Nation is now commonplace, and our social media responsibility is to let the world know that we are unbothered by them. If we continue down this path, if we consciously decide to live in this space, we’ll be forced to view the world through the lenses of regret and contempt and will eventually believe that no one is for us. 

So here’s the thing that we tend to forgot, we live in victory. You are already winning.

Look, I struggle with this too because somewhere along the way we’re taught to look for the bad and view everything with a critical eye. And in being in this state of mind, the level of indignation grows because we now think part of our purpose is to defy haters as validation that we are worthy.

Haters are NOT motivators.

You are already worthy.

It’s just that simple.

And because you have victory, know that winning does not come at the expense of someone else’s happiness. The universe does not work that way. There’s always a balance. There’s always enough. There are no shortages of blessings. Consider this for today: refuse to use haters to fuel your dreams, instead, look to Him as you fulfill your purpose.

Unlearning Superwoman . . .

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“I’m proudly a superwoman,” my friend said to me as we sat down for coffee late last week. “Okay,” I said completely not convinced. She seemed tired and even admitted it; hence the coffee connection, she wanted to recharge somehow. My friend went on to explain how she was doing “this” and “that” and because of these accomplishments people have been asking her to take on more. “I’m in charge of the volunteer committee, that’s a big deal,” she continued holding her hands apart in the air to show the magnitude of responsibility. I took a sip of my coffee and listened patiently. Indeed, it seemed that she was taking on a lot and pleasing a lot of people but what I was hoping to hear was if these tasks brought HER joy if they were connected somehow and if they were honoring God in some way. They weren’t. Instead, I had in front of me a woman nearing exhaustion engaged in busy work.

I’m no one to pass judgment on how we conduct our lives but what I do know is that when we are about the business of doing what we’ve been called to do, there is divine order. And yes, we may grow weary in the process, but it will not require us to be a mythical unattainable version of ourselves. I pressed, and we got to the real reason she was taking on so much, she felt like if she kept busy, she wouldn’t have to deal with an issue unfolding in her life. We’ve all done it before. Many of us still do.

For today consider this: stop being trying to be superwoman, instead believe in the Almighty for supernatural blessings. He gives us what we need when we need it; just call on Him. RTMS1

What Happens When You See The Light…

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I love the person I’ve become, because I fought to become her. ~ Kaci Dane

It’s official. I’ve decided not to change a thing about myself this year. That may sound a bit arrogant, but I promise you it’s not, it comes from a good place.

An I-am-enough-kind-of-place.

A so-many-of-us-heard-about-it-but-didn’t-dare-to-venture-there-kind-of-place.

There is indeed a lighted path for living. It’s not the elusive unicorn or unattainable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow kind of stuff, but there really is a light.

It’s true what they say when you get it, you get it.

I got it.

If you were to ask me a few years ago about New Year resolutions, I could rattle off a list with ease.

I chuckle a little thinking about it because it took me a while to realize that my life was not a series of things to get done; rather my life ebbs and flows. I had to figure out how to remain open to new possibilities while keeping fear and doubt in check. So I dug deep and determined that for me to allow anything good to happen in my life, I first had to love myself.

That was no small feat.

At that point, I had spent 20 some-odd years of my life trying to fit in and then the better part of my 30s struggling to find my identity as a mom and wife.

I decided to take the One Word 365 Challenge; it’s where you opt out on New Year resolutions and instead choose one word to describe your year. In 2014, my word was self-acceptance; I learned that self-acceptance is something we have to choose every day.

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Each day you get up, you decide. It took me 365 days to scratch the surface. I’m still practicing self-acceptance. (Psalm 139:14)

Then in 2015, I decided that my word would be resilient because I needed stick-to-it-ness. I needed to hone my ability to bounce back from adversities. If you Googled the phrase “throw in the towel” my face would be in the caption.

Cheese.

I felt when things went going awry they did so for a reason. So I would quit. I needed things to be perfect; after all, it was a reflection of me. It was easier just to start over or pick something else which piqued my interest. Elizabeth Gilbert shares a quote in Big Magic from Rebecca Solnit who says, “ So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.”

Ugh! It’s true. Perfection kills everything! Everything.

I made a declaration in front of about 100 women this past November that I was done with waiting on perfect. It’s too hard. It’s exhausting. And frankly, I have a life to live. In letting go of perfect, this past year was the first time in a long time I had the grit to see something through, tears and all, and it was amazing.

Amazing. (Psalm 46: 5)

For 2016, I choose the word worthy. It seems like worthy ties together everything I’ve learned, unlearned and relearned, went through … about to grow through. Worthy is directly tied to self-love, accepting of love from others, and having the ability to give love freely without sacrificing anything. No guilt. No shame. No more emotional hoarding. No regrets. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

So about the whole light thingy, once your see it, it’s now your divine assignment to capture it’s essence so that you can allow it to shine through you. Then, YOU become a light in the world. How do you capture the essence of light you say? You live each day with intention, with passion, with purpose … all while operating in faith.

What say you? Have you seen the light? A flicker? A flash? Or are you standing in the sun? And if you were to take the One Word 365 Challenge, what word would you use to describe your 2016?

Happy New Year!

It Really Is About The Journey . . .

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God is within her, she will not fail; God will help her at break of day.

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Collage of speakers and some of the attendees.

Psalm 46:5 (NIV)

“So, how’d it go?” my friend asked with wide-eyed enthusiasm. We both had events to happen the weekend of November 7 – she hosted her younger sister’s first baby shower, and I hosted my first women’s conference.

“It was amazing,” I started. “It far exceeded my expectations.”

The truth is my faith waivered the entire journey.

The. Entire. Journey.

Leading up to the actual event, I probably cried about once twice a day. At first they were tears of uncertainty. For a long time I felt like I was swimming in the depths of the ocean, I was full of fear. I thought I had nothing on which to anchor. I thought, maybe God did not give me the vision to start the Faith.Hope.Love. Mom Conference. Maybe I concocted the whole ding-dang thing, and I heard what I wanted to hear and not what He called me to do.

The tears then morphed into disappointed tears because I took a leap of faith and did something that I would NEVER do: I asked other people for help. I heard the word “no” too many times to count in the past ten months – I lost track after about the millionth time. I diligently called, emailed, Skyped and physically met with dozens of companies and people across Georgia and was turned down again and again and again.

It’s funny now but I realized toward the end of my journey that fear was going to be there regardless. It wasn’t something I could easily get rid of, fear would have to come along; I just couldn’t let it dictate how I operated my life. And the disappointment, well that comes with the territory. As a writer, you hear no a lot, I mean a lot because maybe the timing is off, or there’s no budget to support your project, or they’re just genuinely not interested, and that’s okay. I took the rejections personally, and I shouldn’t have. I felt like they were saying no to me, but they weren’t.

The woman-owned business or centric organizations that supported the inaugural event.

The woman-owned business or women-centric organizations that supported the inaugural event.

Truth?

My asks were misplaced. It wasn’t about reaching out to people and companies for help; it was about re-training me to turn to Him for my needs.

All of them.

When I realized that, my dialogue changed, I was no longer asking for help and my self-worth, my identity, my wanting to be brave was not tied to their response. Brene Brown says in Rising Strong that, “the most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity.”

I didn’t need their validation. I was on a mission from God, and that was enough.

And “no” eventually turned to “yes” – just enough of them. I aligned myself with several woman-owned businesses that sold their wares, and either discounted or volunteered their services.

Me (turquoise shirt) surrounded by the 2015 speakers and host. L to R, Diana Watley, Dr. Maria Barnes, Egypt Sherrod, me, Kendra Morman (host), Dr. Roxanne Donovan. Missing Tracy Nicole.

Me (turquoise shirt) surrounded by the 2015 speakers and host. L to R, Diana Watley, Dr. Maria Barnes, Egypt Sherrod, me, Kendra Morman (host), Dr. Roxanne Donovan. Missing Tracy Nicole.

The speakers were amazing, and so was our awardee. We honored a local businesswoman for her impact on influencing generations of Atlanta women. I proudly watched as everything unfold. I was touched when the attendees shared bits of their personal stories. I began praising God in the corner because He did it – through him I created a safe and judgment free place where moms felt they could rediscover themselves and lead intentional lives.

I wouldn’t trade the past year for anything. I’m emerging wiser and more resilient, and I look forward to doing it again next year.

 

Dr. Joyce Irons our 2015 Inspirational Award Recipient

It’s time to rethink your story

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Read. This. Book. If you have not read Liz’s book, Big Magic … please do.

“…You have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so do I, and so does everyone around you. And bringing those treasures“…You have treasures hidden within you – extraordinary treasures – and so d to light takes work and faith and focus and courage and hours of devotion, and the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time anymore to think small.”

From “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert

“Why would you even do this?” my friend said completely unconvinced. I was hurt. Her words stung because I’ve been venting the successes and challenges of orchestrating an event I’m planning to her for months. Recently I revealed some lessons learned about this process, and she exploded with frustration. “Seriously, I love you but you think too big.” The conversation from that point was a blur. All I heard was, “you think too big.” For a nanosecond, I let her words sink in and then I had to remind myself that thinking big has always served me well.

The lesson I shared was faith and self-love are important — they’re vital, but it’s hope that lights the pathway. Hope anchors us, it propels us forward. Hope clears the path. What I know for sure is that anything you’re thinking of doing right now in this moment with your life has always been with you. You may have just discovered it, but it has always been planted in you. In Christianity, we’re taught that “…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”1 In Jewish culture, it has been said “Even if I knew that I would die tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.”2

So why would I even do this?

  • It’s because instead of waiting for something miraculous to happen in my life, I know that I’m the miracle, and it’s my responsibility to make it happen
  • It’s because I’ve got to believe that I’m more than my current circumstance
  • It’s because I’ve got to be an example to my children that waking dreams do come true
  • It’s because I define success in my life, and my journey is my own

What do you think? Why do you think big? or not?  I want to hear from you.

Delicious Uncertainty

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“Tell me all about it,” Judith said with wide-eyed enthusiasm, we met at a function a few months before and finally reconnected. I knew she was a good person right away; I felt it in my bones. Both Judith and I are planning events in the same season, and we’ve tried to be supportive of one another. But I hit a snag in the road, my ticket sales stalled and I felt stuck, so I reconnected with Judith for some advice.

“It’s going okay,” I mumbled trying to convince myself taking a quick sip of my coffee. I decided to come clean and leveled with her. “Look. Truth is, I don’t know if I’m doing this right.”

She listened intently and even finished some of my sentences.

“I called, met with them and then…”

“…You didn’t hear back, yeah I know,” she said nodding.

A wave of relief came over me.

“Yes, exactly! What am I doing wrong?”

“Nothing. You seem like you’re doing the right things.”

And then she described the challenges she was facing. As she continued, my body rocked with nervous excitement. She understood. She really understood. I had found a kindred spirit in Judith.

We both left our coffee meeting that day recharged and a little less deflated. And I left with another understanding. I realized I’m living with uncertainty. Oh, the agony of uncertainty. The not knowing. The elongated pauses. The appearance of nothingness.

It’s awful.

Getting from where you are to where you want to be seems thrilling when you have a plan. I thought I packed appropriately for anything. I was even ready to deal with shame gremlins that told me I couldn’t do it, but uncertainty … it’s awful.

Did I mention that?

So there in the middle of the coffee shop, I pulled out my notebook and tried to shed some light on my situation. Without thinking I wrote:

  • I am certain I am doing the best I can.
  • I am committed to this cause.
  • I am certain that I will see this through, even it’s just me and my husband sitting in a conference room.

I then realized that it all tied back to a seed I planted earlier this year. I said my one word would be resilience. I knew then I needed to learn how to bounce back, how to cope with stress and adversity, my stick-to-it-ness. I needed to work on my “grit” muscle. Well, here it is!

Me and my big mouth!

It sounds good when you say it, living it is just, ugh. I won’t say it.

Cheryl Strayed said it best in, Wild, she writes, “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

So here I am feasting on delicious uncertainty while flexing my resilience muscle. I see fear over in the corner but I won’t let that bastard win.

How do you cope with uncertainty?

Here’s a promo video completed for the conference, let me know what you think. And if you’re on Google, subscribe to the channel.

Your Destiny Is Too Important To Give Up . . .

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“Waiting on the other side of temptation, waiting on the other side of this test is everything you ever dreamed, everything you prayed for, everything He promised you.”  ~Kevin LeVar, Your Destiny

What does it take for true transformation to happen? I’m talking about change that helps you remain authentic to who you are, shifts the narrative of your story while running the risk of creating discomfort and possibly alienating the people around you?

I mentioned a few months ago that I’m embarking on a new adventure, and just the mere thought of it made me nauseous. Well, I’m doing it. I mentioned earlier this year I started a media company and now am undertaking my first big endeavor.

I’m hosting a one-day women’s conference this fall in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Uninvited Guest

When I began writing the business plan for the conference several months ago, the “shame gremlins” as Dr. Brene Brown calls them came from everywhere. Shame gremlins exist for one reason only: to keep us small. To prevent us from living whole lives, to stop us from stepping into our destiny. I heard overwhelmingly:

“Who do you think you are?”
“Nobody’s going to come!”
“Who’s going to speak at YOUR conference?”
“How are you financing this?”

Little did those shame gremlins know, I’ve been in what Dr. Brown describes as ninja warrior training mode because I knew they would show up – they always do.

While I haven’t defeated all of the gremlins, I’ve successfully eliminated quite a few of them and managed to quiet the others – for now. I put my intention out into the universe, and you know what happened? People began to show up. One by one, day-by-day, and it’s been an amazing experience.

Why The Conference

As a mom of 4 and with a child with special needs, I take Conference postertremendous pride in caring for my family. I love my children. I love my husband. But there was emptiness in me that I couldn’t explain. I thought through this blog I could carve out a little niche for myself, and while it did help, I still felt something was missing. When I began talking with my other mom friends and listening to their stories. I heard the same lament over and over again:

“No time for me.”
“Love my family, but I need a break.”
“I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I DID have time to myself.”

…and that’s just skimming the surface.

I didn’t know what to do initially with these stories; I mulled over it for years — 2 years exactly, and then I got my answer. I decided to create a platform where women could feel comfortable talking about their stories. I wanted a judge free zone, where the common denominator was self-care for moms.

The transformative aspect in all of this is that my circle of friends and associates get to see me in a new light. Some don’t understand it; most of them do. For the former group, taking on the risk of owning a business and now managing an event is crazy and stressful. They know I have a demanding career and major responsibilities at home.

I get that.

For the friends in the latter group, they understand that gnawing feeling inside which tells you that you’re capable of doing more with what you’ve been given. It’s the…

“I’ve got to try this”

“no regrets”

“all or nothing”

“I’m all in”

…talk that we often give one another and yet when it’s time to act upon it, we do nothing.

I’m done talking.

I’ve got to try this. No, regrets. It’s all or nothing. I’m all in.

I’m extending my warmest invitation for you to take a look at the conference site. Sign up for the newsletter to stay connected and learn about other moms and their stories and even share your own. You never know who YOU may inspire.

I’ll see you there.

You Put Your Right Hand In, You Take Your Right Hand Out…

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I stumbled across an interesting image on the blogosphere some time ago. It’s the picture of two different sized circles, the smaller of the two is labeled “Your comfort zone” and the larger one labeled, “Where the magic happens.”

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen it.Komfortzone

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are different versions of it, but the message is the same.

Several weeks ago, I wanted to see what would happen if I left my comfort zone only for a minute and the result was not what I expected.

I wanted to start a Twitter chat.

Seems simple enough, right? You pick a hashtag, a day of the week, tell folks about it and then you’re up and running.

Bada bing! Bada boom!

Well, it’s not that simple. You see, for every Twitter chat happening there are probably dozens more going on at the same time, on the same day. At least that what I told myself as I took the first step.

So, I didn’t do it.

Then something happened. It was like I was on autopilot. I came up with my hashtag, picked a day of the week, time, and decided upon a frequency.

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I’ve been on Twitter, every Wednesday from Noon to 1pm Eastern Time at the hashtag #wymnchat.

The first time, I was pretty sure I would be talking to myself. I started tweeting, and before I knew it, someone showed up.

Recap of first Twitter chat  - we learned so much.

Recap of first Twitter chat – we learned so much.

The second time, I was still unsure but pressed on, and it was nothing but crickets for the first 10 minutes. Then someone showed up, and then another person. And then something said to me, look around you’re outside your comfort zone.

It’s pretty awesome out here – not quite magical but there’s still time yet. After all, that’s what it’s all about.

Join me for #wymnchat next Wednesday. I hope to see you there.

 

Giving Yourself Permission To Dream . . .

Photo used with permission.
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I’m still on my resilience trek, and it’s pretty amazing. I’ve fallen down all over the place, tripped on my shoelaces, and even locked myself out once or twice.

See? Amazing. It’s okay; you can laugh.

That’s not the interesting part, what has turned out to be quite serendipitous are the women that I’m meeting along the way. Moms who are professionals and entrepreneurs or working from inside the home, they have all been my “sisters in arms.”

Looking around, I’ve seen women in different phases of life. Some are ahead of me, having raised their children or finished their careers and are trying to create their second life. Some are in the thick of it – like me – with multiple kids and a profession or business, and are realizing that work-life balance is a crock. Truth is for some of us, our work is our life, and integration is the key. For others, they’re just getting started and have erroneously pick up what so many of us believed when we began our mommy trek – that we were no longer a priority in our lives. Everyone else comes first; mom’s needs come last.

Again a crock.

I was recently in a precarious situation where I stood back-to-back with a mom. Failure was imminent, it surrounded us, or so it seemed. When we took a minute to assess what was going on we determined that the situation was really our own doing. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course.

We created the obstacles. We created the enemy.

We weren’t fighting anyone – we were fighting ourselves.

We thought we had evolved beyond the mommy guilt but realized that we still held on to the baggage we picked up at the beginning of our respective treks. There was an unspoken lie that attached itself to the foundation of the life we were creating; hindering us from becoming the women we’re trying to be. We bought into the notion that sacrifice means pursuing our dreams and ambitions stopped as soon as our children entered the world. Or if we fought to keep the embers of the dream alive, it was no longer something aspirational rather a burden that reminded us of what we couldn’t do.

Would it be selfish to take a few hours each morning to write or exercise or make homemade lavender soap? Would it be okay to take my career in a completely different direction and run the risk – not knowing how it’ll end? Would it be okay to start dancing again, go back to school, take art lessons or even move across the country to an unfamiliar place?

Only you can decide that. I just know that you do yourself a grave disservice if you don’t give yourself permission to savor the possibilities and all the wonderfulness that dreaming brings. And worse still – if you don’t act upon it in some regard. If you do nothing, it creates resentment and regret and the “what ifs” start playing target practice with our self-confidence.

When we dream, we honor our souls. When we dream, we evolve ourselves beyond the present moment. When we dream, we move closer to what could quite possibly be our life’s purpose. When we dream, we inspire our families to dream. The thing to remember is to bring them along for the journey.

What about you? Now that you can make your dreams come true, what are you going to do?

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This Is What Trust Looks Like …

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They say things far away from you seem bigger than they really are. I think there’s truth to this because I’ve found that the longest distance is usually between where you are and where you want to be.

How do we make the connection? What will the end bring? What’s the process to get there?

  • Losing weight
  • Starting a new job
  • Waiting for a test result
  • Purchasing a new home
  • Growing that business
  • Reconnecting with an old friend

I think part of it — a large part actually – comes down to trust and where your trust is.   I had an interesting conversation with two of my sisters this week about trusting yourself. They had what seemed to be varying opinions, at first. My older sister said that she didn’t trust herself, rather she trusts the Christ in her completely and wholeheartedly. My baby sister said that she had to get still to hear what comes out of her Spirit.

I tend to agree with them both, and I wanted to come up with a way to visualize this. I needed to see it in my mind’s eye.

How do you know when you’ve completely trusted God and are not leaning on your own understanding?

I’ve got a couple of lofty goals set for this year, and the mere thought of them scares the bejeezus out of me.

Seriously, I get nauseous thinking about it.

Have you ever done this, dream so big you scare yourself?

There were two thoughts that immediately came to mind after I wrote my goals; the first was, “Yes! Let’s do this.” The second was, “Who do you think you are?”

In other words, “Yes Lord I trust you, but I have some concerns.”

What can I say, I’m human.

Then inspiration struck, and I was able to see it. I was able to see clearly see what trust looks like.

Imagine that you’re participating in a relay race, you’re second out of three runners and your leg is up. The first runner plants the baton firmly in your hand and without hesitation you push hard against the earth, a little unsure but still giving it your all. Rounding the corner, you see the anchor runner in position. As you approach, you extend your arm forward and try to make the connection.

Success. You’ve handed the baton off.

That’s trust. That’s faith.

I figured that my inspiration came from Him, so my goals come from Him. My responsibility is to train so that I’m ready for the race. I read my Bible, pray, meditate, try to be a blessing to others so that when it’s time for me to hand it back to Him I do so without hesitation. However, when I don’t condition properly, listen to the world and care about what they think, allow doubt and fear to creep in – I hesitate and rounding that corner becomes an even greater feat.

The connection seems harder to make. The goal seems far away.

So today, I’m in training. I’m getting ready for my race.

What about you, dear heart? What metaphor would you use to describe your trust in God?

Never In My Wildest Dreams…

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“God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” — Psalm 46: 5, NIV

I’m rocking a new word for the One Word 365 Challenge. The goal of this challenge is pretty simple, ditch the New Year’s resolution list and focus on one word that will define your year.

No pressure, right?

Last year it took me a few days to mull over the challenge. How could I choose a word to define a span of time that’s yet to happen? What if I wanted to change my word later – is that allowed? Trust me, I had about a million more questions and finally decided for 2014 my word would be, self-acceptance.

And what a year it was. I stayed the course, even when it was extremely hard to embrace me just as I am – and all my imperfections.

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I failed many times last year – many, many times at many, many things. The difference however was that I began to question myself. I decided to dig deeper because I needed to know why. Why am I not getting this? I did some real soul-searching trying to get to the root of the failures. Have you done this? Have you ever peeled back the layers on something personal to you to find a deeper meaning?

I learned that you just leave well enough alone. That if you fall, you just get back up and try again.

We seriously need to re-think that.

While you’re flat on your back pause a moment and ask the question: how did I get here? Why did this happen? What should I do better next time?

I didn’t do that before. I just jumped back in and kept trying; all the while questioning my purpose and His plan for my life.

The sentiment is sweet, but it just didn’t make logical sense.

See, it’s one thing to fail at something that you’ve never tried before. It’s a whole other ballgame when you consistently fail at something that you’ve done again, and again, and again… well you get the picture.

I have failed at friendships, diets, and business even at times parenting. And honestly, I don’t think I probably will ever be perfect at any of those things because I’ve decided once and for all not to embrace an ideal about them.

Fair-weathered friendships come and go, but I’m blessed to have a few women who I can call on if I need an ear or a hand and I would gladly do the same for them.

No more diets. I have an advocate/friend who’s a fitness expert, and her motto is: Decide and Commit. She’s right. Just simply do it, make the changes that you can keep for life.

Business? Well, I’ve been in my career for 17 years. Wow, did I just type that? So, I’m using some of my award-winning experience for myself. I am officially a small business owner.

And parenting, there are no perfect parents but there are perfect moments we share with our children. We used the past Chirstmas holiday to teach our children a valuable lesson about giving. It was hard for them but they bounced back just like their father and I always do.

There’s a word for this. It’s not brave, although I did contemplate this word again this year. And it’s not consistency – this was a close runner up.

The word is resilience.

Learning to try things from a difference angle, recalibrating as necessary, knowing that my falling doesn’t mean that I’m a failure. That’s resilience. That’s my word for 2015. What about you? What are your plans for this year? Have you chosen a word? Or words or even drafted a list? Share them with us.

Happy New Year! I pray that all of your heart’s desires are fulfilled and exceed your wildest expectations this year.

xoxo
Cece

Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now…

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I’m already living my New Year’s resolutions. I know I’m a little ahead of the curve (okay, way ahead of the curve it’s not even Christmas yet) but I couldn’t wait until 2015. This year went by incredibly fast, and I’ve learned so much during my 40th year on this planet.

I’m not teeming with Christmas cheer or goodwill (although I’ve got my fair share); it’s just that when something clicks, and I get it, I get it. Earlier this year, I made a promise that my 2014 journey would be about self-acceptance. I’m happy to report that my mission… was not accomplished.

You read that correctly. Not accomplished. Nada. Nein. Nope.

Self-acceptance, I’ve learned, is a process based upon choices we make every day; it’s not all or nothing. The question I had to discover the answer to was: could I continue to love and accept myself no matter what happened? Could I treat my failures and successes the same?

It’s not easy.

There’s a beautiful book written by Maya Angelou that reminds Unknownus about the beauty of life, and how to appreciate the curves and bends that we’ll encounter on our journeys. I read the book 15 years ago and recently re-read it and even still, Maya’s words continue to inspire me. So I’m living my new year today, and I know for sure there are three things to which I resolve…and there’s no going back:

    1. I know that I cannot be everything to everyone all the time. I won’t do it to myself, anymore. As helpful and as giving as I try to be, I know that for the sake my sanity I must create boundaries for myself.

2. I know that how I live my life is an extension of the type of person I endeavor to become. I’m constantly changing, growing, learning every day and the moment that I stop learning is the moment I cease to exist. I cease to be a good example to my children. I cease to be a helpmate to my better half. I cease to be a supportive sister and friend. I know that I get to choose every day I wake up. I chose. I decide.

3. I know that I can live a life full of intent and be kinder to myself. I read a quote by Diane von Fürstenberg that said, “when a woman learns to become her own best friend life is easier.” I get that. I love that. I get it now. The same grace that cover the people that I care about also covers me.

You know I’m okay with not totally getting the self-acceptance thing right. I still have some growing to do, and I’m learning that my desires for my life changes with each passing day. I’ve got a lot more living to do; I’ve got more questions to ask.

What about you, dear heart? Was there anything significant that you learned about yourself this year? Anything you’ve learned to accept about yourself? Or sage advice for anyone looking to make changes?

They Say It’s Always Darkest Before Dawn…

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“Change is inevitable, right?” I laughed with my friend, my voice trembling with uncertainty as I opened the blinds of the kitchen window. It was dawn and the only time of day that we could have a long overdue conversation to catch up on family and whatnot without interruption.

“Everything around me has been screaming change for months,” I whispered closing my eyes in exhaustion; each word I spoke felt like it carried weight.

She sighed in agreement because in the past three months alone I have been directly impacted by the death of a friend; heard about breast cancer diagnosis of two moms in my circle; survived a kerfuffle at work; and a homicide on my once quiet street.

Nothing but nonstop fun for this girl.

“Yes, like it or not…change is inevitable,” she responded bringing my thoughts back to focus. “Do you feel caught in the middle of everything that has happened, like you’re being pulled between the light and darkness?”

Interesting question because during the same three-month period, I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Oprah Winfrey while attending her Life You Want Tour in Atlanta (a total bucket list moment), saw Bishop TD Jakes and other phenomenal speakers at the Woman Thou Art Loose Conference earlier this month, and finally made a decision about something that has been hanging over my head since July.

I began singing softly into the cradle of the phone, “You call me out upon the waters…,” she laughed knowingly because I was singing the lyrics to a song that we dubbed our anthem for 2014.

She joined in.

“No… ” I finally responded interrupting our duet. “I don’t feel caught between anything because I’m always surrounded by light, when I keep my eyes on Him.”

Listen: If we use our surroundings as an indication of the condition of our lives then, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. On the surface, it could appear to be two extremes when both good and not-so-good things happen, but it’s not. That’s life happening to you; it’s not your life.

Now admittedly, the not-so-good things did slow me down, and I got away from many of the things that brought me joy. But somehow the light got in; I sowed seeds without even realizing it. I bought my tickets to Oprah in January; I bought my tickets to Woman Thou Art Loose in March, and since July my environment has been constantly reminding me that I just don’t fit in the places that I use to … and that it’s okay.

A decision was inevitable.

Life, death, sickness, good health, transition, changes, transformation, they all challenge us every day. And every day that we have another opportunity to wake up and fill our lungs should serve as a reminder that His grace is sufficient.

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“Your grace abounds in deepest waters/Your sovereign hand Will be my guide/Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me You’ve never failed and You won’t start now” Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), Hillsong United

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Living My Life Like It’s Golden…

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about standing in the sun. Goodness abounds when people around you are doing well. That is to say when good things happen in the lives of the people we care about we are instinctively aware of their happiness. We also become happy.

We’re so good at supporting our loved ones that we have enough faith –an overflow of faith actually– to believe nothing is impossible for them. We believe in them even when they doubt themselves. We may even say:

“There are so many educational options today, you can go back to school.”

“That is a great idea; you should start your business.”

“Hang in there, losing weight is never easy but it’s worth it.”

“I agree, you should ask for a raise – you deserve it.”

It truly is important to surround yourself with positive people.

Consider this for today: every now and again, we need to turn the mirror of veracity on ourselves and provide the same love and support that we offer to others to ourselves. The same shine we deem worthy for our loved ones is the same shine we should give ourselves.

It’s not bragging.

It’s not boasting.

But it is necessary.

The best love we can provide to anyone is a demonstration and commitment for the love we have for ourselves. Authentically doing…living…being our best self and showing ourselves grace and mercy begins the circle of gratitude that surrounds us all.

You deserve to shine.

Stand in the sun.

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The best defense is having a great offense…

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about fortress building. Could you imagine having to stand in front of an audience of strangers to share the most intimate details of your life?

Impossible or easy?

Now imagine standing in front of an audience of people that you do know, family, friends or otherwise to share the same information.

A walk in the park? Or would you rather get your teeth pulled?

In both instances, we may be compelled to shield ourselves and build a fortress to protect us from hearing potentially harmful responses and reactions.

You may think:

Sometimes I feel inadequate as a mom. Brick.
I’m battling anorexia. Brick.
I’m old, and no one listens to me at work. Brick. Brick.
My finances are a mess. Brick. Brick. Brick.
I appear happy, but I’ve been depressed for years. Brick. Brick. Brick. Brick.

It can go on and on and on and before you know it you’ve imprisoned yourself with a barricade of shame hoping to hide your vulnerabilities.

Consider this for today: Not a day goes by that we aren’t tempted to fortify ourselves in some regard, either by virtue of perceived necessity or just sheer none of your business. No one wants to reveal those things we’ve worked so hard to conceal, flaws or failures…even the bruises.

Instead of creating a barrier around you, dismantle it by telling your truth and place shame under your feet. Stand tall on your vulnerabilities; those things that you consider your weaknesses are really your biggest attributes for an authentic life. It’s part of your life experience; it’s not who you are.

No, to shame.

No, to fear.

No, to doubt.

Yes to truth.

Yes to light.

Yes to life.

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Who’s Watching The Watchers…

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about remembrances. We truly are living in interesting times, from the fires in the Pacific Northwest and uncivil rights in Missouri to a continuous war in the Middle East… and all this is compounded by anything you are growing through in your personal life.

Interesting times indeed.

Whether we realize it or not, history is being recorded, time is still marching forward and yet the prevailing frailties of the human condition do not delude us. Because of them we can still serve justice — we can right wrongs; we can choose not to look the other way, we can lend a hand to families in need of assistance, and we can choose how we respond to sheer terror.

Interesting times indeed.

Consider this question for today: How do you navigate the world when things around you are unjust, unfair or uncertain? I’ve said this before: no one wants human hurt to go unnoticed. What we do today will stand as the legacy of truth for our future. I watched my grandmother and mom; my children are watching me…who’s watching you and what truth will you tell when asked to remember?

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I Really Thought I’d Be Much Further Along By Now…

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about gaining momentum. Do you remember as kids when running a race, we often took a few steps backward thinking it would help our stride and propel us forward? It seemed logical and instinctive in our juvenile minds that this was a surefire way of getting the boost we needed.

It’s funny how something so clear as kids somehow becomes a hindrance in adulthood. Then, it meant getting ready to run our race, and now taking a few steps backward could be interpreted as … we are not in the race.

But take heart – you are a contender.

In the stride of life there will be setbacks, and getting off our intended path or having to sit on the sidelines for a while or even taking 2 giant steps backward does not mean that you cannot win your race.

The word “backward” should not be made synonymous with a denial… and a step back is not a failure… and not being where you thought you would be at this point in life does not mean you failed.

Stepping back allows you to take a look at the big picture.

Stepping back allows you to confirm your direction.

Stepping back allows you to regain your sanity and composure.

Stepping back, intentional or not, adjusts your timing.

Consider this for today: If you find that you have to take a few steps back to get closer to your goal, do it with the confidence knowing that it’s only temporary and it will help push you forward in the long run.

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If I Allow Myself To Receive Feedback…Will It Make Me Vulnerable?

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about acceptance. Why is it that we run from compliments and run toward criticism? Is it because it’s easier to believe the worst about us?

When we reject compliments, we discount ourselves and demote the significance of any contribution that we’ve made.

Acceptance of criticism, on the other hand, if they are not constructive, further depletes any value and self-worth we hold in high regard.

But here’s the rub, they both are necessary for growth.

Consider this for today: compliments and criticisms are a gift and when genuinely given is a demonstration that you are living authentically.

Compliments say that you have qualities worthy of noting.

Criticism says that you’re growing.

Compliments say that you’re on the right path and here are a few words of encouragement.

Criticism says that you’re not afraid to fail and try again.

Choose to believe the good about you, choose to endeavor to improve, and choose to open yourself up to receiving love.

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Having the Gift of Good-bye Means…

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Guest Post by Franchesca Warren

There are people who can walk away from you. And hear me when I tell you this! When people can walk away from you: let them walk.

I don’t want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone. When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.

The Bible said that, they came out from us that it might be made manifest that they were not for us. For had they been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us. [1 John 2:19]

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can’t make them stay.

Let them go.

And it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person it just means that their part in the story is over. And you’ve got to know when people’s part in your story is over so that you don’t keep trying to raise the dead.

You’ve got to know when it’s dead.

You’ve got to know when it’s over. Let me tell you something. I’ve got the gift of good-bye. It’s the tenth spiritual gift, I believe in good-bye. It’s not that I’m hateful, it’s that I’m faithful, and I know whatever God means for me to have He’ll give it to me. And if it takes too much sweat I don’t need it. Stop begging people to stay.

Let them go!!

If you are holding on to something that doesn’t belong to you and was never intended for your life, then you need to . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to past hurts and pains . . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If someone can’t treat you right, love you back, and see your worth . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If someone has angered you . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to some thoughts of evil and revenge . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you are involved in a wrong relationship or addiction . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you are holding on to a job that no longer meets your needs or talents . . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you have a bad attitude . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you keep judging others to make yourself feel better . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you’re stuck in the past and God is trying to take you to a new level in Him . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you are struggling with the healing of a broken relationship . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you keep trying to help someone who won’t even try to help themselves . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If you’re feeling depressed and stressed . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

If there is a particular situation that you are so used to handling yourself and God is saying “take your hands off of it,” then you need to . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

Let the past be the past Forget the former things. GOD is doing a new thing for 2014!!!

LET IT GO!!!

Get Right or Get Left. think about it, and then . . . . . . . .

LET IT GO!!!

“The Battle is the Lord’s!”

 You can find more of Franchesca‘s inspiring thoughts by following her on Twitter. 

Righteous Indignation or Feminist Virtues (…that’s a mouthful)

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A women’s intuition is a powerful thing, I’m convinced that it’s a gift we’re born with. Some of us are more in tune with it than others but nevertheless all women have this innate ability of knowing when something just doesn’t quite add up.

“Who would like to give the closing prayer?” Sister Abbie would ask us. She was my first Sunday school teacher and very well liked among the kids because she had the best snacks. We were a motley crew of elementary and middle school aged students, southern, all from different socio-economical backgrounds.

Growing up I felt indifferent about church, even as a young girl I always felt that church was just that: church. It was something that you just did. No explanations, no exceptions. It was church. I loved praise and worship (the singing) and intercessory prayer but soon thereafter my attention was diverted elsewhere when the preaching began.

The room went silent.

Most of the kids started looking at the floor or their shoes. Nobody wanted to lead the prayer. An anxious feeling whelmed up inside me, I wanted to do it.

“No one?” she insisted. “We need someone to lead the prayer, children.”

I raised my hand. “I’ll do it, Sister Abbie.” She smiled tightly and walked toward me.

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” she said apologetically with the sweetest southern twang, “…girls don’t lead prayers in church.”

I felt all the air leave my body. I was stunned.

“Max, you lead the prayer,” she said pointing to the little boy sitting next to me and motioned for us to bow our heads. Was she serious? I mean, really. Even in my nine year old mind, I knew she was full of it.

While everyone bowed their heads, I didn’t. I was miffed.  What did she mean girls don’t lead prayers?

The class went through the motion of the closing prayer, I listened to Max stumble his way through. It wasn’t that good. I could have prayed better than that, I thought.

When we joined our families in the main sanctuary I couldn’t wait to tell my aunt. “…and then she said girls can’t pray in church,” I explained. My aunt’s face was expressionless. “She’s right, women’s roles in the church are finite,” she whispered touching my hand.

I looked into my aunt’s face. She was serious. She was wrong. I just knew she was. I felt it down in my bones – my nine year old bones.

That experience has stayed with me for a long time. I think it was probably one of the earliest memories that helped me see how some other people’s ideologies (and religious beliefs in this case) could potentially stifle someone else’s growth. There were other girls in the class that heard her, did they not have the same reaction? Did they question themselves? Was this the norm and I just didn’t notice that girls weren’t leading the closing prayer in Sunday school?

Now I know that everything ain’t for everybody. Some people are perfectly fine with the patriarchal structures in religious settings. That’s fine. I just knew early that it wasn’t going to work for me. I believe that God’s a little more flexible than that.

At thirteen I left that church, at the vehement protest of my family. I found another in walking distance from my grandmother’s house, after all I still had to do church. Today I attend church with my husband and children, I even listen to the lessons now. I still enjoy praise and worship and I make especially sure during intercessory prayer to affirm a special one, “…and God bless Sister Abbie.”

Amen.

Finishing What You Started Looks Like…

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about recalibrating.

Imagine having the opportunity to start again because you veered off your intended path, there’s a lot to be said about the potential of a do over.

Finding yourself off track is never easy. Sometimes it’s intentional; we deliberately take a break; sometimes it’s completely unintentional, we took a right where we should have taken a left or we two took steps forward when we should have waited; and then other times we don’t realize that we’re off track until the fog lifts and we find ourselves completely off-center.

It can be frustrating.

In this state of mind, we are easily led by our insecurities and doubt, and it’s difficult to get back on course — projects are left unfinished, friendships and relationships go stale, or we try to be perfect at something that only requires good enough.

Consider this for today: While the opportunity to start completely over is indeed powerful, realize that there’s just as much power in picking up where you left off…you might not necessarily need to go back to square one.

You can recalibrate.

This entails recalling the initial plan, modifying if necessary, assessing where you are and taking the next steps. And when you get back on track (because you will get back on track), try not to focus so much on where you’re going, rather adjust your sights taking in the experiences along the way.

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Repositioning Yourself For Success Requires…

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about the comfort zone.

Take a look around you…did you know that the people and environments you’re most commonly associated with influence the decisions you make in your life?

It’s true.

Look left: Do you value the relationships you have with family and friends? Is it reciprocated? Do they honor you? Do they contribute joy and peace to your life? You should be able to be your whole self around them without pretense or facades.

Look right: Are you aspiring to a fleeting ideal of success based upon materialism and sensationalized versions of reality? From what or whom do you model your life? The unreality of the televised world is not meant to be the standard by which you live your life.

Look behind you: Everyone has a past, everyone has a story a defining moment in your life that has either propelled you forward and made you who you are or has continued to captivate you and keep you from your destiny. Remember the past but don’t live there.

Finally, look in front of you:  What will you do with today?

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How NOT To Give Your Power Away…

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about affirmation.

We’ve been taught to believe that in order to obtain something of significance we must seek a power greater than ourselves. In doing so, we are convinced that we’re supposed to pay guilt-ridden penances along the way. So we tearfully beg and plead with God, tell everyone else about our problems, carry good luck charms, and even toss coins into bodies of water.

How’s that working for you?

Consider this for today: Instead of giving your power away, hoping for something to miraculously step in and take care of your issue, try the silent approach. Do not go out to find a resolution, go within. Get still and affirm that everything is in order, declaring that provisions have already been made for you.

Affirm understanding.

Affirm wisdom.

Affirm patience.

Affirm love.

And when you open your eyes, know that the world has not changed. You have…and the way you see it.

That’s the power of prayer.

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‘Why Not’ Wednesday asks the question: if you couldn’t fail what would you do? 

The Funny Thing About Echoes…

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about minding the echo.

Imagine standing in a valley with tall majestic mountains reaching toward the sky and the only way out it seems is to climb. You yell, “help” and you hear a faint “help” respond in kind. Realizing it’s the sound of your own voice reverberating off the valley walls, you sigh deeply and say in a loud hush, “ I-I can’t do this.”

The echo responds, “I-I  can’t do this.”

As you start your ascend up the mountain, you look over your shoulder hoping that the steps you’ve taken has placed a considerable distance between you and the valley below…but no progress has been made.

What do you do with this valley experience?

Consider this for today: Anything you embark upon starts in the mind, and those thoughts manifest into words that you speak. The words you speak, when said out loud go into the world, and the world responds in kind.

So when you say “help” or “I can’t do this” … the echo reciprocates.

Change your mind. Change your words. Change what you put out and you’ll see a difference in what you get in return.

Mind the echo.

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Who Are You Without Your Emotions?

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about shifting perspectives.

Have you ever heard the expression ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’? It essentially means that you separate the things that are useful and purposeful from the things that are not worthy.

Often times we become our emotions, internalizing them and using them to describe who we are – not our current state of being. Or we become our problems, and tie our identities to them, forgetting that it’s only (and always) temporary. When these things happen, we focus solely on our emotions or on our problems.

Who are we without our emotions or problems?!

Consider this for today: while it’s never easy to objectively assess your situation, it is possible.

Try to understand as your emotions change or problems arise that it is your current circumstance and it does not define your self-worth. In other words, practice keeping the good stuff (i.e., the lessons, the relationships, the stillness, the connection to God) and forget the stuff that does not serve you.

Shift your perspective.

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‘Why Not’ Wednesday asks the question: if you couldn’t fail, what would you do? 

Are You Addicted to Stress?

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It’s ‘Why Not’ Wednesday and today’s no fail message is about addictions.

When we hear the word “addiction” we often associate it with drug, alcohol, food or sex abuse, but did you know that you could be addicted to stress?

It’s true.

It means that there is a chemical reaction in your body that enables you to feel a certain way to get that “high” – you thrive under pressure, you live for constant deadlines and you think you are your best self this way. It’s actually quite similar to the intoxication that someone who is braving an addiction to drugs face. Not surprisingly, the effects are actually similar – over time you begin to lose yourself, physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Consider this for today: Rethink the role of stress in your life.

Stress should be a tool that is used at specific times; you’re not supposed to dwell in a constant state of anxiety. I know that’s not easy and the truth is there is no magic bullet to eradicating stress. Like it’s first-cousin fear, the best way to manage it …is to get in front of it. Get present in the moment…and use stress to get the task done, then be done with it. Be the stressor not the stressed.

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7 Ways To Get Off Track And Miss Your Mark

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It’s so easy to get off track.

Our mind wanders about and before you know it time has passed, and the task at hand is no closer to getting done.

My Journal

Photo credit: Cece Harbor

I’m guilty of this — believe me. I can be easily distracted and at times it takes sheer willpower for me to clear my mind of clutter and just stay focused.

Am I the only one?

We’ve been introduced to the Law of Attraction, which says that we attract positive or negative events in our lives based on our thoughts, but what if there were habits – observations — that when done was a sure fire way to veer –off− course.

Here’s a look at 7 things we tend to do when getting off track and how to effectively counter them.

  1. Focus solely on the outcome. While the big picture is important, it’s not the only aspect of our journeys. There’s a lot to be said about enjoying the here and now; take a chance to relish the process.
  2. Compare yourself to others. While it may appear that you and the other person are on the same path, you’re not – similar but not the same. Each of your life experiences and personal desires shapes your intended and respective paths. Your beginning may be her middle and visa versa, compare yourself to no one.
  3. Not paying attention to details. It’s always convenient to consider the small things later. If not checked early and quickly little things could turn into big disasters. It’s great to think big, but details really do matter, whether you take care of them yourself or get someone else to do it.
  4. Multi-tasking when you shouldn’t. When you juggle all the balls are in the air but you’re not touching them all at the same time; each receives very little attention. When we do this in our lives, our hope is that we incrementally get to done. If something is truly important, it’s vital that it gets your undivided attention. Leave the juggling to clowns.
  5. Using technology as a solution and not a tool. Social media sites, websites, emails and others are supposed to enhance our communications not be the sole method by which we communicate. There will never be a substitute for genuine human connection.
  6. Deliberately engage in time robbers. – I see you nodding your head. We’re all guilty of this, we’ve become pinning, texting, surfing fools (or is it just me?). There’s a difference between intentionally taking a break versus allowing something to unintentionally grab and retain your attention when you should be focused on something else.

Wait I need to pin something…

What was I saying? ….Right. Stay focused.

  1. Not giving yourself time to think. This one is most significant of all. I realize I’m at my best after a long walk or a few moments of silence. The solitude does wonders for me. I can sort out problems, come up with creative solutions…solve world hunger (well not solve world hunger but you get the picture). Give yourself breathing space and time to think.

If you see yourself in one or more of these habits, it’s never too late for course correction. Just recognize it, recalibrate and move on. It may take some time but you can. What say ye?  Which ones are you most guilty of?

The Best Way To Say ‘No’ And Not Lose Yourself

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Have you ever felt backed into a corner?images62RT9G57

You wanted to say “no” …needed to say “no”….knowing well that “no” would be the right thing to say, but somehow between your brain processing the request and your mouth opening, the word “yes” comes falling out?

It never ceases to amaze me how we make commitments all because we haven’t quite mastered use of one small word.

Notice I didn’t say simple.

Saying “no is never easy or simple.

The finality of “no” brings the burden of worry, guilt, and sometimes fear and shame. We don’t want to be misunderstood or perceived as rude, never want to miss out on a good opportunity, hurt anyone’s feelings or dishonor relationships.

But sometimes — often times actually – “no” is necessary. “No” is empowering, it can provide self-preservation, create boundaries, and “no” can open doors to future possibilities.

Recently I said “yes” to a clear “no” opportunity and while I’ve decided to grin and bear it this time, I wanted to be prepared the next go-round. To do so, I consulted the sage of sages: I went to Google.

I wanted to be prepared, have my script in pocket should the need arise again.

I read countless articles about how we should language our “no” because after all saying “no” and employing the art of tact are bedfellows, you shouldn’t have one without the other. After what seemed like forever, the articles were all pretty much the same. What I found were endless passive-aggressive ways to let the person down in order to keep the relationship in good standing. And you know what? I wasn’t satisfied.

Look, I’m Southern, we’ve mastered passive-aggressiveness with 3 simple words: bless their heart.

We don’t have to say what we think; we can smile and cuss you out at the same time. It’s a gift.

All the responses I saw to decline an “opportunity” felt like a maybe or a lame excuse, there was never something clear and direct.

I think I found the answer, you tell me:

When you’re asked to do something, assess whether you’re being asked from a place of love. You’ll know if the request is sincere…or selfish. Therefore, when you respond in-kind, do it from a place of love. Not spite, not hate, not fear of consequences, not from a place of lack or the need to fit in, but a sincere and honest response that will convey your truth. When you do that, there is no debate of about whether you did the right thing or not.

What do you think? How do you say ‘no’?

You Like Me, You Really-Really Like Me: Results of Reader Survey

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I asked for your opinion and you gave it to me.survey-says

Last month, I conducted a reader survey to find out what you were thinking, and received insightful responses. I wanted to know, what you thought of the KnowledgeMaven blog and equally important what would you like to see (either more of or just in general). Here are the results; I learned that the majority of my readers are:

  • Women in their early to mid-forties (50%)
  • Equally college graduates (40%) or completed graduate school (40%) who work outside the home (85%)
  • Avid blog readers, 40% of you subscribe to multiple blogs; and you found me through WordPress (66%);
  • Finally, that 50% of you read the blog on the actual web site

You told me that I could improve by:

  • Posting more often
  • Considering monthly themes
  • Writing a book

You also praised the blog and used words like:

  • Honest
  • Insightful
  • Unique
  • Empowering
  • Spiritual
  • Practical

To describe how the blog has helped you.

I’m humbled by these responses, and have reached the conclusion that I am making a difference. I’m touching on the subjects that matter most to you – I just need to talk about them more often.

Thank you all so much for taking the time to answer these questions.

Be sure to check the Facebook page to see who won the 2 $25 Amazon Gift Cards.

Hope In Unlikely Places

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I believe in second chances.

Well, not at first, there was a time when I’d give something a go and if it didn’t yield the result I wanted right away, I’d toss it aside.

I’m flawed.

Beautiful rose garden -- not mine.

Beautiful rose garden — not mine.

Last week, for some reason, I was reminded of the time I tried to grow yellow roses in my backyard. It’s a desolate place, my backyard, so much in fact, that I would be embarrassed to ask anyone to landscape it. There’s a huge erosion problem, so anything I plant immediately gets covered with Georgia red clay.

My father-in-law leaned over the small patch of land I called a flowerbed and carefully examined what was left of my would-be rose garden – a single rose. Any plant I try to cultivate eventually needs life support within a few weeks, try as I might, that’s a gift that I just don’t have.

“It’s dead, I’m sure of it,” I sighed shrugging my shoulders in defeat.

He was silent.

I felt a little nervous energy course through me. When this happens, I talk endlessly.

It’s my nervous tick.

“I bought a dozen on a whim at the nursery one day – ”

“It’s fine,” he interrupted, leaned in further and began pulling away at the earth around the lone rose. He repositioned the dirt to create a barrier around it.

“You mean it’s not dead?” I was in disbelief. I completely resigned myself of this poor flower. He shook his head side-to-side.

I stared at the flower again, this time with compassionate eyes; still I couldn’t see what he saw. Where I saw a hopeless situation, he saw an opportunity for growth.

Life has a funny way of reminding us that we can get the best out of a no-win situation. Whatever you’re facing, don’t resign yourself of it just yet. There’s still life – you can reach your goal, you can achieve your dream – it’s fine.

Within weeks, the little rose came back to life. There it was, a little delicate but alive nonetheless. It was a clear demonstration of hope.

When you think there’s nothing left, there’s no hope, please know that God is a way maker. When you’ve resigned yourself, do so to Him because He’s just begun.

There is hope in unlikely places.

Hiding In Plain Sight

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I was alarmed and a bit irritated.

“Do you know why I stopped you, ma’am?” the officer prompted.

“No,” my response was clipped, but I honestly had no clue.

“What’s going on, Cece?” said a voice from overhead. I was driving home while engaged in a hands-free conversation with my mother. Her voice boomed through the speakers in the truck. “Just a sec, Ma,” I said turning the volume down, redirecting my attention to the guy standing less than a foot from my vehicle wielding a badge, and a loaded gun that rested at his side.denial

“You made an illegal turn at the light just there,” he motioned with his head.

“I did?” I began. “But… I didn’t −”

“License and registration, please.”

He made it clear that talking was not an option, and from his demeanor I knew a ticket was imminent.

Truth?

I traveled that road many-many times before, and have never seen a sign.

Ever.

More truth?

Recently there has been a lot of construction in the area resulting in road closures and detours. So, there… may… actually… be… a new sign there.

As I explained the situation to my mom her immediate reaction was, “just don’t turn on that road anymore.” Her voice had a slight edge and dripped with finality. I remember the tone well; it’s the same one that was used on me as a child when she felt something did not warrant further discussion.

At first, I laughed – it was a sad one, sort of half-hearted – but I laughed. I felt it in the pit of my stomach and it escaped through my slightly parted lips. The thought of avoiding a road only because I had incurred a traffic violation seemed ludicrous. It was, however, a typical Mom response: avoid confrontation at all cost, even if it means you have to inconvenience your life.

When the policeman returned with the citation, he offered a perfunctory smile. I drove away.

That night as I explained it all to my better half, I could not shake Mom’s words or my response.

We attributed the ticket up to my own shortsightedness (at least that’s what I’m telling myself so I can put this behind me). I shouldn’t have taken the road for granted. I may have known the area, but because of all the construction, I should have paid more attention.

I couldn’t help but wonder if there were other areas of my life where I am “missing the signs” because I’ve taken things for granted or I have consciously chosen to ignore them because I fear a certain outcome? The whole notion of conscious invisibility deludes us into thinking and seeing only what we want to think and see.

Am I the only one?

It could manifest in different ways, some would call it denial or avoidance others would say that it’s being human. We avoid the hard stuff. Most people choose not to face truth and conscious invisibility provides a sense of peace, the illusion of control, and the comfort of convenience.

Now that I am choosing to be aware, I’m going to give it a go and see where it takes me. I’ll be working through some hard truths. Notice I said some. I’m willing but am far from perfect, I’m pretty sure there are some things I will continue to unsee for right now.

What about you? Are there certain truths in your life that you’ve chosen to ignore? Will you face them? Or continue to unsee them?

Please Take My Reader Survey

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Hello Friends! Thank you for subscribing to KnowledgeMaven, your support over the past year has been tremendous.photo-1

I’m truly grateful.

Would you please take a few minutes to fill out my brief survey? Your feedback will let me know 3 important things: (1). Am I talking about the right things? (2). What would you like to see more of? And (3). Would you like to join the conversation (i.e., participate on the site)?

Your opinion matters to me now more than ever. The survey is quick and anonymous (less than 5 minutes), and if you’d like, you can send me an email, once you’ve completed the survey, for a chance to win 1 of 2 $25 Amazon Gift cards.

Thanks in advance for your help!

All the best,

Cece

Click here to take survey

A ‘Dream’ Not Deferred and A Chip Off the Old Block

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“I’m getting tickets for the Atlanta Dream when the season restarts,” I say to my sons as we had lunch last Saturday.

“The Atlanta who?” my 8-year old inquires with a hint of smugness and sarcasm in his voice.

He’s quick-witted and a bit of a smarty pants, a chip off the old block.

“The local WNBA team,” I announced hoping to deliver clarity and a hint of reprimand at the same time. “They’re awesome, I’ve seen them play, and we need to support them.”

“Girls playing basketball, mom?” my 8-year old continues, rolls his eyes and takes another bite of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Little crumbs accumulate in the corners of his mouth.

No he didn’t. 

Photo Credit: WNBA

Photo Credit: WNBA

“Yeah, imagine that,” I say. “And for the record they’re women, not girls. Although girls do play basketball and quite well,” I added for good measure. I felt a little heat rise in me.

Where did I go wrong with this kid?

“Girls can play basketball,” my 11-year old sang. He’s a different personality, usually neutral on all topics, that is until you strike a chord with something he feels passionate about – then he’s comes at you with both barrels loaded. “I’ll go with you, Mom.”

I smiled in his direction.

“Well it’s not really a choice in the matter, we’re going…period. Dad too.”

I searched their little faces for objections, everyone seemed fine with the decision. The room went silent as we finished our lunches.

“Mom, you played basketball, right?” My teenage son prodded.

I knew where this was going. A few months ago during the holiday season, we came across some of my yearbooks from high school. I played softball and basketball since I was a tween and then later in high school.

That’s not the interesting part.

What’s interesting is that my senior year, my varsity team had an abysmal record. We lost many-many games. I won’t disclose the record here; let’s just say we lost by a basket or two most of the time, and then by wider margins in other games.

It still burns a little.

And trust me it didn’t help that I was no Tangela Smith. She’s got skills, I got lucky and made baskets occasionally. My teammates on the other hand were pretty good.

“You know I was on the team, little boy,” I answered him pulling my brows together. “Where is this leading?”

“Nowhere,” he raises his hands in defense. “Just saying…so we could know where this is coming from.”

Did I tell you he was the passive aggressive one? Didn’t get that from me.

“You know there was a time when women and girls were not allowed to play sports in schools or professionally,” I began. All eyes were on me now. I went on to describe how provisions under Title 9 opened the door for women to have access to athletics. How the WNBA started in 1996, 50 years after the NBA started, and that it created opportunities for women to play professionally in the United States.

At this point, no one was chewing or fidgeting. I had their undivided attention.

Hallelujah.

“It’s like having the desire and God-given ability to do something and then being told that you can’t do it all because you wear a bra.”

“Eww,” they all sang in unison.

“How would you feel if your sister wanted to play a sport but was told she couldn’t because she’s a girl?”

“That’s not right,” my 8-year old said immediately.

There’s hope for him yet, y’all.

So come this May, my family and I will be in the stands cheering on our Atlanta Dream. Is there a WNBA team in your city? Have you supported them? If not, there’s no time like the present, the 2014 season will begin in a few months. Get your tickets today.

As we continue to celebrate women’s history, let’s remember that there are those that continue to blaze trails for us in sports every day.

Watching The Ocean Breathe

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I saw this picture on a Google+ post the other day, and I keep going back to it because I loved the question posed: If you could sit on this bench and chat for 1 hour with anyone from the past or present who would it be?bench with anyone

For me it wasn’t hard to decide, it would be my grandmother.

We really wouldn’t have to speak. Just being near her would be enough to bring me joy. There was always kindness in the way she looked at me, or patted my hands or smiled.

I felt loved.

We would watch the ocean breathe – that’s what we called it when the water would lap at the shore. “See dat oshun breeve,” she would say and I laughed because I would change the cadence of my breathing to match the ocean.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

In her world nothing had to be complicated, everything happened for a reason, and you should always be prepared to have your faith tested.

She said that life was like the ocean that it provided a steady flow of opportunities. As soon as one left here comes another ready to be seized.

She went on to say that the ocean could also hurt or heal you.

I know that’s true because once when I was 7 I sliced my foot under one of the piers. Someone left a shard of broken glass on the beach of all places, and lo and behold I stepped right on it. She immediately sent me to the ocean.

Stick yo foot in da wata,” she motioned with her hands. And I complied, completely unsure in my 7-year-old mind that it would work.

After a few minutes, the bleeding stopped. The wound was clean, and she kept me next to her for the remainder of that afternoon while we feed the seagulls.

But, if we –did– have a chance to talk again, I would tell her how my faith is being tested right now. That at times I go along perfectly content and on purpose and then suddenly I feel … off-track.

I could see her dark eyes narrow with concern, her mouth pulled in a straight line. The soft breeze would whistle past our ears and little tufts of her gray hair would dance in the wind.

She’d probably squeeze my hand and say, “Havin’ faith ain’t easy.”

Inhale.

She would tell me that faith is like forgiveness, it’s ongoing. It doesn’t stop.

Exhale.

You don’t reach the end of faithfulness. It endures. It calls upon you every day to decide, and your faith is demonstrated through your actions, your thoughts, and your words.

So you see, I know I came across that picture for a reason. . . at least that’s what my grandmother would say.

What about you? If you could sit on this bench and chat for 1 hour with anyone from the past or present who would it be?

My ‘One Word’ Year

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“You can ask for forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.” — Maya Angelou

I’m my own worst critic.image2

Is it strange to admit that in the first month of the year? January is usually a time for renewals, resolutions, and do-overs; yet, here I am admitting my secret shame.

I am overly critical and judgmental … of myself.

So why am I telling you this? I recently learned about the One Word 365 Challenge. The goal is simple, ditch the New Year’s resolution list and focus on one word that will define your year.

One word.

Trust me, by the end of January two years ago I had already forgotten my resolutions. Last year, I focused on what made me happy. This year, I’m continuing more of the same, but I love the idea of focusing on one word.

I wanted to choose a word that I thought would move me as far away from perfection and the unattainable ideal of womanhood that I created for myself.

I’m a recovering superwoman.

I mulled it over this for a few days, and wrote several words hoping to narrow the list down to my top five, then four, then three.

I landed on brave, mercy, and grace.

I chose brave because just saying the word brave makes me feel empowered.

Try it: Say brave a few times. (Joshua 1:9)

And because I tend to be so hard on myself, I wanted to make sure that I give myself the mercy and grace I would show another. Mercy and grace somehow just goes together. (Hebrew 4:16)

And THEN I thought some more… and realized that it’s really about learning to accept myself just as I am – flaws and all. (Song of Solomon 4:7)

I became still in my thoughts, and was led to self-acceptance. I read in Psalm 139:14 where it said:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I get it.

Being brave and showing myself mercy and grace is giving self love.

When we choose to talk, walk, and act in a manner that honors us we practice self-acceptance.

This circumvents any harsh criticism… be it from us… or from the world.

So that’s what I’m working on this year, self-acceptance. When I do this, I then honor my husband, nurture my children, and show up as the good friend.

What about you? Are there things that you have learned to come to grips with for yourself? Do you completely accept yourself? If you haven’t … what are you working on? If you have, tell me about your aha moment.

What word would you choose?

30 Rock Redux

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“No one forgets the truth, they just get better at lying.” – Revolutionary Road

There are nuggets of truth everywhere you look.  In innocent conversations with children, in watching elderly couples hold hands during their morning walk, in selfies (self-portraits), and even in the Starbucks drive-thru.keep

Venti, non-fat, no foam, no water, 6 pumps, extra hot, chai tea latte, please.

Seriously?

There are even nuggets of truth in the media we watch. I know, by and large mediated messages have gone through the spin cycle, and we are presented with versions of truth and reality that are supposed to represent truth and reality.

Apparently they’re not the same thing.

It can be confusing if you’re not paying attention.

The same can be said about getting old and growing old.

Apparently they’re not the same thing either.

I don’t know what it is about milestone birthdays or birthdays with digits that end in zero that bring about introspection. Could it be that it’s a period in your life where a reflective pause is instinctive; it feels like a natural extension of what we should do; or is it a learned behavior because our culture is so age-sensitive?

Regardless, as I have approached my 40th birthday today, I realize that I ROCKED my 30s. I can say proudly that I:

  • Renewed my relationship with God;
  • Married a kind man;
  • Gave birth to incredible children;
  • Rekindled my love for writing; I am a writer;
  • Learned to take professional risks without having to endure personal sacrifices;
  • Started volunteering, and mentoring more, and
  • Learned to say EXACTLY what’s on my mind without fear of judgment or repercussion.

I’m not perfect. I also:

  • Failed miserably at diets, over and over and over…
  • Started running, gave up and am trying again
  • Would not adapt to new fashion trends (I refuse to wear ‘stripper shoes’ – platform heels, sorry, not going to do it);
  • Failed at friendships, some were toxic, but I lost a good one;
  • Received my first rejection letter from a publisher (actually, I’m quite proud of that);
  • And at times I allowed fear to stop me from moving forward.

See? Not perfect.

Today, I wholeheartedly:

  • Embrace my age – 40 is not the new 30. 40 is 40, and I’m alright with that.
  • Cherish where I am in life – I started with HUMBLE beginnings. HUMBLE.
  • Choose to forgive myself and those who have wronged me every day (Luke 7:47).
  • Accept compliments and pats on the back because I deserve them.
  • Look fear square in the face, and while I may still be afraid at times, I won’t let it stop me.
  • Prefer a simple cup of tea.

Tell me, on your last milestone birthday (or even as part of your New Year’s Resolution) what truths have you learned? Are you living them?

Desires of Your Heart

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Painting by Rachelle Levingston

Painting by Rachelle Levingston

My timing is off, always has been. In most situations, I hardly get to say exactly what I want to say when I need to say it.

Is it just me?

Have you ever been in a situation where you had the perfect response only the moment has passed?

Sweet agony.

That retort to a rude cashier or clever comeback in a business meeting or even saying thank you.

Yes, even saying thank you.

There have been people that have cycled in and out of my life over the years who have given me so much and I never got a chance to thank them properly.

I was reminded of this as I read a lovely blog post from Kellywawa’s Blog. In it, she spoke of how someone who was a referral helped her get her business up and running.  (Read her post).

In doing so, I was reminded of the many people (angels) that had come to me at points in my life when I needed help the most.

One in particular was Ms. Ann, a woman I met my first year in college through my physics professor who invited me to church. Right before I met her, I was starting to worry about my financial state. I worked the summer before and managed to save some much money, but I knew sooner or later it would run out. That moment was quickly approaching, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do my laundry much longer.

There was no one I could call for help, but I knew how to pray.

And so I did.

Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to Ms. Ann who invited me to her house for Sunday dinner. She said that she, “…understood what it meant to be a poor college student…” then asked if I wanted to do my laundry while we ate.

She asked me.

Who said God doesn’t answer prayers?!

If you put your faith first, God will provide. He always provides. There’s a passage  in Psalm that says if you delight yourself in Him, He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4). My heart’s desire wasn’t to do my laundry, my desire was to succeed so that I could be a shining example of His love.

I saw His love in Ms. Ann, and my hope for 2014 and beyond is that someone sees it in me…and you.

While my timing may still be off, I know that it’s not about me, it is and has always been about His time. He gives us what we need when we need it — I believe that.

Trust His timing.

I wish you much success this year with all of your heart’s desires.

Who’s Watching What And When

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We recently purchased a rather large recliner and placed it near the television.  I railed against sitting in for weeks in fear that I might make it a permanent home, especially now since it’s the season of joy and peace – and holiday movies.

But in the spirit of (um) tradition I relented and decided to do my part. So I took my rightful place in that chair and enjoyed a few of my favorite yuletide flicks.  Some of them were classics and others were new, but all were memorable. There were a few that I stumbled across over the past two Christmases that were surprisingly good movies and are now keepers. I think you should consider adding these movies to your watch list if you haven’t seen them:

Christmas Lodge  – If you believe in keeping Christ in Christmas, you’ll enjoy this story. It’s a predictable, but you’ll enjoy it.  lodge
This Christmas – Wonderful story about family, forgiveness, and redemption. Oh and two words: Loretta Devine.  This Christmas
A Perfect Day – Great Christmas story and lesson about getting what you ask for.  perfect
How About You – Modern day island of misfit toys…well they’re not toys or on an island, but you get the picture. Vanessa Redgrave is excellent in this film.  howabout

I hope you enjoy these.

Do you have a movie that’s sort of off the beaten path of the traditional watch list? If so, share it with me below or tweet me. I’ll get the popcorn ready.

 

Not Quite Right

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cake

I wish I could take credit for this cake. I goggled lopsided cake and this was in the search result. I thought it was freaking awesome.

I think there’s an art to not getting things quite right.

Truly there is.

The lopsided cake, the DIY project that you shouldn’t have done yourself, or the sweater you attempted to knit that somehow turned out to be a scarf.

Don’t ask.

You can attribute it to lack of focus, the dizziness of the day or just good old fashion don’t know how. I have to tell you over the past few weeks, I’ve had some less than stellar moments that has boggled my usually keen mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I got in tons of reading and resting over the past few weeks thanks to my silent November, but when I went out into the world it felt like I just wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

Is this middle age sneaking up on me? I am about a month away from a milestone birthday.

You know that feeling when you wake up and there’s lots of sunlight in your bedroom and you think: this isn’t right. . . then you look at the alarm clock to discover that it’s about 2 hours past the time you were supposed to wake up? You know that feeling?

Exactly.

Here’s my top 3, recently I:

    1. Went to the market alone placed the groceries in the trunk and got in on the passenger side. I guess I expected my imaginary chauffer to take me home.  In my best British accent, “James, home.”
    2. Ordered take out for dinner and checked what I received against my receipt to find that my order was wrong. I went in to talk with the cashier and realized I was holding a receipt from a different restaurant. I was big enough to admit that I was wrong, and I’m pretty sure she thought I should seek mental help.
    3. Couldn’t locate my cell phone (happens quite often actually) and thought maybe if I called it I could find it. I picked up my cell phone and got 3-digits in before I realized that I had . . . (well you know the rest)…fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la….

I won’t share anymore. I am grateful that I can laugh about it though.

Has this ever happened to you?

Let The Sunshine In

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Happy December everyone! What a great way to start the month, I’ve been nominated for the Sunshine award by Quanie Miller over at QuanieTalking. The Sunshine Blog Award is passed on by bloggers to other bloggers who “positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”sunshine-award

Awe shucks.

There are a few rules that every blogger nominated for this award have to follow:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger with a link and post about your award.
  2. Share 10 random facts by answering the questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  3. Pass on the Sunshine Blog Award to other bloggers (up to 10) of your choice and let them know you nominated them.
  4. Post 10 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer on their blog.

So, I’ll answer Quanie’s questions:

1.When did you start your blog and why?

I started blogging as a challenge from my husband to get back into writing. I studied journalism in college and grad school but hadn’t written more than a grocery list before starting the blog.

2. Was there ever a time you thought about giving your blog up? Why or why not?

Yes, early last year. I wasn’t posting as much as I would have liked and I know that part of being a successful blogger is to post often. I decided to stick with it – I’ll say what I have to say when I can say it.

3. If you could give any word of advice to writers/bloggers, what would it be?

Be nice to the voices in your head.

4. What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

I prefer the broccoli stumps to the florets – weird, I know (sounds like a bad Seinfeld episode).

5. If you lived your life without fear what’s the one thing you would do?

That’s something that I aspire to daily. Every time I press ‘Publish’ on  a post that I’ve written or ‘Save’ to a few more pages I created, that’s me looking fear square in the eyes and saying, “Ha! Take that.”

6 What advice would you give to a younger you?

Stop trying to fit in, you were made to stand out.

7. Let’s say your life is a movie and you had to write the log line. What would it be?

Plucky southern girl finds her way and her voice in the unlikeliest of places.

8. What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Stare at the ceiling and go over my lists.

9. What’s your favorite inspirational quote?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

10. If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would want to see Ella Fitzgerald in concert. I have some of her early recordings, but I know they could never do justice to hearing the real thing.

So I’m passing this award to Stephanie Lewis over at The Ink Is Full and Dana at The Happiness Bucket, they bring lots of sunshine to the blogosphere. Be sure to visit them (and their Facebook & Twitter pages) and here are the questions I would ask:

  1. How did you come up with the name for your blog?
  2. What inspired you to start blogging/writing?
  3. Will you share a link to your favorite blog post?
  4. Name your favorite fictional character in a book and why?
  5. Dark or milk chocolate?
  6. Glass half empty or half full?
  7. Who’s your favorite author right now?
  8. Do you have a playlist that you listen to when you write or specific song? If so what’s on it or what is it?
  9. Do you speak another language? If so, which one(s)?
  10. 10. Finally, (because I loved this question) if you lived your life without fear what’s the one thing you would do?

Congrats again you two and be sure to check out Quanie’s novel on Amazon.

Testing 1…2…3

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So I’ve been flexing my writing muscles to see if I could write fiction. I’ve tried this a few times before and wanted to try again. It’s a draft but I’d be interested in what you think. Let me know…I’m listening.

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The cold December wind swirled around Noel’s limbs. With her arms outstretched toward the dark sky, she watched as snowflakes descended from the heavens. The city lights twinkled in the distance. She loved the view from here — not too far from the bustle of her small town, St. Anne – but far enough to give herself some peace. It was her sanctuary for all seasons, the changing of the fall leaves, the first blossoms of spring, and ample shade in the summer. She also knew that it was the perfect place to die.

There in the night air listening to winter’s song in previous years had provided such comfort. She felt a spiritual connection to everything around her, but this time it was different – the link was broken – there was no connection, only the sight and sound of her labored breath dissipating in the cold air.

She took a panoramic gaze into the valley below. St. Anne, her home for the past ten years, surrounded by mountains and frozen lakes, sat unknowing of her grim plans.  Blurred green, red, and white lights sat atop buildings and flashed with the merriment of the season. A feeling she no longer shared.

Her little town was one of the very few that still believed in Christmas. The people of St. Anne refused to generalize the occasion by succumbing to the philosophical belief of Happy Holidays. While inclusion was important, they refused to lose the“Christ” in Christmas. This was a trait she admired, especially this time of year.

Driving into the city, the holidays often felt prefabricated and sterile. The same décor lined the streets year after year, the same parades with the same floats, the same old pomp and circumstance that often left her feeling hollow. Noel believed that Christmas was holy that it didn’t arrive in a box, and it was most certainly not an item to be placed on display or sold.

This was the life she would leave behind.

Exhaling sharply, she surveyed the guardrail that separated her and death. The thin strip of metal covered in ice wouldn’t provide much of a defense for her life.  Her eyes burned with tears as she straddled the bar. Standing upright, her breath quickened. Pulling off her gloves, she exposed her hands to the frigid air.

This was it.

Inching her feet closer to the precipice, deep sobs pushed its way past her chest and out of her mouth. She tried to muffle the sound, but the pain was too unbearable.

“Jesus.” The plea was instantly afloat. “Jesus…Jesus,” she sobbed between gulps of air.

Noel closed her eyes to stop the stream of tears and leaned forward.

Copyright Cece Harbor 2013

Our Season of Silence

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I’m teaching my children about gratitude.

This has not been easy.Cece Harbor

Practicing gratitude during a season where they are consistently bombarded with images and messages telling them to ask for more has been challenging.

That’s putting it mildly.

It’s been downright impossible.

There, I said it.

I couldn’t quite nail it at first. It felt like my words just sailed over their little heads.  There at the kitchen table one night, I gave what I thought was a simple yet profound talk about the importance of being grateful and the importance of being good stewards over that which we’ve been blessed.  In return, I got 4 pairs of beautiful brown eyes staring back at me.

Message not received.

So I decided to take a different approach.

I decided to allow my actions to show them how to be grateful. For the next 3 weeks, I’m turning off the TV, turning off the radio, and am limiting my Internet usage to only writing and work.

So far, this has not been easy.

I figured that my voice was competing with all the other voices out there, and quite frankly I shouldn’t have to compete.

The world wants us to believe that this is the season of spending. I believe otherwise. More than anything right now, we need to embrace and believe that this is the season of silence, of quiet reflection. This is the season of miracles. This is the season of thanksgiving.

While it’s been a little quiet around the house lately, there’s surprisingly more chatter around the kitchen table – completely unexpected and wonderful chatter.  In shutting out the world, my kids are learning that we already have enough.  There’s abundance all around us: abundance in love, trust, respect, friendship, peace, and hope.

All of the great things you realize you have when you are still.

Yes! You Should Live Above Your Means

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I’m learning a lot about patience, especially now since it’s harvest season.

Now don’t get me wrong, the virtues of patience weren’t completely lost on me, I’ve gone through the motions of sowing and reaping before…but then, it was more about the result.

I deliberately did something with the expectation that my hard work would pay off. Surprisingly, I’ve taken this approach time and time again with moderate success. Usually if I did the work, I’d reaped the benefit.

That is until recently.

I planted the seed, spoke success over my life and now that it’s harvest season – nothing.

I’m going to stop with the planting metaphors; I think you get the picture.

So I did what all good pragmatists do and retraced my steps.

I thought to myself, “…it’s just not adding up, this work should yield that result.”

And as I continued through this exercise, I began to realize what I was actually saying. I heard the words I spoke and realized that I was defining the outcome. I was very specific in my request.

Too specific.

I wanted what I wanted, how I wanted it, and when I wanted it.

I didn’t leave room for anything else.

No new experiences, no opportunities for growth, and very few options. I became bound by my limits.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

Have you ever done this?  Have you placed limits on what blessings could manifest in your life? You were so specific that you left little or no room for anything else. It’s so easy to think that what we want is best for us not realizing that we place boundaries on ourselves.

If your best is all you think you can do, then your best is all you’ll get. (Tweet that)

I know that placing limitations isn’t necessary our intent. No one means to say, “…okay Lord, I only want you to bless me this way.”

So, now I have new seeds to sow and I’m going to continue to speak success over my, life, but now, I’m going to continue to feel and live like I’m already blessed while I wait.

No limits allowed.

30 Seconds of Courage

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I loved spinning the merry-go-round really fast as a kid. My friends and I challenged ourselves to jump off while it was in high velocity.

What a ride!

Some kids jumped immediately – some were okay, and a few were injured. Then others waited a bit until it slowed down, then jumped. Granted their thrill wasn’t as great as the first set of kids, but they got excitement nonetheless. Then there were the remaining few that waited until merry-go-round came to a grinding halt, and they then felt it was safe to exit. merry

Such is life, when things are going really fast it’s so easy to say I’ll do “this” after “that” not realizing that with every passing moment. the ride is losing momentum.

Take a 30 second leap today.

Purposeful Pause

Image used with permission iStockphotos.
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Do you realize there’s value in experiencing drama in your life?

My grandmother would call it a valley experience.

Image used with permission iStockphotos.

Image used with permission iStockphotos.

When you encounter a life situation that takes you off your intended path, often it presents as an opportunity to learn something new about you or the world around you. Now, we don’t initially see it that way, all we see is this ‘thing’ that has disrupted the flow of our existence, leaving us down in the valley. But that disruption causes us to pause and take account of where we are so that when we go through the valley it will make the mountaintop seem that much sweeter.