It’s time to rethink your story

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BigMagicFinal

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.

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?

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.

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?

Barely Conscious….

What would you confess?
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I’m channeling my inner Iyanla.What would you confess?

Om. Om. Om.

You know Iyanla Vanzant (or at least have heard of her). She’s notorious for giving it to you straight, and as she so eloquently puts it, “calling a thing a thing.”  She’s perfected truth telling because good, bad or ugly she’s going to say what needs to be said –- even when you don’t want to hear it or agree.

So in the spirit of truth telling, I have a confession, okay-okay 3 confessions:

Confession #1: I get a headache when I listen to the radio now. No, it’s not from old age or the volume… I’m disgusted by what continues to get airplay. If it’s not the expletives or misogynistic lyrics, then it’s womanizing strip club tales or rape – plain and simple.

It saddens me that so many people buy into the hype and think that the lyrics aren’t directed towards them. Newsflash: these low self-esteem songs with all their creative beats and mass-market appeal are targeting you, and you bought into it. Consider this a wake up call to the unconscious: (1). Stop listening to it; (2) Fellas pull up your pants; and (3) For some women, realize that you’re more than your body parts.

Confession #2: I’m more conscious of where I spend my dollars now. I’ll be the first to confess that this is NOT EASY. What large chains have over smaller mom-and-pop shops are variety and sometimes convenience (there’s a major retailer every 2 or 3 miles in any direction).

With tons of information at our fingertips, it’s much easier today to determine if the companies where you spend your hard earned cash practice good ethics and corporate responsibility. For me, this means not supporting companies that are detrimental to the environment or support entertainers that degrade women or people of color or take jobs away from Americans.

Do you know what your money supports?

Confessions #3: I’ve “unliked” more pages and people on Facebook and “unfollowed” more tweeple on Twitter in the past few weeks than I’ve “liked” or “followed” in the past year. My social media feeds were depressing. Some people use Facebook as a personal diary, in one breath they praise God but in the next drop more f-bombs than the cast of Real Housewives of [pick a city]. Or better yet, chalked full of soft porn pictures.

Really? I mean, really?

What’s more, I’m not sure if these social media sites are in reality fostering genuine social interactions. Most conversations are superficial at best – “hi”…”hi”…”bye”…”bye”.

Since my recent unfollows, err I mean updates, my feeds are now motivating and full of positive energy from people that I would talk to offline.

I’m just calling a thing a thing.

Is there anything in your life that you were unconscious about? If you could call a thing a thing, what would you say? What would you confess?