Off The Beaten Path

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“Sounds boring,” she said leaning back in her chair. I chuckled a little and pressed for an explanation. “What does that even mean? Inspirational books?” she sighed, incredulous in her questioning. I rubbed my forehead trying to find the words. It’s not easy sharing your ideas only to have them rejected.

“It’s about being mindful of what you read,” I said trying to choose my words carefully. I went on to explain the reason I started an online book club was to inspire and empower women with God’s truth for their lives. “You mean like a ministry?” she asked.

Interesting question. Can a book club be considered a type of ministry?

I didn’t think of it that way, after all, I’ve never been to seminary and please don’t ask me about the specifics in the Bible — I read the good book and I know what I know but I get nervous when asked.

“Not quite,” I continued hoping she understood I’m not trying to add reverend, bishop or any theological prefix or suffix to my name.

As a woman who is interested in strengthening her walk with God, I find it difficult at times to find things to read — things that are not mainstream.  I see the same people over and over again and hear the same message …over and over again. I wanted to hear from new voices, see fresh faces all while being inspired.

So I started a book club.

So far in the club house, we’ve invited several authors who have shared a little about their faith walk, the inspiration behind writing their books and broadened our horizon letting us know that great authors exist off the beaten path – not everyone worth reading has gone the traditional route.

We’ve heard from Krista Pettiford, a Christian writer, blogger, and author from California who said, “He didn’t design us to conform to the world’s standards but to be transformed by renewing our minds.” And even Melisa Alaba, who runs a global sisterhood organization filled with women leaders and business owners who are committed to economic empowerment and service.She stopped by the club and showed us how to use our superpower. Even author Mary DeMuth, whom I’ve written about,  stopped by and dropped a couple of truth bombs on the group. I was over the moon.

Sounds boring? Nah.

It’s been like a dream come true for me. I’m in the company of really positive women who are also BOOK LOVERS! It doesn’t get much better than that. But here’s the rub, I’ve been over on Facebook jamming with the club and forgot to you bring you along. So. If you’re interested (and I hope you are) join me in the club house. I hope to see you there.

The Value of Self-Worth…

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“Your value does not decrease based upon someone’s inability to see your true worth.”

“How much is this?” I heard behind me. Without skipping a beat, the sales clerk said evenly, “Is there a tag on it, ma’am?” A few seconds of awkward silence passed and the woman responded unconvinced, “… but is this really the price?” The sales clerk and I locked eyes, and I offered an empathetic smile.

How often has this happened to us? We present our best to the world, and it’s somehow perceived that the value of it is negotiable. That what we’re offering may be too much for what they had in mind or not enough and does not meet their expectations.

It’s as simple as this, people either add or take away from your life and if they’re trying to devalue you then they’re not making things better for you. Having your worth questioned might not be obvious so be mindful of what is happening around you.

If you believe you have to shrink yourself to fit in, you’re discounting yourself.
If you are afraid of not being liked or accepted by an individual or group of people, you’re discounting yourself.
If you’re underappreciated in any scenario (and you know when you are) and yet continue to operate in that capacity, you’re discounting yourself.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past or what has happened. You’re the only one who can maintain your self-worth.

The adage is true; we do teach people how to treat us. When I finally made the decision to take better care of myself, I began attracting like-minded people. Ambitious people. And I find that the more I operate in a space that grounds me in His word, He sends angels to protect me and remind me of who I am.

My self-worth is not tied to what I see in this world.
Your self-worth is not tied to what you see in this world either.

So the store clerk? Well, it turns out she was the owner of the boutique and she said to the customer with the sweetest southern drawl, “ma’am, there is no discount. That is a good price and the price stands.”

She saw the value in the product she offered and stood her ground because she knew she was worth it.

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.

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

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