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

 

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

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.

Giving Yourself Permission To Dream . . .

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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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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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