Cookies and Dreams: Why You Should Leap

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Last week I decided to bake homemade oatmeal cookies for my son, but it was cold and dark outside and I didn’t feel like driving to the store to buy the brown sugar and raisins that the recipe called for and my pantry lacked.

Rather than give up, I pulled an “old school” cook’s move and substituted with what was on hand.

The all-purpose sugar and pure vanilla extract worked wonderfully, and though the cookies weren’t as “tan” as usual, the way they quickly vanished were proof that they were a hit. (He asked for more this weekend.)

So what’s the moral of this Monday Morning Musing? This right here:

Conditions won’t always be perfect. Everything you think you must have to succeed won’t be on hand.  But leap anyway.

Make trial-and-error tweaks as needed. Operate in excellence.

Embrace imperfections that arise as your unique offering to the process.

Believe. Press on. Enjoy the journey.

Birth that vision. Give hope to others who are watching you.

If you’ll just get started, the rest will unfold when needed – or turn out better than you could have imagined.

Advertisements

For Little Girls and Boys Everywhere…

Happy Monday. I missed Oprah Winfrey’s speech when she delivered it live last night on the Golden Globe Awards, but it is just as moving on video.
Take a few minutes to click here and watch her inspire little girls with big dreams who are somewhere in the world watching her shine, and be assured…
there are little girls and little boys watching you and me, too. Let’s not let them down.

Why Your Next-Level Thinking Must Begin Today

Are you ready for your next level?

You don’t have to have it all together before you start (no one does),

Or know exactly how it all will unfold (life happens),

Or be without flaw (curveballs and mistakes are par for the course).

What you DO need is a belief in your vision and a belief that you’re worth the self-investment, because you are.

So go after your personal goals with faith and focus,

And recalibrate your professional ones with strategic creativity and heart.

Your tenacity, passion and purpose will inspire others to embrace their best life, too.

Don’t wait until 2018…start now.

How to Refine Your Reading List in Ways that Refine You

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Every successful organization or business has a mission statement or brand statement that drives its leaders’ decision making and direction – why not you?

I shared this perspective recently with a group of women and men that I led through a series of teleconference calls about purpose, goal-setting and faith; and during our discussion, I offered to give them a peek at my personal library – the one filled with books that have guided and shaped my perspective on life, living with intention and executing with excellence.

As we sit on the verge of a new year, which always brings with it hope for second, third or any number of new chances and possibilities, I decided to also share these literary gems with you.

I’ve read the books listed here over a 15-year (or so) period, at various stages of adulthood and maturity; so you may find a few of the titles too elementary. Perhaps you can recommend those particular books to young adults you’re mentoring or helping raise.

Yet some of the books I’ve chosen may indeed pique your interest, grace your reading list and help you grow, too.

Vastly more important than having you embrace the topics and authors that have resonated with me is for the list to serve as a catalyst for you becoming a version of yourself that you can consistently honor and love.

Indeed, all of these books have been foundational in some manner to the expansion of my heart, my vision, my perspective, my dreams  and my faith:

  • Listen to Your Life: Following Your Unique Path to Extraordinary Success by Valorie Burton
  • Making Life Work: Putting God’s Wisdom into Action by Bill Hybels
  • The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours by Marian Wright Edelman
  • The Life God Blesses: Weathering the Storms of Life that Threaten the Soul by Gordon MacDonald
  • Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now by Maya Angelou
  • If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
  • In Search of Satisfaction by J. California Cooper
  • The Testament by John Grisham
  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I could include quite a few more! This is just a start, to jumpstart your efforts to embrace reading that can help you wake up, get up, trust yourself, believe in your dreams and stretch to new heights.

Buy a new journal to record your thoughts from the books you choose to read. Use that same journal to craft a personal mission statement or brand value, based on who you want to become.

As a man (or woman) thinketh, so is he (or she). The words you ingest matter, and so do you. Read your way to wholeness, joy and purpose, then write that vision – with tangible steps and timelines – to ensure that your goals become your reality.

I’m rooting for you.

Hope for My Drunk Driver

A journey from anger to grace

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Last weekend I had a headache that wouldn’t abate, and it led my thoughts back to Melissa – a woman I’ve never met whose choices on a summer evening long ago forever changed mine.

Melissa, you see, is the drunk driver who slammed into the car in which I was a passenger 25 years ago.

That night in Albuquerque, N.M. left me with an injury that to this day prevents me from sleeping with pillows. Which brings to me to reason I was thinking of her this past weekend.

I did a simple thing: dozed off on a few fluffy pillows as I propped myself up in bed to watch TV. When I awoke the next morning, my consequence was a throbbing pain above my left temple and behind my left eye.

I don’t get migraines often, but I recognize them when they arrive, and I could tell immediately that this one was connected to the pain radiating down the left side of my neck and to the knot of muscles that had formed just below.

Ah, the pillow. How could I forget?

Ah, Melissa. How could you drink and drive?

The summer that Melissa’s car rammed into the one in which I was a passenger, I was a rising college senior in the middle of a newspaper internship in Albuquerque, simultaneously honing my journalism and independence skills.

I had two awesome roommates, including one who was (and is) a professional singer. When an opportunity arose to serve as one of her backup “artists” in a karaoke performance (the only way I’d be asked to do this, mind you), how could I say no?

A group of us had just pulled into the Air Force base where our dining spot debut would take place. As our driver paused to check in at the security gate, Melissa’s vehicle plowed into the back of us.

Thankfully, I and my fellow passengers survived the crash, which, in Albuquerque at that time was no small feat.

According to prevalent news reports that year (1992), more alcohol-related traffic deaths per capita occurred in New Mexico than in any other state. Thank you, God.

Melissa’s actions knocked the car in which we were riding several hundred feet from its resting position and left it totaled.

I was the most severely injured – receiving a fractured nose from having the driver’s seat break loose on impact and slam into my face and being tossed around like a ragamuffin. I left the hospital with two black eyes and a severely sprained neck that I would protect with a brace off and on for years to come.

I was angry at Melissa, long before I knew her name. All I knew then was what her actions had cost me: My journalism internship ended abruptly. I spent the rest of my summer alternating between pain-filled periods of rest and physical therapy for the cervical sprain. I returned to my senior year of college still in physical therapy, which continued well into the fall, with lingering pain and forced rest cutting short outings with friends and opportunities to celebrate life before full-fledged adulthood.

I was still angry at Melissa a few years later, when a minor fender bender caused the neck sprain to flare at just the wrong time – days before a friend’s wedding. Ensconced in a new neck brace with my name on it, I spent her special day in bed with muscle relaxers instead of enjoying celebratory fun.

The anger lessened to frustration over the years as I participated in exercise classes and repeatedly sat out on sit-up routines that put too much strain on my neck, because my core wasn’t quite strong enough to lift me.

And as I matured and considered some of my own missteps and mistakes along the way, I thought about Melissa with fewer and fewer waves of judgment.

I was 21 when the accident occurred and so was she.

I had been in a car with new friends that evening, heading to a fun outing. When emergency medical personnel pulled her from her vehicle, they reportedly discovered that countless beer cans had been her companions.

With the expansion of heart that accompanied my becoming a first-time mother at age 27, the judgment ceased. Unconditional love for another will do that to you.

And as my work as a journalist gave me opportunity after opportunity to meet all kinds of people from all walks of life and tell their stories of tragedy, challenge, triumph and resilience, I embraced the reality that life doesn’t always happen for us – sometimes it happens to us.

That truth ushered in sympathy. I began to wonder what had become of Melissa.

At the time of our accident, drunk driving laws in New Mexico were fairly lax, and I don’t recall her serving any jail time. While she was forced to cover my and my friends’ medical and related expenses, she likely didn’t suffer other consequences.

I wondered, however, did her conscience bother her? Did she treat that serious accident as a wake-up call?  Did she give herself a second chance?

I began to hope that just as I had changed and grown and sought to embrace my best self over the years, that she, too, had managed some measure of metamorphosis.

Today, as I lay here writing this reflection, with a heating pad on my neck and shoulder and pain meds nearby, I hope and pray so.

Like me, I hope she has gone on to have a full and meaningful life – one in which she shares the story of that night as a lesson learned, as a place from which she transformed.

I hope that the recurring pain I still experience every so often isn’t for naught, and that she is still alive and well somewhere, advising others to never drive while under the influence, because it can lead to real suffering for real people, other than oneself.

pexels-photo-593172

If I had the chance to encounter Melissa again and officially meet her, I’d tell her that while I hate the flare ups and radiating pain I sometimes experience and I hate her long-ago choices, I don’t hate her. Doing so would require too much energy and too much heart space.

Instead, I’m thankful to have been one of the ones who survived when so many victims of drunk drivers didn’t. My hope is that wherever Melissa is and whoever she has become, she feels that same humble gratitude – for my life and for her own.

How to Find Joy in Your Journey

Count it all joy:
The blessings that bring you happiness
The lessons that lead to wisdom
The heartbreak that teaches you empathy
The hope that helps you grow.
Each step
Each stride
Each experience
Each opportunity
Comprise your daily gift – the life that only you get to live.

© Stacy Hawkins Adams

Chat with the Author: Combining Cultural Lore with Faith & Love is Her Heartsong

Meet Unoma Nwankwor, the bestselling author of seven Christian romance fiction titles. Her readers are in love with her unique way of telling stories that capture the essence of her present home base  – Atlanta, Georgia – and her native Nigerian culture. Her stories  center on forgiveness, faith and hope, and have been described as the perfect fusion of those elements, combined with just enough romance and African spice to keep readers turning pages.
What are the titles of your most recent books? My most recent title is Mended with Love (released October 2017). It is the third book in my Sons of Ishmael Series. Another recent release is The Final Ultimatum (October 2016), and it is the long-awaited stand-alone sequel to my 2013 novella The Christmas Ultimatum.
What is your primary goal as an author? My goal is to entertain and edify, while educating my readers about the continent of Africa – especially my home country of Nigeria. The media shows what they want to about the continent; so being that I love my Jesus, a good happily ever after, and my home, all three are always prominent in my books. After reading one of my books, I want my readers’ appetite whet for Jesus. I want them to have had a good time and to know something about Africa they didn’t know before. Or correct something they thought they knew.
What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your work? In The Final Ultimatum, the main characters are from Nigeria and South Africa. When I started to write the novel, I decided to incorporate a hot issue currently causing a rift between the two countries: xenophobia [which is the intense or irrational fear of people from other countries]. My readers didn’t see that coming. They were intrigued by the issue, but also marveled at how I didn’t allow the heaviness of the topic overshadow the couple’s story.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? I wouldn’t call it surprising; humbling would be the word I’d use. That moment for me would be [realizing] the acceptance of my American audience. I initially let the fear of no one caring about what I wrote or what I had to say  stop me. However, I [eventually decided] that I couldn’t write anything other than the stories I had in me to tell. Since that time, in 2012, not writing has no longer been an option. I went with what I know. So the acceptance of something different by readers humbles me daily.
How do you  nurture your growth as a writer? I read at least one craft book every quarter. I also have a broad variety of genres I read.
Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? I admire and consider [bestselling Christian fiction author] Pat Simmons a mentor. There are a host of others I admire, too numerous to mention.
If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing? I’m also passionate about helping “Christianprenuers”  move past the stagnation of uncertainty while on their purpose journey. Sometimes we get stuck or weary when the dark seasons arise. I enjoy encouraging others to push through their process while glowing in the dark.
What do you like to do for fun?  Go to movies with my family.
More about Unoma Nwankwor: Unoma Nwankwor is the author of seven fiction titles. Her work fuses faith, romance and African culture. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Nigerian Writers’ Award for Best Faith-Based Fiction Writer. In late 2016, she was shortlisted for the Diaspora Writer of the Year award for 2017. Unoma holds a B.S. degree in banking & finance and a mastimageer’s degree in global management. She is a champion of purpose, passionate about pushing women Christianprenuers past the stagnation of uncertainty by building confident expectations in the promises of God. Unoma was also recently named as one of the “100 Most Influential Nigerian Writers Under 40”  and is also the host of the Anchor Talk Podcast. Visit her at www.unomanwankwor.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/UnomaNwankwor or on Twitter and Instagram via the handle @unwankwor.