Why Women Matter

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Today is International Women’s Day, and I salute the women who have helped raise, nurture, mentor and encourage me and others.
From our mothers and grandmothers to
our biological sisters (in my case, three of them, and their friends) to
our teachers and youth program leaders to
women mentors in the workplace to
sister-friends with whom we’ve mutually shared triumphs or tears, and who’ve climbed beside us or pushed us higher –
Thank you all.
It is in honor of you that I write women characters in my novels who stand together through highs and lows, tell each other the truth, love even when it’s hard, and grow together in purpose and grace.
Women who, like you, change the world for better.
Even in the darkest of hours, places or seasons, and even when you don’t realize it, your presence brings life-sustaining hope. Thanks for being the light.

Her Story: The Risks and Rewards of a First Step

By Guest Blogger Belinda Todd

I am an actor. This avocation is not about the paycheck, nor is it about recognition. It is an innate something that makes me want to see the world through characters often different from myself.  It is fulfilling a dream.

However, fear almost made me cancel my first audition. The afternoon appointment was set and I arrived at the theater early. Before I could turn off the engine, the mind chatter began: “Are you crazy! Who do you think you are? You will be laughed at!”

Too nice to be a no-show, the integrity of my word compelled me to open the car door and channel an inner diva. I strolled into the theater like I belonged there.

When the audition was over, I was ecstatic, invigorated! I was finally feeding my interests. The director had said she would get back to me in a few days. Three weeks later I had given up hope of being in this performance. Then the e-mail came, offering me the part of Reba in Before It Hits Home, a play by Cheryl L. West.

The play was well received and my performance was good – not stellar, just good. But I was hooked. I was in a new tribe—a community of talented artists.

Today, my credits include television, stage, commercials, and most recently, film. I am so glad that on that fateful day, I took the first step.

The first step begins the journey to nurturing your goals and developing your talents. The first step takes you outside your comfort zone and into your dreams. The first step is a signal to the universe to prepare the way. If you don’t take the first step, you’ll never know what could be.

You see, I am a black woman over 50. The odds of venturing into new territory were not in my favor. I have watched too many people give up on their dreams at certain mile markers in life, letting age dictate their fate. But I am daily choosing to see life as a glorious adventure.

I don’t know what it takes to liberate your soul, but I do know that until you do, your light will not fully shine. The first step is embracing the vulnerability that exposes who you are on the inside: your beauty, your talent, your capabilities as well as you weaknesses.

Here is the truth: first steps are scary. It is scary to leave comfortable surroundings, routine living and even old friends. I didn’t know if I could memorize scripts or if I would appear too old with a younger generation of actors. But I had to take a risk. I had to risk looking foolish and out-of-place. Even though I risked ridicule, I didn’t risk my faith in a kind and loving God who sees me and always has my back. I have learned that it can be good, oh so good, to risk the first step.

Belinda Todd is a risk-taker. After retiring from a career with the airlines, img_4841Belinda received a master’s degree in theology, became a certified yoga instructor, and is now studying acting. She is also an Adjunct Instructor in the Languages and Literature Department at Virginia State University. She believes her mission is to inspire and empower women to use their gifts and talents to make the earth more loving, more peaceful and more joy-filled.

5+ Ways to See Your Dreams Realized

Welcome to Wednesday. Whatever positive things you long to experience or achieve today…
* See them as real in your mind’s eye: Visualize your new reality – in full color, with specific details.
* Speak those desires into existence: Words and prayers hold power.
* Move deliberately: Resist all doubt.
* Trust the process: Success cannot be birthed without struggle.
* Give thanks in advance: Put your faith into action.
And then…be ready for the blessings that materialize.

creativecommonsuse

Her Story: No More Chains

By Guest Blogger Renee Spivey

I vividly remember the day 25 years ago when I sat on a bathroom floor with a knife to my wrists, ready to end it all. I was tired of the devastating challenges I was enduring, and thought death was better than what I was going through.

That’s not the only time I was suicidal. The second time was when I was sentenced to prison for eight years. Me, the church going, good grade-getting, mostly-obedient child. I had no business going to prison, but sure enough, it happened. Even though I was a first time offender, I was convicted of felony theft by check, and I would go on to serve almost two years of that eight-year sentence.

The day I arrived at the minimum security women’s prison, I was so devastated that I was put on suicide watch. I was asked during the intake process if I was thinking of killing myself and I said yes, because honestly, once again, I thought death was better than what I was facing.

Every hour or so, an officer was at my cell calling my name, making sure I was still alive. After the first two days, I was fine. I had read, cried, prayed and accepted my situation, and a peace finally came over me. After that second day, I told them I was fine and no longer thinking of killing myself. They took me at my word and didn’t perform the hourly checks anymore.

Being locked up for 22 months was the roughest thing I have ever experienced. To be treated as simply a number and not a person was a very humiliating, but humbling experience.

Even though this was the worst time of my life, it ended up being the best time of my life. It took me going to prison to realize that God had more in store for me than just a continual life of heartache and pain. He had a calling specifically for me.

The road has definitely not been easy, but through it all God kept me and blessed me. I did not let my past dictate my future. I refused to be known only as Smith #744519.

I’ve gone on to do some incredible things, such as go back to college at age 40 and obtain an associate’s degree in Information Technology/Web Design. I am currently working on my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I own a business called Literary Signature Services, where I work with authors and small businesses, helping them with their website and graphic design needs. I’ve held the same full time job since my release in 1997. And now, I am working on becoming a published author.

I am a wife, a mother, a homeowner and founder of the Women of Worth ministry, which was started to encourage women to step out of the shadows of their past into a brighter future. ~ © Renee Spivey, 2017

Renee SpiveyRenee Spivey, an avid reader and aspiring author, owns Literary Signature Services, a company that focuses on graphic and web design. Her client list includes authors Suzette Riddick, Regena Bryant, and New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Brenda Jackson, to name a few.  Renee also has a short story in the recently released anthology, When Women Become Business Owners. Learn more about Renee at her websites The Masters Vessel and We Are Women of Worth. She is also active on Facebook at Empowered Women of Worth, Instagram at Renees1971 and Twitter @empoweredwow.

A Balanced Mom = Balanced Kids

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Here’s a resolution most parents should consider making a habit: practicing self-care, and viewing it as a gift to their families.

Many  — in particular moms, and especially those of young children — tend to feel guilty if they take time away from their sons or daughters to focus on themselves. However, research and anecdotal evidence show that when parents are fulfilled and balanced, that contentment permeates their lives, including their interactions with their families.

So while they may have taken time away to pursue a career endeavor, hobby or some social time, for example, if they return invigorated or restored, that joy adds to the quality of time with their beloved youngsters.

With this in mind, I encourage my fellow parents to take off your superwoman or superman capes in 2017, and neatly fold and tuck them away for special occasions.

Because day to day, the person you are is the person your kids will emulate.

If your goal is for them to honor and value themselves while treating others kindly and generously, you must remember their best and first teacher is you.

Taking some “you time” gives your children a chance to watch you thrive at something you enjoy or that simply makes you smile, and it gives them a road map for how to someday support the goals and interests that are important to anyone they value.

During this resolution season, consider finding a few minutes of quiet time to reflect on what you most enjoyed “BP” — my newly coined phrase for “Before Parenting.”

If it’s helpful, write a list of five or 10 things you once considered fun or meaningful, but put on the back burner.

Depending on the season of parenting you’re in, you may or may not have time or interest in revisiting the things that once held your attention, but even if your list feels dated, it can serve as a reminder of who you are and what gives you energy.

Simplicity usually yields success, and here are some suggestions:

  • Commit to getting more exercise, whether that means joining a gym that has a kid-friendly playroom or finding a neighborhood walking or running partner with whom you can forge a friendship and fitness accountability.
  • Check in regularly with your friends by phone to stay abreast of their lives, or invite them over for dinner or a game night, and allow their kids to come. It’s great for your young children to see Mom and Dad have “play dates” or for your older ones to see you enjoying life beyond parenting.
  • Trade babysitting with a trusted friend or relative, and use your free time to visit your favorite bookstore for a few hours, go to a movie or hang out at your favorite coffee shop or eatery.
  • Informally pick a parenting mentor (or two) a few years ahead of you, who can help you navigate decisions and ease your worries during certain developmental stages. If you know that middle school is an awkward time for most kids and how that plays out for each gender, for example, you may assess your child’s behavior from a calmer place.
  • Try something new, and don’t be afraid to let your kids see you struggle or fail. Show them the right way to handle new opportunities or to withstand their own challenges by managing yours with grace, maturity and responsibility.

Commit to being the best version of yourself possible, and watch yourself and your children blossom as a result.

Editor’s Note: A variation of this post first appeared in Stacy’s Richmond Times-Dispatch parenting column, Life Notes, in January 2017.

Do One Thing

~ By Stacy Hawkins Adams

What dream, goal, plan or opportunity have you been talking about but failing to move toward?

What is your routine “I can’t” or “but” for standing still – a lack of resources, a lack of courage, a lack of support from others?

Whatever your response, ask yourself how long you’ve been giving this answer. If it’s longer than a month, that’s almost too long. If it’s more than a year, your victory is way overdue.

If you can recall having this same conversation with yourself 12 months ago or longer, remember where you were at that time (or those many times). Consider who you were sharing with and why you indicated you couldn’t move forward. Are those same obstacles standing in your way today?
If your answer is yes, it’s time to move. If your answer is no, it’s time to move. directory-1273088_640

Because faith without works is dead. Because if you stay frozen in the dreaming and planning phase, the people who could be blessed by what you have to offer may never have that opportunity. Because perhaps your finding the courage to live out your destiny could impact how others live out theirs.

If your dream, goal, plan or opportunity is meant to live and exist, you are the only one who can conquer the hills and mountains that stand in the way, and the first obstacle to overcome may be the doubt in your own heart and mind.

When you truly believe you’re worth what you long for, you’ll begin to take those baby steps to achieve it. Yes, baby steps. Do one thing a week, or in some seasons one thing a month, to move closer to where you want to be. When you move – that is, put your faith into action – and persist, eventually you’ll be rewarded with an equal reaction of some kind – big or small- that confirms that your dream, goal, plans or opportunity are worthwhile.

I speak from experience – even in launching this blog. I had a logo designed a year ago, planned it in my head for months, then hemmed and hawed about what it should focus on. But I knew within if I just wrote from my heart and invited others to join me in doing the same, everything else would fall into place, and that’s what is happening.

Whatever your obstacles or tasks are, seek wisdom, then create a plan and get to it. Somebody somewhere needs what you have to offer. And guess what? So do you.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Why a Life Untapped Matters

Living life to the fullest doesn’t mean living a carefree, pain-free life. It means finding meaning and joy in the things that matter most, no matter the circumstances.

(Inaugural post from Life Untapped curator Stacy Hawkins Adams.)

Your life matters because you matter.

Your hopes. Your dreams. Your flaws and failures that make you who you are and give you your unique (and valuable) perspective. The purpose only you can execute during your time on earth.

Life Untapped, the blog, is meant to be a source of hope, how-to and motivation as you seek your lane of service, love, joy and impact.

We all have one – whether it’s to be the best stay-at-home mom, office administrator or community leader possible or to change the world in some dramatic way.  But the first shift toward our destiny begins with believing that the “story” we’re each living is our unique gift to the world – our personal opportunity for relevance.

Whether you aim to be a writer or simply want to read and write more intentionally to learn and grow, Life Untapped is here to help. We’ll provide inspiration and information you can use to move toward the reality you long to live.

Use the messages here – from me and my guests – as a guidebook and example of how to shape your life into your own particular masterpiece. Not perfect; just personal. And become intentional about enjoying the process as much as securing the prize, whatever it may be. That’s important, so that your memories will make you smile long after a task is complete, a goal is accomplished or a seed is planted and the flower of your life has bloomed.

Thanks for joining me here. I’m honored to be on the journey with you. Stacy Signature