We Are Pearls in Progress

Nearly 15 years ago I penned a novel that still resonates with readers – and me – today. This nationally published book, Watercolored Pearls, shares the story of three women friends who find themselves relenting to the doubt, worry and fear that lurks in their daily lives – silent enemies that seek to overshadow their inner wisdom and beauty and mask their gifts and growth. Then an older woman comes along who sees herself in them, and remembers her own journey to wholeness. She tells them to take heart and be of good courage, and to keep going, because their individual paths are leading them to purpose, and even joy.

In the vein of the message I shared through those fictional characters, I share this poem with you. Aptly titled We Are Watercolored Pearls, I wrote it in 2014, for guests at a brunch I hosted to celebrate my 10th anniversary as a multi-published author. I share it with you now, during these turbulent times in our world, to remind you that it often takes shake ups and setbacks, twists and turns, pauses and pitstops to arrive at your destination whole and ready to thrive.

So stay the course, lean into life’s lessons and enjoy the journey as much as you can – with this poem serving up some inspiration.

Let Your Heart Break with Ours

There’s no excuse for random violence or senseless looting; they aren’t the same as peaceful protests, which are a means of visibly showing pain and rising up together.
As I take a few days away from social media to reset, I’ll leave you with the 5-minute video below as some form of explanation for what many citizens of this nation are feeling and fearing.
Please watch and listen. More than once, if you need to.
Let your heart break with ours.
See us as the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, spouses, partners and friends that we are and summon your courage to empathize.
For authentic caring does indeed take courage; and even if you don’t get it right at first and even if it feels uncomfortable, reach out and extend it to a colleague, friend, neighbor or relative who may be hurting.
Then speak up, stand up and say their names with us. More importantly, help keep more names from being added to the list.
Watching a man die on live TV/video broke our hearts – hearts that already had rips and tears. It was a form of secondary trauma.
A tiny measure of healing may come (in time) by helping make real change, tangible and positive change, for the better. Can we all – every human being reading this – take on the challenge and do just that?

Click image to view video or click here.

Mother’s Day Special: Someone Else’s Children

By Guest Blogger Linda Leigh Hargrove

My husband and I have three boys. They are ‘all boy’ as the saying goes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They call each other “brothers of another mother.” They’re adopted, you see. 

As a young married woman 20-plus years ago, adoption was the furthest thing from my mind. Both my husband and I were in school full time, working like Hebrew slaves on advanced engineering degrees. Between the two of us, we made $18,000 a year in stipends. Can you say “poor house?” I thank God for those years (and for that small vegetable patch). Those lean times taught me how to wait on God.

Growing up in the swamp lands of North Carolina, I played with trucks and climbed trees. Doll babies and tea sets were never on my gift wish list. After a few years of marriage, that changed. It happened one sunny afternoon while I babysat for a college friend. That precious little toddler stole my heart, with her sparkling brown eyes and chubby hands. When her mother picked her up two hours later, our one-bedroom apartment never felt so empty.

Knowing how much money my husband and I had (or rather, didn’t have) between us, I knew that having a child while we were both in school was not wise. So we maintained our ‘family plan’ (kids after college) and I clipped baby pictures from magazines, secretly claiming them as my own.

I soon graduated and tried to replace the yearning with a full-time job, community volunteering, church involvement and writing. But the emptiness persisted.

My husband was still in grad school, but he agreed that it was time to start a family. That was 1995; I was 29. One and a half years later and no baby, I hit a wall. I started each day in tears, crying in the darkness of my walk-in closet before work. The crying lasted for most of 1997.

On the outside I was doing good things in my church and community. I was a faithful wife. I was a productive engineer, managing a $2 million grant program for the state.

On the inside, I was dying. Longing for a child.

At one point, someone at church suggested that we consider adoption. I was tired of all the doctor’s visits, the fertility treatments, basal thermometers and all of the prayers to God. I wanted relief. I wanted to feel good again, to feel God again. Adoption seemed like an appealing option.

We did our research. We talked with counselors and social workers. We talked with our friends and parents. We prayed and fasted. We had so many questions about the process, the costs, and especially the kids. What if they’re not black like us, what if they’re developmentally challenged, what if they’re violent?

God answered all of those questions with peace. As Psalm 34:4 says: I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

As I internalized that scripture, I realized it didn’t matter what the child He gave us looked like or acted like. What God had for us, was for us. I had peace with His plan.

Adopting was not easy. In fact, in the beginning it was like pulling a scab from a wound I thought had healed. But today, I have three boys through three separate adoptions.

Not three rejects or three unwanted children. I have three sons. 

Some people call them someone else’s children. I call them mine.

Linda Leigh Hargrove blends suspense, humor, and faith into compelling stories about race and class in America. Her 10 works of fiction include three novels, as well as several novellas and short stories. Linda has taught workshops on fiction writing to adults and teens. She is a native of Washington County, North Carolina and currently resides near Charlotte with her husband and three sons. Connect with Linda on the following social media platforms: Linda’s website, Linda’s Facebook page and Linda’s Instagram feed.

In Times Like These, Words Matter

Here it is: That look (and heart smile) I get every time I hear from a reader how one of my books has entertained, blessed or inspired.

Stacy Hawkins Adams

Thanks to Deeda and Terri for touching base about Nothing But the Right Thing, to Sherry for letting me know Who Speaks to Your Heart gave her solace in her current life circumstances, while Erica shared that Watercolored Pearls did the same, and to the social media page Black Fiction Addiction for the shout-out to my novel Coming Home.

During stressful times like these, words can make a difference – both reading them and writing them.

Pull out a journal (or empty notebook) and let your pen flow with whatever fills your mind and heart – the good, the bad, the ugly, and I guarantee you’ll feel a little better. Encourage the young people in your life to do the same.

Then, find something good to read.

Need some inspiring quotes and musings to soothe you? Check out my recent compilation, Abound! Principles for Next Level Living, here: tinyurl.com/stacyabound

Seeking some spiritual food for thought? My devotional Who Speaks to Your Heart? may interest you: tinyurl.com/stacyheart

Want something fictional that both entertains and uplifts you? Check out one of my novels here: tinyurl.com/stacystories

And certainly, the work of my numerous fellow writers can meet your needs, too.

If you are joining me in shifting to teleworking over the next few weeks, lean into this time of lessened activity by still producing your best work, while taking care of you.

Stay safe and stay encouraged!

Value Friendships

By Guest Blogger DaNika Neblett Robinson – (In honor of International Women’s Day)

Like organizations, it is important to have a Board of Directors to assist you with the strategic direction of your life and ensure that you are prosperous. Their purpose should be to check on you, connect with you, and to challenge you to be a better version of yourself. These are the people who would probably say, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (3 John 1:2, KJV).

Yes, you have to be careful about who you allow into your personal space. But, being too cautious can be detrimental. “Let your conscience be your guide” (Jiminy Cricket, from the movie Pinocchio, 1940).

At work, I have a Tribe that I connect with weekly. Being the only person of color in a senior leadership role on my campus, I know it is my duty to connect with subordinates, particularly those that look like me. During this weekly sync up, we talk about a variety of things. I create a safe space where they are free to vent as well as encourage. Other leaders may frown upon this approach but my authentic leadership style* compels me to:

* understand my purpose;

* practice solid values;

* lead with heart;

* establish connected relationships; and

* practice self-discipline.

As an author, I am a member of Focused Writers led by my mentor Stacy Hawkins Adams. My fellow writers and I receive writing tips from Stacy as well as each other. Writing a novel or speech or even a blog can be a lonely process. Having people you can count on to share what projects they are working on while gently nudging you to meet a deadline has been critical. Although we typically meet virtually, we have been diligent about meeting in-person as well. These connections have helped us to remember why we write and solicit ideas that can benefit us as we move forward.

In my personal life, I have my God Sistahs. These women serve as a sounding board for me. They have helped me to see things from a different perspective while loving me through my hot mess moments. Our friendships have gotten us through turbulent times when dealing with the loss of family members. Assisted us in rearing our children who are now adults. And ensured we remained in healthy relationship while supporting the need to breakaway when necessary.

On my path to become a doctor (Ed.D), I had the pleasure of spending three years with 17 brilliant people. Being a first-generation, nontraditional college student, I did not have the standard undergraduate experience.  No roommates. No student life. No sorority. But I do not feel like I missed out on anything because this cohort of smart people inspired me to be a passionate educator. We started the doctoral program very green and not knowing our super powers. Any time we have the opportunity to reconnect, we remind each other of how far we have come. Those moments together are priceless.

Being a busy woman who travels to and fro regularly, it is imperative for me to return to home base. The greatest of all friendships for me is that which I experience with my life partner/husband. He knows when I am drained and suggests I take a nap. I laugh at his dry jokes. We have intimate conversations about our children and what is next for them. Most of all, he is my biggest cheerleader. I could not ask for a better person to share my life with.

Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) says it best, “And let us not neglect our meeting together as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Do not downplay the value of friendships. Do not limit the number of people you allow in your personal space, simply because you fear being hurt once again. Know that all interactions are needed as you continue your metamorphic journey.

*George, William W. Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

Editor’s Note: This column first appeared on DaNika’s blog, The Metamorphic Journey. Visit here and subscribe: themetamorphicjourney.org.

DaNika Neblett Robinson is the author of  The Metamorphic Journey. This page-turning novella explores three teenage mothers’ quest to succeed. The Metamorphic Journey is also the name of a movement DaNika founded to provide individuals with opportunities to foster personal growth. DaNika has served as a higher education administrator for more than 20 years and is currently the CFO of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. A graduate of the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University and an expert in transformational leadership, she speaks widely about excellence in leadership, in particular to women’s organizations and audiences. She also uses her knowledge to empower young adults to embrace their purpose. Learn more about DaNika and her body of work at themetamorphicjourney.org.

Why Creative Artists Matter – A Cinematic Reflection

By Guest Blogger Norma L. Jarrett

By now you may have seen the movie The Photograph, written and directed by Stella Meghie, starring Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chante Adams and Y’lan Noel. My favorite character is Christina, played by Adams. Why?

Because she is the creative, ambitious woman of color and Black mother that many of us need to see. Everything about Christina is authentic, especially her beauty, talent, aspirations and passion for her craft. Her backstory is a southern blend of curiosity, flirtatious innocence and romance. She had me mesmerized from the start.

We don’t get to know everything about her, for example, how she became famous or details concerning her marriage. But the moviegoer in me didn’t really miss it (at least that much).  Especially when Christina informed Issac (Y’lan), her first love, that she needed something else to look forward to besides making his dinner. When those words dripped from her mouth I sat up.  There it was. The thing we are not supposed to say.

At that moment, I understood the reason Christina was born.  She’d come to set us all free: the creative, unconventional, artistic women of color who need to create like they need air. Her bold declaration was Affirmation. Because many of us creatives suffocate unless we have space large enough to dream. When we witness Christina flee Louisiana and all that is attached, we’re riding shotgun; secretly rooting for her.  Because we know that feeling.  A feeling of obligation or a place competing with or feeling too small for our future.

The sheepish grin that crept across her face as the bus rolled on informed us that her regrets were left at the curb.  Although we felt her man, we found solace that sis was going to be just fine. She’d chosen “bigger” although she hadn’t known what or where bigger was. She was running to and not away from her life. And a creative life is still a life.  Phew!  Pass the collection plate please.

As a woman, a woman of color, a wife, a published celebrated author who started writing decades ago, I felt that. Why?  An unconventional path is not any easy one. For many decades there was no model, Google map or instructions for us.  All women seemingly were put in the same box marked conventional.   Therein lies the struggle.

For I, too, chose the unconventional path during my final year of law school.  I wrote and published my first novel that year and landed a book deal shortly after. At the time, many of my friends were getting married and having kids.  I was having a different type of “adventure.”  It wasn’t wrong, just different.  My aunts and other women in my family were proud.  They encouraged me to fly, joining me as willing passengers on my journey. Christina was symbolic of women who dare to dream big, even if it cost.  

The grief that Christina displays at one point in the film seemed to be derived from a need to force herself into the only box she knew.  She didn’t give up her dream, but partially clipped her wings.

I truly believe that God honors our gifts and wants us to maximize our creative call, regardless of marital status, geographic location or other factors.  However, freedom comes from choices and living an authentic life. He gives instructions to answer our creative call. And yes, sometimes we need Christina’s courage and wings!  

The character of Christina wasn’t just about art. She desired and embraced other love, but struggled. She raised her daughter the best way she knew how. And married. However, her love of photography was clearly effortless and brought her the most joy.

A great character resonates long after the movie credits end, and the last page is read.  I believe there is a little Christina in every woman. Christina reminds us we should not explain, grieve or limit our dreams. But make room for them. And sometimes that means finding the courage to “buy the ticket,” board the bus and ride to our creative destination as often as needed.

Norma L. Jarrett is a writer with traditionally published and indie titles. Her work has been featured in Essence, Ebony, USA Today, Southern Living and other media. She is married and resides in Houston, Texas with her husband and two dogs, Mylo and Lexi. Her titles are available on Amazon.com.  Her next novel, Ivy’s Soul, is a multi-generational romance that will be released in 2020.

IG: @authornormajarrett

FB: @http://www.facebook.com/normajarrettwrites

Books: Norma Jarrett Author Amazon Page

Sing (and Dance) Anyway

I came across this senior year of college pic of myself recently and I’ve kept it on my nightstand for an occasional chuckle. ss

Yes, my pants are too big ( I was really petite back then and did my best! 😂) and yes, I remember where I was – in a friend’s dorm room, enjoying a surprise party thrown for me.

I look like I’m singing cause I was. But can I really sing? Sadly not.
I had fun trying, though, with whatever that song was and with a little Salt n Pepa, too.)

I look like I was acting silly cause I was. And guess what?
Beneath my sometimes reserved, often inspirational and occasionally feisty demeanor lies a girl who is still fun at heart and able to laugh at myself and with others.

I was 21 in this pic and considered grown. (Ha!)
What I’d tell that young girl from my now full-fledged adult state is actually what I exemplify in this photo: to always find joy in the small moments and sing (and dance) through the rest.

That girl didn’t always get it right and neither do I; but both versions of me have been, and remain, grateful for love, laughter, grace, life lessons and the journey itself – gifts that never age or go out of style.

I challenge you to dig up a few of your own funny pics from the past and reflect on your treasured (or silly) moments from yesterday. May you be inspired to embrace new dreams, cut yourself and others some slack, and create more meaningful memories.

Stacy Hawkins Adams 

Why Taking Risks Is Healthy

Someone recently called me a risk-taker, and at first, I didn’t fully agree. (Most folks are surprised to learn that I can be shy or consider myself an extroverted introvert.)

Then I paused and did a mental rundown of every time I’ve ignored my fears and followed my heart – whether personally, professionally or in daily life – and I had to accept that yes, I’ve been a risk-taker, in ways that have stretched me and yielded phenomenal growth, meaning and joy.

When I look back and consider the pitfalls and valleys along the way, they seem necessary side effects of pursuing and cresting some amazing mountaintops. And as “auntie” Dr. Maya Angelou once so eloquently stated, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey.”

So yes, I’m a risk taker in my own unique way, and because of that, I’ve tapped into numerous blessings beyond my comfort zone. God willing, there are more to come.
What about you?

Do you see your dreams and desires on the horizon, just out of reach but fully attainable if you lean in to life or to thinking differently, and leave the safe shore?

Stretch yourself. Create a plan when possible, or simply follow that nudging when it won’t let up. Go for it and don’t look back.

– Stacy Hawkins Adams

 

Dont-worry-about-failures-worry-about-the-chances-you-miss-when-you-dont-even-try-Jack-Canfield 

Set Your Intention & Surrender

I launched this first day of September a week or so ago with a morning trek along a path that was brand new to me. It was beautiful and breezy and serene.

I talked to God, and then I stilled myself to listen, even as my feet kept moving.
Subtly, yet clearly, the answers I sought came.

Then I saw it – that juncture in the road where the paved pathway met gravel – leading to uncultured, unknown territory and to a bend in the road around which I could not see.

I advanced a few feet, then retreated, deciding to explore more fully on another day.

For in that moment, I had all I needed – fresh air, exercise, a lush green setting and a visual reminder that at every turn, I am loved, worthy and deserving of joy.

And guess what? So are you.

That walk reminded me that even when we’re on the right path, we’ll encounter some pebbles, stones, rough patches and dirt. We won’t always know the end before we begin or even when we’re mid-journey. Yet, that’s why it’s so important to enjoy and treasure each step of the journey itself, for all the worth each phase brings.

In the right season, at the appointed time, we will discover the beauty behind those bends and truly value the extra effort it required to get there.

Wherever we are on the path, we can trust God’s goodness despite what the world or our circumstances show, and lean into the truths of how He has already blessed us. Think about your past 90 days and count the ways.

I’m convinced that our trek into the final months of 2019 are gonna be better than good – paved roads, gravelly paths, wood trails and all. Are you ready? I’ve got my walking/running shoes on and I am. 👟🕶💪🏾

Stacy Hawkins Adams

 

Why Divine Timing is Always On Time

When I pause and reflect on my journey, I’m often amazed at how God fits together my life’s puzzle pieces in the just-right way to connect my part of His universal design to someone else’s puzzle:

  •  The brief but powerful encounter I had with a stranger last Tuesday, all because my girlfriends and I just “so happened” to reschedule our dinner date for the 3rd time and randomly choose “that” restaurant
  • The reconnection with a longtime acquaintance at a stage I can guide her through, because I’ve already successfully navigated it and it’s time to pay forward the support I once received
  • The mentors coming into my babies’ lives at just the right time and in just the right way to help them grow and thrive in independence while reminding me of the power of the village
  • The emails from readers about how the words I penned anywhere from last week to 15 years ago have somehow changed their lives for the better, at just the moment they needed the laughter or encouragement or understanding that great love is grace-filled love.

I could go on and on, and I’m sure as I shared my examples, a few well-timed miracles of your own came to mind.

Today, I give thanks for the opportunity to be a blessing while receiving blessings in ways that are simple, profound and often in between.

You matter and I matter, and our puzzle pieces are divinely designed to interconnect with others’ during seasons and in ways that we may never fully understand.

Just keep doing you, being you and loving you, and trust God’s timing. Our masterpieces are in the making, and it’s a bonus when we choose to find hope and joy in that process.

 – Stacy Hawkins Adams