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.
From a very young age, I knew that life is filled with hardships. I spent so many years in pain and abuse, though, that for the longest, I never understand it was possible for things to change—that it was possible for me to find complete freedom and learn to survive and soar.
After many years and many tears, I finally realized that I was capable of standing and thriving on my own. I wrapped my mind around the idea of changing for the better, and I let my heart start to embrace this possibility.
One morning, I looked in the mirror, and I didn’t even recognize the woman I saw. Who was she? Where was the courage she desired to have? Where was the strength I knew she had deep down inside? In that moment, I looked back at her (me) and said, “Ang, the time is now. It’s time to be the brave woman you know you were always meant to be.”
Right then and there, I knew that everything was about to change—which meant that my life was about to get uncomfortable. It’s scary to walk away from what we’ve always known, even when what we’re walking away from includes situations that bring us down and aren’t good for us. Sometimes we become so comfortable with the toxic areas of our lives that the thought of leaving for new and better opportunities seems impossible.
But girl, there is so much more for you out there.
You are capable of being stronger than you ever imagined. You are capable of stepping out of your comfort zone and learning to grow and fearlessly diving into the unknown. You are capable of trusting yourself and believing in yourself. You are capable of so much more, my friend.
We don’t always understand why we must deal with challenges and struggles in life, but they often end up being the reasons we become who we were always meant to be. They’re the reasons we learn to be strong. They’re the reasons we learn to take those leaps of faith. They’re the reasons we finally let fear take the backseat as we step into the changes that we know need to happen.
Don’t be afraid to take a chance on yourself. You’re worth every risk—and you’re worth realizing that you’ve always been strong enough to walk into the light of the unknown.
The more I’ve embraced this truth, the more I’ve learned about myself and come to love myself. You can do the same.
Angelia White (Stone) is a mother of three and the publisher, president, and CEO of Hope for Women and Hope By The Book magazines. Motivated by her desire to encourage women and share their inspiring stories, she transformed a simple idea into an empowering endeavor when she started the lifestyle magazine in 2005. Hope for Women magazine is headquartered in Muncie, Indiana and is now read by more than 100,000 women monthly. Connect with Angelia on social media here: Twitter and Instagram @angelialwhite or @hopemag and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/hope4women.
Like many people, I grew up hearing the famous quote that “Home is where the heart is.” And indeed, for 16 years my home was filled with peace, love and happiness. I came home daily from work seeing the smiles of my two sons, who made my life joyous. But one day I came home, parked my car and sat inside it for over an hour talking to my friends and family about the pain that I was experiencing in my marriage. How could I not see the manipulation, the lies, and the deceit before now?
As a single mother before I got married, I had decided tt was important for my sons to see a man treat their mother with love and respect. Instead they were viewing their mother’s heart being broken.
It took more conversations and lots of prayer, but I finally realized that I didn’t deserve this. When I decided to walk away and start over, that’s when the champion rose up in me.
A true champion will fight through anything. Every scar pushed me to my purpose. I was able to utilize the gifts that God birthed inside of me to encourage myself towards greatness. Negative words were not able to stick to me because God planted a seed of greatness inside of me at birth. How so? It just was lying dormant, but the pain pushed me to look at myself and start my own business. I decided that I wanted to be a life coach at first, but later realized that the power was in my mouth and the words that I speak.
God changed me and showed me my true purpose. Motivational speaking was birthed, and I started speaking to women about pushing past the pain of the past and having the confidence to walk boldly into woman that God created them to be. I’ve spoken at events, churches and conferences, encouraging women to see that champion spirit that resides within them. Now I’m walking towards the “champion destiny” that God designed just for me. And now I empower women to have the emotional stability to discover their champion purpose.
I started speaking to small groups such as my family and friends. In the beginning, I didn’t have a large following, and I didn’t know anything about being a speaker. I had to decide to invest in my vision and dreams. I hired business coaches and strategists to assist me, and with the knowledge I gained I was motivated to start a Facebook group called “The Champion Woman’s Society.” This group is for women who desire to discover their Champion Purpose, but lack motivation.
My marriage ended in 2012, but my struggles with self-confidence continued to hold me hostage. I spent 2012 to 2017 rediscovering myself, and that season allowed God to do some amazing things within me. I’m so proud of myself for allowing God to show up and show out in my life. The power that He has given me has allowed me to not look at my marriage as a mistake, but as a steppingstone to my greatness.
EricaLynn Harris, recognized as “TheMotivational Queen,” is a speaker, author and entrepreneur whose desire is to motivate and empower women to have the emotional stability to discover their greatness and win in every area of their lives. Erica is the owner of ELynnXpressions, LLC., where she offers an exclusive line of Champion Woman attire, and she is the author of a book titled The Winning Formula for Women. Erica also operates a Facebook group called “The Champion Women’s Society,” which provides a space for women to obtain daily motivation. She is a recipient of The Cornerstone Award, which was presented to her in 2019 at the Embracing Your Inner Woman Annual Conference. Follow her on Instagram @themotivationalqueen or on Facebook @ Facebook.com/EricaLynn.Harris.
I slid the balcony door open, walked to the end of the railing in front of me, and stood there. Soaking up all of the beauty. To my left was the sun rising as it peaked through the palm tree leaves that swayed from left to right. In front of me was a picturesque view of someone parasailing over the aqua blue water beneath them. To my right was a middle-aged man wearing earbuds and walking a trail in the 70-degree weather that would peak at 90 degrees by midday.
I sat down and reflected. I was on vacation. I could finally stop for a few days and do nothing. No emails to check. No meetings to hurry to and no numbers to crunch. No football practice to scurry a child to. No choir performance to slip in the back of the auditorium to hear my baby’s alto voice melodically come through. Nothing but me, God’s creation, and the fears I had decided to toss into the body of water in front of me.
Back home in the U.S., where I was a leader in my community and at work, I often had to be mindful of eyes watching me – which made me as cautious as the seasoned woman I observed wading in the beach water in front of me, holding the arm of the person who walked beside her. My trip to paradise allowed me to throw caution to the wind, however, as I boarded a catamaran and sailed with the native who guided the vessel to the furthest part of the blue horizon that I could see with my naked eyes. As I sat there on the open vessel, I realized that I had conquered a fear.
You see, I had pondered that boat ride for a few hours, afraid I would drown like I almost did at 10 years old. Only this time, it was not a pool. I was surrounded by water so deep I was sure that if I took a plunge, the life jacket would not save me. At this moment, on the catamaran, I felt superior. Fear no longer controlled me.
Traveling exposes you to many sites and experiences and provide opportunities to reset, regroup and refresh. One could choose to go thousands of miles away from home or simply a car ride down the street. The idea is to get away and do things outside your norm. I’m glad I did, and I encourage you to do the same. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for it.
DaNika Neblett Robinson is the author of a novella, The Metamorphic Journey, about three teenage mothers’ quest to succeed. The Metamorphic Journey is also the name of a movement she 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 recent graduate of the Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, she holds several other degrees and uses that knowledge, coupled with her expertise in transformational leadership, to empower young adults to embrace their purpose. Learn more about DaNika and her body of work at www.themetamorphicjourney.org.
Angie Thomas’ love of Hip Hop fueled her passion for storytelling, and just like the rappers she admires have sought to perfect their art form, she has sought – and succeeded – at doing the same.
Her debut novel is her evidence, and when the movie version of the book hits the big screen in October 2018, her desire to give voice and humanity to a sector of Americans who often feel they have neither is expected to reach fever pitch.
Thomas is the bestselling author of the award-winning New York Times bestselling young adult novel The Hate U Give. In addition to reaching the No. 1 spot on the New York Times list, the book is being sold in more than 40 nations, and Thomas has traveled the globe to expound upon its themes, including the narrative that Black Lives Matter and that every child deserves to be heard and valued.
In late July 2018, several hundred residents of metro Richmond, Virginia – including teens, librarians, book club members, readers and writers of all backgrounds and ages, and me – converged on the Chesterfield County Public Library‘s North Courthouse Branch to see Thomas and hear wit, wisdom and words of encouragement pour from her lips.
Time seemed to stand still during her 90-minute talk as she mesmerized the audience with the story – her story – of being a 6-year-old girl reading Jet magazine (which she called that era’s “Facebook for black people”) in her home and stumbling upon the picture of Emmett Till in his casket – an image her mother took time to explain in depth, leaving Thomas with the message to “know your worth, but know that not everyone values you the way I do, simply because of the color of your skin.”
She also shared her memory of being an 8-year-old enjoying the swing set in her not-so-safe neighborhood park when she heard Hip Hop lyrics for the first time, in the verses of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message, which described the very reality of her hard-knock life. Then, there was her pivotal memory of seeing the late Tupac Shakurfor the first time, in news coverage that cast him as a rebellious yet intelligent rapper. Soon after, she heard his music and his commentary, including the explanation for his THUG LIFE tattoo: The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody. “Meaning (that) what society gives us as youth, bites (society) when we wild out,” Thomas explained during her talk.
While acknowledging the downsides of Hip Hop – its often controversial and profanity-laden lyrics and many verses that disparage females – Thomas still gave a nod to the musical genre for waking up generations of people who often feel invisible, forgotten and frustrated, and helping them (including her) find their voice.
Throughout her childhood in Jackson, Mississippi, she heard stories of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was assassinated in his own front yard, not far from where she lived; and in 2015, as the reality of Florida teen Trayvon Martin‘s killer being acquitted of murder stunned her spirit, so did her desire to become a social justice warrior.
Rather than pick up the weapons she so despised for their role in harming people of color, she decided to model the rappers she had long revered and use her words as her sword. The Hate U Give was born as a short story for a college senior project, then grew into the novel we know today.
Thomas’ captive Chesterfield County library audience thanked her for her willingness to write a story that scared her; and one Caucasian middle school student asked for advice on how she could encourage her friends and classmates to read the book and try to understand kids who differ from them in some way.
Thomas told her to keep being herself – a brave “book recommender” – and serving as an ambassador for what it looks like to be accepting of others.
It’s a path that Thomas is determined to continue walking, with each new story she births and each new audience she introduces to her personal experience of being a little girl who had everything going against her until she heard herself reflected in lyrics (musical storytelling) that legitimatized her existence.
Because she believes “books can change the world,” Thomas intends to be that light for a whole new generation of young minds – whether they read her novels, watch her movie, hear her speak or encounter others who have been transformed by the messages in her words.
Her library talk was an invitation to everyone in the audience to individually and collectively become literary citizens who create meaningful paths to knowledge, understanding and connectedness.
Four years ago today (July 11, 2014), I took an entire (brand new) bottle of pills in an attempt to take my life.
Mental illness is real. I thank GOD for keeping me! I’m so grateful and happy to be on the right side of the grass today! I’m grateful to have life and breath!
In that moment, I couldn’t see that joy was on the other side of my current circumstance. Had I been successful, I would have missed my oldest daughter’s graduation, her prom and sending her off to college. I would have missed our funny FaceTime conversations and silly texts. I would have missed being here for her during the moments she needed her mommy.
My youngest daughter wouldn’t have been born. My family and the rest of the world would have missed out on this precious little girl and all the joy that she brings. I wouldn’t have experienced waking up to both my girls and watching them rest peacefully beside me or in my bosom. I would have missed their giggles, hugs and their sweet kisses.
All of my new friendships wouldn’t exist. All of the trips I’ve taken and new experiences I’ve had in the last four years would have never occurred. (Aruba, St. Maarten, The Bahamas, Cabo, Dominican Republic and Jamaica) WOW! All of that could have never happened….
BUT GOD (and therapy)! Lots and lots of therapy! Then and now.
July is Black Mental Health Awareness Month. If you are struggling with something, you don’t have to do it alone. I can offer you a hotline number (1-800-273-8255); but I’d rather extend my hand to help you through. Like someone did for me.
I understand and I’m here.
We can pray, talk, cry together, laugh, I can listen; and if you are in the Richmond, Virginia area, I can accompany you to therapy, a hospital, a meeting – whatever!
Listen to me – You are NOT crazy! You are NOT weak! You’re just having a difficult time right now, but you can get through it. With help. I know because I’ve lived it.
Please know that:
Your life has purpose (even if you don’t know what that purpose is right now).
This is NOT the end. Just a season. It will pass. It gets better.
Most importantly, please know that…
You. Are. Not. Alone.
YOU – are not alone.
Just reach out. If not to me, reach out to SOMEONE. I did.
Choose life, because no matter how bad it seems right now, it DOES get better. I PROMISE! But you gotta be here and be willing to do the work.
I’m here and I care. xo
Quelina “Que” Jones is a Richmond-based writer and speaker who focuses on women’s empowerment through transparency. She believes that the first step to living your best life today is exposing and healing the pain of the past. She uses her own experiences to inspire other women to heal from the inside out. Connect with her here: Website: quelinaj.com; Instagram: quelinaj; Facebook: Quelina Jones
As an artist, author, vocalist and Top Chef wannabe, I am quite the Renaissance woman, not to tweet my own tune. My friends will tell you: I do it all. (Thanks, friends!) But ask my family a few years back and they’d claim I was best at being Mean & Ornery & Hard to Get Along With. MOHGAW for short.
I can’t help it; it’s in my blood.
I never wanted to emulate my mother, though she is pretty sweet these days. As a stay-at-home mom of nine children who gave up her dream of becoming a nurse, Mom made MOHGAW her motto. I craved a family, but also to develop and share my own gifts with the world. Anything less seemed like a cop-out.
Once a bright-eyed collegiate turned ambitious young adult, I planned to become the next C.S. Lewis/Beatrix Potter combined. I moved east with great expectations and – blink! – somehow found myself married with four young children, struggling to not disappear under piles of dirty dishes and laundry.
While I love my kids, parenting well is demanding work. I began to understand – and resemble – my mom as I despaired ever achieving my career goals. Oh, the mom-guilt! Why couldn’t being the best possible homemaker satisfy my needs? Why must I want it all?
Still…I did, and it showed.
Deciding I could no longer wait for the perfect circumstances (there is no such thing), with our two oldest in school and portfolio, toddler and swaddled infant in hand, I met with a local author who generously agreed to mentor me. For the next several years, while trying to keep family my priority, I wrote and scrupulously edited the first book of my YA fantasy trilogy. To contribute financially, I went to work part-time teaching music at my children’s school. (How better to share that gift than by passing it on to the next generation?)
I created and donated art for charity, and kept up an illustrated parenting blog to encourage other moms while providing self-therapy. Life was fulfilling, exhausting…and totally unsustainable as we welcomed our bonus baby.
MOHGAW Momster reawakened.
Thankfully, and long before Oprah Winfrey put the sentiment into words, I had an epiphany: It really is possible to have it all, just not all at once. I was cheating everyone by trying. Pace myself and I might actually enjoy the life I already had, while creating the one I dreamed of.
Granting that permission to slow down was the kindest thing I’ve ever done – for myself and everyone around me. Skip ahead: Thirteen years since penning that first novel – the year after my firstborn graduated high school – it was published. Two more children left for college, and I gave birth to two more volumes. More are coming, all in good time.
And I’m not so MOHGAW anymore. Just ask my family.
C.A. Morgan, author of Emrysia: The Three Sisters Trilogy (Emrysia Awakening, Lament & Endurance) is a lifelong learner and champion dream chaser who loves to encourage others to contribute what only they may to the world. From northern Michigan to remote mountainside in Vermont’s northeast kingdom, she is equally at home on stage or in her garden, and is currently sharing the gift of music in a hospice choir, and completing illustrations for her children’s book on the fears associated with diagnostic testing. She and husband, Roger, are enjoying a quieter house these days, raising their belated blessing with occasional unsolicited advice from her adult siblings. To learn more visit her online at: www.camorganwrites.com, facebook.com/reademrysia, and twitter@camorganwrites.