I share it at this time to enjoy and be inspired (or inspired again!), while also asking you to SAVE THE DATE for the second time around!
Yes – eight years later, it will happen again – same place, same time, on OCTOBER 22, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
I will be sharing more details in another month or so about the amazing speakers and other participants, and I’m honored that I’ll be partnering with them to bring you their inspiring personal stories and more. In the meantime, please mark your calendar and spread the word!
The hottest ticket in town this week was Michelle Obama!
She graced the Altria Theater stage as a guest of The Richmond Forum, and I was grateful to be in the building.
Mrs. Obama set the tone from the start that this would be a nonpartisan, apolitical conversation, borne from her forever title: Mom-in-Chief.
Through that lens, I resonated with her greatly, having children the same age as hers (her youngest child turns 21 on Friday; mine turns 21 on Sunday), and having penned a daily newspaper parenting column for 11 years.
There were so many great takeaways from her conversation with Forum Executive Director Heather Crislip, many of them directed to parents and to the young people who were in the theater or watching via simulcast.
But there also were some collective words of wisdom for all.
In the spirit of the “Wednesday Wisdom” I occasionally share, here are some of the gems Michelle Obama dropped:
* You don’t have to change the world to change something.
* There is power in the small – in the little, everyday things that we take for granted, like spending time with family, voting, etc. Doing these things with excellence and intention make a difference.
* Don’t lose sight of your own destiny. It holds power.
* We owe hope to the next generation. Democracy requires us to be hopeful.
* Find your passion and do something meaningful with your life.
* You are smart enough to be there, wherever your desired or longed-for “there” is.
* When someone kindly touches you, that gives you the liberty to respond in kind, even if it’s the Queen of England. (That’s how and why that went down, she says! Lol)
And my favorite: Stories matter.
Mrs. Obama delivered that declaration as she discussed some of the projects she is working on with Netflix and due to her interactions with people from all walks of life, all over the world, whose stories have inspired her.
I share that view, from my local and lived vantage point, and through the work I do as a journalist, writer mentor and author.
It’s in this spirit that I invite you to “Save the Date” for an October 22 storytelling event I’m hosting in RVA. More details are coming soon!
In the meantime, lean into some other wisdom that Mrs. Obama shared, which is to consider tackling big issues and hard conversations by starting with connection first.
Get to know your neighbors and colleagues and find some commonalities rather than letting social media or other sources shape your views. Once you understand what you have in common, you’re better able to appreciate others’ similarities and differences, maybe better understand their perspectives, and maybe even become friends – and then, through those lenses, talk about the tough, and important, stuff.
How did we get halfway through 2022? Hopefully with some beauty, some growth and lots of gratitude.
#welcomejune #LifeUntapped #lifemusings
We move through life in ways that are both unique to us and collectively familiar, and perhaps many of you join me in wondering how half of this year has zoomed by.
Welcome to June!
Some of the things I’ve come to appreciate about the first half of 2022 are the experiences that have stretched me the most, and in the process, helped me get to know myself all the better while appreciating others as they are.
I make that sound easy, but we all know this is where the work lies!
In these six months I have learned to find peace in surrendering to every day’s measure of work, rest, hope, contentment, and mutual giving and sharing.
I invite you to reflect on your highlights and challenges thus far, too, and to celebrate how far you’ve come, while seeking lessons from the valleys you’ve traversed and the mountains you’ve scaled.
There’s so much to reflect on and grow from, and in some cases celebrate, including the simple gifts of each day and the aha moments that have opened your heart.
So, with what I pray are miles to go, I say hello to June, and to the possibilities and promises the rest of this year holds. They are ours for the taking, if we’ll believe, trust and invite these blessings in, however they come.
Seven years ago I launched an online mentoring program for aspiring writers called Focused Writers (www.focused-writers.com), not knowing that this intimate space for learning about writing and publishing would not only lead to books and blogs being birthed by members, but also to a tribe of mutual support.
When some of the members approached me about writing something together, I finally agreed, and in January 2021 we embarked upon a yearlong Mastermind Class of sorts, with me guiding them through every aspect of publishing – from idea stage to finished book.
Also exciting for us as we release this book just in time for Women’s History Month in March, is our collective agreement to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from sales made from February 22 through March 31 to the YWCA USA.
Back in my reporter days, I covered a range of social issues, including writing stories about women working their way off of welfare, fleeing abusive relationships and learning to advocate for themselves and their children.
I also wrote about the organizations and nonprofits designed to support them, including the YWCA, whose mission is to empower women and eradicate racism.
So when my Focused Writers mentees decided to write a book together, title it On Womanhood, and donate a portion of proceeds from sales, the YWCA USA was a natural choice.
I am a six-year board member of the YWCA Richmond and can vouch firsthand for the staff’s dedication to serving women and children, in a myriad of ways.
Yet, we have chosen to contribute to the YWCA USA because our Focused Writers anthology authors are based around the nation – from Las Vegas to Houston to Savannah to Richmond. And each writer will be reaching out to her local branch, too.
So in addition to buying our short collection and supporting a great cause in the process, also take some time to learn more about the YWCA USA and the YWCA in your local area!
If you are of a certain age, you’re among the many of us who have a September 11, 2001 “Where were you?” story.
Mine involved focusing on things that have long mattered most to me:
striving to be a caring mother
striving to be a courageous storyteller
intentionally using my words to make a difference.
That day was my first day back at work as a newspaper reporter, after a 12-week maternity leave.
I’d placed my infant son in his babysitter’s arms and dropped off my daughter at a nearby preschool, and was settling at my desk just before 8 a.m. in the quiet newsroom.
Suddenly, a photographer ran past me and yelled to turn on the TV – a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers in New York City. Then a friend called to welcome me back and to share that she’d just seen live news reports about the plane crash. Together, we watched as a second plane hit the second tower, and we knew the world had changed.
After reminding myself that both of my kids were in good care, with people who loved them and would keep them safe, I did what journalists do – went right into reporter mode, knowing that I’d have to somehow help make sense of this madness for residents of Central Virginia and beyond.
Within the hour, I was driving down a winding road south of the city to visit a local mosque. Despite growing fears for safety in the wake of the terrorists attacks, the Imam (spiritual leader) trusted me enough to let me inside the building, which was teeming with young children, because it doubled as a daycare and preschool.
There was mayhem. The phones kept ringing with death threats, frightened parents showed up to pick up their children and the Imam sought to keep everyone calm.
I saw fear and hurt in his eyes, both over the tragedy that had occurred in our nation and over the need to defend himself and the Muslims he knew and loved. He requested that I use my news article to remind people that not all Muslims are terrorists and that he, too, was grieving.
On my drive back to the Richmond Times-Dispatch newsroom, the radio waves were eerily silent and my cell phone wouldn’t work. I returned to learn from colleagues about the attack at the Pentagon and the crash of another plane that was believed to be headed to Washington, D.C.
I sat at my desk and wrote about the Imam’s plea for people to look past ethnicity and into hearts, and not to harm Americans who looked him or those in his spiritual care because of the hateful and evil acts of others – acts he also denounced.
That conversation with him, and witnessing the distress at the mosque that day, led me to write a year-long series of newspaper columns about people of various faiths – Muslims, Quakers, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and more – and to use their personal journeys to educate readers about the principles of each religion, so that perhaps we could really “see” our neighbors, colleagues and strangers and find some common ground.
What my readers (and I ) discovered through my columns is that regardless of the different commandments, laws and practices of the various faiths, the primary mandate of absolutely ALL of them is to LOVE, and to use love as a guide to honor God, live peaceably with others and flow positively through this world.
Sometimes love must be giving.
Sometimes love must be sacrificial.
Sometimes love sets boundaries.
All of the time love can heal and produce hope.
This isn’t as easy at it sounds, of course, which is why people of faith are always “practicing” their faith. But leading with love never fails and never goes out of style.
Twenty years later, as we remember this significant and painful day of loss and fear, may we also remember the love that followed in the aftermath. And may we continue striving to look past what we see on the surface and give others’ hearts a chance, while having the courage to share our own.
Happy September. I stepped away from most of my online posting during a well-enjoyed August break, and now that I’m back, I say hello to you all and welcome to my new friends and followers. Please indulge me as I take a few minutes to reintroduce myself; and after reading my update, feel free to share a bit about yourself in the comments. I’d love to get to know you and discover what inspires you.
I’m Stacy. A creative spirit and lover of words. I have a big heart, a feisty streak and a soft spot for all people – kids and young adults in particular. I’m an optimist who keeps my eyes on life’s prize.
My “It List” includes writing, reading, music, chocolate, fresh flowers, candles, laughter, hugs, sunrises, beaches, mountain views, helping others and learning new things.
I’m the mom of two young adults who are blazing their trails in the world and allowing me to enjoy their ride.
I still use all three names though I’m divorced, because “Stacy Hawkins Adams” has been my “pen name” for decades and has taken on a life of its own. Lol
Plus, the Adams clan will always be fam and friends.
So look me up under that name and you’ll find 11 nationally published “book babies” that I hope you’ll consider reading and enjoy.
I also blog here, at LifeUntapped.com, post inspirational musings on Instagram and on Facebook, and occasionally pen freelance articles and essays for national publications.
I’m in the process of writing a new novel – a piece of women’s fiction that is stretching me and thrilling me (while praying that my agent and a publisher’s gonna love it).
I can be serious, but those closest to me know that I am just as often playful.
I dance and sing behind closed doors, but I’m a prayer warrior wherever needed.
I love that my milestone birthday this year has opened me up in ways that are freeing and fulfilling.
I am more often speaking my truth in love
and trusting myself the first time
and believing bigger because, Why not?
I also am still stretching, stumbling and growing; but isn’t that what makes life’s journey a beautiful mosaic?
I hope the words and images that I routinely share here with you, and on the written page, will remind you that you can do the same.
When I was child back in the day, you could drive up to a gas station and someone would pump your gas for you.
You would just pull up to the pump and an attendant would come out to your car. All you had to do was roll down your window (and I do mean roll) and say, “fill’er up.”
By the time I learned how to drive, the new thing was “self service,” which meant you had to get out and pump your own gas.
I don’t like to pump gas. I’ve tried to convince my husband that this should be his job, but to no avail. I have even figured out how long I can drive around on fumes once the “almost empty” fuel sensor light comes on.
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that driving until your tank is empty can mess up your car. It leaves room for “junk” to build up in your tank, and it can cause your fuel pump to overheat and wear out more quickly.
I think you know where I’m going with this…
Sometime last year, just before our world became engulfed in a global health pandemic, I read a book titled Leading On Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion. It was penned by Wayne Cordeiro to help pastoral leaders who are suffering from burnout, but you could easily re-title this book Parenting On Empty or Working On Empty or Praying On Empty or Loving On Empty.
I think if we called it Living on Empty it would speak to all of our situations. For those of us who spend a significant portion of our time serving others (whether it’s your profession, vocation or just who you be), living on empty could be an adequate description of what we feel like on the regular.
Many a day we operate solely on fumes, just trying to get through the day, through bedtime or through the next crisis.
It’s so easy to put our own needs on the back burner. We have good intentions to go back and take care of them later. But somehow later never happens.
Living on empty happens when we are blessed with children who need our care. (They are demanding little creatures just by their very nature and before you know it, they have consumed our entire lives.) Or perhaps it happens when we are serving as a caregiver for a loved one who is ill. We want to be there and our efforts become all-focused on their wellbeing.
We don’t have the energy or the will to do something for ourselves.
Living on empty happens when our vocation is to serve people in our community, and as our nation has endured an economic crisis that has led to job loss and personal devastation, the amount of people needing to be served has increased significantly.
There is not enough time in our day to do all that needs to be done. The needs of others leaks into our private time and we don’t know how to shut them off or hold them back.
Maybe we’re afraid if we turn our engine off, fearing that it won’t start back up. However, if we never turn it off for maintenance, it eventually will die out anyway.
We know these things. We understand that this is what self care is – turning off our engine (resting) and then making sure we pour back in to ourselves, to replenish the well from which we have been giving.
The thing we are not quite sure about most of the time is how did we get here in the first place? Why do we allow ourselves to run until we burnout?
These are questions we have to be willing to ask and seek to honestly the answer. Discovering your answers, and leaning into them, will change your life – and fill your tank – for the better.
As a wife, mother and grandmother, Valerie Henderson enjoys spending endless amounts of time with her family. As a minister, she loves assisting others as they journey through their faith walk. As a creative soul, she finds her greatest solace when she can retreat, craft and write.
I’ve connected with quite a few writer friends this week and it has fueled my creativity in ways that I didn’t realize I missed so much during the pandemic.
Two of the catchups were one-on-one reunions over a meal, and both of those friends/mentors reminded me that writing is important work – to be leaned into, wrestled with, granted free reign, yet relented to with finesse, because words hold power and stories help us understand each other; and when we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, sometimes we even surprise ourselves at the important truths, wounds, dreams, hopes, fears, strength and more that lie just beneath the surface.
Whether we’re writing fiction or nonfiction, that power – and responsibility – are the same.
My other gathering with writers was filled with amazing talent and wisdom too, and left me with an inner glow.
I share all of this to note that as I’ve spent time at my keyboard after hours and in the wee hours of morning this week, editing others work and also nurturing my own work-in-progress, I’ve felt more grateful than ever for the gift of words and writing, and for the opportunity to speak to the world in a manner that can endure.
What part of your purpose or your journey are you most grateful for this week? Acknowledge it and celebrate it in some way.
Welcome to June. We’re halfway through another historic year!
In light of young tennis star Naomi Osaka’s dramatic (and courageous) decision a few days ago to put her dreams on hold and practice self-care, I share the sentiments in this post as a reminder to all of us that what matters most is not material gain nor worldly success.
It is what flows into and from the heart that can make you or break you.
Let us live and lead with more empathy, truth and love, because everyone, at every level, needs it.
You never know what someone else is going through behind that smile, that frown, that fear, that anger, those actions or that attitude. So give everyone grace, because they don’t know your full story either.