Don’t Give Up On You

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently about what mid-life holds. Is it a point at which you look back and reflect on opportunities missed, hopes dashed, dreams deferred and resign yourself to whatever may come?
Or, do you see yourself at 40-, 50- or 60-something (and beyond) on the verge of new opportunities, just waiting to be seized? Your perspective, and the actions you take as a result, make all the difference.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her first novel in the Little House on the Prairie book series when she was 65.
One of my mentors sought and obtained her master’s degree in her early 70s.
I read an article recently about Etta Baker, a mother of nine who appeared on her first album recording as a blues guitarist in her 40s and went on to record a solo album at age 78 and perform with musical greats well into her late 80s.
More examples abound.
So what chapters are you continuing to craft for the story of your life?
It’s not over until you decide to stop reaching, seeking, growing and pursuing. If you dream it and put some strategic thought, muscle and focus behind it, you can do it.
Don’t give up on you.

Her Story: Thriving at Center Stage

By Guest Blogger Olivia Shaw

Lights…Camera…Tiara!  Now on to photo shoots, couture gown fittings and public appearances. Ah, such is the life of a teenage pageant queen. Right?

Well, yes and no. Most people, when they hear the word pageant just assume that all I need to do to be successful in this type of event is to be able to dress up and look pretty. With further inspection, however, many people would be surprised to discover that the majority of pageants (at least the ones I choose to participate in) are dedicated to promoting leadership skills, developing and cultivating public speaking skills and promoting volunteer service among young girls and women.

Over the past five years, through my participation in the National American Miss pageant system, I have been able to overcome my fear of standing in front of an audience and sharing my thoughts. In addition to refining my public speaking skills, I have gained life skills that will help me be successful when applying to college, as well as when seeking employment.

When I began participating in National American Miss at age 12,  standing on stage introducing myself to a room full of strangers was the last place I wanted to be. Although I sincerely wanted to give the pageant world a try, I was terrified of speaking in front of people. I also was not looking forward to being  interviewed by a panel of judges – another group of strangers that I had to actually sit down with and carry on a conversation with. Five minutes never seemed so long!

Fast forward five years, and I am now confident and excited to be able to formally and professionally introduce myself onstage to a diverse group of strangers.

You see, about two years into this pageant process, my family and I realized that I needed to have a plan if I truly wanted to be successful. I could not just show up onstage or in the interview room and hope that everything would work out positively for me. I decided how I wanted to represent myself and mapped out a strategy to achieve those goals. That, in and of itself, became another benefit of pageant participation.

I worked on my interview skills and I worked to get more comfortable being onstage, introducing myself and speaking in public.  Also, I began to think about the purpose of having an interview, and I realized that it is a time for the judges to get to know you as an individual – a  time to discover what is important to you and to see if you have the characteristics they are looking for as a queen. I started to view competing for a queen title like applying for a job or college admission. Preparing my resume was also a part of the competition that helped me to become more comfortable with presenting myself in a public forum.

Within two years of changing my strategy, my hard work paid off. In 2016 I was named National American Miss Virginia Junior Teen – a title I currently hold.

Being a queen with National American Miss has also helped me to promote my volunteer service platform, Miracles in Motion Dance Group, on a wider scale. Miracles in Motion is a dance company for special needs children and young adults, and working with them gives me joy.

Due to the experience I gained with public speaking and public presentation with National American Miss, I was able to speak at the Miracles in Motion Annual Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser in 2016 to a crowd of close to 600 people! I also received an opportunity to share my community service platform at the national pageant competition last November, and I placed 2nd Runner Up for Volunteer Service in the Junior Teen age division for the nation. Talk about an opportunity to overcome my fear of public speaking!

I am so grateful for all I have gained through my participation in National American Miss. These are skills that will last me a lifetime. I now can truly “go confidently in the direction of my dreams” and live the life I have imagined.

Olivia Shaw, a 17-year-old resident of metro Richmond, Virginia, is the reigning National American Miss Virginia Jr Teen. She will pass her crown on to her successor in July 2017. She loves volunteering with Miracles in Motion Dance Group and looks forward to many years of sharing her love of dance and music with her fellow dancers. You can stay connected with Olivia’s journey  through the following social media sites:                                        Facebook:@NamVAJrTeen2016                                                                                    Snapchat: @livve_kitty22                                                                                    Instagram:@livve_s23    

 

Why You Must Keep Sowing

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Monday Musings: Anything you do from the heart is never wasted. The time and effort you invest – in nurturing yourself or advancing others – will pay dividends, often when you least expect.
So keep sowing,                                       keep sharing,                                       keep dreaming,                                     keep doing,                                          keep hoping,                                        keep loving and                                   trust your “seeds”                                   to someday blossom into beauty all around you.

Her Story: If I Could Turn Back Time

By Guest Blogger Vanessa Womack Easter

If someone had told me 35 years ago that I would be living in Richmond, Virginia as a divorced mother of two wonderful adult children, I would have responded, ‘You must have me mixed up with someone else.’ I was not a woman who desired to get married and have children. I wanted to be about getting ahead in business.

At that time, I was living in New York City, working in corporate America and completing my undergrad degree. Nothing could happen fast enough for me. I walked at a quickening pace to keep up with the normal hurried stride of New Yorkers; clung to the chrome, floor-to-ceiling bar of fast-moving subway trains; sought promotions within corporate structures or left when bored or stagnant; partied with beautiful people from SoHo to the Upper West Side. I lived in seven different apartments in all the years I lived there. (Still grieving over the Central Park West apartment!)

When New York was not enough, I moved to the ‘left’ coast – California – to be a field marketing representative.

While living in Sacramento, something happened to me. The best explanation I have is God wanted me to slow down and pay more attention to Him. I became born again in the Lord, started going back to church and became actively involved.

Being far away from family and friends on the East Coast, however, after 18 months in California, I returned to New York City. The lifestyle I left in New York was harder to embrace upon return. Not only that, the cost of living and apartments had begun to escalate. So after a short stint of living in New Jersey, I followed a path to Alexandria, Virginia, where I met my future (now former) husband.

In the brevity that I have left for this column, here is my deep confession: I miss the excitement of the fast pace of my former lifestyle. Being over 60, dealing with normal aging health issues, some boredom and limited funds present daily challenges to be content. Sometimes I ponder (not for too long, however) if I had made different choices somewhere during my early adult life, how would my life be drastically different. Would it be something bigger, better or just different?

Not to despair about what could have been, I relish what could be. I am here because this is where I am supposed to be. Otherwise, I would be somewhere else.

Knowing that I have fewer years ahead of me, I believe there is more purpose for living. Therefore, I will strive each day to find contentment in the Lord.

Vanessa Womack Easter has a diverse background in training and professional development, entrepreneurship, higher education instruction, human resources, nonprofit and leadership development. She is also a writer, having penned the novel Paint the Sky Purple in 2010, and having served as a co-author with other international women’s voices in The Female CEO: Pearls, Passion and Power (August 2014) and Entrepreneurship 101: The NEW Reality of Business Ownership (June 2016). Learn more about Vanessa on her business website, Facebook Group Page and LinkedIn profile.

8 Ways to Love Your Life

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
New day, new week, new chance to refine your goals, walk in purpose, enjoy yourself and be a light.
In the words of several mentors I greatly admire (and in no particular order):
1) Pursue joy. You could sulk, complain, worry, be offended or offend, but why waste the energy? Happiness is elusive; inner joy equals contentment, no matter the circumstance.
2) Review your personal “board of directors” and make sure that everyone with a seat at the table is truly for you. You can’t win if anyone in your inner circle is leaning in the opposite direction of where you aim to go.
3) When people show you who they are, or where you stand with them, don’t get mad; embrace the truth. Love them anyway; then pull out that “long-handled spoon” and bless and release them to go find their joy.
4) Love the face in the mirror. Those eyes staring back at you deserve the best you have to give. When you treat yourself well, the overflow of that love will bless and give hope to others.
5) Keep learning and you’ll keep living with passion and purpose at any age and at every stage. You’re never too old to grow, and there’s always more to know.
6) Say no to good things, so you’ll have space in your life to say yes to great things. Doesn’t mean the good isn’t worthwhile; it’s just your season for something else.
7) Perfect your shrug: You’ll need it when things don’t go your way or happen in your timing. Doesn’t mean all is lost; just means everything beautiful happens in its own time. Go with the flow and enjoy the journey.
8) Simply make it a great day; because your being alive means it is.

Conference Recap: Writing for an Audience of One

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Just wrapped up my third time serving on the faculty of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, a renowned event for aspiring authors located near Santa Cruz, Calif., and it was just as wonderful as the first time. Mount Hermon is a special place that is hard to describe – you have to experience it.

So grateful for the opportunity I had to meet with fellow authors and  mentor aspiring authors from all walks of life and with all kinds of ideas.
My absolute favorite was Beverly, a sweet 83-year-old who was craving encouragement for this “new start.” She is a gifted writer, and her words
flowed easily. I’d love to have that same drive and spark for life when I’m that age.

I also had the honor of sharing the conference’s closing message on Monday evening.  I hope my encouragement to remember that we’re writing for an Audience of One is the fuel that will inspire conference attendees to keep honing their craft.

When we write for our singular God, or with our individual readers in mind, or to birth the idea or the message that has taken root in our hearts, our words become the seeds that sprout hope, forgiveness, joy, peace, freedom and blessings beyond measure.  Wishing a bountiful week of creativity to all writers, near and far.

Why You Are A Gift to Others

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Bring your best self to life today by reminding yourself that you’re a gift.
Only you can grace us with that smile, that laugh, that funny story, sweet song or moving prayer.
Only you can lead that tribe or love those lost ones or help others find their joy.
Only you can live the purpose that is tucked inside of you, and often straining to be birthed.
No one else sings with your tone, writes with your voice, walks with your style, hugs with your heartiness or lights up a room in your uniquely perfect way.
So just be you today, and be grateful for others around you who are being their authentic selves, too.