Her Story: Finding Beauty in the Storm

By Guest Blogger Venus Bolton

There are times our children get sick and as parents we tend to them attentively, doing everything we can think of to make them feel better. Sometimes Mama’s home health care does the trick; but if you have multiple kids like me, your children may be on the germ-share program; so invariably what goes around tends to make the rounds.

However, imagine being told the illness your child has is life threatening – that time is running out and your options are few. When my husband and I received this news in 2011, it didn’t feel real. Doctors declared that our 4-year old daughter had severe aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia behaves in the same way as several childhood cancers, with a similar course of treatment.

I now think back to the three years of active treatment that followed this diagnosis, along with two years of maintenance treatment, and I am truly amazed at how we navigated life during those five years. An illness of this magnitude can impose a crippling toll on a family.

The most significant lesson I learned is that beautiful things can happen in the midst of the worst storms life throws your way. My husband and I experienced what the hearts of people coming together to be the blessing looks like. We felt like every good thing we had ever done in our lives was returned to us through the love, prayers and generosity of others.

Through this unimaginable set of circumstances, we’ve had many opportunities to share our story as ambassadors for patient families, in conversations with lawmakers and officials, and by working with businesses and organizations that support patient families. We’ve walked alongside other parents (who became friends) through diagnosis, treatment, heartache and grief.

Our 9-year old daughter was recently released to full survivorship, and while it may sound cliché, my family has a renewed appreciation for life. We take very little for granted and have learned not to sweat the small stuff, because in the grand scheme, it all is smaller.

I never thought I’d say it, but what came to wreak havoc in our lives has ultimately ended up blessing our family in some ways we didn’t expect. Most importantly it gave me, and my husband, a greater desire to have a positive impact in our community, and to put ourselves in position to bless the lives of others whenever possible.

Venus Bolton writes and speaks on issues related to faith, wellness, caregiving and child advocacy. She lives in Midlothian, Virginia with her husband and four children and blogs regularly at Three & 1.

 

 

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A Norm for You? A New for Me.

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

There’s one less thing for me to include on my “never tried” list: beignets.

I met a friend for brunch today at a quaint cafe’ in the heart of our city and when I reached our table, the waitress greeted us with these warm miniature delicacies. fullsizerender28Basically just New Orleans’-style “baby doughnuts” with powered sugar, they were warmed to perfection and each bite was a treat.

Something simple to add an extra smile to my sunny Sunday. I’d never tried this cafe’ before, either, and I likely wouldn’t have noticed it had I not received my friend’s invitation.

It was a reminder that sometimes we can’t see things right in front of us; but when we do, they can be divinely sweet.

What’s your fun find for the day?

 

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

Her Story: Making Lemonade

By Guest Blogger Cassie Edwards Whitlow

It makes no sense that I’m now a published author.

After I was born, I had uncontrollable tremors. The doctors thought I’d never walk or talk. Weeks after my mother participated in an all-night session of prayer, however, I walked and eventually began to form words.

During early childhood, I was diagnosed with dyslexia and severe Attention Deficit Disorder. Unlike most people with dyslexia, I caught on to reading early and enjoyed it. I struggled with writing, reading comprehension and responding verbally, but I was confident enough to read aloud.

One dreadful day in fourth grade, everyone took turns reading a paragraph from the text. When my turn came, I didn’t know where we were. The teacher accused me of being lazy. That was the beginning of self-doubt.

Yet I still had my other passion to rely on: singing. I declared at age 3 that I wanted to sing professionally, and I spent years investing in that. However, when I was 30, doctors discovered a tumor in my throat. It damaged my left vocal cord, ending my dream.

Life as a wife and mother became my focus and where I found my joy. As my children grew, so did the layers of life. My son was diagnosed with autism and ADHD at age 7. Couple that with a toddler daughter who needed me and a career military husband who was gone a lot, and I could barely keep myself together.

I took my mentor’s advice and started journaling. This helped me feel centered, and eventually, I realized it was time to reach for a new dream. I had toyed with the idea of writing a novel off and on for more than 10 years, but after many unsuccessful attempts I let it go.

Yet the more I resumed reading, the more my courage grew. I finally reached out to a few authors for advice and took a few workshops, and within two months, I had completed the first draft of a novella. In June 2016, Temptation was published. My second project, One Wish, was released in December 2016.

I’ve received messages from numerous readers saying how my most recent novella inspired them and helped build their faith. And people who knew me as a child, who’ve always wanted to write a book but didn’t know where to begin, now want to learn from me.

Looking back all those years ago, it was a blow when my elementary school teacher chastised me, and I was devastated when my voice changed.

Now I see things differently. What if the singing was sidelined so I could recognize my writing gift? I’m forced to talk more and I get to help people walk through the writing and publishing process.

Success and happiness happen when we discover our purpose and walk in it.

The attention deficit conditions that both my son and I were diagnosed with still have a stigma. Yet I’ve learned that ADHD and most learning disabilities are not disabilities at all. They’re gifts. ADHD is nothing more than overactive brain. We have a lot of ideas that are difficult to turn off.

Once I figured out how I learn, I no longer saw myself as incompetent or less than. I no longer saw this diagnosis as a barrier and I no longer have to hide in the shadows.

I am free to be who I was created to be and I can help others recognize their gifts as a blessing and not a flaw.

_______________________

Cassie Edwards Whitlow is the author of two novellas, Temptation and One Wish. She creates relatable characters who grapple with issues she herself has a passion for: women’s mental, intellectual, and physical health issues. Cassie A native of Arkansas, wife of an Air Force Sergeant, and mom of two, Cassie currently resides in a small village in England. To learn more, visit Cassie at www.cassieedwardswhitlow.net,  Instagram.com/cassieedwardswhitlow and Facebook.com/cassieedwardswhitlow.

Be the Superlative

~ By Stacy Hawkins Adams
TGIF! Today is the kickoff for Super Bowl Weekend (guess I’ll root for those Falcons since my Boys won’t be playing), and it’s also a great day to be a superlative in someone else’s life.
Share a smile. Give a hug. Forgive an old grudge. Make a new friend. Laugh. Be kind. Eat some chocolate.
Accept someone different instead of judging, remembering that we never know another person’s full story. creative-commons-cco-pixababy-thunderstorm
Treat encounters with hate as opportunities to inject some light and love into a dark space.
Read something meaningful or simply fun – just read!
Celebrate life and decide to enjoy every drop of this day.
 

Her Story: I Was Built for Hurricanes

By Guest Blogger Margo Clifford

I woke up one morning and realized I was living in a nightmare. My partner had told me the night before, that if he couldn’t have me then no one would. He brought out his rifle and leaned it against the headboard of our bed. He meant every word. I was in an abusive relationship and needed a way out. I was scared and ashamed. How did I let this happen?

Abusive relationships don’t start out that way. At the beginning he was charming and thoughtful. Wanted to meet my friends. Loved that I had a college degree. He wanted the same things I wanted. Family was important. I was sure I had found a keeper. However, 3 months in and the tiny cracks began to show in the perfect boyfriend. His temper began to eek out. An unprovoked outburst, accusations of betrayal, and jealousy over friends became my new normal. It was no longer a loving relationship. No matter what I did, it was never good enough. There was always the feeling of dread not knowing how he would come home from work. The abuse was usually done in a rage followed by his denial that he had done anything wrong because according to him I deserved it.

At that point I became driven to understand him, to figure out how to fix the relationship and examine my part in all of this. I began reading books about people with anger issues and domestic violence. I wanted to know why it happened to me. My search for answers led me to volunteer at a shelter for battered women, take a crisis counseling class and help abused women. I realized my relationship was not going to change and I needed to leave. My good friend witnessed one of his tirades and contacted my folks. I had been too embarrassed to admit to them what had been happening. My concern about what others would think about me had gotten in the way of receiving the support I needed. Without any questions my family was there for me. I realized that I couldn’t do this alone and was able to escape.

My mom asked me recently if I regretted that time in my life. I had to admit that the relationship had a silver lining. That experience made me a stronger woman. It was the push I needed to move away and go to graduate school. I realized I had been playing small, and that there was so much more that I could do with my life. And I have.

_______________________________

1526251_10206057717790061_4707442569239819648_nMargo Clifford is a crusader for children’s rights and empowering young minds to think, create and believe in themselves. As an educator for over 40 years, she has witnessed the amazing resilience that children have to overcome the obstacles that stand in their way. She is currently working on a book about two brothers dealing with homelessness. When she’s not working with children, she is writing, doing art, beekeeping and spending time with friends, family and her dog, LuLu. 

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