Create with Love

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I spent some time this week in the company of writer friends who reminded me that the beauty of our words and our written works – whether literary, commercial, for adults or for kids – is always needed.

It was a well-timed reminder that what one tenderly and carefully creates does indeed matter. What you produce can change a heart, fill a soul, light the imagination, give hope to dreams or render some measure of joy.

All of this has value. So create with love, and trust that your devotion to your craft will be enough. ccbooklove

Her Story: No More Chains

By Guest Blogger Renee Spivey

I vividly remember the day 25 years ago when I sat on a bathroom floor with a knife to my wrists, ready to end it all. I was tired of the devastating challenges I was enduring, and thought death was better than what I was going through.

That’s not the only time I was suicidal. The second time was when I was sentenced to prison for eight years. Me, the church going, good grade-getting, mostly-obedient child. I had no business going to prison, but sure enough, it happened. Even though I was a first time offender, I was convicted of felony theft by check, and I would go on to serve almost two years of that eight-year sentence.

The day I arrived at the minimum security women’s prison, I was so devastated that I was put on suicide watch. I was asked during the intake process if I was thinking of killing myself and I said yes, because honestly, once again, I thought death was better than what I was facing.

Every hour or so, an officer was at my cell calling my name, making sure I was still alive. After the first two days, I was fine. I had read, cried, prayed and accepted my situation, and a peace finally came over me. After that second day, I told them I was fine and no longer thinking of killing myself. They took me at my word and didn’t perform the hourly checks anymore.

Being locked up for 22 months was the roughest thing I have ever experienced. To be treated as simply a number and not a person was a very humiliating, but humbling experience.

Even though this was the worst time of my life, it ended up being the best time of my life. It took me going to prison to realize that God had more in store for me than just a continual life of heartache and pain. He had a calling specifically for me.

The road has definitely not been easy, but through it all God kept me and blessed me. I did not let my past dictate my future. I refused to be known only as Smith #744519.

I’ve gone on to do some incredible things, such as go back to college at age 40 and obtain an associate’s degree in Information Technology/Web Design. I am currently working on my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I own a business called Literary Signature Services, where I work with authors and small businesses, helping them with their website and graphic design needs. I’ve held the same full time job since my release in 1997. And now, I am working on becoming a published author.

I am a wife, a mother, a homeowner and founder of the Women of Worth ministry, which was started to encourage women to step out of the shadows of their past into a brighter future. ~ © Renee Spivey, 2017

Renee SpiveyRenee Spivey, an avid reader and aspiring author, owns Literary Signature Services, a company that focuses on graphic and web design. Her client list includes authors Suzette Riddick, Regena Bryant, and New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Brenda Jackson, to name a few.  Renee also has a short story in the recently released anthology, When Women Become Business Owners. Learn more about Renee at her websites The Masters Vessel and We Are Women of Worth. She is also active on Facebook at Empowered Women of Worth, Instagram at Renees1971 and Twitter @empoweredwow.

A Balanced Mom = Balanced Kids

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Here’s a resolution most parents should consider making a habit: practicing self-care, and viewing it as a gift to their families.

Many  — in particular moms, and especially those of young children — tend to feel guilty if they take time away from their sons or daughters to focus on themselves. However, research and anecdotal evidence show that when parents are fulfilled and balanced, that contentment permeates their lives, including their interactions with their families.

So while they may have taken time away to pursue a career endeavor, hobby or some social time, for example, if they return invigorated or restored, that joy adds to the quality of time with their beloved youngsters.

With this in mind, I encourage my fellow parents to take off your superwoman or superman capes in 2017, and neatly fold and tuck them away for special occasions.

Because day to day, the person you are is the person your kids will emulate.

If your goal is for them to honor and value themselves while treating others kindly and generously, you must remember their best and first teacher is you.

Taking some “you time” gives your children a chance to watch you thrive at something you enjoy or that simply makes you smile, and it gives them a road map for how to someday support the goals and interests that are important to anyone they value.

During this resolution season, consider finding a few minutes of quiet time to reflect on what you most enjoyed “BP” — my newly coined phrase for “Before Parenting.”

If it’s helpful, write a list of five or 10 things you once considered fun or meaningful, but put on the back burner.

Depending on the season of parenting you’re in, you may or may not have time or interest in revisiting the things that once held your attention, but even if your list feels dated, it can serve as a reminder of who you are and what gives you energy.

Simplicity usually yields success, and here are some suggestions:

  • Commit to getting more exercise, whether that means joining a gym that has a kid-friendly playroom or finding a neighborhood walking or running partner with whom you can forge a friendship and fitness accountability.
  • Check in regularly with your friends by phone to stay abreast of their lives, or invite them over for dinner or a game night, and allow their kids to come. It’s great for your young children to see Mom and Dad have “play dates” or for your older ones to see you enjoying life beyond parenting.
  • Trade babysitting with a trusted friend or relative, and use your free time to visit your favorite bookstore for a few hours, go to a movie or hang out at your favorite coffee shop or eatery.
  • Informally pick a parenting mentor (or two) a few years ahead of you, who can help you navigate decisions and ease your worries during certain developmental stages. If you know that middle school is an awkward time for most kids and how that plays out for each gender, for example, you may assess your child’s behavior from a calmer place.
  • Try something new, and don’t be afraid to let your kids see you struggle or fail. Show them the right way to handle new opportunities or to withstand their own challenges by managing yours with grace, maturity and responsibility.

Commit to being the best version of yourself possible, and watch yourself and your children blossom as a result.

Editor’s Note: A variation of this post first appeared in Stacy’s Richmond Times-Dispatch parenting column, Life Notes, in January 2017.

It’s Up to Us. Will Love Win?

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
When the sea rages,
and the wind howls,
and darkness threatens to overtake the light,
we must still stand tall in our purpose;
we must persist in honoring our personal power.
No matter what it looks like or how dim the light appears, we must choose to honor each day by choosing to try again at serving each other a dose of kindness, empathy and respect.
For if there is to be light, you must shine it;
and if there is to be hope, you must manifest it;
and if there is to be love, you must do the work to let it win.

The world is depending on you, and on me, to get this right.

Photo image courtesy of the YWCA USA's Twitter feed
Photo image courtesy of the YWCA USA’s Twitter feed

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.

 

 

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