How to Refine Your Reading List in Ways that Refine You

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Every successful organization or business has a mission statement or brand statement that drives its leaders’ decision making and direction – why not you?

I shared this perspective recently with a group of women and men that I led through a series of teleconference calls about purpose, goal-setting and faith; and during our discussion, I offered to give them a peek at my personal library – the one filled with books that have guided and shaped my perspective on life, living with intention and executing with excellence.

As we sit on the verge of a new year, which always brings with it hope for second, third or any number of new chances and possibilities, I decided to also share these literary gems with you.

I’ve read the books listed here over a 15-year (or so) period, at various stages of adulthood and maturity; so you may find a few of the titles too elementary. Perhaps you can recommend those particular books to young adults you’re mentoring or helping raise.

Yet some of the books I’ve chosen may indeed pique your interest, grace your reading list and help you grow, too.

Vastly more important than having you embrace the topics and authors that have resonated with me is for the list to serve as a catalyst for you becoming a version of yourself that you can consistently honor and love.

Indeed, all of these books have been foundational in some manner to the expansion of my heart, my vision, my perspective, my dreams  and my faith:

  • Listen to Your Life: Following Your Unique Path to Extraordinary Success by Valorie Burton
  • Making Life Work: Putting God’s Wisdom into Action by Bill Hybels
  • The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours by Marian Wright Edelman
  • The Life God Blesses: Weathering the Storms of Life that Threaten the Soul by Gordon MacDonald
  • Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now by Maya Angelou
  • If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg
  • In Search of Satisfaction by J. California Cooper
  • The Testament by John Grisham
  • Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I could include quite a few more! This is just a start, to jumpstart your efforts to embrace reading that can help you wake up, get up, trust yourself, believe in your dreams and stretch to new heights.

Buy a new journal to record your thoughts from the books you choose to read. Use that same journal to craft a personal mission statement or brand value, based on who you want to become.

As a man (or woman) thinketh, so is he (or she). The words you ingest matter, and so do you. Read your way to wholeness, joy and purpose, then write that vision – with tangible steps and timelines – to ensure that your goals become your reality.

I’m rooting for you.

How to Find Joy in Your Journey

Count it all joy:
The blessings that bring you happiness
The lessons that lead to wisdom
The heartbreak that teaches you empathy
The hope that helps you grow.
Each step
Each stride
Each experience
Each opportunity
Comprise your daily gift – the life that only you get to live.

© Stacy Hawkins Adams

Your Choice Matters

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Because we’re all imperfect beings, we’ll all make mistakes, take missteps or get off track. But even in our imperfection, we can choose who and what we want to be and how (or whether) we’ll serve up some goodness in this world.
We can choose integrity even when it isn’t convenient; love when hate threatens to swarm; loyalty when the chips are down, grace when grudges are warranted, and hope when all seems lost.
Choosing the best way forward, individually and collectively, equals choosing a life that surrenders to joy. What will you do? Practice living a story you’ll be proud to someday call your own.

 

Remembering 9/11: Beauty for Ashes

By Stacy Hawkins Adams
Today I’m remembering 9/11/01 and honoring the lives lost and the heroes who stepped forward in the aftermath of that tragic day. Where were you on that day 16 years ago?
It was my first day back in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newsroom after giving birth to my son. He was 12 weeks old and in the care of his loving sitter, “Nana.” I had scheduled an interview with the leader of a local Muslim worship center for an inspirational column I wrote at that time. (Talk about “coincidence.”)
After the planes hit the towers that morning, we reporters leapt into action. The Muslim worship center (mosque), which was filled with children attending classes, went on lockdown as fearful parents showed up to claim their students; but the Imam trusted me and still allowed me to come and enter. He shared how heartbroken he and many others were over this tragedy.
As we remember the devastation of that day, let’s also remember the humanity that was birthed from the ashes. May we continue to seek and serve the humanity in others, trusting that love really is the antidote to all hate.

Why New Beginnings Matter

Here we are in September – the launching month for fall and the last quarter of 2017. What will you do with this new beginning?
It’s never too late to learn something new, strengthen a weakness and be a better you.
Don’t be defined by a past that’s now just a distant memory. Write a few new pages in your story that will make your journey all the more worth remembering. Someday you’ll be grateful you did.

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Officer to My Son: “Let’s Both Get Home Safe.”

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I took my teen son to an empty school parking lot on Sunday afternoon to practice driving and a police officer pulled him over.

I was in the passenger seat, and the officer asked my permission to chat with Mini-Me #2.

Sgt. Hugate (who gave me permission to use his name) had watched my son practice signaling and turning and parking for about half an hour before motioning for him to stop, with a smile and a welcoming gesture.

With my consent, he spent about 10 minutes sharing his perspective as a member of law enforcement about how Mini-Me #2, as a teen driver, could stay safe if/when pulled over.

Before he launched into the advice, he led with his heart, telling Mini-Me #2:

– He spent the day before driving around a similar school parking lot teaching his own son how to drive, so he knew how meaningful and memorable the task at hand was.

– Everyday when he goes to work, he wants to be sure to make it home to his family; so the advice he was prepared to share was designed to keep both my son and him safe.

Then he walked through how an officer typically approaches a vehicle and explained that an alert officer is always on guard because he never knows who or what he may encounter when making a routine traffic stop – regardless of race, gender, age, etc.

Next, he told Mini-me #2 a few things that most parents of color often share already with their adolescent sons and daughters, during what we call “The Talk:”

– Keep your hands visible at all times. (He demonstrated where to position them on the steering wheel and suggested that placing them on driver’s side windowsill would be another option.)

– Over-communicate about every single move you make, from shifting to reach for your license to reaching to open your door.

– Stay calm and respectful and respond to all questions when asked. (Most people actually talk themselves INTO getting tickets, he said, because they can’t manage to stay calm.)

– If the situation permits, before placing your hands on the steering wheel or outside the window, call a parent and put him/her on speakerphone, so that there is a “third party witness to keep both of us safe.”

My son appreciated the feedback, which reinforced messages he has already heard from me and his dad and others in our “village.”

Sgt. Hugate, who is Caucasian, looked Mini-Me squarely in the eyes while informing him that yes – there are indeed some cops who shouldn’t be wearing badges or in the law enforcement field, because they don’t do what is right or good; but he is not one of them.

We didn’t discuss Charlottesville, Trayvon Martin, or any of the senseless violence that has occurred in many instances in between. In those few minutes in that high school parking lot, the olive branch he extended was an aha moment that even some officers are willing to be real and honest about the realities of what it takes to stay safe in this day and time.

Everyone wants to make it home alive.

Note: This post first appeared on Stacy’s Facebook page, on August 13, 2017. Due to the tremendous response it has received, she is posting it here and also on her Huffington Post blog.

Why Talk Is Cheap and How to Get Moving

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Ever heard the phrase Don’t just talk about it, be about it?

It offers a nudge to stop explaining what we would do if there weren’t obstacles and to start doing something – anything – that moves us in the direction of our dreams.

A guest minister at the Virginia church I attend delivered an electrifying message yesterday that reiterated the importance of growing past one’s comfort zone. Her tone wasn’t fiery, but the truths she delivered were, and I thought they were worth sharing.  Here’s a paraphrased summary of the wisdom she imparted to encourage each listener to get up and get moving:

– If you really want something different, act like it.

– Don’t talk about wanting a change while settling comfortably into your longtime (uncomfortable) status quo, and don’t expect anyone else to do your heavy lifting.

– When you get serious about growing as a person and enlarging your territory, your desires can direct you to your destiny.

– Exceptional desire yields exceptional results.

– Every inch you take toward a new destiny moves you closer to actually achieving it, no matter how small your movement and no matter how long it takes. Your effort, multiplied by God’s grace, will get you there in His perfect timing.

– Do what you must in order to thrive, not just survive.

As the guest minister advised in her closing, we each must find the courage to stop living where we are not challenged, because in challenge comes change, and in change comes growth and opportunities to live out our unique purpose.

Are you up to the task? Are you ready to shift – to actually receive what you’ve long claimed you want? If so, now is the time. Today is your day. Go seize your victory – one prayer, coupled with one step, at a time.

(Note: The guest minister’s sermon was based on John 5:2-9.)

Writing from and for the Journey

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I haven’t turned on my creative fiction juices in a while, because although I absolutely love manufacturing interesting characters and breathing life into them, I also have a deep love for nonfiction writing. Over the past year or so, I’ve focused my attention there.

I recently entered my 10th year of penning a parenting column for a daily newspaper in Richmond, Virginia; I launched this inspirational blog a few moths ago, and I occasionally write commentary for the Huffington Post.

Beyond those outlets, my “day job” of serving as Director of Communications for a private school in my community affords me an opportunity to do all kinds of writing – from marketing and advertising copy to social media posts to letters and other messaging that share the “how” and “why” of this school and its mission to produce service-minded leaders who make a difference locally and around the globe. All of this excites me.

And yet….the ideas for a new novel still rise to the surface every now and then, teasing me to consider what my 11th book could and should be. I’m not sure yet when that one will be birthed, but I already have a list of character names, a few potential plot ideas and even a tentative title.

I’m not ready to start writing the first draft because the ideas are still “baking.” I’ll know when the plot is just firm enough to put pen to paper, and then move those handwritten notes to my computer.

In the meantime, I’m doing my writer’s “homework”: Leaning into the gifts and opportunities that come with daily life, enjoying special moments with family and friends, overhearing compelling conversations or intriguing names that might make their way into my story, and taking in the scenery, sights and sounds around me, so that when I need these things most, they are a finger tap away in the notes section of my iPhone, or stored in my mental image bank.

I recently had the pleasure of joining an award-winning children’s author for dinner, and during our conversation, Newberry Medal winner Rita Williams-Garcia announced that she no longer writes under deadline. When the manuscript is ready – however long that may take – she intuitively knows, and she only writes The End at that point.

While many of us scribes may not have that luxury – or be disciplined enough to know the difference between being stuck and accepting that the project is substantive enough to move forward – learning about her method left me thinking that more of us should find the courage (or be extended opportunities) to give our words, ideas and stories the space to grow and mushroom into something fantastically wonderful.

If and when you can, I encourage my fellow writers to let your story marinate; let the words come on their own; let the characters show you who they are in their own time.

Because I’m not on deadline or under contract with a publisher at the moment, this is exactly what I’m doing. I’m also reading some great fiction, and books about the art of writing, along the way.

It’s an unsettling experience in some ways – especially when my readers say they’re ready for another book-  and I hate to keep readers waiting. Yet, in another way, it’s freeing, because I’m allowing the writer journey to unfold before me.

I’m confident that when my new characters are ready to meet the world, they’ll let me know. When they start nudging, I won’t be able to get them out of my head unless I tell their stories! Lol

Until then, I hope you’ll continue reading my current novels, the few fictional short stories I’ll be penning soon, and also my body of nonfiction writing. The mission of all of my work is to enlighten, uplift and inspire. I hope my fictional characters and my intriguing true-to-life subjects do just that for you.

Note: This essay was originally published on the Black Christian Reads blog, in July 2017.

5+ Ways to See Your Dreams Realized

Welcome to Wednesday. Whatever positive things you long to experience or achieve today…
* See them as real in your mind’s eye: Visualize your new reality – in full color, with specific details.
* Speak those desires into existence: Words and prayers hold power.
* Move deliberately: Resist all doubt.
* Trust the process: Success cannot be birthed without struggle.
* Give thanks in advance: Put your faith into action.
And then…be ready for the blessings that materialize.

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