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.

Advertisements

Hope for My Drunk Driver

A journey from anger to grace

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

Last weekend I had a headache that wouldn’t abate, and it led my thoughts back to Melissa – a woman I’ve never met whose choices on a summer evening long ago forever changed mine.

Melissa, you see, is the drunk driver who slammed into the car in which I was a passenger 25 years ago.

That night in Albuquerque, N.M. left me with an injury that to this day prevents me from sleeping with pillows. Which brings to me to reason I was thinking of her this past weekend.

I did a simple thing: dozed off on a few fluffy pillows as I propped myself up in bed to watch TV. When I awoke the next morning, my consequence was a throbbing pain above my left temple and behind my left eye.

I don’t get migraines often, but I recognize them when they arrive, and I could tell immediately that this one was connected to the pain radiating down the left side of my neck and to the knot of muscles that had formed just below.

Ah, the pillow. How could I forget?

Ah, Melissa. How could you drink and drive?

The summer that Melissa’s car rammed into the one in which I was a passenger, I was a rising college senior in the middle of a newspaper internship in Albuquerque, simultaneously honing my journalism and independence skills.

I had two awesome roommates, including one who was (and is) a professional singer. When an opportunity arose to serve as one of her backup “artists” in a karaoke performance (the only way I’d be asked to do this, mind you), how could I say no?

A group of us had just pulled into the Air Force base where our dining spot debut would take place. As our driver paused to check in at the security gate, Melissa’s vehicle plowed into the back of us.

Thankfully, I and my fellow passengers survived the crash, which, in Albuquerque at that time was no small feat.

According to prevalent news reports that year (1992), more alcohol-related traffic deaths per capita occurred in New Mexico than in any other state. Thank you, God.

Melissa’s actions knocked the car in which we were riding several hundred feet from its resting position and left it totaled.

I was the most severely injured – receiving a fractured nose from having the driver’s seat break loose on impact and slam into my face and being tossed around like a ragamuffin. I left the hospital with two black eyes and a severely sprained neck that I would protect with a brace off and on for years to come.

I was angry at Melissa, long before I knew her name. All I knew then was what her actions had cost me: My journalism internship ended abruptly. I spent the rest of my summer alternating between pain-filled periods of rest and physical therapy for the cervical sprain. I returned to my senior year of college still in physical therapy, which continued well into the fall, with lingering pain and forced rest cutting short outings with friends and opportunities to celebrate life before full-fledged adulthood.

I was still angry at Melissa a few years later, when a minor fender bender caused the neck sprain to flare at just the wrong time – days before a friend’s wedding. Ensconced in a new neck brace with my name on it, I spent her special day in bed with muscle relaxers instead of enjoying celebratory fun.

The anger lessened to frustration over the years as I participated in exercise classes and repeatedly sat out on sit-up routines that put too much strain on my neck, because my core wasn’t quite strong enough to lift me.

And as I matured and considered some of my own missteps and mistakes along the way, I thought about Melissa with fewer and fewer waves of judgment.

I was 21 when the accident occurred and so was she.

I had been in a car with new friends that evening, heading to a fun outing. When emergency medical personnel pulled her from her vehicle, they reportedly discovered that countless beer cans had been her companions.

With the expansion of heart that accompanied my becoming a first-time mother at age 27, the judgment ceased. Unconditional love for another will do that to you.

And as my work as a journalist gave me opportunity after opportunity to meet all kinds of people from all walks of life and tell their stories of tragedy, challenge, triumph and resilience, I embraced the reality that life doesn’t always happen for us – sometimes it happens to us.

That truth ushered in sympathy. I began to wonder what had become of Melissa.

At the time of our accident, drunk driving laws in New Mexico were fairly lax, and I don’t recall her serving any jail time. While she was forced to cover my and my friends’ medical and related expenses, she likely didn’t suffer other consequences.

I wondered, however, did her conscience bother her? Did she treat that serious accident as a wake-up call?  Did she give herself a second chance?

I began to hope that just as I had changed and grown and sought to embrace my best self over the years, that she, too, had managed some measure of metamorphosis.

Today, as I lay here writing this reflection, with a heating pad on my neck and shoulder and pain meds nearby, I hope and pray so.

Like me, I hope she has gone on to have a full and meaningful life – one in which she shares the story of that night as a lesson learned, as a place from which she transformed.

I hope that the recurring pain I still experience every so often isn’t for naught, and that she is still alive and well somewhere, advising others to never drive while under the influence, because it can lead to real suffering for real people, other than oneself.

pexels-photo-593172

If I had the chance to encounter Melissa again and officially meet her, I’d tell her that while I hate the flare ups and radiating pain I sometimes experience and I hate her long-ago choices, I don’t hate her. Doing so would require too much energy and too much heart space.

Instead, I’m thankful to have been one of the ones who survived when so many victims of drunk drivers didn’t. My hope is that wherever Melissa is and whoever she has become, she feels that same humble gratitude – for my life and for her own.

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.

Creative Commons Use

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.