“Don’t Make Assumptions.” I appreciate this one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s tenets from his book The Four Agreements in particular because it reminds us to give grace to others due to our own blind spots.
There’s no way we can fully know what someone else is going through or has gone through – especially by watching their social media “commercials.”
There’s no way to know the complete behind-the-scenes experiences that have motivated others’ next steps or perhaps left them stuck – unless we both ask with an open heart (when appropriate) and listen with unfiltered ears (always).
Until we can truly see and value others, we’ll always assume what “should” or “could” be their reality and/or their responses. But what good does this kind of judgment yield?
So consider this agreement a practice worth pursuing, in the spirit of elevating relationships of all kinds.
Ask instead of assuming you know their truths and speak up instead of assuming they “should” know yours.
Pause instead of pointing fingers; reflect instead of rejecting. Know that unless you’ve walked the very path they’re trodding, you really know very little – and vice versa!
Extend grace as you’re also seeking it. Hold at the forefront of your mind that each day and each personal encounter should begin and end the same – with love as the central force.
As an artist, author, vocalist and Top Chef wannabe, I am quite the Renaissance woman, not to tweet my own tune. My friends will tell you: I do it all. (Thanks, friends!) But ask my family a few years back and they’d claim I was best at being Mean & Ornery & Hard to Get Along With. MOHGAW for short.
I can’t help it; it’s in my blood.
I never wanted to emulate my mother, though she is pretty sweet these days. As a stay-at-home mom of nine children who gave up her dream of becoming a nurse, Mom made MOHGAW her motto. I craved a family, but also to develop and share my own gifts with the world. Anything less seemed like a cop-out.
Once a bright-eyed collegiate turned ambitious young adult, I planned to become the next C.S. Lewis/Beatrix Potter combined. I moved east with great expectations and – blink! – somehow found myself married with four young children, struggling to not disappear under piles of dirty dishes and laundry.
While I love my kids, parenting well is demanding work. I began to understand – and resemble – my mom as I despaired ever achieving my career goals. Oh, the mom-guilt! Why couldn’t being the best possible homemaker satisfy my needs? Why must I want it all?
Still…I did, and it showed.
Deciding I could no longer wait for the perfect circumstances (there is no such thing), with our two oldest in school and portfolio, toddler and swaddled infant in hand, I met with a local author who generously agreed to mentor me. For the next several years, while trying to keep family my priority, I wrote and scrupulously edited the first book of my YA fantasy trilogy. To contribute financially, I went to work part-time teaching music at my children’s school. (How better to share that gift than by passing it on to the next generation?)
I created and donated art for charity, and kept up an illustrated parenting blog to encourage other moms while providing self-therapy. Life was fulfilling, exhausting…and totally unsustainable as we welcomed our bonus baby.
MOHGAW Momster reawakened.
Thankfully, and long before Oprah Winfrey put the sentiment into words, I had an epiphany: It really is possible to have it all, just not all at once. I was cheating everyone by trying. Pace myself and I might actually enjoy the life I already had, while creating the one I dreamed of.
Granting that permission to slow down was the kindest thing I’ve ever done – for myself and everyone around me. Skip ahead: Thirteen years since penning that first novel – the year after my firstborn graduated high school – it was published. Two more children left for college, and I gave birth to two more volumes. More are coming, all in good time.
And I’m not so MOHGAW anymore. Just ask my family.
C.A. Morgan, author of Emrysia: The Three Sisters Trilogy (Emrysia Awakening, Lament & Endurance) is a lifelong learner and champion dream chaser who loves to encourage others to contribute what only they may to the world. From northern Michigan to remote mountainside in Vermont’s northeast kingdom, she is equally at home on stage or in her garden, and is currently sharing the gift of music in a hospice choir, and completing illustrations for her children’s book on the fears associated with diagnostic testing. She and husband, Roger, are enjoying a quieter house these days, raising their belated blessing with occasional unsolicited advice from her adult siblings. To learn more visit her online at: www.camorganwrites.com, facebook.com/reademrysia, and twitter@camorganwrites.
Were you one of those kids who believed that ghosts or monsters lurked in your bedroom closet, waiting until the lights were out and you were trying to sleep to make their presence known? (See my raised hand.)
Or, maybe you were the young adult with the world before you, yet you were so anxious about making wrong decisions that you opted more often than not to play it safe and make choices that were safe. (Hand still partially raised.)
Or, could it be that now, as a full-fledged adult, you view your age, weight, finances, personality or other personal circumstances as reasons for staying in a holding pattern or coasting through each day? (Hand NOT raised.)
It took me a while, but after living for a bit and surviving a couple of life’s major “D’s” – death of loved ones and divorce – I’ve come to realize that life’s not meant to be expansive and enjoyed only after you’ve conquered your challenges; instead, while you’re wading (sometimes knee-deep) through them, you could be growing, learning, laughing, loving and even thriving in your inner soul.
Watching my now-deceased older sister find enjoyment in simple things after surviving a double lung transplant in 2011 taught me to value each breath, each opportunity to connect with loved ones, and indeed, each day.
Experiencing the death of important relationships and the snuffing out of their accompanying dreams taught me to value myself, flaws and all, because even if no one else is around, I have to live with and love me.
Pushing through all kinds of highs and lows with others shook me and shaped me into a more empathetic, peaceful and purposeful person – someone filled with more resilience, hope, deeper faith and joy for simple blessings than I otherwise might have possessed.
While my experiences have been uniquely my own, the benefits they’ve yielded are universally possible.
What has hampered you or broken your heart? What has made you press pause and enter a journey of self-examination or sacrifice? What has led to tears that have filled God’s bottle with your name on it, yet also grew a garden of unexpected supporters and mentors to surround you?
Consider those consequences as the gems for your journey. Allow them to fuel your steps forward and foster more hope and heartiness where needed.
Fear comes to us all, yet fear can’t take up residence unless we grant permission.
When it pays a visit, greet it with these behaviors:
Acknowledge the emotion’s presence, then try to assess why you’re afraid.
Envision your worst-case scenario. If the thing you’re fearing were to happen, how would you survive? (Your faith, your Plan B, support from family or friends, or all of the above? )
Envision your best-case scenario and how this outcome would empower and elevate you. If this were to happen, how would you stay centered while sustaining the success?
Remind yourself that whatever comes, you are strong enough, smart enough and loved enough to fall down and get up, or to stand and wait, or to rise and forge a new path – whatever is required.
Remember that by some accounts, FEAR is simply “False Evidence Appearing Real.” You have all within you to overtake whatever is causing you to stumble or spin your wheels.
Embrace the five suggestions outlined above and execute them routinely – one moment, one hour, one day at a time. Refresh and repeat as necessary.
Invest attention and intention in yourself, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself shedding your cocoon and soaring, in your solely special way.
You’ll be living life “untapped,” in a space where regrets are few, life lessons are abundant, and grace is more than sufficient.
Research shows that most people dislike change so much that they’d rather stay in unfulfilling, stagnant or unstable circumstances rather than risk the unknown or stretch past what feels safe. It’s human nature, it seems, to “go with what you know.”
Over the course of my personal and professional journey, however, I’ve become convinced that the different or the uncomfortable (or even the heartbreaking) can sometimes be a sacred path to purpose.
For it is on this fresh course and in unfamiliar territory that we learn more about ourselves, discover strengths we might not have otherwise realized, and connect with ideas, skills and relationships that are meant to play pivotal roles in our destiny.
Yet, if we’re not open to change, or avoid accepting its unexpected arrival, how will we ever know our other (possibly wiser, stronger, happier) selves?
This is my sentiment as I bid farewell to readers of Life Notes, the parenting column I’ve had the pleasure of writing since July 2007 for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Yes- more than 10 years! (Read my farewell column, in today’s newspaper, here.)
Life Notes was actually my second venture as a columnist for this daily newspaper in Richmond, Virginia: From 2000 to 2006, I wrote a weekly column for the Saturday metro section called Inspirations, which acquainted readers far and wide with the uplifting and resilient journeys of metro Richmond residents and with their explorations of faith and personal growth. It had a tremendous following, and according to Times-Dispatch reader surveys, was a primary driver for Saturday newspaper sales during that time.
Both columns were meaningful to me, as was my connection to their readers.
I retired Inspirations, however, when I “retired” from my daily journalism career to focus on penning books and freelance writing. Not an easy decision since I loved my work, but an exciting and necessary one, in order to fulfill the other dreams on my To Do list. I never regretted the choice.
This time around, with changes abreast in newspaper column inches and editorial direction comes the opportunity to take another leap that has long been on my To Do list: expanding the genre of books I write to include more nonfiction (in addition to my women’s fiction) and perhaps some young adult reads. And while I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to blog for the Huffington Post, I look forward to penning more essays and profiles about the power of story and the relevance of our individual journeys for additional national publications. (Stay tuned!)
So yes, this is a goodbye of sorts to one platform for my writing, but a hello to all of the opportunities and open doors on my uncharted path. Will you celebrate with me?
I hope you’ll follow this blog to see where the written word takes me. Feel free to comment below and share ideas about what you’d like to learn about personal growth, matters of faith, living your best life, walking in purpose or writing your way to joy. I look forward to exploring these themes and more with you, and to growing with you.
Meet Unoma Nwankwor, the bestselling author of seven Christian romance fiction titles. Her readers are in love with her unique way of telling stories that capture the essence of her present home base – Atlanta, Georgia – and her native Nigerian culture. Her stories center on forgiveness, faith and hope, and have been described as the perfect fusion of those elements, combined with just enough romance and African spice to keep readers turning pages.
What are the titles of your most recent books? My most recent title is Mended with Love (released October 2017). It is the third book in my Sons of Ishmael Series. Another recent release isThe Final Ultimatum (October 2016), and it is the long-awaited stand-alone sequel to my 2013 novella The Christmas Ultimatum.
What is your primary goal as an author? My goal is to entertain and edify, while educating my readers about the continent of Africa – especially my home country of Nigeria. The media shows what they want to about the continent; so being that I love my Jesus, a good happily ever after, and my home, all three are always prominent in my books. After reading one of my books, I want my readers’ appetite whet for Jesus. I want them to have had a good time and to know something about Africa they didn’t know before. Or correct something they thought they knew.
What has been the most surprising feedback you’ve received from readers about your work? In The Final Ultimatum, the main characters are from Nigeria and South Africa. When I started to write the novel, I decided to incorporate a hot issue currently causing a rift between the two countries: xenophobia [which is the intense or irrational fear of people from other countries]. My readers didn’t see that coming. They were intrigued by the issue, but also marveled at how I didn’t allow the heaviness of the topic overshadow the couple’s story.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your author journey? I wouldn’t call it surprising; humbling would be the word I’d use. That moment for me would be [realizing] the acceptance of my American audience. I initially let the fear of no one caring about what I wrote or what I had to say stop me. However, I [eventually decided] that I couldn’t write anything other than the stories I had in me to tell. Since that time, in 2012, not writing has no longer been an option. I went with what I know. So the acceptance of something different by readers humbles me daily.
How do you nurture your growth as a writer? I read at least one craft book every quarter. I also have a broad variety of genres I read.
Who are two or three writers you admire or consider mentors? I admire and consider [bestselling Christian fiction author] Pat Simmons a mentor. There are a host of others I admire, too numerous to mention.
If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing? I’m also passionate about helping “Christianprenuers” move past the stagnation of uncertainty while on their purpose journey. Sometimes we get stuck or weary when the dark seasons arise. I enjoy encouraging others to push through their process while glowing in the dark.
What do you like to do for fun? Go to movies with my family.
More about Unoma Nwankwor: Unoma Nwankwor is the author of seven fiction titles. Her work fuses faith, romance and African culture. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Nigerian Writers’ Award for Best Faith-Based Fiction Writer. In late 2016, she was shortlisted for the Diaspora Writer of the Year award for 2017. Unoma holds a B.S. degree in banking & finance and a master’s degree in global management. She is a champion of purpose, passionate about pushing women Christianprenuers past the stagnation of uncertainty by building confident expectations in the promises of God. Unoma was also recently named as one of the “100 Most Influential Nigerian Writers Under 40” and is also the host of the Anchor Talk Podcast. Visit her at www.unomanwankwor.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/UnomaNwankwor or on Twitter and Instagram via the handle @unwankwor.