Her name was Olivia

I can’t stress enough how important is is to show compassion for others. While grocery shopping today, we came upon this woman and her mentally disabled daughter. The daughter saw me and wrapped me in an embrace and attempted to lick my face. For those who know me, I’m not too keen on being touched by strangers, but the hug didn’t bother me (I moved my face so I didn’t get licked). I hugged her back and you could tell her mom was relieved that I didn’t lash out. Her mom said her name was Olivia and told her to “make good choices”. She let me go and smiled, but then hugged me again. Her mom apologized for her behavior, but I really wasn’t bothered by it. Her joy and smile was so contagious. I imagined a mother trying to have some normalcy while out of the home and hoping her daughter didn’t do anything to offend or bother others. After getting about 5 high fives, I walked away from that encounter smiling. I was grateful to have met Olivia and her joy. I learned today that joy is not measured by your circumstance, but in how you DECIDE to deal/ handle your circumstance. Thank you, Olivia. Until next time, make good choices.

Accept the Challenge, I Dare You

Accept the Challenge, I Dare You

If you’re like me the New Year has you thinking about what is going to be different. I am making a declaration that this year is going to be one of my best years yet! I am not talking about making some resolution that will fizzle out in a couple weeks to a month. Neither am I talking about making some half-hearted decision.

I have realized that true progress and transformation takes time. It’s meticulous. It’s specific. It’s sure. And it’s strategic. My church is doing a 90 Day Transformation Challenge and I am so excited about it. I could have registered on January 1st as expected, but I couldn’t. I had so many thoughts and possibilities running through my head and I couldn’t make a decision. I knew I needed to get organized.

Instead of just reacting and making an impulsive decision, I went into action. I assessed my life and the goals I set for the year. I bought a planner and made note of all my current commitments. I looked at what was on my plate and had to make some hard decisions. I picked up a new adventure and had to put a few things down. I am not interested in having a lot to do, rather I want to do a lot of what I love and what’s going to fulfill me.

After making some decisions, I had to be realistic about where I can accept challenge. You know, changing too many things at one time can be disastrous! I recently decided to go for another master’s degree so I’m taking a class. Instead of having sporadic devotion time with God, I decided to do it every morning. No longer am I going to bed whenever I want, I’m on a schedule. And there are a host of other changes that I am balancing and implementing with wisdom. Not all the changes will happen at once, but they’re planned so they’ll be sustainable.

Now that I have a few things settled and have a routine. I decided it was time to solidify my 90 Day Transformation Challenge. Some people think routine is boring, but there are certain seasons in your life when routine is needed to maintain progress and success. Last year was a season of spontaneity, not this year. Know your season! That’s another topic for another day! So what’s my challenge? No sweets (help me, Jesus!) and make healthier decisions in all areas of my life.

Spiritually– be more intentional and consistent in my devotional time and protect it

Physically– be mindful of what I put in my body and make better food choices and stop making excuses.

Emotionally/ Mentally– be aware of what I allow to affect my emotions and thoughts, ultimately my day. A dear sister of mine said, “Pick your thoughts like you pick your clothes. Ask yourself, do I want to wear this?”

I decided this year I am going to conquer and love with intention. I don’t want things to be happenstance, but I want experiences on purpose. Give it my all at all times and not just when it’s convenient.

What’s your challenge? How do you want to transform the first 90 days of 2016? The 90 Day Transformation Challenge is really just to get you started for a lifestyle change. It’s not too late for you to accept the challenge. Join me, I dare you! Register your challenge today to make it official and know that people are praying for you to succeed. Surveymonkey.com/tgcctransform90

Puzzle Progress

Puzzle Progress

It amazes me how God will use the simplest things to bring clarity to your life. I set out on a task at the beginning of my winter break and learned a couple good lessons. They are simple, yet powerful.Picture of puzzleMy husband brought home this puzzle before the winter break. I set my mind to complete it before the break was over. I was ecstatic about the challenge.Picture 1I fished through and found all the edged pieces and completed the border. In the process of me putting the border together, I came across other pieces and put those together too. The border alone took about two days. However, I remained extremely optimistic!Picture 2At this point, I felt like I should have had more progress, even if I was only devoting a couple hours a day to the project. Sure, I had other things going on, other commitments and responsibilities, but I wanted this task to come together so I sacrificed some of my nights, staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning! Picture 3I then begin to realize I needed to get organized. How I organized things changed based on where I was with the puzzle. I realized that I was not going to just find the right piece out of 700. So I decided to create goals. I broke the puzzle up into sections. First, I focused on getting the tower and the mountain outline completed.Picture 4My next goal was the sky. OMG, the sky was super challenging! The colors kept changing – light blue, dark blue, purple, yellow, etc. To help, I changed my organization method by putting the sky pieces into piles of similar shapes. This sped the process along, but it was still very tedious.

Although I have made more progress since this picture, I have not completed the puzzle. However I did learn a few things along the journey that I would like to share:

  1. Don’t be afraid to do something that appears challenging. If your heart is in the right place, trust that God is going to lead you along the way. Leaders understand the importance of growth. That growth comes from getting out of your comfort zone and/or doing something that you’ve never done before.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but don’t be discouraged if you walk the journey alone. The puzzle was first presented as a family project, but I quickly learned I was the only one who was truly interested. And that’s fine. My family helped with some pieces along the way, and I asked for a second and third eye when needed, but I was determined not to quit because their commitment wavered. My conviction wasn’t their conviction. Leaders understand there are some tasks and journeys you have to walk alone. Just remember to share it with others when it’s done.
  1. Break the task down into steps and focus on one area at a time. Being a big picture person is great, but there comes a time when you have to focus on the details. You may even find that by completing one area, it’ll help you deal and solve some others. Leaders understand that you have to take challenges, and even success, in stages. Handling details can be exhausting, but it’s necessary to make sure the end goal is achieved.
  1. Stay positive and celebrate the small victories. There were times I wanted to give up on the puzzle completely. I walked away frustrated several times, but I was committed. Every time a piece fit, I celebrated. I would step back and look at the puzzle and see the progress. Leaders understand that there is going to be discouraging and frustrating days, but commitment and devotion with give you the strength you need to keep going.
  1. Don’t be afraid to tweak it. It wasn’t until I was down to two pieces that I realized I had placed two others in the wrong spot. You would think I would have noticed, but I didn’t. The wrong pieces actually fit (that’s another sermon for another day). I was able to identify my error and I corrected it. And you know what, it felt good! Leaders understand they are not perfect and can always learn something new and grow. There is nothing wrong with revisiting an idea or vision to improve it.
  1. Lastly, be flexible. I expected to be done with this puzzle this past Sunday night, and I am not. But you know, I have peace with that. I recognize that our timelines are not always realistic. And life surely doesn’t say, “I’ll leave her alone while she completes this task. I’ll throw some distractions and other things at her later”. Nope, doesn’t happen that way. Leaders understand deadlines, but strive for quality as well. A true leader knows how to navigate changes and setbacks.

Happy New Year.

I Decided to Believe Again

I Decided to Believe Again

While at church for a meeting, the Lord visited us and spoke to our hearts. The words were simple but powerful – I decided to believe again. These five words summed up 2015 for me. I have had a lot of wonderful things happen this year, but I have also experienced heartache and loss. I had some exciting days and some exhausting days. I’ve smiled some days and I cried on others.

It amazes me how strong and overpowering some negative experiences can be. These soul-shattering events cause us to forget about all of the other great things that have happened. The bad days take you on a journey and plant you somewhere on a desert island and if you’re not careful, you’ll stop hoping for a search and rescue and will just adapt to your surroundings. You watch life pass you by and even though you yearn to be a part of it, you can’t. It’s like an invisible chain anchored in the earth that keeps you from moving.

If you have felt this way at any point this year – I understand. I have been there. And what I can tell you is that regardless of what you’re experiencing (or have experienced), it will get better. And your recovery is not going to start with an apology. It’s not going to start with the wrong being righted. It’s not going to happen with retaliation. No, it’s going to start when you realize you are better than that. It starts with you realizing you are deserving of great things; you are stronger than you appear in the turmoil. And you are destined for greatness, despite of it.

Heartache and loss often cause us to erect walls around our hearts and our emotions. Sometimes, we don’t even realize we’re doing it, other times we do. These walls hold in forgiveness, bitterness, resentment and eventually hate. If you’re not careful, the vortex of misery with suck you in and pull you to places you did not want to go and make you do things you do not want to do. You may find yourself in situations that are out of character, all because you decided to avoid, rather than deal, with the situation at hand.

So, my friend, it is my prayer that today will be your day! Today is the day you let go of him, her and it. You can do this. Is it going to magically happen? No, it’s not. But it’s going to start with you deciding to believe again. It starts with you wiping the fears and doubts away. It starts with you squaring your shoulders and declaring you refuse to be an outcast in your own life. It starts with you finding your voice and letting it be heard. And, it’s going to start with you, trusting that God will work everything out.

What do you need to start believing in? What have you lost faith in? Regardless of how big or small the circumstance is, it all starts in you believing in yourself. You have to make the decision to believe you can and will be better.

Lord,

Thank you for my friend who reads this message. You said we’ll find rest for our souls when we cast our cares on You for Your yoke is easy and Your burdens light. We are so thankful for Your promise and your care for us. We pray that as we enter into 2016, you will make room in our hearts for You to dwell. We pray that Your peace will cover all of our worries, doubts and fears. You said that You’re able to do exceedingly and abundantly, above all we could ever ask or think. We take You at Your word and we receive the healing that You so freely give. Show us how to release all things that are contrary to Your will for our lives. We ask all these things in your son Jesus’ name, amen.

 I love you with the love of Christ!

Acknowledge your Wings

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There are times in our lives when we go through challenging situations and we’re not sure how we’re going to make it out. I’ve been there, and chances are you have too. The beautiful thing about God is that He knows how to take your challenges and make you stronger. I mean, that’s the point, right? It hurts when you work a muscle you’ve never worked before. But I guarantee that if you stay with it, you’ll become stronger. In addition, you’ll become wiser.

The message to you today, beautiful woman, is simple- wear your wings with pride. You’ve earned them. And know that your wings are not just for others to glory at, but it’s meant to give you the lift you need to share your triumph with someone else. Wings help you to take flight, maintain your glide and they help you land safely. The Bible says He will mount us up with wings as eagles that our feet will not dash a stone.

So the next time God uses you in the area that caused your wings to grow, remember that you’re just “winging it”.

God bless you!

Check Us Out

Check Us Out

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. To say life has been busy would be an understatement! I wanted to at least make you all aware of a magazine I have the pleasure of writing for. If you’re a woman, or you know one, and you’re looking for some encouragement, support, beauty tips, health tips or inspiration, please check us out!

You can access the Purpose Driven Women Magazine online at pdwmag.com. Go to the site and get connected! You can also join the newsletter to receive updates as the issues become available. They are published every other month, so you don’t have to worry about your inbox blowing up with messages.

My column focuses primarily on love and relationships, although some of my earlier writings are more freestyle. I just submitted my piece for the February issue and I am super excited about it! So please go to the website and sign up so we can remain connected.

For your convenience, I have listed my articles below. What are you waiting for? Get connected!

Digging Deeper

I Won’t Give Up on Me

Redeemed

Do Not Fear

My Memories

My family and I laid my grandmother to rest today. She was a loving woman who took no mess. Her love was tough, but effective and geniune. I’m going to miss her laughter, smile and wit. Below is the poem I wrote and recited at her funeral.  I love you grandma.

God,

Please take care of my grandmother
For she is quite the lady,
She gave us so much joy and wisdom
And we’re going to miss her like crazy.

In my younger days
I remember us sharing many meals,
My favorite was Popeye’s Chicken
And oh how those biscuits sealed the deal.

I remember riding in the back seat
Of my mom’s car when she took Granny to work,
I would listen as she shared wisdom
As she walked away, the sashay of her skirt.

You see Daddy God
She understood family and wanted to leave a legacy,
That’s why when my cousins and I would argue
She’d make us hug and kiss on the cheek.

She introduced us to You
So we would not experience that eternal scorch,
She unapologetically signed us up
To participate in all the programs at church.

I called once to check in
It was sometime midday to be exact,
We exchanged pleasantries
And then she said she was driving her cadillac.

Knowing Granny didn’t drive
I wanted to confirm what she had said,
She laughed at my line of questioning
For the cadillac was indeed her electric wheelchair instead.

Another fond memory I have
Is one where I escaped with pure luck,
When she would call while my mom was sleep
She’d say, “I don’t care, wake her up!”

God, as you can see we have great memories
And would have been grateful for more in store,
But we know Your will is greater than ours
And we understand You love and needed her more.

As we prepare to say, “See you later”
Please share with her this piece,
We love you Retha Mae Knowlin
And we are happy you found peace.

So, to my family and friends
There is one last thing I want to implore,
Know that when you whisper “l love you”
Imagine her gentle chuckle, her smile, and her saying, “No, I love you more.”

Protect Your Value

Regardless of whether you’re in a relationship or you’re single, it’s important to know and protect your value. The catch is that you can’t protect what you do not know and what you do not understand. Therefore, I admonish you to take some time out of your busy schedule to find out who you are. And please, don’t limit yourself to the roles you play (i.e. mother, sister, friend, CEO, writer, artist).

Who are you? What is it that you bring to the table? What are your strengths? What are you capable of doing that someone else cannot? Let me help you – I am giving, compassionate, loyal, analytical, and future focused, to name a few. Do you get the point? I am a great mother because I am giving and I believe my child should have before my needs are met. I serve my husband and remove all distractions or temptations that draw me away from him because I am loyal to him and our marriage. It is who I am that makes me effective in the roles I play.

Once you discover this, protect it. If you have lived, chances are you’ve had a number of circumstances and situations try to make you forfeit who you are and push you into being something and someone you are not. My sister, LIFE is happening or has happened to you and I need you to know that you are not alone. I am not going to say that navigating life is easy, because it is not. And if anyone tells you it is… just don’t listen to them J.

It is permitted for you to act out of character every once in a while, especially if circumstances call for it. However, under no circumstance should you get stuck. I am typically not an emotional person, but every so often, life happens to me and I just have to cry, holler and distance myself from people. I am learning that the enemy wants to shut me up by shutting me down. Could it be he’s doing the same to you? As long as he can keep our emotions tangled up in worry, confusion, doubt and resentment, we can’t be effective in our relationships, our ministry, our vision (literally, spiritually and emotionally) will be skewed, resentment will set in and we’ll be permanently casted for a role we did not consciously sign up for.

It’s OK to have a “moment”, but don’t let the moment have you. You are stronger than this! The world needs what you have to offer. So from sister to sister, please know that you are not alone and there are other women who have experienced what you have. Allow your circumstances to qualify you for the assignment God has placed before you. Protect your faith and protect your value.

Marriage is Work

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Let it be real
Let it be true,
Lord may our love be pleasing unto You.

For You have sprinkled us with sacrifice
Dabbed us with faith,
You even doused us with long-suffering
So that You can get the glory everyday.

As we come before Your table
To partake of your grace,
We pray for Your direction
And on tough days your warm embrace.

Marriage isn’t all sunshine
For days will be good, bad and worse,
We pray our strength will last
For we know it takes much work.

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hollowed be your name,
We pray Your presence will rest
In our marriage as we maintain.

Thank You for being our rock
Thank You for being our shield,
Thank You for your ability
To come and help us build.

Let it be real
Let it be true
Lord may our love be pleasing unto You.

Agreement vs. Understanding

There is a big difference between agreememt and understanding. Thanks to the constitution, everyone has the right to not only believe what they believe, but say what they believe. It is this freedom that allows many of us to live in our truths. Maybe your truth is that you believe people should be kind to others, that women should be treated equal to men, or that this country is in need of a Savior to correct all the wrongs. It’s even possible you believe the opposite of everything that you just read. And in case you haven’t heard it before… that’s OK. Yep, I said it. It’s OK.

I have reached a point in my life where I seek to understand, not agree. I was invited to attend an interview for a position in someone else’s office. Being that we have a partnership and the new hire would work closely with my staff, I was invited to give my opinion of the candidate. Afterwards, we went around the table to talk through pros and cons, areas of strengths and areas of concern. I recognized that I was an outsider in this office and that my opinion was from where I was sitting-distant. However, in true Shae fashion, I provided my thoughts based on my observation.

Although many agreed with what I had to say, some did not. And for a second we went back and forth and it was evident we were frustrated with each other’s views. After the discussion was done, I went around the table to greet and embrace everyone, even the one I just had a disagreement with. We hugged and caught up on family happenings. You see, I did not have to agree with what she said to respect her. I recognize that just as I am entitled to my opinion, she is entitled to hers.  To an immature person, our friendly embrace and chatter would have seemed odd. Were they not just disagreeing? I know Shae, she’s mad and faking it, pretending as if she likes her. This could not be any farther from the truth.

God designed us to be different individuals. I can’t celebrate our differences one day and then hold it against you another. In this situation, and even more serious circumstances, I seek to understand, not agree and I hope that my conversation partner would do the same. Even if the truth hurts, it’s their truth. Even if the truth is a direct threat to my belief and values, it’s still their truth. And in some instances, even if their truth causes a divide between us, it’s still their truth.

So what do you do in these situations? Listen. The Bible tells us to be swift to hear and slow to speak. We win hearts and wars when we seek understanding over being right. We can’t force others to believe and think like we do. All we can do is pray. Pray for their understanding and yours. Pray that a compromise can be made, or you can agree to disagree and have peace with that. And as equally important, don’t deny who you are and what you believe because you think you stand alone.