A new vision

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

My spiritual mentor has told me this on numerous occasions. The saying proved true in my journey to finding my spiritual mentor, and it proved true when finding my career mentor, too.

467039_10151664152983185_896591402_oIn 2005, I attended the Arkansas Association of Colleges and Employers conference. In addition to meeting other fabulous speakers—people who would be key to my success and landmarks in my career journey—I met Samantha Hartley, Founder and President of Enlightened Marketing. Her story and vision inspired me. A few months later, after relocating to central Arkansas, I decided to go beyond the typical follow-up after a conference (a LinkedIn invitation and message stating how much I enjoyed her presentation) and contact her to invite her to lunch. She said yes.

I held back the first time we met even though I probably wanted to beg for assistance. I didn’t want to scare the poor woman off! I’m sure I still sounded like a wayward child (I was). I truly had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go in life. In addition, my personal life was in shambles. I could find no peace and stability in my career until I found personal and spiritual peace and stability; Samantha recognized this and even pointed this out at the time. Samantha offered some ideas and suggestions, but our initial meeting was more about getting to know one another, as it should have been.

Over the next few years, we kept in touch and met a few times face to face. Samantha’s guidance was crucial. My career goals ran the gamut. I was good at everything, highly adaptable, a quick study, and stuck at a certain salary range. I kept leaving jobs in hopes of greener grass, and finding similar stubble. I couldn’t figure out my missteps until one morning over pancakes when Samantha encouraged me to create what I call my vision card. I lacked vision—and I kept accepting positions that weren’t aligned with my passion, my values, or my goals. As soon as I fixed the problems that presented themselves, I became bored, and I moved on.

vision cardSamantha asked me to create a vision board. However, I’m not really into pictures as much as I am into words, and she said that was okay. So my board because a card, and when I pictured a big display of images, the images were just words. So I wrote down all the words I envisioned.

Something beautiful is happening in my life right now. On this journey of life, I’m finding that each time I look back at my vision card, my current position aligns even more closely with the words written on it.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

I believe this is a direct result of planned and thoughtful decision-making, of saying no to interviews, of listening to my gut, of stepping away from situations that feel wrong or incomplete and stepping closer to situations and people that feel right and that align more closely with my values and goals.

If Samantha were not in my life, and were not willing to thoughtfully consider each question I ask her before responding and provide such excellent mentorship—without asking anything in return, except that I give to others—I might still feel like an aimless soul rather than a purpose-driven woman.

Being a mom: it’s hard, y’all

Today’s post is the first in what I hope to be a series of post by friends and guest contibutors on the topic of Mother’s Day and all things related. Big thanks to my guest writer today, blogger and former Arkansan Kambri Davidson, who now lives a more glamorous life with her husband Drew in New Orleans. Be sure to check out Kambri’s blog or follow her on Instagram @kambridavidson & @kambris_closet. 

NKL5I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. I’ve always daydreamed about holding babies, having toddlers running through my house, and hearing tiny mouths call me “Mom.” Now that I’m old enough and am in a position where children are actually a possibility for my husband and me, I’m absolutely terrified of raising children. I think a lot of people think being a mom is a lot easier than it actually is. I know I used to. My mom makes it look easy, but man, sometimes I don’t know how she does it.

NKL1Between my sister and me, my mom has had her hands beyond full. I went through a period when I never wanted to be around my mom. I was rude to her, ignored her, and used her only when I needed money or wanted her to buy me something. I honestly cannot imagine how badly I must have hurt her. Kids are mean. I was mean. And yet she still wanted to be my friend. She still loved me and cared for me.

NKL8A couple of years ago, my sister was having a really rough time. She was in an abusive relationship, an alcoholic, a heavy smoker, doing drugs, and wanted nothing to do with my mom, my dad, or me. I can remember where I was every time I got a phone call from one of my parents telling me that my sister was back in the hospital for overdosing. My feelings, these wounds she was creating, would callous and callous until I wanted nothing to do with her. I loved her, yes, but I hated everything she was doing and didn’t want her to communicate with me at all. I built up so much anger against her. My parents didn’t. My parents loved her, were there for her, forgave her, welcomed her, and encouraged her to get better.

3328I’m not telling you any of this to scare you. I’m telling you so you know a few of the obstacles my mom has had to put up with over the past 26 years. Regardless of the situation in front of her, she asks God for help. She leans on Him. She is kind, even when people are unkind to her. She listens, even when you don’t want to talk. She supports whatever decisions my sister and I make. THAT is why we love celebrating Mother’s Day; to celebrate my mom, Karen Grace Campbell, for every moment she has been there for her daughters, for showing us what a mother should be like.

NKL3So, happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I love you!

PS: My sister is now married to the love of her life and has been sober for over TWO YEARS! Jesus is good, y’all! Oh, also, I am no longer a jerk. My mom, my sister, and me are all BFF’s now!

Leap of faith, part two

*Today is the second part of “Leap of Faith” by my friend LaTresha Woodruff-Johnson about her God-led journey. Check out this piece about LaTresha which appeared recently in Sync magazine. LaTresha celebrates her three-year anniversary with the Conway Police Department on January 31.*

LaTresha at work

LaTresha at work

I committed a leap of faith when I left my television news reporter job, the only job I had ever known and loved.  I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do from there; I just knew God had a plan for my career and my life.  After all of the job opportunities I had been chasing got caught by someone else (my way of saying I did not get the job), I devised a plan.  I got up each morning, spent time in the presence of my heavenly father through meditation, prayer and studying His Word, and then I searched the internet for jobs for a couple of hours.  When that was complete I called somebody, heck anybody, who could spare a little time for a housewife, to meet for lunch.  I also volunteered and dabbled in cooking just a little, enough to satisfy my husband. 

My days of worrying about what God’s next step would be were over; I made the conscious decision to bask in the fact that, “He could do anything but fail” and that God was simply preparing me for what he had in store. He was about to enlarge my territory both spiritually and in my career.  I wore this new attitude well.  Even my husband noticed a change in me, and he liked it!  We all know a “happy wife means a happy life.”   Men, if you don’t know that, I have just solved all of your problems. 

In November of 2010 my wonderful husband read an article in the local newspaper announcing a job fair at a local college.  I reluctantly went thinking, “You don’t get the kind of job I am looking for at a college job fair.”  I got to campus, and I could not find a parking spot and annoyingly stated out loud that I was going home NOW!  Well that didn’t work, because I could hear the still quiet voice in my head saying, “I am in control of all things,” and suddenly a spot became open.  Once over that hurdle along came another.  It was pouring rain, and my umbrella was nearly taken away by the wind. I started to turn back, but the voice of God wouldn’t let me. 

I forged on, and when I reached the building, I was drenched, but I put on my face on and went inside thinking I will just pick up items to prove to my husband I had in fact gone to the job fair.   I went in, stopped at the first table and got stuff so my job there was done, so I thought.   Besides the trinkets like pens and stress balls, I had really nothing to show for my little visit.  Then I saw a familiar face, a police officer I had worked with for several years.  He was the Public Information officer for the police department, and I interviewed him often about cases being interviewed by the department.  He informed me that he had gotten a promotion.  I congratulated him, and the light bulb went off in my head. 

Before I knew it, I asked, “So who is going to be the public information officer now?”  He said he wasn’t sure, but he believed they were considering a particular officer.  I then proceeded to tell him that I would be their next PIO, to which he replied that they do not hire civilians; their PIOs have always been police officers.  I thought well, that may be, but it’s about to change.   We took a picture, hugged and I set about my mission to be the Public Information Officer/Spokesperson for the police Department.  I got into my car and called a Lieutenant at the PD and told him when he had coffee with the Chief the next morning to tell him he needed to hire LaTresha as the PIO.  He seemed to like the idea and agreed to do so.  Meanwhile I went to a friend’s house and told her I would no longer be a housewife and that I was about to start working as the PIO/Spokesperson for the police department.  She was excited and said I never mentioned that I had an interview and I informed her that I had not had an interview, but I knew this was what the Lord had for me.  She gave me a strange look,  but God would not be denied. While I was there I got a call back from the Lieutenant saying he tried to sit still and wait until tomorrow, but he decided to go ahead and talk to the Chief, and he felt the Chief would call me next week. (This is where I will start to insert the phrase “But God.”) 

I was super excited; this was shaping up to be the best Wednesday EVER!  I didn’t think it could get any better, but it did, “But God.”   While I was still at my friend’s house, I got a call from the Police Chief himself!  I said to him, “So you got my message,” his reply was, “Yes along with emails, phone calls and a picture.”   We set a meeting for Friday. He wanted Thursday, but remember I got rained on, and my hair was a dreadful mess so I needed to get myself to a salon so I could pull it all together.

That Friday meeting changed my life and probably the Police Chief’s life.  I went to meet him full of confidence and ideas.  We shook hands, and I proceeded to talk for probably the next 45 minutes about how I could do a more effective job than a police officer because I was the media, and I knew how to deal with the media.  I know what they need before they get there and can move the process along faster.  I truly believed that Officers were trained to serve and protect and that while the previous PIO’s did a great job, they were better at being police officers. 

So I implored him to allow them to do what they were trained to do and bring me on to do what I was trained to do.  Because I knew lots of people from my reporting days and people knew and liked me, I felt I could launch outreach programs to help really endear the police department more to the community.  By the end of my speech I asked him, “Do you have any questions?”  He seemed stunned, I didn’t know if he was stunned by how much I talked or stunned by my knowledge and confidence  (I later learned it was all three).  The Chief admitted he had had reservations about changing the position but added after listening to me he believed it was a great idea and wanted to see it happen. It did after all the red tape of city government.  I started working as the Public Information Officer/Spokesperson on January 31, 2011.  

I am a testimony to the fact that you should never give up on God because He will not give up on you.  Just when you think you have no options, like He did for Abraham in the book of Genesis Chapter 22, the Lord will provide a ram in the bush!

13Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”…

In those times when the battle made me weary, and I felt I couldn’t hear God, I stopped and listened for his voice.  (Psalm 46:10)

Be still, and know that I am God:

When I look back over this experience I realize that when we are still, and we listen to God and really live out His will for our lives, it works out just as he planned.  You see if I had left my reporting job in 2008, if I had moved on my own and not waited for my answer for from the Lord, I am confident that I would not be where I am today.  This job was not open in 2008 when I wanted to leave the news business.  God was creating this opportunity just for me.  If I had moved on my own, who knows where I would be.  “But God”   Because I waited on the Lord I am in a wonderful place spiritually, personally and professionally.  I love my job, I am not micromanaged, my boss trusts my judgment, I am allowed to be my creative self, and I have the respect of my colleagues and my community.  And they all know I love the Lord and am driven by the fact that I am His child and that He wants the best for me. 

I encourage you to pray about whatever situation you are facing and be ready to listen for God’s voice and to follow His will for your life.  My Leap of Faith not only allowed me to land in a great place to work, but I am also always resting comfortably in the arms of my Lord and Savior!   

 

Day 18: Dear Perfect Baby

*Day 18 of the Dear Gratitude project is really special; my former boss and friend, Jenny Cannon, shares her reflections on her decision to forgo having an amniocentesis procedure prior to delivering her daughter, Claire, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth.*

It has been six months.  Six months since I anxiously timed contractions and took a warm bath to ease the pain.  Six months since my husband and I nervously laughed and joked about my labor starting one day before my scheduled c-section.  Six months since I delivered the most beautiful baby girl I had ever laid eyes on.  And six months since we received the diagnosis– Down syndrome.

Claire DSI have a lot to be thankful for in the last 6 months:  a healthy baby, no medical complications, an amazing husband and the love and support of my friends and family.  But one thing I’m surprisingly thankful for is that I did not have a prenatal diagnosis.  Don’t get me wrong; I did not feel this way in the beginning.  In fact, initially I was angry that I didn’t have a prenatal diagnosis.  I had 3 high-resolution ultrasounds–how did the doctors not know!?!  I said many times “if only I had known, I would have…”  But when it comes down to it, what would I have done if I had known that my precious little angel would have 47 chromosomes? I can say for certain I would not have terminated my pregnancy, but that’s where my certainty ends.

Would I have let the myths and stereotypes of Down syndrome negatively affect the remainder of my pregnancy?    Would I have let my tears and disappointment get in the way of the love growing in my heart?  Would sadness and depression have stopped me from decorating the nursery or buying every piece of baby gear available?  Would the nervous laughter and excitement I felt on the way to the hospital have been replaced by dread and fear?  Would grief have prevented me from truly celebrating my pregnancy or Claire’s birth?  Would a prenatal diagnosis have caused me to give up without giving her a fighting chance?  I don’t know.

What would have been different if I had a prenatal diagnosis . . .  I will never know, and for that, I’m thankful.

Claire pageant picA prenatal diagnosis could not have convinced me that my little baby would be perfect.  Or that her smile would light up every room she enters and that she would immediately calm all my worries and fears.  Or that the love I would feel for her and the pride I have for her accomplishments would equal the love and pride I have for my firstborn child.

Today I say thank you to the doctor who discouraged me from having an amnio; thank you to the nurse who emphasized the risks involved with having one; and thank you to the sonographers for maintaining their belief that there was nothing wrong with the little girl growing in my tummy.  They were right—there is NOTHING wrong with Claire.  She is perfect just the way God made her–all 47 chromosomes!

Day 10–Dearly loved

Photo by Kelly Booy

Photo by Kelly Booy

*Big thank you to my friend Kelly Booy for agreeing to contribute to the “28 days of love” project!*

I have had a consistent prayer for contentment these last couple of years!  My awareness of this need came one summer day in 2009 while on a walk in the Dutch farmlands.  A quiet, picturesque moment on a bench overlooking Kinderdijk’s windmills was interrupted by a pesky bird.  In the midst of worship, I found myself wiping away bird poop from my temple and hair!!  Striking me as funny and strangely appropriate, I could not hold back the giggles.  It was an intimate message as strange as the delivery.  I couldn’t shake the imagery, sweet silence and the words that came to mind, “Even in this mess you are dearly loved and cared for.”

The years following could be described as a roller coaster.  My family and I made the decision to move back to Arkansas, September of 2009, after spending two years of our life in Holland.  My husband had gone back to school in the country of his birth, receiving an International MBA, our two small children had learned some of the language and culture, and we had connected with family and made new friends.   It was an amazing experience with many highlights and some obstacles, but overall we were super thankful.  In thinking about moving back to Arkansas, I knew that I would struggle with contentment.  I would even venture to say that there was an underlying fear of the mundane–like walking down the mountain into a valley.

Within the year following our return to central Arkansas, we had bought a car, a substantially sized home, and thankfully had a job!  We settled into a church that we loved and were challenged every day by the Gospel, a simple message:  While we were still sinners Christ died.  We were surrounded by dear friends and making many new ones.  Life was good.

Soon we were staring unemployment down;  contemplating selling the home we loved because we couldn’t afford (it) to get it to the state we wanted, nursing a torn Achilles tendon, had a shingles flair up, facing impending student loans, medical bills, a second round of unemployment , professional rejections,  car issues, etc . . . Needless to say our faith was tried, and we were feeling seriously helpless, anxious, and humbled.

My prayer for contentment had taken an interesting twist, and honestly I can’t say that it was what I had wanted and/or expected!  My perspective was skewed, and I was doubting the truth that God was my provider.  Slowly I started to notice the little things, like:  we had never gone without food, we had clothes and shoes, we were able to continue making our mortgage payments, and those gentle offers of help from friends and family.  Literally, every time I turned our ignition in our car I would say, “thank you God!”  I realize that this might sound a little “third world”, but truly God was doing a great work in my heart.  It became glaringly obvious that God was providing.

We welcomed our third child in August of 2011, Emma Jeanne Booy,. . . 10 days prior to losing our insurance due to our second job loss.  Strangely, the period of time following Emmy’s birth has been some of the sweetest I have ever experienced in my life to date.  (I had all but convinced myself that I would struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of Emmy.)  Stefan was home rigorously job hunting and working contract work on the side.  He had time to take morning walks with me and the baby. We sipped our morning coffee and shared difficult, intimate conversations.  Those months were profoundly precious and healing when they should have,  by all circumstantial appearances,  been shrouded with worry and fear.   I secretly began to praise God in the midst of the messiness.  My emotional state was more than intact, and I began to see glimmers of what it means to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

As I reflect over these last several years I am completely dumbfounded and thankful for the roller coaster.  My hope and prayer is that I never lose this realization– my “satisfaction or contentment” is not directly related to my situation or comfort.

The pesky bird might have shat on my head, but I can wipe off the mess all the while knowing I am dearly loved and cherished.

 

The small stuff

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

I agree. Now whether I’m always able to avoid stress-related perspiration . . . well, nobody’s perfect.

I was thinking yesterday when a friend of mine commented on how clean my house is that in some ways, the small stuff does matter.

I’m not referring to stressing out over every nook and cranny being dust-free and sanitized. I’m not implying that I think it’s wise to over analyze every single aspect of each of my relationships until I’m exhausted from aiming at perfection. Nor am I insinuating that I prefer to spend seconds of my precious life painstakingly dotting every i or crossing every t.

When I looked around our home last night, I certainly did not see a perfectly kept house. There was a stack of mail which needed to be tended to in the living room. A broom in the corner of the kitchen. A few dishes in the sink. But overall, the house was the way I like it–generally tidy and clean. At the end of a long, hot day, there’s nothing more relaxing than walking into the house, looking around, realizing there are no chores urgently calling my name, and enjoying time with my husband.

That would not be possible if I didn’t pay attention to the used paper towels left sitting on the coffee table. The pile of clean towels waiting to be folded. The pair of flip-flops flung into the corner of the wrong room. Lots of daily and hourly decisions to maintain the home combine to produce the desired end result: a comfortable, relaxing, and stress-free place to prop up my feet.

I suppose I could ignore all the little hourly messes and live in squalor, maybe even achieving hoarder status. But I’d rather make those small, daily decisions that are simple and quick than allow the clutter in my life to compile and overwhelm me. I’d ultimately have to dig through the rubble, and as I’ve learned, the easier way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Thankfully, I’ve learned to apply the same principle to the hours of my life in other ways–spiritually, psychologically, mentally, and physically. I’d rather choose water over soda pop today than wind up attempting to burn a ridiculous number of calories after letting my weight go berserk. I’d rather make the daily, sleepy decision to talk to God every morning and meditate on Scripture rather than turn on the television right away. I’d rather face the bitterness I feel toward someone who’s hurt me while the wound is still small and stinging than allow it to fester, become infected, and poison my attitude and relationships.

Sometimes, making the simple decision–over and over again–to pay attention to the small stuff helps me avoid the inevitable consequence of eventually wading and sorting through waist-high garbage in my life.

Pause-itivity

I have learned the value of pausing the hard way–by jumping in without thinking, thus making snap decisions without contemplating consequences or consulting the Creator.

Because I didn’t pause long enough to prayerfully gain perspective on many situations, I’ve made lots of mistakes. Big ones. Some were not fixable.

The good news is that after repeatedly paying the price for not pausing, I now tend to pause.

Sure, emergency and life-or-death situations require me to skip the pause. I’m not going to stand on the edge of the swimming pool while someone drowns because I have to first weigh the pros and cons of attempting to save his life. That’s just stupid.

I’m talking about pausing when I can, when it won’t be detrimental to anyone in any way, and when I have the option to take a few moments before moving in any direction.

I first learned about the value of the pause from my friend Dana. I learned some volatile information pertaining to my love life at the time, and Dana told me not to do anything or say anything until I’d prayed about it and waited for 24 hours. That was the longest 24 hours of my life. Holding it in and not letting my emotions take charge felt excruciating. However, those 24 hours allowed me time to cry, pray, think, and weigh my options. It also converted some of my emotional knee-jerk reactions into purposeful responses. I made a better decision regarding the situation because I paused.

Over the past four years, I’ve paused more and lurched forward less.

I’m less likely to be motivated by status or salary. Whereas I used to frantically revise my resume and apply for a job if it paid more or seemed more important than the one I had, I now take the time to consider what really matters. How many hours of my precious time on this earth will it take to do my best? How much more stress would it scrape onto my plate? What would I gain, and what would I lose in order to gain it?

I’m more likely to make decisions that help rather than harm. When I’m offended, rather than open my mouth with a hateful or passive-aggressive and sarcastic comeback, I tend to pause to give myself time to formulate a more rational, polite, and beneficial response. Or I say nothing at all. Not only does this typically diffuse hostile situations, but it also leads to a shorter list of things I regret and people I must make amends to. It also makes me feel better about myself and my level of maturity.

I’m not as prone to grab at what I want. I don’t purchase anything impulsively anymore. I keep a close eye on my budget, and my definitions of “need” and “want” have become more realistic. I find that if I pause long enough, I’ll determine that 90% of the time, I don’t need the whatever-it-is after all.

I’m also less likely to manipulate others for the sake of gratifying myself and managing outcomes, AKA controlling everyone and everything around me. If I pause, it gives me time to pray about what I’m about to say or do and to question my own motives. Am I trying to gain something by doing or saying that? Would it be better for me and the other person to let God handle the results (since, in fact, He is God)?

Pausing has saved me heartache, regret, and guilt. It’s whipped my bank account back into shape. It’s allowed me to make decisions I tend to stand by because the first decision is more often the right one now. Pausing gives me time to pray, to thank God for the beauty around me, and to open my hands to release the reins into His.