It’s NOT Dead!

Whatever that “it” is in your life, isn’t over and done with as long as you give it roots.

My new home has beautiful landscaping. Someone took great care to arrange the plants, bushes and flower planters just so. It stands out amongst the other houses on the street, but I never fully appreciated it because my focus had been on the eyesore right in the middle of it all – a dead space that ceased to grow. I couldn’t tell what kind of plant had been there prior, but it had shriveled up and while the rest of the yard was brimming with foliage, lilac, roses and creeping green vines, it remained grey and dry all summer and into the fall. All winter I have been contemplating the cost of having the plant ripped up and replaced with something better. I had already decided what needed to be done in order to restore the garden to its glory.

Today, as I walked between the evergreens and the dry bushes that will soon be teaming with life again, I noticed something … the one I presumed a lost cause, wasn’t dead at all! Two new, strong and vibrant branches had somehow pushed through the dead wood and were reaching out to the sunlight. These branches even had leaves on them! I missed it. I walked right past that plant time and time again and assumed it had nothing to offer and there was no need to look its way and I wrote it off.

I guess I needed this revelation today because as I settled back inside, I began to praise God. My heart was full of promise and expectation. I’ve been looking for some things in my life. I had assumed some of them were empty and a waste of my time. Have you ever felt that way?

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Well, It’s NOT dead. Whatever that “it” is in your life, isn’t over and done with as long as you give it roots. Roots come in all forms in our lives – prayer, expectancy, faith, work, service, dedication, promise, etc. Whatever it is you’ve cast away needs your attention and encouragement so that it can push through and LIVE! The work of your hands will bear fruit. The creations of your heart will change lives. Your “it” will bloom again!

Be encouraged today as you look forward to spring and all it has to offer. May your springtime be eternal and not just a season.

For insight on surviving “Dry Places,” read on!

 

 

Tools for Making it Through

Whether you’ve found yourself there because you’ve lost something or someone, felt the pinch of financial uncertainty, have been challenged by physical limitations or any combination of things, there is still hope for better days.

How to stay focused and productive

“The Dry Place” isn’t at all a desired destination. It isn’t a place you expect to be, and you can’t haphazardly wander into it. The dry place is a season of lack and wanting that seems to have a sudden start, yet no end in sight. It can’t be fixed with human hands and its nature ensures that you feel isolated. Once you’ve arrived there, you know it! You feel it in your bones. It chews away at your peace and challenges your sanity. The dry place hovers like thick fog, making it difficult to see the things and people you love.

The good news is that you will survive it … if you want to. Whether you’ve found yourself there because you’ve lost something or someone, felt the pinch of financial uncertainty, have been challenged by physical limitations or any combination of things, there is still hope for better days. But anyone who wants to survive it needs to get their survival gear in order.

You Need:

  • Your faith – hold on to what you believe in and don’t waver because of the circumstances. If you believe that God is bigger than what you are going through, hold fast to that and act in victory as you pass through this season.
  • Encouragers – Find positivity wherever you can within your circle of friends, family and co-workers. Spend time with and glean from those who lift you up and remind you of the good. If you’re not finding the inspiration you need, seek it out through social media, bloggers, uplifting music and/or motivational reading. Read Psalms!
  • A record – On your worst days, write down how you feel. When things start to get better, document what is happening and how it came about. When you are in doubt, take note and when you feel like no one understands and you find yourself crying out to God, journal it out. Make detailed notes of your prayers during this time. The worst thing one can do when going through this type of journey is to fail to document the progress and blessings along the way. You’ll be grateful for this record once you make it to the other side.
  • Quiet time & rest – This season requires a lot of your time, mental energy, strength and emotion. Trying to power through it without proper rest, meditation and time being still is a recipe for disaster. Take care of your body and feed your mind.
  • A trusted partner – whether it be a close friend, sister, spouse or church elder, you need someone in your life to understand what you are going through – all of it! This is the person who you would trust to check in on you and care about your well-being. This is a person who can pray for you and celebrate with you when the storm calms.

These are all valuable tools that can be of use in many phases of our lives, but in a season of waiting and uncertainty, they are key to survival. You’re not doing growing and stretching yet. These mountains will move, the sun will again shine and you will again find footing in the green. Just don’t stop walking!

For more information about Stephanie Godwin-Chu or to request a speaking engagement, visit www.StephanieGodwinChu.com

Ladies, We Can Have It All! … Right? (4 min read)

Can you be a stellar wife, mom AND career woman? Of course! But…

Sitting in a conference room with a group of women had never made me so uncomfortable.

The meeting was due to start, but everyone was casually talking while waiting on a key person to arrive. It started as most conversations do: a little chatter about the weather, what everyone had on their agenda for the rest of the week and what was going to be happening in the coming week at the organization. I shared also … at first. Everyone was in the same boat – tired and a bit over-extended due to the demands of our prospective jobs.

Then, it took what I felt was a negative turn, but I seemed to be the only one who bowed out at that point. One of the ladies made a joke about how many days had passed since she’d seen her elementary-aged son due to her hectic work schedule. Quickly, someone else quipped that she’d be stopping by a local meal prep service on the way home to grab food for her family because she didn’t “have time to cook anymore.” More stories were traded back and forth with a startling theme. They all had in some way forsaken their spouses, homes, children and personal lives to meet the needs of their ever-demanding career.

Watching it all unfold in what felt like slow motion, had an effect on me. Motivational speaker, John O’Leary calls this “an inflection point.”

“Inflection points” can appear as insignificant or monumental; as positive or negative; they are the events, encounters and decisions that, once they’ve occurred: life afterwards is completely altered.*

I had a decision to make.

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Two paths were being put before me, but only one of them was being normalized. I had been on a personal crusade for months at that point (unbeknownst to the other women). My husband and I were determined to develop a healthier work/life balance. We were spending more time together, dating more, protecting our personal time and we had promised not to bring work home every day. Compromise for the sake of our jobs had taken priority for years and our marriage started to suffer.

I am a firm believer in Matthew 6:24, which says that no one can serve two masters. Can you be a stellar wife, mom AND career woman? Of course! But along the way, compromise will be required and a time will come where you’ll have to rank what’s important to you.

What you spend time on, devote energy to and feed will ultimately grow. What you neglect shrivels up and eventually dies. That’s just the way it is. Men and women both fight these battles silently every day, but it’s usually us women who experience the brunt of the guilt.

Can we have it all? Truthfully, I don’t believe that anymore. I don’t believe we can be everything to everyone and serve in a demanding corporate culture and put our children and families first at the same time. I don’t believe we have enough in our being to be excellent in all and everywhere we need to be and still have sanity at the end of the day!

I’ve never met a balanced high-level executive, company president or business owner who hasn’t made some type of compromise or change in responsibilities to achieve a family focus. It’s simply something that a stable life and nurtured relationships require.

You will either conform to the culture that opposes your priorities and values or you will need to separate yourself from it in order to stay true to yourself.

 

*John O’Leary is the author of “On Fire: 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life”

Your Purpose Doesn’t Require a Co-Signer (1 min read)

PurposeDoesn't need a Co-signer

Wouldn’t it be great if every time we had an awesome idea or felt led to do something amazing, all of our family and friends lined up to support us and cheer us on?

Unfortunately that isn’t real life for most of us…not even close!

But hey…so what???

Some of the most dynamic people to ever walk the Earth were told over and over again that they couldn’t achieve what they wanted to accomplish. If success was easy, more people would have it. If the road was well-travelled, the destination wouldn’t be so sacred. It’s work. It takes determination, a go-getter attitude and a bit of what most people would view as insanity (having the faith to take risks).

They’ve told you you’re too young… or too old, too this, too that, too ____. We’ll there’s got to be “the youngest/oldest, etc. person to ever _____________________ .” Why can’t that person be you?

I like to say it this way: “It’s not over until you sit down.” Even if you get knocked down on your journey to making the vision a reality, it’s not TKO unless you stay down.

There will be disappointments and annoying people that get in the way. But you know that already, so act accordingly when they reveal themselves to you.

You are your own best cheerleader. Your inner voice of confidence and resilience has to be louder than the others.

Now that we’ve had this pep talk, go and do great things with those gifts of yours!

Blessings!

 

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Your purpose is tied to who you ARE, not who you want to be at some point in the future. Life is short…start somewhere, but start!

Purpose Is Tied To Who You Are, Not Who You Wish To Become

If all you have is an old second-hand chair, paper plates, red plastic cups and warm leftovers, so be it! Purpose doesn’t mind. It won’t turn up its nose at your offerings and demand fine china and a five course meal.

-Purpose wants to make use of your scars, blemishes and imperfections.- - Stephanie Godwin-Chu

If I had a dollar for every moment of fear and doubt, I would be a wealthy woman!

I can’t even begin to recount all the times I’ve gone through the list: too short, too quiet, too smart, too serious, too busy, too young, too old, not pretty enough, too pregnant, too small, too fat, not knowledgeable enough, not outgoing enough, not popular enough … to go, to say, to ask, to believe, to share, to be (fill in the blank).

If you can name it…I’ve doubted it. If you can imagine it, I’ve feared it.

I’m in my early thirties and just now realizing that the vision I have for my life, for business and for my family is not tied to the person I think I should be … eventually – one day when I get it all right and have lots to show for it. No! My purpose is here, right now, patiently waiting in the corner for me to make up my mind and take another step forward. Purpose has chosen me and I have to also choose Purpose every day for progress to take place. It leads and I follow.

Your purpose is woven into the fabric of you. It’s always been there, waiting for the right time to show itself. If you look back at all of your pains, secrets, disappointments, goals, achievements and life plans, you will likely see it. Purpose leaves footprints all over our being. It reveals itself in our dreams, heartaches, how we solve problems and what drives us to get out of bed and try again day after day. Purpose looks back at you in the mirror and whispers, “there must be more than this.”

It’s time to celebrate and invite Purpose to the table of your life. Pull up a chair and allow Purpose to partake of what you have to offer. If all you have is an old second-hand chair, paper plates, red plastic cups and warm leftovers, so be it! Purpose doesn’t mind. It won’t turn up its nose at your offerings and demand fine china and a five course meal. Purpose will be patient with your flaws and meet you where you are. Purpose cheers you on at every milestone. Purpose will grow with you if you allow it.

Purpose is brokenness turned into perfection. Your purpose isn’t meant to make sense to everyone else. Purpose knows your name, address and phone number and loves who are right now and that’s all that matters.

 

Be Like the Tree!

The hardest thing you have been through to this point is the thing you felt would break you until you bent and stretched and made it through.

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Whether a sapling planted a year ago or monster of one hundred years old; a successful tree requires a few key things. It needs firm, spreading, anchoring roots that tie it down. The tree has to be able to absorb and store water and nutrients for later and bend when needed to prevent breaking.

Remember that thing you thought you wouldn’t make it through? Remember how you pleading and begged for it to be over because it was just “too much?” You look back at it now and see the miracle in your own survival, ability to adjust and adapt. You can see the required pain it took to foster the growth you now enjoy. You are like a tree. We all are.

The hardest thing you have been through to this point is the thing you felt would break you until you bent and stretched and made it through. There will be other storms. Some you will see as equals, some lesser and some far more fierce in magnitude, but you will have the opportunity to once again conquer.

Spring always reminds me of nature and what the Earth has to offer. Hopefully, it reminds you of what you have been through in the past year and what you have to look forward to (renewal). Purpose to be like a tree – flexible, grounded and flourishing. Don’t allow the rot of self-doubt, apprehension or toxic relationships destroy you. You may lose some leaves, a branch or two, but you will come out victorious in the end as long as you hold fast to your foundations or truth, love, humility and faith.

Change is inevitable. How you respond to it is your strength.

Burnout: When What You Have To Give Is Not Enough

I used to think, how does one lose herself? Is she not attached? Where did she go? Now, I get it. I see it. I feel it.

Since the start of February, I’ve had the urge to break up with my life. I’m not talking about an all-out divorce, but definitely a trial separation. I think my life and I need to evaluate what we want from each other. We need space and time to determine whether we are meant to be together.

My life demands eager attentiveness, ingenuity, constant motherhood, gracious servitude and loyal wifedom. Life doesn’t care that I am physically unable to keep up at times. She runs ahead of me, occasionally looking back to mock my aches, pains and sleepless nights. She doesn’t think it’s important that I’m indeed exhausted and in need of quality me time. My life snickers at my daydreams of packing a bag and leaving for a solitary weekend sabbatical. She knows that I’m too loyal and unselfish to follow through.

She simply says, “Get on with it. Pull up your big girl panties and be WOMAN!”

I would rather play in a sandbox and artfully craft a beautiful rock garden, roll in a grassy field underneath the afternoon sun or write for hours in blessed seclusion and reflection. Could I hop aboard a last-minute flight to an unfamiliar city and explore? I promise to leave a heartfelt note and detailed instructions for the care and feeding of the toddler. I am, after all, a mother.

As I write this on the back of a piece of paper I found at the bottom of my junky purse (the first thing I’ve written in over a month), I sit alone, but not at all lonely. I’m at one of my favorite restaurants, dining on Japanese noodles and salad. I’m enjoying a forbidden sugary soda – something I can’t have at home with a child around because she wants a bite…a piece…a sip…a lick of EVERYTHING she lays eyes on! I’m grateful to not be sharing, talking, answering, explaining, wiping tables, fingers, and cheeks or instructing. I’m just sitting, eating, thinking and in this long overdue moment of clarity, I’ve found myself unexpectedly writing.

This wasn’t a planned lunch date, but a personal intervention of sorts. My life dictated errands and grocery shopping for the afternoon. I was on my way to the supermarket when I suddenly found myself turning into the parking lot. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I hadn’t eaten and I hadn’t noticed. It was 2p.m. If one could be brought up on charges for neglecting themselves, I would be a candidate for serious time.

So, I’m soaking this time in. I am in no hurry whatsoever.

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I’ve heard women say it countless times, but I didn’t understand the meaning of the phrase until now… “I lost myself.”

I used to think, how does one lose herself? Is she not attached? Where did she go?

Now, I get it. I see it. I feel it.

When I return home today with a trunk full of groceries, there will be meals to plan for the week, a potty training toddler to wake, a heap of laundry to fold and food to put away. I will have help, but I am the sergeant. I must be vigilant, present and give specific guidance. Then, my life will quickly demand the a change of clothes, waking the toddler and explaining the necessity of going to the potty again, dressing and combing of hair, packing of snacks, water and more snacks and off to church service. After that, my life will yell for more of my time and energy, but I won’t dare think that fare ahead.

My life has all of me, but I feel the need to set boundaries with her and take some of my control back. There is so much to do and so many people to please and care for, but what about me? Life’s demands have filled my calendar and restricted my freedom and creativity. I stopped striving to be perfect a long time ago, at least. All I want in this season of my life is to be balanced, healthy and sane.

I don’t want to look back in sadness and utter those words, “I lost myself.”

I realize now that what I have to give will be enough when I purpose to regularly give myself enough of what I NEED – time, peace and quiet, space to be creative, meditation, relaxation, exercise and the regular feeding of my soul. I cannot continue to try and give what I don’t have.

My interpretation of what life wanted, left me in my current position – last on the priority list. I’m not even penciled on my own calendar anymore! For this relationship to work, life has to start treating me like she used to with intellectual stimulation, date nights, lunch dates, massages, hair appointments, pedicures and good sleep. I also won’t mind the occasional pair of shoes or new handbag – she can afford it.

I might have to sneak away for a few hours and allow some of life’s needs to linger, but I purpose to do it without guilt because guilt has brought me to this uncomfortable place on the edge of reason. Guilt has worn me out and left me empty.

Here’s to more solitary lunches, walks in the park, coffee shop visits and shopping trips in my near future!

 

 

Teleology: Your Life, Your Choice, Your Purpose

If I believed everything that I read, I would believe that everyone has a deep hatred for people different than themselves. If I believed that every snide comment and hateful word vocalized the secret feelings of the strangers I come into contact with on a daily basis, I would be ruled by fear.

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There is so much happening in the atmosphere. The year has just begun and I already feel like there is unprecedented potential for renewal and growth, if we allow it. However, I also see that people are hurting, disappointed and stuck reliving past hang ups. In this political and social climate, I have made the choice to believe that people inherently desire to be and do good, even when they fail at it. I feel it’s more important now than ever.

I have a problem.

I read the news online and I inevitably find myself reluctantly reading the commentary, even though I have made repeated promises to myself not to. I know…I definitely shouldn’t. It’s not healthy and most of the time, it’s not productive. In the comments is where the ugly underbelly of humanity is exposed. It’s laid out for all of the world to see, unapologetic and crude. It’s where people have the gall to say things about and to others that they would never say to their face. It’s sad, frustrating and often depressing.

If I believed everything that I read, I would believe that everyone has a deep hatred for people different than themselves. If I believed that every snide comment and hateful word vocalized the secret feelings of the strangers I come into contact with on a daily basis, I would be ruled by fear. If I believed even a fraction of what I see in those despicable comments was prevalent thinking, then I would believe that the world is doomed and I might as well give up.

I have a solution.

I have chosen to believe that I can make a positive impact intentionally by being authentically who I am. I know that I can do it, if I do so with purpose. I will continue to bless strangers in secret when I feel led to do so. I will speak kind words to encourage and uplift those who seem to be struggling with life. I will pray for those who seem to be disconnected, mean and hurting. I will smile at strangers and say “Hello!” even when they don’t smile back. I will hug people with permission and compliment them honestly. I will leave my house determined to make someone’s day better, however I can.

The week before Christmas, I stood in line at a busy deli counter in the grocery store, patiently waiting my turn. The young black gentleman behind the counter was visibly flustered. He had commands coming at him from all angles: his co-workers were asking him questions about what was in the back and customers were asking for deli meat, cheese, a little bit of potato salad (No, that’s not enough!), and so on. It was on my heart to say something kind to him. I was last in line. He took my order and packed my grilled chicken in a deli back, weighed it and handed it to me.

“Thank you.” I said with a smile. “You’re doing a good job.”

He looked at me with disbelief. He shook his head in disagreement as if what I said wasn’t true. He ducked back behind the counter to straighten up the display and close the sliding glass door. Then he turned his back to me to go on to the next task awaiting him. I walked away.

I purpose to acknowledge those I meet and let them know that they matter because I will never know how much they need to hear it.

I won’t argue with foolishness. I won’t let anger and suspicion rule my thoughts. I will stop reading the commentary since it ads not one ounce of light to my life. I will instead, put out positive, encouraging and uplifting words. I choose to be accountable for what I put out into this world, even when others do not.

I am also determined to make my own way, figure it out as I go and take risks even though I may be hurt in the process. I won’t let anyone’s opinion of me, my talents, my abilities or experiences dictate my potential. There will always be someone who feels like I am inferior because I’m a full-time mom, because I am black, because I am a woman…because, because, because. I won’t let them win. You shouldn’t either!

It’s your life. How you live it is your choice, but do it with purpose.

 

 

 

A Vision of Peace

The snow has covered all of the ugly. Of course, it’s still there underneath the blanket – the broken down car that’s been parked on the street for way too long, the crooked sidewalk, overgrown hedges, rusted chain link fences and sorry excuse of a lawn aren’t visible anymore.

I’m used to hearing people here in the Midwest say, “I love winter.” Or “I love it when it snows!” I grew up in the South and didn’t share the same sentiment when I first moved here. However, it’s grown on me over the last thirteen years or so. It’s common here to hit the man made ski slopes, go sledding or build snowmen. I love it too, but for a different reason.

Have you ever realized how quiet the Earth seems after a heavy snow? It’s like a large blanket that muffles everything. Cars driving by on the street seem quieter. The animals – birds, squirrels, etc. are quieter. You automatically feel the need to hibernate, stay home and rest, drink a hot beverage and do something low-key or do nothing at all. All of the sudden, the fireplace that doesn’t get used, seems necessary.

Last night, we had about three inches of light fluffy snow. I call this the “good kind of snow” – no ice on the sidewalks or roads. I woke up this morning to bright white light streaming through my curtains and it made me happy. But today, I was able to connect the dots and I know now why this weather makes me feel this way.

I’ve recently been ushered into a place of peace in my life. I’ve experienced loss, reconciliation, self-realization and I have also had to cut out some toxic people. However, I have so much joy and feel completely at ease. The things I have experienced in the last twelve months would have been enough to send me into a spiraling depression ten years ago. Today, I accept all of these things as part of my growth journey.

The snow has covered all of the ugly. Of course, it’s still there underneath the blanket – the broken down car that’s been parked on the street for way too long, the crooked sidewalk, overgrown hedges, rusted chain link fences and sorry excuse of a lawn aren’t visible anymore. All I see is pure white. All I hear is quiet and whispers of blowing wind.

I imagine God covering me with a blanket in my times of sorrow and confusion. The blanket is white, soft as snow, all-encompassing, warm and shielding. It covers my frustration, regrets, doubts and all of my ugliness. It’s how I’ve made it this far. It’s the reason why I look out of my window and smile, despite the cold. This is what I imagine peace looks like.