2017 Encouragement: It’s Not Over!

2017 is a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to shine brighter than you ever have before by faith!

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Whatever  you have been through in 2016 does not determine your future. You determine what happens from here. Don’t let those disappointments, failures, let downs, bad relationships and naysayers rob you of your joy. This is a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to shine brighter than you ever have before by faith!

Watch Here to see why I am so excited about 2017 and why you should be too!

Make 2017 marvelous (the type of year you’ll brag about!)

Find Purpose This Holiday Season with Ten Simply Fantastic Tips

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1. Focus on The Reason For the Season

Thanksgiving is about sharing quality time with family over good food, being thankful for our many blessings and acknowledging the relationships that we cherish. Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, a special gift to mankind. New Year’s Eve is the celebration of a year coming to a close and a new year full of possibilities. Although some may try to wash the holiday season in commercialism and mindless entertainment, don’t fall for it! This is an important time of year. Keep God, family and faith at the center and you can’t go wrong.

 

2. Choose People Over Possessions

Gift-giving is a big deal during the holidays and there is nothing wrong with that, but I plan as many social functions that are not gift-related as I can. Hosting or organizing a potluck, game night, trivia night, ornament craft party, holiday movie marathon or baking party allow you to connect with those you love, while doing something holiday-related.

To keep gift expectations reasonable, pulling names, organizing secret gift parties with a dollar limit or white elephant gift exchanges, where someone’s trash can become another person’s treasure, are ways to have fun without spending a lot of money. These activities come in handy with large families or groups where individual gift-giving could break the bank.

 

3. Have a Thankful Heart

Don’t be the Grinch! If you cannot afford to buy gifts for everyone, give Christmas cards with a heartfelt note instead. When I’ve been low on cash, but had a lot of cards to give to extended family or co-workers, I delivered hand-written cards with quality chocolate or candies to simply say, “thank you.” If a person has touched my life in a special way over the last year, I use it as an opportunity to let them know.

If someone wants to bless you, let them, even if you didn’t get them a gift. Keep a few blank Christmas cards and/or thank you cards and envelopes in your purse, work bag or desk. That way, if someone catches you off guard with a gift you weren’t expecting, you can show your gratitude by writing out a card before you forget.

 

4. Give Without Expectation

I make my Christmas list based on what is on my heart to give. It isn’t based on who I’m expecting to get gifts from. If you are giving gifts in expectation of keeping up appearances, making a statement or getting something in return, your heart is in the wrong place.

Give freely, sincerely and without needing reciprocity.

 

5. If You Don’t Have It, Don’t Spend It!

Thanksgiving to New Year’s is a period of about 40 days. It makes no sense to go broke trying to please everyone. When January 2nd rolls around, it’ll be time to head back to work, cars will need gas, rent and mortgages will need to be paid, electric bills and gas bills will be due and refrigerators will need to be re-stocked. The best way to start of the new year is with money in the bank and peace of mind.

So don’t max out your credit cards or take out payday loans out of desperation. As a child, I remember my parents sitting the five of us down one Christmas to explain that things were tight and my three oldest siblings and I wouldn’t get any gifts. My youngest sister was too young to understand so we all chipped in to make her Christmas memorable. It made us a bit sad at first, but we survived. There is nothing wrong with telling friends or family that you are on a budget and won’t be spending a lot of money this year.

 

6. Create Cherished Traditions

My husband and I have been able to start new traditions that are being passed down to our daughter. We decorate the tree together, make ornaments to add to our family collection and open gifts together. Most of the ornaments, ribbon and other decorations on our tree have sentimental value.

If you didn’t grow up with traditions or just not the type you want to continue, that’s okay! Start making positive memories today and share those things with your friends and family. Before you know it, you’ll have a few traditions that everyone looks forward to year after year.

 

7. Give of Yourself, Your Time and Talents

The best gift you can give to anyone is often the hardest gift to give, yourself. Giving of yourself requires patience, time, dedication and planning. If you sing, go visit a nursing home or children’s hospital and sing to patients. If you are artistic, give out hand-drawn or painted Christmas cards to the homeless. Serve meals in your local shelter or help out in the church food pantry. If you find the holidays to be a difficult time of year, this is one of the best ways to get over the hump. When doing something selfless, it’s easy to forget about your own problems and sometimes, they may seem pale in comparison to what someone else may be going through.

 

8. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

You are not your mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, best friend or cousin. You are YOU! There is nothing wrong with that. There will always be people in your life that want to try and make you feel small because you don’t have what they have. Maybe you are being pressured because you don’t have children or aren’t married. Maybe you are constantly being measured against someone else’s accomplishments.

Just be you. God makes no mistakes.

 

9. Schedule Self Care

It seems like I look up from my Thanksgiving dinner every year and my calendar is filled through the first week in January. There are so many social events, parties, lunch dates, work functions, fundraisers, galas, family gatherings that I agree to attend and many more that I decline. I have to be intentional to put myself on my calendar or I know I’ll get burnt out.

So go and do this right now: Get out your phone, calendar, planner or whatever you use to keep organized. Schedule a least an hour a week of “Me Time” for the next four weeks. It may seem silly now, but you’ll be glad you penciled it in.

There are only two rules: you have to protect the time and honor it. If it gets moved, reschedule it right away that same week. The second rule is that you can’t spend your “Me Time” running errands, doing grocery shopping or working. Do something by yourself for yourself during this time like get a manicure or pedicure, watch a movie, get a massage, walk in the park, read a book, go out for coffee or ice cream, take a nap or get a haircut. This will help you stay grounded and sane.

 

10. Ditch New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, fitness clubs make millions in their first quarter from good-intentioned people who either buy or are gifted gym memberships and don’t follow through. Like clockwork, people promise to do outlandish things starting January 1, only to fall short when reality hits. If you haven’t done it yet, what makes you think you will do it in January? Why wait until January to get fit, go back to school, start eating healthier or get organized?

Try this approach instead: Identify one thing you want to start or accomplish in 2017. Then define 4 simple things you can do toward that goal. Now, schedule time for those 4 tasks on your calendar over the next four weeks – one task per week. Research shows that it takes 30 days to start a new habit. By the time the 4 weeks are up, you’ll be well into January and should be on the road to your accomplishing your lifestyle change.

Have a Christmas and holiday season full of purpose and great memories!

 

 

Don’t Consider Yourself Small

I didn’t believe that behind my small stature and little voice there was a purpose. I didn’t believe anyone would want to hear what I had to say. I didn’t believe that what I had to say was of value. I was wrong!

I’ve always been small in the literal sense. I’m five feet tall exactly and it’s been that way since middle school. Because of that, adults and peers alike would assume that I was insignificant and I allowed it in a lot of ways. I mastered the art of being invisible. I would be in a classroom full of kids and my teachers would forget that I was there. I was quiet. I kept to myself. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself. As far back as I can recall, it’s been that way.

In middle school, I remember going through the lunch line on a particular day, as I did every day. At the register, the lunch lady asked me, “Who are you here to visit today?”

I looked around, confused. “I go here,” I told her, trying to straighten my shoulders a bit to look taller.

Her eyes widened and she laughed a hearty laugh, slapping her thigh. “Oh, I thought you were visiting your big brother or sister! You’re so cute.”

In high school, I felt wearing colors would make people notice me in the hallways, so I avoided them. I wore long sleeves most days, even in the summer I wore jackets or sweatshirts all day. I sat in the back of my classes and didn’t speak unless I was spoken to.

It wasn’t until I started to pack for college that I realized how sad of an existence I had made for myself. I opened an empty box and took several pairs of pants out of the closet and off of their hangers – five pairs of khaki pants in various shades, three pairs of jeans and six pairs of black pants. I didn’t have any shorts because I didn’t want people to look at my scrawny legs. For the same reason, I didn’t wear dresses or skirts. My wardrobe was a reflection of my attitude about life; there was no color and there was no excitement.

In college, I walked into a popular intimate apparel shop in the mall near my parent’s house. I was on break from school, bored and looking to kill some time on a free afternoon. I browsed for a few minutes before I was approached by a saleswoman.

“Where are your parents?” She asked, without offering an appropriate customer service greeting.

I didn’t understand the significance of her question at first. “They’re at home…?”

“They let you come to the mall all by yourself?”

“I’m older than I look,” I told her as she starred at me in disbelief. “I’m in college.”

I don’t remember her response after that, but I was so embarrassed that I left. I couldn’t even buy a pair of panties without judgment! It would be another three years before I mustered the courage to enter one of the stores again.

In my mid-twenties, I went to a pharmacy to pick up over-the-counter cold medicine. Due to the local law, it required a signature at purchase. The older male pharmacist looked past me and over my head at my husband who was standing off to the side and asked, “Are you the father?”

He laughed and shook his head, “No, this is my wife!”

The pharmacist looked at me for the first time and offered a weak apology, but no smile. He begrudgingly rung up the medicine as if he didn’t believe me.

—-

This has gone on for long enough. I accepted it at first because I considered myself small. I saw myself as a grain of sand in the world with little to contribute and nothing much to offer. I didn’t believe that behind my small stature and little voice there was a purpose. I didn’t believe anyone would want to hear what I had to say. I didn’t believe that what I had to say was of value. I was wrong!

Not only do I contribute to the world, but I have a beautiful family who love and depend on me. When I speak, people actually listen. I’ve had the responsibility and privilege to sow into the lives of so many people that I can’t count them all. I am a woman of faith, a teacher, motivator, an encourager, mentor and leader.

I am a person who matters in the world and so are you.

Don’t consider yourself small. Don’t allow the issues of life to knodont-consider-yourself-smallck you down and then just resolve to stay seated until it all blows over. The power of change is in your hands. You deserve to live a peaceful, happy and fulfilled life, but that requires your participation. My desire is to see you emerge from the shadows and corners of life and find the seat at the table that was made just for you.

It won’t happen all at once. It won’t happen overnight, but if you work at it, it will happen. And when it does, you’ll look back at the disappointing times in your life and laugh at how much has changed. I look back now at the little girl with puffy hair, wearing hand-me-down clothes two sizes too big, lugging around 10 pounds of books, concerned about being teased in the hallways and I wish I could share with her what I know now. I would tell her that it gets better and she shouldn’t take life so seriously at such a young age. I would tell her that she will impact the lives of millions. I would tell her to believe and not to lose faith in the goodness of life and the kindness in people, because it still exists.

I would tell her, like I am telling you – you are worth it! You matter. You have purpose and your life has meaning.

Stay encouraged. Don’t give up. Get to know the sleeping giant inside of you. You aren’t small. You are just beginning.

 

 

Daring To Be Me: How I Cultivated Authentic Leadership

I didn’t want to do what I saw everyone else doing. I definitely didn’t want to repeat their failures. I was growing out of the people-pleasing phase of my life and wasn’t interested into conforming to someone else’s idea of leadership.

My hope for you is that you find your own voice and your own leadership style that allows you to connect with people.

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“If you have to tell people that you are the boss, then you are not the boss!”

The statement was simple, but I will never forget it. The day I heard it, I was sitting in a Bible class. The topic of the evening was leadership. I laughed out loud because of how simple and true the statement was. But as the week went on, I found myself replaying it in my mind over and over. It prompted me to make a decision. I didn’t want to be that person – the one so out of touch and insecure that I needed to throw my weight around and remind everyone constantly of how in charge I was.

I would say, looking back on it now, that statement resonating with me was the beginning of my purpose journey. I wasn’t even in a supervisory role at the time, but I knew that I didn’t want to do what I saw everyone else doing. I definitely didn’t want to repeat their failures. I was growing out of the people-pleasing phase of my life and wasn’t interested into conforming to someone else’s idea of leadership.

Was it possible to be someone’s boss, supervise their work, delegate to them, provide them with guidance and criticism when needed and also love and care for who they were as a person? I believed it was true and found that juggling all of those demands and expectations was my niche. I never had to dangle a carrot to get someone to run faster or work harder. I never threatened or belittled. I didn’t lie or keep secrets. I was just Stephanie all day, every day. I worked hard to ensure that I upheld my values personally and professionally so they were never at odds.

Side Note: It’s so much easier to be one person all of the time and not have to maintain separate versions of oneself.

I was transparent, firm, optimistic, kind and caring. I was the opposite of what many would expect a person in a high-stress leadership position to be. I was determined not to take out my stresses and shortcomings on my staff. I took a servant’s approach. They were there to serve the company and me as their supervisor, but I was also there to serve them. If their fundamental needs weren’t being met, then I looked at it as a failure on my part. What resulted was a powerful dynamic of trust and openness that I didn’t see anywhere else in the company. People would comment that my team was “different” and my team members “actually liked each other,” but what they didn’t know was how intentional it was.

While being purposeful in my pursuit of balanced and authentic leadership, I uncovered a purpose that was so intricately woven into the fabric of me, but it was at odds at times with the goals of my employer. I cared more about the individual than I did the often suffocating metrics that hung over my head daily. If someone wanted to quit, I encouraged them to go find the type of work that they were passionate about, even if it made me one person short during the busy season. If someone had a calendar full of appointments, but came to work devastated by the wreckage in their personal life, I sent them home and took on the burden, delegating what I could. When someone needed to cry, vent frustrations, get angry, cuss or ask for personal advice, I offered my office as a safe space.

I took a risk and it was worth it. I had challenges just like any boss does with hiring and firing staff, having tough conversations, dolling out the constructive criticism and not-so-favorable evaluations at times. I would question whether I was doing the right thing. With examples of the opposite before me, I started to feel like maybe I was too soft and cared too much. But I approached each person and each situation with a purpose and for that reason, I have no regrets. I’ve been able to build and maintain wonderful relationships over the years by doing things differently and choosing to connect rather than dictate.

When I had to call someone into the HR office first thing in the morning to tell them they were being let go, discuss severance, request their key and walk them out of the back door, I felt like a failure. But then, the unusual happened – I got a hug from them and a sincere “thank you,” followed by a genuine request to keep in touch. To me, it was triumph amidst the disappointment.

Today, I’m still not the type of person who can work a room full of strangers or walk into a crowd and demand attention. I’ve never had an iron fist. I’m a quiet observer. I have a fantastic photographic memory and an uncanny ability to learn and recall random facts about history, people and places. I come alive when I can talk about purpose and what I’m passionate about. I thrive when I can teach someone something new. I find confidence when I can authentically share my life experience and make someone else’s life better in the process.

My hope for you is that you find your own voice and your own leadership style that allows you to connect with people. It doesn’t matter if you are naturally loud and out front or a behind the scenes supporter. Everyone has a leader in them. The type of leader you desire to be may not be popular, but from my experience, that’s when magic happens.

Allow the leader you are to be an intimate part of you, not just a representative. Be real and be accountable to who you are and upfront about your expectations. Share with people and they will share with you. Learn about the people who look up to and rely on you. If you don’t know who they are, what drives them, their strengths, their limitations or worries you will never truly understand how to lead them effectively.

No, it won’t be easy.

But yes, I can say from experience that it’s worth it.

Sandwich, Anyone?

 

I’m an introvert. I don’t like confrontation. Enough said.

However, I learned very quickly in my career life that confrontation is inevitable. Whether I was working with children, peers my age or peers older than me, I could count on the fact that we wouldn’t always agree. Additionally, I had to navigate conflicts in personal and family relationships. We all do. Situations repeatedly arose where I needed to set boundaries, speak up for myself and/or politely disagree. Through those awkward moments, I began to use a method that worked well to decrease the amount of anxiety I had going into those interactions.

I could be direct, to-the-point and decrease misunderstandings by using the sandwich approach. You may have heard of it and I admit, it doesn’t work for EVERYTHING, but it definitely works for most. It gives you the advantage of crafting your message in a clear and precise way, while adding in some positive feedback or encouragement to lessen the blow. Once you master this method of managing confrontation and delivering less-than-favorable news, it can make addressing issues that come up in the moment less frightening.

As women, we are often expected to be kind and polite, not to disagree too much and not make waves. Men are usually groomed from a young age to be firm, authoritative and decisive. These expectations from our upbringing carry over into our relationships with our significant others, our children and co-workers.

Delivering news that may be hard for someone to hear, doesn’t make me a b***h, but it does make me honest and human. In conquering the fear of delivering “bad news” without obsessing over the possibility of upsetting someone, I found my voice and I found freedom. This isn’t to say that crafting your words just right means that feelings don’t get hurt or someone won’t react negatively, but being okay with that as a potential outcome is part of the growth that comes with being open and finding your voice. It isn’t always about WHAT you say. The magic is in HOW you say it.

You can do it too! After all, practice makes perfect. Take advantage of this short tutorial on The Art of Sandwich Making.

The Mommy Detour

To be so strong-willed and feel like I was broken somehow held me back from chasing my purpose. I put it up on a shelf. I look at it occasionally and committed that I would one day take it up again. It wasn’t until I overcame my fears and came back to myself that I realized nothing had changed. I was still me.

37_godwin-chuLiterally overnight, I went from being in a corporate atmosphere every day to being a homemaker with a baby on the way. It was my decision, after all, to take a few months off to get things in order before the baby arrived. I was ecstatic and relieved to have some focus and not feel pulled in so many directions. For the first time in a long time, I felt a sense of defined purpose and allegiance to a duty greater than myself – motherhood.

That feeling lasted about a week.

The reality of how lonely I felt started to creep in. Everyone I would normally confide in was at work when I needed to talk. When I did get the chance to chat with a friend, I would grow tired of answering the same questions, “So what do you do all day?” and “What’s it like?” Not to mention how depressing daytime television can be! I felt like the girl in the bubble – everyone was watching to see what I would do in my new habitat. It was a strange type of isolation.

I was expecting my first child. I had a long list of to-dos that seemed impossible to complete. As I got bigger, climbing up and down the stairs with loads of laundry became nearly impossible. It took me an entire week just to assemble a child’s dresser I bought online simply because my growing belly was in the way. I got winded easily. Basic things seemed so much harder and harder things felt impossible.

Eventually, it got better and I settled into my new role with its glorious limitations and I found purpose in the possibilities that each day presented. I lowered my ridiculous standards, set smaller and more realistic daily goals and allowed myself to rest as often as I felt I needed to. I found a groove and I channeled my energy into taking good care of myself and my husband. I tried new recipes, baked, made green smoothies daily and read birthing books. Within those 3 months, I successfully prepped for the baby’s arrival, put the finishing touches on the nursery and settled into an emotional space of eager expectation.

In May 2015, we brought our daughter home from the hospital and there was a new learning curve began. My mother stayed with us for two weeks and my husband took off of work for three weeks. Those first few weeks were a blur of sleepless nights, unspeakable joy and overall exhaustion. I honestly don’t remember many of the details and I slowly fell into postpartum depression.

I had anxiety so bad once my husband went back to work that I would only leave the house for doctor’s appointments and the occasional rushed trip to the grocery store. I felt suddenly alone and once again, isolated. I had this little vulnerable person that depended on me and the weight of that fact was crushing.

What if we get in a car accident?

What if I forget to pack something important in the diaper bag?

What if she starts crying and I can’t get her to stop?

What if I have to nurse and we are out in public?

What if there’s nowhere to change her?

What if…?

These unrealistic worries kept me up at night. They robbed me of peace and sanity. I nursed on-demand around the clock. I didn’t eat well. I didn’t take good care of myself. I barely showered or brushed my teeth. I was so baby-minded that I forgot myself. I forgot the purpose of the whole experience. I forgot to breathe.

To be so strong-willed and feel like I was broken somehow held me back from chasing my purpose. I put it up on a shelf. I look at it occasionally and committed that I would one day take it up again. It wasn’t until I overcame my fears and came back to myself that I realized nothing had changed. I was still me.

I joined a local La Leche League group where I found commonality and normalcy with women I didn’t know, but who were a lot like me. The adult interaction was refreshing. I saw myself in their struggles, successes and moments of weakness. They were real and made me feel like I belonged in a special club of warriors who took on the daily battles that no one witnessed or celebrated. I also took up contractual work on a seasonal basis, which required me to visit the office a couple of times a week and helped me feel connected again.

I’ve learned over the last two years to be transparent. I’ve learned through countless personal conversations, articles, blogs and vlogs that I am not the only one. It happens almost weekly that I have an encounter with someone who reminds me of why I am on this planet. My daughter was about fourteen months old when I gathered enough courage to start again, pick up the pieces and move forward.

And I know now that it’s perfectly okay. I am doing it. I haven’t given up. I will not give up. I just needed some time to gather myself, shake off the dust and refocus. I took a mommy detour, but I still have work to do. I still have a passion to help others, but now I have a small audience. There is a beautiful, chocolate, brown-eyed little girl watching to see her own potential in me. She thinks I can do anything. I am starting to believe that too.

I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, entrepreneur, dreamer, life-changer, leader, encourager, counselor, confidant and writer. I am all of these things. I was made to be all of these things and my purpose dictates that I can do them all with excellence.

I stepped away, but now I’m back!

 

 

My REAL Motivation

Everyone is motivated by something. If you’re not motivated in life, you start to deteriorate.

In college, I was motivated by the prospect of successfully completing my degree. Then I was motivated by securing a job with a living wage. But once I was working full-time and had some experience under my belt, I found myself motivated by the paycheck I could count on like clockwork twice a month. Eventually, it morphed into a motivation for the weekend or the next vacation because the work I was doing didn’t drive me.

Looking back, I realize my motivation was constantly changing because I was looking for a reason to keep going. I targeted a tangible reward in order to psych myself into believing that what I was doing was fulfilling. I was like a horse chasing a carrot in vain.

About three years ago, I was convicted to start living with purpose. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it became the hardest thing I have ever done. Living each day with purpose meant that I had to approach every decision minute by minute, hour by hour, stop…think and ask myself, “Why?” before I said or did anything. It changed me as a persona and has made me more present in the day-to-day. It has made me a better wife and a more patient mother.

I learned how to say, “No” easily and without condemnation. Before my purpose-driven life, I was a people pleaser. I put my own priorities and goals on the back burner when I thought doing so would enable me to keep the peace. I compromised unnecessarily. I compromised a lot. I finally began to understand that what I was doing was stealing from myself.

“No, I cannot stay late and work tonight.”

“No, I am not going to bail you out of jail.”

“No, you can’t drive my car.”

“No, you can’t have that last piece of pie! I am planning to eat that!”

Dozens of emails I frantically typed that  full of emotion and passive aggressive language were never sent. There were phone calls I decided not to make and lies I chose not to tell, even though I thought the truth would hurt. It was difficult at times to be so honest, transparent and real in my attempts to be purposeful. However, I gained so much peace and comfort from it. I let myself off the hook finally and excused myself from the expectations of others.

 

In the spring of 2015, my husband and I welcomed our daughter. She was the child we had waited and prayed for. She was our first and is still our only. She became my motivation in a way that I never expected. She’s the reason I wake up in the morning with eager anticipation even though I’m not at all a morning person. She is the reason I choose to build businesses and leave a legacy that will carry on generation after generation. She is the reason I want to be a better person, a wholesome example and strong woman. She is the reason I want more than ever for my marriage to work even though it can be tough at times.

I don’t need any other reason. I will never again need a surrogate reason to live my life.

Whatever drives you shouldn’t be temporal. It should be something that takes your hopes and dreams beyond today, beyond the end of the week, beyond the end of the year. It should be something that speaks to your heart and the essence of what’s important to you.

If you’ve identified money as your end goal – what happens when all of your financial needs are met? What happens if the money stops coming in? Do you really think you’ll be on your deathbed and say to yourself, “I wish I had made more money”?

If you are motivated by beauty – what happens when the beauty fades? What happens if your health status changes for the worst?

If you are motivated by feeling wanted or loved – what will you do when the love is gone? What will you do when that person no longer meets your needs?

My daughter being my motivation means that everything I do is done with the purpose of making her life better. It’s a sacrifice that only I can make. I went through a rough pregnancy and recovery just to have her. I’ve sacrificed sleep and comfort to do the best I could for her. I put her first in my daily decisions so that she can have a healthy, happy and stable childhood. She can’t do anything to repay me. I do it willingly and without regret.

Failure is not an option.

Saying that, “I tried” will never be good enough.

I look into her eyes and know that she completely depends on, needs and trusts me. That’s the way it should be and that’s my motivation to be even better than I thought I could.

 

Declare Your Worth or Someone Else Will

I spent years trying to show myself worthy of the title I had been given on my business card. Not only did I work hard. I overworked. I came in early during the week, often getting there before my staff started their day. I left late, skipped lunches and put my personal life on hold. I worked weekends often and holidays. I alienated my husband at night so I could “get work done,” often staying awake into the late hours, pounding the keys by laptop light to the sound of him snoring next to me. I used vacation time to schedule doctor’s appointments, surgeries and overdue household maintenance. I had to feel like I was on death’s door to take a sick day. I never stopped.

I was like so many people, looking for meaning in all the wrong places. I expected that a pat on the back and “good job, girl,” at the end of the day would make it all okay. I expected to feel like I had accomplished something. I became a person who was not confident in my own abilities. I convinced myself that if I stepped away, took a breath or unplugged that it would all fall apart and the destruction would be my fault.

But when you are not operating in your God-given purpose, He has a way of putting a mirror in your face. He showed me to myself in the way that only he could. I had settled and made excuses for why I couldn’t move on. I saw others leave and chase their dreams and I was truly happy for them…and jealous. Why couldn’t I let go too? Why couldn’t I get off of the train?

Then I would go put out a metaphorical fire and say to myself, “Well, I can’t leave. I’m needed here. What would happen if I wasn’t here?”

It would be unfair to say that my so-called career was holding me hostage. No, I wasn’t being forced to do anything. In seeking constant approval and waiting to hear that giving my all was enough, I did that to myself. My personal relationships were suffering due to neglect and my marriage was a roller coaster of disappointments, miscommunication, anger and sadness. Marriages are like houseplants after all, if you don’t feed and water them, they die. I actually surrendered my two dogs because I no longer had the time to care for, walk daily, groom and take them to the vet on schedule. I chose work over everything.

So, one day I found myself in a bathroom stall at work, crying and struggling to breathe in between blubbering sobs. Someone had just made it clear that they didn’t value who I was. I felt crumpled up and thrown away. I put my emotional breakdown on a schedule. I had a meeting in 15 minutes, so I had to pull together by then. I wasn’t an emotional person, but I cried a lot in those months – in the car on the way to work, in the shower or pretty much anytime I found a quiet moment alone. I would tell myself to “stop it,” because nothing was wrong. I should be grateful. I had a job and others didn’t.

I covered my face and asked the question out loud, “I have done EVERYTHING for these people! Why isn’t it enough?”

I called my husband, expecting him to give me one of his speeches about how I would be okay, but instead he said to me, “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be there long.” He saw how hard I worked and what I sacrificed. He was empathetic, but I could also tell he was mad.

That was what I needed – permission. I was loyal to a fault. I would stick with someone or something with the optimistic hope that it will all work out, even when it’s toxic or no longer beneficial. But my husband let me off the hook. He let me know that all I had done was more than enough and it was time to gracefully bow out.

Over the months that followed, I continued to work hard, but I also let go. I let go of the worry I carried about not being liked, appreciated and acknowledged. I stopped caring about all of the superficial things that had kept me bondage. I began to pour my energy into my marriage and my husband, we took a vacation to Florida and I totally unplugged. I didn’t care if the building caught fire. I knew no matter what happened without me, they would figure it out.

My stress level was the lowest it had been in about 4 years. My husband and I discussed a timeline for me to resign and exit my job. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next, but I chose to trust God in guiding my steps to the next season of life. About two months after our vacation, I found out that I was pregnant after two and a half years of trying! So there it was…my purpose defined. I began to do research and plan for life as a homemaker and mom and I have never looked back.

I am a beautiful, creative, ambitious, intelligent and independent woman. I am not the type to walk into a room of strangers, shake a dozen hands and chat it up like a politician and that’s okay. I don’t care what people would like me to be. I know now that I am who I am meant to be. Never again will I put myself in a place where I work so hard to be like someone else.

We are who we are for a reason. I worked for eight years helping someone else fulfill their life’s mission before realizing how far outside of my own I actually was.

Life is too short to live it outside of my purpose.