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

No Woman Left Behind!

I often hear women talk about their struggles with other women in the workplace … It often smells and feels a lot like hate if not absolutely so.

… the principle we used to live by and have since abandoned

Every woman knows it – “We came together and we’re all leaving together.”

It was a safety agreement, a declaration of sisterhood, a reminder that she had your back and you had hers. We lived by it – on trips, at the club, out on the town or in just about any unfamiliar situation. Honoring the code meant that you would be safe. Anyone who disregarded the code was in for harsh backlash and possible shunning from future get-togethers.

It didn’t matter whether we were out as a pair or a group of ten. No one was wandering off alone without checking in with the group. A solo trip to the restroom that took a little too long, meant a girlfriend would be coming to check on you. You could give your number to a cute guy, but you weren’t leaving with him. If you had too much to drink, a designee would make sure you got home okay. She’d even help you take off your shoes and get you into your bed if needed.

We cared for each other.

What happened?

I often hear women talk about their struggles in the workplace, I find it interesting how much distrust, jealousy and undercutting abounds. Women tell me stories of co-workers, subordinates and supervisors who challenge them unfairly, speak ill of them behind their backs, go out of their way to prevent promotion and downright scowl at any sign of deserved favor. It often smells and feels a lot like hate if not absolutely so.

Why?

We’ve either forgotten the golden rule of sisterhood or we have convinced ourselves that it doesn’t deserve space in our occupational circles. We treat the other women in our workplaces as if we’re playing for opposing teams. All is well and good as long as she stays in her lane and we can stay in ours. Heaven forbid we have to work together on a project and share the spotlight … ever! We would rather remain an island than to conform to teamwork with our declared enemy. We would prefer to be acknowledged for our own brilliance alone than recognized for greatness, while sharing the credit with another.

So, what can be done?

Let’s go back to basics. Let’s dig out the old girl code and revisit the principles that were set upon the foundation of our friendships and encouraged us to think beyond self. We should begin to have the honest conversation with ourselves about the things that don’t feel right, keep us up at night, make us uneasy and cause us to questions. We need to pinpoint what we have done to feed the spirit of competition and separation. We should be transparent with ourselves.

If you’re working in the same organization you are after all, playing for the same team! We were hired to work together, so we should work to succeed together. Tag someone that you can link arms with. Give it some serious thought and commit to it. Let her know what you are trying to accomplish and make a pact to work together instead of against each other. Just do this with one person and see where the road carries you. No matter what, keep your eye on the ultimate goal to never leave her behind. You are to lift her up, but not carry her. Liking her should not be a requirement or expectation. If you see her backed into a corner, offer a solution. When she struggles, but is too proud to ask for help, offer it with no strings attached. This is the beginning of our growth and the stretching that molds us into effective leaders.

Don’t just think about it, go and put it to work TODAY. In this era of #metoo, we should expect more and be willing to do more to support one another on all levels.

Receiving the Gift of Growing Pains

The “stretch of life” is hard, uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable, but necessary. These seasons are the cornerstones of our testimonies.

anton-van-der-weijst-603824-unsplashBeing in an uncomfortable spot in life is like wearing a dress that is too snug. You’d almost rather stand up and be awkwardly stable than to risk sitting down and busting that sucker wide open! Life is like that sometimes. One day, your shoes fit and the next day, they don’t. You can become accustomed to the hustle and bustle until you’ve had enough and would rather make the trade for peace and quiet. We may love our jobs until the day we become aware of what we’ve sacrificed to maintain it.

Growing pains are necessary. Think of it as the “stretch of life.” It’s those periods of discomfort, uncertainty, fatigue and anxiety that drive us toward change. If it weren’t so, we would stay in our small boxes way longer than meant to be. The hermit crab eventually becomes dissatisfied with its cramped quarters and seeks out a new place to inhabit.

It hurts like heck though. Pretending it feels good to be thrusted out of your comfort zone is just plain silly. There will likely be tears, frustrations, possible fits of anger and wavering faith along the way. But the process is a gift and the outcome is its own reward. Allow the stretch. Bend with the wind so you don’t break and try not to swim against the current.

The beauty of self-awareness is being able to recognize whatever season you find yourself in. Wisdom comes with accepting that no season lasts forever. Be uncomfortable enough to become open to change, willing to try and bold enough to risk failure. Cultivate your strengths and make concessions for your weaknesses. Own the transition while moving forward at the same time.

Don’t get stuck. Don’t throw in the towel when things get tough.

Your ultimate breakthrough is right on the other side of difficult.

 

(Photo courtesy Anton Van Der Weijst on Unsplash)

Leadership 101: How She Becomes a Force Without Being Forecful

Learning who you are requires work, growing pains, as well as accomplishment and setbacks. Identifying who you are as a woman in the workplace can be one of the most challenging parts of the journey. Whether you are in a female-dominated vocation or the opposite, you’ve likely experienced how lonely the path to leadership can be. In fact, the higher you rise in your field, the less likely you are to feel that you can relate to those around you. The more successful you are, it’s likely that you’ll begin to see fewer and fewer female faces.

Popular culture dictates that to be a successful female worker, entrepreneur, business owner, boss, executive, etc., you need to be rigid. These narratives tell us that women who lead value their careers above family, romantic relationships or other pursuits; that to be taken seriously, she must be aggressive, mean, dismissive of other’s feelings and interested in her own accomplishments above all else. Ruling with an iron fist has been widely celebrated, but does it really have to be that way?

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Photo by Justyn Warner on Unsplash

Strength has nothing to do with gender! Receiving recognition, being respected and valued has more to do with character, consistency and drive than we often realize. There five simple things women can do to gain leadership momentum in whatever career phase they are in:

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say: The woman whose word means something, becomes a woman whose word is everything. What comes out of your mouth should be accepted as tried and true gold, firm and decisive. If you mess it up, admit it, apologize and move on. Never back track.
  • Master the face-to-face: Insecure people hide behind technology when it comes to addressing conflict. A confident woman ditches the email, hangs up the phone, walks across the hall and addresses things head on. Her attitude is, “Let’s take a few minutes to talk about this and come up with a plan.”
  • Stop trying to keep up with Sheila: The woman who is okay being uniquely herself, has an idea of her strengths and weaknesses and knows how she prefers to lead. She isn’t looking at what the next person is doing to make herself a carbon copy of them. Even if she doesn’t get it right every time, she knows that she’ll gain more respect by being authentic.
  • Step out of the shadows: Leadership is not anonymous. It can’t be developed from the back room or operate exclusively behind a closed office door. Leadership walks, talks, has feelings and opinions. Leadership says hello in the morning and participates openly. The woman who desires to be taken seriously as a leader is not afraid to advocate for positive change.
  • Be the master of your field: All leadership journeys are marathons, not sprints. She may take necessary breaks along the way, but a woman destined to lead, knows that she will forever be a student. She is researching, learning and training to be better at what she does with an aim to be the best. She is knowledgeable, but never closes herself off to the possibility that there is still more to learn. She is also willing to mentor and teach.

What.Would.a.Wakandan.Do?

Like you, I saw “Black Panther” and walked away with so many things to digest and dissect. The movie caused me to re-evaluate my take on relationships, culture, history and gender roles. Most poignant for me, were the outstanding examples of female strength, honor, loyalty, determination and wisdom.

If they could overcome, why can’t we?

Without being fully conscious of it, I began asking myself the question, “What would a Wakandan Do?”

When faced with obstacles, uncertainties, failed plans, difficult people, hopeless odds – WWaWD?

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Shirt Design By Stephanie Godwin-Chu

It’s a simple question with a big emphasis on self-confidence and self-worth. Its weight doesn’t hang on arrogance or the naivety that all things will work out just the way we want them to. It’s not that at all. It’s a reminder of the many fights we engage in every day; the fight to be heard, the fight to defend our reputation, the fight for our worth in the workplace and the fight to move forward and not give up.

WWaWD? is our reminder to keep putting one foot in front of the other in the right direction. This question has pulled me back time and time again from the ledge of giving up and has helped me to firmly plant my feet and try again. Asking the question, challenges the excuses we create and propels us forward.

How would a woman who knows her purpose and has a conviction of duty handle herself? What would she say to those who openly doubt her and question her knowledge? How would she assert herself? How would she prove naysayers wrong? How does she take charge of her own future?

What would a Wakandan do? What will you do the next time you are faced with difficulty? Will you give up, will you give in to fear, walk away, lower your expectations, downplay your dreams or walk into your purpose like the queen that you are?

#WWaWD?

 

 

 

Overcome the Pull of New Year Remorse

Maybe you thought it would all be coming along by now or you’d already be arriving at that magical destination you dreamed, prayed and planned for.

Untitled designLet’s face it…2017 was tough! There aren’t many people who didn’t let out a sigh of relief and a “glad I survived that one!” sentiment as the clock struck twelve.

Now that January is halfway over, you may be feeling that slow slump of disappointment coupled with a bad case of the “I wish I would’ve, I should’ve or could’ve” blues. We tend to look back at the previous year and lament the things left undone and the many detours that led us farther away from our goals. Maybe you thought it would all be coming along by now or you’d already be arriving at that magical destination you dreamed, prayed and planned for. Maybe you just didn’t expect the avalanche of the unexpected to hold you at bay for so long.

Right about now, according to statistics, New Year’s resolutions have been altered from what they once were or have failed all together – to get more organized, to eat healthier, to join a gym, to find more work/life balance, start writing again, start painting again, go to yoga, etc. Depending on where you live, you may also be suffering from the winter blues that blows in with the cold temperatures, yucky weather and lack of sunlight.

So, what to do about it? Can anything really be done about it?!

Well, here are a few things to get you unstuck:

  • Write down all the things that you regret from 2017
  • Take that list and crumple it into a nice round ball
  • Now, throw it in the trash or set it on fire if you feel the need!

What gets us unstuck is the determination to move forward, learn from what didn’t go well and keep it moving. Drive is a powerful thing. Now make a new list of no more than seven things you would like to accomplish in 2018 and identify one duty for each item that you can start doing. Why seven? Biblically, seven is the number of completeness and perfection for both physical and spiritual things. So, I figured it’s a good number to start with. Last, take out your calendar and add at least one thing to it between now and the end of June for each item. For example, if you want to change careers this year, add time to your calendar this month to edit and update your resume. If you want to exercise more, don’t buy a gym membership just yet. Instead, block off times over the next few weeks where you can take a morning walk.

Our power isn’t just in what we survive. It’s also in how we thrive. End the pity party now and get back to living!

We were excited to see you arrive, but now we’re even more thrilled to watch you fade into the past. Goodbye, 2017!

 

What’s on Your Calendar May Be Hindering Your Focus

If we aren’t careful, we’ll look up and realize we’ve missed it.

What’s on my calendar for next Tuesday at 1p.m.? In the next 14 days, have you left any gaps for the unplanned? If you know the answer to the first, but not the second, you may have a problem.

Living every minute of every hour and every hour of every day guided by the blocks on the calendar and the clock on the wall can be stifling. However, it can also be strangely comforting – everything in its place and a place for everything. Going from one appointment to the next and back again, taking this one to ballet, this one to robotics and this one to soccer practice, meetings, followed by debriefs about the previous meetings and planning meetings for the next one. You may squeeze in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Hulu or Netflix in between and then crash before dragging yourself up to start all over again.

 

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Where’s the focus? Where is the slow down? When does the actual living take place? What’s the purpose of it all?

The truth is that life doesn’t happen between keyboards and HD displays. Life happens through, around and over what we tend to focus on. If we aren’t careful, we’ll look up and realize we’ve missed it.

Planning is necessary and technology can be helpful, but meaningful connections, relationship building, dream chasing and vision cannot be placed on a timer. They suffocate in those spaces where they are forced to comply with the limitations that keep them from being organic and authentic.

Allow a free space – schedule it if you have to! Take that time to unwind and unfocus and it will actually help you find a great deal of focus! Block it off and protect it as if your life depends on it.

Then… go and dance, cook with someone you love, listen to music that makes your whole body move, sing, walk in the park, color with your kid or lay in the grass. Take an unplanned day trip to nowhere in particular, paint, write poetry, play the guitar or call your grandmother and listen to her tell you that story you’ve heard about twenty times. You don’t need to hear it again, but she needs to tell it and one day you’ll long for the sound of her voice.

Let life happen and don’t choke the beauty out of it by giving it a time allowance or by rushing off to the next thing. Don’t allow BUSY to become the nemesis of your FOCUS.

 

 

 

Three Reasons Why You’re Not Done Growing

Let me tell you the honest truth about people who have nothing but negative things to say about your dreams and aspirations…

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It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 65, who says you’re done with life? If someone has already opened their big mouth to form the words and allowed them to pass their lips, they lied to you!

Let me tell you the honest truth about people who have nothing but negative things to say about your dreams and aspirations – THEY ARE SCARED!!

You are about to do something that would keep them up at night and give them the sweats. You have a dream and vision outside of their small corner of the world and they feel as if you are leaving them for the wilderness and will soon be eaten by wolves. They are so consumed by their perception of the worst-case-scenario for you that they can’t even pretend to be happy for you. They don’t know how.

But that isn’t your problem. The first rule of airline safety is that you need to apply your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. Live and breathe your purpose because it’s in you and needs to be fulfilled. You can bring all of the naysayers and “see it to believe it” types up to speed later, if you choose.

You’re not done growing:

  • You’ve Got Fertile Soil: Because you have a dream that’s bigger than where you are now. For some of you it may literally be a dream that reoccurs when you sleep and reminds you that there is more for you to do.
  • Just Add Water: You have muscles that need to be worked! There are gifts and talents inside of you that you haven’t begun to fully explore. You know they’re there, but you need to spend time on them and nurture them to bring them to the forefront. Drink plenty (get some good books to read, take a class, attend a conference, local fellowship or workshop).
  • Open The Window and Let the Sunlight In: Surround yourself with healthy relationships that will stretch you. Connect with people who model your vision of balance and success. Glean from them and give them the space to tell you the truth in love, which will allow you to flourish.

 

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Career Life: Are You In The 30 or 70 Percent?

It’s estimated that as many as 70 percent of people end up working at a job unrelated to their field of study. Are you one of those people who feels you have an unused degree or desire to do something completely different than what you are doing now? Hate your job? You’re not alone.

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Depending on which source you reference, experts believe only 27 to 49 percent of people in the US workforce are in their field of study. That leaves 50 to 70 percent of people working somewhere that is not reflective of what they went to school for (if you round out the numbers).

Are you one of them?

I regret to say that I used to be one of them. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

If I knew in high school what I know now, I believe I would have taken a different path. I wouldn’t have gone to college for something that was encouraged and pressed upon me as “the right thing to do.” I would have taken more risk and focused on studying something that would fulfill me, not just fill my bank account. I wouldn’t have played it so safe.

I am, however, grateful. I take the good and the bad together as valuable pieces of my experience. I could easily look back at the hours and hours of classes, thousands of hours spent in cubicles and behind desks and kick myself, but I won’t. Regret is a choice I’ve chosen not to make. I learned a lot and I gained so much through the interactions and relationships along the way. I’ve woven so many of those things into the complex fabric of who I am.

It’s a blessing to be in my early thirties and wake up every day with purpose on my mind. I eat it and breathe it. It has become necessary for my survival. But, if I can motivate just one person to ask themselves the hard questions and go after the things they dream of, I feel that I’m sharing the wealth of a fulfilled life. I still have time to course correct and make choices that will leave a legacy for my children and my children’s children. I believe that you do too.

It starts today, one choice at a time. Start small if you have to, and put some oil on those training wheels until you get the courage to make a shift. Read a book or subscribe to an email list that will fill your inbox with motivation and “you can do it!” encouragement. Volunteer on the weekends serving others to remind you that life doesn’t happen behind computer screens, but rather all around us. Invest in yourself and take a class that you really want to take or attend a weekend conference.

Before you know it, you’ll be imagining a life where you can’t see yourself doing anything but that one thing that brings you so much joy, but scares you senseless at the same time. Purpose is your gift. Chasing after it will cause you to stretch and grow. It may even keep you up at night. Before long, you’ll be eager to fit your purpose into everything you do. Seeking after it is the road trip of a lifetime.

Not sure where to start? Ask yourself:

  • What do I love?
  • What am I naturally good at (gifts)?
  • What are my talents (things I’ve trained for/learned)?
  • What would I do every day for free if I could be financially stable while doing it?

Your purpose is tied into the answers above. That is where your work begins.