Friday, November 28, 2014

10 Days of Gratitude: Day 5 - JOY! JOY! JOY! By Karen Williams, M.Ed


Tis the season to be...

Joyful? Just how am I supposed to do that? Or be that? What is joy anyway?

I have to admit that I am happy when I get the things I want; or get to be with someone with whom I want to share my time and energy. I feel rapture when I have a new love or get another car. (I've had 47 of them and I still get excited!) I can even feel ecstasy when more money mystically falls into my lap. But joy...that's an elusive one and I finally figured out why.


Because true joy has nothing to do with me and my wants and needs or desires. I get to experience joy when I do something for someone else without any expectation of something in return. It really is that simple. Yet giving without expecting to receive is challenging to our lesser ego, that part of ourselves that seeks validation and is crushed when we don't get it.

I was asked by a dear friend to accompany her to a church this Thanksgiving to serve meals. I did not know what to expect. However, I was very excited because I'd never done anything like that before. Tables were neatly arranged to seat six and were covered with colorful cloths with autumnal centerpieces featuring small pumpkins and gourds. Volunteers were assigned to teams of order takers, runners, and servers, with four tables given to each team. I decided to be a server, which gave me the opportunity to assist the order takers by getting plates of food and bringing them to the tables. I also got to meet and greet folks, and pay close attention to their needs.

Deeply touched by the generosity of spirit and love that permeated the dining room, I immersed myself in the environment...listening, sharing, encouraging, laughing. There was plenty of food and the server crew packed up bundles of take-away packages for those present and shut-ins who were unable to take part in the Thanksgiving meal. And what a delicious meal it was! Roasted turkey with all the fixings, green beans, beets, mashed and sweet potatoes, and a special dessert of pumpkin pie and whipped cream. One little fellow put so much whipped cream in his cup of hot chocolate that he could only manage a bite or two of dinner. Along with his packaged meal, I sent him home with an extra packet of cocoa. The big smile he gave me warmed my heart.

Although I was not with my biological family members for the holiday, I can honestly say that I felt like a part of a bigger family. It was as though I was serving at a fine restaurant with the warmest, kindest, most grateful clientele ever. When I looked around the room, I experienced deep stirrings of gratitude and joy, empathy and compassion.

"These people are me... I have felt alone or like no one cared about me. I've had hard times and somehow made it through." Although I'd thought that I was there to do something for someone, everyone in that room helped me feel a little more connected to them and to that universal spirit that connects all of us.

So the next time I want to feel JOY, I know what to do. I plan to step out of myself and do something for someone else, just because it feels so good! In fact, I know where I'll be on Christmas Eve!

Karen Williams, M.Ed, taught Stand-Up Comedy in the Dramatic Arts department of Cleveland State University; studied improv at Second City Chicago; and directed inaugural comedy classes at Second City in Cleveland.  Karen continues to perform comedy worldwide and star in television commercials while teaching acting and improvisational comedy at ProModel and Talent Management, training students to compete at IMTA (International Model and Talent Agency) Conventions in New York and Los Angeles.

Karen Williams, M.Ed
Founder / CEO
HaHA Institute
For the Best in Stand-Up Comedy, Humor Education and 
Motivational Speaking
216-548-0197

Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved.





Wednesday, November 26, 2014

10 Days of Gratitude: Day 3 - There is No Shame in Fat, Only Hurt By Lisa D. Bowie

The truth is sometimes I don't sleep very well, and this night and early morning once again rendered sleeplessness. It started with a pain in one of my relatively “new” titanium knees, as I have recently found my way back to the gym and walking. Just to later find myself in an air cast as result of Achilles tendonitis. This, I’m sure due to my tenacity and overzealous spirit that won’t let me give up my battle against the bulge – a battle I will fight to the end no matter what may come my way. Funny thing is at 51 this fight feels so much more difficult than at 30 or even 40 for that matter. However, the desire to have good health and a visually accepting physical appearance remain the same regardless of my age. But it’s hard to deny I’ve grown weary and tired both literally and figuratively speaking; however I still no longer want to be included in that statistic that states that 80% of African-American women are considered to be obese. I hate that word!

Fortunately for me my strong sense of self and a Mount Everest sized self-esteem I have not been made to feel self-conscious about my weight. I seem to do a good job of that without any help. Although, I have had the occasional remark from family members – “you have such a beautiful face.” When translated means if you weren’t fat you would simply be beautiful by my standards. Or my personal favorite, “how are you ever going to get a husband if you don’t lose some weight?” So, I guess it’s a good thing I’m a lesbian, so I won’t ever have to feel the sting of a man’s rejection because of weight issues. Yet, while I have come through this type of ridicule for the most part unscathed, some of these remarks at times still hurt and have remained with me just as the childhood memories of only being able to fit plus-size tough skin jeans or the “chubette” (is that even a word) size dresses that I hated wearing in the first place.

For a few years now I have been trying my best to counter the damage of our culture with regards to size, and at times age - one of two characteristics I have struggled to embrace the better part of my life, as I have always been a “thick” sistah. The other is a completely new struggle altogether - my own quiet-held fear and at times self-hate that can be suffocating. Everywhere I turn I am constantly reminded of what I’m not – White, blonde and blue-eyed. Coming to terms with this brutal scrutiny of myself I now understand the time to counter these self-destructive thoughts and beliefs must begin immediately with the attempt to love myself as I once did, but now feels like so many years ago. I recognize it is time to claim every roll of fat, mark, scar and far from-perfect inch of my own body – a body that has been called "too fat" by me more than anyone else. Me, a person who understands the importance and purpose of loving oneself, but still finding it difficult to even like the bare naked truth of me in front of a mirror.


Until recently I had been totally oblivious to the viciousness of my own words that have been self-inflicted. Words that hurt most when spoken silently, subconsciously and continuously while internalizing them deep within me. I realize I would NEVER diminish myself in this way for anyone else, so I must stop the diminishing of me by me. While I am long from seeing my body in a beautiful light, I know I must continue to work hard to find, shape and see the beauty in it as it is now, just as I see the beauty of my mind and heart.

“Fat Shaming” can be one of the most humiliating things to ever experience, but “fat shaming” can be the most spirit-crushing and life-threatening at the hands of self. And I want to live a shame-free life. – By Lisa D. Bowie



Lisa is a scholar in training residing in Atlanta, Ga. She has been writing career-related articles since 2009, poetry and editorial opinions since 2010. Her articles have appeared on eXaminer.com, NewsFlavor.com, AuthSpot.com and Bizcovering.com. By trade, she is a human resources professional and possesses more than 20 years of experience, as well as an Assistant Professor. Lisa holds a Master of Arts degree in Humanities and Masters in Education, both from Tiffin University. Last, but not least Lisa loves her wife.





Tuesday, November 25, 2014

10 Days of Gratitude: Day 1 - I Am Grateful by SharRon Jamison

November is the time of the year when many of us are feeling a bit fatigued. Even if it has been a year filled with celebration and success, somewhere in our spirits we are craving renewal, rejuvenation, restoration and relaxation. We have worked hard, studied hard, labored hard and loved hard and in many ways we have reached a crescendo. We need a release because we are full, pregnant with accumulated experiences, and our minds, spirits and bodies need a break, a respite. We need to emotionally, spiritually and physically exhale to release the residue of our transitions, losses, challenges, disappointments, changes and pain. We also need to exhale to release the residue of our growth, development and success because even though positive, those experiences required much of us and also required much from us. We desire, and in some ways, our spirits beg for rest.


But it is in those quiet nights when I am tossing and turning when my mind won’t rest and my body won’t relax, that I list my blessings. I enumerate how God has orchestrated my pains and my gains, a little bit of good and a little bit of bad, the simple and the complex, and the ups and the downs to get me where I am today. And God is so amazing that many times I just sit and wonder.  Because it is in those midnight hours that I see how my experiences fit like pieces of an intricate puzzle. And in those reflective moments, I realize how each piece, some smooth and some jagged, was used to develop me, equip me and strengthen me. And it is at those moments when I am all alone, sometimes crying in desperation and sometimes crying in celebration, that I am the most grateful.
Sometimes I am grateful that things are going well and sometimes I am grateful that things are not as bad as they could be. But nestled in my spirit is a song, an old hymn of the church, called “It Is Well With My Soul”. I sing that song or I just dwell on the meaning of the song and thankfully peace finds me. I don’t feel peaceful immediately, but that song slowly penetrates my soul and reaches those hidden, vulnerable crevices of my spirit to remind me that indeed “It Is Well With My Soul”.  It is at those quiet meditative moments when I feel most grateful.
So, what am I am most grateful for in 2014? I am grateful for agitation. This year I have been pestered, provoked, pushed, pulled and pursued. I have worried more than I should have even though I didn’t realize at the time that I was worrying at all. Unfortunately, my body knew and it protested vigorously.
But it has been at those times when I felt the most aggravated that I really experienced my full potential as a mother, daughter, minister, business owner, professional and person. It was at those most emotionally demanding times that I was able to use frustration as fuel to create new options, develop innovative approaches, generate new revenue, form strategic alliances, seek wiser counsel and most importantly, pray. It was at those times when I was at my most vulnerable places that I reached out, reached in and reached up for strength to handle situations and circumstances that were painful, complicated, baffling and life-threatening.  It was hard, God knows it was hard, and some issues have yet to be resolved.  But I am so grateful that I was agitated, and frequently so, because it forced me to see my potential, nurture my resilience, forgive others, forgive myself and to love differently, not always more deeply, but differently.
I am grateful that God used agitation as a catalyst and clarifier in my life. I am grateful that God shook the proverbial nest and forced me to fly, albeit sometimes reluctantly. I grateful that I was forced out my comfort zone and into my genius zone which allowed  me to get a glimpse of what God could do if I would open my head, my heart and my hand  to new possibilities and to new options. I am grateful that I was agitated and fired up to be the best SharRon I could be. I am grateful!
I am grateful for inspiration. In 2014, I have been inspired to try things that I never tried before and inspired to imagine possibilities than I never imagined before. I wasn’t good at everything I tried, but trying identified and confirmed my strengths, talents and abilities which convinced me that I was not performing up to my full potential or capacity. And so, I am grateful for succeeding at some things and failing at some things because I now have new data to propel me forward. I now have information that will help me better direct, maximize and focus my efforts in my personal and professional lives. I am ready for growth, expansion, new horizons, new ideas and new opportunities.  I now have a clearer vision for my life. I am grateful!
I am also grateful for the inspiration that God sent me through other amazing people. God is so God that God always sent me encouragement just when I needed it most. God sent me the right song at the right time to soothe me. God sent me the right friends at the right time to encourage and me. God lead people to send cards, letters, text messages and email messages that supported me. Even during the tough times, and there were many, I was encouraged, motivated, calmed, comforted, fortified and urged to do, to be, to go, to say and to try. I was blessed by poems, pictures, proverbs, pasta and pats on the back. All acts of kindness were instrumental in healing my heart when it was broken, lifting my spirit when it was low, filling my stomach when it was empty and strengthening my soul when it was weak.  I was blessed!  Thank you. I am grateful!
I am grateful for affirmation. Let’s face it – it is a wonderful feeling when people affirm you, your gifts, your calling and your vision because we all desire to be noticed, appreciated and valued even if we don’t admit it.  And even though public affirmation is not the “be-all, in-all”, it does feel good. It feels good to be affirmed by your peers, family members, colleagues and co-laborers. It feels amazing to have your talent respected, lauded and applauded. It feels good when people take the time to express respect for what you do and for who you are. It is feels good because affirmation is more than a compliment. It is one of the highest expressions of gratitude because it is a way of telling people thank you for just being you, thank you for your contributions, thank you for sharing yourself with the world, thank you for your inner beauty and thank you for walking in your purpose. Affirmations are powerful and life-giving; they are salve for the human soul.
I am grateful for all of you who have affirmed my work and affirmed my very existence. You have encouraged me to step more out on faith, to speak more of my truth, to celebrate more of who I am and to live authentically as I can – flaws, failures, faults and all. You created, supported and fortified a space where I can be vulnerable, transparent, wrong and silly without judgment and ridicule. This adage is so true for me: only free people can free people. You were free and you allowed me to be free. Thank you! I am grateful!
Agitation, inspiration and affirmation!!!   I am grateful that all three have aided in my transformation, edification, preparation and propelled me toward my divine destination. I am grateful for these three wonderful gifts that have helped me become a better me. Thank you! I appreciate all of you so much and I am not only grateful, but I am hopeful because the best ME is yet to come. Blessings!
Blessings!
SharRon Jamison 

10 Days of Gratitude: Day 2 - Creating Magic By April VanMansfeld

When I was very little, sometime between ages 2 – 4, my absolute FAVORITE thing to do was to curl up with my Mama on her bed, lay my head on her stomach and listen to it because it always sounded like the Okefenokee Swamp to my little ears and imagination…

In keeping with our Western tradition of appropriation, we’ve taken religious and philosophical ideals of mindfulness and intention from other cultures flipped them inside out, turned them all akimbo and warped them to somehow mirror and further justify our instant gratification existence to the point of turning an entire range of emotions and states of being into something to be avoided or rushed through at all costs. Anger, fear, loneliness, despair, heartache, worry, discomfort, hopelessness… All of them are relegated to the realm of things one is to leapfrog over as soon as the feelings first appear. Some would go so far as to claim that acknowledging these feelings is tantamount to being ungrateful for all that is going right in one’s life or calling more “negativity” into one’s life.

But wait a minute. If everything we experience is of and from the divine, then so too are all those “negative” emotions. Each is an indicator that something in our realm of reality is no longer fitting our needs or serving our personhood. Sometimes you have a modicum of control over those circumstances. You can quickly and easily remove yourself from the cause of your angst. In those moments, take the leap and be done with it. Other times, it’s not so easy. Life happens to all of us, at any given moment, with no warning and with no concern for our demographics or our lot in life. It just happens. It’s at those times that we find out just how little control we have over the other people and entities in our world. We can’t wish the issue away. We can’t miraculously shift the paradigm by virtue of our force of will. Pushing ourselves through our very real, very appropriate emotional reactions can actually cause the very long-term damage that we think we’re avoiding by jumping ahead to “fine”. Unexercised loneliness, hopelessness and heartache become bitterness. Unexpressed anger, fear and despair become rage. Unprocessed bitterness and rage become disease. Denial is NOT dealing with it. And dealing with it isn’t flailing aimlessly in an abyss you can’t come back from.

Learning to be with yourself in the midst of your discomfort, in the pit of your “what in the hot and holy is THIS new bag of Hell”, is a skill set that will always serve your highest good. The next time it all falls apart or hits the fan or leaves you chipped cracked broken decimated… The next time life hands you a box of lemons, which upon opening you discover are also rotten… I challenge you to dig deep and find it within yourself to give yourself permission to just BE. Sit with your heartache, your loneliness, your disappointment, your fear. Pull it out and look at it. What shape is it? What color and hue? What size is it? How does it smell? How does it taste? What texture does it have? What’s the viscosity? Is it hot or cold? Where do you feel it in your body? Is it pain or pressure? Sharp? Dull? Constant or in waves? Static or pulsating? How does it sound? How does it move? Is it an old wound reopened or is it fresh and new? Where does it come from? What does it want? No, really. Try it. Try to see your feelings as of and from you, but not part of you.

Once you have a deeper understanding of the cause and affects of your emotions, once you own them, once you accept what’s so, you regain your power. You are no longer at the mercy of your feelings or circumstances. You are in alignment with what is so in your reality. This is not a one size fits all quick fix. You won’t float through the rest of your experience, day, week, year, life… You will most definitely repeat the process countless times throughout your life. You will most definitely get caught off guard, side-swiped by life, and go spiraling back to that leapfrog to alright instant gratification pill we were all encouraged to swallow. That’s fine. As stated above, there are occasions when the circumstances warrant it. There are also those life altering moments when the only way out is through. When you will simply have to BE horrified terrified lonely unsure and aching. Moments when you will have to let go of the ledge and fall back into the abyss of nothingness.

It is while you are in that nothingness that the divine, the universe, your highest self, whomever you rely on, will throw you the lifeline you are most needing to get you back on the path to understanding, the freeing truth in acceptance and the leap to gratitude for all of it.

This past Saturday was the cherry on top of a few successive weeks of hell, which is just the latest in half a year of hits to my little fiefdom. Running late to get to my Mom, a no win no end in sight fight with my wife, a “this is what the doctors won’t tell you about your Mom’s condition” conversation with a trusted medical professional & friend of the family, and 20 minutes of sobbing as I sat in her driveway. I then got myself together, mustered up a smile and took myself in her house. Fast forward through a quick unhealthy dinner, and I find myself following my Mama back to her room. She’s only gotten out of bed when absolutely necessary for the past week, which only makes my heart that much heavier. She climbs her little self into bed and fluffs her pillows, making space for me to sit at the foot of her bed. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but after several trips to the kitchen for her, I find myself sitting next to her and then curling up on the pillows by her side, watching tv. Forty years later our roles have reversed. She is now the smaller of the two of us and I am lying on the outside of the bed as if to keep her protected. It’s my stomach making swamp noises. And it is this moment, as I lay there being in my loneliness, my sadness, my helplessness and my despair that the divine gives me a sense of peace and grace. With my little world crumbling around me, in spite of being in all of my “negative” feelings, my goddess granted me moments I haven’t experienced in 40 years and thought I’d never experience again. By accepting what is so in my life instead of ignoring it or hoping it’d all miraculously go away because I willed it to, I rearranged my life to fit this heartbreaking lonely place in my journey. And by doing that, I got my miracle. In the depth of my sorrow, curled up next to my Mama, I got that feeling of total love and acceptance and security I haven’t had since I was 4. In her acceptance of her reality, my Mama let herself need me as much as and at the same time as I needed her. And we, with the help of the divine, found and held each other in the midst of our void, each bringing the other back to face the fire one more day, one step at a time. There is power in being with one’s deepest most painful feelings. It is in those spaces that we hear and receive our most beautiful gifts to and from ourselves, others and the divine.

The next time you’re tempted to soar past your angst, remember how close you are to creating magic. Sit with it, be with it. And get ready to make some magic.

Ase’

April VanMansfeld
TigerWolf, Inc.
EarthMuther Inc





10 Days of Gratitude: Day 4 - Gratitude By Yvette D. Bennett

GRATITUDE

G”rateful for all of the people on my journey who have loved me, left me, taught me, hurt me, healed me, lifted me up, woke me up, showed up AND cut up when needed; past, present and those yet to come in my future.

R”adiating the joy and happiness that I experience in my life daily; hoping that it is infectious enough to make a positive impact in the lives of anyone that I come in contact with, directly or indirectly.

A”ccepting each day as it challenges me to become a better person; to love, be honest, forgiving, honor authenticity, to grow, be vulnerable, live with passion, pay it forward and “live” my life on purpose, with purpose.

T”ransforming my life, the lives that I touch and the lives that touch me by allowing myself to be open to the universal process of giving and receiving positive love, light and energy in every form. Knowing that I am a constant work in progress, constantly evolving, ever changing, and will continue to learn and grow with each coming day.

I”nner peace is always my ultimate goal; never allowing the outer distractions of the world to take control of my mind, body and spirit. Daily Meditation is a part of my process. I positively changed my thoughts, I changed my words, I changed my actions, so I changed my life.

T”hankful for the ability to remain humble and I’m blessed to have those around me who are humble, human and real; allowing me to live in my truth as they live in theirs. 

U”nderstanding that everything in my life happens for a reason and to teach me a lesson. Understanding that some of the souls that come along the way are not meant to stay. They come to teach me something that I may not have gotten without them. It is my duty, OUR duty to “get” the lessons along our journey, learn from them and continue to grow from and with love.

D”iscovery of self is never ending. The people that come into my life and the experiences that I encounter today will shape and mold me into who I am to become next week, next month, next year, and for the remainder of my days on earth; learning things about myself that I have not yet realized, truly growing even more into my MOST authentic self.

E”mpowered daily by everything and everyone around me; good, bad or indifferent. Seeing the light in the midst of darkness, seeing the sunshine in the midst of a storm, seeing the love and joy in the midst of pain. Living, laughing and loving every day, with everyone, in every way, throughout this wonderful gift of a life that I have been blessed with, because it truly is a GIFT.

GRATITUDE


Yvette D. Bennett-Writer/Director






Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Finding the One: Part Two

Other people may come to you prior to The One to help you clarify who she is and who she is not.

A term that many people use these days to describe the overanxious, sometimes desperate behavior of womyn wanting to be in a relationship is “thirsty”.  In my dating experience, I’ve experienced thirst. And I’ll make another analogy and say I experienced “hunger”. After being in a three year relationship that was emotionally flat, void of open communication and sexually dead I was starved for stimulation, adoration and touch. So I was easily enticed and fed on “empty calorie, junk food” relationships.

As a recovering foodie, I know I have to be careful of dishes that may look appetizing, smell good and taste good but that are not good for me. Or even if they won’t hurt me, they are just not on my food plan. I can get full, but not satisfied on such foods. Or, I may eat it, but it had no real sustenance or health benefits. And because there are certain foods that I really like (I am a potato chip connoisseur), I refuse to eat the light or diet version. Baked really isn’t the same as lightly fried and salted.

On our journey to connect with The One, a lot of womyn will come into our lives and perhaps appeal to our appetite for love and relationship. And some of them will be close to the qualities of the womyn we are best suited for and who is a match for us.

Researchers have concluded that this phenomenon of connecting with someone who is a faux match may be based in our inner emotional and social compass that is calibrated by unconscious and subconscious needs.

One theory that speaks to this is Imago theory, developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix.  Imago means: 'the inner unconscious image of the opposite sex' or what you're looking for in a partner but aren't aware of."

The “Imago” is a composite image in the unconscious of the significant character traits and behaviors of childhood primary caretakers. An individual who is like our caretakers in emotionally significant ways — our unconscious drives us to re-create our childhood psychological dynamics in an attempt to heal the central wounds we carry.

The notion is that were born whole and complete individuals. We became wounded in relationships during the early nurturing and socialization stages of development by our primary caretakers (usually inadvertently, in relationships with parents who were doing their best).We developed a composite image of all the positive and negative traits of our primary caretakers deep in our unconscious mind. This is our “Imago.” It becomes a blueprint of the one we will be consider our perfect match.

So in essence, we develop partnerships for the purpose of healing and repairing the unfinished business of childhood. Since we were wounded in relationship we need to repair in a relationship. Romantic love makes the selection and is nature’s way of connecting us with the perfect partner for our eventual healing.

The challenge is, when we aren’t clear, conscious and calm when we are seeking love, we attract someone who is matches the “blueprint”, but who isn’t willing or capable of helping us heal our wounds. And remember, she is acting out her own imago story. The limiting beliefs that hinder our best selection of a partner could be summarized in the messages and experiences based on our internal compass:
  • ‘I can’t do better’: One of the most common reasons for relationship dissatisfaction is choosing a partner that you don’t really like because of believing that you can’t do better. Settling is like buying a cheap imitation because you think that’s all you deserve even though you can afford the real thing.
  • Having past unfinished business: It’s a self-esteem boost if we managed to attract someone who resembles a person who rejected us in the past. But attracting people who resemble abusers may result in one being abused again.
  • Being too eager to find love: As humans we all need to be taken care of but when this need lets you chose someone who is bad for you then know that it became an unhealthy desire instead of a healthy need. Not feeling loved or nurtured creates vulnerability to accept those who give them attention with disregard to their real compatibility.
  • Being enamored with the idea of a relationship or “in love with love: Many people hate being single and long for the day they will be with someone. This intense desire might make a person blind when choosing a partner.
So check your internal compass before you actively seek The One. Is it directed by your broken spirit or wounded heart?  Do you need to examine your childhood experiences more closely to see how they influence your grown up relationships?  Is the person you have high passion with actually a composite of the chaos of your past?  Finding The One requires savvy “shopping”. Some womyn will be close to the real deal. But I’ve learned that cubic zirconium isn’t a diamond, it won’t cut glass. Plus Fool’s Gold looks good, but it can’t buy anything. The One isn’t a cheap imitation nor a nice “knockoff”.

Related Article:
Finding The One Part I: I Am One


Gwen Thomas is the author of The S.H.E. Experience, a woman’s perspective on self-actualization. She is also the President and CEO of The C.A.S.T. Company, which provides training, consulting and professional coaching to individuals and organizations. As speaker and consultant, she presents various professional development and personal growth topics. She has provided training and motivational speaking throughout the United States, in the Caribbean; a total of 7 countries on three continents.

She has experience and expertise in leadership and organizational development, communication skills and women’s professional and personal growth. She has spent the majority of her professional life motivating and teaching others in workplace settings and in spiritual environments.

Follow her at msgwen127@twitter.com

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy Couple Highlight: Yvonne and Tiffany


Yvonne 


Tiffany Harrison



New York, New York

This month we are revisiting and celebrating with one of the Create Love couples that we featured in February 2013. Yvonne shares her and wife’s views on parenting and offers advice for other same-sex couples. Thanks Tiffany and Yvonne for sharing your wisdom with the CL family and the world. And most of all, congratulations on the birth of your beautiful daughter, Zoe Doll.

Deciding to start a family for most couples involves a lot of heart searching. But for most same-sex couples it requires an additional amount of intention due to laws, legal protections and expense. How did you decide that it was time to add to your family? And, what advice would you give to other couples who are also considering parenthood? We both wanted to be parents and after being legally married, removing all debt, restoring our credit, pursuing our educational goals and becoming stable in ministry, we felt it was time to seek God on the addition(s) to our family. As soon as we developed stability, balance and financial security, we prayed for direction and God released us to begin the process.


We would advise other couples to communicate your desires, moral ethics, spiritual ethics, financial goals, career goals etc. before starting a family. 

What were the hardest conversations about co-parenting and why? And how did you navigate through those discussions? What areas do you think are potential land-mines that couples must be aware of during the pre-planning pregnancy process? Ironically, we were raised in two completely different spectrums but yet we have commonalities in parenting styles and we both believe that our child will be greatly influenced by the reciprocal interactions of both of us. The number one priority is co-parenting in a healthy way which will allow room for patience, open communication, boundaries, and spiritual guidelines that will foster training our child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We believe couples must be aware of areas of child rearing that need to be discussed prior to stating the process. (Who will discipline, who will provide structure, who will lead spiritually, who will provide financially, what schools the child will attend). We were able to answer these questions through prayer and supplication. We are both equally navigating through each area.


I have many friends who have started a family together. Most of them say that they totally underestimated the impact of both of them having strong maternal instincts. What are thoughts and how do you anticipate addressing the 2 "mommy bear" dynamic? We've never been a couple fascinated with or bound by titles or roles in our marriage, therefore, our children will only know us as their mother. As 2 women with maternal instinct, that is the only role we can or have a desire to fill. We are both qualified, prepared, and led by the Holy Spirit.



I know sometimes in the lesbian community there is expectation about who should carry the baby, and the assumption is that one should carry over the other. I applaud you for honoring your relationship and not getting caught up in the fem/aggressor dynamic. But I am interested.....Did you experience any comments around "roles" and what advice can you give to other couples? Yes, more than I actually expected. In fact, when we decided to tell family and friends that I was carrying they couldn't believe it. We assessed who had the most astounding response. It was way too many to keep track. I told my church something profound. When I announced I was carrying, people were shock, surprised and taken aback. I said, "God will use who people LEAST EXPECT!" There was a blessing in the response of others. I told them to tap themselves on the chest and say, get ready because God is getting ready to use you because people least expect you. The people least expected me, the Pastor, the more aggressive. Our advice is, we were created to reproduce and that's not tied to a title or role. When you are married, you don't care who carries, you go above and beyond to extend your family. You don't get caught up in the stigma of roles in same-gender loving relationships. Motherhood is a blessing and if God made it possible for both, then why wouldn't we capitalize on the blessing and opportunity? 

Being a pastor and a minister, how do you feel parenthood will impact to your ministry? And, what have you put in place to provide support and to set boundaries so that your family does not become a casualty of the church. (I am a preacher's kid).The greatest impact will be the model that we set. We are legally married and we did it Gods way. Family is very close to God's heart. In fact, family was his idea from the very beginning. He has a divine purpose for our family and we have to recognize that what we model will ultimately set the standard. So, we can impact the church by representing a model that can positively affect our families and congregants aspiring to start a family.

Developing boundaries is crucial and critical to maintain a healthy family. We have a motto at church, "Family First" Now, we are not expecting change overnight, because we have trained the church in very ingrained patterns. In other words, our availability has been a top priority. We plan to reform it in a very progressive pattern. We intend to present a balance for our daughter which will allow her to decipher who we are in church and who we are outside of church. When we are home, we are parents and we will not bombard her with church life at home. 



Yvonne, I know that you plan on stepping back from the church for a few months while you and Tiffany get adjusted to your little bundle joy. I know as a career woman it was hard for me to slow down and step aside to nurture my relationships with my son, spouse and my own soul. What are your thoughts about balancing being a partner, parent, person and a pastor? One of the greatest blessings that I have is the understanding and patience of our church leaders and members. I don't feel obligated to be present because in my time in ministry, I've learned that Jesus set boundaries. Jesus had personal needs that he put priority on sometimes even over the needs of other people and he did so without feeling guilty. Motherhood is as important if not more important that Pastoring. I have to excel at managing my household and providing an example. I am very in tuned with my responsibilities, I take each of them seriously and I plan to be thorough and effective in all areas. Anything less would misrepresent God.



What can your congregants do to support you? 
To be honest, they've done enough. Their patience, understanding, provisions, presence and prayers have edified us beyond explanation. In a literal sense, they can continue to be present, active, faithful and responsible to care for the church in my absence. I have some of the best leaders in the kingdom and they are well equipped and prepared to be on the front-line for our church. 

What did you learn about yourself and about each other during the pregnancy?Tiffany: I learned that God could trust me to dedicate a child back to Him. I learned that my wife put us extending our family before herself and that's admirable.

Yvonne: I learned that I am trustworthy. To think that God entrusted me to carry and birth his child is indescribable. 

We learned that we are more suitable than we imagined. We don't have a perfect marriage but we have a purposeful marriage. This pregnancy has given us a new perspective on life, God, our marriage, and our families. God used our miracle to unite both sides of our families. It's inexplicable. 

You ladies are definitely role models in the community, and especially in the ministry. How do you ensure that you continue to walk in your purpose and not succumb to the tyranny of popularity? In ministry there is no such thing as popularity. Carnality seeks popularity. We are as the scripture says, "a peculiar people" If you remain in His will, and walk steadfast in humility, there's no room for our spirits to be subject to the world and popularity. As long as we keep Christ as the head of our marriage, our family, and our church, he will guide us in the way in which we should go. If your marriage points people to Christ then you are effective. We are committed to living our lives in a manner that will be pleasing to God and his followers.

What does family mean to you and why? A good Christian family is one which lines up with biblical principles and one in which each member understands and fulfills his or her God given role. Family was created by God, and we believe that we have been given the responsibility of exemplifying good stewardship over our family. Families differ in terms of economic, cultural, social, and many other facets, but what we consider family is operating in unconditional love despite of our differences, choices or circumstances in life.

What is your most important prayer and desire for your family? That we live and model a Christian family exemplifying the gifts of the spirit. That we extend the same grace that God extended toward us to his people. That we don't succumb to sin, or the desires of the world. That we love each other sacrificially and unconditionally. We desire to be a constant, consistent family to aid and support others in their desire to start a family.

In our communities, what can we do to better support same-sex families? We need to develop avenues that would create equal access to legal protection and social support for same sex families. We need greater visibility which can help to change the stereotypes that afflict our community, and make people aware of the structure and success, of same sex families.
On a very serious note, as it pertains to state and local laws we have to support nondiscrimination laws and utilize efforts that would have an impact on equality for our families.

We plan to be extremely vocal and active in enhancing the exposure of our family dynamic and the importance of integrating who we are into our community and those outside of our community.

What values do you hope to impart to Baby Zoe and why? The obvious values such as reverence for God, biblical principles, honesty, respect, compassion, forgiveness, unconditional love, responsibility, appropriate behavior, proper morals, ethics and the ability to be who God has made her to be.

You can also find Tiffany and Yvonne at:
Restoration Temple Ministries: 
http://www.rtmnyc.org
www.womencanpreachtoo.org
https://www.facebook.com//OverseerYvonneHarrison

Look for Yvonne’s soon to be released book: The Pain, The Process & The Promise

Please check out the first article on this wonderful couple: http://createloveforwomen.blogspot.com/2013/02/happy-couple-highlight-yvonne-tiffany.html



We thank you for sharing your love with us at Create Love! Your story will encourage, inspire and uplift other couples. We wish you continued success and happiness.www.createloveforwomen.com

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Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison



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