How to Have a Valentine’s Day that Keeps Your Love Strong All Year Long!

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, and every flower shop, jewelry brand, and chocolate purveyor is advertising like a crazy person. Television ads – check! Email marketing – check! Store front displays in the shape of a heart – check! All the bases are covered for this hugely commercialized Love fest.

You know I’m all about the L-O-V-E, but I am also all about how we can dig deeper – past the commercial pressure, and obligatory gifts to things that last. I’m all about reaching as far down deep into that well of love as we possibly can to create something that is as meaningful as it is pretty, something that stands the test of time. Definitely something that lasts past February 14!

Here’s an idea for a Valentine’s Day activity and conversation that will lay the foundation to keeping your love strong all year long – and long after that! In the midst of the dinner planning, the chocolate buying, the jewelry purchasing, and the lingerie hunting, take a few minutes – well, much more than that; this is sure to take much longer.

Have you ever thought of creating a marriage manifesto? [Or if you’re unmarried but dating, a relationship manifesto? Not dating at the moment – a self-love manifesto? More on the latter later. :)]

You’re wondering what that is, aren’t you? :)

A marriage manifesto is basically a mission statement that details guiding principles and values that your marriage intends to hold on to. It’s designed to have you thinking hard, and laying a solid foundation for the kind of marriage you want to have – instead of leaving things up to chance and whim.

For instance, a marriage manifesto might look like this,

 

 

“In this marriage, we commit to ….
treating each other with kindness,
even when we disagree;
apologizing when we are wrong,
& refusing to gloat when we are right;
listening to each other without judgment,
when we share our dreams, fears, and feelings.
We commit to spending quality time together,
even when we are busy;
loving each other, 
without expecting anything in return;
and praying with and for each other
every single day.”

 

 

 

This is a sample that I just made up, and you need to tweak it according to the values and principles you both hold most dear in your marriage. Also, feel free to create it in a format that feels most like you. Rather than writing out long words and sentences, you may simply pick a few principles and values as guiding ones.

Like this,

 

 

FRIENDSHIP
GROWTH
HUMILITY
KINDNESS
PATIENCE
PASSION
PRAYER

 

 

Then, you may simply outline what each principle means to you. E.g., “Friendship – We have fun together, trust each other, and rely on each other, above anyone else…” You get the drift!

Now, go have a spicy Valentine’s Day, while creating a foundation that will (hopefully) help you last throughout the high and low seasons of your marriage.

 

P.S.

The relationship manifesto looks much like the marriage manifesto – except, of course, you aren’t married; so, keep that in mind as you create yours.

The self-love manifesto is amazing, too. It can look like the above, but this time, it will detail how you will treat yourself! I think it’ll be so important for us all to have a self-love manifesto (My brain wheels are turning as I write this), because our selfhood doesn’t end when we’re in a relationship. On the contrary, we probably need it more than ever, so that we don’t lose ourselves in our relationships, as they evolve from dating to courtship to marriage to motherhood. Makes sense?

 

 

 

H A P P Y  

V A L E N T I N E’ S

D A Y

<3

 

A Little Secret: How to ALWAYS Know What Gifts to Give Your Significant Other!

The official gift-giving season just ended. I’m talking about Christmas! With lines around the block and strangers struggling to get that last piece of whatever-it-was, stress and anxiety were high. Aaaaand the beat goes on! Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and her birthday is creeping up around the bend. Anniversary gifts are causing you a lot of stress, and you’re unsure what he should get for Father’s Day. It somehow never ends.

While some of us have fallen into the habit of buying an old trusty gift (socks and ties for men & perfume for women, anyone?), the rest of us scramble around when that time approaches, asking friends and loved ones, “What would you want as a gift?”

Interestingly, though, we have the ultimate cheat sheet at our fingertips and don’t even know it! I’m about to share a truly revolutionary idea …. Wait for it ….

Just listen!

 

Yeah, that’s the secret. I’m not being facetious. If we just listened, we would realize that pretty often, our loved ones give us hints or tell us exactly what they would like. Sometimes, those gifts aren’t necessarily things that we would consider gifts, but are exactly what that person needs.

 

For instance, as a man scrambles around wondering what perfect piece of jewelry to get his overworked wife, all she really fantasizes and talks about is how amazing it would be to get an entire weekend off to have some “me-time” in a hotel by herself. Now, that hotel bill might be much cheaper than the jewelry the gift-giver feels obligated to give, but it would mean the whole world.

 

Or, throughout the year, your husband talks about how much he needs to get some new shirts because his old ones seem to be shrinking in the dryer, but you get snazzy cuff links instead – because, well, they are snazzy and very stylish.

 

All we have to do really is listen. Then, when we hear those things, let’s …

write them down!

Make a list on your phone. Write them down in your planner or journal. Store them for future reference.

 

That way, when it’s time to be the gift-giver, all you have to do is pull out your cheat sheet, press “buy”, and be the world’s greatest husband or wife – at least for a few minutes. LOL.

 

You’re welcome! ;)

SELF-CARE RITUAL: (B)elieve!

This one sounds ridiculously easy, but is somehow one of the most difficult thing to do.

So you have this amazing idea that you just know will solve a massive problem and change the way things are done. Or you envision a product that will be a pioneer and a trailblazer. Or your creative juices flow in poetry, music, and song every moment of the day, and you just know that it will resonate with thousands – maybe, even millions. You daydream, and smile – imagining the possibilities.

Until, of course, you awaken from your slumber, shake your head as you realize the impossibilities, and tell yourself to get a grip on reality. Then, you get up and return to your mundane routine, in a life that is devoid of joy, purpose, and passion – because, well … it just can’t be done.

Welcome to today’s ritual! Not sure how “believing” is self-care? Let me tell you! When you actually believe in the possibilities of your dreams, your outlook on everyday is much brighter; you approach each day with more joy and gusto; and constantly living in anticipation.

People who don’t believe in possibilities live in perpetual hopelessness and a lack of control. They are not joyful or thriving; instead, they are settling – resigned to the average, mediocre, or downright miserable rhythm of their days.

This week’s self-care challenge is to take some time out to believe in the possibility of your dreams coming true. Start with tiny dreams – the possibility that you can wake up at a certain time everyday, for instance – and work your way up to the biggest, most outrageous, and bodacious dreams.

Bask in the joy of the possibilities of what your life can be like. Your mood, your energy, and your beauty glow will thank you for it. :)

{Image: Mary Maguet | Photography:  Giulio Rustichelli | Flair Magazine}

Lanre Williams-Ayedun: WorldVision Deputy Director | World Changer | Making No More Apologies

“I grew up around international development. My father worked for an international development research organization; and so from a very young age, I was surrounded by that world. The funny thing is that I swore that I was not going to go into [that field]. When I was young, my dad traveled a lot for work. And so, I thought “I’m not going to go into international development, if it takes you away from your family!”

My whole life I think I’ve lived in Nigeria for a sum total of 3 years. I was born in England and actually spent most of my childhood in Niger Republic. Like I said, my dad was in international development, so we lived in Ethiopia and Niger. I spent 12 years of my life in Niger, then went to boarding school in Togo; so my real adult experiences in Nigeria were actually through work.

I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and I had these grand ideas of being a psychologist and doing all this counseling. But when I was in undergrad, I did some student counseling, and the girl that I was shadowing and counseling with my professor was cutting herself – and I couldn’t, at the end of the day, go home and leave it at work.  It was haunting me! I was always concerned: “Is she going to be okay?” “Did I say the right things?” “Did we do everything that we could for her?” And I realized really quickly that I can’t be a psychologist.

 

JOURNEY TO INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT & CAREER

So, I graduated and [was thinking,] “Okay, what am I going to do now?” Because I had grown up around international development, it was very easy for me to fall back into it, and I realized that there were a lot of things about international development that I actually enjoyed! I liked the travel. I liked the management side of it. I liked being able to be in touch with beneficiaries and working directly with people. I’m very big on capacity building and training, and so, those are the aspects that actually drew me back into it.

 

 


“Poverty looks the same everywhere. I was in rural Cambodia, and I felt like I could be in rural Nigeria! The issues are kind of the same, and the passion & drive that people have to change their lives for their children and to make something of themselves.”


 

 

I went to grad school and realized that I didn’t have enough tangible skills to be employable, and I started looking for internships. A friend was working for Partners for Development (PfD); she suggested that I apply for their internship. I got in and started doing some really cool work with them as an intern, and wove that into my graduate program & did a Capstone experience with them. I basically took a team and we did an evaluation of a PfD program; I was hooked from then on! I went on to work for them in their Headquarters, and then moved to WorldVision. But I always wanted to stay in touch with PfD, because they were my first real experience of doing the work that I was passionate about, and they just had a fantastic team of people – people that were willing to mentor me, and coach me, and give me real opportunities. I found that a lot of my friends that were doing internships didn’t have the kind of hands-on experience that PfD was giving me. And that’s basically because it was a small organization, where the Executive Director just really believed in giving people a chance. He really gave me a chance and allowed me to do some real work; so, I’m really really passionate about [them] because I’ve worked with the people, I’ve been in the field, and I’ve seen the real impact of the work that they do. Also, they were my link back to Nigeria as an adult; so, they hold a very special place in my heart. I had some great experiences with them: I went to Asia for the first time. That was kinda out of this world. I felt like, even though it’s Asia and it’s very different, poverty looks the same everywhere. I was in rural Cambodia, and I felt like I could be in rural Nigeria! The issues are kind of the same, and the passion & drive that people have to change their lives for their children and to make something of themselves. It’s the same everywhere! I’m super passionate about PfD for that reason. I was invited to the Board of Trustees a little while ago, and have loved getting to be involved with them.

 Lanre Williams-Ayedun 6

I’ve been at WorldVision now for almost 8 years. I’m new in this particular role: right now, I’m the Deputy Director on our Child Development and Protection team. What that means is that I manage a team of program management officers that backstop programs that support international child protection. So, we have programs that focus on education, on reducing sexual and reproductive gender-based violence in schools, on child labor issues and mitigation, on protecting children against abuse & trafficking; on democracy and governance, youth workforce issues, and a whole range of different topics. I manage it all, because I have a great team: the people I work with are super competent, and very passionate about the work that they do. Also, one thing you have to remember is that we in the U.S. are basically providing the back office support; people in the countries are actually the ones doing the work! So, the portfolio that I oversee has 16 programs, and our portfolio amount is multiple million dollars that we manage, but we have teams in each country in each program that are actually doing the day-to-day work. The support that we provide facilitates the work that they do on the ground.

So, Deputy Director is a very big title, but [part of what I do is] I’m answering e-mails, driving the big picture – basically trying to get out of people’s way so they can do the work on the ground. 

The key thing I’ve learned from the places I’ve worked is that there is no easy solution to poverty, and to injustice, to illness. There are so many different factors and different layers that go into trying to empower households or women or children to achieve the better life that they want. There are cultural factors, societal factors, economic factors, all kinds of household and community dynamics, national and international dynamics – so many things [at] play. I think what I’ve learned is alot of humility. Because you go to grad school and you come out like, “Yeah, I know international development!” Then you start working and you [realize], “I don’t know anything!” Again, a sense of humility to know that people have their own solutions. When I was starting out, [I was thinking], “Okay, I have a U.S. education, and all this textbook knowledge about how things are supposed to work.” And then, you get out into the field, and you’re in a real health facility where there’s no running water, there’s no electricity; yet, these [doctors] are treating people! And they’re providing really good counseling. And they’re actually changing people’s lives. And you look and [realize] they don’t actually have any of the things I learned about in school – yet, they’re making a difference. They’re doing something that’s important; they are giving back to their community. How dare I come from the U.S. and think that I have the best solution?

 

Lanre Williams-Ayedun 3

 

 

 


“The key thing I’ve learned from the places I’ve worked is that there is no easy solution to poverty, and to injustice, to illness. I think what I’ve learned is a lot of humility.”


 

HAIR, BEAUTY & SELF-ACCEPTANCE

I cut my hair in July [2015],and it really was born out of frsutration. I had braids and had fully intended to get my braids redone. So, I called the salon and told the woman, “I’m taking my braids out now, but I’m coming back to get my braids done.” It was 4th of July, by the way. I asked if she would be open, and she said [they would be]. She asked me what time I thought I would be coming, and I said around 2. I got to the salon at 2:10 – and they were closed; she wasn’t answering her phone anymore [either].

I came home, and started telling my husband, “I am DONE! I am done being beholden to these people; they are NOT going to dictate my life.” My husband said, “Don’t do it! You’re going to cut it. You’re going to hate it! And then, I have to deal with the fallout!” LOL. I said, “No! I’m doing it!” We were still arguing about it, when I took the clippers and took a big chunk out of the back of my head!!! Then I said, “Oh no! What have I done? You need to come and fix it!” Then, he cut it evenly and that was it!

Then, [my next thought was] now, I actually have to do something with it! I decided I don’t want to grow my hair again; I’m done [with that]. That’s how I got to where I am now [with my hair] – and I love it! I absolutely love it! I keep telling people that I look in the mirror, and I feel like my outside finally matches my insides. I’ve felt like I’ve always had an edge to me, and I felt that in trying to make it in my career and in my field, and in trying to make myself be someone that is taken seriously, I guess I’ve felt that I had to project a certain persona or look a certain way. In cutting my hair and having a rather decisively boyish cut, people are always saying, “Oh, that’s very butch!” And I’m like, “Yeah – and I like it!” I like the fact that I have a part. I like the fact that it’s kind of crazy at the top. I like the fact that I go to a barber shop. I know that people look at me and think certain things about me, and I feel like I’m finally not conforming to how people think that a Deputy Director or someone who’s been in international development for 12 years is supposed to look. I felt for a very long time that I had to prove my legitimacy in my field and in my world; [but now], I kinda feel that I’ve gotten to the point where [I’m thinking], No! I get to be myself! And people just have to accept me the way that I am, with my quirky whatever-it-is. This is who I am, and I’m not making apologies for it anymore!

 Lanre Williams-Ayedun 2

 

THE AMAZING DECADE OF THE THIRTIES

In my thirties, I think that I’ve really filled into myself. I think that following along with what I’ve been talking about, I don’t make apologies for who I am anymore. I feel like I’m at the point now where: I’m kind of settled in my career, I have some tangible skills, I know what I bring to the table, I think I’ve identified where my strengths and weaknesses are. I feel like I know myself better – and I feel like I can represent that better to the outside world! I feel like I’m not proving myself to anybody anymore at this point, you know? I’ve been married for 5 years. I feel like I’ve got nothing to prove to anybody but myself! 

In my thirties, I just settled into [thinking], This is my life & this is who I am, and the world’s just gotta cut a deal with that!

It’s not a magic switch. It’s not like I turned 30 and all of a sudden, it was like, “Oh, I get it now!” LOL. But at the same time, I [realized}, I’m 33! What the heck? When did that happen? I feel like I’ve come into my own.

I think one of the things I’ve come into in my thirties is making peace with my body. I feel like a lot in my twenties I was thinking,”I’m too fat!” “I need to work out more!” It was always about having this right fit in my clothes. I was always very conscious of having to fit into my clothes the “right” way and always having to look a certain way in my clothes. I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where I’m [thinking], You know what? I want to be healthy. My weight is going to fluctuate – and actually, that’s okay. And I [no longer] feel as though I need to look a certain way in my clothes. I can throw something on and go to work, and I’m just going through my day. I’m not constantly thinking, How did I look? Was I slouching in that? Could people see my belly fat? You know what, WHATEVER! So, I think there’s a lot of freedom that comes from that.

Lanre Williams-Ayedun 4

 


“I look in the mirror, and I feel like my outside finally matches my insides. In trying to make it in my career and in my field, I felt that I had to project a certain persona or look a certain way. I feel like I’m finally not conforming to how people think that a Deputy Director or someone who’s been in international development for 12 years is supposed to look. I felt for a very long time that I had to prove my legitimacy in my field and in my world. I’ve gotten to the point where, No! I get to be myself! And people just have to accept me the way that I am. This is who I am, and I’m not making apologies for it anymore!”


 

 

STYLE, COMFORT & DRESSING FOR YOU

I’m most comfortable in skinny jeans, a button-down shirt, and sneakers. That’s my go-to. That’s what I’d wear to work on a Friday. That’s what I’d wear on a weekend. And people – even my close friends – say, “That’s really butch!” And I’m like, Really though! It’s just clothes! Why does it have to have a label? I love a great pair of pumps and I love to dress up as well, but why can’t I just be comfortable in my own skin and not have people make assumptions of me because of the way that I dress or the way that I look?

 


“In my thirties, I think that I’ve really filled into myself. I feel like I know myself better – and I feel like I can represent that better to the outside world! I feel like I’ve got nothing to prove to anybody but myself!” 


 

 

ON DATE NIGHT

[My husband and I] are huge homebodies, and we spend a lot of time at home. LOL. It has become this running thing between us: we don’t go anywhere – and we love it! It’s kind of sad, but it’s kind of awesome. We love to eat out – but when I say, “Eat out”, I mean go get the food and come back home. LOL. That’s date night! We [also] have an in-home theater which we spend quite a bit of time in, and that’s our thing.

We don’t own a TV; so, we spend quite a bit of time watching movies. That’s our just-cuddle-up-downstairs, get-some-good-food, hang out [time]. I’ve had people come to  my house and go, “Your house is so quiet! You need the radio on or something!” I get very overwhelmed with constant noise; so, the fact that my home is so quiet is so good for me.

 

 

DEFINING A “LIFE FULFILLED”

I would look back and think that my life was fulfilled if I could see that I had been intentional in my relationships with the people that I love, and that I used my skills and talents in a way that glorified God. I’m at the point [where I know], you don’t know what life holds and we have to be thankful for all the times that we have good health, and our needs are met, and all of that. So much in life is transient and so much is uncertain. So, if you can feel like you’re not just being tossed around and you’re being intentional about what you’re doing and have some element of control in the way that you respond and react to the things that come into your life, that is very powerful.

My faith is very important to me. So, feeling like my faith isn’t just something that I say, but something that people can see lived out, I would feel very fulfilled with that.”

– as told to Chioma Obii-Obioha for Lovenwords.com.

 

 

 

Lanre Williams-Ayedun is a public health professional with more than ten years of experience in organizational leadership, systems building for new business acquisition, and technical program design and management.  Lanre is currently the Deputy Director for Child Development and Protection for WorldVision, Inc. She joined the Partners for Development Board in 2012, but worked with and for PfD from 2005 to 2009 in various capacities, including in program design and start-up of public health, microfinance, and agriculture programs in Nigeria, Tanzania, Cambodia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Lanre has extensive experience with major U.S. Government, U.S. foundations, and multi- and bi-lateral donors including winning and managing grants from USAID, USDA, The Packard Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. She has led the design and submission of proposals that have yielded over $50M in new revenue from USAID and The Gates Foundation. 

The Perfect Body According to Men (and Women, Too)

The search is finally over. The results are in, and the perfect body has been unveiled.

You’ve thought about it, searched for it, tried hard to attain it – and now, you finally get to see what the perfect body really is. Here it goes!

According to a poll published by Time magazine, 500 men and women were asked to create the perfect body using celebrities as their models. here’s what was unveiled:

 

Interesting, right?

For starters, it’s interesting to see that only Caucasians made the cut. :( More on that subject later!

Next – and this is the one we should all be really excited about – ummmm…. NO ONE has the perfect body. All these people who were polled think that only one feature on each celebrity is ideal. That’s laughable and sad, but also oddly reassuring. How? Well, if what most of the world calls a benchmark isn’t really a benchmark, then what have we been doing all along? Why have you been trying to look like a celebrity when you just want a part of her mixed in with a feature from someone else? I mean, this isn’t what would have picked if were polled – not at all. It’s probably not what you would have picked, either – and yours would likely have been different from mine, too. You see what I mean?

The “perfect” female body doesn’t exist, because all our incredible bodies are perfect. This poll just goes to show exactly what we’ve known all along: trying to look like someone else is futile. Besides, beauty trends come and go, What was in last year will be out in the next year, and may be ridiculous in 2 years.

Be YOU! Look like YOU! Love your own perfect body. :)

Behind Every Perfectly Put Together Woman is a Great Deal of Chaos!

She is beautiful: her hair is healthy, luscious, and full. Her figure is toned and so strong that everything fits her like a glove.

Her husband holds her hand every time they are in public, and her children are incredible-looking and always perfectly groomed.

She wears designer clothing, and her fashion is always right on trend.

She has multiple businesses and a career that ties it all together.

Her house is huge, and the décor is tasteful and sophisticated. When she speaks her voice is light, her cadence is musical, and everything she shares is intelligent.

This is the life you want! This is the person you want to be. Lord, please take me out of this mundane life, and make me this woman I see every week.

Let’s slow down for a second, and take a deep breath!

The thing about wanting someone else’s life and admiring someone to the point of envy and near worship is that we don’t pull back the curtain – we haven’t looked behind the scenes.

Are you there when she awakes at 4 AM everyday, after just 4 hours of sleep to get 1 hour of exercise every single day?

Do you know that she struggles with guilt every single day, because she wishes she could spend more time with her children?

Do you realize that she sees her husband only 6 months every year, because he travels so much?

Did you know that her clothing is high-end, but her bank account is frayed?

Have you heard that she is suffering from exhaustion and battling stress-related illness because she works so hard?

Do you see her tears when she wants to give up?

Do you listen when she prays for new breakthroughs?

Life is incredible. We think we want what someone else has – until we have what someone else has. The reality is that every single person who has anything that is worthwhile (or simply looks worthwhile) is paying a price. Everything comes with a sacrifice. The question is, what are you willing to sacrifice? To achieve all of that would you be willing to lose sleep, or time with your children, or money, or rest, or time in your marriage, or trends? Something has to give.

For every woman you admire (that includes every celebrity whose life you think you want), real life is happening for them. They have real-life issues, they have to push to get to the next level. There is some (or lots of ) chaos going on behind the scenes. There are multiple balls in the air, and some balls will and get dropped.

Have you ever watched a stage play or helped put together an event? Everything looks wonderfully put together at center stage – but behind the scenes, there is madness and chaos. Dresses get ripped, things go missing, people are late, improvisation must take place.

Don’t want a life whose curtains you cannot pull back. That means, the only life you can really know is your own. Figure out the life you want behind the scenes, and focus on your own beautiful chaos.

 

Marriage Resolutions to Make in 2016 (And They’re Probably Not What You Think)!

So, about those resolutions: how many did you make, and how many are you holding up so far? It’s Day 11 already. Just kidding! LOL

Most of us have made resolutions (or rather, set some goals) for this year. many of those goals have been high and lofty, ensuring that by the time the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2016, we will look back and feel like champions, right?

Well, if you’ve set the financial goals, and the fitness goals, and committed to a brand new diet plan, did you leave out an incredibly important area of your life – marriage? I know that so many times, we forget that relationships are infinitely more important than things & other areas of our lives that allow people to look at us with admiration. However, that person we come home to everyday – the one with whom we share a bed – is much more important than anybody else out there. Setting goals in this area can be the foundation that changes almost everything in every other area.

There are standard resolutions and choices we all need to make in our marriages, but some of these resolutions might be totally unexpected. It is universally acknowledged that good communication is the bedrock of any successful marriage. Nothing can replace the need for effective, direct, and loving communication between couples. Compromise is another one that every marriage needs.

With these two super marriage concepts stated, there are a few of them that we need to keep in mind – especially as women. When we get married, we sometimes forget how incredibly important these two things below are. Let’s get into it!

Maintain your individuality. “1 plus 1 equals 1”, is one of the most popular sayings used for the definition of marriage as an institution. It means that two people who are joined together have chosen to become a unit: you know, “One man, One wife, One flesh.” What we usually understand that to mean (for women, particularly) is that we need to become almost clone-like. We have to do everything together, enjoy the same things, and have the same routine. Our thoughts and desires become meshed – ladies and gentlemen, we are one!

The problem with this is that you wake up one day and ask yourself why your joy is gone. What you probably lost along the way is that sense of self. What you’ve probably left behind is everything that makes you happy and joyful as a person. You’ve left behind the joy of long, solo morning walks, or cheesy 70’s music, or early morning tennis and late night reading. You’ve poured so much of yourself into your spouse that you now find yourself standing in the corner … empty, dry.

Marriage is incredible: one man, one woman, one flesh is a truly awe-inspiring miracle of commitment. It means that we are an absolute unit, a united front, and a family of our own. What it doesn’t mean is that I am you, and you are me. Maintain your individuality: like what you like, and let him like his. Find where your own tastes and interests converge and pursue them together, but don’t neglect to be who you are – who God made you to be. Don’t leave behind those amazing things that set your soul on fire!

 

 

Be a whole person on your own. One of the most popular movie lines is from Jerry Maguire. Remember, “You complete me?” Who can forget? As women, we absolutely LOVE lines like that: what romance, what deep yearning, what depths of love. In practice, however, this is an incredibly dangerous notion. I should never look to another person to give my life wholeness, because we are all very fallible creatures. What happens when we get inevitably disappointed, when the arguments arise, when there is tension? Two whole people create a stable, loving relationship. Be a whole person on your own – then, you can contribute so much more. When you stand on a firm foundation – and he does, too – your lives are centered on something totally rigid for those days when the storm comes and the wind blows.

Find yourself irresistibly beautiful. How many of us are constantly waiting for someone else to validate our beauty? We’ve all been in situations in which we can’t understand how someone incredibly beautiful just cannot see her own beauty. It makes no sense, right? Well, your were probably the pot calling the kettle black, because that’s probably you! If you cannot see your own beauty, then you place all your expectations of validation on the shoulders of your spouse – and that’s a load he cannot carry. Plus, we all know that men have a way of putting their foot in their mouth. LOL.

My point is, don’t wait for your husband to tell you how beautiful you are. Find that out for yourself. It’s my personal mission to make you see that. When you already know how amazing you are, your spouse’s compliments are the delicious cherry on top – but not the whole cake. Know that you are beautiful, then let him remind you along the way.

 

 

SELF-CARE RITUAL: (A)sk for Help!

Super Woman. Super Mom. #BestWifeEver. Go-getter. Winner. #BossChick. Independent Woman. #GirlBoss.

The hashtags, the titles, the responsibilities, and the demands are never ever in short supply. A woman’s work is never really done!

Unfortunately, we have all internalized this mindset that, to be who we are, we must do it all on our own. We swap stories and compare notes on who has had less sleep, who is juggling more, and who has baked every single thing from scratch (because, of course, that’s the best way to show just how much we love our children, right? Hmmm).

Sadly, as we wear that “S” on our chests, our heads hurts, our limbs are consistently achy, and our nerves are frayed. When we bite more than we can chew and constantly carry too much, our emotions, feelings and moods take a real downward spiral – and our physical bodies go along for the ride. It usually isn’t until our bodies force us to rest that we listen, because we have gotten so used to ignoring all the warning signs. :(

As a woman who is really just learning to ask for help (this is truly a major Achilles heel for me), I can relate. We feel that things just can’t be done just right, if we don’t take them on ourselves. Or, we’re so used to carrying our own load that we don’t know how to accept it when someone is asking to share it with us, or call for help when we feel the load becoming so dangerously heavy that we just might collapse under its weight.

It’s time to learn to ask for help! If you’re a recovering solo load carrier, figure out which things on your to-do list are real priorities – and try as much as you can to delegate the rest. If you really prioritize meals for the children, but don’t really care how your children get washed so long as they get clean, handle the meal preparations and delegate child bathing to your husband (or other helper), when you have other things on your plate.

Ask for help! Let go of the need to do it all yourself; only God can do that.

Take care of this incredible body and mind that you’ve been given. The world needs you!

Viola Davis is InStyle Magazine’s January Cover Girl (and She Has Some Life-Changing Advice!)

I am a huge fan of Ms. Viola Davis: the woman’s talent flows from her soul. There is a depth to her work that gets me every time. When you see her in action, you know that this isn’t someone who’s just seeking fame or the spotlight: you see someone who’s there, because she knows that this is exactly what she was created to do. It’s amazing to see. (See all the ways she inspires me!)

I am so incredibly excited to see her as the January cover girl for InStyle. What’s even much more amazing to me is that she looks like herself in all her natural beauty: she sports her gorgeous natural Afro on the cover, and her beautiful chocolate skin just radiates off the page. Where most publishers have rejected the earth-shaking beauty of brown-skinned, dark-skinned, ebony-hued women, I love that InStyle embraced her wholeheartedly – especially for such a significant cover. As little girls (and adult women, too, because we all have that little girl inside us) begin to see their own beauty being celebrated by them every where they go, we will be much closer to living in a world in which beauty confidence and self-esteem are at a real high!

 

In this issue, Viola has some truly life-changing advice for women everywhere. It’s something that we all need to hold on to – something that is at the heart of what Lovenwords.com stands for: that, as women, the most important and beautiful part of us is not our physical bodies; it’s our minds, hearts, and spirits. Ms. Davis says,

 

“ What’s released me most from the fear of aging is self-awareness,” she says. “I’ve never determined my value based on my looks or anything physical. I’ve been through a lot in life, and what has gotten me through is strength of character and faith.

 

Isn’t that just amazing? That she knows that her looks are completely secondary to her value. It’s a lesson that we all need to take in as women. It’s a truly revolutionary one, because that is so  not what the world will have us believe about ourselves and who we are. Take it in! It’s the perfect lesson to begin the new year.

You are so much more than the sum of your body parts.

Happy New Year: Here’s What Needs to Change in 2016!!

2015 has come and gone! Unbelievable, huh?

What was this past year like for you? Was it a year of lots of growth and development? Of trials, pitfalls, and countless challenges? Of relationships lost and new ones gained? Of confidence lost or found? Of purpose? Of fulfillment?

Here’s what needs to change in 2016: As humans, we are hardwired to believe in second chances. We love the idea of second chances – of being the comeback kid, the underdog who triumphs over all and becomes the champion. I really believe we really desire this, because God made us that way. As a God who gives second, third, fourth chances till the end of our lives, we get a fresh start every single day; actually, our fresh start takes place every single moment.

We need to let go of the idea that a magic wand has been waved the second it turns midnight, and we step over the threshold from 2015 into 2016. Instead, let us believe in the magic of the new day: that every day we wake up is a fresh start, a new chance to grab our dreams by the horns and live them.

As you embrace 2016, take things one day at a time. If you realize that there are only 365 days (52 weeks) in a year, I think we’ll find it much simpler to just take things day by day.

Your new year will be amazing – but not because all new years are supposed to be, but because we are making the commitment to honor each new day of the year. January 1 isn’t really any more valuable a day than June 26. They all count.

Go conquer 2016!

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