Thursday, February 28, 2019

ACE #452: Integrity and Honor Still Win the Day

In my 22 years of being in my professional career, I must admit I haven't always had the best relationships with my supervisors. I learned some of the best lessons in my early years about knowing when a battle is or is not mine to fight and when to keep my mouth shut all together. But I've also learned how to stand in integrity and pride myself in working in excellence.

As I'm reflecting back, I recall a time when one of my bosses did everything possible to block me from advancement to the point that I couldn't even get a job in a different department because my name had been sullied being blackballed. And it worked! I was young then and truly didn't know the dynamics of power in the workplace. But it pushed me out of the nest because I knew I couldn't win. The toxicity of the environment began to drain me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I went to my next job, took the lessons I learned, and got a promotion and a raise. But a few jobs later, my back was against the wall again.

I had a supervisor call me "problematic". The difference in my 20s versus my 40s...I stopped staying in jobs to be comfortable and learned to discern when my season was up. I would not have minded being called anything if it was true. But referring to me as problematic was a shot at my integrity, my character, and my performance. I could ignore most things, but I had to respond in truth. 

My response went something like, "I don't know how I'm problematic. I am the first person to arrive at work everyday. I meet all of my deadlines. And my work product is always presented in excellence." And it was all 100 percent true. 
The response I received was, "But you just don't seem happy here." 
I responded with, "I didn't know that was a requirement of the job. I do my job and I go home." 

I soon realized what that statement truly meant was that I didn't play office politics, suck up, or compromise my integrity to gain favor. The term "you reap what you sow" resides heavily in my spirit and in how I treat people...even in the workplace. God doesn't turn a blind eye to our behavior just because we are at work. We don't just get to say, "I'm just doing my job" in order to justify mistreating others and to abuse our authority. And you certainly don't betray others or throw them under the bus to get ahead. When you walk in God's favor, He orders your advancement and your increase.

But let me help someone out here that I learned from Bishop T.D. Jakes in his series about working in a hostile work environment - you don't go to work to make friends or to be appreciated. I've told people plenty of times that you go to work to get paid for doing a job. As long as you show up to work and do your job, then you have a reasonable expectation that you will get your paycheck. My mantra is, "The 15th and 30th." Stop allowing the environment of your workplace to penetrate your peace and your home life. But on the flip side, I learned something different.

A true leader will respect a person who works in excellence and maintains integrity even when it isn't popular. Being a supervisor and being a leader are not the same. A leader will treat people with honor and respect whether they like someone personally or not. They will make decisions that are best for the organization and not what is best for them personally. They will reward hard work and diligence, but also lead with heart. I have said many times that we often look at people as role models and examples of how to be. Sometimes the lesson is about paying attention to others so that you know how NOT to be.

But I must say, I have been blessed with some of the best supervisors too. One of my former supervisors drove more than an hour and another one 45 minutes to attend my first book signing event. My immediate past and current supervisors showed up at another location to support me. They honored me with their presence and it truly brought joy to my heart.

And it also made me realize all the more that integrity, honor, and excellence still matter...and will always win the day.

1 Samuel 2:30 English Standard Version (ESV)
30 Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Proverbs 10:9 English Standard Version (ESV)

9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

ACE #451: When Your Uterus Just Does Not Cooperate

I had it all planned out. The white picket fence. The millionaire, superstar husband. Because who doesn’t want to marry a Denzel-ish kind of dude. But the 2.5 kids was really the non-negotiable. After all, my mom had three kids, my maternal grandmother had four, and my paternal grandmother had seven. Having a baby should not be that difficult, right? It ran in the family.

As I watched Gabrielle Union sit with Oprah and talk about her journey to become a mother, it resonated with me painfully. Because, honestly, when I think about infertility, I just can’t fathom that any one woman really thinks at a young age that she will not be able to get pregnant and carry a child in adulthood if she chooses. It is usually society’s expectation. It is usually our own expectation. You women.

But, somehow, it just seems different for an everyday, 9 to 5 person like me walking through the struggle of infertility versus that of a celebrity. Celebrities seem to have the financial means to make everything happen that ordinary, everyday people can’t. I would never downplay any celebrity woman’s struggle either because what I realized is that heartache and pain are certainly universal. No amount of money or lack thereof can take that away.

Why would I write about this? Well, because, sometimes people are insensitive and downright rude. We were asked many times when we first got married, “So, when are you having a baby?” Many times I wanted to yell out, “When my uterus decides to cooperate.” Nobody truly knew the struggle. Nobody. If I’m being honest, a barren woman wasn’t just cloaked in shame in biblical times; it is still the reality in 2019.

I just want to say to the women who are in the struggle, don’t give up hope. But most of all, don’t give up your joy in the process. You’re just as much a woman, a whole woman, without giving birth. Hold your head up high and keep loving…you…your spouse…your life…your future.

To get the full story of my journey to become a mother, you can read “And a Happy New Year” in From the Test to theTestimony: An Anthology of Women’s Faith Stories.

I hope it blesses you.

Luke 1: 25
"The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

Thursday, February 14, 2019

ACE #450: Just Listen

In 2015, God whispered three things to me in a still, small voice.

1. He told me to contact a few specific women to each write a story about a time in their lives where their faith pulled them through a very difficult circumstance. Not every woman responded to the request. The ones who did, I saved their stories in a file. Then life got busy.
2. He told me the words "For Purpose" and led me to draft a list of services for editing and public relations. I saved the information in a document and filed it away. I hadn't really used my Journalism degree in years, so it would never have occurred to me I would revisit this document...ever.
3. He told me and my husband to expand our ministry efforts. That year we said "yes" to every ministry opportunity, if we were available. We were exhausted, but we did as God had instructed. It included me editing both a relative's and a friend's book. Again, life got busy and my time and attention went elsewhere.

In June 2018, I filed paperwork for Robert and Charliese Lewis Ministries Inc. That was when God reminded me of those things I had filed, really tucked away, with no specific plan years ago.

Fast forward to February 2019, I can say that it all makes sense and God certainly does all things well. I had no idea what God was doing THEN.

"From the Test to the Testimony: An Anthology of Faith Stories" was released in November 2018...and it is impacting women's lives. I've been stopped in grocery stores, department stores, and received messages from women who have read the book.

I randomly sent a text to one of my former students and mentee last week and told him to order the book for his mother. I dropped a copy in the mail the next day. He called me last night and said his mom received her book and was going on and on about how good it was.

He continued with, "Mrs. Lewis, she has told everybody about this book and said she can't put it down."

No, this is not about bragging. This is about gratitude. This is about obedience. This is about the fact that I truly had no clue what God was doing in 2015 that speaks to the NOW. The seven women, including me, who were brave enough to tell their stories are impacting women in other cities and states. God has truly blown my mind. All I ever desired is that if one woman is impacted, just one, we'd all done our part. Who knew? We didn't, but our all-knowing God did.

I've sold a few books at my doctor's office, in the wee hours of the morning via social media inbox, and out of my trunk. Seriously, who knew?

And, yesterday, I sent a client's first draft of a fully edited and formatted manuscript for the release of her first self-published book. Again, I had no idea that what God had me write down in 2015 would manifest itself years later as a consultant service under our ministry. No idea.

I will tell anybody that God orchestrates everything on our behalf if we would just listen to His instructions. Abraham is known as the Father of Faith because he listened and acted in obedience even in the sacrifice of his own son atop a mountain. Likewise, Joseph listened to God's instructions and saved thousands of people from famine, including his own family, even though he spent years in prison for a crime he was not guilty of. Jesus himself came in human form to die on a cross for sins He didn't even commit because of His obedience to His Father, our heavenly Father.

I want to encourage someone to get in the habit of listening to the still, small voice of God because you never know when or how your instructions TODAY will set you on the path to your future.

Just listen...

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.