Thursday, February 18, 2016

DREAM BIG! A Lesson In Black History from a Piece of American History

Yesterday, I was blessed to be among several other employees that gathered in a reserved meeting space within the Fortune 100 company for which I work to see, hear, and experience a piece of Black History. And not just Black History . . . but American History. The guest of honor was Dr. Robert L. Wright, who not only served as keynote speaker, but as an incredible tool of motivation to all who would listen to his words and grasp the powerful messages behind them.

Dr. Wright is a native of Columbus, GA and serves as Director Emeritus of Aflac. He had only great things to say about our company and the many ways it continuously sows into the up-building of the African American community. A few weeks ago, when I met with a company executive and was asked to write an article on Dr. Wright regarding his pending appearance, I had never before heard of him. As I embarked upon the necessary research to put together the feature, my ignorance of this man became a point of embarrassment. Delving deeper into my online exploration, I discovered the life of a man of great wealth; perhaps not financially, but certainly a man rich in determination, wisdom, understanding, experience, and accomplishment. By the time my personal research was complete, I felt I'd been introduced to an unsung hero.

Though yesterday's occasion was one set in place by the company's Diversity Counsel to commemorate Black History Month, Dr. Wright's appearance drew the perfect crowd. Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics . . . the varied culture of the corporation's roster of employees could be seen throughout the room, and from the rousing responses, it was easy to conclude that everyone was educated and empowered by the message presented. During the one hour gathering, our featured guest shared his personal testimony of growing up in the segregated south. By far his wasn't a privileged household. His father was an humble bricklayer and his mother worked as a nurse. Together they did all they could to ensure their children grew up to be more in a world where Blacks were still viewed as less.

After graduating from Spencer High School in Columbus, GA and finding it impossible to gain acceptance into southern colleges due to elevated racial tension, Robert Wright decided upon Ohio State University. There, he pursued a degree from the school’s College of Optometry. Upon obtaining his credentials, he returned home with the earned title of "doctor" and with the intent to begin practicing in his field. But his establishment as an optometrist in the segregated South would not come easy. Because doctor or not . . . he was still black.

Racial intolerance was still prevalent in the late 50’s and early 60’s, and Wright’s first attempts were met with many barricades. One practice went so far as to erase their sign advertising their need to hire a staff Optometrist when he came to apply for the job. Eventually discouragement sent him back to Ohio, but determination wouldn’t allow him to stay. Upon getting word of the goings on in the civil rights movement that had begun brewing in the South, Wright walked away from the independent practice he’d been working with in Ohio and headed back to Columbus, GA where he joined in as an active part of the movement. In 1965, he became a part of the original “Dream Team” when he found himself marching along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery.

Though he was eventually able to begin a successful practice in Columbus, a new purpose had begun taking root in Dr. Wright’s life and his interest shifted from healthcare to politics. The desire to make a positive difference in the lives of those in the world around him had taken a front seat, and he found himself answering the call; selling his practice in the process. In 1970 Wright was elected to the Columbus Georgia City Council where he ultimately served three terms and was responsible for Council District 2 with a population of approximately 50,000 residents. But his proven level of responsibility and accountability was far too great to be confined to the borders of Columbus’s local government. Dr. Wright became a part of the Executive Leadership Cabinet for the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation and he served as Chairman of the Presidential Commission for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Most recently, Dr. Robert Wright was presented with the prestigious Congressional Black Caucus Annual Phoenix Award during a ceremony that was attended by President & First Lady Obama, proving once again that he is indeed a man among men. To say that sharing the same room with this nearly 80-year-old icon on yesterday felt like being in the presence of greatness is not an overstatement. When I shook his hand at the close of the event, I felt honored. 

The overall theme of the afternoon was DREAM BIG, and being one who looks for spiritual messages within everyday experiences, I pulled many things from those two words. As Dr. Wright talked about the challenges that he had to overcome to find success; I thought of the many traps set in place by the evil one that we all have to triumph in order to reach our divine potential. I thought of the Almighty God that I serve and how BIG and powerful He is. When man tells us we can't, God assures us that nothing is impossible with Him. When man defines us as less, God says that through Him, we are more than conquerors.

So yes . . . Dream Big! For there is no dream bigger than the one that shows us our worth and gives us the strength to overcome the odds and strive toward what we know to be our God-ordained purpose.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Tuesday Testimony

Let me pre-warn you. This may be a bit of a lengthy blog entry and it's all to the glory of God, so if you have no free time on your hand and/or if you have a problem with reading about the goodness of my God, you may want to stop reading now. However if you read on, I know this will bless you. The Lord told me to share it, so I know it's meant to be a blessing to those who will read it. Can you stand to be blessed?

Yesterday was a great day . . . not just because of what God did in the life of my household, but simply because GOD is GOD. He is amazing. He cannot lie. He is faithful. He is GOD and even on a bad day, He is good.

Unlike many, I don't choose to use social media (or public blogs) as billboards on which to announce my tests; instead I select to use them as platforms on which to broadcast my testimonies. I use them as means by which I share positive inspirations and encouragement. It is my desire to always be a blessing to those with whom I come in contact, and what I know for sure is that constant complaints and negative remarks don't bless anyone. So on this Tuesday, I want to testify.

Let me be clear: I don't try to appear to have the perfect life. In fact, I know very few people who have been more transparent with their life's battles than I have. I have immortalized some of the most trying and even embarrassing ones in published books that have been distributed both nationally and internationally. So perfection is not the picture I strive to paint. However God has always ordered me to share the messes of my life only after the messages have also been manifested because that's the only way that they can truly bless and encourage the masses. And so today, I share the story of my household's most recently fought battle...because with God's help this battle is over and we have come out victorious!

After twelve faithful and loyal years on the same job, my husband Michael (aka "the babe") was abruptly terminated. It happened on October 7th . . . the eve of his birthday! What should have been a time that we were planning to celebrate life; the enemy instead wanted to speak death into our situation. It was a sudden move that neither of us expected to happen at that time. The manner in which it was done and the timing of it all seemed heartless and calculated. It took us by surprise, but from the moment that it happened; I believe both of us knew that God had to be up to something. Michael was one of the company's hardest and most dependable workers. Nothing about them choosing to release him made common sense, so even though the termination seemed to come with no good reason, we knew there had to be a God reason. Still . . . it was a harsh blow.

Initially, very few people knew about Michael's joblessness. It was a while before we even told immediate family members. Most of those who ultimately came to know about it found out from Michael. I didn't feel it was proper or honorable for me to distribute the information. Ultimately, I shared the information with five saved and Spirit-filled sisters that God placed on my heart. I didn't randomly select them; I sought God for who could be trusted. I enlisted their prayers and asked them to touch and agree with me for God to open the right door at the right time for employment for my husband. They were my secret weapons, my backbones, my prayer circle, and every time I reached out to them, they were right there willing to intercede with me for God's will to be done. If they're reading this, they know who they are, and to each of them, I want to say THANK YOU! 

For the past several months, the income in the Holmes household has been cut tremendously. Michael's termination meant that well over half of our combined income was gone -- literally overnight. My husband was the larger breadwinner, and he had been the one paying the overwhelming majority of the household bills. I cannot honestly say that I didn't feel anxious and even afraid at times realizing his income was no longer there. But I can honestly say that I never lost my faith . . . and neither did the babe. In fact his faith was strengthened and elevated in immeasurable ways. The sudden thrusting of him in this seemingly barren place was also his sudden thrust into a wealthy place -- the face of God.

Every morning, during this time of transition, the babe would rise in the wee hours--even before I'd wake up to prepare for work. He would head to the room in our home that I call "Purpose Central" -- our home office; our very own war room, and there he would lay prostrate before the Lord, seeking strength, direction, wisdom, and understanding that only God could give. He would come out of the office long enough to pray over me before I left for work or just to see me off, and then he'd go back in to continue his time with the Lord. I watched a man who was already spiritually strong become a powerhouse in his faith. Several mornings as I prepared for work, he would leave the office and come in the room with me and passionately share with me all the things that the Lord had poured into him in those early hours before I'd awakened. He was growing spiritually by leaps and bounds.

During this "down time" God also showed us what true favor felt like. I'd become slack in my tithing, believing that I needed every dollar to pay other things, but during this time of major lack, God challenged me to trust Him. I began tithing regularly again. It became a total "faith walk" for both my husband and myself. During this time, God proved to us that our jobs weren't our true source. They were only resources. He was our only source. For months (while both of us were employed) we'd been down to one vehicle and was in need of a second, but didn't have the available funds to get a dependable one. Every door we knocked on remained closed; every person we went to for financial assistance had none to give. But in the midst of Michael's unemployment and while my paycheck was the sole income of our household, God allowed us to obtain a "like new" Toyota 4Runner . . . and when it was driven off the lot, it was paid in full without a dime of my paycheck being used!

Both my husband and I are licensed ministers, and on the very first day that we met, we shared with each other the details of our spiritual callings and our divine purposes. He'd told me that his passion and purpose was to be used of God through the ministry of Christian Life Coaching to help others in their mental and spiritual growths; especially where their relationships were concerned. He had placed the pursuit of his purpose on the back burner largely because of time restraints and financial limitations, but during the season that our household income was severely downsized due to his unemployment, God provided the time and the means for him to re-enroll in Life University and complete all the studies required for his certification. It too was paid in full with none of the resources coming out of my income.

The entire time that the babe was out of work, our mortgage and all of our monthly utility bills were paid without a penny coming out of my paychecks. Every month, God provided a ram in the bush! Take note: during this time, we didn't have everything we wanted, but God ensured that we had everything that we needed. There were people who saw what was happening in our lives and thought we'd been given an increase in salary, but the truth was we'd had a substantial decrease in salary. The blessing weren't in our finances; it was in God's favor toward us! Favor from God doesn't need funding from man.

As the months passed, Michael tirelessly searched for work and our budget got tighter. Things were getting tougher. Ends were getting harder to meet. We were in need of a breakthrough. Some that I owed money to were all of a sudden coming at me for it. Their timing couldn't have been worse, but I didn't share my family's personal struggles with them; it wasn't their business. I've leaned that everyone doesn't need to be privy to our problems. While some will pray, other will hope -- hope you fail, hope you falter; hope you fold. I paid what I could when I could, and the rest I left to God to work out. All the while, Michael was submitting dozens of employment applications but only a couple of interview opportunities were extended. In my personal prayer time each day, I'd ask God to have His way. I didn't request that He grant any specific job or position. My continuous prayer was that God would open the door of His will because one of the harshest lessons that life has taught me is that doing things our way or going after what we want can be the worst thing ever. But I knew if we allowed God to do His thing, it was going to be done right.

To make an even longer story as short as possible, God has revealed His will, He has had His way, and He has done His thing! Ever since I began employment a little over a year ago with the Fortune 100 company for which I work and the babe has seen how happy I am working there, he has voiced a desire to work for a corporation just like it -- a company who values its employees, compensates well, and provides a pleasant daily work environment. Back in November, a high school acquaintance of my husband's called him and said, "The Lord told me to tell you to write down the name of the business you really want to work for, place it between the pages of your Bible, and leave it there." It almost seemed foolish at the time, but God will choose even the foolish things to confound the wise (I Corinthians 1:27). In obedience, Michael followed the instructions given; writing down the name of the same organization for which I work. He had already filled out several applications for job openings he'd found for the company but had been getting no response. But his faith and obedience paid off!

Two weeks ago, he got a call from that very company -- for a position he'd applied for back in November -- the same month he'd gotten that call from his classmate! The company requested an interview, and on the day of his interview, I contacted all the women in my prayer circle, told them the time and date of the interview, and asked them to press with me in prayer. And they did it! A week later, the company asked Michael to come back and meet some of the other employees. Me and my sisters in the faith prayed again. Then on yesterday, he received the call that welcomed him aboard. His official start date is only a few days away. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!

I wanted to share this testimony not to brag or boast, but with the prayer that it will bless someone on this day. No matter what you're dealing with right now and regardless of how hard or hopeless it may seem; STAY FAITHFUL. Continue to do God's will and follow His instructions and His ordained path for your life. We've heard it before and it is the truth . . . Every setback is a setup for your comeback! Things will arise that will tempt you to take your eyes off of God or to make you feel that you have to take control of the situation and handling it using your limited strength and knowledge, but don't waiver and don't stray. When times get the toughest, that's when we have to depend on the Lord the most and allow Him to do His perfect work; even on those days when it feels like He's not working at all.

Know this... All things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Even when your enemies mishandle and mistreat you . . . they mean it for evil, but God is going to turn it around so that it works in your favor! Your enemies have no clue who they're messing with. They have no idea how much detriment they are bringing on themselves when they mistreat even the least of God's little ones. They will see you victorious and they will hate you for it, but there will be absolutely nothing they can do to stop it! Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58). Don't faint, don't be discouraged. Stand on His Word, stand on His promises and watch your tests become your testimonies!

Amen! To God be ALL the glory!!!