Dare to be you

Happy Friday everyone! It’s been unusually quiet around here lately and I apologize for that.  Life forced me to take a much-needed break from many things I’d been focused on and this blog just happened to be one of them.  It wasn’t intentional but it happened.  It started off with a surprise pregnancy and horrible morning sickness, add in two toddlers, commitments made to my previous job, a bunch of bumps in the road and a whole lot of distractions and you have the recipe for my extended absence.

This forced absence has caused me to do some real housecleaning in my heart, y’all.  It’s made me re-access everything I thought I knew and wanted for my life.  Am I really cut out for a life as a wife, mom, entrepreneur, active church volunteer and all-around encourager or is it better for me to drop everything and just be focused on one or two things? Do I postpone pursuing my dreams because life has gotten tough or do I push through because that’s what makes for a great success story?  These are all things I’ve been asking myself lately.

Thankfully, I finally feel like I’m traveling to the other side of the crisis and while I can’t confess that I’ve got it all figured out, I can say that I have a clearer path on how to proceed.  In the word of Dory from Finding Nemo I’m going to “just keep swimming”.

Today I want to share something that’s been stirring in my heart for a while now. Believe it or not, this post was actually written back in July! I haven’t had the nerve to post it until now. It seems like I’m back at the same place I was six months ago because this posts still rings true for me today. Through everything I’ve been wrestling with internally I realized that a lot of my uneasiness about my place in life was based on other people’s comments, looks, unspoken words, etc. You get the point…

dare2bu

Here is what I’m learning. WE CANNOT ALLOW OUR DECISION TO BE BASED ON OTHER’S OPINIONS OF US.  Since each person has their own opinion, whose opinion will you use to make your decision? Do you see how this can lead you into a vicious cycle? I know firsthand about this because for far too long, I’ve been caught in this cycle.  To a certain extent, I still get on the roller coaster from time to time until I make a conscious effort that other’s opinions are their opinions and I refuse to live my life by their expectations.  It really is a daily battle.

The question is this: do we want to live a fragile life built around other’s expectations, experiences, and information (or lack thereof).  A life that can and will change when someone else comes along with a better argument about the way you should live your life and what you should be doing. Or would you rather live a flourishing life built around the Creator’s intricately, tailored plan just for you, your gifts and your experiences?  Which sounds better?

I’ll give you a very specific and personal example from my own struggles.  Several years ago I read a book called Shifting: The Double Lives of Black Women in America.  A summary of the book from Amazon reads:

Shifting reveals that a large number of African-American women feel pressure to compromise their true selves as they navigate their lives. Black women “shift” by altering the expectations they have for themselves or their outer appearance. They modify their speech. They shift “White” as they head to work in the morning and “Black” as they come back home each night. They shift inward, internalizing the searing pain of the negative stereotypes that they encounter daily. And sometimes they shift by fighting.

I read the book and cried as I saw the double life I felt I lead was finally exposed on paper.  I never felt any of my work colleagues truly new me because there was always this other side of me I was afraid to reveal because of what they might think if they were shown my “other side”. I was often asked to represent the “Black voice” about current music and trends when I actually listened to NPR and have always been a huge Martha Stewart fan!  How was I to know what Jay-Z and Kanye’s music meant to a new generation of young Black people?

This is not just a Black woman thing.  It’s a human nature thing. I’m still faced with making the shift only now the groups are different; now it’s my Christian friends or my white friends or my friends who haven’t had many of the same experiences I have.  If I show them all of me, will they accept me or will they shun me for the little piece of me that isn’t like them and doesn’t fit into their idea of what “right” is.  Here’s the thing I know to be sure, It’s miserable to live trying to please everybody else and suppressing who you really are to appease others yet I see many people do it all the time.  I speak from experience when I say that living this way can lead you to a place where you’ve tried to please others for so long that you no longer know who you are.  I’ve been there and you can rebound from it but take my advise and don’t let yourself get to that point.

So here’s the biter of all this; it’s easy to see your side of this coin and say I won’t live my life based around someone else’s expectations yet it’s not so easy when we see others doing things we couldn’t necessarily see ourselves doing for our lives.  “I can’t believe she wants to stay at home with those kids all day”.  “What kind of mother works? Her children need her at home!”  We have to learn to give each other grace as women, as mothers, as Christians, as humans.  We all miss it and all too often we’re hard enough on ourselves without the added weight of other’s opinions.

What I’m saying is this; Let’s all strive to live our lives based on the person you were created to be and celebrate the unique gifts and individual bent God has given you. Let’s seek to see the good in each person we’re in contact with. Although different, we all have a story to tell.  That story just might surprise and help you if you’re open to hearing it.

I struggled with even putting this out for people to critique however as I’ve so often learned, if I’m struggling with it, there are others struggling with it.  Maybe this might help someone else. It certainly is serving as a pep talk to me!

In Love,

Madelyn

My update

Happy Friday everyone! It’s been unusually quiet around here lately and I apologize for that.  Life forced me to take a much-needed break from many things I’d been focused on and this blog just happened to be one of them.  It wasn’t intentional but it happened.  It started off with a surprise pregnancy and horrible morning sickness, add in two toddlers, commitments made to my previous job, a bunch of bumps in the road and a whole lot of distractions and you have the recipe for my extended absence.

This forced absence has caused me to do some real housecleaning in my heart, y’all.  It’s made me re-access everything I thought I knew and wanted for my life.  Am I really cut out for a life as a wife, mom, entrepreneur, active church volunteer and all-around encourager or is it better for me to drop everything and just be focused on one or two things? Do I postpone pursuing my dreams because life has gotten tough or do I push through because that’s what makes for a great success story?  These are all things I’ve been asking myself lately.

Thankfully, I finally feel like I’m on the other side of the crisis and while I can’t announce that I’ve got it all figured out, I can say that I have a clearer path on how to proceed.  In the words of Dory from Finding Nemo, if I’ll “just keep swimming”, I’ll get where I need to be.

My hiatus hasn’t been all bumpy roads and life re-assessment, not at all.  I’ve had a healthy pregnancy and some really good times with my family.  I’m currently 31 weeks pregnant with my 3rd little Ridgeway boy!  An ultrasound in early April revealed that despite everyone’s girl guesses, I am indeed housing another member of the male species. Because of this, the MRE offices will be closed starting August 4- September 20 so I can enjoy some time with my new little guy.

There are also some REALLY exciting things on the horizon that I can’t wait to share with y’all.  Be sure to sign up for the Love letters newsletter if you haven’t already to be the first to know about the new happenings.

If you’ve been struggling with something, I’d love to know so I can keep you in my prayers and encourage you.  Leave a message in the comments and I’ll send you a little something special.

Marriage Series: Madelyn & Shaffer Ridgeway

This week I”m excited to feature my own love story.  Believe me when I say that our marriage is a true testament to the fact that Love Always Wins! My husband is my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, my personal comedian, and all-around partner.  To say I love and appreciate him is an understatement!

Love-seriesridgeway

 

engagement photoengagement photo, 2001

wedding picture

Wedding Day, 2002

Ridgeway-presentMay, 2013

1. How long have you been married? We were married September 7, 2002 so as of today, 11 years

2. Tell us about your love story.

Madelyn- Although our hometowns are not far apart from each other in rural Alabama, we didn’t meet until we were both students at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, AL.  We both had majors in the school of Agriculture and were required to take a Computers in Agriculture class. I took it at 8 am and Shaffer took it at 10 am. One day we were both in the lab after hours with other students working on an assignment for the class; each student had to create some type of letter or invitation and do a mail merge with a database we had created.  My invitation was a mock 21st birthday party invitation, of course!  As entertainment for my mock party, I listed a DJ that was very popular in both our hometowns.  As I was printing the invitations to the one printer in the lab, Shaffer was standing at the printer waiting on something to be printed also.  As he nosily picked up my invitation, and noticed the DJ’s name, he screams out across the room “who in here knows Dr. Rock!?”  I responded with “I do! Why?”.

A few days later I convinced my friend Wanda to talk to him and see if he was interested in me.  In his “own way” he said he was and the rest is history!  It was 6 loooonnnngg years later when were engaged on September 8, 2001.

3. Tell us a bit about your wedding (color, location, attendants, etc). Is there anything you would change?

We were married in an outdoor ceremony at a Southern, antebellum mansion named Gaineswood,  in my hometown of Demopolis, Alabama.  The bridesmaids wore orchid/lavender, two-piece, a-line ensembles with silver shoes while the groomsmen wore grey tuxedos.  We had a total of 8 attendants each,  3 flower girls, 2 ring bearers, a mini bride & groom, and several personal attendants.  My attendants and I walked up the aisle under 100 year old crepe myrtles that had grown together to form an arch overhead- gorgeous and the epitome of Southern! Our reception was held at the Demopolis Civic Center which overlooks the Tombigbee River home of the well-known Christmas on the River.

Madelyn– I would change two things about our wedding day: (1) I would have a smaller more intimate wedding.  We sought to please so many people by adding everybody that wanted to be a part of the day.  At some point, it became overwhelming.  (2) I would take the time to enjoy the day and my guest more. The planner in me refused to let go of so many things.  I was depending on so many friends and family to handle things and many things didn’t happen because of that and I found myself frustrated and upset at times on what should have been one of the happiest days of my life.

Shaffer– I would have more dancing at the reception!

4. What is your favorite wedding memory?

Madelyn Jumping the broom!

Shaffer  Seeing Madelyn walk down the aisle and escorting my Mom to her seat.  My mom had been very sick for years with kidney disease and the question arose several times if she would ever make it to my wedding. To be able to walk her down the aisle to her seat was an experience I sometimes thought I might not have.

5. What is the key to making your marriage successful?

Madelyn–  Keep God first in your individual lives, learn to let things go and remember to laugh often together. Shaffer and I are always on the lookout for what we call “good material”-  stuff that we can use later to laugh at when it’s just us.

Shaffer– (1) Knowing that this is a lifelong commitment and you have a covenant with God and your spouse.  (2) Asking yourself during an argument, “will this matter tomorrow”? (3)  Allow your mate to be themselves.

6. What are some of your favorite things to do together as a couple?

Madelyn  Dream big together & travel- We were married seven years before we had our first child so we traveled a lot.  Some long trips and many short, weekend trips.  We found that many of our best dream sessions and funniest moments happened as we were driving down the road and just talking. Even today,  we love taking trips just because of the great conversations we seem to have.

Shaffer–  Because Madelyn is my best friend, I just like spending any kind of time with her.

7. What would you tell the younger you on the eve of your wedding day?

Madelyn- Focus as much on your marriage as you are on your wedding.  Prepare to be a loving and caring wife.  I was so caught up in getting married and having the perfect wedding that I forgot to really pray and prepare for being a good wife and partner to my future husband.

Oh, and get another hairstyle for tomorrow!  You’ll regret the one you have planned.

8. What does LAW (love always wins) mean to you as a couple?

Madelyn– Keep love at the center of your relationship always.  If you focus on God’s definition of love (I Corinthians 13), you’ll never lose and your marriage will always flourish.

Shaffer– Love conquers all.  The bible tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  When I think about how much He loved us and what he did for us in spite  of what we’ve done, I can always find a way to forgive or do whatever is needed to get through troubled times.

9. How did you know your spouse was the right one for you?

Madelyn– It took me a while to figure out what I really wanted in a spouse.  In the beginning I just thought it was cool and fun to have a boyfriend!  Once I realized that having someone who loved the Lord, had a strong work ethic and made me laugh was important to me, I knew Shaffer was the one.

Shaffer– Madelyn really complements me in so many ways.  After realizing what it was that God had planned in my life, I knew I would need some help.  I also needed someone that didn’t mind dreaming big.  Madelyn is that person.

10. What is your best marriage advice for couples soon to be married or considering marriage?

You really do have to have more than a natural, physical love to make marriage last.  There will be days when you love your spouse but you don’t like them very much.  Many things that you were smitten with in the beginning may annoy the heck out of you in later years. You need something deeper at the core of your relationship than just a natural, physical love.

We were both children of divorce and realized early on how that had negatively effected us.  We both agreed that divorce wasn’t an option and we would do what it takes to make our marriage work.  That determination, as well as having God at the foundation of both of our lives individually (not just as a couple),  has been the secret sauce to our successful marriage.