Blog: Heart of A Woman

The Woman Who Leads by Angela M. Brown

IMG_4824“What you looking at me for? I didn’t come to stay.” I can still feel the impact of these words as I read Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” for the first time in my life. It was 1993 and I was a 21 year-old wife and mother of a three year-old son, struggling to find my identity, while wrestling with the notions of who others thought I was or should be.

I felt isolated and alone. Not because there weren’t women in my life, but because I didn’t want them in my life—at least not the ones who could “see” me. I was so focused on not allowing any woman to define me based on my present condition that I forfeited relationships with the women who could speak to the real me. Then, by divine intervention, I discovered and read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and Maya Angelou became my “friend in my head,” teaching me the need for and value of having relationships with women who can speak into my life.

Although inspired by Dr. Angelou’s account of how she faced and overcame the very obstacles I encountered as a young woman, restoring my hope in what was possible for me, I never enjoyed the privilege of Dr. Angelou speaking directly into my life. However, reading her books opened my mind and heart to the need for it, paving the way for the many other women who have and continue to speak into my life today.

Finding and developing new friendships with women who can speak into our lives can be a challenge, especially as we age, but that’s only half the battle.   We must then grant those women permission to speak into our lives—allowing them to see who we are and challenge us to become who we must be. While I understand those women are rare and hard to find, this doesn’t excuse us from seeking them out.

This goes beyond a mentor—those we admire and handpick because we want to do something they’ve done. Often with mentors, once they’ve helped us achieve our goals, we simply move on to the next. But relationships with those who “speak into our lives” are anything but simple. In fact, they can, and sometimes should, get messy, as those granted to speak into your life not only love and accept you for who you are, but challenge you to change because of who they see you can be.

During a recent conversation about a new book I’m reading I heard “great leaders are greatly led.” As the wife of a pastor, I recognize and accept the responsibility to lead. However, it’s not enough for me to be recognized as a leader—I want to be a great leader, and not only that, a great leader of great women. As such, I aspire to be greatly led, praying for and seeking out women that I give permission to speak into my life, in-person and beyond the pages of a book.

Today I challenge you to take inventory of the women you allow to speak into your life.  According to Matthew 18:4 “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Yes, women are great leaders, but great leaders are greatly led, not just well-read. Time to be great.

Angela Brown HeadshotFounder of A Woman’s Business and contributing writer to the Heart of a Woman weekly blog designed to inspire and challenge us to live in the fullness of our purpose, power and position as women, Angela M. Brown is a daughter, sister, wife, mother, auntie, friend, mentor, PR executive, author, commentator, motivational speaker and community leader—a woman recognized for making a difference and inspiring others to do the same. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter and discover tales of her journey on the “road less traveled” and the tools she’s gathered along the way turning obstacles into opportunities in “Resilience, Living Life By Design.”

The Untold Love Story by Riscee Langhorne

book-castle-disney-fairytale-happily-ever-after-favim-com-120572_largeWill and Jada.  Jay-Z and Beyoncé.  These were some of the nicknames given to us by our friends. To them, we had the ideal marriage.  To me, we had a very GOOD marriage because I know there’s no such thing as a “perfect” marriage. Little did I know, that my very GOOD marriage would soon come crashing down.  A series of events uncovered several lies and betrayal, and just like that, my “happily ever after” came to an abrupt end—or so I thought.

The next few months were a blur.  It was like I was having an out of body experience. Voices in my head screamed, “girl LEAVE him,” “what about your kids,” “go to counseling,” “forgive him,” “get him back,” or my favorite line, “men will be men!”  I wanted to just shut down, but I couldn’t.  I had a nine month-old and six year-old who needed their mommy. Somehow I managed to go to work every day wearing the perfect makeup and a smile on my face for eight hours straight.

Every now and then I would take a lunch time drive so that I could cry and scream, then return as if I’d only ran an errand.  My morning commutes were good times to cry as well. I fooled myself into thinking that I was doing an amazing job and handling my broken marriage well but the rapid weight loss and increasing crying spells told a much different story.

After deciding to leave my husband and living on my own for a year, the girls and I moved back to Maryland to stay with my parents. My estranged husband relocated to Washington, D.C. to stay with his sister so that he could be closer to his daughters (and me, as I would find out later). We both agreed to continue our individual therapy so we’d have the tools to make our next relationship work. As far as our marriage, we figured we just outgrew each other, and although we loved each other, our relationship was over.

Our separation involved many losses—our beloved home, jobs, cherished memories, and for a time, our hope. But GOD… This year marks nearly four years of reconciliation—a true love story scripted by Jesus Himself.  Miraculously, we’re back in that same home we thought we’d lost after it sat on the market for two years and two buyers walked away at the closing table.  Not only did we recover the things we thought we’d lost, most importantly, we recovered our marriage.

Through unconditional love, I’ve discovered a husband who is my best friend, my protector and the love of my life.  Today, we often share our story to inspire hope for those feeling hopeless in their marriage. For us, what once appeared irreparable, has been restored and renewed, and together we’ve learned, there is nothing we can’t face and overcome together.

IMG_0463Riscee (Ree-Cee) Langhorne is a wife and mother of two daughters with a strong passion for fitness and the color gray!  An accountant, turned educator, Riscee works as a school business administrator who hails from Maryland but now resides in New Jersey where she and her husband play an active role teaching and mentoring young adults in their community.  To connect with Riscee, follow her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

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Still My FIRST Love by Olivia Simone Brown

I first blogged on the subject of “embracing God during my singleness” in 2012 as a high school senior. Today, I am still single, and have indeed come to learn so much about God, and who He is through me, as a result of His grace and my testimony, particularly throughout my time in college. I have become increasingly aware of Christ’s presence in my everyday life. I often tell my friends and family just how comforted I feel knowing that He is with me, even as I am walking across my campus.

You see, about three years ago, while walking that campus, I received a revelation from God that I could dismiss the imagination from my mind of waiting on the perfect husband to have two kids that looked just like me and brought the best out of me to begin my life. Rather, I could  begin the life God imagined for me with what I had already. The thing is, I had no idea how much I had because I spent so much time focusing on what I didn’t.

This experience opened my eyes to the fact that God was present in my life, and He wanted to bring out the best in me Himself, not wait for a man to do it.  This has been one of the most notable turning points in my life to date. I can’t thank God enough for how much He has shown me of Himself and His presence day in and day out, keeping me content and focused on hearing and following His voice. Yet, despite His closeness and consistent direction, I cannot help but imagine my own edits to make His plan picture perfect for me.

I’m now a rising senior and my college graduation is imminent. I’m an adult. I’m about to enter the real world with a job and me, myself and I, as I persist toward the plan of God. I’ll need Him in a much different way than I have on this campus, and perhaps the mystery of it all has me anxious to prepare. At times, in my excitement about the myriad of opportunities that lie ahead, I think about charting my own course.  God then tells me He is with me, and in response I tell Him “but a ‘boyfriend’ you are not.” He tells me He has a plan; I tell him “I see it too, but I don’t see a man.” I tell Him I love Him and in the times when I do wonder what else is out there, I recognize that although being in a relationship can be an amazing thing, fulfilling the plan that God has for me is even more amazing.

Life without being in a relationship can be hard to embrace in a society that glamorizes (often inaccurate) portrayals of love between two human beings, but God’s will has always been and always will be a much higher priority for me. I’m learning that He alone is enough and discovering that in Him, so am I.

Olivia Simone BrownOlivia Simone Brown is a daughter, sister, mentor, and budding brand marketing guru studying fashion merchandising, marketing and management at Philadelphia University.  Olivia blends her passion for fashion, writing and helping her peers discover their God-given purpose through service as a resident assistant (RA), contributor to the Philadelphia University (PhilaU) StyleLine blog and vice president of PhilaU’s Black Retail Action Group (BRAG), a non-profit organization that prepares and educates professionals, entrepreneurs and students of color for executive leadership in retail, fashion and related industries.  For more, connect with Olivia on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

I’m ready for a Revolution.