Blog: Heart of A Woman

The Greatest Love of All by Paula Hollis

Girl looking at reflection in mirror decorated with heart-shapeLearning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all. I remember singing those lyrics as a child.  Empty words only then as I am just learning to love myself now in my 40s.

The youngest of seven children, my childhood was filled with supportive parents and teachers who boosted my self-esteem and caused me to dream beyond my imaginations.  Nothing seemed impossible to me as I excelled in school and everything else I purposed to do.  Life changed in an instant, however, when a family member shattered my innocence, at age 10, in the basement of my home.  The desire to be invisible was my new reality and food became my best friend.  Life continued – graduation with honors, college, marriage, children and a successful career.  Each accomplishment was outwardly celebrated but inwardly overshadowed by the desire to truly feel comfortable in my skin. I wrestled constantly with the hopes that I knew God had for me and my fear and insecurity in achieving them.

2015 was very difficult. Amid an emotional rollercoaster of grief and loss, I was diagnosed with weight-related health conditions – two chronic diseases and two other medical ailments.  Until that point, I had no health issues despite being morbidly obese.  I had to come face-to-face with some tough life decisions regarding myself and weight loss. It’s funny how the thing you want most is often the thing you fear the most as well. Certainly, I wanted to lose weight to be healthy and enjoy a better life, but I didn’t want to fail or draw attention to myself in any way.

I began to spend time soul searching; reflecting on my life choices and confronting myself about them.  I learned some key things about myself:

In my attempt to encourage and uplift others, I had forgotten about encouraging and uplifting myself.  Philippians 2:3-4 (CEV) states “Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves.”  I lived out this scripture for years seemingly avoiding jealousy and pride and considering others more important than myself. I often placed more effort into helping others achieve their goals than effort to achieve my own. Seeing the best in others often made me believe that their goals were more likely to be achieved than the critical view of my own. This practice left me unfulfilled, feeling incapable of success, and more focused on the battles than the victories.

I also learned that I struggled with receiving help.  I had been so used to achieving things on my own that I felt defeated and less than in my abilities if I had to ask for help.  Many things I achieved could have been achieved more efficiently had I employed the help of others who were more knowledgeable. The sense of accomplishment was at the sacrifice of time that could have been spent on another goal. I had to realize that my vulnerability to seek help was a catalyst for others to do the same. When I did that, I realized more meaningful and timely victories. One such victory is writing my first blog, something I’ve desired for years but never actively pursued. I didn’t imagine that my request for prayer and support would result in a blog post, but I hope that my transparency will encourage others to be transparent. I hope that we all will consider that each of us has internal battles despite our external demeanor. I hope that we will have balance in our love for others and ourselves.

I reflected on a prophecy spoken over me years ago by the late Dr. Myles Munroe that I would not bear the diseases and sicknesses of my family.  I regularly confessed that prophecy over myself in faith.  But faith without works is dead.  I needed to honor my body and not do things that would defile it and nullify the prophecy.  I also recalled a conversation with a friend who was facing a difficult situation. God instructed her to use every available resource to remedy her issue. I decided to apply God’s prescription to her to remedy my situation.

So after much prayer and consideration, I have decided to undergo weight loss surgery on February 22nd.  It is neither an easy decision nor an easy process. I will have to make tough choices and discipline myself along the way, but I am thankful for this helpful tool that will serve as my internal food conscience along the journey. Do I still have fear? Yes, I do. I fear what my life will be if I remain in this current situation and not do something to change. I fear failure and disappointment. I fear the unknown food replacement vices. But in the face of fear, I also hope for what God hopes for – me prospering and being in health even as my soul prospers (3 John 2) and living the abundant life He sacrificed and suffered to provide.

My former pastor, the late Dr. Lamont McLean, once said that our victories must be more real to us than our battles. I am no longer a victim, but a victor.  I am surrounded by a loving, supportive network of family and friends who cheer me on to victory with perfect love that overcomes my fear. I know that the journey is the destination, so I’m loving myself in my new skin even, before it physically manifests, because learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Guest Blogger Paula Hollis

Guest Blogger Paula Hollis

Paula Hollis is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with a leading health insurance company. She also leads worship and sings with recording artist Seven Electricity. Paula resides in NJ with her husband Martin and three sons Martin Jr, Montgomery and Maxwell.  Connect with Paula on Twitter or Facebook.  

 

About A Woman’s Business: Brenda Dachner

As an extension of the four-part vision of A Woman’s Business to Reveal, Restore, Release and Replicate, every month, we profile the “Heart of a Woman” who in our eyes is “About A Woman’s Business” to change the perception and restore the position of women around the world.

Brenda Dachner, wife, mother and co-founder of the Abundant Life Foundation.

Brenda Dachner, wife, mother and co-founder of the Abundant Life Foundation.

This month we showcase Brenda Dachner, co-founder of the Abundant Life Foundation. Hear her roar!

Tell us who you are.

My name is Brenda Dachner and I am 52 years old. I was born in St. Charles, Missouri and call Austin, Texas home although I currently reside in Roatán, Honduras. I am a former IT manager at the Coca-Cola Company, co-founder and board member of three non-profit organizations, and actively working at two of them–the Abundant Life Foundation (ALF) in the U.S. and it’s Honduran NGO counterpart, the Honduran Abundant Life Association (HALA), However, my favorite job is being a wife and girlfriend to my husband and mother to our 11-year old daughter.

What’s your average day look like?

I am blessed to live and work on the beautiful island of Roatán, Honduras where we do the majority of our non-profit work. While here, we have chosen to home-school our daughter, so my mornings are focused primarily on teaching. My afternoons are reserved for our work here, which involves a lot of meetings, networking and collaborating with people from all walks of life, from the most deprived individuals on the island, to the president of the country, which reminds me of 1 Cor. 9:22-23:

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

Most notably, I get to work with a strong, beautiful group of island women who live in what the world calls poverty, but are richer in the spirit than most people who “have it all”. This group of women lives where there aren’t any jobs, and no easy way to help provide for their families. We showed these ladies how to crochet purses and other products from plastic bags, and to-date, have sold more than $20,000 worth of their products, with 100% of the money going straight back to them.

A Woman's Business Founder Angela M. Brown poses with women and their hand-made tote bags during a trip to Honduras to witness the work of Brenda Dachner and the Abundant Life Foundation.

A Woman’s Business Founder Angela M. Brown poses with women and their hand-made tote bags during a trip to Honduras to witness the work of Brenda Dachner and the Abundant Life Foundation.

I have had no greater satisfaction than the first few trips back to see them after selling some of their bags and telling them “I have a paycheck for you!” The physical difference I saw in them was inspiring! They gained the dignity of knowing they were contributing to their families’ well-being – and not from being given a handout that would make them feel inferior and stuck in their sense of hopelessness, Instead they are empowered by knowing it was the fruit of their own labor. I continue helping these beautiful women, and many others, through our non-profit endeavors.

What defining moment (good or bad) shaped the woman you believe yourself to be today?  

From the time I entered my teens, I always wanted to make a difference in the world for the underdog, I’m sure because I always felt like one. I also developed an early interest in foreign cultures and languages – primarily Spanish, thanks to my dad.

In high school, I traveled to Ecuador as an exchange student and saw real poverty for the first time. In college, I took a year off from my studies to travel with the international group, Up With People, which fit so well with the ideals of my heart to make a difference in the world, and the love I had for travel and cultures. For those unfamiliar with the program, as a cast member I got to travel the world for a year, living with host families and serving communities everywhere we went, in an effort to eliminate the biases and prejudices of cultural, racial, and socio-economic differences.

Those two experiences fueled my desire to want to do more, and showed me that I could. But for all the worldly travel I had done at a young age, I was still a timid, shy young lady with no self-worth. I had a lot of personal growth to do before stepping out into the world the way I had always hoped to. Even today I struggle with confidence. It is the thorn in my flesh. But once I found Christ and He changed me from the inside out, the “fear” doesn’t control me anymore. Thankfully, I have a husband with the same burning desire to serve and give back, which we have enjoyed doing together in various ways throughout our marriage.

What do you like most about yourself? What changes are you making to be a better version of yourself?

In what is still predominantly a man’s world, a lot of women forfeit their femininity in order to compete with finding a space at the table. I see it even more clearly here in Latin America where “machismo” is still going strong. I know it’s not always easy for us as women, but I value being a strong, capable woman, without losing the feminine graces God gave me as a woman. To keep growing personally, I read self-improvement books, have accountability partners, and stay connected to God through study and Bible groups.

Who and what inspires you?

Breaking chains inspires me. We are largely a result of our upbringing, and children are the innocent victims of our brokenness. It takes a lot for someone to step outside of themselves, realize what they’re doing is wrong and hurtful, and do something to make the changes necessary to stop passing it on to the next generation.

Whether it’s the abuse of drugs and alcohol, passing on physical or sexual abuse, or passing along a lack of self-worth and fear, we all need to get right with ourselves, ask for, or accept, forgiveness where needed, accept that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and pass these truths and the confidence that comes with them on to our sons and daughters to raise ourselves and them up to be all that we can be. Our world needs it.

The world doesn’t benefit by our playing small. I admire people who go through this metamorphosis themselves, or help others do it. May we all embrace the greatness within us and share it with a hurting world to break the chains of pain and dysfunction.

What cause is close to your HEART?

Our other non-profit, called “Discovery Programs”, is a three-part program that culminates with creating a life mission statement for yourself. My mission is “to inspire people to fully live the life they were created for by helping them discover their true self-worth.” This is near and dear to my heart because I spent way too many years of my life living for others, seeking to please them and earn their approval.

By doing so, I wasted time living my life. Why? Because, I had zero self-worth. But once I found it in Christ, my life changed and I began to see just how many other people were out there living the way I had been. God has created all of us with our own uniqueness and abilities. We need to embrace them, thank Him for them, and use them to the betterment of others.

What do you see as the greatest obstacle to women around the world?

I will answer this question from our perspective in Roatán, but I believe it is true around the world. The greatest obstacle, in my opinion, is education. Here in Roatán, only about 25% of children who even enter the education system will graduate the 9th grade. With a lack of education comes a lack of jobs and opportunity, and a lack of self-worth. This is bad news for men, but it is even worse news for women. Men can go off to find jobs and do all sorts of menial labor. But women typically stay at home with little to no opportunities for work.

Poverty breeds poverty, and with it, low self-worth, and a lack of dignity. With education, girls who had no self-esteem learn that they are intelligent and they do have value. With a little confidence and self-worth, girls learn they can create a better future for themselves… and their families. They start thinking longer term. They realize they don’t need to find “acceptance” in the arms of a man, but rather in herself first and her own abilities and talents.

We work closely with a missionary couple on the island who run a school for some of the poorest of the poor here. Over the years, we have seen girls they basically took in off the street, who were otherwise destined for a life of poverty and/or prostitution. Their “parents” treated them like garbage, told them they’d never be anything but a prostitute, and some were already being treated like one. But after many years under the love and tutelage of these godly missionaries, they have grown up to now have the world at their feet.

Not only do they have a bright future ahead of them financially, but they are strong, godly, gracious young ladies who know who they are in Christ, and know that they have something of value to give back to their communities. They have already begun “paying it forward” to the next generation by teaching the younger kids in class during their time off. They are saying “no” to the rags and the lies they were told of being worthless, and “yes” to the richness of their future, a life of dignity, value and love for themselves and others. They’ll be the first to tell you that it wasn’t easy, but if they can do it, we all can. Education can break a cycle of poverty, abuse, and hopelessness and expose the greatness within you. What you do with it is up to you.

What do you see as the greatest opportunity for women and around the world?

To take control of the influence of the media and use it to serve you, not hurt you. From poor self-image, to the melodrama, to picking up rude and disrespectful language and behavior, so much of the media is verbal and visual garbage. And you know what they say, “garbage in, equals garbage out”! Women today have an opportunity no women have had in generations past: to turn off the TV and use the power of social media and communications to enhance and educate ourselves in almost any area we desire, and share what we have learned… or are learning… with others.

I’m no Generation X’er or Millenial, but being on an island for a year has made me come to learn even more, the power of technology. Everything is available on the internet these days, and largely for free. All kinds of educational programs are available at your fingertips. Instead of tuning in to watch your favorite soap opera or reality show, try logging on to learn a new language, finally learn Excel, read a great biography of an inspirational woman you admire, learn how to film and edit a movie, take online courses to pursue a degree, start a blog and share what you’re learning with others who need to hear they’re not alone.

Our daughter used to take voice lessons back home. Did you know there are online voice lessons available? And for free? The opportunities for growth are literally endless. The world is at our fingertips and can be used to advance our personal growth as well as social causes. Women need to stop hiding behind the screen and the “glamour” magazines. Most of what we find there makes us feel diminished, hopeless and judged. And worse yet, it makes us feel that way about others. Use the tools that are right in front of you to unlock the greatness within you and share that with the world. What is it that you need to share with the world?

What advice do you have for women today?

I’ve said a lot of it in other answers above. But I’ll add that as women, we need to be kind to ourselves. The world beats us up enough. We need to try our best, and when we mess up – whether it be failing a test at school, or eating that box of cookies – learn from our mistakes so we can move forward with strength, grace and dignity. Do things that make you proud of yourself.

What advice would you give to your younger self? To your daughter and future generations of women?

Don’t waste time worrying about what other people think, and don’t ever compare yourself to others. It is a self-defeating game. God made you you for a reason. Embrace who you are from the beginning, warts and all. Those people who say you’re strange, weird and different? They’re right! You are unique and like no one else. Thank goodness! Accept it! Love it! Love you!

Constantly strive to be a better “you”, not to change who you are, but to reach the full potential of who you were born to be. Every moment spent moping over why you’re not as good, pretty, smart, etc. as someone else is a wasted moment in your life, and it breeds discontent and jealousy. Humbly accept the power and beauty you were given, even if it doesn’t meet the world’s standards or definition, and move forward in your life with godly confidence and feminine strength to give back to this world and live for God’s glory.

Know of a woman who is “About A Woman’s Business” to change the perception and restore the position of women around the world by challenging the stereotypes and changing the conversation about and between women. Do you have a story to tell?  Let us know!  Leave a comment or email your thoughts and suggestions to submissions@awomansbusiness.org.

 

Proclaiming your Dream: Developing 20/20 Vision by Tracy Moore

Vision BoardDo you recall the first time someone asked you “What do you want to be when you grow up? Take a few moments to think back. For me, the question was asked by my third grade elementary school teacher. My response was probably typical of a little girl in love with reading and school. My eight year-old self envisioned a life traveling the world and teaching. While this vision for my life is presently shaped a bit differently than initially envisioned, my desire to teach and travel has remained consistent. The little girl inspired to dream has always set life goals for herself and has managed to stay the course through many of life’s transitional seasons.

According to the dictionary, vision is defined “as the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be”. Throughout history, there have been visionary leaders whose vision has changed the world. Most notably is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose inspirational “I Have a Dream Speech”, ignited a generation to envision their own dreams of a world of racial equality, non-violence and freedom for all.

In Habbakuk 2:2-3 God instructs us to do four things to be successful in life: write our vision, read our vision, recite our vision and run with our vision.

It wasn’t until I entered the corporate world that I became familiar with the positive impact of Vision and Mission statements. Vision statements are short phrases or sentences that convey your hopes for the future. Your vision is your dream. Whatever your dream is, it may be articulated in a vision statement. Now that the 2016 New Year’s resolutions hype is over, it’s time to get busy writing your personal vision statement. A vision statement clearly expresses what you want to achieve in the future. This simple statement reflects your values, goals and purpose. During the many transitional periods of my life, the personal vision statement has served as a compass to redirect me when off course. It was during a transition period that I was introduced to the idea of creating a vision board.

A vision board is a collage of images, pictures and affirmations of your dreams, goals and things that make you happy. It is a power visual tool to empower you to move from day dreaming to living your dreams. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures along with your life intentions are powerful motivators toward achieving the vision for your life. Each vision board will be as unique as the individual. Your vision board can be arranged by particular themes:

    • Fitness Goals
    • Relationships
    • Career/Work
    • Health/Wellness
    • Spirituality
    • Family
    • Travel/Adventure

Once your board is complete, post it in a highly visible place to keep your attention focused on your dreams. Remember, a vision without a plan is just a wish! Have you lost sight of your life’s vision? In this New Year, what are you dreaming about? Instead of creating New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to try a different approach. Try writing down the vision for your life. On a daily basis, recite your vision and boldly run with your vision by taking decisive steps toward your goals.

Together… let’s rediscover, re-imagine and reignite our dreams!

Tracy M. Moore

Tracy M. Moore

Tracy Moore is a certified career/life coach and HR Executive. Her consultancy, Tracy Murray Moore, LLC, is a full service Human Resources consulting, coaching and training practice driven by a singular vision: to empower people to set career & life goals, clarify their purpose, and take action. Her daily mantra is “nothing in your past, determines your future”. Tracy resides in NJ with her husband Glenn and two heartbeats Miles & Zachary. Connect with Tracy on Twitter via @Tracy_MMoore.

Want to hear more? Follow @AWomansBusiness and join Tracy for a Twitter chat on Friday, January 22, 2016 at 1 p.m. EST using #AWBDreamLife.

Have a story idea or feedback about something you read on “Heart of a Woman”? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Contact us at submissions@awomansbusiness.org or leave a comment.


I’m ready for a Revolution.