Don’t Put Off for Tomorrow…

Last week (December 30, 2016 to be exact) my husband and I celebrated the day we both said, “I do.” Because of God’s grace and mercy (and some compromises and hard work on our behalf), I can safely say we’re in this thing for the long haul–16 years and counting.

However, we didn’t actually celebrate our most recent wedding anniversary. Instead, weGeorgia Snow January 2017 spent the day traveling back home from our annual Christmas trek to see extended family a few states away. Consequently, my husband and I postponed our celebratory plans. Although we had high hopes for a make-up date this weekend, Georgia’s freezing temperatures and icy roads have unfortunately kept us indoors. Our plans to commemorate our nuptials are temporarily foiled. We’ll try again next weekend.

Like my belated anniversary celebration you may have postponed something in 2016, too. Perhaps it was a book you neglected to write, a career opportunity you didn’t follow up on, or an “I love you” that you never verbalized. Regardless, 2017 is your chance to make things right. Find out what’s hindering your progress and then take action. In other words, what will you say “I do” to in 2017? After all, we believers can do anything in Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).

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In my Twitter poll, I ask folks to share why they procrastinate. Consider participating in the poll (if you have a Twitter account), and then, see how your answer compares with others’ responses.  Act fast though, the poll will close in six days.

Divine Interruptions

Divine InterruptionsI was supposed to be preparing dinner; after all, we needed to get to Bible study in 90 minutes. But, I got distracted. Ahem…Facebook was to blame, in part. There, in my news feed, was a much-desired report:  A child on my prayer list had experienced a breakthrough in his health. Then, a startling post surfaced; an acquaintance of mine announced her husband had died several hours prior. 

While still pondering my online discoveries, I was interrupted by loud knocks.  (Why some people avoid using the doorbell baffles me. Whew!)  Before long, my husband and I found ourselves sharing God’s Word with the misguided evangelist on the other side of our front door. Though the woman attempted to share her faith with us, we imparted truth to her, instead.

Things began to settle in the Bopape household. I sighed and used the remaining minutes to pull together a home-cooked meal. I realized that although my distractions seemed to inconvenience me, they had also incited me to praise the Lord for a young boy’s improved health, pray for others’ comfort, and share God’s Word with a stranger.  Plus, my family ate a balanced meal and made it to Bible study right on time. God worked it all out.

During busy times, it’s easy to allow our schedules to dictate how we respond to others. Perhaps we make empty promises and say, “I’ll be praying for you.” All the while, we continue to chase the next item on our to-do list.  And, when a young child approaches us with her “major” concern—a broken toy, a paper cut, or a request for feedback on a book report—do we offer a pat answer because we have “more serious” issues?

Simply put, our schedules have fallen prey to rigidity. Will we make an attempt to be more cognizant of others’ needs and exhibit more compassion—even in our busyness? When we do, we might notice that some of our distractions are divinely orchestrated. Who knows, the right interruptions could leave you praising, praying, or sharing God with others…just like me. As the Spirit leads, let’s be on the lookout for opportunities to better handle our distractions this week, and then, trust God to work everything out.

That’s Your Mission, but Are You Sticking to It?

Stick to Your Mission 700x400Nowadays, while trying to reach the lost, many churches are turning to alternative methods. That’s good. Same message…different presentation. However, in the process, some are losing sight of the church’s mission. (See Matthew 28:19-20.) Focus is being placed on casual social gatherings, eating, and formal galas—and not just during the holidays.

A church’s calendar can be a good indicator of what’s deemed important. For example, one church held a prom this past fall to honor its pastor’s anniversary. What a thoughtful gesture…especially since this pastor and his wife had never been to their high school prom. To encourage participation, the event was free of charge. Hors d’oeuvres, music, and formal gowns filled church’s fellowship hall. But, how many people left with hearts and minds bent toward salvation?

It’s wonderful to see a church honoring and respecting its pastor for his sacrifices and for meeting his tremendous responsibilities. However, are we balancing ministry and fellowship? Or, are we creating an atmosphere of fun without faith. Remember, the two can co-exist.

This same church will hold its first ever church-wide Christmas dinner in just a few days. Should there be a cost associated with celebrating the birth of Christ? Obviously, to this church there is…to the tune of $10 per adult ($3 for children). Oh, and don’t forget to bring another $10 to buy an ornament to commemorate the church’s upcoming milestone anniversary. Did I mention that members may also bring a gift for their esteemed pastor and his wife (they both have December birthdays)? How about the attire? Attendees may decorate an ugly Christmas sweater for a chance at claiming a door prize. With all the fun that’s planned, I hope time is allotted to gush about the real honoree: Jesus. (If not, be sure to read about Him in Luke 2:1-20. The church’s flier didn’t include any mention of Jesus, but did include a blurb about the church’s milestone anniversary in 2016.) Priorities…need I say more?

Folks, every Christmas dinner I’ve had—at church, someone’s home, and even in corporate America—has been free of charge. It’s just something most organizations include in their annual budgets because it’s deemed important. Conversely, tickets to proms usually require fees of some sort. Believers beware; our actions show others how serious—or how flippant—we are about our mission.

My point: Have we grown comfortable providing entertainment for ourselves—to those who already know Christ as Savior and who are secured a place in heaven—while people in the community remain lost? Have we, the church, forgotten our mission? And, are there any churches still conducting Christmas morning services? Do we even know why we celebrate?

Whew! Now, that I’ve ranted about a pet peeve of mine, I must offer a few suggestions on how to stay true to our purpose and set correct priorities:

  1. Let’s keep an eye on our spending and our calendars. They help us to ascertain what we deem important. Then, consider whether these things accurately represent our mission. For example, if a church spends more on its anniversary expenses than its Vacation Bible School curriculum and its prayer, missions, and evangelism ministries combined, then changes are in order. Instead, let’s ask ourselves how our annual spending plan complements our mission.
  2. Review our mission often. Before incorporating new activities, determine how those events will exemplify our purpose.
  3. Stay balanced. Remember, it’s good to have fun while fulfilling our goals; a rigid schedule only leads to frustration. Let’s look for fresh ways to carry out our mission and reach our audience. However, we don’t have to sabotage our reputation or taint our witness in the process.

How do you incorporate excitement without overshadowing (or neglecting) your mission?

A Life That’s to Die For?

Too busy for God?As an entrepreneur, wife, and mother, I knew my calendar would be full. I taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and Children’s Church. I shuttled my two youngest children to appointments and my oldest child to work. Whether preparing home-cooked meals or helping with homework, I served with a smile. I could often be found storytelling in my community or teaching workshops. Plus, there were contracts to sign and project deadlines to meet. When freelancers wanted to kick-start their careers, they turned to me with their writing and publishing questions.

I was happy to do all these things—and more. After all, I had the strength and the means to do them. So why was I so frustrated? Simply put, I was doing everything for everyone. However, I did nothing for myself. I’d even neglected my God-given talents. Yikes! Once I realized the cause of my angst, I made phone calls, sent hand-written letters, wrote e-mail messages, and then, voila! Everything began to change. Quitting never felt better.

Oh, I still serve at my church and cook meals for my family. But I’ve pared down my service to only include those things that align with my God-given purpose and that complement my season of life. I’m entering into God’s rest; life is simpler now. I’m doing what God has designed me to do—encourage, inspire, and teach others through my writing. Amazingly, contracts that I didn’t pursue have come my way. I’ve made room in my schedule to accommodate the use of my gifts. In return, my gifts are making room for me and are bringing me into the presence of some great people in the Christian publishing industry. (See Proverbs 18:16.)

Sisters, perhaps you’re tired and irritable like I was. Perhaps you’ve erroneously found your value in the check marks on your to-do list, the number of folks you can help in one day, the abundance of church ministries in which you serve, or the number of people who depend on you for a job well-done. Before long, you, too, may realize that your self-imposed service to others has left you too empty to be of much use to God.

Instead of creating a life that’s literally to die for, let’s focus on creating a life that’s actually worth living—one that’s dedicated to God and His purposes. There, we’ll find rest.

How have you simplified your life so that you can be of greater use to God? (If you’re not yet ready to answer this question, consider completing Cynthia Heald’s Bible study, Becoming a Woman of Simplicity).

Self-Care: The Catalyst for Creativity and Peak Performances

During the summer months, many of us take vacations to enjoy warmer temperatures, ocean breezes, or abundant gardens with hues of red and yellow. At Bopape Enterprises, we like to do those things, too. After all, self-care is important. When we nurture ourselves, we find that our creativity and work performance peaks.

When I’m not taking a brief moment to reconnect and rejuvenate, I can often be found perched at my laptop while drafting an article or writing Bible study curriculum. At other times, I can be spotted storytelling in schools, giving a workshop in the community, or encouraging young ladies to be all that God created them to be. Regardless, I’m always seeking ways to shine, and I like helping others do the same.

Check out my pictures below to see what I’ve been up to, and then, share what inspires you to be at your peak.

Cherise Bopape-Panelist and Presenter, "My Identity Is Real: Single Parent Edition Conference"

On May 16, 2015 , I participated as a presenter and panelist in the My Identity Is Real: Single Parent Edition Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda -BUY Cobb-2015 Millionaire Mind Competition WinnerOn April 25, 2015, I was happy to congratulate Amanda Theodore for winning B.U.Y Cobb, Inc.’s Millionaire Mind Competition. During the contest, Amanda presented a business plan for her jewelry-making business and stood before a panel of judges (entrepreneurs and corporate professionals) to answer questions. She also exhibited one of her original pieces. Contrary to what some believe, art can be a lucrative career. I’m sure this Georgia teen would agree. Here, she’s pictured with her check for a few hundred dollars. To learn why I enjoy encouraging artists in different genres, read my post, “When Faced with a Death Sentence, Choose God.”

 

 

 

Storytelling at King Springs Elementary, Smyrna, GeorgiaOn May 1, 2015, I celebrated South African culture via storytelling. I gave five 30-minute presentations to approximately 150 third grade students at King Springs Elementary in Smyrna, Georgia, during their annual STEM and Cultural Arts Day. The students heard my original tales, received a take-home activity, and learned how to say hello in Sotho, one of the many languages spoken in South Africa.

 

 

 

 

Noonday Creek Trail, Marietta, GA

I recently discovered the Noonday Creek Multi-Use Trail in Marietta, Georgia. Brisk walks here allow me to enjoy God’s creations. Plus, my creativity soars and my stress levels decrease. Self-care in action…

Thrill Seekers and Balance Keepers

Thrill Seeker or Balance KeeperSome folks get a rush from extreme sports like skydiving and bungee jumping. Others enjoy milder adventures like extreme couponing. Whether we soar through the sky or bolt through supermarket aisles with coupons in hand, most of us enjoy a good thrill. Still, I prefer watching risk-takers from a safe distance.

A few weeks ago, I played the role of a spectator. While stopped at a red light, I watched a man and woman crouch between cars at a busy intersection during the metro Atlanta rush hour. One member of the duo pointed to a spot in traffic. The other would trot to the indicated location, squat down, and then, swipe a hand across the street before returning to an upright position. Was this some type of dangerous dare? A carjacking tactic? Or, had they taken a new line dance to the streets? Talk about extremes!

Eventually, I eased across the intersection in my SUV, careful not to bump into one of the two pedestrians. As I passed them, I saw dollars drifting across several lanes. The daring duo must have gone to the ATM a few feet away and lost hold of their funds.

Many of us can relate. Although we may not physically weave through cars at a busy intersection, we sometimes endanger our lives chasing dollars. Because of our careers, have we neglected our families? Ourselves? Are we fatigued insomniacs who slowly watch our health fail? Operating in our own strength, we’ll soon see our demise.

I’m certainly no exception. About nine years ago, I experienced all the signs of a woman whose work and life were out of balance. However, I quit my corporate career in IT and exchanged it to follow my calling. Now, operating under God’s grace, I inspire other women (and children) through storytelling, writing Bible studies, and creating inspirational material. The peace of mind I now experience has replaced the headaches I once had. Literally.

How about you? Is your life like a constant skydive where you plunge toward the ground daily? Or, are you a spectator who lives vicariously through others? Let’s examine ourselves and prayerfully consider whether changes are required. Like me, you may find that in order to operate under God’s grace and live in peace, you must let something go. Conversely, some of you may need to add things to your to-do lists to foster excitement or to feel a sense of fulfillment. Regardless, listen to the Holy Spirit’s lead. Soon, you’ll find your calling and learn how to work and live in balance.

To determine when to seek help for work-life balance issues, check out my interview of Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D. Then, leave a comment below to share how you’ve balanced work, family, and self-care.

Chocolate…the Answer to a Woman’s Problems?

Find out how Dove chocolate candy, a Bible study, and a pressing business contract come together to make a beautiful devotional.This piece was produced with women in mind; be inspired and enjoy!

                  **Music from JewelBeat.com**

Q & A with Cherise: How Do Mothers Manage It All?

My audiences corner me after my lectures, e-mail me, and phone me with questions on disparate subjects.  I’ve shared tips on how a novice writer might break into the writing industry to more difficult topics like how to communicate in a crisis or how to read signals from a child who’s being bullied at school.  This week, I’ll share my thoughts regarding a recent question I received from a young, frazzled mom.

Q:  I’m a 27-year-old working mother of two. I want to further my education so that I can find a better paying, more fulfilling job.  As the breadwinner in my home, how do I stay inspired, empower unhappy colleagues, and manage it all?

A:  I applaud your efforts!  Helping to sustain a family, wanting to better your career, and empowering others are indeed big undertakings.  Don’t let it overwhelm you.  Try prioritizing each of your concerns by dividing them into smaller, more manageable chunks.  Consider categorizing them:  1) Things you can resolve immediately, 2) Tasks you can accomplish in the short term (a couple of years), 3) Items that you plan to address strategically over time (in five or more years).

Goals:  Set, Reach, SucceedSet goals.  Goal setting is important and gives us something to which we can look forward.  We fare better when we work our plan, knowing that our tough season will have a finite end.  Conversely, when we don’t set goals, long-term change isn’t often realized.  Frustration sets in.

Will you devise a plan that allows you to continue your education, maintain your salary, and provide care for your family and yourself?  Perhaps you’ll enroll in online classes.  Maybe you’ll ask your employer about in-house educational opportunities, or seek a mentor or workplace sponsor in the meantime.  (See my blog post regarding the importance of corporate sponsors vs. mentors.)  Will you concoct a savings plan that allows you to further your education?  Will you ask for additional work assignments in order to acquire the skills you’ll need to move to the next highest pay grade?  Regardless, expect the best.

Choose happiness. Commiserating with other unhappy co-workers may provide a temporary release of frustration.  However, when we’re back at our personal workspaces, we mull over the shared concerns and we teem with negative emotions.  Choose Happiness

Decades ago, I learned that I had to be an example to those around me.  That meant I was excluded when everyone else met at the water cooler for afternoon gossip, I was rarely invited to my co-workers’ personal gatherings, and I often ate lunch alone.  However, my bosses noticed my work ethic.  When a better assignment came along, upper management gave me a nod.

When we’re unhappy at work, it’s best to voice our concerns to management.  But, be prepared to offer viable solutions (lest we be perceived as a complainer). If implemented, your solutions will help your colleagues to be empowered to use their voices, too.  Consequently, the rate of attrition may decrease, absenteeism may diminish, and morale will soar.  Our voices are powerful.  We can use them and win or silence them and suffer.

Lights, Camera, Action!Take action. When we work our plan, we reap peace and a sense of accomplishment.  Establishing checkpoints and incorporating small rewards along the way, we ensure success.  Discussing our plans with others, we’re likely to be held accountable.

Striving to reach our goals, we need faith, courage, and perseverance.   Pray for guidance and heed the words of Philippians 4:8 (NIV):  “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Godspeed to you as you chart your course to success.

Sponsors in the Workplace: When Others Sing Our Praises

Workplace Sponsors, MentorsEmployers want an employee who completes her work on time and whose name is synonymous with excellence.  They seek a certain type of individual when they want something done right—the first time.  They want workers who take pride in themselves and keep their skills sharp.  In short, employers desire someone who will make their company’s product, service, or brand shine.

Perhaps you’re nodding and saying, “That’s me.”  However, you’d like the people outside your immediate circles to recognize your efforts.  You want to broaden your influence and advance your career.  After all, you make your team, your boss, and even your department look good.  When you shout your own praises, though, you risk being tagged with any of the following labels: obnoxious, self-absorbed, braggart, or overconfident. What’s a woman to do?

. . .Sounds like it’s time to pursue a sponsor.  Sponsors are confident in our abilities and have seen us in action.  They enjoy opportunities to “discover” the best talent and promote it throughout the company.  Sponsors are well respected; their reputations are often immaculate. They drop names in high places.  When a high profile project becomes available, a sponsor makes sure our name is mentioned as one who is capable.

Are you ready to have the strobe light placed on you?  Your work? Review the questions below as a start.  What other things will you consider?

Questions to consider before seeking a sponsor.

  • Whom might I pursue as a sponsor?
  • Are there any areas I need to improve upon before seeking a sponsor?
  • Do I have a mentor?  (Sponsors and mentors are indeed different. Mentors offer advice and help others hone their skills.  Alternatively, sponsors give lip service—especially in the presence of superiors.)
  • To show my abilities, a potential sponsor may ask me to take on additional work so that she can ascertain my wit, personality, and ability.  Am I prepared for this, given my current workload?

Exploding Under Pressure

Exploding Under PressureRecently my memory traveled back a few decades.  I chuckled as I recalled a boy who was about thirteen years old.  Roy was his name.  This kid really went out of his way to impress my older sister.  “Psst,” he called out to her, “watch this.”  Several neighborhood kids heeded his command, too.

With all eyes staring in his direction, Roy squatted and picked up a barbell.  Struggling to lift the bar over his scrawny shoulders, his entire five-foot frame trembled.  Chants from older teenage boys coaxed him to press on.  Roy squirmed, but refused to back down.  Holding his breath, he mustered the strength to elevate the bar just a hair more.  Then it happened.  Roy exploded under the pressure.  Literally.  The thunderous claps and noxious fumes in his vicinity were evidence.

At times, mothers may feel a bit like Roy.  Some single-handedly provide financial support for their families.  Others try to create solutions for everything and everyone.  A few have even exhausted their strength trying to win their children’s love in unnecessary, unconventional ways.  Before long, we relent, realizing the pressure is too great.

However, it doesn’t have to be so!  Unlike Roy, let’s not wait for thunderous noises and toxic fumes to get our attention. Before we allow an unhealthy mindset to bring about our body’s deterioration, let’s examine ourselves using the following questions as a guide.

  • What boundaries have I set to show that self-care is a priority?
  • Before I attack a problem, have I determined whether it really is mine to resolve in the first place?
  • Have I identified resources designed to build up women like me?
  • In what ways do I nurture my children?  Is this a natural show of affection or is it based upon how much I can purchase or do for them?
  • How might I teach someone (e.g., a co-worker, child, or spouse) a skill to help build their independence and reduce their dependency on me?
  • Have I assessed my friendships lately?  Have I outgrown any of them?  Are some of my relationships more refreshing than others?  Why?

Let us know which question resonated with you most or caused you to experience an aha moment.