How Much Power Does a Parent Really Hold?

Our children are the foundation to our future.  We must be careful how we proceed as parents.  They begin life as an innocent sponge, soaking in anything and everything we place in their path.  This means parents have the power to create beauty or ugliness.  The child has no choice.  Let me repeat.  The child has no choice of the outcome they will receive or the person they will become as a resident of a parents home.  To be honest, this causes me great sadness.  Coming from a highly dysfunctional background and marrying a man that experienced the same, I have seen the harsh results of lazy and/or irresponsible parenting.

Now, if you looked at me today, driving my Lexus and living in a sizeable home with two absolutely amazing boys, you may argue that the parents don’t really have the power to determine our future.  But you would be wrong.

Consider the years of extreme emotional, and sometimes physical, abuse I received from my husband.  I took the abuse, and he delved it out, both a result of poor parenting.  Consider the addiction to money we once had causing us to sacrifice all relationships, including our own children, in order to work insanely long hours.  We both had our reasons why, but at the root of it all were childhood experiences drilling in the belief that our value was in our success.  You may recognize that as conditional love.  Consider that I once married someone because my mother told all of us girls that we should grab the first man willing to take us or we would never make it in the world.  As you can see, my track record for marriages starts out pretty bleak.  Consider that, in our 30’s, when I received a medical diagnosis, and we lost everything we owned, my husband went into a deep depression and has never been the same since.  Just to be clear, this is because he thought his value was in the things we lost and the bank account that went with it!    He has never fully grasped self love, or letting go of the stream of repetitive jibber jabber in his brain telling him he would never be good enough.  And don’t even get me started on our siblings.  We look like a walk in the park compared to the trauma that still exists in them.

Instead of turning 18, and facing the world with great hope and belief in myself to become whoever I chose, I had no hope or belief that anything good was possible for me.  Instead of spending my efforts making a difference in people’s lives, I spent the better part of the next 25 years just trying to fix my own.  What a waste of time.  I am no Einstein, but I am smart, just not particularly book smart.  I have a few talents and a work ethic that can outdo the best of them.  My husband?  Oh my goodness.  Where do I start?  To this day he is the smartest man I have ever met.  I am talking top 5% smart.  He could have done anything or been anyone.  Instead, we spent our adulthood breaking chains.  I can only imagine the difference he would have made in this world had he started out under different circumstances.  And, I look forward to the day our youngest son takes off in the career world.  He is a spitting image of his father and no doubt will create immeasurable change in his field of interest.

Parents do have ALL the power to determine the future of each child whether it seems obvious or not.  Part of my pathway to healing, both physically and mentally, brought me face to face with the reality of my own parenting.  It was a huge slap in the face from the man above when I realized I was forsaking my kids for my career.  I was providing a better environment than our parents had offered us, but I had to ask myself was that good enough?  The answer was no.  I was 32 when I had my ahha moment and I have worked diligently ever since to place my kids needs before my own on every single matter.  This includes living with very little at times, to avoid having both parents employed and unavailable.  There was a moment we had so little money we had to sell the plow off the front of our 20 year old truck to make it through the month.  Yet, we still ate organically and we still remained a one income household.  In our minds, there was simply no other option.  It was what was best for our kids.  They don’t need all the things money can buy.  They need to be loved well.

Today, our boys are 15 and 17.  And, my theories were right.  First, they provide more joy and love than any other aspect of this world.  I have no regrets.  We are not set for retirement.  We don’t have a fat bank account.  As an aside, the Lexus is paid by my company or we’d still be driving a beater.  And, I shop mostly at Goodwill.  I can not imagine four individuals loving each other more than we do.  Their brotherly bond will carry them far.  Second, our boys have grown into humble, respectful, intelligent, responsible, loving, considerate, hard working young men deeply rooted in their walk with the Lord.  People comment often, wondering how we got them to be the way they are today.  That’s my greatest accomplishment in life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It is not anything that will earn an award or public recognition, but it is the greatest gift in existence.  I have given my children love in many different forms so they can, in turn, do the same.  Will they look back at their childhood with any complaints?  Probably, but they will be trivial and they know it.  They thank us often for how well we have cared for them and still do.  THEY SEE THE DIFFERENCE – as compared to some of their peers experiences!  Purposeful parenting makes a difference!

I hope to be a voice to this extremely important matter.  I hope to one day see a revolution of change that places our focus on each other, our own children and our neighbors children.  Remember, sometimes it takes a village.  For now, here’s some food for thought:

  • Do you eat together as a family each night?
  • Are you preparing healthy meals?
  • Do you have regular open discussion about value based decisions?
  • How often do you hug and kiss your kids, with an I love you, daily?  Hint:  For us it is multiple times every day and much of the time they are the initiators.
  • How well do your children care for each other?  If the answer is “not well”, what plan do you have in place to replenish and grow that relationship?
  • How much time do you allow for technology versus family time playing cards, board games, talking, or grabbing some entertainment like bowling?
  • How is your marriage?  Do you communicate love openly, ie hugs, hand holding, respect for one another?
  • If you are a Christian family, do you attend a good church weekly and pray with your kids daily?
  • Have you, or you and your spouse, collaborated effectively on how to raise your children?  Are you on the same page?  Have you discussed how you will instill values, work ethic, respect, belief in a higher power, serving others, education, etc?  Do you agree upon boundaries and discipline?
  • Have you implemented chores?  This is a biggie!  We implemented chores at the age of 5 and it was one of the best things we ever did.  It taught the children a great deal, not just work ethic.  By the time they were 11 or 12, they were fully capable of, and expected to take on, any chore as needed, including mopping, their own laundry, bathrooms, lawncare, etc.
  • Do you allow disrespectful comments from your kids?  Are they allowed to say No to you when asked to do something, or avoid the activity altogether with no consequence?  Do you allow them to follow through with the activity with a bad attitude or their face in front of electronics as an act of rejection toward said activity?

These are all a great start to analyzing your commitment to parenthood.  Time is the struggle for most.  Parenting well has taken an insane amount of time, sacrificing much on our part.  But I urge you, make it happen!  It will indeed be the best thing you ever do!!!

Prayers for Powerful, Purposeful Parenting!

Tonya Stuart



The Human Connection

Babysitting for a prostitute, being knifed while punched in the face trying to save my sister from the same, sitting on the bed of a child molester are all very scary circumstances for a young girl, but at the end of the day, when I look back, nothing left a deeper hole in my heart than the loneliness.

My younger sister sat with me one time when I was about 26 and rattled off situation after situation of the ugliness of our childhood.  I had forgotten so much.  Shortly after that chat, I let it all go again.  I asked her recently if she still remembered it all and she said yes.  I told her I may or may not have her rekindle those memories for my writings.  But, honestly, for the purposes of my blog, I am not sure they are necessary.  What I have come to realize is that we can have many, very traumatic things happen to us throughout life, but the real hurt comes from the effect of the human need to have our hearts heard and cared for with love.  The need for connection.

If you’ve read my previous blog you get the point that food was a close second to the loneliness factor.  Since we had no car for a number of years, it was necessary to walk to the store.  For some reason, that responsibility always landed on my shoulders.  I guess because my older sister was always working or being dragged to the bars with my mom and my little sister was simply too little.  I grudgingly agreed much of the time because, well, it meant getting food.  There were countless days and nights that I walked miles round trip.  I remember the walks very vividly.

Even though the streets were silent, my heart screamed as if a megaphone inside my chest, longing to be heard by anyone!  Why was I so invisible?  Why did I so easily go unnoticed?  What is wrong with people that they don’t care enough to reach out and help me or love me?

As I developed through middle and high school, I watched the “happy people”.  One commonality seemed to be money.  If you had money you could be happy.  Thus, as an adult, I sought money as a means of security, and as a way to gain friendships so I would never have to be lonely again.  Flash forward thirty years and I now know how off I was in that assessment.  Money had nothing to do with it.  We are the richest country on the planet, by a long shot, and the most medicated.  We outweigh any other country for use of anti-depressants, with 60% of users having taken the medications for more than two years.  I bet I didn’t need to give you that statistic for you to know we are a country bleeding from the heart.

As dumbfounded as I was walking those Appleton city streets, I am equally dumbfounded now.  I am certain our happiness lies in the connection we have with others, yet connection is a strain.  Judgment is rampant.  I have to wonder if the very thing I thought was the answer to connection, money, was really the answer to my loneliness.  Perhaps as I child I was surrounded by people so busy seeking money to find happiness, that they didn’t have the time to see me.  If they didn’t have the time to see me then perhaps they didn’t have the time to see others either.  The focus on chasing the dollar was so high that they missed the very real, and perhaps only true access to happiness that exists – the love of each other.  The fulfillment of reaching out and serving one another which ultimately is glorifying God and a direct link to his love, the greatest love of all.

I could be wrong.  I could be way off.  But, I know that I got misled into thinking that money would create a pathway to happiness, forsaking time for relationships along the way, and if I did that I am quite certain I am not alone in my mistake.  It is so bizarre too because I thought that was the pathway to friendships.  If I was successful people would like me.  Really that all just circles back to judgment.  Sometimes I look at the scope of this viscous cycle and wonder how we got here.  Was it the post WWII boom?  That first taste of real materialism?  Or perhaps it was the 80’s.  The baby boomers were hot to trot to finally master the idea that you can have it all!  But then there was the early 2000’s when McMansions were all the rage!  I guess it doesn’t matter what the cause.  It’s the solution we need to be reminiscing upon.

Truly, there is no perfect time frame in our history.  Fragmentation is ever present.  But I’ve heard the stories.  People communing for long hours of card playing, Sunday gatherings after church, neighbors helping neighbors through crop season and working together to replace a roof, no non-profit organization or church needed to set the task in motion.  I’ve seen the front porches that were actually in use rather than being solely staged like a perfect Norman Rockwell scene.  There was a time that we needed each other and that acknowledgment humbled us enough to watch our words and our judgment.  We were never perfect.  I’m not claiming that to be the case.  But, I would argue the more we pursued money, the more we staked our claim of independence.  We have fought to stand on our own two feet, and to prove that we can do all things ourselves.  This fight sets the foundation for competition as to who is better than who, rather than cooperation which is the birthing grounds to strong friendships.  Suddenly asking for help becomes a sign of weakness and defeat.  Whispers of judgment, once considered a burning bridge to the resources needed in others, is now a powerful tool to further the gap between you and everyone else.  Point out all their mistakes and recognize who is farther up the food chain to provide your heart with a feeling of fulfillment.  But is that true?  Are we finding the fulfillment?

Of course the answer is no or we wouldn’t have the rate of anti-depressant use, or obesity in my opinion.  Even as a newcomer to a new town, I have found it ever frustrating to create new friendships.  I have met a lot of amazingly wonderful people in two years time, but to really exchange deep friendship has yet to happen.  I am rarely invited out to anyone’s home or to meet up.  Maybe it’s my fault.  I am no queen of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, that’s for sure!  Ha!  But, I can’t help but wonder if it could all be easier.  I can’t help but wonder if we have created our own prisons of fear that prevent us from reaching out to the unknown abyss of people.  The chance that judgment lingers or a fear of being taken advantage.  Has the barrier of protection for our humanity been lifted with the loss of humble behavior needed to respect one another, knowing that community was essential to survive?  Is our loneliness a sad result of our pursuit to all things shiny in order to claim an isolated spot at the top?  When are we going to understand that we will all traverse murky waters and we need each other to rise above stronger than ever before?

The signs that I am on the right track are innumerable.  Now it’s time to open the discussion to all.  We all need to step up and admit that perhaps this economy of capitalism we’ve fought so hard to prove superior to all others has a tipping point.  Admitting wrong.  Who’s going to go first?  Who’s going to risk judgment?  Maybe it doesn’t have to be such a big to-do!  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  It started with the laying of one stone.  Be the first stone!  Pave the way!  Actually use that front porch furniture!  Invite your neighbors!  Find the new kid on the block at Sunday service!  Open your homes and your hearts!  Discover the true joys of life in one another.

And for goodness sakes, slow down!  Say what?  Yes, slow down!  Come off the ladder to nowhere.  For real.  That ladder to the top never actually ends.  We keep striving to get somewhere but then when we do, there is yet another rung to be climbed.  It’s a dizzying cycle of exhaustion.  Step away from the ladder and toward your community.  We don’t actually need the latest and greatest car, an even bigger home, or yet another pair of jeans hanging in the closet.  Simplify your life and your expenses.  Less stress and more time.  Imagine the possibilities!

Cheers to the Good Life!

Tonya Stuart

Delete, Delete, Delete!

I heard a sermon this week that made me reflect on my first few years as a child post divorce.  “Garbage in, garbage out.”, the pastor said, as he spoke of the consequences of an uncontrolled mind.  So true.  Garbage was about all my mind was fed for the remainder of my childhood.  It sounds pathetic, but it proved to be the starting point of who I am today.  Imagine that?  It had purpose!

Mrs. Radar’s 5th and 6th grade class was only the beginning of the in-school bullying.  It was ramped up in middle school, as it is for all children.  I don’t always remember much, but I swear I can retrace every fine line on the face of Ms. Patty, the girl occupying the seat next to me every day in art class.  Her and two twin boys taunted me endlessly.  It cemented immense internal shame and certainty that I was the ugliest, least talented, most ignorant person ever born.  And, it always involved how poor I was, which dictated much of my later behavior.  A misfit is what I told myself.  By ninth grade I locked arms with another girl and planned my suicide.  It was treacherous.  The depths of unnecessary sorrow forged by floating words of which we have no means of defense at such a young age.  It’s unfortunate.  Obviously, the consideration for suicide was abandoned.

It took me a long time to understand that I could control the intake of garbage, and the effect of that garbage on my brain, and thus my soul.  In fact, I am in my mid-40’s just first realizing how literal the bible is when it states that death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits, Proverbs 18:21.  Now a parent of teen boys, I wonder why we are not teaching this truth more explicitly.  If the outcome of our life can be determined by our words and thoughts, unquestionably, then why do we spend so little time teaching our children to mind their words and thoughts?  There is plenty of science to back this up and likely many books documenting this truth, such as Switch on your Brain, by Dr. Caroline Leaf.  It’s one of my favorites since she bounces between scripture and science to show the overlay of information.  Scripture and science parallel each other in their conclusions of how our brains work.  The fact is, what we expose our brains to manifests in our life.  Allow yourself to listen to someone defining you as a stupid person results in you thinking you are a stupid person and either making stupid decisions or no decision at all out of fear that it will be evidence of this truth.  How you talk to yourself and the words you speak are no different.

Think about the power behind this reality.  It’s insane really.  We focus so much of our time on doing, but the reality is our life is manifested in our thinking and speaking.  Take a moment to consider the words, and even images that conjure up words, poured into our minds daily from TV, radio, videos, gaming systems, advertising, conversations filled with gossip or shame, and reading material.  Everything feeds your brain which manifests into life.  Now think about what we allow our children’s brains to be exposed to daily.  Their brains are in an infancy state, even more fragile.  Yet, as a whole, we pay little attention to the power we are giving these avenues of connection for ourselves and our kids.  In fact, many are now in the habit of using these connections as a tool for keeping our children occupied.

I am no different.  Most of my life I allowed every word to seep into my mind like a serpent wrapping itself around my heart, sucking it dry of all hope and happiness.  Did you ever notice how much easier it is to hear the bad over the good too?  Well, keep in mind, as toddlers, we hear the word “no” an average of 400 times a day.  We learn what to do and not to do through negative language, teaching our brain synapse to respond far quicker to negative talk.

Today, I am an enormous advocate for undoing the damage.  I teach my children this truth about words on a daily basis through a leadership course, biblical knowledge and constant reminders if I catch them breathing death instead of life.  Why learn a trade or get a college degree if the foundation of who you believe you are is wrapped up in negative thought?  I have taught them techniques to train their brain.

  1. Speak or process negative thoughts and catch yourself doing it?  Stop!  Repeat delete, delete, delete and now tell yourself the opposite.  I am so stupid becomes, delete, delete, delete, I am super smart and can do all things through God who strengthens me.  Boom!  It’s amazing the difference.
  2. Start each day in a state of gratefulness for three minutes followed by prayer.  Meditate with your hand over your heart while visualizing something that brings joy to your life.  Now transfer that feeling to a current situation that you wish to find joy or abundance and stay focused on this for a few minutes each day.
  3. Breathe in for five seconds and then release for five seconds, while imagining that you are exhaling negative and stressful thoughts.

These are all techniques I teach my children to provide them with a line of defense to the all too easy path of negative thinking and the negative world around us.

I desire a life made easy for my kids.  Who doesn’t?  But, I have come to realize that starts with the power of their tongue, their thoughts and to whom and what they expose their brains.  If only I had understood this when I was sitting in a cesspool of negativity.  Delete would have been my mantra, and I would have empowered myself to rise above, eliminating years of pain.

Such a simple tool, perhaps it’s why so few make it a priority.  Life is hard.  Talking to myself can truly bring about all my dreams?  Is that really possible?  Try it.  More importantly, let your kids give it a shot, and watch the amazing transformation that occurs!

God Bless!

Tonya Stuart

The Heart or the Wallet?

Oh how I have missed my writing!  It’s so nice to find a passion!  My brother came for a visit and we haven’t seen him in over a year!  So I took a short break.  It was wonderful.  I told him about my blog and we reminisced for a bit about our childhood.

There was one point of our conversation that brought me to tears.  My brother said, “Remember when you told me that you would probably work till the day you die, while I will retire with a nice monthly income backed by investments?”  I nodded.  He replied, “After watching you and your family this week, I would give all of that up to have what you all have – in a heartbeat.”  He was referring to our love for one another, and the respectful, strong, well-mannered, God loving boys we have raised.  We are insanely close.  Our boys are now 15 and 17.

Here again lies more evidence to back my belief that our culture needs a shift.  We need to shift from a money centered unit to a family and community centered unit.  I can hear the screams already.  I realize 78% of us are living paycheck to paycheck and it feels as if we have no choice but to be money centered.  But, I have come to firmly believe that we can change that if we are willing to make the right decisions.  I doubt I am the only one that eventually believed that having a joy filled, comfortable life, nice friends and acceptance in society came with money.  My childhood wreaked of this fallacy.  I worked myself tirelessly in my 20’s and early 30’s, even taking client calls while the rest of my visitors sang the happy birthday song to my son.  It was a sad day that I wouldn’t even recognize as such till some time later.  But, I never found true happiness from the money and I really don’t think anyone does.  We have been sold a lump of coal.  Money can set you up for a great life which allows you to pay for greater experiences, but the love you have for your family during the experience, or independent of the experience, is the true joy.

And, while money can set you up for a great life, it can also rob you of your life.  More times than not, people encounter the latter and not the former.  They spend mega hours creating money to have the experience, and oftentimes accomplish said goal, but they do so with a broken family unit, ending with a joyless experience.  Fighting, complaining, whining, emotional distance, and emptiness are oozing out from a place of lack.  Emotional disconnect.  The time it takes to create the money is time lost to build the relationships of love within the family.  Too many don’t see this happening until it’s too late.  My brother was one of them, and I very well could have been right alongside of him had the good Lord not thrown me a curve ball.

If you compare me and my brother on paper, he wins.  His total net worth smashes me like a bug.  But who has more joy?  Perhaps the idea of me being without assets has lost you on this concept, but let me explain.  My husband and I had a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio by the time we were 32.  We lost everything over the course of the next five years due to a horrible medical diagnosis.  The story is long and complicated, but the end result was that both of us faced nearly 40 years old with nothing but our skills as entrepreneurs.  We went from being landlords to having landlords.  Here is where I made my shift.

I could have gone back to what I knew and was very good at, real estate sales, to earn a six figure income again.  But, I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know the depth of truth to the reality that life is short and time is precious.  When I sat through my treatments, I faced the potential for death.  Those wrapped up in their beds across the isle faced the same potential outcome.  It shocked me.  Thirty-two years old and I could die.  All that work for nothing.  All that time lost from my family and friends and marriage.  One of the first things I thought of when I got my diagnosis was the aforementioned birthday party.  I was sick to my stomach.  I would never get that memory back.  There was no do over, so I could see the smile on my sons face when he blew out the candles.  And, I may not live to see very many more birthdays.  For someone who believed they were pretty smart, this was a more than humbling moment.  So, upon “re-entering” the world, I decided I just couldn’t go back to seeking money above family.  I prayed hard for an answer to having both, but it took years to find it.  In the meantime, we lived poor.  That was my short term answer.  Poor was better than loss.  I would rather live poor, which is perceived as a loss, than to wake up every day and know that I had less love and growth of relationship with my boys and my husband.  Losing that love would be the real loss in my world.

I made a decision.  I focused my life on serving my children so they could rise up and be the truest form of who they were meant to be in adulthood.  I focused on giving them the love, guidance, discipline, knowledge, wisdom of God, and even appropriate food that would form the recipe for their future.  The food part is striking to me.  We eat all organic and always have, even when we had no money; even when we were on food stamps.  My brother mentioned this to me during his visit.  He said he could never understand it at the time it was happening.  Why would we spend greater money on food when we had an alternative?  But, food is life.  To me there wasn’t really an alternative.  The other “food” only looks like it’s good for you.  There is a reason it’s cheaper and a reason we are getting sicker.  What I put in my child’s mouth, and teach them to put in their own mouths, will define their health for life.  I refused to sacrifice their fuel for their bodies for my ability to buy a cup of coffee or treat myself to dinner at the local restaurant.  It’s all about decisions.

Do I wish things could be different?  You bet.  I wish I could have learned my lessons early on, but guess what?  I wouldn’t change a thing.  I will gladly work till I die with few to no assets, if that ends up being the case, for the chance I was given to mold two lives in the best way possible.  If  tomorrow was my last day, my best work is done.  I have no regrets.  My heart is filled with joy every day from the love we have for each other, and I know that I have set a foundation for these two boys to go out into the world with their priorities in the right place.  They will raise strong families based on decisions that will allow for one parent to always be available to love, nurture and guide.

Here’s the good news!  You don’t have to live broke to raise good kids!  My story is unusual because of my medical circumstances.  But, 78% of us are making decisions to live broke while spending on more and more stuff, forcing us to sustain a two income household!  If we can keep a two income family.  This decision is impacting marriages too, which leads down another slippery slope.  What would our world look like if we all decided to live minimally, with few shiny things, but money left over in our bank accounts and peace, love and joy in the home each day?  How would that change our children, our marriages, and our communities?

Parenting sets patterns.  It’s time to create a pattern of joy for our children.  That begins in the heart, not the wallet!



Seeking Truth

Over the years, as I considered others’ insistence that I write a book, the first apprehension was always that I didn’t want to drown people in the sorrows of an ugly childhood, or adulthood for that matter.  The latter typically follows the former and I was no different.  Who wants to turn page after page deeper into a story of fear and grief?  Today I feel that apprehension creeping in, and the need to assure you that the story has a very happy ending and a message of endurance.

These first two years of city life birthed a new lifestyle of ugliness and pain that no child should experience, and the unfairness of it all stuck with me for years.  By adulthood, I would have every right to stomp my feet and cry Uncle!  But the truth is we are not our individual experiences, and we don’t have the right to waste our life feeling sorry for ourselves over circumstances.  Plus, like it or not – I didn’t like it and sometimes still don’t – every one of these experiences are beautiful.  Stunning really.  It took me so, so much time to see that.  Like a longstanding piece of artwork, each moment of our life truly does mold us into a masterpiece, if we let it.  Sometimes it is a slow and steady hand fine tuning the development of our soul.  Other times it is a sudden, dramatic twist of the arm reshaping the entirety of our daily life and future, throwing all that we once thought we knew into question.  Sometimes it feels fantastic.  Sometimes the pain is excruciating.  It doesn’t matter which point you are at really.  If you lift your head up and open your eyes to the full vision for your life, you will see beauty at every point and how, when woven together, it creates the most powerful artwork on earth.  It creates you.  And no one person on earth can claim to be exactly like you because each of our journeys shapes us into a unique piece.  See how special that is?

Nobody on this planet can provide the exact same perspective, teachings, friendship, love, talents, wisdom, encouragement, or mentoring as another person.  That is powerful!!!!  I realize it’s asking a lot for one to believe that hardship and trauma have purpose, but they do so long as you choose to rise above.  There’s that crazy term again.  Doesn’t it sound dreamy?  Rise above, like a sunset over a beautiful mountain.  So serene and easy and lovely.  Pop!  That was the bubble over your head.  Forget about it.  This process is anything but serene.  It takes courage, strength, determination, grit and a crazy strong will to discover the truth about who you were meant to be.  Not the lies you have been told or the shame you have felt or the sadness in your heart.  Peeling back those layers of hurt takes endurance and belief that there is much more to you than any one moment.  It requires faith that something bigger than all of us created each one of us to make a difference in this world.  It is our job to seek truth in order to stay positioned on the trail of life meant for us personally.

While the process isn’t always so dreamy, shouldn’t we concur that finding our true purpose is?  Just do an amazon search for life purpose once.  Let me save you the time.  That search provides over 40,000 results.  We all want to know why we are here, but to do that we have to know who we are, and be comfortable in our skin.  That’s so much of this battle.  I meet countless people imprisoned by fear of judgment.  It’s crazy!  But, at the same time, I get it.  I was one of those people.  It’s just so funny because when I was in a state of fear of judgement, it was because I looked at everyone around me and thought I couldn’t possibly compare.  I looked at other people and saw greatness.  Everyone has always seemed so smart, artistic, musically inclined, perfect parent, nice as pie, etc and then there was me.  Yet, they were all looking at me the same way.  I was so busy seeing what I wasn’t I failed to see what I was.  Does this sound familiar?

Go look in the mirror.  Wait for it.  Wait for it.  Keep looking.  Take yourself in and then speak the words I Love You.  I dare you.  I did this one time and cried a river of tears.  I couldn’t believe how hard it was to do.  It made me recognize just how unkind and disrespectful I was being toward myself on a daily basis.  How little credit I had given myself for the beautiful person I had become and really always was.

The years of disappointment add up for all of us, and we have become a society quick to rub in the mistakes and slow to lift ourselves, and each other, up in celebration.  Stop living your life as if you are the mistake.  The mistake happened.  It was an action that took place but if you focus your eyes on the mistake alone it will eventually falsely define you while all along your authentic self is sitting on the sidelines waving hands, red face, doing everything to get your attention.

You know who’s your best sideline peep?  God.  He’s sitting there waiting for you to look up and see his love for you so that you can begin to love yourself.  How do you begin to see him?   Well, here comes the work, determination, and will to find truth.  Particularly the work.  I have spent years trying to figure out how to be “normal”.  I have read countless books on self development, leadership, and spirituality.  I have been counseled and provided a few mentors along the way.  You know what comes with finding self love through God’s love?  Freedom!  Freedom to be who you want to be and do what you want to do without worry of anyone else’s opinion or how the story of life will play out.  You just have to keep your focus on him and everything else falls into place.  As a holistic doctor friend of mine once said, “Just wrap your whole self around the Lord and allow yourself to sway back and forth freely with his movement and you will have everything you ever wanted.  God is good.  God is so very, very good.”   He was more right than I knew at the time.

I hope to have provoked you to dig in and do the work necessary to rip apart layers of lies.  Start with a good book.  I recommend the bible, but there are many from which to choose, and write your positive affirmations that you can repeat to yourself daily.  Your words have power over your life.  Choose wisely.  Take time in quiet meditation and/or prayer daily.  Find a good friend and/or prayer warrior, join a church and small group, seek counseling and start journaling.  Commit to listening to a Ted talk each day on your way to work or an audio book.  But take the time.  Commit to the transformation.  Seek truth.

Below is a list of great authors I highly recommend:

Brene Brown, Max Lucado, M. Scott Peck, Stephen Covey, Eckhart Tolle, Dale Carnegie, Lysa Terkeurst, Norman Vincent Peale, John Maxwell, Mark Batterson, Jack Canfield, Christa Black Gifford, and my all time favorite, Wayne Dyer

Recommended sources of God’s wisdom:

Elevation church on Youtube, visit their site @

T.D. Jakes @

And something the pastor at Chatham Church told me to do shortly after I asking him to explain the significance of Jesus…..

Say the Our Father.  Read one psalm a day three times and be sure to read it aloud at least once.  And then state the following prayer:  Father, heal my heart in ways I can not heal myself.  This turned out to be one of the most transformational efforts ever.  I have moved on to read all parts of the bible, but I still say the prayer over myself and my family.

The How To’s of Positive Affirmations:

Prayers and Blessings,

Tonya Stuart



Calling All Teachers!!

As if having a bad set of parents wasn’t enough of an unfortunate circumstance, I was blessed with a terrifyingly horrific teacher in 5th grade who decided having me in class again in 6th grade was only logical.  The term demonic comes to mind when I think of Mrs. Radar.  If I could hold hatred in my heart, she would be at the top of the list.  Of all the places a child should be able to go to feel safety, it is a school.  Sadly, Highlands Elementary was not such a dwelling and the teachers’ behavior was a reflection of poor leadership, as is always the case with a team of employees, or any team for that matter.  The number of times the principal had an opportunity to step in and question what was happening behind the walls of our home was countless, but not once did he make a choice to care.

First, in Mrs. Radar’s defense, I was not the brightest bulb in the box.  Honestly, I didn’t know I wasn’t that smart until I went to Highlands.  But, Mrs. Radar was adamant about reminding me on a daily basis, oftentimes in front of the entire class.  If only she could have felt what I was feeling.  I was constantly filled with that feeling of stunned fear, like when you are doing something really, really wrong, and the person of authority walks into the room and catches you.  You know that feeling?  That was me at all times.  She would shame me, mock me, and call me out when she knew I wouldn’t know the answer.  I don’t know all the reasons why, but from almost the moment I walked into her class, she decided I was a lazy trouble maker who disregarded the significance of education.  I think it was because those first few weeks I constantly did my homework wrong.  I didn’t understand her instructions and when I turned in my assignments I think she interpreted my work as lazy or even possibly sarcastic.  But truth be told, I was trying my best.

It also didn’t help that it was commonplace for me to fall asleep during class, and my truancy rate was through the roof.  But, here again, where was the leadership?  No adult looked at me as a 10 year old fifth grader and thought perhaps they should ask a few questions as to my behavior and whereabouts?  Rather than being offended that I was sleeping during any given lesson, how about asking why I was always tired.  Let’s see, not enough food and staying up till all hours of the night to babysit in order to purchase food.  I never understood how I made it through those years and nobody questioned anything, especially when you factor in my mother’s insane behavior which was witnessed more than a time or two by the principal.

I wasn’t completely alone in Mrs. Radar’s class though.  She had another favorite named Sherry Smith.  We were by far the poorest people in her room.  I’ve always assumed that led to a negative stereotype of our character.  No matter who was talking, throwing around paper, etc, she would point to Sherry and I with reprimands, which often led to staying in for recess and after school for apologies.  It was crazy.  One such instance resulted in me being forced to stay after school to write a long paragraph of what I did wrong and how I would correct my behavior.  It would have been fine but I didn’t do anything.  I finally had the courage to approach her desk and communicate her error.  Her response was simply that this would make up for the next time I acted out in her class.  There I stood, defenseless, filled with shame and loneliness.  My experience there left me hopeless to ever think I could be a good student.

As compared to previous years in my former school, where I was treated with great kindness, and had a warm group of friends to see every day, my heart felt broken.  Alone at home and alone at school.  For this social butterfly, it was a recipe for disaster.  For the first time in my life I began to truly question my value and worth.  For the first time ever, I started to see myself as a misfit, inherently, grossly flawed.  My weakness and insecurity festered bullish responses from every corner of the student body.  I was certainly an easy target when the teacher herself took to bullying me openly.

The only friendship that transpired was with a gal also named Tonya.  Honestly, it was just one friend, but for those two years, it was my saving grace.  I’m still connected through social media and I have always wanted to ask her why.  Why did she friend me?  I suppose it seems like an odd question, but, let’s face it, who decides it’s a good idea to friend the class freak?  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  She and I shared many fond memories that helped offset a lot of pain.  Sometime at the end of 6th grade or beginning of 7th, she began inviting me to hang out on the town “strip” where we smoked cigarettes and sought out attention from the opposite sex.  As much as I wanted a friend, I knew this was a path that wouldn’t serve me well and we parted ways.  Here again, I think the wisdom of the Lord lay in my heart whether I recognized it or not at the time.

There is much to be said about my school experience and this is not the last of what you will hear.  I will leave you with this, if you are a parent, fight for your child if they are in an environment where their needs are not being met.  Please, I beg you, please do not allow your child to remain in an emotionally challenging school.  School should not be a test of emotional fortitude.  It should be a place of subject based learning, friendship and personal growth.  The damage done by bullying can leave life long scars.  Scars that create roadblocks to blessings in their future.

If you are a teacher, especially if you are being worn thin, please realize that your every word can make or break a student.  Consider those in your classroom right now.  Who do you think is a bad apple?  Is this true or are they in desperate need for help?  If there is nothing you can do about their situation, at least use the love in your heart to be as kind as possible.  Be like Mr. Woller.  Mr. Woller was the fifth and sixth grade teacher next door to Mrs. Radar.  He reach out a helping hand once, and paid for my admittance to the YMCA, and the ability to be on their gymnastics team, along with transportation, since we didn’t have a car.  It wasn’t going to change my circumstances, but it made me feel slightly less invisible.  To this day, I still consider that one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me.  I messaged a long note to his daughter when I was an adult, and asked that she forward it to her father.  I never heard a response, but I hope he knows what it meant to me.

I am extremely passionate about parenting because what we do to a child as they are developing, truly has lifelong impact.  Children take in everything.  Our words and behavior toward them can make or break their entire future.  I know many people who don’t want to believe that is true.  They say that when the person becomes an adult it is their job to undo the damage and become vibrant, capable adults.  It’s not true.  Some of the damage is simply so painful the adult isn’t even capable of making the first step.  Although teachers are not parents, nor should they be expected to substitute for said position, they inherently become the next greatest influence.  I pray we all remember our responsibilities in both of these roles!

Tonya Stuart


The Deafening Sound of Lifelessness

Have you ever walked into a season of your life where you feel a sense of deep despair over the present situation, as well as the recognition that this is a permanent state for the foreseeable future, and there is nothing you can do to change it?  Have you ever been in a place where you look all around seeking a sign of hope or outlet of security and it’s as if you are looking into a sea of lifelessness?  That was me throughout 5th and 6th grade.  Thereafter, it wasn’t as if the lifelessness stopped, I just got used to it.

Aside from transforming into the queen of childcare, I began seeking friendship, wandering the halls of my apartment building and checking the laundry room, trying to find anyone who would be up for a chat.  I loved people, and still do.  For the longest time, I believed all people were good and was insanely unaware of the criminal mind.  In fact, when my now husband met me at 22 years of age, one of the first things he told me was that I was the most naive person he had ever met.  Even at 22, after years of torment from many, I truly always assumed the best of people.  I’d like to say that is the case today as well, and I still believe all people have the ability to be and do good, but I have woken up a bit to the realization that not all people choose that path.  Anyway, it’s pretty frightening to imagine a 10 or 11 year old randomly walking the hallways of low income housing seeking out attention, and it most certainly led me to a few unfortunate circumstances.  The first was a babysitting job I took for a little girl, my younger sister’s age.  It was short lived as we soon realized the mom’s boyfriend was more interested in us than the mom.

Another “friend” provided me some of my best memories for those two years.  He was so super kind to me, taking me to the library, talking to me for what felt like hours, introducing me to his friends at the local diner where he bought me hot chocolate.  It was fabulous!  Finally, a real friend – or so I thought.  I’ll bet you know where I am going with this!  The friendship ended abruptly following a visit where he brought me into his bedroom, closed the door and stated that we should have sex.  I remember sitting on the bed while he paced the floor, combing his hands through his hair repeating to me that perhaps I should ask my mom first.  Certainly an odd request, but I suspect it was his mind arguing with him to proceed or back off.  I, innocently enough, said something along the lines of, “Don’t worry, my mom won’t care.”  Ha!  I knew I was being honest because my mom didn’t care about anything that went on in my life.  Clearly I did not have a clue as to what sex meant.  Here’s where it gets good.  That man let me go at the insistence that I needed my moms persmission.  What are the odds?  I was ON HIS BED with the door SHUT!  At the time I had mixed emotions of being rejected as not good enough to play sex with, and the stirring that something wasn’t right.  I proceeded home to tell my mom, who replied, “stay away from him”, which I did from that point forward.  To this day I sometimes wonder about all the other girls that may have not fared so well at the hands of this man, since my mother never bothered to ask any further questions, let alone call the police.

It may surprise you that I became an atheist when I hit my 20’s – or maybe not!  I decided a God of love was impossible given my history.  My 30’s turned a tide in my faith, and the above story would be a resounding sign to me that God was indeed with me every step of my childhood.  It by far wasn’t the only sign, but I consider this one a doozy.  With that said, I feel the need to lift you up, as my reader, with some light of good news.  God is good!  God is so, so good!  It took me forever to understand the depths of his love for me.  In fact, I only recently was able to fully release the bondage’s of fear and control that gripped my mind and soul.  But, oh, let me tell you the glorious beauty, peace, and true happiness that permeate my every cell now that my heart has been opened to his everlasting love.  It’s an insanely powerful feeling.  His work in my life just in the last few weeks alone has blown my mind, but I had to come to a place of full submission.  I’ll talk about that more later.

If you are reading this and the last paragraph is radical to your belief system, I urge you to bare with me.  Remember, I understand both sides of the coin.  I know the depths of anger and pain and sorrow so deep you’d rather die than move forward.  I have felt so much pain in my life it’s likely nothing I ever write in this blog will ever fully convey it strongly enough.  And although it pains me to realize there was this beautiful, powerful father just sitting there waiting for me to turn toward him, the fact is he was…..all along, just sitting there waiting for me.  If you are on the fence about this subject, or totally in disbelief, stick with me.  Watch what happens to my life.  I dare say, I am a living miracle.  Lots of love to all of you and my prayers that you too discover his grace!

Tonya Stuart