By Kelly Foster
Ever felt like you needed a boost? I’m not talking about extra sleep or the boost you get from eating healthy. Not even the boost of pride you feel when someone of the opposite sex says you look good. Nope, not that kind of boost either. I’m talking about a boost of the soul. The kind of boost that refreshes fatigue, ignites passion, and inspires you to move. This is the kind of boost I, and a room full of some of the most promising young ladies I’ve seen in a while, received at The Unconditional Tour-St. Louis.
The Unconditional Tour has graced the great city of St. Louis for 3 years now and has been a huge asset to the city, especially in the midst of our challenges. This mother/daughter event which is full of deep discussions about the difficult, but necessary, growing pains of moms, mentors and their daughters has been an inspiration. It did not fall short on its expectations this year. The Unconditional Tour is a goal setting event and the theme “Unconditional” comes from the scripture Matthew 22:37-39:
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:37-39
After previously being a guest speaker at this event, I got the chance to attend this year with my own daughter. Our attendance couldn’t have been more timely, as she is entering her tween years, full of body changes, mood swings, and hormonal adjustments. Needless to say this was on time for us. Upon entering into the event space we were warmly greeted by smiling faces and a fresh clean space that felt a bit like a well put together Instagram photoshoot. We are always ready for a good photo op and this one did not disappoint; I love a goofy shot.
Our first speaker, Ginaes Floetry opened the event and began the topic of unconditional love by giving us a visual picture of God’s love.
“God’s unconditional love is a constant love; like a circle that never changes. A circle has no beginning or end; it just keeps going because God’s love never runs out. God is a never ending circle who adds value to your life.” -Ginaes Floetry
Not everyone learns the same and I love how Ginaes was able to explain the infinite love of God through the simple illustration of a circle. The most impactful nugget she shared was that God’s love creates attachment, or intimacy, between us, and it moves us to connect even more with him as we grow deeper in that intimacy. The deeper we grow in intimacy, the more we are willing to use all our gifts and talents to glorify God. The more fruits of that intimacy overflow out of our lives; things like vulnerability, connection, service, and compassion are sure to follow an intimate life surrendered to Christ. Finally, Ginaes challenged us to participate in a choreographed dance at the conclusion of her talk: putting into action the principles she’s just introduced. Although I am a bit rusty, I was still able to keep up.
The next speaker, Christian Cashelle, took us further, exploring how to recognize our goals and move towards making them a reality. One of the biggest challenges we have to reaching our goals is dealing with distractions. I am no stranger to this, there are several God-sized goals that have been heavy on my heart for the past few years and distractions and doubt have been my personal huge roadblocks. Distractions and doubt will have you second guessing the purpose you know that God has placed on the inside of you. According to Christian, “When we see any type of failure it makes us second guess ourselves.” I think every single person who’s ever attempted to accomplish a goal can agree with this statement. Thankfully, Christian encouraged us to keep going with practical tools to deal with and ultimately defeat distractions.
“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles15:7
Dealing with Distractions:
- Avoid the comparison trap: Do not compare your beginning to some else’s end
- Focus & Flex: Get to the destination but be flexible in what the path looks like
- Know your biggest challenges: Relationships & time management are huge distractions
As believers we have to become sensitive to the voice of God and be willing to listen for his voice, even as louder voices of distraction seek to gain our attention. Christian reminded us that God is ultimately leading us towards our goals, even when it seems we get “off track,” and even when it’s hard to discern is voice. He is still guiding us exactly where we need to be. When one door closes, or one opportunity doesn’t go as planned, it is important to remember that there is more than one way to reach a goal.
The simple yet clear illustration from Ginaes, and practical strategies for dealing with distractions from Christian were the perfect set up for our final session with Liv. In the final session, Liv brought together the principles of the theme scripture and each speaker’s main ideas in a way that was refreshing, transparent, and made you want to high five and Amen your neighbor the entire time. Liv reminded us just how glorious we have been fashioned and created by God. The unconditional, never ending, unchanging love of God is our daily proof that he’s not looking for robots but instead relationships.
Liv urged us not to let comparisons cause distance between ourselves, others and God. A heart check is what each woman in the room received as we were reminded that God created us to be exactly who we are and when we compare ourselves to others, implying that God’s creation is somehow not enough, it isolates us from the very God who loves us and draws himself to us daily.
“What you focus on becomes magnified—The narrative I spoke to myself based on the lies I believed from my bullying experience dictated my life.” –Liv Dooley
When a chosen, loved, and cherished creation of God chooses to minimize herself by using comparison as her litmus test, she ends up living a life that is not her own. Instead of comparison Liv reiterated that God wants to connect with the true us, not the knockoff version of someone else. Liv used the story of Mary & Martha to further illustrate just how comparison can be a distraction to connection and offered some keys to connection that we all could put into practice immediately.
Keys to Connection
- Choose presence: Be in the moment
- Put distractions down: Even well meaning intentions can be distracting
- Choose gratitude: No matter where you are in life, choosing gratitude will add positivity to your life
- Compliment yourself: It’s ok to praise the God who created you through complimenting yourself
Just when you thought the fullness of the day had reached its peak, we were introduced to Three Wishes and a Prayer: The Third Colorfully Candid Diary. Each young lady walked away with a copy of the brand new book written by Liv. It was so neat to see each girl as she got her personally signed copy and held it in her arms. In those moments you could see that she, me, we, felt loved. This was my favorite part of the entire day, because it showed the heart of the entire organization Colorfully Candid Paradigm. Their heart for loving, serving and giving to communities and families of women is truly an inspiration. So many lives have been touched by this ministry and that is why I will continue to support and encourage them in all that is done. The mission was accomplished, and we all walked away that day feeling the unconditional love of God. We were equipped with the power to walk boldly as individuals, special and unique just the way God created us to be.
I am grateful to have been apart of the day and even more excited to tell you about it. My daughter hasn’t put the new book down yet since she got it; and she’s already got her eye on purchasing the first two books.