Making My Mess, My Message

As I near a milestone birthday this month (the big 4-0!), I want to share some personal memories from my life journey…I am going to quickly review each decade and close out this blog with a reflection & lessons about my story progressing this year.
My Journey: 1977-2017
Decade 1:  1977-86
Memories: Little sister, only daughter, foster care child, abused, beaten, survivor, moved three times in first grade, speech impediment, dyslexia, held back in third grade, constant earaches, trouble-maker, talker, class-clown, budding artist, class council member and spelling bee finalist in 4th grade, started a food fight and read 501 books in the summer after 4th grade.
Decade 2: 1987- 1996
Memories: 5th grade crossing guard and kindergarten class volunteer, sexually abused, emotionally abused, loved art and volleyball, science fair winner, artist and creative spirit, loved riding my ten-speed pink and teal huffy bicycle, started my eating disorder, wanted to die, wanted to disappear, moved four times and changed schools three times, began to love school and writing, developed my artistic skills, went into foster care again, never went home, abandoned and rejected, became a Christian, found my strength in Him, blossomed into  a beautiful butterfly, honors student, almost quit art, still a class clown, selected by peers to be the yearbook editor-in-chief,  voted most likely to cheer you up for senior superlatives, graduated from High School  in the top 15% of my class, and was accepted to college!
Decade 3: 1997- 2006
Memories: Attended college, worked in the college cafeteria, learned to roller-blade, had my gallbladder removed, volunteered each summer in DC, brooklyn and San Francisco, visited Italy, completed my senior art show, served with AmeriCorps, rejected from grad school, went back to college,  my maternal grandmom passed, accepted to three graduate schools, moved to New York with $100, baptized, participated in a graduate assistant-ship, lost my virginity, dated with a hole in my heart, walked away from God, and graduated with my MA degree in Creative Arts Therapy, landed a job in NY and stayed.
Decade 4:  2007-2017
Memories: Made art, made a difference, lost and dying inside, wore a mask, lied to everyone about my struggles, raped,  pretended I was okay,  unplanned pregnancy, became a mom, moved home, wasn’t received as a prodigal daughter, homeless-lived with a friend, got fired from a sales job, cleaned houses, my paternal grandmother passed, landed a job at a college, found my passion & purpose, received a $60,000 grant to support foster youth, became an advocate, accepted into four art exhibits-two with my son, my brother, mother and father died, depression and anxiety, assaulted, survivor, trainer and speaker, motivator and mama bear, became an entrepreneur, and resigned from my job a month before turning 40.
Reflection and Lessons: My progression in 2017…
A little over two months ago, I had this amazing experience in March of 2107. I presented a Pecha Kucha at the National ACPA Convention in Columbus, Ohio. PechaKucha (Japanese: ペチャクチャ, IPA: [petɕa ku͍̥tɕa], chit-chat) is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). The format, which keeps presentations concise and fast-paced, powers multiple-speaker events called PechaKucha Nights (PKNs).
My Pecha Kucha was called “Never Never Give Up: The Resiliency of Former Foster Youth” (visit the link to view the video).
I experienced something very empowering and had a “mountain top experience.” I  had the unique opportunity to live out my passion and purpose. The evening was extra special because I had two former supervisors present and two mentees present. I didn’t know then, that this precise moment would allow me to step into my future and fulfill a revolution (new chapter) in my life.
Just days ago, I returned from a conference in Henderson, Nevada. I attended a conference calledYour Real Success: Your Message, Your Brand, YOUR BOOK with Rhonda Sciortino! I have so much I want to say about this experience!!! We were a small but mighty group of women. I am so blessed because of this circle of visionaries and leaders. This retreat/conference truly impacted my message, brand and book. My purpose for going on this trip was to develop myself professionally, but I grew in confidence, self-awareness, purpose and wisdom.  A very special thanks to Diana Bowen-Moshier, Cheryl Alexander and Crystal Van Kempen-McClanahan! Thank you so much for sharing God’s love with me and your affirmations, gentle support, laughter and positive messages. I gained so much from being in your collective presence! I definitely feel called to help others step into their future!
Over the next 6 months, I will be writing My Soul-Inspired Story and Journal for Foster Youth and Survivors. During all three-days of the conference,  I gained traction to  fulfill my personal purpose; I was given tangible tools to implement practices to realistically reach my goals. I am ready!
At the last moment, I added two days to my trip and decided to visit the Grand Canyon. As I stood at the South Rim, my heart looked out over the canyon with a heart of gratitude. I saw the depths of the valleys and I was reminded about my journey in life… I survived and thrived throughout four decades of trauma, lessons, and blessings. As I stood on the mountain top, my eyes teared up.  I realized how the valley transformed my mess into my message and I will not be ashamed of my story! My life has a purpose and so does yours! Are you ready?
Join me! Learn how you can map your revolution and step into your future. Contact me at or Facebook.
In closing, I am truly thankful for all of my supporters. I wouldn’t be ready for the next chapter without you. I appreciate y’all!

Dig Deep & Call Attention to the Fear (And Let it Go)

I spent the month of April in deep reflection…not any ordinary reflection, but in meditation. During the past five years, I have experienced grief and sorrow without really processing or letting go in a healthy way.  This month,  I refused to break down or give up.  I  volunteered when I just wanted to stay in bed and hide. In my heart, soul and mind- I just knew I couldn’t give up. I am learning to be still. My circumstances lead me into a detour where I recognized (again) how important it is to listen (because even though I was tuning in, I was only doing so,  when it seemed convenient).

We all experience these life-defining moments, when things do not add up, where puzzle pieces do not fit (and were never meant to fit); these inconspicuous configurations result in being redirected. The only way to push through, is to believe in your purpose (and imagine what you can achieve while holding steadfast, onto your faith).

I have always said that life is a series of detours, which lead (or force) you towards the next opportunity. I have learned to seize the moment and accept detours as a lesson to experience life reflectively (& fully).

In the beginning, detours feel like a diversion tactic that will only lead to a dead end.  They feel extremely uncomfortable and stir up self-doubt, anxiety, pain, etc.  In those first few steps, people will try to convince you that struggles are actually blessings in disguise. Meanwhile, you just want to give a skeptical side glance (but if you stop and reevaluate, you can practice patience and your purpose).

So…here’s my advice (and encouragement), if you are facing adversity and struggling with a detour on your journey:

  1. Prayer/Meditation is a vehicle that you need to practice intentionally. Speak and say what is on your heart, but also, listen and be still before God.
  2. Open your heart and invite wisdom to speak into your life; erase that circle that you drew around yourself to keep people out. It’s not going to help you to push through. To get to the other side, we need to trust others.
  3. We are not facing adversity to “learn some big lesson.” The lessons are within you already-between fear and progress; dig deep & call attention to the fear and let it go. The lesson will be cultivated and grow within you, stronger than ever.
  4. Do not sulk or feel sorry for yourself. Yes, there are a lot of naysayers out there, but those naysayers don’t know that much about you!
  5. Be helpful. Put your hands to work in a positive way and believe that your life will continue to have a purpose.
  6. Finally, do not edit your story. Do not diminish God’s work, within your life because it’s not very pretty. God’s grace is most evident in those moments!!!

So what do you think? What lessons are you learning in your journey?

Please give feedback or contact me at or twitter @kimberlycolleen Thanks for reading!

Transformation and stepping into the future…

Over the course of my life, I have been stepping into my future. Over the past few weeks, I’ve felt the impact of a few courageous steps and I am not the same woman I was, when March started. As the month wraps up,  I am being pushed into another opportunity for growth. In the past, I might have called it a challenge, but after this week, I am being reflective and looking at life as an opportunity to grow and sustain my purpose.

I look inward and have faith that transformation will continue to shape my goals and aspirations. My desire to mentor, coach, advocate and educate is embedded in my own history; I have had so many people influence my life, that it is my hope that I can pay it forward and help others step into their future; this is what I describe as, “living a soul-inspired revolution.”

Three weeks ago, I was invited to speak to a small group of college students about stepping into their future, beyond graduation. I was invited by one of my college mentors-she was my first job supervisor. She embodies love and compassion; she learned my story and became more than a supervisor. She actually taught me how to drive, with her two-year old in the back seat of the car! She has become a life-long mentor; twenty years later, she still demonstrates love and compassion through her words and actions.

As I prepared for the college-age workshop, I collected my thoughts and developed some talking points about “Adulting 101.” During the workshop,  I shared some significant lessons that I’ve learned throughout my life post-college. I have given many workshops throughout my life, but this one just resonated with me so deeply, I felt closely connected to my life mission. Through the process of storytelling, I seek to empower others in developing their passion, purpose &  plans to step into the future.

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This past week, I was given the opportunity to share my own story on the stage at #ACPA17! the lights almost beamed me (the lights were so bright!) into an alternative universe! I was grounded in hope and the promise that my story can make a difference. I’ve learned from my past and I discovered that my mess can become my message. I shared my story through PechaKucha 20 x 20; it is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and I talked along to the images. Essentially, it’s a short speech that equates to six minutes and forty seconds of storytelling. I shared my personal journey as a former foster youth and how my life-purpose intertwined with supporting former foster youth, as a part of my career. I never imagined in a million years, that I would be coordinating a program that develops former foster youth into leaders.  I am beyond thankful.

Beyond the immediate experience of sharing my PechaKucha, I felt like a became a part of very special community of PK presenters! I believe all of our stories connected with the human experience, and I personally left very changed by the lessons shared by everyone!

The change process of transformation has been strengthening my heart. During March, I have acquired a deeper understanding of my purpose; I am seeking to achieve my greatest potential; I want to cultivate revolutions in those around me that are soul-inspired!

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ACPA17: Work-Life Balance, Resiliency & Hospitality!


The national convention for ACPA17 is right around the corner! I’ve experienced so much positive energy from being a member of this diverse community! The annual convention experience refuels my purpose and transforms my work in Higher Education. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to Connect, Experience, Reflect, Invest, and Transform!

This month, I have a new opportunity to present with Renée Hill, Dean of Student Life, and Denise Harris, Vice Provost for Student Engagement at Hilbert College, Buffalo, N.Y.. We will present an educational session at the upcoming American College Personnel Association (ACPA) conference, titled “Work-Life Balance: Interwoven Life Tapestries of Motherhood, Management and Mentorship.” The session is sponsored by the Coalition for Women’s Identities and the Commission for Administrative Leadership. This is my first educational session at a national conference and it’s an honor to present with my current and former supervisors; both of these women shaped my career in Higher Education; they are also role models and examples of women who are exemplary in leadership. I am thankful for their roles in developing my strengths and their support to help me grow as a manager, mentor and mother.

During ACPA, I  will also give a PechaKucha called “Never, Never Give Up: The Resiliency of Former Foster Youth.” I will be speaking about my experiences as a former foster youth and the development of the Columbus State Scholar Network. My session will be given in an innovative presentation format in which presenters show 20 images for 20 seconds each, covering a wide range of topics, ideas, perspectives and thoughts. I have been working on my session for over a month; it’s going to be difficult to speak about my life and passion in only six minutes and forty seconds! I am incredibly excited to have this platform to share about my growth and how we can all support former foster youth in college.

Finally, it has been a great learning opportunity to serve as the hospitality coordinator on the ACPA17 convention experiences team. I have been overseeing the development of the Welcome Kiosk, Lactation and Family Space, Service-on-the-Go projects, and the affirmation and reflection boards. I am thankful to be a member of the planning team, they have been nothing but supportive; together, we have brainstormed ideas to shape a great convention experience for 2017! Being a part of the planning team has helped me to refocus my attention on the heart of hospitality and enhance my practice with my students to consider their needs and to focus on tangible ways to support them as they face challenges in their lives.

You can read my complete online blog post, “What’s Your Happy Place?”(about the conference) here.


NEXUS: Mother & Child

A very special Family Art Exhibit features a young child’s (six years old) artwork next to his mother’s paintings and drawings!

During February 2017, a Family Art Exhibit by the Rhyan Family was featured at Groveport City Hall, in Groveport, Ohio. The exhibit goes on the road in March and will move to Columbus State Community College during Women’s Herstory Month. The exhibit will be in the gallery, located in Christopher Hall (the Columbus State Library). Please visit:

Kimberly Rhyan earned her B.A. in Fine Art from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. She also earned her M.A. in Creative Arts Therapy from Hofstra University. The art process has always been a part of her family tapestry. As a child, Kimberly observed her own mother create art and also had art teachers who served as mentors in Elementary and middle schools.

Her son has always had access to art supplies; they have an art studio in their home. Carter has had a brush in his hands ever since he was 18 months old! Last summer,  Carter found a box of popsicle sticks and asked if he could glue them to his canvases (because he refuses to paint on paper because his mom only paints on canvas). After completing his own popsicle painting series, he asked if he could glue his popsicle sticks to his mother’s painting. That’s when the exhibit merged together as one.


Carter tells everyone that his sticks are a transformer but his mom believes they look like a “home,” symbolic of their nexus.

Kimberly is inspired by her son and his creativity. Their exhibit is a chance to see Carter’s evolution as an artist next to his mother’s work; whenever she paints, he creates paintings and when she draws, he makes drawings. They each have their own style but they truly have formed a special nexus, a bond tied together through art!  They hope you will go home after the exhibit and make art with your family!

Artist Statement and Challenge:

Creating art is a family activity that fills our home with love. We focus on play and having fun; creativity shapes us to be innovators. Sometimes, our artwork connects and that’s probably our favorite experience.

I am thankful to celebrate creativity with my son through art-making; it’s a path to growth and understanding. I’ve also learned that art-making with a child is messy, but it is also filled with beautiful awakenings.

I encourage families to explore creativity together. Spend one or two hours a week creating something new. It’s a fun way to build a nexus. You become more connected and that’s the essence of family!

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(Jenga &) Perseverance.

In this NEW Year (beyond our conflicted country), in just the span of five weeks, my life has toppled over like Jenga pieces; life has been messy and disconnected.  In this chaos, I see opportunities for growth and recognize areas for improvement. Thank God, I am not stuck, but instead, I continue on my path. After all, this is not the first time, life  hasn’t seemed very fair….

1978. 1979. 1983, 1988. 1991. 1996. 1997. 2002. 2006. 2010. 2012. 2013. 2014. 2015. 2016. 2017.

These are the years, that I can cross-reference with change and challenges.  I am a victim of traumatic experiences, but I am NOT a statistic.  I am a survivor, but I identify as a WARRIOR.  It’s hard to imagine how I made it this far, but I will keep sharing the lessons that I’ve learned.  The banner of my life expresses my core belief…. I have worth in the Father’s hands. I have come this far, by His grace.

I am more than my collective fears and anxiety. I try to focus and find clarity by centering myself with conviction & courage. I try to pay it forward and share my struggle to help others.  Even with the full knowledge of His grace,  it is sometimes very difficult to resist ache as my companion.

I don’t want to know loss, but I have lost someone every year since 2012 (my grandmother, my brother, my mother and most recently, my father).

Over the past week, I felt very alone.

This is not to say that my friends and family did not reach out to me, because they told me from the beginning, that if I needed anything, just to let them know.  Through all my years, asking for help seems like the most logical next step, but it’s never that easy.

A fierce debate always takes place; self-doubt wrestles with insignificance; and I begin to question my value and people’s intentions.  My expectations limit me from accepting help. It’s all in my head, because I know in my heart of hearts, that I am loved.

My insecurity is amplified by life’s circumstances, which keeps removing blocks. There’s no way to know why bad things happen to good people. Life stays messy and I grow more and more anxious, waiting for the next disappointment and heartbreak. How do we persevere, above all?

I am holding onto hope and believing in my purpose; I imagine what I can achieve;  I want to support others who need encouraged to get through another day, month, or year(s).

I practice perseverance by trusting…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

-Proverbs 3:5

Honoring My Father

I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, as I shall not pass this way again.

-William Penn

My parent’s divorced when I was just a baby; I saw my dad a few times through my early childhood years (My mom didn’t make it very easy for him to know me). I really didn’t get to know him until after I went into foster care, when I was fourteen.


I remember thinking, “who is this man?”

I recall our very first real trip together; we went to COSI to see the Antarctica exhibit (located at the old site). He bought me a penguin stuffed animal and it meant the world to me. I still have it! It was a very special day in our lives – we were truly reunited.

I remember when my dad came to NYC to see me graduate with my master’s degree. I know he worked really hard in high school and didn’t graduate because of his job, but instead he went to night classes, to earn his GED. He told me many times, how proud he was that I completed college and graduate school; he always told me that he was going to win the lottery and pay off my student loans, but the numbers just never worked in my favor. The night before graduation in New York, he stayed the night with me in my dorm room- he said he was too cheap and wanted to save money. I remember my girlfriends asking me if I wanted to go out and celebrate….and I was so proud to say that I couldn’t because my dad was there.

I also remember when I told my dad about being pregnant (and single) and he responded by saying that he couldn’t wait to meet his grandchild. My dad loved being a grandfather.


After I had Carter, my dad flew to NYC to see us. He was so happy to hold his grandson. I remember that I got a babysitter and I took my dad to NYC to see Rockefeller Center. We ate at Juniors and had cheesecake; we also took the subway; it was quite a different trip from our very first one at COSI!!! (but he still paid for everything!)


As a grandfather, that sense of joy never left his face. I think he was elated when I told him that I was going to move back to Ohio and raise my son here.

As father and daughter, we didn’t always see eye to eye; we didn’t always say I love you, but I felt it and I could see it all over his face with that big grin of his.

There is a strong nexus that ties Carter and my dad together. Carter will have memories for a lifetime about his Papa. When carter was a baby, my dad wouldn’t babysat him for more than an hour because He said he didn’t know the first thing about changing a diaper; he said he never changed one and wasn’t about to start!

Over the past six years, I witnessed their combined happiness; whenever they were in each other’s company, laughter was sure to be heard. As I gathered photos, I couldn’t help but notice their unescapable joy that filled their hearts and faces, when they were in each other’s presence.

Before my dad got his kidney cancer diagnosis in early December, he and my Uncle Jerry taught Carter how to play Chess. Carter couldn’t stop talking about how he “beat his Papa at Chess.” (with Jerry’s help). I bought Carter a chess board for Christmas with money that my dad gave me for his birthday; Carter asks me to play almost everyday-and he does not like it when I do not let him win! In my heart, I was hoping to see them play one more time, but I am so glad that I have this story and so many more, to share with him about his Papa.

My dad always found ways to think of others and he was always being thoughtful and kind. I have heard people say that my dad would do anything for anyone.

I know that he made sacrifices for me…

I know that he wanted me to live with a cohesive foster family, because he knew there would be benefits that he just couldn’t give to me. It took me a long time to realize that he made this sacrifice, so I could have the best future possible.

In adulthood, I would receive many odds and ends from my father’s thrift store finds. Sometimes I would laugh and other times, I would be surprised that he knew me far better than I realized.

For example, he gave me a gumball machine for my birthday in 2012, when I first started working at Columbus State. At the beginning of each semester, he would show up at my office with two containers of gumballs. He also could have just bought onecontainer, but he knew it wouldn’t fill it to the top. He would always joke around and say they weren’t cheap and he would tell me to look for any wheat pennies. The machine is a big draw for students (and for Carter)!  It is because of my dad’s love, that students stop by and enjoy his gesture of kindness.

Last week I stopped by my office. The new semester starts this week. I happened to glance over at the gumball machine and it was completely empty. My eyes teared up. I was reminded of his generosity and thoughtfulness. He was always completing random acts of kindness.


This brings me to concluding thoughts…..

When I was at THE OSU James Cancer Hospital On December 3rd for the first time, I stopped in the Chapel to pray; I picked up a copy of Our Daily Bread. This is the prayer that was written for that day-

“Father God, Your heart beats for the vulnerable…. Help us to love your people as you love them, for we are made in Your Image. “

True faith demands not only our words, but our actions. This statement leads me to the prayer that can be found on January 10th, the day my dad peacefully passed away at home-

“Lord, what do you want me do for another today? Lead me. And may that person see a glimmer of You.”

I know I saw that glimmer in my father; I won’t ever forget what his example, so I can pass his lessons of generosity to his grandson. I have faith that his random acts of kindness were expressions of his faith; he revealed the tender mercy of God through his giving heart.

That’s how I would like to honor my dad; I would like to encourage everyone to practice a random act of kindness to celebrate his legacy.

25 years later, I finally can answer that question I asked at age 14. Do you remember my question?

I asked, “Who is this man?

He is… father and Carter’s Papa – He will always be loved and remembered.

*Post-Script: the day I returned to work following my leave of absence, I found an amazon box addressed to me. I opened it and found a note and gumballs from my college mentor. She had attended my father’s service; her act of kindness meant the world to me.



2020 Vision

I have been silent, mostly.

Today I was challenged not to be silent.  Having a child changes my view in many ways. I have been careful in my postings but not careless in my beliefs or actions. The most important conversation I had this week was with with my son who is about to turn six…he asked me “why did people vote for a bully?”

And I told him only half of America did and that we are a democracy. We had a crucial conversation about the president elect and we prayed for him. We honestly prayed for him.

And we also talked about 2020, the year that Carter will turn 10. And 2028 when He turns 18 but won’t be able to vote because his birthday will come right after election day. So we talked about 2032. Can you imagine what our world will be like by then?  That’s what is ahead of us…not just 4 years or 8 years, but 16 years from now…..

Just a blink of an eye..and I pray that we grow and learn how to build bridges….that we learn that love begins at home. Sounds so nice right???? That is where the  conversation ends with a five year old.

Over the past week I have been more heartbroken than ever — with other victims of sexual violence. Of course I cannot have this conversation with a five year old but I can say that given the hateful rhetoric of our president-elect — it does not make it very  easy for me to build bridges.

Matter of fact, the “grab the #*$$&” quote is not something anyone would put on letterhead, let alone Presidential letterhead. It’s not just words. It was action without consequence. My question for you…, “Have you ever been grabbed by the #*$$&?”

I have. For three years of my life. No one intervened until it was too late and I was too afraid to ask for help as a fourteen year old.

So tell me America,  how am I suppose to cope and set aside my grief and trauma for a greater democracy,  in order for a man –who self admitted he could get away with murder— to be given the highest power possible?

So America, why did you vote for a “bully?”

This is honestly where I cannot write anymore. This is not about winning and losing. This is about fighting for resiliency…not between each party…but for humanity.

To learn about and support survivors triggered by the President-elect (and half of America voting for him), please visit:

Until my son actually has a voice, I will keep praying &  striving to build bridges, and doing what I can to make a difference and we will pray for the President-elect.

AND I will be counting down the days….

#growthmindset from age 5 to 39

I told myself that I would write at least once a month ( AND WRITE AUTHENTICALLY) in order to practice reflection.

Right now, I feel like death. I have a cold with the absolute worst congestion and an unbearable sore throat….but this is my motivation for writing. So I press on, literally.

No one OR nothing can stop me from striving to be my best. BUT my effort doesn’t make me perfect -not as a mother, friend, girlfriend, supervisor, Christian- well, you get the idea…Shocking…I am human! Feedback is directed at us in many ways. Directly or indirectly- sometimes it stings, stresse, polarizes, inspires, humbles, and/or challenges us-no matter the delivery, we have to choose to rise above and most importantly respond. Call this developing a #growthmindset because it is a part of our composite. So many things do not matter, not our age, degree earned or socioeconomic status; we each make a choice to grow (or limit our growth).

Sometimes our deepest lessons of acquired knowledge do not come from a standardized test, but rather meaningful reflection and the ability to see yourself as how others might see you. I have been receiving feedback and information about how others experience who I am, and that knowledge is opening the eyes of my heart.

For example, I recently read mostly positive feedback from a state-wide workshop that  I gave and there was just one evaluation that mentioned that “she could have been more comfortable with the crowd.”

I wasn’t surprised because first,  I always get nervous and it was a big room with a very large crowd. To make it difficult upon myself,  I was missing my transition bell to alert the room to be aware of time changes. Instead I had to yell over 70 happily engaged participants (my partial dream of what success looks like) and that’s also what made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I was scanning the room because I was trying to pay attention to people’s comfort levels; I was never thinking that someone was scanning me that closely!  I am never going to forget my bell again! Plus I plan to focus on increasing my self-awareness so I can be more in tune with the room rather than my own hang-ups (missing supplies).

Even though the majority agreed it was an excellent or good session, that one voice is what challenged me to grow. Reminder: We do not always get an evaluation in life and sometimes we have to self-assess on our own!

Sometimes it feels like it can take just one voice to dismantle a good thing, but we have to rememember that if we really want to help others, we have to self-reflect and grow ourselves intentionally in order to best demonstrate our capacity for a #growthmindset. I also have several mentors (professional and spiritual) whom support and guide too.

We ultimately have to believe in our purpose and imagine what we can acheive. For me, being a mother is my highest purpose and I want my son to acheive self-actualization as he matures throughout his lifespan.

Recently, my five year old has been challenging me to better help him navigate his world without a father. (Breathe deeply)

My own parents divorced when I was just a baby. I didn’t really see my father until 3rd grade and that was just for a moment and then I met him for a second time when I was 14, when I was placed in foster care. I never went home to my mother’s house and I never went to live with my father.  So I remember thinking all those years,  “Why me?” “Am I not good enough” “Was it my fault?” “Is she/he ever coming for me?” More questions formed and none were answered fully, not until my late twenties, when I finally figured out how to ask them outloud to my father and my mid-thirties when I finally asked my mother. My father’s expression of love and support always looked and felt different. It didn’t make me feel like I belonged. But I know my father loves me- without a doubt.

So yes, I know the feelings that my son may feel and the feelings he will continue to encounter as he navigates his future. That is why it hurts so deeply for me- I know I cannot wave a wand and make a father appear. As much as I blamed my mom all those years, my father-in the midst if his own struggle- For 14 years, he had made a choice to stay away. I know that my words and actions mean everything to my son.

When my son brings up his  father- I am limited to what I  can say but  I try to provide an age-appropriate response. But what I haven’t let him see is my grief- I never cry.

But yesterday, when I had a temp of 100° and I was feeling extremely sick, my son said something about not having a dad and I cried- the tears just flowed….. And something happened.

My nearly six-year old heard my tears and turned to look at me- it was like he had to see that they were real. He was reading me, like a book. He needed to know I felt something. I do not want his little heart to be filled with so much sadness.

I cannot tiptoe around the fact I am a single mother. Even when I was pregnant, people asked me if I was going to give up my baby because he deserved two parents.  I fight to push through limited points of view; I am changing the cycle-I am a better mother-and I am making sure he has good male role models, mentors and family in his life, to love and lift him up always!

This was not the plan as they say, but it is God’s plan now.

This is a life-long conversation and it will require us both to have a #growthmindset..

It is possible, even with a kindergartner or first-grader to develop the heart, soul and mind…..

My son is about to turn six in a few weeks; we have been reading since the day he was born. During my  parent-teacher conference session,  his teacher stated that I could help him by explaining/reviewing the author and illustator each time we read. I should have been doing this all along but I hadn’t been explicably told.

We began doing this daily talk for a few weeks; my son is now pointing out the author and illustrator on his own. Each time we read a book, he is like, “you don’t have to tell me, I got this.”

So, we have been developing our #growthmindset through reading and developing conversations. Some of our #growthmindset lessons have been building from a few children’s books:

  • What do you do with a problem?
  • (See the opportunity)
  • Rainbow Fish
  • (Quit being stubborn and start sharing)
  • Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons
  • (Buttons come and buttons go)
  • (There is always another way to address/sing a problem)

Wrap up:

In order to practice growth, we have to intentionally lead our lives with purpose through action; this process often leads us on the journey of transformation and creates a shift for the expansion of a growth mindset.  FYI: It never narrows; it only  widens through feedback and self-awareness.

Who are you becoming?

Reflection Questions:

  1. Is it hard for you to ask for feedback? Why?
  2. How do you respond to feedback? Please describe how it makes you feel physically, mentally and emotionally.
  3. If you made an action plan today, how would you utilize resourcessnd/or mentors to explore your growth?
  4. Finish this sentence: To grow is to practice__________ and to eliminate____________.


My 360° Moment at MVNU

I have prepared many speeches but yesterday was more than unique; sharing my testimony in chapel at Mount Vernon Nazarene University challenged me to dig deep in order to tell my story of reconciliation which covered the past 39 years.

I wrote my speech a month ago and began practicing it in the car twice a day going between my son’s school and work. Sometimes I would start crying and I knew this was going to be more than an emotional speech-it was going to become a  platform for others to think about their own hurt and heartbreak. I wanted to tell the story of how we can experience hope and healing to move forward in our lives. I also wanted to create an awareness that our purpose can  drive us forward too-but more than anything-I wanted to convey that life is not a solo act and that life is spent best in community.

I arrived at my alma mater Tuesday night….I sat in chapel and fine-tuned my speech. I also went so far as to stand on stage and mentally give my speech. That night I stayed with my friend in town; she was my first job supervisor in college and she also taught me how to drive. The next morning my friend came to check on me and she asked me if I knew my shirt (pajamas)  was on backwards. We both had a good laugh!

I left the house and headed back to campus; I was given my ear mic and I started to walk around to get my nerves calmed. I was about to pour out my heart and I didn’t know how I was going to handle the opportunity in front of a thousand college students (attending mandatory chapel).

And then I ran into Joe- the Chaplain (and my former professor) that invited me to share my story. He blessed me with a hug and walked me back into chapel. We walked into the back room with all of the students leading morning worship, and he said a prayer. I was thankful for this moment of heart preparation.

We exited and I found my place in the front row next to Joe. We sang worship and then my foster parents joined me too. This moment was too incredible not to stand in awe of God and His power to transform. Worship prepared my heart and I was aleady fighting back tears! I was telling myself to pull it together. At that moment, Joe took my hand and squeezed it, as if he was sending me a message, “you are loved and you got this.”

Finally, Joe introduced me and I walked up to the platform to deliver my message….

(To view my testimony, please visit this link)

(I start speaking about 22 minutes into the service)

To my surprise I felt calm….but my emotions ran through me like a mighty river. Joe had been right, I hadn’t shared my testimony like this before, especially in front of my friends and family.

Twenty years ago, I was a student sitting in chapel and yesterday,  I was speaking in the same spot that I had heard Brennan Manning, Joe Noonen, Gary Sivewright and LeBron Fairbanks speak – just a few of my hereos and mentors!

Following my speech, a group of students came up to me and gave me a hug. I was blown away with thier generosity of kindness. A few students also asked me to pray with them, which was so humbling. At the same time, I completely felt peace and assurance that God used me in a way that I couldn’t have imagined….Thanks be to God!

I would also learn later, that my dad (a professor at MVNU) stated that he had never heard the students in chapel so quiet!

Following lunch, I gave an artist talk to a painting class and shared my website and my experiences in art therapy. I also participated in a painting critique which was a wonderful gift added to the entire day. I guess that’s when I had my 360° moment.

I had mentioned being an art student in my speech; I talked about the pressure of a critique and putting your best work (Only “A” quality) up on the wall and then waiting for everyone to tell you why it is not an “A.” During my visit to the class, I realized how far I had really come.  What I mean to say,  is that I felt like I had finally made it. “Made what?”  you might ask?

As an artist? Alumnus? Art Therapist?  Higher Education Administrator?   I made it as a whole person -even in the midst of my imperfections & brokenness- with everything to offer. I  just had to believe in myself first.

P. S. Don’t ever believe grace doesnt apply to you.

-Kimberly Colleen

* I am so thankful for Joe Noonen and John Donnelly for the invitation to share; thanks for entrusting me with your students.