Some call it courage, I call obedience.

Life reflections on my 47th birthday.

One of my oldest and dearest friends Rebecca sent me a beautiful birthday card this year, in which she wrote an inside message“to the most courageous woman I know.”

I read this and pondered. As I started a journal entry last night which went on for 5 pages (and is still going) chronicling my journey from Memphis to Mizzou to Chicago to New York City to New Orleans, her message made me question — ‘Am I really courageous?’

In my exploration of this question, what has come to me is this. God has been my friend since I was a young girl. At around age 9, my Aunti Sheila (while visiting from Los Angeles) took me and my cousins Lisa, Mica, Calvin, Chris & Courtney (below, me in yellow) to Service Merchandise and said we could each get ONE thing.

Anything we wanted. OMG — a shopping spree with Aunti Sheila (shown above in “the hat”) at Service Merchandise…I still remember the excitement. I chose a gold cross pendant & necklace. I remember her asking if I was certain. And I remember thinking, resoundingly yes. This was so exciting and generous of her. This becklace choice surprised me too, and it brought me so much joy instead of a toy. I wore and cherished this cross pendant necklace for years. It kept me reminded of whose child I was on earth. I kept God very close to me at all times and called upon him all of the time to help me make important life decisions based on who he made me to be, and where he wanted me to be.

And as I reflect on my short life, I feel blessed.

Blessings come without merit.

Blessings come unexpectedly.

My mother was a high school English teacher and community organizer if you will — neighborhood association, Hill Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, American Heart Association representative. My dad, a TV show host of The Johnny Scott Show, a radio sales rep, a golf course manager, post officer worker and self-employed meat salesman.

Growing up in Memphis, I read & recited poetry throughout high school. I was junior high Class Favorite and senior high Class President. I won 3rd at Tennessee State Thespian Competition for broadcast journalism delivery. I loved the works of Nikki Giovanni, Ntozake Shange, James Weldon Johnson, June Jordan and the Harlem Renaissance poets.

My childhood desire was to live in NYC — HARLEM in particular. African American and African culture were intriguing to me — I was crowned Miss Kujichagulia (Kwanzaa principle for Self-Determination) at a Memphis-area Kwanzaa celebration at around age 14. My desire was to live in NYC and in part share my passion for health with young brown and black girls in Harlem. I saw myself jumping rope with them sharing how we could achieve our dreams and also be healthy — an odd dream maybe, but in my teen years I was also an abstinence peer counselor in high school, so loved sharing positivity. And my God, I lived in Harlem- for 19 years. And co-created with ESSENCE a platform to drive health awareness and now am leading my own with Freedom At The Mat.

So, on my 47th birthday, I want to share something. As I look at my life today, I am humbled, grateful and in simple and total awe of blessings in my life. The only feeling that exceeds my humility is extraordinary gratitude. A Memphis girl with some natural talent, raised by a mother who invested in me (speech lessons, etiquette school, media camp at Northwestern University in high school, ballet, tap, etc) so that I could be whatever I wanted to be (I kept telling her a teacher like her but she didn’t believe me, sigh, but I am one now) and supported by a father who was diligent in providing, and whose free spirit and creativity was an example of what was possible for me.

God has guided every step of my path, and I’ve been so fortunate to have met people in Missouri, Chicago, NYC and now NOLA who believed in me when I didn’t know my potential. Mentors who adopted me. Friends who befriended me. Cousins whom I cherished, and who cherished me. And a former husband whom after our divorce remains a staunch supporter and a wonderful friend.

Ever since I was a young girl, I was connected at a very deep level to God and the principles of Christ. I’ve grown to appreciate all religions, but the examples of Christ — non-judgement, kindness, being a friend to all, humility, service, purposeful — are values I held dear then, and still do today.

So, as I continue to navigate the world and find my way, I know that every place I go is pre-approved by God, and every step I make is what I supposed to be doing because my inner compass is connected to a much higher power. I know longer worry about my journey’s outcome. Instead, I lean into each experience trusting that if I am on the wrong path, that God will whisper the course correction or remove me from the path.

The longer I live, the more I trust that my life has purpose, that I am needed. I am more comforted and humbled each day knowing that everything that I am, and everything I have, and every place am to go, God has pre-determined, and that in this knowledge, I rest in knowing that fear has no place in my life — obedience rules. When I am obedient, blessings overflow.

So, on this day, my 47th birthday, I hope that some portion of my story inspires you as well to find and trust your inner voice, and to obey the direction of your gifts and your heart. When you are obedient to your personal truth, your life will never go wrong. It just can’t. Your narrative is waiting for you, the life you were meant to live will inevitably unfold and blessings will overwhelm you.

Namaste, Olivia