An INNER VIEW with Ayanna Anene on the INtogether Bible Study

An INNER VIEW with Ayanna Anene on the INtogether Bible Study

Kathleen Cooke recently caught up with one of our Influence Women leaders, Ayanna Anene, and had a conversation on why she stays active in Influence Women and how the INtogether Bible study has been particularly important in supporting her life as she works in the industry.

BIO:
Ayanna Anene is an event and film producer. Passionate about collaborating with creatives to develop and produce their work, she works as a script consultant with Stage32 and independently to shoot proof of concepts. Starting her entertainment career at The Walt Disney Company, she later joined an LA-based TV and film production company. A multi-faceted creative entrepreneur, Ayanna launched and established an artist residency based in Southern California and formed the core leadership team of a traveling performing arts ministry based in Orange County for several years, producing over 40 original musicals and plays during her term. Ayanna is a Wharton School of Business graduate and a passionate member of The Influence Women Hollywood Chapter.

 

INNER VIEW

Kathleen Cooke: Thanks for joining us on this INNER VIEW, Ayanna! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to?

Ayanna Anene: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with the women of Influence Women. I am a film and event producer. I collaborate with writers to improve and produce their scripts. I also consult with artists and creatives of all kinds to develop a strategy for their creative careers. I’ve also launched an artist residency based in Southern California. I have facilitated the Bible study for the West Coast, Central, and East Coast time zones for the past three sessions. It has afforded me opportunities to connect with people in the industry, not only in my city of Los Angeles, but from all over the world. It’s been amazing!

Kathleen: What is the single most important thing you learned from the recent study on Nehemiah? How did it affect your perspective on career and life?

Ayanna: What struck me the most about the Bible study you wrote was how we each have a part to play in the Kingdom of God. In Nehemiah’s day, God gave him a vision to see the walls of the city of Jerusalem rebuilt and restored. Each person was assigned a task. No task was too great, or too small. Some were laying bricks while others were standing guard with swords drawn, staying alert for attack or sabotage from their enemies. Some were working on the east gate, while others were on the west gate. The assignments were different and unique to each clan and family. But each is vitally important.

The entertainment and media space is vast. Some are inspired to be make-up artists, and others are stylists, while there are others who are passionate about editing, acting, animation, writing, composing music, set design, publishing, etc. There are now more channels than ever to reach audiences with a message— from TV channels to streamers, to personal websites, podcast platforms, social media outlets like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and the list goes on. The opportunities are vast; just like in Nehemiah’s day, no one’s role is too small or too large. We are each playing a part in a much larger movement in God’s Kingdom.

It reminds me that what is a desire in my heart is not too large for God to fulfill or too small to be worth pursuing. And neither is the desire in yours. Whatever we do, we do as unto the Lord, and it is an important piece in the rebuilding of His Kingdom on earth.

Kathleen: What makes this online bible study unique to women in the industry and why do they need to join the 6-week series starting Sept 5th?

Ayanna: I think the Bible study is an opportunity to connect with other women who know the unique challenges and opportunities of working in the media and entertainment spaces. It is an opportunity to build connections and relationships and learn from the experiences of women in different facets of the entertainment industry. I am also excited about the new Elijah study this year. We are to be women of fire and discernment, and I believe Elijah has a lot to teach us about that.

Connect with Ayanna:
Website: www.ayannaanene.com

 

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to grow in your faith and career! The INtogether Bible series begins on September 5th at 7 pm for six weeks – one hour in your time zone, or you can join another time zone group if it better fits into your schedule. Dive into scripture and find great connections with other women in the industry who also want to align their work and faith!

Free Registrations open August 1st on the website!

 Singleness or Marriage – Embracing Contentment

 Singleness or Marriage – Embracing Contentment

God’s plans for us are perfect. But somehow even though we know we can never fully accomplish perfection, knowing that we can’t attain it never stops us from trying. Most who are single want to be married. Yet most married couples, if they are truthful, often wish they could return to their days of singleness when life was less complicated and without the responsibility of a significant mate and added children.

Paul, the apostle, openly shares his thoughts on the cultural issues of his time, and what was best for him and his calling. In 1 Corinthians 7:25-38, Paul explains that he chose singleness as the most favorable choice for him because he believed marriage would divide his thoughts and responsibility. He made the argument that a single person only has to think about their engagement with God, but married couples must engage with God and also leave time for their spouse, thus requiring a division of focus.

We often hear that the opposite sex “completes” us. That isn’t true. God completes us. Our mates, if we have chosen well, complement us. The reality is that marital status is a label depicting a relationship. Couples in long and successful marriages must be secure in their relationship with God first and who they are in Him. They have learned that a spouse will never be able to fulfill perfect love and that only God can bring contentment and fulfill the desires of their hearts.

However, whether single or married, Paul reveals in Philippians 4:12 that we are to be contented in all circumstances. God’s purpose is for us to be in His will. He has a reason for you to be where you are at any given moment. His purpose and plans are perfect for you and will always be far superior. The world says we must follow a certain cultural agenda to be content. The truth is that lots of married people will become single again through various life issues. We are born as an individual into the world, and we will leave single.

Pew research reports that 30 percent of U.S. adults admitted that they are not married, aren’t living with a partner, or aren’t engaged in a committed relationship. It went on to reveal that 63% of men in their twenties are single compared to only 34% of women. Men in their twenties, in fact, aren’t pursuing women as they once did because of the massive consumption of media that is now available to them, which diverts their attention. They are consumed by social media, porn, playing video games, or engaging in online sports gaming.

We often get ourselves “into a dither,” as my granny used to say. When we seek what the world says, we must follow it to be happy. Remember that the world can only bring shallow happiness, but Kingdom choices bring joy. Joy is rooted in our souls and in eternal promises with lasting security and peace in our lives. We will stay depressed, fearful, and emotionally distraught when we unwillingly wallow in our selfish choices. Both singleness and marriage are gifts – but different gifts, each packaged with different challenges and benefits. They both allow us to accomplish the purposes God has for us, and that fact, not whether we are single or married, is what will bring our ultimate joy.

INNER VIEW with Author and Dating Coach, Jodie Swee

INNER VIEW with Author and Dating Coach, Jodie Swee

Are you trusting God through the process? The ins and outs of life can take unexpected turns, but read this month’s INNER VIEW with Jodie Swee as she encourages us to grow, view failure through a different lens, and earn our place of influence with others.

 

BIO

Jodie Swee is a spiritual director, dating coach, and founder of Topanga Social, a dating service for imperfect Christians. Jodie has authored four Bible study series and shared her joy and authenticity with audiences for over 20 years. She lives in the South Bay of Los Angeles with her husband of 16 years and their 2 daughters.

 

INNER VIEW

Kathleen Cooke:  What’s the one thing you’d like to share with women that God has recently taught you?  

Jodie Swee: Trust the process! Growth and accomplishment don’t usually happen overnight. If you spend quality time with Jesus regularly, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and do your best with what you have, then trust that the Lord will take care of you and lead you to where you need to be.

When you trust the process, you discover an invitation to experience things differently. Failure becomes an opportunity to learn, detours become adventures, and the lack of control over external circumstances becomes a chance to surrender your internal perspective to the Lord.

I recently had a conversation with my best friend, and at that moment, I wasn’t trusting the process. Let me share with you what she told me.

She said, “Babies have to grow.” And she’s right. Our babies…our hopes, dreams, and expectations for the future… need to grow. They need to grow so that the Lord can teach us how to take care of them before they become unruly teenagers with their own ideas!

So, my dear friends, trust the process and enjoy the adventure it brings.

Kathleen: Failure today often dismantles us. How have you dealt with failures in your life?

Jodie: I hate failure. I loathe it. It makes me feel all squishy and small inside, and for many years I used to hide from it behind excuses. But not anymore. Instead of running and hiding from my failure, the Lord has taught me to turn and face it. Don’t get me wrong, I still HATE it, and it makes me feel icky inside. My initial instinct is still to run and hide, but the Lord has granted me the ability to pause before doing so (or before getting too far) and embrace my failure.I don’t embrace it for long, but rather than run from my failure, I receive it…and then bring it to the Lord and yield it. When I do that, he transforms it into something else…something beautiful and beneficial to me and/or others.

Twenty years ago, I was speaking at a young adult event in a church. I completely bombed. After I finished, someone in the crowd actually shouted, “That’s it?” I thought I would be consumed by shame. I blamed it on my lack of talent/skill and ended up quitting speaking for a decade. Until the Lord invited me to try again (which is a sweet, sweet story for another time).

Last year, I was speaking at another church event, and once again, I completely bombed. I experienced all the familiar feelings, but then I laughed (a little) and brought it to the Lord. In doing so, I discovered an opportunity to deepen my spiritual practices before and after speaking. The failure became a gift that will serve me and others for the rest of my life.

For a long time, I thought that someday I would be so wise and experienced that I wouldn’t fail anymore. Bless my naive little heart! Now, I am indeed wiser and more experienced…and I know I’ll never outgrow failure (this side of eternity). It’s not something to outgrow or run away from. It’s something to embrace, even with its uncomfortable feelings, and surrender so we can experience more of God’s transformative love in our lives.

Kathleen: You have a deep passion to help others with growing strong, meaningful relationships. What have you learned about developing relationships that last and can be trusted?

Jodie: I have a deep and fierce love for people, and I pastor many. It is my purpose and passion. However, personally, I tend to be somewhat of a loner. Surprisingly, my inner circle is quite small, not by choice but by some intentional design, I believe. Throughout my adult life, I have consistently sought out a steady mentor, but I have never had one. Nevertheless, I have been fortunate to receive bits of wisdom from older friends who have come and gone throughout my journey.

I have ADHD, and I’m not awesome at keeping up with people who live far away. (Out of sight, out of mind is LEGIT for us neurodivergent homies.) I didn’t meet my best friend until I was 42. She was leading worship; I was giving the message…and we bonded for life over the realization that we both experienced the love of Jesus through the TV series Outlander. (That’s weird, I know…but that’s why she’s my bestie.)

My relational experience over the years has taught me to enjoy and delight in what I have, grieve and release what has been lost as a natural part of life, and always be on the lookout for my next kindred spirit to pop up in an unexpected place.

Kathleen: What’s the one thing you’ve learned about how we can influence others?

Jodie: Honestly? I’ve learned that influence can be a sneaky and destructive beast, and it is important for us to be mindful of how we wield it and the individuals we permit to influence us.

Influence should not be won; it should be earned.

I believe that it is earned by faithfully pursuing our calling with our whole lives (public and private), being honest and saying “I don’t have an answer to that” when we don’t, and being intentional about sitting under the authority and influence of God. Any influence we have not supported by a firm foundation in Jesus is just an invitation for that sneaky Satan to twist and misuse. Influence shouldn’t puff us up or make us strong; it should keep us humble and desperately in need of the Lord’s guidance.

Connect with Jodie:
Book a free intro session at: JodieSwee.com

Instagram: @jodieswee and @topangasocial 

Passion: Seeing Beyond the Blind Spots

Passion: Seeing Beyond the Blind Spots

Our culture is volatile. Just observe what often happens when a car accident occurs. In our present era of social media, it happens so easily for unintended or accidental incidents to “go viral.” Out come the cell phones. With social media, what might have been a simple local incident fifty years ago, can now incite a passionate global response. We were created by a passionate God to be passionate people. Jesus definitely was. We often refer to His life, death, and resurrection as “the Passion of Christ.”

What happens when our passions are not understood and they incite a wrong response?

I am reminded how often I have almost hit the car in front of me because it suddenly stopped, only for me to eventually realize there was something was in the road I couldn’t originally see. Perhaps it was an animal running across the road or debris that was in the way. The only thing I could see was my coffee cup or purse go flying in my car as I came to an abrupt stop. And I confess… my verbal responses haven’t always been pleasant ones! Similarly, social and political issues most often happen when we aren’t present. And our screens usually only show one perspective and not the whole picture. Yet, because of our human passion, we respond with an instant reaction that can ignite others’ views like a wildfire causing unrest and destruction.

Passionate responses cause disruptions.

In Luke 12:49, Jesus revealed His human nature and the burden of living in our broken world. He was both fully God and fully human and He was passionate to save us.  He knew He would be “baptized” in suffering and wished He could just get on with it – be “kindled.” Yet God’s passion for us wouldn’t let Him until all that needed to be fulfilled in prophecy was done. It required Jesus to wait and walk the walk and talk the talk and trust in God’s perfect timing. And, I might add, it wasn’t easy. It required that He bring truth, and the truth is volatile. His passion would bring division. The truth of Jesus brought would pit one against the other – families would be divided because of their inability to see clearly who He was and God’s plan.

Our humanness limits our sight.

Jesus continually spoke clearly but He had to also use stories and ask questions that brought clarity and understanding because the hard truth stopped people. His mission was to enlighten us on God’s plan for our redemption. God saw what had to be done from the inciting incident of sin in the Garden. He knew how to solve the problem because He’s God. Yet, from our blind perspective, we only saw the punishment and not God’s redemptive plan for us. Our “car” (freedom) has been forced to stop and our personal stuff is flying. For those who have allowed themselves to believe in the truth of Jesus and whose eyes have been opened, we see differently.

We don’t have to know “the why” because God sees the why.

Instead of confusion and fear when challenges happen, we’re able to relax in the uncertainty and it’s unnatural. We weren’t at the inciting incident of sin in the Garden of Eden, but we don’t have to be. The Word of God is enough to trust that He’s got us. He sees us when we find ourselves suddenly stopped in our career or in life.

But we must choose.

We can become confused and frustrated when life’s disruptions happen, or choose the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The difference? Confident rest. There’s a clarity and assurance that permeates our being, knowing that in the unknown and “the wait,” God’s perfect will is ideal, and His vision for us is best when we let Him control our gas petals.

In Luke 12:57-59, Jesus challenged those who were listening to pay attention to the time they were living in. It was the most significant time that had ever happened on Earth. He had come to save us. Today, we even document time as before Christ (BC) and after Christ’s death (AD) because His life, death, and resurrection stopped the clock and then restarted it.

The times we’re living in seem to change at light speed with unintended incidents – stops that we never could have anticipated, but still manage to disrupt our lives. Yet, God never changes. His plans will be accomplished even if they unfortunately divide families and cause disruptive “fires.” Jesus knew He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus was confident in what He had been called to do on Earth by His Father. He willingly and passionately completed His mission, even if it incited division and disruption.

Are you willing to trust God’s plan and perspective for your life even if causes a fire?

An INNER VIEW with Writer Hope Lyda

An INNER VIEW with Writer Hope Lyda

As a follow-up to our incredibly successful Influence Women Webinar, How to Publish a Book: What You Need to Know to Write and Launch Your Book Successfully, we are revisiting some questions that we ran out of time to answer!

If you haven’t been joining our monthly Influence Women webinars, you need to! Each month we chat with a leading woman of influence who can inspire and bring clarity to your career path. Beyond the webinars, we also offer 6-week mentorships with many of these professional women to help grow your career and life. We encourage you to keep an eye on our website as new webinars and mentorships are being offered regularly each month. Take advantage of the resources and knowledge these women can give you!

BIO
Hope Lyda is an author, writing coach and companion, spiritual director, and senior development editor. She’s worked in faith-based publishing for more than 25 years and has accompanied more than 120 writers through the process of finding their voices and expressing their hearts on the page.

Hope considers it an honor to help writers shape their messages with engaging structure, tone, and pace. She also companions them with spiritual insight and inquiry, so they draw from their experiences and beliefs to deepen those messages. She has authored more than 35 books (combined sales of over 1.5 million copies), including the bestselling One-Minute Prayers® for Women and more than 15 other books in the One-Minute Prayers® series. Hope has penned a few novels as well as several devotionals such as What Do You Need Today? and Life as a Prayer. Her book My Unedited Writing Year—a gathering of 365 prompts—combines her passions for writing and spiritual direction to invite others to explore life, faith, and creativity.

Hope lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband, Marc, and dog, Bodie (his breed is Attention Hound). When not writing or guiding another writer, she’s taking walks, going to independent films, brainstorming, listening to podcasts, buying MORE books, or planning her next retreat to the coast or desert. She is delighted and grateful when she can take in the gifts of a landscape to feed her spirit and refresh her creativity.

 

INNER VIEW
Kathleen Cooke: Devotionals are everywhere. Will people buy them? What’s the secret to writing one that will be chosen by a publisher and purchased by shoppers?

Hope Lyda: Devotionals are everywhere. Even after having several published, I am pausing as I craft some new proposals because I want to think through a few things:

1. Does the devo topic meet a heart need that might not be addressed in the market right now?

2. I ask myself the same questions I ask writers I companion: Why me and why this book? Follow-up questions for this…Can I bring wisdom and depth and offer the right tone for this particular devotional? And do I, as a reader, see and feel the lack of books embracing and exploring this topic in the marketplace?

3. Is there a special structure, format, and voice that gives this devo concept an edge for a publisher who might be interested in the topic but also unsure about one more devotional? The way a message is presented can become the star quality that shines brighter than other factors and give a publisher a reason to look twice at a concept.

Kathleen: If your manuscript is 35 pages, would you publish it as a short story, novella, or essay?

Hope: A short 35-page fiction manuscript could be a novella. That is probably at the long end for parameters, but doable. If you had an interest in a novella publisher or an online marketplace, or e-zine that publishes them, that could work. If this is a topical exploration…non-fiction, then it could be used as a supplemental resource or an online book offering that you use as part of a course you create, a bonus offering for sign-ups, or simply as a short book you are selling yourself from your site.

Before any of those decisions, however, sit with the material. If fiction, is this actually a story arc you would love to dig into for a full-length book? If non-fiction, is there a lot more you’d have to offer on this topic or aspects of it that could be fleshed out to create a 12+ chapter manuscript of 176 pages or more?

If you keep it as a novella, you might watch for contests or calls for submissions from groups online or publishers that are focusing on this category. See what their word/page count requirements are. This could help you to see what the “norm” is or at least what the most sought-after format is. There are lots of flash fiction contests and challenges. Those are much shorter (typically 300-1000 words!) and are great as writing exercises to work those story creation muscles! You might end up with a concept for a full length novel from doing those.

Kathleen: Lots of books today have quotes in them. Are they needed? Do they help in keeping the readers’ attention? Are they good to have them highlighted in the middle of the pages as a creative insert?

Hope: Quotes! I personally love them. They can be very useful to create a structure/design that has standout appeal. They do draw readers in and help highlight the heart of a message one is presenting in a typical Christian living book or a devotional/prayer book. There are different ways quotes are used.

1. A quote from another resource (other than your own brilliant mind) can be used as an epigraph (kicks off a chapter/section at the top). If you are using quotes in this way, be sure you are accurately quoting the original material and crediting the writer. Also, there are copyright rules to follow. A joke where I work is that for gift books and some other project, we are always looking for great quotes by long-dead people. Material that is in the public domain allows your usage without concern for copyright restrictions. I get way too excited when I find a book of quotes at an estate sale or a fabulous topical read that is based on writings from the 1800s or early 1900s. Anyway, contrary to popular practices on social media…you need to credit the source and do it properly. And if the quote is used in the flow of content and is over a certain length, then permission from the source publisher is also required. Keep in mind, all the writers who have gone before (or who published a great article last week) worked hard to craft the lines we find worth sharing and repeating…they deserve the recognition legally and ethically. This may require endnotes to cite sources, so keep that in mind. I will say that I like the idea of honoring the voices that have impacted my faith and writing journey and promoting those when it serves the book concept as a whole and the end reader.

2. Quotes FROM your genius mind that are IN the flow of your book’s content can be duplicated and echoed in the design. This is a call-out and may be what the webinar inquiry is related to. These are very popular, and I do think they have value. Choose quotes that are easily read and absorbed. Those a-ha thoughts are the best. They also reinforce the message of that particular chapter and can become those stepping stones (or breadcrumbs) I love so much that help to gently guide a reader through the arc of the message.

3. Quotes that come from your amazing mind but are NOT in the flow of content can be designed and placed in the book as enhancements to the message. Some call these sticky statements, I believe. I think of them as a sort of friendly “Hey, get this…” to point the reader to an insight or maybe even a question/prompt that deepens their engagement with the content. It isn’t in the chapter or offering and is only in that set-apart form.

For both of these last two kinds of quotes, there is value on the marketing end. For example, if these are full-page designs or easy to capture, readers will take a pic and post them. You can encourage that in your book’s intro and suggest a hashtag even. The publisher may also want to use them for A+ pages on Amazon (these are publishers paid for more elaborate descriptions and photos for a book) or for their promotional posts. We have even created bonus offerings for a few books using such quotes and printing them on frame-worthy cardstock.

Don’t overuse call-outs or set-apart quotes. They can become a distraction and not an enhancement. Choose wisely. As you write, think about crafting short, powerful lines that could be good for such highlighting.

 

Connect with Hope:
Instagram:@mywritedirection
Facebook: Hope Lyda
Website: www.mywritedirection.com