An INNER VIEW with Writer, Sarah Sumpolec

An INNER VIEW with Writer, Sarah Sumpolec

Navigating your path can be challenging. Learning to let go of idols, offenses and hurt (especially from the Church) isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly necessary. Read this month’s INNER VIEW with award-winning writer Sarah Sumpolec as she shares about the speed bumps she’s had to overcome in her walk with God.

BIO: Sarah Sumpolec is a writer and producer who is particularly passionate about the tween, teen, and family markets. She’s a traditionally published, award-winning novelist with seven teen novels. She began writing for TV and film in 2004 after graduating from the Act One Hollywood Program. She worked in development alongside Vonda Skelton to launch the teen intern program at the Gideon Media Arts & Film Festival and worked on short films and major features in a variety of capacities refining her career. She has a nurturing heart and a passion to mentor writers to see them develop award-winning content. Her family has been involved in the entertainment industry for a long while; two of her three daughters work as professional actresses, and when her youngest was 12 years old, she toured the country on the National Broadway tour of Annie. The family has recently moved to Los Angeles to continue their careers, and Sarah remains passionate about writing and producing content that allows teens (ages 8-18) to flourish and discover their identity and purpose.

Sarah will be leading an Influence Women Mentorship track on writing this coming April. Register at influencewomen.org!

 

INNER VIEW

Kathleen Cooke: How has God walked with you through the roller-coaster of a career as a writer?

Sarah Sumpolec: Oh, I could write a book. Quite honestly, I’ve been in a wilderness season that has dragged on far longer than I ever anticipated. I’m still very much in it. But as painful as it has been at times, it has also been precious. I recognize how God has been by my side to transform me on the inside, even as I walk through a barren landscape. How He gently but persistently calls me to keep my eyes fixed on Him alone. Even when everything falls apart and nothing looks the way you had hoped or imagined – He is the treasure. But keeping my eyes on Jesus, abiding in the truth of who He is, means I must ignore all of the things that come at me from the world that try to paint a different reality. It means I must choose joy when grief threatens to flood me. I must choose joy when I face yet another rejection. I must choose joy when yet someone or something else tries to tell me I don’t belong. Because if He didn’t say it, then it’s not true.

Choosing joy is no small thing and I feel like I’ve had increased opportunities to choose joy at ever-deepening levels. Because “everything falling apart and nothing looking the way we had hoped or imagined”? That’s been our journey. Joy can’t wait until things have changed because then my joy is because of that external thing that has changed. No, I have to choose joy here and now, when my hands are empty, and I’ve got nothing to offer except myself. I will “praise before the breakthrough” because He truly is enough.

Kathleen: It takes grit and ambition to carve out a writing career. How do you live in the “wait” and the writing and re-writing and more re-writing, knowing God’s got you?

Sarah: As a young teen, before I met Jesus, I started working in the theater and assistant directing in my local theater. In college, I continued that journey as a double major in Theater and Psychology – I dreamed of being an actor, director, and playwright. Enter Jesus. By the time I was a senior and had grown considerably in my walk, God showed me how the theater was an idol in my life, and that it needed to go. I quickly dropped my major with just one class left to take and walked away from it completely. I didn’t want anything between Jesus and me! And in many ways, that set the tone for my walk with Jesus. When we lay down our own ambitions and dreams, it is only then we can make room for Him to plant new ones in our hearts. I always think of Abraham and Sarah – and how – in their urgency to “help” God’s promise come along, Ishmael was born. But he was not the son of promise. If you try to get things your own way, circumventing God’s plan, you could end up with something that God didn’t mean for you to have. His way is always better. The things He has planned for me will come in my pursuit of Him – not in my pursuit of those “things”.

That allows me to let go of things whenever He nudges me that I’m holding something too tightly, or something that I shouldn’t be holding at all. I used to want the lights shining on me, and now I’m content to be invisible. Being invisible is a weird place, too, but because I know that I’m not invisible to Him, I can be at peace even in this place. Anonymity can become a comfort zone, too – for example – I was recently invited onto a podcast, a live radio show, and asked for this interview!! Because God has had me hidden for so long, doing interviews makes me uncomfortable! So I have found we need to find a balance to be willing to go when He says go, and let go when He says let go and seek to be sensitive enough to His voice to know the difference.

Kathleen: The industry is rotted with promises that are often never fulfilled and people who say and do damaging things which affect creative and artistic endeavors. What has God taught you about forgiveness and moving forward?

Sarah: I didn’t grow up in the Church (I have a wild testimony!), and I think one of the things that surprised me most about Christianity early was seeing how badly some Christians treat other Christians. Over the years, some of the hardest things I have had to endure came at the hands of people who called themselves believers. I learned very early on – thanks to an amazing discipleship group where I was truly healed and set free – that I can never use God’s people as a measure of who He truly is. Sadly, they just aren’t always a good reflection of Him.

But the second piece of that is that forgiveness is a choice. Unforgiveness is a sin that will hurt us if we don’t deal with it. It will choke us like an out-of-control weed if we don’t cut it off. It must be dealt with swiftly. The beauty of choosing forgiveness is I can choose it even if my feelings aren’t there yet. The feelings will catch up eventually. Choosing forgiveness, then praying blessings for those that have wronged you helps your heart line up correctly. I find this is something I go back to over and over in my walk, because, well, offenses happen, don’t they?

Kathleen: God tells us more times in the Bible to “go” and influence the world than He tells us to stay put. Why is this important for someone working in the industry to learn?

Sarah: Right before the COVID shutdown, our family received some surprising direction from God. We were on a completely different path, merrily walking along, thinking that the path we walked made sense. Then everything changed; all because a college kid looked at us and said, “Why would you do that?” Little did she know that her question prompted some deep prayer and soul-searching for us all. And strangely, the idea of “We are all moving to Hollywood” didn’t seem so strange anymore. It seemed like it is what we were supposed to figure out all along. But when I say our lives were upended, it’s not an exaggeration. And it’s been hard. Really hard. I think too many Christians believe following God should be this smooth, even road, and I’ve found that to not be the case. Sometimes your promised land has giants, but when God leads, nothing is impossible.

Teaching in the public school system taught me long ago that we are all constantly influencing people around us. Whatever is in us oozes out into the world around us. Our internal world and personal deep and abiding connection with Christ is the most important thing to care for. Because it is from that core that all influence happens.

The question for me really is – what kind of influence am I? Am I bringing words of faith and hope into the world around me? Sometimes that is all you can do, and that is enough.

 

Connect with Sarah:
Website: www.sarahannesumpolec.com
Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-do-i-do-with-my-life/id1502924500  https://open.spotify.com/show/1XtoNofXO49HaEGyFbL5LA
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-sumpolec-a19408a/

An INNER VIEW with Producer and Writer Sheila Hart

An INNER VIEW with Producer and Writer Sheila Hart

We all know pursuing your calling can be challenging, especially if you’re called to the media and entertainment industry. But Sheila Hart gives encouragement for how to stand fast in your identity and overcome obstacles with the Word of God! Read this month’s INNER VIEW and gain fresh inspiration to place your trust, hope and faith in the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

BIO

Sheila Hart is an award-winning writer, producer, director with a hunger for all things creative. From music to theatre to advertising to film, Sheila has dabbled in all the colorful pots of the artistic world. She was a producer on the film Unplanned, the true story of Abby Johnson that takes an eye-opening look at the abortion industry. And she recently produced the thriller Nefarious, set to release late 2023. Sheila is also an award-winning actress, singer, and voiceover artist. Her familiar voice has been linked with such well-known brands as Walmart, Nickelodeon Resorts, and Sea World.

She is currently preparing to release the first novel in her medieval fantasy adventure trilogy: Journey to Abaddon. And is now in development on a biblically based TV series as well as the faith/family feature film On Summer’s Wing, set for production summer 2023. Sheila’s passion is to tell stories that inspire women all over the world to think big, dream big and become world changers.

INNER VIEW

Kathleen Cooke: You’ve worked in the challenging media and entertainment industry for many years, but what’s God taught you lately about overcoming the obstacles?

Sheila Hart: The Word of God is powerful. When fears and worries creep in due to circumstances that threaten to unravel us, we can find peace and reassurance in verses like…

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
“He will never leave you or forsake you.”
“You are my God, and my times are in your hands.”

Well, one day, out of the blue, I heard these words echo in my head: “I am not your God, and your times are not in my hands.” Fear struck me and my first thought was… This is the enemy. But just in case, I reached out to God. I said, “God, if that’s you, I need you to explain this because you’re really scaring me.” And right away, I heard Him say, “Fear and worry have been your gods.” I was stunned. But I recognized the truth in those words. That day, I repented, renounced fear and worry as my gods, and invited God to take control.

Since then, it’s been a battle, but I’ve learned some things. Every negative emotion begins with a thought that, unchecked, will lead you to rehearse every lie the enemy has planted in your mind to doubt yourself and to doubt God. That’s why God calls us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” and to “hold every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”. The only power fear and worry have over you, is the power you give them by entertaining the thoughts they plague you with. So, when negative thoughts try to steal your peace, stop, and replace them with the truth. “You are my God, and my times are in your hands.”

Kathleen: The business can toss us sometimes into the wind of wondering who we are and what are we doing? Are we good enough? What do you do when those thoughts happen?

Sheila: Who am I? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I’ve wrestled with identity my whole life…struggling with the labels placed on me, with the physical perfection the world demands, the success I saw others achieving I assumed was out of my reach. And inside raged the battle between KNOWING I had something to offer the world and the FEAR I had nothing to offer. As a writer, God speaks to me through stories. And being the kind Father He is, God gives me stories that whisper the truth of who I am. Through them, He’s taught me that I am not a scullery maid but a daughter of the Most High God! I am royalty, a joint heir in Christ! I am a Princess!

Some people see princesses as privileged women waited on hand and foot who go to royal galas and get spoiled rotten. Though I do think God romances us that way sometimes, it misses the mark. A true princess is a servant. A true princess uses her royal authority to watch over and love on the subjects in her kingdom (her sphere of influence). She is commissioned by her Father, the King, to bring light into the darkness, bring hope where there’s hopelessness, and to lead others into the arms of the Father.

The truth is this: You are your Father’s delight. And you ARE a Princess. God placed greatness in you when he formed you in your mother’s womb. You, with all your personality quirks, and you’re not so perfect facial features or body, were designed for epic greatness. God’s calling you to your purpose. Know how you are…and walk in the power of it, and He will give you the ideas, the resources, and the courage to become a world changer.

Kathleen: Can you tell us about someone that influenced your life and changed your thinking?

Sheila: I will never forget the night I heard Story Mastery expert Michael Hauge speak on developing your hero character. Little did I know how my brain was about to explode with revelation. Here’s what I learned…

Over the course of the story, it’s important to move your hero from functioning out of their identity to functioning from their essence. He described the identity as the façade formed by wounds we experience in life. It’s like armor shielding us from future pain (e.g: people make fun of your clothes, so you decide to wear clothes that make you fit in, even if it doesn’t reflect your personal style). Every wound erects another piece of armor, until we are fully protected. If it’s doing its job, you won’t know this fake identity exists. So over time, you believe this façade is actually who you are. But it’s not. It’s the phony you that seeks to make you acceptable to the world. But for the sake of protection, you lose yourself, your true self.

Thus, it’s essential to put your hero through difficult battles that put a chink in their armor. When glorious light flows out through that break in the façade, it reveals the hero’s essence, and she shrinks back. “That can’t be me!” She’s forgotten the brilliance of her true identity. But once the hero catches a glimpse of the power in who she truly is, she can never fully go back into hiding. And like David who tossed aside Saul’s clunky armor to go out and slay Goliath, the hero is now free to shed the façade and move with courage into victory.

Wow! Life changing! That night, I was gifted a key to unlocking my true self. And since then, I’ve strived to always live in my essence! I would challenge those reading this to shed their façade so they can become the hero God created them to be. Go slay some giants!

 

Connect with Sheila:
Websites: shetalks.com, windingroadfilms.net
Social Media: @shedreamsbig

An INNER VIEW with Danna Demetre

An INNER VIEW with Danna Demetre

Have you ever gotten stuck in a cycle of striving? Learn from Danna Demetre in this month’s INNER VIEW as she shares her journey through striving, betrayal and learning to be led by the Lord’s plans.

BIO

Danna Demetre is the author of seven books and is a speaker best known for the way she inspires people to change their habits from the inside out and live more healthy lives. She offers practical insights and tools to help women reach their lifestyle goals through her business, Lean Healthy Ageless, with co-founder Robyn Thomson. They produce weekly video blogs, cooking shows, and online devotionals to address the needs of women and recently launched their Ageless Woman Academy. Danna has been an expert guest on many radio and television programs over the past 20 years.  She’s also shared her dynamic messages of faith and hope with thousands each year as a keynote retreat and conference speaker. She has been married for 36 years to Lew, a West Point graduate and international businessman, and they have four grown children and five grandchildren. Danna is dedicated to living a life of balance and knows it is essential to “walk your talk.”

Danna, and her co-founder Robyn Thomson, are now partnering with Influence Women and are leading a track in our INrich Mentorship Program for women seeking health coaching and a kick-start to their health journey! The 6-week Mentorship Program Eat Live Thrive begins on February 11th!

 

INNER VIEW

Kathleen Cooke: What has God been recently teaching you?   

Danna Demetre: “Are we there yet?” As children, we whined these words to our parents on any car ride over 30 minutes. And, we’ve heard it playing like a skipping vinyl record from the backseat in our own cars as our children (and grandchildren) pass on the blessing. We seem to be wired from birth to laser focus on the destination more than the journey.

As I near my 70th birthday, I realize more than ever that life is the journey. As I watch the years fly by at almost warp speed, I know that I want and need is to cherish every moment, capture every opportunity, and invest in every morsel of time as if it could be my last here on planet earth.

Kathleen: We’re all ambitious. Often our ambitions are for the right reasons, but sometimes we can push too hard and take a dive into wrong thinking and choices. What have you learned about ambitious striving?

Danna: In all my years, I’ve had multiple professions. Labor and delivery nurse. Corporate marketing manager. Radio host. Fitness professional. Health coach. Author. Speaker. Let’s say, I was a Type A on steroids. More a human doing than being. In my 30s and 40s, I’d set goals and go after them and then pray for God to bless the work of my hands. Those years of striving were exhausting.

Then, one day I realized that God said in Jer. 29:11: “I know the plans I have for you”.  He did not say, “I know the plans you have for you.” I also read the NASB translation of Ps. 46:10, which says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”. I set aside most of my goals and reported to duty in prayer and “let” God take the lead. I adopted a new life motto: Do the right things for the right reasons, and trust God with the results. It is amazing how freeing it is to take on God-given assignments and let him handle the outcome. (more…)

Alexandra Boylan

Alexandra Boylan

Kathleen Cooke: As a female producer in Hollywood who is passionate to see women thrive, what do you want women to know that they often don’t seem to comprehend?

Alexandra Boylan: God loves me! God loves you! Everything we see, past present and future, in the way women are treated is not God’s design. It never was, and as we follow Jesus, we see him constantly lifting women up. Jesus is setting the example of how things were meant to be, not the way the fall of man affected the treatment of women. Women don’t get a lot of action in our history books; we don’t see a lot of films from the female perspective. I have chosen to make it my mission to bring stories about women for women to life, with or without anyone’s permission. I pray to someday do a woman of the Bible series! There are so many extraordinary women in the Bible that many of us have never heard their story. But trust me GOD used women all the time. And now it is time to bring those stories to life and into the World. So, we ladies can know we are loved by our GREAT creator. 

Kathleen:  Talk about ambition. Often our Plan A isn’t God’s.

Alexandra: As an extremely ambitious person I spent my twenty’s chasing after an acting career in Hollywood. I was met with roadblocks at every time.  For ten years I pounded the pavement as they say but getting nowhere.  At first, I thought God had called me to the West Coast to pursue an acting career, but after so many years of anguish, rejection and pain, I couldn’t justify my own desires anymore. I packed my bags and moved to New Mexico, literally surrendered my life back to GOD.  I threw my hands in the air and said LORD, I give my talents to you, guide me where you want to me to go. I spent the next year in solitude with God, praying and surrendering. Well, let me tell you, that when you truly surrender to HIM, your life will come back tenfold. I started creating my own films as a writer/producer and eventually, GOD called me to make movies for HIM.  Ever since I began the journey of making female-driven faith based-films, I cannot even begin to describe the blessings GOD has poured upon my life.  I pray to never fall out of favor again, always checking my ego at the door.  Always asking GOD is this what you want or is this what I want. Because GOD’s plans for our lives truly are better than our own. I did have a lull in my career a year ago where I felt like I was on a dead end street and couldn’t figure out how to get off it. I was praying constantly and asking GOD to show me what he wanted me to do.  But for two and a half years, as I persisted to no avail.  I kept saying LORD what do you want me to do?  Do you want me to stop making films?  Lead me, was my constant prayer.  Finally, I felt GOD’s call to me to open my home to Christian Women in Entertainment.  Once I did that, God blessed me with new friendships and new working relationships.  Within that year we were making another female driven faith based film.  God just needed some time to bring the right people together, and I was faithful in the call.  I think as long as we are searching and seeking GOD’s will above our own, we will eventually be guided to where we are to go.  “Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all shall be added” Matthew 6:33 Sometime it might take longer than we want, but I am learning patience, cause God’s timing is ALWAYS better than my own.

(more…)

An Inner View with Dr. Donna Marie Hunter

An Inner View with Dr. Donna Marie Hunter

Do you hold onto offense easily? How do you navigate relationships when it seems like the brokenness in others (or yourself) continues to get in the way? Dr. Donna Marie Hunter addresses this important topic that we all face. Find out how you can set healthy boundaries, navigating your way to healthier relationships with others and deeper intimacy with God.

 

BIO

Dr. Donna Marie Hunter is an engaging TV show host on her show, Grace & Space, arousing honest conversations that encourages viewers to continue dreaming by building healthy habits and genuine relationships. She has co-authored two #1 International Best-selling books, Women Who Rise and Women Who Empower. Dr. Donna received her BS degree at Pepperdine University and her Master’s in Educational Leadership; she has a Counseling Credential and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Azusa Pacific University.

She is an intuitive coach for personal and professional growth, a knowledgeable consultant in education and leadership, and an inspiring champion for equity, access, and inclusion for individuals with disabilities. With over twenty years of awarded leadership as a counselor and administrator, Donna is a well-respected expert in public education. Her mission is to educate, enlighten and empower individuals with knowledge that transforms thinking and leads to actionable steps toward positive change.

 

INNER VIEW

Kathleen Cooke: One of the biggest challenges today is having meaningful deep relationships with those with differing world views without offending each other. What has God taught you recently about standing for what you believe and yet being “gentle as doves?”

Dr. Donna Marie Hunter: Being unoffended is one of the most freeing dispositions to hold. My ministry, Grace and Space, has been my focal point and banner even before hosting a Television Show. I intentionally focus on forgiveness or grace, which lowers the tendency toward being easily offended and judgmental. Giving space allows for time and distance and to gain perspective, enabling us to see our predispositions and biases more clearly toward people, places, and things. God continues to teach me lessons on being unoffended, which produces the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” Hebrews 12:11 invites. Growing closer to God and letting people off the hook has helped me love my brother and sister as myself. It allows me to esteem the individual while recognizing the imperfection of our humanity; it has freed my soul. When we rise above being offended, it elevates our ability to impact and influence others positively. We become light in the shadows when darkness appears. We take on a righteousness that is not of our own and are able to suspend our ranking and judgment of someone else’s motives, intentions, and actions.

Kathleen: How can we choose right relationships? What’s the one thing we should consider in choosing a meaningful relationship?

Dr. Donna: Relationships are God’s chosen method to heal. We are broken in relationships, and we are healed in relationships. Isolation is usually an invitation to offense, creating barriers. Barring times of consecration when God is setting us apart for intentional growth and ministry, we need one another for our health and healing. When choosing to enter a relationship with someone, it’s imperative to hold the mirror up to ourselves and acknowledge our imperfections. Then, we’re more open to connecting with flawed individuals we choose to be in a relationship with. Appreciating the uniqueness of an individual while simultaneously offering grace and holding true to your boundaries (giving space) is the sweet spot of loving thy neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:39). I’m not sure it’s possible to be in a healthy relationship unless we honor the Spirit of God within ourselves. God’s love flows through us first and then to others, touching us first and extending out.

Kathleen: Relationships are also about drawing boundaries. How can we decide where we need to draw them?

Dr. Donna: Boundaries are the language of love. I love you, and I love me; thus, I want the best for both of us. Understanding my limits and limitations allows me to fully love and express unbridled care for another. Boundary setting starts from a place of honesty and authenticity within, recognizing our brokenness and need for a holy God heal and save our souls. Our propensity toward sin, selfishness, and neediness has the potential to invite extremes and may cloud our ability to communicate authentically and avoid unhealthy situations and people. It is both loving and honest to say, “thank you, however, that does not work for me right now.” We offer grace and space by communicating our portion of the wrongdoing, taking responsibility for the mishap, asking for forgiveness, communicating an ending, and giving space or time for God to heal.

Kathleen: Our influence impacts our relationships, and relationships impact our influence. They work in tandem. What have you learned about how we can influence others?

Dr. Donna: Influence, both intentional and unintentional, is a weighty gift. Hence, my goal is to be intentional in loving and purpose-filled in my impact in the communities where I serve and inspirational in sharing my faith and the message of hope that fuels my passion. Influence is the telltale seeds we’ve sown over our lifespan, the fruit that remains after we have passed by, passed through, and passed on. It bears witness to the gravity of our impact. The legacy we desire to leave in this world is a direct result of our influence and interactions with family, friends, and foes. My favorite hashtag is #MyHopesAreUp. These words are indicative of a life, legacy, and influence I desire to intentionally leave upon the earth.

 

Connect with Dr. Donna:

Website: www.DrDonnaMarieHunter.com
Grace & Space Season 1: https://rvntelevision.com/tv-show/grace-space/
Facebook & YouTube: @drdonnamariehunter
Instagram/Twitter: @drdmhunter

INNER VIEW with Kelsey Cooke

INNER VIEW with Kelsey Cooke

Kelsey Cooke grew up acting professionally in Hollywood, signing with her first agent at the age of 7. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts from Vanguard University and pursued a Broadway, TV, and Film career in New York upon graduating. Her work eventually brought her back to Hollywood, where she co-founded thisishardtoread productions and is an award-winning producer, writer, and actor in the award-winning feature comedy/mockumentary film RE-OPENING. Favorite career highlights include: LIFE PARTNERS (Tribeca & Sundance Film Festival), BLACK NOVEMBER (Vivica Fox), PAN AM (ABC), ROYAL PAINS (USA), BAD TEACHER (CBS), and THE VERONICA MARS MOVIE.

Kathleen Cooke: OK full disclosure – you are my oldest daughter and the new Influence Women Nashville Chapter Director. I could tell lots about you…but I’ll let you tell us a bit about yourself.

Kelsey Cooke: I am co-founder of thisishardtoread productions with my husband, Chris. We create comedies with heart. I’m a producer, writer, director, and actor – not necessarily all at the same time, hah! I began in the industry as an actor at 7 years old in Hollywood and came up through the industry working not only in LA but after college in New York, working on stage and Broadway musicals before moving back to LA in 2013 as an actress and producer.

Kathleen: How and why have you gotten involved with Influence Women as the new Nashville Chapter Coordinator?

Kelsey: I recently moved to the greater Nashville area for the main purpose of collaborating with like-minded industry professionals. I was tired of waiting for some “big break” that would never come, and after producing my own feature film during the pandemic, I realized the Hollywood industry is so much bigger than the box we put it in. Nashville was the place where I felt called to create a movement with people who feel the same way. I know the multiple challenges of a career in the media and entertainment and the importance of collaboration with the right people and having a community of people who support each other not only in their work but in their faith.

Kathleen: When is the Influence Women Nashville launch, and what’s happening?

Kelsey: We are going to start gathering women on November 9th who are excited to get involved with our mission – to bring women in the industry together who want to encourage, uplift, and empower each other and align their media career with their faith and values. Let’s get to know each other and think of others who would also like to have a local community of creators. Please reach out if you would like to be a part of this initial group.

If you want to connect with Kelsey and Influence Women Nashville, reach out to her at: nashville@influencewomen.org.

Follow Kelsey: 
Website: thisishardtoreadproductions.com
Instagram: @kelseycookeofficial