With me focusing on myself and my family, I have been reflecting on all my relationships. Especially my marriage. If you know me, then you have probably heard me say that my husband is my best friend. And he truly is. We have gone through so much in our 14 years together (almost 8 years married) and I am grateful to say that we have survived it all. As most couples, there are things that come up that rock your relationship and test your strength. Love is the foundation, but daily commitment is the key.
Within the last couple of years I have changed the way I view marriage as a whole. For me, marriage is my ministry. What does that mean? It means that my marriage and my husband are top priority. Yes, before me and even my son. I truly believe in the sanctity of marriage. It is an honor and pleasure to be a wife and I am especially proud to be his wife. My family is my world and when it isn't functioning as it should, nothing is right. I am serving the Lord when I serve my husband and I am blessed because of it. My husband is the head of my household, but I am the keeper. I'm his helpmate in all things. When we step out into the world each day, we are a reflection of each other. I would never intentionally do anything to misrepresent him or the Collins name. A few years ago, I started my Mrs vs. Mom brand. It is a way for me share more about myself as a wife and mother while trying to find the balance between the two roles. That meant seeking out other women like me as resources. And recently, I found a gem!
Mrs. Shirnetta J. Harrell is my guest blogger today and I am so excited to share her story with you along with her community for wives.
I was born in Frankfurt, Germany as an Army brat and was raised in the small town of Nashville, North Carolina. I was raised by my late grandmother and mother who have been pillars in every inch of my life. I have always been outgoing and quite the social butterfly throughout my adolescent years. Those attributes were surprisingly the most challenging thing that I struggled with through my high school years. Due to being a bubbly extrovert and seeing life through rose-colored glasses, I quickly realized that my natural abilities to talk to anyone in sight became unfavorable in the sight of my peers which led to severe bullying. Most people think of bullying as harmless "teasing" that everyone goes through in some life milestone but, the reality was that I experienced much more than just simple "teasing". I vividly remember being spit on by peers, having to eat lunch in the bathroom because I was too scared to eat in the cafeteria, being jumped by large groups of girls who didn't like me and other horrible experiences. These experiences affected my academic, social and emotional projectory which led me to pursuing the field of social work.
I received a Bachelor of Social Work from Shaw University in 2013 and later received a Master of Social Work from Alabama A & M University in 2014 where I completed the Advanced-Standing Program with a Concentration in Community Mental Health. My social work career began with internships working in group homes, day treatment programs and foster care for transitional youth. I later pursued community mental health where I served as a case manager, provided therapy as a Trauma-Focused Cognitive therapist for adolescents and later became a program supervisor for Intensive In-Home services. I am currently a school social worker where I work in alternative education that serves students who have significant high needs in special education. My day-to-day tasks include completing home visits, working with parents, providing resources for families, connecting families with mental health services, providing food, basic needs, decreasing chronic attendance through wrap-around interventions and eliminating other barriers that would keep students from attending school.
2. What made you decide to become a social worker? Was there a defining moment when you knew?
I decided to become a social worker because I wanted to support people who also experienced trauma in life that effected them holistically. I wanted to be able to provide tangible resources to others while also empowering others to be the very best version of themselves. The defining moment that I decided to be a social worker was when I began my undergraduate career at Shaw University and met professors who introduced me to this amazing field.
3. What were the best & hardest parts of starting your business/platform, both personally and professionally?
Ha! This is a question that I'm asked quite often. I'd say the best parts of starting my own business was experiencing the zeal and excitement that I had when God first gave me the vision. I remember not having a clue about the logistics or legalities of my business but, I knew it was something that God wanted me to do, personally. Professionally, the best was using my adversities throughout my social work career to be resilient and having an attitude of pressing on regardless of what came my way.
I'd say that hardest part of starting my business professionally was truly learning marketing. It wasn't just about using social media as a platform. I had to learn how to connect with other entrepreneurs, how to attend networking events, how to market myself as a vendor, how to sale my business and ultimately, how I would make consistent income. Personally, I'd say the absolute hardest part of starting my business was staying consistent. There were times when I was tired and I didn't feel like working and there were times when I didn't believe in my business and I often questioned if I could really do this.
4. What did you learn about yourself and your support system while training or going to school and starting your business?
I actually began my business years after completing my post-graduate degree and the only training that I had in beginning my business was my own personal experiences as a wife. I'd have to say that my biggest support system has been my husband and my business coach. It's so important to have a spouse who also believes in the vision that God has given you. On the days where I'm overwhelmed or the days when I question my gifts, my husband is right there cheering me on and supporting me in processing my next moves to serve women. My business coach is also someone who I've developed a friendship with that has been a tremendous support system for me. She has guided me in goal setting for my business, how to create content, marketing strategies, how to price my events, how to engage my audience and etc. I honestly don't know where I'd be without her wisdom and insight.
5. What is the Bona Fide Wife Experience (event) and what was the main purpose of starting this outlet for women and wives?
The Bona Fide Wife Experience is an event that aims to do one simple thing. It is a luncheon that provides real wives the opportunity to share real experiences through real conversations. The main purpose that I wanted wives to have this outlet is because I was so tired of attending workshops, conferences and seminars that discussed surface-level topics of marriage. I wanted wives to know that real things happen in marriage and that it's okay to discuss them. This upcoming event will be just that. It's going to be a time where women can come together, take off the masks and discuss the highs and lows of marriage. In a society that doesn't really honor marriage anymore, I wanted wives to know that other women experience the same things they may be experiencing and there's support out there for them. I was tired of seeing married women suffering in silence, not having the skills, not knowing what to do when times got tough, not taking a deeper look at the issues and not taking time to reflect on their own childhood experiences that contribute to their behavior. I wanted to be a resource for wives and I wanted to begin creating safe spaces for women to heal, to discuss and to walk away with practical strategies to take home.
6. How would you describe yourself as a wife? What are your thoughts on marriage and being a submissive wife in 2018?
I would describe myself as a wife by saying that I'm in progress. Regardless of my business, I'm a wife just like everyone else. I'm constantly learning about me, about my husband and about life. I never want to think that for a minute that I have it all together because I'm far from it. I'm in progress which means each day is a new opportunity to be better.
When my husband and I got married 3 years ago, submission wasn't even negotiable. I remember completing pre-marital counseling and getting on the subject of submission and I thought to myself, "He ain't controlling me", "I'm no one's slave", and "Submission is slavery." Honestly, these were all of the thoughts that came to my mind. During pre-marital counseling, I had to do some serious unpacking and using my vocabulary - peeling back the layers. I began digging deeper into why those were my responses to submission and why I had such a negative perspective on submission. Being raised by a single mother who had been married and divorced multiple times, I didn't have a healthy example of what submission was nor did I have an example of what a healthy marriage looked like. So, where did that leave me? Having a distorted view of what submission was! This also meant that I had a distorted view of who God was and not understanding His vision for marriage. Being a submissive wife to me in 2018 means work. Anyone who tells you that marriage is easy in 2018 is lying and anyone who tells you that their marriage doesn't have an problems in 2018 isn't being realistic or honest. One of the first things that I always tell women who are getting married or women who reach out to me for coaching regarding submission is that you can't submit to a man who isn't submitting to God. It's that simple. 2018 is filled with so many distractions and so many couples who aren't willing to do the work. One of the main problems that I see in couples, particularly millennial couples is that they didn't do their pre-work so, dysfunction creeps in after the honeymoon dust wears off. We must be willing to do the work, even if it's uncomfortable. We must go deeper and look into the things that contribute to our perspectives of marriage. Period. Marriage is such a beautiful thing but, you must be willing to wait for a partner sent from God rather than thinking finding a man on your own and ignoring the red flags will last. It just won't work. I want women to know that submission is a beautiful relationship when it's done God's way. People must understand that marriage is simply 2 sinful people coming together as 1.
7. Where do you see your business/platform in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see myself working my business full time and leaving my social work career in direct practice. I'd like to continue my social work career by serving on legislative boards that afford me the opportunity to use my voice to make executive decisions about state funding for community programs. Regarding my business, I'd like to begin traveling the United States by empowering women and wives through enlarging my platform. I'd like to host conferences for thousands of women, book speaking engagements all over the United States, have one of the largest coaching networks and continue hosting events on a larger scale that includes inviting other women in the same catchment area as my area of expertise.
8. What advice do you have for new wives? Veteran wives? Divorcees?
One of the most profound pieces of advice that I heard as a new wife was from an older woman who always provided me with sound wisdom in marriage. I'll never forget what she said to me and it continues to be something that I share with women regardless of their marital status. She said, "Only God can fill a hole that He created. A man simply cannot do the same thing." For married women, this means that regardless of how good your husband is, he's a flawed man which means that he'll always let you down. You can't expect him to be perfect. Only God can be that expectation. This applies to women who are in a season of waiting on a spouse, a man is simply a man. If God never fills the void of giving you a husband, God is still sovereign. This short statement has made me realize so much, even in my own marriage. My husband is such a good man to me but, my husband still falls short. We all do. For wives who've been married for a long time, it's the same thing. Women often grow tired or lose interest in their spouse, instead of laying in the pity party, jump up and change that perspective. Perspective is everything! Of course, if you're in an abusive marriage or are experiencing infidelity, this applies differently. Be with someone who understands their shortcomings but, is always in a constant state of seeking God to be better.
9. Who are some of your influencers or mentors?
As previously mentioned, one of my business mentors and business coach is Dr. Chavonne Perotte out of New Jersey. Women who I admire include Lisa Nichols, Mattie James, Marshawn Evans and Sarah Jakes Roberts. All of these women have platforms and businesses that bleed women empowerment and they all do it with such grace, class and authenticity.
10. How has your spirituality impacted your marriage, business and overall life?
Faith is everything to me. It has saved my life. Literally. If you're anything like me, you grew up in church and that's it, you knew how to do church. I didn't have a true relationship with Jesus Christ nor was I desiring to look like Him in all facets of my life. That part of me had to change and once it did, it changed my overall life. Faith is the glue that keeps our marriage together. My husband is such a great leader and he shepherds our home well. Faith is how my husband and I are able to reconcile after a heated argument and it's how we base our decisions in our home. As faith relates to my business, I always remember that it's really not my business to begin with. I'm just a borrower. Every chance that I get in my business, I always try to make it an opportunity to share with another woman how God redeemed my marriage, how God brought me out of dark places, how God used the girl who people would spit on, how God kept my husband and I when we didn't know what to do or simply, just who God is. God has been so good to me and I owe my life to Him. Period.
11. Tell me about your most recent "wife win."
LOL! I don't like the term "wife win." I think it goes back to always being in a state of recognizing that you both need grace. We can't think that our husband is never putting forth the effort but, we always are. We also can't expect gratification each time that we do something well. I think we have to maintain humility in marriage and recognize that it takes two.
12. What advice would you give to a couple whose marriage has been rocked by 1) infidelity, 2) miscarriage/loss of a child and 3) extended family turmoil?
I can speak to knowing what it's like to wait for a child and being left not knowing when your time will come to be a mother. This was an area of my own marriage that was shaken. My advice to couples that are struggling with this particular area is to have hope. For a long time, I thought God had forgot about little ol' me. I thought He was still busy blessing my friends and co-workers with babies that He forgot about my prayers and desires. Ha! This was coming from the same woman who is currently 17 weeks pregnant. God has a hilarious sense of humor because all I had was hope. That was IT. I remembered that infertility was evident in the Bible. I remembered that God could redeem anything. I remembered that setting my hope on things eternal was far better than temporal gains. I remembered that I can't do anything. I remembered that God is bigger than a doctor can do. I had hope. We had hope. Like any other marital problem, you have to know who God is. Period. Most people may say, "Is it really that deep", or "Can you be more realistic?" This is a real as it gets. I went from not knowing if I'd ever conceive to currently carrying a baby without any medical intervention. If that ain't God then, I don't know what is. Regardless of the storm, you have to know the God you serve and you must know that your works won't heal your heart or change the situation. That includes family turmoil, miscarriage, infidelity, infertility, you name it. Scripture tells us that before any of us were even thought of, He already had a plan. So, what makes you think that He forgot about your marriage? Stay hopeful.
To learn more about Shirnetta and her upcoming events, please visit her website at www.shirnettajharrell.com and follow her on social media.
Interested in attending The Bona Fide Wife Experience? Get your tickets here!