Who I Am
I am LaWanda Hanes, and I am the writer for Tie It All Together.
Dallas, Texas has been home to my husband, Thomas, and I for seventeen years. We have been blessed to parent our two children: our very active, always optimistic teenage daughter, Jasmine, and our ever-so-curious, knowledge seeking preteen son, Thomas, III. We have a black Lab-Collie mix as our family pet, and a robo-dwarf hamster that made it in solely by the power of Memaw! You might say our house is on a hill — in the hills might be a better description, but we definitely do not have a white picket fence. From the outside we may look close to picture perfect, though that’s certainly not the case!
I am a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, however, I grew up in five different states, and graduated from high school at an Air Force base in England. All who know me, know that I am a proud graduate of the University of Oklahoma – BOOMER SOONER! I have an accounting degree, and an MBA, which allowed me to spend the first few years of my professional career as a business consultant, and the remaining fifteen years split almost evenly between finance and human resources — all within the same industry leading consulting firm.
I left corporate America three years ago to focus the best of my energy, time, and attention on being a godly wife and mother. At the same time, I am re-tooling and pursuing a counseling degree while the kids are in school. Within my church, I serve in the counseling ministry where I get the opportunity to support, encourage, and teach others.
Why “Tie It All Together”
Being the daughter of a Sovereign God, I am a life enthusiast, an encourager, and a people helper. Being the daughter of a US serviceman, I am truly the product of a diverse collection of locations, cultures, and experiences. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a trust-worthy and loyal friend. I am a lifelong learner, an experienced Human Resources professional, and prospective counselor. As I’ve gathered life experiences, and fulfilled each of these roles, I’m constantly tying together my god-given attributes, my life experiences, relationships, and circumstances. It is from this progressing revelation of who I am, and what God asks of me that I create this blog.
As early as five years old, I remember performing.
Mom and Dad enrolled me in the Benjamin School of Dance and Gymnastics. I was a baton-twirling, boots wearing, toe-tapping, baby girl. Both of my parents were always very supportive no matter what endeavor I pursued throughout my youth. They worked really hard as young parents to create a life of stability for my younger brother and I.
Having a stable family life, and engaged supportive parents helped me to develop a strong sense of self. I was the ultimate optimist. Some might say that I was ‘popular’ in school, but I never thought of it that way: I was nice. I was happy. I was fun to be around most days (what teenage girl doesn’t have a mood swing or two?). I always considered myself well-liked and well-known for those reasons. I fit into my little piece of the world, perfectly.
What I didn’t realize until my freshman year in college is that much of the strength and confidence I had developed over my lifetime was not really because I was nice, happy, fun or trust-worthy (which is what I’d always told myself)! I figured out that my confidence and sense of self was deeply rooted in my (false) belief that I was accepted because I was good at something that other people considered worthwhile.
My transition from high school to college was awful. My confidence and self concept took a couple of major beatings: once in my Freshman year, and again as a Junior. It started, not in the classroom, where I’d always been average, but in the dance studio, where I’d always excelled. During high school, I earned a number of awards and opportunities because of my ability as a dancer. I wasn’t just good at what I did, I was exceptional. Until I wasn’t. My first time out of the gates trying to take my skills and experience to the collegiate level was a complete bust. I failed to make it past the second round of cuts. THE SECOND ROUND!? My entire world was rocked. It was the first time that I really remembered feeling like a failure. “What did they mean, I didn’t make it? This is what I do…this is who I am! I am a dancer”. Well, at that moment, dance might have been who I was, but it was no longer what I did. That failure caused me to pack away my shoes, and my love for movement. Pull the curtain, performance over.
Between Freshman year and Junior year, I wandered. I was going through the program of life, pursuing my college degree so I could graduate and get a job, because that is what you are supposed to do. Still feeling the bruises of being cut from the dance team, I didn’t really try my hand at anything else. I had opted for a life low in risk, and high in security. Only, now that I was without a stage to perform on, I felt very lost. Here enters Jesus. I gave my life to Christ and I felt a sense of hope ignite within, but I still lacked direction and purpose. I had accepted Jesus, but I was far from really giving Him my life.
In my junior year, I dated a young man who I thought I’d fallen in love with. He was quite charming, but he couldn’t love me the way I should have been loved. I didn’t even know how I should have been loved. Of course, I was so consumed with pleasing him, that I gave far more of my heart, and my ‘self’ than I should have. He crushed my little heart, and sent me limping away like a maimed puppy. Once again, pull the curtain, performance over.
With that relationship out of the way, I was able to see how far my heart and my life was from Jesus. Many of the young adults that I attended church with were connected with each other, and with their Savior. I wasn’t connected with either. I sought to really know God. I was desperate to know what I should be doing with my life. I became more active in the church, and started to spend more time with the youth group. I was always involved just enough to be included, but never enough to be heart-broken, or rejected. It was a mess, really. I was a mess. Unlike during high school, now I was performing for acceptance, and I knew it.
I was a Senior in college when Thomas and I became attracted to one another. He was such a gentleman, and everything about him was gentle. I almost didn’t know how to ‘be’ around him—performing can take it’s toll you know. After coming out of such a disaster of a relationship, I had no idea how to accept someone so selfless, thoughtful, and so compassionate. This guy was absolutely fabulous. Our little courtship lasted for a couple of years. I was careful not to put Jesus on the back burner this time though. I was still seeking and growing in the Lord. More than anything, I needed God to show me what to do with my future.
Unlike many of my peers, I didn’t have a job offer, or a fiance’ when I finished undergrad. Of all the jobs I’d interviewed for, there was one in Dallas with a major bank for which I was a final candidate. I had gone through several different interviews, and I’d made it to the site visit. I was always told that if you make it on-site you are pretty much a shoe in. Well, the shoe dropped, and almost crushed me like a bug. My hopes, again, obliterated. I had failed to successfully “complete” college…afterall, it is the employment opportunity that you accept after college that validates your previous four years of existence. With this failure, I was not only devastated, but now I was totally ticked off. Pull the curtain…
I applied for graduate school.
I really began to walk by faith, and learned to trust God more with everyday matters. I had begun to learn about spiritual gifts, and being called to ministry. I didn’t think I had any gifts at all, spiritual or otherwise! I sat on the sidelines while other young adults from my youth group began understanding, and operating in their gifts. They were becoming leaders and ministers in the church. I experienced a great deal of insecurity and self-doubt. Inwardly, I felt embarrassed that I didn’t know my gifts or my calling. Instead of seeking out answers, I stayed on the fringes; safe from heartache. Still performing…
In my final year of graduate school Thomas proposed, and I had a couple of job offers materializing. Over that next semester, we planned a wedding, graduated, married, and moved to Dallas where we’d start our new life together as independent grown folks. No family, or friends, just us and our new life together.
I finally began to hear God reveal my gifts to me. For fifteen years I worked in a high performing, highly demanding company. The entire performance review process was based on comparison to your peers. Like so many other companies, my company was a “pay for performance” company. The competition within was fierce. It was the perfect training ground for God to make me aware of my tendency to approach my relationships, and my work from an attitude of performance for approval, affirmation, and acceptance. I was an approval addict! It took years of experiences for me to learn how to actively depend on God to help me separate my identity from my accomplishment. I had to learn to succeed graciously, fail graciously, and bounce back relentlessly. I had over a decade to learn how to separate my “who” from my “do”. And it took about that long for me to understand that I might fail at an endeavor, or even in a relationship, but failing doesn’t make me a failure. Failing doesn’t make me flawed, or unworthy of acceptance. Failure doesn’t nullify God’s approval of me, nor his love for me. I learned how to change my thinking, and my self-talk, especially when I made mistakes. I learned to break free from perfectionism, and the need to appear as though I have it all together. No more performances here. I am who God says I am, regardless of what I accomplish.
By faith in Jesus, I am continuously learning to be who I am, and embracing my gifts, talents, and limitations as they show up in every area of my life.