Your Storms Don’t Have to Break You

Article Written and Interview by: Debbie Stokes

In our lives we experience test after test after test and are challenged from within as to how we will respond to them. We sometimes find ourselves struggling to see and think clearly. As a matter of fact, at times we are pushed to our breaking point—asking God why?

How many of you have ever been there—asking God why?

Maybe you lost your house, your car, or your spouse to a divorce or death. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe you lost a child or a parent. Maybe you almost lost your life in an accident or to an illness… the list goes on and on.

The truth is no matter what trials or test we’ve had to go through, we have found ourselves either fighting to survive, fighting for sanity, fighting for strength and inner peace, fighting for answers, or caving into the battle.

But remember:

Through prayer, faith, family and friends, and mentors… some of us are able to pull from an inner strength to help overcome the struggle. Then, there are those who find it hard to see pass their circumstances.

They forget how to fight. They forget that God has given us everything we need to fight with. They give in to the pressure and pain. They go to that dark place where their clarity is clouded and their trial outweighs their strength. They are ready to lose the battle without fighting.

Join me in welcoming Wanda Briscoe. She is going to tell you her story with the hopes it will postively impact struggling lives, renew hope, and change perspectives so those who are dealing with struggles can get their life back.

Wanda Briscoe has had many life-altering storms in her life. One being she is a breast cancer survivor. Using the power of positive thinking, she used her illness as fuel rather than feeling sorry for herself to help fight her battle with breast cancer. As a result, she formed a company called Mariposa Enterprises. Wanda has become a source of information and a mentor to so many women who find themselves fighting and struggling through their cancer journey. In addition, she also had a bout with a stroke and had to fight her way through that struggle as well.

Wanda is an author, radio host, inspirational speaker, and business owner. She has used the trials in her life to propel her towards her purpose of helping, inspiring, empowering, and motivating women.

As you read Wanda’s interview, I hope you get inspired and informed from the information she will share with you, and I hope you pass this on to other women you know so it can help them too.

3WV: You have been through some storms. Thank God you made it through and are here with us today. Tell us your testimony from the beginning.

Wanda: I’ve always known that I was “different.” I am a preacher’s kid and there has been consistent attacks on my life, and most of them have been physical. In 2006, I noticed something was going on with my body but I was busy with work… running with my sons in sports and being a wife. The first time I tripped “up” the steps in my home, I had an “uh-oh” moment. The next day when I was driving my middle son to the train station, as we came upon the exit ramp, the left side of my body went limp. I was able to pull into a parking lot and my son called my husband, who in turn, called the ambulance. I was rushed to the hospital, and after many tests (CT Scan & MRI), it was determined that I had a TIA or a mini-stroke. The left side of my body had limited motion and strength, and I am left-handed. I had to go to occupational therapy and physical therapy. I had to re-learn how to hold utensils, feed myself, and for several weeks, I was on a walker. God healed me from that illness without any lingering effects of the stroke.

I was moving forward in my life. In November 2010, I had my yearly mammogram. I was told that I needed to come back in for another test because I have dense breast. I waited until early 2011, then I went in for another mammogram. After that, I was told a biopsy needed to be done. It never occurred to me that something could have been wrong, but on January 19, 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Hearing my doctor tell me on the telephone those dreadful four words, “You have breast cancer,” changed my life forever and I was devasted. I was the first person in my family to be diagnosed and all kinds of questions were lingering in my mind.

    • “Where did it come from?” 
    • “Will I die?”
    • “How do I tell my children?” 
    • “How do I tell my parents?”

I’ve had 3 breast surgeries and I’ve endured 33 rounds of radiation during which my body was touched 3 times at each session (99 beams of radiation). Once again, God healed me from this life-threatening disease, and He gave me a platform to educate the community and the world.

3WV: After your divorce, what kind of feelings did you experience. 

Wanda: I have gone through 2 divorces. I grew up in the Apostolic faith and became pregnant when I was 19 years old. In the church, you cannot have a child out of wedlock so we had to get married. We were young and didn’t know what marriage was; it lasted 7 years. I felt pressured to do something I wasn’t prepared for because of “church rules.”

I remarried when I was 27 years old and this marriage lasted 15 years. I thought this marriage would last forever, but it didn’t because we allowed outside interferences into our marriage. We didn’t seek God on how to fight the enemy together. I didn’t want to get divorced because I was worrying about what those in the church would say. There I was a pastor’s daughter, and once again, I was going through another failed marriage.

How did the divorce change your life and your beliefs about trust?

I struggled with the opinions of others. I went through bitterness, unforgiveness, and low self-esteem. My trust was broken, my faith in God was shattered, and it was hard to go forward.

3WV: When you went through the divorce, lost everything, and had to face bankruptcy and foreclosure, what do you think were the factors in you to keep you going when so many others might have given up?

Wanda: Going through my battle with breast cancer and the divorce at the same time, God placed in me an internal fight I didn’t know existed. When I went through both of these trials at the same time, I wrote a book entitled, “The Fight Within,” and that is exactly what I had, an internal fight. I was so exhausted of living in fear from the thoughts of other people. Many people said I wouldn’t recover from bankruptcy and foreclosure, so I wanted to show them and myself that I could recover. Sometimes, we have to be our own cheerleader and motivator in the face of tribulation.

3WV: Give some words of advice based on your experiences to help women get through a divorce. Then, give some ways to stay strong after a divorce.

Wanda: To help a woman get through a divorce, I would advise them to first forgive themselves, which seems to be the hardest thing to do. Then forgive the ex-spouse. Seek counseling because divorce is sometimes like a death. Ask God to “show you….You.” You may have been a people pleaser in your marriage to an extent where it was toxic; this is something you need to ask God to deliver you from.

To stay strong after a divorce, work on yourself. I always encourage women to write in a journal. You will be surprised of what is in your heart and head that will transpire from pen to paper. Learn to love and date yourself. Heal internally, and surround yourself with a strong circle that will pray with and for you.

3WV: In your words: Some people said you wouldn’t amount to nothing, even “church folk,” what did you mean by that?

Wanda: There were people I was around who held positions in the church and took sides in the divorce. They felt that because this was my second failed marriage I wasn’t going to be anything without a man, and they were very vocal about it. Here I was going through breast cancer and divorce at the same time, and I was told the reason I had gotten breast cancer was because I left my husband and divorce was wrong in the church. Those words hurt me worse than the cancer.

3WV: Through your breast cancer experience, did you ever get tired of fighting? How did the illness change your prospective about life?

Wanda: I got tired physically of the fight.  At the time of my breast cancer journey I was living in Atlanta, GA, and I lived alone. My apartment was on the 3rd floor and the building didn’t have any elevators. It became difficult physically climbing the steps. The first time I removed my bandages and looked at myself in the mirror I cried uncontrollably. I didn’t feel like fighting anymore. I felt like damaged goods.

The illness changed my life to learn how to live it. I realized I was existing and not living. I developed a motto: Live ~ Out ~ Loud. I learned to enjoy the small things in life… I would go to parks and sit on a bench and admire the children playing. I would also listen to the birds and feel the breeze of the wind. I learned who I was and whose I was, and that I wasn’t going to let nothing stop me from becoming the best version of myself.

3WV: How important is having faith in a storm?

Wanda: Faith in a storm is as important as breathing. You can’t have one without the other. You don’t know the outcome of the storm, but you have to have an unwavering faith in God that no matter what the storm looks like, God wants you to learn something from it.

3WV: I’m sorry to hear about your son being murdered, I can imagine that was a very low point in your life. With that tragedy and all the other things you’ve been through, did you ever ask God – why me?

Wanda: All the other tragedies I went through were hard. With the health issues, there was therapy. With the mini-stroke and the breast cancer, there was radiation treatment and medication. But with the tragic murder of my youngest son, there wasn’t a “treatment.” I never saw it coming. I did ask God “why me?” Here I was (and still am) living my life for God, and I gave God my full “YES,” and then my son was murdered. It has been and still is a storm I struggle with.            3WV: At what point, did your life become a ministry?

Wanda: My life became a ministry through my journey with breast cancer in 2011. When I was at the cancer center receiving my treatments, I didn’t see people that “looked like me.” I was the youngest person there and a person of color. My silent prayer to God was, “God make me the face of breast cancer.” God answered my prayer. I started giving speeches at churches on my journey. I started educating our community on the statistics and preventions of the illness. I wrote my first book on my breast cancer journey, which is an inspirational book called, “The Fight Within,” and I sent my book to the White House. At the time, the Obamas were in office. I received a beautiful and encouraging letter from First Lady Michelle Obama on the book. I started receiving messages from people in Japan that had read my book and then I realized that my misery had become a ministry.

3WV: What was the one thing that made you become an overcomer rather than feeling defeated? What was your road to bouncing back like?

Wanda: The day I closed on my custom-built home on February 21, 2019, I felt like I had conquered my Goliath.  I had bought my first home in 1993 in Atlanta, GA, and I grew up around home ownership, which is very important to me. For me, going through bankruptcy and foreclosure were embarrassing and low points of my life.  My road to bouncing back took several years. I had to ask God to show me how to manage money, as now I am single and there is one income. When I moved backed to Maryland in 2016, I was shocked at how much buying a home in Maryland costs as compared to living in Atlanta, GA., but I was determined to get my credit together. I had to live with my parents and rebuild my credit and save money. Here I was almost 50 years old and back at my parent’s house but I didn’t look at it as a negative because I knew what my end goal was going be.

3WV:  After all you’ve been through, what was it like finally getting your new home? How did it feel to get your job promotions?

Wanda: To finally get my new home in 2019 was like a “Waiting To Exhale Moment.” I finally made it. God prepared a table of blessings right in front of those who said I would never make it.

When I moved back to Maryland in 2016, I had to take a pay cut because the job was a lower grade than what I was in Atlanta, GA., but it had promotion opportunities. It took 2 years to get to the grade level that I’m at on my job, and it felt great to finally reach a level of security to be able to compete professionally.

3WV: What would you say to the readers about how to deal with people who turn their backs on them while in a crisis?

Wanda: It took me awhile to learn how to deal with people that turned their backs on me during my crisis, and sometimes that issue still rises. I had to get to a point of knowing that it reflects their character and not mine.  Sometimes, friends and even family will turn their backs on you because you have outgrown the limits they have set for you. You are excelling in the face of adversity and they don’t understand it. I think as God takes you higher in Him this will be a constant issue, and I believe God will remove people who do not have your best interest at heart.

3WV: Why do you believe you were chosen to be the one to tell you story to help others.

Wanda: I remember having a conversation with my dad, Bishop John Briscoe, as to why I was the one chosen to tell my stories of tragedy. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my dad said to me, “breast cancer didn’t happen to you, it happened for you.”

From that journey, God has blessed me to be a sought after inspirational and educational speaker. From divorce, I speak to women and men on the importance of forgiveness; and now from the murder of my youngest son, God is using my voice to help other mothers through grief. In addition, He is using me to educate those in ministry on grief  by explaining to them that it takes more than a scripture to help a person through grief.

3WV: Tell us about your company and what you do.

Wanda: My company is called Mariposa Enterprises. The word Mariposa means butterfly in Spanish. I love butterflies and I believe we all have to go through some sort of transformation in our lives. My company provides support to anyone going through cancer (any type). I provide total support (mind, body and soul). For instance, I provide educational, spiritual, and emotional support to the person and to their families. Additionally, I teach the families how to care for their loved ones during their cancer journey, and I provide community connections for them. Lastly, I provide training for women at churches or intimate sessions on how to do their monthly self-breast exams.

3WV: You are an author… Congratulations. Tell us the names of your books and what inspired you to write them? How did you become apart of the collaboration book?

    • “The Fight Within” (2012). This book came from my personal journal on my battle with breast cancer.
    • “The Art of Activation” (2014). An article was published in the Essence magazine of a trailblazer seeking authors for a collaboration project and I submitted my application. I was one of the 23 authors chosen from across the nation. My chapter in the book is called “Using The Power of Forgiveness.”
    • “The Storm Has A Ministry Too” (2019). God gave me those 6 words in 2016 and wrote them as a Facebook post. I didn’t know what it meant. In 2018, God told me to make this a book and I started writing about different trial topics and how to overcome them. I also included several poems in the book that I wrote while going through my storms.

3WV: You have an upcoming stage play in 2020 based off of your book, “The Storm Has a Ministry Too.” Tell us about that.

Wanda: I went to a play in June 2018 called, “Deep Cover,” some of my dear friends were in the play. I went to support them. There was a gun violence scene in the movie that “shook” me because the actress played the role so well. I was introduced to the playwriter and I told him how the gun scene affected me, and how the actress did a great job playing the grieving mother. I gave him a copy of my book. The playwriter later contacted me to turn my book into a stage play. This will be the first time the playwriter has written a stage play based on a book. We are looking to debut the play in the fall of 2020.

3WV: Tell us about your radio broadcast at WBGR Gospel Network and Wanda’s Warriors.

Wanda: I was blessed to host my own radio broadcast called Wanda’s Warriors on the WBGR Gospel Network on September 6, 2019. My middle son came up with the name because he said I am a Warrior. I use my platform to bring awareness to other Warriors in the community, people in ministry, small business owners, authors, and youth. I enjoy lifting and encouraging other people every Friday. I am delighted to share with millions of people the platform. It is something I would love to do fulltime.

3WV: Give some empowering words to help readers going through trials and tests or to help them live their lives with purpose.

Wanda: As you are going through trials, don’t look at them as punishment. I truly believe in Romans 8:28, everything we go through, we should grow through. One of my favorite scriptures I learned going through my trials was Isaiah 66:9 “I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.” Stay encouraged and write positive affirmations to yourself every day, even if you have to post them on a wall in your bedroom, or somewhere in your home or your workspace. Walk in your purpose unapologetically and boldly. Don’t apologize for what God is doing in your life.

There is a song by Fred Hammond called “I Will Find A Way.” I would advise women or anyone to listen to the song and listen to the lyrics with your spirit. This song will truly encourage a person.

3WV: How can people contact you or find you on social media?

Facebook:  wandabriscoe

Instagram:  iamwandabriscoe

Website:  wandabriscoe.org


Upcoming Event: June 27, 2020


Links to Her Books:

   https://amzn.to/2wa9hiN 

                                                             https://amzn.to/2T4Blgk

 

https://amzn.to/3a9VhUP

   


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*** If you would like to share your story or contribute an article, please send an email to debbie3wv@gmail.com to be considered.


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