PURPOSE DRIVEN WOMAN
This month’s Purpose Driven Woman is Safiya Jafari Simmons. She is a wife, mother, and amazing woman of God. She is the CEO of SJS Consulting, the founder of the Leap Luncheon Series, and Curator of RadicalNewU. She walked away from her day job a few years ago to pursue her passion and hasn’t looked back. I met Safiya a year or so ago when a mutual friend insisted that we meet because she thought that we would connect immediately. Our friend was absolutely right and Safiya has been a blessing to my life ever since.
Who are you? What motivates you? How did you identify your purpose?
I’m a connector. I thrive on being able to connect people to others, to God, and to their peace. I believe we find our peace when we surrender to our purpose. Lots of people are throwing around the word “purpose” these days, but it’s a critical concept – to know what on Earth you were put here to do. Because knowing that, plugging into that, gives you freedom to be and do all God has called you to be and do. And you can’t do that without a revelation of your purpose.
I’m absolutely motivated by my children. I want them to know that they are called to do and expect greater, more. I want them to be confident in their faith and their gifts and talents, so it pushes me to live my faith boldly and to go all-in my own talents. My husband is another motivator for me. He’s a police officer in Washington, DC, has been for 11 of our 16 years together, and every moment of his life exemplifies selflessness. His example keeps me grounded.
And then there’s my passion for radicalizing women. I’m tired of women accepting the lives and routines the world hands them. I want them to trust the same table-flipping, water-to-wine miracle working Savior who lives on the inside of them to give them miraculous lives. We weren’t put on this Earth to simply make it; we were created to thrive and enjoy life in abundance. And women, more than men I think, deny their passion to support others or fit into decorum. I want to help raise a generation of women who have radical faith in their God, radical faith in their own abilities, and radical expectations of what will be in their lives.
You’re a wife, mom, CEO, writer, thought leader, change maker, etc. How do you prioritize?
There’s a time for everything. I set boundaries with my business and clients to allot time for my family and fun and then I respect those boundaries myself. I’ve been slacking lately on my writing – honestly – but I just remind myself that at the end of the day I made time for all of the things I wanted to do, and if it didn’t get done it was my choice. I don’t make decisions that would impact my family without first consulting my husband and I only take on work and clients that I’m passionate about. I don’t tell myself no when opportunities present themselves: I pray and trust that God will close doors I’m not meant to go through, and that helps me stay the course as best I can.
What does your daily relationship with God look like?
I’m always talking to God. Literally. I talk to Him in traffic. I talk about Him with my kids. My husband and I hold Him to His word and promises about our family and future and finances daily. One of the most freeing moments of my life was when I realized that my relationship with God didn’t have to look like everyone else’s. I remember a point in my life being jealous and even worried when I’d hear friends say that they prayed in closets everyday or journaled everyday. Now I’m not knocking that – I’ve had those seasons, too – but it was liberating when God told me, Just talk to me. I’m here. I’m listening. So my day-to-day relationship is praying over my children and for them and my husband. It’s asking God how He wants to grow my business, and how to avoid losing my temper (just being real!). My oldest daughter is 7 and has told us that she’s going to be a pastor, so we all say our prayers together at night but we also talk theology. I pray in my prayer language whenever I can, wherever I’m led, and I try to acknowledge God’s presence and will in everything. But my daily relationship also looks like talking to the devil, reminding him he’s a defeated foe, and using the word of God to rebuff his attacks. I’m a firm believer that you can’t beat the king of the air by thinking him and his attacks away; you have to open your mouth and fight. So I also rely on the word throughout the day for my warfare; warfare to keep negative and worrying thoughts at bay and to chase the enemy away from my peace, my family, and my inheritance as a child of God. I am only living to hear well done, but my heavenly Father ain’t create no punk either!
How do you find peace?
By seeking out quiet spaces where I can just think. We have a screened porch on my house and I love sitting out there and listening to the sounds in my yard. I meditate on Philippians 4:6-8. I play with my kids and cuddle with my husband. They are the physical representation of God’s love in my life. We have to remember that we can’t lose our peace; it’s a God-given gift. We just have to stay vigilant that the temporary circumstances and stresses of life don’t overshadow this wonderful gift of peace we’ve been given. Protecting our peace is all about making a decision really. And when I find my peace disturbed, I check myself. What am I allowing to be more important than what God’s given me? How dare I prioritize something, anything over that?
We hear the word ‘balance’ thrown around a lot, what does it mean to you?
It means creating the boundaries that work for you, requiring others to respect them, and you respecting them yourself. I have a cutoff for work everyday at 3pm because I want to be the one who picks my kids up from school and camp. And on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays, I try not to travel and I don’t take client calls after a certain time because those are the nights my husband is off. Those are our date nights. These are basic ways that I create “balance”, but it’s all about knowing that we weren’t put here to be slaves to the world’s way of doing things. God has blessed us and called us to enjoy life, creating boundaries helps us do that to the honor of God who says be in this world, not of it.
Can you share a little aboutSJS Consulting, Leap Luncheon, and RadicalNewU and the why behind your decision to create each?
They’re all interconnected! SJS Consulting is the boutique PR and communications strategy firm I established in Washington, DC, in 2008. It started as an outlet for me to earn a little money on the side (I was working full-time in local government at the time) by building websites for small businesses and individuals. Nearly a decade later, I’ve grown from a one-woman shop making $2000 a year to a firm averaging more than $300,000 annually. All of my employees are women and together we work on issues that are dear to us: social justice, advocacy, education, policing. The autonomy to pick my clients and how I invest my time day-to-day is priceless. I’m blessed to count among my clientele some of the nation’s leading thought leaders in social science, international nonprofits, Members of Congress, and recently my firm was the sole media manger for the White House United State of Women Summit. God never ceases to amaze!
The Leap Luncheon Series™ is the signature event of my Leap Executive Strategies company. Leap Executive Strategies exists to help connect people to their purpose. Period. Our clients are folks who either want help identifying their purpose, finding new employment, starting a new career, or refining their self-vision. It’s intimate, not life coaching, but life strategizing so folks can start living now on purpose instead of planning for the life of their dreams later. The luncheon series was born after I read The Atlantic’s “The Confidence Gap” article three years ago. As someone who enjoys networking and finds a sense of purpose in living life boldly, it was shocking to read how many women disqualify themselves from advancement from a lack of confidence or sometimes soft skills to play the game. The luncheons bring women together with successful women from the national stage to empower, equip, and encourage leaps of faith in their careers and personal lives. It’s amazing how boldly we live when we know we won’t fail. This luncheon series is dedicated to creating and curating that type of network specifically for women. And since founding it last year, I’ve been extremely blessed to have some amazing women as guests: Awesomely Luvvie, Vanessa DeLuca, Rep. Marcia Fudge, Michelle Rhee, and so many other trailblazing women. In addition, the luncheons give me an opportunity to be a blessing to others. I’ve invested more than $10,000 of my own money into these luncheons since the beginning. I’ve also given small grants and development counseling to other Leap Ladies to help them start their own businesses. It’s a blessing every time!
Here is the non-sexy reason why I started the Leap Luncheon Series™: “Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence” (Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, May 2014, The Atlantic). I wanted to combat this fact. I wondered why we tend to be less self-assured – even though we’re just as, if not better qualified. I talked to all my colleagues and girlfriends who wanted to start businesses but didn’t. I talked to women who saw jobs they’d love to apply for, but talked themselves out of it.
RadicalNewU began as a place where I could dump the devotions I’d written while a member of the prayer team at my former church. But what I found was people really appreciated my unorthodox approach to devotionals. I – by inspiration of the Holy Spirit – reference secular music and popular jargon to interpret the Word in new ways. (My husband and I have a heart for young adults and young married couples particularly so that makes sense! God doesn’t make mistakes!) Now, it’s a place for my musings. Whenever God convicts me on something or shows me something or teaches me something new about Him or His word, I put it there to share with others. My hope is that reading something there will encourage someone to hold on one more day, trust God for one more moment. That’s all it is.
You wrote a post entitled “Was that the right decision” on RadicalNewU in April of this year. Can you share one of the best decisions you’ve made and what you learned?
Best decision I ever made was leaving a full-time job on Capitol Hill (and then again in a firm a year later) to work for myself. I’d for years felt like God was telling me I could do by myself what I was doing for others, but it took my husband finally sitting me down and telling me that he believed that was what I was supposed to be doing and that he believed in and support me for me to actually do it. It was scary! It still is sometimes because it’s a daily faith walk and a daily test: Do you really believe that God is your source? But it made me decide that God IS my source and it’s been amazing. We have to learn to trust God with His gifts that He’s put in us. Too many of us go to the grave, or heck, to a 9-to-5 everyday when we know God’s given us permission to start a business or a ministry or something. If we’re too afraid to believe in ourselves to do it, the least we can do is fear God enough for the honor we rob Him of each day we chose to ignore His instructions
What has surprised you the most about this journey?
How freeing it is to follow Him. When you “go against the grain” leaving a 9-to-5 with three kids and a husband, it’s scary. But doing it scared has been such a tremendous blessing and has allowed me to see God show up and show off on my behalf. My faith has been tested and grown. I’ve been tested and sometimes failed. And I shudder to think where I’d be if I’d declined God’s offer to trust and follow Him.
What have you learned about yourself?
I’m stronger than I ever thought I was or could be. I’m gifted at what I do. I’m called to empower, encourage, and equip. I’m a connector. I was never created to fit in, and that’s the most important part. I remember never feeling like I fit in. Now I know why: I wasn’t created to. Now I wear my hair in a purple, red, and pink Mohawk. I turn down high-paying clients if God says so. And I really enjoy being different. I never thought I’d be that person. Ever. And I praise God for liberating my mind and eyes to be here right now.
How do you keep God at the forefront of your life?
It’s a moment-by-moment decision to continue choosing Christ. Sometimes I get it right, and sometimes I don’t, but it’s the choice – and reminding myself of it – that keeps Him at the forefront.
Why do you think it’s so important for women to stick together?
There’s power in numbers. That’s a gross watering down of a biblical truth that where two or more are gathered there also is God. So often women down play their own power, their own potential. I want to encourage women to encourage themselves and each other so we can go farther, accomplish more, and lead more radical lives – not just for ourselves but those we care about and those around us. And by radical I mean the definition: different from the norm. Have radical faith, radical expectation, and you surrender to a God who wants to bless you radically. I want women to honor their power, and in doing so, be bold enough to honor other women, too. There’s blessing and power there. Men do it over rounds of golf and games of basketball. They’re strategic, and it’s easy for them. Where else is there a network that teaches women to do the same thing, to harness the power of networking to receive and inspire? My mom once told me that the things, the problems that God allows us to see – especially those that others don't see – are the ones He’s purposed us to work on. This is part of my purpose.
Can you share a scripture that is feeding your spirit right now and why?
Oooh. There are so many. Right now, and for the past month or so, Proverbs 18:16 has been on repeat in my Spirit. God’s hand-delivered some amazing opportunities to me, my firm, and family in the past few weeks and each time I say to Him “God I don’t know how to do that” or someone congratulates me on something and I eschew the compliment, God reminds me of that scripture in my Spirit and it’s confirmation that it’s all Him, His favor in my life. I haven’t done anything to earn the life He’s given me, but I’m grateful and humbled that He’s given it to me.