In the Fall of 2015 I joined the magazine ministry at my church. During my first meeting as the leadership of the ministry went over preliminary business, I sat and read the latest issue of the magazine. During my readings, I came across an article that halted my attention. It was a love story. As I read the article I saw much of my own testimony in the text. It was as if I and the writer had experienced the same love affair but most intriguing it was as if we both experienced God in the same exact way during our seasons of divine healing. It was as if God healed us, using the same methodology. She wrote that one day God had instructed her to discard of every gift and keepsake that her past love had purchased for her. It was only three months earlier that God had instructed me to do the same and I thought I was borderline crazy when I heard it. But here was this stranger who experienced the same God and the same God moment. I almost threw the magazine across the room. She spoke of how much of a struggle that act was and most importantly how God had truly been the force that healed her from a broken heart. In the middle of the meeting, I leaned over and asked the woman sitting next to me, “who wrote this article.” She directed my attention to Kenya S. Ulmer and at the end of the meeting I grabbed Kenya. As we engaged in conversation, I explained to her how her article resonated with me and the parallels in our love stories. Since then every time we speak, it’s as if I am speaking with a longtime friend. I know, I know, I call many of the women I meet and interview my “soul sisters” but Kenya has them all beat! Not only is Kenya down to earth and just a real woman but Kenya is a woman on a mission for God. She is using her testimony and life experiences to help other sisters find their way. As I sat down with Kenya and we engaged in girl talk (as old friends do lol), our scheduled thirty minute interview turned into an almost two hour girl chat. Much of that conversation did not make it to this interview, it was just too much to cover. There were many important life lessons that I gained from what she shared: “We as women must take heed to and pay attention to the early warning signs in relationships.” “It is so important to take some alone time to reflect on yourself and the detrimental life habits that you may engage in.” Grab your favorite cup of tea and see how this single mama is promoting a lifestyle of triumph and no drama.
D. Almaroof: First I want to get to know you, then we will get into the business woman.
Oprah once said that one of the hardest questions she had to answer was “Who is Oprah?” So who is Kenya? Not what does Kenya do but who is Kenya as an individual?
Kenya: That’s a good question. As an individual, I am a daughter of the Most High. Kenya is a lover of people. Kenya’s a mom, a truth seeker and a passionate person for life.
D. Almaroof: We all have a story, a story that most people wouldn’t believe from just looking at us. What is your story?
Kenya: When I look back over my life, I see a person that grew up in a two parent household, mom and dad were there. I went to college and met my daughter’s father there, so we were college sweet hearts. It’s funny because I never thought that I would be a single parent. So yes, I am a single parent. Long story short, college sweet hearts, all of my years there –graduated we were still together, we separated for about a year and got back together. You know the whole song and dance. I remember us going to a wedding and he proposed at the wedding but at the time we didn’t know that our daughter had already been conceived. So I was on a high and reality hit after I had my daughter. We were living together and you know life was good for a while. But I can remember all of my values kind of going out of the window.
D. Almaroof: When you say that, “I remember all of my values going out the window”, what do you mean?
Kenya: In terms of growing up in a Christian household. I knew that you weren’t supposed to be living together and not married. I told myself that because I was pregnant, I was about seven to eight months pregnant at the time – I told myself because I was pregnant and we would be getting married and were already engaged, that it was okay. However, it just didn’t work out that way. About a year and half later, he told me he was not ready to get married. He also just happened to tell me the day that I went to go try on wedding dresses and visit wedding venues. When I really look back and think on it, the clues were already there that he wasn’t really trying to get married but I wasn’t going to wait around to see when he would be ready. I hung in there for a little while longer and then just made the decision to leave. So that is how I became a single parent.
Then I realized as I began to look back on my life that I would get into these relationships. We were together for about eight and half, almost nine years. I would get into these relationships and as I reflected I realized I was in these relationships for an extended amount of time. The rebound after the relationship with my daughter’s father was about a year and a half. The relationship after my rebound relationship, I call him Mr. Six and A Half Years. So I realized that my pattern was that I stayed in relationships that I had no business being in.
I can say now that I definitely did not know my worth during those times because had I truly known my worth I would not have put myself in those kinds of situations. I was definitely one foot in the church and one foot outside.
D. Almaroof: As you were talking I was again thinking of the similarities in our stories, especially the part where you looked back on your past situation and realized all the signs were there. I think as women we must follow our hearts but take our brains with us and pay attention to the signs that are leading to the exit.
Kenya: I remember my rebound relationship, I remember being in his apartment and –well actually before that I had noticed that he was interested in another girl and I honestly can’t remember what we were at that point. You know how they leave and go to somebody they think is better and they are kind of tapering it off with you. So I remember having a dream that he was interested in a particular woman or something was going on between them. I never really approached him about it because by then our relationship had already ended. Just being silly in the relationship because he had already ended the relationship twice but I was still hanging around. When I went back to him that last time we had decided to date again, I was in his apartment looking at some pictures and I saw a picture of the woman from my dream. Now I had seen the girl before but thought nothing of their interactions. But God had given me this dream about them. It was confirmed when I took him back when I knew shouldn’t have, that they were involved. So I just had pattern after pattern of these very long relationships that I now see I had no business being in.
D. Almaroof: Based on everything that you shared, if you haven’t already touched base on it, what was your greatest pain in life and how did you overcome it? Also, what was the greatest lesson you learned from that?
Kenya: I would say the greatest pain was probably not being with the father of my child. We all get into the fairytale world of happily ever after and I just knew that we would be married and have a life together. That was my college sweetheart. So when that didn’t happen, that was really painful. It was kind of weird how the peace came with it because I had my heart set on a wedding – like I just mentioned I had just came from looking at venues and trying on wedding dresses. When he told me in that parking lot at the Applebees, I remember it like it was yesterday –when he told me I made like everything was okay at the time, even though I was of course asking why and what’s going on. All of the tears came later when I was on the call with my girlfriend. Even with all of that I can remember a peace coming over me, like it was for the best and everything would be okay. It was the weirdest thing. It’s like your world crashing down on you, it was the father of my child, you know? For me I had my father in my house growing up and when he would come home from work, we would jump all over him – I am the oldest of seven. What you had as a child you want that for children, if not more or better. I was really sad because that would never be for her in my eyes. So that would be the greatest pain, it not working out with the father of my child.
D. Almaroof: How did you move pass that?
Kenya: I really didn’t at first. Like I said, I moved on to a rebound relationship. I am trying to remember how I actually moved pass it because I jumped from relationship to relationship after our separation. So it was almost like I hadn’t dealt with it. There was a lot of drama at first because of course he tried to come back and I had already moved on. So we had our fair share of drama after the break up. I think it was easier for me to deal with the pain because I had told myself I moved on but I think I really dealt with the disappointment of it not working out with my daughter’s father after the six and a half year relationship ended. It’s kind of hard to say because I’ve never really thought about it specifically in this way.
I also realized over the course of my relationships I had not put God first. I was going to church and even taking my daughter but I wasn’t all in. In the beginning He wasn’t truly first. Even when I got out of the relationship with my daughter’s father, God still wasn’t truly first because I jumped into another ungodly relationship. When I started to put God first, I mean truly first, everything came to a screeching halt. The relationship ended with the guy I had been with for six and a half years because basically we were in a stagnant state and I knew it had to end. He was not what I was looking for, we didn’t want the same things and God was sending me several signs that I ignored. When that relationship ended that is when I started to really take a good look over my life and saw all of the patterns – being in these long relationships that were going nowhere and knowing I was never supposed to be in them. To answer your question, I was able to move pass that pain by stepping all in with God and putting God first. When I started to put God first, I mean truly first, that’s how I got over it. Each relationship I entered was a distraction and it wasn’t until I focused my attention on God that He was able to heal me.
D. Almaroof: What would you say your greatest lesson from that experience was?
Kenya: When God isn’t first, you are just a mess. There are a lot of distractions we get caught up in and my distractions were relationships and men. The greatest lesson I learned was gaining the wisdom of knowing my worth. Prior to, I didn’t know my worth because I wouldn’t have been in those situations and stayed too long. Also, when you see the red flags or non-negotiables, leave the relationship. I now have non-negotiables being more mature, one being that he has to be a follower of Christ. Now when I see the red flags, I truly see them and I take them at face value.
D. Almaroof: What are three of your non-negotiables?
Kenya: Well first of all, you have to love God and acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. For me, treat my child as one of your own. I would say the third one is –you have to be a true believer and have a relationship with Christ. It’s one thing to believe but I have to see evidence of it. Evidence of that for me is being involved, I am very involved in ministry and the business. One would definitely have to be contributing in some type of way to the church family. Last one, you would have to be under God’s full authority!
D. Almaroof: It’s so funny that you say that. You know I just released my second book and it outlines the lessons I’ve learned in Christ over the last two years from me walking intimately with Him. That’s how I typically word it, me having an “intimate” relationship with Him. The book includes life principles and one of my life principles is know your worth and you stated that. But also I talk about the desire of marriage but not willing to settle for that. One of my non-negotiables also is a guy being a man of God and not just that you know the scriptures and know how to quote them but really living by them. It is a lot of people who know the book from front to back and will use that knowledge of the book to manipulate you but there is no fruit of Christ present in their life. So I need to see it and if not I have a whole team of people lined up. So I completely understand and agree with you.
D. Almaroof: So what is one of your life codes that you’d like to share with other women or men who may read your interview? What is something else you would like to convey to them based on your life experiences?
Kenya: That brings Maya Angelou to mind. Her saying, “believe people when they show you who they are.” I wish I would have carried that with me early on in life. Believe it when they’re showing it to you, this is who they are. I always say choose character over credentials. A lot of women will go with the man that looks better and with that nice ride, he can look really good on paper, my ex looked really good on paper but character is important. Who are you when no one is looking?
“Choose character over
D. Almaroof: As a professional, what is your line of business?
Kenya: I have a ministry based business ‘Single Mama with No Drama’, where I am a certified life coach. I am also a forthcoming author; speaker and I consider myself a teacher. My mission as a professional is to help women eliminate the cycle of toxic relationships and self-inflicting drama, which is keeping them from their God-given purposes. Basically eliminating all of the distractions keeping you away from your destiny.
D. Almaroof: So you don’t even really have to be a single mama, you work with all women?
Kenya: Exactly. I also have married clients who want to know what their purpose is, who want to start businesses, who want to complete goals and have that accountability. I do call myself “Single Mama with No Drama” and I do attract a lot of single moms but I never thought I would be attracting married women as well. I absolutely love it though because I am about helping other women. And married mamas have drama too