Tuesday, November 3, 2015

When the Season is “Slow”

Even though it was 12 years ago, my first She Speaks was revolutionary for me, and I still retain memories of some of the important talks and lessons I learned there.

In one session, three different speakers from the speaker team spoke on three seasons of ministry: Go, No, and Slow.

At this point on my journey, I’ve experienced all three. Go is definitely my favorite. No is hard, and I often chafe in a wait. However, at least there’s a clear boundary. It’s Slow that I think is the hardest.

Just last week I got an email from a woman filled with longing. God had opened a few doors, but she wanted so much more. She wanted me to tell her how to create more, but I didn’t have much of an answer. Sure, I can tell you about word-of-mouth, contacting MOPS groups, and how to do a mailing. But there are times that no matter what you do, there’s no more. It’s just a slow season.

For about the last year and a half, I’ve been filling a new volunteer position for Proverbs 31 Ministries as the International Initiatives Coordinator. “What?” you might be saying to yourself. “I didn’t know P31 has international initiatives!”

Well, that’s because we don’t… YET. :) You probably know that Lysa and her family did a wonderful project in Tanzania for the release of The Best Yes. Now we’re trying to figure out as a ministry where God is taking us next. It’s my dream come true, but it’s slow.

Next Step is slow too. We’re all gearing up for the holidays, not thinking about starting a big, fresh project. I get it, and I know coaching will pick back up in 2016. For right now, though, it’s slow.

Even though I’m thinking every day about getting out the message of Breaking Up with Perfect and still working hard to that end, it’s still relatively slow. Anything compared to a book launch is slow!!

All that to say, I understand slow too. Slow is hard, but I’ve come to believe that slow is important. Think about all our heroes in the Bible who had significant waits and slow times.

I’ve been pondering those purposes to raise my spirits. Here are some wise words from Lysa TerKeurst mixed with some of my own.

Things to Do In Seasons of Slow:

  • Pray. In our conversation about international initiatives, Lysa reminded me of her visual of a fly-wheel. The best real-world fly-wheel that I can think of is the merry-go-round on playgrounds when I was a little girl. It’s hard to get a merry-go-round started. Sometimes it’s a long time between the first muscle-tearing push and when your pigtails blow in the air. The beginning of the ride is slow and takes lots of effort. The effort in ministry should be prayer. Lysa reminded me not to be discouraged by how slowly things are developing but rather to see the slowness as a gift–an opportunity to fervently seek God and His best. I came away from that conversation so encouraged, and I hope you are too!
  • Look for the lessons. If we believe that God embeds every season with purpose, then we should watch for His purposes in our seasons of slow. For me, He has used these seasons to refine my motives. I’ve usually wanted more, not for the Kingdom, but for my own name’s sake. I know. Ewww. When things are slow–speaking events are few and far between, my sparse writing is heavily edited, coaching clients contact me in a dribble–I’m dependent on God and able to see His hand move. What are your lessons in this slow season?
  • Prepare. When our schedules are busier, there’s less time for refining the ministry pieces we already have in place. In this slow season, I’m scheduling some time to work with my tech team to update and upgrade my websites. I’m listening to sermons and reading books to fuel myself spiritually and spark new ideas. Importantly, I’m spending relaxed times with family and friends that get scarce when the calendar is full. We want to prepare for busy by keeping love tanks full!

What do you do in seasons of slow?

Note: When I went to get the link for She Speaks included in the first sentence of the post, I realized that there’s something new this year. There’s a holding page where you can sign up to be alerted to conference updates. So great!

If you’re thinking about attending next summer, I highly recommend going to sign up. I’m sure you’ll only get a few emails, and it’s important to know when registration opens. Last summer we had as many women on the waiting list as women who attended. If you don’t want to be one of those sad women on the waiting list next year, go sign up for the updates so you can register as soon as it opens. You’re welcome. :)

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Building Your Platform Through Collaboration

 

Last year, during the writing of my book, I had a couple of big freak-outs.

The first was when I realized that Cheri Gregory’s ideas, which I had been privy to as I evaluated her messages, might have seeped through my brain and inadvertently into my content. I felt terrible! We both had written about perfectionism, but thankfully we were able to sort it all out in a conversation before my manuscript was due.

The second meltdown came after Carey Scott volunteered to give me feedback on my manuscript as I wrote. We share the same literary agent, Blythe Daniel (our beloved hero!), so I was thrilled to have Carey’s thoughts. After reading the first couple of chapters, though, Carey emailed me to withdraw from the project, because she was afraid her new book, Untangled, had too much overlap with mine. Quelle horreur! Again, I was grateful to be able to have a discussion with my new friend to work through the tangle. :)

In the process of working through these issues, the three of us decided that something beautiful had happened.

The complications didn’t seem wonderful at first, but then we began to dream about what it would look like for the three of us to collaborate instead of compete. At first glance, our books– The Cure for a Perfect Life by Cheri and Kathi Lipp, Untangled by Carey, and Breaking Up with Perfect by Moi– seemed like competitors in the market. In our conversations, we became each others’ biggest fans, so it became appealing to share each other’s content with our “tribe”.

We decided a perfectionist’s worst time of year is the holidays which helped us establish a time frame. Because we wanted to invite some others into the mix, we also wanted to keep the project simple, so we chose a blog tour format. Glynnis Whitwer and Kathi Lipp agreed to join forces with us.

Each of us has contributed, but here’s where I’ve got to tell you that Cheri has been our fearless leader and has created something far beyond our wildest dreams including graphics, a site, and video. Blog tours are set up all different ways, but you can take a look at click here to see our Wrapped in Grace blog tour site.

WrappedInGraceFBwPics

Here’s the main thing I want to communicate to you this week. Scripture tells us that we have shouldn’t be proprietary over our ministries. There’s really nothing truly new.

I have experienced the blessing of collaboration with this blog tour, and a by-product is that my platform had huge growth in just one day. Do you have speakers or writers around you who are tackling the same topic? Don’t worry! You have a unique voice that’s needed as much as theirs. I encourage you to tap into the power of collaboration instead of “guarding” your own material.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It’s Coming

In case you haven’t noticed, Christmas is coming! (If you’ve been in any retail stores this week, I’m sure you’ve been alerted. Hello? Mid-October?!)

So I’m wondering… are any of you speaking at a Christmas event? It’s often a busy season for speakers, and I pray that God is opening doors for you.

If you’re speaking in December, there’s plenty of time to get ready, and I’d like to propose some coaching to you. Working as a coach is hugely gratifying, because I can flex to meet your needs. Here are a few options for getting ready for your December event:

  • Message Development– If you are creating a brand new message, we could start this six-week service (5 30-minute phone calls) together next week and be finished by the end of November. Message development takes a big task and breaks it into do-able chunks. I’ll love to put my head together with yours to create a fresh message!
  • Message Evaluation– Having another speaker critique one of my messages is the most valuable growing experiences I’ve had as a speaker. I’d love to do it for you! We could do one call where I give you feedback on a recorded/videoed message from the past. It sounds scary, but I promise it’s not. I’ll give you honest feedback (that’s what you pay for, right?), but I’m an encourager at heart who loves to find the strengths in every message.
  • Specialized Speaker Call– Would you love to have an audience before you stand in front of your audience? I can read the message you’ve created and give you written feedback that we’ll discuss in a single phone call.

Maybe you have a specialized need, and you’re not sure if I can help. I’m super honest in my free consultations, and if I can’t help, I’ll give you a referral.

To talk through the options, just fill out the form on the Request Information page. I’ll be back with you quickly to set up a FREE phone consultation to answer any questions about speaker services.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Why Retreats Are My Favorite

 

All the Christmas decorations appearing in the store have me thinking about one of our family’s favorite Christmas movies, Elf. I love the scene where he says “Smiling is my favorite.” Me too. I remember being told in school that I smiled too much, but I don’t believe there is such a thing. :)

One of my other favorites is a retreat. Since I have two in two successive weekends, I don’t have a lot of time to blog today, but I wanted to give you a little food for thought in the form of some tips for retreats.

To make the most of the golden opportunity to speak at a retreat:

  • Plan some interactive aspects to your sessions. Usually there are 3-5 sessions to speak for at a retreat if you’re the main speaker. That’s a lot of talking, and it’s a lot of listening for our audiences. I used one session last weekend to teach a Bible study tool, and I made it interactive. It was the session that received the most positive feedback.
  • Pray for ministry off the stage. This is why I love retreats so much. I love how God sits me with just the right person during the spa time or at lunch. I would even say the best ministry happens off the stage. You must make yourself warm and accessible, though, for this to happen. My heart is broken when I hear about speakers who are only spotted at retreats during sessions while they speak. I consider it part of my job and calling to be available to attendees.
  • Having said that, we all know it’s completely exhausting to be “on” all the time. It’s important to take time away in the quiet of your room to rest and sleep too. I’ll try to play some games on the first night, but I won’t stay up all night. When attendees are busy with free-time activities, I split the time between interacting and resting.

These are just a few tips for retreats. Would y’all share with the sisters to round out my advice with yours?

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Connecting the Dots

 

“There are speakers who write and writers who speak.” ~Lysa TerKeurst

In ministry these days, it does seem that both are demanded. Certainly publishers ascribe to this truth. Writers can’t just hide behind their computer screens anymore. They have to go out and build a platform, and the fastest way to build an audience is to speak in front of one.

Speakers also must write. Event planners want a taste of your message before they invite you to speak in front of their group. When you’re a leader, it’s a scary thing to hand a stranger your microphone, so getting a feel for the speaker’s beliefs and style is essential. If you love to speak, having a blog is a great way to give leaders a glimpse of your ministry. For the first time, I’m taking my book to my events, and I’m enjoying the blessing of sending attendees home with more of the message God has given me.

There are lots of things that are the same about speaking and writing. They’re two different vehicles for a a truth. Both are best used coupled with stories, sprinkled with memorable phrases, and infused with creative, fresh ideas.

However, there are differences between the two. One of the differences I run into most often as I work with my coaching clients is the need for speakers to closely connect the dots in their messages.

When I’m reading, I can pause, reread, ponder, and review. I think about reading Mere Christianity by CS Lewis in my college years, and if you’ve read it, you’ll probably understand what follows. The content in Mere Christianity is so deep that I would often reread sentences or whole passages over and over in order to grasp the full meaning. I highlighted and underlined and circled words in the text to help myself retain the rich truths.

The written word allows the reader to review, but the spoken word doesn’t. If one of my listeners wants to ponder a point or has a question that stops them in their thought processes, they have to stop listening to me which means they’ve missed a chunk by the time they tune back in.

As speakers, we need to create messages with the dots–the connecting thoughts–very close together. You may feel as if you’re over explaining, but you’re really just helping your listeners follow. You can verbally create “pregnant pauses” both for effect and to allow your listeners to ponder for a moment, but the points of your message need to connected and clear.

When you’re finished with your message, try to edit it as if you didn’t know what you know. It should have a stream-like quality with each idea flowing into the next.

It’s really hard to accomplish not knowing what you know completely, though, so the other thing I try to do before I present a new message is to let someone else read it. I’ll ask them to look for places where they have “mental whiplash”, the feeling you get when ideas abruptly change or transitions are weak, or places where they start to have questions.

If you haven’t read Made to Stick, I highly recommend it. They have a whole section on “the curse of knowledge” and how to avoid it in our messages. It’s full of ways for speakers to connect the dots.

Do you both speak and write? Which one is your strong suit? In your experience, how are they alike/different?

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Problem with Professional Speakers

 

Last weekend I was part of a fabulous conference called Women Get Real in Cheshire, CT. It was wonderful in so many ways– local women from lots of denominations attended, the atmosphere was warm and beautiful, and there was excitement and buzz in the air.

My favorite part will probably surprise you. I was the only “professional speaker”. Let me quickly define. The other speakers were extremely effective and very professional, but they were local women who I’m guessing were volunteers. I can’t begin to tell you how delightful it was for me to do an event with other speakers and to hear their stories and teachings. Each of them spoke on an area of struggle for women with which they had personal experience, and all three had obvious God-given gifting as speakers.

IMG_5880

(From left to right) Jessica Landmon, founder of Women Get Real, spoke authentically about choosing faith over fear. Rachel Axtmann spoke compellingly about choosing submission as wife. Shila Anderson gave an irresistibly down to earth talk about triumphing over the scale (comparison as well as health).

Since I speak both as a ministry and for a living, you might think it’s strange that I’d down-play professional speakers, but this weekend reinforced some thoughts I’ve been having for a while.

For Event Planners…

I’ve been in your shoes, so I understand where you’re coming from. It’s easier to get women to come to an event when there’s a “name” on the ticket. In this world where there are so many things vying for your women’s time and celebrities make people sit up and take notice, I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to bring in a speaker who your women already know.

BUT don’t forget the importance of the stories around you. There are women right in your church who have something to share that will be life-changing for others. There’s less and less of a platform for these stories, but you can make a change. Start to see part of your calling as identifying and training up speakers. Give women a chance to share. Give them their first opportunity (even though they’re shaking in their shoes and stumbling over their words–everybody has to start somewhere!). You can easily weave these times together in an event with a well-known speaker:

  • Create times in retreats for short testimonies.
  • Look for new women willing to teach break-outs.
  • In your small groups, set aside times for women to share.

For Beginning/Volunteering Speakers…

You are a needed voice, and don’t forget it!

Although women at the event responded to me, they lavished love and praise on their homegirls. And so they should! It takes boldness and courage to share your story where you live life. These are the same women who see you make mistakes and watch your children throw temper tantrums. :) That’s what magnifies God, though. When we get to hear the God stories happening in our midst, it builds our faith.

Truthfully, I’m less nervous speaking in front of hundreds of strangers than when I speak at home, and I’ve spoken for over a decade now. I know you’ll be nervous, but it’s normal. Push through and tell your story for the glory of God. Don’t despise small beginnings. Every chance to speak will build your confidence in His ability to work through you.

For Professional Speakers…

We never want to get too polished. There is something about a heartfelt message that pierces people’s hearts. It doesn’t even matter if that message doesn’t have a brilliant sticky statement, clever scripture interpretation, or a well-crafted ending. It’s the heart behind the message that matters most.

I’ve got to be honest and tell you that I’m struggling a little here. I love having the opportunity to give the same message multiple times because it allows me to work through the kinks and improve it. However, it’s hard to maintain “heartfelt” after you’ve given a message a few times. What I’ll be praying for after observing the other speakers this weekend is to be able to deliver it every time as if it’s the first time. That I’ll feel the personal impact of the story as if I’d just lived it. That the new women in the room will make it all feel new. They deserve my fully-engaged heart every time, but only God can do that work. I can’t generate it or fake it.

Have you been part of an event recently where there was a blend of speakers? How was it? What did  you love most about the messages from the homegirls?

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to Walk in Your Calling When Your Confidence is Crashing (Part 6)

 

Today is the last post in this series. Missed some? Make sure to scroll back through for the whole lot, and read at the bottom of this post for a giveaway!

One of the most painful crashes we can have is after we’ve received critique. I’ve received harsh criticism that crushed me, but I’ve also been flattened by constructive criticism that I should have dealt with better. Let’s  be honest. Criticism is hard.

So what are some steps we can take to appropriate critique in a healthy way? I have three actions that have served me well.

1. Be intentional. Decide how you’re going to handle critique before you ever receive it. Recently, I got turned down for an opportunity for which I had dearly hoped. It was tough and didn’t feel good, but before I received the final decision, I made some decisions. I determined not to take the news personally, not to allow the decision to affect the personal relationships, and to have compassion for the decision makers who are in a difficult spot. I decided to respond with grace and class. Since I believed these intentional stances were God’s will, I prayed and asked Him to help me. I still have some days when I struggle with the outcome, but with God strengthening me, I’ve been able to live in those determinations. (Note: It’s also essential to decide who we trust. If we trust God fully, no decisions by another party can thwart His calling! He’s just got something else in mind.)

2. Be discerning. Not all critique is equal. It truly is important to consider the source. Is this someone who is an expert with an established record of their own or just “Joe-Blow” on Facebook? It’s important to try to step away from our emotions and learn from criticism, but sometimes we also need to know when to discard it. Not all critique is equal and not all motives are pure. When someone hands us a plate of criticism, occasionally we need to hand it back and say, “No thanks. That’s your issue not mine.” (Didn’t my sassy southern girl just come out?!)

3. Be thankful. The only way we’ll grow is by learning from editing and critique, and it’s embedded in every field–especially speaking and writing. Since our messages are so personal, the critique can feel personal, but if we can develop gratitude for feedback, we’ll grow exponentially. I’ve had my devotions for P31 edited for over 10 years now, and although I haven’t arrived, I’ve grown tremendously. Can you imagine how thankful I was for all those years of editing when I faced an editor this year in a publishing house? VERY thankful!

Well, that’s it folks! The end of the series.

I’d love to hear from you about how you walk in your calling when your confidence is crashing.

For every comment, you enter yourself to win a copy of Breaking Up with Perfect (visit the link to read an excerpt) and the cutest “I’m breaking up with perfect”  bracelet by Bijou Southern you’ve ever seen! If you’re in a rush, just say “I’m breaking up with perfect!”

#7 bijou southern

 

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How to Walk in Your Calling When Your Confidence is Crashing (Part 5)

 

Early in my speaking ministry, I did an event with an unexpected outcome. It started like any other with a room full of warm, chatty women. After I spoke, though, the atmosphere was subdued. Women hardly looked at me as they left. The previously enthusiastic coordinator didn’t have much to say.

“What just happened?!” I thought.

I went back through the evening trying to figure it out. While I was speaking, I didn’t think it was bad. Did I step over a theological line? Had I unknowingly said something offensive? Were the women disappointed to come hear such a green speaker? I picked apart, I agonized, and I fretted, but I never did find out what had happened that night.

Doubt crept in.

“Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” “Maybe I thought I was called but I’m not.” “Maybe I’m too inexperienced, or maybe my skin just isn’t thick enough.” Those were some of the thoughts that ran through my head and settled in my heart.

How do we battle misgivings? What do we do when we’re drowning in doubt? Here are a few ways to fight doubt and win:

Study the craft. One important way to build (or rebuild!) your confidence is to hone your craft. Speaking is a craft to be learned like any other. Just because we can talk doesn’t mean we can speak, but everyone can learn to be a better speaker. That’s right. I said everyone. I truly believe that someone who has little gifting can become a good speaker. Those with gifting can become great.

There are resources for speakers in every stage of ministry and at every price point. Free–search for free webinars, read blogs, and watch TED Talks for excellent examples of speaking. Inexpensive–Read books. Two of my favorite are Resonate by Nancy Duarte and Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley. An investment–Go to a conference and/or hire a speaking coach. 😉

Surround yourself with the right people. You need 3 types of people on the ministry journey with you. You need encouragers, those who love you and will always find the best in you. You need pushers, those who see more in you than you see in yourself and will shove you into the uncomfortable places (more on this person in another post. They may not be your favorite folks at times, but I’m convinced they’re necessary!!). And you need truth-tellers, those who love you madly but will tell you in a skinny minute when you’re wrong, in sin, or off base.

Surrender to not being enough. The root of doubt is often self-sufficiency. When I love God and the women in the room, God shows Himself sufficient, and His presence erases doubt.

What do you do when you struggle with doubt? Do you have a secret I’ve left out?

 

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How to Walk in Your Calling When Your Confidence is Crashing (Part 4)

 

Every year, even after joining the Proverbs 31 team, I’d walk into the ballroom at She Speaks and think, “What am I doing here?”

Surrounded by over 700 amazing women who love God and communicate His Word, I couldn’t figure out what in the world I could add. When I read her blog… When I heard her eloquence… When I marveled at her quick response (it takes me two weeks to come up with anything remotely wise)… I never felt like I measured up. Like I had anything worthwhile to contribute.

What’s a girl to do when she feels crushed by comparison?

Here are some steps to take that can help set you free from the comparison trap:

Define your ministry niche. God has created you uniquely. There’s no one else like you. Because of that simple fact, your voice is needed. We can find confidence in our God-created uniqueness instead of despairing that we’re not as good as the rest. In an audience, you’re going to connect with some people who don’t connect with me at all. Conversely, there will be some folks who feel like they’ve lived a parallel life with me while they don’t get you at all!

When we understand our ministry niche, defined by our life experiences and passions, it sets us free from comparison. The most powerful exercise I’ve done to find my niche is to develop a tagline. For those of you who have read this blog for awhile, you know I’m a huge proponent for having a tagline. Whether you’re an advanced speaker or a speaker-in-the-making who has never stood before an audience, having a tagline is an essential in my book. The power of the process is much more powerful than the product of the tagline.

If you’ve never developed a tagline, taglineguru.com is a fabulous free resource, or you could work with me. :) Working on taglines with my coaching clients is one of my favorite things to do! Click here to read about coaching services.

Define the value you bring. One of the primary questions to ask as you define your ministry niche/develop a tagline is “What is the gift God has given me that I’m called to pass on to my audience?” All my messages are personal gifts from God long before I share them with an audience. Our messages should be lessons worked into our lives first. All of them should be needed shifts within our heart; then, and only then, do we have something valuable to share.

This is a new way to think about our messages and marketing as well. When we make this change in our thinking, comparison fades and marketing becomes about service instead of self-serving.

As speakers, we’re called to follow God and serve others. Comparison impedes both those callings. Only when we give up comparisons can we fully follow He who is beyond compare. 

beyond compare

So let’s do the things we need to do to step out of comparisons and into whole-hearted service!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Walking in Your Calling When Your Confidence is Crashing (Part 3)

(If you’re catching up… click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2)

Last week we talked about recalling and recording your calling when you start to feel unsure of your calling.

The third thing to do is to remember that everyone is in the same boat. There’s no perfect speaker, so there’s no one who has avoided failures and flops. Every speaker has struggled at one point with doubt and insecurity, and all of us have had dreams that were detoured.

I’m a linear thinker, and I’d love to have a linear ministry path. It just doesn’t happen, though, so I’m getting over it. :) Jeff Goins recently said it this way on his blog, “The experience of finding your calling is both mysterious and practical. It takes effort but also seems to happen to you at times. What I’ve come to understand is that finding your purpose is more of a path than a plan: it involves unexpected twists and turns that at times look like accidents but actually are a part of the process.”

This calls for daily obedience and spiritual eyes watching to see where He is at work. I want to trust God for just enough light for the next step. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105) I want to make sure I’m watching for the doors God is opening for me instead of trying to pound down the ones He’s closed. “…See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut….” (Rev. 3:8)

One way to remind yourself of these truths is to talk to a speaker who is further down the path than you. Ask her to share stories of her years in ministry–the good, the bad, and the ugly. She’ll have a chance to laugh with you about some things that weren’t so funny back in the day, and you’ll have the encouragement of knowing that you’re not alone in the struggle.

God’s calling is sure. We can walk confidently in His sure calling when we recall, record, and remember!

Note: I have to share this with y’all since we’ll all friends here. Years ago, I had a pastor I adored, but his penchant for alliteration got under my skin since he used it every Sunday. I was tempted to make an Alliteraters Anonymous certificate for him, but I crucified the flesh and resisted. 

For some reason when I was preparing for She Speaks and this breakout, I started alliterating and couldn’t stop. It made me laugh at myself, so I hope you’ll laugh with me. The rest of the series is the same!

 

 

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