Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympicaholic here

Hi. My name is Rachel and I am an Olympicaholic.

I watch the Olympics religiously. Which means I follow it with love and zeal. Especially the gymnastics.

As a former gymnast, I once had my sites set on the 1988 games in Seoul. I even trained away from home one summer at Parkettes gym. (One of their current gymnasts is an alternate on the US Team in London.)

So why wasn't I in Seoul? If we were having coffee I'd tell you how I injured my left knee and couldn't continue to compete on that level.

And if I knew you really well, I might also tell you that I hated how hard my coaches were on me. (My love language is words of affirmation.)  And that I didn't wish to give up senior prom, Friday night football games, or chocolate cake.

But I have immense respect for these girls who are willing to give up everything to follow this dream. To endure what it takes to compete on the elite level. To develop nerves of steel.

Because it's downright nerve-wracking to be throwing a flip on a 4" wide beam of wood with judges critiquing you. Oh, and the world watching you do it.

One gymnast who handled that pressure beautifully in the team qualifying competition on Sunday was US gymnast Gabby Douglas.

After the qualifying competition {where Gabby was our top scoring gymnast and advanced to the all-around} she was asked on camera how she handled her nerves.  Gabby responded saying she kept her nerves in check by "meditating on verses."  She also said the Bible had a lot to say about confidence.

Wondering what verses she is meditating on?  You'll hear her quote some of them in this interview at Valley Church in Iowa from just a couple weeks ago.

Gabby Douglas Interview - Valley Church from Valley Church on Vimeo.

All Olympians offer powerful inspiration.

Gabby offers us something even more hopeful, even more helpful: the glory of God, the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. She shows us faith in action. She puts the "hopeful" in the term "Olympic hopeful."

I'm a bonafide Olympicaholic. But even more I'm a grace-saved servant of Jesus Christ. Who follows Him with love and zeal. So I'm rooting for my Yahweh Sister Gabby Douglas this week. Are you watching the London Olympics? What's your favorite Olympic event?

The random-picked winner of a copy of It's No Secret is Careen Starr. Congrats Careen! I'll mail it to you as soon as the Olympics are over. Until then, I can't leave my TV and recliner!

Friday, July 27, 2012

You Choose

This week I've been thinking about what motivates me, what refuels me for my work. Specifically, my work in ministry. Yesterday I outlined 4 things that fuel me. Today I have a devotion published with Proverbs 31, and it details a 5th thing that fuels me.

And that is, seeing God move.

When I was in Ecuador with Compassion International I saw plenty of people in great need. So many that it could have overwhelmed me and made me feel that as just one person, I couldn't possibly make any impact.  But not only did I see great need, I saw God at work in big and small ways meeting those needs.

And I saw the Compassion team at work. From the sponsors here in the States, to the Compassion staff workers, to the pastors and volunteers in the local Ecuadorian churches they partner with, I saw people making a difference.

Me with a young boy in Ecuador. He was shy but after ten minutes together 
he climbed up on my lap. He just needed love.

They are each just one person, but together with Christ, they are transforming lives. As Bill Hybels is fond of saying, "The church is the hope of the world." 

I'd encourage you to spend some time thinking about what motivates you in your work. And as much as it's up to you, supply yourself with that motivation frequently.

*I'd also like to ask you to follow this link today and choose a child to pause and pray for. The choice is yours. If God leads you to sponsor one - terrific! But I assure you, even just your prayers can make an impact.

"The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results."
 ~ James 5:16 b

If you'd like to be entered to win a copy of my book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know, leave a comment here or on my Facebook page telling me the name and age of the child you chose to pray for today. 

I'll draw a winner for the book before noon on Monday. Thanks for stopping by and may God bless your work!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What Refuels Me

In my last post I asked the question, "What refuels you for your work?"

It's an important question. 

We need to know the answer to the question so we can continue to fulfill God's purpose for our lives. So we can continue to be fishers of men, or makers of products, or finishers of projects, or caretakers of family.

We need to know the answer to the question, and then self-supply that fuel regularly, so we can work with excellence and energy and passion. As unto the Lord.

And so we can continue to experience that nearly intoxicating feeling, the divine spark known simply as "flow."

So I've been thinking this week about what refuels me for my work as a writer, teacher, and speaker.

Here's my list in progress of what fuels me:

1) Well Written Words - I'm a word girl. I can be very motivated by what I read. So I read pretty much every day. Reading something inspiriting, motivating or just really well said can pick me up and fuel me forward. Quotes. Verses. A really good book. All can work for me.

As a side note, if I read too much well written stuff in one sitting, it can have the opposite effect. I can start to feel that it's all already been said before by people much more talented than me. So I have to watch this one and not read too much at once. I usually spread my reading out throughout the day ... like shots of courage.

2) Time in Nature - Last night after dinner two friends and I grabbed ice coffees and went down to the beach to sit by the water. No agenda but to be, to talk and to stare at the waves in the fading light. We wound up talking about novels we'd read recently, then I told them an idea for one of my next books. The combination of the surroundings and their input made me even more excited to get started on this book. 

Many of us feel closer to God when we get closer to nature. And that has a way of melting stress, unlocking creativity, and redirecting us to what is important. I know lots of writers who take daily walks outside as part of their writing routine.

3) Encouraging Words - I keep a file of notes, emails and thank you cards others have given me. Each time someone tells me how my work has impacted them, or just that I have a "godly spirit" or a "way with words," I save it.  For future fuel when my engine starts to drain and sputter. 

My love language is Words of Affirmation so this one works quite well for me. But I suspect this would spur anyone on. When someone compliments you, record it. Save it and revisit it often.

4) Encouraging Others in my Field - Find someone who is well behind you. New in their faith, or new in their work in your field. See their desire to be where you now are. Absorb that passion. 

Pour into them, and let their enthusiasm fuel yours - making you excited and grateful that you get to do this work.  That's what the She Speaks conference does for me each year.

I'd urge you to make your own list of what motivates you. Keep it by your desk or on your fridge. And regularly use the things on that list to refuel your passion for your work.

After all, I bet you, like me, long to someday hear from God, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Monday, July 23, 2012

What refuels you for your work?

I returned home last night from the very inspirational, very informational She Speaks conference.

Each year this conference refuels my passion for ministry.

Every summer I come home exhausted with a to-do list I can't wait to start on.

I'm realizing how important it's been to have something built into my year that refuels my passion for ministry. And I'm thinking it would be wise to build such a thing into each week. 

Of course I can't attend a conference every week so I'll have to find something simpler but still effective. 

What is your work? ... a business? ministry work? housekeeping? child-raising?

And what is it that reliably refuels your passion for your work?

If you don't know, aim to find out in order to avoid burn out.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mind Mapping

Today I'm speaking at She Speaks and one of the things I'll be leading my audience through is a simplified version of the mind-mapping process.

A mind map is a diagram used to represent ideas, tasks, or other items related to a central key word. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas. They're an an aid to organizing information, solving problems, planning, making decisions, or brainstorming.

By presenting ideas in a graphical, non-linear manner, mind maps encourage creativity in brainstorming. They can also display a lot of connected or related information in a one page format.

You can use a mind map in many ways - as an info-graphic, as a to-do list, or as a speech or writing "outline." Take a look at the examples below.

Here's a pretty elaborately drawn mind map of the topic of Creative Intelligence by Alan and Amy Burton:

Here is a more simplified version of a mind map - this is just someone mapping out what they need to do to prepare for an upcoming trip:

And here Mark Jaffer shows his mind map of a sermon he preached: Jaffer's sermon mindmapping.

So what can the mind-mapping process help you do?

55 Possible Reasons to Mind Map
  1. Explore a subject
  2. Study or learn a new topic
  3. Plan your schedule
  4. Innovate or invent
  5. Expand existing ideas
  6. Consolidate your existing knowledge
  7. Summarize your skills
  8. Plan your career
  9. Plan your learning
  10. Outline your business, or a potential new business
  11. Outline your writing
  12. Outline your goals or hobbies
  13. Study for, and pass exams
  14. Boost your memory
  15. Unlock your potential
  16. Solve problems
  17. Increase motivation
  18. Take notes and create overviews
  19. Develop your creative thinking
  20. Plan speeches or presentations
  21. Fire up your imagination
  22. Clarify your thoughts
  23. Simplify your life
  24. Summarise your budget
  25. Create targets
  26. Teach others
  27. Improve thinking skills
  28. Control time management
  29. Plan story writing
  30. Plan an event
  31. Summarize books you read
  32. Catalog your past experiences
  33. Plan a party
  34. Take meeting minutes
  35. Investigate what makes you happy
  36. Investigate what makes you unhappy
  37. Discover what you want to do with your life
  38. Plan a blog post
  39. Summarize an event, like a wedding
  40. Plan a website
  41. Pinpoint your values
  42. Unlock associations
  43. Pinpoint your goals
  44. Outline daily tasks
  45. Create teaching overviews
  46. Plan and present your resume
  47. Create year summaries
  48. Investigate lessons learned from failures
  49. Summarise content of sermons or classes
  50. Meal planning for the week or month
  51. Plan a diversified exercise regime
  52. Create a journal of self discovery
  53. Plan Christmas gifts
  54. Organize your life
  55. Shift your thinking from "left brain" to "right brain"
I learned the mind mapping technique in an undergraduate communication class (it was taught by the man who turned out to be my future husband). And I've used it off and on since then. If you're interested in some professional training on it, I can recommend Kim Cordes as a coach/consultant.

Finally, here is a mind map on reasons to mind map. Google the term to learn more about it. You'll discover there are several mind mapping software programs out there. Here is a review of over 50 of them by CNET. But paper and pen works just fine too. So why not give it a try?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Psychology of Accomplishment

I'm back from vacation last week and preparing for the annual She Speaks conference next week. 

There's about 20 things on my to-do schedule right now. 

If I focus on the twenty I feel overwhelmed and want to check out and watch a Doris Day movie where everything is sunny, pastel and cheerful. In my pajamas. With ice cream.

I can't afford to do that right now.

So I don't focus on the twenty, I just look at what's next. I do that one thing, and then that propels me to go ahead and knock the next thing off the list.

The Psychology of Accomplishment

When we finish a task, particularly an important task, we feel a surge of energy, enthusiasm and accomplishment. The more important the task, the happier and more powerful we feel following it's completion. (After natural childbirth I remember feeling like I could scale the walls Spiderman style.)

Those positive feelings can then be harnessed as fuel for tackling the next task. And this is precisely how I'm operating this week to plow through my to-do list.

Best-selling author Brian Tracy explains:

"The completion of an important task triggers the release of endorphins in your brain. These endorphins give you a natural high. The endorphin rush that follows successful completion of any task makes you feel more positive, personable, creative and confident."

Who couldn't use a little more confidence and creativity? 

Who couldn't stand to feel a little more positive and personable? (OK, who besides Doris Day?)

This phenomena is why managers tend to give important new tasks to their busiest, most productive employees. They not only have a proven track record of getting things done, but they have forward momentum behind them too.

Start the Momentum

So what are you waiting for? If it's still daylight out, close the screen or pop up from your seat and go get something done.

(If it's already dark, you can watch Doris Day and rest up for a productive morning tomorrow.)

"But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

~ 2 Chronicles 15:7

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On Vacation

Hey All. I am on vacation this week.  All week. Ahhh.

I'm in Pennsylvania, writing this morning from my brother's back deck, over looking the pool and the surrounding mountains. The birds are providing both my soundtrack and an air show. The sky is baby blue with puffs of white clouds - postcard perfect.

To my right is the garden which is supplying us endless side dishes. It's producing the best looking zucchini and beans I've ever seen. And just past the pool sits the outdoor kitchen with a brick fired pizza oven which we will put to good use.

In short, this is bliss.

Last night at dusk my kids caught lightening bugs in a jar. There's only a short window of time they can be caught - right between the fading day and the coming night. That activity is a prime memory from my own childhood summers by the lake.

Just like then, we have mason jars with holes punched in the lids and blades of grass dropped inside. We hold the jars up to our eyes and wait for the miracle of light-from-a-bug to happen. For some reason we don't seem to have lightening bugs in Wilmington, so I'm relieved to find they're not extinct.

I feel like a piece of their childhood is complete now that they got to examine this little bit of nature's fluorescent glory. Later this week we'll head into New York City to see a whole other type of fluorescent lights. My kids have never been into NYC so I'm excited to see the city afresh through their eyes.

But for now, I'm enjoying this easy pace of summer vacation with gentle breezes, the scent of sunscreen, bowls of fresh cantaloupe, glasses of mint tea and the nearness of family.

What's on your agenda this holiday week?