Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I have a dream!
3 Steps to Help You Discover YOURS!

Throughout my life people have loved to tell me what my dream should be.  Sometimes it's been all about helping them achieve their goals and at other times their remarks have been based upon what they perceived as my most visible talents.  

One thing I've come to realize about people is that most have never stopped long enough to come to terms with what their dream really is.  A lot of people copy other people's dreams because they haven't taken time to seek God for their own.

Author Renee Swope in her book, The Confident Heart says, "When we don't know what our heart's desires are, we tend to spend our lives fulfilling the desires of others."

This is my favorite quote about daring to dream:

"All men dream but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that is was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible."  T.E. Lawrence

Dreaming is dangerous because when we are fulfilling our God-dream and purpose we have such power to change the world.

Have you had enough solitude to come to terms with what your dream is?  

May I suggest a few exercises to help you do that?  Get quiet and consider the following:

1)  Think back to what you loved to do between the ages of about 8-13.  What was your greatest love back then?   As a career coach I find that typically people's dream is rooted in what they loved to do during those years.  Those were the years before you were worried about paying a mortgage or a car payment.  You were free to be a child -- to enjoy, dream and create.  Back in those years I wrote constantly - journals, stories, even fake newsletters!  

2)  Is there something -- a goal, a desire that you can't go a day without thinking about?

3)  If money were no object -- if you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Are people truly following you, and if so, WHY?
5 questions for every leader

I was flipping through the channels one day and stopped to watch a TV show of a chapel service at a major Christian university, reportedly the largest of it's kind in the USA, with over 70,000 students.  The speaker that day was a professor that for the purpose of this post we'll call, "Professor Pinhead".  A major point in Professor Pinhead's sermon was the influence of bloggers.  Specifically he was upset about "young up and coming pastors" ...successful church planters within the denomination who were blogging and had gained a huge following.  He realized a lot of students were following these bloggers, many of whom had sat in the same chapel seats just a few years before, also from this same denominational background.  The students were soaking in the insights, creative ideas and wisdom of these bloggers on a constant basis.  Professor Pinhead was not happy.

His complaint was that the students were following these bloggers instead of "tried and true men" as he called them, and specifically a man we'll call "Dr. Somebody," who held a post at the school.  He said that Dr. Somebody was more deserving of the attention these students were giving these bloggers.  Professor Pinhead reminded them of the positional authority of Dr. Somebody.  He said that God had given them Dr. Somebody, and placed him in position at the school as a gift to these students, and they would do well to look to Dr. Somebody for the answers instead of turning to these unseasoned bloggers who had simply risen to prominence because they had the ability to write interesting blogs.

I had to laugh.  Out loud.

Positional authority is the LEAST powerful.  You would have thought Professor Pinhead would have realized that since John Maxwell has spoken at this school numerous times.  ::smile::  

Leadership is influence, not position.  Although we are called to respect positional authority (and I would agree that the students need to do that) it by no means indicates that we follow most closely what we are commanded by God to respect.  We follow what we are influenced by.

In his book, Becoming a Person of Influence, John Maxwell shares that positional leadership is the most basic level.  At this level, you have a title and that's it.  You will only be able to lead based on what the title enables you to lead with.  Moving to another level of influence is based upon many other factors.  Specifically, Maxwell shares that it means moving from position to permission, production, people development and then personhood. 

I realize that people do not and will not follow me simply because I am a pastor, or because of any other leadership position that I hold.  If they truly do follow me it will have little to do with my title or position.  I have realized too there is a difference between following and obeying.  I have heard leaders say, "well, they WILL follow me, or I'll show them the door..."  I might be able to force people's hand on "obeying" on certain administrative matters such as:  "no posting signs in the hallways in the church building," or "no registrations taken for this retreat beyond a certain date".  You may be able to twist people's arm in matters that really don't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but as for having their hearts, and getting them to FOLLOW that's a different story.

I always tell people who read my blog or follow me on Facebook or Twitter that I'm honored that they are following.  I thank the people at church who show up every week.  Yes, they are there to worship God, but really, they can do that in thousands of other churches.  They choose to align themselves with me as we serve God together.   I never lose the wonder!  Because I realize that they can follow anybody they want to.  Nobody's forcing them to listen, but they choose to.  I don't take it lightly when people CHOOSE of their own free will to listen or learn, or interact, or show up and neither should you if people are following you. 

If you are a leader you might want to ask a few hard questions about your leadership:

1)  Are people following me?  (Don't assume.  Some leaders take off and THINK people are following them and they are simply out on a walk, that is on the days they don't have their head in the sand. LOL)

2)  If they are following, at what level are they following?  Position?  Permission?  Production?  People Development?

3)  Do I just take for granted that because of a title bestowed upon me, people will follow with their hearts and if they don't they are off base in some way?  Do I see it as my problem, or theirs if they don't follow? 

4)  Am I trying to lead by authority or by influence?

5)  Do I get angry when I see others who are an influence, or do I simply determine to be the best influence and grow in my leadership skills?

Monday, August 29, 2011

The pastor who cussed out the staff
Fear vs. Love Based Leaders

Dr. Caroline Leaf, in her book, Who Switched Off My Brain, writes that there are only two types of emotions—love and fear,  and every emotion is based in one or the other.   Psychology indicates this but more important, the Bible backs it up.  I John 4:18 NIV says: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."  

Love is a fear antidote.

Recently I have been thinking about this as it concerns leadership.  I've come to the conclusion that as leaders we either operate in love or fear.  People follow us, or don't follow us based on love or fear.  

Fear is a terrible way to run an organization, a ministry, a family or pretty much anything else because FEAR IS NOT OF GOD.

Sometimes people are loyal to us out of love, other times they are simply worried about what will happen if they aren't.

Sometimes people follow us because they know we love them -- we lead with love in all we do -- there's nothing manic about our leadership style, and our love entreats them, compels them, causes them to rise to the occasion.  Other times people follow us because they fear change and quite frankly verbal abuse is all some people know anyway, so staying is more comfortable than leaving.  This is why you find people who stay with ministries where craziness is going on and you wonder, "how could they stay in that for so long when that bizarre stuff was going on?"  

Sometimes people follow for sick reasons.

Some people leave a legacy behind of how they led by love and impacted countless lives.  Other people leave a reputation behind with stories of how they instilled fear in order to get things done.  Unfortunately the end doesn't justify the means.

Larry and I are personally acquainted with a former pastor (now retired) who used to customarily hold staff meetings where he would cuss the staff out on a regular basis.  Amazingly he got away with this behavior until he retired.  Don't ask me how, I always shake my head at stuff like this.  Some pastors can't so much as buy a pack of pencils unauthorized without being called on the carpet and others get away with everything but murder.  And, I bet if you look hard enough you can find a pastor who got away with murder, at least until he or she got to eternity!   No one ever gets away with anything forever.  Anyway, I digress....

This pastor would beat his fist on the conference room table, and yell at his staff and pepper his conversation with cuss words and after this whole debacle was over he would give a sorry excuse for an apology and say, "I'm sorry I was a little rough on you guys today but I need to shake things up in here a bit to show you the magnitude of what needs to be done around here."   The truth is that all that was really accomplished when that pastor retired was a great big fat sigh of relief on everybody's part that he was GONE.

What will your legacy be?  Operating in FEAR or LOVE?

Think for a minute about WHY people follow you.  Or why they don't. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

We're stirrin' up deep, deep wells!

We do this song at Celebration and it's the church favorite right now.  It really speaks well to what's going on in the church.  I wish I had a video of us doing this at CC and how the congregation responds to it.  It's rather amazing. 

I'm expecting phenomenal things today!  Each week we've been going to new levels. Tonight we're having another newcomer's night because even though we just did one last month, we've already got a slew of new people.  ::excitement::

Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

3 things to do in a hurricane

We're had a few severe hurricanes since we've lived here in Florida.  Thankfully nothing has devastated Tampa though I can't say the same for some close friends in neighboring cities and after that storm we helped in their clean up and restoration process.   One hurricane  kept us indoors for two days without coming out, about 3 years after we moved here.  What it ended up being was a really bad storm and lots of tree limbs down and signs knocked over but fortunately for us nothing tragic.  We use it as a time to spend some quality time together.

For those of you who are northeast, riding out Hurricane Irene, here are 3 things to consider:

1)  Do everything NOW that you can do while you still have power!! (Cook, laundry, vacuum, etc.) Charge your cell phones and computers now if they aren't already charged.

2)  Light some candles whether you need to or not.  Not only will this prepare you in case you lose power but you'll remember how nice it is to light candles around the house just for every day living.

3)  If you still do have power, make a pot of soup.   Eat it with some toast or crackers with your family around the table and talk while you're listening to the rain come down.  You'll remember how nice it is to eat together and think, "why don't we do this more often?"  

What do you do while you're waiting out a hurricane?

Friday, August 26, 2011

5 Absolute Ways to Get Something Done

"How do you do it all?"  This is a question I'm often asked, and I've written about it here on the blog before.

Today I thought I'd share five points to quick start your productivity.

1)  Give yourself deadlines for things.

I'm on more deadlines imposed by myself than by others.  I keep them unless prohibited by waiting on others for things I can't control.

2)  Tell people about your deadlines.

I share with my close friends about my deadlines.  They ask me about some of them and it keeps me on track.  Nothin' like a little accountability!

3)  Make an initiative list every week.

My list is done by Thursdays for the following week.  The list includes everything I have to do for the entire week.  I find great joy in checking off things when they are done.  I keep mine on my Outlook but you can do this on paper or the computer or however is best for you.

4)  Divide your initiatives by the number of days you're going to work.

I keep Friday as my sacred day off.  Without it I pretty much become somebody nobody wants to be around.  So I divide my initiative list by 5.  I give off for Friday and Sunday, being that Sunday I am too busy with church all day to tackle anything else.  It's a workday all it's own and goes non-stop.  So if I have 30 items on my initiative list for the week,  then I have to do 6 items a day.  

5)  Be your own parent.

Just because you're grown doesn't mean you can just do whatever you want, at least if you're going to be successful.  We all have to do things we don't want to do - things that are essential to our effectiveness.  Your parents used to make you do those things as a kid -- at least most people's parents do.  Be your own parent...say no to things off of your list of initiatives until the work is done.

How do YOU get things done?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

3 Strange Things I Do

I have about 50 pairs of underwear in my drawer but I only actually wear the same 15 pairs, wash them and go through the same 15 again.  I have no idea why I have these other 35 perfectly good underwear in my drawer that just sit there.  I just can't bring myself to get rid of them.

I read someone's facebook wall all the time that I am not a friend with, have no mutual friends with, have never met and more than likely never will.  I happened on their page one day and am kinda fascinated with watching their facebook life from afar.  If they change the privacy setting of their wall it's really gonna devastate me.  

The Fugitive is one of my favorite movies.  No matter how many times I watch it I get really nervous and pray to God that Richard escapes even though I already know he is going to escape.

What strange things do you do?   (Keep it clean, please!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

5 Ways to Tame the E-mail Monster

I receive between 100-300 emails DAILY.  Between writing, working full time at the church as co-pastor, career coaching, and traveling/speaking not to mention family and friendships, this is probably not an abnormal amount. People who know my schedule often ask me about things having to do with time management.  Today I'm sharing 5 things I do to stay sane on the days my box is closer to 300 than 100 :

1)  Delete first thing every morning.

When I open my inbox each day I delete unnecessary mail and customarily for me this includes all forwards.  I just don't have time for them.  If I receive e-mails from lists I never signed up to be on and don't want to be on, I take a moment to unsubscribe, knowing it will save me time on other mornings to not have to keep deleting that piece of mail.  (I do not delete myself from all lists - if friends have put me on certain valuable things as a courtesy, I stay on them.)  Upon occasion I do get questioned by people who say things like, "Did you get the forward I sent you about the supernatural frog from Mexico that healed people as it hopped by?" and I say, "you know, being that I get a few hundred e-mails a day it's kind of hard for me to keep up with ones like that."  Usually people understand.

2)  Only touch each piece of mail once.

I leave it sitting in my box throughout the day (unopened) until I am ready to answer it.  If I don't have time to answer it right then I don't open it.  I touch mail once, whether it's by email or U.S. Mail.  I don't have time to keep going back to sort through what I have and haven't answered.  So, I open it, answer it, and am done with it.  The only exception to this is the rare e-mail that might be a difficult one requiring some prayer or thoughtful response beyond the norm.

3)  Put responses requiring more time on to-do list, and get them out of the inbox.

If a response takes more time and prayer, I try to answer the person right then saying that their e-mail is under consideration and I'll get back to them asap.  Then I put the response on my to-do list so I don't forget it.

4)  Don't carry e-mail over til' the next day.

I answer it all within 24 hours if possible.  If it piles up from day to day it just feels too overwhelming.

5)  Only answer things that truly need a response

If someone writes me a direct email, requesting a response, I always answer it.  If they just want me to read something to be aware of it, I don't necessary comment on it.  If they ask for a direct answer on something that's just an  FYI type thing I might write back and simply thank them in one sentence for keeping me in the loop.

Hope this helps those of you who have overflowing in-boxes! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

10 easy ways to make sure
your kids won't be Christians when they grow up

Want your kid to walk away from God?  Here's a sure-fire formula, my friends.  Follow this easy-to-use guide to turn them away from God  and the church.  These are very easy things to do, in fact thousands are doing it with great results and their kids are turning away in droves.  It will work for you too!!    

1)  Be a totally different person at home than you are at church.

2)  Switch churches.  Don't stay in one place too terribly long.  Keep 'em hopping.  The more churches you can expose your kids to without putting down roots, the better.  The second you're unhappy with something, uproot as soon as possible and head out to church shop again.  Tell them this is for their own good.

3)   Don't bother with sending them to kids and youth camp.  It can get expensive especially if you have several kids.  Think practically.  You need the money to pay on other things and besides kids aren't going to die if they don't go to camp.  Save that camp and youth convention money and put it towards getting your debt paid off, or toward their extra curricular activities for school.  That's much more practical anyway as they can get scholarships for that stuff.   Now, that's Godly wisdom right there...

4)  Don't worry too much about getting in the routine of going to church on Sunday.   Kids need sleep and after all, so do you.  You've been working hard all week and you deserve it.   If they want to stay home, let them. After all some people are forced to do stuff as kids and it turns them off.  Let the kids make their own decision if it comes down to it.  They might get mad at you anyway if forced to go and you don't want it to come to that.

5)  Make being involved in the youth group an option, not an essential.  How much church does any one person need anyway?  I mean, let's not get legalistic here...

6)  Talk at home about all the things you don't like about the pastor.

7)  Hang out with friends from the church outside of the services and talk about things you're unhappy with about the church.

8)  Be on the rebellious end of a church split and take your kids out of the church to go be a part of the split.  

9)  Make church all about YOU - what you want, what makes you happy, what God and the church are going to do for YOU instead of what you're going to give and how you're going to serve.  In fact, this works much better if you don't serve at all in your church. Let the kids hear you say that it's not your season.  This works really well.  You might even want to blame it on them... after all that makes you look like Super Mom or Super Dad, right? 

10) Talk to your kids about stuff like purity, but don't bother to live by the same standards yourself, especially if you're a single parent.  After all, you're an adult with normal needs and desires that are just begging to be met.  God understands, right?  And your kids will too if you just say stuff like, "you know kids, I tell YOU not to do these things because you're just not at the age of maturity to handle something like that in  your relationships, but me on the other hand, I'm in my 40's,  and it's different.  Do as I say, not as I do.  I have needs and God's okay with that, because He made me that way... and when you're older you'll understand..." 

This works like a charm.  If you do all these 10 things faithfully, you're well on your way to your kids never serving God again. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

3 ways to get your teenager to talk to you

My baby starts high school this morning.  It's surreal.

I asked her what she wanted for breakfast today and while I usually don't cook her breakfast (we do easy things like cereal and fruit and granola bars) this morning IS the first day of school not to mention the first day of high school.  She wanted eggs over easy, bacon, toast and a smoothie.  So that's what she got.

My oldest is 21 now, middle child is 20, so they are both past the teen stage and both are still very much on speaking terms with us, in fact they love being with us and doing stuff as a family.  While the kids aren't perfect (and neither are we, by any stretch) our kids have always talked to us and seemed to want to be with us.  I kept my fingers crossed with the oldest two, hearing horror stories of kids running away and stuff like that, especially "rebellious PK's" but here we are still living together and very much hanging out as a family, doing life together, even ministering in the church together with no runaways or anything like that, knock on wood.  They all love the Lord and I'm certain they love each other, at least most of the time. :)

Today I thought I'd share 3 things to help in communication with teenagers, at least these things have helped me:

1)  Cook for them.  They'll spend more time with you and start talking.  Kids love to eat, especially good homemade stuff.  If I want my kids to talk to me, I just make up a chicken casserole or some tacos.  Suddenly there's a dialogue going.  In fact, they come to me, I don't even have to go to them.  They leave their room and come away from whatever was occupying them as soon as there's a smell wafting from the kitchen.  

2)  Don't make any topic off limits.  Have you ever said, "you can come to me about anything" with your kids?  Do you really mean it?  Quite honestly a lot of parents say that but many don't mean it.  Their kids work up the courage to ask them about things and then there are consequences.  Those consequences cause them to clam up and never tell their parents anything again.  Sometimes they are actually punished by what they reveal, or it results in them losing friends.  Or the parents will say, "I'm not sure you're old enough for us to talk about that yet."  It's our belief that if a child is old enough to think of a question or ask it, they are ready for an answer.  Larry and I have always told the kids they can share anything with us, without fear, and we will give them an  answer.  We also don't have secrets from each other in this house.  If they have a question, they get a straight answer and there's nothing we're worried about our kids finding out. 

3)  Talk when they want to.  Yeah, I know that's not easy at times.  They don't want to talk at convenient times, especially teens.  Mine come in at 1 am, plop down on my bed and start talking.  Jordan's famous for doing that on really non-sensical things like running in to show me a video on Youtube of some kid doing a drum cover.  "Look at this Mom, it's siiiiiick!" he exclaims.  I wake up and try to feign interest in this kid on his Iphone banging on the drums and screaming.  Screamo music.  Fun times.  My least favorite genre, but I resist telling him so.  I just go, "WOW, that is siiickk."  Dustin, on the other hand is well known for knocking on my door at 3 am and asking me something deep.  Stuff like, "Hey Mom, I need to ask you somethin'...Mom, are you awake?  Mom, what do you think about pre-destination?  Do you have any books on pre-destination?  Hey, do you care if I use your Kindle?"   I want to be a parent who keeps the lines of communication open and most times that means talking when they're ready.  Yesterday I was right in the middle of an edit on my proposal and one of my kids was like, "Hey Mom, I want to ask you..." and inside I was cringing like, "Oh, I was sooo in the rhythm there of writing my thoughts," but at the end of the day I'm not going to regret giving them my attention even if it is to show me how lame a video is that they found on Youtube.   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wild horses couldn't keep me away...

I wouldn't miss being with my Celebration family for anything today!  We went to a whole 'nother level Friday night, and we're headed to higher heights this morning.

I'm totally exhausted right now, not only from leading at Prayer and Pancakes Friday night from 11 PM - 1 AM and then going to IHOP til' 3:30 AM (got to sleep at 5 am) but then waking up at 10:00 AM yesterday to start working on my book proposal again.  We had dinner with some friends from church last night but aside from that I worked on the book proposal until about midnight.  Most people have no clue what goes into a book proposal.

I finally got it ready for the final edit, finishing at 55 pages last night.  I sent it to my friends who are helping me edit, to fire away with their critiques.  What I said in my note to them was:


Here it is with the sample chapter.  THROW AWAY ANY PREVIOUS COPY YOU HAVE.

It’s at 55 pages…

Criticize the heck out of this – typos, any glaring structural changes you see, anything you just feel in your gut…

I’m an “everything’s on the table for consideration” person – nothing’s off limits and you can hit me with  your best shot.

This is the only way to grow,  and I’m at your mercy to help me reach what God has for me, and for the countless people I know will be touched, changed through this book. 

I’d like to be able to send this on Monday if possible.

Love you guys and appreciate you more than words can say!
They will be faithful to do as I have asked.  I am eager to finish the final edit tonight and hope we might actually have a package to send Monday.  This is dependent upon my friend's schedules.  If they can't do it by Monday, I'm flexible.  Just chomping on the bit, at this, my self-imposed deadline.  

I'm so tired but can't wait for church today!  I co-lead the most amazing church family ever.  Can I just say, they not only know how to press in - pray - believe - seek God, for His touch on our lives, our city, our nation, our world...but they believe in me.  They are praying fervently for the manifestation of this God-dream in my life.

I am so blessed!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My writing partner, and an explanation of significant loss

Here he is.  My steady partner in this adventure.  Although I've been writing for my whole life, Max has been my constant side-kick for a year and a half.  It's hard to believe at his now almost 100 lb. self that he was just a tiny puppy in the palm of my hand a year and a half ago.

"Constant friend?" some may wonder..."what happened to Maddie?"  Somebody even asked me that on facebook recently..."why don't we hear as much about Maddie?  Is she okay? Why do you write about Max more?"  In answer to these questions, Maddie's still the best girl dog on the planet, and she absolutely lights up our lives.  And as far as how she's doing -- MARVELOUS.  She totally healed and just as happy and sweet as she can be.  So in answer to the question of why I write about Max more, or why I spend time with him more...

The answer is simply that he spends more time with me. Maddie likes a lot of "alone" time.  It's just how she's wired.  I didn't realize her uniqueness so much until we had Max.  She does snuggle and she's just as kind as can be, but she also likes at least equal parts of time alone.

I have thought  many times how Maddie and Max actually fit God's description of man/woman in the Bible.  Did you ever notice that God said in Genesis that it's not good for a MAN to be alone, but no where does he ever say it's not good for a woman?  I have found even in mine and Larry's relationship, I love my alone time...he hates it.  As much as I love my family, I also love walks alone, bike rides alone, even trips by myself around the world alone.  I don't mind eating alone, traveling alone, even being alone for days at a time.  The same thing almost kills my husband.  He can't stand it for longer than about 2 seconds.  I am not criticizing him for this at all, simply noting the differences between us.  And differences aren't bad, just different.  If both of us were the same one of us would be unnecessary, right?

Now, back to Max.  When we brought Max home at just 8 weeks old, he couldn't be alone for a moment without crying.  Maddie on the other hand slept in her kennel from night one all by herself just fine and never cried.  My heart couldn't take the crying from Max.  He slept right under my chin for the first three months of his life, all night long.  Larry wasn't exactly crazy about it but I assured him it wouldn't be forever or even a terribly long time.  I was right.  At three months old Max finally got it into his head that he was secure and we weren't leaving him, and this was his home.  He went into his kennel for the night at three months old and that's where he's slept all night since.  But first thing in the early morning, he does want to be with us, and he lets us know it.

On the contrary, Maddie chooses to spend a good portion of her day sitting alone in front of the sliding glass doors napping or staring out the window.  She's always done that, even before we had Max. Max won't do that, EVER.

Here is how my day goes with Max, if it's a day I'm working from home.  Note on days I'm at the office it's basically Max's sad days when he has to go in the kennel and wait til' I get home.  But here's a work from home day:

Early Morning (somewhere between 5-7 usually)  Max cries to get out of kennel

Take Max potty.

Max comes into bedroom, hops onto bed with Larry and I.  He forgets that he's 100 lb., not 5 lb anymore and still gets right under my chin or plops right down on us and sleeps for a little while longer.   Periodically Larry rolls over and says, "My legs are numb."  I remind him there are sacrifices to being a bulldog dad.  :)  LOL   (Please keep in mind it was Larry's idea entirely to get Max in the first place.  I remind him of this often.) 

I wake up.  Go out and turn coffee pot on. Max follows.  Give him and Maddie one treat a piece to hold them over til' breakfast and some water.

I go turn water on in my big bathtub. Put bubbles in.  Max has followed me to bathroom and sits next to the tub.  Once the water's ready, I get in.  Max stays right there and waits for me by the tub while I bathe.  At times he will put his paws on the side of the tub and peer over as if to say, "hey, don't just lay there in the to me." 

I get out of tub.  Dry off, get dressed while Max remains right there by the tub or goes by my chair to sit and wait for me.

I sit in my chair in front of the mirror.  Put on make up, and fix my hair.  Max sits right beside me.  Occasionally might take his right paw and pat my knee as if to say, "Hey, give me a hug."  Most times I turn off the hair dryer, lean down and give him a hug, say a few words, then keep drying.

I go out to fix breakfast,  and feed both Max and Maddie.  We sit out in the kitchen, me at the barstool in the kitchen, them on the floor at my feet and the three of us eat.

Once finished eating I take them back out to potty.

Start my work.

Maddie goes over to sit in front of the sliding glass doors, soaking up the warm sun rays coming thru the window.  Max on the other hand, climbs up and sits right next to me.  If I'm at my desk at home, he sits at my feet.  If I'm on the sofa, or on the bed with my lap top, he gets up there and is right there against me the entire time.  Every once in a while he'll touch me with his right paw as if to say, "hey, stop for a minute, and give me love."  I do and then go right back to work.

We stop for lunch, for my lunch, that is.  They don't eat again at lunch, but Max sits right at my feet.  If I get up to go potty, he comes and stands outside the bathroom door and patiently waits for me when I'm done.  Then he follows me to the sink while I wash my hands.  Patiently waits while I dry them.  Then follows me back to my laptop and snuggles beside me again.

While I take or make calls, he's right there with me.  Whether a call from a church member or a job seeker call, he stays right there quietly by my side.  Sometimes when I'm on a difficult phone call it's especially comforting to have him there.  I miss him when I'm at the office and have to take calls alone with no one there beside me.  There have been many times I'm on a call where somebody's effectively and unfortunately raising my blood pressure. Just rubbing Max's head while I talk and seeing his kind eyes brings it back down.  I call him my "blood pressure medication."  Research proves I'm not so crazy for doing this.

He stays right beside me and doesn't leave me the whole day while I work.

When it's time to fix supper he gets up with me and follows me out to the kitchen, and stands right there while I'm cooking.  Sometimes he just gets comfy and lays in an out of the way spot in the kitchen so he's out of my path back and forth from fridge to stove to pantry, but still in my eyesight and talking range.  Sometimes I talk to him while I cook supper.

If I'm not done my work in the evening he follows me right back to sit beside me at the computer while I work.  If I'm done my work and head out to ride my bike or walk for an hour, Max finds the nearest family member and goes and sits with them.  He might snuggle with Larry while he's watching TV or talk to Dustin for a while.  One thing is for sure, he's never alone.

When I come back he stays right by me while I'm doing whatever I'm doing -- cleaning, TV, laundry, he's right there.

Sometimes Larry takes him for walks or rides.  He's a bull in a china shop and sometimes too powerful for me to do that once we get out of the house.  He loves to go "bye bye's" and as soon as Larry gets the leash and tells him that Max bounds up, ready to go! 

Max stays, quite literally by my side 24/7 when I'm home, until it's time to "go night night" as Larry tells him, in his kennel.  When Larry and I get ready to go to sleep, Larry just says, "Max, it's night night time" and Max dutifully hops down, walks to his kennel and gets in.  He goes to sleep and then in the morning we start all over again unless it's a day where I work at the office.

Someone recently remarked to me that they never realized how hard they would take it when their pet died.  They felt kind of guilty because it was harder for them to lose a pet than it was to lose a human being.  They struggled to explain why the significant loss of their pet was the worst,  although it was their reality and they felt just at a loss as to try to figure it out.  I offered this explanation.  I really believe a reason our pets become so close to us, and their loss so profound is because unlike most people, our pet is pretty much in our "personal space" 24/7.  Think about it...who besides your spouse would ever be in the bathroom while you're there,  or on  your bed, or sitting with you when you're upset at 3 am?  In my opinion, this pretty much explains why people feel a significant loss like no other when their pet is gone.  Well, that and the unconditional love...

Pets don't offer judgment, they just offer comfort.  

When I am upset about something, Max becomes upset too.  He comes right to me and puts his paws up on my shoulders, as if he's hugging me.  He relentlessly does that until I calm down and tell him, "it's okay" and he senses it not just from my words but my actions.  I've told him, "I'm okay" before but if tears are in my eyes, he doesn't believe me.  He hops back up and puts his paws on my shoulders again.  He fights to stay there until he senses that I've calmed down.  He pushes his face toward mine and keeps his paws on my shoulders until my tears and dried and my voice range comes back to normal.  His intuition is amazing to me.

I'm so thankful for my loyal friend and writing partner...Max Shrodes.  And for all of you who have experienced the significant loss of your sweet and loyal fur-kids as some call them, can I just say that your grief is perfectly understandable?  

Friday, August 19, 2011

I have no dream bigger than this

I'm almost done my proposal.  I plan on spending a significant amount of time putting finishing touches on it today. 

I got to thinking about it the other night and the truth is, I have no dream bigger than this.  The question career coaches often ask their clients:  "If money were no object what would you be doing in life?" is easily answered for me.  There is no doubt about it -- everything else pales in comparison to this, for me.  Even if I had to choose speaking vs. writing, or music vs. writing, or coaching vs. writing,  it's no contest -- writing wins every time.  If you haven't figured it out by now, THIS is what I live for.  This is why I breathe.  This is why I get up in the morning.  For anyone who says, "Wait a minute, what about Jesus...isn't He what you live for?  Isn't He what you get up in the morning for?   What about your family?  What about souls?  Of course.  Quite truthfully for anyone who has REALLY known me longer than five minutes that would be a pathetic question.  The fact is, the full expression of those things in my life comes in it's greatest measure through writing. 

I feel it in my feeler...
Know it in my knower...

I'm closer than ever to my biggest dream coming true.

Some might wonder, "Okay, what's here for you in this world once your biggest dream comes true?  Where do you go from there when you've reached the biggest dream for your life?"  

The answer to that is, I do it over, and over, and over again.

And I do it better, and better, and better still.

I'm not in a fantasy world. 

If you've just happened upon my blog and wondered if I'm like one of those WHACK American Idol contestants who believes they are really talented but are naive, deceived or any number of other adjectives along those lines, think again.  Not only have I been honing this craft and bearing this calling for my entire life, but it has been confirmed by countless hundreds of people that this is exactly where I belong.  Most important, I am totally open to continual critique of my work.  

Four of my friends who are all extremely detail oriented people, good writers, creative thinkers and honest evaluators are going through this proposal with a fine tooth comb.  Right now they are on their third draft of reading, editing and throwing their constructive criticisms my way.  

I realize like anything else in life, my ideas will get no where without a completely no-holds-barred analysis and improvement -- and a willingness to surround myself with smart friends who can help me get to the goal.  (Thank you, genius friends.  Like Rick Warren says, "all of us are smarter than one of us.") 

I have no bigger dream that this, and it's about to come true.  Yahoo!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The greater your abandonment to God the greater the enemy's fear

"The story of your life is the story of a long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it."  John Eldredge

This week I have had some amazing increased territory in my life.  Some doors have opened that I prayed about for a long time, and other doors opened up beyond my wildest dreams that I never prayed for because quite honestly I didn't even have them on my radar.

While it appears in some way all of heaven has opened up, in other ways it's been one of the most difficult weeks I have had in a long time.  The good and the bad has mish-mashed together in a world of mixed emotions.   Maybe it makes it easier that I'm menopausal and can just blame my responses on that instead of getting into a bunch of explanation about why the devil even cares about a wife and mom of 3 with 2 bulldogs and a house that needs to be cleaned.  

 I would go on a vacation but I just came back from one.  And then again if I went on a vacation I'd also be taking a break from all the amazing things happening.   If I leave the difficulties, I leave the amazing things too... 

I am almost done my proposal.  Another few days and it will be wrapped up and ready to send.  

I am working on some of the most important speaking engagements ever. 

Celebration is experiencing our best services ever.

Other great things are happening that aren't public knowledge.
The enemy fears right now.  

He's  trying to get me so distracted that I can't work on anything with a clear head.  I keep pressing through.

I headed to the well fields before dawn today to bike.  More importantly, I headed there BEFORE opening my email.  ::smiles::  I just need to start my morning in the quiet of the dawn, riding in the fields burning off some stress and taking in beauty of my surroundings.  It helps me to get quiet, talk to the Lord and center myself in Him for the day ahead.
Satan knows who I am, what I am, and what I have the possibility of being, and right now it scares him so much he's wearing Depends and kicking and screaming in my e-mail box.   

I am discovering - the greater one is abandoned to God the more the devil fears what will happen.  The greater the complete surrender the greater the warfare.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


"Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people."   ~ Randy Pausch  
How bad do you want your dream?
I recently heard someone say:  "Never give up on a goal that you can't go a day without thinking about."
Do walls stop you?
They don't have to.  
"For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall". Psalm 18:29
Okay, time for me to go back to leaping over walls...ttfn!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's a pumpkin pancake kinda morning...
a.k.a. tell your day where to go!!

Did you ever wake up and upon opening your eyes get hit in the face with a ton of problems to solve?  Well that's exactly what happened to me yesterday.  I hate when that happens.

I opened my first e-mail and wanted to scream.  But everybody else in my house was asleep so I didn't.   

Curve balls.  I hate them.  I still loathe them even after 25 years in the ministry.  Do you ever get used to them?  I wanted to shut my eyes and go back to sleep. I don't live in a world where curve balls can be dodged, only skillfully dealt with.  Some days I do better than others.

I'm not sure what today holds yet but if yesterday is any indication it might be a challenging day or even week of dealing with the unanticipated.  So last night I made arrangements to assure myself a good morning before anything had the chance to happen.  People don't usually call me before 8 or 9 am unless someone dies or something.  So I felt pretty safe to go ahead an make an early plan.  I called Hector and Sandy and asked if they'd join me in the well fields this morning before the sun came up.  They said they were already planning on going and would be delighted to have me tag along.

I programmed the coffee maker to go off first thing upon waking up.  Then I charged up my camera battery and packed my best zoom lens in the backpack to get some stellar pictures.  Packed my water.  Then I set about making some homemade pumpkin pancakes (my favorite) and wrapped them and put them in the fridge to microwave this morning and have with my coffee. 

So that's what I'm waking up to today.  I'm telling my day where to go!

I began this morning by riding 10 miles through the well fields, watching the sunrise, and seeing the amazing wild life, taking photos, slowly sipping my coffee and eating my pumpkin pancakes, and oh yes, talking to Jesus.  

There comes a time when you can't just let life happen to have to happen to life.  

I'm not willing to have another morning like yesterday morning.  Although I can't control everything that happens to me today, I can make a plan to produce a better outcome, or at least a better outset. 

With the well fields and the pumpkin pancakes behind me,  I have a full day of work ahead of me.  I'm not sure what challenges may exist for me to solve but I will be in a better frame of mind to handle them partially because I started the day with pancakes and biking in the well fields with friends and Jesus, but also partially because I didn't read my e-mail before I left.  :) 

What can you do to tell your day where to go?  To happen to life instead of just letting it happen to you? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Wrong voices

I always say, "wrong voices lead to wrong choices."  

Who you listen to is really important.

I was just talking to our life coaching group about this on Saturday. 

Years ago when I started out co-pastoring I  had a lot of questions and was in need of so much guidance.  Not many people were serving in this role back then and finding people who could advise or understand was a challenge.  I went to quite a number of people that were in positional authority, or further along down the road than me, or sometimes just people who had known the Lord for a really long time. 

The answers I got were rather interesting.  Many times when I approached someone about a challenge I was facing in hopes of receiving Godly wisdom, they would just answer that our model of ministry was wrong and if I just resigned or re-defined my role, my challenges would go away.  I heard that so many times!  One time I had bronchitis and mentioned to someone about the way I'd been feeling so under the weather for several weeks with it.  A wise older saint gave me the sage (?) advice that I was experiencing this sickness because I was "out of my role" and if we just changed our structure of ministry (and really our relationship when you get down to it) my sickness and all my problems would go away.  What a joke.  It took every ounce of self control I had not to grab the nearest lamp and shatter it over their head.  (Yeah, you can tell I dealt with a lih-tle anger back then.  It's been so long since I've encountered any comment like that.  Back then what I do was considered really out of the box.  Today, not so much in the region I live in.  I'm not sure whether I've developed more self control and fruit of the spirit or it was just that I moved to another part of the country.  LOL)
I'm so glad I didn't listen to those voices.  I sought the answers from my Bible, and I kept seeking for the spiritual mothers and fathers that God had specifically set aside to speak into my life as well as peers walking the same road.  Until I found the right voices, I went by what the Word said and was led forth by the peace of God.  I eventually found mothers and fathers in the faith who could speak wisdom into my life and respect my calling and paradigm even if it wasn't their particular chosen one.  If I didn't make the choice to do that , I would have quit a long time ago, and my life and ministry would look totally different.

I was so touched on Saturday when after sharing this with my coaching group, a few of the members, misty-eyed said, "Thank you for not listening to the wrong voices, P.D......thank you so much for NOT listening." 

It's amazing to think about what I wouldn't have in my life...who I wouldn't have in my life...what I wouldn't be doing...whose lives would never be impacted, had I listened to the wrong voices. 

Be very careful who you allow to speak into your life.  Make no mistake, somebody can talk all the day long.  I listen to plenty of people who TALK.  But that doesn't mean I receive what they say into my spirit.  Everything they say is Father filtered, Word filtered and also gets my "peace of God" test.  (Isaiah 55:12)  Anybody can talk at or to me, but what I decide to take in and receive or act on is a whole 'nother thing.

Wrong voices lead to wrong choices, so when you hear a voice on any issue, make a conscious decision as to whether you are going to let that be another voice that you just hear and let bounce off the wall and go back to where it came from or whether you're going to allow it to affect the direction you start walking.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I'm dreaming with my eyes open

I took this photo in the well fields as I was biking at sunrise on Friday.  It was the beautiful beginning of a new day.

It's befitting for what's happening in me right now, in my life.  I'm taking steps toward the biggest dream of my life coming true.   I've had this dream as long as I can remember, but with all the specifics attached and the details filled in it's been since 9th grade.  I don't have a dream in my life bigger than this one, although there are several, this tops all.

I'm taking tangible steps, not just dreaming but acting on it.  Leslie Wolf, my weight watcher leader once said, "Five frogs were sitting on a log.  Two decided to jump off.  How many frogs were left?  Five.  Deciding to do something doesn't mean you actually followed through."  How true.

God spoke afresh and anew to me about my dream.  He cracked open a door to let me know He's serious.  I've made a decision in response and am acting on it, moving forward toward it's fruition.

T.E. Lawrence in Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph said, "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." 

It's a beautiful morning.  I'm wider awake than ever before!

What are you not just deciding to do, but actively following through on to fulfill your God-dream?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

He's home now

Earth has bid farewell to an amazing man - a stellar husband, father, pastor, college professor, district official, community leader, writer, musician and more -- and heaven has said, "welcome home." 

Yesterday morning I woke up at 5:30 am to go bike riding in the well fields with my friends.  Because I was up so early I never checked my e-mail before I left the house.  When I came home and settled in with a cup of coffee and started glancing through my mail I saw that there was a private facebook message sent to me personally at 4 AM from Arline Grabill, wife of Pastor Paul Grabill, who is a treasured friend.  He had passed away the previous night, going home to his heavenly reward.  I stand in awe of the fact that his wife was so kind as to get on facebook and write me a personal note hours before they were making it public at 7 am.   My friend  Pastor Walt Smith also sent me a personal note so that I wouldn't have to read the news first on a facebook status and for this I'm ever grateful.  Moments after reading Arline and Walt's private messages I went to the facebook newsfeed to see that tons of statuses were going up about his graduation to heaven, paying honor and tribute to him.  Paul was a man who was so loved and respected by scores of people and is basically considered by many to be the spiritual father of State College, PA. The official announcement by State College Assembly of God of his passing can be found here.

Thousands of people will share their perspectives about him, I'm sure.  I'd like to share mine today here on my blog.  Paul was a professor at the bible college Larry and I attended and we knew him because of that when we were just teenagers, but the main way I really got to know him was through blogging.  I happened upon his blog one day and started commenting.  At first I just verbally dipped my toe in the water, but soon I jumped all the way in and sometimes a few other commenters wondered, "does this woman have a life?  It seems she must do nothing but comment on this blog!" and some had no problem telling me that.  I'm sure they had no idea I type over 140 words a minute most times without error and can leave a few paragraphs on a comment thread in seconds with one hand tied behind my back.  :)  But whatever.  

I may also hold the record for being the commenter who had the most spirited as well as lengthy debates with Paul on his blog over quite a number of years time.  We held opposite views on many things and there were no holds barred in discussing them, but it was never in a mean spirit nor was there EVER any doubt in my mind that we were truly friends with deep mutual respect.  One time he even dedicated a post to me and made me and my views the subject of a post he knew would be quite controversial.  He contacted me the night before he published it to ask me if it was okay.  His wife Arline was afraid it would hurt my feelings, bless her heart, and implored him to check with me about it ahead of time.  I thought that was so sweet of her to even care about it or insist that he talk to me about it first.  He  assured Arline that I was a tough cookie and that it wouldn't phase me.  He was right.  He posted the blog and we went toe to toe on the issue as usual in the comment section, and at the end of the day had more respect for each other than ever.  For all the debate, when he shut down his blog on January 17, 2010,  it was tragic to me! Seriously.  I went through withdrawals.  So did a lot of other people who gathered at "Beside the Point," which was the name of his very popular blog which site visits numbered in the six figure range.  You could always count on great subjects, lots of commenters and the most stimulating discussion ever at BTP. 

He stopped blogging to focus on something else of a very important spiritual nature  that all of us who knew the details about understood.  It saddened me that the blog was not only stopped but completely deleted except for a final post of explanation, and the archives weren't there to go back and read again and again.  That would have helped me in my state of grief over the blog shutdown, but understanding how that might impact the project he was working on, I understood his reasons for taking the blog down.  I never doubted his pure heart and desire to please the Lord and use all of the time He had here on earth, maximized for His glory.  Incidentally the project he was working on was something we agreed wholeheartedly on, and as I am not a spokesperson in any way regarding that, I do not feel at liberty to share the details.  However,  it is something I will continue to support in prayer and any other way I can with those who pick up the mantle that Paul held in that regard and move forward with it. 

I will sorely miss the conversation we had on things about which we disagreed and agreed.  Although our world political views were polar opposites, on church polity/governance issues we were aligned.  I so miss the intellectual stimulation of a conversation with Paul on politics and the way he challenged me to think things through.  Sometimes a talk with him solidified what I believed even more and at other times it caused me to re-examine everything I'd ever held true.  I would say he is largely responsible for the fact that I'm no longer a Republican.  If it weren't for him, I wouldn't have really examined the party under a microscope like I have in the past few years.  Some things he pointed out to me, I just couldn't logically deny and had to acquiesce.  I'm not a Democrat either but now I place myself in between an Independent and Libertarian.  And quite honestly some days I just think the whole thing is a colossal mess and I have no idea what I am anymore, except a believer.  In that I guess I may have truly come to Paul's way of thinking as that more than anything is the banner he was exclusively under here on earth. 

Despite feeling like a political misfit at this point, I still fly my American flag, and if Paul were still here, I'd taunt him about it on Flag Day,  or all the other plethora of holidays that Americans typically come out in droves with our flags on.  After all the teasing he still considered me a friend.  I loved him for that.  I loved him as a friend even on the day he publicly accused me of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  Wow, that was an interesting day for sure.  He called me a blasphemer but at the end of the day we shut off our computers and were still friends.  Now, how many people can you say that about?  Yesterday in her letter to me Arline said, "there aren't many like Paul."  INDEED!  You can say that again.  Although he dubbed me a blasphemer he subsequently said he hoped Larry and I could get together for dinner with he and Arline at General Council in Phoenix.  Then again, knowing Paul he may have believed that a lot of  other blasphemers were going to be at Council!  Ha ha!  I guess this blasphemer was in good company.  We have argued about so many things I now honestly can't remember whether he called me a blasphemer over my support of the American flag, my collection of Wonder Woman memorabilia, or my views on gun control.  I think it was the American flag issue, but at any rate he obviously never made it to Phoenix.  He was too sick to come and was in his final days.  I know it was really, really on his heart to be there. I talked with several people there who missed his presence so much and now that we know we can't just jot him an e-mail or a facebook to chat, it's really hard. 

I will so miss the kindred spirit I had in Paul when it came to church structure and and denominational (oops, excuse me..."voluntary cooperative fellowship") issues.  For all the debating we did, very little was about church things.  It was so nice to have conversation with someone who understood operating by Kingdom principles, truly believing for a spiritual awakening in our cities/nation/world, and operating a church or a fellowship (the AG or any other) as the Bible tells us to.  (What a novel idea...)  When I would talk to Paul about these things I would finally feel like I was talking to someone who was actually reading their bible first and not a constitution and bylaws.  I'll miss that.

Aside from the blog and our spirited discussion, there were also times I privately shared with Paul some challenges Larry and I had at times in  pastoring or asked for counsel or prayer.  He was always faithful to help and I am ever grateful.  He took the time although he was pastoring a very large church, as well as serving as assistant superintendent of the Penn-Del District of the AG.  It was never lost on me that he took the time to stop and care.

I'm just one person.  Scores of other people could write a blog about their unique relationship with Paul and I'm sure many probably will.  I wanted to take the opportunity on my blog to say what I'll miss.

I know he's in heaven.  I know he's healed.  But can I just say, it's hard to be happy?  I've had to stop typing this and walk away three times now, to get more kleenex as I'm sitting here with tears streaming down the whole time I type, my face is beet red and I have little globs of tissues stuck to my eyelashes.  I'm just so sad.  And to be perfectly honest, I'm kinda mad.  This is awesome for Paul, not so awesome for those left behind.  Imagine the way Arline feels.  Put yourself in the shoes of their two boys and their "daughter-in-grace" as they are fond of calling her.  Think of the church family.  It's an indescribable void.  Every Wednesday night and Thursday morning for the last year, our church has been praying for Paul, his family and the church.  We will continue, of course.  For a long time we will continue. 

It made my heart happy that Paul had another birthday right before he went home to be with the Lord.

It also gave me joy to see the photos on his facebook of his recent vacation with his family.  I'm so glad they had that time together!

Something else I'm very grateful for that happened before he passed on was that he recorded a CD.   I'll never forget the first time I heard him play.  I was just a teenager and he was playing in our chapel service at Valley Forge Christian College. Being a piano player myself, I found him very inspiring, but then again anyone would be inspired by his playing, musician or not.

Right before his passing he recorded a CD entitled, "By Request" that contains songs frequently requested by his wife or the congregation.  The music is absolutely beautiful and characterizes his unique gospel jazz style.  If you would like to order the CD, go here.  You can also listen to samples of the CD there on the website, before ordering.    I am looking forward to using my copy to play at special events and during times of prayer.

Goodbye for now, my friend.  There won't be debates in heaven.  On this I'm sure we can agree.  There  will be no more tears and friends united, and all the essential things of faith which we did agree on.  You are so missed and so loved, and the legacy you left on this earth will be evidenced forever in your investment in people and all the things that mattered.

Friday, August 12, 2011

It takes a village to write a book proposal, or at least for me, it does

I felt the tangible presence of God last night as I worked on my book proposal and was moved to tears several times by friends who interjected things throughout the process.  I did have to work for both church and NextJob yesterday but my every waking moment aside from that, cooking, doing a sink full of dishes and going to Weight Watchers was spent writing my proposal.  I would guesstimate that I spent at least three hours on it yesterday.  I took my laptop, shut myself off in my room and focused in.  I felt the prayers of people so strongly.

Kathryn, who many have already read about here on the blog, recommended a book to me a while back that I immediately ordered and devoured and has become my bible when it comes to writing.  (You can read about Kathryn on her official website here, but my series of posts about her here will tell you even more!)  I have followed the book exactly when it comes to writing this proposal.  I've read a lot of books on writing and publishing and proposals but nothing has come close to this one so far.  Thanks Kathryn, for believing in me, not only in my role at NextJob, but overall in life.  Your investment in my life as a leader,  your wisdom, recommendations to move me forward and your friendship are immeasurable.

I need to spend at least another few hours on the proposal today and I'll do the same thing again Saturday once I finish with my life coaching class that I teach.  Right now I am done at least half of the proposal.  Even better, I'm done the parts that I don't like!  I'm so excited now to have the pleasure of writing the second half.  Any good book proposal includes the analysis of the competition and an overview of the market for the book.  That is my least favorite thing to research but last night I finished it and got it off my back.  I'm really grateful, oh so grateful to Cassandra Stafford, fellow blogger, pastor's wife, minister in her own right and long time friend for pitching in yesterday to help me with this aspect of the proposal.  We'd been writing back and forth about it and finally yesterday about noon I messaged her and said, "do you have time to talk for a sec?" and she said absolutely, so we got on the phone and put our heads together.  The result was that she took care of researching some of the material to save my time, and wrote up some analysis and sent it my way.  Several times she had me crying (happy tears) with her encouragement.  Thank you Cassandra, for believing in me way back when.  I asked you yesterday, "why am I the one to write this book?" and you said, "because you were country when country wasn't cool!"  That had me laughing and crying at the same time, especially hearing it with your sweet southern accent.

My friend Tammy Young is on vacation...the most well deserved vacation in the world, but she contacted me yesterday to see how things were going with this and I told her, "Tam, I was going to ask you for something concerning this proposal but didn't want to have to cuz you're on vaca," and she said, "Nonsense, I'm helping you right now..." and she sent me some stuff last night after 11:30 pm that had me bawling another round of happy tears.  Then she went on to tell me she's already planning the party to celebrate when I actually get a contract on this.  Tammy plans the best parties.  She's not just an ordained minister and a pastor's wife...she's an event planner and this is her company.  (If you live in this area, call her.  No one does a better job.  She's literally planned million dollar events on an international scale.)  Tammy, thank you for standing with me always and for even inspiring the very title of this book.  If we wouldn't have had our conversation and you hadn't gotten all up in my business about doing what God called me to do, I wouldn't be writing this proposal right now. 

The core of our church family knows what I'm working on.  I shared it with the choir Sunday, and then with everyone in the service Wednesday night.  They are behind me 100%, praying and believing with me.  Many people have messaged me to say, "we believe in you and in this book...keep going."  It means the world.  So many people have diligenty prayed, and we pastor the most supportive church in the world, so I hesitate to name names because truly I don't want to leave anyone out or hurt feelings but today I'll name just one. (With more to come!) Paul Fryfogle is a member of our church who has been praying consistently, daily, for this.  He's always believed God is going to do something more with this and asks me almost every time he sees me if there has been anything new.  I told him when he started praying for me about writing and inquired about it that he might get discouraged in praying because this field is so rife with rejection.  He was undaunted and said, "PD, God has called me to pray for you DAILY about this, NO MATTER WHAT."  Paul, thank you.  What a treasure. 

Speaking of treasures there's no greater than my husband Larry who made sure I had a new laptop that actually works to do this proposal!  And, he gives me the quiet time I need to get alone and write it.  I should probably throw a shout out to Max and Maddie too...they quietly lay beside me while I write, with Max pawing me occasionally on the arm as if to say, "hey, you're doing great!" 

I need to do at least a few more hours today on the proposal and being that this is my day off it will be easier.  I started this day very early, getting up before dawn and headed to a biking trail that is one of the most beautiful in the area.  It's called the "Well Fields" and my friends Hector and Sandy go there often, usually three mornings a week before the sun even comes up.  Hector and Sandy are my friends I met at Weight Watchers nine months ago when I started going and since then they have come to Celebration and become a part of our church family too.  They are just dear people.  Together they have lost over 100 pounds!  They are such an inspiration to me.  I've been promising them that I'll go with them to the well fields, and today was the day I made good on my promise.  Yesterday they went and saw 26 deer while they were biking in the wee hours.  Hector stops along the journey and takes many photos along the way.  They've been promising me that I'm going to fall in love with the well fields , so I've been really excited about doing this although early mornings aren't my thing.  I'm such a night owl.  But I love biking, and beautiful scenery and more than that I love Hector and Sandy so this makes for a delightful treat today. 

Once back from the bike ride, settled in with a cup of coffee, it will be time to focus in on the proposal once more.  I might call in a few favors from another few friends I haven't talked to yet!  (Be ready for your phone to ring!  lol)  I feel your prayers, my friends.  Thank you for being my village.  It means the world.