Tuesday, October 25, 2011

While You Are Busy Living, He Is Subtly Speaking

I am often asked as a speaker for nearly two decades, how in the world I can generate enough content to come up with new and fresh messages year after year. After all, won’t I ever run out of things to say?

Don’t ask my husband that question. He says that, if I go before him, he knows what he is putting on my tombstone.

A period.

She’s finally done talking!!!

Seriously, as a speaker who longs to not just “give a report” but deliver a life-changing message, how do you generate new content? Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:

~ Watch for stories as you go about your daily days of life. They are all over. At the grocery store, the ball park, at work or even on the nightly news. If something interesting or out of the ordinary occurs, jot it down. It may one day make a good analogy, example or punctuate  a point in your message.

Keep a small notebook in your purse at all times. For jotting the above stories down, of course. Don’t forget a pen!

~ Ask yourself: What do I love? This is where you will begin to gather information that will one day morph into a message. Do you love raising thankful kids? Being an encouraging and creative wife? Helping women manage their time or study God’s word? Begin to look for articles, quotes, tips, stories and Bible passages that will round out your message on a topic you love.

~ Also ask yourself this: What do I loathe? Do you hate young girls being sold a bill of goods about what true beauty is? Do you despise the lack of biblical literacy and knowledge that is rampant today? Can’t stand bullying? Perhaps you could develop a talk on something that really gets under your skin.

~ Don’t forget to be on the lookout for stories and examples in your own family life. My kids have provided some of my best material! Often they will do or say something that is fabulous to use in a talk.Just be sure to always ask permission before sharing a story that involves one of your clan. :-)

God is speaking all the time while we are busy living. With a keen eye (and a handy notebook) you’ll be sure to capture what He is saying and in turn, be able to share it with your audiences.

Happy gathering!


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Monday, October 17, 2011

Telling the Tale

Before She Speaks, I asked you to submit questions for my breakout for beginner speakers.  You submitted some fantastic questions, and I thought I’d start sharing some of them on our blog. 

Question:  I have a personal testimony with some parts that contain sensitive information.  How do I tell my story without “over telling”?

Answer: It’s such a great question.  All of us have probably been in an audience where we are left squirming by a speaker who shared too much information.  We’d all like to avoid being that speaker while being able to share our story honestly. 

I went to my fabulous friend Melissa Taylor for help on this answer.  Any of you who regularly read Proverbs 31 Ministries’ Encouragement for Today devotions have read Melissa’s story.  She has had some very difficult things to tell, and she’s told them with sensitivity and honesty.  Here’s what she said (with a few of my thoughts added in):

  • Do:  Consider age appropriateness of audience.  Your story of  abuse may be too intense for young listeners, but you can always share the lessons that you’ve learned along the way.
  • Do:  Use the right word but don’t be graphic about the situation  For example,  Wendy Blight uses the word “rape” to describe what happened to her after college graduation but doesn’t tell the details of the event.  Click here to read Wendy’s story.
  • Do:  Tell your feelings.  That’s the power of your story.   For example, Melissa—tells about how a confident 7-year-old felt the next day after a neighbor abused her. (afraid, traumatized, confused, unsafe) Click here to read Melissa’s story.
  • Don’t:   Over-glamorize your story.  Emphasize God’s redemptive work.  Checking the time you spend on each is revealing. 
  • Don’t:  Tell it if God is still at work, and you’re not ready to tell it.  Retelling your story should be for the benefit of your audience, not just for your catharsis.  It’s important to check your motives.
  • Don’t:  Tell a story that included others without asking for permission to retell it.

I thought these were fantastic insights, and I hope they help as you tell your God-story.

I am leaving on Thursday for a two-week missions trip, so I’m leaving you in the beautiful hands of Karen Ehman and Zoe Elmore.  We’re thrilled that Zoe is joining our team to do our social networking.  Please stop by our Facebook page “Next Step Speaker Services” or on Twitter @nextstepspeaker to welcome Zoe!


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Speaking at retreats is one of my favorite things.  I had the opportunity to lead a retreat this weekend, and I was reminded how much I love women’s retreats!  Most speakers either prefer key-notes or retreats, and I’m definitely a retreat girl.

I thought about how much time I’ve spent on this blog talking about the work of speaking.  It IS work and very hard work when we take the responsibility seriously.  I want to spend the space today, though, reflecting on the joys of speaking.  Here are a few of my favorite things:

  • Watching faces express the heart’s response to God’s Word
  • Hearing women talk about their plans for transformation in small groups
  • The shock of listening to my own words and realizing that I needed them all over again
  • “Playing” during free time and breakouts.  I love to hear a room of laughing women!

Those are just a few things that I love about speaking.  What are your favorite things?

I’d also love to tell you about a new service that we’ve just added to our menu of services.  Some of you may have looked at our list of services and thought, “But what I need as a speaker isn’t even described here!”  For you we have added a Speaker Coaching Service where you get to help set the agenda.  The service includes a free initial consultation call and  five 30-minute phone calls with assignments and feedback that meets your current needs as your speaking ministry grows.  I’d also love to hear if you have any other suggestions for services that you need!


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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where Does My Family Fit?

This is a crazy, busy month both with family activities and ministry events, so I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep my priorities straight.  Although I know that God has called me to speak, teach and write, I also know that my highest callings are first to Him and then to my family.  I might get more of a charge out of speaking to a crowd of responsive women than out of speaking to a couple of sometimes-resistant teenagers, but God says that they have to be first!  :)

Here are a few things that God has taught me over the years:

1. I cannot do ministry without my husband’s support.  Under normal circumstances, Barry is my number one cheerleader, but when he’s not it needs to be a “yield” sign to me.  Ephesian 5:22’s exhortation, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” has protected me several times.  The wording also encourages me that I can trust the Lord to give a changed heart to my husband if needed.

Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to help lead 2 women’s conferences in India.  I was extremely excited and felt convinced that I was supposed to go, but Barry really felt that I shouldn’t.  He was concerned both about the risk of international travel and the timing of the trip itself.  I simply asked him to pray and seek the Lord about it.  I told him that I wouldn’t go if he still felt convinced after praying.  (Let me just tell you that this stance is learned from long experience even though it flies in the face of my strong-willed personality.  I don’t want to pretend it’s easy for me!)

A couple of weeks later, without any introduction, Barry simply walked into the room and said, “OK.  You should go.”  I was obviously confused, so he followed, “You should go to India.  When I was praying, God clearly spoke that this is an opportunity that He’s providing.”

You can just imagine the squeals and jumping up and down that ensued!! 

That story has a happy ending, but I was determined to trust the Lord to use my husband to either speak a “no” to my travel-ready heart or a “yes” for confirmation.  I see it as the Lord’s protection for me rather than as a limiting force in my life.

Let me also hasten to say that it would be impossible on a practical level for me to do ministry without Barry’s support.  When I’m gone, he’s a single parent with full responsibility over the day-to-day duties in our house. I appreciate the challenges of doing life without a partner, and I want to respect the extra work that it requires of him.

2.  I want my children to do ministry with me rather than seeing ministry as something that takes their mama away.  The reality is that ministry does often take me away from home, but I want them to be part of what I do.  I always ask all my guys to pray for me before I leave and ask for their prayers while I’m gone. 

I also want to make choices that reflect my priorities.  I don’t just want to say that I’m “speaker” after “mom”.  I want the boys to know that they rank higher on my list.  I have missed a few of their events, but I am there for the large majority.  This is Anson’s senior year, so I already have the biggies on the calendar–concerts, application deadlines, prom, etc.  Those are non-negotiables on my calendar this year.

As God opens doors, stokes your passions and speaks to your heart, I know He’ll be speaking to you about priorities too.  What lessons have you learned about prioritizing your family?


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