Create More Finish Lines {Mark the Moment Series #3}

This is part 3 of 5 posts, How to Mark the Moment. It’s based on Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of Moments. This week we look at element 2, “Moments of Pride.”

Create more finish lines

Element 2, Moments of Pride

Why do some experiences impact us for days or weeks, while other moments go by unnoticed?

And how can we capture more positive moments so we can enjoy them longer?

Last week we looked at the first of four elements to make an experience special: elevating our moments.

This week we want to mark accomplishments, either our own or others, by creating moments of pride. (If you’re following along in The Power of Moments, this is from chapters 7-8. We’ll pick up chapters 5-6 next week.)

Goals Too Hard?

I’m thinking ahead. My daughter Morgan has entered her third trimester with our first grandbaby. I want to consider now how to create special memories with our grandchildren later.

But this grandchild will live several hours away, so how will I do it?

Why do some goals seem too hard?

  • Because they are unmeasurable (like my goal to “learn Spanish”, even though DuoLingo tells me I’m 45% there—so untrue).
  • Because they are so long (like memorizing a chapter of the Bible).
  • Because the journey seems boring (like training for a marathon).

But in The Power of Moments, the Heath brothers show us ways that we can reach our goals by multiplying the milestones, thus giving us more moments worth celebrating.

Multiply the Milestones

They suggest this:

Set up many finish lines along the way, not just one grand prize at the end.

For example, a goal of “Lose weight” is too vague (even though it is measurable). Instead, set specific milestones along the way, and celebrate them when you succeed. Their examples include:

  • Go one week straight without using the elevator.
  • Pick out 2 microbrews to enjoy on Saturday after a full week without booze.
  • If I jog continuously for three songs on my playlist, that entitles me to download three new ones.

They say you’ll know you’ve succeeded when you reach your pre-determined milestone: “Fitting into my sexy black pants (without gastrointestinal distress).”

We see these multi-step strategies at work all around us, such as earning Boy Scouts’ merit badges or finishing the Couch to 5K running program.

This is important even in our Christian walk. While we have a big goal of heaven after we die, Christ also intends for us to live an abundant life now.

By setting multiple finish lines, we can enjoy and celebrate many small wins all along our journey, instead of just trudging along for only one grand finale goal.

Celebrate Others

These moments of pride aren’t just about us, however. We can also recognize others’ moments of achievements. We do this best when we give authentic, frequent, and meaningful praise or prizes or celebrations.

Did you know that a top reason that people leave a job is a lack of praise and recognition?

Providing moments of recognition can be a turning point in someone’s life instead.

  • Have you had a teacher who spoke words of life into you?
  • Or a boss who applauded your work outside the yearly review?
  • Or even a friend who said, “I noticed what you did for me; it made a difference.”

These moments of pride don’t necessarily happen on their own. We can create them through thoughtfulness and intentionality.

Every step matters, and when we complete it, it’s a win. Recognize it.

Jeff and I have set some specific milestones we’d like to reach for grandparenting despite the distance. They’ll likely be adjusted once the baby actually gets here.

But by designing our goals deliberately, with several benchmarks along the way, I hope we’ll create more moments of accomplishment and more opportunities to celebrate.

“We’re not stuck with just one finish line. By multiplying milestones, we transform a long, amorphous race into one with many intermediate ‘finish lines.’

As we push through each one, we experience a burst of pride as well as a jolt of energy to charge toward the next one.”
– Chip and Dan Heath

* * *

What’s a goal you have? How can you build in multiple finish lines and create more moments to remember? Please share in the comments.


The Four (EPIC) Elements of Marking the Moment:

For more on The Power of Moments, watch this 4-minute video, “Build Peaks, Don’t Fix Potholes


3 Ways to Listen So People Will Talk

“Whenever you dive in with your own story, you are stealing the microphone from the person who is telling their story.”

Do you know how to listen so people will talk?

Don’t confuse it with this:

How to talk so people will listen.

Those are two different things. Too often we’re fixated on the latter—trying to gain an audience for our words.

But the former is a better (and harder) thing to do—training ourselves to quiet down so we can hear the hearts of others.

“People feel more loved and valued if we are actively and attentively listening to them. So why don’t we take listening more seriously?”
– Becky Harling

I’m not normally brave. But I got brave and asked my husband Jeff about my listening skills. I asked him to rate me based on a quiz, “How Would You Rank Me as a Listener?”.

The quiz was from Becky Harling’s new book, How to Listen So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections. Here are a few of the questions. Ask someone else how you rate from Rarely, Sometimes, or Often.

  1. I am guilty of interrupting.
  2. I am present when you talk—not texting, checking email, or looking at social media.
  3. I dive in with my own story or experience.
  4. When you communicate with me you feel hurried.
  5. When we disagree I offer understanding.

I didn’t like all Jeff’s answers about me. Because I knew they were true.

I’m not always present when he talks. My body language doesn’t always invite someone to tell me more. I can get defensive when my opinions are challenged.

Poor Listening

Do people ever tell you that you seem distracted, too? Do you ever feel you don’t listen to others because you don’t want to put down the thing you’re currently doing? Do you think you can successfully multitask when someone is trying to tell you something important?

Too often our poor listening skills hinder our relationships. And for valid reasons.

  • We care more about our stories than theirs.
  • We want to be understood more than we want to understand.
  • We don’t want to stop what we’re doing to pay full attention.

But that’s not love. If we want to improve our ability to love, one way is to improve our ability to listen.

“One of the most profound ways we demonstrate the love of Christ is by our availability to listen.”

3 Ways to Listen Better

If you need to work on your listening skills, too, here are 3 tips from Harling’s book. (Get the book to see many more tips.)

  1. Silence Your Inner Fixer (chapter 4)

Harling suggests considering these five reasons to slow down and listen before you dive in to fix the person talking.

(1) You have enough to worry about in your own life.

(2) Your information might be incomplete.

(3) You’ll come across as judgmental or condescending.

(4) You’ll be guilty of demeaning the person receiving your advice. Most problems are complicated.

(5) You’re not God.

Once you hear the person, Harling offers these three questions to shift the focus:

  • Where do you see God in this problem?
  • Is God speaking anything to you?
  • What do you think you might do?
  1. Ask Great Questions (chapter 5)

Harling says 80% of a successful conversation involves listening. Jesus was the master of great questions.

“What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41), “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28), “Why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26), “Do you love me?” (John 21:17), “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29), “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6).

When we ask great questions, people don’t feel attacked. They feel safe to answer.

Choose from these suggestions.

  • Then what happened?
  • How did you feel when he or she said that?
  • How did others in the room react when that happened?
  • What do you think you should do next?
  • What does your spouse think?
  • Is there anything I can do to help you?
  • What do you need from me?
  1. Seek to Understand (chapter 8)

Harling says that confrontation is inevitable. It is uncomfortable. But it also can be transformational. When Jesus was confronted by his friends:

“He didn’t get defensive or frazzled. He didn’t overexplain or try to convince His friends that He had chosen what was most important. He simply said, ‘We’re going to the next town.’ He valued His friends’ opinions but didn’t feel pressured by them.”

Some practical principles for listening in conflict:

  • Pause, pray, and praise God that you don’t have to feel panic.
  • Don’t say anything for a few minutes.
  • Don’t interrupt—let the other person finish dumping.
  • Listen for something to agree with.
  • Stay curious.
  • Affirm how much you value the relationship, even if you can’t reach a compromise.

Now Practice Listening

Which skill can you work on this week? Maybe one at a time would be easier than all at once.

“Listening is like a muscle. The more we develop and train, the stronger our listening skills will become and the more effective we’ll become as listeners.”

Harling says there are at least seventy verses in the Bible that talk about listening in some form. It’s a holy activity. Jesus listenened to people. And if we want to be more like Jesus, we need to listen better, too.

Because when we listen better, our friends and family will talk to us more. Everyone desires to be heard. Everyone deserves to be heard.

I haven’t been brave enough yet to retake the quiz with Jeff. I don’t know if my listening skills have improved enough to improve my score. I still have more work to do.

I’ll keep listening.


Here are a few more select quotes from Becky Harling in How to Listen So People Will Talk. I’m challenged by them. You, too?

“In order to humbly listen to others, we need to increase our self-awareness and then surrender our right to be the expert.”

~ * ~

“Whenever you grow defensive in a conversation, it’s driven by fear. It could be the fear of losing control, fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of not having a voice, or fear of not being respected. . . . But the instant you become defensive, you’re unable to listen effectively. Instead, you’re defending your heart.”

~ * ~

“Jesus’ opinions were right about everything because He was God. He is the only One with the absolute correct view of everything. But even Jesus didn’t push His opinions on others. Instead, He listened and only spoke truth in response.”

~ * ~

“Let someone be the star of their own show. Keep the focus on the person talking.”

~ * ~

“Don’t tell people what to do; ask them questions.”

~ * ~

“The principle of ‘tell me more’ is to invite the other person to keep going with their story. You might say, ‘Tell me more,’ or ask, ‘And then what happened?’ or ‘How did that make you feel?’”

~ * ~

“Try to figure out what the other person is feeling by asking questions rather than trying to change the other person’s thinking.”

~ * ~

“Let your friends tell their stories. It’s okay if they get a few details wrong. They don’t need you to be the fact police. Instead, let it go.”

* * *

Which listening skill do you need to improve most? (1) Silence your inner fixer, (2) Ask great questions, (3) Seek to understand.

Please share in the comments.


Read more from Becky Harling at her blog:

My thanks to Bethany House Blogger Review
Program for the review copy of this book

How to Enhance an Experience {Mark the Moment Series #2}

Defining Moments

When’s the last time you’ve been to a wedding? A funeral? A graduation?

We usually attend these events because we know the importance of celebrating an important moment. And celebrating a person important to us.

It’s been over a year (October 2) since Jenna, my youngest daughter got married. Weddings are memorable moments. They’re planned, they’re focused, and they’re people-oriented. They’re easy to remember. They’re filled with built-in rituals.

But every day can’t be a memorable moment. Most of life is routine.

So when we do want to mark a particular moment as special, but it doesn’t come with its own celebratory format, how can we?

Moments of Elevation

I’m sharing four ways to celebrate defining moments, one each Wednesday, from research in The Power of Moments by authors (and brothers) Chip and Dan Heath.

Each of these four elements is meant to enhance an experience or life transition that we want to mark as special.

I specifically want to mark my transition from parent to grandparent (thanks to our oldest daughter Morgan).

This week is Element One: Moments of Elevation.

You can use a moment of elevation to enhance

  • (1) a special occasion like those mentioned above, plus birthday parties, retirement parties, baptisms, or
  • (2) an “onstage” moment, such as a championship sports game, speaking at a conference, a band concert, or
  • (3) spontaneous moments, like a sunny day in the park, a baby’s first smile, a worship experience.

To elevate one of these moments, the book recommends you do one of these three things from this first element (next week is the second element, Moments of Pride).

  1. Boost Sensory Appeal

“Boosting sensory appeal is about turning up the volume on reality. Things look better or taste better or sound better or feel better than they usually do.”

At Jenna’s wedding we had beautiful flowers and twinkling lights and special clothes. Peak moments look different; they feel different.

To create your own peak moment, something as simple as dressing up can make an occasion feel different. Light candles for a special meal. Take a meeting outside instead of a board room.

Jeff and I went to a distant location (Maine) to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary last month. The atmosphere was different—cliffs, ocean, lighthouses. Hiking through Acadia National Park is something we’ll remember because it looked different and felt different than our backyard in Alabama.

  1. Raise the Stakes

“To raise the steaks is to add an element of productive pressure: a competition, a game, a performance, a deadline, a public commitment.”

To celebrate 25 years of marriage and to commemorate our transition to a new season of grandparenting, I brought a bag of polished stones with us to Maine. On one set of rocks, I had written the word, “Thanks.” Another set said, “Help,” and a third said, “Wow.”

To raise the stakes, on our first full day in Maine, Jeff and I took three “Help” rocks with us to Portland Head Light (Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse).


As we looked over the Gulf of Maine, Jeff and I each came up with three specific prayers of “Help” for our new season ahead. We then said them aloud to each other and God, then threw each “Help” rock into the water.

One of Jeff’s requests was that the grandkids would have so much fun with us that they would cry when they had to leave. One of my requests was that I would have enough energy to play and keep up with them.

I then bought a lighthouse replica to put in my grandma box as an extra reminder of our commitment moment.


  1. Break the Script

“To break the script is to defy people’s expectations of how an experience will unfold. It’s strategic surprise.”

You likely have informal scripts for how you spend Sunday mornings or who makes breakfast during the week or what you do on vacation.

To break the script, throw in a “delightful surprise” to change a normal routine. The book suggests an exercise called “Saturday Surprise.” The instructions are easy: Break the script on your Saturday routine. Do something totally different than you normally would. See what happens.

Reminiscence Bump

What are the ten most important events likely to take place in a lifetime? A study by Dorthe Berntsen and David Rubin showed these most popular answers (not in sequential order).

  1. Having children
  2. Marriage
  3. Begin school
  4. College
  5. Fall in love
  6. Others’ death
  7. Retirement
  8. Leave home
  9. Parents’ death
  10. First job

The majority of these events happen between the ages of roughly 15 to 30.

“If you ask older people about their most vivid memories, research shows, they tend to be drawn disproportionately from this same period, roughly ages 15 to 30. Psychologists call this phenomenon the “reminiscence bump.

~ * ~

Why does a 15-year period in our lives—which is not even 20% of a typical life span—dominate our memories?”

Psychologists say because of novelty. Many firsts happen during those years. First kiss, first job, first time living away from home.

But we don’t have to stop having “firsts.”

“Surprise stretches time.”

Throw in some novelty of your own this week. You don’t have to use every element to elevate every moment.

But remember every now and again to mark your moments.

  • Invest intentionally.
  • Stay engaged.
  • Live purposefully.

Watch this 3-minute video about improving your experiences.

Dan Heath Is Your School All Practice No Game

* * *

Which strategy can you use this week: (1) Boost the sensory appeal, (2) Raise the stakes, or (3) Break the script?

What do you remember about the last big event you attended? Why? Please share in the comments.

The Four (EPIC) Elements of Marking the Moment:


Do You Know Me?

I’d never seen them before.

So why did they look so familiar?

Do you ever do that? Meet someone new, but feel like you already know them?

Jamie or Fran?

Two weeks ago in Wauchula, Florida, after Hurricane Irma came through, we met Jamie. She’s young, but she’s fierce. She’s taking care of Hardee County, FL. She’s tending to broken houses and hurting families and hungry bodies. She runs Send Me Missions. She lives out Jesus locally and internationally.

When Jamie took our PAR (Prepare and Respond) group to the Hardee Help Center, another organization she heads up, I knew how I knew her. She’s the Fran of Hardee County. Fran, who I’ve known for years, takes care of Madison County, AL, where I live. She runs Manna House and so much more, showing people the love of Christ. Just like Jamie is doing where she lives.


Hank and Jamie

Stranger or Mama?

Another stranger I met in Florida was an older lady, whose name I’ve already forgotten. Our guys were putting a tarp on her trailer that had significant flood damage after the hurricane. She and her husband are snowbirds from South Carolina. They had come down to assess the damage. It was immense.

After talking with her a few minutes, I saw my mama again. When I asked this lady what town she was from, she couldn’t remember. She’d go ask her husband. When I asked her when she was going back to South Carolina, she couldn’t remember that either.

But she was so sweet. So in love with her family. So dependent upon her husband. Just like my mom had been, too, before she died with Alzheimer’s.

Hank or Jeff?

A third stranger, now also a friend, is Hank. A local, he took off work from his own job to help us out-of-towners respond to hurricane damage in his town. I loved watching him interact with people. He listened with his eyes and with all of his heart. He answered questions with truth but with compassion.

When I asked him what his wife was like, he said she was a piece of heaven. Not that I am that myself, but that is the kind of answer my sweet husband Jeff might also give. Hank reminded me of Jeff, full of energy, a love for people, and a passion to help.


Making Hank an honorary PAR member

All in the Family

Why did these three people seem so familiar?

You might say because they reminded me of people in my own life.

But the larger reason? Because they each remind me of God. They all bear his image. They are my brothers and sisters.

When you sense a spark of recognition in someone new you meet this week, see if it is God you’re meeting anew.

He plants himself in each of us, in unique ways, in delightful surprises.

We are all family here.

* * *

Have you met someone new, but felt you already knew them? Please share in the comments.


We’re All Messy – Book Review “Of Mess and Moxie”

“I have always said that if you don’t love Jesus, you just don’t know Him. He is the full and complete jam, and we would all be fighting to sit by Him at dinner if He was here now.”
– Jen Hatmaker

Do you ever have a love/hate relationship with a book?

That’s what I have with Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker. Here’s why.

First, the bad news.

I like my non-fiction books to be focused and informative. I want my serious books to be serious. And my funny books to be funny. But this book refused to stay on track with either. Even the funny parts seemed to ramble and wander.

Jen also includes several recipes, which I also don’t like in a book (recipe lovers, don’t hate me, but isn’t that what Pinterest is for?).

But second, the good news.

After sludging through a few chapters of what you might call fluff, Jen would surprise me with a chapter of spiritual insights. She’d make me pause and rethink. She’d help me find grace for myself and want to extend grace to others.

Jen is a fangirl of Jesus. She helps us love God more. She helps us love ourselves more. We all can be a mess, but that’s okay.

You are far more than your worst day. Jen Hatmaker

So would I recommend Of Mess and Moxie? A tentative yes. It depends on what you’re looking for (although this book likely has it all, at some point).

If you’re looking for something serious, you might get frustrated at times. I did. This book does have serious, but you have to see-saw back and forth with the funny. It’s messy.

But if you’re looking for lots of funny sprinkled in with some serious, and you’re already a Jen Hatmaker fan anyway (I am), you’ll enjoy this book. And might even consider it one of her best.


Here are ten favorite quotes by Jen Hatmaker from Of Mess and Moxie.

  1. “If we get seven out of ten things mostly right as moms, we are winning the majority, and the majority wins the race.”
  2. “Simply identifying fear as the dominant emotion is a helpful red flag. It tells us: Whoa up, sister. These thoughts and ideas cannot be trusted.”
  3. “Making your home pretty is nice, but making it nourishing is holy.”
  4. “It is easy to believe God’s pleasure in us hinges on our aggressive defense of the kingdom, when, in fact, He told us repeatedly our chief identifier is how we love.”
  5. “When in doubt, ask yourself: What would love feel like here, to this person?”
  6. “My dream is for a safe church, a wide table, no secondary kid tables. If Jesus made the sanctuary free and available for all, we should too.”
  7. “Trust me: don’t waste your time overvaluing Christian famous people. . . . I mean this sincerely: only Jesus is worth your full devotion. He alone will never let you down and will always lead you correctly.”
  8. “I possess full confidence in God but a healthy skepticism of the human understanding of God.”
  9. “Loved people love people. Forgiven people forgive people. Adored people adore people. Freed people free people.”
  10. “Forgiveness comes easier to people who regularly ask forgiveness themselves.”

* * *

How do you do with “messy” books? Please share in the comments.

My thanks to BookLook Bloggers
for the review copy of this book

How to Mark the Moment {Series Intro #1}

“In life, we can work so hard to get the kinks out, we forget to put the peaks in.”
– Chip and Dan Heath


Things Change

When have you had a defining moment? A moment where everything changed? Either literally or mentally?

  • Often defining moments occur around peak milestones: graduations, weddings, baptisms.
  • They also occur around transitions: a new job, a cross-country move, an overseas mission trip.
  • And sometimes they involve a pit: a death, an injury, a divorce.

We are always in a season of change.

Whether we are young or old or in-between, life is never constant. Relationships change. Job and family responsibilities shift. Even our bodies never stay the same.

Sometimes we’re forewarned that a new season is approaching. Other times it whirls in like a tornado at our front door, unexpected and unannounced.

Underline the Moments

Regardless of how or why changes come, they sometimes require a mark.

Moments matter. And what an opportunity we miss when we leave them to chance!”

The Hebrew people in the Old Testament often stopped to build an altar to remember a moment (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 28:18; Exodus 17:15; Joshua 4:5-7; Joshua 8:30; and more).

Sometimes we need to do the same, erecting our own stones of remembrance, underlining an experience, in whatever form that takes.

[See “Where’s My Ebenezer?” And read this beautiful post by Barbara at Stray Thoughts, “Here I Raise My Ebenezer.” It’s full of defining moments.]

The Power of Moments

For the next four Wednesdays, I’ll be sharing unique ways to mark a moment.

The four ideas will come from a fantastic new book by Chip and Dan Heath, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.


The authors explain in the book how to capture your own peak moments through these four elements.

  1. Moments of Elevation
    are experiences that rise above the routine
  2. Moments of Pride
    commemorate people’s achievements
  3. Moments of Insight
    deliver realizations and transformations
  4. Moments of Connection
    bond us together

[For various reasons, the authors thought it too cheesy to use EPIC as an acronym for the four elements—they order it EIPC in the book—but EPIC is easier for me to remember.]

I highly recommend you get a copy of this book for yourself. You won’t regret it.

“Teachers can inspire, caregivers can comfort, service workers can delight, politicians can unite, and managers can motivate. All it takes is a bit of insight and forethought.

Download Chapter 1 here.


Marking My Transition

Personally, my life is about to change. After 25 years of being married to Jeff, caring for our two daughters, opening the family to two son-in-laws, we’re about to add a new layer. Morgan will add a baby girl to our family in January.

I don’t know how to be a grandmother. But I know I want to be a good one.

So Jeff and I recently marked the moment of upcoming transition, asking for God’s help as we shift gears.

On our 25th anniversary trip to Maine, we brought with us a group of rocks, marked with “Thanks,” “Help,” and “Wow.”

I’ll share what we did with the rocks in the upcoming posts, how we made a moment.


But for now, I’ll share some quotes from The Power of Moments to inspire you to create your own moments.

As you read them, think of your own transitions. Are you in a season of change within your job, your family, school, church, health?

Why create a defining moment around your change? Chip and Dan Heath suggest these reasons:

  • To enrich your experience.
  • To connect with others.
  • To make memories.
  • To launch your life or your career or your team in a new direction.

All quotes below by Chip and Dan Heath.

~ * ~

“Defining moments shape our lives, but we don’t have to wait for them to happen. We can be the author of them.”

~ * ~

Shouldn’t couples acknowledge and celebrate what they’ve accomplished together? One couple we know kept an anniversary journal for the first decade of their marriage. Every year they would record the things they accomplished: Redecorating the back bedroom, hosting extended family for Thanksgiving dinner, and so on.”

~ * ~

“Moments when we display courage make us proud. We never know when courage will be demanded, but we can practice to ensure we’re ready. The protesters involved in the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins didn’t just show courage, they rehearsed it.”

~ * ~

“Courage is contagious; our moments of action can be a defining moment for others.”

~ * ~

“Remote contact is perfectly suitable for day-to-day communication and collaboration. But a big moment needs to be shared in person. (No one dials in to a wedding or graduation, after all.) The presence of others turns abstract ideas into social reality.”

~ * ~

Creating more memorable and meaningful experiences is a worthy goal—for your work, for the people you care about, and for you personally—independent of any secondary impacts.”


* * *

Join me next Wednesday, October 18, for how to create a defining moment with #1, Moments of Elevation.

Moments of elevation are experiences that rise above the routine. They make us feel engaged, joyful, surprised, motivated. Research suggests that organizations dramatically under-invest in building peaks, choosing instead to fill potholes.”

What’s been a recent memorable moment in your life? Please share in the comments.

The Four (EPIC) Elements of Marking the Moment:

Just Say You’re Sorry

Life would be sweeter if we'd say I'm sorry

You need to know about Julie. I just met her Saturday. But I already want to be like her.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

First Meet Anna

I’ve never met Julie. I am outside meeting a different lady (I’ll call her Anna here). Anna is one of our guests at Outdoor Church. She looks disturbed.

I ask Anna if she’d gotten her meal. A free lunch is always served to our homeless friends when Outdoor Church finishes each first Saturday of the month at Manna House.

This month’s service and meal are being hosted by Julie’s church. They are grilling barbecue chicken to bless all who show up.

Anna tells me they were rude to her on the meal line. That they said she was a rule-breaker. And that she knows she is not a rule-breaker.

I believe Anna believes that.

But I believe differently.

I have seen how loving the people from Julie’s church have been. How gentle. How generous.

I tell Anna everything will be fine. We can go back in line. She is welcome to get a meal.

She is finally convinced. But only if I will come with her.

Now Meet Julie

In line, Julie and her friends offer Anna a plate, as I knew they would.

But Anna begins pointing at Julie. “It’s her! She thinks I’m a rule-breaker.”

I see the shocked look on Julie’s face. She is clueless.

Julie has no idea what is going on. She does not know why this woman is pointing a finger at her.

I try to smooth things over with Anna, convince her that it’s all a misunderstanding, that Julie isn’t mad at her.

But Anna won’t have it. She keeps pointing at Julie.

I don’t know what to do. I often don’t in these situations. I need more skills.

But I’m getting nowhere with Anna. So I go behind the line to meet Julie.

She doesn’t know me; I don’t know her.

I tell Julie, I know you did nothing wrong. But will you tell this lady you don’t think she’s a rule-breaker? She has mental problems.”

Julie probably thinks I am the one with mental problems (and I admit, I have my days).

But she listens to me. Then she turns to Anna.

The Best Part

And this is what Julie says. (This is the best part of the story.)

Julie tells Anna, “I am so sorry. I was wrong. I would love to give you some food.”

Anna leans in. She mumbles something again about not being a rule-breaker.

And Julie repeats, looking Anna in the eye with humility and sincerity, “I don’t think that about you. I am the one who is wrong. I’m sorry.”

And Anna melts to her kindness.

Her belligerence fades. Her resistance disappears. She says, “Ok.” She takes a plate and is on her way.

Now I am the one who can’t let it go.

I go back to give Julie a hug. To thank her for what she just did. For her gracious apology to a stranger who had falsely accused her.

She shrugs it off. She laughs. She says she’s used to saying she’s sorry.

I can laugh, too. The drama is over. I tell Julie I want to be more like her. I mean it.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Just Say This

Life would be sweeter if we would say “I’m sorry” more often.

Even if we are not in the wrong, we can still be sorry. We can still apologize. We can still be humble.

When Julie said, “I’m sorry” to Anna, I saw Jesus in her.

I want to see more of Jesus in me.

Maybe I need to say “I’m sorry” more often, too.

* * *

When’s the last time you said, “I’m sorry”? Is it hard or easy for you? When has someone else’s apology changed a situation for you? Please share in the comments.

Hurricanes R Us – Adventures in Florida

[if you can’t see the Wauchula video, click here]

{Sunday morning, September 10}

People in Wauchula, Florida, are waiting. They haven’t met Irma, but they know she is on the way.

In the next 24 hours, Irma will storm in, announced but uninvited. She will blow limbs off trees, throw debris into roofs, and soak Florida with more water than it can hold.

She will try to extinguish all light.

And temporarily, she will succeed.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

{Sunday morning, September 24}

Two weeks later.

It’s 5:30 a.m. It’s pitch black in Huntsville, Alabama.

One set of headlights made it here before us. We wait together in darkness for the rest of our team to gather.

We are strangers this morning. We’ve seen names on emails. But no one knows everyone. We wonder who we all are.

Almost 700 miles away, another small group of people are also wondering who we are.

In Wauchula, they are waiting to see if we’ll really show up tonight in our church van and flood trailer as we promised.

The people in Florida are tired. For two weeks they have been locals helping locals. But the needs exceed the hours.

It can wear a body out. And a soul.

Others in Wauchula are also wondering, but not about us. They don’t know we’re coming. Instead, they are thinking . . .

  • about the mold creeping up daily on their walls,
  • if their ceilings will pour water when it rains again,
  • where the money will come from to fix or replace what Irma took.

They don’t yet see the light. So they work and they wait in the dark.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

{Monday – Thursday, September 25-28}

We are in the heart of Wauchula.

Our PAR (Prepare and Respond) disaster relief team meets their Send Me Missions team.

par and send me missions

Together we nail the classic blue tarps (or whatever is available) onto roofs. We listen to homeowners repeat their stories. We hand out Red Cross cleaning buckets and give out local help numbers and extend bottles of cold water from our coolers.

But we also want to hand out hope.

  • Hope that help is always on the way.
  • Hope that God never abandons anyone.
  • Hope that it will get better.

We all need that hope.

Whatever our storms, whether a leaky faucet or hurricane winds, hope revives our spirits when they begin to sink low. Hope lights up dark places.

And hope often arrives in a human body.

Unlike the ultimate Hope that arrived in the flesh 2,000 years ago, our arrival hasn’t been prophesied for centuries or greeted with the brightest angels singing our praise.

But each of us can embody the hope that breathes life into the fainting by simply showing up.

wauchula florida

Our work in Florida may not look like much to the human eye.

We pitch water-logged mattresses into a garbage pile; we document tarped roofs that still need fixing; we cut half-down trees off of driveways.

Much work still needs to be done.

We must keep showing up wherever we are. To do things we’re good at. And to occasionally do things (like, stand on a roof or meet new people) that make us uncomfortable.

jeff on roof

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

{Friday, September 29}

All 11 of us have loaded our suitcases and are on the road by 7:05 a.m. We leave behind our new friends Jamie and Hank and Bill and Amy Jo and Pastor Jeff.

We don’t know when we will show up again in person in Wauchula.

But we can show up in our own towns . . . for our next-door neighbor who needs a wrench or a Walmart clerk who needs her story heard or a sick aunt who needs a hot meal.

God wants us to show up with hope. Wherever we travel. To whomever we meet.

We will continue carrying hope with us for the people of Wauchula as we pray, as we remember, as we tell.

We saw Jesus there. He had been there the whole time. He has declared us family. And so we are. We are strangers no more.

The van pulls into the parking lot late Friday night. We throw away empty water bottles and Pringles cans and used napkins from under the seats.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


But we keep our hearts full.

  • Of new friends.
  • Of inspiring stories.
  • And of hope that can never be blown away.

Light always finds a crack to shine through.

It’s who God is.

And it’s what He wants us to do.

* * *

In 2011 we had our own natural disaster in a series of horrific tornadoes. Who showed up to help? Unbeknownst to us until last week, one of the groups were the good people of Wauchula, Florida. Isn’t that just like God?

More stories to come. My heart is still processing.

Who needs your hope this week? Where can you show up? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.


Links, Books, and Things I Love – October 2017

Here are favorites from September and what I’m looking forward to in October. We share once a month at Leigh’s.

1 Second Everyday

[If you can’t see the 1 Second Everyday video, click here]

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Around the Web

•  Pastor, Strive to Learn Their Names
by Benjamin Vrbicek at The Gospel Coalition
Not just for pastors. Why it’s good to learn names. And how to do it.

•  Most Female and Male Occupations
by Nathan Yau


In 2015, the most female job was preschool and kindergarten teachers, and the most male was carpenters. See what has changed since 1950.

•  Anxious for Nothing: An Interview with Max Lucado
by Jonathan Petersen
I tend to be anxious. “Max Lucado: Anxiety disorders in the United States are the number one mental health problem among women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men. Some say the United States is now the most anxious nation in the world.”

•  White Identity Politics and American Terrorism
by Kai Wright
“We cannot move forward until white citizens claim their history. . . . we will first have to back up and do the long-avoided, scary work of leading truthful conversations about racism.”

•  Hurricane Stuff

  1. How do palm trees survive hurricanes?
    by Melissa Breyer
  2. No other state gets hit by hurricanes as often as Florida
    by Brandon Griggs, CNN
  3. Donate to the One America Appeal
    I love seeing the former Presidents of both parties come together for a common cause.

“Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have brought terrible devastation— but also brought out the best in humanity. As former Presidents, we wanted to come together to help our fellow citizens in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean as they recover and rebuild.”

One American Appeal

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Books, Writing, and Podcasts

•  It’s Okay to “Forget” What You Read
by Charles Chu
It’s impossible to remember everything we read. And neither is it necessary. This article made me feel better about all the things I forget I read.

•  How to Write Persuasively
by Henneke
Although the article is actually entitled “How to Write a Persuasive Sales Page (Even If You Hate Selling)“, it’s just good writing techniques in general. Henneke’s writing tips are usually quite useful.

•  Favorite Quick News Podcasts
For top headlines, USA Today’s 5 Things to Know tells the top 5 stories you need to know each morning. And for a little more detail, Up First from NPR reports on the top stories in about 10 minutes.

•  6 Books I Recommend
Here are 3 fiction and 3 non-fiction books I enjoyed this month, including Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson and one of my new favorite books, The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath.

6 Books I Recommend

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•  Five Good Books I’m Reading Now

  1. The Four Tendencies
    The Indispensable Personality Profiles that Reveal How to Make Your Life Easier (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)
    by Gretchen Rubin
  2. Of Mess and Moxie
    Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life
    by Jen Hatmaker
  3. The Sacred Enneagram
    Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth
    by Christopher L. Heuertz
  4. Before We Visit the Goddess
    by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  5. Hunger
    A Memoir of (My) Body
    by Roxanne Gay

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Things I Love

•  Daughter Time

I love spending time with my two daughters. And soon-to-be granddaughter in 2018! Morgan came up to see her cousin Lindsey’s sweet newborn and visit with extended family.


~ * ~

•  A New Memory Verse Challenge

We’re spending 10 weeks in Deuteronomy 30, memorizing 10 verses. Doing it with the Do Not Depart #HideHisWord community makes it a little easier and a lot more meaningful. I benefit by hearing what God speaks through others as we go through these verses.


~ * ~

25 Year Anniversary and a Week in Maine

We’ve never been so far north. We spent a week in Maine at the beginning of the month to celebrate our anniversary. We absolutely loved it there. (But I would never survive their cold winters.)


We bought nothing, but enjoyed L.L.Bean’s flagship store in Freeport, Maine

~ * ~


West Quoddy Head, in Lubec, Maine, is the easternmost point of the contiguous United States

~ * ~


East Quoddy Lighthouse (also known as Head Harbour) on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada

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•  No Lasting Damage – Instagram Proof

Kids don’t always like to see their parents showing affection. Our daughter Jenna posted this on Instagram for our anniversary. It made me glad to know my and Jeff’s years of PDA didn’t damage her. {smile}

anniversary instagram

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• Hurricane Clean-Up

Jeff and I were blessed to spend last week in Wauchula, Florida, with our disaster response team PAR (Prepare and Respond). The community suffered much damage from Hurricane Irma on September 10 and subsequent flooding in the following days.

We met many wonderful people – those who fed us, who housed us, who allowed us to partner with them (Send Me Missions), and who let us tarp their roofs. We were honored to pass along the love of God to those who were tired and hurting.


I only helped on the roofs that weren’t too steep (I’m a scaredy-cat)

~ * ~

PAR Florida Team

Our PAR team from Alabama (after a shower)

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On the Blog

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What was one of your highlights from September? What are you looking forward to in October? I plan to stay home as much as possible. Please share in the comments.

previous Links and Books

On the Blog – September 2017

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