Advice Shuts People Down. Stories Open People Up.

I find myself listening to Donald Miller’s podcast in which he plays an interview between guest correspondent Allison Trowbridge and Gina Bianchini, the founder and CEO of Mighty Networks and a pioneer in online community building.

I’m learning all about building online communities, listening away with ease. And then Bianchini says something life-changing. As she’s talking about how people are motivated to come together to share “stories, experiences and ideas” she quickly inserts, “and typically not advice, actually. Advice shuts conversation down, whereas stories, experiences and ideas dramatically expand [conversation.]”

Her words ring true. I know that, in my own life recently, when others spout off advice, I shut down. There’s nothing more to say. But if you tell me a story or share an idea? I’m open. I’m wide open. I think deeply about what it means to stop offering advice all the time. I’d rather someone share a story, and experience, or an idea about their own parenting of teens, for example, than list out all the things they think I should do in an advice-giving sort of way. When I come to friends when I’m in pain, it never feels good for someone to say, “Well, just do this and that. Here’s my advice. There you go.” What I want is for something to say, “I’ve been there. Here’s what happened to me. Here’s an idea I’m thinking about. What do you think?”

Advice shuts us down. Stories open us up.

Advice shuts conversation down, whereas stories, experiences and ideas dramatically expand it. Click To Tweet
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Letting Your Work Grow and Grow

This morning I recorded some new “The Verb” podcast episodes and begin planning some fall marketing strategies. After this, I answered emails from people needing information on using promotional material for Seated with Christ events and others requesting ordering in bulk information. One project—Seated with Christ—has grown and grown to the point where it’s become bigger than I ever imagined. The other—my baby podcast—is new on the gnarled path. As I compared both endeavors, I possessed the advantage of the long view, of time passing, and of nearly six years of development into the Seated with Christ message.

And here’s what I know:

Things take time. Your work won’t burst into a short-lived flare. You don’t want it to. You want slow and steady. You want a rise over time. It will simmer and bubble; it will percolate and one day become richer and larger than you imagined. It could take six years. It could take ten.

Things take time. Your work won’t burst into a short-lived flare. You don’t want it to. You want slow and steady. You want a rise over time. It will simmer and bubble; it will percolate and one day become richer and larger than you imagined. It could take six years. It could take ten. It could take your whole life.

heather holleman

It could take your whole life.

And it will grow and grow.

But the point isn’t how big something becomes; it’s about creating authentic work that could bless one or thousands. It might not even bless anyone but you. Your work, after all, is about helping you worship Jesus more. You stay steady. You work as unto the Lord. Day after day, you put a message out there.

And it will grow and grow.

With creative work, stay slow and steady. Simmer and bubble. Percolate. One day, the work will become richer and larger than you imagined. It could take six years. It could take ten. It could take your whole life. Click To Tweet
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Remember Faith

It’s silly, I know. I forget that I’m living by faith.

When I cannot see the way ahead, I remember this is a life of faith.

When I do not feel like I can love someone, I remember to love by faith.

When I cannot find the motivation to do my work, I sit down and begin by faith.

When I feel estranged from others and even myself, I remember everything about God’s love and purpose for me by faith.

When I don’t feel equipped for the task before me, I press on by faith.

When I’m scared, I remember my faith.

Opposite the life of faith sits the life of needing to always see clearly, of self-effort, of emotion, of waiting to feel just right, of waiting too long to begin, and of holding back from my purpose because I’m afraid.

What if all this has come to you, to me, because we are growing in our life of faith?

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Never Observed By Me Before

Do you know how many things you’ve never actually observed with your own eyes before? It’s astonishing to think of the wonders of creation and how little we’ve actually seen first hand.

It’s sublime to consider. Take, for example, the apricot tree that I find blossoming as I wash the soup pot. It’s blossoming!

And then I think about it: I have never seen an apricot tree or its blossoming. And now, in my own sunny kitchen, the tree I planted from seed grows and blossoms. Perhaps next spring, we’ll plant the apricot tree in the garden.

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Lower Ground

We return from high-altitude to low altitude, and we enjoy the change in pressure. I think about our sensitivity to certain environments and how we’re made to thrive in certain conditions. It’s fun to travel and fun to speak on big, high stages, but it’s not always what we’re made for. It’s often better for the soul in a lower ground environment.

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What She Packed

Last night I hear a speaker, Beth Guckenberger, who spoke on something I had never thought about. After the account of exodus from slavery in Egypt, we read in Exodus 15:20 that “Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing.”

Beth set up the scene: God has freed the Israelites; it’s time to go! They don’t know where they’re going, how long the journey will take, or even what to pack. They gather their things as quickly as they can, and they follow God’s leading.

And Miriam packs her tambourine.

She packs a tambourine in anticipation of worshiping God. She anticipates a miracle. She’s ready to see the astonishing provision of God.

I picture Miriam scurrying around her slave-shack as she packs up her life. Whatever she chooses, she knows this: she’s going to worship.

So she always has that tambourine!

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Turning the Heart

In 1 Kings 8:58, we read this prayer: “May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors.”

When I pray for my children, I pray God turns their hearts to Him always, that He prompts and enables obedience, and that they would remember the ancient paths laid out scripture that lead the way to abundant life.

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A Family Blessing

This morning I read this blessing that I pray over my family from Psalm 115:14-15:

May the Lord cause you to flourish,
    both you and your children.
May you be blessed by the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

What a simple but powerful blessing!

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A Little Something

When I travel, I love to carry a little something from home to make a strange environment feel cozy. My favorite little something is a scent. I love spraying pillows and the air with a scent we use at home like lavender or citrus.

My aunt just gave me the sweetest gift: a miniature jeweled purse that when opened like a clamshell holds a tiny scented candle. It’s the perfect gift for a traveler who likes to voyage with scents.

Sometimes, that little something—that familiar representation of a cozy home— makes all the difference for comfort in a new environment

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