Advice for Public Speakers When You Don’t Feel “Dynamic”

I’m meeting for coffee with one of the wise Italian Mamas, and I lean over to share my deepest fear about the coming year of travel for speaking events.

“What if I’m no longer dynamic as I age? I’m not the same! I don’t always have the same energy!”

She grabs me by the hands, looks me in the eyes, and says:

“You don’t have to be dynamic, just authentic.”

Her words sing in my heart all day and into the night. I don’t have to be dynamic. Energy isn’t the point. It’s authenticity. It’s bringing me to the stage–and God within me–no matter what my age, ability, or energy level.

We want authentic. (Sometimes I’m dynamic, too. But mostly, I want authentic.)

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Wisdom in Times of Change or Transition

Today I learned something so important to remember during times of change or transition. I tend to think of the past and wish I were the same woman, feeling the same way, experiencing the same things. I can live in the past and fight to create an experience I once had.

But people change. I’m aging. You’re aging. We will inevitably enter new seasons. We aren’t the same from year to year. When we live in the past as if we want to inhabit that person that no longer exists, we’ll find ourselves hitting a wall each day. We wonder why we’re not feeling the same. We just want to feel normal.

But there’s no normal in times of change and transition. As I thought about these things, the same two scripture passages resounded in my head. It was as if the Holy Spirit was calling out, over and over again, so I would hear it.

The first is Isaiah 43 when the Lord speaks to His people. I find so many wise principles in this passage:

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.

I think of forgetting the past. I think of no longer dwelling there. I think of how God is always providing for His chosen people and positioning them to praise Him no matter what. That’s how I want to think of myself when I don’t feel like myself. I’m being positioned to praise here. I’m no longer dwelling on the past me, but I’m seeing how God is doing a new thing.

Second, I think of Paul’s declaration in Philippians 3: 12a-14:

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I love the idea of pressing on (not looking back) of straining towards the future (not looking back). We press on into new things. We aren’t the same. We’ll never be the same. When things start changing in ourselves or in our circumstances, we remember the wisdom of not dwelling in the past and wishing we were there.

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Always Receptive

Today I read a beautiful quote by AW Tozer about God. He writes:

In coming to Him at any time, we need not wonder whether we shall find Him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive . . . He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when He will see no one.

I love thinking about the receptiveness of God. Tozer further notes that, as we come to God, infinite power will become instantly operative to us.

I remember God is always receptive, and I think of the infinite power available to the one who asks.

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All this Rain

Today I loved gathering with the Baker family in the living room for conversation, snacks, and a little television. It’s another day of rain, so we stay inside. I’m imagining a game of Spoons and maybe Shanghai Rummy.

The rain brings on the conversations and the games, and I’m thankful.

It’s a wonderful day so far. I folded laundry. I talked with my friend. When the rain slows, perhaps we’ll walk in the neighborhood.

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Building Oneness in Marriage

Today my husband and I celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Our gift to one another is a new landscaping plan for our garden that we can work on together over the years as the budget allows. It’s fun to learn together about native Pennsylvania plants and how to make a garden work well for a contemporary home. It’s just another thing we’re learning together.

I’ve been thinking about how thankful I am for my husband and how our lives have grown more together year after year. We’ve learned to fight what Sheldon Vanauken called “creeping separateness” in his love story A Severe Mercy. I remember when new opportunities unfolded in each of our lives. We learned to ask, “Will this build oneness or take us away from each other?” That question has kept us together instead of drifting apart into separate pursuits as the years go on.

I’m starting to think that building oneness matters most in marriage.

Sometimes, when an offer comes our way that doesn’t seem to build oneness–but it does seem like God’s plan for him or me–we have to work to build the oneness. When I started writing books (a solitary pursuit), Ashley would print out my manuscripts, go to the coffee shop, and read my books so we could talk about them. When I increased my teaching load, he would ask about my students and lesson plans over dinner.

Likewise, when new opportunities in ministry opened for Ashley, I had to choose oneness. I had to enter in and ask good questions. We both had to guard against creeping separateness with increasing travel. Mostly, it’s about communication, but it’s about the kind of passionate interest in someone else’s life journey. You realize it’s your journey, too. And you learn to put your marriage above your career and even your own children.

Early in our marriage, we had to choose activities that would build oneness. It might mean a television series we loved together, a weekly excursion to a new restaurant, or the summer we hiked as many Pennsylvania trails as we could. We have friends our age that joined a birding club together. I want to do that next.

Now, when one of us has an errand to run, we’ll go together just to enjoy each other’s company. Yesterday, we drove down country roads to the fruit farm to buy pies. I filled a bag with peaches, plums, and apricots. As we drove home, I ate plums with my feet up on the dashboard. We sang to the song on the radio, and it felt like we were young and dating again.

Later that night, I asked if he remembered the first time he ever held my hand.

He did. We’ve been together ever since.

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Even Then, Even There

I love Psalm 139 and the promise that no matter where I am, even then God’s “hand will guide me” and His “right hand will hold me fast.” Isn’t it wonderful to know that God’s hand guides us and holds us no matter where we are? He is here even then (when your worst fears come upon you) and even there (when you find yourself in a place you don’t want to be). The psalmist writes:

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 

I cannot escape the presence of the Lord, and for that I am so thankful.

He is here! He is here! He is guiding and holding us fast!

I also read two things about this statement this morning that made my heart glad.

First, to know we are held by the right hand means we are in the place of honor, dignity, and importance. The most special person sat at the right hand of the king. Second, we have two hands in this verse: God’s hand and Christ’s hand. I learn that Jesus sits at the “right hand of the father” and that whenever we read of God’s right hand, that’s the position of Jesus. In fact, the “right hand” becomes another way of saying the Messiah. It’s a prophetic kind of psalm that points to the Savior at the right hand of God. In other words, it’s as if God guides us and Jesus holds us fast when considered in light of Jesus always being in the position at the right hand of God.

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All the Things You Couldn’t Tend

I discover that most of my raspberries never make it to my bowl. A collection of creatures–rabbits, chipmunks, birds, and probably a deer munching from over the fence–regularly consume every single berry the minute they ripen.

Mostly, it’s the rabbits. They have burrowed under our fence. Those rabbits with that adorable puff of a tail have trampled the berry patch and stolen every berry.

I admit I haven’t tended the berries well. With all our travel and all the rain that kept us away from the garden, I never secured a perimeter, warded off small creatures with predator scent, or protected the berries with netting.

Most years, I tend.

This summer, I left so much untended.

Sometimes, you just let things go. You’re tired. You couldn’t tend everything.

In a way, it’s good to know I’m feeding animals I suppose. And I do love the birds that love my berries. Perhaps my not tending the garden has encouraged the very nests I’ve so enjoyed.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the garden, something succeeds with little tending. My tomatoes glisten in the morning sun as they grow protected in their cage within the little chicken wire reinforced fence.

When they ripen, I’ll oven-dry these for the most delicious dried tomatoes to add to sauces, pizza, and sandwiches all winter. The tomatoes make the cut of what fits into my capacity.

But that’s it. When you direct your energy in one place, you lose everything else you had once planted with such resolve. But this is life: you endure the loss of what you couldn’t manage this time, forgive yourself, and understand your limits.

But what’s this? You find this unexpected joy in watching the happy, fat rabbits all summer long. You want to reach out and squeeze that little puffy tail or pat that twitching nose. You even encourage their journey right over to your raspberry patch.

You stand as still as you can. You hardly breathe as they hop around you.

You realize that even in your failures, God brings a gift.

 

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Encouraging People in Four Ways

As you know, I love to encourage people. Today I realized that it’s important to teach others how to encourage one another. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us, so I thought I’d provide this list that I’ve been teaching my children.

  1. Tell others you are glad to be with them and why. You can say, “I’m so glad to spend time with you because you always__________________.”
  2. Notice something unique they do that inspires you. You can say, “I noticed that you____________. That was inspiring!”
  3. Point out to people what you admire about their good character, or anything you see in them that reminds you of Jesus. You can say, “When you did that, it made me think of Jesus.”
  4. Announce when someone has done a great job on anything. Sometimes I’ll call out, “Well done! Well done!”
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