Rules of Chocolate

... this is important leadership stuff, y'all!!!

I have no idea where this came from … otherwise I would give credit to the author because it is absolutely brilliant!!!

Enjoy your heart day and your chocolate, friends!!!!

“Rules of Chocolate”

It’s Valentine’s Day, and that means thousands of tons of chocolate will be given away.

With that in mind, keep these rules handy:

1. If you’ve got melted chocolate all over your hands, you’re eating it too slowly.

2. Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices & strawberries all count as fruit, so eat as many as you want.

3. The problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the store in hot car. The solution: Eat it in the parking lot.

4. Diet tip: Eat a chocolate bar before each meal. It’ll take the edge off your appetite and you’ll eat less.

5. A nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories in one place. Isn’t that handy?

6. If you can’t eat all your chocolate, it will keep in the freezer. But if you can’t eat all your chocolate, what’s wrong with you?

7. If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves.

8. If you eat equal amounts of dark chocolate and white chocolate, that is a balanced diet.

9. Money talks. Chocolate sings.

10. Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger.

11. Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous? Because no one wants to quit.

12. Put “eat chocolate” at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you’ll get one thing done.

Everyone Needs a Clara Mae!

16 years ago I stumbled into a break-out session of a large conference. At that time, I had been on a church staff for less than a year and was hungry to learn all that I could. In other words, I had no idea what I was doing!!!

The session leader, Clara Mae, talked at length on practical ideas in Children’s Ministry as well as Personal Growth. She had a table display that held recommended reading and she ended by giving participants her personal book list.

I remember thinking how very much I wanted to be like her. I also remember thinking that I had zero time to read!

After her session ended and folks were filing out, I made my way to the front to chat with her. Note that this was VERY out of character for this introvert. She was so kind in responding to my very simple question: “How do you find time to read?”

She didn’t laugh at me. Instead, she asked me a few questions about ages of my children, length of time in ministry, etc. She took time to learn a little more of my story behind my question and responded accordingly.

She listened. She really heard my heart. She took time with me. She treated me as an individual.

That day began a long-distance but super special relationship. Clara Mae speaks to hundreds. She mentors dozens. She remembers my name and has exchanged emails, phone calls and personal visits many times during the past 16 years. And, I constantly thank my Father for this sweet gift.

Who is YOUR Clara Mae? Who is several seasons ahead of you that you trust? Who do you allow to speak into your life? Do you have one or more faces coming to mind right now?

If so, I celebrate with you!! Keep yourself in relationships that help you grow.

If not, I challenge you to seek out a Clara Mae.

Lead yourself well by watching and learning from folks who are modeling the growth and leadership that you desire!

The Advice I Deleted

Ever heard of “the squeaky wheel” concept?

Early in my ministry years, a well-meaning (I think) person on staff told me directly that the squeaky wheel gets attention and that I should be more squeaky!! She was very serious in suggesting that I get loud about needs and wants in my ministry area.

The advice initially shocked me. I respected the advice-giver tremendously so I did process the comments quite a bit. I reflected on my God-given leadership style and, in the end, completely dismissed the suggestion.

I’m not a naturally squeaky-style person.  In fact, squeakers bother me. The time and energy that it takes to be loud about getting your own way is a complete distraction from living each day focused on what we are called to do.

Being squeaky doesn’t work for me.
In fact, I’m not sure it really works for any leaders.
More on that very soon!

34 Titles for My 2018 Reading List

... just the beginning ...

I typically reserve book sharing of those I have already completed and feel good about recommending.

At the beginning of the new year, I’m sharing my 2018 Book List.  These have been suggested from a variety of sources and I’m excited to start chipping away.  You’ll notice the variety of leadership, fiction, finance, marriage, spiritual, biography and more.  The hardest decision will be knowing which one to read “next.”

My goal for the year is to make it through 55 books and I am looking forward to the enjoyment and the growth that will follow from each one that I put a check mark beside.

Obviously, this is only the beginning of the list that will help me accomplish my goal, but it gets me off to a super start without having to think too hard.  In fact, the top 2 are already downloaded to my phone and ready to begin.

Undone: A Story of Making Peace With An Unexpected Life (Michele Cushatt)

How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge (Clay Scroggins)

Building a StoryBrand (Donald Miller) … just completed!

Your Best Year Ever (Michael Hyatt)

A Trip Around the Sun (Mark Batterson)

For Women Only (Shaunti Feldhahn) … this is a “read again” book!

Less (Rose Lounsbury)

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World (Adam Grant)

Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity (Charles Duhigg)

Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World (Tim Ferriss)

Nothing to Prove (Jennie Allen)

Just Open the Door (Jen Schmidt)

H3 Leadership (Brad Lomenick) … another “read again” book!!

Financially Chic (Fiona Ferris)

Leadership From the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life (Kevin Cashman)

The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Your Life to the Next Level (Gay Hendricks)

The Giver (Lois Lowry)

The Leadership Handbook (John C. Maxwell)

Humble Roots (Hannah Anderson)

The Rest of God (Mark Buchanan)

The Broken Way (Ann Voskamp)

Wonder (R.J. Palacio)

Unashamed (Christine Caine)

The Complete 101 Collection (John C. Maxwell)

No More Faking Fine (Esther Fleece)

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World (William McRaven)

Grace, Not Perfection (Emily Ley)

A Portrait of Emily Price (Katherine Reay)

Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God (David McCasland)

5 Levels of Leadership (John C. Maxwell) – reading again!

Small Change: The Secret Life of Penny Burford (J. Belinda Yandell)

At Home in the World (Tsh Oxenreider)

A More Beautiful Question (Warren Berger)

The Little Big Things (Tom Peters)

With this list of 34, I have plenty of room to add books recommended by friends, at conferences, and those I hear about on podcasts.  It’s going to be a great year of book-reading!!

So, what about you?  What books are you planning to read in the upcoming 12 months?
What would you suggest that I add to my list?

(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links, and I will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through the links. Read my disclosure policy here.)

Mid-January … Checking In!!

Mayhem fell off the wagon – what about you? For such a long time Mayhem has been making us nervously chuckle and gasp at the same time. By being a destructive force in someone’s life to show why we need insurance, he has been very creative in destroying cars and houses and lots more.

On the first day of this new year, he announced that he had a New Year’s resolution to not be destructive-Mayhem but to actually protect people from destruction. Being a lightning rod on the top of the house and a tennis ball hanging in the garage, he has been in security mode – that is, until last Monday night!  During a big football game he fell off the wagon … after he discovered that many others of us had as well.

So, what about you?
Are you still tracking with goals you firmly committed to when the year turned to a fresh start?
Have you fudged a bit?
Have you given up totally?

Let me just share with you that waiting for a brand new year is not necessary. Simply start today.
Seriously! Go back to what made you decide in the first place – what is your why? Now, get back to it.

Keep growing and stretching in 2018. You’ll be so very glad you didn’t give up!


Knowing is Good …

... but it is not enough!

There are zillions of great books, blogs, podcasts, conferences & coaches that we are learning from. So, why aren’t we all currently at a John Maxwell status??

If only the reading and listening would get us there …
That’s a good start. It is not enough. And, it is certainly not the final step.

Learning from these great sources only develops our leadership when we turn it into some type of doing.

Want to lose weight?
–> Will reading books about weight loss make it happen?

Want a better marriage?
–> Will attending a couples conference create wedded bliss?

Want a new color on the walls in your living room?
–> Will talking with the Lowe’s guy give the room a new paint job?

Want to be financially free?
–> Will listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast clear up your debt?

That would be a big fat NO to all of those!!

Same is true with leadership. Let’s make use of our amazing resources. But, more importantly, let’s take that knowing and turn it into doing.

What is one very practical leadership lesson you will apply today?

Money Matters

Leading ourselves well (self-leadership) involves managing every aspect of our life in a deliberate manner. This includes our finances!

Randy & I recently spent time dreaming and planning for 2018 financial decisions. It’s fun to dream. And, it’s empowering to choose.

We are huge fans, followers, cheerleaders of Dave Ramsey and his no-nonsense, Biblical approach to handling money. His “live like no one else so later you can live and give like no one else” philosophy is nothing short of truth. His tried & true Baby Steps have helped millions get out of debt and live a life in which they are not enslaved to lendors.

If you tend to prefer things sugar-coated, I’m not sure Dave is your guy. If you are drowning in debt or have so much money you’re not sure how to spend it or anything between, Mr. Ramsey has very practical tips for you.

He preaches the “telling your money where to go before it leaves you” (budget) and other God-honoring truths. His lessons come in many forms. No matter where you are on the money-management spectrum, I highly recommend any/all of these:

This is not an affiliate post!!
Simply something I believe in and an area that leaders at all levels need to have a firm grip on.

All the Quirky Things

So, let’s get to know each other in 2018!!  Seriously.  Beyond the screens, emails and phone conversations are real people with real lives who have lots of stuff going on.

And, no doubt, we also have lots of interesting as well as quirky things about us.

Fridays over on the LWJ Facebook page, we’ll do RANDOM FACT FRIDAY!  I’ll share a tidbit about me.  You’ll likely laugh or shake your head … and then it’s #YourTurn to share something along the same lines in the comments.

Let’s have some fun with this.  Leadership stuff can be so serious and draining and sometimes just plain ‘ol exhausting.  Fridays will be our time to relax a bit and be reminded that behind the positions and titles, we’re just us!

Which Category Are YOU In?

A friend is …
One way to categorize people in our lives, is with the following.
As you read each one, what names come to mind?
(don’t say them out loud …)
  1. Draining
  2. Neutral
  3. Replenishing
A draining person tends to suck the life right out of you.  When you see that person enter a room, the reaction is an instant heaviness and dread.  We try to avoid these people as often as we can.  You have some people in mind, right?
A neutral person is just that.  A person who provides some function in your life but doesn’t wear you out or give you energy.  You don’t think about them unless you are dealing with them directly and those situations are typically pleasant.
A replenishing person is life-giving.  When you see that person enter a room, the reaction is an instant lightened mood and excitement that is accompanied with a smile.  When spending time with these people, we realize that the minutes pass way too quickly and we look forward to the next time we are together.
Likely none of this is new for you!
So, here’s the question to ask yourself and the challenge to take away …
Which kind of friend am I?
How do people respond when I am the one walking into the room?
Am I met with dread or excitement?
Am I avoided or anticipated?
I think it’s fair to say that we would all love to be considered a Replenisher.
And, in that case, there are some practical things we can do to work  toward that.
  1. Smile.
  2. Be positive.
  3. Be sincerely interested in the other person.
  4. Ask good questions.
  5. Practice active listening in conversation.
  6. Avoid talking negatively about other people or situations.
  7. Remember details about the other person.
  8. Strive to add value to the other person.
  9. Give a hug.  (we ALL need more hugs!!)
  10. Send a quick, appreciative message after the encounter.
What else would you add?
Let’s determine that we will be the kind of friend that we most desire in others!

C if for …

#2. Chuckle

(this post is part of a series … be sure to check out all the C words!)

Seriously!  Chuckle – as in, laugh.
Out loud.  Often!!

Some of us may (on occasion) take ourselves way too seriously.
Now, I’m all for being serious.
Just not 100% of the time.

If we don’t find things to laugh about, my theory is that we might just implode.  I have this same theory about trying to hold in a sneeze or be dainty about it.
No … just sneeze out loud and get it out.  Same with laughing!!

Let’s not confuse laughing at people … that’s not nice.

Laughing with someone – or even alone – is perfectly acceptable and highly recommended.
(there are even lots of studies to prove it)

Enjoying fun times of laughter with those you lead is good for everyone.  If you find that things are just too serious with your team most of the time, why don’t you consider doing something really off-the-wall in an upcoming meeting?

Need ideas?

  • wear a wig or some other silly item to a meeting
  • play a game in the middle of a meeting to lighten the mood
  • ask everyone to bring the best (cleanest) joke they can find
  • watch a short video clip from a favorite comedian (several great ones linked below)

Read This
Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You: Kids, Carbs & The Coming Hormonal Apocalypse (Anita Renfroe)
(sorry guys, you’ll need to find your own funny book … )

Ask These Questions
1. When is the last time I have laughed – out loud – with my team?
2. What can I plan for our next meeting to create laughter?

Do This Today
Check out a few videos from John Crist or Michael Jr.
And, laugh!!!!  Out loud!

This One is a NO

Sheryl Sandberg was on the faculty of The Global Leadership Summit 2017 and I thoroughly enjoyed her session which was an interview format pre-recorded with Bill Hybels.  Her personal story as well as her research on women in the workplace caused me to put her newest book toward the top of my reading list.
In Lean In, Sandberg “urges women to take risks and seek new challenges, to find work that they love, and to remain passionately engaged with it at the highest levels throughout their lives.” I love that and would echo the same.
Although I tremendously respect her research and her perspective, I discovered in the pages that her core beliefs do not reflect the life as a woman, a wife, a mom, or a leader that I am personally called to be. Many have and will continue to resonate with her words and her philosophies.  Even with that, I have determined to gain value and learn from the author by reading books that I don’t 100% agree with. But, this book was different for me.
I stopped reading it.  After the reference to “the little book of Porn for Women” and the f  word tossed in the middle of a page, I was done.  Overall, I received little value from the first half except to confirm that my rather traditional and old-fashioned ways are still for me and that I will continue following Scripture’s view on gender roles, so the decision to quit the book was easy! (In fact, I “returned” my book and got a credit back.  Yes, you can do that!!)
Please hear me: I’m not telling you not to read this book – your curiosity may get the best of you after this post! But, I’m not recommending it.  At. All!! There are way too many other excellent, time-worthy books to give attention to.

C is for …

#1. Choices

(this post is part of a series … be sure to check out all the C words!)

We get to make choices!!
How freeing is that??!?

In our various leadership roles in our organizations and homes, there are so many choices we have every single day.

We get to choose …

  • the food we put in our mouths
  • our moods
  • the clothes we wear
  • our responses
  • the tone of voice we use
  • our gratitude level
  • the affection that we show
  • our facial expressions
  • the appreciation that we give
  • our morning routine
  • the time we end our day & go to bed

… and the list goes on and on.  Life doesn’t happen to us.
Instead, we get to choose a zillion aspects of how life unfolds.

Now, it’s time to take action on this word that begins with C!!!

Read This
Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough (Kay Warren)

Ask These Questions
1. What have you been blaming on another person/situation that you actually have the ability to make choices about? What will you do about that?
2. What different choice will you make today in an effort to grow your leadership?

Do This Today
Tell someone you trust about a choice you made and why you went with that option.  Engage in a conversation about choices and the freedom that comes with the ability to choose.

I Proudly Carry

... and here's why ...

It’s true!
I’m the proud carrier of a brand new library card.
My first?  Not at all.  From the earliest I can remember, I had my very own library card that we used every single week … especially during the summer.  As a teacher, I ‘upgraded’ to a card that would allow me to check out twice the number of books for double the time.
Where did those cards go?  And, why?
I don’t know and I don’t know.  All I know is that within the last month, I have been pondering why I don’t access that amazing free resource.  The only answer I could think of was just plain laziness.
I scooted over to the library, went up to the desk and asked for a new card.  Come to find out I was still in their system.  Even though I had “dropped them” temporarily, they had not dropped me.  I felt special.  Ha!
Zero wait time. Out I came with my new card, new resources to tap into, a new place to settle in for several hours of work each week and new sense that I had gotten back to some sort of basic thing that I never should have left to begin with.
My card?  Well, the gal asked me if I wanted a business-look or something fun.
And, of course I chose FUN!!!!
What about you?  
Do you tap into all the offerings of your public library?
What other resources are at your fingertips that you could re-engage with?
I bet the person behind the counter at your local library would love to see you!!


... 4 quick leadership bits for your Friday ...

Jason Young’s web site is a great one to check out … he’s all about leadership growth and shares much encouragement as well as challenge.

What are your plans for Monday?  The Great American Eclipse is happening!  A local meteorologist put together some great info … be sure to be in the know, enjoy the experience and stay safe.

Say what??
Listening is not an option in leadership.
Here are 4 dangers of choosing not to listen.

You may be one friend away from a better marriage.
You may be one confession away from overcoming an addiction.
You may be one conversation away from getting in better shape.
You may be one introduction away from climbing out of the doldrums.
You may be one mentor away from becoming a better leader.
It’s not too late to connect with someone who will change your future.
– Craig Groeschel

My Top 5 Reasons for an A.M. Walk

... vs. later in the day ...

A (big) part of leading myself well is taking care of this one and only body that God has given me. I’m the only one who can. I’m the only one who will.  So, I MUST!!  And, at the top of my self-care list is regular Monday-Friday early morning walks with my neighbor.  (and, just like that, I’ve combined some exercise with some social time!)
As much as I love my pillow and dislike my alarm clock, I have proven to myself why I really do prefer my 45-minute walk to be in the early morning rather than later on a summer day.
  1. The sun in the South is very hot later in the day.  The a.m. cool(ish)ness is much preferred!
  2. In the morning, I haven’t consumed several glasses of tea.  By the afternoon, I almost need a potty break mid-walk!!
  3. The neighbor’s dog walks with us.  In the afternoon, she really wants to lay down multiple times in the shade … I almost would have joined her. Did I mention that sun is hot?!?
  4. I prefer to “get ready” (shower, make-up, hair) just 1 time per day.  A walk later in the day creates the need for a 2nd of everything and I just don’t like spending that much time looking in the mirror.  Pre-shower in the a.m. with a hat is definitely my first choice.
  5. An A.M. walk helps me wake up … better yet, I’ve walked over half of the hills before I’m fully awake and not as aware of the incline.  Later in the day, awake and watching every approaching hill with dread!
  6. (bonus!) My Fitbit showing high step count early in the day is very encouraging.  Some days, when combined with early morning yard work, I have most of my 10,000 steps in by 8:30!
How about you?  How are you leading yourself well in the area of physical care?  What are some of your exercise preferences?

When I Say I Read …

Readers are Leaders …

I’ve heard that for years.  It’s true.  As part of my personal self-leadership, I am always in a book.  I will share these with you from time to time and give honest feedback.  But, I also want to give a disclaimer and an explanation …

When I say I “read a book,” 95% of the time I will have actually listened to the book!!  Without apology, that is my preferred reading style during this season of life.  It hasn’t always been and may not continue, but for now, I’m loving my audio books.

For the past 4 years since becoming an avid book “listener,” I have averaged over 40 books per year.  That’s a lot of reading.  I can guarantee that it is way more than if I had solely relied on consuming books in their paper version.

It’s interesting the occasional criticism that I receive.  Some believe to their core that listening to a book is not really reading and that it is somehow cheating.  I was told once that I had misrepresented myself and my reading habits.  Without being (too) sassy, I kindly asked the person how many books he/she had read in the past year.  Enough said and that was the end of the conversation!

My goal in reading a book is not to highlight important lines or take notes or dog-ear the pages.  If any of those were important to me, listening would not be such a good idea.

My goal is exposure and consumption.  My goal is to absorb all that I can from each book and figure out if/how it applies to my life.  My goal is to learn and grow and to keep on moving.

The very practical way that I accomplish this is through Amazon’s Audible and my iPhone.  I have a subscription to Audible for credits.  I keep my wish list full (currently 47) of “next reads” and add titles whenever I hear great ones recommended.  Adding a book to my cart, making the purchase, and having it sync to my phone happens in just a matter of moments.  And, just like, that I’m reading my next book.

So, how about you?  What’s your preferred method of reading?  Paper copy?  E-book?  Audio?

Most importantly, what are you currently reading???  Leaders are Readers!


... one of the best ways to develop as a leader


Leaders who strive to be life-long learners are constantly ready for the next great book, anxious to hear the upcoming podcast, available to attend the new conference and always looking for ways to grow.

An often overlooked ‘best practice’ for leadership growth is through serving opportunities.  Seriously.

This particular “serving” that I’m referring to involves the leader putting herself in the position NOT to lead.  Just by virtue of the way leaders are wired, this can be a challenge to find such opportunities.  I promise they exist because I am committed to finding them and have involved myself in many.

I specifically look for situations where I can truly be the volunteer, be the one who asks the questions, be the one who doesn’t know the answers or have the plan or have the lists.  On one level, there is a very personal motivation to give of myself.  There is also such a huge potential to learn as a volunteer how to better equip and communicate with volunteers.

Here are just a few examples from my personal experience:

  • Mission Trips.
  • Conferences.
  • Disaster Relief Call-Outs.
  • Local Food Pantries.
  • Town-Sponsored Events.
  • Elementary School Reading Programs & Events.

What are other situations you’ve been able to serve in (without being the one in charge)?


School’s Out!!!

Remember the last day of school in an elementary grade?
Excitement about carefree summer days, a family beach trip, a week at grandma’s house …

What about the last day of an upper grade?
Dreams of time with friends, extra late nights, summer jobs …

Regardless of the grade, the last day of school typically meant no more homework!  No more studying!  No more tests!  No more school … in essence, summer-mode would equal no more learning!!!  Freedom.

Then (finally), graduation.  From high school.  From college.
Moving on to Real Life.

Somehow, in all the efforts our teachers made to instill learning as a life-time process, most of us came out on the other side with the mindset that we were finished with learning.  Afterall, we had been tested on absolutely everything we were supposed to know.  We would no longer be tested.  We must be done learning, right??

How very wrong.  And, how very sad.

Real Life.  Leadership.  Let the MOST LEARNING EVER begin!!!

Earlier posts have referred frequently to the concept of self-leadership.  And, in a nut shell, that is speaking to the life-long-learning process that each of us must monitor for ourselves.  Life is our teacher.  There will be tests of all sorts.  We must manage our learning, our growth, our progress to be ready for all that life and leadership will send our way.

So, as children everywhere are plotting and planning a summer full of lazy days with toes in the water, let us be just as diligent.

Here are a few great summer questions for leaders:

  • What is on my summer reading list?
  • What area of my own communication do I need to strengthen?
  • What local leader do I need to have lunch with to learn from?
  • What podcast should I begin listening to?
  • What are 2 practical ways I can be more generous?
  • What do I need to delegate?

Make it fun!  Summer doesn’t have to be boring just because we are in Real Life & Real Leadership … go put your toes in the water as you ponder these questions.  Take a hike in the woods as you listen to that new podcast.  Try a different restaurant when you meet with that local leader.

Model margin to your team and enjoy these extra warm months called summer as you continue learning & growing!


A Job (not!) Well Done

… there’s the clean floor … and then there is stuff under the rug!! 
First impressions are not always correct.  On this particular day, if you stopped by for a visit, you would find a fairly clean and tidy place that we live in.  But, please don’t look under my rug.  Not only do I not clean under it regularly, I may have been known to sweep a little extra underneath from time to time.  Reason?  Laziness.  Just too plain lazy to walk in the other room and grab the dustpan so that I could do the job completely.
The same thing can happen with our leadership … particularly in the manner we lead ourselves.
What is currently under the rug of your self-leadership?
Have a book only half-finished?
Need to follow-up with a mentor?
Been meaning to listen to that great podcast someone recommended?
What about that journal that hasn’t been updated in 6 months?
Wish for deeper time in scripture?
Need a personal retreat?
Been saying yes to the wrong things?
The fact is that my floors under the rug will not clean themselves.  I must choose to make it happen.  So, I tell you what!  I’m going to sweep under my rug today.  I am deciding that for this day, for this task, I shall fight with Lazy and I shall win.
What about you?  What choices will you make today? What step toward leading yourself better are you going to tackle on this day??
Make it so.
Those you lead are counting on you and need you to do this.