Tag Archives: work

Monday Morning Moment – Elevating Our Work – with John Burke and Benjamin Hardy

Photo Credit: Benjamin P. Hardy (l), John Burke (r)

On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.

I had nothing.

After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.

On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.

Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.

Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.

There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.

1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before

2. Map It All Out From the Beginning

3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately

4. Put Creation Time On Your Daily Schedule

Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.

I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.

The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.

My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.

Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]

I’m ready to take the next gear.

How about you?

John Burke: 4 Strategies to Continually Elevate Your Work – Benjamin P. Hardy

Persevere – My Interview with Grammy-Nominated Pianist and Composer, John Burke – Podcast – Katy Galli

John Burke – YouTube Channel

10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization – Glenn Llopis

A Health Blog – 10 Proven Ways to Help Boost Creative Thinking

Elevate Your Leadership – Marlene Chism

To Expand Your Influence, Elevate Your Capacity to Think – John Maxwell

Critical Thinking Exercises: 9 Facts and How They Elevate Your Mind – Katrina Manning

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that shocking experience when you are driving to a known destination and then get lost in your thoughts? At some point, you snap back to attention and wonder, “How did I get here, I wasn’t even thinking about it?!” That is neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. It is an amazing capability we all have and can be nurtured and utilized throughout our lives. Yes, “old dogs CAN learn new tricks“.

What is this phenomenon?

Mike Torres, of Refocuser, gives an excellent definition, as well as an explanation of function, in his piece Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice. An example of how neuroplasticity works: when you view the brains of people who frequently practice playing the violin under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them... The more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become.  Of course the inverse happens as well: if those pathways aren’t utilized, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow. Use it or lose it! …Your brain can change based on repeated experience…People of any age have the ability to learn new things and form new habits. Mike Torres, Refocuser

Watching Nathan play intricate, complicated runs on his classical guitar boggles my mind. How can he think that fast? It’s lots of practice that causes the brain to connect to the hands, and those difficult pieces get “under his fingers” almost without thinking.

Years ago a friend gave us this book Never Too Late by John Holt. In his “musical life story”, Holt describes how he learned to play the cello in his 40s. We were encouraged by this during a time we moved to Egypt and learned Arabic in mid-life…when language-learning is supposed to be especially difficult.

I love neuroplasticity but it gives me hope, in getting older, of keeping skills and developing new ones, even as an aging person…unless I give in to dumbed-down practices excusing myself for the same reasons of “getting too old”.

When my older brother suffered a stroke, it was neuroplasticity and the repeated efforts of his medical and therapy team that got him back on his feet. He finally “repeatedly practiced” his way back to independence. The personality changes seemed more ingrained, however, they changed, too, as he exchanged his anger and bitterness for a hopefulness and longing for healthy, loving relationships. As he refused to give into anger and chose soft responses, his personality seriously changed over time…with conscious that eventually turned unconscious practice.

How does all this apply to us in the workplace and life, in general? We are confronted at times with a situation that confounds us – a new uncomfortable skillset, an unpredictable relationship, or an unfamiliar decision-making process. Neuroplasticity helps us to not just give up on mastering either a new work process or a complicated interpersonal situation.

Debbie Hampton has written an excellent summary piece on this that will help kick-start any new habit formation necessary for us to continue to do excellently in our work. She was influenced by Dr. Michael Merzenich’s work published in his book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. I have listed below Merzenich’s 10 elements of how we can rewire our brain. You will find Hampton’s summary on each very instructive. [I comment briefly on each but don’t miss what she says in her article.]

10 Core Principles for Remodeling Your Brain

1. Change is mostly limited to  those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. We have to want to learn and change. If we give up, stay resigned to the status quo, or remain fed-up, change will not happen. Want change!

2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse)  the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. Focus and persistence or key to mastery.

3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. Practice strengthens pathways for behavior. Whether it’s learning a new computer system or developing a different way of communicating with a boss…practice hard-wires.

4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to cell cooperation, which is crucial for increasing reliability. I see this in musicians who live-stream and can read listener chats, respond to them, and continue playing all at the same time. Crazy.

5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This is definitely the mechanism that gets us to our destination when we stop thinking about where we’re going.

6. Initial changes are temporary. Habit formation takes time, and somehow the brain interprets whether the change is vital. Amazing.

7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. At the simplest level, this is the mechanism of how we “talk ourselves through” a situation. Or when an athlete goes through his routine in his mind before he’s back out on the track or in the pool.

8. Memory guides and controls most learning. Our brain actually helps us to remember what we did well and discards what we didn’t.

9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of — potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” The more we practice, either a physical skill or a way of thinking through a problem, we actually get better at it because somehow the brain reduces the background noise (which can include insecurity, fear of failure or self-doubt).

10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Dr. Merzenich warns us, as we get older that we “use it or lose it” by our own decisions to stop learning and mastering new skills and behaviors.

Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

How are you using neuroplasticity to help you continue to grow in your work and personal life? Trevor Blake encourages us to set the tone of the day positively and don’t defect from that. Using self-defeating language can blur our focus and mental capacity for mastery. Read more of his excellent counsel here.

As we age, or give in to “what is” at the moment (tracks greased by depression sometimes, or perceived lack of ability or opportunity), we may not realize the great positive effects of neuroplasticity. However, the good news is that we can keep learning and changing and mastering what work and life and relationships bring our way. It’s never too late.

 

Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits – Mike Torres

How to Rewire Your Brain for Success – Trevor Blake

Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life – Trevor Blake

Brain HQ Website

How Does Neuroplasticity Work – an Infographic

Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story – John Holt

Deadly: Brain on Multitasking – Bukunmi Adewumi

Toxic Thoughts – Dr. Caroline Leaf

Monday Morning Moment – Résumé vs. Eulogy – On Befriending Our Colleagues

Photo Credit: Tangram

Don’t you hate when, out of all the positive exchanges we have at work, there’s that one negative that hangs in our memory? It was a team-building exercise on trust really early in my career. One of the people on my team, with whom I worked at the time, just wouldn’t engage. She finally said, “You are just my co-workers. We are not friends.”

We are not friends.

Slayed.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a goal to befriend colleagues – those close to me and up and down the ranks. Befriending isn’t becoming best buddies necessarily. By definition, it is “to act as a friend to; to help; to aid”.

When this coworker, in my professionally formative past, expressed openly that we were just a part of her job…I was surprised and schooled. For some, relationships at work are compartmentalized in such a way as to keep them formal and shallow.

There is a measure of safety in keeping work relationships at a distance. I get that. However…

When we spend more waking hours with our colleagues than with even the closest of our loved ones, they bear some significance.

I’ve just begun reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.   I wrote about it here a few weeks back as the next book on my reading list. The author Scott Sauls is a pastor, but more than that, he is a friend. Not because I know him personally, but because the imprint of Jesus is on his writing and life. He is not preachy or churchy (in the way it was never meant to be). Sauls is wise, loving, and inclusive. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you want to deepen your friendships and work relationships, sampling the pages of this book will aid you on your way. This book itself, like Sauls, actually befriends you.

Photo Credit: Amazon

My Monday blogs are often reserved for workplace matters – either the culture of our workplace or our very careers. Sauls talks early in the book about how we view success in life. He recalls David Brooks‘s take on our achievement culture.

“We live by two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues – things we bring to the marketplace – and the eulogy virtues – things we want said about us at our funerals. Brooks concludes, ‘In [our] secular achievement culture, we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, but we spend more time on the résumé virtues.'”

What people think of me when I’m gone is less important than truly making a difference in this life. When it comes to our work, I think we all want to add value, not just to the product, but to the people with whom we work and for whom we provide services.

We can get caught in the press of beefing up our résumé and lose sight of the people, real flesh-and-blood people, all around us. Oh, we may not call our focus résumé-building, but when we take a moment to check our motives, it becomes more clear. Ambition, self-promotion, and exclusive control can crush work relationships. We often think it’s someone else but before long it can become us.

I will never forget a colleague who shared about his own pivotal relationship with someone he once considered a difficult boss. They argued over every idea, every decision, every action plan…at least, as this man remembers. His boss was always asking hard questions and pushing him to think more and more outside the box. Yet, in the middle of his heatedly trying to persuade his boss of the rightness of his ideas, the boss would look at his watch and say, “Let’s go get some lunch.” This would infuriate the man re-telling his story.

However, over the years, he began to see something in his boss he didn’t notice at first. This older man genuinely cared for his young protégé. The banter back and forth was to encourage excellence and innovation but never at the expense of valuing the relationship. That’s why lunch together was all part of the exchange. He mattered to his boss.Photo Credit: Free Stock Photos

Later the older man retired and the younger man advanced in his career. Their paths rarely crossed after that. When the older man finally died, his wife called this colleague and asked for him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. The older man had come to consider the younger a friend…and the younger man, as he teared up in remembering, was the better for it.

I’ve written often on complicated work relationships – the us vs. them situations and dealing with contemptuous colleagues among others. We can be tempted NOT to befriend.

Photo Credit: QuotationOf

However, we are the ones who lose the most in not extending a hand of befriending (acting as a friend) to those with whom we work. It changes us, from the inside out, and we live only in the land of résumé-building, rather than eulogy-making.

Sauls writes about expanding our “us”. In the workplace, this can be extraordinarily counter-cultural. To look out for our own status and position is expected. To consider how we might take down silos and create a work community where “the rising tide lifts all boats” (Adam Grant) – something remarkable and memorable.

That is the legacy, years ago, of that coworker/”friend” of mine. She made me more resolved than ever. I want to be a befriender, a boat-raiser, and a person willing to expand the “us”.

Sauls closes this chapter by asking the question, “Where is your greatest opportunity to expand your “us”? It has me thinking. How about you?

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.”

20 Quotes From Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship – Matt Smethurst

Monday Morning Moment – True Humility in Leadership – So Not Cliché

Photo Credit: LinkedIn

There is just so much cliché out there these days. From what’s hip in men’s facial hair, to cool shoes or right purses, to shirts in or out, jeans skinny and cuffed…and the lingo. Oh the lingo!Photo Credit: Contently

Vu Le writes this hilarious article: 21 Irritating Jargon Phrases, and New Clichés You Should Replace Them With. He doesn’t just list out some of those phrases we hear (and say?) at work…ad nauseam. He also suggests alternative language. Just read the piece. Your endorphin level will rise…unless they are your fave phrases…oops!Photo Credit: Disquscdn

I’m weary of having to search for just the right phrase to communicate that what I have to say has merit (see…I shied away from the word “value”). Oh…for a culture where plain speak isn’t judged or suspect or treated as just too uncool.

Where jargon becomes cliché, our definitions can as well. What it takes to be good leaders has had a gargantuan amount written about it…and being a servant or humble leader can also fall into the category of cliché – just another fancy of today’s business culture.

Not so with true humility. Here’s my take on humility in the workplace. There is this seeming humility that masks something else – whether arrogance or insecurity, I couldn’t say. Then there is true humility – this is what makes a leader so easy to follow.

Writer Pat Lencioni has written a book on humility as one of three essential virtues of team players. In his book,  The Ideal Team Player – How to Recognize and Cultivate the three Essential Virtues, he tells a story about humility, hunger, and smarts.

Photo Credit: Amazon

“There are three required virtues that make someone an ideal team player. Those virtues are humble, hunger and smarts. The most important of those virtues is humility. The ultimate foundation of being a team player is a person being willing and able to put the team’s interests above his or her own. Only a truly humble person can do this effectively. The second virtue required is hunger, the desire to work hard, make a difference and get things done. The third and final virtue of an ideal team player is something I call smarts. It has nothing to do with intelligence, however, but is all about social awareness and interpersonal common sense. Ideal team players, in addition to being humble and hungry, demonstrate smarts with their ability to understand their colleagues and work with them effectively.”Patrick Lencioni, Author Q & A, TableGroup
This ideal team player is the kind of person we hope to always have leading our team…and our organizations.
I asked my husband recently what was the mark of a truly humble person. This was his response:
“Humble people pay attention to the people around them, whether they’re big or little.”
As wise as my husband is, he got that idea from Patrick Lencioni after reading his book.
Lencioni had much to say about humility, including:

“So many people there are so concerned about being socially conscious and environmentally aware, but they don’t give a second thought to how they treat the guy washing their car or cutting their grass.” Pat Lencioni

[I write about the power of noticing people here.]

Humility is cliché if it’s just coming at you from the front of the room or the head of the conference table. True humility communicates a right, or proper, understanding of relationship between colleagues, clients, and customers. No lone rangers or rock stars in this equation.  Photo Credit: AZQuotes

Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually. It is no great surprise, then, that humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.Pat Lencioni

True humility in leadership is so not cliché. It can be observed, modeled, and developed. What’s cool today can become cliché tomorrow. True humility?…never.

“Throw the passes when no one is watching. Write the pages no one sees. Work through the business plans people don’t believe in yet. Hustle long before the spotlight finds you. You don’t need the whole world on your side to create something that changes the world.”Marcus Mariota

6 Ways Humility Can Make You a Better Leader – Fast Company – Gwen Moran

Your Picks for the Worst Nonprofit Jargon by Cody Switzer

Infographic: 50 Terrible Work Phrases You Need to Stop Using by Nicole Dieker

Monday Morning Moment – Uncommon Courtesy in the Workplace

blog-courtesy-adding-value-john-maxwell-iluvquotesPhoto Credit: iluvquotes

My mom raised me to be courteous…thoughtful towards all…civil in every circumstance…extending grace. Recently, I have become aware that my behavior in the company of others has become less courteous overall. Not in an intentional way, hopefully, but in a careless neglectful way. This is disconcerting because it makes me wonder how long has this been a part of my demeanor and deportment. Not necessarily with those closest to me…but with “the others” in life – the stranger, the coworker, the customer.

blog-common-courtesy-quoteaddictsPhoto Credit: Quote Addicts

Yesterday, not at work, I interrupted the conversation of three people. Not overtly, maybe, but it was a quiet drawing away the attention of one of them. Without even thinking, I was rude.

We don’t really mean to be rude or discourteous probably…but in the neglect of practicing courtesy…we can become “those people”…rude, disingenuous, self-serving people.

What does that look like in the workplace?

John Kyle describes rudeness at work:

“It can range from subtle things like eye-rolling to outrageous things like berating a colleague in a meeting.

Here are some common examples:

  • Gossiping and talking behind someone’s back.
  • Giving colleagues the silent treatment.
  • Interrupting someone when they are speaking.
  • Leaving trash and food containers in public areas like the office kitchen.
  • The work around – excluding colleagues from projects or meetings even though they should, by role and responsibilities, be included.
  • Being late for meetings or in other ways not respecting someone else’s time.
  • Speaking to people in a condescending way.

All of these examples of rudeness are forms of disrespect. A pastor-friend of mine once said that giving someone the silent treatment is the relational equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t respect and care enough about you to talk to you.'”

John Kyle, Chief Operating Officer for The Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics, also delivers some simple advice on how we might overcome rudeness at work. One of his tips is to make a practice of greeting people…just saying hello (using their name if you know it). How simple is that?! Yet, too often, we walk quickly by, head down, lost in our brilliant and important thoughts, or hanging on every word of that one we’re accompanying. Is it so hard to smile and nod our head at those we are passing by? Those who work with us, have the same vision, hope for the same outcomes, wrestling with the same struggles at work or home.

What Kyle reveals in his article on being courteous at work is that we expose our lack of regard for those around us by not taking the time for them…to say or do the small graces for each other that communicates that “there are no ordinary people”.

blog-courtesy-no-ordinary-people-c-s-lewis-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest – WitandWisdomofCSLewis

His counsel echoes a book I recently read by John Maxwell – Intentional Living – Choosing a Life That Matters. Maxwell, like Kyle, talks about adding value to people…communicating that if we are not intentionally adding value to people then we show that we devalue them.

What do you think? It would be such a gift to have your comments on stories where you were treated with uncommon courtesy at work. Do you have examples of how such actions and attitudes are rewarded in your workplace? Do your bosses display this sort of worldview? Please share your stories…even the negative ones that might have given you pause about your own altered attitudes over the years.

As I described in the story earlier, this has certainly given me pause. I want to be a load-lifter at work. An encourager. A respecter of all persons…not just the ones who can help me get ahead with my career. It’s possible that I might have become a bit more curmudgeonly over time…and that’s not really the kind of coworker I want to be. My mom would be glad to see that I’m climbing out of this insufferable ditch – resolved anew to make a habit of uncommon courtesy.

Bringing Courtesy Back to the Workplace – Harvard Business Review – Ron Ashkenas

Why Is Common Courtesy Increasingly Uncommon at Work? Rudeness on the Rise – John Kyle

How do You Practice Common Courtesy at Work?

Workplace Etiquette – 4 Ways to Show Courtesy to Coworkers – Rachel Wagner

Uncommon Courtesy – Blog

Slideshare – Courtesy

How To Become a Curmudgeon – WikiHow – just for a chuckle!

Monday Morning Moment – Ultra-Productive People & What They Do Differently – 2 Infographics

blog-productivity-silicon-valley-reportPhoto Credit: Silicon Valley Report

We all have exactly the same amount of time. At least in a day. Some of us have less time than others in our lives, probably, which makes using that valuable time wisely all the more important. However, that’s the false perception of time. The idea that, because we’re young, we have all the time in the world…so chill. Enjoy. Right? Just because we’re young, how we use our time will set habits that build a foundation for our life and work. Young or old, learning how to be consummately productive is a very good plan. When we do the work of learning to be “ultra productive” part of what we gain out of that is…more time. Definitely worth the work.

I’ve written on productivity other times (in particular, about “Chris Bailey’s life of productivity”). Using time and brain power wisely is important to me because I am well aware of how easy it is to squander both. When I discovered the two infographics below, they affirmed some of the changes I’ve already made in my life and other habits worthy of establishing.

Kevin Kruse in a Forbes article gives us results of his survey of 200 ultra-productive people. He asked each their secret of productivity.  The infographic below lists out the 15 ideas gleaned from his study.blog-productive-people-do-things-differently-15-time-secretsPhoto Credit: Online Learning Tips

Anything surprise you? I was surprised at getting rid of to-do lists by scheduling everything. The “say no to everything” idea can be agonizing to execute and also infuriating when you’re on the receiving end.  Every idea in the list of 15 is doable and easy to develop as a habit. Worth a try, right?

Another infographic (from Dylan Roach and Jacquelyn Smith in Business Insider) highlights the morning habits of successful people. This also resonated with what I have discovered in the lives of influential and productive friends and colleagues. blog-productive-people-do-things-differently-16-things-at-start-of-each-day-update-or-diePhoto Credit: Business Insider

I appreciate the ideas of this infographic…especially the ones on helping others and being grateful. Soft habits maybe? Not really. When the ideas above get hard-wired in us through habit formation and intentionality, our productivity ramps up and our definition of success may widen to a more shared experience in our life and work.

Monday Morning Moment – Praying For Your Spouse [or Fill-in-the-Blank] in the Workplace

Blog - Praying for Your Spouse - the lifePhoto Credit: The Life

Sometimes really crucial opportunities pass us by…responsibilities, too, fall off our plates. We get busy…distracted. We choose the urgent without thinking. The urgent over the ultimately important.

This time, one year ago, I saw the film War Room. The plot centered on an older praying woman who mentored a younger woman, whose marriage was falling apart. She mentored, not so much about marriage, but about praying for her marriage. It had a huge impact on my heart…and my prayerlife.BLog - War Room to publish 2Photo Credit: War Room Movie

I prayed my heart out for my husband…and our children…some extended family…and close friends. I still pray for them…but in recent months, the urgency had faded. Other lesser things piled in and I allowed myself to become distracted and dull.

Until this past week…. This past week, I started a Bible study with some other friends who meet together regularly. The book study is The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer. She is also the person, in the film War Room, playing the young woman in the troubled marriage. The study focuses on the Bible passage, Ephesians 6:10-19, and speaks about our role in spiritual warfare.

I had forgotten how important it is not just to pray generally and regularly for those we love, but to pray specifically and persistently. There is a big difference.

For several days, I have been praying for a difficult situation in my husband’s work life. It has been ongoing for some time, and he finally arrived to a point of taking action.

Yipes…I wasn’t at all sure I had prayed well enough for him. In fact, I was sure I hadn’t. There is no going back, but today, fresh in studying how best to pray for those we love, I took God at his word and have prayed differently. Trusting God to intervene as I stood, fortified, in his presence…as the Apostle Paul instructed in Ephesians 6.Blog - Praying for your spouse - true agapePhoto Credit: True Agape

The details of what happened at work are not necessary for today’s posting, but praying specifically, persistently, and according to God’s Word has made for a very encouraging turn in the situation. Honestly, I don’t think it would have played out as it has, if both my husband and I weren’t really seeking God’s solution for this.

Will it always work out to be a glorious outcome when we pray hard and in faith? I can’t say…not always praying hard nor in faith. However, when we do pray for situations at work instead of just ranting or processing over the dinner table, outcomes will decidedly be better.

Our work is such a huge chunk of our lives. To leave it to chance or charm or even competence…seems a risky business. What a privilege to pray staunchly and strategically for those we love in the workplace – our spouses, our closest friends, our children… Praying for our bosses and colleagues, as well, could improve both their lives and ours as well…not to mention the enormous ripple effect that can spread as God works in a situation.

This afternoon our joy is full. Even though my husband’s workplace may “seem” unchanged…it is wholly different because he has seen God work in a hard place. With complete assurance. I rejoice with him.

Work is a 3-song commute from home. As I was traveling in this morning, thinking about what was ahead of him and praying for the situation en route, these songs were the ones that came back-to-back on the radio as I drove in:

Pretty amazing, huh? What seems extraordinary can be our ordinary when we pray to a Father who wants to show himself mighty on our behalf. What better thing can I do for those I love than to pray hard…pray believing for them?

Monday Morning Moment – 6 Business Principles from One of History’s Richest Men – with Graham Cochrane

Blog - Business Principles - Graham CochranePhoto Credit: Graham Cochrane, Facebook

Mondays are meant for postings on how to make our workplace a great place…and our work life full of purpose and excellence. This post comes to you through my association with a young guitarist and entrepreneur. He is Nathan Mills at Beyond the GuitarNathan Mills - Beyond the Guitar - Ancient StonesPhoto Credit: Beyond the Guitar

…and he’s our son. All last week, he was posting, on Facebook, these videos from Graham Cochrane. I recognized the name because Nathan looks to him as one of his mentors, albeit mostly online. Cochrane is a musician, audio engineer, entrepreneur, and blogger.2013 Shay Cochrane

Graham Cochrane‘s 6-part video course on Facebook Live turns out to be a great study on business practices. He gives winsome, practical, and timely counsel on starting and sustaining a business. However, we can all profit from his content whatever our work situation is. His principles in brief follow and are derived from King Solomon’s Proverbs.

  1. Strive to be generous “One gives freely but grows all the richer.”Proverbs 11:24-25
  2. Grow slowly“Whoever gathers little by little will increase.”Proverbs 13:11
  3. Do great work “A man skillful in his work will stand before kings.”Proverbs 22:29
  4. Don’t devour your profit“A foolish man devours all he has.”Proverbs 21:20
  5. Avoid debt“The borrower is slave of the lender.”Proverbs 22:7
  6. Business is messy“Where there is no oxen the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the work of the ox.”Proverbs 14:4

I hope you take the time to watch/listen to these videos. Fascinating content, whatever your work is. I am always inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit – especially when that passion and willingness to work hard at something you love has a ripple effect for good.

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The Recording Revolution – Graham Cochrane Website

YouTube – The Recording Revolution Channel

How a 32-year-old Freelance Sound Mixer Started Making $75,000 a Month From a Blog – Business Insider

The Go-Giver, Expanded Edition: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea – Bob Burg

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich – Timothy Ferriss

Friday Faves – Summer Olympics, Global Leadership Summit, Life after Being Locked-In, Walking Her Home, and KevOnStage

  1. Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! School is starting around the country, but not here yet. It’s still sunny summer with long days and beach trips and abundant locally grown fruits and vegetables. Tomato sandwiches and juicy perfect peaches. Mmmmm. Below are my five favorite finds of the week.

1) Summer Olympics – Watching the Olympics has been a joyful experience this week. I’m trying to keep up with the Refugee Team, and this BBC article is a helpful update. As for the Gold medals, several are being won, as you already know, to these two favorites of mine – Simone Biles and Michael Phelps. USA! USA! USA!Blog - Simone Biles - Olympics - the guardianPhoto Credit: The GuardianBlog - Michael Phelps - Olympics - livenewschatPhoto Credit: Live News Chat

2) Global Leadership Summit – This is an incredible leadership conference…the best I’ve ever attended. It’s simulcast from Chicago to sites all over the world. You’ll be hearing much more about the content in the days to come. I’m halfway through it as I post this. Brian Dodd does a live blog on it where you can gather quotes from each speaker, and on Twitter and Facebook, watch for the trending hashtag #gls16. Great content!

Blog - Global Leadership Summit - 2016 - TwitterPhoto Credit: Twitter

3) Life After Being Locked-In – Vegetative states and the locked-in syndrome have always been fascinating to me, as a nurse. An unforgettable moment for me in teaching nursing at Yale University years ago was walking into a patient’s room to meet him. He was in a wheelchair and when I entered he was looking in my direction. I said hello and he just continued to look at me…expression-less. This beautiful young man…seemingly not there at all…in some sort of vegetative state from a brain injury.

When I was a child, I watched a rerun of Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “Breakdown” from the very first season in 1955. It was a psychological thriller about a man who survived a car accident but was paralyzed, completely unable to move or communicate. It was terrifying.

Martin Pistorius, a South African man living today in the UK, had his own terrifying journey, in real time, through being locked-in. At the age of 12, he developed some sort of illness where he quickly lost his abilities until he went into a full-blown coma. He stayed in this condition until he was 16…when he began waking up. Unfortunately, he looked no different and wasn’t able to communicate.Blog - Ghost Boy Martin Pistorius - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

He continued “invisible” for almost another 10 years, until one of his therapists became aware that he was actually responsive. His story is amazing. Once it was discovered that he was actually conscious, he began the incredible journey of treatment and rehabilitation. He went on to learn to communicate with an adaptive device, graduated university, became a web designer, and wrote a book about his experience (Ghost Boy). During his locked-in experience, he found God his only companion and became a follower of Christ. Now, he has also found the love of his life in Joanna whom he married.Blog - Martin Pistorius - locked-in syndrome - nbcnewsPhoto Credit: NBC News

He communicates his own journey so well in this TEDx talk. The kindness and understanding in his demeanor speak volumes as well. Watch his TEDx talk below or at least read the transcript (in link above). I’m so glad to have discovered this young man and know his story.

He closed his talk with these words:

We are told that actions speak louder than words. But I wonder, do they? Our words, however we communicate them, are just as powerful. Whether we speak the words with our own voices, type them with our eyes, or communicate them non-verbally to someone who speaks them for us, words are among our most powerful tools. I have come to you through a terrible darkness, pulled from it by caring souls and by language itself. The act of you listening to me today brings me farther into the light. We are shining here together. If there is one most difficult obstacle to my way of communicating, it is that sometimes I want to shout and other times simply to whisper a word of love or gratitude. It all sounds the same. But if you will, please imagine these next two words as warmly as you can: Thank you.

4) Walking Her HomeMark Schultz wrote this sweet song Walking Her Home after he was inspired by this older couple in his neighborhood. The husband was so tender with his wife and he told Mark that he’d promised her dad he’d walk her straight home after their first date and never leave her. He was still keeping that promise. We have all been touched by stories of an elderly spouse dying and the other dying shortly after. This CNN news report tells an especially sweet such story…Blog - walking Her Home - bellevisionPhoto Credit: Bellevision

…and here’s the song (with video from The Notebook, from the novel by Nicholas Sparks).

5) KevOnStage – Kevin Fredericks is a very funny guy. I just discovered his videos this week. Here’s a hilarious sample:

Here’s to a relaxing weekend. Hope you recover some of your sleep missed by late night Olympics watching…if you’re like me. Be safe and savor this life…and the people we have in it. God keep you.

32 Years Married – a Montage of Pictures and Thoughts of Our Life Together – Thus Far

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

[Adapted from previous blog – August 3, 2014 – a bit of a long read – but the words keep coming sometimes.]

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.  – Colossians 3:15-20

How can we be as young as we are and be married 32 years? Maybe we don’t seem so young to others…but these years seem to have zoomed by.  The flight of years shows in our bodies and minds, but for us, it is most apparent in the launch of adult children into their own lives and marriages. Then…it comes back to just the two of us.

First encounter – at church on a Sunday in January. My first Sunday in New Haven, Ct. I thought he was from the Middle East – standing with a group of other students – tall, dark, and (yep) handsome. Later I would find he had a native American, not Middle Eastern, background.

Two friends –  walking through the snow to a Yale-Cornell basketball game – that would become our first date. I was in my early 30s by then and pretty much had put marriage out of my mind. Life was good enough. I was teaching in the nursing program at Yale University, and Dave was a graduate student in the chemistry department. We were friends…and then friendship grew into love. Debbie & Dave

A Marriage Born Out of Prayer – This young man who grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland had a praying mother. He grew up hunting and fishing and excelling academically, and she prayed for just the right wife for him. I don’t understand how all this works, but I’m thankful for Julia and for this son she raised so well.IMG_0050

Birth of our first-born – This man so unsure and almost dreading being a father. Liking life the way it was…and then she was born. She turned this bass-fishing, prison visiting, analytical chemist into a complete softie.

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That day in March, when Christie was born, he became a Dad and continues to pray and support his kids…not intrusively, but always there for them. Always there.

Life Overseas – For over 15 years, we lived in North Africa. Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco. It was an incredible experience. Living, working, raising our kids, and being in community in those places and with their peoples. I will always be grateful for Dave’s leadership. From leading our little family to a time when he was leading a division (100 people or so) in his work. He takes seriously the responsibilities in his charge…

Dave’s a quiet man. Some in our lives have suggested his quietness made him seem scary, or unengaged, or disinterested. Not at all. This man in my life, this friend forever, is always thinking… I count on his thinking things through…even when he’s struggling personally or wrestling with a difficult situation. Completely approachable. He also reaches out, sometimes in very uncomfortable ways for him…as in a different language/culture and when the stakes are too high to wait for another to intervene.

From our days of dating right through to today, his heart’s desire is to do the right thing, to honor God with his life… Our years living outside the US were both wonderful and hard times of God sharpening that resolve.22Dave & Debbie & Kids in Egypt (2)IMG_0004 (14) - CopyJul 03 #2 08642

Hardest Experience Living Overseas [essential sidebar] – The search, through Egypt’s Sinai, for a precious girl, lost from us in a moment when a bus crashed. Dave’s courage and determination to do what he could to make right a terrible wrong will always be with me, as a reminder of his character and care of someone we both loved very much.2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys2005 December - Christmas with Mills & Halls 089a (2)2009 August 25th Wedding Anniversary in Paris 128Blog - Dave & Dan

So many shared memories of good friends, beautiful spaces, happy times and sad.

These Two Years’ Experience in the US – This is really more a timeline than a singular event. Since our 30th anniversary, these two years have been a journey of rediscovering the immeasurable grace of God through both a difficult and joyous season of our lives. The joy relates to the addition to our family of two tiny persons – a granddaughter and a grandson. To watch my husband around them exactly portrays how grandchildren make us young again. The hard times relate to work – for me, “not working anymore” (early retirement? Not ready). For Dave, huge changes in his job which he also wasn’t quite ready for…but, hey, thankfully still employed . These changes come with this season of life for some of us…and they are part of God’s work in our lives, I believe.

Another hard thing for us on the eve of this anniversary was a surgery and cancer diagnosis. Now almost fully recovered, I have had another glimpse of this man’s kindness. Never before, even with years practicing cancer nursing, has it ever dawned on me what it must be like for the husband. For him to sit alone with the news of cancer that he must share with his wife on her waking after surgery. That courage and that care. God continues to use hard things to carve the heart of this man into an even more malleable thing.2005 Summer -- ILC & Delaware Family 089aDave April 2016

Whatever these 32 years have produced with us together, the best of it has been 3 great young people (and the 2 cherished engrafted children who’ve joined our family). Alongside of them is the unalterable way the Lord has knit us together, my husband and me, with each other and with Him.2012 December family snapshot 014

I will always be grateful to God for bringing Dave into my life – for our marriage and the family Dave brought with him, and for the family we have together, now including two darling grandchildren. So much joy.MomMom, MamaLu, Dave, & Christie - 4 Generations[Four Generations – Dave, his mom and MamaLu, and Christie]Mills Men - 4 generations - July 17 2016 - Dave, Nathan, PopPop, Titus[Four Generations – Dave, his dad, Nathan, and Titus]

I have no idea what is ahead, except for what is promised through God’s Word. Whatever is ahead, I am so grateful for what I’ve learned through this man who married me 32 years ago. He has given me a face of one who does not give up, of one who fights for what is right, of one who is tender toward the weak, of one who loves no matter what. I have been both the recipient of this and the one at his side as he extends himself to others. Dave & Debbie July 2014

Now, we are two again…as in the beginning of our relationship.  Yet we are at a very different place. God has shown Himself to be ever-present in all these years of our lives. He’s given me exactly what I needed in this husband of mine – a man as true as steel in his walk with God and with his family. We count on him; he counts on God. And whatever happens out there in front of us…I have peace, on this our 32nd. anniversary that God will be there for each of us, to show us how to live…as He has in all these years thus far.

Through the Years – YouTube video of Kenny Rogers Ballad

Brad Hambrick – Great Marriage & Family Counselor – Marriage Helps Online

Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy – by Gary Thomas – Such a great book!

An example of Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel to one marrying – Always forgive.

Elisabeth Elliot Quotes