5 Friday Faves – Housing the Homeless, Christmas Cookies, Sunrises in Winter, Healing from Trauma, and a Christmas Cactus

Blog - Friday FavesThis Friday came in so fast. I wish the time would slow down some…so much to savor and celebrate. Even those painful realities of life need time to process and make good decisions about…time… We grab hold of the minutes and squeeze the good out of them before they scatter. This is one of the reasons I write…I write to remember… all the good…and the hard… to take nothing for granted.

1. Housing the Homeless – The journey to housing for our homeless neighbors is complicated. Some we see at intersections in our cities, with their cardboard signs, have made a life, of sorts, on the streets. I have no idea how they survive winter. Others are freshly homeless, living in hotels, until they can’t anymore. Homelessness doesn’t come with its own guide of how to regain normalcy…the homeless need a compass. Thankfully, there are agencies who help these neighbors of ours, and help us learn how to help better. In our city, two agencies I want to highlight are Caritas and Hilliard House (or Housing Families First). Find out how you can get involved. “Homelessness isn’t a lifestyle, it’s an emergency.” – Caritas

L.A.'s Skid Row is home to more than 8,000 homeless people. With the help of domestic hunger funds given through the North American Mission Board, Set Free Church was able to provide a hot meal on Thanksgiving last year. Photo by Greg Schneider

Blog - Homeless - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

2. Christmas Cookies – Once a year, plates of cookies come out that speak love like none other. Home-made, cut-out decorated Christmas cookies amaze me. I don’t bake them but am grateful for the hands that do. So much work in making the buttery cookie dough, cutting them out, baking and then decorating them. A frosted Christmas cookie and a cup of coffee in front of a fire…bliss.Blog - Christmas Cookies - from Josh Griffin's FB page - by Patricia Good EckardPhoto Credit: Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

3. Sunrises in Winter – I don’t know what it is about sunrises in winter, but they catch me by surprise every morning. Rolling out of bed in the still cool darkness, pulling on socks, sliding into slippers, and making my way to bathroom, and then kitchen. Somewhere in the middle of that first cup of coffee, my eyes are drawn to the window…and then glory! The light of the morning sky… Maybe it’s because the trees are bare and we are able to catch the hues of light earlier, but I love winter sunrises best. They take the chill off and fill me with anticipation of the day. Joy…Blog - Winter Sunrise

4. Healing from Trauma – Recently I have been learning more about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and wrote about a valuable resource here.  Then, a friend told me about training she received last month in Amman, Jordan. It relates to caring for non-western peoples who have experienced severe trauma. The Trauma Healing Institute provides training in the US and internationally. “The Trauma Healing Institute at American Bible Society is equipping people, churches, and NGOs around the world to care for the more than one in seven people worldwide who suffer severe wounds of the heart and spirit in the aftermath of conflict, disaster or abuse.” I hope to sign up for this training in 2016. Watch the film Hope Rising to learn more.

5. Christmas Cactus – My mom-in-law is a master gardener. Her sunroom is its own botanical garden. She is always encouraging us to take some of her plants and we have two blooming Christmas cacti right now, because of her. My husband is our gardener (fortunately) or we would not have house plants. I love how these cacti, (or cactuses), “know” to bloom around the holidays (Thanksgiving or Christmas). From the plant family Schlumbergera, the Christmas cactus can be nurtured to bloom right on time. I am pretty sure Dave doesn’t follow a particular plan, but our plants are very forgiving…and are blooming just as they were meant to… Merry Christmas.Blog - Christmas Cactus (2)

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

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Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

Worship Wednesday – All Is Well – Storyteller Frank Peretti and Songwriter Michael W. Smith

Worship Wednesday - Blog - All is Well - Screen shot 2

[From the Archives]

We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28

All Is Well – A Story for Christmas brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It was published in 1990 and we read it to our children every Christmas until they were old enough to read it themselves. Then I read it to myself. Frank Peretti is the author and Robert Sauber did the illustrations for the first book. It seems to be out of print now, and a newer edition, with illustrations by Gary Glover, came out in 2002.

I fell in love with the first edition, and it’s still my favorite. Don’t you love when you recover something once precious to you which you thought lost forever? In our many moves, somewhere along the way, we lost All Is Well – A Story for Christmas. I was delighted when, just today, I found the book, that old one, captured on a YouTube video.

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The memories of that book have stirred again – reading together cuddled up with the children in front of the fire in Tennessee, Or listening to the audiobook as they stared sleepily into the dark on those long drives to grandparents. Then childhood years across North Africa when stories familiar brought home closer. The tears came again today, as I watched that YouTube video and the telling of All is Well.

The story focuses on a single mother and her little girl, in tough times financially. There was no money for rent and they were facing losing their home. The little girl, Jenny, was determined to help, and she found an old box of Christmas ornaments that she peddled to neighbors in hopes of helping her mom, Ruth, with the rent. One of those ornaments was a small homemade piece of clay inscribed with the phrase, “All is well.” The rest of the story is a lovely picture of courage, hope, love, and kindness – of neighbors reaching out to this little twosome so in need.

The last page of the book ends with this:

“All is well, huh, Mom?”

“All is well, Jenny. Some way, somehow. We can’t see it yet, but all is well.”

(Narrator) “Well, like I said in the beginning, it all depends on where you’re standing and how good the view is from there. When you’re the storyteller, you have a pretty good view. You know things people in the story don’t know… I know Ruth and Jenny will be taken care of…

You know what tickles me: Ruth knows it, too. She knows. She can’t see any of it from where she is…but she knows.  Now that she remembers how come all is well, she knows. She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny once again: that God is the grandest storyteller of our lives. He weaves our days then strings them like beads on the chain of history. He knows the placement of every person…the end from the beginning. From His lofty heights, He has the best view of all.

She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny that in a stable in Bethlehem so long ago, God wrote Himself into the story and became that central character . Now the Weaver of the Story walks with us in the midst of the story…and He will stay with us, until that story is complete, in His way, in His time, for His glory…and that’s how come all is well. Remember?”

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:11-13

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Take the time to worship today…and then read this story as a family if you can. Or click on the YouTube video and cozy up with your kiddos to watch the story unfold. My children are all grown up now, but I don’t think they will have forgotten. All is well…or can be. Remember that.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - All is Well 2nd book coverPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

YouTube Video of original story All Is Well (1990) by Frank Peretti – book and audio CD no longer available. Illustrations by Robert Sauber

All Is Well: The Miracle of Christmas in July by Frank Peretti (2002) with illustrations by Gary Glover – this story is updated from the one above – with Daniel as our young hero, and his mom, Ruth – same great message of love, neighbors, and God’s faithfulness

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well by Michael W. Smith (featured in audiobook of All is Well above

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well sung by Carrie Underwood & Michael W. Smith (Spirit of Christmas Album)

For the long nights and heavy burdens – Jesus is coming.

PostScript – January 2, 2015 – Look what my daughter gave me for Christmas – she had the original book among her Christmas books for her 3rd grade class. Now I have them both again….

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Monday Morning Moment – Stewarding Our Influence Well

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Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1

We are all influencers in one way or another. How we steward our influence is strongly affected by those who have influenced us.

[This Monday morning moment has a spiritual bent, but the principles apply, whatever your belief system. It would be disingenuous for me to write about influence without including the impact of following Christ and Christ-followers in the mix. Thanks for your understanding of this.]

When I was in graduate school, my days were heavily committed to class time, clinical work, research and writing. Meeting with my thesis advisor was a regular “intrusion” into that schedule. For weeks, I would arrive late to our meetings, excusing myself always with some sort of “more important” fill-in-the-blank.  Communicating “more important than our time together”. My advisor was one of the most gracious women I’ve ever known. She was always spot-on ready for our meeting, having read my latest submission, with her notes in hand. If ever I was “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants”, it was with her.

Finally, one day, without warning, she nailed my tardiness for what it was…and I will never forget her for that. She taught me so much about professionalism and excellence in practice, but she taught me most in this area of honoring a colleague. I will always be grateful to Rose McGee for that.

Since those early years in my professional life, there have been many influencers in my life. Bosses, supervisors, coworkers. Some influencers had more celebrity status, but because they wrote for people like me, I soaked up their wisdom.Blog - Influence - Priscilla Shirer - BPNews net (2)Photo Credit: BPNews.net

Ben Kirksey recently wrote a short piece entitled Are You Worthy of Workplace Imitation?. It got me thinking of how my own workplace processes have changed because of those mentors, friends, and coaches in my life. 7 points of stewardship came to mind:

  1. Time – We all have the same amount. Honoring others’ time does matter – being interruptible, not shortchanging people, keeping and being present in meetings. It’s a balancing act, but we want to be dependable and resourceful in this area.
  2. Tweaking – only when absolutely necessary. Show you value others’ work. Give up control whenever possible. Whenever possible, trust their ownership of their work.
  3. More questions/Less Advice – We jump to advice (or direction). Learning to ask thoughtful and compelling questions is a discipline worthy of our time and effort. Jesus was masterful at this.
  4. Genuine Affirmation – To be truly known is such an empowering gift. General praise or cheery compliments are nothing compared with informed and specific affirmation. You affirm my thinking and hard work on a problem, and I will apply myself even more.
  5. Building Capacity – Investing in others’ success at work while, at the same time, expecting the most out of yourself, builds capacity all around. This collective commitment to the work and each other delivers. Building capacity is a “both/and” arrangement. We can’t cast vision for it effectively, without digging in ourselves.
  6. Leading by Influence – I have rarely enjoyed a position of authority…it is by influence that I have both learned and led in life. Authority has its own cross to bear in that the responsibility for return on investment sometimes interferes with relationships. Too bad, really. It’s through the relationships that we can see a greater return…as we steward influence.
  7. Perspective – I will never forget a workplace story about a creative director and his lead creative. They rarely agreed. In fact, as the younger man tells the story, their discussions could become very heated over the direction of any given project. Then there would come a moment when his boss would say, something like, “Let’s get some coffee.” or “It’s lunch time, let’s grab a bite to eat.” No matter the seriousness of the conversations, this older man was able to bring relational perspective to bear. Their relationship was more valuable than any project decision. I daresay the work didn’t suffer from this perspective.

I am so grateful for those who have influenced my work. As mentioned before, they include some whom I have never met physically. The Apostles Paul and Peter, and Jesus himself teach us volumes on stewarding influence well.

Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.1 Peter 5:2-3

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3-8

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9

Do you have a story of an influencer in your life and how that person changed the way you work? I would love to hear it through the Comments below.Blog - Influence - Jesus

Are You Worthy of Workplace Imitation? by Ben Kirksey

The People Skills of Jesus by William Beausay II

The Management Methods of Jesus by Bob Briner

50 Years of Charlie Brown Christmas – Why It Still Resonates With All Us Charlie Browns

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Happy 50th Anniversary, Charlie Brown (Christmas)!

I can’t say how many times we’ve watched Charlie Brown Christmas through the years… It still touches our hearts across time and generations.

Steve Woodworth wrote a piece recently for Think Christian that perfectly describes the phenomenon of this timeless little animated film. Following are 3 quotes from his article, but read it in full here. So much truth.

“I am Charlie Brown. And you, if you are honest, are often Charlie Brown as well. A Charlie Brown Christmas has endured because it is true.” – Stephen Woodworth

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“Charlie Brown’s Christmas is a sincere Christmas that refuses to hide behind glazed hams, perfectly trimmed trees or the plastic smiles on a greeting card. It is an honest Christmas that speaks to the reason why the very first Christmas was so utterly necessary. It is the well-known reason delivered to us annually by Linus as the lights dim and a spotlight falls on Luke 2:10-11: ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” – Stephen Woodworth

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKk9rv2hUfA

“It is a message that promises “great joy” for those, like Charlie, who are no longer fooled by the world’s twinkling lights and Santa Claus parades. The sort of people who wait all year for this honest, 20-minute reminder that, although it is dark, the Light has come.” – Stephen Woodworth

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Why a Charlie Brown Christmas Still Resonates 50 Years Later by Stephen Woodworth

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5 Friday Faves – Millennials, Christmas Lights, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, “a Good Man is Hard to Find”, and a Christmas Album

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Happy Friday! Hope you’ve had a sweet week in the crazy of December…snatching some quiet moments from all the loud. Here are my favorite finds for this week:

  1. Millennials –  Mat Luschek’s Millennials at Work offers a quick and thoughtful read on our workplace, especially as it is changing or must change. “Millennials will outnumber the Boomers in the workplace this year.” So what are they looking for in a job? The paycheck is still important, for sure, but also import is the work culture. Luschek describes 4 areas that are especially engaging for millennials: 1) Flexibility, 2) Coaches not managers (as a Boomer I favor that as well), 3) Boredom at a minimal), and 4) Collaboration & Leadership. Fascinating read. Bottom line for all of us in the workplace is that what’s good for these millennials is good for us as well…maybe, we just didn’t consider pressing for it.Blog - Millenials - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

2. Christmas Lights – Previously I wrote about Richmond’s Tacky Light Tour. Christmas lights in our own neighborhood are lovely as well, especially when we know the folks inside. Our neighborhood is an old one tucked into an ancient forest. In the yard light displays around us, there are few nativities. Christmas lights here are more whimsical than worshipful…still they warmly light the cold winter nights, and invite us in to the home of a friend.Blog - Neighborhood Christmas Lights2015 December - Christmas Community Group, Tacky Light Tour 0042015 December - Christmas Community Group, Tacky Light Tour 011Sometimes, neighbors are “best-in-show” Tacky Light Tour participants. All you have to do is walk down the street and enjoy them. Not our neighbors, but friends of ours. So fun!2015 December - Christmas Community Group, Tacky Light Tour 080

3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event…if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD. Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.”

We often think of PTSD as a post-war calamity of our military veterans. There are also others among us who suffer from the smoldering aftermath of a tragedy (either a single event or years of abuse). PTSD can be very damaging to the person suffering from it and those who love them.

Dr. Brad Hambrick is the counseling pastor on staff at Summit Church, Durham, N. C. He has produced a video series on PTSD which I found very helpful recently in dealing with the PTSD of a friend.   He also makes available his seminar notebook on the subject, free of charge. You can request a copy from Summit’s counseling office at counseling@summitrdu.com. Whether you are a Christ-follower or not, this video series and notes will help you understand PTSD better and give you steps to deal with it.Blog - Brad Hambrick - PTSD

Photo Credit: BradHambrick.com

4) “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” – Ashlin Horne’s They Say a Good Man Is Hard to Find may not be at all what you’re thinking. No pity party for one here. She handles a sometimes hurtful subject so sensitively. As I read her blog, it felt like sitting with coffee across from a good friend. You women (AND men) will want to read this and pass it on to others. Following is just a bit of it: Men are not God. If there’s one thing I’d like to tattoo on the arms of girls everywhere it’s that truth. They will not heal you. They are not your redemption. I think it’s time to stop loading up the shoulders of the good men in our lives, or the ones we’ve yet to meet, with expectations that only God can fulfill.” Read on, Loves.Blog - Good Men - Ashlin Horne - vine.coPhoto Credit: Vine.co

5) Latest Favorite Christmas Album – David Crowder Band’s Oh For Joy. This album is a rowdy mix of Christmas standards arranged as only Crowder does it. It was released in 2011 before the original David Crowder Band “disbanded”, and it’s a “must-own”.  My favorite track on the album is the last song. Here’s Sarah Fine’s description of it: As amazing as this album as this is, the true standout track is the final song on the record. Another live Passion recording, the band puts their stamp on what has quickly become one of this generations most beloved holiday songs, Trans Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol Of The Bells / Christmas in Sarajevo.” The song starts off with a brief introduction from David, stating that Christmas doesn’t technically end till Epiphany on Jan. 6. Spoken in a way only he could master, the intro leads directly into one of the best versions of this song I’ve heard since the Orchestra recorded it themselves. Dare I say, this version might even be better. If there ever was ever a way to end a Christmas album with a bang, this would be it.” The YouTube video of this song follows.Blog - David Crowder Band Christmas - Oh For JoyPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

What are some of your favorites of late? Would love to hear about them in the Comments. Make it your own kind of special weekend.

Liz Wiseman’s Leadership Book on Multipliers and the Story of a Multiplier in Our Lives

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Photo Credit: Amazon.com

For several years, we had the great privilege of living and working in Cairo, Egypt. My husband directed a Middle Eastern Studies program. I helped him oversee the comings and goings of bright, energetic 20-somethings. When the work, heat, or press of city life became too much, we would escape to the Sinai and the Red Sea. Usually the resort town of Ras Sudr was our quick get-away, where we could take a weekend just to clear our heads with blue skies and salty sea air.

This time, we went for a week to Dahab, on the far side of the Sinai. r_seaman@hotmail.com

Photo Credit: Egypttailormade.net

We were finishing our time in this director role and would take a short sabbatical in the US. We would then return to Egypt, this time for a regional consulting job, guiding the expansion of these study centers.

We were tired, and a consulting job was a dream, with the prospect of just giving a hand to other directors – not nearly the intenseness of being responsible for so many young people.

Driving through the desert of the Sinai, with the kids in the backseat, we got a phone call.

Whoever it was on the other end, (Dave hadn’t called him by name), the conversation, from my side, was warm and affectionate at first, and then serious. As they talked, visible goose bumps rose on Dave’s arms. Goose bumps on a hot deserty day in Egypt?! I knew no one had died from his side of the conversation, but something huge was clearly being introduced by the caller.

When the call ended, I got the details. Dave spoke quietly so the kids wouldn’t be distracted by a call that could change the course (and geography) of our lives. The person on the other end of the conversation was his dearest mentor – a man for whom he had the deepest respect, even love. On the phone call, he had asked Dave to consider not taking the job of consultant but to take a job with him where he would have even more leadership responsibility. Supervising many more than a couple of dozen 20-somethings in one city. This job would require him to provide leadership to about 100 people spread over 6 different countries AND we would have to move from our beloved Cairo.

Thus, the goose bumps.

Dave did walk away from the “easier” job of consultant to take on the much larger, scarier job his mentor asked of him. We did eventually break the news to our children that we would be moving away from Cairo to a whole new country of possibilities and friendships. It was a stretching move for us (more so than our original move to Cairo), and it was a job and situation we would never have aspired to…were it not for this mentor…this multiplier of leaders.

Liz Wiseman has written the most incredible book on leadership – Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter . Her book describes this mentor of my husband as if she knew him personally. Wiseman is the president of The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm, headquartered in Silicon Valley, California.

Blog - Liz Wiseman

Photo Credit: LiveIntentionally.org

I first heard her speak at the Global Leadership Summit this year. Her presentation centered on her more recent book Rookie Smarts. This engaging young woman clearly has had multipliers in her own life and has obviously learned from some diminishers as well.

On the inside cover of Wiseman’s book Multipliers, she defines the terms “Diminishers” and “Multipliers”:

“The first type drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the ones around them and always need to be the smartest ones in the room. These are idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them…These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations.” – Liz Wiseman

Have you ever been in a job where you felt your wisdom, understanding, experience were being drained right out of you? As if you were getting stupider and stupider? That can happen…or at least the sense of it happening is so strong it might as well be real. Some of this we must own ourselves, and some of it is owned by our leaders.

[Sidebar – It’s not like Diminishers are evil people. Possibly, their focus is so tuned to the endgame that people and processes get lost in the pursuit. I believe whenever they have an “aha!” moment, maybe through the multipliers in their own lives, they could change their habits and disciplines.]

This mentor of Dave’s was/is a Multiplier. For much of Dave’s professional life, this man has “popped in” and pressed my husband to reach farther than he might have in his career.

I want to be this sort of leader myself – this one who inspires confidence in others, who sees the possibilities, who risks by giving over control to another, who stirs thinking and enlarges the lives of those in his/her circle of influence…a circle that’s widely inclusive.

Being a leader is a humbling, stretching experience and, for the sake of those under your watch in the workplace, you want to offer the best leadership you can. We can all fall into habits over time that diminish others. Forging disciplines that keep us from doing so is wisdom. Note them from Liz Wiseman’s book:

Blog - Liz Wiseman's Multipliers

Wiseman also talks about leaders as change agents – do we reserve the right to make the final decision every time or do we wrestle through decisions with those most affected by them? The latter can definitely be more messy but is also more effective and honoring.Blog - Multipliers by Liz Wiseman -2 (2)

“Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence…He’ll outstretch all your capabilities to make it happen. He is highly demanding, but you feel great. You know you are signing up for something that will challenge you on a daily basis for many years to come. You will challenge yourself and all your capabilities…Exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, gratifying. He’s a big source of energy. He is a source of power and a tail-wind for what we do.”  – Liz Wiseman

Thank you, Liz Wiseman. You are a wise woman (I’m sure you get this all the time…couldn’t resist). Thank you, to that unnamed mentor multiplier in my husband’s life…and to all those multipliers in my life’s journey.

Read Wiseman’s book. I’d love to hear your stories of multipliers in your life…and any diminishers that you learned from but (hopefully) were not diminished in the season you were together…maybe you became a multiplier in that person’s life. Journey strong, Friends.

Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown

YouTube Video – Leaders as Multipliers with Liz Wiseman

YouTube Video – Liz Wiseman – The Multiplier Effect 0

Multipliers Quotes from GoodReads

2013 Global Leadership Summit Session 3a: Liz Wiseman

Brian Dodd – 4 Leadership Lessons From Mt. rainier and the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Business List – another example of a Multiplier

Worship Wednesday – How Many Kings? – Downhere

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For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Two out of so many favorite December experiences are Christmas songs on the radio and Christmas cards in my mailbox. For some maybe, all that Christmas music on various stations gets old…but for me, it’s a continual feast. Then those old-fashioned cards in red or green envelopes with stamps on them transform our mailbox from bill and junk mail holders to a wonder of news from friends and family.

[Most of the images you see on this blog are from treasured old Christmas cards.]

The song How Many Kings, out since 2009, by the Canadian Christian band Downhere is new to me. I’m so thankful my favorite radio station is playing this one lately. The lyrics allude to a visitation of some number of wise men from the Far East. Through their knowledge of both the ancient Scriptures (Micah 5:2)and the stars of Heaven, they were able to chart a course right to the baby Jesus, in his home in Bethlehem. How Many Kings speaks of their amazement and wonder…and ours…at the coming of the Christ Child. It is the story of such love as God had…has…for us in that even His own son He would not withhold from us…to make a path for us back to Him.IMG_0048

God sent His son to us. Our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly One in unity through the ages – would somehow include 33 years of life on earth to bring Himself close to us. God with skin on – that we might understand better what love looks like and how we can live because of that love… Glory! 

Blog - Worship Wednesday - What KingsPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com

Worship with me:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl – Just a child – Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart – how many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

Only one did that for me
All, all for me…
All for you…

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I am not sure Downhere is even performing together currently, but thank you, Brothers, for this song…and thank You, God, for giving Your Son for me…for us all.Blog - How Many Kings - DownherePhoto Credit: Downhere.com

Lyrics to How Many Kings – Songwriters – Marc A. Martel and Jason Germain

Story Behind the Song How Many Kings

Downhere Band Website

Bethlehem Skyline – album including How Many Kings

Love Your Neighbor – Henrico Christmas Mother Revisited – How You Helped and Still Can

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Henrico Christmas Mother is a great local charity which I recently featured on this blog. Read there for the details. Today I just wanted to revisit their efforts as they come to the culmination of those efforts in their Christmas distributions starting this week. Henrico Christmas Mother is such a great success story in serving our county’s neighbors in need. The success of this charity is driven by the phenomenal support of hundreds of volunteers, schools, and local businesses.

The doors open on Thursday for the elderly, disabled, and families to receive your donations of love and care. Over the weekend, Harriet Long, president of the Council of Henrico Christmas Mother, and her husband Ken toured us around the facility where all this care for our neighbors is displayed.

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The sight of all the toys, food, clothing, and gift items is joyously overwhelming. Donations from students, families, and staff of Henrico County public schools as well as generous help from employees from the county government and other volunteers make for an amazing experience for these families in need. As an example, Moody Middle School  collected 2855 pairs of socks for Christmas Mother. 2855 pairs of socks!

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Local clubs, businesses, and churches are also incredibly generous in their help of these families.  The bicycles below are donated by Richmond Area Bicycle Association. Other bike donations come from Henrico County agencies as well as individual donors.2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 085

The carload of stuffed animals and books below came from the Lifeway Christian Store in Richmond. So many companies, organizations, and local businesses donate money, time, food, and clothing to Henrico Christmas Mother…for the sake of our neighbors.Blog - Christmas Mother - Lifeway donation

On Thursday and through all the days of distribution, the toys and other gifts will be out of boxes and on display for moms and others to choose for their children. What an experience to be a part of helping to make for a happy Christmas!2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 055Council Members Mary Shaia and Harriet Long2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 075Council President Harriet Long and #1 Volunteer, Ken Long

As a citizen of Henrico County, I want to thank this year’s Christmas Mother, Beverly Cocke, and all the Council members who are the driving force for Henrico Christmas Mother. You make it easy for us to be a part of loving our neighbors…and there’s still time to help (see below).2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 073

Also don’t miss the video from the Henrico County Public Schools. There is still time to donate to this great cause to make this Christmas a brighter one – for these neighbors of ours:

Please consider a contribution to this year’s Henrico Christmas Mother:

Material Donations will be accepted weekdays from 9am – 3pm from Thursday, December 3, to Thursday, December 17, at the Henrico Christmas Mother Warehouse, 361 Dabbs House Road.

To arrange delivery at other times, please call 804-236-9741.

Consider donating:

New toys:
New clothing – especially hats and gloves
New books
Non-perishable food items
New blankets (full or queen size) or other gifts for seniors or adults with disabilities

Spreading Christmas Cheer – Henrico Citizen

Love Your Neighbor – Henrico Christmas Mother – How We Can Help

The Other Side of Organizational Downsizing – What Survivors and Their Managers Can Do Going Forward

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Recently, a young friend of mine told me about an abrupt change in his company. He went in one morning to the usual – team meeting, work routine, cubicle life. Then in the early afternoon, without any prior notice or indication, the head of the company walked around the building with envelopes. By the end of the day, in this small tech support company, one-third of the employees had packed up and left the building.

Surprise lay-offs are the hardest to bear, but any kind of downsizing, no matter how necessary, is stressful and disorienting. When crisis precipitating a downsizing occurs, organizational leaders are wise to put together a transition team right away.

For those who were laid-off or who took the separation package in a carefully orchestrated downsizing, there is colossal adjustment. Hopefully, they will get the support they need to get that next job or to thrive in retirement.

For those who remain with the company, their adjustment can be great as well. Do an internet search for “surviving downsizing” and you will find hundreds of articles, and even several books on the subject.

Employees who survive the downsizing (whether because of their age, capabilities, or department) will still go through a period of post-traumatic stress. On that Monday, for instance, after their colleagues leave, they must re-orient to a new normal.

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Michael Sanders, author of 7 Critical Mistakes Employees Make in a Downsizing, wrote an empowering Linkedin article on how to take charge of one’s own survivors’ syndrome and move forward. First Sanders defines the elements of “sickness”; elements which include guilt, mistrust, sadness, anxiety, and disagreeability. Then he moves right to ten “power moves” that employees can make for a healthier, more substantive work situation. I list these, but don’t miss, in the article, what he says further on each.

  1. Practice instant alignment re-centering.
  2. Play by the new rules.
  3. Speed up.
  4. Practice intensive task management.
  5. Fall in love with your work, again.
  6. Take on new assignments.
  7. Expand your business affiliations.
  8. Continue your education.
  9. Become your own hero.
  10. Keep in touch with laid-off [or “downsized”] work friends.

Some of Sanders’ action items may seem more than you can handle as you adjust yourself to a work life very different than the previous one. His bottom line is  to refuse to be a victim. Whether your organization is proactive in retaining and retraining you, you can champion your own professional needs and career. It will benefit you and either your current employer or your next one.

Stress specialist Morton C. Orman, M.D. also wrote a prescriptive piece entitled 18 Ways to Survive Your Company’s Reorganization, Takeover, Downsizing, or Other Major Change. Below are 8 of the points I believe are most helpful (again refer to his article for the rest of his wisdom).

  1. Be prepared for [more] change.
  2. Watch out for unrealistic expectations.
  3. Get creative.
  4. Expand your value to the company.
  5. Celebrate your accomplishments.
  6. Seek appropriate compensation or “risk share” arrangements.
  7. Improve lines of communication.
  8. Become more efficient.

Again, these may seem obvious, on one hand, and annoyingly intrusive as well. You’re grieving the beloved colleague who was laid-off or that great boss who retired. In the process of that grief which may be with you for some time, you still have that job to do…with probably more responsibility added. Sadness and anxiety tend to affect our performance negatively. That’s why it’s imperative to set in place processes you may not have needed before but need now to recover and embrace what’s ahead.

Hopefully you have leaders and managers who are already astutely moving the company forward…with you in mind, as well as the  product/services. If not, you can’t risk waiting. Do your reading, evaluate your course of action, build your new work community, and demonstrate to yourself and those around you…you are a survivor! In the best sense of the word.

The Downsizing Jungle: 10 Power Moves by Mike Sanders

The Effects of Downsizing on Survivors: a Meta-analysis – Dissertation of Dr. Gladys West; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2000 – an excellent presentation of the issues of organizational commitment, job satisfaction, turnover intention, role conflict, job involvement, supervisor support, procedural and distributive fairness. [scholarly piece but worth wading through.]

Slideshare – Downsizing Best Practices – Survivors are Key – Don’t Neglect Them – Carol Beatty

Survivor Employees: What You Need to Know – description of 6 common profiles of employees dealing with “layoff survivor syndrome”

After Layoffs, Help Survivors Be More Effective – excellent article on what’s at stake for survivors of layoff and how, from a management standpoint, to turn things around.

18 Ways To Survive Your Company’s Reorganization, Takeover, Downsizing, or Other Major Change

Blog - Downsizing - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net