Gotta Love Evaluations…NOT!

Quick! Give me an evaluation form!

Quick! Give me a pen so I can fill out this evaluation!

Evaluations. There is an email in my inbox that is taunting me, goading me to open it. But I see the subject line and I tell that email, “Not now, email, I can’t handle you this morning.” After all, the subject line says, “Evaluations.”

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to do a presentation on the basics of storytelling at our Toastmaster district conference. At each of the two sessions where I gave my presentation, audience members were given a slip of paper to provide an evaluation of my workshop.  Toastmasters are big on giving evaluations, and of course they should be, it’s how we learn and grow and become better communicators.  It’s just that I am not always big on receiving them.

Toastmasters are so eager to give evaluations that at my first presentation there was a gentleman who was anxiously raising his hand, calling out to the room moderator asking about the evaluation form because he didn’t receive his yet. He was almost frantic.  She reassured him one was coming. The thing is, I hadn’t even been introduced yet, let alone given my presentation! Gee, mister, give a girl a chance to speak before you worry about her evaluation!

After my first presentation, I received a lot of good feedback from the folks in the audience who were gracious enough to come down afterwards and talk to me. This was my first time presenting at a Toastmaster function like this and I felt like I had done the best I could, but I knew, of course, that there could be improvements – there can always be improvements.

Then the email came with the subject line “Evaluations”. The evaluations were in from my first presentation. I made the mistake of reading those evaluations before I was set to give the same presentation the following week. Here’s the thing – the majority of evaluations were very good. Some said it was the best session of the day, others said they thought it was perfect and they wouldn’t change a thing. Many ranked my performance 5 out of 5 – but there were a few who marked me in the middle, who didn’t like some of the things I did, who had suggestions for change. And it was those evaluations that my mind chose to focus on, to sit with, to make my new BFF. One friend commiserated and said that she could get 98 out of 100 glowing reviews but would obsess over the 2 not so good ones. Do you ever do that?

Why? Why, in some circumstances (not all) does the more negative evaluations just bring me down? Why do I even perceive the feedback as “negative” when really the evaluation is just one person’s opinion of how they think something could be done better.  And sometimes I even agree with them! So why does it affect me so much? Why, when I know in my mind I can never please everyone all the time, do I get that sinking feeling in my heart when the review is less than glowing?

I have an idea of what some of the reasons are and most operate at a heart/emotional level and not a mind/rational one: perfectionism, misplaced value of myself and others, and the wrong perspective.

Even though I know intellectually that there is no such thing as perfect, especially in areas of speaking and writing, emotionally I still want it and strive for it. Time to reframe my definition of perfection – the only thing that is perfect is being in process and nothing more. If I am willing to engage in the process, well then, that’s real perfection!

When I focused on the evaluations that were less than 5 stars, I began to doubt myself, began to question that I should even be a speaker.  I began to place too much value on the opinions of a few people and devalue myself, as though there were a mandatory offsetting scale. Time to remember that my value, and the value of my contributions, is not measured by a handful of people who evaluate me, whether they love me or not.

And that leads me to perspective. God warns us about working to please man instead of worrying about pleasing Him. It’s not that we don’t want to do a good job for our family, our friends, our employers, and the people who have given us an opportunity to use our gifts – we definitely should! But I realize that our perspective, my perspective, should be to use our gifts and talents to glorify the One who made us and gave us those gifts.  Time to recognize that His evaluation is the one that matters most. And I truly believe that when we are doing our best to use the gifts and talents He has given us to make Him proud, then like every good parent, He is beaming with pride regardless of whether we feel we were perfect or someone only gave us a 3 star review.

Should we learn and grow from the evaluations we receive? Absolutely! But in a world filled with immediate, online, in your face evaluations – think of Yelp, Ebay, blogs, employers and yes, even slips of paper given to eager audience members – it helps to take a minute to adjust our perspective and check our motivation because, really, there is One whose evaluation matters most and that’s the one we should focus on. How do you deal with less than glowing evaluations?

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

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Newest Chicken Soup for the Soul ~ The Dating Game

"My Mare the Matchmaker" is included in the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul book out now!

“My Mare the Matchmaker” is included in the newest Chicken Soup for the Soul book out now!

I heard someone by the front door and then the distinctive sound of a delivery truck pulling away. I love getting packages. don’t you? I whipped open the front door and pulled the box inside. A box of books ~ a sure way to this girl’s heart! It was the latest edition in the Chicken Soup series ~ The Dating Game. I knew the books might be arriving earlier than scheduled due to the holidays, and you don’t hear me complaining!

Being a contributor to Chicken Soup has been such a blessing on my writing journey and I have been so grateful for the opportunity to submit my stories, and sometimes, see them printed on a page, between two covers and sitting on a retailer’s shelf. Sure, one story out of many…and I am a-okay with that. I just love being a part of it all! I also really like what the new publisher has done with the covers~ I think they are just so catchy. Honestly, I have loved the covers on my last three books, and especially liked the “It’s Christmas” cover. But more important are the stories inside ~ everyone has a story and whenever I thumb through and read someone else’s story I am in awe of the storytelling talent out there and the humor and inspiration shared by my fellow contributors. It’s such a fun ride ~ I hope I never have to get off!

Storytelling Workshop

Is there a storyteller in YOU? Yes!

Is there a storyteller in YOU? Yes!

Oh, the discomfort of stretching that comfort zone! I am feeling it these days! Last month I prepared and delivered a new talk on expecting the unexpected during the holidays. This month I am preparing a workshop to be presented in January at our Toastmaster district conference. The topic? Storytelling.

Am I an expert storyteller? No way! Do I have some experience telling stories? You bet! And so do you! That’s part of the point of my workshop ~ we human beings were created to be storytellers. It’s how we naturally communicate, it’s effective and there are certain techniques that can help us tell better stories. And that is what I plan to share at my workshop!

As I prepare, I learn and I get even more excited about the whole idea of storytelling. My imagination takes me from a workshop to a storytelling festival, bringing back memories of storytelling festivals I attended years ago in San Juan Capistrano. Can you imagine it? Can you hear the storyteller’s voices? Sense the audience being pulled into the stories and taken on a journey? I can. Someday. So how far can you stretch a comfort zone, anyway? I think I’m going to find out!

Call to Action

Is God trying to get your attention and call you to action?

Is God trying to get your attention and call you to action?

Action. It was a last minute decision to go to Kohl’s and look for a necklace, but I had a little time to spare and headed to the store. I thought if I could find something cheap, I would treat myself; after all, I wanted to look nice for the speaking engagement I had that evening. In fact, the whole day had been focused on preparing for the event. It was a new talk and so I really wanted to be on my game. I wanted to be a blessing to the ladies who were attending and do a good job for the event coordinator who had hired me. I clicked on my right turn signal, merging onto the street that would lead me to Kohl’s and that is when I noticed her.

A middle-aged woman stood on the opposite corner with a cardboard sign. The magic marker letters were too small for me to read from where I was, but I was sure I knew the message. Homeless. Needs help. Kids to feed. God bless. This corner is almost always occupied by someone in need of something. It is a busy corner, with a stream of people going in and out of the Costco that sits there. As I turned the corner, I made a mental note of her and knew the inner grappling would soon begin.

I lucked out at Kohl’s and found the perfect necklace and earring set at a great price and was quickly back in my car, mentally going through all I still had left to do. Go home and practice my talk again. Take a shower. Put on my make up. Pack the car with books and props. In the middle of my mental list making, as I reached the end of the store driveway, she came back to mind, and the grappling began.

Oh, if I make a right, like I normally would, I will have do something about her. I will have to decide whether or not to give her money. If I give her money, how do I know what she will do with it? What if she doesn’t really need it and she is one of those people who makes tons of money by standing at corners with signs? Money is tight in my own household ~ I questioned spending the $14 for a necklace and earrings. What if she didn’t really need it and I was just throwing our money away?

I decided I could avoid all this if I just made a left and went around the block, thus not passing that corner. But I couldn’t catch a break in the stream of cars and was forced to finally go right. As I approached the intersection where she stood, I steered the car towards the left hand turn lane and told myself it was better not to encourage her to come to the car for money, after all, she would need to step out into traffic and she might get hurt. That wouldn’t be a good thing. Better to keep the window up. But I looked over at her and said a prayer, and when I did, I felt as though she looked straight at me, eyes pleading, even though I was a lane and a half away. It felt like she looked into my soul.

“Okay, now what?” I asked the Lord. “What do you want me to do? Do we really know if she legitimately needs the money? And, Lord, you know all that I need to get done for the talk.”

“Ah, yes, the talk,” I could sense the Lord saying to me. “The talk where you plan to share with the ladies how important it is to be a blessing to others during this holiday season. The talk where your call to action is to encourage them to be the unexpected blessing in the lives of others. That talk?”

I went up to the next light and made a well-executed u-turn. Clearly, I had to develop another plan.

“Well,” I told myself, “I will make a right at the corner, again, and make a u-turn in the Costco parking lot so that when I come out I will be in the right hand lane and she won’t have to cross traffic. Then I can give her a couple of bucks and leave the outcome of what she does with it in the hands of the Lord.” There, a good plan. Except that when I got to the corner to make a right, I looked over at her and she was sitting on one of those ugly green electrical boxes with her back to the corner. No sign. No face. Just a slouched over figure. My heart broke. And now I needed a new plan.

“Okay, Lord,” I said. “I will park in the Costco parking lot and walk over to her. You know, this is more than I planned, Lord.” I rooted in my wallet and took out some money. In one pocket, I put a couple of dollars. In the other, I put a five and a few more dollars. I continued my conversation with God.

“Lord, I don’t know what I am doing. I have no idea what I am going to say. I still don’t know if I am supposed to give her money or not and how much. So, Lord, I am trusting you to let me know which pocket of money I should give her when I get there. I am trusting you to tell me what to do.” By now I had reached her.

“Hi,” I said. “I saw you when I drove by and then noticed that you had turned your back to the traffic. Is everything okay?”

“I’m so sad,” she said.

“I wondered about that,” I said, kneeling down next to her.

“This is hard. I don’t want to be out here. People can be so mean. I don’t have any place to live. My kids and I have been staying at the campground and it’s supposed to rain tonight. We can only stay one more night….” She poured out her heart while mine broke a little more.

“But I know God loves me. Do you know that the people at the Walmart in Foothill Ranch said I could work for them? They saw me sleeping in my car in the parking lot. They even bought me some clothes to wear.” I could hear a glimmer of hope in her voice. I suggested some places where she could get some food and she told me she had been blessed by those resources.

“I have gone to the churches around to see if there was some place to stay, but they couldn’t do anything.” We talked about the frailty and limitations of humans and organizations and that we should never look to them as a perfect reflection of our Lord because they are, like us, imperfect. Mostly she talked and I just listened. There wasn’t much more I could do. I didn’t have answers. I could only offer a few minutes of time, a listening ear and a piece of my heart. She seemed to perk up and I felt it was time to go. I didn’t want her to lose the opportunity to be blessed by a generous passer by who might cover her campground fee for another night.

“What’s your name?” I asked. She told me her name. “I will pray for you,” I said.

She stood up and thanked me and I reached out to give her a hug. I reached into both pockets and pulled out the money. “Here’s a little something. I hope it helps.” She beamed and thanked me. I quickly turned to head up the hill to my car, with an incredible tightness in my chest and tears burning in my eyes.

I cried the whole way home. I thanked the Lord for His conviction, for His call to action. I asked His forgiveness for my hypocrisy and self-centered nature. I prayed for the woman on the corner, and for the many others like her. I thanked the Lord for breaking my heart and when I went home to practice my talk, I felt the words speak to me afresh, knowing that He was the one speaking to me, the one calling me to action.

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

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Advent ~ Celebrate and Anticipate the Coming of Christ

Will you find a way to celebrate advent this year?

Will you find a way to celebrate advent this year?

Advent.  The holiday season is right around the corner ~ and all the busyness that comes with it. In all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to forget what it is we are supposed to be celebrating! For Christians, it is a time of celebrating the birth of the Messiah, Jesus, the Christ, and also anticipating His return.

The word advent comes to us from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming”. In the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great was the first to associate this season of Advent with the coming of Christ ~ but originally it was not the coming of the Christ-child that was anticipated, but rather, the second coming of Christ. Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ’s first coming to Earth as a baby but also for His presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and they celebrate in preparation and anticipation of his second coming. This year I am going to find a way to celebrate advent, to carve out a little time in my hectic schedule to focus on Immanuel, God with us, and remember that He’s coming back.  Would you consider finding a way, no matter how small, to celebrate the season of advent? The real purpose of advent is to remind us that Jesus really is the reason for the season! Below are some links to additional resources and ideas on how you and your family can participate in the season of advent.

Christianity Today Article on the History of Advent

How Will You Observe Advent? Blog Entry on BibleGateway

Focus on the Family Celebrate Advent

Lifeway Advent Resource – See the first link for a PDF Advent Worship Guide

Advent Conspiracy ~ A Movement to Focus on the True Meaning of Christmas and Less on Consumerism ~ Encourages Christians to Be a Blessing

Advent Devotional From Fresno Pacific University Biblical Seminary

Advent Devotional Guide: Preparing for the Coming of Christ

Free Billy Graham Advent Devotional Download

Advent 2013 Family Devotional Guide

Sign Up for Free Celebrating Advent E-Chart from Rose Publishing

Gospels from the Pocket Testament League – Equip Yourself to Share

Saddleback Advent App

I know you will be blessed if you find some small way to consistently spend some time preparing your hearts and minds for the advent of our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Christ ~ Jesus.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:60

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New Talk ~ Expecting the Unexpected

Expecting the Unexpected

Expecting the Unexpected

Preparing a new talk is always so exciting to me.  The process of studying God’s word and selecting relevant stories to share is fun and challenging, stressful and exciting. My prayer is always to share what God wants me to share and what will be a blessing to my audience.  Your prayers over my new talk would be greatly appreciated, too!

Right now the talk I am finishing is one with the theme “expecting the unexpected during the holidays”.   It seems the holidays are filled with unmet expectations and the unexpected, often leaving us disappointed and stressed. I wondered what would happen if we just expected the unexpected ~ how would that change our attitudes, our expectations, our focus.

God often works in unexpected ways, using unexpected people for His purposes. It  is a wonderful thing! So if we are seeking and serving God, then we should be expecting the unexpected, as contrary as that might sound.  So this holiday season, I am going to make it a point to see blessings in the unexpected and to be a blessing to others…and that’s just part of what I hope to share in a few weeks. How will you manage the unexpected in the months to come? 

 

First Fridays

It's The First Friday ~ How Are You?

It’s The First Friday ~ How Are You?

When I started my blog a couple of years ago, it was with the intent of developing the habit of writing.  What developed, in addition to time spent writing, was this online devotional, which has really served as my spiritual journal.  I am so thankful for all that God has taught me and revealed to me through this process.

But a few months ago I decided to start devoting more time to a longer writing project and have reduced the frequency of my blog posts.  In addition, I moved and revamped my website and blog and decided to start sending out my blog posts in the form of a monthly newsletter the first Friday of the month ~ hence, the title of this post ~ First Fridays.

If you are reading this, then I thank you so much for taking  some of your time, which I know is precious, to spend with me on this journey. I pray you will be blessed and I hope you will continue to join me on the First Fridays!

Lynne aka CurlyGirl4God

Changing Seasons

Is God's light shining in your life?

Is God’s light shining in your life?

Trees. It’s fall in Indiana and the trees are beautiful. Ever since we arrived from Southern California a week ago, we have been admiring the amazing array of colors that adorn the trees here.

“Wow! Look at how red that one is!”
“That one is a mix of gold and orange!”
“Look at that grove – it’s magnificent!”

Where we come from in Southern California we don’t have near the display of fall colors, nor the number of trees, that they have here in Northern Indiana, so we have been busy taking pictures to capture the beauty.

This morning I was captivated by one very tall, robust tree that sits in full view outside the sliding glass door where I am drinking my coffee. The sun is rising from behind the tree, extremely bright and powerful. The only thing between me and the power of the sun is the tree – it’s leaves acting as a filigree barrier. The sun, in all its glory, filters through the barrier creating long beams of light that shine on the frost covered grass. It’s beautiful. Pictures can’t capture the moment – I wish you were here to see it yourself.

I was mesmerized by the scene in front of me. Maybe my fascination is peaked because I am re-reading the letters of Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who lived in the 17th century. Brother Lawrence shares his conversion story that came about as the result of a tree. A barren, leafless tree of winter that would soon be renewed with new life and fruit revealed to Brother Lawrence the providence and power of God. Yes, it’s true, God uses His creation to speak to us in many ways. This morning, my view of the tree spoke to me in a different way.

I wondered about the barrier of the leaves. Their thickness all but blocking out the brightness and power of the sun, and how incredible those beams of light were that were able to break through the barrier. I saw myself in the tree. My arms, long branches, laden with leaves, the cares and worries of this world. Branches, too many to count, covered with leaves of sin – hurtful words, unkind thoughts, overlooked needs – all weighing me down. I saw myself blocking out the light of the sun. It hurt my spirit to think of myself this way and I wanted to shake off those leaves that covered my life.

I thanked God, knowing that a new season was coming. As I give my life to Christ, He is faithful to take me through the seasons of life that will allow the kind of transformation that will strip my leaves and allow the light of the sun to shine through…if I let Him. Or, I can cling tightly to the leaves of this world, leaves that get heavy and numerous and needy and so full that barely a beam of light can break through. There is nothing wrong with a tree in the season of spring, but if left in that state we would never see the beauty that comes from the transforming hands of God. The vast array of colors, the depth and richness that comes from the next season of life. And if we stopped in this state of beauty, never shedding the colorful leaves, as beautiful as they are, then we would never reach that naked and vulnerable state that allows the fullness of the light of the sun to shine through. It is in this state, with fallen leaves, free of the sin and burdens of the world, that the glory of the sun can be revealed.  And I really want the light and glory of the Son to shine through my life.

Brother Lawrence saw in the barren tree a season to follow, a season transformed by the hands of God to bear beauty and fruit. I looked at the tree, full of beauty and fruit, and saw a season to follow and a tree transformed by the hands of God to break the barriers of this world and reveal perfect beams of light. Praise God for revealing so much to each of us through the beauty of His trees.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-17
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Faith Training

Flexed your faith muscles lately?

Flexed your faith muscles lately?

Training. I am not a fan of lifting weights. Actually, to say I am not a fan implies indifference when in reality, I dislike lifting weights. I think it’s boring, hard and I never “feel the pump”. I am more of a cardio girl when it comes to exercise. But my husband? He has been a long time weightlifter with the biceps to back it up. He loves it.

“I had to put another plate on the leg press machine,” he will beam.

“Awesome!”

“I almost broke the squat rack!” he will exclaim.

“Fabulous!”

“I pressed five hundred trillion pounds!” Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but you get the idea. He loves to push himself because he knows (and I know because he has told me many times) that this is the only way for your muscles to grow. High reps won’t do it. Staying with the same weight won’t do it. I guess muscles get lazy, complacent and they don’t want to exert themselves unless you put the pressure on by adding more weight.

While I wouldn’t consider myself a weightlifter, I do understand about pushing yourself and your muscles. This past year I participated in a half marathon, even though I am not in the best shape and I am certainly not a runner. I wanted to push myself and grow in my own level of fitness. It was fun but also very hard and a little painful. But I know how it goes ~ no pain, no gain.

Recently our business has been going through some growing pains. The buyers have been scarce while the bills never go away. We began to feel the pressure, the stress, the added weight of uncertainty. We wondered why? Why the seeming void of income producing activity? What are we doing wrong? We consider ourselves people of faith, but we wondered if God had forgotten us.

And then it was time for a pep talk. In the words of Hans and Frans from Saturday Night Live, God was there to pump us up! In reading His words in the Bible, I was reminded that life is full of trials and tests that add weight and pressure in the gym of life. Just like our muscles, our faith would become complacent if we didn’t face challenges. It is precisely because God loves us and has His eyes on us always that He allows periods of uncertainty and stress. He wants us close, He wants us to depend on Him, every day for every little thing. He wants our faith to grow strong, and without trials and tests our faith wouldn’t have a chance to grow. No pain, no gain.

With a renewed faith, we faced our business challenges and God was faithful to see us through, as He always is ~ which is a good thing because we are told that we will face trials of many kinds. Are you feeling the weight of uncertainty over a situation in your life? Got some muscles that have gotten flabby from being too comfortable? Is God wanting you to grow? If so, let’s get the weights out, put another plate on the machine, and flex those faith muscles! You couldn’t ask for a better trainer.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  1Peter 1:6-7

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Chicken Soup for the Soul, It’s Christmas on Sale October 8th

Coming October 8th! Featuring Lynne's story, "The Christmas Stranger".

Coming October 8th! Featuring Lynne’s story, “The Christmas Stranger”.

It’s hard to believe that Christmas will be here in just a few months ~ it feels like it wasn’t that long ago that I was making new year resolutions! I hope the time between now and then moves slowly enough that we can enjoy each moment along the way.

The newest Chicken Soup book comes out on October 8th entitled, “It’s Christmas!” My story entitled “The Christmas Stranger” is included in this book and I so wish the Christmas stranger could know that he made such an impression on us. Wouldn’t it be great if somehow, some way, he read the story and connected? Ahhhh well, if not here, maybe one day in heaven.

If you are looking for a nice Christmas present to give as a thank-you gift or hostess gift, you might want to consider this book. I am told it is Santa friendly, so know worries about sharing the stories with little ones. An added bonus for me was that my friend, Lori Bryant, a prolific storyteller, has her story published in this book as well ~ we are even in the same section of the book! I will have the link to Amazon on my book page on October 8th so if you do decide to buy a copy, feel free to use the link. Amazon prices are usually the best and it won’t cost you any more to go through my website and I earn a small amount for each book sold…and I appreciate that very much!