Your Road Ahead: Interpret these 5 signs

This post first appeared on #bealeader and is republished with permission.


Written by Kristine Ward

“If you were a kitchen appliance, which one would you be and why?” asked the woman that could soon be my new boss.

“Oh, that’s easy,” I said, “a blender. Because most appliances have only one function, but a blender is versatile. And it has more than one speed. If you go full throttle all the time, you’ll burn out your motor. Sometimes, you just need to mix gently.”

The two women conducting my first interview in over 20 years looked thoughtfully at each other, smiled and nodded.

Although I left my full-time career after my firstborn’s compromised immune system wouldn’t tolerate daycare, I hadn’t sat around eating Bonbons and watching soap operas for two decades. Okay, I’ll admit in the late 90s at 4:00 p.m. Oprah kept me company while I made dinner.

I’d been productive while raising my two children. I volunteered at their schools and our church and saw to the physical, spiritual, and mental needs of my family, as well as myself. I obtained the college degree I’d always regretted not having, began and completed my memoir, and launched a freelance writing career.

Still, the resume was looking rather thin. My psychology degree wasn’t a particularly employable one without further education, even though I had an impressive student internship and won several awards.

But what I desired for the second half of my life was something many, more impressively-credentialed candidates seek—to break through the intricately-coded gate of traditional publishing. I believed in my soul that this was the path I was meant to take, and that all my accomplishments and experiences greenlighted me toward this intended purpose.

But no writing jobs were coming-a-courting, at least none that could pay me.

While I was in the middle of applying for a writing position at a large media conglomerate, the job vanished. Literally. I had uploaded my revamped resume and was in the middle of tailoring my cover letter when, poof, I received a message explaining the job had been filled. I wasted an entire afternoon on this application process.

I reacted by looking upward and shouting, “Come on! Really?”

I’d already applied for a few positions at the college I’d just graduated from, but they weren’t responding either. Then, a professor friend of mine called to tell me about a support position for a director who knew me from my internship at my college. She encouraged me to apply and then contacted the hiring manager to let her know I was interested. I wasn’t desiring a staff position that wouldn’t use my creativity or communication skills, but I applied anyway. They called the next day to set up what would be my first interview in over 20 years. I slayed it with my insightful blender response.

I’m a big believer in reading the signs that are all around us: Winding Road, Do Not Enter, Exit Now, Lane Ends, Merge, Danger, One Way – they’re everywhere. It takes thoughtful discernment, honesty and self-knowledge, however, to interpret the signs meant just for you. This is the main message of one of my favorite movies, Silver Linings Playbook.

I cheer its beautiful conclusion. I don’t like re-watching movies, but when it came out on DVD, I bought a copy. This movie resonates with me. The main character, a bi-polar man, is released from a long stay at a mental institution (this is not the part that resonated with me . . . just saying). His goal was to win back his ex-wife. He is convinced they are forever soul mates and that he’s accurately interpreting signs from the universe. Actually, his singleness of purpose stems from coming off his much-needed medication and, therefore, he cannot decipher fantasy from reality. The tunnel vision caused by his illness prevents him from reading an obvious sign that is directly in front of him.

So the question I put before you is how do we read signs accurately so that we can take necessary action and lead others to do the same? Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter answer. If there were, publishers would be in a bidding war for my words of wisdom.

None of us know the future and how to avoid unnecessary pit falls. But the signs that surround us will never mislead us; if we ignore them, we best prepare ourselves for the steep road ahead. Here’s some insight into 5 signs that I’ve run into many times and maybe you have, too:

  1. Merging Lanes. Do your actions speak so loudly that people can’t hear what you’re saying? If your words and behavior merge, you are living authentically. If not, you’ll never see the signs around you, let alone interpret them accurately.
  2. Yield. If you come to a complete stop instead of yielding, you might cause a pile up. Slow down, notice if there are people and opportunities that you must yield to, then proceed. Do not treat a sign to yield like a stop sign. You will never progress.
  3. Do Not Enter. When your lane is barricaded, is it possible you are being protected from what’s beyond it? Obey and you will be saved from danger or, at the very least, distress.
  4. Intersection Ahead. This one is tricky. Do you stay straight, turn right or turn left? This is when self-knowledge, quiet discernment and seeking honesty from mentors will serve you well. We are born with an internal compass, I believe, that always points to truth. Get in touch with yours.
  5. Detour. You will see signs that’ll slow you down and may even cripple your momentum, but do not interpret them as dead ends. Remember times in your past when you were taken off the beaten path and how exhilarating it felt to be in unknown territory. Glean lessons from these detours that you can use to help others. Move with enthusiasm in that unexpected direction.

Yes, it’s scary when the route you’ve programmed into your GPS (Goal-Positioning Sign) takes you into unfamiliar areas.

Yes, we all want to know exactly where we’re going and when we’ll arrive.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable when we hit road blocks and detours and lions, tigers and bears, oh my! But the silver linings are there—somewhere over the rainbow.

By the way, I accepted the offer my first interviewer in over 20 years made me. I read and accurately interpreted the signs placed before me, I believe. I pray the same for you.

Mentoring Opportunity: What helps or hinders you in your decision-making process?



This post first appeared on #bealeader and is republished with permission.

By: Kristine Ward

We all experience disappointment—significant and minor ones. One morning last week, I got out of bed and shuffled down the stairs, my vision blurry because I hadn’t yet popped in my contacts. I needed coffee way more than I needed to see clearly. As I descended my staircase, I spied a shock of red on the other side of my glass front door. It fanned out and filled the bottom half of the glass and was impossible to miss. A surprise present? This delivery would’ve been made between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM.

I opened the door with anticipation and was greeted by 12 long-stemmed roses, beautifully arranged in a crystal vase. Wow! My husband took our previous night’s discussion to heart. He had disappointed me by making a decision I didn’t agree with. With this gift, he sent me the message that even though he stood by his decision, it didn’t mean that he didn’t love me and value my input.

I picked up the vase and breathed in the perfume of the biggest, reddest roses I’d ever seen. I was impressed. After 25 years of marriage, Jeff isn’t one for big romantic gestures.

I searched the roses for a card, a thoughtful phrase of my husband’s continued commitment to our marriage. No card. I thought that was strange. Then I realized there wouldn’t have been an opportunity for Jeff to have bought and delivered these flowers. He went to bed before me and carpooled to work before the sun rose.

They must be for our 16-year-old daughter. Jeff confirmed my disappointment, and we had a good laugh about it.

I wasn’t jealous, but I did feel old and just a little wistful. To everything there is a season, right? My current season obviously doesn’t include long-stemmed roses placed overnight on my doorstep.

Our daughter had been hanging out with a boy for a few weeks, not a boyfriend, mind you. Apparently, there are several, well-defined stages a teen boy and girl must pass through before officially dating. These roses signified that this boy cared for my daughter, maybe asking her to become his girlfriend. I was happy for her. She had slept at a friend’s house, so she’d have a nice surprise later that morning.

This minor disappointment of mine, along with a major one I experienced last month, having to do with my long-term goal of traditional publishing, spurred me to contemplate how we process disappointment. I believe there are right and wrong ways for handling disappointment. Here is my list of Dos and Don’ts.

  • Don’t let disappointment turn into discouragement. You have my permission to live with discouragement for a short time. A day or two – max! After a few days, discouragement could morph into despair. And that’s a place no one wants to reside.
  • Do let a disappointment re-energize you. We’ve all heard the idiom, when one door closes another one opens. The reason this is now cliché is because it connects an accurate visual to the idea that disappointments are going to happen, but we will forget about the hurt when another opportunity – a better one – shows up. So what if one potential business association doesn’t want the gifts you have to offer? 10 others could. A rejection can be the beginning of a new, more exciting direction.
  • Don’t let disappointment disable your momentum.  Keep building your business. One lead, one reader, one client at a time. You must keep doing the thing you know must be done. The blogging, lead generation, social media engagement, networking – whatever activities that are necessary to grow your business and prevent stagnation.
  • Do concentrate on the “why” instead of focusing on the “when.” Often, disappointment is the result of something happening or not happening that conflicts with your timetable. Remind yourself of your long-term goals and why you are working as hard as you are. The “no” you’ve just experienced becomes the “not yet.” This perspective will take the sting out of your disappointment. Patience, my friend.
  • Don’t exaggerate a disappointment.  Watch the language you use with others and yourself when describing your disappointment. If you repeatedly verbalize, “This is a disaster,” you will start to believe it. Then discouragement and despair could set in. (see the first don’t)
  • Do count your blessings. Another cliché that is chock full of wisdom. It’s all about focus and perspective. We find that which we seek. According to many studies on personality, an optimistic outlook versus a pessimistic one can be explained with biology. But there is a learned component as well. So a natural realist (to use a more positive term) can make a conscious effort to seek out a rainbow after the storm. Even in the worse cases, you can find something that feeds gratitude.
  • Don’t play the blame game. At all costs, avoid pinning the blame on someone as a self-defensive mechanism. If there is a responsible party, handle them with professionalism, but only after you detach emotionally from your feelings of disappointment.
  • Do choose carefully when sharing your disappointment. We all need a sounding board of trustworthy counselors comprising of a cheerleader, a pragmatist, and a brutally-honest confidante. If you don’t have these three in your emotional arsenal, seek and you will find them.
  • Don’t let disappointment define you. The whole of what you bring to the table is absolutely greater than the sum of your disappointments.
  • Do spend some time discerning whether to adjust your expectations. This doesn’t mean you’re giving up or lowering your standards. But you may need to re-evaluate your goals. If you’ve ever been called a dreamer or eternal optimist, maybe a reality check is in order.

Remember my minor disappointment at not being the recipient of the roses left on my doorstep? Apparently, it was not a teenage boy professing love for my daughter, but, in her words, “It was his unsuccessful attempt at a lame apology.”

My daughter handled her disappointment of his major transgression with strength of character and purposeful resolve. She took the bull by the horns, or rather the stems from the vase, and dumped them right in the trash. She moved on and never looked back.

We can all learn from her example.




This post was first published on #bealeader and is republished with permission.

By Kristine Ward

I find it ironic that three weeks after #bealeader re-posted one of my original blogs titled, “Suspend All Judgment,” I’m picked as a juror on a criminal trial; its very nature being the passing of judgment. I’m a writer. I adore irony.

So, I did what writers do. I observed. I took notes. I used the experience in my writing. I found many lessons on leadership, and life for that matter, during my three days of internment.

No one wanted to be in that jury assembly room with its continual video loop expounding duty and gratitude and inconsiderate people watching YouTube videos without headphones. We all had things to do, places to go, people to see. The woman waiting next to me was planning her daughter’s high school graduation party that week, then jumping on a plane to Las Vegas to get married. My daughter’s friends were throwing her a Sweet Sixteen surprise party, and I wanted to record her reaction.

My new friend’s week would remain intact. Mine would not. 

 Lesson 1: Expect interruptions to your best-laid plans.

The decision of picking jurors, a process known as voir dire, was an intriguing glimpse into human nature. Like I said, no one, including me, wanted to be there with a splattering of exceptions – the college student on summer break who majored in political science and a bored retiree, excited to earn the small, daily stipend. Sadly, they were not chosen.

But there were some whose body posture and facial expressions reflected their desire to be anywhere else. They sighed, slumped, and rolled their eyes in sarcasm when asked the questions, “Do you own any guns?” and “Will you hold it against the defendant if he doesn’t put on a defense or take the stand?” Neither is required since the burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, rests solely with the prosecution.

I was amazed by the number of people who said, “I cannot be fair and impartial in this case.”  Personal Disclaimer: I’ve also used this as a valid reason for not serving on a past jury. Years ago when my children were young, I participated in voir dire regarding sexual abuse of a child. I knew I would always err on the side of protecting the child. The defense struck me and rightly so.

We all have predisposed biases in certain situations, and it’s admirable to admit them honestly, especially when civil liberties are at stake. I’m not referring to those, but rather citizens who excluded themselves from duty because of crippling self-doubt, disdain for the process, or feelings of sanctimonious self-importance.

Lesson 2: Negativity will alienate participation and frustrate the decision-making process. 

The attorneys whittled down the jury pool to twelve jurors and one alternate, and the trial commenced. I’d been on a jury once, a boring civil trial that settled before we deliberated. This trial was not boring and they weren’t settling. It’d taken almost two years to bring this young man to trial.

The defendant was a drug dealer accused of armed robbery. Supposedly, he pointed a gun at a drug addict’s head and robbed him of $120. Without his money or the drugs he came to buy, the victim was distraught and filed a police report. When he testified, he remembered almost nothing due to the passage of time, his twenty years of drug use, and a car accident that left him with some memory loss. He was, also, clearly terrified of the courtroom and the defendant.

The direct evidence consisted of the victim’s spotty testimony that he was robbed but unsure of whether a gun was involved, the police report filed by the victim describing the gun that was involved, and the testimonies of the arresting officer, police detective, and cell phone forensic technologist.

Circumstantial evidence, which inferred guilt, was plentiful, though. Police found a gun in the defendant’s apartment matching the description the victim gave the police. The defendant’s cell phone was peppered with text messages that referred to the victim. Other texts talked about the defendant needing money and having to rob again. In addition, the defendant was questioned in another matter by the same detective a few weeks before this crime had occurred. The detective had asked whether he owned a gun. He said that he didn’t. After the victim in our case called the police, the defendant tried to sell his gun using a text message with a photo of the gun.

The defense attorney did her job well. She poked holes in the circumstantial evidence and planted seeds of doubt, but was it a reasonable doubt? She suggested that the victim fabricated the gun because he knew the police wouldn’t investigate this type of crime unless a gun was used. She offered no evidence, but the law didn’t require that of her. 

 Lesson 3: When you call people to serious action, the burden of persuasion remains on you; those who gain from the status quo will refute your reasoning. 

We adjourned for the day after hearing all the evidence. The judge implored us not to research or discuss the details of the crime. I went to sleep that night conflicted, although certain I wouldn’t send a man-child to prison based, primarily, on circumstantial evidence. After all, I was the mom of a young man, too, who might someday find himself on the wrong end of his life choices.

 Lesson 4: (Spoiler Alert) Your mind can change, even when the facts do not.

The next morning after closing arguments, which are not evidence and cannot be considered when deliberating, the judge gave us her instructions. We were not to think about sentencing requirements for armed robbery. That was her job.

 Lesson 5: Focus only on factors within your influence.

However, we could consider not only direct evidence in our process, but also circumstantial. The law does not differentiate between the two. And it was acceptable to apply common sense and reasoning to sufficiently convincing, circumstantial evidence in order to fill the gaps in our mind. Wow, I’d never learned this from myriad hours watching CSI. I thought circumstantial equated to reasonable doubt.

The victim’s testimony, although spotty, along with the police report and mounds of circumstantial evidence sufficiently convinced me of the defendant’s guilt.

The judge cautioned if our minds wavered, even slightly, between guilt and innocence, or we didn’t believe the prosecution proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then we had no choice but to find the defendant “not guilty.”

Lesson 6: Use all your available resources. 

Twelve jurors filed into the deliberation room certain we’d enact a quick and unanimous decision. My daughter’s party was still three hours away. (Spoiler Alert: See Lesson 1)

The bailiff collected our cell phones and left us to our solemnly sworn duty. Our first order of business was to elect a foreperson. No one wanted the job for various, unspoken reasons. I didn’t volunteer because I felt too emotional. I had slept fitfully, riddled with nightmares of a child imprisoned for ten years over an insignificant amount of money. I thought I’d cry if I was the one pronouncing the man-child guilty.

During the uncomfortable process of picking a reluctant foreperson, the air was saturated with silence. I said, “Was it just me, or were you all tempted to pull out your checkbooks and reimburse the victim $120 and call it a day.” I am flippant when stressed. My audience laughed, vindicating my quip.

After the foreman was elected, we took a preliminary vote, each juror expecting to hear his or her verdict echoed among the other eleven. (Spoiler Alert: Again, see Lesson 1)

1st Vote: 8 guilty, 4 not guilty. Without exception, everyone was shocked. An hour of discussion followed.

2nd Vote: 9 guilty, 3 not guilty. Another hour of persuasion, and then we wondered what would happen if we couldn’t come to a unanimous verdict.

3rd Vote: 9 guilty, 3 not guilty.

The bailiff made us break for lunch. I asked if lunch could be brought in so that we could keep deliberating. My daughter’s party was one hour away, and my optimism about getting there waned. No, we had to leave the room, go to the cafeteria, and absolutely not discuss the case.

Lesson 7: Break for food and change of scenery. Low blood sugar is the enemy of reason.

After lunch, I was hopeful that the three “not guilty’s” had changed their minds. That was not the case. In fact, all three shared that unless more evidence appeared, they would not be changing their minds.

My daughter’s party came and went, and I couldn’t even text her because I wouldn’t have my phone until we rendered a verdict – a verdict that wouldn’t come for three more hours.

Those three hours brought four more lessons:

Lesson 8: Sometimes, those reluctant to lead possess utmost humility and respect for others, giving them confidence in the collaborative process.

Lesson 9: Do not alienate your opposition by making divisive or personal attacks.

Lesson 10: Win over opposition with a gentle summation that leads them to the decision you want, yet allows them to save face. 

Lesson 11: When all else fails, do some jumping jacks. Okay, this one needs further explanation. Although the “guilty” and “not guilty” remained respectful toward one another, we had some intense discussions. One such moment when I could tell patience was strained, I got up and did some jumping jacks. Yes, yes, I did.

My jumping jacks were the tipping point in our deliberations.

I looked ridiculous and everyone laughed. Did my invitation to clown college get lost in the mail? It also allowed everyone to take a mental break. One of the “not guilty’s” took this opportunity to re-read her notes from the trial. Then, she introduced “new” evidence to her fellow “not guilty’s.” Of course, it wasn’t new, but her notes offered another viewpoint supporting evidence of guilt.

4th Vote: 10 guilty, 2 not guilty

It wasn’t long before the remaining “not guilty’s” changed their opinion. (See Lesson #4)

Final Vote: 12 guilty. Our job was done. The foreman handed our verdict to the judge, and she thanked us for our service. The defense attorney polled the jury, and each juror recited their name and confirmed their guilty vote. No one changed their mind.

Lesson 12: At the end of the day, everyone wants the best outcome. Sometimes, the best outcome has no winners. 

Even though the verdict was the right one, I cried myself to sleep that night. My husband assuaged my sadness by offering that man-child chose a dangerous lifestyle, and we may have saved his or another’s life by our guilty verdict.

The judge explained that we could call the district attorney’s office with questions or to find out what sentence had been imposed. I was haunted for a week, then called the prosecuting attorney. He was able to tell me facts that he was forbidden to share during our trial. Our defendant was awaiting a trial date for another case of armed robbery, and that wouldn’t be the last one.

The defendant and a partner targeted vulnerable victims to rob at gunpoint– those who would not usually report a crime – drug addicts, illegal immigrants, and those seeking sex for money. The judge would impose sentencing once the other trials were complete.

Justice had, indeed, been served.

Lesson 13: After an emotional ordeal, seek or offer a debriefing period.

Shortly after my conversation with the prosecutor, I received a letter from our trial judge thanking me for my time of service and asking for feedback on ways to improve the jury selection process and general comfort of jury duty. I plan to recommend a formal, juror-debriefing process since many of us left the courtroom in emotional distress. 

Lesson 14: A process can be flawed but still work effectively much of the time. Remain open to improvement, and also support the process with your time, talent, or treasures, whichever applies.

I can’t say I enjoyed my time on a criminal jury, but it was eye-opening. As leaders, I think we all agree that no experience is ever wasted, especially if you learn valuable lessons and apply them to other areas of your life.

I found one more lesson that I imparted to my teenagers:

Lesson 15: Drugs are bad, and watch what you type into an electronic device.


5 Reasons to Start Journaling This Summer

By Kristine Ward

photo (3)

Summer has always been my favorite season, even though the reasons have changed with the passing years. As a young child, summer gifted me with endless days. We played outside games of pretend and wiffle ball, drawing all the neighborhood kids until Mom dragged us in for baths and bed. And every week I walked to my small-town library and gathered as many free treasures as my toothpick arms could carry, reading on rainy days and under my covers at night with a flashlight after lights out.

I also turned a year older in summer. On my 6th birthday I was gifted with a 5 x 7 book that I was allowed to write in. I’d never seen a book devoid of words, let alone one with a lock and key. I confided all my secrets to “Dear Diary.”

As a teenager, my nights and days were mixed up like an infant. I had sleepovers where no one slept and set aside my diary for the important clutter of budding womanhood – sparkling blue eye shadows, vinyl record albums, and fashion magazines.

As a young adult in the real world of resort sales, I still loved summer for the fresh, locally- grown produce and the commissions I earned from the drove of leads responding to mass marketing flyers. I had no time for childish documentation of my busy life.

But somewhere around my 24th birthday, I walked into a bookstore intent on buying, not a diary, but a sophisticated journal befitting my maturity and need for self-discovery.

When I read those entries from long ago, a young woman’s angst jumps off the pages. My mid-life self wants to reach back in time, give her a hug, and tell her that all her cares will be resolved. New ones will take their place, though, but she should relax. She holds her stress way too tightly.

Somehow in summer, stress seems to lessen as the days lengthen. Everyone agrees that the pace of life increases with age and technological advances. Take advantage of the season that gifts us with a little extra time and daylight. Start journaling, a practice that forces you to slow down and contemplate.

First, pick out a beautiful book. You can’t snuggle up in a beach chair or hammock with a computer that commands fingers to pound furiously along its keyboard. Electronic devices have too many built-in distractions – email checking, Facebooking, tweeting, and gaming. But a pretty, spiral-bound book and a pen that fits comfortably in your hand begs for you to slowly scratch its surface and mine the nuggets of wisdom that await you.

Journaling is a creative process that costs you nothing, but the payoff can be huge.

Some are hard to define, but here I pinpoint 5 benefits that should motivate you to take action.

  1. Recognize patterns. Journaling helps me recognize when my thoughts have turned to worry so that I can catch them before they fly into fears. I’ve recognized certain thought processes that would’ve remained hidden in the recesses of my mind had I not recorded them. Sometimes, just the very act of writing down my concerns takes away their power. Journaling can extinguish your worries, point out pitfalls, show you hidden blessings, and help you gain perspective (. . . recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood – 1 John 4:6).
  2. Track progress.  I convert my problems into prayers and track how they are answered. Some prayers take a long time to see how God’s delays were not denials, but were resolved for the betterment of the situation at the time. I’m reminded to give praise and thanks. I also track my personal growth. When I’ve been frustrated by my slow rate of change, I re-read passages from the past and see that I’m slower to anger and more patient and trusting than before. (Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:6-7).
  3. Listen for direction. After writing I sit, pen in hand, and actively listen. This takes discipline. I know the Creator of the Universe desires a two-way conversation, so I honor this by staying receptive to any direction I hear. At first, you’ll think you’re just hearing your own thoughts. Then, you’ll be taken in directions that scare the crap out of you, and you’ll know this is not your ego speaking. Through this practice I was led me to quit a job, have a second child, get a dog, start college in mid-life, write a book, start a business –  all decisions I would’ve never made had I not listened to and trusted this direction. If you listen, you will hear. Maybe not the first time, but trust this practice and your life will change.  (For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened – Matthew 7:8).
  4. Get Inspired. After practicing the art of listening, and trust me, it’s not easy, your creative self will knock down barriers and inspiration will rush through. I always thought I wasn’t creative because of a callous comment from my grade-school art teacher. I can’t draw or paint. But there are as many paths to creativity as there are trails in the Smokey Mountains. My logistical husband can discover simple solutions to complex situations using only a spreadsheet and the creative manipulation of numbers. Your journal will be a place to document inspiration before your conscious mind beats it down with can’t, but, or what ifs. (Be still and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10)
  5. Document your story. Story has become a central theme in my life in the past 6 months. I completed my spiritual-growth memoir. I participated in and wrote for The 3:15 Project, whose mission is to lead people into a closer relationship with Jesus through the writing, filming, and sharing of faith stories on the Internet. And even though I’m not a leader in the traditional sense, I was recruited to write for #bealeader, whose tag line is “Leading from where you are now to make others better.” Last week, I attended a retreat where women shared their stories of pain that brought them into closer relationship with God. These avenues of story are very different yet have the same mission: to provide quality content that leads people to betterment through the experiences of others.

My favorite C. S. Lewis quote is “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”

We all have a story that others may need to hear. Keeping a journal documents your tribulations and triumphs, so that you help others through their pain by showing how you came through yours. (Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have – 1 Peter 3:15).

It takes 30 days to form a new habit, and there are more than 60 days left in summer. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Make summer your season for a transformative activity. Start journaling today.

Mentoring Opportunity: If you keep a journal, share the benefits you’ve received and how you overcome time obstacles. If you don’t journal, what are your reasons?

3 Reasons to Extinguish Fear Now


By Kristine Ward

“I can’t believe how stressed you are. You are my self-assured friend who can talk to anyone about anything,” Katie said after we unpacked our suitcases and got ready for the meet-and-greet. This is where I planned to casually introduce myself to Dream Agent – the literary agent who would love and nurture my memoir baby as I had for six years and would show her off to the world.

“Katie, of course, I’m nervous. All my hard work hinges on this thirty-second elevator pitch. That is, if she even asks me to tell her about my book.  I haven’t practiced it enough. Maybe I should stay in the room tonight and prepare.”

“Kristine, you are well-prepared. You know the message of your book, and when the time is right, you’ll have the words to convey that.” Katie was a great cheerleader, and I listened.

I extinguished my fear of imperfection, which allowed me to:


I shook with the thought of meeting the woman whose blog I’d followed for two years. I identified her as my Dream Agent because she’d represented several authors who wrote the type of spiritual memoir I’d written, re-written, edited and re-edited.

After I’d perfected many drafts over several years, I hired a professional editor, and she suggested I re-work the beginning along with other edits. Six months later when, again, I thought the book was done, I joined a writers’ critique group and was in the process of implementing their myriad suggestions. My six-year journey could soon be over.

But I’d taken a break from these important edits to write my one-page synopsis and query letter in preparation for the conference. My dream agent was a panelist and would receive my synopsis in her presenter packet. If she was interested, then she’d ask for my elevator pitch, and if she saw my exciting hook and had a clear understanding of my story in thirty seconds or less, then she’d ask for my query letter and first five pages. At least, this is how I envisioned the process based on my years of following this agent’s blog and researching the foreign terrain of traditional publishing.

Several months before the conference, a nagging feeling had formed in my gut telling me that I needed to work on my manuscript edits. This began in pre-dawn before I came fully awake and again before drifting off to sleep at night. My fear of not having a perfect synopsis and pitch, though, was reasonable, because these would be Dream Agent’s first impression of me.  So, that is where I’d concentrated my energies.

Condensing a 300-page book to a one-page synopsis was tough, and the query letter was even harder to write. But I was finding the thirty-second elevator pitch impossible to memorize. I’d written many versions and practiced on Katie and other writers during the conference check-in, only to be told that it was still too long, and I wasn’t giving them a complete sense of the highlights of my story and its originality.

This added to the anxiety I experienced while I watched the many people waiting to meet Dream Agent during the meet-and-greet party. I noticed a pattern: Dream Agent would talk with a small group of three or four, and then someone would stand on the edge of the circle waiting for access. Dream Agent, a consummate professional, was familiar with this social dance. After a break in her current conversation, she would turn and make eye contact with the newcomer, providing an opening for a new introduction.

I am not and have never been shy. But I felt excruciating pressure.  I summoned the voice of Sheryl Sandberg whose book, LEAN IN, I’d listened to on the long drive to the conference. Sandberg had seen how perfectionism, fear, and a lack of confidence hold many of us back when, instead, we should be “leaning in.”

I sauntered to the edge of the small circle where Dream Agent held court, or more likely, where aspiring authors held her hostage by forcing their elevator pitch on her.  I waited for a break in the conversation, and when it came I leaned in, literally, and introduced myself.

I fumbled, said a few stupid things, and then asked if her teenaged daughter fought against her the way mine fights against me. Because I’d researched Dream Agent (my husband uses the word “stalked”) for several years, I knew about her daughters. We proceeded to have a lovely conversation about the joys and challenges of fifteen-year-old girls. Nothing bonds two women like maneuvering the fox holes of parenting.

I confronted my lack of confidence, which allowed me to:


Two days later at a brunch where I had preferred seating with Dream Agent, she said, “Kristine, I have to tell you, memoirs are a tough sell, but I do sell them. I think you have a hook, but I need to make sure. And of course, I need to see the strength of your writing. Send me your full manuscript.”

To say that I was a little excited is like saying Sandberg is a little influential. Then, I had an epiphany – I’d had trouble with my elevator pitch because I wouldn’t need to give one. My pre-sleep and early-morning hauntings tried to tell me this, but I didn’t pay them the attention they deserved.

Instead, I had listened to my fears which drowned out my ability to:


Whether you call it your gut instinct, intuition, the Universe, God, Holy Spirit, or the scientific explanation that Malcolm Gladwell gives in BLINK: THE POWER OF THINKING WITHOUT THINKING, we must listen to this “voice.” We can only hear it if we notice it, and we can only notice it when we extinguish our fears.

Sandberg asks, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

If I could extinguish my fears, I would always “leave the room” and go after the opportunities that were waiting for me.

If I could extinguish my fears, I would always “join the conversation” having confidence in my unique contribution, instead of standing on the edge in a circle of self-doubt.

If I could extinguish my fears, I would always “hear wise direction” specifically for me. I would not just hear, but would also listen to and obey this guidance, even when it didn’t make sense.

That is what I would do if I weren’t afraid. How about you?