Tuesday, February 14, 2012

God's Love for Me FREE Ebook Offer AND Giveaway!

Gods love for me ebook

Free book.
$20 Dayspring Giveaway.
Two great gifts that remind us about God’s love on the
“love-liest” day of the year.

I had the honor and privilege of being a contributor on this book project... Christen did a FABULOUS job!

Click on the link above and find out how to download your FREE copy PLUS she is also doing another GIVEAWAY in drawing form! Thank you Christen Ridley Price ... what a wonderful honor and Valentine treat!

Friday, December 16, 2011

What a Week!

This is an exciting week for me, for my family, for my friends Darrell and Casey Wood and their Cardio Kickboxing Gym located in Dallas, GA. We were featured in "All You" magazine, a national publication sold exclusively in Walmarts all over the US!

The feature is about my personal journey to fitness in losing 125 pounds over a year of cardio kickboxing at TNT with trainers Darrell and Casey Wood. The article also speaks to how the journey changed the lives of our whole family.

It is a great article although I do wish they would have mentioned TNT by name as well as the Woods'. They were truly catalysts in my journey and I am grateful to have had such a great couple work with me to this day.

The magazine is being released Friday, December 16th... go out and buy a copy... it also has terrific coupons! 

I am also kicking off the new and improved, although still "under construction" website! Take a look around and find out what God is doing in the Sloan family!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When the Push-Back Comes

As I am working on a new series I to share some of the wonderful words of wisdom I have been absorbing today, read this insightful article by Lisa Whittle entitled, "When the Push-Back Comes." (And for even more, click on the link to the post about critics... you'll be glad you did!) Lisa has become one of my favorite bloggers/writers of late... read below and find out why!

When the Push-Back Comes

One of the hardest things for humans is when our courage is met with criticism.

When we give of ourselves and someone doesn’t receive us. When we open up only to be shut down by the disapproval of another.

Often, the thought of this reality threatens to keep us cocooned tightly — squelched voice or attempt — within our own protective shell.

We fear the push-back from others more than we fear living a life of fulfilled dreams or pursued passions. So we stay in the safe, bland and easy. That way, we won’t get hurt.

But in the end, that space stifles us: our hopes, goals, inspirations, gifts and dreams.

And yet, push-back is difficult. It takes steadiness, maturity, wisdom and its own set of courage to weather. It is a place that these things must be known…

~We have to know who we are…before. Before the push-back happens, we must have a strong sense of who we are and what we believe. Otherwise we will regret the sharing of our story, art, or any other piece of ourselves, with another. It’s not that we have to have every thought or feeling of ours figured out. But attempting things before we, ourselves, fully believe in them leaves us in a vulnerable spot when we place our truth in the hands of another.

~It isn’t personal. The great irony of push-back is that it always feels personal. But we bump into each other in life, bringing our own perspective, carrying our own set of luggage. Sometimes we will trigger things in others that have little to do with us but will become directed our way. It isn’t about their truth versus ours…it is about each of us living in our truth, allowing the other to be accountable for their own.

~It can’t be about being understood. People have been misunderstood for ages, especially Jesus. One of the most difficult things for many people (including me) is to feel like someone does not understand who we are. But our efforts can’t be focused here; otherwise, we will spin our emotional tires in an effort to gain traction with people’s approval, only for our attempts to prove futile.

~There can be peace in our perspective. Just recently, when someone pushed back on something I said, it hurt. It made me pause and think — be willing to be accountable for my words — something that is good for any influencer. But after dealing with the moment of scrutiny, it confirmed my resolve that my perspective had been right, which in turn, gave me a sense of great peace.

Friends, if we ever attempt anything, we will always be met with push-back. Even if we choose to stay in our cocoon, we still run this risk because we live alongside other humans who will often have opinions of us we haven’t asked for. But we can’t run away from things out of our fear.

Instead, we must steady ourselves so when the push-back comes, we aren’t knocked over.

{If you are struggling with critics, see THIS POST I wrote about the benefit of them. You might be surprised at what you read.}

Question: How do you handle push-back? Which aspect of it is most difficult for you?

(This article was written by Lisa Whittle)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm Back in Business!

Oh, how good to be back! My computer as been in the shop FOREVER! I got it back and I've updates and moving files from my online storage. Woo... now that it is updated... I am back in business!

I'll be starting a new series tomorrow followed by some updates and changes on my blog... time to get back on track...

Until then... love and blessings!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Do You Need a Hand Up?

I was on a mission. I needed to find a restroom. My eight year old legs walked swiftly through the trails of the Ocala National Forest campground. We were setting up camp… in the pouring rain… rain that kept coming and coming. Apparently we were the only family brave enough to face the elements and camp in the middle of such horrible weather!

It had been raining for hours, maybe days. Puddles of muddy water slept everywhere around me perfectly content to stay until the Florida heat and humidity would force the earth to drink them in.

As I walked it started to storm again. I walked faster, it rained harder, the thunder boomed louder. I started to run, charging through puddles, splashing through mud until what I perceived to be another harmless puddle proved to be a flooded retention ditch much deeper and wider than I had imagined when jumping from puddle to puddle.

My small frame was scooped up by the current carrying me toward a large cement pipe. My eyes grew wide, adrenaline rushed through me as I went into survival mode. Right before I entered the pipe my eye saw a lone tree root that had refused to part with the dirt. I threw my entire body toward it and caught it with my hands. For the moment, I was safe.

I tried with all my might to climb out of the ditch. The wall of the ditch was too soft and gave way each time I attempted to climb up the bank. I couldn’t see over the top of the embankment and the root I was clinging to was losing ground the more I struggled to pull myself out. I started yelling for help, screaming, crying… begging, pleading…… praying.

The louder I got the harder the thunder would roll. The more desperate my pleas, the harder it rained. Lightening bounced all around me as if to mock my efforts. It was then I realized that no one could hear me. My family was at least a quarter of a mile away and there was no one else on the campground.

“Jesus,” I whispered through my sobbing. “I am so scared and alone. I can’t get out of this ditch by myself. I need help. Please help me Jesus.”

I was cold and getting tired. The water around me was moving fast and the wind was blowing pretty hard. But I didn’t give up, I held on.

A moment later I heard a voice. I looked up and an elderly man was looking down at me.

“Oh, you don’t want to be in there,” he said.

“Please help me,” I called out.

He had some sort of cloth in his hands and he threw it down to me. I grabbed it and he pulled me to safety.

“Thank you, thank you sir,” I said. I was crying again.

He shook his head and waved off my thanks and started walking to a trailer that I had not seen before. I started running back up the trail wailing for my parents. There they were, just where I had left them, setting up camp. Through my sobs I told them the story of the ditch, the rain and the stranger who saved my life. Then I changed into dry clothes and settled into a sleeping bag to warm up and think on the whole ordeal.

At once I knew that I needed to thank the man again, really thank him. I was grateful that he had come along, forever grateful. As soon as it stopped raining I was going to go see him.

The rain stopped right before dusk and, well, I needed to find a restroom, again. So I set out, carefully this time. I walked the trail, avoiding all puddles, ditches and anything that might resemble standing water. I recognized the ditch I had “stepped” into by the stubborn tree root that still slung to the earth and the cloth that had pulled me to safety lying beside it.

My eyes quickly turned toward where I had seen the trailer. But it was gone. Gone. Not even a trace that it had been there. No man, no trailer. There was no one to validate my story, only a wet cloth and a dead tree root.

I looked everywhere for the man while we camped there. He was nowhere to be found and it seemed his trailer had never even existed. But here I stood the product of his act of heroism. And all I could think was how I had not thanked him properly. He had saved my life, saved my parents and siblings from what could have been a terrifying ordeal. I believe he was sent by God, the answer to my cry for help.

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15, NKJ)

This week I have found myself in a similar place. No, I’m not typing this from a waterlogged ditch. But I guess it could be said that I am pounding out this post from a pit similar to the one Joseph found himself in or the Cave of Adullam that David found solace in or like Elijah who was provided for by the unlikely beside a brook… until it dried up. And although I am not in any of those places by choice I do know that it is for purpose that He is “hiding” me in this season.

My family and I had to make some difficult decisions and we have to trust that those who truly love and support us will continue to do so even if they do not understand. There are days that it is hard for me to understand but then I am reminded that He has never left not forsaken me… that like Joseph, my pit will lead me to a palace. I am reminded that even in turmoil and pain He has been faithful and comforts me in unlikely ways… just like he did Elijah. And I am reminded that when I feel alone He surrounds me with His love and brings the broken and down trodden in need of the HOPE He has given to me to sustain me… just like He did David.

And when I feel I just can’t hang on any longer, when the current threatens to take me under, when the thunder drowns out my cries, when the rain pounds and the lightening slams all around me I whisper His name and I pray, “Help me…”

He IS faithful…

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15, NKJ)

And He will extend His grace, His mercy, his love and His peace and He will pull me to safety… and for that I thank Him. I am forever grateful.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My She Speaks Experience
Part 2: It's a Wrap!

After Lysa's message, "Let God Chisel," I made a decision to get out of the way and let Him do His thing. The entire weekend was me under that hammer and chisel. The entire three days was God forcing me to really look at myself. I had allowed myself to get "trapped" like one of "The Prisoners." In order to be freed to and for my potential in Him I had to let Him chisel.

After the main session we enjoyed  scrumptious dinner followed by an evening session. The session I selected was Karen Ehman's, "Giving and Living a Life Changing Message."  Again, a session where I could not write fast enough! Oh, so much to learn! Practical wisdom paired with revelation left me staring questioningly at the three minute message I was about to deliver at my Speaker Evaluation.

I took a deep breath and headed upstairs where I met my wonderful group mates (love you B, Deanna, Lori, Lucille, Pamela, Shonda, Carole... ah! hope i didn't miss anyone!) and my group mentor, Sharon Glasgow.

Although I was a bundle of nerves Sharon prayed over us, encouraged us and gave us strong, detailed feedback. Her heart was for us, no doubt! The women I was paired with were the same. We were each silently cheering each other on. What a treat it was to hear each of them share their hearts, all in a different way. It was a beautiful night! After we finished I gathered up my written evaluations and headed back to my room to prepare for the five minute evaluation the next afternoon! I was already so full, but I couldn't wait for more!

The next morning began with more powerful worship followed by Renee Swope's message, "Don't Throw Away Your Confidence." Renee poured her heart out and she encouraged us to toss away self doubt but cling to our confidence in God. Once again, I had pages of notes!

My next stops included, "Pursing Excellence as a Speaker" (Lysa TerKeurst), "Marketing for More Bookings" (Rob Eager), "From Dream to Reality: Marketing Your Nonfiction Book" (Melanie Chitwood), "Using Technology to Grow Your Women's Ministry (Karen True)," my final "Speaker Evaluation Group", and finally "From Blog to Book Deal: How I Got Published without Being Famous (Emily Freeman and Andrea Doering)." Yes! ALL that in ONE day! It was amazing! I felt like I was back in school!

Dinner was next and I was famished! I enjoyed a delicious meal with my new friend Marne, one of my speaker evaluation group friends, Shonda and my "online" friend Shona who I have "known" for three years! We finally got to meet in person! I was tickled to realize that Shonda and I were "connected" through Shona as well. These gals were editors for an online magazine I wrote a column for in 2008. What a small world!

After dinner we engaged in more worship. How sweet it was! Following worship, Ann Voskamp shared a message based on her book, "One Thousand Gifts." This woman captivated every person in the room. Her words were poetic and bled from her very soul from the stage to the floor and like waves lapped over us with every syllable. Her main message? Gratitude. Gratitude, thanks for the gifts He has given us... seen in our pain... in our joy... in our insecurity. Toward the end, we all wrote three gifts down on a slip of paper and carried them to the cross. Over one thousand gifts were counted, given back to Him that night. I've been reading her book, "One Thousand Gifts." I can't seem to put it down. Instead I find myself breathing it in, ingesting the mere simplicity of something we insist on making so difficult... gratitude in the every day life, for everything... everything.

Back in my room again, I made room in my bags for the new resources I would be taking home. I packed, not ready to depart from the marvelous camaraderie I had fallen into with these 650 wonderful women. I had been touched by each one.

The next morning I woke early. My speaker eval group was having breakfast together and Sharon would be giving us her final thoughts and critiques. Sitting with my new found friends we exchanged cards and bios over coffee, danish and fruit. Sharon spoke to us privately to the side. Her words to me encouraged me. Her words and belief in me frightened me. Her words and confirmation did just that, confirmed in my heart what I knew God had been speaking to me. The only question I had (have) was (is), "Am I really ready for this?"

I spent a little more time with my sisters then headed to check out a couple of resources I was interested in before the final session.  Following a hilarious skit by the P31 team, Micca Campbell shared a message on envy that was just on point! What parting words for us all! Embracing what our Father has given us, being faithful with it and glorifying Him.

Lysa and Leann Rice concluded the conference with sweet words of love and encouragement. Oh how no one wanted to leave! But, we are all busy women with responsibilities, families and duties to tend to like every Proverbs 31 woman!

I gathered by bags, hugged a bunch of necks, friended on Facebook, followed on Twitter and settled in to await the airport shuttle. Before departing I had some much coveted time with my sista Judi Cotignola. We had both been running here and there throughout the whole conference and hadn't had much time to visit. It was nice having some time to chat and catch up... and connect again.

Connecting... that's what has kept my She Speaks "fire" roaring. The women I've connected with stir me up, set me straight, make me laugh, cry and marvel... and they encourage me and one another. I love these gals!

That was in a nutshell the rest of my She Speaks experience. I'm an official She Speaks Graduate! I even have a button to prove it! LOL! Seriously, I could go on for DAYS but I have a list of writing projects and other projects that are burning in me. This conference changed, no, it, in some ways saved my life. Curious? Well, don't worry, I'll share more about it... later. This P31 woman has a lot of sharing to do!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Authentic Friendship:
Something We ALL Deserve

Recently I was contacted by someone I hadn't heard from in a little while. The circumstances surrounding our lack of communication are complicated and not worth getting into. Still, I know that she is a person with a heart of gold who deep down truly means well. At first I wasn't going to respond. I wasn't sure what to say. Was there anything to say? If you have been reading my blog or if you know me outside of the blogging world then you know that my life has been through a bit of a shaking in recent months. Re-learning to "trust", I have found is not exactly like falling off of a bicycle and getting back on. My knees have scabs and memories of their own of the fall.
But her message spoke to what God was doing in my life and as a writer, as a woman healing, I felt compelled to respond, especially after reading this post by Ann Voskamp.

Below is my response to my friend. It was another step in my journey to healing. Choosing to forgive, asking forgiveness, choosing to move toward trusting again, pledging my loyalty to the "sisterhood" I have preached about so many times.

Yes, this is my response. It is time to move forward. (a few identifying portions have been removed)

Dear __________,

I suppose a thank you is in order. I do thank you for your kind message. Admittedly I haven’t responded because I didn’t know what to say, to be completely honest I wasn’t sure if there was anything to say.

Was I surprised to read I had been on your mind? No, not really. I don’t mean that arrogantly. It’s just that I feel like your heart at times does genuinely ache for us. That may sound pompous but I assure you, that is not my intent by that statement.

Addressing the comment that you are “praying about what God is doing in my life…,” well, that brings a bit of a smile and nervous laugh.What He’s doing in my life? He’s healing my broken heart and teaching me to forgive. He is also giving me an extreme courage unlike anything I have ever operated in.

In the midst of pain, rejection and abandonment He is opening His world to me in a thousand new ways. Of course this means a thousand new opportunities for more pain, rejection and abandonment. But then that also highlights something else He is doing in my life, He is teaching me about gratitude and thanksgiving. Even in times of hurt and actions that have been physically painful, I am learning to have a continual heart of gratitude.

One day I believe I will trust again, I believe that I will.

I’ve been reading a lot. That’s good because I have missed it. And I’ve been writing, talking, praying, listening… such good things. And He has been whispering to me.

I’ve been reading everything I can by Ann Voskamp. I got to hear her speak while at a recent conference. Her extreme poetic voice and style full of imagery and gut spilling honesty kept me intrigued.

I came across an article she wrote almost a year ago to the date. It is titled, “What it really takes to join the Sisterhood.” I posted a link on my Facebook page, but here is an excerpt that gave me a glimmer of hope in the area of trust and friendship because that is an area that I am struggling in right now.

“We can believe that God alone is our security and love is always worth the risk and there is no better investment than reaching out to someone and locking arms and unlocking your heart. No better investment than finding the time for friendship and the courage to be real and the humility to say we’re sorry. And distrust can cost us the very richest life of all and the price for being safe can be too expensive and friendship is the only thing that will show up at our funerals.

We can do life together and we can laugh about babies who pee on Sunday skirts and boys who lose piano books and daughters who try on seven outfits before deciding on anything and their bedroom floor is proof of it, and we can drive each other to doctor appointments and bring soup when the flu season hits and we can see something on a shelf that whispered the other’s name and we can wrap it up and give it on any day at all for no reason at all but to celebrate a kindred sister.

And we can hold each other’s fragility and we can forgive each other when we crack an artery, and our hearts will break, and we can pray and grant grace and begin again because we’ve tasted mercy and His name is Jesus.

I am learning to reach out my hand.”

(back to me speaking…)

I want desperately with all of my heart to believe that is true, ALL of it. I want desperately to believe that bygones can be bygones and we, as the brothers and sisters in the faith we claim to be to this world, we can unite as one focusing on what unites us in the first place.

So, I am learning to reach out my hand again. The support and love I am receiving is overwhelming and a bit frightening. I trusted before and I loved without prejudice and I was hurt.

As I read Ann’s article I came upon a portion where she shared a letter she received from a “new friend” after her own dealings with rejection. Here is what it said…

“You have been hurt by women. I could see the pain in your eyes… And I’ve never done this before but… I feel prompted to make you a promise of friendship.”

“I promise I will never speak an unkind word to or about you. I will never be jealous of you. I will never compete with you. I will never abandon or betray you. I will love you. I will pray for you. I will do all I can to help you go far and wide in the Kingdom.

I will accept you as you are, always. I will be loyal to you. Before our loving God of grace, you have my words and my heart in friendship for this life and forever with Him.”

And our God is a love body and He hates amputations and He sutures our wounds together with the silver threads of community. And I have found healing here. Trust asks us to live (in) Courage.

In this place, we kneel down beside you. In this place, we reach out our hands. In this place, can you hear us whisper? “You have been hurt. We can see the pain in your eyes- We offer you a promise of friendship.”

In the places of sisters and sinners and souls made saints, we make big circles around women and together we watch each other’s backs and together we bend down when one hunches over in pain and together we pick up the shards of the hearts all shattered.

Because this is the promise of friendship that the true sisterhood always makes good on. This we can do.

And by God’s good grace, we will.”

(Back to me speaking again…)

That is the way I plan to live going forward and it scares me to death. It terrifies me but I am also counting on other women embracing this lifestyle as well. One day, I believe I will receive a message such as this. But in the meantime, I will be the messenger and the giver of this gift, the sisterhood of friendship.

This is such a stretch for me. You see, trust and vulnerability are two things I've made others work very hard for in the past. They are two things I've never been very willing to give so freely. And while I've learned (the hard way) to allow the Father to guard my heart, I am also learning that there are women out there looking for the same thing I am. Authentic friendship. We all desire it, we ALL deserve it.