Time to Stop Talking & Take Action!

Harassed & helpless! Boy, do I know that feeling! I watch the news & read the paper & begin to wonder if there IS any hope. I read the posts on Facebook from other moms, other women & I know I’m not alone. So many women seem frightened, hopeless, helpless. We all begin to wonder if there is ANYTHING we can do to make things better.

Things seem to be getting worse everyday. I get angry and resolved to take action. Unfortunately, I let other things get in my way. I knew God was calling me & instead, I let trivial matter distract me. Not anymore!

I’m not here to discuss political issues or constitutional rights. I believe this goes deeper than any of that. No, I’m want to look at this from my expert perspective. And my area of expertise is Theology. When I was a kid, people said, “Everyone always talks about the weather but no one ever does anything about it!” Well, there isn’t much we can do about the weather. And while many of us TALK about conditions in our nation, our cities, our neighborhoods, there IS something we can do about it.

In the verse above from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus felt compassion for the people because there were lost & afraid “like sheep without a shepherd.” We act like frighten sheep. We run around in a panic. Fortunately, we HAVE a Shepherd. Jesus is watching over us, protecting us whether we realize it or not. So the first thing we can do it put our faith in Him.

The second thing we can do is find strength, hope & comfort in Scripture. When life seems overwhelming, when we are unable to find answers, I know we can ALWAYS find the answers we need in the Bible.

The third thing we can do is PRAY! There is power in prayer. I also believe there is incredible power when WOMEN pray. More important, powerful things happen when women come together to pray. Jesus told us when 2 or more are gathered in my name, I will be there. Oh, He’s always there with us as individuals but when 2 or more of us come together to pray, Jesus is right there with us, praying beside us & personally taking our concerns to His Father.

In light of these three things, I came to the realization there is even more we can do. For a very long time now, I have felt God filling me with a vision. God has been calling me to create a ministry for women. A ministry made up of small groups of women, meeting in homes across the country, sharing faith, studying Scripture, praying, strengthening & supporting one another & having fun! The problem I had was how to do this?

I have dragged my feet long enough. I can’t worry anymore about the right way to begin, the right time to start, the right pice of the puzzle to fall into my lap. I’m just going to begin.

If you look at the top of the page in the menu, you’ll see Sisters of Simple Joy. This is the name I have given to our small group women’s ministry. Beneath that, I am adding information to help you launch your own group. There is no charge for any of this. I have created a workbook for group leaders. Anyway, you can find information at the top.

For now, pray. God is calling a small group of women to be the first small group leaders in this ministry. I’m not naming any names. That’s not for me to decide. I’m not saying anyone should do anything right now. Just pray. If you are one of the women God has chosen, He’ll let you know. All I ask is that you open your heart, mind & spirit to His leading!

And should you decide to join this adventure, let me know. I want to create a network of praying faithful women that uphold & support one another, their families, their communities & our nation.

Hugs & blessings!

Jean Ann

Hosting In-home Bible Study Part 1

Hosting an In-home Bible Study Part 1

I enjoy attending & teaching bible studies at my church. However, I enjoy Bible studies that are hosted in a private home even more. The tradition of sharing the Word of God goes back to the first church in Jerusalem, when Christians met in the homes of members. Meeting in homes allowed the group members to worship in a more intimate & relaxed environment, sharing prayer & fellowship in a place that welcomed everyone.

Today, there are many women seeking to draw closer to God that might never attend a Bible study at a church. There are a variety of reasons for this & I am not going to discuss them right now. 🙂 Let’s just accept the fact that an in-home Bible study might be more inviting to some of your friends, neighbors & family.

I know the thought of hosting an in-home Bible study may seem overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be. First, you don’t have to do everything yourself. But, more of that later. for this post, I just want to share the ingredients that go into hosting your Bible study. follow this recipe & you are on your way to having “tasty” event each & every time!

Acts 2:42: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Just like the ingredients in a recipe, it is important to add each of these 5 ingredients to all your Bible studies. Whether it’s your regular study or an open house to introduce potential group members, be sure to add all 5 ingredients to prevent your event from falling flat!

Faith

Your gatherings are faith-based. Begin with prayer, share your lesson, have discussion. Your group lacks strength without faith.

Family

Always remember how important family is to your group members. Show ways the day’s lesson relates to the family.  Renewing women, recharging women, strengthening women helps improve the quality of their family life.

Fellowship

Your gatherings are also a time to share with one another. Discuss events in your lives. Ask about family members. Fellowship allows each of you to draw nearer to one another. Fellowship strengthens faith & make the discussion during Bible study more intimate & powerful.

Food

Everyone relaxes more when they share food. Eating together is another way to become closer as a group. Be sure to have refreshments when you get together.

Fun

What would your group be without fun? Short-lived, I imagine! Faith doesn’t have to be dull. Schedule fun during your gatherings & at other times during the month. Each of you needs to see your gatherings as CELEBRATIONS!

8 Steps to Effectively Share a Message Step 5: Create a Digital/Print Book

You created a booklet & began offering it on your website & on your product table during presentations. The response has been great. People are reading the material & asking questions, making comments. You have been doing research, open to more information on the topic. You add to your notebook containing material on this message. After careful consideration, you decide it’s time to create a full book.

Start Digitally

There is no better feeling for an author than holding a print copy of their book in their hands. It’s also great walking into a bookstore & find their book on the shelf. As desirable as these two experiences are, I want to strongly recommend you not rush into having a print book, whether you self-publish or sign a contract with a publishing house. The first thing you want to do is go digital.

A digital book enables you to write a full-sized book without the expense of printing. Printing is very expensive. Also, printing is final, more or less. Digital books offer you flexibility.

Digital Flexibility

No matter how many times you go over your manuscript, you ALWAYS find things you want to change after your book has been printed. New information becomes available. You think of things you want to add. You don’t like the way you worded certain things. You might be able to eventually make changes in your book should it ever be considered for a revised edition. Or you just might have to live with those desired changes.

Or, you release your book in a digital format first, giving you the opportunity to make any changes you want to make before the manuscript goes into print. You are even able to take a different approach to the material at this point. A message that worked well all the way up to a booklet may begin to break down once you expand it into a book. The digital book causes flaws to rise to the surface BEFORE you commit the material to print. A digital book can be your best friend, your most powerful tool in this entire process. It can save you the heartburn of struggling with a print book

Now You Can Print

Once you have the manuscript as close to perfect as you can get it (you will never be COMPLETELY satisfied), you are ready to create print copies. Now, I have strong opinions about whether authors should find a publisher or self-publish. I am not, however, going make my case one way or the other in this post.

If you decide to go with a publisher, you should begin the process early on. You might find a publisher when you first develop the idea. Or you might need to show the popularity of your message by offering sales #’s to potential publishers.

If you decide to self-publisher, there are so many more options than when I had my first book published. In addition, self-published books get more respect today than they did even 10 years ago.

You really need to do your homework to determine which option is better for you & your book. Which ever option you choose, remember, the success of your book always rests in your hands!

8 Steps to More Effectively Share a Message Step 4: Create a Booklet

You might believe this is an unnecessary step. You would be mistaken. A booklet serves many purposes in this process. Let’s see what some of them are:

Allows You to Expand Your Message

Your blog series should contain plenty of useful information. You never, however, want to put everything about a topic into any one piece of the process until you get to your book. And even then, you want to be able to refer readers to other formats, like a video or podcast, for even more information. Anyway, while your blog series is more detailed than the infographic, you should have more information to share. I find once I write my blog posts, I begin finding other information to support my message. Or people write comments that offer information or ask questions that help me see areas I need to further develop. A booklet allows you to do this.

Quick to Put Together

You might scoff at creating a booklet, preferring instead to wait until you complete a book. A full length book may take 6-12 months to complete. A booklet can be finished in a weekend. This doesn’t mean you simply throw it together. You always want to create a quality product. Some items, however, can be created in a shorter amount of time than others.

Easy to Giveaway

I always produce a digital version before I have a print version made. A digital version can contain hot links to your blog, your podcast, videos, social media & third party supporting information, like a book that adds on to your message. A digital booklet makes an excellent giveaway for people that subscribe to your mailing list. I just add the PDF to my website & make that the landing page.

A Quick New Item for Your Product Table

If you are really hot on your topic, you want to share it with people as quickly & easily as possible. A booklet allows you to have a physical product to sell when you do events. Your booklets may contain all the information some people want. They are also an inexpensive way for members of your audience to take a piece of you home with them at a low cost. When you do a bang-up job during a presentation, people like having a memento for lack of a better word, to take home with them. While books can be expensive, a booklet is usually only a few dollars. You may find your booklets are the best selling item on your product table.

It Is More Forgiving

There is nothing worse than spending months-years writing a book, having it printed only to discover all the changes you want to make. It’s always hard to let go of your book once you are done writing it. You always want to do MORE! I’m talking about major changes. Info you could have added. Mistakes. A booklet allows you to see where there are holes & gives you the opportunity to fix them. And at a much lower cost then a book. I only print a few booklets at a time so I can make revisions as necessary.

Now you can see how important a booklet is in this process. It is well worth the time & minor expense to produce a booklet, ensuring your future book is filled with even more valuable information than you thought possible.

8 Steps to More Effectively Share a Message Step 3: Develop a Blog Series

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Is the Subject Expandable?

Once I create an infographic, I like to create individual blog posts for each step. This enables those that want to get more information on the topic. It also enables ME to determine if I have enough material to write a book. If I can’t do a decent blog series, then I’ll never be able to come up with enough info to write a book.

A Path to Podcasts & Videos

The blog series also helps you begin the process of creating podcast & video material. I simply take the info from a blog post or series, add to it where necessary & go into production. Depending on the length of each post, I might do either one long program or break it down into smaller pieces just like the blog series. I learned early on to keep audio & video short to give my busy audience the opportunity to listen & watch. I can always put the segments together & make one long program. More on this later!

Design Graphics for Blog & Social Media

At this time, I also create the graphics I need for the blog series. You can see an example at the top of the page. In Canva, I design the first piece & then make copies for each additional post. This is also when I design graphics for social media. I want to share the blog posts in as many places as possible. Designing graphics for Twitter, Facebook & more gives my series a consistent look across the board. Canva offers templates for various platforms so this is easy to do.

Determine the Best Time to Post

I prefer to share the posts from a series M-F. This gives readers time to catch up on the weekend if necessary. I have also found that I have the most readers during the week for this type of post.

Developing a blog series from the steps on an infographic is a great way to expand on a good topic & discover other ways you can use the information across platforms & formats.

8 Steps to More Effectively Share a Message Step 2: Create an Infographic

Once you have created your outline, it is simple to design an infographic. This is a, well, graphic that basically has your outline on it. Like this:

I use Canva to design my infographic. They have many free designs from which to choose, including designs for infographics. The great thing about Canva is you can choose a template for the specific use & it is the right size for that format. For example, if you need a new header for your Facebook page, they have a template for that as well as a Twitter header, etc. You don’t have to guess what the correct size is for your need.

Design Graphics at One Time

I try to design various graphics at the same time so they all match. Yes, I know how OCD that sounds. Guilty! This, however, enables me to brand each series I create. You notice the infographic & the blog graphic have the same colors & line design. Ta-da! I am also able to design a graphic for Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, & more. All the same design that has been plugged into a new template.

Creating the Infographic

The infographic is basically my outline. I make sure it has enough information so anyone that only sees this one part of the process is able to apply the lessons offered in the infographic. I ALWAYS make sure each step of this message sharing process not only supports & builds on all the other steps but is able to stand alone & help my audience, even in a limited way. An infographic doesn’t offer a whole lot of information but I make certain that small paragraph is powerful. And hopefully causes the reader to want to learn more.

Why Bother?

So why bother with an infographic? First, you can use it as a teaser for your upcoming series. Share it on social media the week before your series begins. I also share it on Pinterest with a teaser before the series begins & then again with a link to my blog once the series has started. I pot it on my blog to let subscribers & potential subscribers know this series is coming. I send it to my mailing list. And on & on.

Rack Cards

You can also have your infographic printed as a rack card that you place on your product table when you have a speaking engagement. Rack cards give your audience a free takeaway that invites them to visit your blog for more information.

As you can see, infographics play an important role in the process of effectively sharing your message & are well worth the time to design.

Too is Just Way Too Harsh!

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My darling husband, the infamous Mr. D. coined a phrase a number of years ago. He came up with this expression after observing women over an extended period of time. He believes woman (maybe not all but many of us) suffer from “chick guilt.” He says this affliction cause us to apologize profusely over things, lots of things, many of them out of our control. Someone comments that it’s raining outside & we say, “I’m sorry!” Why? Are we responsible for the rain? We do this apologizing frequently throughout the day. When I speak at conference & retreats, occasions when I spend a significant amount of time with women, I tell them about chick guilt & suggest that, over the course of the event, they listen for other women expressing chick guilt & gently, very gently call them out on it. Believe me, it is an eye opening experience! Before long, women are calling THEMSELVES out on it! But enough of that.

Forget About It!

I bring up chick guilt as an example of how hard women tend to be on themselves. I know men can be hard on themselves but we really tend to beat ourselves up. Over the course of my adult life, I have held jobs where my co-workers were mostly men. In fact, on 2 occasions,  I was the only woman in my workplace. The men I have spent time around do not beat themselves up over things. When they make a mistake, they blow it off & move on. They might apologize but then again they might not. I’m not criticizing, just making an observation. Why, you ask? Good question.

Last Straw

These last few days I have been rather discouraged. One of those situations where a number of things happened all at once, things that, by themselves probably would not have bothered me but occurring all in the span of a few day, well, they brought me down. This led to refection. Not a good thing when you are down. As I considered where I’ve been, where I am & where I want to be, that’s when the gloves came off & I began beating myself up. I tried to get at the heart of my problem but couldn’t… until tonight. That’s when I realized my problem was the word “Too!” I was using it much to often & in all the wrong ways.

Not TOO

“I’m TOO old!”

“It’s TOO late for me!”

And perhaps the very worst one:

“I’m TOO scared!”

TOO!

Oh, there are more TOO statements but you get the idea & I’m not going there! Instead, I’m finding a new TOO!

“I’m TOO experienced to let anything stand in my way!”

“I have TOO much to offer women to stop now!”

“I’m TOO smart to let my fear slow me down!”

Too can be way too harsh but it can also be very uplifting. You must simply decide which too is right for you. If I can do it, you can TOO!