Thursday, July 26, 2012

30 Days of Encouragement: The Project (Part 1 of 2)

Back in June, I heard a wonderful message on encouragement. Our friend was the guest preacher on a Sunday morning and shared about Barnabas and "The Ministry of Encouragement". One concept that stayed with me was the idea that encouragement isn't about making people feel better, but rather this idea of inspiring people with courage.

What does this look like in regular, everyday life? I started thinking about it and hatched an idea for a 30 day "Encouragement Project". I made a list of 30 men and sent a card of encouragement each day to cheer one of them on, to inspire them. Yes, I sent actual notecards... with a stamp and everything! There were a few days missed, but I caught up. I also followed the list in the exact order that I created it. Interesting when, in hindsight, I saw the impact and timing for some.

I wasn't expecting any responses, but I did hear back from many of the people. Their responses (and mediums of communication) were varied. A few sought me out in person, several sent an email or a text, one even sent a card back to me. It was remarkable how my encouragement to others came back as encouragement to me. Here is a smattering of the responses.
  • "Did you have some kind of epiphany over vacation?"
  • "I find myself longing for San Diego... The people that I love are there." 
  • "I've been needing some encouragement lately (kind of reached an all time low this week)..." 
  • "It... made me feel really good."
  • "Can't say enough how much it meant to me - timing could not have been better for me to read it."
The wash of appreciation humbled me. Knowing that the words I had provided has given someone the inpiration they needed to believe in themselves. I didn't know that some of these friends were struggling... I just knew that they were great men. Each note began the same way, "Just a quick note of encouragement...", and included a quotation from Max Lucado,
"You are valuable just because you exist.  
Not because of what you do, or what you have done, but simply because you are."

Even though I didn't hear back from every person, I am fairly confident that they all arrived and had some kind of impact. As I reflect on the experience, I realized that around each and every corner was a potential 'moment'. Really, the chance an overflow of joy would expand and then encourage another. The people on my list were from multiple facets of my life: some childhood friends, some current students, some alumni, some colleagues, some interfraternal leaders that I am not terribly close to. People that had mentored me and people that I had mentored. What was remarkable was that even with that variety, I had no hesitation is sitting down to write a note of encouragement. During the entire project, my mind was never blank on what to write.

As I consider that fact, I felt a clear connection to the idea of Brotherhood/Sisterhood. How often do we, as a family, stop to encourage one another? If we really live the core value of Brotherhood/Sisterhood, isn't encouragement to be our very best selves a required component?

Sisterhood/Brotherhood: Within our Greek community, we share a set of common values in which we have instilled a support system to hold each other accountable to the utmost standards, ideals, and a healthy lifestyle.   Being a member of the Greek community, it creates a deeper bond of friendships and a sense of loyalty that provides an individual with a sense of family throughout one's lifetime.

As with any project of this nature, I learned a lot about myself and my priorities. The challenge to be less selfish/self-focused and more open to opportunities to encourage is still one that I am battling. If I live a values-based life, though, how could I not take on a Lifetime of Encouragement?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Family Camp Fun, 2011
Do you ever have those moments in your life where you just wonder... How did all of this come together? This week, I am on vacation. Since I knew I was going to be away, I wrote my blog post last week. I arrived up at Family Camp with the "Womack, Party of 4" crew. On the first night, as we were leaving the evening session, this young woman comes up to me. She says, "Hi, Mandy. I know you're not working right now, but I wanted to introduce myself." I, of course, was a bit confused... She then shared that she is a student at USD and just finished her first semester as a sorority woman. What are the chances... Same week, same camp... Coincidence? Or, something bigger. In the strangest turn of events, she is a young woman whose Aunt is a colleague of my husbands... She was on my list of students to contact once classes begin in the Fall.

We have chatted a bit since that first night. Each time we see each other, she has a giant smile. I am so glad to have a new "friend". Coincidence? Or, something bigger?

This has me thinking... How often do we write off coincidence instead of taking advantage of the circumstances? For me, there is a component of faith here, too. Do things just 'happen' or is there a larger plan in place? (But, that is a different post for a different day...) In our organizations and your friendships, there are continually moments of coincidence. How many times do we discover something that is new and fresh to us, but has always been there? When it happens, do you take advantage of the opportunity? Or, do you just smile and move on.

We have hit the mid-point of summer. Some of you haven’t left San Diego/USD, some of you are across the globe. Challenge yourself this week to take advantage of the coincidences in your life. You may just find, that the moment that seemed haphazard could change your life.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

One Sentence

Fun Fact: I follow multiple blogs. It is a strange hobby of sorts. At current count, there are 71 that I am currently reading via a blog reader app. It started out as following the journey of one family's tragedy. Over time, I have added some professional blogs and some from friends - I even follow one of a USD parent that I don't know, but is really funny. And, of course, most recently I have added two different tumblr blogs. I mean, really, what's not to love about that whole phenomenon.

When it comes down to it, I just really enjoy storytelling. As I read these different posts, I am able to engage with others experiences. I can empathize, I can laugh, I can learn more about difference, and tackle the adaptive work of looking at my world & comparing it to theirs. I feel very fortunate to be a part of so many stories and truly great storytellers.

One of my favorite blogs is called, One Sentence.

"One Sentence is an experiment in brevity. Most of the best stories that we tell from our lives have one really, really good part that make the rest of the boring story worth it.

This is about that one line.
This is about telling the most interesting or poignant story possible in the fewest number of words.
This is about small bite-sized pieces of extraordinary lives and ordinary lives alike... the happy, the sad, the funny, the depressing.

There is something about the honesty and refreshing clarity that comes from summarizing your story into one sentence. There is a cloud of tags that people can attach to their one sentence. I often find them to be as powerful as the sentence itself. They are a mix of funny and tragic, but each time my blog reader reports a new post I read it first.

I have written several times about being real and authentic with one another. I have tried to educate, lead, coach and model what having vulnerable relationships with one another looks like in the context of fraternity and sorority life. My hearts passion is for each of you to live a life that is fuller, more meaningful and completely genuine. Maybe this idea of "one sentence" to describe us is a way to get there. I have tried and worked at this exercise several times and it is not as easy as I had imagined. I enjoy the detail of life... There is always more than that snapshot moment. 

Here is the closest I have come:
It wasn't until the 5th time that I saw my sorority's initiation ceremony performed before the words really made sense to me.

Can you do it?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

MOVE - It Is Time!

Rest is an important part of what we do. During the summer we desire to move as a slower pace. But, this is your time. Stop watching tv or playing video games.

Go. Move. Explore. Be.

MOVE Video

Inspire Yourself. Inspire Each Other.

See you in just a few short weeks!