Monday, March 21, 2011


When I was cast on Survivor China, I'm pretty sure the producers were confident that Courtney Yates and I would butt heads.  As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure both Courtney and I thought we would, too (at least initially)!  Courtney is a waitress from New York City with spunk and attitude out to "there".

We were around each other for a few days before being stranded on the show, but we were unable to talk.  I was able to make slight judgments about the others based on their body language and facial expressions.  I will be honest - at first, Courtney seemed to be one of my least favorites.  But, I'm pretty sure I was one of her least favorites, too (as you can easily see in some of the pre-show interviews when she talked about "that lady with the Bible who will hate me")!

Then the show began and we were stranded on the same tribe together.  She complained about being "stranded in a land of flight attendants and Sunday school teachers" and I wondered how I was going to be able to stand being around someone so different than me.  But we soon realized that first impressions can be very deceiving.  She and I bonded almost immediately.

Courtney and I had a lot in common, as it turned out.  We were both there to play a game, but not to be a fraud.  Neither of us were there to be someone who we weren't.  You can sniff out authenticity a mile away, and I could tell that although our opinions and lives were different, we were both authentic and real.  She took the time to get to know me, to ask me questions, to listen and to share her stories with me.  I was amazed and inspired by her brilliance!

What many do not understand is that this woman is a genius!  She reads, she studies and she is very good at communicating her ideas and thoughts on issues that many people would shy away from.  She and I were the "water runners" and we'd go get water together all the time to bring to camp and boil.  During our water runs, we'd talk the whole time.  I was really challenged by her and I was so excited that someone on my tribe took the time to actually listen to me and wanted to know more about my faith and why I believed so strongly.  She was genuinely interested in me - not just interested in talking about herself.  It was refreshing in a game where pretense is pretty much the norm.  But when I was with Courtney, it was always real.  Always honest.  It was a break from the game to spend time with her.

Survivor stips you of all that is familiar, all that is comfortable and all that is normal and then places you in a tribe of people who are vastly different with considerably different world-views and opinions.  Then you add the fact that there is little food and no clean water so you're hungry and dehydrated and in a very scary setting with wild animals and poisonous snakes.  Your real self comes through.  And there is no stopping it.  Usually, this is not a good thing!  However, with Courtney, it was a very good thing.

At Erik & Jaime's wedding goofing off
When I got sick in the middle of the night, she told me to wake her up so she could walk out to the jungle with me.  She didn't want me to go alone because she and I both knew the cameras only follow you when there is another with you (otherwise - no drama!) and if the camera followed me, I'd have light on the path.  Otherwise, I was in the jungle - in the deepest jungle - completely enveloped in darkness and God-knows-what.  She insisted that I wake her up.  So, every time I'd get sick, she'd come with me.  Once I heard her talking to the camera man about 20-30 feet away as I was getting sick and I heard her talk about how much she cared about me and how unfair it was that I was sick.  She knew how much I wanted to play the game and she was so sad that I was having such a hard time.  I knew at that moment I'd found a friend for life. 

Courtney began to tell everyone to "clean up their language around Mama" on the tribe (she, Todd and Amanda called me Mama).  She and I would escape to what we called "the air conditioning", which was a cooler spot deeper in the jungle where we'd go and talk for hours.  We were both amazed that we got along so well, and the producers were perplexed.  Once, a producer said "What is it about her that you like so much?!" I said, "You know, she's just so real.  And she gets me - which is more than I can say for most of the others here."

At the Survivor 10-year Reunion
When I was voted out, she was devastated and so was I.  She told me later that she felt like "Bambi" out there - like they had killed her mom and she was left to herself in the big, bad jungle!  I laughed, but I also understood.  I don't know what I would have done if she would have been voted out that night - not having her there would be very difficult.  My on-camera role on Survivor was over, but my off-camera role had just begun.  I decided that I would pray for her, Todd and Amanda, as if they were my own kids.  I was worried about Courtney because she was so thin, so I prayed daily for her health and well-being.

When the show was over, Courtney called me and said, "Mama I played the game as hard as I could and when I wanted to quit, I would remind myself how much you wanted to play and it would keep me going.  I went as far as I did because I was playing not just for me, but also for you.  I hope you are proud of me."  Oh my.  My heart about burst open and I sobbed.  I think every time I thought about that I sobbed for the next year or so.  Heck, I'm crying right now as I type this!  How special is that?  What a precious gift she gave me.

Since Survivor, our lives have remained forever bonded.  Though we don't talk daily or even monthly at times, when we do talk it's as if we are sitting in our "air conditioned" spot in China talking about life.  When she was on Survivor again, I watched as nervous as a mother would be watching her kid out there!  She did great - and I was proud of her - again.

Courtney is having a birthday in a few days and I just wanted the world to know what a special young woman she is.  She is still feisty and has an "attitude out to there" because, well, she's Courtney!  But she is so much more than what you will see on Survivor.  She's the real deal, and I'm proud to call her my friend.

Courtney...happy birthday, my dear!  I love you. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Four Leaf Miracle on Fei Long Camp

When I was training to be on Survivor, I remember finding four leaf clovers all the time along the trail as I was running.  I felt like it was a little encouragement from God as I was training and preparing for what would be one of the most grueling challenges of my life to that point.  I've always loved four leaf clovers, but not because I think they make me lucky or anything.  It's because they remind me of something very sweet....

When I see a three-leaf clover, it reminds me of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - all together, in unity.  When I see a four leaf clover, it reminds me of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and a true believer in Christ who is linked up with them - together in unity.  It's just special.  I love it.

I knew when I went out to my camp in China that God would probably show me a four leaf clover or two on my camp.  I even told some of my tribemates about it - and explained why it was so special to me.  Yeah, they probably thought I was a little nutty, but who cares?  I was sure He would show me one at some point. 

About four days into our adventure, I was walking a back path behind the camp with Denise and we were looking for snails (yes, for food!). I looked out of the corner of my eye and found a four leaf clover.  I was so excited!  But then it got even more exciting when I realized there wasn't just one, not even two or three - but thousands of them!  It was an entire large patch of four-leaf clovers!  I couldn't even catch my breath I was so excited!  I told Denise, "God gives us far more than we could ever ask or imagine!" and then I picked eight of them and ran back to camp to show everyone what I'd found and to give them each one of the clovers.  

I  gathered my tribe mates around.  They asked if I'd found food.  I said "No, but I found something better!"  OK, oops.  You should never say you found something better than food on Survivor, but I digress...I reminded them of my search for a four leaf clover and told them how I'd found an entire patch of them.  Most of them took the clover I'd picked for them and as I looked on, they popped it in their mouth and said "Hmmm...not bad..."  Ouch.  For a moment, I was kinda hurt I suppose.  Nobody seemed to understand my excitement!  

Almost immediately, though, I felt the Lord calm me down and remind me that the experience was for me, not to take it so personally.  The producers called me aside and said, "How did it make you feel when your tribe ate those clovers you picked for them?"  "Well," I said "It's okay.  I understand that was between me and God - but I'm happy I could provide them with a spring salad!"

I was telling this story to a friend at lunch today.  As we walked out of the restaurant, I walked over to a patch of clovers I saw from a distance and looked down and sure enough - there was a four leaf clover.  I was so excited!  Then...not a moment later...another one.  I hardly had to look.  I just love how God speaks to us through His nature.  

I've always loved Matthew 5:8 "God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God."  I believe that if you see evidences of God in your day to day life - whether it is in finding a four leaf clover, seeing a sunrise, witnessing a baby's smile, enjoying a hug from your children or however else you get a glimpse of Him - it's because you have a pure heart and you are seeking Him.  

Enjoy the blessing! He loves to encourage us in these ways.

We Are All The Same

When the earthquake hit, it didn’t matter who stood the tallest...everyone was brought to his or her knees.  When the ocean crossed its established boundary and swept through the land without apology, everyone was victimized.  It didn’t matter what their socio-economic class was or where they lived. You cannot buy off a natural disaster, even if you are the wealthiest person on earth.  Nature was not discriminating.  When the wave went back out to sea and people were left with splinters instead of houses and their possessions were strewn across miles of soil and ocean, it didn't matter who was more beautiful or more attractive to look at.  Everyone faced the same devastation. We are all the same.
When life gets flipped upside down like it did in Japan this past week, we begin to really see that when it all boils down, the things we chase after so hard and with such fervency are not the things that matter at all.  We all have needs, we all love deeply, we all suffer loss.  It doesn’t matter how much money we make, how famous we are, how beautiful we are or how prestigious our job is in the world.  Everyone is equal in suffering. We are all the same.

Today, while we go about our busy lives,  seeking after money, fame, beauty and prestige – the things that matter the least - may we stop to pray for those in Japan and other hard-hit disaster areas and remember….we are all the same.  We may not be in the throws of suffering as they are, but we are just as vulnerable, because we are all the same.  

God, please give us eyes to see and hearts to love.  Give us the gift of Your perspective in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Help us to see past this worldly vanity and instead to embrace the love, compassion and truth that You offer to us.  Help us to remember that You love us all...the same.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Speaking Samples & Endorsements

Recently, I released a promo video and after the awesome feedback I received, we tweaked it and this is the finished product.  If you have feedback for me, please share it! I'd love to know what you think.  Also, please share it with your friends or anyone you might know who might be looking to book a speaker for their next event.  For more information on booking, please email us at  Thanks so much!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Trusting Him

We are in the process of moving and if you've ever moved, you know it can be pretty stressful.  I'm thrilled we've sold our house, though I must admit it has been bittersweet.  We've lived here for twelve years - the longest I've ever lived anywhere.  My kids were raised here and I have tremendous memories with family and friends in the house.  It's going to be so hard to leave.  We close on Friday at 1pm, though, and this time next week, it will be a memory.

My husband is a smart guy and he doesn't allow his emotions to make decisions for him.  I think that is one of the many reasons why God put me with him!  If it were up to me, we'd stay here for the rest of our lives because the house is so special to me.  But it is just a house.  And his idea is so brilliant that I am submitting to his leadership in our home and trusting that God is speaking to him to move us on.  We just don't need all this space now that two of our kids have moved out of the house, so we are going to move into a smaller townhome that we can pay off quicker and get out of debt.  It makes total sense.  Oh, and he won't have to mow the lawn anymore so you can imagine, he's thrilled to say the least!

The only issue is that we have no idea where we are moving yet!  Well, we know where we'd like to move, but unfortunately, it's a townhome with a short sale that already has an offer on it.  Short sales confuse me - because the title "short sale" makes you think it won't take long to do, but it's quite the opposite!  They should be more aptly called "really long process sales" but I digress. (smile)  We went ahead and put an offer on it as a back up for the seller in case the other buyers change their minds but in the meantime, we wait.  My mom and step dad have offered to let us stay with them, but we don't know how long the "meantime" will be at this point because we are not sure where we are going or when!  On a side note, THANK YOU to my parents!  They are brave and wonderful to allow us to stay with them indefinitely.

It's tough not to know things.  But the most important thing God has taught me through this process is that we may not know some things, but there are other things we do know.  We know we have to get out of the house by Friday.  We know the house is sold.  We know we have to keep our eyes and ears open for other possibilities and our Realtor is doing the same.  We know the area we want to live.  We know that we have a God who already knows where we will live and when we will be living there.  Other than that, we cannot frustrate ourselves with the "what if" questions.  This has been a huge life lesson for me!

Instead of focusing on and stressing over the things I do not know, God is teaching me to focus on what I do know.  And I'm not kidding when I say it has been tremendously freeing, to say the least!  My husband and I were walking the other night and I shared this insight that God showed me with him.  Many times over the past few days, he has said that has helped him in prioritizing and decision making and how much he appreciated that little "nugget of wisdom", as he referred to it.  We both thank God so much for His leading in our lives!

I want to encourage you that if you are facing a stressful day (and I know we all have them sometimes), please...focus on what you do know and allow the other stuff to work itself out.  Don't drown yourself in the "what if's" in life or you will easily become overwhelmed.  Make your decisions and set your priorities for the day based on what you know and watch how our Sovereign God will take care of all the rest.

I will keep you posted on our move.  But in the meantime, as I learn to trust Him and focus on what I know, I'm not stressed about it at all.  I'm just trusting God, who knows everything.  And I pray you will trust Him in whatever you are facing today, as well.

Proverbs 16:9 "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."

Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and He will show you which path to take."

Got Questions?