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Jan 14
2018

3 Things To Combat Negative Hive Mentality: A Lesson In Leadership From Bees

If bees could talk this time of year they’d fluctuate between barking out two orders. First, “Move, move move!”, then, “Bring out your dead.” At least, that’s what I imagine they’d say. All because they have two main purposes this time of year–keep the queen and the babies warm, and keep the hive clean.

They’re so dedicated to the first, that many of them work themselves to death. Walk by our hives this time of year, and you’ll see the committed carnage of bee bodies laying outside the entrance to each hive. They achieved their goal. Even unto death.

Good thing we’re not like bees, right?

Or, are we?

To examine this question, I used resources from my day job–the one without stinging insects–in Human Resources.

It doesn’t take much reading on leadership or emotional intelligence before you begin to encounter the power of hive mentality. In a recent article by Ph. D, Carol Kinsey Goman, entitled The Power of Emotion at Work (you can check it out here), she explains how the logic center of the human brain is so tightly connected to the emotion center, that it is impossible to make decisions without some degree of emotional involvement.

On top of this, our emotions are powerfully swayed by our surroundings. In fact, Ms. Goman explains how researchers in Sweden proved that humans mimic the expressions and resulting emotions of those around us. It only takes a glance at a picture of a happy face to create a momentary twitch in our muscles that pull our mouths into a smile. And, that physical facial expression triggers corresponding emotion. 

Here are two alarming results that Ms. Goman reports:

  1. Emotions flow from the most powerful person in the room, down. Much like the queen bee, emitting pheromones to keep her workers calm and focused, or ready to go on the warpath.
  2. Our brains are primed to focus more on negative emotions than positive ones.

This begs the question–who and what are you and I being influenced by?

The depth and scope of that answer may surprise you. In an article entitled, 9 Signs You’re Dealing With an Emotional Manipulator, Dr. Travis Bradberry discusses an experiment Facebook conducted, with the help of researchers from Cornell and the University of California. In that experiment, Facebook intentionally toyed with the emotions of 689,000 users. (You can read that article here.)

How?

They did it by manipulating people’s feeds so that some only saw stories with negative emotional connotations. And guess what? The following posts of the people with negative feeds showed they’d been heavily impacted by the mood of what they’d been exposed to.

As it turns out, hive mentality isn’t just bound to the workplace. It permeates social media, entertainment–even the way we feel about food. Research has shown that just one glance at fast-food logos creates a frantic emotion in our brains. Like the bees buzzing to one another, “Move, move, move!” these logos tell us, “Eat, eat, eat!” 

So, what does all this mean? Especially now that our “hive” has grown via technology, broadening the amount of people and sites we’re connected with.

It boils down to this–we are not like bees living in a collective. We are individuals, but with our brains already set to focus on negativity over positivity, we can be handing over an overwhelming amount of power to others, without even being aware of it. And, we can pass along any resulting damage.

So, the next time you experience anxiety, fear, distrust, or dissatisfaction, it may be a good idea to do a self-check.

What happened shortly before you began to feel this way? Were you, perhaps, emotionally hijacked? Are you taking on the emotions of another person, and now instead of the normal satisfaction you have with your job, you’re bitter towards your employees, unsatisfied with your role, hopeless about growing within your department? Or, perhaps you’ve been influenced by Instagram, Snap Chat or some online marking ad that makes you feel you need to lose ten pounds, get some Rogaine, or invest in bitcoins? If so, God has some great advice for you in the scriptures below.

First, bring it to Him–He is greater than your worried heart.

1 John 3:20 God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. (MSG) 

Second, ask Jesus to establish your thoughts and judgments, because He has access to God’s infinite wisdom.   

John 8:15-16 (Jesus speaking) You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me. (MSG)

Third, trust that God is a dependable counselor–He never acts out of manipulative emotions.

Ezekiel 20:14 (God speaking) But I thought better of it and acted out of who I was, not by what I felt. 

I don’t know about you, but these scriptures gives me great peace.

Peace that passes understanding–peace that we can pass on through our daily encounters.

And that’s definitely an emotion we can always use more of.

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Nov 26
2017

Christmas at Sandy Lane Honey

Although we carefully plot out the year when it comes to inspecting hives, raising queens and extracting honey, this Christmas here at Sandy Lane Honey kind of crept up on us. But never fear! I am prepared! (And by the way, Hobby Lobby has some amazing sales going on right now.)

Now it’s the season where gift baskets abound–From Our Hives to Your Home! Here’s what my dining table looks like right now.

It’s fine though, my boys get a kick out of eating over the sink during the month of December.

I’m kidding! I’m kidding. There’s not enough room at our sink. We sit on the floor.

(I’m still kidding. Mom, it’s fine. We have a space to eat together. Come over tomorrow and have dinner. I’ll clear you a spot.)

Ok, well, on that note, I should maybe unplug the hot glue gun and step away from the computer. But before I do, know that I’m praying for you all this holiday season–first, that the peace of Jesus will rest on you during this crazy time, and second that you’ll be able to share that peace with those around you.

Merry Christmas! 

 

 

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Oct 21
2017

Lessons In Humility: The ACFW (Writers) Conference

A month ago, I had the privilege of attending the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Grapevine, Texas. And I went dressed like this. Just for the first dinner–a theme dinner. All attendees are invited to dress up like the character from their book, and since my newest romantic suspense novel is about a woman beekeeper, I decided to have a fun time blinging out a white hat with rhinestone bees, honeycomb ribbon and resin beads that look like honey.

The only part I didn’t think through? I had to walk through the entire hotel dressed like this. I had my bucket filled with business cards and lip balm and I walked the entire way with my head down so as not to scare small children. Everyone I met was extremely gracious and one guest even approached me and asked me for a lip balm. Afterwards, people knew me as the “bee girl”. (And no one called the cops on a crazy woman dressed as a ghostbuster wearing a wedding veil–so really I’d say it was a win-win.)

Two nights later and I got to dress up again (but this time in a dress). It was for the awards gala where I was a finalist for the Genesis award in the romantic suspense genre.

My Prince Charming accompanied me, gave me his coat to wear because I was freezing to death, and then took me out for an In and Out burger afterwards because I’d been too nervous to eat. I didn’t win, but I did get to see my name and picture up on a big screen and got a neat lapel pin to commemorate the evening. A lovely lady named Darlene Turner won the award, and if you’re interested in romantic suspense, you should check out her blog here .

I could tell you everything that took placed between the two dinners, but you’d probably wonder when I was going to land the plane. I met so many new friends, old friends, mentors, authors, agents and editors that, well, if I’d replaced the lip balm in my bucket with the blessing I received from each person I met, it would have overflowed. Multiple times.

So, I’ll leave you with two lessons I learned. One funny, and one new lesson in humility that God taught me.

First lesson: How do you know it’s been a good conference?

Answer: You try to use your credit card to get into your hotel room. More than once.

As for what God taught me, it was more like an invitation. Do things with me, not for me. That’s what I heard from him. 

Weeks later, when I was worrying over writing and whether I was making it an idol, I realized something more. 

No activity, job, or hobby can be an idol when I do it with God.

He’s always waiting for us to accept his offer to escort us through our days–ready with a jacket if we’re cold, or a meal (be it spiritual or otherwise) if we’re hungry. That’s a whole new overflowing bucket of blessings I haven’t begun to delve into. And its just one more lesson in humility this bee girl finds even sweeter than honey.

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Sep 20
2017

Cover Art: Describing 100,000 Words in One Image

You’ve heard that old saying that a picture’s worth a thousand words, right? Well, when it comes to the art on a book jacket, it’s got to cover much more ground. Roughly 80,000-100,000 words (the average length of a novel).

We’ve all encountered book covers that evoke an immediate reaction in us. With one glance we’re left wanting more. So we flip to the back of the book, and then we’re hooked. Often, it all began with the cover art.

One of the fun things about getting ready to go to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference is preparing something similar for my own books that I’ll use while I pitch to agents and editors. It’s called the Sell Sheet, or the One Sheet. Basically, it mimics the cover art and the info on the back of the book, all rolled into one. 

It must be one page.

It must hook the reader.

And, to make it eye-catching, authors are allowed to add a photo that captures the theme of the book.

This is where I can lose myself. Shutterstock should allow me to direct deposit part of my paycheck into their account because I can spend hours uploading stock potos and playing around with them. While they are nowhere near the quality of professional cover art, there are some fun options. Here are three I’ve toyed with on two of my romantic suspense novels.

I selected this one, for my novel To Have and to Harbor. There is something about this picture that tugs at my heart. He’s standing guard while she rests. I love that you can see his sunglasses hanging from his shirt, and that she’s huggled down under something–maybe his jacket.

I added the title and tag line of my novel to the picture, but it looked cheesy. In the end, the picture appeared best as is, with my title and tag line written in the sell sheet itself.

This next one is sleek, and charming, and I liked it so much I bought it on the spot…then realized it doesn’t quite capture the theme of my newest novel, The Beekeeper’s Guardian.

If only I could have added a few bees into the background?

But they probably would have been mistaken for flies–not really the best backdrop for a romance.

 

So this is the one I went with, which is simple, but to the point. What I like about it is that it matches my business cards.

While it’s a kick to play around with pictures, none of these have the reach-out-and-grab-you quality a book needs to draw in readers. Stock photos can get the point across, but they’re nothing compared to the art publishing houses produce.

In the end, I think I’m better off doing the writing and leaving cover art to the pros. 

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Sep 6
2017

Minding Our Beeswax

You can tell it’s the end of another honey flow season by the amount of beeswax we have waiting on us. It’s everywhere. In buckets, pails, we’ve even pinched some off to put on Mr. Prince-Charming-In-Training’s braces.

The wax we harvest is mostly from the fresh cappings that come off the honey comb. But sometimes we get extra comb from the wild bees, which looks like this.

My dad melts the excess down into bricks, and then hands it off as he waves a hand in my general direction and says, “Here, go do something with this, will ya?”

This year, I’ve recruited help. While I’m in charge of lip balm, my mom’s taken over candles. She selected these two new molds for our gift baskets and added lemongrass fragrance, which perfectly accents the beeswax’s natural honey scent.

I’m not certain, but I think Mom and I might score an all-expense-paid shopping weekend from Dad, if we keep up the good work.

A girl can dream, right?

As for now, we’ve got twenty pounds of wax to tend to.

 

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Jul 30
2017

Lessons In Humility: When We Don’t Get What We’re Waiting For

On our recent vacation, Gavin and I decided to revisit the days when I was a stay-at-home mom. We wanted to paint!

My art box had a three year layer of dust on it that made us both sneezy. Inside, I found the intersection of stay-at-home-Jenny and working-Jenny had morphed my art box into a memory box.

I am a lazy memory-keeper. For some reason, I don’t like to look back. Even at old pictures. But as we began to sift through precious papers of wedding vows, encouragement from literary agents on my writing, calendar pages I saved during our adoption wait, I began to see the value in revisiting the past. It made me grateful.

Now, if 2007 Jenny just heard me say that, she would reach right through the years and slug me!

She was so ready to be a momma she hurt. And she got disgruntled about it, too. I was not a fun person to be around back then. I didn’t know to look back and see all that God had done for me. I didn’t know how to relax in the remembrance of his faithful care.

Later, after Gavin and I repacked the box, I ran across this passage in Psalms 106:13-15. It says, “But it wasn’t long before they forgot the whole thing, wouldn’t wait to be told what to do. They only cared about pleasing themselves in that desert, provoked God with their insistent demands. He gave them exactly what they asked for–but along with it they got an empty heart.” (Msg)

The Israelites got what they wanted, but it came at the expense of their spiritual wellbeing. And that degradation began with their forgetfulness of what God had done in their lives.

God wants me and you to remember how good he is–to find comfort and direction in his word, and to wait for him. 

But sometimes, we don’t get what we’re waiting for, do we?

I always pictured myself with many children. As soon as we finalized Gavin’s adoption, I was ready to start the process again.

That was not what God had in store.

I’m not entirely sure why this is God’s plan for us, but when I sort through the contents of this memory box, I see that he has given me fullness in the one where I thought there would be many. 

Like the miracle of the loaves and fish, he’s multiplied a little into a lot, especially in my heart.

That is something only God can do. And it was worth the wait, even when it didn’t turn out to be exactly what I thought I was waiting for.  

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Jul 1
2017

Butter Melt Cookie Recipe (With A Surprise Ingredient)

I say potato, you say…cookie? I know those two things don’t really go together, but let me explain. Recently I’ve been obsessed with researching the ingredients behind my favorite cookie at a local bakery, and then I found these little gems.

One dough, three variations. And the texture is like silk.

Thanks to potato starch. It’s like corn starch…but made from potatoes.

That’s the secret ingredient, and let me tell you, it makes for one delightful experience!

Potato starch isn’t something you can always find in your local grocery store. I ordered mine online. It’s worth the wait.

And don’t worry–it does not make your cookie taste like potatoes. Instead, it makes the crumb of the cookie smooth and delicate. Like meringues, but not as stiff. I added cherries to one batch, nuts to another, and then drizzled a little chocolate on the third.

As you can see, the sky’s the limit! And just in time for a holiday. So set your butter out to soften now.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 5 Tbsp Powder Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond (I only use this in the cherry variation)
  • 3/4 Cup Potato Starch
  • 3/4 Cup Cake Flour
  • 1/4 tsp of Kosher Salt
  • 1/3 Cup of Chopped Maraschino Cherries or Nuts (or both!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the butter and sugar first, then add extracts. Add starch and flour last. Separate dough into thirds. Mix cherries in one batch, nuts in another. Leave the third plain so that you can drizzle with chocolate. If you want to make the whole batch cherry, add 1/2 cup of chopped Maraschinos. Bake 10 minutes on lower rack and take out when edges are slightly brown. Dust with powder sugar if you like, or drizzle the plain with melted chocolate.

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Jun 26
2017

Bye Bye Perfect Record

 

See this? It’s the stop sign where I ended my perfect record.

It was in the morning, on my way to work–while I was asking God to help me be obedient–when I glided right through this intersection. I was just-a prayin’ and disobeyin’, all at the same time.

A police officer with red fingernails and a kind smile pulled me over, asked for my paperwork, and then told me about a horrible wreck that had happened there the day before. While she and other officers were helping, they watched multiple people maneuver through the same intersection without coming to a full stop.

“It’s very dangerous,” she said to me.

“Yes Ma’am,” I said back. “And I just did the same thing. I’m sorry.”

I think she expected me to argue, because she told me I made her feel badly for giving me a ticket.

Thing is, I knew I’d disobeyed the moment I saw her lights. But I don’t believe it would have occurred to me if I hadn’t been pulled over. It made me wonder–how many times had I done it before? I told her not to feel badly. She was keeping me safe.

$258 later, and I’ve found a great big spiritual application in this experience  It can all be nicely summed up by something I heard a wise woman named Mary Morris say. She said, “God deals with us as gently as He can, or as harshly as we need.”

In this case, I needed some lights in my rearview and a ticket that’s made me brownbag lunch for a couple of weeks.

Now, I’m a lot more careful on my way to work…and I pay better attention to the rules of the road, especially while I’m asking God to help me obey.

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Jun 15
2017

I Made the Finals in the ACFW Genesis Writing Competition!

A little less than a month ago I found out that I was a semi-finalist in the ACFW’s Genesis writing competition. Monday, I found out I’d made the finals! It still feels so surreal that I keep double checking the website, where my name is listed here, Calibri font, right under the romantic suspense division. And, speaking of suspense….

The winners for each genre won’t be announced until the ACFW writer’s conference in September. (And it’s late September at that.)

The bright side is that will be plenty of time to shop for a new dress to wear to the awards gala.

On a serious note, I think the thing that’s surprised me most about participating in the ACFW’s First Impressions and Genesis writing competitions is the level of feedback I’ve received from the judges. They aren’t paid to judge, and I’m sure they’ve all got a long list of other pressing things to do, but you wouldn’t know it from the time they’ve taken to offer tips on how to tighten and improve my novel. I feel like it’s given me growth as a writer that I wouldn’t have experienced anywhere else.

That’s a prize I’ll take with me as I continue to wait for what God has in store for me and writing.

As for now, I think it’s time to do some celebratory shopping!

 

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Jun 4
2017

Bees In the Bonnet

The first of 2017’s honey has been extracted and my dad, (A.K.A “Easy-Target”) has the stings to prove it! He gives great attention and care to our bees. However, it doesn’t translate over to himself when gearing up to go into them. He often leaves a flap or zipper undone, which they wheedle their little bodies through so that they can express their displeasure. 

It brings new clarity to that old saying, “bees in the bonnet.” Professional hazard for a beekeeper, for sure.

I can understand why the bees act like this when we extract their honey. But there are times they behave this way when we’re trying to help them, too. For instance, when their colony has outgrown the hive box they’re in. We have to move them, or add a second story. The way they act you’d think we were there to pluck their little wings off!

We’re talking the fury of hell! All because of a momentary disruption in their comfort to provide them with something better. 

It turns out that I am not so different than our bees. 

What God is often trying to do to help me grow, I take as an attack on my comfort. Like a petulant child, I hold fast to what is no longer good for me, while God tries to exchange it for what is much better. So that, like our bees, there can be more room for sweetness.

This is one of the many lessons I am learning from keeping bees. And, the more they teach me about our Creator, the sweeter their honey is to me.

As for my dad? Well, let’s just say if you see him in a bee suit, waving his arms and ducking…run!

 

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