Surrendered Heart: Living Captivated

Surrendered Heart is the next step in the Captivating Heart Retreat Series. Stripped down, focused and intimate, this retreat is a weekend away with other women seeking deep healing and deep communion with God. Taught by Marilyn Hodgin, Judy Turner of Christview Ministries and Strings Attached’s own Cari Kaufman, we are incredibly excited about what God is inviting us to. Surrendered Heart takes place at St Scholastica Retreat Center in Ft Smith, Arkansas, May 13-15, 2016. For more information go to  This event is designed for those ladies who have attended Captivating Heart or a similar Captivating based retreat or who have been through the Captivating:Heart to Heart DVD series.

Captivating Heart 2014 is almost here…and it is going to be awesome!

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Ya’ll, I can’t hardly wait! Captivating Heart this year is going to knock your socks off! God has taken this team down some new roads to some new experiences.  We hope to facilitate an amazing, life-changing encounter with the living Lord of lords in October and I. Can’t. Wait!

Would you come?

Oh….ladies…Jesus is tenderly inviting you….Would you say yes?

For all the details, hit the Captivating Heart site at  Scholarships are available if finances are an issue, simply send and email requesting a scholarship application to

Back on the Wagon…for when you’ve been away too long.

It’s been too long since I’ve haunted these pages.  I am sorry.  I do have reasons…good ones…but I promised consistency, didn’t I? And I love this place here that we’ve created together.  A place where I can turn raw sentiment into flowery words; where I can share the things God is teaching me;  where I can ask hard questions and maybe sometimes get answers, but most times just get support. Most of all, a place, where you can find these things too (I hope).  But I haven’t been around much lately….I kind of fell off the wagon, eh?

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This is the wagon I hopped on…Captivating Heart 2013

This year’s Captivating Heart was the best yet.  Sixty women from 5 states joined us in Oklahoma for our second year.  We’ve already begun to plan our third- perhaps two events next year.  And, what I’ve found is that there is “Administrative Leader Cari” and “Creative Writer Cari”, but they don’t tend to inhabit the same time and space well.

I did have moments when God’s beauty was just so breathtaking that I wanted to pick up my pen and write…

Like this one…

All photo credits - Brandi Jones

All photo credits – Brandi Jones

and this one…

Photo credit Brandi Jones

Photo credit Brandi Jones

I have long wanted to capture in words what my heart has been learning in real time, but the words don’t come…and the time is short…and I’m real sorry ’bout that.  Now that I am exiting this very busy speaking season, I hope to experience a flurry of writing! I hope to regail you with wise (and maybe even some funny) stories.  So stay tuned…there is so much more to come!

New Life Ranch Chapel, Captivating Heart 2013. Photo credit Brandi Jones

New Life Ranch Chapel, Captivating Heart 2013. Photo credit Brandi Jones


Enjoying the fire pit at Captivating Heart 2013

Enjoying the fire pit at Captivating Heart 2013



What’s going on ’round here?

Oh my! Has it really been over a month since I posted?  So much for that commitment to consistency, eh? Can you ever forgive me?

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I have been crazy busy preparing for Captivating Heart 2013.  What you haven’t heard about it? You absolutely MUST join us on Oct 11-13 at New Life Ranch…it is going to be amazing! You can read about what IT is, over here at

Or better yet, why don’t you read what Jamie has to say about it over here.

I promise someday soon I will get back to regular posts, but it probably won’t be until mid-October!

Grace and Peace,

What Ya Been Up To Lately?

Life is zooming by at the speed of light (or faster at times it seems!) Can you believe that it is already mid-March?  As we head into Spring Break, I just wanted to take a day and let you know what kind of (good) trouble we’ve been getting ourselves into here at Strings Attached.

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Many of you know that is often feast or famine….and this year is no different! I will have seasons with no engagements and then times when I am speaking somewhere new every week.  Now that I am teaching family caregivers of folks with Alzheimer’s and other dementias at Home Instead Senior Care, I find myself perpetually in the preparation cycle for the next presentation.  I am currently neck deep in one of those feast seasons and speaking nearly every weekend in March and April.  I still have dates available in summer and early fall! Go to the Contact us tab to request a date!

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Planning for our big conference, Captivating Heart is underway and running smoothly! You should come this year! Last year’s event was a phenomenal experience and we can’t wait to do it again! Registration is open and space is limited, so register today and don’t miss out!
Go to for more details.

In preparation for Captivating Heart we a couple of events coming up to raise both awareness and funds, and can’t wait to tell you about them!

Princess Warrior Games- Sunday, May 19, 2013  2 pm – 5 pm

Don’t let the name throw you, this one is open to warriors of all types, but we specifically want to celebrate the Princess Warrior in all of us daughters of the King.


Strings Attached has partnered with Modern Mission Outdoor Laser Tag (think paintball without the pain!) for a Sunday afternoon full of embracing your inner warrior! Several missions will be run with an all-Princess game at 3pm.  This event is open to the entire family and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon! You must purchase your tickets in advance for this event and space will fill up quickly! Get your tickets today!


2nd Annual Ladies’ Garden Party- Saturday, June 8, 2013  10 am -12 pm

We had so much fun last year, we’re doing it again!
IMG_4116So maybe taking out opposing forces on the battlefield isn’t your thing….perhaps you are more dresses and tiaras kind of gal. Or maybe you are like me and like to hold your pinky up when you drink tea one week and shoot at folks another….this event is for you.

Join us for morning tea in the garden with the ladies. ..crumpets, delicate tea cups, ummm….cupcakes….a silent auction full of lovely items and an opportunity to dress in your prettiest sundress and hat and enjoy the company of other ladies.  Tickets must be purchased in advance, so get yours today!
And much more…

We have a couple of other events in the planning stages…stay tuned for more information about those, but until then, get your tickets today for these great fundraising events!

Do you want to donate to the Captivating Heart Retreat, but can’t make one of our awesome fundraisers?  No worries…you can donate through paypal just by clicking here.  Every little bit helps to make Captivating Heart better!

I hoping to be back on schedule with consistent posts coming in the next couple of weeks….this month has been NUTS! (but no worries, I’ll keep ya updated along the way!)

Grace and Peace,

How to Find a Great Speaker for Your Event-Pt 2

Good speakers are everywhere.  They are right under your own noses in your Sunday School classes, in your congregations, in your women’s groups, they are down the street from you, across town or across the country. With a little patience and the posts in this series, you will find the perfect speaker for your next event.
Last week, we looked at the foundation you need to lay to begin preparing to book a speaker.  Today we talk about the nuts and bolts of booking one.

So you’ve determined what you want your audience to come away with, what you need, when, where and how much you can spend. You’ve even found a few great candidates through a speaker’s bureau and online. Now what?

1. Review your options and interview your speaker candidates

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you would  be surprised how many groups will try to handle most of the business of booking a speaker via email.  Insist on interviewing your speaker candidates at least once.

  • A professional speaker will be a real partner in this process. Often they will ask questions about the needs of your audience and what they can accomplish for you. Ask your candidates for references and, if they are speaking in your area, ask if you can attend the program and observe them in action.
  • Assure that a potential speaker has addressed groups similar to yours. Talk with them about their experience. Ask for a biography, testimonials and videos of their presentations, preferably before a live audience.
  • Find a speaker who will tailor his or her presentation to your group.

2. Select your speaker

  • Hire a professional and you’ll hire an ally. Professional speakers understand that your reputation is riding on their performance. Their experience with hundreds of audiences can add to your peace of mind and to the success of the event.

3. Get it in writing

You should have a letter of agreement or contract that clearly outlines the expectations of both you and your speaker. Consider:

  • Travel arrangements and transportation– will your speaker fly or drive? Booking a local speaker is a great way to save money in this area. Be prepared to reimburse mileage, travel expenses or a flat transportation fee.
  • Accommodations and meals- I prefer to stay with a congregation member.  If this is the case, make sure to create a space for your speaker to be alone. We’ll talk more about how to make a speaker feel welcome in a later post.
  • fees, reimbursements and payment terms- I think I’ve covered this sufficiently.  Don’t think you need to pay an arm and a leg for a great speaker, but do plan to pay something.   Work out how you are going to pay, where the payment is sent to and what format it needs to be in.
  • Whether you want the speaker to attend social events – this is especially important during conferences. If you are going to request the speaker attend events (dinners, meet and greets and the like) outside the scheduled speaking time, let them know ahead of time, while you are discussing the contract.
  • If the speaker may sell products and if so, how this will be handled- This is most often how I make ends meet.  Often speaker’s will lower their fee if they are given the opportunity to sell merchandise.
  • An agreement on any audio- or videotaping of the presentation- Oh, this one has gotten me in trouble before.  Specifically discuss whether it is ok to record the presentation or not and whether it is ok to sell the recording of said presentation later.
  • Cancellation policies- What happens if the conference is cancelled or if the speaker gets sick? Talk about these things beforehand. They do happen. It doesn’t have to be a crisis if it’s discussed prior.
  • Audio/visual requirements- What kind of equipment (microphones, projector, sound, video, etc) does she need?
  • and legal implications, if any, your contract may contain.

4. Work with your speaker

Share information about your group or . This will help the speaker become familiar with your organization, while facilitating a customized presentation.

  • Send your newsletter or anything which would include key people, buzz words or insider news and views.
  • Give the speaker a clear outline of what you expect.
  • Be specific about the size and demographics of your audience.
  • Let the speaker know in advance about other speakers on the program. This gives the speaker the opportunity to build on (and not duplicate) what the other speakers say.

5. Set the stage

  • Make sure the room is set up for optimum impact. Consider the number of chairs and how they are arranged. Also consider room temperature and lighting.
  • Stay on schedule. Although a professional will be able to “make up” time or slow things down if needed, keeping your program on schedule will allow your audience to get the full impact of the program you have created for them.
  • Your speaker should be able to provide you with a good introduction of themselves and their topic. The introduction should be short, energizing and create positive expectations.

6. Evaluate the results

  • Have your audience complete evaluations on the speaker and his/her presentation. This will allow you to gauge your results and plan for future programs. Send copies of the evaluations to your speaker.

So there you go, the steps to finding your best speaker ever!  I hope it helps make the process easier for you!  If you have any questions on this post, please feel free to comment below.  

How to Find a Great Speaker for Your Event-Pt 1

Good speakers are everywhere.  They are right under your own noses in your Sunday School classes, in your congregations, in your women’s groups, they are down the street from you, across town or across the country. With a little patience and the posts in this series, you will find the perfect speaker for your next event.
Your speaker selection is one of the most important elements in a successful event, but finding the right speaker for your retreat or event can be a daunting task. Just google Christian Women’s Speaker- there are a few of us out there :). So how do you decide? Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll lay out the steps your group needs to walk through to make sure you get a great speaker for your event.

In this post, we’ll talk about the first steps you need to take to lay the groundwork to find the perfect speaker to fit your agenda. This foundation is vital information and will help you immensely in your search. Next week, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of hiring/contracting a speaker for your event.

1. Determine the needs of your audience

Thorough knowledge of the needs of your group is essential in selecting the right speaker. What message are you trying to impart? What do you want your attendees to walk away with? Do you want to just have fun and fellowship? Build connections? Do you want a Bible teacher or a motivational speaker or a retreat leader- they are very different animals, you know?

You need to have a really good idea of what you want for your attendees, who they are and what they need.  One of the best groups I’ve worked with was a women’s committee who knew that they wanted a fun and inspirational message for their group, but they didn’t want to put anyone on the spot with interactive activities. I respected that they knew enough about their group that the committee could tell me how to structure my talk.

2. Establish your date, time and budget

Did you notice that this isn’t step 1?  You see the most important thing is for you to understand what my friend calls your “philosophy of ministry.” Before she goes into ANY event plan, her first question is “what are we trying to accomplish with this event?” Answer that question FIRST

THEN, start planning logistics:

  • Start looking for a speaker as soon as the date for your event is set. Many speakers book engagements up to a year in advance and you will want to get on their calendar as soon as possible.For example, I am writing this post in December- my calendar for the next year is almost completely booked in the months of April, June and October.
  • Consider how much time you have to fill and where that time falls in your overall program. If your time slot is flexible, a professional speaker can often tell you the right amount of time for the job. A professional can also make recommendations about the flow of an event. Elements like worship, fellowship time, time to eat, and where to plug in other speakers are program items a seasoned speaker can help you place for a seamless event.
  • Factor in the fee you are willing or able to pay for a speaker. Your search for a speaker can be narrowed or broadened based upon your budget.  Plan to pay your speaker.  Many speakers have a set speaker’s fee.  Many don’t. I personally, choose to speak for a love offering (and travel expenses) not because I don’t think I am worth a hefty speaker’s fee or churches can’t pay one, but because God has called me to trust His provision for this season of my ministry.

I used to work within a fee structure in the thousands of dollars for one speaking event. And here’s the thing, when I asked for a speaker’s fee, no one balked….not one church or organization thought it was ok to send me away with a gift card to Chik-fil-a and an ornament made by the kids at craft time (please don’t think I have anything against Chik-fil-a or homemade ornaments.) Since I’ve begun requesting a love offering, I have been sent away with that more than once. I love these things as much as the next girl, but they don’t put new shoes on my kiddos feet.

Whoever you choose to be your speaker deserves to be compensated for the time and effort it took to prepare for your event. A well thought out talk doesn’t just fall out of a speaker’s mouth, it takes preparation, study and prayer.  I will often spend 20-30 hours preparing for a 45 minute talk.  A weekend retreat can take up to 100 hours to prepare for, not to mention the time spent travelling to and from the event.  So consider that part of your logistical planning.  Please don’t think that I am saying you have to pay thousands (or even hundreds) of dollars for a great speaker, but also understand your speaker is trying to feed her family and compensate her accordingly. Some speakers may negotiate their fees when they are doing more than one program for you or when they are allowed to sell their products. Ask about your options.

3. Identify the type of speaker who will best match the needs of your audience

A speaker’s expertise in a given field may be the big draw, but a well-known name does not guarantee a professional presentation. High prices don’t always mean high quality. Will your audience and the overall program benefit most from a celebrity; a popular Bible teacher; a best-selling author; or a professional speaker who has a thorough knowledge of the appropriate topic?

4. Locate your resources

  • Personal referrals are a great way to narrow your search. Ask colleagues and other ministry leaders for recommendations.
  • Speakers bureaus locate and book speakers according to your specifications and needs. A bureau can locate speakers and quote fees. Many bureaus specialize in particular speakers such as celebrities, authors or athletes. You can also use the internet to find Speakers bureaus and, for that matter, Christian Women’s Speakers (google it, it’s amazing what you come up with.) There are a few bureaus that I have worked with in the past and know the requirements to be extensive and the quality of speakers to be really wonderful:

– Christian Speaker Services –

-Proverbs 31 Ministries-

-ProvenWay Ministries –

One caveat of using a speaker’s bureau is that speaker’s bureaus very rarely negotiate fees.  There is generally a finders fee paid to the bureau that increases the overall fee for that speaker.  Don’t be afraid to choose a speaker who is not associated with a bureau.  I have worked both ways, and prefer to be unattached to a bureau in order to maintain control over my speaking fees.

 So there you go, the first few steps to finding your best speaker ever!  Next week we’ll talk about what happens after you figure out what you are looking for and where to find her.  We’ll talk about negotiations, collaboration, contracts and evaluations.  If you have any questions on this post, please feel free to comment below.  

My Top Five Picks: Improv Games as Icebreakers

I love icebreakers.  I love opportunities to get folks up, moving and interacting with each other, and I think you can learn amazing things about your group just by listening to the interactions as they are happening.

Never underestimate the power of laughter to disarm even the most shielded person.  By opening a group up to hilarious and goofy interactions with one another, you give them an opportunity to safely let their guard down without feeling too vulnerable.

My favorite way to create fun interactions is through Improvisational Comedy.  I would have to say improv games are my go-to resource for fun activities and icebreakers.  I’ve talked about ice-breakers before, but you asked for more…so here they are….My top five pics for Improv games:

Fun and Laughter pave the way for open conversations.

1.  Conjoined Twins

Supplies Needed: None

Set Up: Have your group divide up in pairs. Each pair has to come up with some way to be ‘conjoined’ (yes that means they have to touch one another.)  You’ll need someone not playing to interview each set of conjoined twins.

The rules for this game are simple.The players are conjoined twins who must speak simultaneously when giving answers to the questions from the audience. The players receive questions one at a time from the group and are then given the opportunity to spontaneously answer. Generally, the answers are only one or two words. Asking questions that require longer answers challenges the players. The players are forced to follow each other in determining what to say- they are speaking together as they listen.  The content of the answers is not important to the game but yield howls of laughter as the players try to come up with the answer and speak in unison.

I’m kind of starting with the most difficult on the list first, but this is my absolute favorite.  This game brings up so many things….like trust, listening, willingness to lead and to follow. It is a veritable minefield of learning lessons.  The drawback is that once you get a gaggle of gals giggling, it can be a bit difficult to control, but it’s a great trade off, especially for a smaller group of 10 or so.

2.  Circle Warm Up

Circle Warm Up– Warning: Uncontrollable laughter is possible!

Supplies needed: None

Circle Warm-Up is Comedy Improv game used to loosen a group of people up and get loads of laughs.  The group stands in a circle facing in.  First person steps forward and makes a gesture or sound and everyone in the group repeats it.  Play continues around the circle until everyone has gone.  GO FAST! Do whatever you think of first.  If someone gets stuck, and starts to fidget, that becomes their motion and the group repeats it.  This is a great way to begin talking about how much easier it is to open up and be silly when you trust everyone is going to as well- this helps build the trust that others will open up and be vulnerable later.

3. One Word Story

One Word Story- Learning to accept and build

Supplies needed: None

One-Word Story is an Improv game used as a warm up in Comedy Improv groups.  Divide your group into groups of 8-10.  Once you are in your groups, ask for a suggestion of a fairy tale story to tell as a group.  Then instruct the groups that they will have 2 minutes to begin to tell the story one. Word. At. A. time. The key is to go fast and to add onto the word the person in front of you said.

Tip: Inevitably, you will end up with a yellow submarine in Cinderella or ruby slippers in Snow White.  This game gets hilarious. Stop the game after two minutes and ask, “Do you guys actually remember the story?”  Ask for some of the really ridiculous suggestions.

This game highlights the point that even though we may have a really clear direction and idea of where things should be headed, we only have control of ourselves and our contribution to the team.  The idea is to learn to take what your teammate gives you, view it as a gift no matter how much it diverges from your plan, and build on it.

Recently I played this game with a group of young women 18-25.  As we were going around the circle there seemed to be this wrestling to control the “power” words of the story- you know the big ones- nouns, verbs, seemingly ridiculous adjectives like Irish, and frankly, the story got lost.  This game the opportunity to talk about the fact that often times the most valuable word in a story is a single letter, like ‘a’ or a short word like ‘the,’ and tat while those words seem insignificant to us when we look at them by themselves, the story can’t go on without them. It was a beautiful moment that spoke to the importance and purpose of each and everyone one of us.

4.  Whoosh

Supplies needed: None

Whoosh is a warm-up improv game that is played in a circle.  The basic level of it is whoosh is passed around the circle like an energy, it travels from person to person in one direction around the circle. Then you can add levels like “BOINK” which stops the whoosh and rebounds it to travel in the opposite direction. You can add “OVERPASS” which makes the whoosh jump over the person next to you and land on the next person. And at this point you can add many fun hilarious levels to the game which gives players handfuls of choices to make, respond to and be confused by. We play ninja,  monorail, scooter, galactica, hyperspace and subway just to name a few…and I am fairly certain that most of these I made up on the spur of the moment…so have fun with these!

This is a great exercise to watch who engages and who doesn’t and to learn who has a tendency to overpower things as well. This one game can tell you a whole lot about the personalities in your group and how well they work together.

5.  Flock Dance

Supplies: None

This is a very physical, very silly and wildly fun game! Stress the silliness of it and that there must be commitment on everyone’s part in order for this to be fun.

Have your group arrange themselves in a “flying V” with one person at the front of the ‘V’ and the others staggered behind them, like a flock of birds. The player at the front begins leading a dance (either to a stereo or to music that they hum or sing themselves). The other players follow the leader, duplicating their movements as closely as possible. After 15-20 seconds (or when the song changes, if you’ve got a stereo and a “DJ”), a new leader moves into the front until each player has had a chance to try leading.

The idea behind this game is to get full commitment.  This is an especially useful game if your subject material for the rest of your event is very deep and will require lots of vulnerability.  This also helps players be aware of leadership and take the initiative, to follow, and to let go of habitual patterns of movement and really WATCH someone else closely.

Flock dance is about finding a balance between leaders and followers, so in as much as followers should be aware of the leader, so should the leader be aware of his/her followers and ensure that they are supported.

Safety is also a concern, as the flock will be watching the head bird.

Woah! This is a long post, but there you go…my top five improv games.  There are so many more that I love…you know what, that I would love to share with you- so if you are interested in more or in chatting about how you can make your next event super awesome- shoot me a line at, I’d love to help!

Have fun!

NWA Motherlode features Captivating Heart!

We’ve just returned from our leadership retreat out at New Life Ranch in preparation for Captivating Heart! What an amazing place! We cannot wait for you to join us out there! 

Can you believe Captivating Heart is only a month away?  Crazy how fast this year has gone…

So on the eve of the end of early bird registration, NWA Motherlode has featured Captivating Heart in an interview….why don’t you check it out?


How often do you really take time to refresh your spirit and renew your mind? If that sentence makes you sigh, you might enjoy a retreat coming up the first weekend in October called Captivating Heart. It’s going to be held at the awesome New Life Ranch just outside of NWA in Colcord, Oklahoma.

In fact, this event sounds amazing…read the rest of the article here