Automating Calendar and Contact Information

A subscriber recently e-mailed me to ask if I had any tips on managing contacts. Since this is a question that others may have, I’m also sharing this information with you.

For over ten years, I stored my contacts in Microsoft Outlook because they synced to whatever smart phone I had at the time and worked with Outlook’s mail program so I never had to look up an address. It was also easy to locate and backup the file that the contact information was stored in (making it simple to transfer information to a new computer whenever I upgraded).

After making the switch to a Macbook Pro last June (which I don’t regret), it took a lot of trial and error to figure out what to do because the contact and calendar information in Office 2011 (which is the version that Microsoft created to run on a Mac) had major syncing issues with my iPhone.

I ended up transferring all of my contacts to the address book that came with my Mac. It syncs well to my iPhone and solved the problem.

To fix the calendar problem, I uploaded my appointments to google calendar and set my iPhone up so that whatever I add to my google calendar appears on my phone and vice versa.

I am a firm believer in Romans 8:28, which assures us that all experiences—even bad ones—can be used for good if we learn from what we live through. With this in mind, I offer up the following lessons learned:

  • Office  2011’s version of Outlook on the Mac is not worth the effort it takes to set it up.
  • If I hadn’t had problems syncing Outlook’s calendar to my phone, I never would have discovered how easy Google calendar is to use (or enjoyed the benefits of having access to my calendar from another computer when I accidentally spilled water on mine).  I especially like how easy Google’s calendar is to schedule an event and invite others (even if they use a different calendar program to keep track of appointments).
  • My final lesson learned is actually a rhyme that I use to remember the message behind Romans 8:28:  If things don’t turn out the way you think they should, trust God to use bad for good.

That’s all for my first technology update. If you have a calendar or contact solution that works well for you, feel free to add a comment to this post so that everyone can benefit from your experience. For help with automating your appointments and address book or syncing them with an iPhone, my coaching business is up and running (website coming soon) and I would be happy to work with you on this and any other area of your life that needs an upgrade.

Your progress is my passion and I can’t think of a better calling than encouraging my readers to stop settling and start living a no limits life today.

Equipping the Called

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but, when I go for weeks without posting to my blog, the only thing I feel more of is fear.

Fear that the craft I spent years developing will slowly slip away until I wonder if writing was ever one of my gifts at all.

Experience has taught me that confidence, like a muscle, develops with use. And the longer we go between workouts, the less useful we become.

All of us, at one point or another, have watched someone accomplish an amazing feat and said to ourselves: “I could never do that.” What we should have been saying in these instances is: “I have no intention of trying.”

As I type this, I am watching the movie The King’s Speech with my daughters. In the scene that just transpired, speech therapist Lionel Logue was talking to his wife about an argument he’d had with a patient.

“This fellow could be great, but he’s fighting me,” Logue explained.

Without realizing that her husband was talking about the son of a king who suffered from a severe case of stuttering, she replied: “Perhaps he doesn’t want to be great.”

I have to wonder if God feels as frustrated as this therapist when people say they want to do His will, but never take the time to find out what it is.

Luke 12:48 states that to “everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Why then do so many of us know what our gifts are and fail to develop them? Could it be that we fear success more than we do failure?

Every time I think that what God is calling me to do is more than I can handle, I tell myself the same thing that I say to my daughters when they don’t want to take their medicine: Don’t think, just drink.

God is challenging all of us to do the same by drinking more and worrying less about the cup He has placed before us. Those who do will find that if we don’t think we can do something, it’s probably because we’ve been thinking about things too much.

Colin Firth’s character in “The King’s Speech” definitely thought too much when he doubted his ability to assume the role of king. To allay his fears, the therapist said: “Every stammerer fears going back to square one. I won’t let that happen.”

Our king feels the same way about us so don’t let your dreams die for lack of trying. Instead, remember that God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. And the best way to gain confidence, is to do.

Top Twenty Tweets of 2011

I started using Twitter in 2009. At first I treated this social networking site as a mini version of Facebook, sharing status updates and personal musings in 140 characters or less. Over time my posts evolved to become a reflection of, not what I’d been up to, but how God was working through circumstances to teach me about life. As we move into a new year, I share my top twenty tweets of 2011 in the hope that they will inspire you to create your own record of lessons learned.

Living with Purpose:

1.  When you can’t do anything about it, do something with it.

2.  Find a way, not an excuse.

3.  Better to fumble around looking for open doors than to grumble about the ones that are closed.

4.   If the person who’s standing in your way is you, maybe it’s time to move.

5.  Be the change you wish to see in the world and, one day, it will.

6.   More important than encouraging kids to pursue their dreams, is showing what it’s like to reach for ours.

7.   The danger of watching too much tv is not the bad habit it produces, but the behavior it prevents. Lack of discipline limits potential.

Relating to Others:

8.   You teach people how to treat you. Create a lesson plan.

9.   Looking good means nothing if you live ugly.

10.  The high road would be a lot easier to take of it wasn’t so uphill.

11.  If the high road is an uphill climb then the low one is a slippery slope. Tread lightly.

12.  If you think that it’s all about you, you’ve thought about it too much.

13.  Getting ahead should never be done by holding others back.

14. When kids won’t do for themselves what they want you to do for them, it’s time for the kids to do without.

Questions to Grow By:

15.  Why is it so easy to let ourselves down if we wouldn’t think of doing it to others? Luke 6:31 applies to us, too.

16.  When you are in an argument, the question is not “Are you right?” but “Do you want to be?” Everything comes at a price, even winning.

17.  Do you ever wonder if the people who exasperate you also frustrate God? Before you answer, ask yourself: Are you one of those people?

18.  Ever feel like everyone has an agenda and God’s not on any one of them?

19.  It’s easy to criticize what happened before us, but are we willing to make the changes necessary to affect those who come after us?

20.  Some people try to use God to get ahead. Others allow God to use them for His glory. Which one are you?

Feel free to post your own life lessons as comments and have a blessed new year.

The Perfect Community

Every summer I tell myself that I am NOT organizing the annual block party and every summer … I do it anyway. If someone were to ask me why, I’d tell them: Because I can’t find a reason not to.

Circumstances allow it.

My husband supports it.

And the hassle I go through to find a date that works for everybody pales in comparison to the sense of community it creates for the people who live on our street. Community in the form of children playing tag in the empty lot a few houses down from ours. And a driveway full of adults dancing to music provided by my neighbor’s son, who is in a band.

Knowing that the outcome is worth the effort I put into it should be enough but, sometimes I just want to enjoy a night out without first having to organize it. Event planning was something I did a lot of when we lived in Nebraska. Because our church and neighborhood were both relatively new, many of the programs that I wanted to participate in did not exist. And so I spent countless hours spearheading everything from fall festivals to summer field trips, childcare coops to supper clubs, and ministry fairs to marriage retreats.

I was ready to taking some time off from serving when Bill and I flew to Chicago to search for a new place to live. His company was relocating us to Illinois and I saw our move as an opportunity to find a church and neighborhood where I could feel like I belonged without having to create the camaraderie.

The problem with goals is that they don’t always agree with God’s will. When this happens, we can accept the hand that He has dealt us or attempt to force our own. I begrudgingly chose the former when the house that had everything we were looking for was on a street where residents barely knew each other’s names. I also acquiesced after it became clear that God was nudging our family to join a smaller congregation instead of the mega-church that I had so wanted to call my own.

As I look back on those decisions and how they motivated me to organize the block party on our street and a newcomer’s ministry at my church, it’s clear that the perfect place for any of us is not the one that has everything we want, but the one with needs that only we are gifted to fill. And what seems like settling is actually submitting to a plan that is better than our own.

Thinking of the ideal in these terms makes me ashamed that I ever considered not having a block party. It also makes me wonder: What the world would be like if every move was based, not on what the new location can do for us, but on how we can make it better for others?

God wants all of us to live on the perfect street and to belong to the perfect church, but it’s up to us to create it. I was tempted to pass this lesson along at our last block party when I heard a man from another suburb say: “I want to live in Elmhurst. We don’t have block parties like this where I live.”

“You don’t need to live in our community,” I said to myself. “You just need to bring a little of it, to yours.”

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:21

Something Easy

Hosting nine girls for a sleepover requires a lot of bedding.

“What can I do to help?” Bill asked after I called him downstairs to help me clean up.

“There are sleeping bags to roll up, an air mattress to deflate, bedding to take upstairs—”

“Don’t you have something easy?” he interrupted.

I wasn’t surprised by his question. It’s human nature to look for the simplest way out. I know this because, despite all that Jesus has done for us, many of us still complain or try to get out of the work that God is calling us to do.

I could have reminded Bill that I was the one who lugged everything downstairs the night before.  And that I had stayed up until 2 a.m. to make sure the girls were taken care of. I could have said those things … but I didn’t. Instead, I gave my husband of fifteen years an understanding look and said, “Why don’t you carry the black throw up to the living room?”

Bill quickly accepted my offer and retrieved it from the floor. A short while later, as I carried yet another load of blankets upstairs, I heard him vacuuming the bedroom floors. Seeing my spouse motivated by his momentary momentum made me wonder if God works in the same way.

We may act like we want life to move at the speed of light but the reality is: When the opportunity to take a giant leap forward comes along, most of us balk at the challenge. Thankfully, God understands and gives us just enough light for the step we’re on as he reveals, one easy task at a time, that we are capable of so much more.


Letting Go Of What Is

Although it’s been five years since I met with my manager to tell her that I would be leaving the company, I remember it like it was yesterday. I’d been wanting to quit for more than a year to pursue a new career as a writer and speaker. What finally gave me the motivation I needed was our family’s upcoming move to Chicago.

I remember feeling on top of the world as I returned home after giving my notice. My joy was short-lived, however, when I turned too sharply while pulling into the garage.

“Oh no!” I said somberly when I heard what  sounded like an aluminum can collapse under pressure.

“What is it, Mom?” Katie asked from where she sat in her booster seat.

Unsure of how to answer, I climbed out of the van to inspect the damage. As I suspected, the passenger side was wedged against the entrance to the garage.

“Don’t get out,” I warned the girls as I got back into the vehicle. “I need to back out of the garage and drive in again.”

Using knowledge gained from prior accidents—yes, there have been others, I turned the wheel in the opposite direction and backed up. Although this minimized the damage, the scrape on the fender was still noticeable; and I wondered how my husband, Bill, would react when he got home. To my surprise, there was not a hint of irritation in his voice as he inspected the damage and said casually, “It’s just a van.”

I’ve gotten upset at my daughters for doing much less damage than what Bill saw when he came home. How could he stay so calm?

Perhaps his reaction was a reminder that possessions are nothing compared to the people who own them. Or maybe it set the tone for how I was to view, not just my resignation, but our family’s relocation. By letting go of what was (a newly-dented vehicle), Bill realized what could be (a peaceful night together with his family). Through his example, God was urging me to do the same.

Sometimes you have to let go of something good to make room for something great and if God brings us to it, he’ll see us through even the worst mistakes that are made along the way.