Influencers

In a recent e-mail from Bill Hybels, he challenged me and thousands of other readers to think of the person who influenced us the most during our first 18 years and breathe a prayer of gratitude to God for the impact they had on our lives. This request caused me to pull out a recently completed self-coaching exercise where I identified my top ten needs and the positive or negative ways that I attempted to meet them. As I reviewed the list, it became clear that everything I valued now could be traced to something that was missing at one time or another from my life.

Most would view these unmet needs as a negative thing, but I have a different opinion after seeing the good that has come as a result of them. I am passionate about progress, for example, because as a child I saw the effect of making none. And I include as many people as possible when planning events because, growing up, I often felt left out.

We say that we don’t want anything bad to happen to us, but without the trial there would be no triumph. And although looking back to see where we’re headed sounds like an oxymoron, we’ll never grow in the direction God is leading us by looking to where others have gone.

It is our past that leads to our purpose, not someone else’s. Knowing this gives new meaning to Proverbs 22:6 because training up a child in the way he should go is about, not just discipline, but discernment. Every consequence we experience, whether brought on by our actions or another person’s, is a lesson in how—or how not—to live.

There’s no way around it: Whether our past makes us bitter or better, either way it defines us so why not choose the route that makes the world a better place to be? That’s what Joseph did in Genesis 50:20 when he forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery because it put him in a position to feed his family and all of Egypt. “You intended to harm me,” he explained, “but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph was exactly where God needed him to be to make a difference during his time on earth and so are we. So instead of cursing the darkness, let’s choose to be a light as we give thanks, not just for the good influencers, but also for the ones who taught us how not to be.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6

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.

Giving Up Control to Gain It

If you break a few traffic laws to make an appointment, does the good deed cancel out the bad one? This was the question I asked myself after a dentist appointment ran long and I wondered if I would make it home in time to take my daughters to the station. Katie had talked Bill into taking her and her sister to a rock concert and I didn’t want them to miss the 5:13 train to Chicago.

If it’s possible to try so hard to control a situation that you wind up losing it, that’s where I was mentally at when I used my iPhone to see if the freeway was backed up. The application I checked showed heavy traffic for most of the way home; and I decided not to take the on-ramp, even though cars on the interstate seemed to be traveling at normal speed. Several minutes (and stop lights) later, I realized that I had made a big mistake.

Sometimes too much information is as bad as not having enough, I decided as I called Bill to give him an update.

“It’s five o’clock and I still have four miles to go.”

“You’re not going to make it,” he said. “If you catch the 6:13 instead, the girls will understand.”

Determined to stick to the original plan, I called home to tell them to be ready.

We had less than ten minutes to get to the station as I turned onto our street. Thankfully, Katie and Hollie were both standing in the driveway when I pulled up.

“Are we speeding?” my youngest asked before we reached the end of the block.

“We haven’t gone far enough to be speeding,” I assured her. Hollie didn’t ask again as I maneuvered through traffic like a NASCAR driver vying for the win at Talladega Superspeedway.

We arrived at the station with two minutes to spare, making me glad that I had tried. There was even time to solicit the help of two moms who were also waiting for the train. Much to my daughters’ dismay, the ladies were happy to keep an eye on my “babies” until they reached Ogilvie Transportation Center, where Bill would be waiting.

Someday, Katie and Hollie will realize that you can take the girls out of the suburb, but you can’t keep a suburban mom from taking care of her girls. For now, I was content to be the student and my lesson for the day was that too much of a good thing is a bad thing: Even parenting.

As I drove home after watching the train pull away, it was hard to fight the urge to call Katie to see how the ride was going. Although one part of me wanted to hover over my daughters like a helicopter parent, another part—the rational one—knew that if I did I’d be robbing her of the confidence that comes from taking this trip without me. My job as a mom is not to make my kids need me; but to help them realize, one new adventure at a time, that one day they won’t.

Foster Cline and Jim Fay agreed in their book Parenting Teens with Love & Logic when, on page 49, they said: Self-esteem doesn’t just “happen” by making teens feel good or happy. It begins when children assert their independence and try to show their families and the world that they are their own persons.

Katie is definitely her own person, with her own choice in music. And so I reminded myself of my obligation to “do my best and let God do the rest” and decided not to call, trusting that the girls would have a good trip downtown and a great time at the concert. That’s exactly what happened, and when they came home to tell me all about it, I realized that Cline and Fay were right when they said that “worry is the price you pay in advance for most of the things in life that never happen.” (p. 95) And sometimes we have to give up control to gain it as we live by faith and not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

If you have a parenting issue or another area in your life that you would like to gain clarity or get back on track, e-mail julie@nolimitslifecoaching to schedule a free 30-minute coaching consultation and remember to …


A Little Help from My Friends

In a previous post I wrote about the power of accountability and how, by making goals known, we strengthen our resolve to complete them. Today I’d like to tell you about a free calorie-counting program I’ve been using to improve accountability in a part of my life that has been inexplicable for too long.  A friend told me about the myfitnesspal iPhone app. Although a little skeptical, I downloaded it to my phone and was pleasantly surprised to find that the program has a huge database of food items. In the ten days that I have been using it, I haven’t overeaten once.

That’s my goal: to not overeat. I’d been doing it for so long that I was beginning to wonder if I would ever break the habit of hour-long binges and self-condemnation that followed. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises that God will not tempt us more than we can stand. And when we are tempted, he will show us a way out so we can endure them. For me, that way out comes every day in the form of a set limit of calories that I can consume before the program notifies me that I have exceeded my goal. As soon as I saw how easy myfitnesspal was to use, I told my exercise buddy (who also signed up) and now I no longer have to tell each other about my progress. She can see it on her phone.

The camaraderie of it all reminds me of the song by The Beatles where Ringo Starr sang “I get by with a little help from our friends.” If you, also, lack accountability and want to gain control of your eating habits, download the app to your phone or use the online version to sign up. My user name (and the name to search for to add me as a friend) is stopsettling.

I picked that name because it’s time to stop settling and start living up to our full potential. If you feel the same way, join me as we prove that with God all things are possible as we get by with a little help from our friends.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” ~ Romans 14:17

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.

Favorite Fifteen Quotes of 2011

In addition to lessons learned, I also like to share quotes on Twitter as I come across them. Here are my favorite fifteen out of all of the ones I posted in 2011. Because I can’t help but improve upon everything I touch (and tweet), the conclusions I reached after reading them are printed in italics.

  1. Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. Make time for others. – Helen Keller
  2. We need to exchange whispers with God before we exchange words with somebody else. Pray. – Lysa Terkeurst
  3. The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it. Grow. – John Ruskin
  4. The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with. Take risks. – Tony Robbins
  5. The best way to make someone interested in you is to be interested in yourself. Take care of yourself. – Rachel Ray
  6. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Think of others. – Maya Angelou
  7. When people show you who they are, believe them. Be discerning. – Oprah
  8. We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Change is good. – Albert Einstein
  9. Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. Be who you are, not who people want you to be. – Cyril Connolly
  10. A person who has flatlined has stopped growing. Breathe new life into your day. – Dr Henry Cloud
  11. He who looks outside himself dreams. He who looks inside awakens. Learn from what you live through. – Carl Jung
  12. If I made it in this country, the road is there guys. You really are the only shadow standing in your sunshine. Get out of your own way. – Fabio Viviani
  13. Boredom is not another mealtime. Be productive. – Valerie Bertinelli
  14. The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you. Have faith. – Paraphrased from 1 Corinthians 10:13
  15. He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. Know Christ.– Unknown

If you have a favorite quote to share, feel free to add a comment to this post and remember to …

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.

Three Book Ideas for your Small Group

The church small group that Bill and I belong to asked me to look over the books in my home library to see if I had any that might appeal to both the men and women in our group. I came up with three and am posting them in case you, also, are looking for something to work through in 2012.

Who You Are When No One’s Looking by Bill Hybels

Topic: Character development.

Format: This book is comprised of 11 chapters with a  20-question discussion guide at the end.

Sample quotes from the book are listed below:

If you haven’t noticed by now, it’s extremely difficult to learn to love unless we also have other character traits: the courage to do what needs doing; the discipline to make decisions and carry them out; the vision to see far into the future and deep into others’ hearts and our own; and the endurance to keep going in spite of the ridicule, discomfort or boredom that can accompany this thing called life. p. 14

Every single day we make choices that show whether we are courageous or cowardly. We choose between the right thing and the convenient thing, sticking to a conviction or caving to our desires for comfort, approval, and success. p. 19

I have discovered three things that I must do if my spiritual life is going to flourish. I remember them with the initials I.R.A.–which stands for input, reflection and abstinence. p. 37

Vision is not only for problem-solving, of course. A second definition of vision is this: Vision is the ability to see beneath the surface of people’s lives. … To look beyond the obvious to understand what makes others—and themselves—tick. p. 31

Sample Study Guide Questions:

What recent examples (positive or negative) have you seen of the importance of character?

One aspect of vision is being able to see possible solutions to everyday problems. Would you say you usually focus on problems or solutions? Why?

What’s the difference between “enduring” and “putting up with” something?

On pages 106-111, Hybels talks about filling your love tank. What fills your love tank so you can love others sacrificially?

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies

Topic: Spiritual Discernment

Format: This book is comprised of 10 chapters with a  study guide at the end that contains six-to-ten questions for each chapter.

Sample quotes from the book are listed below:

“Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong. It is a task in which we attempt to see things as God sees them.” p. 71

“the closer our thoughts are to the reality of who God is and what he is like, the more our lives will be a reflection of him.” p. 97

“Our spontaneous thoughts and actions are a sure measure of our spiritual growth, our spiritual maturity, and our spiritual discernment.” p. 120

“One of the greatest dangers of discernment is that we will become so interested in what is evil and ungodly that we allow ourselves to become immerse in it … Sooner or later, Christians who spend their days seeking out and responding to the transgression of other people can quickly become insufferable.” pp. 144-146

Sample Study Guide Questions:

Summarize the three marks of discernment and the three marks of a lack of discernment. Can you think of a time that your own sinfulness kept you from exercising discernment? What does the Bible mean when it says we are to “be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil?” Would your friends and family say this admonition is true of you? How do you feel you have been gifted by the Spirit? How do you practice this gifting?

Fool-Proofing Your Life by Jan Silvious

Topic: Dealing with Difficult People

Format: This book is divided into three sections. Each section contains 3-to-4 chapters. A separate study guide is available but the questions at the end of each chapter would also be sufficient.

Sample quotes from the book are listed below:

Have you ever been caught in the undertow of a relationship that seems to pull you down? …Each time there is a lull in the tension, you tell yourself, “This time everything is going to be all right.” Yet in a few hours or a few days, you are thrust into confusion again. Often you are blamed for whatever negative circumstances occur, and yet for the life of you you can’t figure out why. pp. 3-4 There are several indicators–“red flags,” if you will—that pop up when you encounter a person who qualifies as a fool:

  1. He believes that his thoughts are true and his actions are acceptable because they are his (see Proverbs 12:15)
  2. Fools hide their true natures until they can get what they want … they venture out of their self-protective world just far enough to dangle the hook—and usually they “catch” compassionate people who think they can “help.”
  3. Since fools are their own judge and jury, they are confident in declaring themselves innocent. They are perfectly content with themselves. They are who they are. pp. 49-56

“part of the tragedy of continuing to engage a fool is that, despite all of your protestations and efforts to alter him, you are the one who will be altered—and not for the better” p. 124 It’s the wildest thing: You know you are right, and you believe you should say something. But the minute you do, it all gets turned around, and somehow you have become the troublemaker. p. 57 “the role of the Savior … has been played once on the stage of history, and there has been no curtain call. The part need never be played again. Yet what have you done for your fool by trying to “save” him from his own foolishness? p. 187

Sample End-of-Chapter Study Questions:

Think about specific ways you have tried to untangle your difficult relationship or change the painful dynamic. … Have any of them worked—even in the short-term? Why or why not? Does it appear that your fool learns for a while and then “forgets” what he has learned? Think through what you might do differently in responding to your fool. How could you show more wisdom than King David did? In what specific ways has your childish speech or reasoning added to the chaos of the situation with your fool?

I like all of the above studies and have no preference so, when choosing one, remember this rhyme: The book to read is the one you need.

Brandy Slush

Every year, someone asks for the recipe to make the brandy slush that I serve at holiday parties. It works great for larger gatherings because it can be prepared ahead of time and added to a punch bowl so guests can serve themselves.

Ingredients

10 cups boiling water
6 tea bags (I buy the kind with a blackberry flavor)
2 cups white sugar
1 (16 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 (16 ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 pint of blackberry brandy
1 (2 liter) bottle Hawaiian Fruit Punch

Directions

  1. Boil 10 cups of water in a large pot
  2. Add the 2 cups of sugar and 6 tea bags (I buy the kind with a blackberry flavor)
  3. Let the teabags soak in the water/sugar mixture for 2 hours
  4. Remove the tea bags and add the Hawaiian Fruit Punch, frozen lemonade, grape juice and brandy to the water/sugar mixture
  5. Freeze mixture, stirring once or twice so the brandy doesn’t settle on the bottom of the container
  6. Add two scoops of slush to a glass of 7-Up or Squirt and serve with a straw