Coaching Stepfamilies

Evelyn de Villers, Ph.D.

 


Excerpted with permission from Coaching the Coach: Stories and Practical Tips for Transforming lives, by renowned author and life coach Georgia Shaffer. Want to read more? Click here to purchase!


 

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16


A remarried couple called me for help. They heard from a friend that I not only coached stepfamilies and had written my dissertation on the subject, but also I was a mom and stepmother to seven children. They both said they were madly in love and had recently married, vowing that this time around it was going to be different. Their hope and enthusiasm, however, was beginning to unravel. Their new marriage was complicated by the children they each brought into the picture. He had three and she had two—all between the ages of eight and fifteen.

i-m-priscilla-149914When they married they knew they would have some challenges, but reality was harder than they’d imagined. An overwhelming sense of frustration and tension was settling into their new stepfamily. They both felt uncertain about what their roles were as stepparents, and some of the children were not adjusting well. I explained to them that it is not unusual, particularly for stepfamilies early on, to feel that the problems they may encounter are too big to handle alone. They often need help, and an experienced coach can be just what is needed to help their new family.

At the heart of the problem for this couple was that the children were not enamored with their new home life or their new stepparent and the children’s unhappiness was creating tension in the house and beginning to create problems between the couple. Some of the children were acting out, breaking the rules, and lashing out at each other and at their stepparent. The couple felt angry but also guilty that they didn’t feel instant love for their stepchildren. When one spouse complained about their partner’s child or imposed discipline, it not only made matters worse with the children but it also created tension and anger between them as a couple.

We focused on three main tasks that would help their family move forward with greater peace and unity: They were to behave toward their stepchildren as though entrusted with a children’s ministry and only the biological parent disciplined each child; they were to create new family rituals to promote family cohesion; and they were to nurture their relationship by making time to be alone.

The sad truth is that second marriages break up more often than first marriages. This is tragic for children who have already suffered loss from their parents’ first divorce. This loss is often the very reason children act out toward their new stepparent or step- siblings.

It’s vitally important that a stepparent understand what they are getting into when it comes to being in the life of a child that is not biologically their own. When stepchildren act out toward stepparents, it’s usually more about the children’s own feelings of loss and the anxiety that change causes than it is about the stepparents’ attitudes and actions.

tanja-heffner-259854If the stepparents view their relationship with their stepchildren more as a ministry, a responsibility and opportunity that honors God, then it will feel less like a chore or a burden. It is a beautiful opportunity to love in a Christlike way, that is not about self but about others. What a gift it can be when a stepparent gets the opportunity in the life of a child to exemplify patience, kindness, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love— especially when it’s hard. That’s why I asked this couple to leave the discipline to the biological parent.

As part of their new ministry, the stepparent was to devote time and attention to each stepchild on a daily or weekly basis to build a relationship of trust and caring. The stepparent was to find something that was important to each child and to become involved somehow so that a connection could begin to take place. Time and attention gives an underlying message to children that they are important. For example, the stepfather took his stepson to his favorite professional baseball team’s home game, and baseball became a fun and enthusiastic connection between them. The stepmother took her stepdaughter shopping for a special dress for an upcoming school dance. Afterwards they went to lunch and just had fun. There are many creative ways to devote time and attention in the life of a child.

As an added piece of information, the couple understood that they were not replacing the child’s other biological parent but were adding to the child’s life as another adult who cared for them.

Children can feel cared for and adjust better to their new family structure when the parents implement traditions and shared-family rituals. These traditions and rituals can shape a family’s identity and help children form shared memories with their new family unit. I mentioned to this couple that one of the first things that I did as a new stepmom was to create photo albums for each child. These albums contained happy and funny pictures from our family vacations and special events. Every year I added new pictures to their albums. Our children are grown now, but for years when they would bring a new friend over they would pull out their own album for a show and tell. I also took family pictures, which I framed and put up around the house. Viewing lots of family photos of us happily doing things together promoted family cohesion and happy memories.

jesse-orrico-169117My husband and I also made it easy on the children during holidays by being flexible about Thanksgiving, birthdays, and Christmas. Children can become anxious if their biological parents are fighting over holidays. We tried to keep the holidays consistent and predictable, but if a wrench was thrown into our plans we tried to make it as easy as possible on the children by not overreacting and by being flexible. I encouraged this couple to come up with their own special family rituals and traditions and involve their children in the planning. Shared rituals can help create cohesiveness and a sense of family. I also warned them that everyone might resent forced activities, which can be destructive to the relationships they were building.

A sense of family promotes feelings of security for children and parents, but you can’t make your family work if you don’t make your marriage work. Raising children in a stepfamily can feel like chaos at times. Finding time to be alone and nurturing the marital relationship is mandatory and will make raising children and stepchildren easier if each spouse feels supported by, loved by, and important to the other. It is also a great role model for children to see a happy, loving couple spending time together. I explained to this couple a few ideas of what they can do to nurture their relationship:

  • Find time daily to talk with each other in conversations that have nothing to do with children. Talking on the phone for a few minutes or sitting down for a few minutes after work or before bed can become the best part of the day.
  • Go for a walk and get out of the house. My husband and I walked on the beach nearly everyday, and it was something we looked forward to.
  • Plan a getaway when the children are with their other parent(s).
  • Help the children understand the importance of your alone time together without interruptions.
  • Show affection in front of the children, like holding hands, supporting each other’s views, and treating each other with respect and importance.
  • Pray together or read a daily devotional together. Focusing on God’s will and God’s ways is a priceless gift and often the glue needed in a stepfamily.

When a couple feels good about their relationship, everything else seems to fit into place and they’ll feel like better parents as well.

No one says it is easy. Those in stepfamilies must overcome a lot of pain, grief, and loss from the past. This is especially true for the children involved.

Coaching this couple and many other stepfamilies is also a ministry of sorts. Divorce is so prevalent in America and families are breaking apart so often, even among the Christian population, that today stepfamilies are now the most-common basic unit in American society. Coaching stepfamilies can provide a road map, educational resources, and a godly perspective, so that more American stepfamilies have a better chance at success.

 

Coaching the Coach Tip:

 The U.S. Census Bureau provides stepfamily statistics: By 2010, stepfamilies were predicted to be more common than the conventional (two biological parents and children or single-parent households. Now in 2013, stepfamilies are the most common form of the American family. Nearly 10 million children under age eighteen are part of stepfamilies, and more than 1,000 new stepfamilies are formed each day. Sadly, second marriages break up more often than first marriages (60 percent, compared to just under 50 percent, respectively). Second marriages with children break up even more often. Coaching these families to manage realistic expectations, nurture the marriage, develop appropriate stepparenting roles, and find fulfillment in honoring God in the lives of children is a real opportunity for clients’ own personal growth and for preventing another family breakup. Coaching them is teaching, among other things, about love of the highest order. Coaching Christians to succeed in a stepfamily is bringing light to an otherwise dark place.
 


 
Evelyn de Villiers, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychological Association, the International Christian Coaching Association, and an alumni member of Dr. John Townsend’s Life Coaching Program. She teaches and speaks at churches, schools, conferences and retreats. Her office is in La Jolla, CA and she lives with her husband in San Diego where they are empty nesters after raising their blended family of seven children. They have a very handsome grandson whom they love to spoil.

shaffer_georgiaGeorgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

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Bye for Now

Cheryl Scanlan

 


 

Excerpted with permission from Coaching the Coach: Stories and Practical Tips for Transforming lives, by renowned author and life coach Georgia Shaffer. Want to read more? Click here to purchase!
 


 

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-

A time to give birth and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NASB

 
 

l58bvebr1fm-javier-molinaIn the past month, two former clients reinitiated their coaching relationships after a six- month and two-year lapse respectively. I was pleasantly surprised that they were eager to reengage. My good-byes used to be more difficult as I would secretly hang my head in shame wondering if I had served my client well. Over time, however, I learned how to develop stronger relationships through the separation process with clients. In the two instances mentioned above, our former coaching relationships were strong and viable, ending with clear invitations to continue if and when they felt it was time.

While either the client or the coach can decide it’s time to say good-bye, through the years I’ve noticed a few clues that indicate the coaching relationship is nearing completion.
 
 
Clues from the client are:

  • Coming to sessions indicating there wasn’t much new to work
  • Pattern of not following through with designated
  • “Life gets in the way of living,” such as family illness, where the client’s emotional, physical and/or intellectual is being maxed out from some ongoing concern.
  • Sense of accomplishment and readiness to branch off on
  • Specialized area of expertise required that is beyond scope of current coaching relationship.
  • Situation arises that warrants consideration of counseling for a
  • Financial situation

 

Clues from the coach’s viewpoint are:

  • Relationship no longer fresh; rhythm turns to
  • Not sensing ‘gaps’ the client can move into or the next steps they could
  • Life gets in the way and circumstances hinder coach’s ability to be fully present when interacting with
  • Unable, for whatever reason, to support the client in obtaining his or her objectives/goals.
  • Sense client has come to a place of ‘completion,’ or that it’s time to encourage client to step out without the support and accountability of the

 

Each client is unique and I’ve learned to individualize my approach for each situation. I’ve also learned that I have to be willing to risk possibly losing the coaching relationship in order for it to have the best chance of flourishing. Sometimes I have to be brave with questions like “How well is this coaching relationship serving you right now?” or “What would you like to see different in our relationship?” or “You are able to bring more to the table. What’s stopping you from doing so?”
 
 
A Coaches’ Role is to Respect and Release
 
vl9ugqp_mko-caleb-georgeMy coaching relationships have ended for myriad of reasons. One ended because we were not a good fit. He wanted someone to help propel his business forward using some tactics that I could not be involved in, even from ‘an-objective-coach’ perspective. It just did set not right with me. I was able to acknowledge that his approach was beyond my comfort zone and therefore I would not be able to support him in his endeavors. He agreed it would be good to find someone else who could ‘advance his cause’ with him. We had a mutually happy parting of ways and I referred him to a business coach who I knew had a much higher risk tolerance than I and who worked aggressively with his clients.

Another coaching relationship ended when the client felt she was at a place of ‘calm movement.’ We had enjoyed a celebration call the previous week and she felt a sense of ‘settledness.’ We closed out our relationship the following session. Several years later she called to begin again. We worked together for a brief three-month period to get her on track with a few more things.

One of the most awkward endings came with a client who was not following through with designed actions. Because he remained stuck throughout our sessions, I invested in sessions with a mentor to discern how I could better support this client. Eventually it became clear that the coaching was not serving him well. Whether it was my coaching style or there was something else not ‘clicking’ we both knew that coaching with me was not a good fit for him. We are, however, still in communication to this day.

Another time I said good-bye was when I needed a respite. I went through a brief period of significant health challenges. I informed my clients that, for a time, I needed to focus on taking care of myself to a greater degree. I did not have to end the relationships, but clients agreed to take a break or reduce to monthly sessions during this period of time. They appreciated and responded well to my concern for preserving the integrity of the coaching relationship on their behalf.

Celebration is a key component of the coaching relationship and the release. A coach’s role is also to acknowledge and celebrate. No matter what is happening, a client needs to be acknowledged for the investment and the work they did. Sometimes I was so focused on the next stage, the next area of growth, I would leave my client panting in the dust as they attempted to ‘whoa the horsey!’ Again–my insecurity of making sure the client was getting their money’s worth actually shortchanged the relationship. Less, I learned, is oftentimes better!

Celebration is equally important in releasing a client. Commemorate the challenges they successfully faced and the progress they’ve made.

An open door and trust brings clients back. For instance, ‘Christy’ shared during a call that there was less for her to work on and she was feeling pretty good about where she was at but at the same time she didn’t want to stop coaching. For the last couple of sessions, I felt like she was hanging on but that she had no current need for coaching.

I considered our options. What if she knew she could come back to coach whenever opportunity arose again? We could transition to once a month for a couple of months and then finish for a season. This proposal was appropriate in that as the coach I ‘manage the process’ while the client ‘manages the objectives.’

Christy seemed relieved by the suggestion. After three months she was off and running on her own. Two years later, she called and we were coaching again.

It is fun to walk with clients–some for a year and some for longer. But I can tell you there is still something special about a client calling me several years later ready to reengage in our coaching relationship.

 

Coaching the Coach Tip:
 
zybl6vnud_0-tim-mossholderAn open door and trust encourage clients to reinitiate their coaching relationship, as does the unusual policy of holding my current coaching fees stable for two years after the end of the last session. If, for example, a client’s fee was $150 a session and I’ve raised my fee to $175, his or her rate for the next two years, after we said good-bye, would still be $150.

Grandfathering in fees does create a bit of a bookkeeping nightmare, but I believe it is easier (and less expensive) to keep a client than it is to develop a client. I want my policies to reflect the value of returning business. Additionally, I do not have the preliminary work with a returning client. We step right back into coaching—another win- win incentive for the grandfather clause. Not all coaching practices share this policy, but I have worked this way for seven years and find it quite rewarding.
 


 
Cheryl Scanlan Former executive with a multi-million dollar firm, Cheryl Scanlan, PCC, CPCC combines strong business acumen with a passion for the Christian coaching industry, to facilitate the development of confident ambassadors for Christ in both corporate and ministry environments. She mentors coaches across the country and coaches Pastoral and Director teams to strengthen the core of church bodies. For more information on Cheryl Scanlan visit: wayoflifecoaching.com.
 
shaffer_georgiaGeorgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

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Maintaining Your Focus

Dr. Dave Martin

 


 

Excerpted with permission from Coaching the Coach: Stories and Practical Tips for Transforming lives, by renowned author and life coach Georgia Shaffer. Want to read more? Click here to purchase!
 


 

Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8, NLT

 

 

kwnblk_s_fg-clark-young“What is the most important thing in becoming a winner?” Tony asked one Monday afternoon. His previous week had not gone well, and he was struggling.

I took a moment to reflect. This was the same question so many of my clients ask.

Senior pastors want to know the “breakthrough” point and how to achieve it. Business leaders are searching for the difference that will distinguish their company from the competition, and individual achievers look for the vital ingredient in becoming great.

After several moments, I said, “Tony, tell me about your week.” And he did. In vivid detail, Tony enumerated his difficulties. As a NASCAR driver, Tony had strong competition, and it quickly became obvious that he was disgusted, disillusioned, and altogether distracted.

But he had seen fierce competition before and had not faltered. This was something new, and I needed to know more.

So I said, “Tony, I want to hear about your week again, but this time, please tell me what you were thinking each morning when you arrived at the track. Tell me, where your thoughts led you throughout the day when you were driving and what were your dominant thoughts at night when you were home?”

This took a bit more time as Tony mused over his previous week, but finally he started to talk.

“Dr. Dave, it’s the wall!” He said, with an exasperated sigh. “All I can think about is the wall!”

Tony went on to explain that the primary concern of all new race car drivers is the wall. Nobody wants to hit the wall, especially at 200 miles per hour. He also explained that the centrifugal force of the automobile tends to propel the car directly toward the wall as the car speeds around the track. So the wall is a constant problem for all drivers, but for new drivers, it is the principal fear.

“Consequently,” he explained, “The wall is all the new driver can think about. As he drives faster and faster, he keeps telling himself, ‘Don’t hit the wall. Don’t hit the wall.’”

I stopped him there. “Tony,” I asked, “When you are driving, as you circle the track, are you thinking about winning?”

e-irfds-jfk-andre-willms“Not really—no. No, I’m not.” He reflected more. “Right then, I’m just concentrating on not hitting the wall.”

Tony had lost his focus. He had allowed his thoughts and fears to take his eyes off the primary objective of winning the race, and had become focused instead on avoiding the wall.

NASCAR rookies are actually trained to turn their thoughts away from the wall and onto the infield. Rookie drivers quickly learn that you are drawn toward the thing that dominates your thoughts, and so they deliberately retrain their thinking to focus on the infield instead of the wall. Over time, their thoughts are concentrated on the infield, and as a result, the feeling that they are being pulled toward the wall as they speed around the track is drastically reduced and their crippling fear is disarmed. They become potential winners.

It took months for Tony to completely make the thought swap from the “wall” to the “win,” but, in time, he was able to redirect his thoughts and focus completely on his goal. He is now making headlines in the NASCAR world!

That Monday with Tony clarified a valuable lesson for me, too. In life, just as in NASCAR, we are dominated by the thoughts we choose. No matter what your profession or calling, your thought choice determines your focus, thus becoming the most critical element in your success.
 
Coaching the Coach Tip:
 
lmclf825vyi-scott-umstattdSometimes as coaches we spend so much time working on the problems and issues of others that our own focus is lost. It’s easy, both with clients and in our own lives, to concentrate on the problem and to lose sight of the win. I repeatedly tell my clients, “The key is to know your goal and not to be distracted by the peripherals. Keep your eyes on the prize. You are dominated by the thoughts you choose.”

Our thoughts determine our focus, so like Paul’s instruction to the Philippians, we should daily “think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

And know, “The rest of your life will be the best of your life!”
 


 
Dr. Dave Martin is known by many around the world as America’s #1 Christian Success Coach and he speaks regularly at churches, colleges, corporations and conferences. He is the author of several best-selling books including ‘The 12 Traits of the Greats’ and ‘The Force of Favor’. Dr. Dave is founder and president of Dave Martin International which exists to serve the local church, business organizations, leaders and individuals. Along with several other board positions, Dr. Dave currently sits on the advisory Board of Joel Osteen’s Champions Network; and he works hard to give back, to be a blessing, and to sow into the lives of others.
 
shaffer_georgiaGeorgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

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Is My Goal to Impress or Bless?

Georgia Shaffer, M.A.

 


 

Excerpted with permission from Coaching the Coach: Stories and Practical Tips for Transforming lives, by renowned author and life coach Georgia Shaffer. Want to read more? Click here to purchase!
 


 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4 NIV 2011

 
 
ckruhwytde8-aidan-meyer“Georgia,” my client, Amy–who is a life coach, had written, “I’m hoping during our session tomorrow that you can help me with two difficult clients. I’m not sure how to handle them.”

I was reviewing the pre-session form I ask my clients to complete and return before each appointment. It helps me get an idea of what has happened in their lives since our last appointment. I include questions such as “What has been on my mind the most since my last session?” “What has been my biggest joy or victory, and how does it link to my stated goals?” and “What would I like to focus on during this session?”

My immediate reaction upon reading Amy’s request for help with two difficult clients was to pray, “Lord, help me be brilliant. Help me not to look stupid but to find a solution.” I cringed. “Okay, Lord, give me wisdom.”

A few days earlier I had listened to an interview with Christian counselor and author Larry Crabb. At one point he said to the interviewer, “I am always trying to pay attention to where my heart is. Am I trying to bless my client or impress him or her?”

As a coach, I’m all too aware that unless I pay attention, my natural tendency is to want to impress my clients or to solve their problems for them. Neither of which is my role as a coach. For me, it’s important to pray before my coaching sessions and also during our time together, asking God to guide me by his Holy Spirit.

Before Amy’s particular session when she asked for help with her two difficult clients, I strongly felt God leading me to listen and then pray with her. So after she described each client, I suggested we pray. I knew that was not what she wanted, but I was obedient to what I believed God was prompting me to do.

yy3gony48n0-ben-white“You know what?” Amy said when I finished. “As you were praying, I just realized a key comment my one client made in our initial session. I had totally forgotten about it, but now everything is falling into place. I have a much better understanding about what is going on with her.”

Sure enough, a few days later, Amy emailed me to say that her client had experienced a major breakthrough. As a coach, Amy was thrilled to be part of God’s powerful miracle in this person’s life. And I was in awe of God’s ability to use Amy and me in the lives of those we coach.

At our next session, Amy and I discussed this particular client. I admitted to her that my initial response was to come up with some brilliant solution.

“It’s interesting you should say that,” she said, “because I wanted you to fix it for me. I wanted you to say, ‘Well, this is what I would do’; but you didn’t. Instead, you said, ‘Let’s pray and ask God for discernment,’ which I had not wanted to do. I wanted you to tell me what to do!”

We both laughed.

“However,” Amy continued, “it was what was best for me. Your suggestion that we stop and pray really stood out to me as a much more caring thing to do. While we were praying, I remembered something pivotal that really helped that particular situation and reaffirmed the value of taking everything to God in prayer.”

This experience is a good example of the Apostle Paul’s wisdom in Philippians 2:3-4, which is very applicable in our coaching practices. To paraphrase Paul, do nothing out of the desire to impress, but keep your heart centered on the goal of honoring the Lord.
 
Coaching the Coach Tip:
 
j2xuosy4mje-aaron-burdenYou, too, might have times when you struggle to “please” a client. When someone is paying for your services, you don’t want to disappoint him or her. Even if you have only one dissatisfied client, you understand how quickly negative comments about your coaching practice can spread by word of mouth and over the internet.

There is no doubt that during that appointment with Amy, I felt like I had copped out. I was aware that her perception was something like, “I’m paying you to listen and then you only say, ‘Let’s pray’!” For me, it was humbling to do what I did. It required that I take a real risk. But having the courage to obey God opened the door for him to clearly show Amy what she needed to see.

As a Christian coach, make sure you are spending time communicating with God on a regular basis. Like Eli taught Samuel (1 Samuel 3:9 NIV), we want always to be saying, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

My quiet time in the early morning helps me to cultivate the habit of listening and checking my heart. Taking a minute or two before each session to pray enables me to recheck my motives and ask God to show me if my real desire is to honor myself or honor him.

Be aware. Recognize your tendency at times may be to appear insightful and skilled as a coach. There are going to be situations when you and your client will struggle with a problem or a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. I’m not saying, as a coach, you never make a suggestion to your client. But, if your heart’s desire is to help your clients, then be willing routinely to ask yourself something similar to what Larry Crabb often asks himself. Would you say you are trying to impress or bless your clients?

 


 
shaffer_georgiaGeorgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

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Four Pitfalls Every Step Parent Faces

Lisa Murray, M.A.


ben-white-167548When he asked for my hand in marriage, I was excited, I was hopeful, and to be honest, I was slightly petrified.  I had no idea what I was getting into.I had dreamed since I was a little girl of finding my husband, of planning the perfect wedding and building a life together.   When I met my husband (he was right next door), I knew I had met my soulmate.  I knew that he and his children were the ones God had designed for me.  Knowing that, though, didn’t make the journey any easier.

Making the commitment to a blended family and becoming a stepparent has been one of the most challenging decisions I have ever made.  Anyone who has made that decision knows, being a stepparent isn’t easy.  It’s certainly not something to be taken lightly.  Being a residential stepparent can sometimes feel like going on vacation in the crater of a volcano — it doesn’t feel like a vacation, it’s really hot, and there’s a great likelihood that you are going to get burned.

There are four pitfalls I often see in stepparenting that can undermine a stepparent’s blended family and destroy any chance at experiencing the love and satisfaction they desire.
 
 
Having unrealistic expectations for yourself and your family 

This isn’t the Brady Bunch, and your stepchildren probably are not going to cozy right up to you like Greg, Peter and Bobby cozied up to their stepmom Carol. Blended families are a work in progress.  If done well, they can build great warmth and connection, but it usually doesn’t happen overnight.

If you need the kids to love you as they love their biological parents, it’s possible you need to re-evaluate your expectations.  The children didn’t ask for you.  In many ways, they are still wounded from the loss of the dream of having their original family together.

Be patient.  Let the relationships grow slowly.  Make your priority establishing the healthiest environment possible, cultivating healthy structure, boundaries, communication and parenting strategies within your home.  Let go of any unrealistic visions you have for yourself or your family, so that you can celebrate and care for what God has given you.
 
 
juan-galafa-12531Putting your spouse in a loyalty trap

As a stepparent, you enter the blended family as an outsider.  The biological parent already has a history and bond with their children, which can leave you feeling insecure and envious.  You unconsciously put your spouse in positions to choose you over their children in your attempt to feel safe.  Sometimes you get stuck in the trap of wanting your spouse to love you more than their biological children.

The love a biological parent has for a child is a bond that predates the couple relationship.  It is sacred.  The bond they share is one of the most important factors that will determine the future success in a child’s adult life and relationships.  The love between a parent and child is different than the love between a husband and wife.  Celebrate the love you and your spouse share.

You will nurture your marriage and your blended family the more you respect your spouse’s relationship with their children and encourage them to spend quality time together.  Don’t constantly put your spouse in a loyalty trap.  Don’t ask them to choose.  They might not choose in the way you really want.
 
 
Bad-mouthing the other biological parent

All of us have blown it at times, but bad-mouthing your stepchildren’s biological parent is a dangerous practice.  Legal, financial, co-parenting frustrations build and in your desire to blow off steam, you bad-mouth their biological parent.  Perhaps you want the children to know the “truth” about their parent, perhaps you want to build the bond in your relationship with them.  No matter the reason, it won’t work and in the end, you will pay the price.

Honor the biological parent no matter what.  Try to facilitate a good co-parenting relationship between households.  The more comfortable and respectful stepfamilies can be with their counterparts, the easier it is going to be for everyone in the long run, especially the children.  They won’t feel like they have to choose, and they will get to experience the love and support from a larger familial support system.
 
 
Assuming a primary parenting role too quickly

danielle-macinnes-66244You’re trying to be a team.  You want to establish a new family structure with new expectations, rules, and consequences.  Yet assuming a primary parenting role before you establish safety and trust in the relationship with your stepchildren, will lead to mistrust, disrespect and potential defiance.

Focus on being a caring, responsible, safe person in their lives first.  Discuss parenting decisions with your spouse behind closed doors and let the biological parent take the lead in areas of discipline and consequences.  Obviously, if a stepchild is about to make an immature decision that could threaten life and limb, it is appropriate to step in.  Otherwise, allow the relationship to develop naturally until you have earned the right to step into a primary parenting role.  You will build a strong, safe place for your blended family to grow and thrive.

If you are already a stepparent or are soon to become one, be encouraged.  Blended families can be wonderful, deeply satisfying, places for everyone.
 
 
Be realistic. 

Be secure in your relationship. 

Be respectful. 

Be a safe person.
 
 
It may take time, but in the end you can create the family you’ve always wanted!
 


 

Lisa Murray is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Franklin, TN, with an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, as well as a graduate degree from Trevecca University.  In 2007 Lisa founded the Counseling and Family Ministries at Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, TN, where she not only works to help individuals, couples, and families, deal with the complexities and challenges of life and relationships, she also treats a full spectrum of mental health issues. Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com. Connect with Lisa on Facebook: Lisa Murray, author, or on Twitter: @_Lisa_Murray

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Understanding Our Differences

Georgia Shaffer, M.A.


 

Excerpted with permission from A Gift of Mourning Glories.

 


 

ian-schneider-39678What do you mean you just want to be left alone?” my best friend asked me. “I feel like you’re withdrawing from all your friends. We know things aren’t easy for you right now, and we want to help.”

My friend and I, however, had two different perceptions of what “help” looked like. As an introvert I yearned for long stretches of time by myself to rest and renew. How could I explain this to my extroverted friend who was energized by people? She was convinced that I needed to be surrounded and entertained by friends to keep my spirits from sagging.

In order for our closest relationships to help rather than hinder healing, it is necessary to recognize that we don’t all grieve or heal in the same ways. Some of us like to be left alone. Others require lots of company. You may prefer to take charge of your problems while your best friend likes to allow things to work out on their own.

Likewise, each plant in my garden has distinctive preferences. My irises, for instance, like to bathe in direct sunlight. Hostas, however, are happiest in filtered sunlight under a tree or shrub. For my flowers to flourish, I need to provide the conditions that encourage healthy growth.

What do you need when going through difficult times? Although one pat answer is far too simplistic, it is safe to assume that only those people with similar personalities will have the same desires or preferences during adversity.

In their book Wired That Way, Marita and Florence Littauer describe four different personality types and their emotional desires, based on a system originated by Hippocrates and other Greek philosophers.

The Popular Sanguines, like my best friend, are outgoing, fun-loving, and full of energy. Their basic desire in life is to have fun. They like attention, affection, and approval, which can be supplied by lots of visitors, flowers, cards, and calls.

The opposite of the Popular Sanguine is the Perfect Melancholy. This is my personality.  Melancholies tend to be meticulous, sensitive, and organized. While the extroverted Sanguine is recharged around people, the introverted Melancholy is energized by solitude. We enjoy silence and space to be alone with our thoughts and emotions. We desire a feeling of warmth and sensitivity in our relationships and are happiest with good doses of well-spaced company rather than a steady stream of guests.

jeremy-beadle-129624Powerful Cholerics are strong, dynamic, natural-born leaders. Their basic desire is for control. They crave a sense of achievement and accomplishment, as well as appreciation for the challenges they are facing. During troubling times, if they are able, they will work hard to gain an upper hand on the problem. If that approach isn’t successful, they will pour themselves into their jobs, start a new project, or exercise harder. When life gets stressful Cholerics like to be provided with choices, such as what to eat or which movie to rent. This helps them to regain a sense of control.

The Peaceful Phlegmatics are the easygoing, likable, balanced people. Emotionally they prefer peace and quiet, and like the Melancholy they are recharged by silence and space. Respect and a feeling of worth for who they are, not what they have done, are important to them. During stressful times, it is not unusual to find the Phlegmatic watching TV, taking a nap, reading, or fishing.

Darlene from New York and her husband, Nelson, frequently fought after the loss of their family business. “She would have as many as forty or fifty friends here in one week,” Nelson complained. “There was always a meeting at our house with people coming and going. To me, it was craziness!”

In contrast to his Sanguine wife, Nelson retreated outdoors to be by himself.

When seventeen-year-old Nate Heavilin was killed by a drunk driver, his mother, Marilyn, wrote that her marriage was severely tested before she and her husband understood that they were grieving differently. Marilyn’s Melancholy/ Choleric personality wanted to make everything right and have control, even if it meant fighting for it. Glen, a Phlegmatic, yearned for peace and hated the conflicts brought on by the insurance company and a manslaughter trial.

“Glen didn’t look like a peacemaker to me anymore,” Marilyn says. “He looked like Mr. Milque Toast. I wanted him to protect me from the cold, cruel world and make people be nice to me. Instead, he kept telling me I should be patient.”

When Marilyn realized that each personality has distinctive goals, she said, “Glen was not responding differently from me just to buck me, and he wasn’t necessarily saying I was wrong. We simply were looking at the world through different eyes.”

Whatever our personality, we alleviate much of the tension in our relationships during adversity by giving ourselves permission to grieve in our own way and allowing others to grieve in theirs.

scott-webb-120552“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” is a familiar expression. My experience in gardening, however, leads me to believe that the grass is usually greenest when it is given what it needs, whether that be water, lime, nitrogen, or sunlight.

Do you prefer moments of lighthearted distraction in the midst of your problems and pain or quiet moments to be alone and sort through things? Do you want a chance to work more or exercise longer? Or do you prefer the opportunity to withdraw from life and rest?

When adversity strikes, remember our responses to tragedy are not the same. Like my best friend and I discovered, this understanding can be the difference between hurting and healing.
 


 
Want to read more from Georgia? Her book, A Gift of Mourning Glories, helps readers avoid the self-doubts, frustration and painful mistakes often made when beginning anew. Using a practical five-step approach, she shares how we can move from despair and helplessness (mourning) to hope and joy (glory). Purchase Georgia’s book here! http://www.georgiashaffer.com/wordpress/store/books/a-gift-of-mourning-glories/
 


 
shaffer_georgiaGeorgia Shaffer, M.A., MCLC, CPLC, is a credentialed life coach, Pennsylvania licensed psychologist, professional speaker, and the author of five books, including: Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches and Taking Out Your Emotional Trash. She is on the teaching team of AACC’s DVD-training series: Life Coaching 101 and 201. In 2015, Georgia received AACC’s award for Excellence in Christian Caregiving. She specializes in individual coaching for coaches, women, and communicators, as well as group coaching using EQ, Strengths Finder 2.0, and personality assessments for coaches. To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

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Embrace a Small Beginning

Kevin W. McCarthy

 


 
Excerpted with permission from Coaching the Coach: Stories and Practical Tips for Transforming lives, by renowned author and life coach Georgia Shaffer. Want to read more? Click here to purchase!
 


 

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

Zechariah 4:10, NLT

 

 

medical-563427_640It was 1994. Jorge looked me straight in the eye and matter-of-factly confessed, “Kevin, with all due respect to the amazing work we’ve all done, I can’t lead my team to live into it.”

The “amazing work” was a major strategic initiative designed to double the hospital foundation’s annual fundraising capacity from $4 million to $8 million in two years. Months of planning, strategy sessions, research, thought, design, writing, and approvals went into this effort. Done right, the multiplier effect of this effort would have far-reaching impact on the overall health and services of the entire community for decades. At the patient level, research could be done, recoveries sped along, lives would be saved, and more. So much was at stake for so many.

As calmly as I could muster it, I asked, “What’s the problem, Jorge?”

“I’m twenty pounds overweight. If I don’t have the discipline to lose twenty pounds, then how can I expect my team to follow me? What kind of role model am I?”

Let’s consider Jorge’s professional background as the president of the hospital foundation. Working with the staff and board, we had created a succinct articulation of the organizational purpose, vision, mission, and values. A plan was in place to bring it to life. The right people were engaged. A campaign based on strategic storytelling was in development. Everything was poised for success. Yet, the real work had yet to begin. At the eleventh hour, this otherwise highly capable leader’s belief system was impeding the possibilities for remarkable improvement. All the normal excuses were gone. We were left with the weight of Jorge’s “truth” and the need to just begin.

Change can become a very complex and complicated matter. As coaches, however, we have a vantage point and a healthy measure of emotional distance from the seemingly irrational, yet real, perspective of the client. For Jorge, his weight was a visual metaphor and reminder of what was “wrong” with him. Most people wouldn’t give their extra twenty pounds a second thought with regards to their work; but Jorge did, and that’s all that mattered.

On the front end of any change, small or large, personal or professional, it always appears more monumental to the person making the transformation than the person observing or coaching it. Brainstorming and dreaming about “what it will be like when” can be intoxicatingly addictive. But at some point, the planning must end and plumb line pulled out to begin the work. That’s the real work—making it happen.

 
Yeah, But…
 
As a coach, how many times have you heard a client utter, “Yeah, but …”? Avoidance by conversation and planning enables us to postpone the reality of our needed transformation. Talking about making a change may feel like change, but it is incomplete without action.

Zerubbabel’s challenge was to rebuild the temple. His charge required leveling a mountain and transforming its stone into a mighty place of worship. In the book of Zechariah, we read of Zerubbabel’s simple act of holding the plumb line to begin the work. And God rejoices. The plumb line sets the cornerstone in the right vertical relationship so the true work can begin.

img-2Whether rebuilding a temple, expanding the capacity of a hospital foundation, losing twenty pounds, or facing a growth opportunity, scripture informs us, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Hint: Get started!

At some point the true work must begin in humble earnestness. In Genesis 2:15, before the Fall, the Bible says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Work is God’s instrument of transformation designed into His creation. How easy it is to plan and talk about what it’s going to be like when…, but the work must begin.

Jorge did lose his twenty pounds and gained his form. Within a year, the hospital foundation blew past their two-year goal and raised more than $12 million. Today, the only weight Jorge carries is that of being a leader of excellence.

 
Every Three Hours
 
se-zfgkun4y-alejandro-gonzalezIn the spring of 2008, I faced a growing battle with being overweight. Despite my active and athletic nature, my years of unhealthy eating and misconceptions had packed on the pounds. Over the top of my athletic body I wore my fat suit. One day I planned to take it off. One day …

A health coaching company booked me sight unseen to be their national convention keynote speaker. In three months, the pioneer of the On-Purpose® Approach to life and work would stand before 850 health coaches as a fat guy. More importantly, I was not a good, honest steward of the temple God had provided me. What was my On- Purpose message all about really?

Something had to change! Lori became my health coach. She asked me a simple, yet defining question: “Kevin, can you eat every three hours?” Of course I could. In essence, she set the plumb line and the work began with a small beginning.

On stage three months later and fifty pounds lighter, I was in the company of passionate life-changing coaches. More than my weight had changed. Yes, I lost weight, but more importantly, I gained health, clarity of thought, confidence, and a return to being a good steward of the person made in God’s image.

Clients and friends asked me what I did. I referred my wife and eight others to my health coach. Judith lost those pesky mid-section twenty pounds that sneak up a pound or two per year. My friends came off of medications, cleared their minds, and rediscovered life beyond the fog of being fat.

How could we keep this gift of good health to ourselves? With Lori’s mentorship, late in 2008 Judith and I launched a health coaching business. Since then, more than two thousand clients have returned to good health … in three-hour increments. Truly. We live by the phrase: “Do not despise these small beginnings” as we rebuild the temple of the body.

When looking up at your insurmountable mountain of change, get with your coach to plan and prepare.

  • Your purpose ignites you with a reason
  • Your vision inspires you to see what can
  • Your mission charts the path
  • Your values govern your

 

Your on-purpose plan is solid. Now, get to work!

 
Coaching the Coach Tip:
 
Embrace the small start by identifying what’s next; keep it simple, reasonable, and measurable. Pray, begin, complete it, and repeat. Once you’ve accomplished your change, share your lessons learned.
 


 
Kevin W. McCarthy is the Chief Leadership Officer at On-Purpose Partners in Winter Park, FL. He is the author of the groundbreaking book series, The On-Purpose Person and The On-Purpose Business Person. The four major obstacles to change and how to overcome them are addressed in his book, FIT 4 Leading, Discover the Joy From Taking a Hard Look at Yourself. To learn more, go to www.onpurpose.com and www.FIT4Leading.com.
 
shaffer_georgiaGeorgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

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Three Reasons You Can Get Excited About Spring

 Lisa Murray, M.A.

 


 

… and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.  Anais Nin

 

aaron-burden-229222This quote comes to mind often as I gaze around me and see spring begin to unfold in full bloom.  It’s how I feel inside.  Its as if the cavernous chill of winter that has held me tightly in its cocoon has now begun to loosen its grasp underneath the penetrating heat of the sun.  Winter is gone.  Death is gone.  New life is born – right here, right now.

I guess that’s why I love Easter so much.  Within a three-day period, we get to experience the apex of spiritual winter – a death so profound that everything is draped in darkness.  It feels interminable.  The anguish of our sin, overwhelming.  All hope is lost.  Or so it seems…

And then on Sunday, beautiful Sunday, the unimaginable happens!  Mary and Martha  find the stone has been rolled away.  Jesus is not there.  He is risen.  He is risen indeed!

Out of death springs life.  Out of darkness shines light.  His light.  I never have to fear the winter, because I know that is not the end of the story.  Spring is coming.

For any of us who have experienced winter in their lives, there are three reasons to get excited about spring.

 

The arrival of spring means that winter is almost over.

 

We all need winter.  God takes us gently and faithfully into barren seasons, heart-breaking seasons, because He knows that all of the old, shattered, wounded parts need to be healed so that new life can grow.  Without winter, there is no spring.  Without death, there is no life.

In the last weeks of winter, however, I become weary.  The tepid grey skies, the endless days forced into confined spaces, and the repetition of dreariness, begin to take its toll.  Spring announces that we made it through another winter season.  We survived.  Hope is just over the horizon.
 
 
The arrival of spring prepares our hearts for rebirth.

 

rod-long-47289There is nothing better than the first days that spring finally breaks through the waning hold of winter, and delivers the most life-giving, magical days.  I can breathe again. I can hope again.  All things become new.

When Jesus was crucified, it appeared that death had prevailed.  There was no hope.  But then on the third day, this marvelous and other-worldly, divine explosion broke through the tomb and broke through my heart, resurrecting from the ashes a new light, a new life inside of me.  I am reborn, in the depths of marrow and soul.  I am utterly and delightfully refreshed and renewed.  Spring has come.  Life has come.
 
 
 
 
 
The arrival of spring offers the promise of hope, of new life.

 

Redemption ushers is unexpected restoration.  Colossians 1:20-22 ESV says,

 And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him.

 

karl-fredrickson-74973We, who were strangers, are now friends.  We who were enemies, are now brothers.  Jesus has reconciled all of my sin in His sacrifice on the cross, and now I am holy and blameless in His sight.

I am a new creation.  I have a new identity.  My identity is as one who is beloved and chosen of her Father.  I have hope for a future.  Spring reveals to me that there are new seeds of life continually being planted in me.  As winter seasons fulfill their purpose in my life, so spring fulfills its purpose.  Spring prepares and nurtures the crops for the harvest.

He has called you.  He has a plan for you.  He wants you to experience His life, His love, His freedom, His peace.  He wants to heal you.  He wants to plant new passions and purposes within you.  He wants to bring forth a new harvest in your life.

The arrival of spring means that winter is almost over.  Whatever the winter is in your life – it won’t last forever.  Spring is coming.  Spring prepares our hearts for rebirth.  Old things truly are dead and buried in the ground – behold ALL things are new in Him!  The arrival of spring offers the promise of new hope.  The journey is not over.  Just as the blooms on the daffodils are beginning to unfold from their slumber and display God’s glory, so you too, are just beginning to blossom.  Embrace it.  Celebrate it.

Spring is beautiful!

 

Don’t remain closed tightly in a bud.  Step out. Risk. Embrace all that God has for you and begin to see your life blossom!

 


Lisa Murray is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Franklin, TN, with an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, as well as a graduate degree from Trevecca University.  In 2007 Lisa founded the Counseling and Family Ministries at Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, TN, where she not only works to help individuals, couples, and families, deal with the complexities and challenges of life and relationships, she also treats a full spectrum of mental health issues. Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com. Connect with Lisa on Facebook: Lisa Murray, author, or on Twitter: @_Lisa_Murray

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Desert Experience

Georgia Shaffer, M.A.


 

Excerpted with permission from A Gift of Mourning Glories.

 


 

aricka-lewis-208108“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing else we can do,” the doctor said.

I desperately wanted him to prescribe something—anything—to give me back my strength. The transplant, chemo- therapy, and radiation had taken their toll on my stamina and endurance.

As the doctor walked out of the room, my desire for a quick recovery walked out with him and hopelessness settled in my heart.

On the ride home, I felt numb. Unaware of my surroundings, I had no idea how to deal with these feelings of loss.

Each day I awoke with an ache in the center of my being, accompanied by the belief that nothing would ever change. Sometimes I would cry; other times I wanted to but couldn’t.  I forced myself to eat. Winter existed both outdoors and inside of me.

Although I knew depression accompanies grief, I had no clue how intense and debilitating it could be.

“I want to feel lighthearted again. Everything seems so serious and heavy,” I said to Lindy, my counselor. “It’s like a dark oppressive cloud remains fixed over me. All I do is rest and submit doctor bills, which invariably get rejected by the insurance company for some stupid reason. I realize I can’t go back to the way my life was, but the pain I feel…”

“Emotional pain?” Lindy asked.

“Yes, it’s far worse than any physical pain I’ve experienced,” I said. “I don’t know what to do. I just want this wretched feeling to go away!”

Unfortunately, relief from the suffering that accompanies sorrow doesn’t come immediately. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, wrote, “It’s arguable that the main difference today is not how much people are hurting, but how much they expect to be relieved from their hurting. The previous century suffered just as much—in fact, probably much more…. The big difference today is that we have this mentality that if it’s wrong, you can fix it. You don’t have to live with any discomfort or frustration.”

The incorrect assumption that we shouldn’t have to tolerate pain only adds to our misery when our situation doesn’t improve. We wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get rid of this tormenting ache in my soul? Why can’t I dust myself off and move on?”

averie-woodard-122274We need to understand that depression is a journey through the desert—a long arduous trek through hot, arid terrain. But like the Israelites, who learned to know God in the midst of their desert discomfort, we, too, can experience the living God in the midst of our emotional battles.

In the seventeenth chapter of Exodus we read that the Israelites’ spirits were low as they confronted one dilemma after another. They had just solved the problem of no water when the Amalekites attacked (Exodus 17:8-13, NIV)!

Joshua, at Moses’ direction, chose some men and prepared for battle. While Joshua and his men were fighting, Moses went to the top of the hill and held up the staff of God. By holding up his hands Moses was symbolically appealing to God for help. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning” (Exodus 17:11, NIV).

Holding up a staff for hours can be tough, and Moses’ arms grew weary. Aaron and Hur retrieved a stone (symbol of the Lord as our firm foundation) on which Moses could rest, and they held up Moses’ hands until Joshua overcame the Amalekite army.

The Israelites’ three-step approach can be helpful to us when our spirits are low and we think we can’t go on.
 
 
1. Request God’s help.

We need to accept our vulnerability, admit we are helpless, and, like Moses lifting up his arms in the desert, appeal to God for help.

During radiation treatments, when my blood counts kept dropping to dangerously low levels, my insurance company informed me they had decided not to pay the $105,000 for the bone marrow transplant I had completed several months earlier.

It was during this time that I penned the following in my journal.

 

February 5, 1990:

At times the ache inside feels like I’m sick— homesick. But I am at home! Maybe it is a yearning for another home, one without pain. Wherever I go it hurts; the pain follows me. Lord, please help me; only you can help.
I will admit that I spent a lot of time mumbling and grumbling and seeking the help of others. However, it was when I acknowledged I was helpless and requested God’s guidance that my circumstances and my outlook slowly began to improve.

Although asking for God’s help doesn’t guarantee instant relief, we must not be like King Asa (2 Chronicles 16:12) who sought help only from physicians and did not seek assistance from God.

 
 
2. Rest and trust in him when you grow weary.

ben-white-147268Once during a follow-up visit, while jotting some notes in my file, my doctor looked up at me. “I don’t know how you do it,” he said. “So much is stacked against you. Not only are you attempting to regain your strength but you’ve lost your job, your marriage, and now you’re in the middle of fighting the insurance company.”

I pointed to heaven and replied, “That’s the only hope I have.”

Perhaps I was learning to rest and trust in God, instead of resisting what life had brought my way.

 
 
3. Rely on help and support from others.

Most of us prefer to give help rather than receive it, but it sometimes becomes necessary to allow others to support us. Help for my insurance problems came from friends and acquaintances who saw the injustice and were willing to “hold up my arms.” It took five years and the involvement of lawyers, but eventually the insurance company did pay for the transplant.

Finding hope in the midst of despair can seem impossible—like searching for beauty in the midst of filth. But when there’s nothing more you can do, remember the three R’s:

  1. Request God’s help
  2. Rest and trust in Him
  3. Rely on others

 


Want to read more from Georgia? Her book, A Gift of Mourning Glories, helps readers avoid the self-doubts, frustration and painful mistakes often made when beginning anew. Using a practical five-step approach, she shares how we can move from despair and helplessness (mourning) to hope and joy (glory). Purchase Georgia’s book here! http://www.georgiashaffer.com/wordpress/store/books/a-gift-of-mourning-glories/


shaffer_georgiaGeorgia Shaffer, M.A., MCLC, CPLC, is a credentialed life coach, Pennsylvania licensed psychologist, professional speaker, and the author of five books, including: Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches and Taking Out Your Emotional Trash. She is on the teaching team of AACC’s DVD-training series: Life Coaching 101 and 201. In 2015, Georgia received AACC’s award for Excellence in Christian Caregiving. She specializes in individual coaching for coaches, women, and communicators, as well as group coaching using EQ, Strengths Finder 2.0, and personality assessments for coaches. To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.

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Conducting a Resume Review as Part of Career Self-Discovery

Dina Jones, M.A.


 
I love resumes.

Usually, when I tell someone that I love working on resumes with clients, I get one of those “are you sure?” looks. I’ve met many people who dread this part of the professional word. Is your resume up to date? How many coaches outsource this piece of the career development journey with their clients?

Stop. The next time you engage in career coaching, spend some quality time on the resume. It’s not just for getting interviews from employers, but for helping your client learn more about themselves.


Professional Skills Profile

alvin-mahmudov-221416Let’s start with the professional skills profile.  It is customary for clients to follow the resume header with a listing of their top skills as most relevant to the position.  (Not an objective. This is outdated unless you are applying to a federal position). This is great opportunity to review (or implement) strength discovery with clients. This can look like a coaching conversation or an official assessment. Observing with a client what strengths they possess and how they are relevant to their desired field at hand can be eye opening. Sometimes clients realize they need to build a certain skill, others realize they are a better candidate than they thought!

Coaching questions:

  • Do these skills match the job description or role?
  • Are the strengths and abilities you hold most dear represented here?
  • Do you feel that anything here is a stretch or that any strengths are missing?

 

Education

Following a skills profile, clients may choose to next share a section on their education and on their experience. I recommend placing whichever is most relevant to the position at hand first. As you talk through a client’s education section, this is a great time to talk through several significant factors in career development. Is your client satisfied with their level of education? Have they completed internships or certification programs to set themselves apart from other employment hopefuls? This is often where a client tells me that they want to go back to school, or that there is a training program they have been thinking about starting. This is why a resume review is so much fun, and so significant in a career-coaching journey.

Coaching questions:

  • Are there any awards, clubs, honors or internships you did at this school that would be helpful for an employer to know about?
  • How does your degree prepare you for the job you’re seeking? If it is an indirect correlation, are you demonstrating your transferable skills?

 

Experience

hunter-johnson-222001In the experience section, clients write about what they have accomplished and what strengths they’ve displayed in various roles. This is often yet another chance to touch on strengths. When I see clients listing tasks instead of accomplishments or skills, I begin talking the client through what the accomplished in their previous positions. When working with younger clients who are newer to the work force, I often find it helpful to ask how they did a task well. For example, if they had listed on their resume “gave towels to the pool patrons”, we talk through what they brought to their role. Were they friendly and welcoming to the organization’s guests? Were they in a fast paced environment? Did they have to multitask or organize information? This can be affirming for the client with relatively little experience.

Coaching questions

  • How have you helped others by giving your time or talents to an organization or cause?
  • What was your biggest accomplishment as a volunteer?
  • What made this type of work rewarding for you?

Still in the experience section, often I ask clients how much they enjoyed each task on their resume. Sometimes I discover that a client found something a terrible fit for them, but keeps listing it on their resume because it was a large part of their role. In this case, I recommend trying to find and focus on the tasks that you would most like to repeat. Otherwise, employers may reach out because they see something you’ve done that they need at their organization- even if it was something you did not enjoy!

 

Volunteer

I love talking through a client’s volunteer section of their resume, if they have one. There have been a few college students who have had extensive volunteer experience in one area, while remaining “Undecided” or with lackluster feelings about an unrelated major. Sometimes if you love it enough to do it for free, there is something to explore there! I also find that sometimes clients who are not realizing their full potential or exercising all of their strengths in their paid employment, are doing so in their volunteer work! Sometimes, we decide to move some volunteer experiences up into the experience section (that’s allowed!) so an employer sees this first!

Coaching questions

  • What made you decide to donate your time to this organization/in this way?
  • How would you contrast your feelings about your volunteer role with your feelings about past employment? Do you feel productive? Fulfilled? Engaged?
  • What about this volunteer position demonstrates your fit for your future goals?

 
The Cover Letter

helloquence-51716When working through a cover letter with a client, I ask them to write the cover letter keeping in mind that they should sell the reader on why the support the company’s mission, vision and values.  Sometimes, this leads the client to further explore the company’s mission, vision and values and they discover that there may be a better fit- or they become more passionate about the organization at hand!

Coaching questions

  • Do you feel excited by reading this organization’s mission, vision and values?
  • How can you explain to the employer that you are a fit not only for the industry, but also for their specific company?
  • Is there anything that gives you reason for pause when researching this company?

 

There are more sections and more questions, so what I have shared here is really the tip of the iceberg. I hope that the next time you are working with your client on a career issue, you spend enjoyable time together with their resume.
 
 


 
Jones Dina (2)Dina Jones, M.A., serves as the Director for Professional and Public Relations for the American Association of Christian Counselors. Jones holds an M.A. degree from Liberty University is in Professional Counseling. She has worked in church counseling, career counseling, and life coaching with a career emphasis. Dina is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Career Counseling Association and has served as a board member for two years, with one year as the Hospitality Chair. Additionally, she teaches both residentially and online for the College of General Studies at Liberty University. Jones serves on meal teams and is involved with the women’s ministry program at Lynchburg First Church of the Nazarene. She is a loving wife and mother of three.

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