Listening to God About Your Practice

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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!


Matthew Reed


For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

 I entered the world of coaching for one primary reason; I had a great coach. I was blessed to spend the better part of a year working with Fran LaMattina, MCC. Fran helped me navigate a season in which I left my role as staff pastor at one of America’s 100 fastest- growing churches. I spent a great deal of time in prayer and searched for God’s next steps for me, and He clearly led me to coaching.

marvin-rhodes-82014During my training as a coach at the Professional Christian Coaching Institute, I participated in a thorough discussion of the power of a compelling life vision, purpose, and mission. I felt like my long season as a pastor and my gifting as an encourager made coaching the clear path for my life, but having a life vision to be a great coach wasn’t compelling for me. I needed a different vision. I also learned in my training that the one important dynamic that gives us as Christ-centered coaches a genuine leg up on others in our field is that we aren’t alone in our process. We have the power of God aligning us, guiding us all along the journey of coaching. We see how God intervenes all the time with clients, but sometimes we forget that God is also present in the development of our practices.

I began to turn to God and ask Him to reveal a clear and compelling vision for my coaching practice and my life. I felt foolish that I hadn’t really asked God what my version of coaching should look like and whom should I coach. He provided amazing clarity and gave me with a clear vision for practice: “Make the world a more effective and God-honoring place through coaching.”

When I first put these words on paper it felt far too audacious, too lofty. I nearly threw it away forever, but again God intervened and reminded me that since He provided the vision, He’d provide the method. But how could a coach, especially one with limited experience, “Make the world a more effective and God honoring place”? He was weaving that together too!

During my last assignment as a pastor, I was responsible for reaching out into my community. As a part of that, I worked with the local chapter of the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA). I was honored to serve as their chaplain. During that time, I recognized a repeated theme: Doctors have lives that are far out of balance.

Scheduling time for them to fellowship together was almost impossible because of the frantic pace mandated by their careers. My anecdotal experience with the CMDA led me to explore the world of medicine and burnout. The results were alarming.

doctor-563428_640Medical professionals, doctors in particular, are burning out and leaving the field unlike any other time in history. According to a University of Rochester School of Medicine study, more than half of all doctors are getting burned out. More than 30 percent of all doctors say that they would like to be out of medicine within the next five years. Looming medical reforms, greater legal risks, and convoluted spiderwebs of insurance reimbursement have doctors and other medical professionals looking for a way out. Having fewer doctors creates a greater societal need for those that exist. As a result we have less availability to medical care. And even more stress is placed on the doctors who remain. The general perception that doctors are unhappy means many highly capable students that would have entered medicine a generation ago are instead looking for other career paths. This results in fewer future medical advances. Society needs good doctors and medical professionals. The world can be more effective and God honoring with more effective and God-honoring medical workers.

During my season of soul searching, the CMDA chapter invited Dr. David Levy to speak to local medical professionals. Dr. Levy is a world-renowned brain surgeon and is the author of Gray Matter in which he details his spiritual transformation when he started praying with his patients. His presentation was amazing and informative. In the middle of it, Dr. Levy threw a curveball to the crowd by talking about the Sabbath–taking one day in seven to rest and worship.

“I take a twenty-four-hour period each week off, but it wasn’t always that way,” Dr. Levy said. “I was raised with an understanding of the Sabbath, but as I became a doctor I was taught that I was exempt from it. I took pride in that.” Dr. Levy learned, though, that the concept of observing the Sabbath is good for everyone. “I have to fight for it and schedule it.”

Dr. Levy talked about how important it is to totally unplug, which he inferred meant no phone, no media, and so forth. He talked about how the brain physically needs this rest to properly balance, and how productivity increases when we unplug.

While listening to Dr. Levy, I received my final confirmation; God was going to use me to impact the world by coaching doctors and medical professionals.

olu-eletu-11779Immediately after this evening with Dr. Levy, God started sending influential medical clients my way. The Chief Operations Officer of one of America’s largest healthcare networks asked me to be his coach. His goals were to improve balance his work and personal life and to establish his priorities. Another client was a health physicist at a globally renowned cancer treatment facility. He needed help at staying mentally and emotionally present at home with his family.

I’ve learned so much by working as a coach, particularly in the medical community. Medical professionals are deeply rewarding to coach because of their purposefulness to do the needed hard work. They see the value of ongoing professional development, so the act of personal development seems natural to them.

I’ve found that there are few coaches reaching out to medical professionals, and virtually none from a Christ-centered perspective. I am grateful that God gave me a vision to make the world a more effective and God-honoring place through coaching.


Coaching the Coach Tip:

 It’s easy as a Christian coach to see things like our niche or our marketing strategy as purely secular endeavors. In reality, God uses these things, like showing me the niche of coaching doctors, to reveal His larger will. We encourage our clients to listen to God through the process and we try not to rush to develop a strategy. Often for our own practices, however, we put some things, like which niche to peruse, into the secular box and rush to strategize without first flooding our thoughts and ideas in prayer and listening to God.

God has plans for each of us. Talking and listening to Him is vital for discovering those plans. Without talking to God and looking and listening for where He was speaking I would have missed the best strategy for my coaching practice, God’s.


Matthew Reed is a coach, speaker and blogger at Before entering coaching Matthew spent 16 years pastoring at two dynamic and fast- growing churches. His specialty is helping professionals, particularly those in medicine, who are successful in the workplace achieve the same level of success in their personal lives. In addition to coaching, he serves on the steering team of Christ Healthcare Ministry of Orange/Sullivan Co. NY, a free clinic seeking to share the Gospel through medicine.

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

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Building Your Confidence

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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!


Sandra Dopf Lee


Commit your work to the Lord, and then your plans will succeed.

Proverbs 16:3

 Coaching is one of the fastest growing careers today as our society looks for guidance and new ways to navigate through challenges and excel. Although the coaching profession has grown exponentially over the last several years, it has experienced a few growing pains. There are still some professional disciplines that do not recognize coaching as the viable and influential career that it is today. This can be discouraging for some coaches—especially those who are just beginning their careers. I have identified three key reasons why coaches are sometimes misunderstood or misrepresented as they build their practices:

  1. Some coaches lack proper Unfortunately there are professionals who have not taken the time or opportunity to understand the field of coaching for what it is and what it is not. They represent themselves as coaches without the proper training and qualifications.
  2. Coaching as a professional career is still relatively Potential clients do not know coaching is an option or understand the value of being coached.
  3. Some coaches fear the unknown. Will they find enough clients to support their business? Will they have the wisdom to know which professionals to partner with and which ones will cause more harm than good?

todd-quackenbush-997When I began my practice as a divorce coach, I faced every one of the three issues I shared above. I obtained the necessary formal education and practical experience and did not associate with frauds. I came to realize, however, that the two biggest hurdles in my career were educating my clients and other professionals in the value of my services to divorcing couples.

Many people recognize and accept a life coach, a health coach, and a financial coach to name a few. This is partly because some famous television personalities have helped educate the public about the benefits of working with a coach. However, a divorce coach is still very new. A “Christian divorce coach,” like me, is even less understood and recognized.

I wrestled with God for several months believing that I must not be following His plan if I thought I was to become a divorce coach. How would other Christians perceive my career? Would they believe I was promoting divorce? Would they believe I was going to make it easier for couples to divorce? Would people question how I could call myself a Christian and yet choose this as my career path?

Once I surrendered and truly knew within my soul that I was being called to this new career as a divorce coach, then I faced a whole other set of questions and doubts. Would I be able to earn an income as a Christian divorce coach? How would I educate my prospective clientele about this area? How would I ever find the confidence to work with attorneys?

I’d had limited experience working with attorneys: when I closed three home purchases, prepared my will, and got a divorce. My take away from these five experiences was that all attorneys seemed to speak a different language than I do; they all seem way smarter than I am; and they all seem to make a lot more money than I have. I knew I wouldn’t have to work with attorneys on a daily or weekly basis, but I did know as a divorce coach I would need to interact with them from time-to-time. I feared attorneys would not accept me as a professional nor would they accept my career as a legitimate practice. In the beginning of my new career, many attorneys did not believe in me or the field of coaching. Many days I felt discouraged and I just wanted to give up and quit. I allowed my own self-doubt, the opinions of others, and my fears to go before what I knew to be true in my heart: that my life experiences, my education, and my life calling from the Lord had brought me to the career of divorce coaching. Other people’s opinions of me or my profession did not matter; I was following God’s greater plan for my life and I knew he wanted me to stay the course.

Photo2Divorce is one of the most challenging and life altering experiences a person may face. The emotional, financial, spiritual, and physical damages can often leave divorced people immobilized with fear, doubt, shame, and guilt. They struggle to see God in the midst of their pain and they question God, and their faith and beliefs. Their energy is usually expended on trying to “win” the divorce battle, living in the crisis, and fearing the unknown and to just plain struggling to survival. Children are usually the biggest victims in the divorce process. They have lost their family as they knew it; they won’t have open access to both mom and dad as they had before the divorce, and they often feel caught in the crossfire between two fighting parents.

The divorce process has so many struggles and fears all of its own, which is exacerbated by the legal system and working with attorneys. In the midst of all this angst, however, is a good time for the divorce coach to show up. We can help with a plan, putting structure around the conflict like no other professional does during this time.

Ultimately, the hope of a Christian divorce coach is to bring the Lord’s peace, strength, and leading into the process. We hope that others will see the hand of God at work in the midst of what Satan intends for total loss.

Attorneys’ attitudes toward divorce coaching as a career began to change when they saw that clients’ lives were being changed by the coaching approach. They saw that I cared for the entire family’s well-being and shifted clients’ focus toward healing and growth and not destruction. Attorneys witnessed divorcing couples learning to separate their issues as a couple from the need to continue to work on building a way to co-parent together for the sake of their children. God didn’t desire the divorce, but when it happens, a trained and equipped coach can help people grow through and beyond their divorce into the life He still has for them to live.

>Today, I am thrilled to say that by staying true to what I knew the Lord wanted me to do, I have had the opportunity to help hundreds of divorcing couples as they look to rebuild their lives. I’m glad I tackled my fear of working alongside attorneys years ago. I now find they respect and understand coaching as a profession, and we actually enjoy working as a team to rebuild lives. I believed in my important work, and although it was not always easy, I stayed true to God’s plan.


Coaching the Christian Coach Tip:

llywelyn-nys-70906 You have to believe in the viability of your career before you can expect other professionals to believe in you. The following tips are important to keep in mind as you build a thriving coaching practice.

  • First, believe in and respect your career. Then, you can begin to expect others to respect you and your career as a coach.
  • Represent yourself as a professional in every area of your practice: in your personal presentation, in your written representation (business cards, print material, ), and in your online presence (your website, social media portals, etc.).
  • Join networking groups of other like-minded professionals that work with the same demographics or clients as you (for example, as a divorce coach network with family counselors and financial advisors).
  • Educate yourself about your colleagues’ careers and look for ways you can partner or complement one
  • Always be ready with a brief (thirty seconds to two minutes) explanation of your services in the event you have the opportunity to educate a professional or the public about the field of coaching and the benefits it has to


Sandra Dopf Lee is a divorce coach, mediator, speaker and author. Sandra is the founder of Emerge Victorious, LLC and co-author and producer of “The Next Steps” DVD video curriculum for women transforming their lives after divorce. She equips other coaches through her Divorce Coach Training program. Divorce changes life stories and God still has a life plan for them, but they often need a coach to help guide them through and beyond this process.
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

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Remove Your Trash Regularly

Georgia Shaffer


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!


Don’t ask yourself if you are making a difference in the lives of others.

The question is what kind of a difference are you making?



sarah-vilardo-187319Have you ever neglected to take out your garbage on collection day? Perhaps you forgot. Maybe you were just too tired, or you were out of town. Remember the result? First, an unpleasant odor develops; then, an awful stench. And, then, unwanted creatures, such as gnats, flies, or maggots appear. The failure to properly dispose of our waste spawns all kinds of undesirable and unhealthy conditions.

Similarly, failure to deal with our hurts, grudges, insecurities, irritations, and resentments in a proper and timely fashion not only adversely impacts our emotional and spiritual well-being but also affects our clients.

If you want your character as a coach to be one that positively influences others, then you need to be intentional about clearing out negative attitudes, thoughts, and feelings that are weighing you down. As the writer of Hebrews suggests in chapter 12, verse 1, we want to “throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles, and . . . run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” It’s our awareness of what’s holding us back along with the commitment to take action that enables us to remove our emotional trash.

Since we all have plenty of heart-junk and only God knows everything that is in our hearts, it’s essential to carve out time for prayer and self-evaluation. Are you asking God to show you what grudges or other negative thoughts and feelings you’ve grown accustomed to, are ignoring, or can’t see? Here are a couple of questions to help you get started.
What Unfulfilled Expectations or Desires Am I Ignoring?

artem-kovalev-86365Ask yourself if you are ignoring any unfulfilled expectations or desires. Dreams and desires are a good thing, but sometimes our legitimate desires or unmet expectations can subtly or not so subtly become something we believe we need. We discount the negative effect they have in our personal relationships or in our work. For example, maybe you desire a calendar filled with coaching clients. Before long you may come to believe it is essential to your well-being. You become fixated on fulfilling this desire.

Your thoughts, words, and actions become all-consuming to the detriment of your health and to your relationships with others. You may even become angry with God.

There is a fine line between hoping a desire will be met and expecting or demanding that it be met. Be willing to let go of your desires when they aren’t fulfilled according to your time frame. Surrender what can’t be met right now, or might never be met, so that you can embrace the reality of what is.

If you continue to ignore your expectations, there will come a point when you’re no longer aware you’re still carrying them around.
What Grudges or Resentments Am I Holding Onto?

Ask yourself if you are holding grudges or resentments. The process of moving from a negative event to a grudge to full-blown resentment is subtle and gradual. Like living near a fast-food restaurant and getting use to the smell of grilled meat or spices, resentment is something we quickly grow use to. We become desensitized to its existence.

One morning after reading Isaiah 43, I considered God’s mercy in blotting out my sins compared to how I remembered others’ transgressions against me. I realized I was holding tightly to an old grudge. Just the night before, I had shared with a friend every little detail about something someone had done to me years ago.

ben-white-147270One simple prayer, admitting my unforgiveness and asking God to heal and restore my heart, made such a dramatic difference. I couldn’t believe how light and free I felt compared to the months before. Georgia, I wondered, why did you hold onto those grudges for so long? I knew why. I had grown use to them. They had become such a part of me that I didn’t notice how unattractive they were.

Ask God to shine his light in your heart and mind. You may be surprised by the things God brings to your attention. The more quickly you identify any draining thoughts and feelings, the more quickly you can work through them. Like me, you might even wonder why you held onto that grudge for so long.

Trash removal is about getting rid of anything that corrupts your character so that you are free to be the person and the coach God created you to be. Be willing to take your emotional junk to the dumpster regularly. You will not only experience stronger relationships, better attitudes, and less stress, but you will also positively impact the lives of those you coach.


Coaching the Coach Tip:

Because we gradually gather all kinds of discouraging thoughts and negative feelings over time, it is helpful to routinely take time for self-examination and to compare this month to last month. Which of the following statements best describes where you are today?

  • My heart is becoming heavier with discouragements, doubts, and insecurities.
  • My heart has some worries, fear, and anxiety.
  • My heart is becoming lighter and freer.
  • My heart is light, and I am free to be who God created me to be.

Be willing to see what is weighing you down and make the commitment to get rid of it. No matter how insignificant it may seem, dealing with it allows you to make a positive difference in the lives of those you coach.


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

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Growing Your Business by Doing Less

Christopher McCluskey, MSW, PCC


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!


Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

Isaiah 55:2

sven-scheuermeier-106767As a young man visiting a friend in the Twin Cities, I had driven out to see the original house used in The Mary Tyler Moore television series. I stood admiring the classic, multi- million dollar home, a stunning Queen Anne Victorian built in 1892.

“Man, what do you do to live in a house like that?” I wondered aloud.

“I have no idea,” my friend replied, “but I read that the guy who bought it didn’t even know who Mary Tyler Moore was. He’d never heard of the show.”

I was taken aback. “How do you live in America in the 1970s and never watch the The Mary Tyler Moore show?”

Even as the words were leaving my mouth, I realized I’d found a piece of the answer to my original question: Part of what you do is what you don’t do.

People able to buy a house like that don’t spend a lot of time watching television.

Their values prompt them to spend their time differently.

The insight reminded me of a similar experience back in high school. Several of us had popped into McDonald’s for lunch, and I was standing in line with a wealthy buddy who’d driven me there. (His father was a third-generation business owner, and my friend already owned a convertible MGB, a TR-7, and a baby-blue vintage El Camino.)

“So what’s good here?” he asked.

I laughed at his snarky, teenager sarcasm.

He looked at me and said, “Seriously, what do you usually get? I’ve never eaten here before.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!” I replied. “Doesn’t your family eat out?” “Sure. Just not at McDonald’s.”

He was completely serious, and he wasn’t being a snob.

I stared at him, wondering, How do you live in America and never eat at a McDonald’s?

Same answer. I had unwittingly hit on a clue to his family’s business success. Their values resulted in their viewing meals differently than most of us, which hints at many other things they did differently.

Part of what successful people do is what they don’t do.

Author Stephen Covey crystallizes the lesson this way: “The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”

Not the bad, the wrong, the evil, the sinful. The good. Good things, which, because they consume our time or attention or energy or money, can rob us of the best.

Growing a coaching business for the glory of God will demand many things of you. The things you say no to will become just as important as those to which you say yes.

“Good” things that rob us of time and energy and attention for the “best” are different for everyone. For some, social events or committees they’ve served on for years will need to be handed over to someone else. For others, the choir or praise band or a ministry will have to be given up. For some, it’s just letting go of recreational shopping. Certainly for many, it’s curbing gaming or Facebooking or web surfing or channel chasing.

Notice that none of these are inherently bad. We’re not talking about addictions or secret sins that clearly need to go.

They may, in fact, be things that qualified as “best” during a previous season of life, but that season has simply passed. They continue to be good, but no longer best.

david-straight-37577Some of you will reprioritize your love of collecting or decorating or antiquing or travel. Some will downsize your homes and forgo new cars. Some will skip a vacation, cut back on golf, get a simpler hairstyle, or give up concerts and movies. (Some will even cut back on Starbucks!)

I grew up near Cleveland, following the Browns and the Indians and the Cavaliers on television and in print, attending games, collecting ball cards, and swapping statistics with my friends.

Since starting my first business, I haven’t watched a Super Bowl or a World Series or a championship game in more than twenty years. That’s not a prideful statement (and it’s truly not a sad statement)—it’s a values statement.

As much as I would still enjoy those games, and would do nothing wrong by watching them, I find that the time and attention they require robs me of other things I now value more.

Of course, friends sometimes ask, “How do you live in America and not know who’s in the Super Bowl or World Series or NBA Championship?”

You now know the answer. The very things I don’t do enable me to do all that I do.

My answer will become your answer as well when people question why you’ve stepped down, backed off, flaked out, let go, or moved on.

As a man or woman working to establish a successful business, you are doing what very few people ever seriously attempt (although many dream of it). Fewer than 9 percent of Americans are self-employed.

News flash: You’re not normal. In fact, you’re way out of the norm.

alejandro-escamilla-10Ninety-one percent of adults have chosen a different path than the one you’re going down. You’ll have to do things differently to succeed in a career that’s so different from theirs.

If you’re shaken by that awareness, that’s a good thing. If you’re not a little fearful about starting your own business, you’re not in touch with the reality of it. But that kind of fear is part of discernment—awareness of danger—and it’s key to exercising wisdom and prudence and sound judgment in your venture.

Be sure that your fear is more than offset by the excitement and assurance you feel about the rightness of your decision. If it’s not, turn back now and wait before the Lord until you’re confident of His path.


Coaching the Coach Tip:

 The Christian life is nothing if not an adventure; and entrepreneurism—if that’s what God has called you to—is a wild and wonderful adventure. It will stretch you in ways you’ve never been tested before (just like marriage, and parenting, and all good adventures do.)

All that stretching means you’ll need time and attention and energy and money— the very things so easily spent on other good things, thereby robbing you of this best.

I believe the popular saying is true: Less is more.

Use discernment in determining the best of what God is calling you to, and then start letting go of all the good things you’ll no longer do.

Grow your business by doing less.


Christopher McCluskey, MSW, PCC, is President and CEO of Professional Christian Coaching Institute, a distance-learning school aligned with the standards of the International Coach Federation (ICF). His highly-acclaimed teleclass ‘The Accidental Entrepreneur’, and weekly podcasts Professional Christian Coaching—Live!, have enabled thousands of coaches throughout the world to establish successful practices. Called by many the ‘Father of Christian Coaching’, Chris has shaped this emerging field through his frequent teaching, writing, keynoting and service on numerous boards.

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

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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

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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:
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

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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

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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

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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 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!

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

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