Thursday, February 28, 2013

What would you do if you couldn't fail?

During the last week of my Student Launch Pad program, I have my students craft a personal mission statement.

It is always interesting to hear students' response to the question, "What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?" Many have never been asked this question. A lot of us have been taught from a young age to be practical and follow a prescribed trajectory. When we're freed from these confinements it can be liberating - but also daunting.

So I ask you: What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?

The awesome reality that I have seen in my own life is that I can dream big because I have a God who is big. When we live timidly, it is often because we have a small view of God who doesn't seem quite powerful enough to handle all parts of our life.

Instead, dreaming big requires that I rely on God because yes, I will fail without him working through me. It requires that I listen to him when he says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). 

And our joy comes from living a life on a mission. We are to be sent into the world on a mission, as Jesus prays to his Father: "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified" (John 17:17-19). The word mission comes from the word missio, meaning "to send." Where is God sending you? 

We are made holy, purified, and redeemed as we go

"The Lord had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.'" (Genesis 12:1-2)
As Tim Keller points out in his sermon "Mission" (the June 23, 2011 podcast), as God tells Abraham that He will bless him, he also immediately says that it is so he may be a blessing to others. And to live into this blessing, Abraham must "go." For Abraham that means leave his country, but in more general terms it means that to be on a mission we must be willing to leave our comfort zone. 

We must make ourselves vulnerable.  

This means entering into relationships with others, it means relying fully on God, it means living life on purpose. And through being sent, we are a blessing to others. 

Jesus tells us, "I say these things... so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them."

Are you living into this joy? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Awaken Your Child's Potential

I am excited to announce that the e-book I have been working on is now complete and eager to be read!

I wrote Awaken Your Child's Potential: Discovering the best direction for the future for Student Launch Pad

It is written for parents and intended to awaken the potential in your son or daughter and watch their gifts come alive. By helping your child discover their best direction for their future, you can launch them on a path where they can live into the potential you see in them.

Awaken Your Child's Potential is a 30 page e-book that includes exercises for determining your child’s strengths, writing a vision statement, and completing a personal development plan. It will help your child answer the questions of “Who am I? What is my purpose? and How do I get there?

To download your free copy, visit:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Putting grace to the test: A crown of love

Last week I discussed how my courage is being put to the test, in an exciting way! This week, I thought I'd give an update on my progress towards the second of my two words for 2013: "grace."  With "courage" taking the scene last week, "grace" is now trying to squeeze its way in through more humbling means. 

I am currently training for a half marathon in April and have really been enjoying the time running with my friends. However, due to a couple bad colds that I've gotten and some other life events, I've been fatigued recently and not able to run. During several training days, my friends were gracious and walked with me. But it's difficult to transfer that grace to myself. I'm doing yoga and pilates instead right now, but my achiever mentality makes it challenging to stop thinking about the increased mileage that I'm getting behind on by not running.

I even just bought new running shoes that I'm eager to use...

But I am recognizing that during this break from training, a bigger question is in the picture: Where is my identity? 

I've been convicted this week that I've been placing some of my identity into being a runner, wanting to succeed. And with other family circumstances that are happening now, I am also making my identity into a "fixer" or problem solver. Instead, my true identity should point to God and His ultimate plan, allowing Him to work out everything according to His good purposes

Even my actual name, Stephanie, is in itself an identity. Stephanie means "crowned," and God used this meaning to remind me today that He gives me an identity in Him.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits - 
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
and satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Psalm 103 (above) reminded me that no matter the life circumstances, God crowns me with his love and compassion. Why would I desire to put my hope, trust, or identity in anything else besides this promise?

Friday, February 15, 2013

What is your competitive advantage?

Through Student Launch Pad, I love working with students to help them paint a clearer picture of their future and see more clearly where they want to be heading. This week's blog post at Student Launch Pad is about understanding your competitive advantage. Yet whether you are a student or not, the concept is useful for identifying the areas of your life that you need to direct your focus.

In Jim Collins’ Good to Great, he found that a key factor in an organization going from “good to great” was an understanding of and devotion to the one thing that company does better than anyone else.

It’s important for you as a student to apply this same concept of understanding your competitive advantage. What is it that you excel at, exceed expectations in, or surpass your peers in?

Many students say “yes” to every opportunity, whether it fits into their long-term goals or not. The temptation to over-commit can come from a variety of sources, including the desire to be “well-rounded,” to achieve, or from being known as a “go-to” person who will get things done. However, to college admissions or future employers, “well-rounded” can appear as a lack of focus.

As Greg McKeown writes, “If we don’t design our careers, someone else will.” He suggests that the number one career mistake that people make is not being deliberate enough in discerning what responsibilities to take on. Oftentimes many good opportunities distract us from our one great vision of the future. What are you saying “yes” to that is taking away from your competitive advantage?

What are you saying "yes" to that is distracting you from your vision?
What do you need to say "yes" to in order to move toward your vision?

To finish reading this post, continue onto the Student Launch Pad blog by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Putting Courage to the Test

Remember how my two words for 2013 are "grace" and "courage?" Well, courage is already being put to the test.

John and I were recently presented with the unexpected opportunity to travel to Uganda through Winshape International. As we found out more information, it sounded like an incredible trip where we would be working with men and women who have recently started their own businesses. Through classes at a business center, we would coach them one-on-one and in small groups on developing their business plans and growing their companies. We would also be able to visit their businesses and seem them "in action." How exciting!

The only problem is that we would not find out specifics (i.e. exact dates, accommodations, travel plans etc.) until a month and a half before the trip. The planner in me really struggled with dropping everything and going to Africa for 10 days on a month's notice. But through John's and my prayers together and separately we felt very led to go on this trip.

Neither of us has been to Africa before, and Uganda has always been a place we've wanted to go. The work itself also aligns with our passions of developing others and doing "business as mission."

As soon as we committed to going on the trip (so far it is only us two and a trip leader), God began confirming our decision. For instance, we contacted Compassion International to try to arrange a visit with the child that we sponsor in Uganda through their organization. Even though they typically need 8 weeks to arrange this visit, they got back to us the next day and have already arranged for Ronald to meet us in Kampala - a six+ hour journey from his hometown. I cannot wait to spend a day getting to know Ronald and hearing about his family. We've already written several letters back and forth to each other too.

There are still a lot of preparations to do in a month (I still need to get a lot of shots, I really dislike packing, and I have never been on such a long plane ride!). And if anyone has recommendations on what is appropriate to wear, or suggestions on what a 15 year-old boy would want as gifts (I am putting together a backpack for Ronald), let me know! Yet I am at peace with everything and so excited for our trip, and I attribute this to the courage that God is building up in me.

As we prepare to leave in about a month, I would love prayers for our trip and that we would be able to speak truth and encouragement into the business men and women that we will be meeting with. I cannot wait to see what relationships develop from our time in Uganda.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Travel Journal 4: Tahoe Adventures

2013 is off to a busy and exciting start! I am working with four schools in the Atlanta area, taking students through the Student Launch Pad program, and I spent a few days last week in Orlando, meeting with schools and individuals interested in the program.

That being said, I have not written as frequently so far this year, and I am behind on cataloging my travels. So here is a quick recap of the wonderful time that John and I had in Tahoe with his parents and sisters.

After New Years Eve in D.C., I flew into Atlanta on News Year Day where John met me at the airport with my second suitcase. We then flew to meet his family in Tahoe for a ski trip.

I had never skied before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The first day, after getting fitted for skis/boots (I had to learn how to even put everything on!), I headed to my ski lesson. Our instructor started us on the "Magic Carpet" but by the end of the class, I could get on the ski lift and navigate down the "Big Easy" aka Bunny Slope. (Navigate does not mean without falling!)

Before ski school... right before taking this picture, I started sliding backwards down an incline and wiped out. Guess you should wait to take pictures until after the lesson!

The rest of the afternoon, John practiced with me on the green slopes, but I was very scared that first day. I was not good at controlling my speed or direction - hence I fell a lot and woke up the next morning very sore!

John and I before going down a Green
The second day, my mother-in-law Lisa taught me how to turn and use "pizza" to slow down. I followed behind her on the green slopes and started feeling a lot more comfortable. It also helped that my father-in-law Steve would follow behind to pick up my skis when I fell! As I practiced on the greens, John adventured down blacks with his sisters.

Tahoe itself is absolutely beautiful, and I was able to enjoy even more of the scenery by the third and fourth days when I went on the blue slopes. On the third day I was feeling a lot more confident and loved one particular blue run that we did through the woods.

First Blue! SO pretty!
The run through the woods- you can see the lake in the background
Since I had accomplished a blue run all the way down to our condo without falling, John thought I could handle more challenging blues on our last day. The views were incredible, but some of the runs were very steep. On one I could not slow down and flew down the slope yelling "I can't stop!" before wiping out with John and his parents watching from above. But if that was my worst fall then I'm still proud of the progress I made throughout the week!

Last day, before going down our final three blue runs
Aside from the fun times we had skiing during the day, we also went out to two very nice dinners. The first was at a restaurant called Christy Hill, which was on Lake Tahoe. (Side note: This was also my first time in California!) We had an early dinner, so we saw the amazing sunset over the lake. The food was also delicious! The other wonderful dinner that we went to was at the Ritz to celebrate Lisa's birthday, which was also wonderful!

Beautiful sunset over Lake Tahoe


All trying to squeeze in the photo without falling on the ice!

John and me before dinner at Christy Hill

We had such a wonderful trip, and I absolutely loved skiing. I definitely want to go again! It was also such a special time to be with the family, play board games in the evening, make dinner together, and listen to Emma and Amy sing and play guitar. I am so very thankful for my amazing in-laws!