Welcome Vanguard University’s 10th President Dr. Michael Beals

Beals-1President Michael Beals, PhD

Over the last 36 years, Dr. Michael Beals has been called to Vanguard University in many different capacities, including undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty member, and administrator.  Mike’s rich journey with Vanguard is evidence of his ability and willingness to serve its constituents in the highest capacity.  After a rigorous and prayerful search, the Board of Trustees has chosen him as the finalist for the role of 10th president of Vanguard University.

A native of California, Mike originally came to faith in Christ at Vallejo First Assembly of God in 1977.  That same year, Mike followed God’s initial call to Vanguard and became an undergraduate student of Religion, double-majoring in Christian Education and Psychology.  After receiving his BA, he went on to earn his MA from Vanguard in Church Leadership, and a second MA at Fuller Theological Seminary in Biblical Studies and Theology.  Mike also holds a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from Fuller where he has served as an adjunct faculty member since 1999.

Mike began teaching at Vanguard as an adjunct faculty member in 1991.  In 2005, Mike became an Assistant Professor of Philosophical Theology and Christian Ethics. He left that position in 2009.  In 2012, after serving for 23 years as the senior pastor of Mission Hills Community Church in Rancho Santa Margarita, Mike returned to Vanguard as Dean of Spiritual Formation, a position that serves as the university pastor for the Vanguard community and the senior administrator of the Spiritual Formation Department.

Mike is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God and spent 31 years of ministry in local churches. He was first credentialed as a Licensed Minister in 1981 and that fall he began as a youth pastor at The Harbor Church AG in Lomita, California. In addition to membership in the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Mike has written for Enrichment, the journal for Assemblies of God ministers, and contributed to Blackwell’s Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization.  Mike has been actively involved in global outreach in Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, China, Israel, Switzerland, France, England, and Scotland.

Mike met his wife of 33 years, Faith, at Vanguard.  They have two grown children and a grandson.  His son-in-law is also a Vanguard alumnus.  In addition to spending time with his family, he enjoys reading and working in the garden, fly fishing, sailing, listening to jazz and blues, and playing the upright bass.


THE 20TH GRADE: Professional Women Overcoming 7 Barriers to a College Education by Andrew Stenhouse Ed.D..

black-mom-and-child“I’d send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if only I knew your name and address” (You’ve Got Mail). When Joe Fox revealed to Kathleen Kelley that autumn made him feel like buying school supplies, we instantly knew exactly what he meant. Fall (even more than New Year’s) marks the season of new beginnings. It was that way when we were kids and it’s that way now. The smell of newly sharpened pencils (just like markers, chalk, white glue, and crayons) takes us back to our childhood and opens a flood of wonderful memories.

A single mom, returning to college after a divorce, was trying to explain to her son her new role as a college student.

“Wow!” He counted in his head, squinting at some sort of imaginary abacus. “You must be in the 20th grade!”

After a good laugh, she admitted that this was a good way to describe it. She had not planned on being back in college at her age, but after her husband left her and her son in California so he could pursue another life out of state, she was forced to make a new life for herself. Having married young, she was a stay-at-home mom who had hopes of living a very traditional family life. Now, everything had changed. It usually does.

Eighty three per cent of adult college students say that a major life change was the main reason they went back to school. Among the greatest barriers facing these mid-life women in college are age (I’m too old), cost (it’s too expensive), difficulty (it’s too hard), negative experiences (it’s too painful), social stigma (I’m too embarrassed), irrelevance (it’s too meaningless), and time (I’m too busy).

Since more than half of today’s college students are older adults, and most of these are women, many colleges and universities have programs specifically designed for those of us who are juggling family, career, and studies. Although colleges are slowly making it easier to go back to school, the barriers are still frightening for most mid-life women and the anxiety is extremely high. While the reasons for going back to school are strong, the reasons for not going back are often stronger. Meet seven remarkable women who overcame these barriers by transforming their fears into their greatest motivators. After reading their stories, you will sigh with relief (and resolve) as you confidently claim, “I can do this!”


“I’m too old”

mentoring women(Martha Harrison, age 79 – owner and operator of a private school in Los Angeles). Having attended countless college graduations of her former students, she never quite got around to it herself – until now anyway. While vacationing in Kenya, she became acquainted with a woman who had returned to college at the age of forty. This woman, who now holds a doctorate, began the familiar line of questioning. “How old will you be in five years if you go back to school?” She set her trap. “How old will be you be in five years if you do not go back to school?” She smiled at Martha, realizing that her point had not been lost in the simplicity of her challenge.

So, after the death of her husband, Martha decided to “start all over again and not waste any time.” When she thought about it, she realized that she wasn’t getting any younger and that now was actually the perfect time for her to go back to school. Her pastor encouraged her to pursue her dream no matter how old she was. If the dream was still there, she had to pursue it. Once she was back in the classroom she realized that while she was still older than everyone else was, she was treated with respect. She actually felt that her age gave her an advantage. It did. It’s called wisdom.


“It’s too expensive”

(Brenda Jamison, age 46 – Risk Manager). Before moving from Texas, Brenda conducted an exhaustive Cost/Benefit analysis as she researched various Universities. While she became convinced of the sound investment a college degree was at her age, she became even more convinced when she discovered that she would not be hired (even though she was top in her field with over fifteen years of successful experience) without a college degree. Personally generating $48 million for her company (during the year and a half she was in school) Brenda recognized the importance of due diligence and sound investments.

When she figured out how much money she was losing because of her career gap, she decided that she couldn’t afford not to go back to school. Her new promotion following graduation paid off immediately. Even at her age, she actually made money by going to college. To top it off, she helped launch a new company as a result of one of her class projects. “Killer Coolers” now has distribution both internationally and throughout the United States. When asked if she thinks that her degree paid off, she smiles. “Yeah, I’d say so.”


“It’s too hard”

woman sitting on pile of books 1(Linda Thompson, age 40 – Speaker, Author, Wife, and Mom). After several years of searching for her niche, Linda (the wife of a prominent minister and mother of 3 energetic boys) discovered that her passion as wife and mother had evolved into a career once she received her degree in Psychology. Her biggest fear though, was that after talking baby talk for twelve years, she wondered if she could maintain the same academic standards after which she strove in her earlier years. Well, she graduated with a 4.0 proving to herself (and others) that she still had it. (By the way, while she was attending school, she discovered that she and her husband were expecting their fourth child, an unexpected and very improbable surprise!)

Linda was surprised at how much she enjoyed learning later in life. This time around (twenty years later) she found that the classroom and learning actually invigorated her. She loved learning new things and was surprised to discover that she was a much better student than she ever was before. “Things just make more sense to me now.” She was so excited she seemed surprised.  “Learning is so much easier as an adult because I am learning about life.”


“It’s too painful”

beach with mom(Tami Peters, age 36 – Marketing Assistant). When Tami thought of going back to school, she shuddered. For her, college was a time in her life she tried desperately to forget. She was a terrible student, the teachers didn’t seem to care, and her classmates lived in a different world. College was not a priority in her life at that time. She had other things on her mind. Remembering those early years brought back vivid and terrifying memories of her enraged husband beating her and her children. When she thought of her college years, she recalled images of her son being kicked across the room by his father. Going back to college meant she had to face her demons and confront her nightmares. It meant opening up old wounds. But it also meant healing and new beginnings, and taking control.

“Coming back to college was such a scary thing for me, “ Tami confessed. The memories of college as an eighteen-year-old were so humiliating; she was terrified that she would simply relive those terrible experiences. Instead, she has found that faculty are so supportive and really do want her to succeed. The friends she has made are the main reason she has been able to finish. “We have really helped each other get through school. We built such a support system that we plan to keep in touch forever.”


“I’m too embarrassed”

(Gloria Richards, age 56 – Philanthropist). Having graced the covers of the Society Pages for years, some might wonder why she needed to go back to college. She didn’t. She wanted to. Going back to school was for personal fulfillment and once she made up her mind, Gloria had few apprehensions about going back even though there might be social recourse. “Back in the earlier years, if a woman married right, she didn’t need to go to college.” It was a sign that she was among the social elite.

When Gloria decided to go back, she really didn’t concern herself with the thought of others. Her husband (President and CEO of a major corporation) had the career. She cared for the family. Once the children had married and established homes of their own, Gloria felt that she was in the perfect time to pursue a degree. Since she was actively involved as a volunteer with an extensive counseling program at her church, she figured a degree in Psychology could prove to be helpful. Today, Gloria serves on several boards and committees, is a highly sought after counselor in her community and has become an admired trendsetter for the social elite wanting to go back to college. Since she has gone back to college, many of her friends have followed her example and have also enrolled.


“It’s too meaningless”

(Sue Jeffries – age 44 – Commercial Property Management). After selling her real estate company to manage her husband’s corporation, Sue had already enjoyed a lucrative career and had clearly established herself as a success story. However, once her kids became more independent, she was ready for another challenge and was even considering another career change.

A no-nonsense administrator, she was used to spending her time in the real world – meeting deadlines, meeting payroll, meeting investors, meeting labor demands, meeting real-life challenges of business. Sue could never quite see the value of a college education early on. That’s why she dropped out in the first place. She was going to school to get a job and then a job opportunity came that paid her twice as much as those college graduates were getting. For her, unless it added to her own marketability, going back to school seemed like a waste of time listening to college professors pontificate about theories that only have value in ivory towers or on game shows. However, the education that she received proved to be practical.

Being able to rely on her past experiences, she instantly recognized concepts that she had been using intuitively. Now, her business acumen makes even more sense. Applying theory to her experiences (rather than the other way around) had given Sue a consuming quest for knowledge once her expectations had been exceeded. She is now pursuing an MBA and plans to earn a doctorate and start a consulting practice so she can provide pragmatic application to other businesses, based on sound theoretical wisdom.


“I’m too busy”

Mother with Daughters(Diane Fargo – age 39 – Financial Manager). Balancing a successful career as well as raising two children is hard enough. When you’re a single mom though, it seems impossible. Going back to college was an idea that simply sounded overwhelming when Diane first thought about it. Since one of her boys was disabled and prone to seizures, her demands as a mother were even more taxing than most could imagine. However, she decided that she would do it for herself as well as her children. Once Diane began to feel as though a college degree was “career insurance,” it became an urgent necessity. She would find the time, make education a part of her career, and do everything possible to provide for her boys.

At first, she was afraid that going back to college would take her away from her sons. Now she realizes that it was the best thing she could have done for them. She has focus, determination, and is retooling herself for a better career. Not only will her boys benefit from her education later; they have benefited from the very first night of class. “I have actually become a better mom.” And being a great mom was her priority. After overcoming her tumultuous childhood, she vowed that she would not replicate her childhood through her sons.

After living in four foster homes, she was reunited with her abusive mother until moving out at seventeen. From the slums of the inner city, Diane knew at an early age that she had to go to college in order to make it in life. However she lacked emotional support throughout her childhood and two abusive marriages. Plagued with health problems herself, Diane eventually found the support she so desperately needed at church. Through her new faith she went back to college with drive and determination. Even after twenty surgeries including a bilateral mastectomy, Diane excelled with focus. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree and went to another university for her Master’s. At another university, still, Diane is in her final term of coursework for her doctorate. She wants to become a teacher and empower other women. I think she will.

woman graduateI admire these women for not only taking the initiative to go back to school but also for their determination to finish. I suppose that is why I love my job so much.

As a college professor, I have taught hundreds of women just like them and I get to see their stories lived out in person every day.

Every student has a story to tell.

Some of them I know. Most, I don’t.

All, however, are still writing their stories.

What will yours be?

Andrew Stenhouse is the Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies

Vanguard’s Support Team is Here for You

Last week, we posted a blog about Commencement Excitement and the support team that each student has at home.  This week, I wanted to remind every SPS student that you also have a support team here at Vanguard University.  I used to be the assistant for a few shared Student Life offices:  the Career Center, Counseling Center, and Office of Disability Services.  Did you know each of these offices is here for all Vanguard students, including you?

Counseling CenterVanguard’s Counseling Center is the perfect resource to help adult learners cope with the stress of balancing family, job, and school.  The therapists are psychology graduate students and have similar schedules to yours, including evenings and possibly weekends.  You may request an appointment by filling out the online application or email your questions to counselingcenter@vanguard.edu.  The Counseling Center is located in Scott, right across from the SPS Office.


Career CenterOur Career Services staff loves meeting with SPS students since you have already been out there working.  Career Services offers resume and cover letter assistance to help you on the way.  Schedule a mock interview before you need it, to hone those conversation skills and help you with your 30-second elevator speech.  Don’t know what a 30-second elevator speech is?  Make an appointment by emailing careercenter@vanguard.edu to find out.  The Career Services Center used to share the office with the Counseling Center, but they have relocated to the first floor of the Smith Building next to Newport Boulevard.  The office is open until 6:00 pm on weekdays or 7:00 pm by appointment.


Office of Disability ServicesDo you have a documented physical or learning disability?  Did you break your leg just before midterms or have another short-term disability?  The Office of Disability Services is here to help.  Email disabilityservices@vanguard.edu to set an appointment and let the Office of Disability Services work with your professors and Vanguard staff to help you succeed.  You will need a note from your healthcare provider which states your diagnosis and recommended accommodations; our staff will take it from there and will keep the details confidential.  The Office of Disability Services shares their office with the Counseling Center on the second floor of Scott, next to SPS.

From the SPS website, you can always click on the Student Center page on the vanguard.edu/sps for these and other offices on the Vanguard team.  Go Lions!

Have you been helped by one of these offices?

Commencement Excitement!

graduation cheering

Attention Graduates:  Did you know commencement isn’t just for you? 

Even though you get to walk across the stage, shake the hand of the president, and get your diploma cover (no, you don’t get the actual paper on the spot), commencement is also for your support team – those in the audience who have worked hard and sacrificed as they walked alongside you through the educational journey. They have been the ones encouraging you, supporting you when you felt overwhelmed, taking on extra responsibilities so you could study, and continuing to remind you of the end goal.

Whether it is your wife doing more of the family duties, your husband taking care of bedtime for the kids, your parent helping with financial support or your friends babysitting the kids, your support team has always had your back. This has been just as much a journey for them as it has been for you.

I know because this year I fall into the commencement cheering section not only as an advisor, but more importantly as a wife. My husband Justin will be graduating in May with his BA in Business at Vanguard.   I’m proud of Justin for going back to school while juggling a job, marriage, ministry, and preparing for a new addition to our family at the same time (coming in June)! I am proud that he is completing his degree to better provide for our family, advance in his career, and hopefully further his learning in seminary in the near future. I am  incredibly excited for commencement because it gives me the opportunity to celebrate the achievement of my graduate.

Graduates, you may have been surprised to discover that your support system seems more interested in graduation then you are! In fact, you may be so ready to be finished, you aren’t really even looking forward to walking across that stage. But your friends and family keep asking you questions about the events, making plans to celebrate, and bragging about your upcoming accomplishment.

Your support teams wants to celebrate you, your hard work, and the great accomplishment you are about to complete! Don’t deny them the chance to honor you. Let your support team cheer and celebrate! Let them throw a party for you or take you out to dinner. Take them to the SPS Graduation Celebration on May 2, and let them cheer as loud as possible when you walk across that stage on May 10. You’ve earned it, and so have they.

Are you a graduate this year, or part of a support team? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Masuk-High-School-graduation-3646573.php .

Taking a Swing at Life’s Challenges


Contributed by Terri Quinones, SPS Nursing Student Services Coordinator

Have you seen the move “42”?

It’s about Jackie Robinson, the first-ever Black player in major league baseball. Jackie didn’t physically or verbally fight back against racism, but he stood his ground, kept his eye on the ball and managed to break the cultural color barrier that existed in America’s favorite sport. Mr. Robinson overcame phenomenal challenges to create baseball history. As I watched the movie this weekend, it reminded me in a small way of the adult learners here at Vanguard.

I’m not saying that the full quest of “42” is comparable to an educational quest, but the spirit of facing a challenge while experiencing the pull of mainstream society to hold one back is admirable.  As adult-learners, life can be incredibly complicated: we’ve taken on massive responsibilities and over time we’ve been pitched more of life’s curve balls than the average traditional undergrad. 

However, in spite of these challenges, one hundred and sixty five courageous adult learners will be Graduating from Vanguard’s School for Professional Studies on May 10, 2013. These graduates will be receiving their Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees, and I’m proud to say forty-four of them are Registered Nurses receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Hollywood may never produce movies about these student’s lives but every one of them has an incredible story to tell.   They are amazingly brave, and acknowledge that God has played a huge role in helping them fulfill their educational dreams. Through prayer and with the help of supportive family, friends, and faculty they’ve persevered and managed to round the bases of education to reach home plate: graduation. In the process, they took care of their family members, weathered health, work and financial troubles, and grew in their knowledge of their preferred profession. They are now suited up for success in the next phase of life.

At one point in “42”  Jackie says, “You give me a uniform, you give me a number on my back: I’ll give you the guts.”  These SPS grads have guts - they are not afraid to learn in the face of life’s challenges.  They know the value of education and they’ve hit a home run!

Photo compliments http://www.wdl.org/en/item/29/

Pileus Quadratus


Pileus quadratus is Latin for “square cap”

Are you graduating this semester?

Grad Fest is currently underway at Vanguard, an event in which soon-to-be graduates proceed through a series of information booths to assure that (at least on paper) their graduation day will be a flawless success. Among other things, students can have their picture taken while enthusiastically waving blue and gold pom-poms, and will spell thier names phoenitically to avoid mispronunciation on the big day.  

The piece de resistance of Grad Fest is, of course, receiving the coveted ceremonial cap and gown in which one will so proudly pass across the graduation stage.

Sometimes, though, adult students decide not to walk the stage. They figure they’ve attended enough events, just send them a diploma in the mail, thank you very much. To be honest, I was in this category myself until I came down with graduation fever earlier in the year.

So today I happily navigated my way through a sea of booths handing out candy and pertinent information. I donned a goofy motorboard and shook a set of pom-poms for a silly picture; picked up five tickets for loved ones who are going to share the day with me; took a pass on the opportunity to order a class ring or yearbook; and helpfully told the registrar that my last name rhymes with “therapy”.

I have my own cap (pictured above) and gown,  and am counting down the days (thirty six!) until I wear them “for reals”. I’m doin’ this thing, and I’m doin’ it right - I hope you are, too.

Are you on the fence about attending your graduation ceremony?




Facing My Fear of Adult Education

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Contributed by SPS Staff Member Christie Wimberly

Are you afraid of anything? I’m afraid of going back to school. As an adult it can be quite scary and intimidating.  I’ve wanted to go back to school for years, but never had the courage to step foot on a traditional campus because the students were mostly younger than myself and I didn’t feel like I would fit in.

Then my husband got accepted as a student in Vanguard’s SPS program. Every night after his class, he would rave about what a blessing it was to attend Vanguard. He loved everything about it! The professors were wonderful and shared their knowledge passionately; each of the professors genuinely cared for every one of their students, and on top of that, class always opened with prayer. 

My husband kept encouraging me to at least take a class at Vanguard to experience how special this University is, but I was too scared kept making excuses as to why right now wasn’t the right time.  Well, the Lord’s timing is always right-on-time and not a second late, and last week I felt compelled (with the encouragement of others and through prayer) to start the application process. 

I’m still scared to go back to school because I haven’t had an in-class college experience in ten years.  But I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to continue my education, and Vanguard’s amazing SPS program for adults is the perfect fit for me.  I encourage anyone who may be on the fence contemplating whether or not to go back to school to check out Vanguards SPS program. Take a step of faith in the Lord and rely on His strength and not your own.  All things are possible through Christ and by trusting in Him is one of the best ways we glorify Him.

Has God helped you overcome a fear lately? Share with us in the comments below!

God’s Got Your Back


For several weeks, I’ve been praying for an acquaintance’s son who is very ill. Theo is fifteen and his body is battling a potentially fatal fungal infection – the result of  a rejected bone marrow transplant. Theo’s immune system is shot. Doctors are working hard to keep the infection from spreading to his brain.

Friends and family are blanketing the Internet with “Team Theo” prayer requests. I’ve been praying for a medical miracle. Total, absolute, 100%, done-as-only-God-can-do-it complete miraculous healing.

But that changed when I read a profound post written by a very close friend of the family, Dale Kuehne, who said that even though God hasn’t answered their prayer in the way they hoped, he has done something much, much greater. He gave them something they hadn’t asked for.

“As I sit here with Brant and Emily, Theo’s Mom and Dad, we should be overwhelmed with grief and sadness, if not bitterness. But we are not. Rather we are experiencing the most curious thing: peace.

There is an overwhelming presence in our midst that is speaking peace to our souls.  It is telling us all will be well no matter what happens. The presence of peace in this time and place makes no sense, but it is undeniable.

Why is it here?  Prayer.

We pray for healing.  The world is praying for healing, but the gift we have been given is the presence of God. God has answered the prayer I should have prayed for but didn’t.

This concept is mind-boggling to me.

I’ve always been comfortable with the ins-and-outs of prayer as I considered them. I know God doesn’t ignore our prayers, they’re always acknowledged with either a “yes” a “no” or a “hold, please” (the equivalent of a parental “we’ll see”). But I’m completely blown away by the realization that God anticipates what we need. He is so in tune with our individual hearts that while we’re busy asking for what we want, he goes one step better and gives us what we need.

I’m thinking we all need the presence of God.

The peace that Dale talks about, that can wrap us in calmness and quiet even as we are being swept up in a tornado of physical and emotional pain.

So I have a new prayer plan. I pray for me, for you, for Theo and his parents, for the whole world – to find this peace. To find it and grab on, to cling to it as the life preserver it is.  And I pray that you can share this peace with others.

I’m praying to have the ultimate peace that only the presence of God can bring. What are you praying for?

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7





Positively Me!


I recently took a business-oriented personality test, along the lines of Myers-Briggs, but different. Clifton StrengthsFinder lives up to its name by identifying unique personality strengths, and encouraging users to maximize the potential of their five top-rated strengths.

No one who knows me will be surprised that one of my top scores was Positivity:

  • You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation.
  • Some call you lighthearted. Others just wish that their glass were as full as yours seems to be.
  • People want to be around you. Their world looks better around you because your enthusiasm is contagious.
  • Lacking your energy and optimism, some find their world drab with repetition or, worse, heavy with pressure.
  • You seem to find a way to lighten their spirit.
  • You inject drama into every project.
  • You celebrate every achievement.
  • You find ways to make everything more exciting and more vital.
  • Some cynics may reject your energy, but you are rarely dragged down. 
  • Somehow you can’t quite escape your conviction that it is good to be alive, that work can be fun, and that no matter what the setbacks, one must never lose one’s sense of humor.

Wow. I knew I was positive, but I had no idea it had that effect on some people! Seriously? Your “world looks better” around me? It’s funny to me because I just can’t see myself through other people’s eyes. I’m accident prone, I work hard not to stutter, I can be petrify-ingly shy – traits which are hardly people-magnets. But I guess the fact that I can laugh at my faults is somehow attractive?

In addition to identifying strengths, though, StrengthsFinder makes suggestions for connecting with others who do not possess and might  misinterpret a particular strength. The recommendation for Positivity  is, “Be prepared to explain that your enthusiasm is not simple naivety. You know that bad things can happen; you simply prefer to focus on the good things.”

The accuracy of this is astonishing. I already have a clear idea of the effect I have on this personality type. Through the years I have been called a variety of names because of my positive attitude. In school I was the “teacher’s pet,” in the military a “brown-noser.”  Women especially have tagged me as fake. One woman even posted a public rant against my personality type. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “No one can be that happy.”  I notice and point out pretty things like shoes and bags and scarves. Once, after complimenting a lady’s dress at church, she asked suspiciously, “What do you mean by that?” I replied nothing more than that I liked her dress. She admitted that she didn’t like it, and thought my compliment was a veiled criticism, along the lines of a sneering, “Niiiiice dress.” I didn’t sneer, scout’s honor.

I’ve been accused of being naive and delusional. I’ve been told repeatedly to take off my rose-colored-glasses, to open my eyes and face reality. Usually I launch into my spiel of “Believe me, I’ve been through some very hard times, I know life can be harsh, blah blah blah.” Even then some people continue to treat me as if I were an ignorant five year old who’s hardest trial has been losing a teddy bear. I don’t know why I thought I was the only person who dealt with this issue, but I’m glad to see that I’m not alone. There are other happy people out there getting grief for being upbeat and choosing to be happy.

If Positivity is one of your strengths, then more power to ya, my friend. Ride the Rainbow! Spread the joy!

If Positivity is not one of your strengths, I have some advice. Please cut us Grinning Idiots some slack. We’re not shallow, we’re not kissing up, we’re not hiding from the painful realities of live – we simply choose to greet the world with a smile. Relax and bask in the pixie dust we sprinkle your way. Who knows, you just might find yourself smiling, too.

What is your take on positivity?


 image courtesy of kanji-and-koi

God Can Supersize Your Dreams!


I was vacationing in Mykonos, Greece in June of 1999 when I decided that I wanted my life to be different.  I had no idea what that life would look like, but I wanted to leave the fashion industry. I wanted to do something that would make a positive impact on people’s lives.  Upon return from my vacation I decided that I wanted to go back to school to become a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist.  I didn’t know what all that would entail, but I was ready to take the challenge.

A friend told me about Vanguard University’s School for Professional Studies Degree Completion Program so I decided to check it out.  I already had my Associate’s Degree, and quickly realized that I could complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in just 22 months.  It seemed only natural to continue on to complete my Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology.  After putting in 3,000 hours, I became a licensed Marriage & Family Therapy License in August 2012.  I reached all of these goals while working full time at Vanguard University as the Director of Recruitment for the School for Professional Studies.

Now, my next step is to begin to build my Marriage and Family Therapy Practice so I can transition out of working in education full time.  My goal is to build my practice to twenty consistent full-fee clients per week and cut back my hours at the university.   Getting twenty clients isn’t a problem – the challenge is finding twenty that can pay full fee.  I needed to build my practice, but didn’t know how.   

I began to feel stuck and unsure of what to do next.  Then one day, I was watching Joel Osteen speak on his new book, “I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Our Lives. One of the things Joel talked about was the fact that we need to give our dreams to God, because He wants to Supersize our dreams! 

I realized that it’s true. God doesn’t want us to fail, he wants us to succeed. Psalm 35:27 states, “The Lord…delights in the prosperity of His servant.” God spoke to me in a powerful way that day, reminding me of three distinct scriptural truths:

 “I am with you and we will do this together.” Sometimes it is so easy to forget this simple yet profound truth!

  • Joshua 1:9 says, “The LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
  • This promise is reiterated in Matthew 28:20, “…I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

“I will provide for you.” I can’t ignore the fact that God has already provided me with an office at Journey’s Counseling Ministries to build my practice, so I need to trust him to provide the necessary clients.

  • Matthew 6:26 declares, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
  • Philippians 4:19 assures me, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

“I will show you the way.”  More reliable than any GPS, God will show me which roads to take.

  • Psalm 77:20 states, “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
  • Psalm 119:105 reassures me, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

 Take a moment to think about your current goals. What dream can God Supersize for you?

Kristi Starkey, MS
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
Director of Recruitment
School for Professional Studies