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

Attention, high-achieving women: Stop being ‘good students’ at work!

hand-raisedPhoto compliments of St. George School for Girls.

Since I am personally making the transition from full-time student to full-time employee this summer, many of my friends have been sending me links and tips on how to succeed in the work force.

Below are five tips of just this sort. Many of you may have already figured this out, but just in case, here is some great advice from the lifeinc.com wet site on making the transition a bit more easily.

  1. Influence authority. In school, each class brought a new authority figure — the teacher — who had unique rules, requirements and preferences. As students, we get really good at figuring out what each authority figure wants and to provide it. Yet to have brilliant careers, we must learn to not only please the authority figures — but to challenge and influence too. Today, when you hold a different view than the authority figure in your midst, see how you can influence him or her by diplomatically sharing your point of view.
  2. Improvise. In school, we learn how to prepare: how to study for the test, to do the reading the night before, to be ready with the answer when the teacher asks for it in class. This can lead us to feel confident only when we’ve had a lot of time to prepare. Yet brilliant careers require that we think on our feet again and again. Get as good at improvisation as you are at preparation. Today, embrace an opportunity to improvise at work.
  3. Get uncomfortable. In school, you probably got comfortable with the routine of studying, test-taking, paper writing, without having to take too many risks along the way to succeed. In our careers, we have to get comfortable with risk-taking, with feeling afraid and moving forward anyway, with leaving our comfort zones. Today, take one action that stretches you out of your comfort zone and that will help you realize your professional dreams.
  4. Self-promote. In school, if you did good work, you usually got a good grade, but in our careers, we’ve got to do good work and make sure people know about it. This can be an uncomfortable stretch for women, because we don’t want to come off as arrogant or as taking credit away from others. Today, find one opportunity to graciously let others know about one of your recent successes.
  5. Look inward. School taught you how to absorb external information (from a book or a teacher’s lesson) and then regurgitate that information back out. As you move to more senior levels in your career, you’ll need to turn your focus inward and learn to trust what you already know. Today, notice when you default to looking outward for the answers, and turn inward to see where your thoughts lead you instead.

Have you learned or do you have valuable insight on this topic? Please share it in the comments below!

A Successful Path to Failure


Are you looking for a job? I’m graduating from Vanguard this semester, and like many of my friends am trying to navigate the upcoming sea of employment. Recently I found some interesting advice, and it’s funny whether you’re job hunting or not.  Unlike the other ten million “How to Get a Job” articles on the internet,  FORBES outlines an 8-step plan guaranteed to keep you jobless. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Read on to see if you are creating any of these employment faux pas.

How Not To Get A New Job In 2013: An 8-Step Plan by Susan Strayer LaMotte

  1. “Lack self-awareness and confidence. If you don’t know and believe in your strengths, no one else will. If you come across as hesitant or unsure about your qualifications, you invite others to question your qualifications. Ignore your strengths, feedback from previous work experiences and doubt yourself — that will really help your chances.
  2. Don’t tell anyone. The fewer people that know about your job search, the better.  Keep it totally quiet and under wraps. Don’t get any feedback on your resume or strategy from friends or former colleagues.  It’s also good to ignore any networking connections those friends might have.
  3. Cold-apply to as many jobs as possible. Hide behind your computer and look for jobs at companies where you don’t know anyone. Find any job that sounds relatively interesting and apply. Don’t follow up, either. Sit back and wait for the calls to start pouring in. And when they don’t, keep applying.  Volume is always better.
  4. Let your resume speak for itself. Any savvy recruiter or hiring manager should be able to translate your resume to fit the job. Let them do it! Don’t customize your resume for the job. Don’t look for contacts in the organization that can help make your case for you. And definitely don’t do any informational or exploratory interviews to learn what matters most to a hiring manager or organization before you apply.
  5. Be inflexible. Narrow down the type of job you’re targeting as much as possible. Don’t consider a different level if you’re trying to break into a new industry. Certainly stay in one city and don’t consider moving, or consider educational, volunteer or internship opportunities that might help you break into a new area or bolster your credentials.
  6. Ignore recruiters. HR stinks, right? So definitely ignore recruiters and don’t pay any attention to the role they play in the hiring process. Target hiring managers or executives and pester them as much as possible. It also helps to be rude to recruiters since they can’t help your candidacy in any way.
  7. Don’t ask for any help. No one can help you in your job search but yourself.  If the word gets out that you’re job searching, turn down all offers of help. Don’t follow-up when someone offers a connection or suggests you might be a good fit at their organization.  Don’t reach out to respected contacts or colleagues for help or feedback. And don’t even consider emailing people you admire in your field or industry.  They’ll never respond so why bother?
  8. Say “I got this.” Practice doesn’t make perfect. If you can talk, you can interview. If you can write, you have a resume. Don’t plan, prepare or rehearse. Don’t seek out advice from recruiters and job search experts. You, most definitely, “got this.”

How is your job hunt going?

I Had a Dream


The famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr. are, of course, “I have a dream.” He had a dream meaning a vision – a dream meaning hope for a better future.  In my own words, “I had a dream.” I had a dream in the most literal sense. I wish I could say I have a big picture vision to share. What I have to share instead is a little bit of perspective I was reminded of from a simple dream.

I woke up this morning straining to recall a dream I sensed contained a thread of reality. I was dreaming that Vanguard was hosting a symposium about student veterans. It wasn’t until I was seated in the audience and my name was called as I was being introduced to present when I finally realized I was the main speaker.

I had nothing prepared but a few mental notes I had made from a conference I attended a week prior. Needless to say, I was panicked and quickly put some thoughts together. Amazingly, I had quite a bit to say. In fact, I surprised myself with what I knew.

I would have concluded my presentation without a hitch if it wasn’t for all the intentional interruptions of a few people I did not know.  Who were these people and why is one of them throwing random objects onto the stage?

Another person had comments to contribute and the presentation suddenly became a conversation.  I didn’t get the sense that they were acting maliciously. It was more like they wanted to be heard. The conversation opened up the presentation to become more of a discussion with the entire audience.

The audience asked good questions and they had good information to share as well. It was a mutually beneficial forum. I benefited from hearing from the audience just as much as they benefited from learning from me. Learning sometimes benefits us the most when there is established rapport.

  • Listening to each other builds trust.
  • It tells us that the other person cares about what is being discussed and how it affects one another.  
  • It builds a bridge that connects us to each other, allowing a way to work towards a common goal.
  • The ebb and flow of an interpersonal relationship gives us the opportunity to give and receive.

The dream was simple. It reminded me that sometimes when I least expect it, I will be put in a situation I don’t think I can handle. The reality:  I most likely can. It reminded me that as much as I want something to look a certain way, the way it turned out (less than perfect) was even better. It reminded me that even though life’s distractions often times get in the way, those distractions can sometimes point us in the right direction. Finally, it reminded me that above anything else, relationship is what matters.

Stanley McChrystal, a four-star general, is credited for a remarkable number of achievements while leading forces after the 9/11 attacks. In the following video, he discusses how relationships are what held the force together under his leadership. He led through learning and trusting service men and women under him as he quickly realized relationships were more important than ever. Please watch…you’ll be glad you did.

 Have you gained any insight recently from your dreams?



image compliments http://blogs.babble.com/famecrawler/2011/01/14/watch-martin-luther-king-jr-i-have-a-dream-speech-video-with-your-kids/



What do the South African philosophy “Ubuntu,” Julius Ceasar’s dying last breath, and my daily routine have in common?


My daily routine looks similar to the rest of America – arrive to work, answer emails, respond to calls, make memos, draft reports, meet with a client or student, and before you know it the day is over.  Maybe find time to talk to a co-worker or walk across the street for a fast bite to eat, but true connection with people and purpose can feel lost.

I continually revisit the idea of connection…our loss of it, our quest for it, and our inherent need for it.

The concept of Ubuntu translates as “I am what I am because of who we all are.”  Our entire selves, our actions, thoughts, beliefs…our existence is intrinsically linked to everything else around us.  Philosophers often reference Julius Caesar’s dying last breath when they pontificate about the connectivity of past, present, and future.  They use this idea to say that we share the same air as Caesar once did and in some way the air continues to circulate.  It may sound a bit abstract, but the point is that our humanity is very much linked to everything around us.  At the core, connectivity, reminds us that we are not able to exist by ourselves nor should we!  No one should move throughout the world separated.

Ironically in an age where we are constantly “connected” via email, Facebook, Twitter, cell-phones, iPads…etc. we can easily feel isolated.  The next time you finish a day thinking that you haven’t accomplished much, you haven’t made an impact, or you haven’t “connected” remember that our mere existence is tied to the beauty around us.  I believe connectivity, charges us with the important mission to care for ourselves, others, and the world at-large.

So tomorrow when you are getting ready to commence your daily routine remember that we are all connected.  Use connectivity to compel you to work harder, love stronger, and be everything we were created to be!



image provided by: http://mattovermatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/global-connection.jpg

Sitting in Traffic: Turn the Curse into a Blessing!

Contributed by Nancy Harris

Stuck in traffic again?   Strangely enough I enjoy my long commute.   Each day, I drive from my home in Riverside to Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, which is about 38 miles each way.  Being a mom of three, a full-time employee, and a student attending the School for Professional Studies program it’s difficult to find time for myself.    

For me, commuting in heavy traffic  is a blessing because it is my time to unwind, talk with God, and be productive making phone calls (with my hands free Bluetooth of course).  We spend quite a few hours each week in the car so use the time to your advantage!  Learn more about the world by listening to the news, studying a new language, or listening to audio books. Or, simply relax and listen to your favorite music artists.   

Living in Southern California there is traffic no matter where you live or what time your commute is, so try to be productive and use your time wisely. If you think about it, the time you spend in your car may be the only few moments you have to yourself for the rest of the day…so enjoy!   

What is your favorite thing to do while sitting in traffic? 

Blogging – What Does My Audience Want?

AdminAssistTips StatsFor a little over a year, I’ve had a blog about Microsoft Office tips.  I’m the resident go-to person at the office for help on MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and I seemed to be giving the same directions over and over.  I wanted to have written instructions, sort of a FAQ page for the office.  I created Administrative AssistTips on Google’s Blogger.

The statistics page holds my fascination.  I can see who read what, where the readers live, which browsers they use, and how they found my site.  Of course, Google wants me to use these stats to start drawing in advertisers.  The more referrals and advertisers, the more “Google Juice” my blog has.  The more “Google Juice” it has, the better for Google.

Red Play ButtonFor me, the most important statistic is which keywords my readers use in their searches.  I’ve learned there is an art to searching and actually finding the results I want.  I need to be detailed and concise.  For example, when I insert a YouTube video in a PowerPoint presentation, it doesn’t start until I click the big red play arrow, even if PowerPoint is set to “Automatically Start” the video.  I knew there must be a way to start it without the click.  It took me at least ten minutes of googling to find the answer.  I believe the search words that finally resulted in the answer were:  “PowerPoint YouTube start no click.”  I liked the information, but I thought it could be presented in easier terms, so I created a blog with easier search words, a shorter explanation, and a link to the more complicated page:  PowerPoint and YouTube – Automatically Starting the Video.

After creating a blog, I pick special keywords to assign to that blog; those are the words I would use to search for the information.  It usually helps that I often blog about a technique I just learned about through other blogs; I try to remember the words I googled to find the answer.  For this example, I added the keywords (or labels or tags) that I spent over ten minutes searching on without good results:  automatically begin video, autoplay, autostart, embed video, html, PowerPoint 2010, and YouTube.  My hope is that the next googler will find my assistance from my tips quickly without the ten minute search.

So please look at my tips to help you be more productive with MS Office.  In “more productive” I mean finishing annoying computer tasks like work and homework faster, and finding more time for Facebook.  Do you need a tip or shortcut for an MS Office project you are working on?

Check it Out!

The author then, and now.

Contributed by Terri Quinones

Check this out!  Can you tell the picture on the left is me as a little girl?  Actually, this picture would not have been possible had it not been for a nurse.  A nurse that listened to what I believe was the voice of God and utilized her God given developed talents to save my life.  

My name is Terri and I am currently the Vanguard University School for Professional Studies Student Services Coordinator for the RN to BSN program, and one of the things I admire about nurses is that they check things out.  If you were hospitalized, wouldn’t you want a nurse with a caring spirit to check on you regularly?

The other day, my mom reminded me that just before I was born, she and I were in a car accident.  She delivered me and I was sent to the nursery with all the other babies (that was in the old days as now the babies stay with the moms).  My nurse felt compelled to lift my blanket to check on me (something she later said was unusual).  My bassinet was filled with blood.  Something went wrong with the umbilical cord during the accident and had this nurse not made this discovery, I would have bled to death.

Its funny how things come full circle; growing up I wanted to help people either by becoming a nurse or a teacher but I ended up having an extensive career in the business world that utilized my organizational abilities.  In fact, one of my deep desires was to cut through a jungle of obstacles and finish my bachelor’s degree and that’s exactly what I did in 2006.  I graduated with a BA in Business with an emphasis in Organizational Management at Vanguard in the School for Professional Studies. 

Part of that degree motivation was that I had my sight on the job that I’m in now.  The students that I service are RNs on track to complete their BSN.  I enjoy helping students reach their educational goals.  The BSN helps nurses to continue and deepen their knowledge from their associate degree and utilize that knowledge to better educate their patients, sharpen their critical thinking skills, and explore other opportunities for continued growth and development within their profession. 

Vanguard makes it possible to both work and complete your degree.  For the RN, Vanguard is worth checking out.    

Are you an RN interested in earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree?