Two years ago I began participating in some intensive training on how to coach leaders. I love learning and commit to pursuing personal development. I went into this course expecting to grow and add a new skill to my ministry toolbox. What has been a pleasant surprise is how personally motivating and inspiring the training has been.

One module focuses on helping leaders learn about their life purpose and calling. This has been incredibly challenging. Tony Stoltzfus has developed discovery tools to help believers be good stewards of their stories. It helps them to see how their experiences – the high and the low – are all working together as part of God’s redemptive plan in their lives. He is a founding board member of CMI and author of our textbooks, “Christian Life Coaching” and “The Calling Journey” available at

Personal timeline

As I used the tools and developed a personalized timeline of my life experiences and journey with God, I also examined my life and faith journey. In addition it has been humbling and faith-stretching to recall the times of deep suffering and sorrow, as well as great joy and fulfillment. I can see the four stages of a leader’s life as described in Tony’s model.

In setting up my timeline I realized that as I grow older (approaching 60) I am moving towards convergence. I can see that by understanding my God given design, and by using my best strengths to convey the Life Messages God has built into my heart and soul through His refinement and preparation. He has truly worked on my character. This final, Fulfillment Stage, is when I have the potential to have the maximum influence for the kingdom. Finally I sense an urgency to make the most of my remaining years and leave a legacy. It is an exciting time!

Life shaping valleys

Also the three life shaping valleys were revealed in my timeline: Dependence, Wholeness and Identity. These valleys were indeed very painful wilderness experiences that took place in my early twenties, late thirties, and mid-forties. I faced temptation, loneliness, a medical crisis, the death of a dream, the sudden loss of my father, a huge transition with accompanying loss of status and marital conflict.

In each situation, my life circumstances didn’t line up with what I had planned. At times it felt like God had abandoned me or was punishing me. And yet, in hindsight, I can see how God was at work in mighty ways shaping, molding, and refining me. He stripped away many things – pride, idols, self-effort, lusts, and doing for Him, instead of being with Him.

While I spent time recalling the details of how I encountered God in those times of brokenness, as well as the important life messages I gained about who He is and who He created me to be, I was really challenged. My faith has been renewed and my love for Him deepened. It is amazing to see that He has never let me go. The past, the present and the future are all held together by His sovereignty and love.

How about you?

What important life messages have you gained in times of great blessing and/or brokenness?
If you would like to know more about timelines, here are two possibilities for self-study:
1.Develop your own timeline. The process is explained with worksheets and examples here:
2. Apply this idea to one or more of your quiet times by doing the following:

  • STOP. Remember and reflect on your journey so far. How has God already been at work in you? What life messages have you gained from your past experiences?
  • ASK. Based on His faithfulness in the past, ask how He wants you to involve Him in your situation today.
  • CONSIDER. Think about the ways God has never let you go. Review and apply life messages He has taught you to things you are walking toward in the future.

Have a wonderful time of reflection and rejoicing in God, who is present in past, present and future!

by Barbara Leary

Barbara LearyBarb and her husband, Rich, have been in ministry for 30+ years. Twenty years with The Navigators and the past ten with CRU. They have lived and served overseas in Kiev, Ukraine and Budapest, Hungary for 15 of those years. Currently they serve CRU’s Eastern Europe Area’s LeaderImpact. She loves seeing women fall deeper in love with Jesus and although she thrives living cross-culturally she misses her five children and five grandchildren back in the States.

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