The “I” in Team

As a retired military member, I’ve been to plenty of leadership trainings that make sure to remind students that there is no “I” in “Team.”  It’s a sentiment that is often repeated in the workplace and indicates that there is no one person whose contributions are greater than another’s on the team.

At my work center, I’ve often encouraged others to use “we” or “ours” in referencing programs, processes, and successes.  I am a firm believer in acknowledging superb performance of individuals, but overall, the team seems to be more successful when there is cohesive ownership.  

On my son’s baseball team, I’ve often seen the coaches acknowledge an individual’s great job in a game, but they win & lose together as a team.  They practice together as a team.  They rejoice and they are disciplined…as a team.  Not as individuals.

If the concept of “no I in team” holds true for the workplace and for a sports team, does it also hold true with the church…with the disciples of Jesus Christ? 

In terms of the twelve disciples of Jesus, outlined in the Gospels, Jesus drew together a team of men who had a few things in common, such as fishing and tax collecting, but they each had differences, such as their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.  As we walk through the New Testament, we can see that they collectively were working towards professing Jesus as the Messiah and the Savior for the sinners of the world. 

While some were praised for answering questions correctly (Peter answering “Who Do You Say I am?” in Matthew 16:17), or providing insight to others, none are raised above the others in terms of accomplishing the mission that Jesus gave them. 

While some were rebuked for betrayal (Jesus acknowledging that Judas would betray him at the Last Supper or that Peter would deny knowing him three times-John 13:21 and Mark 14:30), none of the others were raised above them in terms of accomplishing their ultimate mission.

This shows that Jesus’ leadership included acknowledging strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately He was more concerned with saving souls for eternity than praising and rebuking those on the team. Each disciple was part of the team and they were collectively being trained for a time when Jesus was no longer with them physically.  In my opinion, it’s a solid example of thereTea being “no I in team.”  

The secular leader in me wants to know if you are embracing the concept of team at work and on sports teams.  

The women’s ministry leader in me wants to urge you desperately to endorse this concept of teamwork (without acknowledging the I’s) so that we can work together on the mission we were given by Christ: to share the Gospel, to show the lost how to be found for all eternity, and to make disciples.

Does your team have an “I” on it?

~Emily

4th Grade Girlfriend Distractions

From the moment I fell in love with a top-heavy-head-two-year old, I knew that one day there would be a girl who would begin to consume his thoughts.  

I knew I wouldn’t be the main chick in his life forever.  

I watched in amusement how at age 3, he called both Erin and Peyton his girlfriend.

I acknowledged that he was growing up when he told our waitress she had pretty eyes when he was 6 years old.  

I even understood completely when he started giggling uncontrollably the first time he heard the word “boobs.”

But I was not expecting this “1000 shades of red” situation when you merely mention the name of a particular girl in his 4th grade class.   It seems too soon for him to be crushing so hard on this little girl, who gives him token gifts weekly, who he shares his bubble gum, who he emails in the evening, and who is forgiven when she kicks him in the shin.  

Who is this little girl who is stealing my son’s attention at age 10?!?!?!?!

I can’t even pretend to know how God feels about particular situations, but I would be willing to guess that God feels a similar questioning or exasperation when we start to pull away from Him…or when other things grab our attention more fully than our relationship with Him.   

Our work, worry about finances, our newest technology/gadgets, dating, planning parties, eating…the list goes on and on…all potential distractions from God. 

It’s dangerous to shift our focus from God to other things.  Not only do the distractions cause a separation between us and God, it also leads to more sinful behavior. For instance, the distraction of social media, could lead to unhealthy relationships that aren’t God honoring.  Likewise, removing focus from God can cause increased stress, fear, anger, and anxiety.  

Fear not, God gave us directions to avoid distractions!  In 1 Corinthians 7:25 (NASB), scripture says, “I say this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” 

Each morning while praying, I ask the Lord to deliver me from the distractions of the day.  It’s a conscious effort to focus on God, rather than the world.  It helps me set my sights on the Lord. But if I’m honest, that doesn’t “stick” most days. Despite a daily attempt, I often fall short and become distracted.  I know a God of grace and I just try again and again to be better.

It’s clear that the 4th grade crush is a distraction to my son, just as the clutter of the world can become a distraction to me concerning my relationship with God. 

Stay strong this week as you divert your attention away from the distractions of the world!

~Emily

Mindfulness Exercises

In the last two months, I’ve started incorporating mindfulness exercises into my daily life in an effort to battle anxiety and depression.  Mindfulness exercises are 3-5 blips where you deliberately concentrate on an activity through assessing your senses, emotions, or memories.

For instance, you could do a “mindful listening” exercise where you put on classical music and then concentrate on only listening for the violin.  One that I really liked was the “mindful eating” challenge, where you take your favorite flavored skittle and really concentrate on eating that one skittle for the 3-5 minutes.  For me, it was the purple skittle, which was a walk down memory lane of my childhood with grape Hubba-Bubba gum.

This last Saturday I tried the “mindful walking” exercise while hiking with the 3-month-old puppy.  The task during the walk is to concentrate on the aspects of the walk for 3-5 minutes.  The crunch of dried sticks and leaves under my hiking boots.  The shimmer of sunbeams coming through the trees.  The tug on my wrist from the puppy’s leash.  The rustle of leaves in the wind. The coolness of the creek as it splashes on my shins as I cross a stone bridge.  The smell of water-moss-mud on the creek beds. The tension in my quads from climbing inclines.

For the first time, I also incorporated scripture in the mindful walking because scripture actually tells us to be mindful and meditate on what God has provided for us (including the nature found during a hike).

It seemed appropriate to start with Psalm 145:5 (NET) which states “I will focus on your honor and majestic splendor, and your amazing deeds.” In the NKJV of the same verse, it states, “I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.”

Keeping in mind the scriptural guidance of focusing on the splendor of God and meditating on His wondrous works, brought a whole new level to the mindful walking exercise!

The tug of the puppy’s leash doesn’t just become a sensation of my arm, it becomes gratitude that God created this puppy and that the puppy is part of our family.  The rustling of the wind in the treetops doesn’t just become a wonderous noise in the background, it becomes a reminder of God’s faithfulness to give me shade from those treetops and a cool breeze on my sweaty brow.

I wasn’t just centering myself in an exercise to control my anxiety…I was actually acknowledging God’s abundant gifts that are literally all around us!  I was following the direction in Psalm 96:12 (NET) “Let the fields and everything in them celebrate.  Then let the trees of the forest shout with joy.”

A mindful exercise that is full of celebration and joy!  I hope this next week is mindful for you too!

~Emily

Mindful Walking Hike copy

When Stones Cry

I’m not Catholic, but I’ve been to plenty of Catholic churches, masses, and services.

Remember, I’m fascinated by history so most things Catholic are the mother-lode of historic happiness.

When I was about 11-years-old, my parents took my brother and me to a Catholic Church that had a statue of Mary that had reportedly wept real tears.  I remember that there was a long line to get into the church and that several people in line were crying.

As a child, I knew that there was something unusual about a statute reportedly weeping.  Yet, I could not wrap my mind around the significance of that statute being considered a miracle.  In retrospect, I suppose I still have trouble understanding how God would allow an inanimate object to express human emotion.

I am reminded that there are several lessons within the Bible where inanimate objects became a teaching point.   Some of those teaching points included human qualities being assigned to objects.  For instance, in Luke Chapter 19, we read that rocks could potentially vocalize like a person.

“And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said until Him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.  And He answered and said unto them, I tell you that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Luke 19:39-40 (KJV)

While this passage of scripture does not contend that the stones actually shouted, I love the thought that God could make them do so if He chose to.  I find great comfort in knowing that my God is so mighty, so powerful, so strong…that He could do anything if He wished.

If He wanted the stones to cry out, they would.

If He wanted a statue to cry, it would.

Imagine what He’s doing in our lives every day!  Every day there’s a miracle within our lives that God is orchestrating.  Every day.

A God that unbelievably able is one I want to worship always!

~Emily

Stones

Childlike Faith

The last week of summer before school starts is always hectic with buying supplies, trying on new clothes, attending open house to meet the teacher, and cramming in the last minute summer fun.  As a child, my school always started the day after Labor Day.  For my child, Alabama schools start the 1st week of August.  That means our hectic week was last week; complete with a three-day sprint to the beach.

I was exhausted when we arrived.  Why? For several reasons.  I just completed a road trip up and down the East Coast with Erin.  I had the very stressful experience of pitching my book proposal to publishers.  Even though I’m an extrovert, I had the pressure of meeting hundreds of strangers and engaging in meaningful conversations with all of them.  All to turn around and continue living out of a suitcase for a few more days with my husband and son.  The cherry on top? I knew the three-day beach trip would primarily be focused on fishing.

On the 2nd night at the beach, I joined dozens of other parents smirking at one another in the dark with headlamps tied to our heads and death grips on our “flashlight” cell phones…all of us supervising small children as they ran after the crabs that skirted across the waves at dusk.  Literally, dozens of parents looking like coal miners following children, chasing crabs.  For a moment, I stood there looking at the dark shadows with lights at head level, up and down the beach, and reflected on how amazing parenthood truly becomes when you have unconditional love for a little person.

How else would you tolerate, let alone explain, such ridiculous requests to catch crabs in the dark?

At one point Kambell looked up at the stars and said, “Mama, isn’t the sky beautiful?  How did God know to make all of those stars for us?”

This led to a conversation about how God knows all of those stars perfectly.  How He knows about each one of the hairs on our head…and how He knows every single grain of sand that we were walking on.

After the part of about the sand, Kambell was quiet for quite a while.  Anyone who has met this child knows that it’s unusual for him to be quiet for too long.  After a few moments he said, “Our God is pretty amazing to know all that stuff.”

You know what? He is pretty amazing to know all that stuff!

Gone was the exhaustion, the stress of pushing books, the exasperation of a three-day fishing trip, and even the embarrassment of walking in the dark with a light tied to my forehead. All of it was gone with the revelation that my son was enamored with God and all that He can do.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 18:3

Ladies, this week I’m challenging you to be like a child in our awe of God.

~Emily

Answered and Exceeded

For the last year, we have been working towards our dream of writing in order to impact women’s lives. That dream birthed the Iron Porch.  But it also birthed the start of independent stories that each us began pursuing.

Last week we started a road trip that took us up and down the east coast. It also took us up and down a rollercoaster of emotions.  You see, the dream brought us to the She Speaks Conference, sponsored by Proverbs 31 Ministries.    If you are unfamiliar with She Speaks, the premise is a location for nearly 800 women to follow the calling on their lives to speak, write, and lead for the Lord.

The dream brought us in front of real life publishers.  Let’s all take a moment to soak that in…real life…publishers!! Like for real, real life publishers!!!

While a publisher appointment is a scary thing to contemplate, there is beauty in knowing when it is God ordained.

Before the registration opened, one of us was FREAKING out that we would miss the actual registration date and miss out on the opportunity to attend.  Yet, we both received the email with plenty of time to consult before committing to workshops. We were afforded the opportunity to choose five publishers out of a list of dozens in the hopes of receiving one appointment. We prayed that we each would get one.

Weeks later, we both got the email revealing that we had each been scheduled for three appointments! Prayers answered and exceeded!

Not only had we each received three, we got the exact same three publishers.  Prayers answered and exceeded!

And if God wasn’t already amazing in these gifts, two of the three publisher appointments were back-to-back appointments…Emily at 11:45 and Erin at 12:00.  Essentially, Iron Porch had two publishers listening to our hearts for 30 minutes total!  Unrequested prayer answered…and exceeded!!

God wasn’t done answering unrequested prayers.  He allowed us an amazing amount of time with dozens of women in prayer, in fellowship, and in community.  In preparation for the conference, we prayed for our friendship. We prayed for the Iron Porch. We prayed for our books. We prayed for good feedback from the publishers. We dared to pray for “yes” from the publishers.  We prayed for our assigned prayer partners…strangers we met via email weeks before the conference. And we prayed for the staff and faculty of P31.

But we hadn’t prayed for the sense of belonging with other women called to this path. We hadn’t prayed to gain new friendships.  We hadn’t prayed to be moved to tears and laughter with strangers who had touched our hearts.

God answered the prayers that we didn’t even realize were on our hearts.

God answered the asked and unasked.

The Bible teaches us about exceeded expectations in 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

This is a lesson that we both have taken away this week.  It’s okay to ask God for what you want.  It’s okay to ask in detail.  It’s also okay to forget to ask for things.

You know why?

Because God is going to answer your heart. He’ll answer the asked and unasked.

~Emily and Erin

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God Always Provides

God always provides.  I tell this to my Bible study ladies every single week. Sometimes, it’s hard to see.  Often we ask, “God I could really use (fill in the blank). Could you open a way to allow me to have/do that?”  When the response feels like, “You’re getting a double helping of NOT (fill in the blank),” it can be a tough reality to live.  But even as a seasoned Christian, I’m still amazed at how He provides, even the seemingly small things.

For those who know me personally, you know I’m writing a book.  To this girl who loves English and writing, who loves to teach and has to a lot to say, it’s a dream come true to finally follow my calling.

However, because of my writing style, I tend to edit as I go.  This is a nightmare. Attempting to complete a full paragraph much less an entire chapter is a giant migraine because I get so focused on crafting that perfect sentence the first time around instead of letting the editing process take place down the line.  Yes, I lean towards perfectionism.

On the other hand, give me a group of people to talk to, and I’ll talk your ear off, unedited.  I love to share my story, and I tend to get so animated and excited that it just rolls off the tongue.

The topic of this painful process came up last Monday when I was speaking to a couple of my girlfriends at Bible study and again on Tuesday when I was on the phone with Emily.  The advice given to me was simple: You need a dictation program!

Easy enough….except that dictation programs cost money, and this girl is headed to the “She Speaks” conference in just two weeks!  So while I politely accepted their advice, and thought about what brilliant advice it was, I tucked it into the one-day-my-dream-will-come-true file.

NOW, here is where I get so excited because this dilemma gave me the opportunity to see my current Bible study in action.  We’re doing a study on the names of Jesus by Kay Arthur, and God became Jehovah-jireh to me (The God Who Will Provide).

On Saturday, I popped onto my Facebook and posted about me attempting to write a chapter.  A friend from high school who I haven’t seen or talked to in years, messaged me and asked me if I was using a dictation program or a Mac.  (I have neither.)  I told him I didn’t but that I was interested in knowing about dictation programs.  He then offered to set me up with his software so that it would be easier for me to write! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!

Listen…he had no idea about the conversation.  None.  When I got the message, all I could do was praise Jesus that He provides and provides as He sees the need.  Could I write a book without dictation?  Yes.  Would it be much easier for this talker to do that with dictation software?  Uhhh….YES!

Our God is ready to provide for you!  All you need to do is ask.  As He provides, praise Him for the answered prayer, whether it was the provision you desired or the provision He felt you needed.

How about it, community?  Tell the people sitting on the Iron Porch today what you’re asking God to provide and how we can pray for you!

~Erin