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Lessons on teamwork

This summer didn’t turn out the way I thought it would (mind you, I’m writing this in the beginning of August).  I thought I would power through a summer with a fabulous and earth-shattering Vacation Bible School at our church and hop on a plane two hours later to do it again in Cayo, Belize.

Granted, those things did happen.  However, it occurred in a far less sparkly fashion for me personally.  A week before VBS was starting I got quite sick which was followed by a diagnosis during the middle of VBS that I had another bout of mononucleosis (turns out it’s a myth you only can get it once).  Now this certainly did not factor into my grandiose plans of being a rock star in ministry for 3 straight weeks.

Suddenly, I was forced to slow down because it’s physically impossible to just ‘work harder’ to make sure VBS is smooth, safe, welcoming, and fun.  In addition, I couldn’t just show up in Belize and muscle my way through serving.  I had to look to my left and to my right (and up to Heaven) and trust my team.

You see, for me, the struggle with team has always been trust.  I hated school projects.  I struggled on my sports teams.  Please don’t make me do that work presentation with another co-worker.  Do I trust that someone will do what they said they will?  Will they do it the way I want it done?  Do they care about it as much as I do?  I’ve heard so many people say these things to me and so many times these scripts have played in my head.  In fact, as a school teacher, group projects always solicited groans.

The last 10 years have been full of personal growth when it comes to the value of a team.  The first step in eating the humble pie when I was in my twenties came when I learned that I even needed to have a team – I have lone ranger, cowboy-like tendencies.  I know that great leaders have a great team and I have placed so much value on having a team for so many years since that lesson.  In fact, I invested most of the last 8 months recruiting my VBS team.

This year the Lord allowed me to grow in a new area of team.  The team was in place and this year I learned to trust that the team can handle anything thrown at them without me being present or participatory in every moving part.  Unfortunately, I’m so thick-headed that the only way I could be coerced to exercise trust was to be physically incapacitated so that I couldn’t sprint from station to station to micromanage.  When we were in Belize, my singular contributions felt minuscule in comparison to the scope of ministry our whole team was doing.

We know the ending to this story.  God did far more using the hands of so many talented and amazing individuals to expand the Kingdom than I could have ever done with my hands.  I am richly blessed by a team of people that surround me and point me to Jesus.  I can’t express the gratitude to the King or His people for the last 3 weeks of grace and joy with words.  But I’ll always try: VictoryKids’ Team rocks!

An attitude of gratitude

Although that sounds cheesy, I must admit that so much changes when we approach life, our walk with God, and others with gratitude first.
It’s also how to approach being a leader.
It’s easy in your workplace, family, friend group, neighborhood, or wherever you have relationship to fall into a rut of thinking you’re the only one who does the work, you’re the only one who cares, or you’re the only one capable.  Yup…it’s easy to fall into the rut of pride.  Pride “carries with it a connotation that displays an inflated sense of one’s own worth or personal status and typically makes one feel a sense of superiority over others and can easily make someone look condescendingly at others” (Jack Wellman).
Pride says “only I can do this,” “no one can do better than me,” and “it’s all about me.”  However, pride also sounds like, “I always make the sacrifice” or “They never [insert ANYTHING].”  It’s when we focus on ourselves and all of our observations of the world are filtered through how we affected it or how it affects us.  Pride is all about the self, but it wraps itself in many deceptive packages.  I’ve learned that when I start describing situations or people in absolutes like always or never, that I’m probably slipping into a proud moment.  It is pride when we presume the roles and importance of others.
There’s a coffee maker in the office — I bet you already know where this is going.  More frequently than not, I need to fill the reservoir.  When I’m coffee deprived and I need to add water to the machine, it feels like another hurdle to my caffeinated joy.  “I always fill the coffee machine.  No one else does.  Everyone uses it and I’m left to be the responsible adult who refills it.”  When living in my complaint-driven sin, I struggle with a ‘woe-is-me-I’m-the-only-one’ complex.  In reality, EVERYONE refills the coffee maker and I don’t refill it after I use it EVER.  When we choose to believe that we all fill it and I actually express gratitude that we even have access to a nice coffee maker, the extra minute seems absolutely painless.  I’ve also just actively combated pride.
Every day, I push myself to practice gratitude for those around me in order to grow in my own personal humility. I make it a practice to acknowledge that I can’t do ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ might be) without those around me.  Maybe you can take a step to grow in gratitude today too?

Determination with middle schoolers

We’ve been talking about determination in our Elementary school curriculum during the month of May.  Determination is important when following Jesus because He never promised that life would be easy and we need to have the commitment to finish the race – and even finish it well.

Here’s the video that explains what we’ve been up to this month so far.

When I think about parenting and leading middle schoolers (or pre-middle schoolers), I think we all need a bit of determination.

I love “It’s Just A Phase” informational material because it really helps me to understand what’s going on mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually with kids in their different age groups.  In particular, I often need help understanding and exercising patience with middle school students.

I remember middle school a bit.  I remember it being fun and exciting, however, my rosy colored glasses are from an insiders perspective of my experience.  However, I bet my teachers and leaders (and parents) would say something different.  I suspect I was moody, with high energy all the time – a constant, exploding bomb.  I’m sure I didn’t always follow directions and I know I was disruptive.

If you need a laugh, I enjoyed this blog from “It’s Just A Phase,” http://justaphase.com/35-reasons-my-middle-schooler-might-be-freaking-out/

So middle schoolers are really just going through an extremely rapid process of maturation when other parts of their body and brain aren’t in-sync in development.  The Kingdom is still for middle schoolers and God’s will is still active with them.

We’ve got to be determined to be patient, to be understanding, and to be bold in activating them into mission.

An abundant life

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Have it to the full – or abundant. Now that’s the life I want to live.  In fact, it’s the life I feel I do live.  Sundays as a pastor are technically work – but they sure don’t feel that way.  They feel like a gift, a privilege, and ABUNDANT.  I don’t think we all get to have a vocational occupation that is our actual life’s call, but I find myself overly blessed that I do have a job that is exactly my life’s call – ministering to families and sharing the hope of Jesus.

Yesterday was a busy Sunday at Victory Church and I found myself catching my breath at around 10pm last night.  Even as I was driving home, I thought to myself, “What are hard day of work, but what a happy, fun day of work.” Not everything I did yesterday was fun in the moment, but in the long-run, it was fulfilling.

Full or abundant life doesn’t look like life without conflict or difficulties.  It looks like a life that fills your heart.  I’m so grateful to serve a God who doesn’t coddle me or shelter me from struggle – but rather invites me into suffering so that I may mature and gain wisdom.  He then miraculous turns suffering into fullness and abundance, which in turn fills me with hope and joy.

Lasting Impact

Do you ever wonder if Kids’ Ministry has a lasting impact?  Does it matter?  It sure mattered in my life.  I was gifted a mentor in Carol many years ago.  Recently, I got to reflect on that gift in writing a letter to her bone marrow donor.  Jesus healed her from leukemia, but the journey wasn’t easy and it was faith-building.
Dear Andrew,
My name is Amanda and I’m 30 years old.  I met Carol (quite randomly one might say, but I believe divinely) when I was 10 years old.  From the age of 10 until now, Carol has played a significant role in my life.  To say I have a second mother in her is an understatement.  But, you see, my story is not isolated.  Carol is a second mother to so many people and she often stands in the gap for many of us when we need a parent.
When I first found out Carol had the “L” word, I felt sick.  Why would God let such a bad thing happen to such a good person?  Does this mean Carol will die now? How am I going to live without her (this one was rather selfish)?
In the last 3 years, Carol hasn’t complained once, but, in my mind, she’s had plenty of reasons to do so.  When pills stopped working or she had a bad reaction, I’d get scared and sad.  I prayed regularly asking God to save my friend.  She’d smile and remind me about how many great people she had got to meet in this process and how God has everything in His control.  I’d think to myself, “How is she not angry?” Frankly, I was disappointed that God hadn’t ended this battle because I prayed – we all prayed.
Then you made a donation that saved my friend, my second mom.  The transplant was torture for her (I visited her in TX during that time), but she needed to do it to save her life.  It was probably hard for you, but you didn’t have to do it.  Thank you.  You’re selflessness has inspired me to join the Bone Marrow Registry too.  As I plan a wedding in the near future, Carol gets to be a part of it (most recently – vetting the guy).  I can’t imagine my wedding without her there – she walked me through so many hard times and difficult decisions.
I did learn a lot about God too through Carol and your journey.  I learned that the good plan He had for Carol didn’t promise to be without tough spots.  The good plan, however, did promise that He’d never leave her.  I also learned that I need to look for God and His goodness everywhere, even when it feels counter-intuitive.
All this to say, your donation matters. These words can’t capture how much it matters.
Thank you. I’ve been praying for you and will continue to pray for you.
God bless you,
Amanda Fegley (Philadelphia, PA)