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Building on a  Strong Foundation

Building on a Strong Foundation

Building on a  Strong Foundation

It’s interesting how God lays something on your heart that doesn’t seem all that relevant until you’re in the middle of a hard season. I’ve been thinking about foundations for a while and I wrote this post weeks ago. When I scheduled it to publish I had no idea we’d be in the middle of a global pandemic wondering when our country will lift quarantine guidelines. Re-reading this today it feels even more relevant.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the shoulders we stand on and the concept of a firm foundation. I’ve spent a lot of time on athletic fields, in locker rooms, and listening to coaches give speeches to teams and alum. There is a phrase that comes up regularly when there’s a desire to cast vision or honor a legacy.

“We stand on the shoulders of those who come before us” is a phrase I’ve heard dozens of coaches say with gratitude to rooms full of seniors at banquets. Honors retiring coaches and reminds leadership teams their example will set the standard for future teams.

The original phrase has an extensive legacy. In 1159, John wrote in his Metalogicon: “Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.” Put another way:

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

Isaac Newton

The Value of Giant Shoulders

The legacy of strong programs can’t be taken for granted. Winners attract winners. A winning program sets a standard of hard work on and off the field. People want to be a part of a winning program so there are more players and resources to continue to legacy and help the program to keep winning.

At the same time, there’s a huge difference between times when a new coach keeps the ship moving forward on a healthy program that has momentum and a coach tasked with rebuilding a team and program from scratch after years of losing.

Every coach stands on the history of the coaches who came before him while he’s earning the trust of his new team. Often conversations will begin with “The last coach did things this way…” followed by unsolicited input that may or may not be relevant to the way the new coach is moving the team forward.

Sometimes the strength of a program depends on a team and staff choosing to stand firmly on the shoulders of those who came before them. Other times the foundation built by the previous leadership is shaky and needs shoring up before it’s safe to stand on, and other times a team to start fresh and build an entirely new foundation.

We Need a Solid Foundation

Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB) says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

What was Jesus referencing when he forewarned the possibilities of what could happen when people do or don’t respond to his words? Just before this section of text in Matthew Jesus warns the crowd to beware of false prophets.

Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB) says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

We’re All at Risk of Building Weak Foundations

I don’t believe anyone intentionally builds their house on a weak foundation and I don’t believe any coach takes a job expecting they are going to fail. Regardless, some house foundations are the victims of land erosion. Othertimes a builder simply takes short cuts and pours a bad foundation from the start.

Older homes are also at risk of a weakened foundation if they aren’t properly cared for regularly. And this is where I believe our warning comes in as followers of Christ who have grown up attending church. Even if you are a leader with decades of history piled on your shoulders with years of coaching experience on your resume and hundreds of players on past teams you’ve mentored standing on your shoulders you are always at risk of developing a weakening foundation.

When we consider homes, foundation issues can develop from years of moisture build-up in humid climates. Termite infestations can also cause issues. Finally, poorly executed renovations can harm older foundations. How does this translate for our Spiritual foundation?

Our Spiritual foundations become shaky for many different reasons. Jesus points out that a good tree cannot produce bad fruit and every tree that doesn’t bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. This boundary isn’t set up for God, it’s established for our benefit. We need protection for our foundation to stay firm. It is so vital that we only build on firm foundations, which we can identify as foundations that bear fruit, that everything else is not only cutaway, it’s thrown into the fire. The fire ensures the branches aren’t accidentally brought back to shore up a foundation.

Evaluate Where You’re Standing

Sometimes there are blinders about the shoulders you’re expected to stand on, so it’s important to take time to evaluate the firmness of the foundation you’ll stand on for yourself. I hope you wouldn’t simply trust someone else’s word regarding your bank balance, rather you would check things for yourself. Shouldn’t you do the same when it comes to considering the truth of Scripture?

  • Do the shoulders you’re standing on, the ones you’re building a foundation on point you to God or do they point you to a cultural theology based on personal preferences?
  • Do the shoulders you’re standing on value Jesus’s call to love one another with a servant’s heart? (See John 13 for reference)
  • Do the shoulders you’re standing on help you clearly identify and reflect the character of Christ even when it requires you to live counter-culturally to the world or are those shoulders more concerned with making sure your views are siloed to focus on one specific earthly view?
  • Are those shoulders more concerned with making sure you do things the way they prefer them or are they open to praying with you and listening to how God is guiding you to lead?

We will never live perfect lives on earth. But we must strive to be discerning about the foundation we build upon. Building a legacy isn’t a privilege reserved for coaches. While their platform may be large, and sometimes a bit more public, we’re all called to a life with Christ.

Hebrews 10: 19-27 NIV says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,  but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” 

What if the way we see further than others by standing upon the shoulders of giants (as Newton suggested) is by encouraging each other, hold unswervingly to the hope we profess and by considering how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together?

How will we know? I believe we start with consistent prayer. In truth, it’s easier to answer how we won’t know. We won’t know by focusing on man’s outward appearance rather than God’s consistent character. We won’t know by choosing to incite fear rather than faith. We won’t know when we say follow me rather than follow Jesus.

Foundation building is a tricky matter, but thankfully there are tools and skilled master builders to help us keep our foundations strong and sturdy so our houses will weather any storm. The same is true when we stand on the right shoulders. Choose the shoulders you stand on wisely. More than that, pray for those who come before you. Pray for those who leave a legacy to continue to lead with integrity. When their foundation stays strong those who stand on their shoulders stand tall as well.

Andrea Stunz

Andrea Stunz

Have you ever felt deep down you were called to do something? Have you observed someone thriving in their career and thought how easy and fun something looked only to later discover pursuing the career requires extra education? Have you talked yourself out of pursuing something because you’ve convinced yourself it’s too late?

Meet Andrea One of Many Wives Who Thrive

Andrea is a wife of over three decades, a mom to three married adult children, and a Gimi to a gaggle of incredible grandchildren. She finds joy in her family, grace in her friends, beauty in every story, purpose in the sunrise, and wonder in my travels. Andrea describes herself as an adventurous survivor who finds hope for this earthly life in Colossians 1:17 which says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (NASB)

Andrea is currently living a unique adventure. I asked her to share about her current career and she said, “It would be safe to say my life’s vocation is that of a wife and mom, and now Gimi, with a spirit of entrepreneurship tossed into the mix. I have always enjoyed finding ways to take care of my family while making a little pocket money or cushioning the budget in times when we needed a bit of extra. I am currently working remotely as an empty nester and full-time RV’er. As I work toward writing and publishing my own work to encourage and walk alongside women as we navigate our bumpy paths, I am a freelance writer, content creator, and proofreader.”

What part of your career are you most passionate about and why?

As you can imagine, freelancing can pair well with travel, but Andrea does have to plan ahead! When I asked her about what she’s most passionate about with her career here’s what she said, “I thoroughly enjoy the freedom to work from wherever in the world I find myself and to do it mostly on my own timeline and at my own pace. Does this make me a 52-year-old Millenial? I place a high value on travel and adventure, but with my freelance work, as long as I have frequent access to the internet, I can get my work done–and often I work from somewhere with a gorgeous view. Through our amazing technological advances, I enjoy the opportunities available to work remotely and to do what I enjoy doing while making some money at it.”

Is remote work sounding appealing? Check out my growing list of resources here.

Why did you choose your niche? 

“From childhood, I have enjoyed words. The expression of them in poetry and writing songs was a formative way to help me process my big feelings and sensitivities. As an adult, I’ve since learned how to manage this part of my life in a healthier way and much of that journey has included words–words in songs, words in books, words in blogs, etc. I identify as a Christ-follower first, but I relate to being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), a Counter-Phobic, Enneagram 6w5 (training to become a Certified Enneagram Coach), an introvert, an empath, and a survivor. A true depiction of my passion for encouraging others through words, writing, and proofreading is in this quote by Dawson Trotman, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” This is a proven process in my life, so I assume that in sharing pieces of my stories, I might encourage others in their stories as well.”

I also asked Andrea “When you dreamed of the ideal career where your strengths, passions, gifts, and talents would connect did you think you would be doing what you are doing? How are things the same/different?” I loved her thoughtful and thorough response:

“Well, my ideal career was always being a mom. I knew I would be good at it and I loved children and wanted seven of my own. As God would have it, I only had three. As I’ve learned about myself, I can see where much of this longing came from my spiritual gift of hospitality. I simply love caring for others and especially when those others are my offspring. I will always be a mom but with adult children, my parenting role has ended. I entered the world of blogs when they first became a thing. I fell in love with the online community. I then began doing what I came to call “cyber hospitality”. Helping others find things in foreign countries, sharing our family stories to either give a mental break to others in theirs or to encourage them to keep going, fed my soul. For someone who has spent most of her life moving and living in foreign countries, finding community in online space has been an invaluable gift to me. I know there are others out there who feel the same way. This fuels my passion and commitment to continue on in the world of caring for others by way of cyber hospitality.”

What I love is that Andrea understands God’s unique design for her life and she’s continuing to find ways to evolve and grow so she can continue to thrive in her passions. As a coach’s wife, I really appreciate Andrea’s passion for hospitality. While we’re not traveling overseas, her ministry helping others find things when they are in unfamiliar spaces is such a blessing.

Balancing Work and Life

I asked Andrea for tips on work/life balance and here’s what she said, “Oh, I’ve come to really dislike the word balance. I may change my mind someday but, to me, it seems like I’ve longed for but it’s a dangling carrot I’ll never ever be able to reach. But rhythm? Rhythm is where I think it’s at for me. Where balance is measurable, rhythm feels like a song. I could go on and on about this topic but Rebekah Lyons has already written the book. I encourage anyone who is chasing after the ever-elusive balance carrot, to read Rhythms of Renewal. She lays out the path of staying in a rhythm of renewal through, ‘rest, restore, connect, and create’. “

Any Final Words?

Andrea’s final (and most thoughtful) words for us were these: “If anyone looked at my life’s history, you would not see higher education, degrees, skills, training, or anything that would qualify me for the work that I do now. I have fought hard to survive and thrive in my world where much of what has happened has happened TO me, not through me. I am most proud of myself for staying true to my faith and battling through hardships and fears; knowing what I wanted and full-out going for it. I share my life with as many as will listen (or read) because I want you to be proud of yourself in this same way. Friend, I know you can because I know I can!”

Connect with Andrea

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AndreaStunzWriter/

Instagram @AndreaStunzWriter

Website: www.andreastunz.com where I share pieces of my heart in hopes of encouraging pieces of yours.

Are you interested in having a featured post on Wives Who Thrive? Fill out the linked Google Doc for a chance to have a feature on this monthly post. Interested in learning more about this monthly spotlight? Check out this invitation post.

The Value of Being Present

The Value of Being Present

picture says 1000 words

I love this picture. But not for the reasons you might expect. This photo is from 2016 and someone took it after a heartbreaking loss. We were ahead most of the game and lost in the last seconds. Regardless of the outcome, the crowd was thrilled with the progress that young team made from previous seasons. We stood on that field optimistic about the season ahead. As optimistic as we felt after this game, the season ended up being one that broke our hearts in many ways. 

Athletic seasons are practically impossible to predict.  This particular season included season ending injuries, deaths of family members, and common challenges young team encounter. It is an interesting faith practice to have the majority of your family’s income determined by 18-22-year-old mens’ ability and willingness to prepare for a football game. Coaches can prepare their players, call all the right plays and still lose their job due to lack of accurate or excellent execution on the field each week.

Progress has many layers, only a few of which the scoreboard reflects. The evidence that momentum is present is something coaches measure on the practice field, in the weightroom, and in team meetings.  I remember the feeling of joy this night held as well as the ache for our team, wishing they’d had the W they truly fought hard for and deserved. But that’s not why I love this picture.

I Love This Picture Because it’s Us

There is very little to say after a hard loss. Nothing will ease the frustration. But one thing I can do is be present and this photo is my reminder that those moments matter.

As coaches’ wives we know our lives have unique aspects. For fall sports this means August thru November our weekends revolve around football games, weekends out of town, hosting people for game day, and even sometimes saying no things like family functions or church events. These days I’m either cheering from the sidelines where I pull double duty as team photographer or cheering from home while I take a weekend off to relax at home. Either way, I’m cheering on our team the best way I can that week. My presence by my husband’s side is always my choice. I love cheering on our team each week, but more than that, I delight in the opportunity to let this man I adore know win or lose I’m always his biggest fan.

In the midst of the season, it can sometimes begin to feel as if my presence isn’t enough. It is so hard to watch one you love have to carry a heavy load, and coaching always includes one. Coaches focus on much more than X’s and O’s and that W/L record. Player’s with low GPA’s, poor class attendance and bad behaviour may face game suspension. Each school sets different factors in these areas along with the guidelines from the conference requirements.

Coaches’ Carry a Heavy Burden

Study hall times are just part of the plan to support academic successes. Recruiting takes a significant portion of each week’s focus year round for college coaches. Helping to prepare players and parents for the recruiting process starts with Juniors and continues for Seniors.  With hundreds of schools to choose from high school seniors have a level of expectation that includes frequent contact, but don’t always meet the criteria coaches are looking for; this can lead to challenging conversations about accurate perspectives.

Leadership and character development also play a key factor in adding to the burden many coaches carry. Ordell works hard to surround himself with coaches who agree with his conviction to influence players using football as a tool. Regardless character development is a multi-tiered effort these days and players need mentors who can build personal relationships with them on and off the field.

To live life as an example of Christ is a key part, but not enough. All surveys and studies whether religious or secular report the same thing about Generation Z authenticity is vital. MCCP says, “This generation grew up with reality TV stars, candid photos of celebrities, no make-up selfies, and vloggers. They are used to behind-the-scenes access. Everything generation Z have been exposed to creates an expectation that they can see behind the curtain and get the real story. And this extends into every realm of life.”

Mentoring athletes on and off the field takes time and intentional relationship building.  Consider this quote from Rethinking how to pastor the ‘connected’ generation “Although misunderstood in some ways, younger generations don’t simply want to be consumers of society; they want to be contributors. As we learn to disciple young adults in their own context, we need to cultivate curiosity, encourage intergenerational engagement, and lead them to understand how the gospel transforms all areas of both their own lives and the world around them.”

As my husband’s partner I desire to lighten the heavy burden my husband carries as he leads a football program. My instinct is always to look to help, but I understand that’s not always possible. If he could delegate a task during the season so he could catch more than five hours of sleep on a regular occurrence he would. But when his job hits the time of year when demands are all-consuming daily sometimes, hourly, delegation isn’t possible. 

Presence is Valuable

I love this picture because it reminds me that sometimes my presence is enough. Listening, encouraging, commiserating. These actions are all encompassed by my presence. I succeed offering my support some some times better than others, but my intentions are always genuine. How do I know this is a helpful? Because in situations where we have opposite roles and the burden is mine to carry I rely on Ordell’s presence for comfort and to keep me steady. 

As we strive to balance a committment to prioritize our marriage and mutually support each other as we each pursue our callings, our presence matters. Whether we’re looking out at a crowd to find familiar face, exchanging a glance after a frustrating call on the sidelines, or simply standing shoulder to shoulder after a hard loss or an amazing win, the consistency of our presence FOR each other matters.

It might look like a sacrifice to an outside observer. The commitment to be present is a sacrifice. Saying yes to any choice to do something means saying no to something else. As a coach’s wife I see value in supporting my husband both for our marriage and ministry. I’m thankful for the chance to support my husband, even it if simply means holding his hand in a hard time, because standing next to him in hard times mean that I’m around to celebrate the great times together as well.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on October 24, 2016 and has been updated with fresh content.

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