Tuesday, February 27, 2007

February 27, 2007

Wow, what an amazing weekend. We were able to leave our skirts and blow dryers back in Dallas, and able to test our strength on 3 different activities.

Our first morning was spent on the water, building “The Dream Team” by working together. We paired up by two, and took out the canoes. We all learned quickly that only one of us could control the canoe. The other person was the power, and only that. We had to communicate with each other so that we could proceed to the opposite side. We all had a blast, enjoying the refreshing water and the vibrant sun. But the day is not over yet… it gets better!

We were all excited to get hooked up and rappel from ALERT’s tower. We did have instructions and demonstrations on how to do it before trying it ourselves. Girsl rappelling—so much fun! We all went up and down too many times to count, laughing and building team work while having fun.

The next morning we drove out to the “Back 40” to learn team building on the rope course—working with each other, trusting each other, because it would never work if we did not. Getting from point A to point B forced us to rely on each other.

Driving back on Saturday night and reflecting on the lessons learned, I realized the important facts of having a dream team, not only with 14 girls at AE, but with believers, family, and my Lord.

April Janowski


Melissa, Meagan, Catherine, & Gina


Big Sandy Group

Monday, February 26, 2007

February 26, 2007

AE is back from our team-building weekend at Big Sandy. We all enjoyed the break from indoor mental “stretching” this past weekend. As I walked outdoors, the breeze seems to blow through my mind and clear the build-up of pressure from last week’s assignments. The switch from mental activity to physical activity was good for all of us. The beautiful scenery of the campus soothed my eyes immensely.

However, the rest and rejuvenation wasn’t our sole purpose for the weekend. It was team-building. Our activities were all related in some way to teamwork, partnership, or trust. First, on Friday morning we loaded into canoes on the sparkling, clear lake and practiced the simple exercise of team-work paddling. This is where I learned my first important lesson. You see, my natural inclination as bowman was to prove my own ability so succeed in this position. However, my pride led to difficulties for me when my teammate was blindfolded and I was supposed to know how to direct her with understanding. Basically, it took longer for me to accomplish what others were accomplishing in a faster amount of time. True team building is focusing on your teammate vs. yourself.

That afternoon, the AE girls rappelled. The main focus of team-building in this activity was trust even in the midst of insecure circumstances. It was amazing to see that once the initial launch was taken, every future launch became easier and easier.

On Friday evening Becky Tanner invited us girls to her home for a Mary Kay party. We enjoyed her hospitality, her home d├ęcor, and her lavish generosity with make-up. I enjoyed the time of fellowship there.

The next morning, Saturday, dawned rainy and windy with the possibility of canceled plans for our low ropes obstacle course. However, God intervened and blessed us with fair weather. After a short testimony and introduction into the course by Major and Mrs. Farr, we soon headed right into it. Again, the same lessons as the canoe experience rang true here. A good teammate forgot about herself and instead focused on praising, exhorting, and encouraging her team mates onto success. I learned through it, just how much team-building I need to work on in my life.

The day passed quickly and before we knew it, we were on our way back to the DTC. We stopped at Chick-fil-a for dinner, where many of us splurged with milkshakes and ice cream.

Now it’s Monday. New assignments have been assigned, Sunday passed with blessings of resting weary muscles and quite times with the Lord. We even enjoyed a birthday celebration with and for Sarah Danaher last evening. We are now studying, hoping to make the most of our every minute because tomorrow… tomorrow we have public speaking. So, I guess I had better be going.

God bless you all,
Jessica Matlock

AE goes down the ALERT Wall
Lauren on the Confidence Course
April & Eileen learning trust

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

February 21, 2007 | Team Building

“The strength of the team is each individual member; the strength of each member is the team.”

Focusing on the “partner” role of life, we are shifting the primary emphasis from marriage onto the concept of being a team member. Who of us can honestly say we are not members of a team…be it family, church, school, sports, committees, work, or otherwise? No man is an island; we cannot escape teamwork. Being an effective leader and member is something we must all strive toward.

Again, the concept of banishing mediocrity from among the ranks of today’s young people drives the desire to build a team that strives together for excellence in any situation. So many of Paul’s admonitions to be of “one mind,” “love the brotherhood,” “have unity among the brethren,” come to mind. Successful teamwork is a vignette of how the Body of Christ ought to operate.

Leaders must be especially sensitive when it comes to building and motivating a team. Without an inspired team, a leader cannot accomplish much.

“The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” –Peter Drucker

“Most important, leaders can conceive and articulate goals that lift people out of their petty preoccupations and unite them in pursuit of objectives worthy of their best efforts.” – John Gardner

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” –Ralph Nader

So, tomorrow afternoon will find us headed to Big Sandy, Texas where Advanced EXCEL will bust its previous mold—we will participate in an abridged STEP program as part of our team building program. We will rappel, canoe, play volleyball, and master a low-ropes confidence course. These adventures promise fun, fresh challenges, and insight, as diverse individuals work together as a unified team.

Jennifer Smith

The Valentine's Group

Gina, Kristin, Sarah, & Jennifer

Friday, February 16, 2007

February 16, 2007

This is a brief synopsis of a day in my life as an AE girl.

My heart thumps. I feel a cramp coming in my side and remind myself to take deeper breaths. I hear the pounding of Paige and Emily’s feet. Only five more laps to go and I'll have run a mile and a half. There is fog over Dallas, covering the skyline. The air has a refreshing chill, a great thing for an early morning jog. As I round the last lap, Paige goes sprinting by. She can run her long distance; I'd rather run suicide sprints up and back to the volleyball net. At 6:30 am, we head inside for 15 minutes of power Pilates before Bible study. We keep pushing ourselves, waiting until everyone is down in the AE room. It is painful, but you get that wonderful feeling of sore muscles.

After the Bible study, we all sprint up stairs to do our "presto-chango". Elisabeth tells me of all the excitement I missed when they killed “Frankie” the roach. 45 minutes later, we all look professional and put together, ready to tackle our day. Well, that is after we have breakfast. The first class on our schedule is speech [groan]. To get us all in the mood, Gina encouraged us by showing how she avoids speeches by jumping out of planes. Just kidding! She used the skydiving analogy as an illustration of an adrenaline rush. She explained how it is normal to get a small one while speaking in front of an audience. I would rather jump out of the plane. Our moment finally came, one at a time we would take our place and deliver the 5-10 minute speech on how God brought us to Advanced EXCEL. With sweaty palms and nervous looks we would step up to the podium and …..scream!!! Oh, never mind, that only happened to Sarah. We all survived, did wonderful, and will give another speech on another day.

After lunch is my favorite part of the day- my date with God. If I were to tell you all that I learned, I would fill up page upon page. Today I was getting a hand cramp I was writing so much and so fast. In four verses God was able to answers so many questions. How can I ever doubt Him?

I never thought of my self as a leader, but today I learned I am an influencer. Mr. Bell spoke on the power of influence for our afternoon session. He was able to tell us stories in his own life how others had influenced him through words, actions, and even looks. I am an influencer and I need to embrace that fact. If I want to affect the world, I need to be a woman of influence.

After working on assignments in the afternoon, we met for dinner, then headed off to team meeting- a great time to give back rubs, do nails, and bond with each other. By the time 9:30 pm rolls around I am ready for sleep to surround me. I have to get up and teach Pilates tomorrow at 6 am. I need something creative and challenging. Maybe, some army drills…

Grace Gallagher

Thursday, February 15, 2007

February 15, 2007

Hello from the land of Advanced EXCEL! We are staying busy, but thoroughly enjoying every moment. Even though there are times when we get overwhelmed, God continues to get us strength. He also has given us the best AE directors! Gina, Sarah, and Jennifer are such an inspiration to us and are frequently throwing surprises for us. They are a blessing!

This week Kristin Spilker is speaking to us on the topics of Interior Design, Event Planning, and Political Involvement. She assigned us a fun project to do in the area of Event Planning for different events such as wedding receptions, baby showers, anniversary celebrations, etc., but we have a budget to work with. This weekend we will present our pretend proposals to Kristin as though we were actually doing it for a client. We look forward to see what each of us comes up with.

May the Lord bless you!

Melissa Feeny

Melissa, Katey, & Catherine

Monday, February 12, 2007

February 12, 2007

Well, Monday has arrived again; however this Monday is no ordinary Monday. Today starts teh first day of the 3rd week, which means that Advanced EXCEL's halfway mark is nearing in sight. Time flies when you are having fun.

Anyways, this morning started out with Pilates! We won't be recognized when we return. Our hard work & longsuffering will have paid off. Wisdom Search followed and we studied the Command of Christ #10- "Love Your Enemies." We had lots of discussion regarding this subject, most of which was encouraging. Breakfast was unique. It was leftover day, so whatever we had last week we saw again this morning.

Jennifer Smith covered the big topic of "Written Communication." Aside from the quiz, it was lots of fun! For our free writing, written in class, we had to stare at an orange construction cone which was in a sad state. While looking at it, we had to figure out what happened to it by making up a story. The true story was revealed once our free-writing was written. Let's just say the story was hillarious and it made us feel for the poor little cone.

This afternoon found us painting two rooms on the third floor. One word to discribe our project woul dhave to be "bonding," in a good way. :-) There is never a dull moment adn lots of memories have been made! Study time was very quiet, of course, with busy minds here at work. Dinner was fabulous! Chicken tenders, french fries, broccoli, salad, and other wonderful delights were on the menu. We are definately spoiled! The best of all, though, was the laughter shared by all of us during dinner. I don't think there is ever a dull moment around here! Laughter has been a blessing that will cary us through the rest of our time here. God is truly amazing!

Elisabeth Tijerina


Saturday, February 10, 2007

February 9, 2007- Pt. II

Dear Friends and Family (Hi, Mom & Dad!),

My name is Paige Dueck, one of Katey O’s new best friends. Time is going by so fast, and we all can’t believe that the second week is already almost over.

If I had to describe AE in one word it would be “inspiring, stressful, exhilarating, fast-paced, and life-changing.” Our everyday experiences range from exercising, to sitting & listening, to sessions, to painting, to watching Michelle Mann teach Gina how to waltz. The sleep is limited, the food is great, and the fellowship is phenomenal.

One thing that I have really enjoyed doing here is our “Date with God” time from 1—2 pm. It is a time to be alone with Him, to bask in His presence, ask Him questions, talk to Him, or just sit quietly and listen. I think we can all say that after our “date” each day we come away refreshed and ready to face new challenges.

This morning Melisa McKim finished up her sessions by going over some basic accounting skills that will equip us for designing a home business when we get home. We are all blessed by her testimony and practical application of Scripture. I came away from her sessions inspired to be a Proverbs 31 Woman and to glorify God in all that I do, whether it is getting dressed in the morning or running a home business.

Right now I am sitting in Old City Park, located behind the DTC. Due to unforeseen changes in our schedule, the Leadership (bless their hearts) decided to let us spend some time to just “be.” Tonight we are going to have our “Advanced EXCEL Strategy Meeting,” but you’ll have to wait until later to hear about that.

To God be all the glory, great things He hath done!

Until later,


Elisabeth, April, Michelle, & Paige
The "Strategy Meeting" April, Michelle, Eileen, & Emily
Advanced EXCEL 15

Friday, February 9, 2007

February 9, 2007- Pt. I

Nearly two weeks have passed as our little band of fourteen world-changers, here at Advanced EXCEL, delve deeper into our academic studies. The atmosphere is congenial, and the classes are inspiring and practical, though at times stressful. The girls make it fun and we laugh quite a lot as we grow closer and discover new quirks about each other.

Today Melisa McKim got into the nitty-gritty of accounting and business planning. Eileen has a vision for a wedding planning business and I’ve really caught on to it. The skills God has given me of PR and writing give me an opportunity to be a part of something fun and helpful. The opportunity to work with people, meet their needs, and let my creative juices run really appeals to me. I will be praying about it and we’ll see how God leads.

As the second week draws to a close, we have been extremely blessed by the fellowship with like-minded young women and teaching. I have shed many tears and prayed many prayers, but dawn has finally torn the cold clutches of darkness from my soul. My dreams and aspirations are within my grasp, at last; I have only to reach out and take them. God’s grace is truly sufficient for all our needs.

Living for Him,

Michelle Mann


Michelle, Melisa McKim, Eileen

Catherine & Meagan

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

February 7, 2007

Hi my name is Catherine, I’m here at Advanced EXCEL located in the beautiful downtown suburbs of Dallas, Texas. We started off our day with the shrill ring of our beloved alarm clocks at 5:40am, followed by a joyous time of crying out during the time of 6-6:45 am as we attempted to become proficient in the aerobic exercise of Pilates.

We had a smashing wisdom search this morning lead by our very own Katey O. Amidst the loud moans and groans, which were a result of our rigorous excercise, she shared with us the significant importance of the Command of Christ #6.

Our first session was a lot of fun! Melisa McKim spoke with all of us about the importance of truly becoming a Proverbs 31 woman. Melisa was fun to listen to and shared some great points with us.

This afternoon we got to begin our Interior Design course on some of the rooms on the third floor. We had a wonderful time sanding down the base boards, taking the nails out of the doors, taking the draperies down and washing down the walls. Two of our incredibly, awesome, amazing, wonderful, splendid and fabulous leaders Sarah and Jennifer were with us the whole time. All of us had such a blast!

Tonight after a profitable time of studying, we got in line for dinner and then got to go outside to eat.

I am so glad that God has brought me here to Advanced EXCEL! I have already learned so much and have made 16 awesome new best friends. Today was a good day to be alive, I am so glad that I am here! To God be all glory!

All of the above was written by our very own Katy O. She is truly a sweet, hilarious, godly young lady. I'm glad that she is here, along with the 13 other young ladies here at A.E. She found out that I had forgotten to write the first blog for Advanced Excel 15 and knowing how tired I am from all the exercise, sanding, and studying, she took it upon herself to write it for me. She described the day quite well. Please contiune to pray as we prepare our speeches to give on Feb 13th, also that we would continue to do our best in all our studies.

Catherine Nicolls

Jennifer, Gina, & Sarah

Catherine, Elisabeth, & Sarah

Katey O.