Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pigeons, Letters and Laptops....

When I was a girl, I had a pen pal. I would write letters and she would respond with a letter full of stories and memories. I remember waiting weeks for the mail to come to receive a precious gift of words. These were the good 'ole days......or were they?

Our society has definitely moved far from the old fashioned way of communicating. Even companies want to give their bill statements online rather than in the mail. It costs more to send paper statements. We pay bills online, chat online, Facebook message, email and text. It seems like our world has lost the unique gift of communicating face to face. There's even a gazillion (online) blogs that bring our attention to the lack of face to face contact. All of which we couldn't read if we weren't communicating online. I find it ironic.

My question is this: Have all our social media, online messaging, email and iphones taken away from our relationships or added to them? 

It depends on the individual, I believe. Some may hide behind their screen at home and simply relate to people online. Others may use the world wide web as a tool to communicate with a larger range of people. It takes balance. We don't want to throw the "baby out with the bath water" so to speak.....but we need to find that happy place of balance. 

As a people person who's also an introvert, I find online communication sweetens my relationships. It's a way I can stay in contact with long distance family and friends while still protecting my quiet time at home. I can chat with teenagers in a private space, where they feel comfortable typing. Some can share their feelings easier than in a crowded coffee shop. At the very least, it gives them an opportunity to set up a time to meet face to face. Without online relationships, I would never reach the amount of young people I do currently.

Within my homeschooling community, I have face to face interaction every Monday and Thursday.....while through email we can encourage each other the rest of the week. I receive insights, thoughts and support at least once a week. I look forward to seeing those messages in my inbox!

In ministry, I have 4 or 5 coffee dates a month with people that the Lord has put in my life. Some are mentoring relationships and others are just opportunities to know one another. All of those meetings are made through text messages. I treasure every coffee date and every word that's shared. My cup (no pun intended haha) is so full when I leave!

If it's been weeks or months since I've made contact with someone.....I might text them an encouraging note or send them something in the mail. I have typed out my prayer over a Facebook message, text or email. That encouragement is priceless to give and receive. Whatever way we choose to communicate, the bottom line is JUST DO IT. Go and have that coffee date, lunch date or phone conversation. Be that person that encourages someone else with a thank you card, a voicemail, a text or a hug. My concern is that we spend too much time trying to find the perfect way of communicating that we waste time NOT communicating at all. Ask the Lord what people need in your life and then obey that calling. Every one is different....God did that on purpose. The only common denominator is we were made in HIS IMAGE. So go and be Christ to the people around you.....whatever means He leads you to do that.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. 
As I have loved you, so 
you must love one another." John 13:34

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Cut is deeper than you think...

Three years and twenty-seven topics later, I have new insight into teen ministry. The Loft is starting up soon and I am reminded of what God has taught me. This will be year FOUR of trudging through the deep, icky topics of life that plague our young people. I love this ministry for girls because every topic NEEDS to be brought into the open!! There has to be a place where girls can safely talk about the issues in life and how to navigate through them. BUT.....there is ONE topic that has wrecked my heart more than any other. ONE topic that leaves me awake at night and gets me on my knees in tears. It's the topic of "self injury". This can be anything from burning to cutting. I have mostly seen the "cutting" side of this topic and it's heartbreaking.

I have different people, from time to time, write me and ask about their niece, daughter or friend who is cutting. I was asked for help today and I want to address it to help others. This is not a new issue but it's also not an old one. I think it's become more popular among teens as they grasp for answers. Usually at the root of self injury is an internal pain so great that they're finding a release in the "new" pain.....a pain that THEY can control. Often times, the pain they are dealing with is largely out of their control. The internal issues can be anything really. Some are incredible. Maybe they have suffered through sexual, emotional or physical abuse. Maybe they have lost a parent or a loved one and they are grieving. The pain inside can also be from anxiety, not fitting in, bullying or a combination of things. It's just whatever is in their life that is leaving them feeling out of control. It can be the deepest pain they have ever felt. They may not see the light at the end yet.

So what do we do? How can we as parents, friends, aunties and mentors help them? Here's some advice......

1. PRAY - I know this might seem cliche but without Christ there is no true healing. We need to bring this young person to the Father and lift them up in prayer. The enemy is real and is trying to destroy these precious ones. Pray for them. Pray for yourself....for wisdom, compassion and insight into their world.

2. LOVE - Be their friend. Reach out and love them. DO NOT TRY TO FIX THEM. This tactic never works. Only the Lord Himself can move the mountains of their heart to heal and put back what is broken. You cannot "fix" what is broken but you CAN be that confidant...that friend....that listening ear....that safe place. You can love them through Christ and walk this road of healing with them.

3. SEEK GODLY COUNSEL - Go to someone who the Lord has given wisdom to in this area. Maybe it's someone who has walked this road of self injury and has victory now. Maybe it's godly wisdom from a book or blog. Maybe it's your pastor at church. Whoever God leads you to, seek their counsel and insight.

4. DIRECT - The most difficult thing about cutting is that the person has to DECIDE to change. They have to want to stop. Cutting is VERY addictive. Every time someone cuts, the body releases endorphins which provide relief. For each time the emotions are high, the body craves this release. So as much as we cannot force an alcoholic to change, we cannot force anyone with an addiction...including cutting. We need to DIRECT our loved one to a counselor, a friend who is victorious in this area, to God's Word, to prayer....AND to a new way to handle pain.

5. OFFER NEW WAYS TO DEAL - There are a lot of articles online to help with self harm/injury. One of the things I learned, is that we can cope in new ways. You can offer new things for this person to do instead of hurt themselves. For example, I had one girl put rubber bands on her wrist so that every time she wanted to "cut" she could "flick" herself instead. It still stung but wasn't a dangerous action that could eventually kill her. Another idea is to have a piece of wood near by that they could carve into with a pen or pencil. One of the BEST ways to cope I have seen is talking with a counselor. Now, this is tricky because most cutters do this in private and in places no one will see. It scares them to admit they are doing it and even more so to talk to someone about it. BUT, if they are willing, a counselor provides a neutral party that they can talk to about what's going on. This is someone who can listen to their pain and get it out. I have seen much healing through a godly counselor.

I really hope this helps!! I know that for parents....discovering your teen is cutting...is shocking and heartbreaking. It is difficult to know what to do and where to go for help. We can't just look at our teen and say "STOP DOING THAT"!! That will never work. But we can come alongside them and go to the One who knows exactly what to do. Amen???

Love you all and hope you pass this on to someone who needs some wisdom. I have included the cover of this great resource! "Scars that wound: Scars that heal" is a great book about Jackie.....a girl who walked this journey.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This side of Heaven.....

Death on this side of Heaven, sucks. I'm just being real here. There's nothing glamorous, nothing pretty, nothing heart warming about it.....at least in my experience. It is ugly, messy, heart wrenching and at times a nightmare. My dear friend woke up this past weekend in the middle of this nightmare. Her teenage son passed away suddenly. He was a precious treasure of hers and now he's gone. There are no words to describe this loss, this grief, this pain.

There's no way to prepare our hearts to say goodbye to someone we love....especially our own child. It is in fact, a nightmare. I remember days after my mom died, I would sit straight up in bed gasping for breath. I would wake up from horrible dreams as my mind and heart tried to process what was happening. My husband would comfort me and help me through those dreams....but it was prayer that gave me strength and allowed me to put one foot forward each day.

God knows that death is horrible this side of Heaven. He knows the pain and the suffering. He knows how we feel. He knows the depth of our tears. His own Son, Jesus Christ, died a horrific death on the Cross to reconcile US to HIM. It didn't seem fair. His death seemed like a great loss......but instead, it was a great victory! Jesus said "it is finished". His death and resurrection saved us. It was the plan all along to reconcile all of creation back to our Heavenly Father!! 

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Eternal Life. Heaven. The Glory of God. This is the only wonderful thing about death. We pass from this life into eternal life. A gift from God. Yes, on this side of Heaven death sucks. It's a messy process to go through physically, emotionally and spiritually. But when we make Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives and surrender our lives to Him.....we get to spend forever and ever with our Heavenly Father. My friend's precious son, is now in the arms of his Father, His Heavenly Father. There are no more tears, no more saddness, no more pain. One day, this mom will see her son again because they both made Christ their Lord. Do you know Him? Have you dealt with your eternity? The most important thing to think about today!

THANK YOU LORD, that even though we don't understand death on this side.....YOU DO!! Thank you that we can lean on you and you will carry us through the suffering. I lift up my dear sister in Christ......I pray that you will continue to hold her so close to you and use others to bring great comfort during this incredible time of loss. May everyone see your glory through this young man's life and death. May people come to know you and your salvation because of all this. Amen!!

Love you Lord! Love you Gina!! Love you Jerritt!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Storm, The Boat and The Life Preserver!!

Most of us have heard the story of the drowning man who cried out to the Lord. He was out at sea during a terrible storm and his boat was sinking. He asked the Lord to save him and believed God would! A boat came by and the people reached out to him offering help. The man said, "No thank you. God will save me." The storm was getting worse and another boat came by. Once again, they offered to throw out a life preserver to save the man but he refused. Again he told them he was waiting on God to save him. The man drowned in that storm. When face to face with God, he asked why He didn't save him. The man said, "Lord, I cried out to you and waited for You to save me!" God replied, "Son, I sent you two boats and a life preserver and you refused my help!!"

We hear this story and roll our eyes thinking "what a moron!" It is clear that the Lord was sending him help and he was too stubborn to see it!! But the reality is that we are just like him. When storms beat us down in life, don't we cry out to God but then try to fix it ourselves? Don't we believe in His help but want it on our own time table? If our storms in life were real storms, we might drown too. 

I am in week three of a messed up back. I pulled something while visiting Colorado last month and my back has not been the same since. It is 24/7 of pain. On a scale of 1-10, it can go from a 2 one moment to a 10 the next. Grrrrrr.......it is aggravating!! I feel like an old lady. My kids are constantly doing things for me that would normally be a no brainer. My husband has had to dress me and lift me into bed. (More and more, I am understanding the "for better or worse" part of our vows. :))

Three days after getting back from Colorado, we left for our Summer family trip! I have been looking forward to this camping trip fully unplugged!! It was such a beautiful trip....beautiful time with my family....beautiful landscape and I saw God's glory everyday. My back, however, revolted. It hated the air mattresses and the lack of rest/recovery. This has been my STORM! Waves crashing. Dark skies. Moments of tears and concern. I became hugely compassionate for all my friends who suffer in chronic pain day in and day out. I did my best to rely on God throughout our trip but it was hard sometimes. I smiled and I cried. I prayed and prayed. I leaned on Him.....and here's what HE DID!!!!

One morning, I was on my knees in the tent trying to dress myself. I was praying and asking the Lord to heal me. "Please Lord. Lay your mighty hands on my back and give me rest." I went outside the tent over to our picnic table for breakfast. Within one hour, our neighbor (a woman I hadn't met yet) came over to the table asking if someone had a bad back. I think she saw me laying on the ground the day before. I introduced myself and she went on to share their back stories. Her adult daughter had been in an accident years before and has to do special exercises for her back. They actually brought some different equipment specifically designed for lower back pain!!!!!!!! WHAT?????? Who does that camping??? What are the chances they would be camped in our campground next door to us??? They offered their help to me each day and we did these exercises together!!! Total strangers. Totally awkward.......and TOTALLY GOD'S PROVISION!!!!

Jeff and I both praised the Lord and were reminded of the drowning man. We both said, "This is God's life preserver for me!!" Now.....my back was not completely healed after those days of exercises. But, it did help me to walk better and enjoy our dear friends while camping. By Saturday, my back was spasm-ing and we had to get me a hotel room to rest. I had to be in a car for 7 hours yesterday to make it home. Again, in this storm, God sent me a boat in way of the hotel. I was able to lay in bed for 16 hours and rest my back completely!!!! I took medicine and put Icy-hot on my back Sunday morning.....which allowed me to sit in the car and come home!!! Had God not given me that rest, I wouldn't have made it in the car all day!!

I have learned so much through this. I have seen God's provision and His mercies new each morning. I have great compassion for those that are in pain constantly. I spent some time on my back outside.......I saw the beautiful skies, the amazing clouds and how they move, tree branches that hold birds and squirrels......I listened to the sounds of the creeks, I experienced true love from my husband and friends. This storm of dumb, annoying pain is frustrating.....but God has provided His sweet loving kindness and His mercy. For that I am grateful.

Psalm 118:1 
" Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."

Monday, March 24, 2014

It's Okay to Like YOU!

I have spent so much of my life caring about what other's think of me. Hours upon hours of spinning my wheels making sure everyone else is happy with who I am. If I wasn't fretting over words that were said to me....I'd beat myself up internally for what I thought of me. 

Analyzing. Judging. Condemning. No grace. No mercy. 

These words don't describe how I was treated by others. They describe how I treated myself.....my own worse enemy.

Isn't that true? We have an internal dialogue that goes on with ourselves. We can actually be our own bully. We become our own enemy. Grace abounds but only for others. Mercy is given but only for friends and family. We're told to not judge and so we try to let people work out their issues with God. But when did that grace, mercy and lack of judgement include ourselves? When have we extended the same gifts of God to ourselves? Is it okay to just say, "I like me"....and live a life that shows it? Or is it more godly to constantly analyze every moment we stumble, every time we fail, each step that isn't perfect?

Psalm 139:14-16
"I praise you because 
I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place. 
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me 
were written in your book 
before one of them came to be."

YES!!! It is more than okay to like ourselves! In fact, since we are made in God's image....since we are fearfully and wonderfully made by our Father....since every good and perfect gift comes from Him....since He desires a relationship with us....since He sacrificed His own Son for us....since all the days ordained for us were written in His book before one of them came to be (Ps.139:16).....I would say that HANDS DOWN, we are to LOVE ourselves!! 

It's been several years now, that I have focused more on Him and less on me. The freedom is huge! God does not waste time on garbage. Let's start praising Him for who He is and living a life by His Spirit!! Not a life full of regrets, judgment and hate....but seriously praising God and worshiping Him by the way He created us! Let's not waste our life so focused on ourselves that we forget the One who made us......the One who says "you are mine".

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine." Isaiah 43:1

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top 5 Things To Help Your Teen...

People have told me over the years that they could "never do" what I do. That is, they could never be in teen ministry. I get it. Teenagers are amazing but they are not easy to understand. People that say they could never do that....aren't saying that because they're unloving or lack compassion. They really do care about teens. The issue is that it's not what God has called them to do and to understand. They are being used elsewhere by the Lord and that's awesome!

There are other times when parents ask for advice about their teenage daughter. Many parents remember being a teenager and the difficult years in Jr. High and High School. We remember but we aren't sure what to do when it comes to our own girls. I have been encouraged to share the "Top 5" things you can do to connect with, help and encourage your teen girl. Whether you're a parent, a youth leader, mentor or friend, these will help. I have my own teenage daughter and have 16 years of experience walking alongside teen girls.....so these are tried and true with blood, sweat and tears. LOL!

1. BUILD A RELATIONSHIP: This is so important. Teenagers don't trust easily so there has to be a relationship. Get to know who THEY are....not who you THINK they are. Youth Leaders - spend time just hanging out. Over time, they will trust you and that relationship will grow. Put out effort and seek them out. 
Parents - Just because we are parents, does NOT automatically mean "relationship". Your daughter needs to know you care and are interested in her life. Build that relationship by spending quality time just the two of you.

2. BE THE EXAMPLE: I could repeat over and over that teenagers don't trust easily. They are used to people disappointing them and/or hurting them. It is IMPERATIVE that we are THE example. The whole saying "Do as I say, not as I do" is ridiculous! They will do as you do!! Check yourself and see what example you are to the teens around you. Hypocrites don't get very far in life with teens. They will stop listening and stop paying attention to you.

3. LISTEN MORE THAN YOU TALK: Girls and women LOVE to talk! The average female uses 25,000 words a day! So listen to your teen more than you talk at her. They so desperately want to be acknowledged and valued. When we listen to what's in their minds and hearts, they feel validated. If we just interrupt them and tell them what we think of them.....we lose them. Go to a coffee shop and just sit and listen to the heart of your girl.

4. MAKE SURE YOU ARE MILES AHEAD: Many times when tragedy or suffering hits our girls, we are stunned. How could this happen? What went wrong? I never thought she would do this? The fact is, we live in a fallen world. Bad things will happen to our teenagers. The good news is that God is Sovereign and we can trust Him in it. As youth leaders, mentors and parents....we need to be miles ahead of our girls. How can we help them with safety on the internet if we haven't studied the different social sites? How can we know what they're dealing with at school if we don't pay attention and look closely at the school? WE HAVE TO KNOW THE WORLD THEY LIVE IN....NOT THE WORLD WE LIVED IN. This is huge! How we grew up doesn't matter anymore. It's all about the kind of world THEY are growing up in. So do your homework and be ahead of the game.

5. LAST BUT MOST IMPORTANT....KNOW GOD'S WORD, WALK IN HIS WAYS AND POUR HIS TRUTH INTO YOUR GIRL: Honestly, without this one, the other four things don't matter. We cannot expect our teens to go to church, go to youth group and be "good" if we as adults are not doing it. We have to know who God is and be secure in our Salvation. They need to see us walking the walk and talking the talk. Involve your teen in your bible study....in your walk with God. Share with her all the things God has done and is doing in your life. Walking with the Lord is an exciting adventure so show it to her. This way, when the trials come and the tragedy hits (which it will) you all have a firm foundation to stand on. And PRAY with her over and over. Don't ever stop because this will change your relationship. If she doesn't want to then at the very least, pray for her on your own.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Good to the last drop...

I used to never drink coffee. Bleh! I never owned a coffee pot either. I loved tea, scones, shortbread and whatever would fit with my teacup and saucer. About 10 years ago, a friend introduced me to coffee and especially all the yummy-ness that goes in a cup. I loved everything about it. The cream, the sugar, the flavors....especially in the Fall....the pumpkin spice! I became a coffee lover!!!

Yes, I love coffee. More accurately, I love the creamer and goodness that goes into a great latte or mocha! But what I love more is the relationships. My life is full of coffee "moments" in different cities and towns; different coffee shops and stands. I have sat with countless teen girls sipping a mocha and hashing out life. I usually have one to two coffee dates every week!! Sometimes it's with a teen girl and other times a friend. Sometimes it's with someone who needs encouragement and other times a stranger who might be a speaker for The Loft. My memories are full of these moments sharing thoughts, experiences and life. When I think of coffee, I think of people. I think of relationships because I am usually sharing a cup with some precious soul. 

I am grateful for this silly little drink. Just as it warms me up, it enables me to reach out to others and also share a cup with the Lord. Bible study and quiet time is amazing in a coffee shop.....or in my car :) I have been known to grab a coffee to-go and sit with God. It's the best sitting along a country road...reading, praying and sharing a cup with Him. Wherever it happens, I am thankful for all the moments I've sipped coffee. My life would not be the same.

"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
1 Corinthians 10:31