The student ministries pastor has “scaled back” midweek services for the summer. The lead pastor is off with his family on vacation to somewhere amazing- judging by his facebook photos! The associate pastor is so chill right now (he’s growing a full on beard!) because he has “limited” small group sessions planned this summer. He’s using summer to work on fall. So why oh why are you, dear kid’s ministry leader, frying like an egg out on that hot hot hot sidewalk? Summer is not a break for children’s ministry leaders. It is typically VERY busy. Here are just a few reasons that summer can be tough for kid’s ministry leaders:

  1. Most of you have a summer outreach-or two. VBS, Summer Camps, Drama Camp, Sports Camp, Sidewalk Sunday School etc. This is one of your craziest, most impactful seasons of the whole year! And all of these outreaches are usually in ADDITION to your regular ministry times on Sundays and midweek. Which can make it more frustrating that…
  2. Your volunteers are AWAL. Those summer outreaches usually need a LOT of man and woman power. But your volunteers will be taking their vacations and will be off of their usual schedule. I live in the great state of WI. After so many months of bitter cold and snow, many of our leaders literally head out to go camping- ALL SUMMER. The ones who stay on in the summer, still have their vacations to go on.
  3. Parents are EXTREMELY distracted. The parents of the kids in your ministry are carrying out vacations, summer sports, family trips, family reunions, prepping for fall school etc. If your parents and volunteers need to be told something 8 times during the school year before it “sticks”, I think they need to hear information 17 times during the busyness of summer (also during the Holidays).  I do not give out a lot of very important information during the summer. Make SURE you make parents and leaders aware of all important summer dates BEFORE school lets out. We have our parent and volunteer meetings right after school starts.
  4. Your attendance drops. Most churches report that their Sunday and midweek attendance dips in the summer (including the kid’s ministry programs). In the past, when we tried to have a volunteer training or parent meeting in the summer, almost no one showed up.  Do not let this discourage you. It happens to us all. I do not showcase my amazing new curriculum in the summer. I usually pull out a smaller curriculum, tried and true, and then take new risks with it- like REALLY messy games, water play, or a guest speaker who enters on stilts! Summer is a great time to try some newer things with perhaps “older” lessons. Our focus changes in the summer to making VBS and Camp AMAZING and also preparing for the fall kickoffs.

A Few Summer Survival Tips for Those of Us in Children’s Ministry:

  1. Do communicate frequently with your lead pastor and other staff. Many times they have NO idea how difficult summer is for you. They are throttling down while you are ramping up. Let the staff know how crazy this season can get for you.
  2. Try recruiting a whole separate set of volunteer leaders for your regular services in the summer. I started recruiting a small group of summer leaders that would commit for those 12 weeks. Then I gave all of my leaders the option to take summer off. Some stayed all summer and loved it. Others came back to the ministry in the fall. Our retention level is very high. Many said they respected that we value them as people, and we want to see them building their own families too.
  3. Plan Plan Plan. The earlier in the year you start planning for your summer outreaches, the better they will go. Plan downtimes for yourself as well after EVERY event. Try as hard as you can not to plan your outreaches back to back or right off of an all church event. AS tough as it is, try to take your day/days off.
  4. Give yourself a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Most people can push through a tough time if they know there is great reward on the other side, and that the tough time is only temporary. We know the reward for our summer outreaches is beyond measure- children and families coming to know Christ, our church and the kingdom expanding, our community a better place etc. But too often we feel like that insane pace of ministry should be happening at all times, year round. Ministry has SEASONS. For me, fall is my “breather.” After we get all of our fall programs kicked off and running smoothly, I have a couple of weeks that are a bit “saner.” But I have to work hard and plan before that to make sure I do not burn out. I can push through a tough patch of summer, when I focus on the amazing impact of these outreaches and the smoother season to come.
  5. You need to delegate and build teams. And this takes time and patience. Sometimes you have to have a few “wins” under your belt before your dream team will jump on board. But I highly suggest teams to help with each outreach, and above all a prayer team that you meet with regularly. You need others encouraging you and cheering you on as you run that “ball” through to the end zone.

How about you? How are summers different fromIMG_0017 the rest of the year in your ministry? What have you found that helps you the most in your summer ministry?

Love and encouragement always,

Trisha

This past week, I heard several people on social media broach the subject of Christians being “pro-birth, but not pro- life”, meaning against abortion but not for more big government welfare programs. One young lady said, “Christians are only pro-life until the embryo is born, then they couldn’t care less about the child or the mom.” Another responded with, “You can’t be pro-life when so many kids are stuck in the foster system with no family.” And yet another, “I cannot understand why so called Christians refuse to adopt any of these kids they claim to care about.”

I am interested in this topic because I am a Christian, a children’s pastor, a parent AND my sister and brother in law adopted this beautiful angel- Eva Marie Hope. This is a hot button issue right now…volcano! I also

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have several good Christian friends who have adopted children. I very much would like some of them to weigh in on this, as well as adults who grew up in foster care, to hear from those who have first hand experience.

I am 100 percent FOR adoption. Each of us is adopted by God after all. I am thrilled to see a rising interest in adoption by Christians and churches alike (our church celebrates an “adoption day”.

My experience tells me that more Christians have not adopted children for many different reasons. The assumption that Christians do not WANT to adopt or are not interested in the lives of at risk children just does not seem to be accurate to me. Here are a few reasons that Christians may not adopt, that have nothing to do with apathy.

  1. MONEY- If you did not know, adoption is INCREDIBLY expensive. Yes, the costs vary from state to state, and from agency to agency. But overall, these costs can be prohibitive for the average person. My sister was literally told by one agency “It would not be worth it to apply until you can show at least 20,000 in your bank account.” YIKES! This was impossible for them. Overseas adoption was creeping up on 50,000 from certain countries. A friend of mine had a private open adoption, and the costs still went over 10000. Parents determined to adopt may be forced to go instead to foster care and HOPE they can someday adopt. My sister went this route twice before this. She ended up adopting privately through a girl she met at church- a private adoption, but it still cost 18,000+. Anyone else feel like we are SELLING CHILDREN HERE? Why are these costs so high? I am honestly asking. It seems we are limiting adoption to the rich, as if rich people are somehow better parents.
  2. RACISM and DISCRIMINATION- This may be a very controversial section of this blog. And I’m certainly open to other perspectives on this one. But it is a fact that certain children, in certain states cost MORE than other children, based entirely on the color of their skin or the state of a disability or their gender or age. For example, white female babies in some areas are considered “very desirable” and therefore cost more. My sister was told that Americans want to adopt girls because we think they will be “easier” to raise. They told her that if she would consider a child of color, or a bi-racial child or a child with disabilities the costs would be MUCH cheaper. Someone please explain this to me! This ANGERS me. Isn’t this institutional racism? Isn’t this SELLING CHILDREN? This is appalling!
  3. Unreasonable Requirements- Did you know that most states, adoption agencies have a long list of requirements that you and your spouse must meet in order to adopt. These requirements MAY include, but are not limited to A. Age- you may have to be under the age of 37-40 B. Medical History- Any medical problems on your or your spouse’s record may disqualify you to be an adoptive parent. C. Finances- If you do not have the required money on hand, or your finances are not what the agency considers good, you may be disqualified. D. Size of family- Some agencies will disqualify you if you have ANY children of your own (infertile couples only). Others, such as the one my sister was first using, will not allow you to adopt a BABY if you already have children. E. Single people often have a harder time adopting children F. Sometimes you will be required to be the same race as the child you are adopting. What wild requirements have YOU heard about/encountered? It is my opinion that these requirements disqualify too many people who would be GREAT parents and provide wonderful homes. And children wait in foster care for a person who matches these expectations.
  4. Heartbreak- Due to the high costs of adoption, my sister started with foster care, in hopes of adopting. Both long term placements went almost all the way up to adoption. In both cases, at the very last second, the child went to be with a family member. Even though my sister knew if could happen, and she knew not to get attached, it was still heartbreaking. We have all heard horror stories of adoptive parents thinking everything is fine, only to have the child taken away later. Many brave Christian parents step up every year and take that risk, trying to adopt. But I bet others simply do not want to put their hearts on the line like that with no guarantees. I have never heard my sister sob like that, like when she lost the second child. She described the loss as, “I feel as if I lost a child, but I’m not allowed to mourn publicly. I have no monument to mourn at. No one will be sending us cards or meals. But the pain is still here.”
  5. A Broken Foster System- A lot of attention has been given lately to the problems in our American foster system. It seems that the well being of the children isn’t always top priority to put it lightly. Too often the children suffer due to over regulation, outdated rules, politics, corruption and red tape. I highly suggest reading these articles: http://michellecaldier.houserepublicans.wa.gov/2017/04/18/op-ed-time-reform-broken-foster-care-system/ and ABC’s “Foster Care- Stretched Too Far,” http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/story?id=130266. The state in which I live, proudly asserts, “The best place for a child is with the birth parent.” I have to disagree. The best place for a child is where they are safe, loved and cared for. What about adoptive parent’s rights? As a children’s pastor, I have personally witnessed children returned to abusive homes FAR too soon, only to be abused all over again. Where is the protection for these vulnerable children???
  6. Our culture of Materialism- Sometimes we think we cannot provide all the “stuff” that kids “need.” People matter so much more than stuff. And children can be happy, safe and healthy in a loving home, without all the “stuff.”

How about you? Do you have experience in the foster system? As a foster parent? An adoptive parent? Why do YOU think that more Christians do not adopt? How do you feel about proposed foster/adoption system reforms?

Love and Blessings- Trisha

I absolutely LOVE my baby niece!! Love you peanut!

So today is my 20th wedding anniversary. We have had a great day- dinner by the river, thoughtful gifts etc. My husband remarked, “Wow, even with all we have been through, all those moves and more, it still feels like it flew by, doesn’t it?” I had to agree. Here on our anniversary are just a few of the things I simply adore about my husband Scott:

  1. I love his sense of humor. After all this time, he still makes me laugh. There are times in a marriage, when you desperately need to laugh so you don’t cry- or laugh through your tears. At home and work, Scott is known for making people laugh- and pranks…
  2. He is so supportive of ministry. Not many people understand that my books came out successfully in large due to Scott’s technology know how. He came up with the idea of the Kickstarter Campaign and Kindle Publishing. Scott has been there side by side with me in ministry. He has moved for ministry. Scott has held me while I cried at home after a bad meeting (you know the kind)- let’s just say his psychology degree has come in handy more than a few times in these 2 decades.
  3. Scott is an awesome dad. Before we had kids he worried so much “Will I be a good dad? Will I be patient? Why is there no manual for this?” Our kids will tell you, “We have the bestest daddy in the world.” He is loving, patient and thoughtful.
  4. He works so hard. Scott is devoted at work and at home. His company loves his work ethic. I love how he works on our house and plans fun trips.
  5. Scott is incredibly romantic. He never ever forgets an anniversary or birthday. He makes every holiday so amazing. We have a date night about once a week and he always thinks of the most fantastic dates!

I love you so much babe. Here’s to our next adventure together!

And here is the continuation of last week’s discussion on tips for staying married!

Top Ten Tips for Staying Married: Part 2

  1. “Set up fences” – Jewish rabbis in ancient times used to “set up fences” around each law of the Torah. This means that if God said “do not commit adultery”, then they would “build fences” by not looking lustfully at a woman, avoiding being alone with a woman etc. That way, they would never even come near breaking one of God’s rules (in theory). This is also what Jesus taught about “whoever lusts after a woman has committed adultery.” My grandmother would quote Scripture, “Avoid the very appearance of evil.” This means we have accountability in place and we do not “play with fire” by allowing lust, pornography, or long periods of time alone with someone other than our spouse.
  2. HUMOR!- See above for how important humor can be in marriage. Keep laughing together!!
  3. Yes, sex is important- God created sex to be between two adults who are married to each other. And sex is very important in a marriage. Too many times I have had the woman in a marriage tell me, “Oh, I just do not like sex. He’s such a great Christian that he does not mind.” What???? Usually as sure as the wife leaves the room, the husband will admit that he is miserable but does not want to upset her. I’ve also seen this with the husband/wife roles reversed. I always counsel the partner that is not interested in sex to go to the doctor for help, counseling, etc. Usually they are so shocked, thinking, “Well does it really matter?” YYYYYYEEESSSSS. It does. No matter how long you have been married it is good to work on your intimacy and make time for each other.
  4. Counseling is an awesome idea- Most pastors agree that by the time a couple finally comes in for counseling it is usually a thousand miles past too late, and one or the other has already left or filed for divorce. How can we change this stigma so that couple go in for help earlier? Working on your marriage with a professional is a GREAT plan for ANY marriage. Sometimes we just need that wisdom from someone who can be objective. It is a chance to learn and grow so much!
  5. Speaking the truth in love- Too often we don’t have those difficult or important conversations because we are avoiding conflict. Are we calling each other out on the really important things? Are we telling the whole truth? Are we speaking in love and kindness? Or are we just being nit picky, critical, hard to please etc? This is such an important part of marriage!!

So what about you? What did I miss? What great tips have you heard, learned for staying married for the long haul?? God bless and talk to you soon!!!

Trisha

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On the long drive back from my grandmother’s recent funeral in Michigan, I turned her ring over and over in my hands. Suddenly, I realized that there was an inscription inside the tiny wedding band. I finally was able to make out, “Jack to Shirley, 1949.” This was from my grandfather to my grandmother. They would have been married 70 years this year. WOW.

This makes my husband and I look like beginners with our mere 20 years of marriage in comparison. Though, our 20 years is like 3,427 years in Hollywood years. What have been our biggest secrets to staying happily married for 20 years? What secrets did I learn from our parents and grandparents and other Christian leaders who have stayed married for the long haul? Well, after careful reflection and conversation, here goes:

Top Ten Tips for Staying Married:

  1. Keep Jesus First- Your faith is the foundation of any marriage. Every single couple I have ever known that has made it in a long term marriage credited their faith in Jesus for helping them make it through. Promises get made and broken every day. A covenant is supposed to be forever. God’s intention for marriage was a beautiful picture of everlasting faithfulness and love between Christ and His Church. Yes, we humans are flawed and marred and divorce is a tragic reality in our world. I know many fantastic Christians who were blind sided with a divorce they did not want, or a divorce after infidelity, addiction or abuse. For these Christians, their faith in a faithful God, even when others are unfaithful to us, can be a lifeline. Because we humans are so messed up, I truly do not know how any marriage can make it without Jesus. The best “weapons” for fighting for your marriage are prayer, shared faith, Godly counsel, Scripture, participating in a church body. A lasting marriage needs Jesus!
  2. Keep dating- My sister and I used to wonder about the girls in Bible College getting the “hag look” as soon as they got married. These girls would be the most gorgeous, fashionable and sought after girls on campus. But as soon as they “got” their man, they immediately wore only sweats, no makeup, hair unkept, stopped showering… etc. Perhaps they thought, “Well I got him now. I don’t have to be attractive anymore.” Marriage is a relationship that is supposed to go on for life; not a “bait and switch” where your spouse only sees you put in any effort before you say I do. This is a common mistake that I try to confront when doing marriage counseling. Too many couples spend tens of thousands of dollars on their wedding day, but they do not put the same time and effort into their marriage and life together.  It’s about the marriage, not the wedding day. Dating your spouse needs to continue for life. This means that common interests, keeping a date night, getting away together regularly and working toward common goals is a MUST. Marriage is not a “One and done” one day event.
  3. Do NOT give yourself an “out”. As my husband would say, “Do not give yourself any kind of plan B, in case this marriage thing does not work out”.  None of us should fantasize about what we would do to leave our marriage, to be with someone else. If you give yourself an escape route “if this marriage thing gets too tough”, well, guess what, it will get that tough and you will use that escape route. Don’t build escape routes or dwell on contingency plans.
  4. Be careful during the high risk times- death of a loved one, job change, move, birth of a child etc. These are the highest risk times for a marriage.  Every single engaged couple always says the same thing, “Oh not us. We never fight. He/She is awesome. So perfect. We know how to talk through things. God just make us for each other.” They stare at each other all gooey eyed. And every person in the room who has been married for awhile looks at each other and nods. It is pointless to try to reason with a new couple in love. They already know everything.  But marriage is not just the sunny times of planning a wedding. Marriage is also 4 a.m. when you are up AGAIN for the 4th time that night to feed the baby, even though it was HIS TURN and you feel a cold coming on. Marriage is working a 13 hour day and coming home exhausted and frustrated to a wife who is cranky and serving PB and J again for dinner. The strength of a marriage is not seen during the honeymoon. The strength of a marriage is shown- and further forged- during the death of loved ones, parents etc. There will be fantastic vacations, birthdays- also lost jobs, financial woes and illnesses. Psychologists say that the highest risk times for a marriage are during the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or a job change, a move or the birth of a child.  If you are in ministry, chances are that you and your spouse have faced times when you were neck deep in all of the above…Trust me, I’ve been there. My husband and I fought all of 5 times in our first five years of marriage. Then came year 6 when our first baby was born, we moved, we changed jobs, faced illness and for awhile stopped sleeping. Yeah- marriage took on a different tone then. But in the end, it made our marriage so much stronger. God got us through. It is important to recognize when you marriage is going to be under intense strain. This is when your faith and your support system will be crucial. And remember, it is a season. And seasons don’t come to stay, they come to pass.
  5. 80/20 principle- I learned this principle from a professor marriage counselor who was on staff at our church. He taught that every single married person believe that they are doing 80 percent of the work in a marriage. Their own spouse will then swear that no, they are doing 80 percent of the work for the marriage. He concluded that in most marriages, each partner will feel that they are doing 80 percent of everything. He urged each spouse to embrace that feeling, to serve each other. He said that marriage “didn’t add up like ordinary math.” A great marriage consists of 2 people each giving more than 80 percent to make it work.

Now, please stay tuned for next week, when I go over the other 5 best tips I have ever gotten on staying married for the long haul. And YES…one of them is all about SEX. More on that next week. Love you all- Happy Marriage! Love Trisha and Scott

 

A few great quotes on marriage-

“Try to remember how you felt at your wedding, especially when you are disagreeing with your spouse. This is so hard to do. The focus needs to be on resolution, not “winning”.- Scott, my husband of 20 years 🙂

“Medical staff continually asked how long we had been married, and then wanted to know what the secret was to 43 years—”humbly serving one another the way God intended, and the way we vowed.” I’m thankful they could see that being lived out, even in the most difficult of situations.-Tina Houser

“We just grew up in a time when something broke, you fixed it- you didn’t just throw it away.” (couple married 65 years, when asked how they stayed together so long).

I am blessed with a vivacious mother who passionately loves Jesus and her family. I wanted to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day this year, and show my gratitude for having a happy, God-focused childhood, by relaying a few of my favorite memories I have with my mom…so far!

  1. My Wedding Day- On the day I was married, 20 years ago, my father AND my mother walked me down the aisle. It was a very special day.
  2. The Night I Almost Died- When my ulcer burst, and I began to bleed out, I called to my husband as the paramedics closed the doors of the ambulance “Call my Mom!” Scott couldn’t go with me because he was finding someone to watch the kids. God had already awakened my mom to pray for me, though she did not know why. When Scott called, she went into intercession immediately- at 2 in the morning. The surgeon told me later on that there was no possible explanation for why I survived. I know God used my mom’s prayers, and spared my life for a reason.
  3. Mornings When I was a Child- EVERY morning, my mother would open the door of our room (my sister and I shared a room) way TOO early in the morning, flip on the light and cheerfully exclaim, “Time to get up. What will we accomplish today? It’s a beautiful day to praise the Lord!” I would groan and roll over. Mom is a morning person. I am not. If we did not hurry up and get up, Mom would begin to loudly sing songs- hymns or choruses. Every. Single.Morning.
  4. Travel- Anyone who know me, knows that I love to travel. And I probably get this from my mom. We were monetarily-challenged, as a ministry family, but my money savy mom always saved up and found a way for us to take trips- Texas, Michigan, Johnny’s Fish and Game, Superior’s beaches, mansions and ships, the Badlands of South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Monument, Mount Rushmore, St. Louis Arch, Carlsbad Caverns, Disney and Epcot, Oklahoma- and more.
  5. Unwavering Support- When the time came for me to try to publish my first book, my mom encouraged me to do it, and was one of my first contributors to my kickstarter. I’ve been traveling a lot lately to speak and do ministry- so she bought me a suitcase set and a book cart! When I walk the line, graduating with my Master’s here in a couple of weeks, my mom will be there. My sister, brother and I know that no matter what, if we are right or if we are wrong, mom will have our back- and she’s a fighter.
  6. Faith and Family- Mom unwaveringly teaches us that God is first and family a close second. Nothing matters more to her than her relationship with Christ and her family. NOTHING.
  7. Persistance- As I said, my mom is a fighter. She had fought through so many physical issues after her car accident- many surgeries etc. If she decides that she is going to do something, than she is going to do it- whether it be landscaping, redoing a room of the house, planning a trip, saving a certain amount of money etc. etc. Mom forced me to apply for SO MANY college scholarships. She absolutely would not give up on trying to find a way for me to go to college. And that is why I graduated my undergrad debt free. Mom always believes there is a way. I think/hope I picked that up from her. She taught us to work hard and never ever ever give up.

These are just a few of my favorite memories so far. If you know my mom, what are YOUR favorite memories of her? Love you Mom and Happy Mother’s Day! Your Sunshine (who is still a night owl.)

 

 

I am blessed with a vivacious mother who passionately loves Jesus and her family. I wanted to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day this year, and show my gratitude for having a happy, God-focused childhood, by relaying a few of my favorite memories I have with my mom…so far!

  1. My Wedding Day- On the day I was married, 20 years ago, my father AND my mother walked me down the aisle. It was a very special day.
  2. The Night I Almost Died- When my ulcer burst, and I began to bleed out, I called to my husband as the paramedics closed the doors of the ambulance “Call my Mom!” Scott couldn’t go with me because he was finding someone to watch the kids. God had already awakened my mom to pray for me, though she did not know why. When Scott called, she went into intercession immediately- at 2 in the morning. The surgeon told me later on that there was no possible explanation for why I survived. I know God used my mom’s prayers, and spared my life for a reason.
  3. Mornings When I was a Child- EVERY morning, my mother would open the door of our room (my sister and I shared a room) way TOO early in the morning, flip on the light and cheerfully exclaim, “Time to get up. What will we accomplish today? It’s a beautiful day to praise the Lord!” I would groan and roll over. Mom is a morning person. I am not. If we did not hurry up and get up, Mom would begin to loudly sing songs- hymns or choruses. Every. Single.Morning.
  4. Travel- Anyone who know me, knows that I love to travel. And I probably get this from my mom. We were monetarily-challenged, as a ministry family, but my money savy mom always saved up and found a way for us to take trips- Texas, Michigan, Johnny’s Fish and Game, Superior’s beaches, mansions and ships, the Badlands of South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Monument, Mount Rushmore, St. Louis Arch, Carlsbad Caverns, Disney and Epcot, Oklahoma- and more.
  5. Unwavering Support- When the time came for me to try to publish my first book, my mom encouraged me to do it, and was one of my first contributors to my kickstarter. I’ve been traveling a lot lately to speak and do ministry- so she bought me a suitcase set and a book cart! When I walk the line, graduating with my Master’s here in a couple of weeks, my mom will be there. My sister, brother and I know that no matter what, if we are right or if we are wrong, mom will have our back- and she’s a fighter.
  6. Faith and Family- Mom unwaveringly teaches us that God is first and family a close second. Nothing matters more to her than her relationship with Christ and her family. NOTHING.
  7. Persistance- As I said, my mom is a fighter. She had fought through so many physical issues after her car accident- many surgeries etc. If she decides that she is going to do something, than she is going to do it- whether it be landscaping, redoing a room of the house, planning a trip, saving a certain amount of money etc. etc. Mom forced me to apply for SO MANY college scholarships. She absolutely would not give up on trying to find a way for me to go to college. And that is why I graduated my undergrad debt free. Mom always believes there is a way. I think/hope I picked that up from her. She taught us to work hard and never ever ever give up.

These are just a few of my favorite memories so far. If you know my mom, what are YOUR favorite memories of her? Love you Mom and Happy Mother’s Day! Your Sunshine (who is still a night owl.)

 

 

I never want to get “desensitized” to what Jesus did for me. I want to remember what it cost Him, to redeem us to give us eternal life. Many Christians will be reading about the Passion of Jesus this week of Easter, from the gospels. But I have always felt that the Old Testament is actually more explicit, when it talks about what Jesus went through on that dark Friday. The New Testament writers are shockingly “straight to the point” when they talk about the crucifixion of Jesus, “And they crucified Him.” This may be because when the gospels were being written, the authors and early Christians already knew all about the horror of crucifixion, perhaps even losing someone they loved as as martyr to crucifixion. But in the Old Testament,  the Holy Spirit gives us a lot more detail in what we call “imprecatory” psalms, and Messianic prophecies that point to Christ. When Jesus died on the Cross, He actually fulfilled at least 100 of the Old Testament predictions about the death of the Savior. 

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Below, I have researched powerful verses from throughout Scripture, which seem to give a raw, horrifying glimpse into what Jesus did to redeem us. I put the verses together in a first Person voice, using “The Message” Bible for a fresh perspective. I will include all the Scripture passages I refer to for your study as well. Though this was for my own personal Holy Week reflections, I hope this inspires worship and love for Jesus in you too. Thank You Jesus.

“As it is written in Your book I come.  (Ps 40) This will please the Lord more than the blood of sheep and oxen. (Ps 69) I have a baptism to be baptized with and how anxious I am until it is accomplished. (Luke 12:50) No one takes My life from Me. I lay My life down, and take it up again. (John 10:18) No one has greater love than this, than laying Your life down for a friend. And I have called You friends. (John 15:13)

If it were some stranger who had betrayed Me I could bear it, but you My close friend? And what a princely price- 30 pieces of silver? (Ps 55:10-12) The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I’m in agony, sorrow to the point of death, weeping, praying, sweating blood. Please stay with Me. Father let this pass from Me. But not My will but Yours be done. (Luke 22, Matt 26, Hebrews 12) My courage and strength have melted away. (Psalm 69)But this is Your plan. I’m doing what will please You. I didn’t hide my face from slapping, shame and spitting. I did not hide Myself. I didn’t retaliate. I said not one word to defend Myself at My trial. No one defended me. I was judged guilty and condemned to death through human injustice AND God’s plan. (Isaiah 53) This is My enemies’ hour to display the power of darkness. (Luke 22) Complete injustice to fill God’s justice. (Isaiah 53)

No one now believes My report or mission. They think it failed. They believe I failed and that God is punishing me. I am killed alongside sinners and buried in a rich man’s grave. (Isaiah 53) I am hated. They have plotted to kill me. Not even God is answering me. All the curses written in the book have fallen on Me. Made to suffer, oppressed and afflicted, God’s arrows have sunk into Me deeply. You were always there and now You are gone. Your Spirit is not here. (Deut. 29)

You pour out Your terrible wrath on Me. I am hated, rejected and filled with pain. The pain in unrelenting. (Psalm 69) I look for anyone to take pity, but everyone either mocks or turns away. Everyone has left Me. (Psalm 22) My back you have filled with searing pain. (Ps 38) My back is ruined. They are strong and surrounded Me, pierced My hands and My feet. (Ps 22) Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34) All of my bones have been pulled out of joint. I’m torn by wild dogs and disfigured. (Ps 22) My blood is shed, sprinkled out, given for many. My body is broken. (1 Corinthians 11:24) Pierced through for sin, punished, wounded, crushed. The Lord has laid the sin of all on Me, on Me. No beauty, no majesty, people are astonished and in horror at me. They say an evil disease is clinging to Me by God’s punishment. (Isaiah 53) I am not even human anymore-just a worm. I’m cut off young. (Psalm 22)Wrenched out of the land of the living by violence. My life and My soul are poured out to death as an offering for sin. But this is Your plan. I am doing what will please You. (Isaiah 53)My courage and strength have melted away. My insides are on fire. My bones are burning like a furnace. God has laid Me in the dust of death. Everyone stares and gawks. I can count all my bones. Everyone taunts Me, “Where is Your God? Why won’t He save You?” They play games for My clothes. Everything I had is gone, like someone already dead. There is no soundness or strength left in my body at all. (Ps 69, Ps 22) Beaten bloody and unrecognizable. (Is 53) Shaking, trembling, fear and horror overtake me. My heart is hammering, breaking. (Deut 29) The waters have come up to my neck. I’m sinking with no foothold in deep mire. My throat is parched from crying out, My eye sight fails. My tongue is swollen and clings to the roof of my mouth. (Ps 69) For My terrible thirst, they give me gall and vinegar as a joke. I am forced to restore what I did not steal. You will not save Me from this. (Ps 22) I am blotted from Your book. You charge me with crime upon crime. (Deut 29) God why? Why have You abandoned Me? I am in agony. I keep crying out to You and am not silent. I am exhausted. (Ps 22) But it was Your purpose to crush Me with pain, as a ransom for sin. I am consumed. I bear the disgrace of many and shame covers My face. (Isaiah 53) My own family pretends not to know Me. I am in trouble- do not leave Me here in death! God hides His face; scorn has broken My heart. Your fierce anger overwhelms Me. I have become a horror. There is pain from the soles of My feet to the top of My head. I know You have heard Me, every groan. You will not leave Me in the grave. Into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” (Ps 22, 69, 38)

My favorite verse in the Bible- which seems to be the whole gospel in a nutshell:

Still, this is what God had in mind all along, to crush Him (Christ) with pain.The plan was that He give himself as an offering for sin, so that He’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through Him. Out of that terrible travail of soul, He’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad He did it. Through what He experienced, my righteous One, my Servant,will make many “righteous ones,”as He Himself carries the burden of their sins…He looked death in the face and didn’t flinch, because he embraced the company of the lowest. He took on His own shoulders the sin of the many, He took up the cause of all the black sheep”. Isaiah 53:10-12

Let us make sure we take time this Easter to think about the sacrifice of Jesus, and about how deeply God loves each and every one of us. Undeserved. Unearned. This is the love that changes us heart and soul. Jesus took the punishment for everything we have ever done (and will ever do) wrong. Salvation is trusting Jesus to forgive us, and then living our lives for Him- for what HE wants, not what we want. Right now, wherever you are, you can ask Him to make Himself real to you- and He will. That is the Good News that forever changes us, and changes the world.

Happy Easter, and God Bless.

Love Trisha

“We do not do kid’s ministry worship at our church,” the speaker at the conference said. “Kid’s can’t understand what they are doing at that age, so it’s all just emotional manipulation at that point. We wait until upper high school to introduce worship services, because then they are old enough to understand.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I was boiling inside at this point. I know that kid’s can worship- and mean it from their hearts. I also know that worship is KEY for every person in their faith- including kids! I even made an appointment later on to talk to the speaker and explain why I do believe in kid’s ministry worship. I thought I made a decent argument, but he remained unconvinced. “Not at my church, until high school” he concluded. What a tragedy.

As churches, we often focus on getting “head knowledge” into our kids from a young age. And this is well and good. Our children NEED to know what we believe and why. They NEED to know Scripture. According to Barna, most children will completely solidify their world view, right versus wrong, by the age of 12-14. That is scary to me! And that decision will NOT be made in a void. Many worldviews are competing for our kid’s hearts and minds. Their viewpoints on the world should NOT be forged without any imput from the church!! Waiting until upper high school is often far far too late. That is even more silly and dangerous than saying, “Do not teach children to read until upper high school when they can decide for themselves if they want to read or not.” We have a window of opportunity when kids are young, a small window in which God can make a huge impact.

Isn’t our faith supposed to be more than head knowledge anyway? Isn’t the most important commandment “Love the Lord Your God with all your HEART, with all your SOUL, with all your MIND and with all your STRENGTH?” Faith is not supposed to without emotion. Experience is not a bad thing. And kids are hungry to experience something- Someone- real. Why do you think that the occult is targeting- and successfully- recruiting so many kids? They are hard wired to believe, to connect with God. As Jon Tasch says, “We teach children to make their beds and eat their vegetables. Why aren’t we teaching our kids to connect with God?”

So how can we make sure that we set up a great “playdate” with God- an impactful kid’s worship experience?? I’m so glad you asked. Here are the best tips I have found for setting up that kid’s ministry worship service:

  1. Live beats canned-Any chance you get, try to incorporate live elements into your kid’s worship. When you first start out, sure you may need to play a video clip and sing along. I have some video worship that is great. But work toward at least having a person up front leading and doing the motions. If it is not your gift, seek out someone with a heart for leading kid’s ministry worship. The more live elements the better.
  2. Go for excellence- No you can’t just throw anything up on stage “because it’s just kids.” Children can TELL when a leader is not prepared. To me, kid’s ministry is the greatest opportunity we can ever ever have! We are setting up playdates between kids and God! We don’t throw our leftovers on the altar. We should always be trying to do a bit better. Yes, this is going to mean rehearsing. And learning the motions to the songs.
  3. Participation is KEY- As much as possible, we have to move away from the “I sing on stage and all you listen” model of kid’s worship. It needs to be instead, “Let’s all worship together” while you and other leaders model what loving Jesus through song looks like. The more kids you can involve in this the better! Have kids prepared to do all the motions on stage, have kids singing along with mics, have kids helping to pray with other kids. VERY important here is to get your student ministries involved. Kids will naturally follow the lead of the teenagers on your team. Give them role models you WANT them to follow. This also gives your older students experience in ministry!
  4. Balance of fast worship and slower worship songs- Do not just do motion songs- kids CAN learn to enter into the deeper worship songs too. They do need the fast motion songs to get all that energy out. I prefer to do 2-3 action songs right near the beginning. I usually do 1-2 slower altar songs toward the end, after the message. Do not group all of your music together, or all of your talking together. I like to balance out our services between music, drama, teaching, prayer etc.
  5. Let parents see their kids worshipping- It is very important to understand what your parents SEE and HEAR when they drop off and pick up their children. I have heard parents complain, “When I drop off and pick up my kids, all I see is them running around and playing games. Is that all they ever do in there?” At our church, we decided to have fast worship going on when kids drop off and worship and prayer when parents pick up. Some parents are so shocked seeing their child worshipping and praying. Many times it inspired the parent to seek God more themselves.
  6. Try a family worship experience- It is wonderful to get together as “the church”, not separated by age, and have times of intergenerational worship. The other congregants can be inspired to see the devotion of the younger kids, and the kids have more models of how the CHURCH worships. Also the kids can begin to realize that they are a vital part of the church right now, not just in the future. Please remember that a truly family service is NOT a typical service with all grown up songs and the kids color on the back of the hymnal. A truly family service will balance with kid’s ministry songs that ENGAGE the kids- even having some of them on the stage helping to worship. Some churches do this once a quarter or one evening a month.

If you are looking for some help with your kid’s ministry worship, for resources or for some amazing worship at your next family service, may I highly recommend….

Jumpstart3 uses actual  verses in their songs, so your kids will be worshipping AND learning Scripture at the same time! You can get a free song just for subscribing here: https://jumpstart3.com/

Yancy Not Nancy- who is amazing at leading family worship events that everyone will love, from your elderly saints to your youngest preschoolers. http://yancyministries.com/

How about YOU? What are the greatest resources, tips or speakers you have encountered for kid’s ministry worship??

See you next week and much love- Trisha

 

I recently asked a group of lead pastors what they are most looking for in a children’s pastor (they were all launching a new search for a children’s pastor). To my surprise, one of the top qualities each listed was “the ability to communicate well with parents and volunteers.” It is imperative that you communicate well and often with parents to truly be partners with them in their child’s spiritual formation. The more volunteers you recruit, the more teams and shifts you create, the more adept you must become at communicating clearly and effectively with your volunteer base. Gone are the days when a children’s leader could get away with saying, “I only speak to kids, not adults.” You must be an effective communicator to adults for the kids’ department to thrive and grow.

Some information—the very important turns and changes in the ministry, whether they be leadership changes, curriculum or scheduling changes—must be clearly communicated to the parents and leaders. But how do you go about relaying it to parents and volunteers? You are going to have to be strategic, persistent, and consistent to get information across. So I encourage you to use some or all of these methods to convey information:

  1. Use live meetings with a big group sparingly. Mass meetings are not a method to use weekly. They should be only by used to convey something of great importance (examples: major curriculum change, service times change, key leader stepping down, brand new security procedures that affect everyone). That way, when you call a meeting, they will know it’s important.
  2. Advertise it at least one month in advance, and advertise it in many ways.
  3. Be specific. Who is supposed to be present? When you say “parent meeting,” is that all parents? Parents of kids up to twelve years old? Parents are understandably irritated if they clear their schedule (especially if they paid a sitter) to go to your important meeting, only to find out you didn’t mean them. Which volunteers did you need at this training and why? Be specific about the location. Can anyone find that room if they are new? What time is it? Is there child care provided? How long will the meeting be? Indicate why the meeting is important, like a leadership or curriculum change, but don’t go into too much detail. One church I visited handed out a leaflet during the service that said, “Parent meeting right after service in the choir room.” Parents were in a mass of confusion. I heard them saying, “Meeting right after which service?” “Why do we have to go? Is the pastor leaving?” “I’m a parent of two junior-highers. Do I have to go?” “I’m new. Where on earth is the choir room?” That parent meeting was a total disaster. I heard that the youth pastor who called the meeting never made that mistake again. But sadly the congregation didn’t forget it soon either.
  4. Be respectful of people’s time. I didn’t fully understand this when I was a new children’s pastor, but now that I have kids of my own, it makes more sense. For example, do everything in your power not to take another night of the week. Parents and volunteers are already, on average, gone at least five nights a week with church, sports, recitals, plays, and so on. If you pick a night during the week, unless it is an emergency meeting, many will not be there. And the ones who show up want a sense that this was important to take some of the only family time they might have that whole week. Try to have the meeting when they are at church already—first service, if you have two (this takes care of someone to watch their kids too); directly after a service (some will complain about lunch); before or after midweek service (some will complain if it gets late for their kids to be out on a school night). No matter when you pick, someone will complain, so you cannot please everyone, but try to be considerate. They will already be resentful of you if they feel you do not care about their family time, and you need them on your team!
  5. I do not recommend sending out a survey asking what time to have the meeting. You will get thirty-seven different answers; one person will get their way (and probably not show up) and the rest will think, “no one cares that I filled out the survey” and not show up. I personally ask one or two people I trust and then make a decision and stick with it.
  6. This is going to sound awful, like bribery, because it is bribery, but we always have more people show up when we offer food. So we offer refreshments if we really need people to hear what we have to say. Advertise that you will have refreshments!
  7. Honor their time by keeping to the point and being brief. Stick to your notes. Better to end early than irritate people with a never-ending meeting. Yes, you probably have a lot of things on your heart to go over, that need changing in the kids’ area, but this is not the time for that. Stick to the reason you have them there. If you don’t, they won’t come to the next one.
  8. Do not give out information early. This is an important lesson I learned as a children’s pastor. When I went on staff at a certain church, I was told that “no one shows up for parent or volunteer meetings.” I wondered why. Then I called a meeting about an important security change. Right away the phone calls started coming in. “Um, I can’t make the meeting. What’s the announcement?” “We are out of town. Just give me the details.” Right away I realized why no one came to the meetings. There was no reason to. They got a few abbreviated details over the phone, passed them on to each other, and skipped the meetings. The meetings were no longer of any importance. People were shocked as I told them one by one, “I’m sorry to hear that. This will be a very important change happening. I want it to first be presented to the people present. Wouldn’t want it to get out over the grapevine. I highly suggest you get with one of those who were there after you return and get their notes. That’s a bummer, because I really would have liked your input. But maybe after you get back you can make an appointment with me and I can try to catch you up.” This had a dramatic effect. First they pushed for more info. I held to my guns very politely and wished them a great trip. Word got out that something “big” was going on. Nine times out of ten “their schedule just cleared up.” And I spoke to a packed house. Give them a reason to show up and be really present. Ask yourself these questions: Is this change something you want discussed in the court of public opinion before you even present it? Do you want to give ammo to those who resist change? Do you want parents and volunteers serving with only partial or possibly incorrect information? Do not call a parent or volunteer meeting for any petty reason. But when you determine that the change affects everyone and they need to be there, do not give out an abbreviated version before the event.
  9. Give people a chance to provide input, feedback, and ask questions. Be prepared to give well-researched answers to their questions. If you do not know the answer, take down the questioner’s name and respond, “I’m not sure, but I will find out.” You will gain parent support and more volunteers if you allow honest feedback and questions. I usually take notes during that time. People will show up if they have buy-in.
  10. Do not let anyone monopolize the discussion. Especially if you are a young or new children’s leader, stay in charge of that meeting and keep it on the task at hand. Do not allow the topic to get derailed to something else. Do not let it be a forum for debate. Your response when challenged sets the tone for your ministry. Also, don’t be defensive or argumentative. You’re not trying to lead the meeting, you are leading it. It is not the place to aim anything at anyone or have a great big public argument. There are people in this world who jump at the chance for public drama. That is the biggest drawback to having a parent or volunteer meeting. Don’t give anyone a pulpit for a public drama. Shut down anything nasty as soon as it starts.  Many parents and volunteers do not want to attend group meetings or trainings because they know someone always monopolizes the meetings and/or they become negative bashing sessions. You can change this perception. If someone starts something say something like this:

“That is a whole different discussion, for another time. Make an appointment to see me about that” (they usually won’t because they want an audience).

“Okay, let’s hear what some other parents think about this topic.”

“Interesting, but for the sake of time, let’s stay on topic.”

“I know you probably have more you would like to share on this topic. Good thing I am putting my email up on the screen! I am also handing out these feedback forms. Please put your name on it if you wish to be contacted. Everyone please fill out a feedback form and leave it on your chair.” (Instead of public meetings, some churches now use only email and forms for feedback. I understand why.)

Remember that the purpose of the meeting is to communicate vision, convey information, and occasionally to garner feedback. It is not a debate. Do not imply that the church’s decisions are being debated or being voted on. You are letting them know that a decision has been made or that a change is coming. Never use one of these meetings to attack someone or any area of the church. Do not retaliate in any way if someone makes a snide comment. You set the tone. Make sure the parent or volunteer meeting is a positive, uplifting, and beneficial experience for everyone involved. Make all of your parents and volunteers eager to be at any meeting you call.mrmeeting

download_20190318_232648137394752823096361.jpgAnd yet it is the most important thing I will ever say or write. I’ve asked my own kids to read this as well. You may or may not believe what I have to say but my sincere hope is that you will hear me out, perhaps even with an open mind. So here goes.

By the age of 13, I hated myself. A lot. And no I am not exaggerating. It was hatred. I was (and am) your typical driven type A personality, starting concert piano competitions from the age of 6. I know that some people have issues because of their parents’ unreasonable expectations, but that was not the case with me. My parents were completely baffled, not understanding my drive, always saying things like, “As long as you tried your best, we are proud of you!” “You do not need to prove anything to us. We love you just the way you are!” But their words did not “land” or take root in my soul. Jesus parable of the talents terrified me. I just knew that I would be that one on judgment day that Jesus would say, “Trish you were given a lot of gifts, but you blew it. So many people did not make heaven because you just couldn’t put in more effort. You never used your gifts to the fullest; what were you doing??” I pushed myself more and more to achieve. The guilt and shame were unbearable. I hated my giant thick bi-focal glasses and crooked teeth. I hated the fact that I did not and could not look like the women on all the magazines (early 90’s models were “heroin sheek” or rail thin). I hated myself for not doing “big things” for God, like others were. I worried myself to a frazzle over whether I might have somehow committed the unpardonable sin?? Worthlessness is a horrible feeling; it is tough to drag yourself from one day to the next.

But camp was on the horizon! I lived for summer camp. I literally counted the days from when I left until I came back. Summer camp meant a lot of freedom, natural beauty and some of my best friends in the world.

One of the last nights of camp, the speaker began talking about the holiness of God and how we would “fall on our faces” someday when we saw God face to face. My 13 year old mind was full of worry; the fear I felt was overwhelming. At the end of his talk, he invited anyone who wanted to, to come forward for prayer. Although I probably could have used prayer, I could not move. Everyone around me was going forward for prayer, but I could not get my legs to cooperate. I suddenly realized that I was crying and my tears were all over the floor by my sneakers. My shoulders were shaking. I don’t think anyone noticed me, which was fine, because I do not like crying in front of people.

And then it happened.

I suddenly felt arms around my small frame. No really, I literally felt arms around me. All of the fear and horror and hatred washed out of me completely in less than a second. I had encountered something-or rather Someone- so totally foreign, so alien, so completely OTHER- from myself that I have trouble finding the words to describe this power. It was a warm feeling of raw power, much greater than my own. I have never felt so thoroughly known and yet completely loved. In that instant I KNEW that I was forgiven and deeply loved by God. I could FEEL Him all around me and through me. The power I was connected to was overwhelming and beyond my understanding.

All of my life I had known the Scriptures, telling me that God loved me. I knew that Jesus had died on the Cross to pay the penalty for my sin. I knew that God had forgiven me because the Bible told me so- I could have quoted you the verses on cue! But in that moment, everything suddenly became very real.  I KNEW down to my toes that I was completely loved and completely forgiven because I encountered HIM. I think it is the difference between reading about something in a book and experiencing it for yourself. Before I had children, I thought I knew a lot about child birth and parenting. I had read a lot of books on the subject. But when I went through labor and delivery for myself, I KNEW through first hand knowledge what can never be discovered in a book/classroom. The reality that Jesus died FOR ME, was suddenly more real than I could handle. This Jesus Who was tortured to death so I could be forgiven, wanted a personal relationship with me. I was beginning to “hear” God’s voice inside of me clearer and clearer. All I had to do was to believe on Jesus and I would be saved- not by doing any thing on my own. I was speechless at the love Jesus, His sacrifice for Me, and the overwhelming love I was feeling right then.

When I could finally WALK later that evening after the chapel service, I left a completely different person than when I went into that chapel. I now knew I had a purpose in life. No one would ever be able to convince me that there is no God because I had just encountered Him and experienced His love and power.

Experiences get a bad rap. I am all for good Biblical doctrine. Head knowledge is so necessary. But nothing beats straight up experience. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” We are supposed to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind- so that includes experiences! Time prohibits me from going through all the answers to prayer that I have received over the years- 1. That time when my family was so poor that we did not have enough to eat. I prayed and asked God, that if He were real, to fill our deep freezer with food. That VERY SAME NIGHT someone from church dropped by the parsonage and filled our deep freezer with food. 2. That time when I needed 720 dollars in order to stay in college and I did not have it. So I prayed and asked God to provide it. A check came in that day from a club that my great-grandfather had been in. I had not applied for the scholarship. It was 760 dollars! 3. That time that I prayed for my best friend to be healed of gastric ulcers, and she was! permanently!

Over the years there have been many instances when I prayed and God said “NO.” I do not understand why sometimes God does not heal someone. But I have seen FAR too many miracles at this point to ever again doubt that there is a God, that He loves me personally and that He still does the impossible. He is still a God of power, Who heals, does miracles and breathes life into those who are dead (or feel that they are dead inside). He is never far away from any of us. He is only a prayer, a cry, a heartbeat away. There is no one so “bad” that He does not love. His forgiveness is amazing, I know first hand!

Several times since that night I have needed God to remind me and show me again His love for me. But when I encounter Him again and again the self pummeling immediately fades away.

Almost daily I meet people who just seem to hate themselves- especially young people, members of generation Z. Suicide has been on the rise across the United States for awhile now. These young people do not see a positive future ahead- they feel worthless. They are crushed under a weight of guilt and expectations. Some of these people have decided that God is not real because they cannot measure God, or “prove” God’s existence in a lab. It has been argued that we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God scientifically. But the whole debate has no bearing on my life, because I know what happened to me, and what continues to happen when I pray. I cannot prove my experience to you. But many people who doubt God’s existence have never given God that moment to show Himself.  If you believe in God, you start seeing Him everywhere. If you choose not to believe in God, you see His absence everywhere.

So I have an important challenge for you. And I suppose, it is a challenge to God as well. I dare you to take this next week, and read one chapter of the Bible every day, and sit alone listening for God for 20 minutes a day. And this means getting quiet and listening for God to speak to you and your distinct situation through the Bible and through listening. Ask God to give you a sign that He is real and is working in your life. The implications here are huge. If God is real and He loves you, then He has an amazing plan for your life. You are not worthless or too far gone. You are priceless to Him. I dare you to give God a week, without writing Him off, and see what happens.

Once you connect to a living and powerful God, the depression and worthlessness lose their hold. And you begin a journey to find out all that He has planned for you to do. God wants to connect with you; He wants you to feel loved and free. Don’t know where to start? Here are some verses to get you going: John 3:16,17, Jeremiah 29:11, John 14, Psalm 139, Romans 5:8. Please do not give up. Jesus loves you and so do I. Ask God to show Himself real to you, right now wherever you are.

Whether you believe what happened to me or not, I love you anyway. My life has peace, joy and purpose only because of my daily relationship with Jesus Christ. If you ever want to talk, email me at trisha@peach.im. Open yourself up for an encounter with God this week. You will not regret it. I promise.

Love always, Trisha 🙂