Archives for posts with tag: family

This past week, I heard several people on social media broach the subject of Christians and child adoption. 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 are adopting this beautiful angel- Eva Marie Hope. 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

And if you’d like to hear more about my sister’s journey to adopt Eva, you can read about it HERE: https://www.youcaring.com/erikagoffin-894207

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

We all have those special moments in life that stand out in our memory. This week I was delighted and honored to present 4 breakout at CMCONNECT Conference, a conference for children’s and family ministers and volunteers. I had a wonderful time connecting with dear friends in kid’s ministry as well as getting acquainted with new leaders as well. Here are a few of my favorite moments (things said by different leaders) at this year’s CMConnect Conference:

KidMin Charlie: “Everything I have was given to me by my Father. When I am done with my bus or a puppet, I give it away. My Father provided it, why should I charge for it? How many times does My Father need to pay for that puppet? My Father provided that resource and I will pass it along.”

Lori Bertram:

“Faithfully serve an audience of One. You are uniquely situated by God Himself to impact your corner of the globe. Lead from a genuine place.”

“I learned from David to have a heart similar to God, and to trust God’s timing. God gave David promises that were a long time coming. God has perfect timing and HE elevates us, not our own actions. Even during the times it doesn’t make sense, a leader like David waits on God. David went through 8 years of exile. God SCULPTS us in exile. David teaches us to honor people, honor friendships. He teaches us to have a repentant heart. We should repent of sin quickly and worship with abandon.”

“Moses taught me the importance of obedience. To lead, you must completely obey. God sculpted Moses in exile. You cannot lead in human strength; there must be humility. The more God elevates you and your ministry, the lonelier leadership gets. You do not get as many kudos and pats on the back as your leadership grows. Moses had a very tough last year of his life, last year of his ministry. During that year his sister died, there was no water for the people again, Moses lost his temper and angered God when Moses hit the rock and took credit, and then his brother Aaron died too. Obedience is really honoring God. Moses did not obey, he did not honor God in that instance. Did Moses desire human affirmation and feel the people deserved more of a reprimand? We need to know God’s voice. Sacrifice anything else in your life, but never sacrifice your devotional life. There is a specific mantle for YOUR life only. Your receive that mantle in prayer. Be patient with people. Moses teaches us to use a teach approach- EX 34:9-10. God wants to covenant with us, because He loves us so much.”

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Well-child policy.

Common sense tells us that when your child is vomiting, has a fever, or is blowing lots of thick green guk out his nose, you stay home with him until he is well. Your work would not be happy with you if you brought that child with you into the office and held him on your lap hacking stuff up during a meeting. And the schools all have “well-child” policies that would keep you from leaving your child in class that day puking in a bucket under his desk or passing out during gym. Doctor’s offices would make your child with a heavy cough wear a mask while there. So why do we treat church so differently?

I overheard a staff member whispering to another staff member once, “I would never ever leave my child in the nursery here. That place is a Petri dish of every bacteria known to man. No one leaves there healthy!” Several parents responded to our survey saying they wouldn’t use the nursery for fear of their child catching an illness. It was time to act. We researched well-child policies from surrounding schools and churches and came up with our own that matches our needs.

Some things we included in ours went something like this:

“If your child is displaying any of the symptoms below either now or in the past 24 hours, please keep your child with you, and have them sit out of children’s ministries until they are well. 

Keep your child home if they have:

Fever over 99, vomiting or diarrhea,runny nose especially with any color of discharge, heavy wet coughs, unexplained rashes, skin infections, impetigo, boils, ringworm, eye infections, childhood diseases such chickenpox, mumps, measles, rubella, pertussis, scarlet fever etc.

If a child develops any of the above symptoms while in our care, we will contact the child’s parents as soon as possible so that they might tend to the child’s illness.

Our Children’s Ministry staff will not administer any type of medication to the children placed in our care.”

At first we caught a lot of backlash. I had the volunteers call me over to speak with parents who were not being able to leave a sick child. I got a lot of excuses like “Well, the school won’t take him either and I really need a break. Here you take him!” And “Oh yeah, that rash has been spreading all over his legs since this morning. He caught it at daycare, but it’s not contagious.” and “This is a church. You have to take anyone!” No wonder people didn’t want to use the nursery. Again, I didn’t understand this until I had kids of my own and found out that one nasty virus could waylay our whole family for a week. The bottom line is that you need to do your research, come up with a solid well-child policy, and have your pastor approve it. Then you need to post it somewhere visible so you can make it apparent you are not targeting any particular child; this is the policy across the board.

NOTE: web20It is extremely important to make sure no parent feels singled out or embarrassed in front of others. Yes you do have to turn some children away if they are too ill, for the safety of all the other children and your workers, but remember to be kind and caring. That poor parent may have had a very rough week and thought “maybe we are well enough now to finally get out” when they just weren’t quite ready. Always use grace and kindness. But keep that kids’ area a “well-child area” as much as you possibly can.

From “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch” available on Amazon

In our age of technology linking us all across the globe, information and training has never been more accessible or more affordable! Google puts answers at our fingertips, almost instantly. More and more churches are doing their training seminars for staff and volunteers though “webinars”- training done entirely online from the comfort of home or the church building. Webinars have many benefits including low cost, no travel expenses, no time away from home, and flexibility with your own schedule. I love webinars; they are absolutely valuable in reaching and training today’s leaders. I even speak for several webinars. Does that mean that I no longer believe in sending teams away for “off site conferences”? Absolutely not. Traditional conferences still have enormous value, offering what webinars cannot. With a lot of churches in a budget crunch, and so many under resourced children’s ministries leaders, we have to ask, “Are off site conferences worth the expense?” I answer, with a resounding “Yes.” Here’s Why:

 

10. Laser Focus-There are a lot of conferences/trainings out there on every imaginable ministry topic- leadership, outreach, worship, discipleship etc. etc. etc. But if your passion and heartbeat is children’s/family ministry- if the faces of those kids and parents keep you up at night- then nothing beats a children’s/family ministry conference for putting all the best of everything right towards your calling.  Instead of finding one or two things that will benefit your ministry at a website, you will find that most, if not all, of the large group services, worship services, resources and breakouts will directly speak to, equip and impact YOUR ministry right now. There is a lot to be said about the effectiveness of that kind of focus- everything, absolutely everything, applies to your kid’s and family ministry.

9. Resources Galore- Every year, I see several children’s leaders arrive with cash in hand to buy their curriculum, training materials, books, worship DVDs, and supplies for the whole year. These events offer the chance to go through MANY vender booths, talk directly to the creators of many of the products, handle and examine the resources (as opposed to buying online)- all under one roof! And every single thing is for kid’s and family ministries! It’s like Christmas for kid’s ministry leaders.  I even saw a few teams that brought their senior leader WITH them (great idea!) to help them purchase most of what they would need for the next year all at once. Great idea, very efficient.  It also gets your senior leader in the loop, excited about the possibilities and increased vision for the family ministries area! Some booths also offer conference discounts that you can only get at the conference.

8. The Speakers- Quality, dynamic speakers present each year the main sessions at conferences, and live always trumps recorded. There is power in “being there.” Want to hear from the most successful and in-demand children’s/family ministry leaders? You’ll probably find all of them in one place. And every single year, I and my team have been inspired, challenged and encouraged to let God use us in bigger ways! I took so many notes last year at one conference, that I ran out of paper, and had to write on random scraps of paper in my purse.  I still reread those notes several times during the year (some are tear stained).  The impact of those large group services goes on well after the conference is over.

7. The networking- The very best part of off site conferences is NOT the amazing services or breakouts- sorry.  The BEST part of the conference is the networking that happens organically among children’s leaders.  Everywhere I see children’s leaders connecting, exchanging ideas, praying together, commiserating….they’re exchanging emails and Facebook info in the hallways, classrooms, after services, late night activities.  They are bonding over lunch! We are always better when we are working TOGETHER. I have met some of the most amazing friends and ministry collegues at these conferences!

6. College credit- Did you know, that several conferences now offer classes that count for college credit? Awesome right? I highly advise you to check this out on the conference website, especially if you are going or thinking about going after a ministry degree. All of us should we working to do better, to BE better at what we do. Because we have the greatest job on earth!

5. The workshops- Every year, I find so many workshops that I cannot WAIT to attend. In fact, usually there are usually two or three I want to visit every time block, SO my teams split up and each attend a different workshop. Then at lunch or dinner we compare notes and share what we learned.  Coming by yourself? You may find yourself wanting to order copies of certain classes so you don’t have to miss a thing! And some conferences let you pick a “track” of classes to attend: for example, “recruitment” “family ministry” and several more. And if you choose a track, remember you are not locked into that track.  If you see a workshop you really can’t wait to be a part of- go ahead and go! The track gives you great ideas of workshops to benefit your biggest needs.  I think it’s a great new idea that will work well.

4. The activities! – It’s not all “heavy” learning.  There is a lot of fun! Games, demonstrations, giveaways- late night stuff! It is part of the whole experience- touring the area around the convention halls, local attractions (if you like), great food, swimming and more. There is always a lot of laughing and fun to be had even when the classes are NOT in session. This is bonding for your team that is priceless. This bonding flourishes when you get away together.

3. Those amazing God moments in the hallway….  I cannot say enough about this one. I go to a lot of conferences all over the country (USA), and I love seeing children’s leaders praying together in the hallways, workshop leaders praying over people in classrooms after sessions and people having such deep God-conversations over lunches.  One such “God moment” happened to me 3 years ago. Two women I had never known, along with a workshop leader, prayed with me in the hallway. I was so inspired that I went home and finished writing my first book “Your Children’s Ministry From Scratch”- an all inclusive guide, to help children’s leaders launch or rebuild a dynamic kid’s ministry from the ground up.  I referred back to my notes from that conference many times during the long editing and publishing process, and it gave me the courage to keep going.  Since going live on Amazon, the 1st book has already sold over 2000 copies in 11 countries in 4 languages, and has become a mandatory textbook at several universities.  What ministry could God be growing within you right now? Go with an open mind and a ready heart.  And look for God to speak to YOU, in AND out of the services.

2. One on one coaching- CPC (Children’s Pastor’s Conference) offers sign ups for a one on one session with the children’s ministry expert of your choice (from the conference)- the cost of which is FREE with paid registration to the conference. The point is to “Go Home with a Plan!” that you can immediately implement- practical tools and strategies just for you and your situation. Other conferences offer these encounters in a less formal way; CMCONNECT conference gives you the chance to talk with “experts”, rubbing shoulders with them in every hallway. The intimate feel puts everyone on the same level, giving you the chance to really open up to those who have been in your shoes.

1. Team bonding- Effective growing ministries do not grow and thrive from one man (or one woman) shows. The future of your children’s ministry depends on the strength of your TEAM. Want to bond and inspire your team for years to come? A get away is the place to do that. It is so difficult to come home from a conference and try to relay the information to people who weren’t there. There is power in experiencing those moments, the laughs, prayers and tears TOGETHER.  “You had to have been there”.  Your team may just come home solidified as one team, with a strong vision for ministry- and totally stoked to take things to the next level!

Convinced yet? Need more info? Check out these upcoming conferences. I am so excited to be speaking at each of these this spring. If you will be there, please come up and say HI! Do you still love going to offsite conferences? Which is YOUR favorite?

Love Trisha

Children’s Pastor’s Conference- Orlando, FL, Caribe Resort and Conference Center, Jan 24-26, http://www.incm.org/events/

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CMCONNECT Conference- Louisville, KY, Graceland Baptist Church in New Albany, Indiana, February 20-23, https://cmconnect.org/cmconnect-announces-2017-site/

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AGKidMIN Conference-Fort Wayne, IN April 19-21, First Assembly of God (sponsored by the National Assemblies of God), http://kidmin.ag.org/conference/

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“Don’t call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.  Look, I will do something new, now it will spring forth, will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert….” Isaiah 43:18-19

“Don’t park at the point of your pain.” -Joyce Meyer

We used this as our children’s church theme verse for quite a while- we look at it a lot and remind eachother that God is trying to do something new!!  As with anything in life, when things have gone extremely well, it is so easy to rest on our laurels and glory in past victories…. But God always seems to be pressing us on, on on…. Ever wonder why?  A very long time ago, God took his chosen people out of slavery and bondage, out of a barren desert, to a brand new land.  They saw His amazing miracles on almost a daily basis!  On the edge of this beautiful new home, God admonished them over and over (about 15 times)- DO NOT leave any of this land unsettled, or the few inhabitants left will forever be thorns in your side and smoke in your eyes!!  I am giving you ALL of this land, make sure you claim it ALL and don’t stop until it is all settled.  And when it is all yours and you are happy and content, don’t forget Me.  You may know how the story went- the chosen people went in, took a fraction of the land and said, “God has given us this and done so many miracles, we have come so far.  Let’s just rest now and enjoy this piece we have.”  The story is a tragedy because they never did receive all of what God planned for them- what He was HANDING to them- because they didn’t want to try anymore, didn’t want to live by FAITH, didn’t want to march or fight anymore.  They settled for a fraction of what they could have had.  And worse, all that God had warned them about happened- the inhabitants of that land that they never finished settling made their lives SO miserable- and the war between Israel and those Canaanite descendants (Palestine) continues to this day!!!

So I am asking, “Has God done wonderful things for you, for your family, for our church??” You bet. Now ask yourself, “Has God done everything He wants to for you, your family and our church?” My answer is “no way.” I believe we are merely at the edge of the promisedland of blessings that God has for us.  And when God makes promises He always keeps them.  It is always His will to save people, heal people, restore people, etc.  When God looks at Sheboygan today He is not thinking, “Job done!” We are just getting rolling here.  Our challenge now is not to get tired and quit when things are going well.  God says, “Take all the good things I have for you, and when you are happier and content, don’t forget about me!”  So this week, let’s thank God for how far He has brought us, and then let’s look to what He has for us next! Who will we reach for Jesus now? Rest of the Promisedland, here we come.

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” The Apostle Paul, Gal. 6:9

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“Yeah I’ve tried Tru Fire,” she said. “And I like it. The kids are connecting, its not cheesy, and worship videos are great. I would totally use Tru Fire again.”

This was quite the statement, coming from my children’s pastor friend Laura Tubman, staff pastor at in New Life Church, Lima, Ohio. I was surprised since Laura has written her own curriculum for years, and she has such a high standard of excellence for the programs at her church. Not many earn her hearty endorsement.

“What is your favorite part of using Tru Fire curriculum,” I asked.

“I love that it’s simple prep for an impactful lesson. And my leaders love the enrichment pieces at the beginning.” She answered.”The main thing for me that sets this curriculum apart is that it encourage leaders to hold onto plans loosely and be attentive to the prompting of the Spirit. That is why I gave the curriculum a chance in the first place! It has also been great for the different response/prayer options too. My kids love it. That’s what I really wanted others who are debating it to hear.  And sometimes the writers read my mind and put in the exact elements I would have too!  That happened the first lesson I prepped and knew that it was the right fit for our ministry.”

One of my assignments for this semester for my Master’s Degree in Children’s and Family Ministries was to review 3 curriculums and to present my findings to our class. Due to my friend’s glowing endorsement, I picked Tru Fire as one of my curriculums to review. I created a review guide with my group, which I used to review all three curriculums according to certain criteria, including cost, number of volunteers needed, difficulty of set up, digital availability, home components and more. If you would like a copy of the excel file we used to critique, please send an email to trisha@peach.im and I’ll email it to you!

 

So here were my Tru Fire Take Aways at the end of this study:

TRU FIRE “STORY” (1-5th grade)- This dynamic, brand new curriculum came highly recommended to me from several of my children’s pastor friends. I was not disappointed!

EFFECTIVELY ENGAGING DIVERSE LEARNING STYLES: This would appeal to a wide range of learning styles (visual, kinesthetic, auditory).  I appreciated the creativity involved in each week’s presentation: “stained glass” crafts, “origami boats”, cutting edge video clips, original worship songs, fun interactions etc. The kids are up and moving!

EXCELLENCE IN PRESENTATION: The handouts and video clips are full color and done with excellence. This would totally appeal to today’s digital generation.

DIGITAL ACCESSIBILITY: Included with the curriculum purchase: completely digital, downloadable lessons, videos, worship songs, volunteers training materials, parent/church connection materials, and a volunteer training on leading a child to Christ.

SCOPE AND SEQUENCE: I was impressed that the scope and sequence shows the story of God and of salvation woven artfully throughout all of Scripture. It goes through the Bible Genesis-Revelation, and connects every story back to “Who is God and what did He do to save us?”Several sections of the curriculum go in depth on each of the Jewish Feasts and Festivals. It looks very interesting; it’s not something we have done before. Some people in our church would love that.This hits our goals of hitting a lot of Scripture and Bible stories, learning doctrine, evangelism, leading children to Christ etc.

COST- The curriculum cost is based on how many children are in your program.  It starts at 289.00 for the smallest group of kids. For a larger church, 200 elementary students, would cost around 789.00 per year. Also, make sure you factor into your budget, as you would need to with any curriculum, additional items that will need to be purchased to carry out the lessons effectively (construction paper, folding paper etc etc.)

VOLUNTEER TRAINING- Included with purchase are reproducible downloads to assist you in training your team. I am hearing about live trainings going on around our country. There may be one in your area!

DIFFICULTY OF WEEKLY SETUP- As Laura said, you get a lot of lesson for very little set up. That is a huge plus for larger churches who may usually spend hours setting up classrooms during the week. On the scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest, I’d give the set up difficulty about a 3.

APPROPRIATENESS FOR OUR SETTING- I do believe this would work in our setting. It seems to work as large group, small group or both. We would probably break it out large group then small group. Churches with fewer volunteers could start by keeping this all large group. Our audience of kids would love these lessons. Doctrinally, this is a perfect match for our church’s core beliefs and mission statement. NOTE: TRU FIRE has published by David C. Cook in partnership with My Healthy Church. It has a distinctive Pentecostal edge that goes WELL in an Assemblies of God church like ours. If you are a charismatic, independent or Pentecostal Church looking for a Holy Spirit centered curriculum, this is definitely worth pursuing. If your church is not quite comfortable with a Pentecostal element, I would definitely recommend taking a lot at David C. Cook’s “Tru”, which is also getting rave reviews. “Tru” is the more “Pentecostal cousin” of “Tru”. Both are great curriculums.

CHURCH/HOME CONNECTION-“Home Front” is the parent connect portion of Tru Fire, reinforcing each lesson for families. I love how parents and kids are taught how to speak blessings each other! I would give the home connection here at least an 8 out of 10, perhaps higher.trufire I am just waiting to hear about how those church/home connection are playing out.

Bottom Line: Yes, we would totally try this at our church. For more information, be sure to check out http://trufire.myhealthychurch.com/ for more information, free samples and more.

So how about you? Have you tried Tru? What was your experience with it like? Are you considering switching to Tru Fire? What criteria do YOU use when choosing a curriculum for YOUR specific group of kids?

Blessings on your holidays and on your year of ministry to come!

Trisha

If you are having a fantastic holiday and so is everyone you know, fantastic.  That’s wonderful. But this blog may not be relevant for ya, at least not this year. I would like to have a word with those of you who may NOT be having a great holiday season right now….

Seven years ago, Christmas Day- As my little 2 year old daughter began opening her third gift, I heard my phone ring. I was confused at first seeing that my phone wasn’t on; THEN I saw it was the on call phone. I picked up the phone and answered.  On the other line I heard the tired voice of an older man.  He asked me, “I want you to give me one good reason not to end it all right here and now.”  Hey family, I need to go outside for a bit. I need to take this.

You have probably heard it said that the Holidays are the hardest time of year for some people. When I was younger I never knew how true that was. Coming on staff at a large church, I thought the reason none of the staff wanted to be on call during the holidays was purely due to family obligations. But having holiday time with the family was only PART of the reason that the pastoral staff did not relish being on call for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. My first year, as the newbie on staff, I was on call during Christmas Day. It really changes your whole perspective on the holidays talking to people who are suicidal on Christmas. And your eyes are opened to the very large number people all around us who are hurting at the “happiest” time of the year.

Perhaps we are not as aware of this sadness in the church, because we have created a culture that says, “If you are really a good Christian, you will be happy all the time.  You will live in victory daily.”  This causes many Christians to hide their very real feelings, and the fact that they need a friend, because they are pretending to be “happy”. And some of these Christians wonder, “Is there something wrong with me, because I am not happy right now? Would other Christians understand or even be able to help?” We live in a broken, fallen world. The church and our American culture have created this artificial reality- that we are immune to heartbreak if we do the “right” things.  We can stay young, wealthy, have all we want and need.  As the poet aptly said, “Childhood is the Kingdom where nobody dies.” -Edna St. Vincent Millay. When you grow up, you begin to see, on planet earth bad things happen to ALL people, good, bad…etc. And if we will be honest, that is exactly what the Bible says- and what Jesus told us would happen: “In this world you WILL have trouble….they will persecute you and throw you out of synagogues for My Name’s sake….some of you will be delivered over to death…but the end is not yet etc etc etc” I do not believe Bible stories are just “stories”.  The accounts of certain lives are there for a reason! EVERY single one of the heroes and patriarchs of the Bible went through terrible times. And we are not exempt. We weren’t promised to be happy all the time.

I have two separate friends who lost their moms this year.  Another good friend lost a baby. One needs major heart surgery for herself, and she has 2 small children at home. I know they are going into the holidays uncertain.

I remember at least one holiday season that was  the worst time of my life.  I ended up curled up over the steering wheel of my car, listening to the sleet pelting the roof, outside of Lowe’s, crying my eyes out.  I knew I had to go home and make Christmas as wonderful as possible for my two young children.  But I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really Christmas for us this year??? This isn’t supposed to be how it is! Wait, where is the ‘holiday magic’ that somehow swoops in and makes this all ok?”

So if we know that the holidays are harder for us (even Christians) sometimes, then what can we do to get through the holidays on a difficult year? What can we do to help those in our lives who are struggling this season? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Know that you are not “bad” or “abnormal” to feel down at times during the holidays.  It is perfectly normal to be reminded of a loss at important events. It is normal to feel down, stressed and even blah. The thought of being on a huge emotional high through the whole holiday season is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation for anyone.

2. You are not alone.  A lot of people have major lows during the holidays.

3. It is ok to go talk to someone and get help.  You owe it to yourself and your family to be honest and take care of YOU. That doesn’t make you less of a Christian, a strong person or a parent.

4. It is ok to have some happiness during the holidays even if you have had a major loss. Some people feel very guilty if they feel happy during the holidays if they have lost someone. It’s ok to laugh and have fun too…there’s no rule book for how you have to feel.  And more than likely the person or people you are missing would love to see you smile too.

5. Create some new traditions.  It is great to keep up old traditions. But one thing that is very healing after a loss is to incorporate a new tradition or two.  A tradition to remember the good that was, and a tradition to look forward to the good that will be. Which brings us to:

6. Remember that there WILL be better seasons to come. Everything in this life comes in seasons. In the middle of a tough holiday season, it is easy to think, “This is how things will be from now on. It will always be this way.”  But a good friend once told me, “There is life out there beyond this. And no it’s not the same as before.  But it’s a good good life.”  I hung on to that during a dark time, and it proved to be so true.  Life will continue to change; but good IS coming.  God’s Word promises us that God’s plans for us are GOOD.  And that “all things work together for GOOD for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

7. Last but not least: Make a list of all you are thankful for. Now before you shriek, “Wait? You want me to be THANKFUL after the year I’ve had?” remember that pain can blind us to everything that is still good in our lives. Remember the story in the Bible about the widow and her two mites? Jesus said she gave more than anyone else because she gave all she had.  Perhaps the one who is sad on Thanksgiving, but who stops to thank God for all the good still in their life, is so very precious to God, because it probably takes everything they have. “In EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is the will of God.” It is easy for someone in a good year to be thankful; but if you’ve had a rough year, your thanks and praise are much more of a sacrifice.  And I have found that stopping to thank God, when there seems to be nothing going right, is when I seem to feel Him here, and sense His working the most.

Are you having a wonderful, fun filled Thanksgiving and Holiday Season? Fantastic! That’s great. Are this year’s festivities particularly difficult? I am wishing to send you a great big hug right now through my laptop and say, “you are loved, and good IS on the way”. God bless you this Thanksgiving and Christmas and all through this next year- whether a good or a bad year- may you feel Him with you, working in your life. Love Trisha

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For many Americans the earth starting spinning in the other direction early this past Wednesday morning. Many woke up feeling that their whole world had changed over night. I have lived through 5 elections now, but I have NEVER seen or even heard of one quite like this past election. It is safe to say that our nation has not been this divided since the Civil War. For a year now, our TV screens, tablets, social media, radio etc etc have been bombarded by an avalanche of name calling, ugly ads, uncovered corruption, “secret emails” and “secret tapes.” The anger has boiled over in the ballot boxes and into the streets of our nation. I looked at five major newspaper headlines today, each asking the question, “What do we say to our kids about this election?” Many parents and children’s leaders are mulling that question over. Here are a few thoughts I have, as a parent of 2 children and a children’s pastor, teacher. After this election, Christian adults ARE:

1. Safe people for a child to ask questions, even tough ones. Unless your child is VERY VERY young, you will probably not be able to shield your child from hearing about the election. Both of my children came home from school talking about the lunch discussions with their friends. They saw several ads on youtube channels as well. I do not want my children to hear about it from everyone BUT me. I am deliberately initiating the tough conversations with my children, because I want them to know that I am a safe place to ask those questions. I do not want political questions to be off limits with my kids. With all that has gone on, and is still going on, they will have questions. In fact, we talked about the voting process, their rights and responsibilities as an American citizen. I even took them with me to the polling station so they could see how voting works.

2. Good citizens of whatever nation we live in (Mark 12). We are in the world, not of it, meaning we SHOULD be salt and light in American politics, without letting our culture of greed, anger, corruption taint us. This includes following laws, paying taxes, doing our due service and praying for those in authority.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. …Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” Romans 13:1-3

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.” (1 Peter 2:13)

“We are also to pray for, and see the peace of the place God has us serving: “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

Jesus tells us to pay our taxes, and to help out if pressed into service (Mark 12). However, Jesus DID speak up with the governing authorities were mistreating others and abusing power (John 2:13-22, Luke 13:32, Luke 13:1. The Apostle Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship when he was about to be beaten/interrogated illegally (Acts 16:37)

3. Are accountable to GOD first. We are CHRISTIAN Americans, not American Christians. That means that if we must choose between what God has said and what our culture says, we will choose to do what God said. What is legal is not always right and vice versa. For example, slavery used to be legal, but it was still horribly wrong. It used to be legal to beat to your wife, trade your child for a horse etc. etc. The Bible teaches over and over again that we are accountable to God first. The early disciples said it best when they were threatening by the rulers and ordered to stop preaching Christ: “But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” Acts 5:29. The Apostle Peter states, “”Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among outsiders that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:11-12

4. Can be afraid, but choose to put their trust in God. I advise parents to be honest with their children when they are facing someone of great importance. It is a powerful thing for a child to hear their parent say, “Hey, I am scared in this situation too. But I know what the Bible says. And I chose to trust God.”A Good friend of mine put it this way: No matter who is President, God is on the throne. Nothing can change God’s plan as laid out in Revelation. He knows what He is doing. He is loving, and He cares about us so very much.

5. Leads by example. What do the children in my life see in my attitude and actions? Am I showing fear, rage? Am I showing trust, compassion? Our children often grow up to do as we do, not as we say. They may follow our actions right now. How will they react to this election? They are watching you for cues.

6. Prays for our government and for our leaders. EVEN IF THEY WEREN’T the ONES WE WANTED. This is especially hard for us as Americans. But the Bible is clear, “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers,intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men 2for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity.…” 1 Timothy 2:1. It is very hard to hate someone that you are praying for. I told my children, “I did not pray for our last President as much as I could have. But I am going to pray for whoever our new president is every single day.” And I am going to. And I want my kids to hear me pray. If I spent as much time praying as I have complaining, this nation would be a much better place for my kids.

7. Does not resort to ugly tactics when hurt, angry, confused. Remember, our kids are watching us, learning from us how to react to success and to hurt and to defeat. Are we taunting and teasing? Are we yelling? I believe our kids need to know that hurting others, threatening people, destroying things, demeaning others is never a way to handle emotions. We as parents and teachers have to show our kids a better way. We need to teach our kids to be change agents in this world, and there are right ways and wrong ways to go about effecting change.

That has been my strategy in these tough times- modeling prayer for our government, participation, a (hopefully) better attitude, and a heart willing to seek God’s will and do it.

I am not perfect, and I know I will stumble, but that can be a good lesson too. God using each of us, in our brokenness, to work His will here on earth.

So, have you had “the talk” with your kids about the election? How did it go? What strategies do you recommend?

Praying for God’s peace, compassion and healing in tough times, Trisha

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A lot of ministers and key volunteers are frustrated. We get tired, burned out, occasionally chewed out, under-valued and under resourced. It is in those tough moments, that I cherish those softly spoken words of encouragement from God. Sometimes it is something I read in Scripture. Sometimes that word of refreshing comes through a friend or family member or in a sermon. Sometimes I hear that still small voice speaking to my heart when I’m out in nature. But each time, God’s encouragement gives me the courage to keep going with renewed purpose and strength.

Last weekend I had the incredible privilege of attending a Joyce Meyer conference in St. Louis, Missouri featuring special guests Christine Caine, Beth Moore, and Pastor John Gray. I noticed that my live tweets from the conference were shared a lot. I’ll admit I was deeply moved and encouraged at the conference. So I want to share that encouragement with all of you! If you are in the middle of a struggle right now, I am praying for you today. So here are a few of the very best quotes from the conference. I hope they encourage you this week. Feel free to share with someone who may need a “God hug” today. 

We receive from God through faith. We receive from the enemy through fear. Where faith and God meet, is our breakthrough. Feelings<faith

But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord,because you are called an outcast for whom no one cares.Jer 30:17

Your life’s journey doesn’t need to be ruined because someone hurt you. -Joyce Meyer

Everyone has pain in their life, you choose if it ruins the rest of your life. Joyce Meyer

God could’ve just floated Jesus on down. But he chose a woman. Do you appreciate the things God has sown in YOU? Jgray

Speak it out over your children- they are legacy makers, bondage breakers, overcomers, conquerors, family curse enders, in Jesus Name. JGray

You didn’t sneak into this world, you were God breathed. You didn’t call you. Get out of the HOLY Spirit’s way as He progresses your calling

Your tears weren’t wasted-they’ve watered the seed of an awesome harvest. You are God’s solution sent to confront a demonic problem.

The greatest gift you can give your child is a whole, healed, well YOU who truly knows the unconditional healing love of Christ, Chr. Caine

There is no benefit from living in guilt, regret. For God’s HOLY Spirit to use you, you must first forgive-especially yourself. Joyce Meyer

It’s a process. But through Jesus, I’m so far from where I’ve been- Beth Moore

If your soul is wounded, the first place that brokenness shows up is in relationships.

Bible> feelings.Know that Jesus is in you, think that, say that, until His power and authority rises and manifests through you. -Joyce Meyer

Any friendship that will not allow change is unhealthy. Codependent friendships need to be cut off.

Are your relationships affecting you or infecting you?

You may have to stop waiting, face the pain, and break off the relationships that are dragging you down. -Christine Caine

Christians get educated on the history of our nation, politics.Don’t think sinners confront corruption, that’s the job of the righteous, jm

Stop parking at the point of your pain. Time to move on- Joyce Meyer

God bless your week- so much love and prayers- Trishajoycemeyer

If you are having a fantastic holiday and so is everyone you know, fantastic.  That’s wonderful. But this blog may not be relevant for ya, at least not this year. I would like to have a word with those of you who may NOT be having a great holiday season right now….

Seven years ago, Christmas Day- As my little 2 year old daughter began opening her third gift, I heard my phone ring. I was confused at first seeing that my phone wasn’t on; THEN I saw it was the on call phone. I picked up the phone and answered.  On the other line I heard the tired voice of an older man.  He asked me, “I want you to give me one good reason not to end it all right here and now.”  Hey family, I need to go outside for a bit. I need to take this.

You have probably heard it said that the Holidays are the hardest time of year for some people. When I was younger I never knew how true that was. Coming on staff at a large church, I thought the reason none of the staff wanted to be on call during the holidays was purely due to family obligations. But having holiday time with the family was only PART of the reason that the pastoral staff did not relish being on call for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years. My first year, as the newbie on staff, I was on call during Christmas Day. It really changes your whole perspective on the holidays talking to people who are suicidal on Christmas. And your eyes are opened to the very large number people all around us who are unhappy at the “happiest” time of the year.

Perhaps we are not as aware of this sadness in the church, because we have created a culture that says, “If you are really a good Christian, you will be happy all the time.  You will live in victory daily.”  This causes many Christians to hide their very real feelings, and the fact that they need a friend, because they are pretending to be “happy”. And some of these Christians wonder, “Is there something wrong with me, because I am not happy right now? Would other Christians understand or even be able to help?” We live in a broken, fallen world. The church and our American culture have created this artificial reality- that we are immune to heartbreak if we do the “right” things.  We can stay young, wealthy, have all we want and need.  As the poet aptly said, “Childhood is the Kingdom where nobody dies.” -Edna St. Vincent Millay. When you grow up, you begin to see, on planet earth bad things happen to ALL people, good, bad…etc. And if we will be honest, that is exactly what the Bible says- and what Jesus told us would happen: “In this world you WILL have trouble….they will persecute you and throw you out of synagogues for My Name’s sake….some of you will be delivered over to death…but the end is not yet etc etc etc” I do not believe Bible stories are just “stories”.  The accounts of certain lives are there for a reason! EVERY single one of the heroes and patriarchs of the Bible went through terrible times. And we are not exempt. We weren’t promised to be happy all the time.

I have two separate friends who lost their moms this year.  Another good friend lost a baby. One needs major heart surgery for herself, and she has 2 small children at home. I know they are going into the holidays hurting.

I remember at least one holiday season that was  the worst time of my life.  I ended up curled up over the steering wheel of my car, listening to the sleet pelting the roof, outside of Lowe’s, crying my eyes out.  I knew I had to go home and make Christmas as wonderful as possible for my two young children.  But I remember thinking to myself, “Is this really Christmas for us this year??? This isn’t supposed to be how it is! Wait, where is the ‘holiday magic’ that somehow swoops in and makes this all ok?”

So if we know that the holidays are harder for us (even Christians) sometimes, then what can we do to get through the holidays on a difficult year? What can we do to help those in our lives who are struggling this season? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Know that you are not “bad” or “abnormal” to feel down at times during the holidays.  It is perfectly normal to be reminded of a loss at important events. It is normal to feel down, stressed and even blah. The thought of being on a huge emotional high through the whole holiday season is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation for anyone.

2. You are not alone.  A lot of people have major lows during the holidays.

3. It is ok to go talk to someone and get help.  You owe it to yourself and your family to be honest and take care of YOU. That doesn’t make you less of a Christian, a strong person or a parent.

4. It is ok to have some happiness during the holidays even if you have had a major loss. Some people feel very guilty if they feel happy during the holidays if they have lost someone. It’s ok to laugh and have fun too…there’s no rule book for how you have to feel.  And more than likely the person or people you are missing would love to see you smile too.

5. Create some new traditions.  It is great to keep up old traditions. But one thing that is very healing after a loss is to incorporate a new tradition or two.  A tradition to remember the good that was, and a tradition to look forward to the good that will be. Which brings us to:

6. Remember that there WILL be better seasons to come. Everything in this life comes in seasons. In the middle of a tough holiday season, it is easy to think, “This is how things will be from now on. It will always be this way.”  But a good friend once told me, “There is life out there beyond this. And no it’s not the same as before.  But it’s a good good life.”  I hung on to that during a dark time, and it proved to be so true.  Life will continue to change; but good IS coming.  God’s Word promises us that God’s plans for us are GOOD.  And that “all things work together for GOOD for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

7. Last but not least: Make a list of all you are thankful for. Now before you shriek, “Wait? You want me to be THANKFUL after the year I’ve had?” remember that pain can blind us to everything that is still good in our lives. Remember the story in the Bible about the widow and her two mites? Jesus said she gave more than anyone else because she gave all she had.  Perhaps the one who is sad on Thanksgiving, but who stops to thank God for all the good still in their life, is so very precious to God, because it probably takes everything they have. “In EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is the will of God.” It is easy for someone in a good year to be thankful; but if you’ve had a rough year, your thanks and praise are much more of a sacrifice.  And I have found that stopping to thank God, when there seems to be nothing going right, is when I seem to feel Him here, and sense His working the most.

Are you having a wonderful, fun filled Thanksgiving and Holiday Season? Fantastic! That’s great. Are this year’s festivities particularly difficult? I am wishing to send you a great big hug right now through my laptop and say, “you are loved, and good IS on the way”. God bless you this Thanksgiving and Christmas and all through this next year- whether a good or a bad year- may you feel Him with you, working in your life. Love Trisha

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