Count Your Blessings

By: Emily Miller

I am sure as a teen if you are anything like me, you have felt down in the dumps from time to time. It can be really hard to control your emotions. One minute you may feel happy about life, and the next you may want to lash out at everyone who gets in your path.

With God’s help, we can learn to have control over our emotions. I have said before, that God wants us to think about things that are true, noble, right, lovely, and praiseworthy.

One way that you can do this, is to count your blessings.

Count Your Blessings

Our minds cannot dwell on two things at once. So instead of focusing on the negative all the time, why don’t you make a list of things you are thankful for and “count your blessings”. You can write down practical things like your family, things you take for granted like your eyesight, and silly little things that make you happy, like wet kisses from your dog.

Here is my list as an example.

 

Things I am Thankful For:

1. My relationship with God

2. My Family

3. My friends

4. My house

5. My school

6. My health

7. My body

8. The crazy old paint horse I ride

9. Being able to ride horses on and off trails

10. Summer

11. Christmas lights

12. Being with family on Thanksgiving

13. Food

14. Clothes

15. Old T.V. Shows

16. My writing

17. Books

When you make a list of your own, keep it where you can find it. God has given us a lot to be thankful for. Teens, the next time you are down, look at your list, and even add more of God’s blessings to it. When you do this, you’re bound not to be sad for long.

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

All for Him,

Emily

 

3 Ways You Can Be An Intentional Mom

By Erin Bishop

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a mom is that I need to be intentional- in everything.

3 ways to be an intentional momParenthood is a high calling. It isn’t just a job, or just a responsibility. It’s a sacred gift from God, no matter how we became parents. Whether you planned for your children or not, or whether you adopted your kids or you’re raising foster kids; each one is created in God’s image and has a special purpose for his or her life.

But, all the joys aside, being a parent can also be so very tiring and difficult at times. I used to work full time, and there were days I would come home from a long day at work and want nothing more than to sit down and do nothing. But dinner had to be made, homework done and bath time needed to happen.

Now even as a stay at home mom, there are days I pick my kids up from school and they’re instantly at each other’s throats about something. And I’m sitting there in the car wondering if their schools keep the heat on all night and store food in the cafeteria, because my kids are going back. I can’t take it. Suddenly, a full day of missing them is the furthest thing from my mind.

How, especially on those days when you feel like you can’t lift your head off the kitchen table, you realize you forgot to buy coffee, you feel totally defeated, and “your kids have figured out those extra long trips in the bathroom are so you can have mommy time and their hands are under the bathroom door” days, can we be intentional?

3 Ways You Can Be an Intentional Mom

1. Identify a few areas you want to focus on being intentional (teaching your daughter how to cook, sew, use coupons, clean the bathroom, spray paint (my favorite!), balance a check book, discuss purity, etc…). Start with a small list so you don’t get overwhelmed and take on each item one at a time.

2. Come up with a plan and begin with the end in mind.  What outcome do you hope to achieve?  Identify the steps you’ll need to take to reach your goal. Be organized with your time and schedule- this will really make a difference.   Invite your daughter to help you make dinner one night. Yes, it takes longer to go through and explain each step, but she’ll get the hang of it.  In no time you’ll have a competent co-chef and kitchen-trained daughter.

3. Be patient, keep at it, and trust God. Is your daughter open to new things and ideas, or does she like to dip her foot in the water one toe at a time? Keep this in mind as you get started. If she’s slow to accept change, ease into this gradually so she doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. There are lots of other moms just like you, ready to link arms and support and cheer you on.

(Photo Credit)
Originally posted here by Erin Bishop

Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex {Guest Post}

A note from Erin Bishop:

I want to give a big thank you to Anne Marie Miller for allowing me to re-print her article “Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex” which went viral last week. After seeing this posted on Facebook by two of my friends, I had to read it. Well, that, and I’m a mom of a teenager and run a ministry for teen girls. It’s good to keep up to speed on topics like this. 

I have to warn you. I cried as I read this. That our kids are so ensnared. It breaks my heart. It should break your heart, too. It should inspire us into action.

Here’s Anne Marie:

Dear Parents,

Please allow me a quick moment to introduce myself before we go much further. My name is Anne Marie Miller. I’m thirty-three years old. I’m newly married to a wonderful man named Tim. We don’t have any children yet, but we plan to. For the purpose of this letter, you need to know I’m a recovering addict. Pornography was my drug of choice.

I grew up in the church – the daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher man with a passion for learning the Bible. I was the honors student; the athlete; the girl who got along with everyone from the weird kids to the popular ones. It was a good life. I was raised in a good home.

It was 1996, I was sixteen, and the Internet was new. After my family moved from a sheltered, conservative life in west Texas to the ethnically and sexually diverse culture of Dallas/Fort Worth, I found myself lonely, curious, and confused.

Because of the volatile combination of life circumstances: the drastic change of scenery when we moved, my dad’s depression, and a youth pastor who sexually abused me during my junior year of high school, I turned to the Internet for education. I didn’t know what certain words meant or if what the youth pastor was doing to me was good or bad and I was too afraid to ask. What started as an innocent pursuit of knowledge quickly escalated into a coping mechanism.

When I looked at pornography, I felt a feeling of love and safety – at least for a brief moment. But those brief moments of relief disappeared and I was left even more ashamed and confused than when I started. Pornography provided me both an emotional and a sexual release.

For five years I carried this secret. I was twenty-one when I finally opened up to a friend only because she opened up to me first about her struggle with sexual sin.We began a path of healing in 2001 and for the last twelve years, although not a perfect journey, I can say with great confidence God has set me free from that addiction and from the shame that followed. I returned to school to study the science behind addiction and family dynamics.

Over the last six years I’ve had the opportunity to share my story in a variety of venues: thousands of college students, men, women and teens. This summer, I was invited to speak at several camps to both junior high and high school students and it’s without exaggeration when I tell you with each year I counsel students, the numbers and the stories shock me more and more.

There are more students compulsively looking at pornography at younger ages and with greater frequency than ever before.

This summer, by a long stretch, was the “worst” in terms of what secrets I learned students carried. After my last night speaking at my last camp, I retreated to my room and collapsed on the bed face-first. Tim simply laid his hand on my back to comfort me.

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I could not logically reconcile in my mind all the confessions I heard over the summer with the children who shared them. While every story was unique in the details, in most situations, there were three common themes that kept surfacing.

  1. Google is the new Sex-Ed: Remember the first time you, as a parent, saw pornography? Likely it was a friend’s parent who had a dirty magazine or maybe you saw something somebody brought to school. Now, when a student hears a word or phrase they don’t understand, they don’t ask you what it means (because they fear getting in trouble). They don’t ask their friends (because they fear being ashamed for not knowing). They ask Google.Google won’t judge them for not knowing. Because of our short attention spans and desire for instant gratification, they don’t click the first link that shows up – they go straight to Google Images. In almost all of the stories I heard, this is how someone was first exposed to pornography – Google Image searching. The average age of first exposure in my experience was 9 years old.

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2. If Your Child was Ever Molested, You Likely Don’t Know: Another extremely common theme was children being inappropriately touched, often by close family members or friends. When I was molested at sixteen, I didn’t tell a soul until I was in my twenties. I didn’t tell my own mother until I was twenty-eight. The stigma and shame of being a victim coupled with the trauma that happens with this experience is confusing to a child of any age: our systems weren’t made to process that event. Many things keep children from confessing abuse: being told they’ve made it up or are exaggerating, being a disappointment, and in most cases, getting the other person in trouble. While a child can look at pornography without being abused, children who have been molested by and large look at pornography and act out sexually.

3. Your Child is Not the Exception: After speaking with a youth pastor at a camp, he said most parents live with the belief their child is the exception. Your child is not. The camps I went to this summer weren’t camps full of children on life’s fringes that one would stereotypically believe experience these traumatic events or have access to these inappropriate things. You must throw your stereotypes aside. Most of the children at these camps were middle class, mostly churched students.Let me give you a snapshot of a few things I heard from these students:

  • They’ve sent X-rated photos of themselves to their classmates (or received them).
  • They’ve exposed themselves to strangers on the Internet or through sexting.
  • They’ve seen pornography.
  • They’ve read pornography.
  • They’ve watched pornography.
  • The girls compare their bodies to the ones they see in ads at the mall or of actresses and keep those images hidden on their phone (or iPod, or whatever device they have) so they can try to imitate them.
  • They question their sexuality.
  • They’ve masturbated.
  • They know exactly where and in what movies sex scenes are shown and they watch them for sexual gratification.
  • They’ve had a same-sex experience.

And they’re terrified to tell you.

(Update: The focus of this article is on the conversation, not the action, though as parents, you need to be aware of the fact young children are experiencing these things. I feel the need to clarify none of these actions make someone a “bad” person. While this specific list does contain things many people with a Christian background consider to be sin, it is lack of communication that makes this dangerous at this age. Most of us go through exploratory phases before sexual phases: a three year old masturbating because he knows it feels good and a seventeen year old masturbating to porn for a sexual release are two different things. If your child is uninformed or uneducated about things they need to know based on what is appropriate for their age and sexual development, regardless of your beliefs, it leads to shame and self-doubt.)

But maybe you’re right. Maybe your child is the exception. I would argue at this juncture in life, being the exception is as equally dangerous.

At the end of every session I presented I intentionally and clearly directed students to ask me or another leader if they didn’t understand or know what a certain word meant. “Donot go to the Internet and look it up.”

Sure enough, there is always the child who stays behind until everyone leaves and quietly asks what the word “porn” means or if God is angry because that boy or girl from down the street told them it was okay for them to touch them “down there.” There is the child in the back row who leans over to his friend and asks, “what does molest mean?” and the other boy shrugs.

This summer, I am beyond grateful that mature, God-fearing adults were available to answer those questions with grace and tact and maturity; that we were in a setting that was safe for questions and confessions. It was entirely appropriate. Not every child gets that opportunity. Most won’t. Most will find out from the Internet or from a peer who isn’t equipped to provide the correct answer in the correct context.

As the summer camp season ends, I feel a shift in my heart. For the last six years, I’ve felt a calling to share with students how God has set me free from the shame and actions of my past and that they aren’t alone (because they truly believe they are). One college dean referred to me as “the grenade we’re tossing into our student body to get the conversation of sex started” because they realized how sweeping these topics under the rug caused their students to live trapped and addicted and ashamed. I will continue sharing my testimony in that capacity as long as there is a student in front of me that needs to hear it.

However, I am more aware now more than ever before in my ministry how little parents know about what’s happening. And because I’m not a parent, I feel terribly inadequate in telling you this.

But I can’t not tell you. After seeing the innocence in the eyes of ten year olds who’ve carried secrets nobody, let alone a child, should carry; after hearing some of the most horrific accounts from students I’ve ever heard this year, I cannot go one more day without pleading with you to open up and have these difficult conversations with your children. Would you prefer your son or daughter learn what a “fetish” is from you or from searching Google Images? Talk to them about abuse and yes, even trafficking.

Just this month I met a relative of a girl whose own mother was selling her body from the time she was five until now, when she’s sixteen. This was not in some drug-infested ghetto you’d see on a news story. It was in a very upscale town in a very upscale state known for its nature and beauty and summer houses. Abuse does not discriminate.

Your children need to know. If not for them, maybe for a friend. Maybe they can help bring context or see warning signs.

Ask them what they know. Ask them what they’ve done. Ask them what’s been done to them. Show grace and love. Stay far away from judgment and condemnation. If you feel ill equipped, ask a pastor or counselor for help. If you hear an answer you didn’t expect and your first instinct is to dismiss it – don’t. Find a counselor. Look for resources. Continue following up. If you struggle with this (and let’s admit it, statistically, a lot of us do), get help too.

Do the right thing, the hard thing, for the sake of your children. If we don’t do this now, I am terrified of how the enemy will continue stealing hope and joy from our youngest generation and how they’ll be paralyzed to advance the Kingdom of God as they mature.

We cannot let this happen on our watch.

*Specific details that could identify children have been changed in such a way that it does not affect the story and only protects the children. Mandatory Reporters reported confessions that involved abuse or neglect or situations that indicated a child was in any type of danger by using proper state laws and procedures.

 

More from Erin: Let’s get back to my call to action. What can we do to protect our daughters?  What steps are you willing to take today to protect your daughter?

I think it’s time we have the difficult conversations and use words we might not be comfortable using.

I say, it’s ok to be the unpopular parent and it’s ok for your daughter to be mad at you and think you’re ruining her life. (Just ask my daughter…I excel at this).

What can we do TOGETHER as a group of intentional moms to show the world we will not sit by and watch our daughters be scandalized and have their innocence stolen from them?

Let’s not have this be an issue we’re passionate about for the day. Let’s keep it on the forefront of our minds and not let it slide off our radar. Our daughters deserve better.

I want to hear from YOU.

How to Pray for Your Future Husband: Understanding {Guest Post: Tricia Goyer}

By Tricia Goyer

badboy2 

I started praying for my future husband when I was 17 years old and pregnant with my son. I wanted someone who could love both me and my child. I wanted someone who loved God. God brought me an amazing man. John and I have been married for 23 years now. We had two more biological children, and we’ve adopted three more . . . making that six kids total! God has done more than I’d ever hoped or imagined.

My friend Robin Gunn and I wrote Praying for Your Future Husband a few years ago. The fun part is getting photos from some of the young women who prayed—wedding photos!

Of course there are women who are still praying and waiting, and we’ve gotten letters from them, too. They tell us they are drawing closer to God as they wait . . . and that is exactly what we hoped for!

In the moment, though, it’s hard to understand the wait. It may be hard for your future husband to understand, too.

Here are 6 ways to pray for understanding.

Pray for Understanding for Your Future Husband.

  1. Pray God’s Word will flood his heart.
  2. Pray your future husband will seek God and try to understand what God is doing in His life.
  3. Pray he has a tender heart that will be understanding of your past mistakes.
  4. Pray you will be understanding of his.
  5. Pray that if he has his heart broken, he will be surrounded by good friends who will support him during the healing process.
  6. Pray that in each of his relationships, he will develop an understanding heart and will always believe God has a different and better plan.

When you pray, rather let your heart be without words than your words without heart. John Bunyan 

 

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Wondering what’s up next for Tricia? Her book A Christmas Gift for Rose releases soon. You can pre-order it here!

For more, click HERE to read a sample of Praying for Your Future Husband (scroll to the bottom) 

Leaving A Legacy – Being Intentional

By: Shari A. Miller

I treasure my family history. I love learning about things from the past, what my grandparents and great-grandparents were like and how they lived so long ago. The legacies our families leave us are everything. They make up who we are, who we will become and what we can overcome.

Leaving a Legacy-Being Intentional

The picture above was taken during the dust bowl days in the little farming town of Cimarron, Kansas. The tallest girls pictured were my aunts. The little one in front, with the golden curls, holding the purse, was my mother. She was smiling and my aunt to the far left was frowning because it was her purse.

My grandparents had their hands full with three boys and four girls during the 1930’s. My mother still brags to this day how wonderful a cook my grandmother was, and how she could do just about anything. My grandparents were very intentional in how they raised their children.

They taught them how to love Jesus, to be kind to one another, and to work hard. Life on a wheat farm was not easy back then, but they all pitched in together to make it work. They were taught the value of a dollar, and that the most important things in life were free, their love for God and family.

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In 1952, my mom married my father, he also grew up on a wheat farm and learned the value of hard work as well. Together they raised three children to know the Lord and live for Him.

Now, it’s our turn.

Together with my husband, it’s our turn to take the legacies that have been handed down from each generation and create new legacies for our two children. In order for the legacies to be established well, it takes hard work, just like with anything in life.

Teaching our children to love the Lord and accept Him as their Savior, to have good values,  to be kind to others and to work hard doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work and intentional planning on both our parts to plant the seeds that will grow and prosper in our children’s lives.

The following list is how my husband and I approach being intentional parents with our children

  1. We  come together as a couple in prayer and reading God’s Word to learn how He wants us to teach our children.
  2. We try to model the same behavior to our children that we want them to model. By no means are we perfect at this, we are both sinners saved by God’s grace.  However during the times we do fail, we use those moments to teach our children. We use them as examples for what not to do next time, and look at how things could be done better in the future.
  3. We go to church and have family devotions together. There’s nothing more important than having a family who is centered on the Lord, who learn that no matter what they can go to Him in good times and bad alike.
  4. We teach our children how important it is to work hard, and to do whatever they do to the best of their abilities.
  5. We have fun together. We want to teach our children to laugh and enjoy life and to treasure the good times that comes their way.
  6. We are very involved in our children’s lives. We want to take advantage of every moment we can possibly have with them, and use those moments for training and teaching them.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

When we work at accomplishing these things, our own legacies are formed that our children can take from and add to when they grow and have children of their own.

What type of type of legacies were left for you, that you want to pass down to your children? What are some ways that you intentionally parent your children?

All for Him –
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