Addicted to Distraction

By Ginger Ciminello 

Addicted to DistractionI sat staring at the screen for several minutes.

The boxes were doing their little dance as the dark Xs taunted me. Surely deleting the apps wasn’t that big of a deal, but the longer it took to make them vanish, the more I realized I was addicted to distraction.

Sitting in waiting rooms, that two minutes before the oven timer goes off, while rocking my daughter to sleep… moments that could be filled with a mindless activity begged for the glow of a small screen and updates from the world around me.

For the past month, I’d been thinking about making a big technology change.

Conviction about the amount of time spent pinning, scanning and promoting took root in my heart and wouldn’t let go. The dinner table and church had always been technology-free zones for me, but I began to wonder why I wasn’t willing to carve out sacred spaces in every area of my home and life. I didn’t want my daughter growing up staring at the back of my phone.

It’s easy to talk about wanting to make changes, but so much harder to do. I know that my heart longs to simplify and limit distractions. At first I wasn’t sure what this would look like, but I knew it definitely involved less screen time. A majority of my work requires time on the computer and engaging with social media, so the practical how to make this happen appeared nearly impossible.

There is nothing wrong with social media at face value. I’ve just watched it become an area of temptation in my own life. It can keep me from prayer and time in the Word. It would have me substitute deep friendships for casual connections, compare my life with others and ignite jealousy, worry, self-righteousness and the need to please. Why do I turn to this thing, this technology like a drug?

I have to post this! 

I wonder what I’ve missed in the past three hours?

My food looks amazing. People should see this.

My Bible study on Nehemiah hit the nail on the head.

“Making changes in our lives can be hard, but it’s our refusal to change the places God is asking us to change that keeps us stuck on the dismal merry-go-round we’re too afraid to jump off, yet too sick to stay on. We hold tightly only to pass the same old stuff exactly where it was the last time we swirled past…Reading through the Jew’s public confession and their commitment to do things differently has reminded me of how vital follow-through of obedience is to our repentance.” (Kelly Minter, Nehemiah: A Heart that Breaks)   

I knew what I had to do when I read Kelly’s words and the response of the Israelites in Nehemiah chapters 9-10.

I deleted the apps. Goodbye Twitter. Goodbye Facebook. Goodbye Pinterest.

They still exist on my computer, but there’s something so freeing about not having them on my phone. I’m not prohibited from checking or using them; I’m simply removing the distraction that was affixed to my hand. Now, my phone is a camera and a telephone. My time with my daughter is with my daughter. I don’t read a passage thinking about which verse I’m going to stop and tweet.

These past few days have been wonderful. I wonder why I was too scared to try this sooner. Was it the fear of boredom? No, I was addicted to distraction. 

I just pulled up Facebook for the first time in three days. I scanned for four minutes, liked a few things and then I was done. I closed my computer and got back to living my life—not so I could post about it or Instagram it, but just so I wouldn’t miss out on living it.

I talked to my husband about this distraction craving. We’ve determined to keep the TV off completely at least two nights a week. We now spend our time relaxing and decompressing in a different way. The appeal of the distracting apps is already wearing off and I couldn’t be happier.

Those are some of the ways we are actively removing distractions this season. I know this could look different for each of us, but the same challenge remains: if you want your heart to be tuned to hear His voice, limit the distractions that keep you from experiencing your own life and listening to the Lord. This time is too short and too precious to spend it living vicariously through anyone or anything else.

“I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” ~1 Corinthians 7:35, NLT

The Truth About Teens, Sex Trafficking and Social Media

By Brenda Yoder, LMHC

Truth about teens...I recently attended a sex-trafficking training for care providers working with kids. Though I’m a school counselor and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I learned childhood sex trafficking is not just a counselor’s issue. It’s a parent, issue, too.

The presenters told us that sex-trafficking is every community in the United States. Rural. City. Suburb. Commercial child sex knows no boundaries. It applies to kids you know.

What I learned broadened my scope about potential victims.

Did you know these facts about teens, community, and sex trafficking?

 

 

  • The average age of kids entering sex trafficking is 12-14.
  • Commercial sex with children is now the 2nd largest criminal industry behind drugs.
  • 1 in 3 victims are recruited within 48 hours of running away from home.
  • 83% of US victims are US citizens.
  • The largest majority of victims have been sexually abused or molested.
  • Kids are often recruited by other kids involved in sex trafficking, usually of their same gender.
  • The internet and social media are prime places where recruiting and grooming happens.
  • Girls involved in sex trafficking have “trauma bonds” with their trafficker, who they consider their boyfriend.
  • Social media plays a big role in finding and grooming victims. Instagram, Snapchat, Kick, Twitter, Whisper, Facebook–all are used to scout victims. A complete guide for social media and sex trafficking is found at Love146--an organization with valuable resources for parents and teens on sex trafficking.

What do traffickers look for online? “I hate my mom,” “school sucks,” and similar statements. Remember, the average age of those entering trafficking are kids 12-14, who often share their emotions on social media. Groomers look for the vulnerable and know how to earn their trust.

If they want love, they’ll be their boyfriend.

If they need a place to live, they’ll give them shelter

If they are lonely, they’ll become their friend.

If they want to father, they’ll become their protector or “daddy.”

If they are poor, they’ll provide them the dream of status and material goods.

The striking truth about victims of sex trafficking is that they’re in our communities, churches, schools, athletic clubs, malls, and neighborhoods. Victims don’t self-report. They are in love with their perpetrator because he provides things for them and makes them feel significant.

As a parent, it’s something to take seriously.

What should you do?

  • Educate yourself on the dangers of social media. Again, Love146 is a great website devoted to this.
  • Talk with your daughters and sons. Even if it sounds weird.
  • Be aware of your tween or teen’s moods and emotional presentation.
  • Question unhealthy relationships with boyfriends–especially those exhibiting power and control.
  • Be aware of new, material goods purchased for them by friends or boyfriends.
  • Be involved in their social media. Teens can have multiple Facebook accounts of which you may not know.
  • Be on the lookout for friends or kids in your parenting circles who may be a victim.
  • Girls who say they’re “modeling.”
  • Kids who are overly tired, malnourished, or have neglected healthcare.
  • Teens with tattoos which indicate branding or have the term “daddy” on it.
  • Kids with severe anxiety, memory loss, lack of trust, sadness, withdrawal, suicide, or hopelessness.
  • Kids with signs of physical abuse.

When in doubt, trust your gut–ask questions, and call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888

A couple of years ago, I talked with a former victim of sex trafficking at a faith-based conference. She briefly told me her story. She was raised in the church, was in a youth group, and was trafficked by her brother to his friends and others.

Trafficking isn’t something confined to the brothels or slums of southeast Asia. It’s commercial sex with a child and it’s in high demand in the United States. Its victims and consumers are in our neighborhoods.

We need to be aware and engaged on all levels.

Truths and Takeaways:

Take it seriously. Familiarize yourself with the facts, educate others. Share this article.

Resources:

National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Love 146
Rescuing Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Ways to Get Attention (the right way)

By Angie Ryg

You think your day was bad? I had badminton today and we had to go to the gym. Of course, the seniors from the baseball team came in and started using the weights and then I realized that my water bottle is right by the weight benches! Well, our team had to leave and I needed my water bottle. My brothers had already lost my other one, so I needed to get it. So I had to walk over there all sweaty. Ugh, I did not look at anyone! I am hoping no one noticed me!

3 ways to get attention *angie*This is what I hear or at least some kind of version of this every time I work with my youth group girls. It may be a group of boys or a group of girls that they do not know well. There are various situations we will find ourselves in where we have the opportunity to share the love of Jesus. And yet, if we really focus on each situation, we often find that more often than not, people are wrapped up in their own thoughts and insecurities to heed much attention to us. Yet, to be a girl who is set apart, we want to grab attention, not in a flamboyant way, but a way that always brings glory to God. We want to grab attention from boys and girls in order to point out a love of Jesus that is attractive to all.

 

Here are three ways to get the right kind of attention:

Breathe In and Pray

Before you walk into a situation where you feel you may be nervous, take a long breath. This breath allows the blood to flow into your brain. The blood brings many materials necessary for the brain to function properly. That is the physiological reason. The reason that we need to remember this is this breath allows time to pray. It gives you a chance you to remember who is in control of every situation, every meeting, every part of every day. Give thanks to God for who He created you to be and ask for wisdom, confidence, and the strength to get through whatever step is next. When you give your moments to God in this way, He can use you as a vessel for His purpose.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Practice

It may sound weird to practice what you are going to say in a random situation and how can you even prepare for every situation? Yet, the reality is that if you were going to give a speech in front of a room full of people, you would practice what you were going to say, so I am surprised how many times I am in a situation, especially an uncomfortable one, and I have not even thought how I would react or respond. How can I shine the light of Jesus if I am stumbling over words?

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” I Peter 3:15 

Let It Go

The last way you can grab attention from others to bring glory to God is to listen just relax and let it go. This is not in a defiant way of the Elsa mantra of the movie Frozen, but more of a content feeling that God will use whatever you have to say. You can practice the words, but you do not need to worry that if you do not make a connection or you do stumble over your words, that you have wasted your chance.

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

God does not need us to spread His amazing story of the saving gospel, because God does not need anything: “O Sovereign Lord! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power. Nothing is too hard for You!” Jeremiah 32:17.

And yet, although He does not need us, the amazing thing is that He invites us to be a part of His glorious plan in bringing glory to Him and sharing the beautiful light of Jesus wherever we go. We are part of His plan to reach the nations.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

If we are abiding in Him by reading His word and praying for His Spirit, He will guide our words. If we breathe in and pray to Him, practice, and then just let it go, we can be a powerful tool for Jesus. Even at the gym!

Where do you think God has called you to share His good news?

Truth and Takeaways

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 

 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..” 1 Peter 3:15

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Ask God where He is calling you to share His good news.

God is Writing My Story

By Tori Bell

Tori God is Writing My StoryAs I have matured in my walk with the Lord over the years, I have been seeking more ways to share my story in order to serve the Lord and bring glory to him. I truly believe that the opportunity I have been given to write for the Whatever Girls Ministry is an answered prayer (Philippians 4:6) and I continue to pray that I will glorify the Lord and “empower teen girls to choose God’s best for their lives by exemplifying the pillars of Philippians 4:8,” as it is the mission of this ministry. At first, I questioned whether or not I was qualified to write for such an amazing ministry, but the Lord quickly reminded me of the many ways he used young people of all kinds in the Bible in extraordinary circumstances. I am praying that the Lord will use the trials and challenges I have experienced to speak to girls out there who are going through situations similar to the ones I have experiences.

As I started thinking about what I wanted to write for my first article I went to Mrs. Erin for advice. She told me to think of a girl I want to speak to. To encourage. To impart wisdom to. I am writing to you. In high school and especially in college I have seen so many young women who do not respect themselves, who do not place their identity in Christ, and who have let their worldly flesh drag them down. I have grown a passion to help teens and young women like me grow in their faith and lead a Christ-driven life, and find their ultimate peace and happiness in the Lord rather than things of the world (Philippians 4:7, Romans 12:2).

It gives me chills as I sit here and think about the many girls I do hope to encourage: the girls who are just like me when I was in me early teen years. I am praying that throughout this journey, as I share pieces of my life and my story, that you will be able to find the peace and happiness that I have found from God because His peach passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Unfortunately, it took me some time to truly understand that truth but I want to encourage each of you to analyze and understand that scripture and allow it to weave its way into your lives along with the pillars of Philippians 4:8: “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:6-8 (KJV)

Truth and Takeaways

We don’t need to be anxious about ANYTHING! We need to pray and talk to God:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

We need to think about and dwell in the pillars of Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

God’s peace is beyond comprehension and will guard our hearts and minds:
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

We need to renew our minds in Christ and not conform to the patterns of this world:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

When we seek God with all our hearts, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13)
Pray and ask God to reveal areas of your life He wants to use to encourage others 

Mamas, Do Let Your Daughters Grow Up to be Cowgirls

By Joneal Kirby, PhD

Mama's Do Let Your...At some point every little girl dreams of having a horse. It’s a wish of most children to own a horse someday or at least to ride one. Certainly it was mine. I was blessed to have a daddy who understood this early passion of mine. So, when I turned 12, my parents surprised me with a horse of my own. It truly is one of the memories from my childhood I remember most vividly – almost as if it happened yesterday. Dan and I spent a lot of time together riding for hours down wooded roads and over rolling pastures. Dan was my horse. No matter he was 12 years old and a tad bit tired and sluggish. That wasn’t important to me. I had a horse. My dream came true.

Some dreams mean much more. Like the dream to become something. To be able to grow up and do something important. For children those dreams are meant to be accomplished by the sweat equity put into school work. For at least 13 years of their young lives kids must invest most of their days, their time and their efforts and energy into doing well in an educational setting.

That’s true, whether or not you are good at schoolwork. Children must get an education. It’s a normal part of the American lifestyle and child development. There aren’t any good alternatives for kids who are good at schoolwork either. What good parent doesn’t want their child to at least attempt to get an education?

So what about those children who are not good at school? Those who are really terrible at comprehending academics? It may be because of delayed mental development these kids never find success academically. It may be because of a learning disability, a child struggles just to decipher letters, phonics and learning to read. Or it could be a math disability causes them to fall farther and farther behind their peers. We know math and reading are essential academic skills, and difficult when you fall behind in them.

In my work as a school counselor, I saw children with these problems with their schoolwork, for years. I saw the emotional stress on their faces and the pain in their eyes of continuously being asked to do things repetitively beyond their ability to master. I knew they were bullied and shamed by those who didn’t understand them. I heard their real grief after studying for hours and still seeing an “F” on their paper. Many of them eventually succeeded after intense study, specific therapeutic strategies and dedicated assistance from masterful teachers and individual tutors. Many went on to graduate from high school and some even accomplished college-level work. It’s a credit to these students’ perseverance and many, many hours and years of hard work by children and parents alike. It was not an easy task for anyone.

One of my blessings of being involved as a counselor with these children with express academic needs, is that I was able to spend part of my time encouraging the parents as well as their children. I suggested to worried moms and dads it would be most helpful to their child to develop a skill or talent so they could have success and achievement outside of the classroom. Since it was obvious, academic work would not be where their child would win awards or receive accolades, I helped the parents explore the possibilities of their child’s personal talents and interests. Did she like to cook? Get her involved with a local bakery or cooking school to increase her exposure and heighten her possibilities of doing well in that area. Was he good at football or another sport? We’d figure out how to best focus on those achievements and help him work and build improve his athletic skills.

Now, back to horses.

One young lady, Jessie (not her real name) always stands out as I think of the sacrifices and challenges parents make and face to insure their young one’s healthy and happy childhood experiences.

This young girl began to show signs of learning problems, and as her dyslexia resulted in reading deficits, her school work became more and more difficult for her. She was a shy, quiet little girl. This became a problem her parents noticed as she became more withdrawn, less confident and increasingly timid as she faced more challenges with school assignments. They also had noticed this child, at a very young age showed remarkable poise and talents with horses. It helped that her family were “horse people” who owned a large ranch with much time and interest spent with rodeos and horse competitions.

Probably one of Jessie’s parents’ best parenting strategies was placing her in a structured, homeschooling environment which proved to be supportive and appropriate to meet Jessie’s needs. Although her progress was painfully slow and arduous, the teachers’ attention to her learning challenges were addressing many issues. It was still no secret: school would always be tough for her and on her. And perhaps, her wise mom and dad thought, not the place she would prepare for her life work.

This eager girl’s dad began teaching her horse training skills. Even as a petite 12 year old, Jessie patiently could do the intense work of introducing a new colt to a halter, lead rope, saddle and training work. Working with a new pony with a stubborn disposition this tiny “horse whisperer” would spend the necessary time, hot and dusty hours, readying the raw horse to be ridden. It wasn’t long before her talents in the arena were being noticed, and folks from all around would begin sending her their young horses. It didn’t hurt that her home life was centered on faith and family. Her dedicated dad and mom were never far from the training areas as she worked her assigned charges. Gradually, as her confidence -and skills- developed, they were needed less. This was where Jessie excelled- beyond her peers and even her parents.

Eventually, she did graduate from her schooling. As she studied hard to finish, her love and interest and confidence was being built in the arena and pasture. She pursued further certification as a professional horse trainer and now has her own business training and boarding horses, and running a kids’ horsemanship camp, as well as giving year-round lessons. Her love for children and for God is woven in all her teaching. She enthusiastically and sweetly uses Bible lessons alongside her horsemanship lessons. As her students learn to give a horse commands, they may also learn God’s commandments for their lives!

I can’t help but think of Paul’s teaching in Romans where he speaks of God giving each of us different gifts. These show up as talents, strengths and abilities. They are then applied to our work, our careers, our ministries and our family life. As moms, our task is to help our children to channel their God-given talents as they pursue their dreams for their lives beyond childhood. Part of our parenting job is to maximize their skills so they can use them to bless others as well as honor Him.

No matter our child’s personal challenges, our job as moms is to focus on their areas of strength and minimize their weaknesses. Then we can help them pursue where God leads them. Their talent may be their personality, an ability to reach others, a determined spirit or a specific skill, but anything they are good at, we want to teach them to do it all to the glory of God. With the wisdom we ask God for, with faith in the Creator who made them, with immense Christ-like love for our families, we can help our daughters face their future with eagerness and confidence and hope, and with the knowledge that it all comes from their good, good Father, who loves them just the way they are.

Truth & Takeaways

God has given each of us different gifts:

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8.

Three Tips for Encouraging Your Daughter:

Ask God to give you eyes to see and ears to hear when your daughter is struggling and being asked to do things beyond her ability. She may need extra help or a new strategy.

As moms, our task is to help our children to channel their God-given talents as they pursue their dreams for their lives beyond childhood. Part of our parenting job is to maximize their skills so they can use them to bless others as well as honor Him.

No matter our child’s personal challenges, our job as moms is to focus on their areas of strength and minimize their weaknesses. Then we can help them pursue where God leads them.

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