Written by: Erin Bishop
Tonight while running errands I received a startling text from my daughter:
“Someone I went to school with just killed himself.”
I called her right away. Her voice said it all. Shock. Confusion. Grief.
“Who was it?” I asked. She told me his name. It sounded familiar.
“Was he very involved at school?” I asked, trying to articulate any common warning signs.
“Yes”, she responded, listing off a few activities he was involved in. She added that he was a really funny guy and always seemed happy, and that even his best friend was stunned.
I’m not going to start sharing warning signs, teen suicide statistics, well meaning but thoughtless and cliché bumper sticker statements, or speculate how or why this poor young man ended his life. Anyone can find those statistics online and speculation doesn’t help anything.
This is where I am a mom.
As I drove home, I prayed and grieved for this boy’s mom and dad, his friends and loved ones. I imagined Facebook posts and shocked texts among his peers. As I drove by the high school he and my daughter graduated from just weeks ago I wondered if the principal had been notified yet.
And then I thanked God. “Jesus, thank you that it wasn’t one of my kids. Thank you that every day multiple times a day when this same thing happens across America and the world that this isn’t one of my kids.”
As a mom, I just can’t. I cannot fathom what his poor parents are going through, and I never want to. Oh how my heart breaks for them.
And my heart breaks for this young man. So young. So much potential. So much life ahead of him. Gone.
I sat on the couch next to my kids when I got home and said this, eyeball to eyeball and heart to heart:
“Do you know how much you are loved, and that if you EVER find yourself in what feels like a helpless situation you can ALWAYS come to me and together we will find a solution? There is ALWAYS a way out.” Both my kids nodded.
Will you please do two things?
- Please join me in praying for this young man’s loved ones
- Get eyeball to eyeball and heart to heart with your kids and other young ones in your life and talk to them about suicide? Let’s shine a bright light on this darkness and expose it and get those conversations started.
I think it’s safe to assume we have all been impacted by suicide in some way or another. It is an epidemic and by having intentional discussions with our loved ones, we very well may bring hope to the hopeless.
By Susan Norris
What do you think of when you hear the name Jared Fogle? Up until recently, you most likely thought of Subway. He went from being an overweight Indiana University student to the Subway spokesperson and some say cultural icon. He made his fortune by being the face of Subway for 15 years.
While most saw Fogle as an ordinary guy who could easily be their neighbor, there was more to the story. Reporter, Rochelle Herman, gained her first glimpse of the story beneath the story when Fogle, married father of two, made a random comment, causing her concern.
He told me that he thought middle school girls were so hot,” Herman said. “I was in shock… Did I really just hear what I think I heard? I looked over at my cameraman…and he was just astounded.”
Herman worked undercover for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recording conversations with Fogle for evidence for years.
He talked about sex with underage children. It was just something that he really, really enjoyed.”
Fogle has since pleaded guilty to possession and distribution of child pornography and has a plea agreement, which includes his admission to crossing state lines to pay for sex with minors. In his plea agreement, Fogle agreed to pay restitution of $1.4M to his victims. His defense attorney stated that by admitting to the crimes, Fogle is trying to make amends and take responsibility for his actions.
This is a very public case; therefore, it is eliciting public outrage. After all, Jared Fogle was a trusted man. He made his way into our homes on a regular basis through our televisions and sales flyers. How could this happen?
The sad reality is it happens every day all across the country. There are people, ordinary looking people, neighbors, family members, and work associates who create a demand for the fastest growing crime in our world today, human trafficking.
How does it happen? How do average people go from loving husbands, fathers, and employees to someone who pays to rape women and children?
When I sat down with a former purchaser I asked the same question. His answer was becoming all too familiar to me:
“It all started with pornography. At first it was curiosity, but then it became my escape. It’s like a drug. If work got stressful, I’d watch it. If I had a fight with my wife, I’d watch it. Pornography causes a dopamine release in the brain and makes everything better for a while. But it doesn’t last. Just like a drug, you have to go back for more, and before long you’re hooked.”
When I asked him how he jumped from viewing pornography to purchasing sex he said:
“After a while the soft porn didn’t provide the release I was seeking. I sought out the harder stuff. You wouldn’t believe what’s out there. Anyway, after a while just watching wasn’t enough, so when I was out of town on business, I decided to try it.”
Many people say pornography is victimless, that those involved are choosing to be there. As someone who has been on the other side of the lens, a former porn star said:
“The women and children on the other side of the lens are victims. They’re wounded, but not just physically. Their dreams and futures have been kidnapped. Most of the women experienced some form of trauma that interrupted their dreams and derailed their future prior to being in pornography.”
When I asked her the all to familiar question, Why don’t they just leave? she said:
“The concept of girls in handcuffs has killed this fight. It has caused people to think victims can only be victims if they’re physically bound. I wasn’t in handcuffs but I experienced an emotional kidnapping rather than a physical kidnapping. I had been sexually assaulted. I’d lost all of my hopes and dreams already. It wasn’t hard for someone to manipulate me into doing porn after what I’d already experienced.”
It’s easy for people to want to turn to violence after hearing stories like these. After all, most people think these men are just animals, right? Who would do that so someone? Who thinks it’s okay? While I had the listening ear of one who lived the nightmare, I ask her who she thought the victims of this crime were?
Those who choose instant gratification and say “this hurts no one” are fooling themselves. They’re not just hurting the women and children who are being raped while the camera is rolling; they’re hurting their families, their spouses, their children by ignoring them, and they’re hurting themselves.”
Pornography is also used as a training tool for those taken into the sex trade. It is the classroom visual aid for victims in the school of the sex trade. One former trafficker said he used pornography to educate his girls on what was expected of them:
“Girls that are new to the industry don’t really know how to entice a man. They may have been abused or even raped. They just did what they were told in those situations. In order to get their money as a working girl, they need to know how to entice customers.”
When I asked this trafficker how he came to think it was acceptable to sell people as commodities, knowing what awaited them, he said:
“To explain that, I’d have to take you back to when I was nine years old…”
He went on to share about his childhood and how he, too, had his dreams and future stolen from him in different, but just as damaging ways as those he victimized. His story was further evidence of the statement,
Hurt people hurt people.
Those caught up in the sex trade often refer to it as The Game, however, there are no winners in this game. Everyone involved loses a part of themselves, if not themselves completely. It has to stop!
Do something. Take a stand. Speak out. Every organization in this fight is underfunded and under staffed. They all can use your help.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. What do you like to do? What are you good at doing? How can your vocation help in this raging battle over innocence? Find ways to use the skills and resources you already have to step into the fight.
As Edmund Burke once said:
For more information about sex trafficking, please visit Susan’s website, HERE.
By Brenda L. Yoder, MA
I realized I only had two years with all of my kids at home and if something didn’t change, their childhood memories of me would be of an angry, contentious woman. That wasn’t the mom I wanted to be.
No mom dreams of being a yeller. New brides don’t anticipate the havoc they’ll wreak in their homes by being out of balance. Women don’t look forward to the times they snap at their kids in public because they’re stressed with too many demands.
But life happens.
It happened to me. Not just once, but so much that it characterized our family. It characterized me as an out-of-balance mom behind closed doors.
Out-of-balance living happens not in the once-in-a-whiles, but in skewed normalcy.
“The kids just want to see you have joy” my husband said more than once. I didn’t realize the stress, anger, and mess I felt inside spilled out so much. Normally, you don’t see you own ugliness.
It affected them. I needed to take ownership of it.
I’m a mom of four kids within a nine-year span. After being home full-time for a decade, I was teaching 180 high school kids in our local school at the time of my unbalanced wake-up call. I loved teaching. I loved mentoring kids and pouring into their lives. I received teaching awards. Our house ran smoothly. My husband was an elder and I taught Sunday School. I ran two miles a day and had meals on the table every night.
We looked great with our picture-perfect image
But I was a mess.
In the stress, internal messiness, and out-of-control trying-to-do-it-all, relationships with my family suffered. While I did great with the teens I worked with, I was failing with my teen at home. As a mom to only one girl going through adolescence, I was reactionary, angry, and contentious with her. It overflowed to the younger kids and my husband.
My marriage was bad. My mother-child relationship was out of control, and something had to change.
Then, God reminded me that life with kids is fleeting and change needed to happen. I knew change wouldn’t happen overnight. I also realized
I didn’t like the memories my kids would have if I continued in my pulled-to-the-limit lifestyle.
I took a risk and changed what I could control. I realized I couldn’t change my husband or kids to meet my needs. I assessed what I needed for peace of mind, better life balance, and managing my anger.
I began saying “no” to things to work on the internal mess which needed healing. I said “yes” to repairing relationships and making time for God.
All of these took risk. Financial, personal, and lifestyle risks.
There’s more to this story, which is in the my new book, “Balance, Busyness and Not Doing It All.” The book is a practical, spiritual, and personal tool to help women and moms find what’s most important during the busiest years of parenting. It’s part of a larger story of living life well being the storybook image that you can learn about at brendayoder.com.
I never intended to write a book when change happened. It was truly for survival and healing for me and my family. But as I speak to and counsel women, it’s a familiar cry from most all moms:
How do you balance all the roles and responsibilities you have?
The answer is—you don’t by trying to do it all. It’s found in God’s word, a relationship with Him, and understanding yourself more.
So join me in balance, busyness and not doing it all. I’m still living it while raising kids. Busyness never goes away. Balance is how you live life while it’s happening.
What do you struggle with as a busy mom? What questions or struggles do you have?
Comment below and you’ll enter to win a giveaway for one copy of Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All. I’d love to hear from you!
To purchase the book, go to balancebusynessandnotdoingitall.com or Amazon.
Brenda is an author and speaker with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a BA in Education. After teaching middle school and high school, she’s a currently a school counseling professional with a private practice. She was twice awarded the “Powerful Connection” award for teachers.
She’s a parenting columnist for 10 To 20 Parenting, Choose Now Ministries, and Whatever Girls. Brenda has been featured in Chicken Soup For The Soul:Reboot Your Life and two books, Who Do You Say I Am and Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All are releasing in 2015. Her ministry, Life Beyond the Picket Fence, can be found at brendayoder.com where she writes about faith, life and parenting beyond the storybook image. Brenda is a wife and mom of four children, ranging from middle school to young adult.
Brenda is active on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
By Erin Bishop
My daughter and I have been butting heads since she started her senior year of high school two days ago. (I know. Two days? It’s been a long two days.)
Her countenance was different when she came home from school than when she left in the morning. She was downcast, snarky, and I could tell she was ready to get into an argument with me.
Today when she came home from school we talked about her day. Somehow we got onto the topic of spiritual warfare and I told her that I have the gift of discernment, which means I pick up on certain things that may not be obvious to others. The more we talked about discernment, something clicked in me, and the Holy Spirit imparted some timely wisdom.
“Grace, how many kids would you say attend your school?”
“About two thousand” she answered.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
“Grace, you share space with 2,000 other kids, all of whom, whether they know it or not, are in a battle. The enemy is waging war against these kids and their families. Most of them are walking around in spiritual oppression and don’t even know it. Darkness dwells where there is no light. You can’t see them, but spirits of depression, deception, eating disorders, suicide, anger, addictions, pornography, sexual sins, and many more, are like a thick, but invisible fog in the hallways of your school and if you don’t outfit yourself in the full armor of God, you’re going to get pinged, weighed down and feel defeated. The same thing happens to me if I don’t have a full tank of Jesus in me before I go to Wal-Mart.” I told her.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” 1 Peter 5:7-9
Before soldiers go to battle, they have a plan. They do reconnaissance, collect intelligence and plan accordingly. Going into a battle without these tools is planned defeat.
So as it is with soldiers, we, too, must know our enemy, how he attacks, and develop a strategy to defeat him. So it is with prayer and our Christian walk. We must arm ourselves with God’s Word and plan for victory.
Scripture References: Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:7-9
5 Battle Readiness Tips: Be sober (serious), be vigilant (watchful/attentive), resist the enemy (ignore/be wise to his antics), be steadfast in your faith, and know you are not alone.
Related Resources: It’s not too late to join us for #WhenMomsPray, our 2015-2016 prayer challenge. Click HERE for more information and to join us on the spiritual battlefield.
By Joanna Teigen
For many years, the word “prayer” brought up feelings of guilt and frustration. After all, good Christian moms pray all the time about everything, right? I just knew I was blowing it when it came to praying for my kids.
I didn’t pray often enough.
I didn’t pray hard enough.
I didn’t pray specifically enough.
I must not love my kids enough.
I must not love God enough.
Those negative emotions held me back even more from approaching God in prayer. It wasn’t until a crisis—when prayer was all that I had left—that
Prayer is the act of placing my children in God’s hands. It’s realizing I cannot protect them from harm. I can’t teach them everything they need to know. I can’t give them real happiness or make their dreams come true. I can’t make them be good or save their souls. Compared to what God can do, I can’t do much. There is freedom in taking those burdens off of myself and placing them on the Lord in prayer.
How can prayer set you free?
I can’t always protect my children in their own back yard, much less from danger and violence in the world around us. If I make it my job to keep them totally safe, I become a controlling worrier who won’t let them out of my sight. Through prayer, God gives me wisdom in setting safe boundaries and the assurance that he’s watching over them even when I can’t.
Our daughters can push all our buttons. They bend the truth. They come home late. They argue and complain. They blow off their responsibilities. They resist our rules and limits. No matter how faithfully we teach them or discipline by the book, we see obedience as a hopeless dream. Through prayer, I place responsibility for my daughter back where it belongs. Only God can change her heart. Only God can motivate her to grow and mature. It soothes my frustration and frees me to accept her just as she is today. I can forgive her weaknesses and trust God will work in her life at the perfect time.
It’s tempting to think I know the path my daughter should take. It’s easy to move from enjoying her talents to pushing for achievement and perfection. We can manipulate her social life to steer her to the ‘right’ friends. We can ‘help’ with homework to guarantee an A. We can stay up late researching colleges and scholarships so she has the best shot at success. Through prayer, however, I lay down my own hopes and goals. God quiets me so my daughter can explore opportunities without my interference. I can ask God to reveal his perfect plans and to put his desires in her heart. It sets me free to enjoy watching her life unfold.
I’ve seen the Lord answer prayers for each of my children. I’ve seen my children overcome emotional issues, learning challenges, and physical injury. I’ve seen beautiful healing from loneliness and bullying. I’ve been awestruck as they received salvation in Christ after struggling with doubt and rebellion. God is faithful—he promises to listen and never turns his back on us.
But the unexpected gift of prayer was in how it’s changed me. The freedom from fear, anger, and control allows me to love my children more fully. It sets me free to enjoy my daughters as unique creations of God himself. And it lets me connect with the father-heart of God who loves them even more than I do.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:9-10 NIV)
Enter to win one of Rob and Joanna Teigen’s wonderful books “A Dad’s Prayers for His Daughter” or “A Mom’s Prayers for Her Son”.
How to enter:
1. Leave a comment telling us: which book you would like and a prayer request for your child. Joanna will personally pray for your child.
2. Share this post on social media
Winner will be announced on Wednesday, September 2nd.
Speaking of prayer…be sure to watch for an announcement from us on Monday, August 31.
By Lynn Cowell
Many of us are experiencing it, but in so many different ways.
Some are preparing their lessons to homeschool. Others are shopping for the supplies on the public school list. The private school is hosting their ice cream social. And a few of you like me are dorm shopping and moving your kids to their school.
No matter what back-to-school looks like, we can all do one thing to help our kids prepare for their school days.
Teach them to start their day right.
When I stopped homeschooling my kids (my son was a middle schooler and my daughters in elementary), my heart started to ache because I no longer had the free time to teach them Jesus’ truths like I once did. For a least a year I simmered, thinking that was just the way it was.
Then I got the idea for what I called “Breakfast and the Bible”. I had my kids all come to breakfast at the same time, even though they left for school at different times. It only lasted 10 minutes, but these moments together allowed us to connect with each other and with Jesus before the rush of the day. When they were really small, I read them devotions. When my girls were in middle and high school, I wrote “Devotions for a Revolutionary Year” for us to use.
This school year, my kids will begin their day at three different colleges, but I am still encouraging them to start their day in God’s word using Proverbs 31 Ministries First5 app. This new app is actually an alarm clock on their phones. All they need to do is set their alarms each day in the app. Then, when their phone goes off in the morning, there is God’s word. First thing. They can simply lay in bed for a couple of minutes and start their day with Jesus in His Word.
Although I have taught my kids the power of opening God’s word for themselves each and every day, we all know this is a hard disciple to create. With the First 5 app, it couldn’t be any easier.
Even better, we can talk about the content together because we can each be reading the same thing each day.
Give it a try – Breakfast & the Bible. Gather your tribe a few minutes earlier than last school year or share the app together. It’s a beautiful way to grow closer to God and closer to each other!