By Melinda Bach Gray
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
Peer pressure is a term well discussed with most young people. It’s addressed by their parents, by mentors, in youth groups and at schools. It’s dramatized in movies and books. Often though, it is assumed that it is the “bad” or rebellious friends that will be a bad influence on our precious children so we encourage them to make “nice Christian friends” and strive to offer them opportunities to meet such people. What happens, though, when it is around your “saved” friends that you feel the most pressure or the most alone?
The year was 1988 and I was a young and naive 15 year old excited to spend the night at another gal’s house from church along with 4-5 other girls who I loved being around. They were fun, well liked, popular and I felt cool…ok, cool-er around them. It was the usual repertoire scheduled for an innocent evening among teenaged girls. Junk food, soda, a movie with good looking guys and romance in it, then we had plans to all get up at crack of dawn to help one of our friends with her paper route. When you’re 15, even delirium from sleep deprivation mixed with bed-head, pajamas and silly girls is entertaining. We were in the middle of watching Top Gun, lounging in our sleeping bags, bloated with carbonated drinks and pizza, and giddy with teenage infatuation as Val Kilmer and Tom Cruise (he was less crazy once) played beach volleyball shirtless in one of the movie’s most well known scenes. I’m usually a late night person but the last thing I am able to recall. It was only 10pm but could not resist my heavy lids and weary body as I drifted off to sleep. The next thing I remember was the girls trying to wake me at the “crack” for the paper route, but I couldn’t rouse at all. I was disappointed, when they finally did return, that I had missed it…missed most of the whole night. I chalked it up to just being really tired.
It was two years later, our senior year, while at youth group when a friend who was known for her gossip said through a mocking laugh…”Do you remember the time when the girls drugged you at “*Brenda’s” house so they could drink wine coolers?” (remember, it was the 80’s). I didn’t even respond because the idea was so unfathomable to me. I apprehensively approached some of the girls and asked them if this was true. They giggled uncomfortably and confessed that it was, they had and can’t believe they did it…”we could’ve killed you! It was so bad!”
All I could do was sob.
The Back story:
I had chosen to not hang around most of my school friends outside of school because most of their time was spent doing stuff I wanted to avoid. I wasn’t perfect…I was, actually, scared of being in an environment where I’d be in danger or tempted to do something stupid. So choosing to be around “like-minded” people and “safe” friends was my alternative.
What actually happened was the girls that wanted to drink, knew I wouldn’t and didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable and so the decision was suggested by the host to give me some sleeping pills in my Pepsi so then I wouldn’t be an issue.
I was devastated emotionally. I felt rejected. Even though these girls were still my friends and though two years had passed, suddenly I felt labeled a fool. I felt like a joke and I felt alone.
I struggled with these same perceptions for several more years. I remember being told in college, by a Christian friend, that I was just a “conservative” Christian and that other of our friends were “more free”. I wrestled with these words and desperately wanted to know what it meant. While home from college a wise and good friend and I spent some time talking and I shared with her my struggle and my perceived isolation amongst my believing friends. She reminded me of 1 Peter: 16 as she shared, “There is no conservative or liberal in Scripture.. it says “be holy for I am holy”…” The Lord’s words and her friendship were a blessing to me and an encouragement for my soul.
I know that none of this has changed for teens, even 25 years later. It may even be worse and I would bet there is still someone who feels rejected, at church by his/her friends, for her choices. There are still people who despite their claim for Christ will live selfishly and call it freedom. I want to encourage any girls who are like I was and say: I understand. Don’t give up. You are not alone.
In the end, it turned out they had only shared one drink between the 4-5 of them. The girl who told me what had happened wasn’t even invited that night, yet she was able to rub my embarrassment in my face for the sake of making herself feel better. My good choices that were supposed to protect me from pain…in this case, led me to it.
My tenacity to the “rules” was not a bad thing, however I was no less a sinner than anyone else. My sin was self righteousness and pride and I withheld grace from those who, like me, were struggling to figure out our relationship with Christ. It was, perhaps, this tunnel vision that made me feel like a righteous loner instead of recognizing we all needed to grow closer to Christ to understand His grace for each of us. I wasn’t better than any of my friends in that moment. I didn’t need someone “like” me…I needed more Jesus and to draw nearer to Him because when you are in His presence, you are not looking around to see who is with you or needing approval or acceptance. He is all you need.
Our lives are called a vapor (James 4:14) and the short years in our teens are so fleeting in comparison to the decades we spend here before we get to be with our Lord, yet many of our choices can alter our path forever. There are some things you can never get back. Don’t let any ones perception of you, good or bad, define who you are, even if you are made the fool. I would rather be the Lord’s fool then the worlds because His Word tells us He uses willing fools for His purposes.
1 Corinthians 1:26-27(NLT)
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.
Some of these girls and I are still good friends. They are very dear to me and we are not silly teens anymore. They still uncomfortably giggle when the story is brought up but they have apologized and I can laugh about it now because I have long ago forgiven them and don’t hold it against them. I need forgiveness daily. I need my attitude realigned with Christ on a regular basis and I need to remember this life is His. Each of our lives is a colorful and unique testimony that should always point back to the gospel. We are not victims in this world. We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)
Melinda is a wife of 13 yrs to a bearded-mountain man. She’s mother to 3 crazy and active kiddos, an ER RN and chatty Christ follower who is seeking to know Jesus more and encourage others to do the same. She is currently involved in women ministries at her church and is being used in the specific areas of Ladies Retreat, mentoring and leading a weekly study. She is open to speaking opportunities and loves to share her heart, humor, and God’s mercy in the areas of mothering, womanhood and life as we all, really, are just muddling through. Find her at: Muddled Moms & Mercy
*Not real names
Welcome to Teen Talk with Grace. Today Grace and I discussed communication between teens and their parents.
Click HERE to watch the video. Thanks for joining us!
In October 2008 my friend and I hosted a retreat. The theme was “Shoes” and the verse for the retreat was Habakkuk 3:19; “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.”
Well before (years) and throughout the retreat I received confirmation from the Holy Spirit that because of my burdened heart for teen girls I was to start investing in their lives and begin a ministry. The timing was perfect because I had a daughter who was in the thick of the tween years and I desperately wanted Grace to have a better teenage experience than I did.
As the retreat was drawing to a close, we had a foot washing ceremony. When my friends were washing my feet they prayed for me and shared what the Lord was placing on their heart about me. Each lady told me that I should be ministering to young teens and moms.
Less than a year after the retreat, I lost my job due to a downturn of the economy. Unbeknownst to us at the time, the Lord had been putting some things in motion over the last few years so that I would be able to stay home with our kids- a dream come true for me. I began spending more time on this notion of a girl’s ministry. Through much research, prayer and consideration the Whatever Girls was created.
Our first meeting took place on a hot August evening. A handful of Grace’s friends and their mothers sat around our living room sipping punch and eating cookies as I described my plan for this mother daughter group.
My vision was:
-These like-minded in faith and morals girls would go through their teen years as a team
-These girls would get together regularly to share their hearts and discuss what was going on in their lives. They would help and each other to remain accountable to their core values
-The mothers would be intentional and consistent in raising their girls to be godly young women of honor
Our group has been meeting for over three years. We have held many successful events in our community that have benefited many mothers and daughters. These events have enabled us to enlarge our territory and raise funds to continue our growth and offer more events in our community for the purpose of rising up intentional moms and intentional daughters.
Our online presence is growing by leaps and bounds. I re-launched our web site in January, which also includes a blog and resources for mothers and daughters. I have fifteen women, including Grace, and myself, that write for our blog and I expect to add a handful more in the next few months. Our web site has over 200 visitors per day and our Facebook page recently reached nearly 3,000 people in a seven-day period. We have readers in Spokane and nearly every state in America and around the world including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
I’ve had several moms throughout the country ask me how to form their own mother daughter group like the Whatever Girls and I am developing material for pilot groups that I can come alongside and mentor these ladies through this process.
This October we are hosting a Harvest luncheon and silent auction, and in November we are hosting our first annual father daughter ball. Our goal is to honor the men in our community who take their roles as fathers seriously and to encourage other men to do the same. Both events will bring in revenue for our first ever conference, which we are hosting in downtown Spokane in the spring of 2014 at the Doubletree Hotel. We are anticipating upwards to 200 mothers and daughters from all over joining us.
I take the platform with which I’ve been entrusted more seriously than any paying job I’ve had. I think that’s because I’m in this “sweet spot” where God is using my natural abilities and talents- things I enjoy doing, along with the things He is equipping me to do, like speaking and more writing than ever before. And, I know without a doubt this is my purpose.
I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to sharpen my writing and speaking skills. I am presently working on my first book and plan to meet with potential publishers and agents this summer when I attend a conference put on by Proverbs 31 Ministry in Charlotte, North Carolina.
If someone would have told me five years ago, or even a year ago, all of the things the Lord would be doing in my life I don’t know if I would have believed it. I’m sharing all this with you not to put the spotlight on myself, but to point to God, who is using me to accomplish these things.
Last night I went to bed feeling very discouraged and with the weight of the world on my shoulders. I love what I do, but I felt so stretched and so numb. I doubted my ability to carry out what God is calling me to do. I begged God to give me confirmation that I was on the right path either with some sort of a sign or a Bible verse that would spur me on. This morning when I woke up I opened my daily devotional book called “Jesus Calling” and read this:
“You are feeling weighed down by a plethora of problems, both big and small. They seem to require more and more of your attention, but you must not give in to those demands. When the difficulties in your life feel as if they are closing in on you, break free by spending quality time with Me. You need to remember who I am in all My Power and Glory. Then, humbly bring me your prayers and petitions. Your problems will pale when you view them in the Light of My Presence. You can learn to be joyful in Me, your Savior, even in the midst of adverse circumstances. Rely on Me, Your Strength; I make your feet like the feet of a deer, enabling you to go on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17-19
As I was sitting at my dining room table sipping my hot coffee this morning, my prayer was answered. 1. The devotional message seemed to be written just for me, 2. The verse in the devotional was the very verse that was used at the retreat- the very verse and retreat that was used to spur me on to this calling.
My heart started to soften up and my shoulders relaxed. I had asked God to show me a sign and He gave me three!
I am reminded yet again, that I cannot do what I do without prayer and support. I humbly come before you and petition you for prayer.
- That I would remain humble and put God first in everything
- For my family
- That I would be connected with women in the local community who will be as passionate about the Whatever Girls ministry as I am, and that they would feel called to “adopt” us and help me with the events and all that encompasses planning an event.
- For finances and resources: Professional development and hosting events are expensive and often require an up front investment. It just so happens that we need a new furnace, roof and stove- and as of five minutes ago, we need to call a plumber. Roger and I are committed to remaining debt free and save up and pay cash for what we need. Please pray that we would make wise financial decisions and for discernment. I’m also praying that with those who God brings forth to “adopt” this ministry He will also bring forth people who feel led to help support this ministry financially.
a. The conference I plan to attend this summer will total nearly $2,000. This conference will undoubtedly be a great networking opportunity while I sharpen my skills and pitch my book proposal to publishers and agents.
b. The conference we are hosting in the spring of 2014 will come with a price tag of nearly $20,000. I will be working diligently to find sponsorship with vendors, organizations and individual donors to help offset our expenses.
- Non-profit status: At present we are fortunate that our church allows gifts and event registration fees to go through their accounts. I believe it is time I look into getting our own non-profit status and would greatly appreciate prayer for wisdom and discernment, as this is an area I am quite unfamiliar with.
Many of you receiving this update and request for prayer are familiar with the Whatever Girls ministry and the journey I’ve been on these last several years, while some of you are just learning about the Whatever Girls. I’m so humbled and honored that I’ve been entrusted with this ministry and so thrilled with the vision God has given me. This never was and never will be about “me”. It’s about God and how He has done a major work in my heart and what He can do for anyone who is willing to let Him have their heart.
Thank you so much for being part of my life and allowing me a few minutes of your time to share all the wonderful things that are happening. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that if you felt led to make a financial gift to the Whatever Girls ministry I would be ever so grateful- I would (just ask me how). But I want to thank you for your prayers and your encouragement along the way.
You can keep in touch with the Whatever Girls by visiting our web site at: www.thewhatevergirls.com
By Lynn Cowell
Getting deeper and deeper into my tale, I lead my girls right up to the climax. “And right when I was sure that he was going to ask me out…”
Then I stop. I wait. Soon they’ll start asking, “Well, did he? Don’t stop now!”
Guard Your Heart
That is exactly the reaction we want to create when using this wisdom tip with our kids. Looking for a way to share the power of holding a little bit back in a relationship, we keep parts of our story a secret.
As a young girl, as soon as I had a boy’s ear I would go on and on, spilling all of my heart as quick as I could. Hours upon hours were spent on the phone together…the first time he called. I was just so excited that somebody wanted me; I just couldn’t wait for him to know all of me!
No one ever told me: don’t dump all of your heart and mind at once. Keeping bits of yourself a secret protects your heart.
Our girls need to know that emotional intimacy can be as dangerous as physical intimacy. When we expose all of our heart to one who is not committed to spending the rest of their lives with us, it leaves us vulnerable. Like being caught in a snowball fight with no gloves, our girls can find themselves exposed when down the road the relationship doesn’t work out.
So often when our heart is fully engaged it is just a matter of time before the rest of us is engaged as well; our bodies often follow our hearts. Our girls need to know that they will never have a more important mission than guarding their heart.
When I held back the best part of my story, I held my girls attention. I want them to do the same. Hold a little back; make a guy know that the best is yet to come.
Did anyone ever share with you to “hold a little bit back”? How are some additional ways we can teach our children to protect their hearts?
By Andrea Mitchell
Something I have struggled with my entire life is the feeling of inadequacy, like I can’t quite measure up to the expectations of those around me.
It filters into my marriage “Does my husband really think I am a good wife?”
It filters into my friendships “Am I just bothering my friends? Do they really actually like me?”
It filters into my parenting “I’ll never be a good mom. Look how I failed yet again!”
I’ve always just assumed it’s a part of who I am, that I will always battle this insecurity, so I may as well learn to live with it.
That is until recently.
Recently I became aware that it isn’t just a part of who I am, but rather Satan’s attempts to get me to believe anything other than the truth of who God has made me to be in an effort to keep me from doing that which God has called me to do.
It took my daughter struggling with many of the same lies I hear on a daily basis to really get my attention.
When my husband and I were blessed with the gift of our beautiful children, we made an intentional decision to pay attention to their gifts and talents and encourage them to put forth their best effort. We didn’t want them to feel that our love was based on their performance, but we also want to raise godly people who do their best for God.
So it came as somewhat of a shock to me when I noticed several months ago our newly crowned teenager, Emma, begin to tell us she wasn’t good enough. That she wasn’t smart enough to do math. That she couldn’t spell. That she wasn’t good at anything.
This is a girl who gets straight A’s. Who we are consistently told by her teachers how talented a writer and artist she is. Who recently discovered a hidden talent for acting. Who has always been brimming with confidence.
I wrote a bit of it off in the beginning to hormones. Emma is our first teenager, so of course we are learning this parenting of a teen thing on a daily basis. As youthful as my husband and I may feel, we *ahem* aren’t as young as we used to be and tend to look at our teen years through a filtered lens.
(Although, for the record, I am way closer to my teen years than he is.)
On report card day this past fall, I noticed a disturbing trend on Emma’s shop class marks. Because her class is at the high school in a neighbouring town, the teacher included a breakdown of the mark with all assignments and tests. Each assignment had a lower grade, until the last one, a failing one.
Let me be frank – practical arts is not in our family’s genes. We are why God created handymen. So it didn’t really bother me that her mark wasn’t great, I just wanted to know what happened. As I talked with her about, she broke down in tears, telling me how stupid she is.
And that’s when I knew it wasn’t just hormones.
The enemy was filling my precious girl’s head with lies.
The same lies he has filled mine with for decades.
I sat her down, and after giving her some practical advice on how to handle asking for her teacher’s help, I told her that the things she was believing about herself simply weren’t true.
I told her that Satan is intimidated by all the good gifts God has given us because he knows that God can and will use them for His glory. I told her that he will do anything – even make us believe false truths about ourselves – to stop that from happening.
Once she realized I wasn’t just telling her she is smart and beautiful and talented because I am her mom, she started to let the truth sink in. I let her know that God is so, so proud of what He sees in her. We talked about how when Satan begins filling our heads with lies, we can fill our hearts and minds with God’s truth, and I offered to help her find Scripture to refer to the next time she began to believe she was not good enough.
I can tell Emma got it. She no longer tells me she is dumb, or untalented. Her shoulders aren’t so slumped and her chin isn’t dipped so low. She is walking in the truth that Her Father has created her, and like all His creation, He looks on her and sees that she is good.
And definitely more than good enough.