In this issue, we welcome the first of three articles written by the young women of the blog Wonderfully Odd. TLC encourages high school and college girls to visit their site for godly and fun reading!
Am I ever going to get married? Do I already know my future husband and I don’t even realize it yet? I wonder if he will be at IHC this year? Or maybe youth camp? Yeah, definitely youth camp, right? I wonder what he will look like? How much longer am I going to have to wait? Is my prince charming somewhere out there riding on a little graham cracker boat through a river of sticky marshmallow crème? Please tell me I’m not the only one that has asked myself these crazy questions that I couldn’t possibly have the answers to?
I may be exaggerating, just slightly. But, it seems at this point that every time I log onto my Facebook or Instagram I see those two little pictures telling me that so and so is in a relationship with so and so. I get it ladies. It’s hard to be one of the few girls in your friend group who is not “guy crazy” or in a relationship. This season of waiting can be a difficult one.
The Devil can use this time to allow seeds of doubt to creep into our minds. Doubts that tell us that we’re not good enough. Doubts that tell us that we’re not pretty enough. Doubts that tell us that we aren’t smart enough. Doubts that tell us that we aren’t as good as the girls who already have boyfriends. Maybe God has a guy out there for everyone but me. Have your doubts ever told you these things? Have you ever found your thoughts in a twisted, tangled knot of doubt and comparison so complicated that you feel as if you could never escape it?
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Any time I struggle with these kind of doubts or I question if God really does have a plan, I find myself coming back to this verse of Scripture. God does have a plan for your life. He has a plan so great that you couldn’t possibly begin to imagine it. God has a huge purpose for your season of waiting and it will be worth it in the long run. So how do we stop feeling so single and insignificant? Well, I am no expert, but I have three simple tips that have helped me immensely.
The first way is to come to the place that you completely surrender your future husband to Jesus. All you have to do is hand Him the pen, and let God write your story in the time when He sees fit. The waiting will be so much easier knowing that God has the whole situation under control. Purpose in your heart with me, dear friend, that you will trust God with your future husband.
The second way has been praying for my future husband often. When I was a little girl my mother would always tell me, “Ashley, I am already praying for your future husband”. As a younger girl who was still in the “I’m never going to get married” stage I thought this was crazy. As I have grown, I have realized how amazing that really is. My mother has already been praying that I will have a Godly husband that will love me unconditionally, no matter that she hasn’t met him yet.
Praying for my future husband has been one of the most rewarding things in my life. He has struggles I don’t know about, yet I can ask the Lord to help him with whatever he may be going through. If you make praying for your future husband a part of your routine now, it will make it easier to pray for him as your husband after you are married. The waiting can be difficult, but prayer is a tool that can pull us through any season of life.
The third thing is not nearly as simple as it may seem. Realize that God has a plan for your season of waiting. Use the time you have to do all you can. Cultivate some good relationships with good Christian girls that are honest with you and build you up. Spend some time with some older, wiser women who have been there, done that. Draw closer to God and dig deep into His Word. Purpose to prepare yourself for being a Godly wife and mother. I think we would all benefit deeply from taking a step back and looking at this season of waiting the way God does. Don’t settle for something less than God’s best for you, because you will miss all the good that God has in store for you. God may have a huge purpose and a lot of lessons for the season He’s placed you in. Don’t waste your wait.
Maybe you have already found your special someone (and that’s awesome) I want to encourage you as well. Be intentional about praying for and surrendering your boyfriend to Jesus. But if you haven’t found the guy who makes your heart flutter yet, and I am speaking as much to myself as I am to you, use this season of waiting wisely. I challenge you to surrender your future husband to God and trust that He will bring him along in His divine timing. Pray, pray, pray for your future husband because you never know what he could be facing even in this very moment. God has a plan. Trust in that. Don’t waste your wait and God will make it worth your wait.
Ashley Young - for the Wonderfully Odd team
Friday, April 13, 2018
It has been nearly five months since my mother passed away. I sat in her hospice room on that last day and watched as her breathing grew increasingly shallow. I had prayed for some glorious outpouring of God’s presence to permeate the room when the moment of her crossing was near, so I waited expectantly. However, Mother’s passing from this life to the next was calm and peaceful. There was a brief moment when I thought I sensed another presence in the room, but for the most part her crossing went unnoticed, even by the people directly across the hall. My mother had suffered immensely over the past weeks! There were days when being in the room was more than I could handle. Though greatly loved by her family and friends, her life had been plagued with heartaches that had caused anxiety and depression. Over the last ten years of her life we had been robbed of the person she had been in her younger years as these symptoms took their effect upon her emotions.
As her daughter I had seen firsthand the depth of her faith. I knew how she had overcome obstacles in her life and longed desperately to see firsthand some evidence of her “faith being made sight.” It was a gift that God did not see fit to grant me. However, He did choose to give me a peace in the days and weeks following her death that passed my understanding. I truly learned what it means to “not grieve as those who have no hope.” A reality that continues to grow my faith even today! The last few years have been difficult in many ways. I have learned to deal with a child that has a chronic illness, taken care of my mother, worked full time, and gone through a major life transition with my husband’s job. Surprisingly to me this combination awoke in me a fear that I had no idea I even had a propensity to. I knew the genetic tendency was there, yet I was foolish enough to think that if I could just be spiritual enough it would never become my issue, as it had become in the lives of my mother and grandmother. I was wrong! I ran into a wall that I couldn’t pray or praise my way through. I too, began to struggle with anxiety.
The last year and half I have walked the very difficult path of learning to cope with my brokenness, but it has become a journey that I wouldn’t trade for anything! My reliance on God has reached a level that I never thought possible and I have learned to put my faith in knowing that there will come a day when everything will be restored back to its pure and perfect state. Does that mean that I never feel the clutches of anxiety threatening to pull me back under? Not at all! It is something that I will probably deal with for the rest of my life. What it does mean is that I have learned to trust in spite of my emotional state. I have learned that when panic and anxiety overtake me God will be right on the other side, not waiting to scold or reprimand me for not trusting enough but waiting with open arms of comfort and assurance that I am His and am deeply loved in spite of my struggle. I’ve learned that a broken Kayla is actually a nicer, kinder, more Christlike Kayla. Multiple times over the past few months my mind has taken me back to my mom’s deathbed. I have thought back over the life she lived despite being riddled with anxiety and depression. It has helped me to understand the person she was. She pressed on, kept her faith intact despite adversity and it grew into a faith that was unstoppable! The gift I was asking for at her passing was not my gift to receive. My journey of faith is still ongoing. God asks me to place my trust in Him sight unseen. One day my own “faith will become sight”.
As Mother’s Day draws close I honor my Mom for her unwavering faith. A faith that I know became sight as her spirit quietly left the room that day. Come to think of it, that’s just the way she would have wanted it!
Thursday, April 27, 2017
(from the Spring 2017 Issue of TLC)
For the last 17 years, I have been blessed to work with young women, and one of the most important things I've learned during that time is that every young woman can teach me something. I've also found that first impressions aren't always reliable and that behavior (good or bad) doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are always reasons for the way we act and interact. We all have a story, and some of those stories are painful, some are shocking, and some are hard to hear.
According to the
, one in four girls
will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Did you read that closely? That means that in a Sunday School class of
twenty girls, it is likely that at least five of them have been sexually abused. And before you say, "Surely that can't
be true among our church children!", let me tell you that according to
some research, the faith community may be even more vulnerable to abuse.
Another reason this rings true?
I've talked to the victims. I have cried with them, prayed with them, and supported
them through years of therapy. I have
held them as they wept, sat beside them as they huddled in the corner, listened
to them cry out in rage and pain, spent hours with them in psych wards, walked
with them through horror. Trust me. It happens.
The problem is real, and it's right under our noses, sitting in our
church pews, visiting in our homes. All
around us are women who are carrying the heavy, crippling load of abuse, and
often they carry it in silence. National Sexual
So what do we do? Can we make a difference? Oh, yes! A thousand times yes! One of the most powerful avenues of healing that God uses to mend the broken is the community of believers, the body of Christ. We are chosen to be His hands and feet, His listening ear, His loving heart. And as such, He can and will empower us to be agents of His grace to those in need. If you wish to be part of His healing work, below are a few practical tips (by no means an exhaustive list):
· Cultivate the art of being a "safe" person. What does it mean to be safe? Keep confidences (unless there is a threat to safety). Be trustworthy. Actively listen without judgment. Practice these skills with everyone! If you become known as this kind of person, the opportunities to share love and a listening ear will appear at your doorstep. Trust me.
· Understand that trauma is very real and has deep, life-shattering effects. The individual's ability to handle and process trauma will be affected by things like the length and duration of the abuse, who the abuser was (was it someone who should have been "safe" like a parent or close relative?), the response of those who found out about it (was the victim believed and were steps taken to stop the abuse?), whether or not professional help was received or available, and many other factors. Their behavior may be confusing at times and maybe even inappropriate. You will reap what others have sown into their life. I've heard heartbreaking stories of girls who were told that "boys will be boys" and of children who reported the abuse but nothing was done. Remember that trauma goes deep, and healing is slow.
· Allow them to be open and honest - even when it gets messy. Some things will be very hard to hear, and some may even be hard to believe. Many trauma victims may engage in self-harm behaviors (like cutting) to help them deal with the pain. Don't panic or overreact! Understand that they are using it to cope. Help them to find healthier ways to do so. (Professional help may be necessary.) Also understand that sexual abuse may open areas of sexual temptation and struggle for victims. Don't further stigmatize or guilt them. Lovingly guide them toward purity but do so with understanding and grace. Listen with an open heart and mind. Don't shut them down or dismiss them. Listen. Listen with love. Listen to understand...not just to answer.
· It's OK not to have easy answers. In fact, knee jerk, spiritual platitudes, clichés and/or reasons "why" are usually very unhelpful and can be extremely damaging. They cut off communication. You won't have all the answers. Make peace with that! Knowing this brings freedom and a deeper dependence on the Holy Spirit.
· Love them. Love them unconditionally - even when it's hard. And it may be. Love doesn't mean allowing them to take advantage of you. Set reasonable boundaries and hold to them, but keep loving. Victims of abuse need to see consistent, unconditional love. They need people who will believe in them, encourage them, pray for and with them, and hold them accountable. Love is powerful! Practice it!
· Be ready to engage professional help when necessary. Sometimes we in the church shy away from professional counseling. However, we are quick to rush our children to the hospital if they have a broken limb or a cancerous growth. Why not trust professionals in the area of mental health as well? Do your homework before recommending a counselor, but there are many licensed Christian counselors who are trained to walk abuse survivors through the healing process.
In conclusion, I hope we can see both the need that exists and the fact that we can do something! However, in order to make a difference, we first must have a vital relationship with Jesus. Without His Spirit, we will not have the discernment and wisdom necessary to do eternal work! But when we cooperate with Him, we will have a beautiful opportunity to offer His grace to those in need. May I issue a challenge? You can’t afford to sit on the sidelines in a world of hurting people. Give them a voice, an ear, a heart. Give them yourself. Give them Jesus.
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Monday, June 6, 2016
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.
We’ve all been there. It’s sad when it’s a friendship; tragic in a marriage. Interest wanes. Character flaws that we never saw before, become pesky annoyances. We were passionately in love or felt so very close, and now we are indifferent at best. We talked all the time and now we can’t think of anything to say. We planned things; now it’s too much trouble. It didn’t happen all at once. It happened slowly and subtly. All because of one thing. One or both of the partners failed to expend the time and effort required in keeping the relationship alive. It most likely wasn’t intentional, malicious or spiteful. It was a gradual death through neglect.
I recently heard a beautiful arrangement of an old hymn that I didn’t know well. When I looked up the lyrics, I was convicted by the words and curious to learn about the story behind it.
William Dunn Longstaff was not a music minister, or pastor, or Christian worker; and yet his words live after him in hymnbooks everywhere. Longstaff was a dedicated English businessman, the son of a successful ship owner. He was generous with his resources, and thus, was influential in evangelical circles. He befriended the great William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army; and when the financial sponsor of one of D. L. Moody’s British campaigns died, Longstaff came to the rescue and became well acquainted with both Moody, as well as Ira Sankey, his song leader.
“Be ye holy, for I am holy,” was the text of a sermon by Griffith John, missionary to China, given at Keswick, which greatly impacted Longstaff. He mulled over the truth he had heard, went home and wrote a poem. His practical mind listed some ways that Christians could live holy. His poem was published in the Salvation Army’s paper, War Cry. Longthoughts staff showed his poem to Ira Sankey, Moody’s song leader, who passed it on to his friend George Stebbins, the Christian musician. Stebbins took the poem and filed it away. At some later point, he needed a song on the subject of holiness; remembered the little poem, pulled it out and added musicto it. Stebbins sent the new song to a publisher, who included it in the hymnal, New Songs and Sacred Solos, in 1888. It has been included in hymnals since.
Holiness is not some state of super-sanctity reserved for older saints. Its not only the name of a church or lifestyle. It is not even just the moment of full consecration. It is a life to be lived out. Mistakes are made, and corrected. In a relationship as real as any human one, love is communicated, and we, as the Bride, learn how to more fully please the Bridegroom. Unfortunately, people in churches that emphasize holiness doctrine sometimes have the tendency to become comfortable with two trips to the altar, and then settle back with “blessed assurance,” in our own unique brand of eternal security. True holiness is an increasing state of Christlikeness. It is dynamic. It involves change; even suffering. Refining is a grueling process at times. And all of this takes time together with the Holy One. It is so easy to be influenced by the world’s philosophy, which encourages us to do everything the easy way. That’s why there is so little emphasis on holy living in the greater church world. Discipline is not fun or popular. Even those of us who recognize that we will have to fight for our connection with God, still face the incredible outward pressures of busy schedules and endless activity; as well as the inward tensions, fighting those quiet battles in the mind. Yet, those who would be holy must develop some habits that nourish the most important relationship of our lives.
Its not new information that relationships take work, including our relationship with the Lord. But we all need times of evaluating what our lives really look like. The smallest things can become idols. May you be as challenged by Longstaff’s words as I was, and may this spring offer a new opportunity to order our lives to truly reflect our priorities.
1.Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide with Him always and feed on His Word.
Make friends with God’s children, Help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
2. Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be:
Thy friends in thy conduct, His likeness shall see.
3. Take time to be holy; let Him be thy Guide.
And run not before Him whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow still follow the Lord.
And looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Resources: www.bereanbibleheritage.org - Hymn Stories. www.christianitytoday.com -
“Take Time to be What?” - Gordon MacDonald. www.lectionary.org - Hymn Stories - Take
Time to be Holy - Richard Neill Donovan. www.umcdiscipleship.org - History of Hymns -
Take Time to be Holy - C. Michael Hawn.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
(article by TLC writer Christina Black which appears in the
summer issue of TLC)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Sometimes life makes us tired. Very tired. And in those moments we are possibly tired in body, mind, or spirit. We get tired of coming up with a new way to do things, and we get tired of trying to earn the praise of those around us. If we ever get brave enough to say anything, people look at us like- you are tired? What? You professors only teach 15 hours a week! You are just a pastor’s wife! You stay at home! Why would YOU be tired? And on it goes. Or they say: So fix it- you get to make your own schedule half the time, and that may be true or not… however, people don’t always understand.
If your mind is tired, it affects both how you think and how you feel. You will notice it in the following ways: You will lose initiative and it gets difficult to do anything you don’t absolutely HAVE to do. You may even get tired of learning. The very mention of a teachers’ meeting, ministry conference, ladies retreat, or other, may make you want to roll your eyes. If your body is tired you will feel aches and pains, and find it difficult to go to sleep or wake up. If your spirit is tired you may find yourself avoiding worship, friends, Bible study, and even prayer.
Some things I have tried that do help when I am tired in mind, body, and or spirit are to:
1) Try to take a day each week to get away from all things ministry or work related.
2) Be nice to yourself. Quit expecting the unrealistic.
3) Pick a moment when the light goes off at night- whether you want to go to sleep or not.
4) Drink water.
5) Be quiet.
6) Eat something that is good for you.
7) Take a daily vitamin.
8) Sell a hat. [Sometimes we just need to quit doing quite so much] “There is a time for everything, but maybe not all at the same time.”
9) Go for a walk.
10) Breathe deeply.
11) Put some routines in place.
12) Follow directions. Read three times and just do it once.
13) Stop eating sugar before bed.
14) Remember you have nothing to prove.
15) Remind yourself that it is ok to rest or do something fun.
16) Listen to a song.
17) Watch the coffee
18) Control your mind. [Resist thoughts such as “No one appreciates all I do.” and ”I am all alone in this.”]
19) Talk to God honestly.
As the busy, busy recent days of finishing a doctorate, keeping up all the work related to the education department of HSBC going, and managing a home and family, have flown by, I have often thought I could not take another step. But I learned that these 20 tips really do help. Ladies, I suggest you try them- consistently.
What a difference it makes when you decide what you can change and what you can’t, when you feel better, rest your mind or heart, when you get some sleep, when you allow yourself to call or text a friend and just chat, or slow down a little.
In the coming summer days, I will close my final school year as Ed Chair for HSBC, pack our way out of our offices, pack up our personal belongings, leave the only home we have ever owned, get in a rental car for deputation services, and again head overseas for the second time this fall. When the stress of a big change or job hits you, it is good to have some tips on hand. You can be as surrendered as possible in your soul, but it does not make the details any easier. The dirt behind the couch still needs cleaned, the files still need sorted, the boxes are still heavy, and the suitcases need packed. But if you try to handle it all in your own strength, you will falter or fail. Remember, it is His burden and He has promised to keep it light. But we need to cooperate with Him!
With love, dear friends,
Monday, February 24, 2014
I sat today and listened to a professional explain something that had the potential of being rather complicated and overwhelming. I watched her brain working in her eyes as she analyzed her student and immediately simplified her material down to the basics. As the conversation progressed, she continued to re-explain, re-evaluate and re-simplify. Over and over. And she did it with patience and kindness and a sense of understanding and humor.
By the time she was finished she had truly done her job. Through her simple instruction, she had made exciting change not only possible, but manageable. She could have done what I have seen many others do (and have done myself). She could have overwhelmed her listener with layer after layer of excellent information. She could have lectured and layered and lectured some more. And she would have left the listener tired and overwhelmed and unmotivated. But she didn’t. She chose to leave out what she and I both knew was incredibly valuable information. Because it was just too much. She chose instead to teach the basics.
She had given the gift of simplicity.
It was refreshing to me. And reminded me of the power and patience of simplicity. It can be applied in just about every area of life.
As moms, we have to learn what our littles can handle. You might assign your 4-year-old to cleaning out the entire fridge. But if your 4-year-old is anything like mine, that would be a dire mistake. There would be disaster to pay.
As wives, we discover that sometimes brilliant men need to be given very simple instruction. Very. Slowly. One. Item. At. A. Time. In one of those crazy, miraculous moments when my husband asks me “what can I do to help?” I have been known to ramble on with excited purpose: “Awesome! Thanks! Okay…this bag goes to the car for goodwill. This box goes into storage. These 3 things go to the kitchen…” and so forth. But I look up mid-sentence and he’s gone. Vanished….. With just the first item. ONE thing in his hand! I mean, seriously? The man has a PhD and he can only handle one put-away task at a time? It has been one of the great marriage mysteries of my life. But it has taught me to simplify.
As a homekeeper, I am constantly learning to simplify. Less is more. Finish only the task at hand. Improve one layer at a time instead of trying to overhaul the entire universe before supper. Yeah. About that…. Still learning.
As a teacher I must sort through the things I have learned in over 30 years of being a musician and choose to give my students only what they need in that particular lesson. I certainly don’t do it perfectly. But the older I get, the more I value simplicity.
Isn’t it exciting how God understands my frame and applies simplicity perfectly to the lessons He teaches me? He knows how to boil things down to my level. When He has a lesson for me, many times He sends the message through multiple methods. I will hear it in a song, in a sermon, in a book I’m reading, from a friend. And by the time Abba is done with me, His perfectly filtered, powerfully simple message settles in and becomes part of my heart as Light and Truth and Love.
I am going through one of those longish, hardish struggles that make me want to cry out to God…”whatever this lesson is, Lord, please help me to GET IT so we can move on!” I am remembering tonight that He is teaching me layer upon layer. And He knows how to simplify complicated lessons. And that takes time. I am not a natural at this whole simplicity thing. I can complicate anything. But no one is as patient as Him. And He knows my heart like no other. So perhaps, just maybe, I need to stop trying to conquer the world before supper and relax into His beautiful simplicity.
“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” ― Henry David Thoreau