My Big Life Change!

Picture taken by Abby Austin of 1000 Miles on my own two feet.


To transform my life, with God's help of course, one step at a time.

1. Get healthy & honor God with my body

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

2.Become at least 50% sustainable with emphasis on doing our part to take care of God's planet.

3. Live life as an adventure, experiencing new places, things & people.
18 out of 150 bucket list goals accomplished

4. Become debt free & build security for my family, so we can then bless others financially also.

5. Continue to grow closer to God, building My family's faith & sharing the Gospel with those we meet, by using the talents and gifts God has provided us.

6.Continue to make money by creating and sharing my thoughts and beliefs through artistic expression: all the while hoping that my art will impact others. "Holly Kennedy

: All I know is, if you don't figure out this something, you'll just stay ordinary, and it doesn't matter if it's a work of art, or a taco, or a pair of socks! Just create something... new, and there it is, and it's you, out in the world, outside of you, and you can look at it, or hear it, or read it, or feel it... and you know a little more about... you. A little bit more than anyone else does... Does that make any sense at all?" Quote from PS I LOVE YOU

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ponderings of a Church Youth Worker!

Disclaimer - The things I am going to say in this blog are purely my opinion. I have worked with youth for over 8 years in a church setting. I am not an expert! But I believe everything I write to be true and hope that it helps those who need to hear it.

These are some things I have come to realize while working with the youth of today.

1. You can't raise a child alone. - You might have heard the saying " It takes a village to raise a child." I completely agree. Moms and dads or grandparents or guardians who are raising their children without any outside influence are destined to fail. Have you ever noticed that dangerous cults and militant groups hide themselves away for the most part and only show themselves when it usually is too late. How as parents are we to raise a child on our own and give them the best upbringing? When I started working in  WCC's youth department, there were around 700 kids that would show up for Wednesday night youth service. Most of these kids didn't go to church on a regular basis, but they came there. I noticed a few things. A lot of the kids that didn't come to church, just came for their friends. Most didn't want any adult interaction, just to have a good time. Yet they came to a church service, listened to the music, fidgeted through the sermon and would come back the next week. Usually with more friends. Now, that isn't to brag on the church, though I love it so. They wanted attention and not just from their friends. Adults who were there every week who would show them attention. Sometimes we had to try real hard for their attention, but even though they seemed like they didn't care; we know that they did. They could have gone to a park or a friends house, but instead they hung out with us. The most successful parents I know have their kids involved in church and or other positive outlets. It is not just to keep the youth busy, but to involve other positive adults into their lives. Now I am not saying dropping your kids off at church, makes your kid successful. You have to be involved. Get to know the sponsors/leaders. Find out what the sermon/ lesson is about. Ask your them questions. Be involved! But don't do it alone. Involving God into your family is the single most influential decision you can ever make. He and only he can change hearts. But adding positive role models into your family's life will not only make you a better parent but a better person.

Freedom isn't free -  It was a pleasure of mine to get to go to an Orange Conference as part of my youth training. This conference was about bringing church leaders and parents together to raise a child. It was wonderful and I learned so much. But what astounded me the most was that after elementary school most parents dropped off the radar in their child's life. Thoughts that the middle schooler or teen was old enough to have a little freedom. So parents would back off and let their child have amazing amounts of freedom. But freedom isn't free and it can cost you too much. Young adulthood is a time of turmoil and choices and finding identity and when a youth is left alone with these decisions and hard times, they are likely to fail. As a youth worker I was always able to tell which teens had "free reign" on their own lives. There isn't as much of a description as there was a feeling about them. Sad. Usually this was because their parents weren't there at all, albeit missing mom or dad. Or that the parents weren't their emotionally for them. We would see this all the time. Parents that used drugs, had unhealthy relationships of their own, or parents whose plates were too full to deal with their older kids. These kids would start acting out for attention and when it didn't work they would go elsewhere for their love. Teens hate discipline, but they need it. If you aren't guiding their decisions then their friends are. Now, that doesn't mean they should be held on such a tight leash that they have no decisions. Eventually that leash will break and they will probably run as far away as possible. But, realizing that your teen is unique and letting him/her find their own identity through your guidance is the best possible answer in my book.

Trying on different hats - The teenage years are designed to be fun and a time where you can find yourself. I have bonded with teens wearing Gothic clothes and teens with Mohawks. I have had wonderful indepth conversations with kids that play guitar and those that play basketball. Deep down, all of them are trying to establish their unique personality but more than that they are looking for acceptance. Will I be accepted if I wear this clothing? Will mom and dad accept me only if I make perfect grades? Will I feel loved if I date this person? Will I be cool if I smoke that? These are all questions that I have seen many respectable young Christian teens ask. Of course they don't ask it out loud. Will you answer the questions or will they have to find out for themselves. In my opinion, if the questions are addressed at home and the child feels acceptance and love from their families then the teen will be able to find their uniqueness. But if they go on a quest for love and acceptance, they will forget to look for their personality and will adapt the personality of those that they feel love and acceptance from. Once the love and acceptance are established then the fun task of finding their personality can begin. Will I love to read? Will I be a leader or a follower? What will my character be. This can be fun! Letting your kids try on different hats in life will help them establish who they are. Remember failing at one thing doesn't mean they fail in life. If they don't do well in math but excel in writing, encourage those strengths. Help them find their strengths and work on their weaknesses. But remember to have fun with them. You once had to do this too. There was a student that came to my small group one night. We will call him Jerry. I was leading an all girls small group on Sunday nights and he came with his girlfriend. Jerry was the most Goth-ed out student I had ever seen. Black lipstick and black dyed hair and all. He didn't want to join the guys group so I let him stay that night in our group. He showed up for 2 groups and never showed back up again. One Wednesday night I saw him sitting in the sanctuary before the sermon started. I sat next to him exchanged plesantrys and said that I missed seeing him around. He said that him and his girlfriend broke up and he didn't come to church very often because of her. The sermon started and we didn't get to talk anymore. after service I told him that I hope that he keeps coming for him and that I hope to see him again. But I didn't see him after that. About 6 months after that a student came in to the room I was setting up and asked me if I remembered him. I apologized and said that he looked familiar but I didn't know who he was. IT WAS JERRY! But he was different. He had beautiful mouse brown hair cut professionally and was dressed in khaki pants and a nice button up shirt. Gone were the chains and the piercings. He said that I had made a big difference in his life by loving him for who he was, how he was. It doesn't take much folks to show someone you care and that makes all the difference. When you can love someone no matter what they look like or what they wear or even how they smell, you will get to see the real Jerry. Nothing can replace that feeling.

 Everyone has secrets - whether it is secrets of crushes or something more serious, everyone holds something back. But deep down we all want to tell our secrets to someone. Someone we can trust to keep it safe. Way back when I was a teenager, I was considered put together. I usually had the right answers, made the right decisions and knew how to make the adult think that I was ok! But on the inside I wasn't. I had thoughts of suicide all the time and tried it twice. I didn't know how to tell my secrets. I was too afraid to show my hand that I would collapse and never get back up again. Now my childhood wasn't that awful. I did have a dysfunctional family, but who doesn't? When I was in youth for a couple of years I learned why I went through my childhood. There are so many teens out there the same way I was. The pressure of life in even the happiest of families can crumble a person. I remember talking with one of my dear students one night. We were just shooting the breeze and she dropped a bomb on me. She had been experimenting with cutting. I was flabbergasted, though I tried not to look it. Her parents were active in the church, she was at every youth event and was one of my students that I thought had it together. I fell for the same stereotype I was famous for. This was when I realized that I wasn't an anomaly. You can be a good student, make the right decisions and have a mostly happy childhood and still feel helpless. This is why small groups are so important, for adults and for students. Everyone needs a place to feel safe and feel that they can share their secrets without getting disciplined for them. Now as an adult my safe place is Celebrate Recovery. They even have a teen version of CR. There are youth groups all over the world that have small groups designed for this purpose. Don't wait till it is too late.


  1. such beautful words and such insightful words. i grew up going to church every Sunday and if I had had a role model that was as compassionate and openminded as you are, i would probably still be going to church today. kudos to you for being such a wonderful infuence of the youth who need it the most.

  2. I loved reading about Jerry. You have such a strong ability to see people, and you have the kind of soul that makes people feel comfort and strength.

  3. Great thoughts! We can make such a big difference by simply loving and listening and being open to how God will use us.