For Adults

Suicide Survivor

By: Sarah Sargent

If you have ever attended a Shine event you know we don’t shy away from difficult topics. This month’s blog is no different. Before we get started take a couple deep breaths and try to lower your blood pressure as much as possible. For the next few minutes, we will be talking about a topic that is a parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, it is too often a parent’s reality. Childrenshospital.org reports that “according to 2019 statistics from the CDC, 8.9 percent of high school students surveyed attempted suicide and 18.8 percent of high school students ‘seriously considered’ attempting suicide.”

My friend, Ashley, is in her mid 20’s and recently graduated with her degree in childhood education. When she was in high school, she attempted to take her life. God intervened and made a miraculous change in her life. Now she is an advocate for mental health issues and warrior for Jesus Christ. For this blog I wanted to let you hear about this hard topic from her.

What have you learned from surviving a suicide attempt?

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It was such a dark place and I felt so alone. Immediately after, my family took me to church. I met people who loved me with no expectations. They loved me because God’s love lived in and poured out of them. Through them I learned God loved me.

What’s one thing you would tell a parent or a youth leader who believes they have a kid struggling with suicidal thoughts?

You have to do something!. The risk of losing them out ways any kind of broken relationship or anything like that. So certainly, pray about the right way to as,k but confront it immediately. Look for warning signs.

What are some of these warning signs?

  1. Changes to their sleep patterns.
  2. If they don’t like the things, they used to like to do.
  3. Nothing seems to bring them joy.
  4. They stop hanging out with their friends.
  5. Another big one is how they wear their clothes.

How do you think social media and all of that contributes to mental illness, depression and suicide?

It has a major impact! Adults need to be very careful what their kids are viewing. What content they are seeing? Not just social media, Tik Tok, or Instagram, but tv shows, movies, videos, etc. It puts those ideas in their heads. Things are almost amplified.

Also, people can just be mean. On social media people are worse. There are bullies everywhere hiding behind the screen and some of them are adults. That makes this very scary.

How can a parent really help a child press into God during their dark times?

It starts by living the example. Seeing your parents press into God during their dark times will teach you to do it as well. It also helps if you are vulnerable with them. Let them know you also struggle with things, but this is what God has done in your life.

You can share what Bible stories and verses have brought you encouragement during your rough times. Everyone struggles with deep sadness. It may not be on the same level as your teen, but show them this is okay and normal. Reassure your teen that you will do whatever is possible to help them. It starts with a conversation. Get them around people who will pray with and for them. Get them involved in activities where they can open up. Be around people who can help them on a mental health level as well as a spiritual levell.

If I had to guess you feel a bit overwhelmed and you desperately want more information. You want to get into to minds of your teens and you want resources to help. I want to end this blog with things to help you do both.

Discussion Questions

• What’s something you wish I knew about your mental health?

• How can you better help those who have mental health struggles? Do you know what to do if a friend tells you they’re considering self-harm or suicide?

• How do your friends talk about mental health issues? Do you have someone besides me that you can talk to if you’re struggling?

• How can I best help you press into God during your dark times?

Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-800-273-TALK
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) or 1-800-SUICIDE
  • Mentalhealthministries.net
  • Christianity Today’s “Top 10 Resources for Mental Health Ministry”
  • Axis.org
    • A parent’s guide to Suicide and Self Harm
    • A parent’s guide to Depression & Anxiety
    • Suicide Video Kit
For Adults, Uncategorized

Filling Our Spiritual Cup

By: Ana Batts

I opened the drawer that sits under my coffee maker.

Nothing. An empty drawer. The coffee pods were gone. My cup was empty.

Panic set in. How could I face my day with an empty cup?!? That quiet moment standing there contemplating the possibility of a $5 coffee run gave me a change to pause and reflect.

When it comes to spiritual things, how many days do I start with an empty cup? As a woman, mom, wife, mentor and friend I want pour into those around me. But when my cup is empty it is impossible to pour into those around me.

So how do we fill our spiritual cup?

1 Start where you are. Has it been a week since you lasted opened your Bible on a day that isn’t a Sunday? Or maybe a month? Or a year? Be honest with yourself about where you are and go from there. Don’t let the guilt of not being in the Word keep you from being in the Word.

2. Take time to reflect. Reading the Word is a powerful thing. However, taking the time to reflect on what it says and how it applies to your life is an important part that is often skipped. Copying down the scripture that we are studying is a great way to memorize it. Journaling what we are learning and how it applies in our lives is a great tool.

(My girls share about how they use writing in their personal Bible Study over here.)

3. Find someone to share with. Talking about spiritual things is a great way to pour into those around us. Making spiritual things part of our daily conversations also helps us hold one another accountable. Knowing that a friend will ask, “what have you been reading about in God’s Word lately?” can motivate us to build the consistent habit of being in the Word. Sharing spiritual struggles as well as personal discoveries of God’s Word can help us continue to fill our spiritual cup and to pour into those around us.

On the days when we feel spiritual empty, let us go do the One that always keeps His word.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8

For Adults

Equipping the Next Generation

By: Casey Pontious

We teach them to use utensils, cushion their falls when they’re learning to walk, help them as they develop social skills, practice driving before taking their license test, and help them prepare for adulthood. These are just a few of the things we, as parents and caretakers, do for our children. The list is quite honestly endless. We would never let their first bites of food be a jawbreaker nor would we get them behind the wheel of a car without making sure they know which pedal is gas and which is the brake. Every milestone moment for our children is surrounded by our instruction and influence. 

Why is it, though, that studying scripture is a facet we miss? Now, not every parent misses this. However, I would argue that the vast majority of church-going, faithful Christian parents feel they do an inadequate job of discipling their children by showing them how to study the word of God. The result of not doing so is staggering by the throngs of students who walk out on their faith after leaving home, post high school. Another result is a generation of biblical illiterate young adults who are still infants in their faith. I would argue that most parents, if not all, do NOT want that for our children. 

If you are a student of the Word, wonderful! Pass that gift on to your children. Teach them to not just read the Bible, but to dig in and study it, then to apply it to their lives. Start small – one verse or passage at a time. Walk through it with them. It will be a sweet time with you and your child(ren). 

I truly believe, though, that parents discipling their children does not happen because the parents themselves have never been discipled. They have never been taught how to study the word of God, so how can they possibly teach their children what they do not know themselves? We do not want to send our children into this world and society without equipping them for the spiritual battle they will face and are facing. Just like we want to equip our children for the everyday life of society and adulthood, it is imperative that we teach our children how to study and apply God’s Word. 

When our kids are learning to ride a bike, there are steps we show them. They typically start with training wheels to learn how to make the bike move. When the training wheels come off, parents will push them along, holding on to help them balance. Then, they let go and watch them put those things to practice as they peddle away. Learning to study God’s word is much the same. Let’s take a moment to look to scripture and see how we, as parents, are to guide and instruct our children. 

Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 6-9

1These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 

6These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

To apply these verses, we must realize the purpose of the Word, the practice of the Word, and the power of the Word. The purpose is so that you and the generations to come will both know and fear the Lord. The practice is literally as you go about your day. What are you doing right now? Turn it into a discipleship moment. This is you holding onto that bike as they learn to balance and peddle. What do you do when you first wake up or right before you lay your head down at night? How about all of the moments in between? Discipleship moment after discipleship moment. The power of the Word? Eternal impact for generations. Who doesn’t want that? Here, we let go of the bike and cheer them on as they make their faith their own. What a beautiful gift we can give our children!

One last thing – if you’ve never been discipled, don’t fret. It’s never too late to grow in your walk with Christ. Don’t let your pride and what other people may believe about you (even if you’re a leader in the church) stand in the way of a close relationship with God and discipling the generations to come. It’s never ever too late. 

For Adults

Be Encourages, Not Doubters

By: Callie Milling

As parents and youth workers, we often find ourselves surrounded by teens that we love. We cheer them on, pray for them, and encourage them. We’re their biggest fans, believing in them and supporting them as they take on life’s challenges. We want what’s best for them, but how do we respond when God asks them to do something hard? Do we question their abilities, doubting whether they are capable of doing hard things? Or do we stand in the gap, doing what we can to equip and help them be obedient to God’s call on their lives, even when it means they will have to face adversity and challenges?

I often hear adults talk about the younger generation negatively more than any other way. They say they’re too wrapped up in their phones, they don’t know how to have a conversation, and they’re disrespectful. This younger generation is often put down and doubted, not even given a chance to prove themselves and show what they’re capable of. I know I’ve been guilty of this before. There have been times I haven’t even given teens the chance to show what they’re capable of because I allow my doubt and prejudice take over. 

What I’ve learned, when I do give them the chance, is that teenagers are capable of so much–often so much more than we give them credit for. God knows that, too. He knows His children, and He has a special purpose for each teenager, believing in their ability to live up to the calling He has placed on their lives. He has created them each with gifts and talents to glorify Him. 

Because we love them, we often desire to see teens live an easy life, wanting comfort and safety for them. However, God calls them to so much more than a comfortable life. He calls them, and us, to live a life that honors Him. He requires obedience of them, even when it’s hard and when it brings on adversity and challenges. If we really love them, we should encourage them to pursue God and His will, and push them to be obedient to whatever God has called them to–even the hard things. 

When a teen feels called to be a missionary in a foreign country, it can be scary for those who love them. There’s so many unknowns about what a life of missions will look like. Will they be safe? Will I ever see them if they live across the world? These are valid questions, and they certainly have their place. We, as trusted adults in their life, should be more concerned about whether they’re being obedient to the Lord. To raise up adults who trust Him, and who have given their life to serve Him, what greater joy is there as a parent and youth worker? Whatever they’re called to, let’s be encouragers instead of doubters!

Just because they’re young, that doesn’t mean they’re incapable. However, many of them believe that their age is a hindrance. They feel as if they’re too young to make a difference or to live a life that honors God, that what they do now doesn’t really matter. However, we know that’s not true. So let’s be people that build up and encourage teens instead of tearing them down for what we think are their faults. Teenagers are capable of doing hard things. Sometimes, we just have to get out of their way and allow them to walk that road of obedience.

For Adults

Helping our Girls Find God’s Will for Their Lives

By: Diana Bryant

Even before our daughters were born, we all had dreams of what they would do with their lives. Of course, at that point, those dreams were based on what WE thought would be an excellent idea. They were our dreams, but it didn’t take long to discover our daughters had their own minds, with plans of their own. Today, our girls live in an exciting time, with the world literally at their fingertips. And as they grow and mature, we must remember it’s God’s plan for their lives we want them to find and follow.

How can we help them discern God’s will for their life?

  •  There is no substitute for routinely and intentionally praying for our girls. Pray for God to reveal His will to them and for them to be receptive to His plan. Let your daughter know you pray for her and pray with her.
  • Make sure your daughter knows you want God’s will for her. That may be something you have to settle in your heart because God’s will sometimes lead our children to faraway places or to places we would not have chosen. We need to be convinced God’s plan for their life is the absolute best place for them to be, no matter how that corresponds to our dreams for them.
  • Not only teach your girls to read, love, and obey God’s Word, make sure you are modeling that for them. Let them see you use wisdom found in Scripture to make decisions. You might even have an opportunity to share when you didn’t follow that plan and the consequences that followed.
  • Pay close attention to the personality traits, talents, and abilities your child displays. Do what you can to provide encouragement and growth in these areas. Search for lessons, opportunities to use their talents, or places of service to make the most of your child’s abilities. These may be the characteristics God uses to prepare them for their future.
  • Expose your daughters to opportunities, organizations, and activities that make use of their gifts and interests. Provide ways for them to grow in the areas in which they excel. At the same time, help them experience ways to serve others. God may lead them to do things He will use in their future.  

It’s exciting to watch our girls grow and mature. It’s rewarding to see them walk with the Lord, following wherever He leads. No matter what our dreams were initially, the truth of 3 John 1:4 is the absolute highest aspiration we can achieve: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  Walk every day with your daughters, keeping that goal in mind. Trust God for the results. He is faithful!

For Adults, For Girls

Intentional Relationships

By: Hannah Gorrell

This season of life has lasted much longer than any of us hoped or expected. We are endlessly separated from our friends and loved ones in one sense or another. Sometimes we only see our friends through screens or plexiglass. It feels like one of the loneliest times in history. We are challenged to find new ways to interact and form relationships. That may even be what led you to be reading this blog.

As human beings, we are made for relationships. God told Adam it was not good for him to be alone, so God made a companion. We should resist the temptation to take the easier route, shying away from relationships. My prayer is that we find new ways to be intentional in our friendships. Intentionality will enrich our love for those people even more. We may do this by writing letters to friends far away or making phone calls to our grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

I want to encourage you to set aside some time every day to do these things. Make it a time to express yourself but also a time to relax. The relationships you need to work on are not far away. Make sure to spend time with those in your household. Honor your father and mother and those who take care of you. Remember, your siblings are your companions for life.

Commit to reaching out to a different friend or loved one every day this week. You will be surprised when you not only lift their spirits, but they also raise yours.

For Adults, Uncategorized

A Love Affair of the Greatest Kind

By: Becky Gwartney

In the most recent blog, Becky Gwartney asks a simple question, “How is your love relationship with God?”

When my husband and I were dating, we couldn’t find enough time to be together. We lived in different states for a couple of months before our wedding, and I waited by the phone to answer his call each night. I longed to hear his voice, to hear the events of his day, and to hear of his love for me. No matter the time it took from my schedule or the cost (back when long-distance was a big deal financially), it was worth it to take the time to share my life and dreams with him.  Love does that to you! 

When you love someone, you want to spend time with them, get to know them, and value those moments together. The same is true in our relationship with God. Getting to know Him is vital, spending time with Him is crucial, and moments together should be treasured. We all know this in our hearts because something is missing when HE isn’t included in our lives.

So, during this month of love, let’s examine ourselves. How is your love relationship with God? Do you arrange your schedule each day to make sure you spend quality time with Him? Do you prioritize the things of God over the things of the world? Are you passionate about knowing Him and making Him known?

Maybe some of you are experiencing a crisis of the heart. Perhaps you’re too busy, overworked, or unable to unplug from an electronic society. How do you get out of a spiritual funk? Here are a couple of “no brainers”:

BE IN THE WORD!

God’s Word is not junk mail that is delivered to our mailbox or inbox.  It’s a message that is vital for our existence and God’s purpose for our lives. Second Timothy 3:17 tells us that, through the Word, we are put together and shaped for the tasks God has for us.  We may have been handed down the greatest of legacies, be shaped for God’s purpose, and be willing to serve, but if we lack His Word in our hearts, we aren’t “all in” with Him.

Whatever it takes for you to get into His Word and be intimate with Him, do it. The word intimacy means “into me see”.  I love that! God looks at us and knows us, but we can look at Him and know Him too! What a beautiful gift we’ve been offered, but to create that intimacy with God and become passionate about Him, we must see into Him and His heart through His Word.  Another way we can do that is through…

PRAYER

Psalm 55:17 says, “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.”  You can’t be intimate with someone you don’t talk to. But, how do we pray so that we connect intimately with our Heavenly Father? It’s a two-way street—we talk, and we listen. We may be really good about the talking aspect, taking our “list of things to do” to God, but do we listen to His voice speaking to us? He wants a deeper relationship with you. He wants you to hear His heart and His thoughts. He wants you to reveal your deepest desires. And, if we set aside the time to be quiet enough (even quieting our thoughts), He will speak—through His Spirit, through the Bible, through friends, through circumstances, or through a gentle “knowing” that settles in our hearts.

These simple truths are nothing new and probably nothing new to you. Simple truths, simple steps, simple measures to take, but, oh, what benefits we reap when we do them! A love affair of the greatest kind is yours for the taking. Are you ready and willing to do your part?

For Adults

Fighting Your Battles

by Melinda Walker

There are many issues we face as an adult and as a parent. Sometimes they come all at once, and we don’t know how to handle them, making us vulnerable. Given the task of separating our battles into two categories, major and minor, could you? How would you determine if they were major or minor?

Being an adult is not always the easiest. My 24-year-old daughter has a “big girl job” and lives in a different state but will tell you she does not enjoy adulting. It’s hard! It doesn’t get any easier as you get older. Jobs, family, church, school, technology, health issues, anything can affect us negatively at some point. We often feel we are in a constant battle. Do you ever wonder if some of these battles are even worth it? Do we need to be in this battle?

There are times that we don’t back down from a battle because we let pride get in the way. We rush into a decision instead of thinking it through and then make the wrong decision. Did we want to prove a point or make a statement? Proverbs 16:18 (NLT) says, “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.” 

Over the years, I have learned from some wise men and women to pick my battles. At my workplace, I have to decide which problems to battle and which ones to let go and let God handle. For example, at times, I receive emails that upset me. After reading them, I would like to fire back in a “nasty-gram.” But I have learned to push away from the computer, walk around for a bit, and pray; then I can think about the email. Maybe I can get more information regarding the reason for the email. I usually realize my “nasty-gram” wouldn’t help the situation and would probably make it worse. I have also learned that sometimes the person on the other end doesn’t always have all the facts. They are speaking from what they know or have heard. They might need to be educated on the subject or hear another side of the story, or they are having a bad day and fighting battles of their own. The fact is, God needs to be involved in all of your battles, large or small.

Whatever battle you are facing, major or minor, the only real way to handle any battle is to involve God in all of them. Some battles require immediate action, knowing God is there to help you fight, some you may be able to push aside for a while and fight another day. Others you can just give to God and walk away, knowing He is in control and will take care of the whole situation.

We have come through a year of fighting many battles, some more than others. Know that in 2021, God is with you through each one, major or minor. He promises to see you through. “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT).

Through this New Year, I pray that you allow God to help you through all of your battles and relieve any stress or anxiety that comes with the fight. He is there for you and wants to fight your battles if you let Him.

For Adults

Drama-Buster Tool Belt

by Beth Bryant

It’s often a struggle for moms, mentors, and youth workers to help their girls navigate the choppy waters of adolescent conflict (AKA drama). Here are a few tools for your drama-buster tool belt:

1. Be careful not to take your girl’s side in a conflict right away without investigating the facts. If possible, ask other involved parties what’s been going on. Believe it or not, even your precious God’s girl can be tempted to hyperbolize (what teen or pre-teen doesn’t??) a situation, fudge some details, or leave something out if she feels ashamed or fearful of punishment.

2. Once you know the facts, step in as a coach instead of a referee. Teach her what to do when a conflict arises. Help her process her steps and let her handle the situation while you support her. Obviously, if a situation becomes serious or dangerous more intervention is necessary. Let her handle what she can now so she can be confident in her abilities in the future.

3. It’s important to teach your girl biblical conflict resolution.  Go to the other person first, have a neutral third party to mediate if necessary, then follow up with stronger steps depending on the situation. God’s girls should speak the truth, but speak it with love, grace, and humility. Help her develop a plan for resolution and walk her through these steps.

4. Encourage her mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being as a preventive plan. Girls who have had proper nutrition, plenty of sleep, structure throughout the day, someone they trust with whom they can talk about their problems, and a strong relationship with Christ are much less likely to constantly be involved in conflict.

5. Give your girl a “time-out” when needed. Encourage her to take some alone or quiet time and enjoy a hobby or a movie. When she’s suffering from stress caused by conflict, enable her to lighten her load.

6. Help her understand conflict is not always a bad thing. God often uses conflicts, disagreements, and the broken people involved to grow His girls and further the Kingdom. Just look at the example of Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark. God knows we’re not perfect.

7. Model forgiveness and proper conflict resolution in your own life. Forgiveness is letting go of the need to adjudicate the person/offense and leaving it in the hands of a just God. Your girl will be much more equipped to handle what comes her way by watching you resolve conflict, make peace, and forgive.

For Adults

Dealing With the Storms

by Rachel Bryant

If you could go back and give your teenage self some advice, what would it be? I have been asked that question many times.

My first thought is always something along the lines of don’t sweat the small stuff. That basically defines the things that felt like “my life is over” as a teenager but weren’t all that serious. Remember that questionable haircut?  Then I remind myself at that time in my life, it wasn’t “small stuff.” I wonder if when I’m 20 years older than I am now, I’ll still have the same feelings if someone asks me about my advice to my middle-aged self? (Ouch, middle-aged! Ugh!) Despite how situations or disasters feel 20 years down the road, in the here and now, they are real!

Whether our own children or those we have influence over, our girls are dealing with real storms of life. Do you remember your tween/teen years?! Those storms were real to you then, and today’s girls are dealing with so much more than we ever did! We all are dealing with storms of life and crisis moments, but as “grown-ups,” we have more experience dealing with them and navigate through them a little smoother (or so we like to think!).

In recent months, all of us have experienced unprecedented “crisis-mode” situations. Yours probably looked different from mine, which looked different from hers, hers, and hers, but we can all agree that this has not been normal! We are trying to keep our heads above water while at the same time presenting to our girls and those around us how we, as Christians, deal with a crisis.  

When you learn CPR, you’re taught to “look, listen, and feel” to determine if someone is breathing. Using this same mantra, we can find our source of strength and peace in crisis or storm, and we can show others how to find it as well.

Look – Look to God! Simple as that. Read His Word noticing all the times He promises peace and shelter in the time of storm. During storms, increase how much time you spend in the Scripture. Focus on Scriptures about His protection, His peace, His love, whatever it is you need at that time. Search the Scriptures, use commentaries to focus on one subject, listen to praise music or hymns, do everything you can to keep your focus on God.

Listen – Listen to God! I suppose you can listen to someone you aren’t talking to, but that seems more like eavesdropping. Talk to God and listen to His response. Tell Him everything and anything you are thinking about, worried about, wondering about, etc. He knows already, but He longs for us to talk to Him. “Praying without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is the constant and open line of communication with our Father. As we pour out our hearts to Him, He will give us His peace and speak truth and love back to us.

Feel – Feel His peace! This is a tricky one. The Bible warns us that the “heart is deceitful” (Jeremiah 17:9), so we know our feelings are not always the best barometer of truth. However, when we lean into Him and have His peace, it is evident in those around us. This includes the girls we are trying to help as they navigate their storms. We know as believers that ultimately, this world is not our home. That takes the “scary” power from this world and the dominions at work here. We also know God promises He is with us and will watch over us (Genesis 28:15) and promises to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), though sometimes that looks different than what we think. If we yield to the Lord’s plans, we can have His peace, no matter the storm.

Challenge: You can also use the idea of “look, listen, and feel” to see how our girls deal with their crises.  

Look at them—see how they are acting and reacting to life. Sometimes it’s the little signs we have to pick up on to realize they are in a crisis. Help them assess situations, answer questions, problem-solve, most importantly, point them to God.

Listen to them—sometimes just let them talk, ask questions (open-ended) and really listen to them. Ask follow-up questions. Ask about all various aspects of their life. Make it conversational. Be careful not to sound like an interrogation. Doing activities together provides great talk-time without it feeling like an interview.

Feel for them—have sympathy (or empathy) for the storms they are experiencing. It may not seem like a big deal to you. But if it is important to them, make it important to you. Offer advice carefully and thoughtfully. But most of all, remind them they are loved, by you and by God.