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Home for Christmas?

17 Dec

Two thousand years ago Jewish believers were anxiously looking for the coming of the Christ (their Messiah). According to their Holy Scriptures, He would be born of a virgin in the city of Bethlehem. They didn’t know the date; they only knew that His coming had been prophesied.

When the birth of God’s Son did take place, it wasn’t in the luxurious surroundings you would expect for the King of the Universe. Instead, He was born in a humble stable in that little town of Bethlehem. Even so, God the Father made sure that His Son’s arrival was properly celebrated by hanging a majestic star in the heavens for all to see—a star that had never before been visible in the night sky. Then He sent an angel to proclaim Christ’s birth to shepherds who were tending their flocks in the Bethlehem area. A host of angels joined them, giving glory to God. Later, wise men from the East saw His star and traveled a great distance to look upon the Christ child, bring Him gifts, and worship Him. What a celebration!

Christians all over the world continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. Why? Because the angel’s message to the shepherds on that first Christmas was for all generations.

“. . .Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! Luke 2:10-11 (NLT)

Jesus came into the world to seek and to save lost humanity. Once we accept His death on the cross as the full payment for our sins, we are adopted into the family of God and guaranteed an eternal home in heaven. And like the Jews in Old Testament times, Christians are waiting and watching for Jesus to come again—only this time, He will not come to earth; we will meet Him in the air.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. I Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NLT)

I believe that Jesus will be coming soon to take us to our mansion in heaven. Perhaps, we’ll be home for Christmas this year. Wouldn’t that be the greatest gift ever? I cannot wait to stand in line to see Jesus. How about you?

Should we still be here on earth this Christmas, may your celebration of our Savior’s birth be blessed with special moments with family and friends.

Merry Christmas!

Barbara

Behind the Smile

24 Sep

Our blog helps us stay connected with our readers and address the needs and issues that today’s young women face. What about young men? Do they experience many of the same problems, insecurities, and fears in today’s society? Do they struggle with rejection, inferiority, or feelings of inadequacy? They’re much tougher than girls, right? Or has the world in which we live taught young men to hide their true feelings—to act like everything’s cool even when it’s not—to be ashamed to admit it when they are hurting? Does hiding pain make it go away? Or can it eventually cause someone to become dangerous to themselves and to others?

In novel 1 (Waiting for Mr. Right) Julia and Jay meet for the first time at a campus café. Seeing Julia’s alone, Jay joins her at her table, introduces himself, and skillfully counters the objections she’s previously stated about meeting him. Assuring her that he is a nice Christian guy, he asks Julia to please give him a chance and go out with him. Flattered and out of objections, Julia yields to his charm.

Yet the tall, handsome guy that Julia is about to date is not the confident, happy young man he appears to be (or the committed Christian he claims to be). That’s all an act. Inside, he is hurting—dealing with tons of loneliness and rejection. (In the novel, you see why that is.)

Meanwhile, Julia is young and inexperienced with guys. She believes whatever Jay tells her because 1) he is totally convincing and 2) she wants to believe him. So Julia doesn’t take time to find out anything about Jay’s life before meeting her. In fact, she doesn’t tell him anything about her own before coming to college. She is simply happy to have a boyfriend at last—someone to have some romantic fun with while away at school. But Jay is looking for much more. He’s looking for love to make up for his hurts and—as you see in the novel—is willing to do anything to keep her with him.

What can we learn from Julia?

To ask ourself some questions before jumping into a relationship. Questions like: Why rush to get romantically involved with someone I don’t know yet? Why not take my time and get to know this guy first, to see what he is really all about? (If he is as wonderful as you are hoping, time will reveal that great truth. If he’s not, time could spare you from a lot of unnecessary heartache!)

Another good question: Lord, is this relationship part of your plan for my life?
 
Because God’s plan for our life is the one that matters most.
It’s the one that has the most purpose and meaning—and is the most personally fulfilling.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

Also, only God knows a person’s heart and what his real motives and intentions are (good or bad). He also knows the great (or not so great) person he will be down the road.

So continue to get close to your Heavenly Father. Learn to hear and trust His voice (through reading your Bible and spending time with Him in prayer.)

Then when Mr. Wrongs come your way (which they no doubt will), you won’t be fooled by any of them. And you’ll be ready to meet Mr. Right when the time is right!

Because I care,

Barbara

photo credit

Breaking Up

9 Jul

Breaking up is hard to do!

In novel 1 of the Mr. Right Series, Julia’s finds herself working through a painful break-up with a Mr. Wrong. In the chapter Girl Talk, her mother shares some valuable insights regarding relationships with the opposite sex.

As I have pointed out in previous posts, dating as we see it today often has little to do with finding and keeping a marriage partner. A dating mentality is typically about enjoying the moment with someone; a marriage mentality, however, is about building a life with someone.

Our society is full of couples who have experienced a devastating break-up (or are heading for one in the near future). Usually at least one of the people involved in a break-up ends up being deeply hurt.

When I was in high school, my girlfriends all had steady boyfriends. I didn’t. God was protecting me during a time when I was immature and vulnerable, but I didn’t understand that then. I just felt alone and forgotten.

Trying to help me, my friends fixed me up with someone to date. He was a nice guy, so even though I wasn’t all that attracted to him, I dated him for a while—just to have a boyfriend. When his feelings for me grew beyond what I could return, I dumped him, without any explanation.

While I came away from that relationship without any hurt feelings, I had broken his heart. I can think of one other time when I dated a guy for a while and then dropped him without ever looking back. My desires and feelings were all I considered as a teen.

I didn’t know how devastating a break-up could be until I married a Mr. Wrong at age eighteen and experienced a painful divorce at age 20. It was only then that I could look back and relate to the pain I had caused others to suffer. It’s never fun when the person being hurt is you.

Break-ups are hard on everyone involved and are nothing new. I remember a song that was popular when I was a teenager. It was first released in 1962, and then a slower version came out around 1975. Both versions were a huge success, which rarely happens. Maybe this song was so popular because people could relate to the message. I think it remains just as relatable in 2012. See if you agree after viewing the video at the top of this post. (The song, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, is sung by Neil Sedaka, the original recording artist.)

Did you notice the video (apparently from another country) had subtitles? Reading along, we see that the girl isn’t dating the boy she’s with in the car. Apparently, he is her neighbor, giving her a ride there. But because she is having a hard time with a breakup (did you see her duck in the car?), she drags this neighbor boy into the party just to make her old boyfriend jealous, to show him that she is fine without him now. She simply uses this new boy (calling him darling and hanging on to his arm) in order to hurt her old boyfriend.

True to Hollywood form, however, as this girl begins dancing with her neighbor (temporary fake boyfriend), she starts to realize that maybe she likes him better anyway. The video ends with the words a new love… a new beginning… It illustrates the mentality prevalent in our society: jump from one relationship into another, hoping it will turn out better for you this time.

But I want you girls to think differently. To think bigger than just what might be good for you only. God wants you to think of the other person, toobefore entering a dating relationship.

Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

There is so much more we could talk about, but hopefully, today’s post has you thinking…Continue reading Julia’s story in novel 2 and you’ll see how she decides to handle the feelings of others in relationships. (It might surprise you!)

So proceed carefully, girls, knowing that someone else’s heart is involved, too!

Love you,

Barbara

Unspoken Feelings

4 Jun

During their long mother/daughter talk in novel 1 (Chapter 16), Julia’s mother explained many things her daughter wanted and needed to know. This knowledge brought a fresh perspective to Julia’s mind and heart.

At the end of their talk, Julia said, “That’s beautiful, Mom. Why didn’t you tell me about these things before? I’d been unhappy for so long about not having a boyfriend. If I’d understood all this, none of this mess with Jay would’ve happened!”

Filled with compassion, Julia’s mother went over to her daughter, put her arm around her, and replied, “I didn’t know you were hurting, Julia. You kept the pain you were feeling to yourself. When you were at home, you always seemed to be content. I assumed that you were happy and secure… I’m your mother, honey, not a mind reader. If you had confided in me, we could’ve had this talk before you left for school.”

Julia was not intentionally hiding frustrations and painful feelings from her mother. For whatever reason, she had just never communicated them to her. Because Julia kept those thoughts and emotions to herself, they were isolated within her own mind where her lack of experience and maturity could not effectively manage them. Julia needed a seasoned counselor like her mother to help her understand her feelings and deal with them in an informed and constructive way.

Do you have hurt feelings or frustrations you have been silent about? Are you aware that God knows all about them?

You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh. Psalm 38:9 (NLT)

Even though God knows all your unspoken thoughts and feelings, He will often use other people to shed some Scriptural light on your situation and brighten your outlook. Remember, your peers are operating out of a similar maturity level and perspective as you. So, sharing your heart with a trusted adult is the much better choice. Don’t wait for them to ask. Like Julia’s mom, they want to help you, but they aren’t mind readers either.

Always remember, you are loved, and you are not alone!

Barbara

photo credit

Friend or Enemy?

14 May

My last post, Secret Eyes, was about an Internet predator who was exposed and arrested before he could pull off his plan to sexually exploit two sisters. Today I’ll tell you about another case the FBI agent shared at the same seminar.

Kayla (substituted name) was a lovely sixteen-year-old. She had a good relationship with her parents, who tried to be proactive in their attempts to protect her safety (like putting the family computer in a common area of the house). Without her parents’ knowledge, however, Kayla was communicating with someone she’d met online. He worked for a long time to build their friendship (and gain her trust and confidence) before suggesting they meet. Wanting to meet her virtual friend in real life, she agreed.

One night after dinner, Kayla announced she was going to work on homework in the family room—but instead sneaked out of the house to meet this guy. At the designated meeting place, he abducted her, took her to his house, and chained her to a support beam in his basement to use her as his sex slave.

At home, her parents eventually realized that Kayla wasn’t working on homework in the family room like they thought. After a thorough search of the house and many calls to friends, they knew something was terribly wrong. Soon they informed the police that their daughter was missing.

Kayla became this man’s prisoner for many days. One morning, before he left for work, he told her he was beginning to like her too much and would have to do something about it. Those words terrified her. Did they mean he was going to kill her soon? Later that morning, Kayla heard footsteps upstairs and began shouting out for someone to help her. Moments later, two FBI agents found her lying naked on a mattress in the basement. One of the agents cut through the chain that bound her, wrapped her in his coat, and she was taken to safety. (Since police efforts had failed to find Kayla, the FBI had been contacted, putting a trace on her computer. Eventually, they discovered who had been communicating with her and ascertained his address, leading them to where she was being held captive.) The man was arrested later that day.

At the seminar, we saw a video clip of Kayla being interviewed after her rescue. When she was asked why she had agreed to meet this man, she answered with something like, “Because he was my best friend; I could talk to him about anything. We liked the same things, and he understood me like nobody else.”  Sadly, her “friend” turned out to be a deceptive enemy who worked hard to say what Kayla needed to hear over time in order for her to trust him. Then he abused her in ways beyond description.

Kayla did not have the maturity to accurately evaluate this man or his motives. God puts us in families for a reason. Children and teens need their mentors’ input to keep out of the reach of predators. If Kayla had told her parents that this man was contacting her, they no doubt would have stepped in, and she would have been spared this terrible, life-altering experience.

The following is a continuation of the Scriptures I used in my last post to describe the methods of the wicked:

He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; He lies in wait to catch the poor; He catches the poor when he draws him into his net. So he crouches, he lies low, that the helpless may fall by his strength. Psalm 10:9-10 (NKJ) 

Those with wicked intentions do not trap just anyone. They are looking for:

  • The unsuspecting—“It could never happen to me.”
  • The trusting— “This is my friend.”
  • The hurting— “This guy understands me like no one else does.”
  • The stubborn—“I will do what I want, even if my parents don’t approve.”

And these predators are not who they pretend to be (friendly guys or teenage boys). They are disturbed men who will often develop friendships with their targets for weeks and even months before laying a specific trap.

If Kayla had known in advance what her so-called “friend” had planned for her, do you think she would have behaved differently? The answer is obvious—no one intentionally walks into a trap! So gain some insight from her mistake. Pick your friends from people your guardians know and approve. Wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?

These posts are not meant to make you overly fearful, so you don’t feel safe anywhere. Actually, the FBI agent said that cases like Kayla’s don’t happen in epidemic numbers, thankfully. But he also made the point that numbers become painfully personal when it happens to you or someone you love. So, the more we are aware of what can potentially happen, the more we can ensure that it doesn’t.

If you check my last post, I included some great Scriptures to grab on to regarding God’s protection and rescue. As we said last time, “His faithful promises are our armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:4b) But we also talked about being aware of dangers and then making wise choices to stay safe.

Staying safe is possible. One key is to be open and honest with your parents and other leaders regarding all of your associations/friendships, knowing that those authority figures love you and are better able to protect you when they know what’s going on in your life.

Lisa and I love you girls—enough to tell you the truth. To be forewarned is to be forearmed! And we want you well-equipped to live wonderful, safe lives as you pursue your God-dreams!

Barbara

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Secret Eyes

7 May

Recently I attended an American Teens in Crisis seminar hosted by a local organization I support (PATH-A Positive Approach to Teen Health), where many speakers reported on the various problems and dangers currently confronting our youth. In this post, I want to tell you about a case an FBI agent shared at that meeting.

The family in this case had two daughters who shared a bedroom. They had a computer in their room with a webcam and began exchanging messages with a man they met online. He asked them to send him a pic of each of them, but they refused, explaining that their parents wouldn’t approve. He seemed to accept their reason and asked if he could send them a pic of him instead. They didn’t see any harm in that. Besides, they were curious to see what he looked like. So they said okay.

He sent the pic, the girls looked at it, and then they didn’t hear from him again. A few months later, however, he contacted them as before, asking for pics. When they refused the second time, he said, “I already have pictures of you. I’ll send them to you if you don’t believe me.”

He sent them, and the girls were horrified! The pics showed both of them undressing in their room. They had no idea how he had gotten them; they had never posed for those shots. How was this possible?

Once he knew the girls had viewed the pics, he threatened to post them online and also send them to their parents. They only way they could keep that from happening was to send him more pics of themselves, showing him whatever he asked for.

Fortunately, these two girls made the right choice: they told their parents immediately what was happening. The father called the authorities the next day, and the FBI took their computer, discovering that the pic this man sent of himself to the girls was encrypted, giving him access to their computer once they clicked on it. For months he had been watching both of them undressing in their room via their webcam.

Wow! I didn’t know such things were possible. We are living in an age where the capability of linking one device to another has some scary consequences.

Girls, it isn’t safe to communicate with ANYONE you don’t know, whether online or via phone. You may think you can just talk back and forth without any risk, but that’s no longer the case. These men are professionals, equipped with skills most of us don’t have. Today you can even be found easily through GPS systems on computers and other devices.

Because these girls told their parents about this situation, the FBI was able to trace this man through their computer, and he was arrested and convicted. If they hadn’t been truthful, who knows what might have happened?

Did you notice how this Internet predator threatened the girls in order to frighten them into doing what he wanted? Giving in to that manipulative kind of fear will only take you down a more dangerous path. Oppositely, healthy fear will drive you in the right direction. (Example: Even though I don’t want my parents to know how dumb I’ve been, this situation is scary serious; I’m more afraid of what will happen if I hide the truth and start giving in to this guy’s demands!!) Getting in trouble with your parents is nothing compared to the nightmare that awaits you in the hands of one of these sick men.

For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; He blesses the greedy and renounces the LordHe sits in the lurking places of the villages; in the secret places he murders the innocent; His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. Psalm 10:3, 8 (NKJ)

Please be wise, girls. Secret eyes can be where you least expect them.

But also know that God’s eyes see all, even traps that are being set for us. (So stories like these do not have to make us feel scared out of our minds or helpless.) Psalm 91 is a wonderful section of Scripture to memorize, full of comforting verses of God’s protection. Here are a few lines from that chapter:

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Psalm 91:2-4 (NLT)

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16 (NLT)

In Matthew 10:17, Jesus tells his disciples to be “…wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”  What a great instruction for us as we interact with others, both online and off!

So again, let’s not be overwhelmed with fear by stories like these, but let’s choose to be aware of dangers and wise with our choices, putting our trust in our Heavenly Father, setting our love on Him, trusting Him to guide and protect us through every situation we face. Then we can have confidence that He will help us with each step we take in today’s world.

Next post, I’ll share one more story from the FBI agent with you. Be sure to check back next Monday!

Because I care,

Barbara

photo credit

Note to Self: Don’t Panic!

23 Apr

Lisa has a friend who graduated with her degree this past year. Still trying to find a job in her specific field (vet tech), she’s decided to take some weekend classes to get certified to give free tours at the zoo. Her reasoning? While she’s waiting for what she wants, she’s going to use her time wisely to do something that will both look good on her resume and be something she enjoys in her free time. Refusing to panic about not having a job yet, she’s looking for ways to redeem this time and enjoy life in the waiting.

I hear so many young women say, “I want to get married. I’m so ready to meet my guy!” Here are some questions I like to ask: “If he showed up today, are you prepared to be more than a girlfriend? Are you using any of your time to develop skills you will need to be a great wife one day? What are you doing to enjoy life now?”

When you are waiting for something you really want, time often has a way of dragging by. Sometimes the longer you wait, the more you begin to panic, fearing it will never happen. Instead of going in that direction, remind yourself that God has a plan for your life. And that plan doesn’t start someday far off in the future—it’s already in motion today! How are you walking out His plan for you today so you’ll be where He wants you to be tomorrow? If marriage is something you’re believing for, why not learn some practical skills to use both now (with friends & family you have) and later (with the husband & family that are coming)?

Here’s one idea: Have some fun learning to cook. Even if you think that’s not your thing, give it a chance! You might find yourself quite inspired after a few episodes of Chopped or a few dishes of your own that actually turn out pretty great! It’s a hobby that you can sandwich in (forgive the pun) between classes, work, or whatever else is in your life at the moment. Once you’re married, you will have many other things to do in addition to preparing meals, so getting a jump-start on this area is a great idea. (I’ve found that watching your family enjoy the food you prepare blesses you in ways you have to experience yourself to fully appreciate! It’s definitely worth any special effort you put into it now.) And you can have fun honing your skills in an area you’ll use a lot in life, whether married or single.

Again, if marriage is something you desire, do you understand the Biblical model for marriage or know anything about child care, how to keep an organized house, grocery shop, do laundry, or balance a checkbook? These areas may appear stereotypical at first glance, but most would agree they are life realities you’ll face at some point, married or not. What about some other areas you can share with your hubby or teach your kids one day, like playing a sport or instrument, speaking a foreign language, etc.? The list is endless, so pick something that interests you and start there. Much of your training can be done in your own home. If you don’t have anyone to teach you a specific skill, read a book or take a class.

Remember, skill builders are wonderful time fillers, and they bless others while fulfilling you at the same time. Trust me, time goes by quicker when you’re learning new things, preparing for days ahead, and focusing on something or someone other than yourself.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18 (NLT)

So, for whom is God designing you? It’s exciting to think about, and worth preparing for, don’t you think?

Love you,

Barbara