Sunday, February 28, 2010

Self-Injury - Compassion and Understanding

March 1st is Self-Injury Awareness Day, and I have to tell that I'm so hoping and praying that people are still stirred by the issue and wanting to be aware and help. The numbers of reported cases of self-injury have risen since I wrote about it through the true stories told in Scars That Wound, Scars That Heal--A Journey Out of Self-injury.

So let's take a moment to get self-injury back on our radar, continue to raise awareness, dispel the myths, and encourage sensitivity to the issue and to the individuals who struggle.

As a part of that, I'd like to share a post I wrote for my own site a couple years ago for teens helping teens, and yet it might offer some ideas for any who want to reach out to a friend who struggles:

Maybe you’re a friend to someone who self-injures. What do you do to help?

Does your friend know you know? Are you wondering how to approach her (or him)? Tell her you have seen the injuries, have noticed her sadness (or the signs and emotions that you have seen). Then ask if she wants to talk about it. If yes, listen and let her share what she’s able to. It may only be a sentence or two. If she’s not ready to talk, tell her you’re there to listen when she is ready. Sometimes just the awareness that someone else now knows and cares is a huge help.

Are you the only person your friend is turning to? That can become extremely difficult for you, if it isn’t already. Don’t do this alone. Self-injury is much deeper than a behavior or a coping mechanism. The emotion and pain and the stories behind the choice are much more complex than even she is able to handle. It would be a lot for you to try to carry for her.

Be honest and tell your friend that you can’t carry this alone and neither should she. Be a trustworthy friend in how you handle what she has shared with you in confidence, but at the same time know that it is helping both of you to get others involved.

Find a trusted and wise adult friend who you can talk to—preferably someone who knows about self-injury, who is able to help you bring God into the picture of healing, and who has good suggestions for balancing help and friendship with your own personal safety and emotional health.

Help your friend find others she can talk to who can help in the ways you can’t. If her family can be loving and supportive, offer to go with her to talk with a parent. Or help her set up a meeting with a pastor or community professional who has experience and compassion in helping those who struggle with self-injury.

Keep in mind that self-injury as a secret conceals more than the outer wounds and scars. The secrecy prevents the inner pain from being addressed and the person from moving toward healing. Connecting to a community that cares can be an essential part of moving out of the pain and toward hope. As her friend, your greatest contribution toward her healing could be helping her begin to make those connections.

Let's keep our hearts open to the conversations.


A few other posts and articles that might be of interest:

Helping Someone Who is Struggling, Part 1
Helping Someone Who is Struggling, Part 2
Helping Someone Who is Struggling, Part 3
When Someone Who is Struggling Comes to You
Parents Responding to Self-Injury (Guest post on Mommy Life Blog)
Long Sleeves in Hot Weather (Article that appeared in September, 2009 Light & Life Magazine)

Christians and teen pregnancy

Last week I received a lousy review for my latest release, Out with the In Crowd. It's an unfortunate part of the business, and while you brace yourself for it, it's always a bit crushing when it happens.

Except for this time.

Out with the In Crowd is book two in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. In the first book, Me, Just Different, we learned that Skylar's 15-year-old sister is pregnant. One of the story lines in Out with the In Crowd is about Abbie wrestling with what to do after the baby's born. Yet the entire story is told from Skylar's perspective, so we also see a lot of what the pregnancy does to the rest of the family. Particularly because Abbie is in a bit of denial and a lot of the baby prep (diapers, picking out a crib, etc.) somehow falls on Skylar's shoulders.

I never set out to make a statement about teen pregnancy. It's just the direction the story went, and in writing Out with the In Crowd, I portrayed how Skylar, who's recently become a Christian, deals with her sister's mistake.

Apparently, whether I meant to or not, I made a statement. And one particular reviewer wasn't a fan of it. What troubled me most about her review was this statement: “Years ago it would be incredibly shameful to show your face in public with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; today it is the norm. But I question that it should be for Christians. I don’t think it should be, regardless of what the world around us is doing.”

At first this made me laugh out loud. I just sat there and reread it over and over, shocked. I mean, seriously? SERIOUSLY??? We're not talking about a couple of acquaintances. We're talking about a big sister taking care of her little sister the best way she knows how.

And then as the comment sunk it, it occurred to me how incredibly sad this viewpoint is. How can you read the gospels and believe this? After learning how Jesus chose Matthew, a tax collector, to be a disciple. How He dined with Zacchaeus. How He stood at the well with the Samaritan woman who’d had five husbands and now lived with another man, yet made her feel accepted and loved. How He allowed a woman who the Bible simply says had lived a “sinful life” to wash and perfume his feet.

A book of mine is never, ever going to make this reviewer happy. Abbie is my second favorite part of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. (My first favorite is Skylar’s reinvention, as you might assume.) What I love about Abbie’s story is that she shows how sinful decisions carry consequences, like having a baby at 15, but God’s grace is bigger. He loves me—a girl who waited until she was married to have sex—as much as he loves the Abbies of the world. He loves McKenna and the little boy I’m carrying right now—conceived in holy wedlock—as much as he loves the children of girls like Abbie.

And I’m grateful for this. Because while sex before marriage hasn’t been an area in my life where I’ve struggled, I’ve still used an abundance of God’s grace. We all have. And I have every intention of continuing to write stories that explore that.

Stephanie Morrill

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Princess Bride, Part II

Two weeks ago, I told Sarah's story. Last Friday, the princess who never expected to meet a prince walked down the aisle, face veiled, in the surrender of a bride. As she approached, Luke sang a song he'd written for that moment. A song that shifted the focus from the "now" to the "not yet"--from the earthly to the heavenly. It went like this:

Well, the prophecy’s not simple, though all of it’s been said and done
Still the revelation waits to form itself within our love
And this we know, though we are yet unknown:

In our minds and in our flesh we ache

For the coming dawn, for the light of day

And the light will break us, and faith will claim our lives

For when the two are one, both of them must die

For when the two are one, both are brought to light

Still the darkness will linger all through the long and lonely night
So you can play the church, and I’ll play an imperfect Christ

And though I’m frail, I’ll try my best to love you here

For there are mysteries much deeper than the skin

And to uncover them, we must humbly enter in

By the heart of love, where God and man are one

I pray these vows we make reveal the Son to us

Oh! in these vows may love be born in us

Oh be my apocalypse, know me in this gentler kiss

For all love is a knowing, but to be known we all must end

And I would learn you here

And I would hold you dear

And as we see ourselves by each other’s love

May we come to know the perfect Lamb of God

And on that final day, when we all see the Lord

Well, I won’t be your husband anymore

And Christ will be your love forevermore
And Christ will be your love forevermore

And Christ will be our love forevermore

So let us climb the hill together
So let us climb the hill together

Let us climb the hill
Let us climb the hill

Throughout the entire ceremony, I felt as though we were all tiptoeing on holy ground. Now, almost a week later, I'm still basking in the glow.

No matter who you are or what you've been through, it's never too early or too late to pray for your prince.
Sometimes, dreams really do come true.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

About a month ago I decided to go back to school; it has been a huge adjustment. I have to wake up early, try to balance my schedule, and get used to doing homework again! In light of these changes, has been increasingly hard to spend time with God and get to know Him more.

Last week during my Anatomy and Physiology class I was suddenly struck at how remarkable the human body is, and how extraordinary God is to have made us the way He did. I mean, I was sitting there in class while the teacher was lecturing on the circulatory system and I started tearing up.

The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and all at once it just hit me- every cell of our being has God’s finger print on them. There are so many functions that are automatically happening in our bodies every second of the day that are completely involuntary and that we are not even aware of. Our lungs take in air and give oxygen to our entire body, our heart beats without us even having to think about it. The average heart rate is 60-80 beats a minute, which is more than 100,000 beats in a single day, and 36 million beats in a year- without stopping for a break!

After just a month of studying Anatomy I can’t believe that people can deny the existence of God. He is such an amazing creator and I feel like I’m learning more about Him everyday as I study His detailed artwork.

Psalm 139:13-16
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Teen pregnancies are on the rise again.

Interview by AOL's Parent Dish--me and the President of Planned Parenthood about teen pregnancy. What didn't come out in the article is that I AM for abstinence education.

After a long period of decline, teen pregnancy rates are on the rise again and experts say that abstinence-only programs, the media and absent parents are to blame.

A Jan. 26 report from the New York-based Guttmacher Institute reveals that the pregnancy rate among 15- to 19-year-olds rose three percent in 2005-2006, the first increase in more than a decade. The nonpartisan think tank looked at its own data and that of the federal government to determine that more teens are getting pregnant now than since before the 1990s.

What's causing the jump? According to Guttmacher, it was the focus on abstinence-only programs that began in the early 2000s, which were prohibited by law from including contraception information. As a result, teens' use of contraceptives declined.

The report "should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who still believes that teenagers aren't sexually active or that abstinence-only programs curb the rate of teen pregnancy," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an email interview with ParentDish. "Over the course of a decade, federal and state governments have spent $1.5 billion on abstinence-only programs. It is a tragedy that we are witnessing an increase in the number of teens who are getting pregnant, especially when we know what works -- medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education that gives young people the tools to make responsible decisions about their health."

The best tool in a parent's arsenal, she adds, is communication. "Studies show that the best way to prevent teen pregnancy is to provide teens with honest, accurate information."

Tricia Goyer is an author and speaker who works with teen moms on a weekly basis, and she knows of what she speaks. She became pregnant with her eldest son, Cory, now 20, when she was a high-school senior. Goyer, author of "Life Interrupted: The Scoop on Being a Young Mom," says there are two other key factors in play when it comes to the increase in teen pregnancy: Absent parents and the media.

"Parents today live busy lives," she says. "They aren't taking the time to build close-knit relationships with their kids. Many, many young women are also growing up without fathers. I believe this leaves a hole in the hearts of teens. They are yearning for love that they don't have at home and look for it in each other."

Goyer points out that glamorizing teen pregnancy on TV and in the movies only serves to teach young women -- and men -- that engaging in sexual activity has very few real consequences.

Read the rest here!

After read the rest and watch the short video - come back here and let me know what you think.

Tricia Goyer

Friday, February 19, 2010

Did You fall for a Lie?

“Check your wrapper,” Haley whispered to Kai and Nathan. “If it has an Indian and a star on it you get a free box of candy.”

“I have one,” Kai exclaimed.

“Me too!” Nathan ran over to me, waved his Tootsie Pop wrapper in the air like a golden ticket. “Put this in your purse. It has an Indian and a star. I get free candy.”

Kai handed his to my sister Kristy. “When can we go to the store?”

Kristy and I exchanged looks. Was that rumor about an Indian and a star on your Tootsie Pop wrapper earning you free candy still around?

“Um, we need to check out the details before we run down and ask for free candy,” Kristy told Kai. “You might have to send for it.”

I grinned at Kristy. “Do you remember telling us about the Indian and a Star thing when we were kids?”

Kristy blushed. “Yeah.”

My sisters and friend had charged the lady at the check stand with a fistful of Tootsie wrapper. According to Kristy one Indian and star combo won four free Pops. The checker didn’t have a clue what we were talking about. Embarrassed, Kristy pretended not to know what we were talking about either. “What Indian and star? I never said that?”

“I was such a brat.” Kristy laughed.

When I got home I decided to do a little research on the Indian and star before my sisters or I made fools of ourselves again, this time with our kids in tow.

As it turned out, this urban legend about the Indian and star has been around almost as long as Tootsie Pops. Sometimes the promised reward is a free Pop, other times a bag of them, several Pops, or a box of candy. For generations, kids have presented wrappers to store owners or sent them to Tootsie, only to be disappointed. (Some store owners are nice enough to honor the requests, probably because they were left jilted by the same vicious rumor as kids.)

When I told Kristy she cracked up before passing the word to our other sister, Sherry. Our kids even thought it was funny, once they heard that we’d fallen for the same thing.

According to some websites, Tootsie doesn’t even know how the wives tale started.

This reminded me how often we fall for lies. The enemy loves to throw them out at us and many, like the Tootsie Pop story, have been around forever.
“Did God really say . . . “
“If God loved you He would/wouldn’t . . .”
“What you did is unforgivable.”

They go on and on, and are rarely original. But how do we keep from falling for them? We can actually borrow some ideas from the Tootsie Pop scenario.
1. Stop and think before you act or give in.
2. Consider what happened the last time you listened to the same message, or a similar one.
3. Check out the facts (the best place being God’s Word).

While the lie that my sisters and I, and later our kids, bought into was harmless, Satan’s lies tend to cause damage far beyond the disappointment of not getting a free sucker. Ask God to keep you aware of deception and grounded in His truth.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This Looks Sooooo Good!

I just saw the trailer for this movie, Letters to God. It's coming out April 9th and produced by the same people who produced Fireproof, Flywheel and Facing the Giants.

Can't wait to see it!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Princess Bride

The title of this post may be misleading. It's not about one of my all-time favorite movies. It's a story about a girl and the two things almost every little girl loves pretending to be. A princess and a bride.

The girl was born in 1986. She had a beautiful mommy and a handsome daddy. They looked good in pictures, but they weren't living in happily-ever-after land. When the little girl was in kindergarten, her beautiful mommy started going blind. A few years later, her handsome daddy went away, leaving the mommy, the little girl, and her baby sister. Even though she was very young, the little girl had to learn how to do a lot of things around the house, because her mommy couldn't see.

When the girl was sixteen, she came home from school one day, and her mom wasn't home. Someone else was there, and that someone told the girl that her mom's heart had broken. Literally. Her aorta separated from her heart, and she died. Just like that.

The court told the girl's dad that he needed to take care of his daughters. He wasn't happy, but he had to obey the court.

The girl went to live with her dad, even though he didn't want her there. She was sad. She was also angry. And she started doing lots of bad things. Dangerous things. It was almost as though she wanted to self-destruct. And maybe she did. Until one night when she was seventeen, she picked up a Bible and started reading in a book called Job. When she read a verse that said, "You prefer evil to affliction," she felt like Someone had spoken it directly to her. She stopped reading and prayed, telling that Someone that she didn't want to prefer evil to her affliction--even though her affliction had been so painful. She told God she wanted to know Him.

The next day the girl called her bad boyfriend and broke up with him. Then she looked in the phone book to try to find a church. She found one, and the next Sunday she went there. The people in the church welcomed her. They wanted her. They became her family and taught her about Jesus and how much He loves her.

As she got to know Jesus and studied His words, the girl's sadness and anger went away, and God replaced them with compassion for other hurting people. More than anything else, she loved reaching out to people who were poor or sad or afflicted like she'd been. She loved helping them find their way to Jesus. She even went to India to help some of the poorest people in the world. She wasn't afraid of anything that might happen to her. When she was serving Jesus, she was fearless.

But she was afraid of marriage. Her ideas about marriage weren't happy, and besides, she didn't need anyone but God. She told Jesus she wanted Him to have her whole life, that she would obey Him no matter what. So, imagine her surprise when Jesus told her He wanted her to get married! He even showed her the man He wanted her to marry.

The girl started praying for that man. She knew he loved Jesus, too. She also knew he had seen some hard things when he went to Africa to serve Jesus, and she prayed God would heal his heart. God did heal his heart and then He filled it with love for the girl. The man asked the girl to marry him, and she said yes. (Then they gave each other high fives. It was very romantic.)

If ever there was a little girl who didn't feel much like a princess or even want to be a bride, this was the one. But she grew up to be both. In fact, she'd always been a princess. For one thing, her name is Sarah, and that means princess. But she was also adopted by the King, and that made her a princess for real.

In eight more days, she'll be a bride, too. She'll walk down an aisle toward the man who will love her as long as they both shall live. And she'll be surrounded by family--not only her father, sister, and her church family, but her groom's family, who've adopted her into their hearts so fully she might as well be their own daughter.

How do I know? Because the groom is my son. And the bride is a more wonderful princess than I ever could have designed for him, had God entrusted me with the task. In eight days, the two will become one and will ride off into the sunset.

Of course, this isn't The End. It's only the beginning.

(The photo above shows Sarah in her mother's wedding dress. On February 19th, she will wear my daughter's dress and my veil. Both fit as though they were designed for her. Because they were.)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Super Bowl madness

I suppose all across the country people are getting ready for football madness today. My husband is organizing a neighborhood potluck down at the community center, and he's been prepping for days. Having been an event planner once, I know how many details there are to pin down, and how hard it sometimes is to get people to step up and help.

But you know what? The phone started ringing last night with people offering to lend a hand. This morning the pickups began to roll in as friends rallied around to help. Phone in one ear, I'm holding the fort here at the house, directing people down to the center.

Friends. Don't you love 'em? The guy who offers to cut up the onions for the chili. The writer friend who says, "Let's do a writing day at my house." The girl who shyly offers to help you with your science project when you need a partner. We find real friends in the most unexpected places. And sometimes it makes us realizes just what we have to offer someone else in return. And let's not forget the best Friend of all, who surrounds us and helps us the minute we reach out our hand.

Where have you found an unexpected friend in the woodwork of your life?

Good to think about. Meantime, gotta go grate cheese for the chili-dogs!

Love, Shelley

Friday, February 05, 2010

"I Relate"

This morning I had breakfast with a friend that I’ve been able to connect with more deeply, as our sons became better friends. I’ve known her for a long time but am just now REALLY getting to know her.

I’ve always liked and admired her. She is recognized at church as a creative, generous, and compassionate person who has been through a lot but has clearly allowed God to use it for good. We had a few things in common before today—teenage sons, a love of baking, I’m visually impaired and her husband happens to work with the blind. But today we discovered similarities that left both of as laughing with relief as we said . . .
“I do that too!”
“I have the same fear!”
“I thought I was the only one who worried about that.”
“Yes, I’ll pray for you about that because I totally relate.”

When I got home, I thanked God, not only for a great time of fellowship, but also for the reminder, that others share my insecurities, fears, and needs for encouragement. I am not the only one with a deep need to please, fear of rejection, or tendency to let past hurts affect the way I react today. Best of all, allowing these areas of weakness to come out allowed someone else to see that she wasn’t alone either. Now we can pray for, support, and love one another in ways that other friends might not be able to, because they haven’t been where we are (or can’t admit it yet).

Thank God for sending friends into your life who understand you like no one else can, because they can relate to your fears, frustrations, insecurities, or questions. If you haven’t found such a friend yet, ask God to bring one your way.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Attention Seniors

This is my daughter Jamie and my son Thomas. Daughter Katie's not in this picture.
Anybody a high school senior and feeling a bit anxious about the future? Where to go to college?Who your roommate will be? What to major in? Have you applied to several and not heard back? Have you visited any campuses and still don't know what to do? Or, if you're not going the college route do you know what you'd like to do after high school? Do you know what path you're going to follow? Have you decided what you love to do? Your areas of giftedness?
Jamie is 28, Katie is 25, and Thomas is 18. When we took Katie to visit a college, do you know what scared her? The tour guides were wearing navy blue jackets. She said, "I'm not smart enough to wear a jacket like that." Oh, the fear that creeps in.

Thomas is filling out college applications and he'd love to play baseball in college. He doesn't know what he wants to major in (well, he hasn't shared it with his mother if he does). Almost daily he'll say, "Did I hear from any colleges today? Did you get anything in the mail?"

Here's what I can say as a mother of three--two on the other side of the "what will I do with my future" decision. It's okay if you don't have it all figured out right now. It's okay to be confused. It's okay if you're afraid of the "blue jackets." God will be with you through each fear and decision if you ask Him to help you.

Jamie and Katie ended up graduating from the same college one day apart. I'd have never predicted that. They began as freshmen in two separate colleges--neither graduating from that initial school.
There will probably be some surprises coming your way over the next few years. As much as we want to, we can't figure everything out ahead of time.

I prayed really hard when the girls were seniors--prayed they'd find God's perfect plan for their lives. I prayed they'd have wisdom as they chose a college, friends, and a career. This may sound odd, but as I'm writing in my prayer journal for Thomas, my prayers are shorter. Sometimes, I just write one word. THOMAS. I sort of smile on the inside because I know God knows his heart--just as He did Jamie's and Katie's. He holds the future. He knows the twists and turns. And when we surrender to Him, He takes our choices (even those that seem like mess ups) and works His Way.

If any seniors are in that what at I going to do after I graduate place, I'd love to add your names to my prayer journal.

"For I know the plans that I have for you, " declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

So much love,


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Slip, Lapse, Collapse

Ah, it's February 2nd! Many of us made New Year's Resolutions 32 days ago. I don't know about you, but mine are not doing so well. One of them is sick and the other is dead.
I know better than to make long lists of what I am going to do better this year. That's dooming the project on the first day. Optimistically I thought I should be able to handle two. Now I'm hoping I can resurrrect one.
Bad habits come in all sizes. They can be as serious as cigarettes or as mundane as not shutting the back door snugly so the wind won't blow it open.

Slip, Lapse, and Collapse are the words my psychologist friend uses when he's coaching someone past a bad habit. You make a resolution and the first time you break it, it is just a slip. No major catastrophe. Your reaction determines whether you sink down to the lapse level or climb back on top.
Condemnation, negative self-talk, and the like push you down. You are putting rocks in your brain that push you down deeper.
Forgiveness (yes, of yourself), positive motivation, and the like are very much like colorful helium balloons that can lift you up.
If you let Slip get you down, Lapse is at your heels, waiting for you to sink deeper. Strangely it is exactly the same reactions that worked at Slip, that will work at the Lapse level. Rocks in the brain, down the drain. Balloons in the air, you get out of there.
And if you mire down in total Collapse, where you've given up, decided you're a bad person, and written the obituary for your resolution, the journey to the starting place can be a terror.
Hint: Don't try to work yourself back up to the top.
Dump the rocks from your brain and reclaim the high point. That's right. Reject the bad and jump back to the starting line. God is on your side, and when He forgives you of your transgressions, what are they like?
Micah 7:
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

And Job14:1 (The Message) My sins will be stuffed in a sack and thrown into the sea—sunk in deep ocean.

So when you slip, tap into God's forgiveness (I assume the bad habit is a sin. They always are.)And have Him toss them in the ocean.