June 2018

5 Reasons to Embrace Complimentary Ministries

If you’re a ministry leader, you have probably found yourself expanding way beyond your comfort zone. You are focused in one area of ministry (after all, it’s your calling). But soon, another area of ministry starts to demand your attention. I call them “complimentary ministries.”

These demands are usually helpful to your main ministry, but different. They aren’t always consistent. Sometimes they are only temporary. Other times, they permanently become part of your ministry life.

This used to drive me crazy. Being able to cover one ministry area is challenging enough. When other needs started presenting themselves, my first instinct was to put on the brake.

Not any more.

Here are my 5 reasons to embrace these complimentary ministry opportunities:

  1. Change Brings Prayer Time – When I find myself in expansion mode, I also find myself investing in more time with God. Jesus spent hours with God during his ministry. It should be no different for me.

  2. Comfort is Dangerous – Our Christian life isn’t meant to be one of comfort. Plans change. Ministries evolve. Paul understood this well (read Romans 1:8-15; 15:14-33).

  3. Different Timetables – God operates on an entirely different framework than we do. His eternal perspective is one we can’t fully grasp (yet). What we see as an “interruption” or “one more thing” is often future planning for Him.

  4. Help with the Balancing Act – When things get crazy at our home, my personal frustration builds. Unfortunately, it took years for me to realize the place to take it all was straight-up to Him. He is trustworthy. I just need to let Him be who He is, and I need to trust Him to help me find balance.

  5. Painful but Good – Complimentary ministries often enhance our main calling. Speaking enhances the writing ministry, writing enhances a nonprofit ministry, and so on. Not always pain-free, but growth happens.

Have you faced this challenge? What have you learned along the way? Feel free to share your story in the Comments.

Thank you for stopping by. Be sure to subscribe, if you’d like. And don’t forget to grab your FREE sample of my new study, “I Call You Mine: Embracing God’s Gift of Adoption.” It launches on September 10, 2018. Pre-order at your favorite book retailer or HERE.

Adoption and PTSD

June is National PTSD Awareness Month. Having suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), I know the road to healing can be filled with fear, uncertainty and loneliness. But please know, healing will come. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy (discussed later in this post) benefited me greatly.

This post will focus on the trauma/PTSD suffered by adopted children. Much of the information following has been pulled from two different websites: www.ptsd.va.gov** and GoodTherapy.org* (Lesli Johnson).

Adoption Can Bring Trauma / PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)*

The impact of adoption (and all that happened leading up to the need for adoption) is far-reaching and ever-changing—a process that continues throughout the lifespan of the adopted person and those connected. Multiple placements, foster care, or time in an orphanage can exacerbate this trauma.

An infant or child separated from their birth mother will almost certainly experience some level of trauma, as they will perceive this event to be a dangerous situation. The sensations, sights, and sounds with which they were familiar are gone, and the mother is no longer available to soothe the child or help the child self-regulate. Because the only part of the brain fully developed at birth is the brain stem—this controls the sympathetic nervous system, which generates the “fight, flight, or freeze” response—babies are unable to use parasympathetic abilities, such as self-soothing.

When this happens before the age of 3, it is encoded as implicit memory—like any event that takes place before the development of language. As noted trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk explains in his book The Body Keeps the Score, “We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on the mind, brain, and body.”***

When a traumatic event occurs or something happens that is perceived as traumatic, the associated memories may become stored in the brain and nervous system in a maladaptive way—frozen rather than processed. Current reactions are fueled by negative beliefs stemming from events that occurred in the past. People become stuck. In some cases, trauma that happened years ago continues to feel like it’s happening in the present.

Many adoptees have issues related to attachment ruptures. An adopted child whose parent is a few minutes late to pick them up from school may dissolve into tears. The internalized belief or negative cognition that child develops may sound something like “It’s not safe to trust” or “People I love leave me.”

An adult who was adopted may unknowingly recreate abandonment scenarios in relationships, unconsciously choosing partners who are not truly available and do leave, fulfilling the negative belief “I am not worth it” or “I am not lovable.”

In both examples, the reaction in the present is disproportionate to the situation. This is useful information that some feeling, experience, or memory from the past is being triggered. A much younger “self” is running the show. The fight, flight, or freeze response gets activated in these situations, and the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain in charge of executive functioning and decision making, goes offline. The person may feel disregulated, scared, and confused.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?**

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.

There are four types of symptoms of PTSD, but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
  3. Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.
Can children have PTSD?

Children can have PTSD too. They may have symptoms described above or other symptoms depending on how old they are. As children get older, their symptoms are more like those of adults. Here are some examples of PTSD symptoms in children:

  • Children under 6 may get upset if their parents are not close by, have trouble sleeping, or act out the trauma through play.
  • Children age 7 to 11 may also act out the trauma through play, drawings, or stories. Some have nightmares or become more irritable or aggressive. They may also want to avoid school or have trouble with schoolwork or friends.
  • Children age 12 to 18 have symptoms more similar to adults: depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or reckless behavior like substance abuse or running away.
So what does a typical EMDR session with an adopted person look like?

EMDR therapy targets unprocessed memory as well as the emotions, beliefs, and body sensations associated with it. Bilateral stimulation (generally eye movements, tapping, or tones) activates the brain’s information processing system, allowing the old memories to be digested or reprocessed and stored in an adaptive way—even if the person doesn’t have an autobiographical account of the memory (for many adoptees, the trauma happened before they developed the language to explain the events, so the memory is primarily somatic in nature and stored in the nervous system).

After gathering history and establishing rapport, the therapist and person in therapy work together to establish target memories and present triggers that are causing suffering and/or interfering with daily life. The “targets” are the starting points of the session and a point of reference to trace the memory back in time. Using bilateral stimulation, EMDR helps integrate the early memories, body sensations, emotions, and negative beliefs the person has. Over a series of sessions, symptoms are reduced, and beliefs associated with the memories or experience are shifted to a more positive and adaptive state.

Rather than the belief “I’m not lovable,” the person may be able to recognize and have a felt sense of worth despite what happened in the past. Many therapists combine various EMDR protocols, guided imagery, mindfulness practices, and visualization to create calm states and nurturing figures in the present to help heal the wounds of the past.

EMDR is safe, effective, noninvasive, and powerful. It does not involve medication or hypnosis, and works wonderfully with talk therapy with people who were adopted.

If you want or need support on your healing journey, find an EMDR therapist in your area.

More Information on PTSD

Please visit the Veteran’s Administration PTSD website for basic information on trauma and treatment options.

My friends Shelly and Wanda offer great insight and help at their website PTSD Perspectives.

 

Reference:

* GoodTherapy.org “Adoption Trauma and the Healing Role of EMDR Therapy” by Lesli Johnson

** The National Center for PTSD

*** van der Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. London, UK: Penguin Books.

7 Truths When Letting Go of Your Missionary Child

7 Truths When Letting Go of Your Missionary Child

Guest Post from Brenda Yoder

Brenda is a fellow author and speaker. We get to meet up at conferences we both serve at. She is such an encourager. Her latest book, FLEDGE, is a Godly perspective on launching our children for Him. Her post regarding letting her missionary child go comes from her heart. Read through to learn how to WIN a copy of FLEDGE on Monday, June 18, 2018.

“Our firstborn, Jenna, went on a mission trip her junior year in high school and spent Christmas Day at an orphanage in Mexico. When I read her senior scholarship essay about establishing an orphanage where children would feel known and loved, I realized God had captured her heart for orphan ministry.

Jenna is my only daughter, the oldest of four children. As she narrowed college choices, she settled on two Christian colleges. One was two hours away and the other was eleven hours away. Just as God grabbed her heart for orphan ministry, he grabbed my heart as a fledging mother who needed to let go.

I was rehearsing how to tell Jenna she should attend the college closer to home when the Holy Spirit convicted me. “You’re not letting her choose,” He said. “I want to work in her life but you’re standing in the way. Loosen your fingers so I can work. You have to release her to me. If I’m calling her away to the mission field, a college that’s far away is just a stepping stone. Let go.”

I stood in my living room crying. I got the message. God told me to back off and take my hands off my only daughter. It was a lesson in obedience, like Abraham with Isaac. I’ve had to surrender at the altar again and again.

Jenna went to that far away university, which also took her to Guatemala several times and confirmed her call to orphaned and vulnerable children. She currently is a full-time missionary doing orphan care with Back2Back Ministries in Mexico.

Since Jenna graduated, two more of our children have fledged. My youngest is still in high school. Releasing a firstborn, single daughter to the mission field has been a life altering journey.

Here are seven lessons I’ve learned since God said, “Let go.”
  1. When worried about her safety, God reminds He’s her safety. I have to trust her to God’s care.
  2. Seeing a child immersed in their calling brings joy. But it’s bittersweet when it takes them to another country.
  3. Family time is scarce when kids are far away. Our family is only together about twice a year. Rather than lamenting the times we’re not together, I embrace the time we are (there’s more about this in Fledge).
  4. I miss common mother-daughter experiences like shopping or hanging out. It’s just that simple.
  5. Being a missionary parent is a unique role. There’s a spiritual battle for children called to vocational ministry. Their needs are different because the demands of the mission field are unique, similar to that of service men and women. Our role is to support her emotionally and spiritually.
  6. I must be strong even when I don’t feel like it. A missionary child needs a mom who’s strong and supportive rather than worried and weepy. I take my burdens to God, trusting he will provide. This often is an act of obedient faith.
  7. Raising kids means we let them go so they can cling to God, not us. This is a conscious choice.”

Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind is based on Psalm 127: Like arrows in the hands of warriors are children born of one’s youth. God was right when he told me to take my hands off my firstborn, and he asks the same of you. Our parenting job is to raise our children with tender hearts positioned towards God. When we hold our children too tightly, we get in the way of God’s perfect plan. He asks us to let go.

Brenda Yoder is a national speaker, author, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and life coach whose passion is encouraging others when life doesn’t fit the storybook image.

For more on letting go and everything else relating to the fledging stage of parenting, get Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind. It’s available online and at major retailers.

Join Brenda Yoder on Facebook for her upcoming Fledge Parenting Forum, on Instagram, Twitter, and at brendayoder.com.

NOTE: I have personally benefited from this book. So much so, I want to share a copy of Brenda’s book with one lucky winner. Simply leave your comment below and share this blog post on any social media platform, and my children and I will randomly select a winner on Monday June 18, 2018.

Should Christians Adopt?

Her question was “Should Christians Adopt?”

My friend and I were enjoying coffee in the fragrant coffee shop while the wind whined past our window. The window was occasionally steamed up by the espresso machine we tend to sit by. I’d much rather watch the Michigan winter than be out in it.

My friend and I like to debate different issues, especially pertaining to religion. As an evangelical, I hold pro-life beliefs. My friend, sure only that she is spiritual, described herself as still exploring her true beliefs.

We became friends long ago, and we hold mutual respect for that friendship. I truly enjoy her company. I cannot imagine a life being lived for Christ in which I didn’t know or fellowship with non-believers. How could that be Christ-honoring?

I had just finished answering her “Would Jesus adopt” question, when she quickly moved to her next question, “Should Christians adopt?” After a brief pause to refill cups and plates, we moved back into our conversational question and answer debate.

“I don’t have a straight-forward answer for you on this one, friend,” I admitted. “This is more of a yes-no-sort of answer.”

 

When Christians Should Adopt

Caring for the fatherless is a ministry. It is a calling (a strong urge to minister to others’ needs). It’s a desire to fill the gap left by an absent parent(s). It is also an imitation (in a very small, human way) of what God has done for us; adopted us into His family.

Caring for the fatherless means foster care or adoption of those who have been abandoned/removed by authorities. It is accepting of all that comes with their backgrounds – trauma, problems with attachment, medical issues, etc. It is the pursuit of finding families for those waiting children (vs. finding the perfect child for your family).

For me, this is exactly what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

For another take on what Christian adoption is (should be), read more HERE.

 

When Christians Should Not Adopt

Caring for the fatherless is not to be entered into without a great deal of self-reflection, a strong support system, and prayer.

Questions for self-reflection may be: Why am I drawn to the ministry of orphan care? Do I feel called to this ministry, or am I self-motivated in some way? Does God want me to minister in this area? How has God made this clear to me?

Questions regarding your support system may be: Who in my immediate family has prayed about caring for the fatherless with me? Have they felt moved in the same direction? Who in my family supports my calling to minister to the fatherless? In my circle of friends? Who have I consulted in our church regarding my calling? How have they advised me?

When I consider the personal calling to ministry that foster care and adoption is, it brings to my mind Ephesians 4:1-3, “As a prisoner for the LORD, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Although the ministry of orphan care will not be a smooth or easy one, it is highly rewarding and fulfilling. Never have I seen the face of Jesus as I have in the faces of vulnerable children. The Church is the answer to care for these children. However, I would want God squarely beside me for the journey, and know without doubt I had been called to this challenging ministry.

You can read more HERE.

 

All Christians Can Do Something Regarding Orphan Care

After reading the “yes” and “no” answers above, now here’s the “sort of” answer – Christians will not all be called to adopt. There are many parts to the body of Christ. We all have a part to play in His ministry (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

That doesn’t mean as Christians, as His Church, we are not all called to minister to the fatherless, however. Quite the contrary. I firmly believe His Church, is the only answer to the orphan crisis. As my friend, Jason Johnson, has so wonderfully stated, “No one is called to do everything, but everyone is called to do something.” Read more from Jason HERE.

I believe all Christians are to care for the orphaned and vulnerable in some way. Every church should have an orphan care ministry, each slightly unique to their congregation. God’s mandate is clear in both Old (Psalm 82:3) and New (James 1:27) Testaments.

 

While my scripture references may have caused my friend’s eyes to glaze over slightly, the message they carried left her silent for a little while. God’s word has a way of causing contemplation. I could tell yet another question was brewing.

“While I kinda get all that,” she said with a wave of her hand, “I don’t understand how in the world you can honestly believe the Church is the answer to the orphan crisis. How can that possibly be?”

More to come soon…

 

 

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