Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

December 12, 2016

Making It Through the Holidays After a Traumatic Past


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Photo via Pixabay by Ralfor

Everyone is supposed to be full of good cheer and happiness during the holiday season.  Decorations and twinkling lights signify a time of giving and festivities, and as you are just stepping into adulthood, shouldn’t you be ready to jump into the celebrations?  As a trauma survivor, it can be hard to forget events of the past and truly enjoy the holidays when they arrive.  
Traumatic events have shaped your sense of security and ability to feel joy during the holiday season.  It takes time for you to recover from those events and break down walls you may have built to keep you safe.  It is possible to find ways to cope, move forward with your life, and eventually enjoy the holidays.  
You Are an Adult
The trauma you have suffered may have occurred in part due to an adult not being around to help you or take proper care of you before or after the event.  Try to remember that now you are an adult and can care of and love yourself.  Think about who you are today and who you want to be.  You have the power in your life and can make important choices that are good for your well-being.  
The holidays are busy with parties and family get-togethers, but you can make choices not to be around people who are dismissive of your past trauma or in places that may remind you of it.  Remembering that you are of legal age and can leave a situation that is stressful can be a freeing experience.  Alternatively, small doses of difficult situations will boost confidence and independence.  
Connect with Others
Traumatic events make people want to withdraw and isolate themselves from others.  Most of the time being alone makes things worse, especially during the holidays.  Making an effort to maintain some relationships with trusted family members or friends can help you recover.  Talking about the trauma is not necessary if you are not comfortable with that yet.  Connecting about other life issues and interests can help you feel like part of a bigger picture in which you are necessary and wanted.  
Join a support group for trauma survivors or talk with a clergy member, counselor, or therapist.  Do not be afraid to seek help.  Talking with others who have shared similar experiences or know how to help you cope with those experiences will reduce stress, anxiety, and loneliness.  
Make a Holiday Game Plan
Keep your expectations realistic.  The holidays do not mean automatic happiness and perfect family celebrations.  Think about what holiday traditions you want to continue and new ones that you’d like to bring into your life to make you happy.  The things you value about the season can be completely different than the next person.  Focus on what you would like to do with people you would be happy to be with.  
If you decide to attend holiday parties, plan for ways to cope with memories by actively diverting your attention.  You can go help the host in the kitchen, get involved in a board game with friends or family, or watch a funny holiday movie.  You can even take a trusted friend with you to actively engage in conversation and party festivities with.
Avoid drinking and drugs, as these tend to exaggerate emotions and anxiety.  Plan to get your own drinks and food, or bring your own to avoid being handed things during the party.
Take Care of You
Staying healthy during the holidays increases your ability to handle stress and helps keep emotions in check.  Avoid too much junk food and eat more frequent, small meals to keep blood sugar levels even and curb mood swings.  Get plenty of sleep and try to stay on a set sleep schedule.  Lack of sleep can stress your body and make you more susceptible to getting sick.  
The holidays can be hectic, but schedule time for exercise and relaxation.  Exercise will give you energy to face the day, boost your confidence, and help you sleep better.  Whether it’s going to a gym, running or biking outside, or resuming a favorite sport, try to fit it into your holidays and your life.  
Don’t forget your mental and emotional well-being.  Avoid speaking negatively about yourself, and bolster your confidence by finding all the positives.  Look around and enjoy the things that make the holidays beautiful to you.  You made it this far, you are stepping into adulthood, and you are in charge of your life.  

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November 30, 2016

Christmas Letter


Children and babies. Christmas revolves around them. Once a baby was born in Bethlehem, but there was no room for Him. Things have changed — or have they?

In our 2015 annual report we wrote that we had noticed horrible miscarriage and infant death rates among the homeless young women we serve on Guadalupe Street. The viable birth rate was very low. It broke our hearts – so, we made trying to change it a target.

First we raised awareness. Our clients’ love for life helps them survive on the street, but it also makes them less averse to getting pregnant. So we lovingly focused on 2015 as the year we would raise that survival rate. We gave our young women and couples a measurable objective: count the number of months their pregnancies were spent mainly on the street. The number started at zero for everyone. We helped them take action to keep that number low. They responded well.

One young lady, “Trudy,” became pregnant while homeless and started down a path we’d seen many times before: get a job, stay on the streets until the baby was born, then get an apartment with the baby’s dad. As she participated in our prayer times, Bible studies and hangouts, she began to see things differently. Trudy agreed to move back home with her mother, an act that rekindled a difficult adult relationship. She focused, however, on getting ready for the baby. Trudy got a job. She applied to programs to help her with housing. Finally, in her sixth month of pregnancy, with a “score” of only one of those months spent pregnant on the street, Trudy moved into her own apartment!

Several of our pregnant clients followed this model and got their unborn children off the streets. When their babies arrive, there will be room and love for them!

It wasn’t just the street youth having children who engaged with us. We were overjoyed to see all of our clients, not just those pregnant, engage with us to start a culture change. We impress upon the street youth we serve that to continue to live on the streets while pregnant is just too dangerous for the unborn children.

This is one story of many as we pursue our mission to know, love and serve street-dependent youth. Next year that mission will grow, and it will be a challenge, as we occupy a new building, take over the vital services that have always been provided there, and continue to adapt to a growing Austin urban landscape.

We are blessed to serve these young people. They are children in some ways, adults in others. How we treat these children says a lot about our world. Is there room for them today? Have things changed since Bethlehem? I am pleased to say that we welcome street youth with open arms. We encourage them to expect better for themselves.

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December 19, 2014

Isaiah 11:1-9 And Christmas



Christmas is less than a week away! It’s so exciting. There is so much to do and to take in and to enjoy. But for what are we waiting?

Christmas may be a wonderful day of activities for you. Yet, there are years–I remember a few–when plans change. Medical emergencies, weather, or travel problems can upend everything. I can remember feeling huge disappointment as Christmas plans have crashed. Does Christmas come anyway, even if things turn our different than planned?

As in Isaiah 11, we know that, a shoot will grow; a branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will arrive! We celebrate this truth in Christmas. 

Yet all will not be perfect when Christmas arrives. Even if everything goes according to your plan, there’s a lot in the world that is just messed up. But the Lord will judge not according to what he sees or hears but according to what is right. Goodness and faithfulness arrive with Him.

Christmas promises a different day for many. The poor are still needy but more can be done for them this week. Wars are still fought, but ceasefires can be arranged this week. The wicked are still out there, but they may have a turn of heart this week. Is that it? Is it all for a “sweet moment” and then back to business as usual?

The Kingdom of God is amazing. Heaven and earth under His control were perfect in the beginning. Then there was the fall as God’s laws were not followed. We seek to follow many laws other than His today. I especially like to follow my laws. I often seek to replace His Kingdom with my kingdom.

But the coming of Jesus set in motion a restoration. God has found a way for his laws to be whole through the sacrifice and  atonement of Jesus. A baby leads us into a restoration beyond our imaginations. The wolf and lamb live side by side without harm. The poor are satisfied. Wars cease. The wicked are brought to justice or simply cease their evil. No one does harm in the Kingdom of God. The knowledge of who Jesus is fills the earth. Everyday is like a perfect Christmas day!

Pray:
Lord, I know your new Kingdom is not yet here, but it is coming! 
We celebrate that as we remember the coming of baby Jesus. 
Show me moments of your Kingdom as I move toward Christmas. 
Help me to feel the joy of earth, heaven and nature being restored.

Isaiah 11:1-9 

11  And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. 

And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. 

And his delight shall be in the fear of Jehovah; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears; 

but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 

And righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.

And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea.

American Standard Version (ASV)

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January 21, 2014

My First Christmas Moment of 2013


A worship moment full of movement, sight, and sound gave me my first Christmas moment last year! 

A dancing liturgist, a young girl, brought in the advent flame, while a beautifully haunting first verse of “O Come Emmanuel” echoed in the sanctuary, sang by a young man. 


The youth choir (Journey) formed in front and was joined by more dancing liturgists–this time mature church ladies, as if to affirm the ceremony–who offered their flame up to God on each chorus’ “Rejoice! Rejoice!” from the youth. 

All crowded to the alter at the final chorus and knelt before the cross. 

To see so many young people knowingly kneeling before a sovereign Lord in the presence of those who have walked with Christ for years brought joy to my heart and tears down my cheeks. There was much that I anticipated and prepared for the Advent. 

Hoping that your journey to Christ-mass last year, was full of rich moments.

Graphics courtesy of: Christian Graphics

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December 20, 2013

Christmas Through The Eyes of Isaiah


I taught our last Bible study of the year. Being the last study before Christmas, I wanted to talk about Jesus’ coming. Clients have asked to study the Old Testament and have reacted positively, so that’s what we have been doing. 

Always someone says they love the Old Testament, and then someone else says God is too mean. That gives us a great chance to talk about God’s unchanging nature and how the Gospel and grace can be found throughout history and throughout the Bible.

I decided to use Old Testament passages about Christmas. We read Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”






We then talked about which Christmas traditions are found directly in the Bible, which are reasonable Biblical, and which are apparently invented for other purposes.

Then we studied another Isaiah passage. But first we talked about where Isaiah is in the Bible and what a prophet is, both in contemporary terms and Biblical terms. 

Then we read Isaiah 9:6-7: 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.


We went through this passage phrase by phrase, taking it apart and figuring out what it could mean. The government is a hot topic for street youth, and the government sitting on Jesus’ shoulders is a pretty frightening concept. We decided that this refers ultimately to Jesus’ role in Revelation, since kings were in charge back then and men (Presidents, congress, etc.) still are in charge of governments. 

We discussed the titles given to Jesus. Prince of Peace was their favorite. Street youth long for the world that is promised by Isaiah and Jesus’ coming. A world where justice and righteousness prevails. A world ruled by a Prince of Peace. That is so different from the world they experience now. But there is a built-in longing in them–indeed in all people–for such a world and such a ruler.

And finally, we discussed how Jesus brings this kingdom about. How his Kingdom breaks through on earth even today for brief and sometimes extended moments. And how his Kingdom is coming, as described in Revelations when a new heaven and new earth are provided and all of nature and everyone is made right with God. And we discussed how confessing our short-fallings, asking for help to be made right with God, and wanting to do better is how Jesus can make us right with God even this very day. 

Isaiah longed for it. 
We long for it. 
And it’s available freely for the asking. 
What a Christmas gift!


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