Mother’s Day

“Happy Mother’s Day to the best mother I could ever ask for!” “On this day, I wish to give thanks to my mother for giving me guidance all throughout my life!” “To the best mother in the world, I hope you are able to enjoy this day. You deserve it!”

As I open up Facebook, these are the types of postings that flood my news feed. Whilst reading though them, I feel myself growing jealous, angry, and even depressed. I’m happy for the people that are able to sincerely pay tribute to their mothers, but I also tend to covet them at the same time.

In 1999, I was nearing the end of my 3rd grade year. It had been a particularly difficult year for me. You see, this had been my first year at a new school. There were very few people I liked, and even less that I considered friends.

My teacher, Mrs. Weaver, wanted to throw a Mother’s Day celebration. We were to invite our mother’s to come in and we would share our love for them with our class. I was very excited to go home and invite my mom to come in and enjoy the day with us. I told my mother about it and she said she would try to get off work early enough to make it.

The next couple of days in class, we spent time making gifts. One of them was a felt black bear holding a heart with our school picture in the center of the heart. I was very proud of this, and couldn’t wait to give it to my mom during our celebration.

I made sure to remind my mom often about the celebration at my school. I couldn’t wait to give her the things I had made and hoped she would be as proud to receive them as I was to make them. She assured me that she would try her best to make it there.

The day had finally come to celebrate our mothers and give them our gifts. One after one, each student’s mom walked in. Through each passing shadow, I hoped to see my mom walk through the door.

Time grew on, and I continued to anxiously await the arrival of my mother…she never showed up.

“She must have got stuck at work.” I thought to myself.

So that I wouldn’t feel left out, Mrs. Weaver asked an assistant teacher to be my ‘stand-in’ mother. I hated seeing all of the other kids being so happy with their moms and having fun showing them their gifts. I remember wishing my mom never started working so she could have been there.

At the end of the day, my teacher told me to take my gift home to my mother. She said that she would still love to see it.

As I walked home, I held my felt bear. I couldn’t wait to give it to my mom when she got home from work.

When I walked in the door, she was already home. I was confused, but maybe she had just got there. I reminded her that we had the Mother’s Day celebration at school that day and she said she forgot about it.

The more she talked, the quicker I realized that she was drunk. I distinctly remember going into my room and crying for hours. “Why does she have to drink so much?” “Why couldn’t she love me enough to not drink for just one day?” The more the questions streamed through my head and the tears down my face the more I hated her.

Since then, I have had a few stand-in mothers. A few women in my life that have been there through the ups and downs. We’ve shared laughter and tears. A few women, to whom I a truly thankful for.

I wish I had time to give individual praise to each of these women. Without them, I’d be even more lost than I currently am. Alison SilverRaven, Stefanie Scott, Kathy Trusty, and Aunt Karen; You all mean more to me than I could ever adequately express. Thank so much for being there with me through the thick and thin, the good times and the bad, you are truly a blessing sent from God. I love you!

 

 

Originally posted May 13th 2013 at http://beardedbalance.blogspot.com/2013/05/mothers-day.html

 

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Importance of Testimony

Often times, we as Christians, neglect to share our testimonies. There may be many reasons for this such as, afraid of public speaking, not wanting to make oneself look like a fool, not knowing how to put it into words, or thinking that you don’t have a testimony worthy enough to share.

Let me field my thoughts on that last statement for a moment. 
So you grew up in a Christian home, never missed Sunday school since you were a month old, and have never strayed from the ‘straight and narrow’? That doesn’t mean you didn’t face struggles along the way. If you’re close with God, Satan will try to tempt and fool you so you don’t stay there. Everyone has a testimony worthy of sharing, even if it’s not built up on a living a life of destruction through sex, drugs, and alcohol and then “finding the light”. If you truly believe you don’t have a testimony demonstrating your struggles on living a life without sin, I think you should take some time and look into your life and if you’re actually pursuing God.
With that being said, let me get on with my next point. 

How can I get over my fear/neglect of sharing my testimony? For this, I recommend looking to scripture.

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. John 15:26

We need to realize that it’s not really our testimony. It is God’s and we are to share with others what God has done through us. God has allowed us to live so that HE may be glorified and neglecting to share a testimony is neglecting to glorify Him.

Now I challenge you.

The next time someone asks you about your life, be real with them. Do not waste a single minute in hesitation. The more you do this, and the more honest you are, the more Christ will be glorified!

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17


From Affliction to Redemption

  Today is Suicide Awareness Day and also marks 6 years after my baptism. The two go hand-and-hand for me.

  Just a few short years ago, my life was in shambles and I was lost in a world of confusion. I was alone and had no one to turn to. Drinking my life away and turning to pot as a means to numb the pain, I often contemplated suicide, and on a few occasions even attempted it. Very few people know my story, so I am going to share with you now a shortened version.

  Growing up I rarely felt any love from this world. There were only a couple of family members from which I received a genuine love. Because of this, I often felt alone and seldom did I experience happiness. In order to dull the pain of my soul, I inflicted myself with physical pain by burning myself with red hot metal. The sizzling of my skin and the smell of burnt skin would often fill my bedroom as I wept for hours on end. One of my brother’s friends caught me in the act and offered me a less painful solution. We smoked some weed, and the higher I was, the less pain I felt. This became my “medication”.

   After a while, the weed helped less and less. Getting drunk and high only numbed my pains for a few hours. During my times of sobriety I wanted nothing more than to die. I thought, “Why continue living if it’s only going to bring me pain and depression?”

   I started going to church with my aunt and decided to offer up my life to Christ. Keeping one-foot in church, and the other in the world. I was still trying to understand who God was and if I was even worthy of such a God. Years of worthlessness kept me blind to His true love.

  Wanting a relationship with Christ, I decided to be baptized. When the church I was attending announced their upcoming baptism, I was all in.

  Now with God on my side, I everything was going to get better….or not. The one person I felt like truly loved me unconditionally had cancer. I thought that if I prayed enough she could be healed, but that didn’t happen.

  As her illness worsened, I began to give up on God. Still going to church occasionally, I had little hope in what this ‘all loving God’ could do. If he couldn’t help this wonderful woman that had done so much good for so many people, what good was he to me?

  My grandmother passed away in April of 2007. With my world shattered, I gave up prayer. I must have been doing it wrong anyway and God wasn’t hearing me. I completely lost ambition to live. Quit going to school, started drinking and smoking more, and went back to burning myself.

  Now that my grandmother was gone, I really had no reason to live.

  I began to ‘toy’ with my life. I would walk out across the highway without looking, often causing drivers to slam on their brakes in attempts to not hit me. I would walk on the train-tracks towards oncoming train, hoping they would’t stop, and when they did, I would get very angry. Night after night I would take handfuls of pills and hope I didn’t wake up.

  Frustration from many failed attempts, my depression worsened.

  One night, I completely lost all sanity. I was missing my grandmother, I had no god to listen to me, and my ability to see good in anything was depleted. I grabbed my bottle of vodka, many handfuls of painkillers, and a sharp razor blade. This was it, my final moments of life.

  With everything laid out before me, I was ready to end my life. However, there was a sudden urge to cry out to the God I gave my life to. I got down on my knees and said to Him, “…if you have any reason that I should not take my life tonight, I need a clear and definite sign.” I sat silent for a while waiting to hear something…anything at all. During the silence, I heard nothing, and thought–forget it, I’m doing it.

  When I opened my eyes, I was affixed my gaze on the wall of my room. There, I saw a light, in the shape of Jesus’ face. A light, breaking the deep darkness of my room, in the image of the savior. No sign could ever be more clear than that. He was there, with me. I fell on my face and began to apologize for losing site of Him, for doubting Him, and most of all for ignoring Him.

  The light of Christ has great authority and will penetrate even the darkest of rooms. No matter how dark out lives, or how deep we fall into the pits of depression, addiction, selfishness, greed, or anything else that might trouble us, He is there and He will never leave us. We are not alone, HALLELUJAH, we are redeemed and freed by the blood of the Holy One!

  I know that if I had not offered my life to Christ and dedicated my soul through baptism, I would not be here today. If I hadn’t accepted Him, I would have been blind to what He had showed me that night. This is why, on September 10th, I celebrate my birthday. For I was dead, but have been reborn.

  If you struggle with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, don’t shrug them off. There are many people willing to be there for you. You are loved, even if you don’t know it. You are worthy, even if you don’t feel it.

  If you don’t know of anyone you can talk to, please don’t hesitate to call a crisis helpline

National Hopeline Network
(800) SUICIDE

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(800) 273-TALK (8255)

National Youth Crisis Hotline
(800) 442-HOPE (4673)

Girls & Boys Town National Hotline
(800) 448-3000

International Helplines


It’s Time I Give Up


  For the last 8 years I have been trying to delay the process of growing up. Since I was 14 and first realized how much life changes every year, I’ve wanted nothing more than to stay a kid. I didn’t want to progress through a time where loved ones would die off and I’d be left with a hole in my heart. I got sick at the thought of being on my own in a cold world full of stress any worrying. The thing is, I can’t continue living in this fantasy of mine. It is time I give up on trying to remain a kid and grow into the adult I am supposed to be.

  I was just watching a show that had a family with strong family bonds. Even though I didn’t have that growing up, I know I can make sure that it will be present in my home when I have a family. Then I started to think about my family….the one I don’t have.

  As I was thinking about the fact that I don’t yet have a family to raise, I realized that I don’t even have a career at the moment that could support a family.

  As I thought about my lack of career, I realized that I don’t have the educational backing to get me into a good career.

  I am twenty-two years old and I should have been graduated from college by now, but I haven’t even started, I am stuck in a dead-end job, and I can’t open myself up enough to accept the love others are trying to offer me.

  As I watch those I grew up with graduate from college, begin their work in their chosen careers, and take on family roles, I felt it was time to evaluate my life.

  I have chosen that I will now finally begin my journey into the real life of an adult. I figure, a late start to life is better than no start at all, right? Well, this is where it begins. I am putting away my toys and venturing off into this scary world that I’ve pushed away for too long. I am giving up on my dream of always being a kid and going to take on real responsibilities as an adult should.

  So long, old me. Hello, you2.0


Move 2012

  Wow! I don’t think I will ever be able to adequately describe the wonderful things God did this past week through the Granger Student Ministries 2012 MOVE team, but let me just tell you what I am able.

  MOVE is an annual mission trip done by the students of Granger Community Church’s student ministries locally. The team meets in a hotel in South Bend’s north side and stays for a few nights. Each morning they all get up, put on their game faces, and set out to change their own community for the glory of God.

“The light that shines farthest shines brightest at home.” — C.T. Studd

  On our first work day, we headed out to Crooked Creek Ranch in Wakarusa. Some of us were clearing the pasture of rocks so that the horses have clean grounds to trot, some were building a mounting block so small children don’t have a difficult time getting on and off the horses, and others were cleaning saddle blankets. To some, this may not sound like much, but to the owner of the ranch who relies completely on volunteers, it was huge! All of this gives the ranch the ability to reach out to hurting children and adults and show them a love that they don’t realize is there.

  The next day we went to Monroe Circle Community Center (MC3) in South Bend. Here we did things such as sweeping debris and garbage off of the walking paths, picking up trash around the property, cleaning windows, and detailing chairs and tables. MC3’s mission is to help each adult and each child living on South Bend’s Near West Side take their next step toward a full and meaningful life, to add value, and to encourage and help each person discover their worth for the purpose of developing a vibrant, safe and strong community with strong families.

  After we finished the work in the community center, we headed over to Monroe Circle’s pick nick area where we were blessed with the opportunity to play with the children that live there. Children that may come from homes of neglect, abuse, addictions, and poverty. Some of these children wouldn’t even know what the word love meant if it wasn’t for what MC3 and Son City Kids are doing.

  For the third and final work day, we had the chance to serve at South Bend’s Center for the Homeless. The team split up to tackle a large workload. We had teams organizing the pantry, sorting donations, folding linens, working in the community garden, and preparing and serving lunch to the residents. CFH helps men and women get back on their feet and into homes of their own through many education and rehabilitation programs.

  After a lot of hard work at CFH, an ice cream social and games for the children was on the agenda. There was bingo, temporary tattoos, games of ring toss, crafts, and lots and lots of ice cream!

Special thanks to:

Cindy Sandine, Owner and operator of Crooked Creek Ranch Ministries.

LeRoy King III, Director of MC3.

Peter Lombardo, Director of Community Involvement at South Bend Center for the Homeless.

Maribeth Roncz, long time volunteer of the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

Granger Student Ministries’ staff and interns.

The countless volunteers that make all of these organization possible.


Slaying Giants in 6 Steps

I received this email today, from the Founder and CEO of C28/NOTW. I thought it would be good to share with you all as an encouragement for whenever life gets difficult.

Dear Friends,

When was the last time you were at your very end? In the face of great dangers we can slay 1000 dragons by praying and praising God well before our victories are actually granted. In 2 Chronicles 20:1-26, three huge armies were about to attack and destroy King Jehoshaphat and his people of Judah. There was no human hope, but check out the 6 supernatural steps Jehoshaphat took to change his circumstances!

#1, Jehoshaphat sought the Lord. “…Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD,…The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD”…”

#2, Jehoshaphat rehearsed their past experiences of how the Lord had helped them before, and how he was now trusting God to help them again. “…Then Jehoshaphat stood up… and said:…Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?…we will…cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’ From our past experiences, we can look back to past trials where God has helped us, and then gain confidence in the Lord to face the future!

#3, Jehoshaphat admitted that He was powerless on his own. He trusted and waited for God’s deliverance in spite of the dire circumstances! “…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”Have you been real with God and confessed your need for Him? Are you trusting in God fully, waiting patiently upon God’s help?

#4, Jehoshaphat admitted that this battle was not his battle. “…This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s…Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you,…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'” Our battles are God’s battles. God wants to fight our battles for us, if we only allow Him to do so.

#5, Jehoshaphat and his people began to praise the Lord before going to war, “…Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”…Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.” Will you begin praising God right now in spite of how dark things may look. Even though your battles may appear bleak, will you in faith praise Him ahead of time?

#6, Jehoshaphat and his people kept praising God, and the God of this universe defeated their enemies!!! …As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated… they destroyed one another… So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away… Not only did God save Jehoshaphat and his people from destruction, but God then also gave them all the spoils and plunder of war!!!

Will you rehearse in your mind all the times God has already been faithful in helping you out of troubles? Will you admit the war you may be in is not yours to fight alone? Will you start praising God in advance, as you wait for Him to come through? Will you give Him your worries, fears, anger and or whatever extra burdens you may be carrying? God wants to carry our burdens for us, will you give them over to Him? God loves you no matter what!

In His Grace,

Aurelio F. Barreto III, FOUNDER & CEO


God, Why Me?

  I often look at my life and wonder why You have chosen me. I mean, I have never done anything extraordinary or too meaningful. I’m not a good person by any means and I don’t set myself in position to change the world. The life I have made for myself is utterly chaotic and yet You still choose to bless me? I can say that I don’t now, or ever will understand Your interest in me. I do not deserve a single blessing from You.

  What could possibly be so special about me? A broken guy with a painful past? One who can barely hold on to any hope? Why do you continue to work in my life? How am I worthy enough to be so beautifully chosen to spread Your word? Why would such a divine being such as yourself choose to love such a wretched soul?

  Time and time again these thoughts flood my mind. I try to dismiss them, but they are too powerful for me. I consistently wish I could just scramble my brains so I don’t have to worry about them. At these times I feel so apart from God that life doesn’t seem to have any purpose.Why should I continue to waste time on this planet if there is no reason for me?

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

  These thoughts are provoked by the adversary. He tries to beat us down and pull us away from God. Why might he try this? Well, it’s because he is afraid. He doesn’t seem to realize that he has already been defeated, but he has. We read about this in Revelation.

 And there was a war in heaven: Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, but he did not have the strength to win, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the ancient serpent, the one who is called the devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole inhabited earth – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers was thrown down, the one who accuses them before our God day and night.’ And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life up to death.” Revelation 12: 7-11 
 
  We have victory in Jesus! However, let us not rush past a key part in Revelation 12:11. Our testimony is monumental in the defeat of the enemy. I have been failing to share my testimony and because of that, Satan still has a stronghold on me. I don’t like this stronghold, so I must fight back. I am choosing life, and with life, I must share the testimonial life that I have been ever so blessed with.

  We each have a testimony whether we believe it or not. I pray that everyone gains the courage to share their testimony and that we, together with Jesus, can defeat Satan! Amen.