What do my book + MOPS International have to do with each other??

Years ago, when our kids were still small and I only had two blonde boys at home (ohhhh how things change!!), I heard of this thing called MOPS International. I first thought how weird the name was...and then thought the acronym didn't apply to me because I wasn't a Mother of a PreSchooler, I was the mother of two toddlers. (Helloooooo...they didn't need to be IN preschool, they needed to be pre-elementary school aged! I was totally their target mama!)

Even though I didn't really "get" what it was all about, a friend was starting a group at our church and she asked me to co-lead it. I really shouldn't have said yes and was the worst leader ever because it was right around the time we brought home Imani...and then Ezekiel, and I was so massively over-capacity that I could hardly function in life, let alone lead 40 other exhausted mamas.

But alas...God used being the co-coordinator at our MOPS group to get my feet wet and learn what this incredible non-profit was all about and teach me of its impact during my exhausted season with little ones underfoot.

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Fast forward several years of living in Denver and I became friends with a handful of women who worked in MOPS' corporate offices (who knew their home office is mere minutes from my own home?!). God is so fun to have introduced me to the organization when I, too, was trying to figure out this whole motherhood-thing. He brought me to these women who love-on and support mamas in the most beautiful way and then moved me closer so I could link arms with them! I love that He sees 10 steps further than I ever could.

One sweet friendship I've made is with Mandy Arioto, the CEO of MOPS International. She even wrote the foreword to my book. So humbled by that.

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(don't tell Mandy I posted this photo, it's horrible of both of us, she'll kill me hahahaha)

A few days ago, MOPS' blog featured my story and the heart of what Beautifully Interrupted is all about. 

Here's a snippit:

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Click the button below to read the rest of the article!

**If you're not involved with MOPS and you have babies on up, click here to learn more. They also have groups for teenaged moms, military mothers, as well as moms with school-aged children.**


By the way, have you preordered your copy of Beautifully Interrupted yet?

I keep getting screenshots from friends after Amazon has sent them updates on the delivery date...how crazy that some will arrive on doorsteps on April 30th when the release date isn't 'till May 15?!

Go order now and you might get it before it hits stores, too!!

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(PLUS... by preordering, you'll have access to freebies!! See what I'm talking about here)

Take Joy,

Teresa

Fear, Family, + School Shootings

Four times in the past two weeks since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, we've received messages from our children's schools regarding found threats by students. As much as we limit our kids seeing the news and various things on social media, they are in-tune with the shootings that have been going on. They hear the gossip about the student-threats and internalize conversations had in class. And they're scared.

To be honest, I think as parents...we're scared, too. I was chatting with one of my dearest friends in the world, asking if she'd be willing to contribute some thoughts on it all because she gets it. Deeply.

I challenge you to take a few minutes and really read what she has to say. Because I'm having a hard time sending our children to school, a hard time explaining things to them, and a hard time not living in fear...and not infusing fear into our children's hearts. Maybe you're struggling with this, too.

Meet Crystal Woodman Miller. Columbine survivor.

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Thursday morning, February 15th, the day after the horrible attacks in Parkland, Florida, I woke up questioning whether or not to send my oldest daughter to school. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time I had asked myself this question. Our nation has experienced far too many of these attacks. However, the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school hit close to home for me personally.

Nearly nineteen years ago, I was the same age and in the same stage of life as these students when...

I narrowly escaped death at Columbine High School.

I was a junior and only sixteen years old on April 20, 1999 when my friends and I decided to spend the lunch hour in the library working on class work. When chaos erupted within the halls of Columbine we took shelter under our tables, praying that God would save us. After a few moments, the two gunmen entered the library and went on a killing spree for seven and a half minutes.

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During that time, my friend vowed to take a bullet for me and I promised God that if He would save me, I would give Him my life completely. The library is where the majority of the violence took place that day. Ten of the thirteen who were killed were in the library, and fifteen of the twenty-four were wounded there. After those long, seemingly never-ending minutes, when I was literally waiting to die, the two gunmen pushed a chair in under our table, and I braced for the end. Yet nothing happened. They needed to gather more ammunition in another part of the school, but told us they would return to kill those of us who were still alive, giving us only a few moments to escape before they came back.

We now live and raise our children in a post-Columbine era. As parents, we remember the days when schools were safe, and people did not have to fear sending their children to school every day.

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Nowadays, however, we wonder...

Could today be the day my child experiences the unthinkable?!

It should not be this way.

What is more, our kids are keenly aware of the dangers that they face.

Whether they express it or not, they are afraid to go to school, making it virtually impossible to learn or even enjoy their school experience. Every student from elementary to high school has lived knowing what a school shooting is, and they recognize that violence can take place anywhere. 

I just returned from Parkland, Florida. I was able to speak to the community and with survivors themselves. The overwhelming grief they now face is unbearable.  The question I received from parents more than any other was “How can we ever send our kids back to school?”

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So, what do we say to all the parents out there who are anxious and feeling crippled by fear?

What is more, how do we talk to our kids when they ask questions like:

“Will I be safe at school?”

“What happens if a gunman comes to my school?”

“Why would anyone ever do something like this?”

How do we walk the delicate balance between sharing enough with our children in an effort to prepare and educate them...

yet not say too much and cause undue anxiety?

I think it is important to note that all of your feelings, emotions, and questions are valid. They are completely normal and they are shared by most parents everywhere with school-aged children.

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We face a very real enemy whose aim is to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) He will stop at nothing until he succeeds. Yet, we also trust that our God is bigger than any evil that comes against us, and that He is present with us in all circumstances. We know that God’s plan for us is to live- and to live radiantly- despite all of the things that seek to crush us.

Faith and fear cannot occupy our minds simultaneously.

In my experience, and in God’s great story of redemption, we know HE WINS.  Yet until the day He returns, a war rages on against our children and within our own minds as well.  It is a battle between what we can see, and what we truly believe.

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I know from experience how fear can have mastery over your life.

Oftentimes, before I even recognize that I am doing it, I have laid out a plan in my mind about where I would hide, how I would shelter my children, or where we would escape to in any given situation.

It is at that point that I must force myself to stop, and tell myself that everyone is safe- that no one is in any imminent danger.  More importantly, I must fix my eyes on Jesus and try to focus my thoughts on the things that are true and right and lovely. (Philippians 4:8)

Then, I must personally ask for peace- a peace only He can provide as the overcomer of evil. (John 16:33)

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Oftentimes, if my thoughts are anxious as I drive my daughter to school, I start praying over her.  With a confident assurance that the Lord loves my daughter even more than I possibly can, and that she belongs to Him, I begin praying out loud over her.

I ask that God will command His angels concerning her to guard her in all of her ways. (Psalm 91:11) I ask that He will be her Protector, and a wall about her. (Numbers 6:24 and Zechariah 2:5)

Praying scripture over ourselves and our children is our weapon.

This scripture-weapon will fight the enemy and to quiet our minds when things are beyond our control.  We must be a people who can stand firmly on and trust in the promises of God so that we will be unmoved by fear. Choosing faith over fear gives us victory over the enemy’s constant assaults. Choosing faith over fear allows us to run in total liberty and watch as the chains that bind us break off link by link.

One powerful and practical tool to help us do this is to train ourselves in the art of mindfulness.

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In doing so, I am convinced that we will learn ways to deal with the anxiety, fear, and panic that seek to suffocate us. In fact, three very specific things can happen when we practice this mindfulness: Gratitude, self-grace, and future assurance.

First, we must become a people who are grateful.

Gratitude allows us to be present in all the moments of our lives- from the most mundane to the most exceptional and extraordinary moments. Gratitude causes us to take pause and enjoy the little things, like how our kids smell when we kiss the top of their heads, how they giggle and laugh at the dinner table over the silliest things, how their eyes sparkle in amazement when they watch snow fall from the sky, or how they breathe when they lay next to you fast asleep.

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Gratitude even awards us the opportunity to laugh and enjoy the “difficult” moments, like when they spill their milk, dump out the dirt in your flower pots, or get paint on their new clothes. These are the moments that turn into memories. These are the moments that fill our hearts with inexplicable joy.

Second, mindfulness teaches us not to make judgments and to be gracious to ourselves.

Whenever you face panic, confusion, or fear, instead of suppressing or ignoring the unpleasant feelings, we must turn to acknowledge them and face them head-on. We must take courage because as believers in Jesus, it is ours for the taking. Courage is not the absence of fear but rather staring fear in its ugly face and saying, “Not today! You will not win today!” When you acknowledge the fear, it loses its powerful grip of control over you.

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Lastly, mindfulness gives us resolve.

It reminds us to assess where we are and where we hope to go in the future. As parents, we get to determine how we want to raise our children and guide them into who they will become. We get to send them out as brilliant stars to light up the darkness in this world.  As parents, we set the stage so that they can become the ones who truly affect real and lasting change in this culture.

We have the beautiful privilege to raise empowered, strong, compassionate, loving children whose legacies WILL NOT and CANNOT ever be extinguished by any amount of evil in this world. We get to instruct and disciple them, to teach them to accept others, to reach out to the lonely, to recognize the broken in a hurting world and respond in kindness.

Ultimately, we get to show our kids how they can change the world one friendship at a time. We get to teach them to hold out the hope of the Gospel to friends and classmates as fearless truth-tellers.

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As parents, we model an understanding that this world is not our final destination. We model an understanding that violence, pain, and even death will not be our end or be our ruin. Then, and only then, will our children walk confidently forward in the direction we’ve led. If we and our children know who we are, WHOSE we are, and where we are headed, we will be able to walk through whatever challenges we face.

As parents we must confront this issue and be brave enough to invite our kids into a conversation about it.

We must create space within our homes and margin throughout our days to talk about these issues. Some families choose to conduct a daily briefing- giving their children a safe place to share their concerns and fears.  We must address their feelings and concerns- both validating and assuring them.

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Without making promises we cannot keep, we must encourage our children that our schools are doing everything they can to ensure their safety. We can discuss reasonable precautions and actions to take in the event of an attack. We must talk about warning signs of the sad, angry, and disenfranchised so that they can reach out, but also be willing to alert safe adults of any threats.

It is critical to never forget what has happened, and remember those we have lost.  We must talk about how we can use our voices and our skills to seek change on every level. Most importantly, we must establish a firm foundation of God’s Word and truth in our homes as we read and memorize scripture. We must pray together, knowing that prayer has the power to ease our fears and also to change things. 

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We must practice mindfulness for ourselves and model it for our children. Mindfulness invites the presence of God into our fears, anxieties, and worries.  As God shows up in every area of our lives, even the ones we wish we could avoid, it silences the enemy and causes the darkness to flee. The enemy will continue to sling his arrows at us, and he may injure us, but he will not ruin or destroy us.  He is no match for The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Our power and our authority come from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit! The enemy cannot stand in the presence of the Almighty, so we will call on the powerful name of Jesus- the name that is above every name! He is the answer to every fear and worry we face. And He is the gift we give to our children and to this broken and hurting world.

By the way, Crystal will be back soon as she shares practical tips on how to talk to our kids about the what-if's and to live prepared...yet without fear.

If you have specific questions you might like answered in that post, please ask in the comments section of today's blog post.


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Crystal Woodman Miller lives in Morrison Colorado with her husband Pete and three children Lucca, Malachi and Josephine.  She is the author of Marked for Life: Choosing Hope and Discovering Purpose After Earth-Shattering Tragedy (NavPress). 

She is an international speaker on issues of faith and hope in the midst of suffering.  Crystal survived the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999,  and shares candidly of her own journey of hardship, faith and hope so that it may encourage others in the challenges they face. 

Crystal also speaks in effort to prevent school violence and to help those who, unfortunately have already been impacted by it.  Crystal is most passionate about teaching God’s word and carrying life through the hope of the Gospel to a broken world.  Find her online at crystalwoodmanmiller.com  

turning our kids into World-Changers.

Investing in our children to help them understand there's life outside their little bubble, is beyond important in our family.

Where’s my Thesaurus? I need a word bigger and dreamier than important...

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Crucial?

Imperative?

Paramount?

Whatever it is, that’s how I feel.

Imani and Elsabet

I think sometimes people assume that since we’ve opened our arms to four incredible loves from Ethiopia, that we’ve got selflessness all figured out.

And sometimes I think “Ok, check. Living out the verse about caring for widows and orphans. Done.” But no…it’s not “Done.” Are you kidding me, Self?

That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

Stop. Try again. Keep going.

How do we teach this to our kids?

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Ben and I have been talking for years about teaching our kids to live outside themselves.

Kids are self-centered. Adults are self-centered.

You know it’s true…for the most part, we are. We all are, if we’re good and honest about it.

But if we teach the kids. If we open their eyes and their hearts when they’re young…think of the world we’d live in when it’s them with the jobs and the cars.

Them with the passion to change injustices and love on those who are in need of a little extra.

What kind of world would we live in if our children changed the world?

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When we returned home from Ethiopia after bringing Anton (then six years old) with us, his life was changed. He sold piles of his toys in hopes to build a well, after watching a group of women and small children on a Water-Walk.

He said he wanted to start an organization called, Anton’s Hope and he wanted other kids to come along side him to also raise money for wells or for animals to be given to families. Ezekiel’s mom sold their goat’s milk as added income. It was huge for his family when he was young, living in his little village on the boarder of Ethiopia and Sudan.

So we listened to Anton’s vision, his desires and dreams. And now it’s been two years and somehow though we’re still gripping the concept…it’s so big, we’re overwhelmed. Quite honestly, we’re stalled. Ben and I don’t know how to step forward in it. We need to find someone to help.

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So in the meantime, as Anton’s Hope is built, how do we include our children and work as a family in volunteering and giving time and hearts…for others?

How do we teach them in a way that it changes their world-view and isn’t simply something we go through the motions in doing, because “Mom and Dad said to?”

No, really…I’m asking.

I want your help.

My desire is something more than working at the Soup Kitchen once a month. I don’t think at this point, there would be an immense impact on them.

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And I get that this is not about US…it’s about helping OTHERS.

I do. I get that.

I read Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love. I underlined practically the entire chapter on how we as (Christian) Americans look at short term missions trips more as a pat on the back, than anything else. Those are my words, not hers. She’s much more eloquent than I. And I agree with her.

I don't think we do it on purpose. But we do it all the same. There are trips I’ve read church bulletins or heard friends talk about that truly didn’t make sense to me. What the purpose of them going, truly was.

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Short term missions, shouldn’t be a mini-vacation for us. It should be us jumping in with both feet, heart worn to pieces, down and dirty, ready to do the hard thing. Or whatever it is that NEEDS to be done.

Their needs, not our wants.

But at the same time, it IS about us because it’s about teaching our children that they CAN make a difference. That they MUST make a difference. And that their difference truly can change lives, in the name of Jesus.

How do we teach them to stop gripping the ledge out of fear or dare I say, indifference?

What can THEY do? We’ve been looking around a bit and hit wall after wall.

Our kids are too young to serve in the nursery at church, though they desperately want to. Our kids love kids. They’re too young to visit sick kids in the hospital, though they want badly to hug on those kids, too.

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When Anton spent a week in the hospital, his fondest memory is the ability to push a button and a nurse came with a new box of Legos. When he got out, he decided he wanted to collect legos for other kids to have the same experience. "So they always have enough," he said. But apparently they have an organization that provides them.

So still we search for the thing. The right thing for our family.

We of course collect clothes and toys and formula for our friends to take to Ethiopia whenever another group goes over to visit the orphanages. We've collected shoes and soccer stuff for friends in Mexico. We fill shoeboxes at Christmas to be sent overseas.

We do things. But it's not a consistent thing.

Because more than an activity, we want to provide the opportunity to pop the bubble our kids live in. We want to provide an opportunity for a heart-change.

Anton and Elsabet What are you doing with your kids??

How are you instilling this in your family??

Please. I'd really love to know!

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Petra, prayer groups, and personalized journals

A few months ago while I was praying for deeper friendships, a dear friend asked if I'd be interested in starting a Prayer Group with her that just met one evening a month.

You know I jumped at it.

We knew we wanted it to be small and intimate. We didn't want it to be a clique of our closest girlfriends...but rather a group of ladies who were open to being authentic and raw and real with each other.

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We've met for a few months now, and are learning more and more about one another as we humble ourselves and allow the things that are uncomfortable to share...to come to light and be prayed about.

I'm truly honored to be a part of this group of incredibly loving girls. They inspire me so greatly.

We didn't really have a name for awhile, when I sent emails out, I just referred to us as "Nourish | Prayer", after the Evening to Nourish dinners I have each month. But it didn't seem right...this was different. Though I always create an inviting table for our prayer night, there wasn't the...I don't know...grandiose effort, perhaps.

 I look at it more as setting the table for family, rather than guests. And we all bring food, just something small and easily munched. Appetizers and snacks. Sometimes there's a big bowl of popcorn, sometimes brownies, sometimes bacon wrapped dates or spanikopita. Nothing that takes longer than five minutes to personally prepare.

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Because it's  not about the food, right? It's not about a beautiful presentation.

It's about sitting together. It's about a group of Jesus loving women who feel the deep need to pray over their families and over one another as we grow together in Him and with one another.

It's about approaching the Throne on behalf of one another, in both petition and thanksgiving.

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After our May gathering, I posted this photo and caption on Instagram...

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Just finished our Prayer Group. As my sweet friend closed us in the most beautiful time before the Throne, I felt God whispering..."These girls. They're your Rock. They're your Peter. Trust them. Love them. They're Mine."

So thankful for reaching out to a bunch of Godly women I didn't know well...but wanted to know better. Ladies I knew love Jesus deeply.

I had no idea if they had a community of women they already embraced in prayer. And you know what?! They didn't either. So now we are. Two months in and HE is so very present.

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After that night and that deep feeling in my soul about the importance of this group, we renamed ourselves Petra (Greek feminine for rock. Not to be confused with the 90's Christian rock band, haha).

I had these beautiful Prayer Journals made over at Tiny Prints for each girl (they have tons of gorgeous styles, fyi). Aren't they fantastic? I mean, watercolor and chevron and ombre?! And a chalkboard-ish looking square for personalizing?!

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We're all so excited to have a place to write everything down so we can continue praying throughout the month. And thrilled to be able to look back and see God's goodness in answered prayers, and remember that hindsight truly is 20/20 as our eyes are opened as His "No" or "Not Yet" begins to make sense.

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Don't wait for one to find you, don't wait to be invited. Form your own as we did. Pray about whom to form the group with...and reach out even if you don't know some of them well. Because God will bring the specific ladies into the group as He knows best.

He is a great God...and He does great things.

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