My Child Would Never…

My Child Would Never… | By Lauren Stark and Chrissy Grissom

A Mother & Daughter Co-Write on their Story. 

Lauren Stark: When I look back on my life some parts seem like a lifetime ago. I’m currently 32, married to an amazing man, I have three beautiful girls and a job that I love. I love Jesus, my church, my family and my friends. I’m genuinely joy-filled and excited about my future, but it wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t always perusing Jesus and going to church. I wasn’t always happy with my life.

I grew up in a Christian home, attended a church my whole life and even went to a Christian school from kindergarten through eighth grade. My parents provided what they could and did their best to raise a Christian kid. But as much as they wanted me to have their Jesus, it was exactly that: their Jesus. I had to come to him on my own and unfortunately that meant walking through some drug problems.

I went to Orange Glen high school from 1999-2003 and tried to fit in and be one of the cool kids. I went to parties and started hanging out with the wrong crowd, desperately trying to fit in and be accepted and wanted. I look back and think “why”? Why did I so seek their approval? I dabbled around with alcohol and I got pregnant right out of high school. 18 and a new mom. When things fell apart with Aliyah’s biological dad, I began a five-year chase to make something work. I needed a husband, I needed to get out of my parents’ house, I needed someone to help me through this way-too-expensive southern California life. I was seeking friendships and relationships to fill the void deep within my heart. A single mother knows loneliness like no other.

Sometimes I drank … a lot. I turned 21 and got a DUI. What a loser! You can only imagine how the enemy played on me. I looked to drugs and more alcohol to satisfy me and they did but only for a moment. The thing is, no matter how high you get you will ALWAYS come down. The biblical principle is true: you reap what you sow; and if you chase after drugs, you will reap destruction. The wages of sin is death! But you’re not thinking in biblical terms when you are using drugs. All you care about is yourself and how you can feel better. Your better judgement is gone entirely.

LaurenI feel lucky with my story since my run with drugs wasn’t that long. I ended up with a broken repentant heart that was met with forgiveness and mercy. Mercy is undeserved favor. Undeserved. I didn’t deserve mercy when I was disobedient to my parents in high school. I didn’t deserve mercy when I had sex before marriage. I didn’t deserve mercy when I wasn’t being the best mom I could be. I didn’t deserve mercy when I was using drugs. But that’s the God I found when I hit my rock bottom, a God of mercy. I wasn’t in trouble, I wasn’t grounded. He didn’t say “Well if you get better then I will let my work on the cross work for you.” He died and forgave me when I was my ugliest. He was whipped while I stole money from my parents. He took a crown of thorns stuck in his head while I took some crystal meth and smoked it in abandoned parking lots. He carried a heavy cross that dug into his bleeding back while I cooked heroine and shot it up.

Oh, the risk I took! But the risk Jesus took! He went to the cross for me but what if I never got to know him? What if I never “got right”? What if I never repented? God took a huge risk on me sending his only son to die on the cross for my drug addiction. Wow! I’m forever grateful he did because I did come to know him. In 2008, I finally hit my rock bottom. I was so broken and humbled that I went home and told my family the truth. I ended up in a Christian rehab in Huntington beach. My life changed. I realized that all I had been missing was my relationship with Jesus. My true daddy, my savior, my restorer of life, my healer and my provider!

Looking back, I see God’s patient love for me. His grace and mercy over my drug deals. Over my shady scary police encounters. It is amazing that all I have are some fractured relationships and embarrassment to clean up. I should be dead, in jail, without my kids Lauren Familybut God spared me. Today I love Jesus with every fiber of my being. I seek him for my approval and acceptance, the God of the universe, the maker of heaven and earth who holds the stars in place knows every detail in my life and his thoughts of me are more numerous than the grains of sand at the beach. What the enemy was trying to kill, steal and destroy all those years the Lord has renewed and traded it with abundant life. I don’t share my story to brag about some dangerous things I’ve done but to boast in my weakness since there the lord has shown his strength.  

Walking with Jesus on “this side” of my story is so much better than before. I can list at least 5-10 people just like that who are struggling with addictions. I know it is hard for parents or loved ones to draw the line between tough love and grace but I will say this: when I was truly sorry and repentant and humbled to my core, my dad showered me with grace and forgiveness like the prodigal daughter I was. He reflected our heavenly father and that’s when I met Jesus.

 

Chrissy Grissom: As parents we often feel our children are an extension of ourselves. When they do good and great things it must be because of our sweet parenting skills. So it stands to reason when they don’t make good decisions, it must be our fault. Did I not love enough? Did I love too much? Not enough discipline? Too much? What did I do wrong?

The hardest thing we a parents witness is our kids making bad choices – knowing what consequences await them. The enemy is out to steal, kill and destroy but I didn’t think he would be after one of my own. Or at least I never thought one of MY kids would EVER do any dangerous drug. MY child? No way.

Pride.

I was in denial. My husband wasn’t. He knew something was way wrong. But he also knew if she ever wanted help and wanted to come home, he would help her. What an awesome example of our heavenly father he was at that time.

Lauren & dadAfter a lot of praying and fasting I came to the realization she isn’t really my daughter, sort of. She is our Lord’s daughter. I had to give her over completely to God. God loves her more than I possible could ever love her. I am so grateful. God is all about redemption and reconciliation. Even though I didn’t know exactly what she was doing at the time, I had a strange peace knowing she is God’s child.

The best day ever came on a cold Sunday morning looking out my window, squinting and seeing…is that Lauren? Walking towards out house? Is that really her?

Thank you Jesus that her time in that world was relatively short lived. I want to say to any parent out there: trust in God. He loves your child more than you do. Fast and pray.

I want to add a warning. I hope you never think (like I did) “My child (young or grown) would never do anything like that.” Or any other harmful thing. Our enemy is good at what he does. But the good news is God is greater.  


Lauren & Crissy

 

Lauren Stark is a happily married mother of three beautiful girls. She works full time at Henson’s Fix Auto. Chris (Chrissy) Grissom is Lauren’s mom. Chrissy also has three children. She is the school secretary at Escondido Christian School, where she has worked for twenty-five years.

On Value and Beauty

On Value and Beauty | By Joe Pinner

I want to say something about every woman, using the concept of objective value and beauty, and I’d like to offer some some of my personal reflections that I hope will encourage you. However, it would be a terrible mistake to think that I’m somehow aunnamed-1 proper authority on anything, let alone the value and beauty of a woman. I’m an ordinary man. Sometimes I’m grumpy, and selfish, and not very impressive. I don’t always love my wife, Andrea, like Christ loves the church (I’d be surprised to learn if I did that for a minute straight), and I don’t always honor her as she deserves. I swear this is true and not false humilityalthough I’m not above false humilitybecause I’m also brimming with ugly pride. I’m pretty sure that’s why I said yes to writing this.


So, I’m a mess. I’m definitely not better than anyone else’s husband. I emphasize this
point because this blog is not meant to be about me, and you should be thanking me for that. There is nothing helpful to you about some guy at your church merely talking about why he appreciates his wife. My hope here is to give you something more substantial than that. Ultimately I want to tell you not about why I’m so crazy about Andrea, but why God is so crazy about you.


IMG_4584Now, that being said, I will briefly share something about my love for Andrea. I’m captivated by her. Like Valentine in Shakespeare’s
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, bemoaning any moment of her absence: “What light is light, if Silvia (Andrea) be not seen? What joy is joy, if Silvia (Andrea) be not by…” It’s kind of overwhelming how amazing she is to me, but I can’t help it.

This admiration I have for Andrea is a very enjoyable affair, no doubt, but it has often caused me a great deal of curiosity about the nature of her value and beauty, such that it should be so intoxicating to me. Yes, she’s physically beautiful, and yes, she is incredibly virtuous and smells wonderful. But these qualities alone seem to fall short of explaining my strong temptation to worship her. Am I mental?

unnamed-4Happily, the disciplines of theology and philosophy have proven useful in shedding some light on this matter for me. As it so happens, there are two different ways of talking about value judgements, both of which, are familiar to us. Sometimes we talk about things we personally prefer over others like our favorite ice cream flavor over another, or even wealth over poverty. These kinds of value judgements are of the subjective variety meaning that they are autobiographical and can only provide information about the person (or subject) who is sharing. Other times however, we make value judgements that are obviously meant to objectively describe the quality of something.  Moral or ethical value judgements are an easy example of these. The wrongness of rape, murder, lying, and cheating is a quality of the actions themselves and not the observer. These kinds of judgements only tell us about the person making them insofar as they confirm a person is capable of seeing these objective features like a man at the doctor’s office reading an eye chart.

This brings us to the concept of beauty. If pop culture is to be believed, beauty is an entirely personal construct and is thus constrained to the “eye of the beholder.” But this limited view of beauty would be at odds with what we actually take beauty to be. Such a view, if correct, would certainly mean the end of artistic appreciation and criticism for all mediums including painting, architecture, and even fashion. After all, who would care about any person’s mere subjective opinion of beauty, if we did not also see that their statements were predicated upon the presence of real and objective beauty? The deficient subjective view of beauty simply doesn’t explain the kinds of feelings that come over us when we behold true beauty; and just as we understand ethical values to exist independently of our human minds, we find that beauty is the same. We simply see that certain things are beautiful because of something mysteriously connected to their nature. This mystery has led many of our great philosophers to conclude the only thing that makes sense of the data: God is the source of beauty.

 

Now, that’s all well and good, and I know that the concept of beauty can be a fussy one; especially when you’re pleading in the mirror with your mascara to stop clumping, or when your beloved jeans are fitting tighter than when you bought them. But a woman’s value and beauty is not found in these things. Nor is it found in Pinterest-worthy decorative, organic lunches you wish you had the time to pack daily for your children, or even a unique ability to repurpose old wine bottles and file cabinets. If it were, Valentine would have lost interest in his Silvia long before he could have uttered his declarations of love. A woman is so much more than this.

unnamed-2A woman is valuable and beautiful because of something in her very nature. In their book, Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge explain, “She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. She is the Master’s finishing touch … Can there be any doubt that Eve is the crown of creation?” Woman, like man, bears the imago Dei, the image of God. But the unique creation of woman showed us the tender and aesthetic side of God not showcased by man. This value and beauty is hers in a permanent, objective sense, and never relied on Smashbox, Cross-Fit, or Etsy.

So, with this, I say to every woman who is reading my words: You embody every bit of the same objective, factual beauty that God imbued to Eve. You are enough! You are gorgeous and valuable independently from anything you could ever add to yourself. Your very nature has been set apart from the rest of creation by the creator, Himself, and cannot be modified. This is not true simply because I subjectively prefer it to be true. No, as I indicated earlier, my experience with this value and beauty in my marriage is quite irresistible. Rather, the things I’ve told you are a part of the story of reality revealed to us in God’s Word. They are objectively true.


unnamed-5About the Author

Joseph Pinner is 37 years old and has been married to Andrea Pinner for 17 years. Together they have five daughters with ages ranging from 1 to 16. He works at the VA Medical Center in La Jolla as a dialysis technician and soon-to-be RN. Family is his greatest passion and calling in life, but a close second is defending the truth of Christianity by presenting reason and evidence in love.

Wife – You Are More Than Your Role

Wife – You Are More Than Your Role | By Byron Vardilos

I have the privilege of being married to an amazing woman. I first met Theresa at a coffee shop in Fort Worth, Texas. It was a typical fall night during my Junior year at Texas Christian University. A group of four of my fraternity brothers and I had just finished eating dinner at a local downtown eatery. I was a newer Christian at the time and being part of BYX rooted me in my faith.

Brian, who we called “B-Grow,” announced to the group that he had forgotten he’d promised to meet a girl at a coffee shop and we were over an hour late.  We all piled into a beat-up Chevy Suburban and rushed off to the coffee shop. Little did I know I was about to meet the love of my life!

I’ll never forget the night. I walked in, and there she was. She was beautiful (and sitting at a table by herself reading a Bible!). I don’t remember the conversation, and we only exchanged a few words, but driving home that night was one of the few times in my life I distinctly heard God’s voice. He told me that this was the woman for me!

Byron & Theresa Nov 1998That was over 20 years ago! 20 FULL years of ups-and-downs, success and failures, four kids, two dogs, and over 16 moves!

The first few years of our marriage were rocky, to say the least, but since then, each year we get closer and I learn more about this wonderful woman. With so many things vying for our attention, it’s becoming more and more difficult for wives to keep their identity.

Theresa has had many roles over the years; the role of a wife…the role of mom.  More recently, she is adding many more roles. But the roles do not define who she is.  First and foremost, she is a Daughter of the King!

In the last two years, I’ve witnessed Theresa growing in all areas of her life.  She’s embracing the truth of her identity in Christ. I want to encourage you, the women of The Fathers House, to do the same!  A great resource that talks about this identity is the book, The Secret of Significance, by Robert S McGee.images

With raising four children ages 10-16, running multiple businesses, volunteering and participating in community activities, Theresa and I are at the busiest season of our lives to date. Full schedules blur the bigger picture for all of us.

I’m naturally big-picture thinker.  Theresa is much more detailed, so we complement each other in this way.  Whenever I see her taking on too much or getting caught in the minutia, I remind her to take time off for reflection. I ask her questions like…“What do you want to be doing in 10 years after the kids have left?”  “What is God calling you to do?” and “What is your long-term mission?”

The answers to these questions don’t have to be world-changing, like ending world hunger. But these types of questions have helped Theresa stay focused on what is most important and discover a passion to impact the lives of families and women.

I’ve watched my wife take on these habits and can encourage you to think of some that can help you grow in your identity:

1) Build time each week in your calendar just for you. Theresa is introspective, so once a week, she gets away to the beach or a coffee shop by herself to pray, journal, exercise, and have a time of quiet reflection with the Lord. Find what refuels your tank and make the commitment to do it each week.  If you catch yourself feeling guilty about taking this time to recharge, remember, even Jesus took time away in the “lonely places. Taking care of yourself in this way will bless those you love the most!

2) It’s ok to say “no,” even to good things.  Nothing can tire you out more than feeling obligated to say yes to every opportunity to serve. Having the bigger picture at the forefront has helped her say “no” to things, even good things, that are not part of her bigger mission. This helps her avoid burnout and keeps her focus on what is most important.

3) Know your strengths.  If you haven’t taken a spiritual gifts class, I highly encourage it.  There are also numerous personality tests, including the Myers Briggs and StrengthsFinder.  Learning your natural gifts can help you identify new roles and opportunities you may not have considered before.

4) Know your season. Theresa and I are in, what is affectionately referred to as, “The Long Middle.” But seasons will not last forever. Knowing your season provides perspective which can keep you going, even when you feel like giving up. If you’re in the darkest Winter right now, know that Spring always follows winter!

5) Find mentors; be a mentor. God uses people to grow us up in the faith. The Father’s House and has made it a priority to spend time building relationships. This is a good place to find and/or be a mentor.

6) Work on your schedule as a couple and prioritize. On Sunday night, Theresa and I get together and have a brief meeting to go over our calendar for the next week.  It’s not always perfect, and sometimes messy, but it helps us plan out and make sure that we are spending our time wisely.

7) Plan a weekly date night. Having a weekly date night is a non-negotiable.  It allows us to connect, at a deeper level, and communicates to our kids that our marriage is important.

8) Read inspirational books. Theresa has become a voracious reader.  She also listens to positive podcasts and audiobooks to learn while driving or doing work around the house.

9) Pain is part of the process. Psalm 30 says that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”  The transformative process is not all sunshine and rainbows.  Theresa has encountered many challenges in recent years with all the demands upon her and in building her business.  But I’ve watched the challenges make her stronger!  Like weight training, where you tear muscle fibers to gain strength, the hardships she experiences are building her into a much stronger version of herself.

10) Make wise decisions about health. “I want to work out and eat healthier, but I just don’t have the time.”  We’ve all been there.  I think the biggest revelation for Theresa and I recently is that the time and energy we spend on exercising and making good food choices will come back to us ten-fold in the form of increased energy, health, and clarity of thought.  Don’t feel guilty about taking time to work on your health!

I want to encourage you to take some time this week to seek the Lord and ask him to use you in a new and fresh way.  Then take action and go for what God has put on your heart. Stir up your gifts and trust Him for the great reward!


Byron & Theresa TCU GraduationByron met Theresa over 20 years ago at Texas Christian University where he played baseball and studied business. Married for almost 19 years, they have four children Jacob, 16, Hannah, 14, Caleb, 12, and Abigail, 10.  Over his career, Byron worked as a Business Coach in the Real Estate industry, as well as in sales and entrepreneurship.  He is committed to Christ and helping others live out their full potential. He enjoys spending time with his family, playing piano and guitar, mountain biking, trail running, weightlifting, the ocean, travel, and any sport involving a ball.

An Adoption Story

An Adoption Story | by Lisa Leyda Petersen

I grew up always knowing I came from another mommy’s tummy. I was told that I was my parents’ special gift, and there was a lady named Catherine out there somewhere, who kissed me goodbye the day I was born.

She was 19, fragile in the wake of her parents’ divorce and the unreciprocated love of the man she felt deeply for, who left town to study abroad. When another came along and pressured her to sleep with him, she thought he could give the affection she craved. She traded her virginity for the hope of genuine love, but what she got in return was the news she was pregnant.

Like most teenagers, Catherine was unready and unable to raise a child. She was still in school and had no committed partner to share the responsibility of providing for a baby. The only financial support she received was my biological father’s offer to pay for the abortion.

With no one to turn to, Catherine sought guidance from a crisis pregnancy center, where her counselors educated her about fetal development. She began to see a new story that God was writing for her if she chose to read it. As she turned each page one day at a time, she felt convicted that there was a new soul growing inside her and decided to carry the pregnancy to term.

Week after week, people poured into Catherine’s life who showed her the everlasting love and care she lacked belief in. Friends became like family. The man she loved and thought was uninterested returned from Europe and pursued a relationship with her despite the pregnancy. She found a couple struggling to add a second child to their family, and she committed to bless them with her baby.

BabyLisaAndMomWhile I grew up in a home of privilege and stability, Catherine was left to piece together the remains from leaving the delivery room with an empty womb and empty arms. She slept with my unwashed hospital blankets and tiny hat for a year after I was born and would leak milk for weeks at the sound of an infant’s cry. There was no regret in her heart, but there was certainly pain all over for a long time.

When I turned eight years old, I asked my parents if my birth mom had left anything for me. That day I received a small Bible covered in white lace, with my name, “Lisa Marie,” embroidered on the front. They also gave me a poem that had been written on a red paper heart wreath, like a Valentine. These gifts were from the woman who allowed me a life, and they became my precious treasures.

From then on, Catherine and I began to write letters. She would send me a birthday card each year, and I would write a thank you note in reply, updating her on my hobbies and interests. I learned that she was happily married to the man she loved, and they had four beautiful children of their own. I loved it when she would send me their family photos; I would study each of their faces to find any resemblance between us. We stayed in communication like this until the summer I turned eighteen, when I met her in person for the first time.

I would say our first time meeting was surreal, but really, it was just like catching up with a close friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Catherine was always so intentional and transparent with me; I never doubted her love. Simply knowing that she sacrificed her body and emotions for my sake is one of the greatest ways I have ever been loved.

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Catherine with Lisa

If there is any area of my past that revealed my life has value and purpose, it is the way the Lord placed me into the family He knew was best for me all along. Jesus’ evident hand in bringing me home has led me to want His fingerprints to continue to saturate my life forever. He knew I needed the late-night “meaning of life” discussions I would have with my dad, the professor of theology. He knew that with my predisposition to fall into anxiety, I needed the grounded wisdom of my mom, a woman who never lets fear overtake her. He knew I needed the relationship and example of an older sister who has taught me what it looks like to be loyal, sincere and perseverant. He knew I needed to witness the radical generosity displayed by my grandparents, who invested in people and gave so freely. And He knew they all needed me too.

If I wasn’t adopted, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to college in San Diego, where I met my husband, whose devotion and friendship are the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. We wouldn’t have our son, who is the most tangible joy in our lives. There is nothing about being adopted that is sad or less than perfect in my eyes. This wasn’t the backup plan or a lucky turn of events; this was the way my story was written from the beginning. The redeeming path the Lord paved for Catherine was not easy, it was not painless, it was not understood or condoned by most of the people around her at the time. But she followed it, and for this I am eternally grateful.

PetersenFamilyThere is the bond of flesh and blood, and then there is something deeper that makes a mother. What being an adopted daughter has shown me is that a mother’s face is not a reflection of hereditary likeness to her children, but of God’s love, sacrifice, mercy, and faithfulness. Romans 8:12 says, “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” Knowing our identities as heirs with Christ has freed my husband and I from the idea that our family should be filled with exclusively biological children. It gives us the peace that God will paint a beautiful picture over our mistakes if we allow Him to use our lives as a canvas. We are free because we can be still and trust. We are free because we’ve been adopted.


About the Author

LisaPregnant
Lisa Petersen lives in North County San Diego with her husband, Benny, and two-year-old son, Zanden. They are expecting their second baby boy this summer. She graduated with a degree in Communications, Marketing and English from the University of San Diego in 2012 and went on to pursue a career in event planning before deciding to focus on her job as a mama full-time. She enjoys taking Zanden on daily adventures, writing, photography and singing on the worship team at The Father’s House.

Speaking Up For the Voiceless

How Going on The Freedom Challenge Impacted My Life | By Brandi Richardson

IMG_1414Last summer, Brandi Richardson participated in a Freedom Challenge trip to the Grand Tetons National Park starting from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The trip was five days and required Almost 30 miles of climbing with fellow women from The Father’s House while raising more than $525,000 going directly to the fields to aid in fighting human trafficking. Here, she shares more about how God tugged on her heart to go on the trip, her biggest challenges, and the lasting impression the trip has had on her life.

 

How did you hear about the Freedom Challenge?

When I heard about the Freedom Challenge through TFH, it seemed a little crazy to me. Seeing pictures of women on top of mountains huddled together, freezing? Nope, not for me! However, I was interested in the local hikes they were training on, and I wanted to train and encourage the women who had decided to do the Freedom Challenge.

What made you want to sign up?

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 7.30.09 PMI actually didn’t want to sign up at first. I had gone on a mission trip to India in January 2015, and this year, 2016, our family had planned a family vacation, so all funds went to this. We had nothing. I wasn’t sure I could raise the money or take more time off of work as I had just done the trip to India the year before.

After a couple hikes and talking with the women on the trails, I started seeing/feeling that God wanted me to take on this challenge.  He put peace in me that would make this possible for me. On my trip to India, I had seen what The Freedom Challenge funds went to, and now I wanted to be a part of raising more funds to help. I felt God wanted me to complete the circle, so to speak.

What were your biggest challenges?

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 7.29.46 PMThe biggest challenge for me was the hours of training and being away from my family. I loved the physical part of hiking but missed being with them. I’m so blessed to have the support of my husband, allowing me to focus on the physical aspect of hiking and training for the hours I did. I physically challenged my body and mind and accomplished so many things. I learned a lot about what I am able do physically and mentally. I learned how to fuel my body and mind. The months of training allowed me to see the beauty of God’s creation all around me. This calmed my mind and brought a sense of peace to my spirit–to take life in, slow down and enjoy the beauty around me.

What lessons did you learn from going on The Freedom Challenge?

Fundraising and bringing awareness to everyone I came in contact with sparked a fire in me to make a difference in this world. I knew the funds would come in and allow me to take this challenge. I knew I would have to work hard for it, and I did because the fire was burning strong to fight for this cause.

Now, looking back, how did the experience change your perspective?

I’m so glad to have taken this journey. The friendships I’ve made and experiences I’ve had is something that I will cherish for years to come. I’m glad I listened to God and did what He called me to do. We are His hands and feet. He asked me to speak up for the voiceless, so I did and will continue to do so.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

IMG_1413California native Brandi Richardson has been attending The Father’s House almost 11 years. She’s been married to Steve for almost 15 years and has two sons (Tyler, 21, and Zakary, 12). She works as a patient care coordinator for a home oxygen and respiratory company and as a massage therapist. She’s lived in Illinois and Germany and currently lives in Escondido, California.