Now What?: Advice for After a Youth Conference

This post by Alison Griswold is reprinted from LifeTeen.com

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You’ve just spent a weekend at a conference. You’ve sang silly songs, listened to talks, eaten sweet tarts for breakfast, and gotten less sleep than you ever thought you could function on. Dragging your duffel bag into your bedroom, your mom follows you, asking “do you have any dirty laundry? Did you have fun?” you look at her, your bed, and your laptop. They all want your attention, but mumbling to your mom, you crash into bed and sleep for 14 hours.

When you wake up, you look at your floor, strewn with t-shirts, phone numbers of friends, and your journal. You remember the moments that challenged you, the resolutions you made to make changes in your life: to delete the songs on your computer, to change who you hang out with, and to basically be the Mother Theresa of the tenth grade.

After an encounter with God at a camp or conference, it can be a challenge to transition back to the ‘real world.’ It’s tough with a great youth group, supportive friends, and Core Members and parents who totally get it; it’s even harder when you feel that your friends and family don’t understand what you just experienced. While no transition back home is seamless, consider the following while you’re washing your new t-shirts and uploading your photos.

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Beyond the Surface Level

This post by Kelly Colangelo is reprinted from LifeTeen.com

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Killermanjaro.

That is the name of the water slide that drops 280 feet in 12 seconds at 30 miles per hour. Yeah, it’s awesome… when you watch!

I always preferred watching the action. So when it was my turn to go, I was pretty freaked out. I had to wait in line for an hour, get psyched, panic, scream, have someone push me down, more screaming, thrill (still screaming), and then relief and excitement once I was dropped beyond the surface of the pool.

This water slide adventure reminds me of going deeper, taking risks, and moving beyond the surface level of our faith. However… that’s easier said than done.

When I was growing up my parents always tried to draw more than a “yes” or “no” answer from me, but I was always afraid if I said anything more they might be critical of me. I felt the same way in my high school youth group. The small group leader always asked for something deeper when we were responding in discussion… but I held back, worried that others would judge me based on my comments or the experiences that I shared with them.

For me, it’s always been, and still is a challenge to be vulnerable and not so critical of myself. I am the prime example of someone who strives be a strong, and independent person, not needing any help.

But of course we all need help. Time and time again, God reminds me that it is through my brokenness that Christ’s love will penetrate into the depths of my heart. And, I have come to learn that it’s through our brokenness that we are able to know others better. If we don’t allow our vulnerabilities to show, then other people may think that we don’t need them or care about them.

Pope Francis recently said, referring to Jesus, “You are immense, and you made yourself small, you are rich, and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.”

If Jesus made Himself vulnerable, why can’t we? Read the rest of this entry

In the Hills of Georgia

This post by Emily Wilson is reprinted from LifeTeen.com

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I spent the last week in the most beautiful of places.

I spent the last week in a place where young people are able to come and meet the risen Christ. It’s a place run by people who know how to love, serve, and to sacrifice far better than I. A place where the girl brushing her teeth next to me knows so well how to just love souls and where college students spend weeks upon weeks showing Christ to hungry teens – college kids willing to give up summers of paid jobs, nights out with friends, sleeping in, and so much more, so that even one teen could come to know the Jesus they know and love the Jesus they love.

I spent the week around families who live in this place – families who have dedicated their lives so that young people would come to know Truth – families who truly do live simply so that the thousands of teens who come through their home may simply live. In just six days, these people showed me a beautiful kind of selflessness that can’t be found many places in this world.

I spent my last week in a place where camp activities aren’t just camp activities, but an opportunity to grow – to grow in trust, to conquer fears, to build bridges, to build friendships, and to experience God. It’s a place where teens are able, in the sight of their peers, to admit their wrongs and without shame receive the mercy of God. A place where people affirm one another, show compassion to one another, love one another, and lift each other up. It’s a place where teens are free – free to be young people – free from expectations and pressures and free to just. be.

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The Pill: It’s Just a Cover Up

This post by Erika Parks is reprinted from LifeTeen.com 2013-01_LT-CoverUp1

The first time I was “recommended” (judgmentally urged) to begin using the birth control pill by a doctor, I was 16 years old. My doctor’s reasoning was firstly, “because you never know, and you’ll want to be protected” and secondly, because I had an irregular cycle that she claimed would be made “regular” by the pill.

At the time, to be honest, I mostly declined the pill because I was highly offended that this doctor didn’t believe me when I said I wasn’t going to be sexually active until marriage; but in the years since, I’ve continued to decline because I know using the pill for my “medical reason” is not the best, nor the only, option for me. And it shouldn’t be for any woman.

NOTHING MORE THAN A MASK

I know many women who are in a similar boat as me (read Karina’s personal testimony here); whether it’s insane cramps, headaches, acne, PMS, cysts, irregular cycles, or any other number of things, the only way out of the misery seems to be the magic little pill. At least that’s what society and nearly every doctor make us think.

However, the truth is this: the most commonly used birth control pill is nothing more than a mask.

Just like makeup only covers up a pimple, the birth control pill only covers up the symptoms of a woman’s menstrual issue. Sure the pill might make a woman’s cycle seem regular, but in reality, it is only fooling her body and her mind.

What the pill basically does is trick the body into thinking it’s pregnant, and therefore doesn’t produce an egg, which also means no period. However, one week of the month, the hormone filled pills are replaced with placebo pills. Suddenly the woman’s body no longer thinks it is pregnant, and the woman has a period. What may seem like a regular cycle is actually a faked pregnancy. As soon as the pill stops being consumed, all the irregularity and other symptoms come back; no different than taking your make up off and still seeing that dreaded pimple.

THE DANGERS OF THE MASK

Now everyone knows that covering a pimple with oily makeup can often make it larger or worse and give you more acne! The same is true with the birth control pill, but on a much more dangerous level. The pill can give a woman what seems to be a regular cycle, but it could also give her to various life-threatening illnesses.

Woman who rely on the most commonly used type of birth control pill, estrogen plus progestin, have a 41% increase of having a stroke, 50% higher chance of getting blood clots, 29% increase in heart attacks, 22% increase of cardiovascular disease, and a 26% increase in having breast cancer.

Sure the pill might take away cramps and decrease a woman’s chances of getting ovarian cancer, but is it worth the risks?

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I Fell in Love in a Hospital Room

This post by Molly McManus is reprinted from LifeTeen.com

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I was really excited to begin high school. However… that quickly changed. The first semester of my freshman year, I had barely any friends. I was severely bullied and the administration didn’t believe it when my parents called to report it. As a result of the bullying, I started to look down on myself in every way. I took the anger and hurt that I felt because of others and turned it on myself. I started to fall deeper and deeper into pain and sorrow, and I was struggling to climb out of it.

At the very beginning of my second semester, in a freak medical accident, I suddenly lost my ability to walk. I had to be hospitalized and stay at a rehab center for a long period of time, beginning to rebuild my life and relearn how to do so many things that I had taken for granted. I didn’t understand how things could get any worse. I didn’t understand why God would put me through so much.

But soon, everything changed. He entered my life in the most real way I have ever experienced, at the least expected time. When I thought nobody loved me, my hospitalization made me realize how wrong I was. When I arrived at my room at the rehab hospital, which had a beautiful view of the Basilica in D.C., I went into the bathroom and found a scapular sitting in the otherwise empty trashcan. I quickly took these things as signs that I was exactly where I was meant to be.

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