Not my will, but yours be done!

Do you ever invite someone to an event and spend the whole time worrying about how they are perceiving things – are they comfortable, are they making friends, are they completely weirded out? I often find myself doing this when I invite someone to church or when a teen mom comes to club for the first time. So when we had 4 new teen moms and 2 new teen dads at last month’s club, I found myself wondering what they were thinking. There was a moment when volunteers were sharing incredible, powerful testimonies and I was really excited for the teens to hear the stories. And then babies started screaming, girls were shuffling around to calm them down and a few of them had to step out of the room. I was so bummed that these mamas were missing out on hearing how, in the midst of brokenness, God entered in to our guest speakers’ lives and changed everything. But then God gently reminded me that sometimes the message people need to hear is not the message that I want them to hear.

Sometimes it isn’t even a message that they need. It might be a warm smile as they are welcomed into the room, a new friend they meet that night, or the joy they experience in laughter together that really impacts them. I am learning to trust that God will speak to people in just the way that they need and that He will speak to me in just the ways that I need as well!

As I watched the 4 new girls and 2 new guys leave that night with smiles on their faces I knew they got what they needed. And in His wisdom, God used this to remind me that He will meet people exactly where they are at. He will beautifully orchestrate things to speak to people in the way they need to hear Him. My hope and prayer is that YoungLives would be a place where teen moms, dads and their babies can encounter God in exactly the way they need to. That it would be a place where they find unconditional love and acceptance. And that it would be a place where not my will, but God’s would be done.

~Myrna Bittar

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Carla’s Story

It was hard being a single mom, juggling school and my son. Life was just hard. And I was very anti-social. I didn’t have many friends until I started going to YoungLives. Some girls from school invited me to go and it was really fun! I started talking to other girls there and everyone was so nice to me. It was a new experience for me to talk to people and make friends. Even the people I didn’t know were so friendly. They wanted to get to know me. They didn’t judge me. And the mentors had great advice. They were so encouraging and motivating.

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Class of 2012 (Carla and her son, Damian)

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Carla working at McDonald’s

I had been working at McDonalds for about 2 years. I was making ok money, but it wasn’t enough for me to live on. I saw people who had been working there for 20 years and I realized I didn’t want to be there for the next 5 or 10 years. I wanted to do something for myself and my son. So when I was invited by YoungLives to go to a College Night, I went. I decided that night that I wanted to go to school, but I honestly had no idea how I would do it. Tracy (from Goldenwest College) said she could help me get registered and that she would walk me through the whole thing. And some of my friends encouraged me to do it. So I signed up for college!

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Carla in the middle with Michelle, her school counselor on the left, and Tracy, the C.A.R.E. program coordinator on the right

And now…I love college! I wake up every day ready to learn. I’m a student at Goldenwest College and am a part of two special programs for single moms – C.A.R.E. (Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education) and E.O.P.S. (Extended Opportunity Program and Services). As a single mother, these programs offer so much help! They can help with emergency loans, priority registration, books for our classes, tutoring referrals in case we are struggling with our classes, gas cards, school supplies, merit grants and so much more.

It is an amazing support group and I feel like they really want me to do well in school. The counselors have so much to offer and they’re very dedicated to seeing us succeed. It can be overwhelming trying to juggle school, work and of course our babies, but it will be very worth it in the end. It has been an amazing experience being involved with these two incredible programs. 

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Carla and her son, Damian

It’s been such a good experience and I’m so glad that I made the decision to go to school. I’m really proud that I’ve made it this far with my son on my own. I’m so glad I didn’t postpone going back to school and that I actually did it. I tell myself, “I’m not going to give up. I’m going to do it.” And here I am. I’m working on my AA degree in Nursing. Once I finish, I’m planning to go into the Army for 2 years as a Nurse. Ultimately I want to get my Bachelor’s degree and find a good nursing job.

Carla at school

Carla at school

I’m so grateful for everyone involved with YoungLives. I’m thankful for their support and for always telling me to never give up. It’s really cool being a part of a group that gives you so much support. My family is great, but they don’t understand how bad I want this, how hard I’m pushing myself. Sometimes you have to hear it from someone else to really believe it about it yourself. And now I’m using my experience to encourage other teen moms togo to college too. There really are people who want to help us succeed. It’s never too late to go back to school. Think about your kids and let that be your motivation. I want other moms to know if I did it, they can too.

 

Be Brave…Be You.

Last night we had our monthly club gathering in Huntington Beach. There was the usual fun, silly games, a yummy dinner, friends and their mentors hanging out and toddlers running around giggling – an overall great evening that is what club is all about! We were especially encouraged to welcome 4 girls who came to club for the very first time! And 6 teens met with local college staff before club started to talk about next steps for going to college! After dinner, the kids were checked into childcare with amazing and loving volunteers and the rest of us sat down for the club talk. But tonight instead of one person sharing, we had the distinct privilege to hear the stories of four of our volunteers.

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As the volunteers started sharing, the room fell silent. These weren’t just “ordinary stories”. We quickly realized they were raw, personal, heart wrenching stories. Each of them shared honestly and boldly about the rough turns their lives had taken, about finding themselves at the end of their ropes, and about God’s undeserving, flawless grace that redeemed them. As I listened to each of them share, I was struck by their bravery. If you’ve ever been at the end of yourself, you understand that it’s not really a place you want to go back to. You don’t want to relive the pain, the hurt, the shame of bad choices you made. But these men and women courageously took us there for one reason – they wanted all of us (volunteers, mentors, teen moms and teen dads alike) to know that God will redeem our stories. Every single one of them. They are living proof of that. Because these aren’t just stories they share, it is who they are. Each of them is wholeheartedly serving God with their lives. And instead of letting their past define them, they are choosing to allow Him to use the pain of the past to bring Him glory.

And as I looked around the room, it occurred to me that I was surrounded by some of the bravest people I’ve ever met. In addition to these amazing volunteers and many more like them, I was sitting in a room with dozens of teen moms and dads. Teens who chose life for their children. Teens who chose the really difficult path of raising their children while they are still in high school. Teens who had to change schools or take on independent study because of their pregnancy. Teens who are raising their babies alone. Teens who are determined to create a better life for their children. Teens who love their babies. Teens who are making daily sacrifices for their children. And teens who are learning about Jesus, how much He loves them and just how amazing His grace is.

So often I feel like I’m failing. Failing as a mom, failing as an employee, failing as a friend, a sister, a daughter. And I’m quick to be hard on myself for everything I’m not doing well. But sitting in that room, God gently reminded me that I am exactly who He made me to be – strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures. He delights in ALL of me. His grace is sufficient for ALL of me. And it is Christ who makes me brave too. It’s not a competition of who is the most brave. It’s not about doing it all. And it’s certainly not about doing it all on my own. But rather, it’s trusting that God has a plan for every single one of us. And even better? His plan is PERFECT and each of us can choose to (bravely!) walk out the life God has set before us – weaknesses, brokenness, hurts, pain and all! It’s about living life in community with other believers. It’s about letting Him redeem our stories for His glory. And it’s about bravely being me…His masterpiece.

“For we are Christ’s workmanship [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
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~Nicole Maiocco

Baptisms, Brunch, and Babies

Easter at the Vick house was crowded, colorful and noisy! Little ones squealed with delight as they dashed about looking for eggs. They were even more ex cited when they discovered there was candy inside! When the kids weren’t searching for eggs, they were chasing bubbles or waiting for their turn to ride the pedal boat.

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The Easter brunch was fun but the most exciting and memorable event of the day was Karime’s baptism. Watching her take that step of faith reminded us all that the gift of salvation is real and should indeed be celebrated!

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We were so thankful to celebrate Easter with our YoungLives friends. The joyful chaos is quite a change from a few months ago. In September, our youngest son headed off to college and we were officially “empty-nesters.” The house was eerily quiet and we found ourselves wondering what to do in this new phase of our lives. It seemed only natural that we return to Young Life. Jonathan and I met at a Young Life camp more than twenty years ago and served as leaders or committee members over the years. Since we were new to the Huntington Beach area, we went to the Young Life fundraiser to explore how to get involved. That is where we met Myrna and learned about YoungLives.

YoungLives is the perfect fit for us. It gives us an opportunity to serve as a couple, work with amazing teens and snuggle with cute babies (a perk that I really appreciate since there are no grandbabies in my immediate future) We look forward to many more exciting and noisy adventures with Young Lives. Our nest doesn’t seem quite so imageempty any more!

-Julie Vick

Liz & Jessi’s story

At 24 years old, there have been many days I’ve deemed monumental throughout my life. Getting my license, graduating from high school (and almost college too!), getting married, my first real “big girl” job…you know, the kind of monumental days that we all anticipate having in one way or another. But then there have been the monumental days that I have in no way planned for, most of which have a connection to my involvement in YoungLives.

I joined YoungLives almost 4 years ago completely unaware of the effects that it would have on my heart and everyday life. At first I was skeptical of what I could possibly bring to these teenagers’ lives since I wasn’t a teenager that long ago myself. Then I met Liz and her daughter Melonie. Our first conversation ended in Liz asking me to be her mentor and I was both excited and extremely nervous! Our relationship was shy at first, we had a couple of lunch dates here and there and I picked her up for club regularly each month. Then one day Liz came to me with a question, “Hey Jessi, I have a question for you but you can totally say no.” After failing her driver’s test, she wanted me to teach her how to drive.

My mind immediately went back to all of the driving tips my dad drilled into my brain when I was learning how to drive. I thought, well my car already has a few scratches on it, what’s the worst thing that could happen? From there, I spent a couple nights a week in an empty mall parking lot teaching Liz everything that I knew about “Driving 101”. When the day finally arrived for Liz to take her driver’s license test, I watched her drive away with the instructor in my little Nissan Sentra. Once the two drove out of my sight, I can tell you that I have never been so nervous in my entire life! If she came back and got out of the car with a smile on her face, that was the sign that she had passed. If she came back and got out of the car with a frown, I’m sure we both would have cried. (Or maybe I would just be the one crying!)

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We rejoiced when she got out of the car; Liz was a licensed driver! Now fast-forward a couple of years. Since the day she passed her driver’s test, a lot of things have changed for Liz. She graduated high school, is wrapping up her freshman year of college, and Melonie is officially a 5 year old. I am so happy and grateful to have witnessed these monumental days in her life, and this week we added another one to the list.  A few short days ago I handed over the keys to my car (the car Liz learned how to drive in!) to one of the most influential people in my life. Liz now has her own set of wheels to drive herself to college, to pick her daughter up from play dates and soccer practice, and I could not be more proud of the responsible individual she has blossomed into.

Life is about celebrating each other’s monumental days and I absolutely cannot wait to keep on delighting in all of Liz’s accomplishments! Thank you YoungLives for bringing Liz and I together, and for being the biggest demonstration of what God’s love can do.

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Warmly,

Jessi