When You Wish Upon A Star

“When you wish upon a star, it makes no difference who you are. “

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That’s the phrase that comes to mind when I think of Disneyland, there is something about a place that when you enter you are enveloped by these types of messages. Things of wishes, dreams and wonder are often left in the state of childhood. Regardless of age and where you come from, the minute you enter the park everyone has the same access to all the Disney magic. You might have to wait in long lines and manage through busy crowds, but everyone with a ticket to the “Magic Kingdom” is able to enjoy the benefits of the “happiest place on earth”.

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I recently had the pleasure to visit the park along with a few teen moms and their kids from YoungLives. There’s something special getting to witness others experience places like Disneyland, especially through the eyes of a child.  At every turn there is wonder and amazement. Children have a way of reminding us the simple and beautiful things that make us human. We spent a whole 12 hours walking around the park and making the most of all the sites, rides and delicious treats. The park was decorated for Christmas with trees, trimmings and many, many lights. It was the sweetest thing to see the moms delight in sharing this experience with their little ones. Throughout the entire day they were all smiles and carefree spirits, the kind that comes when you are in the moment and embrace life’s simple pleasures. These moms are some of the bravest women and they model so much sacrifice and love for their kids, to say this gift was a treat is an understatement.

One of the things I appreciate about serving with YoungLives is that they do many amazing things to help and care for teen parents and their families, but what stands out is how they don’t just strive to provide basic needs, they go above and beyond to restore love and dignity with gifts and experiences like Disneyland. They may start with the practical, but they move on to help these teens to believe in themselves and their futures.  They say that raising a child takes a village, and for those that are a part of YoungLives, they get to experience community and support in ways that allow them to not just thrive but flourish.

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That day, God reminded me once again, it really doesn’t matter who you are. Even greater than Disneyland, the invitation into the Kingdom of God and access to the abundant life is available for all. Regardless of where we’ve been and what our circumstances are we can step into the reality of life and joy to the full. That is what the gospel is all about, Jesus desires to restore hope, love and new dreams to all those who would accept the invitation.

Ellie Fonseca, YoungLives Mentor

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Crazy Generosity

Have you ever seen crazy generosity? The kind that really makes no sense? The kind where you step back and go – Really? The flavor of giving that leaves you with your jaw on the ground and a million questions swirling in your head? I have. I got a front row seat to that kind of makes-no-sense, bigger-than-us generosity at our recent YoungLives Christmas Boutique. And let me just tell you, it was soulfillingly (yes, I just made up that word!) beautiful.

The generosity started with the giving of gently used items for babies, mamas, and baby daddies / boyfriends. I casually made an announcement at a weekly gathering I attend. I figured I would just “throw it out there” and maybe have a couple of people give a few things. Fast forward a few weeks, and a literal mountain of donated items was in front of my garage door. I got a little choked up by such kindness. Oh, but the goodness of generosity was just getting started.

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After that there was a simple little text from a friend. Her daughter’s National Charity League group had voted and they wanted to give a bunch of wrapped gifts to our Young Lives moms. Would that be OK, the text asked. Young girls giving to other young girls in a very different circumstance. If that isn’t beauty, I don’t know what is.

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Other volunteers across the county were having the same experience as me as we collected and sat in awe of the abundance. On the evening of the event, we filled one room where the moms and young guys would have a chance to shop for themselves, one room where they parents could shop for their babies, one room where new toys were on display and the teen parents could place tickets in a raffle to win the toy of their choice, gifts under a tree to be given to the girls as they arrived, and then a parting gift for the end of the evening. Did I mention that someone stopped by the morning we were setting up and just happened to have gifts to give to all the kids when they sat on Santa’s lap?  Oh, yeah, that happened too!

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Are you getting the picture?  Are you seeing the love and kindness just seeping out of the edges of this whole beautiful scene? Not quite? OK, then let me tell you about the kind of generosity that doesn’t offer THINGS, but time and talents.

So much of that kind of generosity showed up at the Christmas Boutique that I don’t even know where to begin. I could tell you about the young woman who gave her time to decorate the entire venue EXQUISITELY. Or I could tell you about the hours of logistical planning that went into making the whole evening flow smoothly. I could also mention the army of baby holding arms and patient listening ears that came out to rock, cuddle, read, and play with the little 50+ guests in attendance. Oh, and there was the professional photographer who set up the most beautiful of back drops for family photos for these teens. Yep, they ARE families and their special moments, like Christmas with their babies, deserve marking, honoring and remembering too. That was a generous gift that will be treasured for years to come.

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Ever think about driving as being generous?  I can assure you that as a mom with 4 kids left at home, each with a bajillion activities, driving is a pure act of generosity! And our volunteers and mentors battled the traffic of a Tuesday night and the car seat wrangling required to get babies where they needed to be. They did it with ease and grace – even at the end of the evening when loading their cars up to leave was harder than winning a game of Tetris.

 

Then there were the guys that prepared the meal. When we volunteers gathered in the kitchen to pray before the guests started to arrive, I was just overcome by how a simple smell can speak love. The meal of ham, sweet potatoes, and spinach salad smelled so good and so comforting. These guys had given their day to prepare a meal to be shared and enjoyed by many that they didn’t even know. That there is a foodie’s generosity in all its glory.

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And then Myrna’s message. Oh, the message that is so simple that it can be contained in one nativity sticker sheet. And yet, it’s so complex that you can hear it again and again and take something new away each time. The teens sat and heard of Jesus’ birth and of circumstances that weren’t ideal and choices that were hard. They heard of shepherds who “leaned in” and went to see, because a great and generous God told them to. They were invited to lean in too, to see what God has for them. 

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Some went away with a lot of wonderful gifts. Some went away inspired and encouraged. Some went away feeling loved and cared for. Some went away understanding the Christmas story for the first time ever. And some went away believing again in the goodness of the God who created them and the gift of His son that we celebrate at Christmas. Whatever each teen took away from that beautiful evening, it was generosity in its many and varied forms that made it possible. The same generosity that brought a baby into the world thousands of years ago overflows in us today to point the way back to Him!

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Merry Christmas to all of our teen parents and babies as well as to all of our YoungLives supporters and volunteers!

Tricia Poissonnier, YoungLives Volunteer

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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This may just look like a random photo but when you’re knee deep into YoungLives, you begin to see the stories unfolding. Stories that have stories of their own. And this photo, though random at first glance actually tells so many stories.

There’s a few girls and their little ones that are in this photo that are alumni moms – those that have graduated from high school. Moms that are raising up toddlers now. They are busy moms figuring out next steps, doing their best to raise their little ones with patience, and love, and manners, and security. They have dreams for themselves and dreams for their little ones. They are not too different then many reading this, in their hopes for their futures, though their obstacles are most likely bigger than ours. I admire them so much for their strength and for their willingness to keep pushing forward. It’s super sweet that on occasion, when their schedule allows, they come back to see us and help out. They are friends of ours and I love seeing them in this photo all together.

One of the alumni, Jayanna (seated on the floor in the grey sweater), has come back to YoungLives full force – she joined the team at Summer Camp as a Junior Leader, she shares encouragement with the young moms. She attends both Santa Ana and Huntington Beach Clubs helping out in anyway she can – eager to give back. She will tell you that YoungLives has really impacted her life and that’s why she wants to give back, but that is a two way street because YoungLives is really impacted by her as well.

Right in the middle of the photo, wearing the white kimono, is Laurie Bradley, Huntington Beach Club Coordinator. She keeps things moving along on club nights from set up to tear down. She spends a good deal of time hugging volunteers, teens, and the babies. She is one of those that checks in with people, making sure they are okay. Asking questions and really listening. She loves the Lord like no other and it can’t help but to reveal itself. She plays a part in so many of the stories of YoungLives.

On the right in the photo, I see the back of Keila wearing the gold color top. Her story about volunteering was featured on the blog in November…you should check it out (here) because it is pretty awesome.

Just to the right of Keila is her friend that is expecting any day now. A new YoungLives baby on the way…the story continues.

In the back of the photo (far right) – a young mom and dad and their little one. They are such a sweet family. This is what they shared recently, “We have both faced many challenges in our lives and we still do everyday. We have learned that YoungLives is always there for us teen parents. We both hope to finish high school and go to college to begin careers for our family. Thank you for everything YoungLives. We really cannot explain how grateful we are for this program.”

God willing, the stories will continue. I’m so grateful to be part of it.
Colleen Drew, Area Office Admin