“Change-ing” Lives

Hello my name is Cristen, I am not much of a blogger but I am passionate about this ministry and the opportunity to share how you can “change lives with your spare change’”!

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all…”               Galatians 6:9-10b

This verse has always been an encouragement to me. And, although I may not always see the fruit of my labor, God’s Word promises that there will be a season of reaping if I do not give up. Not everyone is called into the same ministry, we are all given specific giftings to serve, but as this portion of scripture suggests, as believers in Christ we should be doing good to all, as we have opportunity. What does this look like practically? Well, I suppose it can be manifested in many different ways, but one way could be as simple as gathering our loose change to impact two generations this summer.

BabyBottles

If you don’t already know, for the past 5 years, the North OC YoungLives staff and volunteers have been encouraging teen moms to experience a wonderful gospel focused camp in Arizona. This camp is special because the teens (from many different areas) can bring their babies and it has made such a positive impact on those that have attended in the past. It is a time of really fun activities and focused teaching that reinforces all they’ve learned the past school year at Club night events.

 

 

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As you can imagine, camp is a pretty big expense but something that I and the North OC YoungLives Committee believe is well worth raising money for! One of the ways I’ve personally been excited to help with camp fundraising is our annual Baby Bottle campaign that launched on Mother’s Day and will wrap up on Father’s Day. We get the chance to hand out empty baby bottles to different churches, friends, co-workers, etc… and they get to participate by filling up the bottles with coins, cash, or checks. It’s an easy way for everyone to get in on the action of sending these young moms and their babies to what is touted as being “the best week of their lives!” at camp.

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If you want to join me in this opportunity to do good and share, get a baby bottle by contacting us at northocyounglives@gmail.com.

Cristen Gerum, YoungLives Committee Member

 

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God Does Special

It’s always such a treat having one of our volunteers guest write for the blog and this week doesn’t disappoint with Tricia Poissonnier sharing from her viewpoint about last week’s Santa Ana Club night.

It sounded a little like a personal ad.  The closing lines read, “Message me if you would like more info.  We would love you heart and your help”.  That’s the post I put out on social media – not really knowing what kind of a response to expect, but trusting in, and hoping for, God to “work things out” like  HE always does.  It was going to be a special club for May since Mother’s Day was just around the corner and we wanted it to be just that, SPECIAL for all of our teen moms.

Man, can God do SPECIAL!

When I arrived at Newsong, Maria was already set up with beautiful table décor  – flower bouquets for every mom to take home.  Nothing says Mother’s Day like fresh flowers, right?

I got busy setting up the craft – sugar body scrubs.  The girls would make them and get to choose between orange, lemon, lavender or peppermint as their scent of choice.  There was also a little gift of a face mask and hand sanitizer for each young mom.  Because nothing says Mother’s Day like a little pampering, right?

dsc_0321.jpgWhile all of this was going on, barbers were setting up on the other side of the room.  They had come to give the men – daddies and little guys alike – complimentary haircuts.  As the chairs started filling up with takers, the young moms stood by with smiles and satisfaction.  They admired their boyfriends or tried to keep their little ones still and distracted while the barbers did their magic.  Because nothing says Mother’s Day like a Mom taking care of the ones she loves.

Then my friend arrived to set up a photo corner.  She was the first one to have responded to my social media post.  She came with a gorgeous backdrop of paper flowers and starting clicking off pictures of the moms and their little ones.  Each mom addressed an envelope to herself not quite knowing why.  Well, the secret’s out of the bag now – – – we’ll be dropping Mother’s Day cards and these pictures in the mail for them to receive on Mother’s Day.  Because nothing says Mother’s Day like photos and keepsakes to mark special times over the years.

After a delicious dinner, the teens settled in for the message. The kids were taken into child care where 4 of my other friends whose hearts had been tugged at by my social media post showed up to hold babies and play with toddlers.  The message told of the prodigal son and the way he was welcomed back into his father’s arms without question or hesitation.  Then the kids got an amazing visual on how man, sin, and God really work.  It was kind of a science experiment-y thing with magical color changing liquids, but it tangibly showed the kids how Jesus takes all of our sin away if we will just let him pour into us. Because nothing says Mother’s Day like an encouraging word (us mamas need lots of them to do what we do every day and not grow weary), and God’s word encourages far better than any friend or advice column!

img_1249.jpgAll of our teen moms left the evening feeling special – I hope, anyway.  I left the evening feeling so thankful for women who had responded to a little heart nudge via social media.  I felt like they too had received a little early Mother’s Day gift they probably weren’t expecting – the blessing of serving others and having a front row seat to seeing just how well our God does SPECIAL!

Tricia, Santa Ana Volunteer

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Tricia with her own daughter Claire

 

Like A Family

For this week’s blog post, we are excited to introduce you to one of our young moms, Yessie. She and her husband David, and their two beautiful daughters attend the Huntington Beach Club nights. Yessie kindly answered a few interview questions for us…so that you could know her just a little bit better. (We think you’ll love her!)

Tell us a little about you…your girls, your husband.  Well, my name is Yessie and I have two little girls. One is two years old and the other one is eight months. The oldest one is named Grace and the little one is Faith. My husband’s name is David and we’ve been married for  one year.

Yessie_and_familyHow long have you been coming to YoungLives?  I have been going to YoungLives around two and a half years.

How did you first find out about YoungLives?  I found out about YoungLives in my high school in a teen parenting class.

How would you describe what YoungLives is?  YoungLives is like my second family.

DSC_0268What would you say to another teen parent to convince them to try YoungLives?  That YoungLives is caring, loving, and they’re like a family.

What is your favorite part about Club night?  I love everything they do, but my favorite part is when they teach about the Word of God.

dsc_0261.jpgWhat are your dreams/goals?  My dream is to get back into singing and playing the piano at church to our God.

What is the hardest part of being a mom? What is the BEST part of being a mom?  The hardest part of being a mom is leaving them when you have to work and they’re crying because you’re leaving. Also when they run and fall and hurt themselves, it hurts me seeing my babies cry 😢

My favorite part of being a mom is playing with them, singing to them as they fall asleep, and coming home from work and seeing their beautiful smiles.

~Yessie 

 

 

The Power of A Story!

Recall a time that you were sitting and listening to another person’s story.  Can you recall the power of their words?  Did they impact you, encourage you, answer questions that you had twirling in your head, give you hope or peace knowing that you aren’t the only one?  I personally love to hear other’s stories because we get to know the person a little more deeply and realize that we are not the only person who goes through the tough times.  Well, last week at our Huntington Beach Club, we had TESTIMONY NIGHT!  Four brave people got up in front of all of us to share their stories.  I call them brave because it is a bit intimidating to get up in front of a room full of people who you don’t know and share the details of your life.  How will people respond?  What will they think after they hear our failures, our struggles, our victories?  Will I be judged?  It takes courage and obedience to God to do this and it’s always so powerful.

DSC_0261DSC_0275But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me step back.  As usual, our club started out with laughter and fellowship between all of the volunteers, the teens and their children. Because of many generous donations, we have a few tables that are lined with clothes and set up by a Life Group full of volunteers so that parents can go through and pick out some outfits for their children.  One less thing to think or stress about – providing clothes for their kids.  Kim Wallace provided a homemade dinner that was delicious as always and allows all of us to pause, to sit, and to eat together and catch up with one another.  Again, one less thing for all of us to think or stress about – what to make for dinner!

DSC_0284After dinner came the testimonies.  We heard from three women and one man who all shared where and how they have fallen short in life and how God showed Himself as the Redeemer.  One woman was asked at the last minute – like seriously the last minute before club started and so graciously agreed to share her story.  She is the daughter of a teen mom and she shared how the prayers and devotion of her mom led her to the place she is today.  This story gave a lot of parents hope.  All of the stories gave the parents hope and even some relief.  The teen moms shared afterward that they too hope that one day their kids will feel the same way about them.  They hope that their kids will one day appreciate all of the sacrifices and prayers that they so willingly do for them now.  We assured them that they would.  Maybe not in those teen years, haha, but they will one day hear “Thank you, mom.  Thank you, dad.”

 

 

We had these great powerful talks like we do each month after the Club talk – all the while Tracy Sumner was in the background putting together beautiful jars of wildflowers to give out to the girls to take home.  Wildflowers.  A beautiful representation of us.  On our own, we each can be a little wild or weedy, but when we join together in a bunch to prepare and share a meal, watch children so parents can be filled up, hear powerful stories and then encourage each other – we look and feel great!

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Chick Bryan, Volunteer Mentor and Prayer Warrior

 

 

 

Baskets of Love and Hope

As a YoungLives volunteer I get the privilege of delivering baskets filled with gifts for newborn babies.  These baskets are made up of items that have been gladly donated by people because they love the Lord and know babies are a blessing from God. The love inside the baskets is shown through the teeny little baby outfits, socks, onesies, diapers,  and the beautifully handmade blankets. The new mothers see that their newborns are loved and is welcomed into the world with so much love. img_1846.jpgimg_1847.jpg

When I arrive at the door of the home to deliver, I know that what I carry in has been assembled especially for this new precious baby girl or boy. The new mom’s eyes light up and they are so thankful for the gift but more importantly for YoungLives and what it represents. I always ask to hold their sweet newborn (which is my reward indeed!) and as I hold this baby I remind the mom that this baby is truly a Gift from God and I get to thank her for giving them life. Another thing I like to do is ask the mom for permission to pray for the baby and ask God to bless this precious child.  Since I speak Spanish I have prayed for babies with grandparents close by as well.  One baby, I was holding and praying for him, and while I prayed he gave me a huge smile – I will never forget that smile and feeling that God was surely there with us.

Yes, these baskets are filled with much more than stuff – they are filled with love and hope!

Irma Hernandez, Volunteer and Newborn Outreach

 

I Was A Teenage Mom

Spring was everywhere to be found last Tuesday, April 3rd, at Newsong Church in Santa Ana. A filling meal of stuffed baked potatoes was served (a reminder of the cold temps that were fading) and a refreshing strawberry salad gave a hint of the newness to come.  Toddlers toddled around playing without being weighed down by jackets and newborns were passed around amongst friends. Springtime flowers lined the side tables, waiting to be utilized during craft. However, the most evident of the springtime clues, was the conversation between young parents and mentors as they talked about the challenges of finishing the school year strong once spring break was over.

DSC_0182Once dinner and catching up finished, the kiddos were entrusted to the amazingly wonderful volunteers who had come to serve in the childcare room.  Mentors and teens gathered in the big room to play a break-the-ice game of “who am I” and many were shocked about just how little so many of us knew about pop-culture. Who could have guessed just how many clues had to be given for Beyonce or Obama to have been recognized???

DSC_0233Next came the heart of the reason why we had gathered… testimony night.  Myrna got up and introduced four brave volunteers who have all been working closely with the Santa Ana group for quite a while now and she also shared that testimony night is one of her favorite clubs each year.

 

We were blessed to hear the testimony of a couple whose lives mirrored many in the room. We heard how life had thrown them a curve ball when they found themselves to be expectant parents as teenagers. They shared about some of the struggles which they had faced such as finishing school, finding jobs, raising kids and getting married. The cool thing for our young parents was that they got to see a hope for their future families… this couple shared that with the faith that they put in Jesus and in God’s plan, they were able to overcome all of the obstacles thrown their way. They have been happily married for many years and are now really productive members of the Santa Ana community.  Our young parents got to see how life really can come full circle if you trust the plan that God has for you and turn your family over to Him.

DSC_0222Next to them sat another kind of couple in the form of a father and his 17 year old adopted daughter.  They shared a similar message about entrusting God to lead your life, but their path was much different. They represented the single parents out there and the hope that God can heal broken hearts.  The daughter shared that she had been born to a single teenage mom and how she had trusted God through prayer to complete her family. This 17 year old is my daughter. I was that teenage mom. God answered my daughter’s prayer by bringing a man into our lives who took on the challenge of entering a ready-made family becoming my husband and her adoptive dad all at one time. My husband went on and shared how he had been in a dark place back then and was taking part in some self-destructive activities until he started to trust in God little by little. He shared how God had brought hope into his life 12 years earlier through a “cute 5-year-old girl and her single mom”, at just the right moment. Both Dave, my husband and Bella, our daughter went on and shared how their journey didn’t end like a storybook. Our entire family had to come together and trust God’s path in order to even begin to be an example of God’s love and to be stewards of His blessings. This may be the path for some of our current teen parents and they got to see that God brings families together in many different ways.

DSC_0239DSC_0255The point of the evening really shone through as the teens found a bit of themselves in each testimony and shared prayer requests with mentors.  The power of God’s faithfulness was obvious as the teens learned about how we can leave our old lives behind and accept God’s love at any time (sometimes even multiple times) and how our lives will change when we let God carry ourselves and our families in the palm of His hands.

Theresa Stack, Santa Ana Club Mentor

An Office Visit

Yesterday, as I was driving home from my YoungLives office, I was reflecting on what the week had looked like so far and what would need to be accomplished before we break for the Easter weekend. You know, a mid-week review of sorts. And really, this week has probably been a lot like your week – a full calendar, unpredictable, funny, lots of details to keep track of, and needs that may or may not be able to be met. It has included a lot of brainstorming and planning. A lot of emails and texts and printer jams. It has required flexibility and prayer. It has brought many smiles, some “whys?”, and a lot of, “oh my gosh, how are we going to pull all this off?” (those are my thoughts, not Myrna’s -lol!!!) Sound familiar? The thing that may set my week apart from yours is that YOU are actually a part of why I do what I do!

So, today, as I sit at my desk, I realize that it actually tells a good story of what we’re currently working on and since we are in it together, let me bring you in!

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  1. Annual Giving Gala Save the Date cards labeled, stamped, and in the mail for us – thanks Nicole! If you haven’t received yours, let me know!
  2. Program is prepped and printed for next week’s Banquet Committee meeting.
  3. A box of thank you notes waiting to be written (my heart writes these notes to our donors, supporters, and volunteers all the time but unfortunately, they take me a little longer to actually get from my heart to paper, to the mailbox – ugh!)
  4. On Monday, we had a YoungLives Regional Staff day in Carlsbad where we shared in a time of devotion and prayer, discussed upcoming camps and volunteer training days, heard a little bit of how things are going in other local YoungLives club and were given a book on Godly discernment in leadership – thank you Emilie!
  5.  Thank you to KelsyKenworthy.com for designing the flyer for the 3rd Annual North OC YoungLives Golf Tournament. They are now printed and ready to hand off to the tournament Director, Mike Nelson, who has taken his passion for golf to the next level in holding this benefit golf tournament for North OC YoungLives summer camp fund.
  6. Volunteer and Teen Parent sign-in sheets are printed and ready to go for next week’s Santa Ana Club night.
  7. Labels for the Baby Bottle “Change Lives” coin drive that two of our Committee members, Laurie & Cristen, are over-seeing for the second year in a row. Another fun way we raise money for the summer camp fund.
  8. This was a fun little surprise bag of toys given to us from one of our church partners to use as raffle prizes at next week’s Santa Ana Club night.
  9. A photo of four teen moms from last year’s Prom reminding me that we still have some details to get wrapped up for this year’s prom in June! (Don’t you LOVE the photos hanging at my desk of the teen parents and their little ones? Makes me smile each morning I get to my desk 🙂
  10. Staples on my desk – laptop and coffee.

WE are in this together. If you’re reading this, you’re invested – and if you’re invested with us, lives will continue to change. Young lives changing, this is what it is all about. Thank you for visiting! I LOVE that I get to be a part of this, I love that you get to be part of this.

Colleen Drew :: Area Office Admin

My “Trust-Fall” with God

This week we introduce Amanda Bickert to you. Amanda is the Childcare Coordinator at the Huntington Beach Club and she has such a HUGE heart not only for the babies and toddlers but for the volunteers and pretty much all people. Here in her own words, is Amanda’s YoungLives story:

If you were to ask me seven months ago if I trusted completely in the Lord, I would have quickly responded with a shaky, unconfident “yes.” Last year I experienced God closer than I ever had before- He pulled me from darkness and showed me His love in miraculous ways. I was transformed, yet I still had trouble fully trusting Him. He had already done so much to prove His sovereignty and undying love for me, yet I felt I didn’t know what it was like to solely rely on Him. My friends would tell me about experiences on mission trips where they had no choice but to trust in God, to which I felt I could not relate. I was beginning to think I would never experience that level of trust, that level of intimacy with God. Then…YoungLives happened.

Last fall, I was approached with the opportunity to be the Childcare Coordinator for North OC YoungLives club nights. I had volunteered in childcare several years prior, so stepping into more of a leadership role felt like a natural step. God called me to take a step of faith, but I had no idea the lesson He was going to teach me along the way.

 

Fast-forward to my first club night as Childcare Coordinator- there were so many unknowns. I thought to myself, “What if no volunteers show up? Will the parents trust me with their children? What happens if a kid throws up (still my worst fear)? Will I fail at this task God has given me?” I was becoming overwhelmed in a situation I had voluntarily walked into.

But then I flashed back to a conversation with the previous Childcare Coordinator, Cristen. She told me that God always makes club nights happen. He knows every detail of the night and exactly what is needed to make it happen. He always shows up and is always faithful. At that point, I had two choices. I could continue to fear the night ahead of me, or I could turn to the feet of Jesus with arms open, hands empty, TRUSTING that He was going to provide.

Feeling like I was out of options, I turned to worship and prayer. God met me and reminded me how big He is and how small I am. In my weakness, He is my strength. God took my fear and replaced it with glory. He lovingly nudged me into the unknown, where I would have no choice but to trust in Him completely.

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If you’ve served in childcare to any degree, you know it is madness. It’s messy, loud, frustrating, and of course exhausting. I can honestly say that if I didn’t have Jesus, I would leave every club night in a heap of tears. BUT, Jesus is there. He shows up. He provides for His children. He makes every night worth it because I know He is doing great things in the hearts of the teen mom’s and dad’s in the room next door. He transforms the lives of the teens, volunteers, and YoungLives staff by us simply choosing to show up. He provides the perfect number of volunteers every week for the number of children we have. It’s stories like these that I couldn’t make up if I tried. God is literally in every aspect of club night. He knows and takes care of every detail.

I am eternally grateful that I get to witness the glory that this ministry radiates, and to learn first-hand what it means to rely on God fully. He desires for us to know and trust Him, but we must show up and be willing to stand empty-handed, prepared to let Him move.

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Amanda Bickert :: Childcare Coordinator

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Alejandra’s Viewpoint

For this week’s blog, we are excited to introduce you to one of our teen moms, Alejandra. She and her daughter Mariana attend the Santa Ana Club nights. She allowed us to send her a few interview questions and she so articulately sent her answers to us. (You’re going to love her!)

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How long have you been coming to
YoungLives?  I have been attending since I was pregnant in 2016.

How did you find out about YoungLives?  I found out about it when I was attending Santa Ana High School. They would come to teach parenting classes.

How would you describe what YoungLives is to a friend that doesn’t have a baby?  It is a club for teen parents. We have mentors that help us. We have dinner all together as a big family. We then have alone time and talk about God and do crafts while our kids are in the child care.

What would you say to another teen parent to convince them to try YoungLives?  Whenever I tell someone new to attend club, I tell them they won’t regret it. That they will have a lot of fun. Everyone is friendly. That we have dinner and make fun crafts. Every YoungLives mentor is always there for you. Including when you need help buying something for your baby.

What is your favorite part about club night?  My favorite parts about club are when we make crafts and talk about God. It gives me peace.

 

What are your dreams/goals?  I want to become a phlebotomist. To be able to provide for my daughter.

What is the hardest part about being a mom? What’s the BEST part?  The hardest part about being a mom is when your baby is sick because they get really fussy and you need a lot of patience. The best part about being a mom is EVERYTHING! Especially when my baby hugs me or just simply says, “Mom” or gives me a big smile.

♥ Alejandra, YoungLives teen mom