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)
bebrave

~Nicole Maiocco

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Easter Club

Every month teen moms, dads and their children gather together with their mentors and other volunteers for a really fun evening! Last week we saw many familiar faces at club (and some new ones too) as we celebrated Easter together!

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Laurie Bradley, our Club Coordinator, plays a big role behind the scenes every week making sure club runs smoothly. This week she took the podium to share the club talk. She did an amazing job sharing her story in a real and honest way that encouraged us to focus on the cross as we approach Easter. She shared that it doesn’t matter what our past was, Jesus loves us and died on the cross to take the pain of the past away. At the end of the talk, we had an opportunity to nail our “sins” to the cross.

DSC_0741After experiencing the freedom of nailing our sins to the cross, the girls moved on to a craft – creating Resurrection Eggs! Each DSC_0637egg crate came with 12 plastic eggs and we filled each one with a tiny symbol of Easter. What a great keepsake and reminder of the true meaning of Easter!

 

While we joyfully celebrated the new life we have in Christ because of His death and Resurrection, we also got to celebrate new life with one of our moms! Congratulations to Cheridan on the birth of baby John who arrived on February 28th.

DSC_0649Cheridan and baby John

Every month we continue to be encouraged about the amazing work God is doing in our own lives as well as the lives of the volunteers and teen moms we are so privileged to know. We look forward to Easter with humble and grateful hearts knowing that Christ made the ultimate sacrifice to give us the ultimate gift!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” I Peter 1:3

 

YoungLives is Life Changing!

We had such a great club in February! We have been seeing a consistent group of teen dads as well as a group of teen moms and mentors from Santa Ana. When I look around the room full of moms, dads, babies, and volunteers my heart leaps with excitement.

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This year we have several male mentors mentoring teen dads.

We played a hilarious game where pairs fed each other ice cream while laying down on their backs. Everyone laughed so hard.

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For the craft we worked on a scrapbook! The goal was to have the teen moms and dads take a moment to think about what YoungLives means to them. The moms and dads were so creative! One quote that stood out to me was one of the graduated moms that wrote “YoungLives is life changing” and she said that that was all she needed to write to express what YoungLives means to her. I can’t wait for all of you to see the finished scrapbook!

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“YoungLives has really made a difference in my life…”

The talk this month was about sin. I was a little bit nervous about how I would bring truth yet also being sensitive. The scripture I shared was the woman caught in adultery. One thing I remembered as I prepared was something my Pastor, Andrew Schey, shared with me once in discipleship training- when you speak with the authority of the Word, you don’t have anything to worry about.

When I was in high school I had a falling out with a close friend over a miscommunication. Although we resolved our differences, things were never the same after that incident. The misunderstanding that we had separated us from that point forward. In a similar way our sin separates us from God.

In John 8 Jesus took the time to see the woman caught in adultery and show her that she was valuable. The townspeople were their with stones in hand to condemn her and Jesus reminds them that we all are sinners- white lies, sleeping around, betrayal, stealing, cheating, lying… the list goes on. Standing their completely exposed, the woman watches each stone drop to the ground as her attackers walk away one by one. She looks up at the one left standing, the one that doesn’t have any sin, and Jesus tells her he doesn’t condemn her either. He then tells her to go home and leave the life she is living. He gained her trust by defending her and he also helped her move towards a more satisfying life.

At club, I used an illustration to show the group how God sees our value despite the sin and messiness that we bring. Oftentimes I feel like the woman in this story, I feel like what I have done, where I have been, and what I have experienced is too gross for Jesus, and even others, to handle. In the illustration I asked the group to picture a crisp one hundred dollar bill as us and a plastic bowl as our life. I then proceeded to dump a can of spam over the 100 dollar bill- to represent the hatred and anger in our lives, then a bottle of mayo- to represent the lying, cheating, and stealing, then sardines- to represent each of the things that we do that we know we shouldn’t do, then single serve containers of green mush- to represent the sins that others have committed against us. It was a smelly, gross-looking, completely inedible mess. I proceeded to throw it away and stopped midway and asked if anyone thought I should keep it. A few said no and a few said “THERE IS ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS IN THERE!”

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With all of the sin and junk in our life and the sins of others that impact us, we are still valuable. Just like the one hundred dollar bill our value does not change. Jesus sees us and he reminds us that he has a more satisfying life in store for us. He says you can be free of guilty, shame, and fear. You are not alone. You are loved, beautiful and perfect.