It’s Going to be Okay

Photo by Microsoft

Photo by Microsoft

“I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost.”

His life was simple, but that day he lost it all. Everything he’d lived for, poured himself into, believed would be… it was instantly gone.

He’d failed.

I can’t help but feel the same way right now.

I want more than anything for this body to carry another child.

I want more than anything for our daughter to run through the yard with the “li’l brudder” she asks for almost every day.

I want more than anything to see her press her little hand into his.

And so I wait. And I ask for a miracle. Just like that man, that day…

“My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my life…”

I’m like him, this man, this Peter, who lost his dream. He tried to follow Jesus, but found in the end he simply could not come to the death.

But there is a Spirit inside of me that this man did not have. Because of this Spirit I am empowered to follow Jesus to the dark places. I am empowered to see His strength. I am empowered to not waiver, because…

I am frail, but the hand that holds me is not.

Whatever the future… He is in it. And no death-rattle can haunt when He is here.

***

What are you struggling with today? How can I pray for you? Please comment!

***

The BoyBekah Hamrick Martin is a national speaker and the author of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God’s Purity Plan (Zondervan).

26.2

26.2

Photo by Microsoft

I wish I was a runner. They look so awesome cutting me off on the highway, with their “26.2” stickers flashing at me from their back bumpers.

For years I thought 26.2 was a radio station.

Do you know what my car says? It says “Author”.

My mother bought me that sticker. Maybe I should buy her an equivalent one that says “Proud Parent of a Nerd”.

Some kids are born athletic. Pictures show my husband coming out of the womb with biceps from doing pushups on his mom’s uterine wall since approximately gestational day 49 when he first developed hands.

I came out of my mother with a mild case of atrophy and a pair of granny glasses dangling from my oversized nose.

You may realize by now that I’m not athletic. Being a nerd is a poor cop-out for exercise, I know. But some day when you, my runner friend, are old and decrepit and atrophied, maybe you will realize how I feel every day of my life.

Who am I kidding? You will still be flying past me with a “26.2” bumper sticker from last week’s marathon on your car butt.

At least I will be too old and blind to see it.

***
10289819_686616381391858_2334978961076964519_n-1Bekah Hamrick Martin is a national speaker and the author of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God’s Purity Plan (Zondervan).

Part II – Why Kids Are Leaving Church

This is the second part of a multi-installment series on Spiritual Abuse in the church. You can read the first part here.

Photo by Microsoft

Photo by Microsoft

At some point we, as youth leaders, became obsessed with wanting the kids to get out there and serve.

Maybe it was the old southern adage that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. Maybe it was because we didn’t want to be like those other youth groups; you know — the ones who are always looking for the bigger, better way to entertain and draw more people in.

When it came down to it, we wanted to show our youth that they could make a difference.

We took it too far.

Every Saturday the kids were singing at the nursing home, or cleaning up a widow’s yard… followed by teaching Sunday school to the three-year-olds, playing instruments in church, leading prayer services, putting on happy faces even when doubts and fears were right beneath the surface…

Doubts and fears we would have recognized, had we slowed down to register the looks on their weary faces.

In the process we failed to remember that even Jesus didn’t have a formal ministry until he was thirty.

Complaints were met with reminders of how blessed we were to be in America, in this time, in this place. Meanwhile, the art of sitting still, learning, pouring into these kids and their hearts and their questions was drowned out by the busyness. 

They were exhausted. (So were we.) They’d never had a chance to fill up on grace before being asked to pour it into others.

In moderation, I think the service theory would have worked.

But people aren’t theories. They are people. Who are developing, growing, feeling.Because of our focus on the outside appearances, here are the three outcomes I saw again and again in my ten years of youth ministry:1 – Rebellion

They walked away. The expectations were too much. In the words of Josh McDowell, “Rules without relationship = rebellion”. I would add to that, however. If the focus is on the rules instead of the heart, even if you have a relationship, you’re going to have rebellion.

2 – Hiding

Just what it sounds like; these kids went underground. Their anger turned inward. They self-harmed and self-medicated in ways they thought we would never understand.

3- Buck up and Do It

These were outwardly the star students. They had what it took to make it to every church meeting, volunteer at every event, stand out in the crowd. They met every challenge and asked for more.

Consequently, many of them burned out at an early age. I witnessed teens who were literally physically sick from giving so much. They had served to the point of believing that to sit back and receive was some sort of shortcoming.

The concept of pressuring our teens to serve (out of balance) is a fill-in-the blank scenario. Pressuring people doesn’t just apply to serving–any time we focus more on outside appearances or actions, we miss an opportunity to love someone where they are and let Jesus transform them.

I wish I would have realized… at some point, friends, we have to start loving people where they are–not where we want them to be.

***
Your turn: what are some other forms of spiritual abuse or pressure? Please share in the comments.
***
10289819_686616381391858_2334978961076964519_n-1Bekah Hamrick Martin is a national speaker and the author of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God’s Purity Plan (Zondervan).
Please stay tuned for the third and final part of the series, how to reverse spiritual abuse.

Why Kids Are Leaving Church

Photo by Microsoft

I get to decide where I’m safe.

No amount of guilt or shame will ever change that.

-Michelle Pendergrass, speaking about toxic people

I sat in the church classroom, completely paralyzed. For ten years I’d loved these kids and others like them, watching each heart and each trial and each suicidal tendency… only to see these fragile stems become torn and beaten down by spiritual pressure.

The leaders, the ones I’d grown to love… didn’t see their admonishments as verbal abuse. They saw it as verbal encouragement to do the right thing.

Looking back, I realize that the “encouragement” of those days was a result of fear.

Fear that these kids would fail.

Fear of the tough questions.

Fear that they would make the same mistakes we did.

Fear that they would get hurt.

Fear that they would leave the church.

My youth leader friends had good hearts. They may have been in the right place, but the pressure they placed week after week on the kids to perform — to ignore the tough questions — to serve wholeheartedly when they were hurting — all of this pressure left everyone disappointed because it didn’t work.

At some point we have to stop caring more about results than people.

There were attempted suicides. Broken relationships. Agnosticism. Anger. And on that day, in that classroom where I could no longer bear to see so much heartbreak, I walked away from what I saw.  

Because on that day, I began to realize that I could make a bigger difference in these kids’ lives if they did not associate me with this church and the “God” who had no grace or room for brokenness.

(My relationships with the group deepened immensely when I walked away. They gathered in my house (with leaders’ permission), shared in my life, walked and talked and cared deep. We cried together. We laughed together. I moved on to serve in another church simultaneously.)

I left on good terms. I sat down with leadership, and we talked.

But it felt like I was speaking a foreign language… like when I used the words “spiritual abuse”, I was a hypochondriac diagnosing all of us with an imaginary disease.

Looking back, I wish I would have thought through it more. Explained my heart, explained the damage I saw, explained what I wanted to see happen for these kids.

Because here’s what I find again and again now that I’m older: people who are being spiritually abusive, or spiritually abused, don’t often recognize it until it’s too late.

And it will be too late. Because spiritual pressure–a focus on what Christianity looks like, rather than caring like Christ no matter the results–doesn’t work. It might yield the desired results for a time, but eventually people who buck up and conform without grace fail. I see it here and I see it here again. 

Pressure doesn’t work. Loving people does. We were never designed to be the Holy Spirit in anyone else’s life. 

***

This is the beginning of a series on Spiritual abuse and the damage it can create.

Your thoughts? Please share in the comments.

***

You can read part 2 here.

wedding_3Bekah Hamrick Martin is a national speaker and the author of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God’s Purity Plan (Zondervan).

Surprising Beauty Products (a few of my favorite things)

Pamcookingspray.com

Pamcookingspray.com

You don’t have to go far to find the secret for beautiful nails and skin… just walk into your kitchen! I love the old Pam Secret.

Part 1: Spray on top of a thin coat of nail polish for a perfect, shiny finish. The accelerant in the bottle (found in any spray bottle of any product) will speed up the polish dry time to about two minutes (just make sure your polish isn’t too thick).

Part 2: Spray a light coat over your legs fresh out of the shower and rub it in. You’ll have the perfect summer sheen! ($3)

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 2.01.15 PM

Speaking of summer sheen, I’ve sworn off tanning beds. I’m always on the lookout for the perfect sunless tanning product.

I am almost ashamed to say I got this one from my mom (shout out!), and it is amazing. No orange. No streaking. Instant glow and peaks a few hours later, darkening for days (put it on every third day or so). Cheap! ($7)

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 2.02.49 PM

I keep coming back to Crest white strips for teeth… after trying just about everything out there at one time or another. Using it consistently for the allotted time, the results last longer than any other product I’ve tried. Also love their whitening rinse.

Your turn… what are a few of your favorite products?

***

Stay tuned for more beauty products/fashion shots from more authors, in our Ugly Duckling Transformation Series! (We can call it that because we’re referring to ourselves. ;)

***

The opinions in this article are completely my own and I was not compensated by any brand or product.

***

wedding_3Bekah Hamrick Martin is a national speaker and the author of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God’s Purity Plan (Zondervan).

For the Abused

Young Girl Swimming Underwater

Photo source: Microsoft Clip Art

For years I blamed myself for what happened, pushing down the guilt and the shame like a beach ball under water.

Every day was exhausting.

The terrifying, wonderful thing about a beach ball under water, is that eventually it will surface.

And when it surfaced, it wasn’t the lifeline I thought it would be.

When I was done swimming from what hurt so very much, when I was ready to face it and invite Jesus into the pain, he was there to comfort me.

I want you to know, Dear Girl, the one who hurts so much right now… the one who desperately wants healing, but doesn’t know how to trust Jesus with that… he has never left your side.

He has wept every bone-shaking sob with you. And he is ready to walk the rest of this terrifying, beautiful place of healing with you.

Because more than anything, this man… the one who took your shame on that cross…

He wants nothing more than to make you whole.

***

wedding_3Bekah Hamrick Martin is a national speaker and the author of The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting & God’s Purity Plan (Zondervan).

 

 

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Photo by Microsoft

Photo by Microsoft

For the Invisibles {All of Us}

Youth for Christ Dating & Waiting Retreat

Youth for Christ Dating & Waiting Retreat

One of the best parts of my “job” is getting to travel and meet new people, so when Youth for Christ invited me out for a girls’ retreat, I was super psyched. This was a small group setting (something I rarely get to try outside of my own youth group), and I loved it because it meant I got to know these girls.

Their stories, their heartaches, their hopes.

And they changed me.

It’s ironic that God has me in this time; in this place–if you’ve read The Bare Naked Truth, you know I was never the “popular” girl in high school. At best, if I could figure out how to be invisible, it was a good day.

Somewhere along the way God said “it’s time”, and He put a message in my heart, and gave me the thrill of standing in front of 3,000+ girls and sharing it. I didn’t ask for this. It wasn’t my original dream.

But I get the crazy joy of joining Him in what He’s doing. And for that, and for every new “invisible” girl I get to know and love, I’m grateful.

 

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” 

Ephesians 3:18