The wail heard through the wall.

My coworkers and I sat in our offices as the cries of an expecting mother pierced through the building. We didn’t need to be in the counseling room to understand her sobs: this pregnancy wasn’t planned, nor was it wanted. We all felt the weight of what those two pink lines on the pregnancy test meant as her wails intensified. A beloved staff member sat with this client in her shock and pain, remaining with her through her tears and her panic. Standing near the adjoining wall to the counseling room, the remainder of the staff gathered together to do the only thing we knew to do: we prayed.

I remember when I began volunteering at Choices Clinic back in 2016. I had an idea of what the work at a pregnancy clinic entailed. It was a lovely thought, clear cut and awfully naïve. I knew about the group classes, the Blessing Center and the baby bottle campaigns. I realized Choices existed to help women with unplanned pregnancies, explaining all of their choices and showing them the love and hope of Jesus.

Choices Clinic: Counseling Room

Choices Clinic: Counseling Room

 

Choices Clinic: Waiting Room

Choices Clinic: Waiting Room

But what does that look like practically from day to day in the clinic?

That day, as we listened to the wails heard through the wall, it looked like a staff member sitting with a woman in her pain. At that moment, no words would suffice. Being the hands and feet of Jesus meant meeting a woman where she was in her distress, and staying in that place with her for a time. Not rushing her through the emotions, nor leaving her there, either. It meant recognizing she was a human with a soul who needed to be met right where she was in that moment.

When the Crisis Pregnancy Center rebranded as Choices Clinic of Laurel, we wanted to be the first choice when facing an unplanned pregnancy. We also didn’t want the negative connotation of associating the word “crisis” with pregnancy. Furthermore, we don’t make the choice for you here at Choices. No, we’re not here to make the decision for the women who walk through our doors. We are here to empower women as they learn about all of their options, all while sharing Biblical truths and love with them. You’re not just a statistic at Choices Clinic. We agree with the sentiments of Bob Goff in his book Everybody, Always when he states: “People don’t grow where they are informed; they grow where they’re loved and accepted.” We take the time to meet with each client, listening to her story, discovering what it is that brought her through our doors. We then present her options with this pregnancy, explaining each option in detail. No, we don’t perform or refer for abortions, but we do provide abortion education, as many women aren’t familiar with what a chemical abortion or a surgical abortion procedure entails. We also talk to women about their choice to parent, as well as present them with the choice of adoption. Yes, we here at Choices Clinic identify as pro-life, but we also know one cannot “force” an opinion on anyone expecting them to simply understand your perspective. We can obediently speak truth into the lives of these women, investing in the relationship while building rapport and trust. But ultimately, the “results” aren’t up to us. We’re called to obedience, investing in these relationships no matter what decision is made, and the rest is up to God. We can rest in the truth that, through our weakness, Christ is made strong.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Through many hours of peer counseling, hard conversations, and ceaseless prayer, the cries rooted in fear by this overwhelmed woman were replaced with the cries of new life by her baby girl. Tears turned from mourning to rejoicing. A story turned from remorse to redemption; this is God’s goodness. We’re honored to witness God’s forgiveness, grace, and faithfulness in whatever form that may look like here at Choices; and in this case, from cries of wailing to cries of wonder.

 

Written by Mackenzie Hurt, Outreach Coordinator

A Letter From The Director

Dear Choices friends,

 

God has blessed this ministry EXCEEDINGLY AND ABUNDANTLY in 2018. We are seeing more clients than EVER before as we expand our reach to surrounding counties and school campuses. As a result, we are seeing more babies saved from abortion, more mothers and fathers learning about Christ’s love, more women getting earlier prenatal care, more students making abstinence decisions, and SO MUCH MORE!

Thank you for your continued prayers, donations, volunteer work, and all you do to share the work of the Choices ministry to our community. You are our cheerleaders! We were so blessed at our banquet this year with $32,000 in gifts that night and another $30,000 in pledges over the next 2 years. We would again like to thank our banquet sponsors: Burson, Entrekin, Orr, Mitchell, & Lacey; Creative Computer; Community Bank; ENT Surgical Clinic; Hardie and Nan Perritt; Rent-All of Laurel; SCRMC; Trustmark; and several anonymous donors. Because of their generous gifts which covered the costs of banquet, 100% of the funds raised that night will go directly to serving our clients and community. While we are incredibly thankful for all of the support we received at banquet, we are still short of our $40,000 goal. If you were unable to attend but would still like to donate, please visit friendsofccl.ms and click the “Donate Now” button. If 320 people give a one-time donation of $25, we will reach our banquet goal!

If you have any questions about who we are as a ministry at Choices, how to give or how to get involved, please call us anytime at 601-428-4357. We would love to equip you with resources to be able to share with your church, co-workers, and community about what Choices Clinic is doing in Jones County and beyond!

 

Serving Him Together,

Brittany Sherman, RN

Executive Director

#GiveLife: Join Choices Clinic and Give the Ultimate Gift on November 28th by Katie Gustafson

Giving Tuesday

We all know about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, but have you heard of Giving Tuesday?  #GivingTuesday is a global movement that takes place on the Tuesday immediately following Thanksgiving. But instead of focusing on shopping, #GivingTuesday is all about on giving back. All over the world, charities and businesses who do good in their local communities are becoming partners with #GivingTuesday, inviting others to support their cause by donating time, money, goods or acts of kindness. In the holiday season of giving, #GivingTuesday puts the focus on giving back to causes that are making a difference. To see this movement in action, simply search the hashtag, “#GivingTuesday,” on any social media platform.  This year, Choices Clinic of Laurel, MS, has partnered with the #GivingTuesday movement and invites you to join them in their local mission to bring better lives to the women, children and families to south Mississippi.

Give Life

Life is a mosaic of our choices. Sure, our families, genes, and circumstances outside of our control all play a major role in determining the people we become. However, even those events can have completely different outcomes based on our responses. This is a direct result of our ability to choose. There is an immense freedom in the human right of choice. Universally, choice makes us human. Individually, our particular choices make us who are. But what about those times when our choices look impossible?  Even worse, what about when it seems like we have no choices, at all?

Illness, poverty, loss of a loved one, responsibilities forced upon us that seem insurmountable: these are the sorts of events which can strip us of the feeling of choice. These situations are often already the lowest of low points. However, they can be made even worse by the fact that feeling choice-less means also feeling helpless and, in turn, hopeless.

A famous psychological study in classical conditioning shows what can happen in this situation. In the study, a dog experienced negative feedback (a mild shock) immediately after a bell was rung. It didn’t matter what the dog did, the result was the same each time. After a very short while, the shock was removed, but the dog continued to respond as if he had been shocked whenever he heard the bell ring. Later, the accompanying shock was brought back into the experiment, but this time the dog was given the option to remove himself from the situation.  Astounding the researchers, the dog actually chose to lie down and accept the pain instead of trying to get away from it. Since the dog in this study had initially been taught that nothing he could do would alter his circumstances, he gave up. When there actually was a way out, he could not find it because he had already learned to accept that he had no power. This concept is well-known today as Seligman’s Learned Helplessness.

The same concept applies to people.

It can be counter-intuitive for us to look for a way out of a situation that seems hopeless, especially when we have been repeatedly hit by hard circumstances. We often can’t see our choices, even if we do have them. In these situations, we need someone from the outside to come in and offer support, learning, and empowerment.

This is what Choices Clinic offers to its clients. Working with overwhelmed women who are facing the difficult situation of an unexpected pregnancy, the staff at Choices Clinic show their clients that they are not alone, and that they do have choices in how they will respond.

The specific choices that women face in the midst of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy are often oversimplified or misunderstood.  This may result in the huge amount of external pressure that women feel when facing this situation. They may be pressured to “just take care of it” (abortion) or to “suck it up and grow up” (unprepared, often single, parenthood).  One way or another, these women are often treated as if their pregnancy is an inconvenience to society, one that they must deal with alone.  Since both abortion and parenthood may be frightening unknowns to these women, many of them find themselves stuck in the helpless/hopeless spiral, in which they may respond to the shock of their circumstances by lying down and succumbing to external pressures.

Fortunately for the community of Laurel, Choices Clinic is not the kind of establishment that views unplanned pregnancy as an inconvenience. Instead, this organization functions as a haven from judgement and external pressure: a place to pause, learn, and grow. The compassionate staff at Choices approach their work as an opportunity to serve women, couples, and families by offering education as well as emotional and practical support. They offer free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, and STI/STD testing, as well as life-skill/parenthood classes and male mentoring for prospective fathers. The staff at Choices wants their clients to feel comfortable as they have their questions answered about the reality of their choices, so that these women can make an informed decision. Choices Clinic is a resource that gives women the power that they may have felt like they didn’t have before—the power to take control of the situation.

If you live in Laurel and are familiar with Choices Clinic, you may already know that this organization has a pro-life orientation. The truth is that Choices is “pro-life” in many more ways than one.  You won’t find judgement behind the doors at Choices, but what you will find is practical and emotional support, education, and empowerment. This is an organization that wants to build healthy lives, not only for unborn children, but also for expectant mothers, for soon-to-be-fathers, and for the family unit as a whole. Through this endeavor, and through helping women find the choices they didn’t think they had, Choices Clinic creates a powerful ripple effect that helps give life to our community as a whole.

How to Participate

As a non-profit, Choices Clinic could not do the work that it does without support from the local community. It requires donations of time, money and labor for Choices to keep empowering and serving lives in and around Laurel. If you would like to partner with Choices Clinic and be a participant in #GivingTuesday this year, please go to the fundraising page on www.friendsofccl.ms and click the “Support Us For #GivingTuesday” button to make a financial contribution before or on November 28th.  If you are a business owner, another way to give on #GivingTuesday is to set aside a partial amount of your proceeds on Tuesday, November 28th and donate them afterwards! If you partner with Choices Clinic this way, be sure to let others know about Giving Tuesday, about the work that is done at Choices, and why you believe in it.  You can promote the participation of your business via social media and include #GiveLife, which is the specific hashtag that Choices Clinic is using in preparation for #GivingTuesday!

Thank you to all of you who have already chosen to partner with #GivingTuesday and Choices Clinic this holiday season. Through your support, this organization can continue to be the place that it is: a place that provides choices in the midst of helplessness and growth in the midst of hardship.  In their services towards women, children and men, Choices Clinic is helping local families find the strength to blossom throughout our community.  What better way to #GiveLife this holiday season than by giving the gift of choices?

 

List of businesses participating in #GivingTuesday:

  • Adam Trest (324 N Magnolia St, Laurel, MS 39440)
  • Bumpers (1717 W 10th St, Laurel, MS 39440)
  • Guild and Gentry (321 N Magnolia St, Laurel, MS 39440)
  • Lee’s Coffee + Tea (409 W Oak St, Laurel, MS 39440)
  • Lazy Oak (located in Southern Antiques: 17 Central Ave, Laurel, MS 39440)
  • Baby Booth (located in Southern Antiques)
  • Lavori (located in Southern Antiques)
  • Cottage Books (located in Southern Antiques)
  • Kay Staple’s Booth (located in Southern Antiques)
  • Katie Gustafson’s Zumba Class (located at Curves in Ellisville)
  • Curves of Ellisville (103 E Jessamine St, Ellisville, MS 39437)
  • LoblolliPops (located at Eliza Nicole Boutique and Peddlers Junktion Location)
  • The Craft Room (located in Sawmill Square Mall)
  • PDIs (330 S Magnolia St, Laurel, MS 39440)
  • Deli Diner (801 US-11, Ellisville, MS 39437)
  • Smokehouse BBQ (737 Sawmill Rd, Laurel, MS 39440)

The Quick Fix vs. The Long Haul

In my marriage, my husband is the solution-driven-problem-solving-quick-fix guy. Broken toilet? He’s got that. Computer not loading? He’ll figure it out. If there’s an issue, he’ll fix it. This is not only true of material dilemmas, but emotional ones, too. I explain something that is perplexing me and he’ll try to find a solution. If I discuss how poorly my day went, he’ll analyze it and add suggestions on how to make my remaining day better. I love his ideas and willingness to help. But sometimes, what I need most from my “quick fix” husband is for him not to act, but just listen.

Honestly, this video says it all. Occasionally, we’ll watch this video together and laugh because this is us. And you better believe I’ve used the phrase “it’s not about the nail” once or twice in our household!

All joking aside, many of our clients here don’t have “quick fix” solutions to the circumstances they’re facing. I’ve noticed in ministry that there is a high success rate with getting folks to help with short-term projects: volunteering to work the water station at a local race, spending the day at the food pantry, or donating material goods to Salvation Army. Don’t misunderstand me, these projects are all important, and all necessary! However, most of the difficulties our clients face are not “short-term” and require patience and a long-term perspective.

The ministry at Choices is relationally focused, and relationships take time to develop.  In the book When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, two Community Development professors at Covenant College, share “Typically, the biggest challenge that ministries face is an insufficient number of people who are willing to invest the time and energy that it takes to walk through time with a needy individual or family. Finding armies of people to volunteer one Saturday per year to paint dilapidated houses is easy. Find people to love the people, day in and day out, who live in those houses is extremely difficult” (210).

Building long term relationships starts with the first interaction between the client and the staff at Choices. How can we at Choices effectively communicate our desire to walk alongside a client for the long haul?

A common trait I see amongst our clients is their own, personal weight of shame. Whatever their situation, a client has to humbly ask our staff for help. Western thinking regards poverty as a lack of material belongings. However, Corbett and Fikkert correctly point out that poverty has an emotional and spiritual dimension. “Shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness” are just a few terms poor people associate with poverty (51). Loving people long term begins with our initial interactions. Our words, tone, and body language matter. At Choices, we seek to communicate that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) and we all need grace. There is no such thing as hierarchy at the foot of the cross. Fikkert and Corbett remind us, “…until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good” (61).

It is time we break down those barriers of shame, humiliation, and social isolation. Let’s be intentional and love well, friends. It takes time and effort, but here at Choices, we’re in it for the long haul. We’re all broken, but thankfully we all have access to grace. So, how about you? Are you in it for the quick fix or the long haul?

First This, Then That

Priorities. Let me begin this by saying—I am still in the middle of figuring this out.

Towards the beginning of the summer, I started to feel a little crazy. My family and I went on a vacation in late May/early June. My husband, son, and I went on a cruise with our parents and siblings; a total of nine of us set sail out of NOLA for a 5-night/ 2-port trip with lots of food, fun, and relaxation. My husband and I discussed how we felt like we could actually breathe freely and deeply without the distractions of texts, calls, social media, and (even) work. We loved our time together with our families and were exhilarated to come back home and return to our lives refreshed and ready to roll.

About two weeks after I had returned to the “rat race” of my life, however, I realized how incredibly overwhelmed I felt by my chaotic lifestyle. At that time, I was working four jobs, failing to balance domestic duties, and not spending enough quality time with the people I love. I realized that I hadn’t slept well in months and that a health crisis at the beginning of the year had occurred due in part to my lack of balance, healthy boundaries, and self-care. (Did I mention I am a therapist? I felt like I NEEDED a therapist!!!)

After a few days of thinking through my life, I came to the conclusion that I had to re-prioritize my life and re-program myself. I sought the counsel of my husband (my best friend and respected leader of our home) and he gave me beautiful advice—“Pray about your next steps and listen.” He also added that he would trust however the Holy Spirit led me. So that is the journey I am on—prayerfully choosing what stays and what goes in my schedule, my home, and my life.

Honestly, this path has offered more questions than answers. How do I “put God first?” How do I explain to friends that sometimes less time together means more meaningful time together? What jobs do I keep? How do I use my Instant Pot to make this all work out? (<–I’m just keeping it real.)

Like I said in the beginning, I don’t have this figured out yet. I’m on a journey towards balance (and my Instant Pot is still in the box on my living room floor). However, I’m learning to say no to some really good things and save my yes for the best things. I’m trying to pray, listen, trust, and obey. I’m beginning to see the importance of delegating some tasks so I can do other jobs well. I’m hoping someone else out there is with me. Any busy, overcommitted moms? Any overworked pastors? Any dads trying to make ends meet? Any high school or college student who has something EVERY night of the week? If you’re reading this and thinking, “She’s telling my story,” I would love for you to join me on the journey of priorities, remembering that it’s not so much an end-point, more of a daily walk towards a peaceful life.

At Choices Clinic, this is exactly what we walk through with our clients. As we listen to their stories, we help them prioritize what is most important and rid themselves of what is unhealthy. At local schools, we teach on topics like goal setting and boundaries, discussing daily priorities and walking students through building these skills. I love how God has used our client and student experiences to shape my thoughts and to keep me aware of my connection to the people we serve, showing me that I haven’t “arrived.” His grace allows all of us to work with others while He is still working on us.

Through the Father’s Eyes

Lately, I have spent some time reflecting on my youth. Maybe it is because I realize just how close I am to turning 45 years old and just how close 45 years old is to 50 years old. I have some great memories of my childhood, and then I have some unhappy memories of my childhood.

When I was younger I was so awkward. I was red headed, freckled faced, and taller than most children my age. A lot of my peers picked on me because of those physical features.  My long red hair and my height made me stand out, therefore I was a target for their fun and games.  I would laugh along with the jokes and name calling. Sometimes, I would get tired of it and stand up for myself.  I am sure that no one meant any real harm, but over time those features that made me stand out, seemed like a curse to me. I began to dislike myself very much. When I was around 12 years old, I developed a poor self-image. I wished that my hair was any color but red. I wished that my skin was tanned, not freckled. I wished that I was the same height as the popular girls. I wished that I was more coordinated and less clumsy, so that I would have enough confidence to try out for cheer. I wished that just once someone would notice me for something positive. I would go home from school feeling like I was the ugliest girl at the entire school and like no one liked me. Nearly every night, I would cry myself to sleep.

Then it occurred to me that there was obviously “something wrong” with ME. Instead of seeing the red hair and freckles God gave me as unique qualities, I would have given anything to change them. I highlighted my hair, laid in the sun to get a tan, obsessed over my weight, and wore the latest trends to fit in.  Sure, those things made me feel good about myself for a little while, but I still considered myself inferior. I was so focused on other people’s opinions of me, that I didn’t take time to ask God what He thought about me. I allowed the opinions of others determine what I thought of myself. That, my friends, is a very big mistake. People are unpredictable and so are their actions or opinions. When I chose to base my self-worth on their perception of me, it always ended in disappointment.

After a few years of searching- and making some bad choices- I came to know Jesus and His acceptance. Once I understood that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made,” I began to slowly change my self-image. Through reading the scripture, I began understanding that God had a plan for me, even while being “knitted in my mother’s womb.”  Through prayer, God began the process of healing my broken self-image. I realized that I would never be able to please everyone, but I could please my Heavenly Father. It’s been my own personal experience that God is easier to please than most people. I cannot tell you that I have completely overcame the struggle of insecurity or poor self-image. However, I can tell you that now when those feelings of inadequacy and inferiority creep in, I remind myself who I am. I am the daughter of the Most High King. I am loved by the Maker. I am loved by a host of family and friends. I am even learning to love myself.

I encourage you today to take the time to see the value others possess. I wonder what we would see if we could look at people through the Father’s eyes…

It Takes a Village

This past June, I was blessed to be able to go on my very first mission trip to Belize, Central America. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this week, but I was excited to go and share God’s love with the Belizian people. I went to teach and share, but it was ME who learned so very much from the amazing people that I met. My heart and my outlook will never be the same!

One amazing person I met during my visit to Belize is a village nurse named Raquel. She is one of the most caring and compassionate women I have ever met. Because the doctor only sees patients in Raquel’s village for 3 hours every 60 days, she “stands in the gap” for the patients in between their doctor’s visit. Whether it’s walking or riding a bicycle she only recently acquired, Raquel visits the village residents. On top of performing basic medical care and monitoring, she does so much for her community. She shares information to educate her patients and holds classes for the community to attend so they can learn and have a better understanding of different issues. She is a comfort and encouragement to those who are scared, anxious, or afraid. She has opened a sewing class in the medical clinic so that the women in the community can learn to sew, which is just one of the many ways she empowers her community. These women make different items to sell so that they can provide for their families. They often sell the items that they make in order to purchase diapers or formula for their babies. In a tiny clinic with no running water, this woman is a blessing to this community of 2,002 people. While her circumstances are challenging, her faith is strong. She leans on The Savior and points others to Him.

This small, Belizian village reminded me of some of the services that we provide here at Choices Clinic. We offer similar services to the people in our community. Our goal at Choices is not only to provide medical services such as pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and STI testing/treatment, but to also offer comfort, encouragement and hope to those who are scared, anxious, and afraid by sharing the gospel of Christ’s love, grace and forgiveness with our clients. We also provide information so that our clients can make informed choices in numerous areas of their lives.

Our material assistance program is based around offering group classes that educate women with life skills to empower them so that they are able to make a difference in their families and in their communities. Our classes include topics such as Bible Study, Nutrition, Parenting, Healthy Relationships, Self-care, Boundaries, Budgeting, and Goal Setting. With every class they attend, clients earn vouchers that allow them to receive material items from our Blessing Center to be able to provide for their families. We want to offer our clients a “Hand Up,” not a “Hand Out.”

While I witnessed “material poverty” during my time in Belize, I also witnessed “spiritual wealth.” I saw true FAITH IN ACTION. People trusting God in ways that we don’t often see. Trusting in God in all circumstances can be challenging. We at Choices want to be able to “stand in the gap” for our clients during these difficult times. We want to pray with them and for them. And as we pray, encourage, help, and comfort, we always want to point them to the One who holds us all together. God is faithful and good, no matter what our circumstances look like.

If you are interested in teaching a group class or donating material items to our Blessing Center, please call or come by the clinic.

It truly takes a “village,” and we can’t do it without you!

Dresses That Spin

My daughter is 3 years old and in preschool. She is very social (I wonder where she gets that from? LOL) and her friends are very important to her. Her favorite article of clothing is a hand-me-down, floral dress with a green tulle skirt. She loves it because it looks like a tutu and it “spins” (which is a requirement for anything she wears *eye roll*). This dress is so worn out and every time she picks it out, I cringe. But she loves it, so as long as it’s clean, I usually oblige.

One day, she wore the dress and when I picked her up, she looked upset. When I asked her what was wrong she said, “_____ said that I was ugly and that my dress is ugly and that I should never wear it again.” Anger immediately swelled in my mommy heart and, of course, thoughts crossed my mind about calling her mother to handle it. After a few deep breaths, I responded with something like, “First of all, neither you nor your dress is ugly. You are SO beautiful and what she said was wrong. We do not say mean things to people or put them down. I know that is your favorite dress and if you love it, you should wear it no matter what other people say.”

That particular instance sticks out in my head as one that genuinely hurt her feelings, but it’s not uncommon for her to come home saying things about so-and-so not being her best friend anymore because she didn’t want to play. She’s my only child but I figure that whole best-friend-change-everyday thing is pretty common at her age. However, bullying about clothes and her appearance is a little more striking. SHE IS THREE!!! And I just think, is this starting already??! In the one-year old class she was the kid who had accident reports sent home on the reg because she was bitten or hit by another child. Just this week she came home with 3 marks on her arm because a child pinched her with her fingernails and the teacher assured me that Aubrey had done nothing to provoke it.

Maybe I’m an overprotective mother thinking too much into it at her age. But in my line of work, I see the impact of bullying as it carries into the teenage years. Social media has not helped anything but that’s a whole separate blog post. Y’all: Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 15-34 and the THIRD leading cause of death for ages 10-14(1). We all know that peers are some of teens’ biggest influences. When kids are bullied, including cyberbullying, it causes major psychological damage that, so often, goes undetected.

So what do we do as parents, teachers, pastors, etc.? First, we’ve got to take bullying seriously. Kids who are bullying, even at 3 years old, need to be taught how serious and wrong it is to put others down. In the school system, there should be consequences to bullying so that kids who are being bullied feel like something will be done about it if they tell an adult. Second, we’ve got to be more aware of what our kids are searching on their phones/devices, conversations they are having over text, etc. This will help us identify warning signs about suicidal thoughts or ideations, or if there is a peer(s) who is bullying and possibly even encouraging suicide. I have been so disturbed in recent news stories about teens who were encouraging, and even pushing, their peers to commit suicide. Mind blown.

I know I don’t really have any authority to speak on this topic because I only have a 3 year old. However, it scares me to death to think about her future and what she might endure. My husband and I do everything we can do tell her she is beautiful every day and to instill value in her because God created her in HIS image. We pray for protection over her heart. God holds her life and knows her future. We can only be faithful to raise her with as much love as we can as earthly parents.

In closing, here at Choices we want to face this issue head-on. We are incorporating more emphasis on bullying, depression, and self-worth in our high school classes this Fall per student request. We want our message to ALL teens to be: This time in high school is so temporary and short in comparison to your whole life. We love you, Jesus loves you, and He has a plan for your life!

 

  1. Center for Disease Control. “Suicide: Facts at a Glance.” 2015. Retrieved June 21, 2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide-datasheet-a.pdf.

Staff Series: Back to School!

At Choices Clinic, part of my job is to be “boots on the ground” in high schools and colleges in the area, working to build relationships with students, faculty, and administration. Through these relationships, my desire is to help our youth make better decisions and have healthy, age appropriate relationships. Research demonstrates that many teenagers are sexually active and experiencing the consequences of this decision. Ten million new cases of STDs occur in the age group of 15 to 24 and in 2015, over 4,000 teenagers in Mississippi reported being pregnant. At Choices Clinic, we desire to inform youth about all of the risks of teenage sex, including pregnancy and STDs as well as relational, emotional, and spiritual consequences. We also believe that when we teach students about healthy boundaries, their self-worth, and the importance of setting goals, the outcome is an empowered youth, armed with their own voices and vision.

At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, we began to develop a relationship with a local high school, where we were invited to teach five sessions to the 10th and 11th grades. In the classes, we were able to speak on the following topics: (1) Personality and Self-Worth, (2) Self-Care and Boundaries, (3) Goal Setting, and (4) STD Education. During our time at the high school, we have worked to develop relationships with the students, faculty, and administration. Our focus has been to instill a sense of self-worth and to help students develop a healthier perspective. The administration has invited us back next year to teach classes to the entire student body, and we are excited to see how God will use our presence in the schools to impact students, teachers, administration, and us!

As fall quickly approaches, we are working to fill the slots to teach all three grades in the high school. Without the help of volunteers, we will be unable to teach this fall! If you are interested in volunteering and have a heart for reaching youth, please contact us at 601-428-4357.

-Shirley

Staff Series: Burdens and Boundaries

Walking with someone through suffering is an incredibly delicate process. Because it not only affects the one experiencing suffering, it can affect those supporting said sufferer. When someone is struggling, their load is heavier and they need to share it. As a friend, you will take some of the burden to lighten their load. Well, a true friend should do this, anyway. The same goes for the relationship between a client advocate and the client. One of the phrases I’ve noticed commonly used is “I feel like such a burden.” Our response as a client advocate is “no, you’re not a burden, but the load you carry is very heavy, and I’m honored you entrusted me to share that burden with you.”

Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to speak to students at our local public high school. During this talk, I addressed the need for healthy boundaries and proper self-care. Through this blog post, I want to share with you, our supporters, a few insights I shared with the students.

Over my short lifespan, I’ve experienced walking with friends through different forms of suffering, and I’ve quickly learned boundaries are the best possible way to support someone else while taking care of yourself. I believe sharing one another’s burdens is an opportunity to show each other love through service and sacrifice. And this can be applied anywhere, not just for those experiencing life altering suffering. Let me give you an example:

When the cooler weather began this winter (relatively speaking), my husband took the car into work rather than his motorcycle. Without a car, I depend on rides from co-workers daily to get to my own job. Having to depend on someone else for everyday transportation can feel burdensome, because you’re dependent on that individual. I have the ability to walk, but more often than not, a co-worker will pick me up since my home is along the way to work. These ladies could be thinking 1 of 3 things: 1) man, picking up Mackenzie sure is a pain, but somebody has got to do it!  2) picking up Mackenzie is fine, just so long as she doesn’t inconvenience me or 3) I’m glad I get to pick up Mackenzie, because through this act of giving her a ride, I can show her that I care. Besides, she’s just the greatest and my mornings are so much better with her around!

Ok, so I may have added that last part in, but they could be thinking that!

Galatians 6:2 (NIV):
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

In my opinion, the word “burden” carries a negative connotation. But we’re called to carry one another’s burdens. Some are heavier than others, obviously, but it’s what we’re supposed to do. I wonder if we should start changing the conversation about the word “burden.” Not something to be ashamed of, but view it as an opportunity, a way to show Christ’s love in a specific way to that person in a way they’ll appreciate it most.

I’m really writing this as a reminder to myself, because I want to continue bearing one another’s burdens. But I need to set boundaries, because I’m only able to help others if I can properly take care of myself. I used to feel guilty for setting boundaries because I felt like I wasn’t being a good friend, not being available every hour of every day. But setting boundaries is not weakness, it’s strength. In Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, he refers to a “love tank.” I can only love people more fully if my own love tank is being filled. In order to do this, I need to spend time filling my love tank through reading the Word, spending time in prayer, seeking God daily, and fulfilling my duties as a wife, employee, sister, daughter, niece, aunt, and friend to the best of my ability. I can love others because Jesus loves me, and He is my source of love. Because of His sacrifice, my love tank is constantly being filled, no matter how often I’m let down by others. Following the same line of thought, I think of setting boundaries as a “service tank.” If I want to better serve, I need to take care of myself, so I can be refueled every day for another day of service. I repeat, setting boundaries is not a sign of weakness. You’ll be able to help more if you’re fully present and fully focused, but you won’t be if you’re constantly being drained. Instead, you’ll be exhausted, weary, and resentful.

There is always a burden to be shared, and I want to help carry the load to the best of my ability.

Let’s get to it.