Monday, September 30, 2013

Empathy’s Expression: Turning Pain into Progress

By Amanda DeWitt

My heart sank as I heard her news. Bed rest. For the second time in two months a friend was told she’d spend the remainder of her pregnancy lying in a hospital bed. No more nursery decorating. No more pre-baby dates. No more homemade meals.

I’ve never experienced pregnancy or bed rest, yet I felt her pain. For the first two years of marriage, I struggled with a debilitating autoimmune condition. I spent countless days lying on the sofa. We made numerous doctor visits. I fought plenty of fears. Through the struggles, I learned that empathy not only feels but also acts in ways that transform us and others.

Prayer: Empathy’s Ache
Our tears teach us to weep for others. Our aches remind us to bring the wounded into God’s presence. Through prayer we plead for comfort and point the hurting back to their ultimate hope.

When my friends were placed on bed rest, I remembered how my husband used to place his hand on my back every morning before he left for work and utter a silent appeal over my sickly, half-asleep frame. His persistence strengthened my faith and bolstered my hope.  

As my friends’ situation came to my mind each day, I’d ask God to protect and sustain. I couldn’t heal their bodies or quell their fears, but I could take their burdens to the One who heals and tell them I was praying daily.

Presence: Empathy’s Compassion
We can pray from a distance. But we dispense compassion up close. Empathy calls us to move from the peripheral to be present with another. We listen, weep, and laugh, allowing our presence to provide the comfort.

I still recall the assurance another’s presence afforded during my endless doctor visits. My mom’s company offered a much-needed distraction as we drove to another appointment. Her support also challenged me to fill the gaps for my friends.

Afternoons were the worst. After their morning doctor rituals ended, they’d watch the clock until their husbands arrived from work. Since I office from home, I could arrange my availability. I’d show up midafternoon, bring strawberry frozen yogurt, and listen from the pleather hospital chair.

Practicality: Empathy’s Service
Empathy presses us closer, challenging us to meet tangible needs. Flowers for a stark room. Baked chicken for growling stomachs. Tissues for a tearful goodbye. Our service sustains as a friend adjusts to new realities and acclimates to new surroundings. 

After two weeks in the hospital, one friend longed for home cooking. My husband and I have eaten many meals with this couple, so we decided to set up a dinner party in their hospital room. Somehow garlic chicken and sweet corn touched a place inside of us and created a strong shared memory.

My friends assure me that they will be there for me when I need their prayers, presence and practical help. So pain turns to progress — both for us and for others.


Amanda DeWitt serves as the Assistant Editor for Dallas Family Magazine and works as a freelance writer, conference speaker, and contributor to Tapestry ( She’s also worked as a copywriter for a global fundraising firm and as an associate on a megachurch staff. She holds a M.A. from Dallas Theological Seminary. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Refuse To Do Nothing [We All Can Do Something]

by Kimberly Yim and Shayne Moore

What can you do?

How encouraging it is when women intentionally gather to equip themselves to fight modern day slavery! We must be intentional and diligent and we must have a plan. For without a plan and without resolve we soon relax into the multitude of daily distractions that pull our attention away. We find ourselves doing nothing. 

We were greatly encouraged women took time out of their busy lives to participate in the webinar with FullFill magazine this week. Our hope is our time together broke hearts over what breaks the heart of God and inspired a resolve to refuse to do nothing.

After we woke up to the evils of human trafficking, along with writing a book, we also both founded local organizations to gather our communities to fight slavery and raise awareness. Kimberly Yim co-founded the San Clemente Abolitionist group in Orange County.
Shayne Moore co-Founded the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition.

Both organizations are a loose-knit group of friends, colleagues, and local community leaders. These groups exist to support the individual, both the individual coming out of situations of human trafficking and the individual desiring to get involved to fight slavery. We exist to support our community and to be a bridge of awareness and connection. Lastly, we exist to support non-profits on the front lines of the fight – raising awareness about organizations and connecting them to volunteers and donors.

We understand not everyone is going to write a book or start an organization but everyone can do something. Everything our groups have done have been by “ordinary” people.  Some events occur in churches, others in homes, and even at local businesses such as a wine and cheese shop. The first events we hosted were in our living rooms.

With each event our goal is to educate on a particular topic.  Some are on general human trafficking statistics, while others are targeting a specific issue such as child soldiers in Congo, Fair Trade, or a piece of legislation.  At each event we have a tangible take-away action.  It could be as simple as ‘sign a petition’, ‘buy a t-shirt’, or it could a bigger action such as ‘host an event in a home.’

Here are some things we have done and some of our favorite organizations to support. We hope it sparks your imagination on what you can do in your community and with your friends:   

·         Start with prayer. In a church or home pray for victims, for God to bind evil, for strong legislation, and for protection of those fighting and rescuing on the front lines.

·         Invisible Children – show this short film; learn about lives of child soldiers an efforts to bring them home to their families.  Purchase a t-shirt, become monthly sponsor.

·         Tread on Trafficking – LOVE 146 (  Learn about problem of child sex trafficking, raise money through donations, sign up to participate in fitness team through running, swimming, cycling. 

·         Fair Trade Shopping – learn about what Fair Trade is, shop favorite fair trade brands – (Trade as One, iSanctuary, International Princess Project, Krochet Kids)

·         Bra drive –  Bring a bra or a box of bras; learn about good small business for trafficked survivors. 

·         Bake Sale – Valentines Day.  People donate baked goods individually wrapped and sell them for $2-$5 in front of schools or churches – give $ to favorite anti-trafficking organization.

These are just a few ideas.  Experiment.  See what works for you and your friends.  And remember to tell everyone at your event to put the National Human Trafficking Hotline Number in their phone!         888-3737-888

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

“A Beautiful Mess: The Beauty of Broken”

This blog is presented by especially for moms. Read, comment and share on social media in the next two days and we will select one commenter/sharer to receive a free MOPS annual membership, including MomSense magazine. Wow! What a deal – just for reading and commenting!

by Elisa Morgan

I mounted the stairs, reached the landing, and - yuck! There at my feet sat a disgusting mound of grey-green crusted yuck. Cat vomit.

My hands flew to my hips and I raised my wide eyes to the ceiling bellowing, “IS THE MOTHER THE ONLY ONE IN THE HOUSE WHO KNOWS WHAT CAT VOMIT LOOKS LIKE?” I wailed on, “IS THE MOTHER THE ONLY ONE IN THE HOUSE WHO KNOWS WHERE THE PAPER TOWELS ARE?”

My school-age kids appeared at the bottom of the stairs - their eyes wide as well - and shrugged. That was it: their big contribution.

Those next moments were not my best. I huffed down the stairs past my paralyzed children. I tore off sheets of paper towels of the roll – some thirty at a time. I returned to address the mess. I was a mess. And then it happened: shame assailed me.

When I was five years old, my father pulled me to his lap and told me he’d decided that he didn’t love my mother any more and they were getting a divorce. My family fell and broken and like many children, I assumed it was somehow my fault. Then my mom broke under the weight of alcohol and I wondered what I could do to fix her.

So, when it came time for me to form my own family, I threw myself into creating one that a perfect family - one immune from the breakage of my first family.  I honestly believed that if I implemented “perfect family values,” then I would have a perfect family.

Problem is, like the day on the stairs with the cat vomit, I’m a mess. I’m broken. Everybody is. Even God’s family was broken – beginning with Adam and Eve and moving forward to you and me. So no matter what we do, we all end up in broken families. Broken in one way or another.

There’s no such thing as a perfect family. Instead of fighting this reality – and failing – God invites us to embrace it. And to see the beauty he brings in the broken.

I come from a broken family. And despite my very best attempts to produce a formulaically perfect Christian family in my second—the reality is that I still come from a broken family. Today we are messy – gooey in the middle – and I love my family more than I ever thought possible, brokenness and all. I love who they are and I love who they have made me to be.

I’ve come to discover that God offers hope in the form of “broken family values”—values like commitment, humility, courage, reality, relinquishment, diversity, partnership, faith, love, respect, forgiveness and thankfulness. He understands that no one is perfect. He knows the unique journeys of loved ones. He gets it that abnormal is actually pretty normal. That people mess up and yet are worthy of respect and love and are never—ever—without hope. God holds each family close, crying with his wounded children, tenderly assembling and reassembling fallen fragments, creating us into better versions of ourselves.

God doesn’t sweep the mess of our broken up and discard it. In order to reach the broken in our world, God himself broke, allowing his own Son to die a broken death on a cross for us. He brings beauty in the broken. God loves the broken. God uses the broken. Cat vomit moments and all.

I come from a broken family. I still come from a broken family. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. I’m pretty sure that my story is likely yours too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

In My Own Little Corner, In My Own Little Chair

By Karen Buchanan

“In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be!”

I imagine that each of us, at some time in our lives, have felt like Cinderella when she sang these words. We long for a place where we are fully in control and are empowered to think, feel, and act just as we choose. It seems almost magical to think that we could enter our own private space and become all that we ever wanted to be.

In my life there have been times when the challenge of meeting the needs of others has sent me searching for a place of peace. At times I have been simply overwhelmed with the vast responsibilities of life and searched for a spot to hunker down and survive. What drives you to your “own little corner”?

In professional leadership, we may seek our corner when the frustrations of office politics cause us to avoid working as a team. When raising children, we may run for our corner when others question our parenting choices. In each case, we limit ourselves from learning from one another and embracing the community to which we are called.

In thinking deeply about the temptation to run to my “own little corner,” one of the things I have discovered is that choosing to isolate myself is really about choosing to serve myself. It is easy in “my corner” to see myself, and my survival as the ultimate goal in life.  Sometimes I legitimately need to have some space to be refilled, but this becomes problematic when I separate myself rather than engage in the community God has given me. 

When I orient my life around  Jesus, I hear him saying, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10: 39). With this orientation, my concern becomes living the life that he has for me. It frees me to love the Lord my God with all my heart, my soul, my mind; and, love my neighbor as myself (Luke 10: 27).

It’s tempting to run to our “own little corner,” but it may not be the place we really want to be.

Karen Buchanan is a professor of education at George Fox University. She is a teacher, a wife and mother, a daughter and sister, and a woman on a mission to become more like her Maker. You can follow her leadership musings at

Monday, September 9, 2013

Does the Church Love Those Without Children?

by Suzanne Burden
Feeling particularly vulnerable about my childless status, I posted my thoughts to my blog in the hopes of gaining some support. The post, “Loving the Child-free People in Your Church” received almost 300 views in 36 hours. Comments poured in from Christian women who were childless by choice or circumstance.
However, as ostracized as I and many women feel living child-free in the Church, our culture also marginalizes women without children. Time magazine recently featured a cover touting “The Child-Free Life.” The writer, Lauren Sandler, asked this question on CBS News: “What is an adult woman if she’s not a mother?”
In my opinion, the Church should be taking the lead in answering this question. Why, then, aren’t we? Is a follower of Jesus supposed to pursue parenthood at any cost? Would our financial, emotional and spiritual resources be better invested elsewhere? And is it possible, in an attempt to preserve the nuclear family, that the Church of Jesus has made an idol out of parenthood?
I ask these questions not because I want to, but because I must. After facing several years of infertility and little hope from the adoption agency we have chosen, I am child-free at age 40. Others who sit in a church pew each Sunday may not have children by choice. Many of the single and married among us long to be parents but believe that dream will never be fulfilled.
Allow me to be blunt for a moment. If those without children aren’t included at your church, if they are not welcomed and celebrated, if they are not a vital part of your services and community, then Jesus himself wouldn’t be welcome in your church. Jesus himself did not have children.  He gave us the double-love command: to love the Lord our God with everything in us and to love our neighbor as ourselves. He also asked us to make disciples, teaching them to observe his ways. None of these instructions require parenting, though they can. They simply involve faithfulness.
I don’t feel like giving up on Jesus, but I have often felt squeezed out of His Church. Here are some ways we might love those without children:
Assume nothing. Don’t ask if newcomers have kids or if they want kids, but get to know them as people.
Let them know you see them. Visit with those without children and ask them to tell their stories; honor their journey. If they are struggling, listen and ask “How can I encourage you in this?”
     Make room for them. Does your programming immediately ostracize the childless person? How about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day observances? How does your church bring together everyone from the oldest to the youngest, the family with the quiver-full and the person who attends church alone? In my humble opinion, how you answer that question can be a great indicator of the health of your church community.

Suzanne Burden holds an MA in Theological Studies and can be found blogging at the intersection of beauty and theology at She writes and edits for a variety of organizations and coauthored the upcoming book Reclaiming Eve: the Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God  (Beacon Hill Press, March 2014).