Tears to Joy

Tears to Joy: January 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Update on American Pastor in Iran

Recently, I shared with you about an American pastor being tried in Iran for his religious beliefs. The Iranian government claimed that Pastor Saeed was a threat to national security because of his Christian faith. He and his attorney were only allowed in the courtroom on the first day of the trial. The rest of the trial continued without their presence. This is an injustice!

The White House and the State Department are aware that Pastor Saeed has been convicted and sentenced to eight years in one of the most inhumane prisons in the world. The White House commented,

"Well we are deeply disappointed that Saeed Abedini has been sentenced to 8 years in prison in Iran on a charge related to his religious beliefs. Mr. Abedini's attorney had only one day to present his defense, so we remain deeply concerned about the fairness and transparency of his trial. We condemn Iran's continued violation of the universal right of freedom of religion, and we call on the Iranian authorities to release Mr. Abedini."

In order to free this American pastor, it is going to take international support. Many of you signed a petition to get the American government involved. Now is the time for us to petition for international support pushing for his release. To sign this new petition, click here.

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Most of us have no idea of the persecution faced by Christians around the world. Let us rejoice over their unfailing faith, and may we continually join them on our knees in prayer.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Help Needed! Protecting Our Kids from the Dangers Online

Today's teens have access to the world at their fingertips. While this has its benefits, it also comes with great risks. As the mother of a middle schooler, I talk with many parents about the right time to give your child a cell phone. My daughter, like most of her friends, has an ipod touch that she uses to connect with friends, to listen to music, and more.

I read a disturbing statistic recently. Forty-four percent of high school boys have seen a pornographic picture of a classmate on their cell phones (Elmore, 2010, p. 34). Wow! Forty-four percent! I don't know about you, but this horrified me! This means that our young girls are taking nude pictures of themselves and texting (sexting) them to their peers. Just last night, I had a talk with my 11-year old about why this is wrong. (Does anyone else think that its insane that we have to to talk to our kids about this stuff). Even more disturbing is that online predators are using sextortion to gain inappropriate images of teens. They do this by convincing a young girl to send a picture of herself in her underwear; once she does, they threaten to put it on facebook or to send it to her parents if she doesn't continue to send more pictures.

I don't want to be an ostrich and stick my head in the sand. I want to be proactive and protect my tween from the threats that are out there related to technology. The problem is that when it comes to safeguards, I'm pretty illiterate. I can do the obvious things like reading her texts and viewing her pictures, but let's be real -- those can be deleted. So, I'm asking my tech-savvy friends for your help. What programs are out there to help us protect our kids from the pitfalls that come with cell phones and ipod touches? I use safe eyes on my computer but its ratings on ipods suggested lots of glitches.

Moms -- what are you doing to protect your kids?

Elmore, T. (2010). Generation iY:  Our Last Chance to Save Their Future. United States: Poet Gardner Publishing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Love Song

I am blessed with the greatest fiance for so many reasons. I could go on and on about why I love him so much, but I'll spare you. I do want to say that Jeff is a great singer and songwriter, and I've been so blessed by the songs he's written for me. When he sings to me, I feel so special, so loved. I've posted one of his most recent songs at the end of this post so you can see why his songs make my heart rejoice. Shhh, Jeff doesn't know I've posted this :)

Did you know that the Bible says that our heavenly Father sings over us? Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."

Think about it. The God of creation actually sings over us. He loves us. God chose us to be his children before the creation of the world and he loves us! O how he loves us! Much like Jeff sings to me from a joyful heart, our heavenly Father rejoices over us with gladness.

It also says that he quiets us by his love. I can remember when Jorjanne was little and would wake up in the middle of the night scared by a nightmare. I spent many nights singing lullabys to her so that she could calm down; I was reassuring her of my love and so that she might find rest. God wants us to find rest from our everyday nightmares and allow his presence and his love to quiet any turmoil in our hearts and minds.

Did I mention that he sings over us? God. The God who made the heavens and the earth. The same God who made you and me --- He sings over us! All I can say is WOW!

Take time today to bask in his glorious love.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pray for Persecuted Pastor

We hear of persecution around the world, but do we truly pause to pray for those who are currently be persecuted? More Christians are being persecuted today than in the history of the church. Next week in Iran, American Pastor Saeed Abedini is being tried for being a "threat to national security." His crime?  Becoming a Christian. If convicted, Pastor Saeed will hang.

The U.S. State Department is aware of the situation and has expressed "serious concerns." I urge you to sign the petition at here to urge the State Department to intervene and rescue this American citizen from impending death.

Join me in praying for Pastor Saeed and the thousands of others who are being held captive around the world for their faith in Christ. Pray for Saeed's family as they helplessly await his trial on Monday. Pastor Saeed wrote an emotional letter to his family that you can read by clicking here.

For too long, the American church has been apathetic. It's time for us to join with our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted by daily lifting them up in prayer. Make a difference today by signing the petition!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

If Mama Ain't Happy...

I've been studying family therapy, and it turns out that research shows a link between maternal depression after divorce and childhood depression and behavior problems. Shortly after divorce, moms often experience stress, financial troubles, and changes in friendships (might lose some of their couple friends), and her parenting style often declines as she tries to cope with these new life changes. As a result, children and teens often have behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, and drops in academic performance.

There is however, good news. We've all heard it said, "If Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy." Well, there is some truth to this statement. As moms get help personally, their effective parenting skills tends to rise, lessening these symptoms in the children.

So, the moral of this story, moms, is that we need to take care of ourselves so that we can better take care of our children. Why is it that moms feel guilty about taking care of ourselves? We can't help anyone else if we aren't in a good place ourselves.

Having a support network, eating healthy, exercising, and sometimes counseling, are key to "bouncing back" after a major life event. Our attitude influences our children far more than we think. I don't know about you, but this is a little scary. I don't want my bad attitude to negatively affect my daughter.

So, let us all work to renew our minds and to do everything without grumbling or complaining.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Social Media - What's a Girl to Do?

architects,business,computer monitor,computers,creativity,females,graphic designer,iStockphoto,office,Photographs,ponytails,sweaters,telephone,turtlenecks,women,working
Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Linked In. Pinterest. Social media -- what's a girl to do?

Our youth at church were recently challenged to find ways to fast from technology. As I talked with my daughter about what we could give up, I realized just how much my life is connected technologically. Social media isn't just a way to connect with friends but its become an integral part of both my work and my ministry.

Since becoming an author, I have been bombarded by the need to use social networking to connect with other like-minded people. While some of the sites I genuinely enjoy, there are others that I feel like are a chore for me, and just one more thing to do.

So here's my question to all of you who connect via social media. Which ones do you like the best and why? What do you do to balance your time on-line with your other responsibilities?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Single Parenting

Everyone knows that being a single parent is tough, but unless you've lived it, you really have no idea just how much pressure single parents feel. Many single parents fall into one of two categories:  the victim or the superhero.  I've met single parents who continually play the "victim" card. They believe that life has dealt them a bum hand (and for many it has), and as a result, they believe that the world owes it to them to make life easier. Unfortunately, this often backfires and instead of receiving the support they need, people who might be willing to help often withdraw and avoid the victimized parent.

The other trap single parents tend to fall into is that of being a super parent. I confess, this is my temptation. I'll never forget the first Christmas after Michael died. I was determined that Christmas would be the same as in the past, and that I didn't need any help. Putting up my tree was no problem, but as I began to take apart my artificial tree, the pieces seemed stuck together. I was adamant that I didn't need any help, and that I could take apart a tree all by myself. After wrestling with the tree for two days, I pulled and yanked until alas, the tree came apart. Much to my chagrin, it came apart when I least expected it, punching a hole into the wall in my living room. My stubborn refusal to ask for help left me in an even bigger mess.

Why is it that so many of us feel the pressure to be "super mom" or super dad?"  Our kids have already faced difficulties and we feel like it is our responsibility to make up for their pain. We do everything within our power to make up for the missing person in their lives, when the reality is that we can't. 

I've learned to cry out to God, and to ask him to fill in the gaps where I fall short. I've also learned that it's ok to ask for help. The Bible even tells the Church to look after widows and orphans -- which implies that we need help. I'm still fiercely independent, but I'm learning to ask for help when I need it. 

If you have friends or family who are single parents, show them you care by asking how you can help. I'm so blessed to have friends that I can call on in most any situation, but many single parents face the hardships of life all alone. Be a presence in their lives!


Saturday, January 5, 2013

So Now You're an Author...

Sometimes even though you know something is true, it takes a while for the reality of it to sink in. For years I dreamed of being an author, and even though I have published a book, I still have a hard time thinking of myself as an author. I recently read where someone wrote, "So now that you're an author, start thinking like one." I am learning to do this slowly but surely.

This week I had the privilege of sharing on two different radio shows. I must say that it is surreal to hear myself referred to on the radio as "Author, Natalie Flake." While I know this is true, I am still humbled by these words. They make me so very happy!

Today I had a book signing at Java Joe's Coffee House. I was so encouraged by the friends who stopped by to visit and to get a book. I used to joke about doing book signings one day, and now this has become my new normal. This is not something I take for granted; I am so very thankful that God is using Tears to Joy to help others to find hope in their own times of desperation. 

About five years ago, I was in a small group Bible study with a group of women where we were sharing our God-sized dreams. I shared with them that I had four big dreams: 
  1. To get my PhD
  2. To be a published author
  3. To be a missionary
  4. To marry a godly man
While I'm still working on #1, I'd say that God has made all of these dreams a reality. As I begin the next chapter of my life, I do so with great anticipation to see what God will do. I love this time of year because it's  a time of both reflection and of new beginnings.

What dreams have you had that became a reality? Share with us so we can celebrate together!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 -- Year of Jubilee

This month marks the seventh year anniversary of Michael's death. In the Bible, the seventh year was often known as the Year of Jubilee. Many indentured servants were granted their freedom in the seventh year. Many Israelites were forgiven of their debts in the Year of Jubilee, and landowners gave their land rest from farming in the seventh year. The seventh year was a time of rest, release, and celebration.

For the last six months, I've prayed asking God to make 2013 a year of jubilee in my own life. I want to slow down and enjoy life in 2013 (which means letting go of my crazy schedule), and I want to release the past and live in the present. Knowing that I'll be married this year, brings great celebration and I can't help but believe that God is answering my prayer. 

This year, I've adopted Psalm 40:1-3 as my theme verses. 

"I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him." 

God has truly heard my cries for help, rescued me from darkness, and he has most recently put a new song in my mouth. I pray that as others see God working in my life, that they will put their trust in the Lord.

Happy New Year! Salut (cheers in French) to the Year of Jubilee!

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