"The amazing grace of the Master, Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you." II Corinthians 13:14 (The Message)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

 Doing "Hard" with Grace and Courage
"But Daniel RESOLVED not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way."  Daniel 1:8

Learning to do hard things with grace and courage takes resolve.  Life is about choices.  We don't always have a choice about what happens to us, but we always have a choice about how we react to it.  On July 9, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Everything has happened so quickly, and I know that to some degree I am still in shock.  Still, I have a choice.  Daniel resolved long before the challenge was put before him to trust God in every situation. I can face this challenge with grace and courage, or I can play the victim and wallow in self-pity.  I know that there will be some tough days ahead of me.  There will be days when I am emotionally drained and days when I feel physically lousy.  This journey will not be perfect because I am not perfect, but at the end of the road I want to look back and see, and I want my children to look back and see a woman who placed her trust in God and RESOLVED to choose grace and courage in the face of a storm.  I have a lot of lessons to learn on this journey, and I can't wait to see what God has planned to teach me.  I would love to share this journey with you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Cry for Help: The Rest of the Story

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” Psalm 91:14

I told you in my previous blog a little bit about the discovery of my daughter’s cutting, and the importance of recognizing behavior changes in your own children and taking action as soon as you can.  In this blog, I would like to tell you a little bit more about the events that have unfolded for me over the past few months and years in hopes that you can gain the courage you need to take the necessary action sooner than I did.

The discovery of the cutting and suicide attempts wasn’t made while it was happening.  This part of the story has been unfolding for me over the past few months.  What did happen, though, that I chose to ignore, were the obvious signs that something was wrong.  When I search deep within myself, I have known things weren’t right for years; however, every time I would question her about her dress, make-up, and accessories, I would get an answer that sounded plausible, and she would always throw in the fact that she was a good kid who made good grades.  I always received glowing reports from her teachers about what a delightful student she was to have in class always willing to participate and always turning in excellent work.  I received the same glowing reports from her Bible school teachers.  I always convinced myself that I was just over-reacting.  After all, she made good grades. Aren't kids who make good grades, good kids who never do anything really bad? The kid even graduated salutatorian of her class!  It must just be an overreaction on my part!

What I have come to realize was the incredible amount of pressure that my daughter felt from both me and her dad to be successful.  She wanted to make us proud and felt the only way she could do that was by making good grades and being a good student.  We had put so much emphasis on those types of things that we lost sight of the most important thing.  She didn’t have our heart.  As a result of not having our heart, she turned to cutting in order to feel real.  Did you hear that?  She didn't even feel real!  The only time she got a, "Thata girl," was when she made good grades!  That was the extent of her feeling loved and accepted!  The suicide attempts were made because she felt completely worthless, and the outrageous clothing was a loud scream to us for help.

I will tell you that I was horrified by the way she dressed.  I worried so much about what other people would think and the judgments they would place on me.  I was embarrassed to go anywhere with her.  The school she attended required uniforms, so if I had to go anywhere with her after school, I made sure we went to those places before she could come home and change her clothes.  At one point, we made her get rid of some of the things she was wearing, but that didn’t fix the real problem.  When we did that, the make-up got darker and heavier, and then she chopped off her hair and dyed it black.  I had sought enough help at this point to not be so judgmental about it, but I still didn’t like it, and I still refused to see that she was crying for help. 

Do you see the pattern here?  It was all about me!  I didn’t want to know the truth because I wouldn’t have been able to handle the truth, or rather, I didn’t want to handle the truth.  So, I just let her keep on telling me what I wanted to hear, and I just kept on ignoring the little voice inside of me that told me something was terribly wrong.

God is always faithful, though, and he decided to allow me to walk through the fire for awhile.  Some other things happened in my life that helped to strip away my judgmental attitude and allow me to see the things in life that really matter.   I can tell you that the judgment of others is not what is important.  In fact, I guarantee you that if I thought those judgments were even a tiny bit important I wouldn’t be publishing this blog.  What people think about me does not determine my worth.  What is important is that our kids trust our hearts, and we communicate with them from that heart.  They have to know that regardless of whether they succeed or not, we will be proud of them.  They have to feel safe enough to tell us things we might not like hearing but know without a doubt that we will be there for them regardless and help them through to the other side.  They have to know that we will help guide them but not judge their mistakes.   Most of all, they have to know that we care enough about them to listen to that inner voice that God gave to us that tells us when things aren’t right, and to be brave enough to take the focus off of ourselves and take care of the things that matter.

If I could go back in time and undo my part in it, of course I would.  Who wouldn’t?  But, I will tell you that it is because of this story that she is the incredible young lady that she is today who is full of passion and life and a hunger to help others who are suffering.  She is who God made her to be, and I am so proud of her that my heart bursts every time I think about her.  The very fact that she has given me permission to share this story is an incredible testimony of her character and faith.  She has the most beautiful heart of any human being I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and the neatest part about that is? She’s mine!

I’m not sure what else will unfold in this story.  She tells me a little bit about it every time we talk, and I am so thankful that she now feels like she can do that.  That alone is worth more than anything else in the world.

Please be about your children’s business, but do it with your heart.  They know the difference!

If you suspect that your child is involved in this or any other type of harmful activity, I won't lie to you and tell you that it's going to be an easy problem to solve.  There will be some hard battles to fight, both for you and for them.  You might even lose some friendships over it.  There might even be family members or church members who aren't supportive but free with the judgments.  Even if judgments mattered, your child is way more important than any of that!  I know that all stories don't turn out like mine did, but what will happen if you don't even try?  My daughter would not be here today if I hadn't listened to that voice and stopped focusing on myself.


Monday, March 12, 2012

A Cry for Help

With my daughter’s permission I am going to share the following story.  I share this story because it has recently come to my attention that many teenagers are fighting similar battles, and your teenager might be one of them too.  For several years I ignored the signs that were right in front of me.  Fortunately for my daughter, I finally took my head out of the sand and took action.

When my daughter was 12-years-old, she began self-injuring.  For those of you who know little or nothing about this, self injury is a negative way of dealing with strong emotions and can include anything that causes bodily harm (cutting, burning, scratching, mutilating, or hitting oneself).   According to Troubled Teen 101, “About 1 out of 5 teenagers say they have purposely injured themselves at some time.   Some of the reasons teens give for self-injuring or self-mutilating include:
  • Not knowing how to deal with stress 
  • An unresolved history of abuse 
  • Low self esteem 
  • Feelings of loneliness or fear 
  • A need to feel in control 
  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder 
  • Wanting to get the attention of people who can help them 
  • Peer pressure/curiosity
Teen self-injury or self-mutilation is dangerous, especially cutting, leaving physical and emotional scars and sometimes leading to serious injury or death. Though teen self-injury or self-mutilation is not a suicide attempt, some teens who self-injure or self-mutilate also attempt suicide, and many engage in other risky behaviors such as drinking and drug use, or suffer from eating disorders associated with troubled teens” (Troubled Teen 101).

Not a lot of research has been conducted on this topic, so the number of teens actually engaged in this type of behavior is unknown; however, I believe that the number is growing at an alarming rate.

Looking back, the signs were there from the beginning.  I just chose to ignore them.  She wore hoodies all year even in the hot summer claiming two things:  one, she claimed to be cold-natured and two, she claimed to be protecting her skin from the sun.   The hoodies she wore were always too big for her so that she could use the sleeves to cover her hands.  She cut on her hands and on her upper arm.  She also tried burning herself a few times.  It was also about this time that she began dressing differently than she had ever dressed before.  Her clothing became darker and darker, and her hair changed too.  She admits now that she attempted suicide twice during this time period but thought about it often.  She is also an extremely talented poetry writer, and I remember reading a disturbing poem she wrote when she was 14.  When I asked her why she did it, she replied, “I wanted to feel real.  I sometimes felt as though I were invisible, and I just needed to feel pain in order to know that I existed.”

You might be wondering why I didn’t do anything about it with all the signs right under my nose.  For one thing, I had heard of cutting but didn’t really believe that it existed or could exist in my world, and for another thing, I was afraid of how it would “look” to other people.  That denial and self-absorption almost cost me my daughter’s life.  If I had not taken my head out of the sand when I did, she would have successfully taken her life.

If you suspect that your child might be engaging in this type of activity, please don’t ignore those signs and don’t get angry with them.  Anger never helps a situation.  In fact, anger can actually encourage the behavior.  Get professional help for them as this is just a symptom of a larger problem.  Also, avoid playing the “blame game.”  The only thing that matters is your child’s mental health.  Let the professionals sort through that and deal with that.  I will tell you, though, that your child is probably not the only one who will need to seek help.  My husband and I have both had to seek help.

I would be more than happy to discuss with you the things that I did to help my daughter.  You can inbox me on Facebook or you can e-mail me at penny.fell@wcslions.org.  Please, please, please don’t ignore it. 
The change in her is a miracle.  She is happy, healthy, and pursuing her dreams.  Look at the pictures below, and you can see the miracle for yourself.
 Two Months before Seeking Help
Six Months after Seeking Help
If you can't see the miracle, clean your glasses.

Unfortunately, too many times, we let the judgments of others keep us from sharing things that might save a life.  What if the judgments of others didn’t matter?  If I touch just one person with this story, it will be worth it.

You can find the quoted material along with additional help at the following website:  http://www.troubledteen101.com/articles48.html

Monday, January 23, 2012


The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice - - -
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
'Mend my life!'
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations - - -
though their melancholy
was terrible.It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do - - - determined to save
the only life you could save.

I have been struggling for awhile with several personal issues in my life.  These issues range from personal relationships to spiritual relationships.  For the past two years, I have attempted to hold things together for everyone but myself.  I realized, after having to leave church Sunday morning because I just couldn't keep my composure any longer, that until I am able to hold myself together, I will never be able to help anyone else hold it together.  This poem spoke volumes to me today.  I realized after reading it that it is crucial for me to figure out quickly how to take care of me.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Things That Matter: Self-Worth

"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." Buddha

If you don't take care of yourself, no one else will. Someone once said, "There are certain people who aren't meant to fit into your life no matter how much you want them to." Sometimes you have to make the difficult choice to cut off toxic relationships for your own sake. People who attempt to make you feel inferior or worthless have no place in your life.

Ephesians 4:29 states, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." This scripture places an incredible responsibility on us to make sure we say things to others that will encourage; however, I believe there is another way to look at this scripture. If you are constantly around those who discourage you and make you feel as if you are worthless, it will be difficult to be encouraging to other people. One of the things I struggled with for a long time was self-worth, and passing judgment on other people was an attempt to make myself feel better about me. Judging others became such a petty past time once I realized my worth and value.

Acknowledging my worth came with a price tag, though. I have had to remove myself from certain situations and make difficult choices along the way. I have had to teach other people how to treat me. It is a daily struggle for me but one I am determined to conquer for my own sake.

Take care of yourself today and for the rest of your life. You're worth it.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Things That Matter: Grace

"It requires less character to discover the faults of others, than to tolerate them." J. Petit Senn

I was watching the episode of MASH tonight where Father Mulcahy was trying to collect donations for the orphans so that they could have a great Christmas. Charles, in his usual way,said he wouldn't donate anything because he didn't want to inspire hope one day just to have it dashed from them the next. Later, they were able to squeeze a can of smoked sardines out of him. Of course B.J. and Pierce were irritated at him because he had received several large packages in the mail and was unwilling to share.

That night, Charles sneaked out and took those packages to a Korean family who had a lot of children. The father invited him inside so that he could give the gifts to the children himself, but Charles made it clear that his family had a tradition they participated in every year where they took gifts to a needy family and left them on the doorstep anonymously. It was extremely important to Charles that the gesture remain anonymous.

Things are not always as they appear. I can't even begin to count the number of times my perceptions have clouded reality. I wonder what would happen if we just gave people the benefit of the doubt regardless of reality. What if people afforded that same grace to us? Even if our perceptions are correct, is that really important? The grace you allow might just be the key to changing someone's life.

I want to be a trafficker of grace.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Things That Matter: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not a natural instinct we have inside of us. It is natural to want to react when we’ve been wronged in order to protect ourselves. Forgiveness, then, is a choice we make motivated by our obedience to God and his command to forgive. Anger and judgment are easy choices, and Ghandi said it best when he said, “The weak can never forgive because forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”

There will come a time, if not many times, in our lives when we will be called to forgive even though we feel that we have every right to hold on to the anger and resentment. Even though holding on to resentment and refusing to forgive makes us feel as though we are in control, it is actually taking energy away from us and ultimately giving Satan control, robbing us of living a life full of grace and love.

Squeeze your hands together as hard as you can. Keep squeezing them until it hurts and then squeeze some more. Hold it there. Now, imagine that this is everything you are holding onto that you haven’t forgiven… either against yourself or someone else. How does it feel? Now slowly release your hands. Do you feel that tension leaving and the blood rushing back to your hands? Doesn’t it feel good to release that pressure? That’s how it feels when we let go of resentment and anger and allow forgiveness to fill our heart. One of my favorite quotes about forgiveness is, “Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die.”

Matthew 6:14-15 states, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Even though that’s a pretty good motivator to forgive, it is something that we have to purpose in our hearts to do. It is a hard thing to do but just remember that God promised that with Him nothing is impossible.

One of my favorite things about children is their ability to forgive. They can be fighting one minute and hugging the next. They don’t hold on to resentment and anger. They aren’t doormats because they let you know quickly when you have overstepped your boundaries, but they quickly forgive and move on and usually never mention it again (unless they want to manipulate you into buying something for them :). That’s what Jesus means when he tells us to become like little children.

It’s kind of strange, but when we release others, we actually release ourselves. Maybe they don’t deserve it, but we deserve the freedom that we receive when we let go. None of us deserve the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, but aren’t we glad that he did that for us. Forgiveness is an opportunity we have to let others experience the grace that Jesus’ death provided for us.