Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Seeking His Kingdom

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” – Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV)

As I write, I sit alongside the Mississippi River. My heart is at peace. I’ve found myself here or around the lakes here in Winona continuously over the past few weeks. My mind has been restless as of late thinking about life, and thus, Christ leads me here. The sun was setting through my bedroom window and my heart was gently pressed to seek the water. I follow the leading and my mind is already more calm. 
The Lord has such a way of knowing us intimately and guiding us to where we need to be. Over and over, He provides just what we need. This shouldn’t be surprising seeing as he says in Matthew 6:25-34, “26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Today, I’ve been reminded several times that the Lord is faithful to provide all we need, if only we seek first His kingdom. What does that mean, though? To seek His kingdom? 
I don’t know for sure, but I think every time you reach out in love, you’re seeking His kingdom. Every time you offer up a prayer, you’re seeking His kingdom. Every time you’re frustrated and can’t seem to do anything right, and thus lean on the Lord, you’re seeking His kingdom. Every time you feel pressed to go sit by the water or lay upon the lush green grasses, you’re seeking His kingdom. 
I was reminded recently that living a life for Christ isn’t easy. In fact, I’d say it’s the harder path to follow. It’s turning away from sin daily and seeking His kingdom. It’s doing the everyday ordinary life extraordinarily simply because you choose to do the ordinary with the joy in your heart which holds the promises of hope given by the Father. 
You have the choice, every day, to seek the Lord and His kingdom. I pray you are encouraged and uplifted by His desire to care for you and provide all you need. 
Hope Harbor 
Winona Advisory Board Member 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Welp, that was a big ol' failure of a day.

I failed this morning. Straight up failed.  No two ways about it, no sugarcoating, no words of encouragement.  Just failed. I won’t tell you at what. It’s hard enough to admit that I failed, I’m not a brave enough person to give details on what I failed at and how it all played out. A failure and a chicken.  Sorry! I’m human.

But the gist of it is, it’s something I’ve done a bunch of times, something I’ve practiced and worked up to being able to do.  Something really routine, so much so that the person helping me was thrown off by the fact that I couldn’t do it. This person was very gracious about their shock and recovered quickly, but the confusion was clear.  I failed once, and just kept at it. I did okay the next time, but completely failed the next.
It just wasn’t my day. It was time for an intervention.  There are times that we fail and we try again. And then there are times that we fail, and fail again, and we just need to quit for now.  My helper was wise enough to know that, and stepped in swiftly. “You need to stop. Try this instead.” That quickly, it was solidified. I was a failure.  
My helper was kind about it. Not rude or arrogant or mocking. Looking back, I’m thankful for the intervention.  I wouldn’t have stopped. I needed the outside party looking in to say, “Enough.” But those words still stung for a minute.  And obviously more, because I’m still thinking about it now, hours later. Even though I’m 99% sure my helper isn’t thinking about it anymore.  Maybe, but I truly doubt it. It was minor to that person, but it’s been weighing on me all day.
Which is really quite silly.  Because this thing that I failed at doesn’t matter.  It won’t change my life. It won’t change anyone else’s life.  It won’t make the world a better or worse place. It won’t ensure my financial security.  It won’t provide for my well being. It won’t effect my family, my role as a wife or mother, my ability to work, my opportunity to laugh, or the status as a citizen of this beautiful country. It won’t change my status as a daughter of the Most High King, or my eternal salvation in Jesus Christ.
But every single day, I fail at something that does matter; I know I don’t always walk the walk that I profess as a believer in Jesus Christ.  Everyday my sinful nature rises up in some way, shape or form. Everyday I sigh in frustration at my child rather than show her patience. Everyday I roll my eyes at something someone says instead of having compassion. Everyday I expect more from people than they can give at that moment instead of showing grace.  Everyday I make comments that aren’t peaceful. Everyday I complain or get down about a situation instead of finding a reason to be joyful. Everyday I doubt and worry instead of have faith in the God that I say I trust.
I don’t know if I do every one of these things every single day (there I go again; everyday I exaggerate instead of telling the truth).  Some days it feels like I do them all. Sometimes maybe just most of them.
But I do know that I don’t dwell on my failures to walk the walk of my faith.  Not nearly as much as I’m dwelling on this little failure I had this morning. I can quickly brush off the things I fail at on the follower of Christ list as ‘only human’ (see paragraph one) or ‘everyone does it’ (that’s probably the same thing) or just simply, ‘oops’ (which is lame).  
I am thankful that we serve a mighty God full of grace.  I am ashamed that too often, I default on that truth when I fail Him.  Paul writes in Romans 5, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. More over, the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jets Christ our Lord.”   
What we do matters. It impacts others.  Adam and Eve’s sinful choice in the garden impacted each and every one of us.  Jesus’s loving sacrifice as the perfect Lamb on the Cross impacts each and every one of us.  When I fail to walk the walk, it matters. My eternity is secure in my repentance thanks to the Cross of Christ alone. But still, walking in sin does change my life and other’s lives.  It does make the world a worse place. It does affect my financial security and my wellbeing, my role as a wife and mother. My ability to work, to laugh, and how I impact others in this beautiful country of ours.  It doesn’t change my status as a daughter of the Most High King or my eternal salvation in Jesus, but it does grieve Him what we aren’t living our lives in the freedom He gave us. And my actions as a professing believer could very well prevent someone else from seeking Jesus.  It happens all the time; people reject Christ because they see our hypocritical, miserable actions as professing believers and they don’t want the Jesus that we misrepresent. And I don't blame them. We have a responsibility to one another in our relationship to Christ.
And this grace thing. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”  That’s a beautiful truth. Paul continues in Chapter 6, “What shall we say then?  Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it…even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
That old junk is not newness of life.  Grace isn’t a license to sin. We aren’t doing God any favors by sinning just so He can show grace.  That’s what Paul’s audience believed at the time, and that’s what we often believe today if we’re being honest with ourselves.  “Go ahead, God will forgive you.”
Sometimes we just need an intervention.  So much builds up in our flesh and we just need someone to tell us, “You need to stop. Try this instead.”

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit for that very reason.  John 16:7-8, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you, but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
This is my publically personal reminder to let the Holy Spirit be my intervention.  To let the Holy Spirit convict me when I’m failing to walk the walk. Not to laugh it off or grasp at excuses.  But to hear the Holy Spirit say, “You need to stop. Try this instead.”
And then to ask for forgiveness, and to move on.  True repentance is turning from our sin after we ask forgiveness.  Turning away from it, not doing it anymore. Moving on. Our God is not in the business of shaming us or holding grudges.  He sent His Son that we may be forgiven. So failure and chicken? Or redeemed and saved? It's a gift from Him; who am I to hold my shortcomings against myself any longer? --Miss Mel

Thursday, August 16, 2018

For we are His workmanship

I just finished reading the book Different Children, Different Needs, and it really gave me insight into my personality and the personalities of the people around me. It was interesting to think about how my personality interacts with others’, and how many of my expectations for others and interpretations of what they do is shaped by my own personality. For example, as I was rereading this blog entry before posting it, I noticed that I didn’t write a fancy, attention-getting introduction; I just cut to the chase. In work settings especially, I’m categorized as a high “D” personality (fast-paced, task-oriented), so I typically don’t spend as much time or effort on cute ways to connect with others - I just tell you what you need to know and then we can all move on to other things.

Understanding how God has wired me and how my personality interacts with others’ has helped me have more grace for my friends, family, and the residents at Hope Harbor.
The four types of personalities the book describes are “D” (dominance - fast-paced, task-oriented), “I” (influence, fast-paced, people-oriented), “S” (steadiness - slow-paced, people-oriented), and “C” (conscientiousness - slow-paced, task-oriented). As a high “D,” so sometimes I get frustrated when others don’t keep up with my thoughts or if they are doing a task at a slower pace than I would (or I can see a shortcut or more efficient way to do it). If you have a people-oriented personality, you might view task-oriented people as too busy or uncaring because they are running around focused on checking things off their to-do list; if you have a task-oriented personality, you might see people-oriented people as lazy because they are spending time chatting instead of getting down to work.

I was challenged by the author’s statement, “If you try to force a child into a mold she doesn’t fit, you risk sending the message, ‘I don’t love you for who you are. I love you for how close you come to who I want you to be’” (Boyd 32). Instead of trying to get others to do things the same way I do - at the same pace or in the same style - I need to adapt to the way that they are created to be and not be quick to jump to anger or offense, but understand that they have different priorities and that’s okay. Like it says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, in the body of Christ we have different functions, and all of the members have a unique purpose and are equally as valuable.

So the next time you feel misunderstood by, impatient with, or rushed by others, ask yourself if the problem isn’t a personal attack but simply a clash of personalities, and have a little grace for the uniquely created people around you as you discover how your temperament interacts with theirs. For me, it has definitely changed the way I view others, and has made me more conscious to communicate with and love them in a way that best fits their personality instead of only interacting with them in the way that I prefer/that comes naturally to me. --Miss Laura

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Listen up! It's a word from one of our residents...

This week’s blog was written by one of our residents.  She has been at Hope Harbor since September and will be completing her program and transitioning home pretty soon.  It’s been a joy to watch her and her family grow and learn over the past year. She was excited to share this message with her housemates last week during an impromptu time of worship on a random Tuesday night.  
Literally, my job that day consisted of sitting in the living room while the entire house chose to play worship songs and read scripture aloud for one another.  After two hours, I had to tell the girls it was time to go to bed. What is this life??
This resident’s love of the scriptures below and the personal encouragement she adds at the end was a blessing to us, and we hope it will be to you as well.  Please keep her and her family in your prayers as they prepare for the next stage in their healing journey! --Miss Melissa

Jesus is coming
Revelation 22:7, 20-21
7 Behold, I am coming quickly!  Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in the book.
12-13 And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.
20-21 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Be listening
Love:  Luke 24:13-17 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”
Foolish: Luke 24:25-26 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”
Now listen to this!
Christ never allows the heart of His own people to be shattered without excellent reasons and eternal purposes.  Examples = see Christ dearly loved Mary and Martha, yet He purposely allowed them to suffer a loss. Our Father would never allow our heart to break for trivial reasons.  We may never see the reasons like Mary and Martha did. But could we walk by faith and believe the best of Christ? You see, the most debilitating loss for a Christian is not the loss of a loved one but the loss of faith.  Do you see how the loss of faith could turn into a form of bondage?
Psalm 51 Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.
Transgression = sinned on purpose, knew it was wrong.
Now I have some questions for you.
When/what have you sinned knowing it was wrong but not caring at that time?
Would you make that choice again?
Do you need to pray a prayer like this?
Lord Almighty, will you forgive me from my transgressions, my flaws and my heart?  You can make me white as snow. You are Lord and the forgiver. Thank you Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

You are correct, ma'am.

Occasionally, our Executive Director Miss Cindy will call one of the girls into her office to talk. Typically the resident will ask, “Am I in trouble?” The same thing has happened to me - I’ll call one of the girls into the classroom because I want to privately let them know I noticed improvement in an area they’re currently working on, or thank them for honesty/integrity, and they will stall or get a worried look on their face, fearing the worst.

I ask them if they’ve done something that I should know about, and they usually can’t even think of something that would warrant a talking-to! But, they are still nervous that I know something they don’t or will find out a big dark secret or something they forgot about.

Sometimes I feel the same way going before God; He knows everything about me, all my actions and thoughts. Sometimes I feel timid or embarrassed, because He’s seen me at my worst. But He doesn’t expect perfection, He just asks that we are humble enough to admit that we need to be corrected, and to have the courage and self-control to act on what He tells us to do.

Proverbs 3:12 says that God, like an earthly father, disciplines those He loves. Why is it so hard for us to be corrected??? It may be pride, fear of the work it will take to change, or wanting to live in denial that what we’re doing isn’t right. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn (and the girls at Hope Harbor learn as well) was to accept and even invite others to correct me. Sure, it’s easier to gloss over our mistakes and pretend that they didn’t happen, and just move on doing more of what we want, but it’s ultimately not beneficial for us. 

A truly caring parent/friend will call you out when you’re not glorifying God, not to shame you, but to help you grow. If we don’t correct the residents at Hope Harbor, but let them continue on in ultimately harmful behavior, we aren’t doing our job. If we don’t accept the correction God offers us, we aren’t living the abundant life that He desires for us.

So the next time God invites you into His office, admit your mistakes and accept His correction and forgiveness. He doesn’t want to just sit and yell at you; He wants to help you fix what’s broken and show you a better way.

--miss laura

Friday, July 6, 2018

A lot can happen in two and a half years...

Ephesians 3:20-21, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

A lot can happen in two and a half years.  Amazing things.  Life changing things.  Exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think things.  That's what I realized when I logged in to this old blog of ours today for the first time in over two and a half years.  

November 2015, this ministry was heading into the new year with a new name (Hope Harbor), a new logo (that fancy blue anchor) and a new Executive Director (Miss Cindy).  Shortly after, we had a renewed vision and mission statement, core values and a statement of faith.  Then a new website. Then a new email domain.  

Then the big idea came to open a second Hope Harbor site in Winona.  Things were in the works in early 2016.  By the end of that year, we hired a staff that trained in Marshall to help run the home in Winona.  By mid 2017, we hired a site director, counselor and teacher for Winona as well. Volunteers labored tirelessly to renovate a home that would be the future site of Hope Harbor in Winona. The team worked diligently to spread the word and secure supporters for the site.  We hired and trained staff in the fall of 2017.  Did I mention prayer?  Yeah, we did a lot of that too.  From day one and never ending still.  

And the Lord sent the girls. Our first resident arrived to freshly painted walls, crisp new bed sheets and brand new bath towels on October 25, 2017.  Just shy of two years since the announcement of our name change transitioning to our own private organization running a single site, we brought our first resident into our second home.   As of today, we have served over 80 teen girls and their families between the two sites.

Exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think.  I never imagined two years ago that we’d have a second home.  That the Lord would expand our team to a group of incredible sisters in Christ in Winona to serve in the capacity we get to serve here in Marshall.  That I would rejoice with teens four hours away as they take their thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ, as they overcome the wiles of the enemy and stand on the firm foundation of Christ for their healing, as they learn their identity in Christ and walk in freedom.  

According to the power that works in us.  I am exceedingly and abundantly amazed (1) that we serve a God whose power is limitless, and (2) He works that power in us.  Us. Little old you, and little old(er) me. The glory can be to none other than Him, as where else could it even go?  There is none but our God that deserves the glory for the work He does in each of us, in each of the teens and families we serve, in each of the homes we open, and beyond our borders.

To all generations. We have obviously watched our families pass on what God has done in their lives to their children; that’s what we get the privilege of doing everyday.  But since we opened our doors in 2005, we’ve now gotten to see some of our teens grow to strong women who are raising their own children.  We get to see the power God worked in them, work in their children, forever and ever.  And it might be even cooler than when we watched it happen to their mothers.

I look back over the past two and a half years, and the ten plus before, and I just widen my eyes and shake my head.  This is a pretty good gig.  We couldn’t ask or imagine what more to ask for, but we know God has much more in store for this ministry.  Amen.
---miss melissa

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Transition: Hope Harbor

You heard it here!  After providing residential services to teens and their families for ten years as House of Hope Minnesota, this fall 2015, we are making the transition to our new name, Hope Harbor!

The History of Hope
In the summer of 2002, the vision of providing a home that is a place of refuge for healing teens was given to founders Claudia Stenson, Carla Reynolds, & Karen Wiener.  In September of 2003, the three attended training at National HOH in Orlando, FL, after hearing about House of Hope through a Women of Faith Conference.
In December of 2003, House of Hope Minnesota was incorporated.  In March of 2004, we received our 501 (C)3 nonprofit status.  At the end of July 2005, the day before a Minnesota government shutdown, we were licensed by MN DHS as a residential group home, despite initially being told that would never happen unless we changed our operation from “Christ centered” to “faith based.”  Our founders stood firm, and the Lord came through!
In November of 2005 the first residents arrived on site for services.  For the next ten years, we provided services to teens and their families in our residential setting through school, spiritual growth, counseling, life skills training, and parenting classes.  In November of 2015, House of Hope Minnesota began the transition to Hope Harbor, allowing us to operate exclusively on a local level in the same capacity to which we are called. 

We are so thankful for the past ten years operating as House of Hope Minnesota.  The support of our faithful donors, prayer warriors, sister houses, volunteers, and more has allowed us to bring the gospel to the hearts of these teens and their families, forever changing their lives. 

We are excited for what the Lord has in store for the next ten years and beyond as we venture into the call under our new name, Hope Harbor!

Stay tuned in the weeks ahead as we update our website, Facebook page, and blog, and be sure to look for our new logo, to debut soon!
--miss melissa

Seeking His Kingdom

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He...