Monday, April 27, 2009

Content with just being me

A snapshot of my story . . . .

My name is Christina Stockhouse and I am a daughter, sister, life-long student, artist, friend:

A daughter of the most High King & two loving parents
whom I miss very much.

A sister to anyone who needs a listening ear,
especially my sister whom I love deeply.

A life-long student whose curiosity is unending.

An artist who appreciates the beauty of relationships.

A friend who seeks to love and serve.

I come from a small-town culture where everybody knows everybody and nobody can get away with anything without somebody knowing. For the past four years, I've enjoyed the small-town feel of Seattle Pacific University amidst the large metropolitan city of Seattle. I graduated in the spring of 2009 with a BA in Psychology. I hope to attend graduate school for Marriage and Family Therapy (or another counseling related MA) within the next couple years.

I discovered the love of Christ through my grandma Dorothy. As a little girl I admired her for her deep and abiding faith. She taught me to pray and read the bible, as well as, keep a prayer journal. When I was in Middle School, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. But, I would argue that my faith did not really become personal to me until I reached college.

I have been attending Quest Church for almost four years and for some reason I never became a member. I suppose I saw college/attending Quest as a temporary season. However, since I will be staying at the church for another year after graduation, I would like to become a member. I've enjoyed serving as a host and now as the Associate Children's Director. Perhaps, I have been an honorary member for awhile without the actual title.

Although there are many things I look forward to doing in the future, I feel like I am "living the dream" right no
w. I love what I do both at the church and at REACH Ministries. Every week I look forward to spending Sunday with the most amazing group of people in Seattle - QUEST KIDS! Unbeknown to them, they have changed my heart. I feel incorporated into the church body. I don't just attend Quest Church, I am a part of the family here. That is extremely significant to me considering my own family is so far away.

I dream of having my own family someday, but for now I am enjoying my surrogate family here. I hope to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, so that I can further serve families by helping people build healthy relationships. I view families as a gift from God to be nurtured and cherished.
My life-long-goal is to support and empower positive family relationships, starting within my own family first.
Thankfully, God has given me a way to serve families both at Quest and in the local community through REACH Ministries. I'm excited about God's plan for my life, because I know that no matter what, it will be good. My prayer is that my goals and dreams would continue to be in-line with God's purpose for me.

Thank you for your support and prayers,

~ Christina

C h r i s t i n a S t o c k h o u s e
Associate Children's Director - Quest church

Friday, April 3, 2009

When 8 doors close . . . another one opens

Graduating from college = so many new possibilities.

After job-hunting for quite some time, I finally landed a job that fits me perfectly. Praise God! I'm so excited to start next Monday with REACH Ministries. I will be working on staff as the Progressive Units Intern.

Check it out:

The REACH Psychosocial Progressive Units Program provides year-round developmentally appropriate therapeutic activities, education, and psychosocial, emotional and spiritual support for the children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS.

Also, I'll be providing education and case management for the kids and families at REACH.

This is a GAP year internship (a.k.a. a year-long commitment). If this past year has taught me anything, I trust God will provide in the meantime. Please pray for this transition in my life.

I will also continue with my current job at Quest Church as the Children's Ministry Associate Director for the up-coming year as well.

Thank you for your prayers!

~ Christina Stockhouse

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tough Love

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful;
yet to those who have been trained by it,
afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Hebrews 12:11

I just discovered the root word for discipline is disciple.

Hebrews chapter twelve has significantly impacted both my spiritual walk and my work in Children's Ministry. Since I consider myself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, I feel obligated to subject myself to His loving discipline and correction. I say "obligated", because it's not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, yet I know the end result is "the peaceful fruit of righteousness". Unfortunately, the truth is often difficult to hear. Without God's loving correction, I would be living a lie - which is equally unappealing to me. Previously, "discipleship" had positive associations for me while "discipline" had negative connotations. I am learning that good discipline equals true discipleship.

This is what I have learned so far and how it's connected to scripture:

  • Discipline is often synonymous with punishment. But, they are not the same.
"God disciplines us to help us, so we can become holy as he is."
Hebrews 12:10b

  • Good discipline is guidance towards right behavior. The purpose is not to shame or blame, but to show us God's loving concern.
Hebrews 12:6

So what does this have to do with Children's Ministry?

Changing the way I view and receive correction from the Lord has impacted the way I choose to redirect children in Sunday school. Despite our felt board Jesus and glow-in-the-dark stickers, Children's Ministry is not always rainbows and butterflies. Surprise, surprise: every Sunday I deal with behavioral issues. In general, there are a variety of reasons for why children act up. It's possible their emotional or physical needs have not been met or their rules at home are different from Sunday school. Other reasons include boredom, frustration, or displaced anger. Although I wish I could say children in our Sunday school never deal with these types of issues, I cannot. Thankfully, I am not the only teacher who has ever encountered this dilemma. Similar to my experience, trained, professional teachers rank discipline as the most often dealt with problem in their classrooms. (Sept., 1996 Gallup Poll)

Regardless of the reasons behind a child's misbehavior , my job is to counter poor behavior with loving concern. Although it is tempting to make a quick fix on Sunday mornings, I know in the long run it is more beneficial for the kids to carefully address behavioral problems. Time spent in training and correction is always well-spent.

So, what's the bottom line?

My attitude and outlook on this issue has shifted - - Consistent, careful discipline is actually discipleship. After making the connection between my spiritual walk and kids' misbehavior in Sunday school, it's much easier for me to remember "always redirect kids out of loving concern", instead of impatience or frustration.

Despite my daily sins and poor behavior, I'm thankful God continues to
disciple me through His loving discipline.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Memories Precipitate Gratitude

Gratitude is when memories move from your head to your heart.

The birth of something new precipitates the death of something old. For me, it's hard to hold onto the past when things just keep moving forward. However, when I take a moment to ruminate over where I've been, I'm more likely to thank God for his provision in the future. A flood of memories cause me to well up and overflow with thankfulness.

Thank you Lord for your continued faithfulness and
provision in my life.

Today, I'm thankful for the way God has answered so many prayers over the years. This past summer (2008) was an especially big answer to prayer. The summer before (2007) was a miserable time for me. I was working at the same job I returned to for four years. Half way through the summer (2007) I decided that it was time for me to do something different with my life. I wanted my work to be meaningful, purpose-filled, uplifting, and worthwhile. Sometimes a job is just a job, but I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to choose a different job. I discovered that taking the risk was worth it's weight in gold.

Thank you Lord for helping me to trust you. Thank you for always being there for me, no matter the season, location, or circumstances.

I was nervous about living in Seattle this summer (2008). I didn't have a place to live until the very last minute, despite searching for houses months in advance. My roommates and I lived without furniture for over a month. Crazy, I know. Looking back now, I would have never have have guessed my life would end up the way it is now. I live with some of the most incredible women I have ever met. I'm working at the most delightfully wonderful job I have ever had. I'm in love with the God of the universe! He knows me by name. He knows my hearts desires for life, love, and ministry. He is ever drawing me near to him. It is far better than anything I would have ever dared to asked for. I seems to me that God likes surprises.

Lord, I love the way you care for me. Your love is better than life.
He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

Today I finally changed my church calender to November. The calender was placed there by the Children's Ministry Director before me. It's filled with scripture verses and inspirational landscapes from all over the world. Lo and behold, what did I find? A quiet memory from my past. There was a picture of the mountains from my hometown. They are so picturesque! Where is home? Home is anywhere, it comes along and finds you. For now, I've found a new home here, but I am thankful for the memories of my past. They make me thankful for the provisions God has made to bring me here.

Heavenly Father, for now, I have no more words to adequately express my gratitude. It wells up in my heart and spills over in joy and thankfulness. How can I stop from praising you for all you are and all you have done?

In His love and grace, Amen

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why I Love Children's Ministry . . .

God must have hand-picked this job for me.

I could not ask for a better way to spend the next season of my life. If someone had told me a year ago that I would be the Children's Ministry Associate Director at Quest Church, I wouldn't have believed it. A year ago I was looking for psychology internships at Children's Hospital. I had never before taught a Sunday school class for elementary kids. Now, I can't think of a better way to spend my time than serving families and creatively showing kids God's love.

My favorite part about my job is the fact that kids are filled with so much energy, curiosity and joy. It doesn't take much to get a smile out of even the saddest little one who misses their parents. Kids' energy and enthusiasm for life is infectious. I can't help but throw my arms open wide and praise God for their smiles and laughter.

This week, I've been thinking back on my summer internship with the Children's Ministry. I'd love to share with you one memory that I will never forget. . .

At the beginning of the summer, I discovered that part of my Children's Ministry internship meant I was the assumed worship leader on Sunday mornings. This came as a shock at first. Once it became a realization, it made me shake in my little boots. Did I mention that I have ZERO musical talent? I can't sing or play an instrument to save my life. Just ask Tim, he didn't believe me at first. But he does now. It only took one solo appearance to convince him. I confessed that I usually just mouth the words. Basically, he said that would be alright as long as I knew all of them.

You think I'm kidding don't you?

Apparently, musical talent is one of those prerequisites for Children's Ministry Leaders. A prerequisite that interns, in the absence of a Children's Director, are roped into as well. However, there was HOPE for me. I make one darn good karaoke singer. You would have laughed if you had seen me. The kids sure did! But that's alright with me. In fact, it kinda made me feel good.
I love to make kids laugh.
Anything that encourages them to worship their creator with every fiber of their being, including their funny bone,
well . . . sign me up!

There's always hope.
Laughing children can attest.

Father, thank you for giving me the chance to care for your children. What a blessing it has been.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Deluge of Questions

Right now I'm reading the Children's Ministry lesson plan for this up-coming Sunday.

It has provoked some complicated questions . . .

This week we are teaching on Noah and the flood. It's an age-old story that anyone who passed through a Children's Ministry undoubtedly learned about. The moral of the story usually focuses on the fact that God saved Noah, so we know we can count on God. We can trust God that he provides for us. I know these things are true. I believe God is good.

so, here is my question:

Why did God need to kill all the other people on earth? I know they were not doing good things. They were evil people. But were they evil through and through, without an ounce of goodness in them? If someone does mostly evil things, does that mean they ought to be wiped off the face of the earth? Or dare I ask, if someone only does evil things, are they completely without hope? Is it even possible for a human being to only do evil things? Can human beings become so depraved that at some point they are utterly irredeemable?

I know that I myself am capable of the most atrocious of sins. In fact, I have committed many sins myself, even since waking up this morning. It's a frightening realization to discover your own sinfulness. Recently, I have discovered my own depravity. And yet, I also know that I'm indebted to God for his forgiveness and grace in my life. Each day I wake up thankful that his mercy is new every morning.

The flood is frightening to me, because I don't understand why God did it.
Were those people beyond help?
Beyond repentance?

Utterly beyond redemption?

Also, I don't understand what this says about God. I know that it shows He is a just God, whose righteous anger is provoked by our sinfulness. It shows that He has no tolerance for sin. It grieves Him so much. He cannot stand sin, and neither should I. When I discover it in my own life, I ought to crush it with the torrential rains of repentance, asking for God's mercy and walking with determination far away from sin. Unfortunately, Noah's story is not an easy one for me to swallow. God did not give those people any more chances for repentance.

Here is an example of chiaroscuro.

The story of Noah's ark is not a cheerful story. Noah and his family spent 40 days in an ark of enormous proportions with creatures of every shape, size, and smell. They lived through a one-of-a-kind natural disaster. Even the worst natural disasters (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and electrical storms) only last a few days at high intensity before subsiding. Noah and his family coped with torrential rains that covered the face of the whole earth for almost six weeks! Meanwhile, they were fully aware that outside the safety of the ark every single living creature and human being perished in the storm.
This is a very dark, horrific story.

. . . and yet it is precisely this darkness that highlights and magnifies the light of God. Our Lord, who has no darkness in him, allowed this to happen. There must have been a reason. And that reason had to be good, righteous, pure, and holy.

This provokes another question for me:
Just out of curiosity, why did God promise to never do it again?

Usually, when I do something that's admittedly wrong, I determine that I'll never do it again. Did God decide it wasn't the best way to deal with sinful people? Is this why he determined to send his Son for us? I know God's ways are higher than mine. His decisions far better, His reasoning beyond my comprehension. I suppose God probably wouldn't get very far if every time he found a sinful, unrepentant group of people he wiped them off the face of the earth with a natural disaster. Aren't we all sinful? . . . then again, not everyone is repentant.

Does God still punish people today for their sins? Or does judgment only come at the end of time? I once heard someone say that 911 happened because of the moral depravity of Americans. I think that's bad theology. Dare I ask . . . why did God allow 911 to happen?

See how these questions tend to spiral on themselves?
The more I think about it the more complicated it gets and the more curious I become. At times, it's scary to ask questions like this. But I'm not afraid. I think it's o.k. to ask God questions. I think God can handle it. And I don't think that by the time I finish this blog, or for that matter, by the time my life is over, I'll have all the answers to these questions. In fact, I hope that God uses questions to draw me closer to him.

Ask, Seek, Knock
7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7

At the end of the day, these are things I still know to be true.
  • God is full of light. There is no darkness in Him at all.
  • God is perfectly good.
  • All of His actions are done in His great love, mercy, justice, and righteousness.
  • God has a plan for this world and everyone in it.

Today, I am daring to ask Him why he flooded the earth, not because I think He was wrong in doing it, but because I want to know Him more. I desire to understand the ways of God. It's scary to even ask God questions like this. I'm afraid that he will respond to me the same way he answered Job. . . who are you to question me?

I'll end this conversation with the wisdom of Job:

1 Then Job replied to the LORD :

2 "I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'

5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes."

Pray for me this Sunday. If one of the kids asks me why God did this, I'm not exactly sure what I would say. All I would be able to do is confirm the things I already know to be true about God. He is HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, JUST, MERCIFUL, and FULL OF LIGHT.
Maybe it would be wise to also admit that I am unsure and encourage them to ask God. After all, He's the only one who knows why he flooded the earth, while also providing for, caring for, protecting and ultimately saving Noah and his family.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In need of grace

A word from the Lord for me to remember today:

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the over flow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

Matthew 12:33-37

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.

Ephesians 4:29