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  • Joseph's Adoption

    Posted on June 30, 2015 by Family Christian

    Buying here helps young men find forever families

     

    Joseph was 12 years old when he first set foot on the Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch, a foster care alternative with multiple family-style homes. He arrived from a group home where he struggled with anger and getting into fights. All that changed when Goshen Valley welcomed him in to their family.

     

    During his time there, Joseph began going to church, school and youth group each week and became close with the eight other boys in his home and his house parents, who were devoted to helping him succeed in life. Joseph was also there during Family Christian’s first mission trip.

     

    “The development after Family Christian came in was huge. I saw them put in roads, a learning center, and they did all kinds of stuff to better Goshen Valley,” Joseph said. “If it wasn’t for Family Christian, I feel like the development of Goshen would not be where it is today.

     

     

    During that first mission trip, Joseph also met Tina, our Senior Visual Manager.

    Joseph and Tina. Joseph and Tina.

     

    They spent the week together working on projects, hanging out and created a close friendship. Soon after the trip, Tina felt God tugging at her heart to adopt a child from Goshen. And a year and half later, Tina and her husband Kevin adopted Joseph, who was just shy of his 18th birthday.

    Joseph with Kevin and Tina, outside Joseph’s home near Chicago Joseph with Kevin and Tina, outside Joseph’s home near Chicago

    “I always thought my husband and I would adopt,” Tina said. “After the mission trip, I kept thinking about how I wanted to do more, so I asked Kevin to pray for one week. I wanted to see if God was saying to him what he was saying to me.”

     

    One week later, Kevin confirmed what Tina had heard from the Lord, which was that their family should share what God had given them with others by adopting a child from Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch. And a year and half later, they adopted Joseph, who was just shy of his 18th birthday.

     

    A year and a half after graduating high school, Joseph moved to Chicago to study in the automotive field. He’s now 22 and works as a mechanic. While he’d like to stay in the automotive industry, he sees himself eventually moving closer to his family again. He describes having Tina, Kevin and his three-year-old brother, Bear, in his life as “a life-changing experience.”

    Joseph and his three-year-old brother, Bear, love hanging out together! Joseph and his three-year-old brother, Bear, love hanging out together!

    “The biggest change I saw was a young man who desperately wanted a family and didn’t know how a family works, to a young man who understands that we’ll always have his back and love him,” Tina said. “God has unconditional love for us, and I never grasped that concept until I had Joseph in my life. There is nothing he could do that could make us stop loving him.”

     

     

    When you buy from Family, you are giving to ministries like Goshen Valley, helping them raise young boys into godly men and preparing them for a possible adoption.

     

    Learn more about Goshen Valley and our other ministry partners.

  • The ‘Write’ Way: Instilling a Love of Writing In Your Child

    Posted on June 13, 2015 by Family Christian

    “Hey, can I read your book?” I looked up at the face of a young boy watching intently as I worked on my newest novel manuscript. Ben lived in my dorm with his family, the community counselors. I smiled and passed the book over and three days later, he became my youngest reader. Over the course of the semester, I began helping him in creative writing and motivating this budding artist. It was incredibly rewarding to have the chance to invest in a young person’s life, but I was truly touched when I received a letter from Ben that moved me to tears.

     

    “Ciera, thank you so much for always encouraging me with my writing…I am doing an assignment called ‘whose shoes’ where we write to someone we look up to as a hero. I just want to thank you for the time you have spent with me helping my stories progress and grow…I hope that when I grow up, I will be as generous and loving like you…I will never forget you.”

     

    Young people are highly impressionable and the smallest amount of encouragement can go a long way. In this case, I discovered that sharing my work with him and reading his writing in return gave him the necessary motivation to further pursue his dreams of finishing a book.

     

    Writing is an integral part of life in that it helps young people learn to appreciate language and culture and formulate their thoughts on the world in a way that is both creative and formative to their development as an individual.

     

    As parents, you have an even greater opportunity to instill a love for writing in your children. Not only will they learn by watching you as their role models, but you have the unique ability to touch their hearts with encouragement and challenge, which is both gracious and inspiring. Whether or not you yourself were raised to have a love for the written word, if you desire for your child to have a greater appreciation for the art and discipline of writing, there a few key ways you can encourage them.

     

    1. Expose your child to quality literature at a young age.

     

    Consider ways to make books a part of your child’s life, such as making regular trips to the library, giving books as gifts or encouraging your child to read every day. When I was growing up, my mother scheduled reading time for an hour every afternoon. This practice helped me gain the ability to focus intensely for longer periods of time. In addition, it widened my palette of vocabulary and helped me fall in love with the narrative art of storytelling.

     

    Furthermore, children who are read to daily are found to test higher in cognitive skills such as language, mathematics, memory and the process of understanding and recalling facts. A study from the University of Melbourne showed that parental reading increases a child’s cognitive skills and reading abilities from the age of six months to age 11. In other words, you can start reading to your baby to help instill a fundamental understanding of cadence, language and object recognition! This basic understanding of reading is the first step toward leading your child to love writing. Words become meaningful to them and they will ultimately have a greater desire to use their own words to express and communicate.

     

    1. Have them keep a journal.

     

    Journaling for personal meditation or along with devotions and Scripture is a good life practice for any Christian no matter the age. This is beneficial for any child, both because it helps them learn structure and responsibility and also because they become more naturally self reflective. Furthermore, the progress is tangible and they can see their own growth as a writer as they fill up the pages.

     

    I have personally kept journals since I was five years old — granted, the subject matter of my entries has changed greatly, but to look back into the thoughts of a younger me is a beautiful gift. Reading over my old notes is like stepping back in time, having a conversation with myself and it gives me insight to see how certain events shaped me. The practice of journaling can be creative, too, and I often include pictures, sketches or poems, anything that is a personal reflection on what I’m thinking or feeling.

     

    1. Celebrate when they ask questions.

     

    Before answers can be found, questions must be asked. That truth is at the very heart of writing. To write is to question, to analyze, to seek truth and to strive to examine what you observe. The heart of this, though, is the art of experience and the acquired ability to reflect what you see in what you write.

     

    Questions like, “What does it mean to be a girl? Why do I have to love my brother? Why do we go to church?” are life shaping. Let them thrive on the “why” questions and explore answers though the process of putting thoughts into words.

     

    1. Praise the work ethic.

     

    I’ve heard it said “Praise the process, not the product!” But the truth is that we should affirm both. The journey is just as important as the destination and the same truism applies to writing in that we should value the method and time spent working on our craft just as we should appreciate the end result. When your child shows you a story he has written, praise him for the effort, encourage him in his endeavors and challenge him to grow. Illustrate ways in which he can learn more or become better, but understand that the truth is loving and to love is to be truthful. So affirm his desire to use his gifts and interests and show him how to practice his skills humbly.

     

    1. Help them see writing as applicable to various interests.

     

    There is a place for the writer in everyone’s world. Not every child will have the same artistic imagination to write their own fairytales; others may prefer journaling or nonfiction or poetry. But the understanding that writing is both expression and communication is key. It’s both deeply personal and can be made public. It is an art and a discipline. Encouraging your child to learn how to think analytically and write critically about the world around them will sharpen important life skills and even help them formulate their recognition of identity.

     

    When I received Ben’s letter about his project “Whose Shoes”, I was incredibly honored to be selected as this boy’s hero because of our writing mentorship. His note continued, “Our writing teacher asked for a pair of signed shoes from you, for our ‘whose shoes’ display that we have in class so we can literally walk in your shoes.” He asked for old, worn shoes that I wouldn’t miss.   Instead, I gave Ben my favorite pair of Chuck Norris Converse. Being selected as Ben’s role model has continued to be a reminder to me that we as Christians have the blessing of being able to speak deeply into others’ lives, especially children. I truly believe that leadership skills are not determined by how much we accomplish, but by how much those we lead accomplish. As a parent, recognize that you have the ability to lead, challenge, humble and encourage your child in both the writing process and whatever endeavor they undertake. The “write” way looks different for every child, but to instill a love for the written word in them is to share a valued appreciation for stories, both those of others and their own.

     

    Bio: A sophomore at Wheaton College, Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, she grew up hanging out with Christian music stars, artists and writers who greatly influenced her culturally-engaging outlook on life, which she writes about at www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

    Ciera Horton

  • What can churches realistically do to make families of special needs children feel welcome?

    Posted on March 2, 2015 by Family Christian

    When you have a child with autism or other special needs, even the simple everyday tasks most take for granted can present their own set of unique challenges and issues. Trips to the grocery store, outings to the zoo...and yes, even church! Between the noises, the lights and the crowds, churches can be a lot for kids with sensory issues to handle.

    For parents, this can be very isolating. We find ourselves feeling looked down upon in social situations when sensory issues lead to meltdowns and 'inappropriate' behaviors. Even in church, it's easy to feel a little unwelcome at times.

     

    In an ideal world, every church would offer a sensory friendly service... a special service where families of those with sensory issues could come and worship without fear. Music would be turned down, there'd be no crazy lights, no booming speeches and moving around would be not only acceptable but even welcome. Or perhaps they'd offer a special room (like a cry room, seen in many larger churches) or even a special needs classroom available during the church services. All options would be ideal...but let's be honest, most churches simply do not have the resources available.

    Which leads to the question: what can churches realistically do to make families of special needs children feel welcome?

    One very simple way is by offering a sensory box to use during services to those that need them. This box would contain both sensory products aimed to help deal with sensory overload, as well as fun activities that can help children stay occupied. Here's a look at some ideas to include:

     

    • Weighted Products. Weighted/compression vests, lap pads, etc can be a great for calming and helping kids to stay still.
    • Noise Reducing Headphones. One of the big issues for kids in a church setting is the noise- be it the music, the blare of speakers or just the crowd in general. For my son, we have found noise reducing headphones to be essential in public places when it becomes too much. These are similar to what one would wear at a shooting range and does not block out all noise but rather filters out some of the background noise.
    • Oral Sensory Toys. These would of course be specific to each child (to be stored with a plastic baggie with their name), but can also be a great addition to your sensory box. For my son, I've found that having something to chew on such as this can help him to focus...as well as keeping his mouth off of everything around him!
    • Books. For the child that can read, books can be a great distraction! Fill with bright, vibrant books for various age levels. Consider Veggie Tales comics or fun Bible storybooks. I loved featuring a book called 'God Made Me Special' to remind those differently-abled children that God made them perfect just as they are.
    • Art Supplies. Crayons, coloring books, pencils, etc can all again provide great busy work to make the wait a little easier. Color Wonder papers and markers can be ideal for younger kids or those with fine motor issues to prevent messes. Clay and/or playdoh when possible can also serve as a great sensory experience.
    • Small Quiet Toys. Of course there is no better way to occupy a child's attention than with toys! For this box, the key thing you want to look for is toys that can be played with quietly! Plush toys, soft balls, etc are great options. For the sensory seeking kid, offer a variety of textures. Find toys that have colorful lights. Spinning parts are also popular among kids with sensory issues (gears, wheels, tops, etc).  Inexpensive novelty toys are fantastic for this type of box...they can be replaced easily and inexpensively and because they are not played with every day still keep their appeal. (We used this types of toys often as reinforcements in therapy).
    Of course, every child will be different and what helps one child might not for the next, but this list will give you a great starting point to build upon. The sensory therapy products can all be found at stores specializing in therapy or education, but many great sensory friendly toys and books can be found right where you shop for your other church supplies- Family Christian.Just by letting families know that you have thought of them and want to make their church experience as easy as possible can go a long way in letting them know that they are in fact welcome. But don't let the welcoming end there. Offer support where possible, ask questions about how you can make church a better experience for each individual family and above all be understanding. Even creating the perfect sensory-friendly church experience may still prove too much for some children- reach out to these families where they are. A little bit of compassion can go a long way in making this journey with a differently-abled child a little less lonely.

    Randi Sampson is a Christian wife and autism mom. She blogs at A Modern Day Fairy Tale- sharing stories of motherhood, life, product reviews and everything in between.

  • 50 Shades of Irony: The Black and White of Grey

    Posted on February 24, 2015 by Family Christian

    I don't always speak up every time I see another upwelling issue in our culture — quite frankly, sometimes it's easy to become immune to what you're surrounded by daily.  But when it comes to the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, I cannot sit by in silence.  It already made 8.6 million the first day of its release, while some places (like the entire country of Malaysia) have banned it completely.
    What is so compelling about the enigmatic Christian Grey (interesting name) and his relationship with Anastasia Steele (who is softer than her name implies)?  This BDSM romance has captured the hearts of women across the country, spurring on new and unnatural sexual fantasies.  The danger is that we as a culture are normalizing the perversion, turning our gaze away from truth and we as Christians are forgetting what it means to be audacious.
    I believe we should not only boycott what I'm calling “Fifty Shades of Irony" but we should continue to speak out the truth with boldness — we don't need to read the book or see the movie (neither of which I ever plan to do) in order to be informed about it and understand its negative influence.  Here's why.
    The film presents a warped view of sex.
    For those of you who don't know, BDSM stands for Bondage & Discipline (BD), Dominance & Submission (DS), Sadism & Masochism (SM).  Sadism is the tendency to get pleasure from inflicting pain or humiliation and masochism is pleasure in self inflicted pain.  The relationship is not equal, but is consensually based on one party being the dominant and the other the receiver.
    This need to dominate or to be dominated by another illuminates an underlying longing to be led, a longing that can only be filled by the Lord.  Whatever your thoughts are on this kind of role-play, mine is simple: This portrayal of sexual gratification though pain and humiliation is not sharing the deepest intimacy out of self sacrifice, gentleness, love or true passion.  It is fundamentally self serving.  Seeking to bring pain to another, even in a consensual context, seems to deviate from Scripture's truths about love and sexuality.  Hebrews 13:4 says, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous."
    So, dear Christian, do not foster curiosity.
    Recognize that most negative aspects of our culture are warped versions of good things.  God's blessing of sex is turned into pornography, erotica, prostitution and rape.  Freedoms turn into abuses; wisdom into intellectual pride with declarations of autonomy; innovation into a reliance on man's accomplishments.
    But culture itself is not evil.  Humans are.  Our battle is not one of Christian culture vs. secular culture.  The clash is between hope and despair and the first step to this kind of epistemological humility is recognizing our deep need for God's mercy and His blessing of hope.
    Romanticizing pain delegitimizes it.
    In the book, Christian Grey has a Red Room of Pain where he carries out his sadistic pleasures.  These include handcuffs and whips.  In one scene, he takes a riding crop used for horses and strikes her.
    This breaks my heart — we are making this kind of relationship the ideal!  This is the kind of context people flee from, are wounded by, carry emotional scars from because this kind of relationship is not based on mutual respect for another individual.  And when we romanticize pain and tell women "This is what you should want!" then we delegitimize the actual pain of people who have endured abuse.  It's just that simple.  This encompasses emotional and physical abuse, sexual molestation, rape and by extension even human trafficking.  According to Equality Now, there are over 20 million adults and children in sexual bondage being trafficked around the world, forced into servitude.  I'd like to argue that we serve them the utmost disrespect in supporting a film of this nature.
    The woman's identity is found in the man's.
    Anastasia Steele, our protagonist, is a shy virgin with a low self esteem, no self sufficiency, a fear of abandonment and no sexual identity.  All of these things are fulfilled in the charismatic and controlling Christian Grey.  In the trailer, Anastasia asks him, "So you're a control freak?" and his reply is, "I exercise control in all things." Interesting.
    All of this is along the lines of the common "He completes me" relationship mentality which only makes me gag.  Her worth, identity and confidence are all dependent on one man, which is both deeply sexist and also dangerous for women who claim to identify with Anastasia.  Anyone who watches this film and resonates with her insecurities is now being told to find worth and satisfaction in a controlling figure who is both abusive and self absorbed.
    Instead, we shouldn't be dependent on others or self sufficient, but we should recognize our own inadequacy, genuine desire for relationships with others and desperate need for the relationship with Jesus, the only one which can fulfill.
    Sin supposedly leads to freedom — the ultimate lie of a fallen world.
    To see this matter more clearly, look at the titles of the books themselves.  Fifty Shades of Grey.  Fifty Shades Darker.  Fifty Shades Freed.  We start with grey - between black and white, between right and wrong in the blurred "grey areas".  Then it goes darker, accepting a lifestyle of sin.  Then freedom.
    Let me make myself clear.  Darkness does not lead to freedom.  Shackles of slavery do not lead to liberty.  Indulging in sin is not going to lead to victory over it.  This mindset is humanistic, individualized and part of the relative truth age in which we live.  In our postmodern world, we are encouraged to "love" in a way that is only accepting, encouraging, unprejudiced and never challenging.  For the world, this leads to a tyranny of immorality in which standards are scorned, and the tolerant are intolerant of dissension.  I laugh when I consider how Nathaniel Hawthorne might write the Scarlet Letter about today — our culture wouldn't ostracize immorality, they would shun purity.
    For Christians, this often means a watered down faith that is no longer bold or audacious or proclaiming truth.  The truth is hard!  The Gospel is not easy and Jesus was culturally controversial.  Why are we on the defensive?  We should stand nobly for what is honorable, virtuous and holy.  We should strive to both encourage and challenge.  Our culture, in an attempt to accept and love all, has lost sight of the beauty in tough accountability.  I'm learning more and more that to speak the truth is loving and to love is to be truthful.

     

    So Christians, stand for what is right.  This is one time when we don't need to see the film or read the book to understand the deeply rooted issues.  Boycott this movie and speak out for purity and the sanctity of marriage.  This sense of truth and hope is what we can share to the Fifty Shades culture.  They need a million shades of light, not deeper depths of darkness.
    Bio: A sophomore at Wheaton College, Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, she grew up hanging out with Christian music stars, artists and writers who greatly influenced her culturally-engaging outlook on life, which she writes about at www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.
    Ciera Horton
  • On Dealing with Special Needs

    Posted on February 21, 2015 by Family Christian

    brat

    I will guarantee that many of you have said, overheard or seen sentiments like those pictured above. I know I did. I was one of those moms who had a perfect first child, and therefore thought I knew everything. I had no problem blaming the parents, blaming the doctors, blaming society for allowing "brats" who try to solve the problem by medicating them vs. discipline.

    Then, I had to eat my own words.

    I now find myself one of the first people to defend the child with the invisible disabilities. My second daughter was entirely different from my first. She was far more exuberant, and head strong. She had quirks about her that would make me question, from a very early age, if she suffered from some sort of disorder. I would find myself searching the internet, taking those "how to know if your child has _____" quizzes. My daughter was always the square peg in a world of round holes. Even within the scope of various disabilities, she didn't quite fit the profile. I would think briefly that she must be fine, but then with each developmental milestone we would (or should) hit ... I was searching again.

    When she was just around two years old, we got our first diagnosis. "Speech Delayed". We attended a few assessments, and had our sit down meeting to talk about her treatment plan. This was the first time someone referred to my daughter as disabled. It rocked me to my core. It doesn't matter what the diagnosis is, hearing that your child is disabled ... it takes your breath away. I cried the whole ride home. Someone actually put words to something I suspected all along. But, clearly, it wasn't just a speech delay. Many of the behaviors she was exhibiting, it was assumed, would correct themselves as she became more verbal.

    Her speech cleared up, but the quirks didn't. In some respects, it got worse.

    I remember, time and time again, telling people THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER. I actually wanted to know what it was, so I could help her. Answers evaded me. It was her second grade teacher that first mentioned autism, but my daughter didn't fit that profile either. Our next diagnosis was a positive one, GIFTED.

    I knew my daughter was exceptionally smart, which I think was part of what frustrated me about her behaviors. I couldn't wrap my head around why someone SO smart, couldn't see or correct her behaviors.

    It would not come until 5th grade that we would get another diagnosis. ADHD. You know the "brat disease", "excuse for parents who don't want to discipline their children disease", the "too lazy to parent their children disease".... yeah, that one. We would work our way through figuring out medications and dosage. What I couldn't be prepared for, was the response of others.

    "She is just being a kid, she doesn't need medication."

    "Have you tried changing her diet? I have read that _____ causes ADHD"

    "You don't have to give her medication. Mountain Dew or strong coffee will work just as well."

    "She is just head strong. You need to set firmer boundaries."

    They have no clue what it is like to live with a child that has ADHD. Let alone a GIFTED child, with ADHD. They live in a world, where their brains NEVER shut down. They are constantly on the go, on the move. They talk non stop, about everything, to the point of parental exhaustion. They are extreme about how they respond to everything. She is loud. She is intense. She is extreme. She is, exactly how God made her. And, she will happily tell you that.

    When you talk to someone about your child being disabled, and they say "She doesn't look disabled".... it hurts. They do not know what it is like to get a letter home EVERY DAY about your child's behavior, and the calls to the doctor that it may be time to increase her medication. Again. The same medication you were hoping to wean her off of in time, with the grand hope that you can help her learn to control her behavior.

    It is devastating to hear members of your own family speak about her disability. The one who calls her a "zombie" when she is on her medication. And the one, who says they can't handle her off her medication. When people who are her own blood won't babysit her because she is "too much" for them. She will spend the rest of her life unaware of the number of times she was rejected by her own family members. A burden my heart bears, to spare her.

    They also do not know what it is like to open your child's planner at the end of the school year... to find a note taped in the back. In her handwriting you see the words "Read Every Day". And, as any mom would, you open up the note to see these words written on a cheap valentines day class swap card....

    "I know some people thing you are weird,

    But I think you are awesome."

    It is great to see that someone sees the AMAZING side of your child. It is heart wrenching to know that your child needed that affirmation so much, she would put it into her planner... making sure to read it every day. She needed to know someone other than her parents (and God) liked her. She was alone, lonely.

    Everything changed when she started her medication. The notes stopped coming home. She started making friends. She was able to focus, and her behaviors stopped or at least were minimized. She has best friends now.

    In the church, it is easy for us to know how to respond to the child with a visible disability. We not only see it, but we are prepared for (or at least expecting) that we are going to need to be more patient, more hands on, more helpful and more understanding. We would be more cautious about what we said to the parents. Those parents hear things like "He had a hard day today, but we got through it" or "He did so well today!".

    When you are a parent of a child with an invisible disability, you hear things like.... "Wow, that one... she's a handful", usually accompanied by a look of complete exasperation on their face. When well meaning people off up a litany of suggestions on how to raise this child, you feel defeated. You feel judged. You feel like you are failing as a parent.

    We are now in the middle school years, and our daughter sits with us during Saturday night service. We do not give her medication on days when there is no school, we still hold out hope that she'll learn the coping skills to live off medication one day. Sitting with her, un-medicated, at Saturday night service is the equivalent to sitting with a toddler.

    She fidgets. She talks. She interrupts. She draws. She goes through the papers in the pew pockets. She touches people, gently. She asks a million questions. She hangs on you, pulls on you, sits on you. She sits up, she lays down.

    She can't help herself.

    She also sings with all her might. She raises her hands to the Lord, as she praises. She smiles bigger, and has a twinkle in her eye ... that melts your heart. She laughs with every muscle in her body. She is the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. She may ask a LOT of questions, but they are good questions. Pastor, despite her fidgeting... SHE HEARD EVERY WORD YOU SAID. With certainty, we will be discussing it later. You deposited that information into a vault, a bank she will pull from one day.

    How does the church minister to people like me, to my daughter?

    1) Recognize that unseen disorders are still REAL. These families need support too, they need help... they parent the child no one wants to babysit. When mom walks into the church late (again), looking like she just went through WWIII.... Smile at her, hug her, and connect to that child. The more you make the child feel welcome at the church, the easier it is for us to get them motivated to come.

    2) Be mindful of the words you speak, and the assumptions you make. You have no idea how hard it is to parent these children, every day choosing which battles you are going to fight. While yes, there may be parents who abuse the system, most of us do not. We love our children. We are doing everything we can for them to be successful now & in their future. We need your words of encouragement. When people make comments like the one in the picture above, they have no clue WHO they are saying it to. I've heard it. It makes me cringe. I'm that parent you are calling lazy, and unwilling to discipline. You don't even realize it.

    3) When you see the parent trying to wrangle them in, understand that THIS child REQUIRES different techniques and parenting. We are not being harsh, we are holding firm boundaries. We are still teaching them, and we appreciate your willingness to teach them as well. We appreciate your patience, and that you see the best in our kids. Don't let them get away with something, just because they have a disorder or disability. Just keep it in mind, as you choose how to handle it, that you are not dealing with an average kid. When in doubt, ask the parents.

    I know there are times when my daughter will be a distraction, and you will look. I expect the look. I appreciate the smile.

    For those of you reading this, who may have a child like mine sitting in your Sunday Service, there is HOPE.

    When the pressure is removed from the parents, when they understand that you love their kids... imperfections, quirks, and all... there is an enormous release. We can engage in your message, without worry about what our kid is doing every second. And you set the tone for others, when you (especially as Pastors and Elders) say it is ok... the body will follow. Your smiles, become their smiles. Your acceptance, becomes their acceptance.

    Use your knowledge of members in the body to connect us families together, but also with people in the body that have the skills. Tell us about that occupational therapist that can give us suggestions on getting through the service, or help train the Sunday School workers on how to deal with kids that have disabilities and disorders, particularly the invisible ones.

    And, consider having some of the following:

    juniorshieldGIVE THEM JOBS!!!! - Just because a child or teen has a disability or disorder, doesn't mean they don't have gifts and talents. Giving them a job as part of the service will allow them to plug in, feel important, and something to focus on. Many would love to be a greeter, pass out welcome packets, help pass out the offering baskets, etc. Even something as simple as having a few kids restock the pens and response cards in the pews between services, it can mean a lot. Be sure to speak with the parents first, to help identify the best area to serve.

    actionbible Have a few copies of The Action Bible tucked sporadically under pews or available as the kids come in the door. They are easy to follow, and can help capture the child's attention during the service. Mom and Dad will get to enjoy the message, and their child has something appropriate to keep them engaged.

    worshipbulletins Take a lesson from the Pros! Any restaurant that serves kids has special menus and packs of crayons for kids. Why? Because, they know that kids have a short attention span & patience is not one of their strong points. Children who are disabled will often find these same activities helpful, regardless of their age. Have something like, Worship Bulletins for Kids, available at the pews, in a basket near the door, or being distributed by greeters; they are cost effective and won't take up much space. You can choose to provide crayons, or just let the kids use the pens/pencils already in the pews.

    stickersEven something as simple as stickers is HUGE for kids, it's positive reinforcement & fun. The stickers can be kept at your Information Desk, and after service Mom, or Dad, can bring their child to pick up a sticker for sitting well through service. The parents can come up with a reward system for at home (certain # of stickers collected = reward). For many special needs kids, the sticker is enough. Parents will appreciate that it is not candy too! These Very Veggie Values stickers are perfect because they are fun, but also are learning tools.

    ----------------------------------------

    The great news is that you can find these resources all in one location, www.FamilyChristian.com , they also have an entire section of books for Families with Special Needs Kids including: autism, add, adhd, overeating, fragile x, downs syndrome, and more.

    These books not only are helpful to parents who have children that are special needs, but are great resources to children's ministry leaders and church staff. When you take the time to make an investment to understanding these kids in your church... you minister to our hearts in ways you never will truly understand. There are times when you will treat our kids better, kinder and more lovingly than some of their own relatives. You matter in their lives.

    ----------------------------------------

    Matthew 25:40 "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me."

    Matthew 18:10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven."

    Mark 10:14 He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

    This was a guest post from blogger Gena M.  You can find from Gena on her blog:  www.genamccown.com

    genafacesmall

  • How to Motivate Kids to Clean

    Posted on January 2, 2015 by Family Christian

    how to motivate kids to clean
    Are you looking for ideas to keep your home organized this year? Once you find the best routine for your family, the next hurdle is how to motivate the kids to clean! Trying to get the kids motivated to help can be frustrating, as it frequently breeds a case of the grumps. Here are six tips on dealing with grumpy kids. Before we get started on how to motivate your kids to clean let’s talk about having grace with yourself. It’s a new year and you are gung-ho telling yourself, “This year will be different!” The year starts of perfectly then *BAM*! Life throws a curve. Your routine is in a spiral and you never truly gain the previous momentum. This leaves the feeling of another failed New Year’s Resolution. This year start slowly and steadily embrace a new viewpoint for your old resolution.

    Adopt this philosophy: Keep the clutter moving and the laundry fluffed!

    how to motivate kids to clean 2
    You live in your home, so focus on keeping it fresh and clean. Striving for a model home when you live with kids will only lead to frustration.

    Motivating the Kids

    I have found two tools that help motivate kids to clean. One is using a point system to earn prizes from the treasure box. The other is a chore card. I’ll explain both!
    Point System
    chore cards pointsMy kids earn a Pohl Point (since our last name is Pohl) for every chore they complete.
    Download Point Printable here
    I give bonus points when they work with a positive attitude, without being reminded, or after helping a sibling. However, they pay me points for poor work and grumbling attitudes. At the end of the week and after they have earned X amount of points they get to choose from the treasure box. My kids are super motivated with this method and yours will be too!

    I wanted to fill our treasure box with meaningful and economical items. At Family Christian’s toy department I found a spinning rack with containers filled with perfect little toys that have a positive inscription. The tween area has small buttons, bookmarks, pens, and notebooks that are a great too. Also, I find great treasure box items in the clearance section of the store. I can fill the box for less than $20 and it lasts for weeks!
    treasure box
    Chore Cards
    A chore card an individual card with step by step directions for one particular chore. It’s ideal for kids age 5 and up. You can find the full Chore Card System Packet here. Like a mini laminated tutorial. Each chore in our home has a chore card. The chore cards for my younger kids include pictures. This saves me from becoming a broken record. In the morning I divvy up the chores my kids are to complete and clip them to their clipboard. Typically, I assign one to two chores per person daily. With the directions in hand, literally, my expectations are clear. After completion, the card is flipped over to the backside which says DONE! Then I know to check their work. I also made cards for their morning and night time routines.
    Keep the daily cleaning schedule simple. Set specific things you plan to accomplish each day. To catch the missed messes plan a deeper clean every few weeks. Remember, the idea is to keep things clean and fresh, not perfect. Keep the clutter moving and the laundry fluffed!

    Encouragement for Mom

    When my three girls were under six years old I did my best to keep up with our home. Having a preschooler, toddler and infant the mess would easily get out of hand. I refused to let anyone in my home unless it was perfectly clean. My uptight attitude changed one day when a friend showed up unexpectedly.

    I heard the knock at the door. Perfection turned my stomach into knots as I reluctantly opened the door and presented a warm hesitant smile. She leaned forward, expecting to enter. I opened the door further and through my smile said, “I’m happy to see you…. Would you like to come in?”
    I ushered her to our beautiful sitting area. A formal room we rarely used. Nevertheless, with little effort you could see the pile of dishes that covered the table, the toys that lined the hallway, and mountain of dirty clothes that flowed out of the laundry room. I swallowed deeply and offered her a freshly brewed cup of coffee with a slice of cake. She accepted. I served her the refreshments and plopped down next to her.
    She looked at me with grief in her eyes and said, “I was just diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.”
    I embraced her and silently prayed, “Thank you God for the wisdom to lay down my pride by not turning her away at the door.”
    In that moment I learned, God cares about my clean heart more than my clean house!

    Momma, your day to day tedious tasks make a difference in God’s Kingdom. Contrary to our cultural belief, home is our first ministry, an important one.
    Taking care of our family takes diligence and a willingness to be flexible. It is both rewarding and challenging. Smack dab in the middle of the chaos, diapers, hand-me-downs, temper-tantrums, adolescence, and school – it is easy to be drained and lose sight of the big picture.
    I am often encouraged by, 1 Timothy 5:9-10 NIV.
    No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.”
    First on the list, of life time achievement deeds, is bringing up children. That has always brought me peace and continues to bring value to my ministry as the care taker of my home. I hope it does for you as well.
    Keep in touch! Let me know how you’re keeping the kids motivated to clean.
    Written by Michelle {at} Blooming With Joy {dot} com

  • How Being Well-Read Makes You Well-Rounded

    Posted on October 31, 2014 by Family Christian

    The Life Of A Page-Turning Adventurer:

    How Being Well-Read Makes You Well-Rounded

    Guest post by: Ciera Horton

     

    I have traveled for miles on a raft down the Mississippi River.  I’ve been on a circus train in the Midwest. I have journeyed into the heart of the Congo with ivory traders, I’ve burned books, I’ve witnessed a fisherman wrangle a marlin on open waters.  I have hitchhiked to the edge of the galaxy, flown to Neverland and back and time traveled to dozens of decades, all while never leaving my house.  I am a traveler, a wandering adventurer, a lover of the mystery of prose and all because I am a reader.

     

    Books were a foundational part of my childhood.  Growing up, I was memorizing Dr. Seuss stories at age two and reading chapter books before the first grade.  This sparked a passionate love for literature and has led me to pursue studies in English and creative writing.

     

    But in our culture, I am part of a shrinking minority.  Believers and non-believers alike increasingly reject the pastime of reading and replace books with gaming consoles and cell phone apps.  Mindless entertainment becomes the sole priority because the gratification is more immediate and the participation is passive.  However, this shift away from valuing books and their influence has detrimental consequences.  Literature not only expands readers’ comprehension of the outside world, but also aids internal, personal development of the mind and heart.  Christians should value reading because being well-read leads to a well-rounded worldview.

     

    With the rising popularity of Kindles, Nooks and e-books, people often turn in a library card for digital downloads they can take with them anywhere.  Much of the debate regarding the declining trend in paper books commonly relates to nostalgia.  Passionate readers assert that nothing beats holding a physical book in their hands — while I agree with this, I believe there is much more to the debate than simply sentimentality vs. practicality.  A study from 2006 with Nielsen Norman showed that the more people read words on a screen, the more they read in the “F” pattern, reading the top line and then scanning down the left hand side for information.  This nonlinear format makes it difficult to concentrate.  When you have an actual book in your hands, the sense of movement in actually turning and reading a different physical page instead of the same tablet screen helps you feel a sense of progression in the text, which aids in memory.  This increased focus and the ability to remember information helps readers formulate enlightened opinions and perspectives.

     

    Furthermore, an exposé in The Guardian illustrated how reading quality literature increases the three major categories of intelligence as commonly recognized by psychologists.  The first is “crystallized intelligence” which refers to the catalog of sensory information you retain.  The more books you read, the more vocabulary you learn and the more apt you are to recall the knowledge you gained.  “Fluid intelligence” means the ability to think critically, to be discerning and to strategize.  The relationship between reading and fluid intelligence is unique because the more you read, the better you learn to think analytically and with greater critical thinking you have better reading comprehension.  The final category, “emotional intelligence”, is perhaps the most telling.  Readers have been shown to have greater ability to interpret and react to their own and others’ feelings.  The journal Science published a study showing that reading literary fiction improves interpersonal relationships and responses to emotional situations.  Perhaps this is because readers have a wider depth of experiences they have encountered from the texts, which gives them discernment, empathy and emotional maturity.

     

    But the most essential part of reading is how it influences our worldview, our particular philosophy or way of looking at the world.  As Christians, we should be acutely aware of what things are filling our minds and changing our perspectives.

     

    Writer Pat Williams says, “We are changed by what we read. Close that book, and you are not the same person anymore. Because of what you just read, your worldview—your understanding, your compassion for others, your ability to engage intelligently with others—has expanded a little. Books help us grow….”

     

    When we read, we become a witness to the narrative of someone’s life, for all books offer us a glimpse into the tapestry of various ideologies and life-shaping encounters.  It is a formative investment of time and during this time we are being molded.  The active undertaking of immersion in the text stimulates our minds as we engage with the words.  While we are suspended in the illusion between fantasy and reality, the way we view others and ourselves is being influenced.

     

    Through Jane Eyre, I gained a greater appreciation for the difficulties that someone can face.  Through Fahrenheit 451, I became aware of the dangers of extreme censorship.  I saw myself as every single March sister from the beloved Little Women and Heart of Darkness opened my eyes to the plights of other cultures.

     

    The way I view my society and the manner in which I interact with others has all been influenced by the words that have filled my mind.  Yes, reading has its cognitive benefits.  But the power of the written word transcends the scientific.  It shapes who we are as individuals.  Quite simply, being well-read makes you well-rounded.  As Christians, we should read well because books are a glimpse into the human psyche, an illustration of the human condition, a reflection of God’s creation.  We should not be satisfied with the simplistic or the passive, but we should be challenged by intellectual pursuits and the joys in the pages of a novel.

     

    So be a page-turning adventurer.   Read and read well.

    Ciera Horton

    Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her vintage typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, Ciera enjoys sharing her outlook on culture and life through speaking and writing. You can read more on her blog: www.cierahorton.blogspot.com

  • Fatherhood: Reflections

    Posted on October 25, 2014 by Family Christian

     

    After writing his first post titled Fatherhood, Steve felt led to continue the conversation.

    As I continue to reflect on my friend Joel from Bolivia, who was born with severe permanent disabilities, I am stirred by an expanding respect and even love for Joel’s parents. Even though I only met his Mom briefly on a site visit in a local child development center supported by World Vision, she is impacting me today.

     

    What stirs me is the requirement of endurance and steadfast love to care for a disabled child. The parents of a special needs child, upon reflection, are some of the most dedicated, committed, and selfless people I can think of. It stirs and inspires me as I dwell on this.

     

    Think about it:

    ·         Quite possibly the same routine, every day, for a life time

    ·         The setting aside of personal freedoms and independence quite possibly for a life time

    ·         The requirement to serve every day in the most back stage out of sight ways – for a life time…

     

    Yet they are faithful.

     

    Then I think about who I cheer for and give encouragement to. I cheer on the quarterback of the local team, or the lead actress in the musical. I cheer on the artist or musician who stuns me with their gifts and talents. I congratulate the parents of the valedictorian for their accomplishments in raising a stellar student. Now to be clear, these are all good and worthy of support. What eats at me is that I have not cheered as enthusiastically for the parents of the child with disabilities who are serving with endless dedication for the well-being of that special child. For these too I should and must raise my voice.

    BOLIVIA

     

    I am convicted that when I meet or happen across these incredible children and their inspiring parents it will be my privilege to call out in them the profound nature of their faithfulness. I am learning that faithfulness is one the most admirable character traits, yet incredibly difficult to achieve.  Faithfulness, when it is displayed, as with so many parents serving special needs children, it is over looked or under appreciated. Faithfulness is such a powerful attribute and so incredibly difficult to accomplish.

     

    Think about it:

    ·         It requires that I execute the mundane and routine as unto the Lord… every day for a life time

    ·         It requires that I set aside the pursuit of independence to be dependent on God and His will for me…every day for a life time

    ·         It requires that I may need to serve in the most back stage out of sight ways, out of love for Jesus…every day for a life time

     

    These parents are motived by a powerful love that compels them to serve. They faithfully serve, and serve and serve. They are doing what I am called to do – Wake Up – Serve – Repeat.

     

    To the amazingly faithful parents of special needs children, I can say, “Well done good and faithful servant”. I will cheer on the faithful servant in them that is such an example to me.

     

    May each of us run in such a way that we hear the cheer of our Lord and Savior, even now in the daily routine of service, “Well done good and faithful servant”.  This life we lead as followers of the Christ is hard, yet may we be found faithful.

    Written by:

    Steve Biondo

    SVP, HR & Organizational Development at Family Christian

  • Nutrition Group Means Life for Orphaned Boy

    Posted on October 24, 2014 by Family Christian

    Nutrition Group Means Life for Orphaned Boy

    By Laura Reinhardt

    Derre ADP, Mozambique

    Maternal Child Health, Food

    Thank you World Vision for providing us with this post and the photos.

     

    Summary: Madalena took in her orphaned nephew, but he suffered from severe malnutrition. Then a group of parents from a nutrition group provided her with training and he began to grow. Now he’s a healthy & hearty 3-year-old.

     

    A mother feeds a healthy porridge, which she’s just learned to make at a community training, to her young infant. Then she tries in vain to feed her younger child suckling at her breast. The child refuses to be comforted. The mother herself is malnourished and has no milk with which to feed the child.

     

    In 2011, Madalena Mulimba found herself in a similar situation. Only the malnourished infant was her sister’s boy, Betinho. Her sister died from complications during childbirth.

     

    Madalena took Betinho home to care for him, despite having children of her own.  “I felt compassion for the child,” says Madalena. “If God allows it, the child will grow up with us.”

     

    Madalena took cassava root, squeezed the juice from it, and added sugar to feed Betinho. But he failed to thrive. “The baby was so thin,” Madalena says. She puts her hand around her wrist to show how tiny he was. “The other children didn’t want to hold him, because he was so small.”

     

    Then she took Betinho to the hospital to get his vaccinations. Madalena remembers the doctor’s question to her: “Where will I vaccinate him because he’s so thin?”

     

    Hope Through Nutritional and Health Training

    Madalena’s first cousin, Anastacia Pais Barroso, came to visit with a group of parents. Thanks to child sponsorship in their area, World Vision’s Derre Area Development Program (ADP), community members had funds to form the Galave Health Committee in 2000. Part of the committee was a parents’ group who received training from World Vision.

     

    This group of mothers and fathers then scouted their community to find malnourished children. They taught the struggling parents or guardians new ways to increase the nutrition of the food they were feeding their children.

     

    The key to the success of the program was that the healthy meals used local foods that were readily available. Parents didn’t have to buy expensive ingredients since these items could be found right in their own community.

     

    Joao Siquissone, World Vision’s Health Assistant, says it’s important that parents learn from other parents within the community. “When it’s moms and dads teaching the interaction, the community is more receptive.” It can be difficult for one World Vision worker to reach as many people as the committee would.

     

    Those committee meets once a month for planning, once a week for training, and each person visits between 10 to 15 families each week to look for signs of child malnutrition and answer questions parents might have.

     

    Joao says that the local health clinic used to see between 15 and 20 malnourished children per month. Now they might not even see one case.

     

    The training also focuses on diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, and HIV. They learn how to prevent diseases but also about the special nutritional needs of patients with HIV.

     

    As a result of this group, the community now understands the nutritional value and importance of each locally grown food group.  They’ve even started to change the crops they’re growing. Where they used to grow lots of cotton, now they grow foods like sesame.

     

    Another component of the Galave Health Committee is a group of community volunteers who go into the community to teach about sanitation and hygiene. They encourage people to build latrines to eliminate disease. They teach people the importance of a drying rack for the dishes instead of just washing and drying on the ground. And they instruct people in the proper way to dispose of their garbage.

     

    The final group of the committee is composed of community leaders who support the other two groups. When those nutrition group or the sanitation and hygiene group face problems they can’t solve, they can escalate them to the community leader group.

     

    World Vision helped set up this type of committee format to encourage the community to take charge of their own health, spreading their knowledge about nutrition, disease prevention, and sanitation and hygiene. This method allows the news to travel faster and reach more people.

     

    Betinho’s Turnaround

     

    The nutrition group taught Madalena to take cornflour, sugar, and egg together and make it thin enough so that Betinho could take it. He began to grow.

     

    They also demonstrated to Madalena how to take sweet potato or cassava leaves to serve over chima, a dish somewhat similar to soft polenta, but with finer cornmeal to make a healthier curry for her whole family.

     

    The new nutrition affected more than Betinho. “All the children have good health,” she says. Madalena, her husband Francisco, and her children all learned new sanitary practices.

     

    They built a drying rack on which to put their wet pots, pans, and dishes. They began to sweep the area around the house so as to make it less appealing to mosquitos and other bugs. They also learned to dig holes for trash to keep away bugs and rodents.

     

    The training has made a world of difference to Madalena, Betinho, and the entire family.

     

    “I was desperate,” says Madalena about when Betinho was malnourished. “But after [the training] I felt a kind of hope.” Now the family jokes that Betinho is so big that he’ll soon be the man of the house.

  • Fatherhood

    Posted on October 17, 2014 by Family Christian

    Throughout my life as I considered or even dreamt about fatherhood, my thoughts always focused on me nurturing, supporting, and loving on children that were 100% healthy. The thought never crossed my mind that I may be called upon to serve a child that was disabled.

     

    By God’s grace, my wife and I were given three children who are in every way healthy. We have invested our energy, time and resource into each of three children over the past 27 years. Each of them thrives, loves the Lord and is independent of our parenting for the most part.

     

    What I marveled at as the kids grew was their drive for independence:

    ·         In the early years they wanted to do things under their own power – crawl, feed themselves, walk, tinkle, etc. As they made progress, they became less dependent on us and we in essence gained a bit of “freedom”.

    ·         As adolescents they tested their own power and independence as they did sleep overs, traveled with friends, honed their own skills, and could find their way back home. Their independence and confidence grew, and we accomplished another level of freedom.

    ·         As teens they wanted to do things with power – take the car, travel abroad, shave, mow my grass and certainly state their own point of view. For us we enjoyed greatly expanded freedom and far less parenting input as we watched them grow and thrive.

    ·         Into early adulthood now, each serves and functions with total independence. We enjoy vast amounts of freedom and our own independence.

     

    As I looked into the eyes of Joel, my Bolivian friend who is served at the Children’s Rehab Center of Colomi in partnership with World Vision, I was hit hard by the fact that God gave me three healthy children and they were very easy for us to raise. Hard in the sense that I was deeply grateful for our children, but in the depth of my spirit challenged as I wondered what kind of Dad would I have been to a child like Joel?

    It hit me hard knowing that Joel was not going to do many things under his own power – not crawl, not walk, not feed himself. He would not do sleep overs, travel with friends, nor could he get himself back home. He won’t likely drive a car, travel abroad, shave or mow anybody’s grass. It struck me that Joel will not know the independence many of us enjoy, or our children achieve as they progressively take on skills and abilities.  As I visited with Joel it hit me that he will require support and assistance all his life from his parents. That this assignment in vast in scope, long in duration, it requires constant sacrifice, it requires endurance, and it is nearly impossible to do alone. What kind of Dad would I have been when faced with this challenge and a boy like Joel?

    BOLIVIA and Joel

    BOLIVIA

     

    While I cannot give an answer to that question, I knew with absolute certainly that a child like Joel would require more of me than I had given to three healthy kids. I knew that for Joel’s parents it must be simply hard and that they would face weariness often. As precious as Joel is, it was apparent that his parents would need to be constantly active in every aspect of Joel’s life for as long as Joel lives.

     

    In that moment I was able to give praise and thanksgiving for the World Vision work in Colomi at the Children’s’ Rehab Center. Most third world or emerging nations do not have resources like this to aid in child development for special needs children. By God’s grace, there is one in Colomi, and it serves Joel and so many others. It is a respite for fatigued parents. It provides support to parents who otherwise would have no support at all in a community that often casts out the disabled or at best hides them. It is a place where caring professionals can develop skills in children and pass teaching techniques to parents who are starving for help in developing their precious child.

     

    While I wrestled with what kind of Dad I would be to a boy such as Joel, I knew with certainly that I would depend on place like this, The Children’s Rehab Center. Because of it, Joel is making progress and learning new skills. His parents are being given what I call “rescuing support” without which they might simply give up. Joel knows love. His parents have hope. Together they are making progress to lead fuller lives under the compassionate care of World Vision in Colomi.

     

    Written by:

    Steve Biondo

    SVP, HR & Organizational Development at Family Christian

     

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