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  • 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

  • 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
  • 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

  • Fulfilling Life's Roles

    Posted on September 8, 2014 by Family Christian

    It seems that all the things in life that I struggle with come around to one central point: how to fulfill all the roles that God has given me. I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a youth minister’s wife, a friend, a writer….the list could ramble on for half of a page. It seems that if I’m giving 100% to one role then I’m lacking severely in all the others. No one, including myself, is ever quite satisfied. If this sounds like you, then I hope that you will find encouragement in today’s words.

    Since giving birth to triplet boys last year, my life turned from an organized schedule into a disheveled mess. From being always late, to forgetting to turn in a paper for my daughter’s school, to flaking out on commitments at the last minute, I’ve found myself letting people down in so many ways. It’s never intentional—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I have the best intentions. But taking care of my baby boys takes full priority over other things, and I discover that I struggle to fulfill the many roles that I’m supposed to complete.

    It has surprised me the number of times that others have no objection to letting me know how much I haven’t fulfilled what expectations that they have of me. I forgot to send a Thank You card. I didn’t call a family member. I made a last minute plan that someone else found to be an inconvenience. I failed to show up at an event on time.

    This reminds me of a Bible story where someone was accused of not showing up on time. In the familiar Bible story of Martha and Lazarus, Jesus arrived “late” and Lazarus had already died and was buried.

    John 11:21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

    Although this isn’t the point of the story, it was within this account of Jesus that I found comfort in knowing that even Jesus had others who, through their human eyes, felt He wasn’t fulfilling his roles. (If Jesus couldn’t make everyone happy, then I know that I definitely can’t!).

    Bystanders even echoed these sentiments.

    John 11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

    But we know the story. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Beyond the circumstance, beyond the feelings of others, Jesus fulfilled his roles of Friend, Healer, and Savior in ways that go farther than human comprehension.

    For me, this is a reminder that only through the Heavenly Father can I fulfill any roles that He has granted me. All responsibilities and commitments are opportunities for God to work through me and for Him to show His hand in my life. Life roles are more than things on my to-do list. They are chances to be a witness for Him. Regardless of the complaints or skepticism of others, I’ve discovered that keeping my eye on how I can let God shine through my roles allows me to be content and, well, fulfilled.

    John 11:1-43

    Me and Nat cropped

    Melanie is a minister’s wife, freelance writer, blogger, and a mother to a lovely daughter and triplet boys. She enjoys cooking, photography, and her children’s church group. You can find her at It Happens in a Blink where she shares recipes and crafts that utilize fewer supplies, fewer ingredients, and less time.

  • FulFill: Most Likely to Succeed

    Posted on September 4, 2014 by Family Christian

    Recently a former high school classmate posted an old issue of our newspaper. There was my photo, complete with big glasses and feathered hair, Most Likely to Succeed.

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    At the time, it seemed like an honor. Now, it felt more like an indictment. Because in the intervening decades, I haven't become a doctor or a lawyer. I haven't been elected to public office. Sure, I taught school for eight years, but then I fell into the career black hole known as "justamom."

    Justamom is an uncomfortable place to be for the former kid who wanted to jump right in to each school project the day it was assigned. It's not what you'd expect from the kid who wanted to make a visual aid for each section of the social studies book (my teachers always talked about visual aids. Was that a '70s thing?). I wasn't a member of the Walnut Street Go-Getters 4-H Club for nothing!

    Being justamom feels like ... I'm not accomplishing all I need to. It feels like I'm not, perhaps, fulfilling my destiny.

    In the Bible, I read:

    The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands (Psalm 138:8)

    I can relate to fulfilling things! But then I notice, it's not me doing the fulfilling in this verse. It's the Lord. He is doing all the work here.

    I kind of like that.

    Because, even for the overachieving kid now in grown-up skin, sometimes life gets hard. Yes, God is good and we're all so blessed and yadda yadda yadda -- and still, there are days when I'd like to step off the merry go round and just rest a while.

    The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14)

    That sounds so ... freeing. Perhaps we can simply be, and let the Lord do the fulfilling for us. I think I could succeed at being still today. How about you?

    *************************************************************************************************************************************************

    Susan Barnett Braun is justamom in northeastern Indiana, where she is also a freelance writer, church organist, and piano teacher, when she's not taking care of her three daughters and the family rabbit, chinchilla, and hedgehog. Her books are available at Amazon, and she blogs each weekday at Girls in White Dresses.

  • Fulfill: Promised By God

    Posted on September 1, 2014 by Family Christian

    It's so hard for me to believe my baby girl will be two soon. She is the youngest of 6 with 5 amazing older brothers. The fact that she is our last makes everything more emotional. While all of my children are miracles in my opinion, my youngest definitely beat the odds and reinforced my faith and trust.
    I had suffered 4 miscarriages in the past, two after my 2nd son was born and two after my youngest son. They were devastating. When I got pregnant for the 10th time, I was a nervous wreck. I was one of those people that planned and charted so I knew I was pregnant super early. When I got the first positive test, I immediately called my doctor and asked if I could come in to have my levels checked. She agreed and I went in the next morning. I was so anxious and scared. I prayed and prayed that everything was okay. I knew my hcg levels should be around at least 80. When the phone rang, I jumped on it. The nurse proceeded to tell me that my levels were at 165! I immediately started crying. I was so relieved since that was a great sign. My doctor called me a few hours later to congratulate me. I asked her if I should come back in for a second test. She said I could just come in for an ultrasound the next week if I wanted to see how everything looked. I would only be 5 weeks so we knew we wouldn't see a heartbeat but we would still be able to tell a lot about the health of the pregnancy from what they could see. I was cautiously optimistic and continued to pray for my tiny little one.
    The next Thursday, my husband and I went for the ultrasound. The tech started and we could plainly see the sac and it measured at 4 weeks, 5 days weeks. I took this a great sign. However, when my doctor came into the room, the look on her face told me otherwise. She proceeded to tell me that the sac was not shaped right. It should be nice and round at 5 weeks and mine was shaped more like a lima bean. I felt my stomach drop. I fought back the tears as she told that while she wasn't saying I was definitely going to miscarry, she wasn't getting a warm fuzzy. She said I had a 50/50 chance of the pregnancy being viable.  She told me to come back in one week for another ultrasound. At that point they would be able to tell more. I left the office feeling completed deflated. The thought of going through yet another miscarriage was heartbreaking. I went home and spent the rest of the day crying in bed.
    That weekend, I went to our church's annual women's retreat. I was trying so hard to be optimistic but it was hard, especially after 4 previous losses. I even packed some supplies in case I started to miscarry during the 2 days I would be gone. That night at our first group session, we gathered together and sang praise and worship songs. When we started singing "Mighty to Save", it really spoke to me. When we sang "My Savior, He can move the mountains My God is mighty to save He is mighty to save", I started crying. Inside I started begging God to save my baby. Thankfully, my good friend was there with me.  She was one of only 3 people that even knew I was pregnant. I was so thankful for her caring and support. Later, when the speaker started, she told us our first memory verse for the weekend. It was Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” It was like God had spoken it directly to me.
    That verse was immediately stamped on my heart. When I got home the next afternoon, I shared my experience with my husband. I remember getting on my knees that night and begging God to fight for me and my baby. When I talked to a close friend the next day, she told me that God was bigger than that ultrasound machine and He was in control. I clung to that.
    The following days were filled with so many emotions. I was hopeful, scared and anxious. I prayed for the best but tried to prepare myself for the worst. The morning of the ultrasound, I was admittedly cranky. My husband and I snapped at each other because we were both worried and scared. We got to the office only to find out that one of the techs was out that day so I would have to wait an additional 45 minutes to see another one. That was torture. I sat there praying and trying not to cry. When they finally called me back, I said one last prayer that God would be with me and if it was bad news that He would give me the strength to get through. The tech started the ultrasound and said, here's the sac and I can see a yolk sac. Then, she the words I will never forget, "and there's your little one's heartbeat!". I immediately broke down crying. I was flooded with gratitude and joy! I think the tech was caught off guard by my reaction since she hadn't done the first ultrasound and I don't think she was aware of why I was there. I told her that I hadn't expected to hear good news but that I had been praying all week for a heartbeat. She smiled and said "God is good!". She went on to tell me that in addition to a strong heartbeat, she also saw a perfectly normal, round sac. In fact, everything looked perfect and I was even measuring 2 days ahead. I was over the moon happy and my doctor even teared up when she walked in. She hugged me and told me how happy she was for me. I couldn't stop smiling and kept thanking God for fulfilling His promise to fight for us.
    We chose not to find out the gender of our baby but with 5 sons, I really assumed it was a boy. We even decorated the room for a boys and had a boy's name picked out. So when after only 2 hours of labor, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, we were a little shocked. We hadn't decided on a girl's name but one stuck out in my mind. I had found it on a baby name website in the final weeks of my pregnancy and it just felt right. We named our sweet baby girl Amaris which means "Promised by God".
    Belinda is a wife, mom, blogger, and Brand Ambassador. She has six children including 5 boys and 1 girl. Belinda enjoys reading, photography, crafts and DIY projects, and watching her boys play soccer.  You can more from Belinda at Mudpies and Tiaras.

  • The Tempest Inside: Seeking Fulfillment

    Posted on August 25, 2014 by Family Christian

    A young man in his twenties hangs his head as if in prayer. Sitting in a camp chair at his church's fall retreat he tightens his grasp on the book in his hands. A beautiful glow from the bonfire casts a deceptive shadow behind him preventing everyone except his closest peers from knowing the tempest that stirs inside. Some can see the form of a strong young man with an athletic build who appears as if he could conquer anything. The shadow shares both a truth and a lie. On one hand it is very true because the man loves to work outdoors. He finds strength and pleasure just being around God's creation and for this reason he enjoys taking pride in his tasks. History has proven that in many cases it would seem whenever he sets his heart and mind on something, he really could conquer anything set before him.

    On the other hand, the shadow is offering a great deception. In reality, the very heart and soul of this man withers away with each mistake and selfish notion. He ultimately searches to find God's fulfillment in his life, yet only his closest and dearest friends who gather near him tonight truly know his heart aches in turmoil struggling to find answers. There have just been too many recent occasions of shame and suffering he's endured the last few months for him to relax and enjoy the fellowship around him. Although he doesn't realize it yet, much of this man's misfortune was unnecessary. Sadly, most instances were prompted by poor choices despite both friends and family trying to prevent him from making such a choice. Between the constant emotional and financial stress now taking its heavy toll, he sits broken before the Lord - mindlessly staring at the earth beneath his feet. Most of the others nearby cannot see or feel his anguish as he wonders about tomorrow - his eyes dazed by the flicker of fire light dancing across the ground.

    He has his health and for that he is thankful, but he has not appreciated that gift enough. Now he grows more frail in both physical form and inner strength as he continues to spiral downward into the abyss of his own wandering negative thoughts - frustrated by his selfish choices. He longs for God to intervene and give him a push in the right direction. Thoughts of one day finding the answers - God's purpose for his life - swirl inside his mind and tear at his innermost being. He desires to see the future of hope, but is still at a loss as to where God intends his life to go from here.

    As he wrestles with finding direction, he finally humbles himself enough to pray. Muttering silently under his breath, he asks the Lord for forgiveness, peace, and fulfillment. "How can I get back on track living a life that is worthy of your calling, Lord?", he ponders to himself as he lets out a long sigh. His lips whisper softly, "I want to live for you now - and you alone, Lord." Broken and completely humbled, the man remains still for a moment before God - waiting and hoping to somehow hear His voice.

    Crackles of burning embers and the night song of happy crickets fill his ears while voices of laughter drift away in the background nearby. The soft leather Bible he had clutched on his lap, now lays open before him. He prays and seeks for hope and inspiration to one day feel fulfilled in the Lord and know His life's purpose. Unfortunately this Bible which once went with him everywhere had lost its place in the young man's priorities and had become almost forgotten. He now boldly begins to read it once again. Page after page he scans in the dim orange light, then pauses. Opening his heart and mind to God's word, he soon finds he is now at peace. Praying to the Lord once more in thanks for not giving up on him, he quietly rests his thoughts in meditation. His eyes stop on some verses and he trusts the Lord for encouragement.

    Time passes and the young man stares into the night sky as God's starry masterpiece sparkles and shines. Slowly, it's being revealed to him that all things are possible with God. Just then, his lips begin to curl a bit at the edges, and it almost appears to be forming a smile. Recalling the verses of Psalm 57:2-3 that his wise pastor once shared with him many years ago, he turns to those pages and begins to read out loud: "I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends his love and his faithfulness."

    The young man's friends now quickly turn toward him, gladdened by his sudden break of silence and depression. They've all known each other a long time. No words were necessarily needed to comfort. Just being there with him and praying for him during this time of struggle is all he could have ever asked. He stands up slowly - gently placing his Bible down on his seat and smiling at it. It is going to forever be a priceless treasure to him now, as he plans on reading through God's wisdom daily. His peers join him to rejoice as he is warmly greeted and hugged by all.

    Surrounded by the joyful tears and thankful hearts, the young man now knows God was always by his side through every circumstance. He realizes a great truth - the friends and people in our lives that God brings our way in His name are His blessings to help guide and protect us. God's purpose and vision were available to him all along, the young man just forgot where to look. His friends tried to share with him that God's words of the Bible are freely given as a gift and road map for our lives to help us find that purpose and fulfillment we each search for. He now knows they were right all along. The love and devotion of God's people shall continue to be an influence on the young man's future steps, but he will always remember to seek God's wisdom first in the Good Book. The young man bent down by his seat and carefully lifted up his prized possession - the Bible. This fulfilling treasure of God's loving promises that is now something he can never live without.

    Rebecca Harmon at Love2EncourageYou
    http://love2encourageyou.com

  • In Me you may have peace

    Posted on August 22, 2014 by Family Christian

    "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.

    In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

    (John 16:33)

     

    Jesus spoke these words to His disciples in one of their last meetings together. In the hours that followed, Jesus would be severely beaten, mocked, humiliated and ultimately hung to suffer on a Roman crucifix. The disciples' world was quickly turned upside-down and sideways, simply because they followed a humble carpenter from Galilee.

     

    The same is happening today to hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world.

     

     

    The list goes on and on; persecution of Christians is taking place on a worldwide basis. Check out this list our friends at Open Doors USA put together. It's called the "World Watch List", and it shows you which countries have the most violence against Christians.

     

    Peace may seem hard to find in this chaotic and often-violent world.  When peace is elusive, at least in my case, anxiety is quick to set in. When situations and circumstances spiral out of control, my knee-jerk response is to worry and fret.

     

    "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

     

    These simple statements a two-fold promise: you will face trials, but you will also overcome them. We often don't know how the Lord will help us get through a hardship, or when we will see Him act. But, the end result is promised: we will overcome.

     

    When you know how a story ends, it often provides peace to "ride out the storm" and endure whatever challenges come your way.  Please join me today in praying for peace and endurance for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

    Tornadoes, like the one that came through our neighborhood earlier this year, can cause major destruction in a matter of minutes. How do you find peace when the tornadoes of life come?

    How do you find peace in the middle of life's storms?

    BY: Katey Hearth

    Katey is a Staff Writer/Social Media Coordinator at Mission Network News. She has a heart for global missions and desires justice for the “least of these” around the world, from victims of sex trafficking to India’s Dalit people.

    You can find her latest thoughts at Mission Network News.


  • Peace I leave with you

    Posted on August 18, 2014 by Family Christian

    John 14:27-Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

    Storytelling is something I really enjoy. I hope you enjoy my short feature.
    with god

    Gazing out my window I see the slight movement of the leaves as they dance back and forth upon their branches. The sun is shining but that slight breeze causing the leaves to sway back and forth is providing the perfect sense of relief. It was a stressful day and all I could think about were the tasks at hand and the obstacles I was to overcome. Overwhelmed with the stress of the unknown. Fear was setting in, but that tiny brisk breeze blowing in through my window was enough…enough to relax me for just a moment. A moment long enough to take my mind off of the fears…the unknown.

    Suddenly I was starting to see things in a different light. My mind was turning and as the light shown in through the window onto the wall in front of me I knew…I knew there was a light at the end of my dark tunnel. At that very moment it hit me that I was no longer in control of my situation, I never really was to begin with. How quickly we forget that we are not in control. How quickly we forget that even when it’s dark and all doors seem to be closing, there is always a bright light. We just need to wait in the hallway and open that door when the time is right!

    But how do I know when the time is right? How do I know when I’m going to feel that peace, that sweet peace that overcomes my body and leaves me with the most serene and calm feeling? When will I be overcome by peace? And then my mind started to wonder…

    But it didn’t take long for that breeze to sweep in through my window. It catches my attention and leaves me thinking…wondering…mind in motion…

    In an instant…a sudden instant, my fears, my worries…they seem to disappear, because it is in that instant that I realize I haven’t truly given my worries to God. For had I given my worries to God I wouldn’t be struggling to understand the things that just don’t make sense. And in that moment I hit my knees and I was overcome with peace…sweet peace.

    When life is just to hard to stand…kneel.

    I pray that you find that peace. I pray that you are overcome with a peace and understanding. I pray that you can be the bright light to others that are struggling with finding their peace.

    John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

    This post was written by Mandee Suchland. Mandee is a very busy woman! She has 5 BOYS and is writer and owner of the websitmee www.raisingmy5sons.com, a site all about Mandee's life as the only female in a house full of males. She says life is Crazy, Hectic and LOUD, but it's always full of love and laughter and she wouldn't have it any other way. As if that isn't enough to keep her busy, Mandee is also the owner of www.sheblogsit.com, a site where she shows a little more of her writing talents and shares her faith with others.

     

  • Finding Peace as a Christian Artist

    Posted on August 16, 2014 by Family Christian

    Chelsea

    I remember it distinctly-- the song “One of Us” by Joan Osborne softly played on the radio in my mom's car. My interest peaked as I listened to the words “what if God was one of us?”

    My version of Jesus was a perfect man wearing iridescent clothing, floating in the sky and shaking his head at my life decisions. Yet, these lyrics described a different Jesus-- someone who understood my pain, who could relate to me, and maybe even talk to me.

    At that time, I rejected the idea of Christianity, avoiding Christian music at all costs. Oddly enough, the secular-- even controversial-- song, “One of Us” still lingered in the back of my mind, along with the idea of a loving Jesus. Music was especially close to my heart since I had just started writing songs. As the years rolled by, my music evolved with it.

    Then at age 19, I gave my life to Christ. I began listening to Christian music non-stop to fuel up and draw close to God. That was about the time I ran into a dilemma-- now that I was a Christian, was I supposed to write Christian music?

    I tried over and over again to write a “Christian song”, but it usually felt unnatural and forced. My style of writing had always been metaphorical and illustrative, where the listener could derive their own interpretation and personally connect with the music.

    Every time I wrote a “Christian song”, I felt like I was robbing the song of its true story by spelling out how the reader should think and feel. I was living passionately for God, but I felt guilty every time I wrote a song that didn't explicitly say “God” or “Jesus” in it.

    Then God opened my mind.

    I took a break from songwriting and He showed me how limitless He really was. I began hearing him in songs that I once considered “secular”. I heard him in the quiet melodies of an acoustic guitar, in the gut-wrenchingly honest words of a broken-hearted songwriter, and even in the soaring harmony of a symphony.

    I realized that God is everywhere-- he's in every type of music, whether it's in the “Christian” genre or not.

    That revelation helped me reconcile my faith with my voice as an artist. I let God pour through my songwriting, without any fear or inhibitions getting in the way. As a result, I finally have peace as a Christian artist.

    For more about Brian and Chelsea, visit: brianandchelseamusic.com

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