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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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • I Want to Quit

    Posted on February 9, 2015 by Family Christian

    Leah DiPascal FEBRUARY 9, 2015

    I Want to Quit
    LEAH DIPASCAL

    "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

    I pulled the blankets up over my shoulders, rolled over in bed and just stared at the bright red numbers on my alarm clock. I was exhausted, but couldn’t fall asleep.

    An endless stream of thoughts rushed through my mind — one question cascaded over another. Before I knew it, another hour had passed and I was no closer to dreamland than before.

    I don’t want to go to work tomorrow. Maybe I can call in sick. I wonder if I can get anyone to fill in for me? My job is hard and I feel unappreciated.

    But calling in sick was not an option because my job was motherhood, and the "clients" who would be waiting for me early the next morning were my 4-year-old and 6-month-old boys.

    My husband and I were married nine years before our first son was born. I waited a long time to be a member of the Mommy Club. Finally, my dream came true and I was determined to be the best mommy ever!

    Nothing brought me greater joy than to see their sweet smiles and bed-head hair every morning. But can I be honest? It was also very challenging raising those little guys.

    Despite reading every parenting magazine I could, I still struggled with the day-to-day demands. It seemed my real-life parenting skills didn’t measure up to those moms who wrote the magazine articles.

    I quickly discovered motherhood wasn’t for wimps.

    Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. Fifty-two weeks a year. I was on duty. And there was no paycheck waiting for me on Friday afternoons.

    I was a chef, doctor, storyteller, and when disagreements erupted I’d pull out my referee hat.

    I changed poopy diapers, refilled sippy cups and washed dirty clothes. All. The. Time. In moments of weariness, I’d whisper to myself, I want to quit. Then mommy-guilt would flood my heart as I’d settle into a deeper level of discouragement.

    Why don’t I feel joy doing something I’ve dreamed about for so many years?

    Maybe you’ve experienced those moments when the demands of parenting collide with your stretched emotions and fragile feelings, causing your heart to become weary.

    If you’re like me, you realize motherhood is a high calling. You see your children as treasured gifts from God and your home as a gathering place where loved ones are nurtured and blessings abound.

    But, there are those days when demands run high, patience runs thin and weariness creeps in. That is when we can hold on to the hope of today’s key verse, Galatians 6:9: "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

    Raising children is like growing a spiritual crop with the potential of a priceless, abundant harvest. As moms, we need to care for, watch over and tenderly love our children every day, just as a farmer tends to his valuable crops.

    Raising children well requires a daily dose of love, commitment and perseverance. As moms, we can approach each challenge knowing we’re not alone. The Lord is with us and we can call on Him in times of weariness. He is always ready to extend the grace, guidance and strength we need.

    As we celebrate the giggles and messy moments of our children, let us remember the great harvest God has waiting for us if we persevere. We may not see immediate results, but if we continue doing good and trust God with the rest, in due time we will reap a harvest of blessings!

    Father God, thank You for the priceless gift of my child/children. Help me raise them according to Your will and not my own. When I become weary, fill me with Your strength so that I can persevere in parenting well. Thank You for the promise of a harvest if I don’t give up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:35-36, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    In her book, Am I Messing Up My Kids? … and Other Questions Every Mom Asks, Lysa TerKeurst shares how mothers can release mommy-guilt when the bouts of stress come from managing life and home.

    Stop by Leah DiPascal’s blog today and discover 5 Ways To Persevere When Parenting Young Children. You can also sign up for a RefresHER giveaway.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is your greatest struggle as a mom? Write down one action step you can take today that will help you move forward as you seek God’s will in this area of challenge.

    Is there someone you know who is going through a difficult time in raising her own children? What is one thing you can do today to help encourage and cheer her on in the midst of her own parenting struggles?

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • I Need a Fresh Start

    Posted on January 20, 2015 by Family Christian

    Ruth Soukup JANUARY 20, 2015

    I Need a Fresh Start
    LARA CASEY

    "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

    As a personal trainer years ago, January was always an exciting month.

    People packed the gym, energy soared and hope flowed like water. This was a fresh new start. Great things were ahead!

    Then, come February 1 … you know where this is going. I’ve been right there too, making progress on some goals then weeks later, getting bogged down by inner shame: I failed. I can’t do this. I am not enough. I messed up — all hope is lost!

    There is nothing magical about January 1st and no matter what you’ve done or not done, great things are ahead with God. The best is yet to come. Every day we are given the opportunity to be made new in Christ, not by our might but by our surrender. As Paul reveals in our key verse: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

    I need that truth written on a Post-it Note and plastered to my forehead every day.

    As a toddler mama, wife, business owner and friend, I mess up a lot. We need new starts around here like we need daily food and clean diapers. I try to control just about everything: naptimes, schedules and my to-do lists. When things begin getting out of control and I feel Madame Overwhelmed creeping up behind me, I think back to a cold day one November when things started to change.

    I was so afraid to let go. I was afraid of more pain. I was afraid my life would never be the same.

    But I soon realized that the tighter I held the reins of control, the more intense the pain became. The day my daughter Grace was born, I learned a life-altering truth: my need for control was holding life back.

    Perhaps your roadblocks aren’t roadblocks at all, but rather new beginnings in disguise. Perhaps your missteps are actually opportunities for growth, greater closeness with God or a nudge to take a leap of faith.

    In order for a seed to sprout, the outer casing first has to fall away, or surrender, in order for new life to come. The same is true with our lives. We must let go a little — or sometimes a lot — for our new start to be revealed. As Paul says in Philippians 3:13b-14, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (NIV).

    My middle school English teacher had the words "This too shall pass" permanently painted on her classroom bulletin board. (And am I grateful that the awkward days of perming my already-curly hair did pass!) While those words on the chalkboard didn’t originate from the Bible, they do reveal some truth.

    This life and everything in it will pass away, but God’s love never changes. Our new start can’t be found in more money, more business, more fun, more stuff or more visits to the gym. Our new start is found only in Him.

    Lord, I have found myself overwhelmed at times, trying to do it all. I am so grateful You’re in control so I don’t have to be! Thank You for Your radical grace that makes all things new. Help me see my failures and mistakes as You see them: opportunities to draw closer to You. Help me find my worth and identity only in You, not in my accomplishments and not in my missteps. I love You Lord. I want to be closer to You, always sure of the fresh start I have been given because of Your sacrifice! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 43:19, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." (NIV)

    Romans 6:4, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Whether you’re longing to make something meaningful happen, feeling like youଁre never enough or trying to find purpose amidst a lot of noise and heartache, Lara Casey’s new book, Make it Happen will help you see the impossible is possible and the best is yet to come.

    If you connected with today’s devotion, you’ll enjoy following Lara on Instagram.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live On Purpose by Lara Casey. In celebration of this book, Lara’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, January 26.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What leap of surrender can you take today? Fill in the blank: God I need a new start! Help me to let go of ___________.

    © 2015 by Lara Casey. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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  • Do you know what you believe?

    Posted on October 13, 2014 by Family Christian

    Do you know what you believe?
    Do you believe that God’s Word is true? Every word of it?
    This is something on my heart as a mom. I want to make sure our family is certain of what we believe in and I want to make sure we are leading our children to understand that every ounce of God’s Word is true, without a doubt.
    What can we do to ensure our children are being taught this truth? Here are a few things that we do in our family:

     

    • We read God’s Word with them and give them time to ask questions and we like to have them tell us in their words what we have read. Narration is a great way to ensure they understand what we have read.
    • We read devotionals with them nightly that helps to expand on this knowledge.
    • We memorize scriptures together daily as a family.
    • We pray multiple time together each day, especially before meals and bedtime.
    • We help them to recognize when God has answered a prayer, even the small ones, so that we can give thanks to Him.
    • We sing praises to Him, especially when we are scared or worried or anxious about something.
    • We also want to make sure that they realize that we can’t believe in only parts of the bible. We either believe it all or we believe none of it. We can’t believe in Creation and yet not believe in the Flood. We can’t believe in Jesus’ death upon The Cross and yet not believe in His resurrection.

    The most important part of making sure our children know what they believe, is to make sure we know what we believe! As parents, we need to spend time in God’s word, praying and building our relationship with Him. We must have assurance in what we believe in so that we can better lead our children. We need to be that example to them so that they can see us living out our beliefs as well.

    Will you join me in a challenge? Let’s spend time with Our Lord. Let us be certain of we believe in so that we can be the example that our spouse needs, that our children need, that our loved ones need…..that this world needs!

    I leave you with a scripture and ask that you meditate on it, memorize, pray over it:

    Now Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

    GodlyGlimpsesBioPic

    Jennifer is a wife and homeschooling mother to three (plus one more on the way!) She is also a blogger at Godly Glimpses where she shares about marriage, parenting, homeschooling and faith. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest.

  • 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.

  • 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.

     

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