Mama’s Kiss #46: Write Letters to a Children’s Home

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 46 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

This one is simple and obvious. Perhaps your congregation already allows your children to interact with residents at a children’s home, either by collecting needed supplies, saving money in those collection cans, or helping with the Christmas shopping for children who have been placed in homes due to either the death of parents or circumstances in which care is no longer provided by parents. I hope, if your church does this, you will not pass up the chance to make sure your children are busy with these projects. But even if your children participate in group projects, it’s still a great idea to get your children personally involved with children who are disadvantaged because of absent parents. Perhaps your family could schedule a visit to such a home. There are many of these around the nation that are sponsored by members of churches of Christ. (One great facility in our area is the North Alabama Christian Children’s Home, directed by Don Williams: http://nacch.com. Another great one is Pine Vale in Corinth, MS and you can reach them at amy.collum@pinevalech.com. or randy.collum@pinevalech.com. Or, if you are in Oklahoma: tiptonchildrenshome@yahoo.com.) Most of these homes welcome visitors and your children could meet and become pen pals with children who would love to hear from them throughout the year. You could compose letters to these children during your family Bible time and then, upon learning their preferences, personalities, and birthdays, your children might send packages or gift cards with the permission of the house parents. Memorizing James 1:27 along with this project is a great idea.

There are multiple benefits gained by this connection for both your children and those in the system. Appreciation for blessings, opportunities to be selfless, and accountability to friends in need  are some of the benefits your children will encounter.  I was in the second grade when our class in my Christian school first visited a children’s home. I was assigned the writing of the letter to thank them for their hospitality to us. I still remember some of the contents of that letter. The children we met that day and the simple fact that they did not have any present parents made a huge impact on my young heart. It was a sobering thought to my seven-year-old self that there were other seven-year-olds who might never know their moms and dads. It was a small and hard part of coming to understand human suffering, but it was good for my young and impressionable second-grade self. Twelve years later, one of those children I met in that home attended Freed-Hardeman University with me and we talked, as college students, about the death of her parents. Ten more years passed and I helped my own children buy Christmas gifts for children in that same home. This Christmas, I loved getting the chance, once again to buy those black and white Nikes that were on the list of a thirteen-year-old whose parents are AWOL. I can hardly wait till Ezra and Colleyanna are old enough to learn the joy this brings. I know there were many opportunities  that passed our family by–things we should have done, and didn’t– and certainly we are not any great examples of benevolence. We should have shared more of His bounty than we ever did. But I am convinced, because of the impact of even these small gifts on me and on our children, that even the smallest hand in benevolence builds character.  I’m sad that there will always be these opportunities (John 12:8), but I’m thankful for the good that can be done in multiple generations of families when these perennial opportunities are presented and grasped.

 

Today’s Recipe: Green Lime Punch

Janice Knight

Super simple!  Use a half gallon, (or nowadays, two of those little round tubs) lime sherbet, and pour a half gallon ginger ale (or sprite, for sweeter) over sherbet in a punch bowl.  Stir and chop up the sherbet.  It’s a hit every time.

 

Elephants and Rhinos and Fatherless Boys

Elephant portrait

If you can spare about fourteen minutes, watch this documentary. It will make you think. It’s about elephants and rhinos, but it’s about something else, too. It’s an illustration of, if not a scientific parallel to what’s happened in our culture. It really needs no commentary, but maybe this injunction from the Holy Spirit fits, at least for our human species: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

The video is found at the bottom of the following article: https://www.kotafoundation.org/the-delinquents-in-pilanesberg/

 

 

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #44: Stop Eating Out for a Month

unknownAs you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 43 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

Today, I want to suggest an idea that’s memorable and works on the practical implementation of sacrifice for the cause of Christ. Sometimes, because of our American affluence, we do give to the church, but while we, as parents, may understand some of the luxuries or amenities we may be putting on hold or doing without due to our dedication to the church, our kids never get the benefit of “feeling” the sacrifice. We may be missing the opportunity to put in their hearts the connection between living “less largely” and our commitment to Jesus. Here’s a practical way to connect those dots.

Decide together as a family that you are going to skip going out to eat at one of the weekly or monthly times when you have regularly been eating at a restaurant (even if it’s only fast food). (Our regular time as a family when the kids were growing up was on Sundays after morning worship.) Purpose that you’re going to take the money that you’re saving by eating at home and put it in a jar until you have enough to do something for the kingdom. Make that “something” very specific and enlist the help of your elders if you need ideas. Perhaps your project is to purchase  song books for the nursing home worship services. Maybe it is to purchase food for a youth activity. Maybe it is to purchase high chairs for infants for your fellowship hall. Maybe it is to buy cushions for the pews for several elderly people. Maybe it is to stock the benevolence pantry or purchase a new tract rack for some area of the building. Maybe it is to send money to a foreign missionary for the purchase of a bicycle. Just decide on a project and make sure your children are watching each time as Mom or Dad drops the savings into the jar and calculates how far along you are toward the goal. You may want to have some sort of goal measurement or chart on the outside of the jar. Talk about the value of this goal each time you are eating that meal at home rather than at the restaurant. Be sure you connect the fact that you are sacrificing with the good that will be done when the goal is reached.  Use the context of II Samuel 24:24 in your Family Bible Time, about refusing to merely give God things which cost us nothing,  When you complete the project, be sure you show your kids the fruits of their sacrifice…in the nursing home or the fellowship hall or in a photo from the mission field. Your kids won’t forget this and it’s preparatory for some great rewards of sacrifices they will make as faithful adults. It’s preparatory for heaven!

Colleyanna Mae Giselbach!!…9 lbs, 5 oz…9-1-16…6:21a.m.

14202669_10154648225322446_6950069074743094361_nDear Colleyanna, 

First of all, let me just say that that’s a very big name for such a small soul. Maybe your middle name, Mae, is  the more appropriate size for someone who tallies up more toes than pounds. Maybe Colleyanna Mae, especially when paired with Giselbach will fill up two whole lines when you get to kindergarten…that’s IF you can remember all the letters in the right order. It’s a mouthful for your brother Ezra, but he can say “my baby” just fine and he loves to hold you in his “wap.” it’s sweetness when you think about the Colley part. That part of the name is the part I really wanted to wear when I married your Papa, who is protective of his family, brave and faithful to our God. He preaches the gospel, as does his father and as his grandfather did. He gave that sterling name, Colley, to your mother. I’m glad she wanted to give it to you, because sharing a name is a special kind of bond. You and I are both Colleys!

Anna. Anna was a proclaimer of that wonderful gospel, too. In fact, the Good Book says that she stayed in the temple and spoke of God to all who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem. That’s in Luke 2. I hope you will be an “Anna” who will devote all of her days to speaking to people who are looking for the Redeemer. You are so tiny, but remember, Moses was just a baby in that little basket in the river when God fished him out for the purpose of saving Israel. You, too, can take the message of redemption.

Mae. Mae was your father’s grandmother. It was actually Jenet Garner’s middle name. Now it is your middle name.  A faithful preacher’s wife, the original middle-named-Mae influenced many people to be, simply and only New Testament Christians. She did it through hospitality, service, home Bible studies, mission travels, genuine friendship evangelism and through her children.  This woman of God died just a few weeks before you were born, but she already loved you and smiled sweetly just a few hours before her death when she learned you would wear her name.  She asked her family to gather around her bedside and sing her favorite hymns as she traveled with the angels from this life to the next. God granted her this moment just as she had wished. Then he granted her someone to carry a part of her sweet name through another life cycle.We are glad that’s you. 

Giselbach. That’s the name your Daddy gives you now. It’s the name that ties your little family together. It’s the one you will one day call your maiden name. It’s the one you will exchange when your daddy walks you down that aisle one day. Treasure the wearing while you can.  Your Giselbach father and  grandfather are faithful proclaimers of the Word, too. 

As I write, you are not yet 24 hours old, but, let me tell you, you stay up at night like a champ. Room 279 wins for the rowdiest night spot in the obstetrics ward. It’s now 4:20 and I think it would be a pretty big stretch to say we’ve had an hour’s sleep so far tonight—your first night outside the dark haven where God formed you.  I guess it’s been a pretty scary day for you…learning to breathe, to wear diapers, to cry, and to experience the sharp little pains of needles and the coldness of thermometers and scales. But there was one point of this day that was scary for even me. Your Papa led us all in prayer in that little hospital room just a few moments after you were born…just the six of us: both sets of your grandparents and your parents. He implored God on behalf of your soul, which is arguably the biggest part of you right now. He asked us to hep bring you to heaven with us. In this old world you entered today, that proposition is challenging and scary.

But here is what I know. In your daddy’s family there are/were at least  a half dozen gospel preachers. In your mother’s there are/were upwards of twenty. There surely should  be nothing that could stop you from knowing the gospel…the good news of redemption that Anna shared at Jerusalem. Yes….You were born into a scary place; a place where sins that I wish you would never have to hear about are celebrated. But, even in the scariest of American times, you will have the gospel which is the anchor of the soul. It’s the power of God to save (Romans 1:16). It’s the separating influence (Romans 1:1). It’s the big blessing (Romans 15:29). It’s glorious (II Cor. 4:4). It’s grace (Gal. 1:6). It’s salvation (Eph. 1:13), peace (Eph. 6:15) and promise (Eph. 3:6). It’s truth (Col. 1:5). It is your hope, Colleyanna (Colossians 1:23).                                                            

There was a lot of good news yesterday, my sweet Colleyanna. You were the best news of yesterday, to us. But what makes you such a joy to our family is that you are forever. That soul can defy the devil and give God the glory for His Good News…the gospel. The gospel is good news because it’s the answer to every scary prayer. It is all we need to have our fondest dreams come true. 

We love you Colleyanna…your pink cheeks, little blondish fuzz, your super long feet, your sweet fingers wrapped around ours and, especially the de-ja-vu of the way you look just like Ezra! You are rich already and you have brought great wealth to your Papa and me. We hope we have lots more time to make memories with you. But lots more time is nothing compared to eternity. Let’s do eternity together with all the people who prayed that scary prayer with us today. Let’s do eternity with God! 

7 Pounds of His Grace

13912431_928723135739_3489667227565621351_nDear Father, 

I already knew that You are God, Yahweh, the Great I AM. I am the one who speaks and writes and cries about life in the womb because of the holocaust against it in America today. I should say that I am ONE of the ones, for there are still many and we are unwilling to give up the battle for life to those who routinely burn with saline, rip apart, vacuum out and discard those viable body parts, suffocating those screams before  tiny mouths can open to the air that allows them to cry out for themselves. I am not about quietness when I can be a voice for those whose beating hearts are stopped in brutal and painful ways. 

But, today, Lord, I knew more than ever that Your throne of grace and majesty extends into the darkness of the womb. Help me never to forget what I saw today. I know that You have pushed the pause button on the miraculous, but this morning in that doctor’s office in Montgomery was just about as close to a miracle as I will get before Your mighty trumpet blows. 

My little girl’s little girl was there, as big as life, on that screen. In fact, it was the tiny epitome of life. They told us that she weighs seven pounds and four ounces already and her chubby cheeks evidenced that she’s big and healthy.  Lord, I cannot believe that I saw so clearly that right cheek turn to the side. I’m remembering now that you told us to have cheeks that turn. I pray that she will. It will be painful for me if I ever have to witness her cheek being smitten; yet I know she will experience hurt and people will mistreat her. Help her to turn the other cheek—to show mercy in exchange for cruelty. Help her never to be self-centered or to seek for glory. Help her to defer to the preferences of others. Help me to show her the beauty that comes from a meek spirit.

I saw her little hands in her mouth. It’s tight in there now and she’s just all balled up with her hands against her cheeks and against those tiny lips. Lord, they are Your hands. Those fingers will play instruments or hold a baseball bat or a needle and thread. They will turn pages in all kinds of books. They will turn pages in Your book, Lord. One day some handsome boy will put a ring on that chubby finger that I saw today and her daddy will give that hand in marriage to him. Those sweet hands will roll out dough and pat curly tresses and pick up cheerios and mend socks and fold clothes.  I pray that those little fingers will minister for You, Lord; that they will feel burning foreheads and administer Tylenol…that they will hold other hands beside hospital beds and nursing home rockers…that they will change diapers…that they will change lives by opening up Your Word in Bible studies. May those hands hold Yours. May they be daily folded in prayer and reaching to fill needs. 

I saw that tiny heel that Hannah has been feeling—-that even I can feel— as she kicks against the taut skin on Hannah’s right side. I could count the toes and see that little foot so very clearly. Lord, You made that little extremity so perfectly! May her spiritual feet be just as beautiful. May her feet carry the gospel of peace to the souls around her for all of her days. Help us, as her family, to train her to walk—to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. May we never take it for granted that she will, but help us Lord to be purposeful for the footsteps of her and her brother, Ezra. The devil is purposeful. He is seeking to devour. On some days it seems like he is making it next to impossible for parents to direct the footsteps of little ones in Your ways. But we can do all things through Your Son. May even we, as grandparents, profoundly impact her footsteps to stay in Your narrow way that leads to life. 

She heard me, Father! That little girl responded to my voice. I knew because when I spoke she turned her head toward me and she opened her eyes wide in response! This is the part I could not believe. I said, “She’s hearing me!” The technician responded “Of course, she is!”  So I told her right there that I loved her. I called her “Sweetness” since I do not know her name, and I told her about You, Lord. I just could not help myself. I made her promises. I made them out loud and  I will keep them. I told her I will teach her about Jesus, Your Son, and that I will teach her Your Word. I told her that we love her so much and that we cannot wait to tell her about You! I sang a bit of “Baby Mine” to her and I was overwhelmed at that moment with Your goodness to me. I am just dust, Lord! How can I thank You for a moment like that?! When I was driving those four hours to arrive in time for that ultra-sound after getting those three hours of sleep last night, I have to admit it. My faith was weak. I thought I would see an unrecognizable bit of blur. I saw YOU there, Father, and I will never forget Your grace in letting me see, in her, Your amazing creative power and unrivaled attention to detail. I stand amazed in Your holy presence!

And then, as she turned to look toward us, searching for the sounds, she opened that huge eye as wide as she could, as if to say, “Where ARE you?” And, in that moment, I fell helplessly in love with that little girl…just hopelessly and forever devoted to her well-being. Father, help me, to show her the goodness in this world; the hope that’s still left in this place. Help those beautiful eyes to sparkle and shine and to shed few tears of sorrow.  But most of all, help us to show her the hope and peace that comes from living for You. Help those gentle eyes to witness, with wonder and awe, the pictures and characters in little Bible story books. Help them to record the righteous examples of service around her. Guard her tender eyes from those things that can trap her at an early age. Give her maturity and resolve before the toughest tactics of Satan catch her eyes. As she grows, give her eyes to search for those who may be willing to listen to the gospel, the message of Your salvation. Open her eyes that  they may see those whose needs may really be doors to evangelism. Lord keep her eyes focused heavenward. 

Reflecting back on this day, I can hardly believe You let me do this. Your Words are true: She IS fearfully and wonderfully made! My only sadness is that her grandfather is preaching Your gospel in Kentucky this week and there is no way I can adequately describe this heart-swell to someone who was not in that room!  Help us Lord, her parents and grandparents. If all is as it seems, You are giving her to us in perfect condition. May we work as a team, Father, to give her back to You, through the gift of Your Son, in that same perfect condition. Father, thank-You for today. I cannot wait  to hold her, fresh from Your hands. I cannot wait for her to see my face and to start learning just how much I love her. But, most of all, I can’t wait to show her You and just how much YOU love her. I want her to see Your face!

Moms, Shoot for This!

13245489_132797127136197_2138064978297995935_nCentral California this last week has been very warm in a couple of ways. The degree of hospitality was the best kind of warm as several families in the Lord’s church went out of their way to see that our every need, and so much more, was met. One of the conversations we had with Jason and Jill Jackson was about family life and parenting and how they, several years ago, sought advice from our brother, Wendell Winkler, about how to make a home from which children might emerge and faithfully walk in the ways of the Lord. He had five pieces of advice that are worth sharing. He was a man of great wisdom and moms will do well to put these in their hearts and around their dinner tables.

  1. About normalcy: Even if your family is a preaching family or an elder family in the church, don’t make your children feel as though they are “on display” or “different” from other Christians. After all, the reason we do what we do is not because of the preaching role or the leadership role. The reason we do what we do is because we are Christians. We can make our kids resent the work pretty quickly if we cause them to think there’s negative abnormality about serving the Lord. Don’t make your sons wear a coat and tie to events when the rest of the kids have on khakis and polos. 
  2. About the value of a dollar. Don’t try to provide all the “wants” for your kids. The work ethic is missing today in many homes, even in the church, and it is to our detriment.  Children will be better stewards of their material possessions if they understand that earning and saving are prerequisites to enjoying and sharing material possessions. The entitlement spirit is strong in our culture and we have to work to help our children reject it. Perhaps another way to say this is “Don’t let your children complain about the food on the table.”
  3. About saying “yes”: You should say yes to the “asks” of your kids as often as you can (“May I go here?” …”May I try out for this?” …”May I have a sleepover with my friends?” etc…) because you will have to say “no” often because of the difference in our profession of Christianity and the culture in which we live. 
  4. About criticism: Criticism will come from those in the world and from those in the church. Your family, if you are faithful, and especially if you are in a leadership position, will often be scrutinized and there will be those who think it’s their job to “correct” or instruct you, even if you are doing your very best. Just expect that. Prepare your minds for it and go on and do your very best. 
  5. About balance. You will pay dearly if you neglect family to do “church work”. You will pay dearly if you neglect your work in the church for family priorities. Be sure you have a good balance and blend. The work of the church should be the family’s work. Get in there and do it together! Family vacations, ballgames, family game nights and hobbies pursued together will grow and solidify the influence you are able to wield on your children. Never take a vacation from God, though. Whatever you are doing, be sure your family knows He’s always the priority and you will not forsake the worship of His church for any reason. Remember, as a mom, your most important evangelism is in your home. Those souls are the priority during their growing-up years. 

There you have it. I know lots of parents who are great examples of this kind of parenting and family balance. This spring, one of those families in Texas watched, as their daughter gave them this word of thanks for that kind of “raising”.  Kastin Carroll would have included lots of Biblical references had she been speaking just to women. But in this graduation ceremony, you can hear the Word behind her remarks to her parents. Her father is an elder in the Brown Trail church in Fort Worth. She and her dad are in the photo above.  You will enjoy and take courage from watching.