By Beth Jordan
I don’t know if it is the same for all first-time mothers, but nothing holds my interest like watching my little girl. Her facial expressions, the excitement in her eyes, her curiosity—just about anything she does brings out the motherly love in me. And one wonderful day I realized that’s how Jesus, in His unconditional love, is with me.
As I watched my Ashley Elle sitting up on the bed and looking at me with her bright blue eyes, all smiles, I thought, How could I not love her? Sure, at six months she is as active as a puppy, she makes a mess sometimes, she fusses, she wakes up in the night and wants to be fed when I just want to sleep, but no matter what she does, there is no way that I could ever stop loving or caring for her.
Then I remembered the previous day, when I had felt so low and far from the Lord. I had made so many mistakes! Surely He had stopped loving me—or so it seemed. Then, as I looked into my baby’s eyes, He spoke to me. “How could I ever stop loving you? Why would I ever want to stop caring for you? You are the joy of My heart, and I love you. You are My girl. Sure, you aren’t perfect and you sometimes make a mess of things, but that’s all just part of growing up. I love you more and more every day. And don’t worry, you will always be My little girl!”
Courtesy of Activated magazine. Used with permission.
By Natalia Nazarova
When my husband went on an extended business trip for nearly three months, I found out what challenges single parents face. It was a big adjustment to have to keep up with the house and care for the children on my own, in addition to my job. Other circumstances also took a toll on my emotions, and I found it increasingly difficult to cope. Each day’s outlook seemed bleaker than the last. The struggle exhausted me physically and mentally. Then came the last straw.
Dinner was almost ready, and it would be ten minutes before the children finished their homework and came to eat. I had been using my laptop to listen to music while I cooked, and decided to use those ten minutes to check my email. I scooped the laptop from the kitchen counter and headed for the living room, but in my frazzled state I forgot to unplug the power cord. When I had gone only a few steps, sudden resistance tore the laptop from my grip. I can still see the scene unfolding, as though in slow motion—my computer falling, flipping, bouncing, the screen going blank.
I was in shock the rest of the evening, and couldn’t fall asleep that night. When my mind finally stopped racing, I began to consider how stressed I had been and consequently how unhappy I was. I believed that God wanted to help me get out of the mess I was in, and He did.
In my desperate, “shattered” state, He was able to get through to me about areas where I had been falling short—my relationships with my older children and my attitude toward some of my coworkers, for example. In that time of quiet reflection, I sought and found God’s forgiveness, and faith and hope were restored.
Then I remembered my shattered laptop. But instead of the despair I had felt all evening, I had the distinct feeling that all was not lost. If God could put me back together, I reasoned, surely there was hope for my laptop.
The next morning I switched on the laptop, and it rebooted. Only a small portion of the screen lit up, but the computer was still functioning. Only the screen had been damaged, and that was relatively inexpensive to replace.
Now each time I open my laptop and the screen lights up, I am reminded of God’s unfailing love and forgiveness, the peace He has to offer, and the inner change He brings when we take our problems to Him.
Article courtesy of Activated magazine. Used with permission. Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As parents, the desire to give to your children is limitless: You desire for them to grow in their relationship with Jesus; you want them to be safe and protected from negative influences and dangerous situations; you want them to become well-rounded, productive individuals. There are a multitude of things that you may want your children to have, to be, and to experience. And although you may be limited in what you can physically offer them, through prayer, you can obtain all that Jesus desires to give them.
Good and successful parenting and childrearing takes strength, wisdom, patience, faith, insight, courage, fight, and divine love. But if you want to give your children the very, very best, and if you want to do your very, very best for them, give them your prayers!
Pray, instead of waiting for problems to crop up, and you’ll be heading many difficulties and problems off at the pass. Pray, and you’ll be doing your part to help set your children up for life.
As many of you parents have experienced, there will be times when you feel like your hands are tied regarding how to help your child. You’ll feel like you’ve done all you could, and nothing seems to work. The truth is that there is always more you can do. You can always pray for your children, and it will bring results.
You’ll never be without a job when it comes to childrearing. Your children are your children for the rest of your lives, and even when they are grown and have children of their own, you can still be interceding on their behalf through your prayers.
A Prayer List for Your Child
Here is a sample prayer list for you to use during your times of prayer for your child. You can personalize this list to more accurately suit you and your child’s individual needs and situation, or create one for yourself.
Relationship with Jesus and spiritual growth
• That they will experience and come to know Jesus and His love in a personal way
• That their love and appreciation of God’s Word will develop and grow
• That they will grow in maturity; exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in their lives: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance
Overall development, character building, and interpersonal relationships
• That they will have a positive impact on the lives of their friends, peers, and elders they come in contact with
• That they will learn obedience to me, their parent, out of love
• That they will establish friendships with those who will have a positive influence on them, and whom they can positively influence
• For ongoing progress in all areas of their development: spiritual, intellectual, physical, social, and emotional
• That I will regularly seek Jesus’ help, understanding, and wisdom in order to be the parent that He wants me to be
• That I can give them the assurance of unconditional love no matter what problems or difficulties arise, and that I can be a reflection of God’s everlasting love to them
• That I will be faithful to share with our children how important Jesus is to me and how He works in my life
• That I can teach them how to discern between right and wrong
Future and protection
• For life experiences and character growth that will enable and motivate them to fulfill the destinies that Jesus has for them
• For protection against physical danger, accidents, and sickness
Text © The Family International. Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Anna Perlini
It was a particularly hot, muggy summer day, and Jeffrey and I had already been traveling for a few hours when we plopped down in a stuffy bus station waiting room in northern Italy. “Did I really have to come?” he muttered.
How had I gotten this idea? Dragging a 14-year-old away from his friends to visit his grandparents—not exactly a teenager’s idea of fun!
We had another hour before we needed to catch the bus that would take us the rest of the way, and I didn’t know which was worse—the stale air in the waiting room or the thick air between us. “Would you like some ice cream?” I asked.
That usually did the trick, or at least it used to. Not this time. “No!” came his sharp reply. “I don’t need it.” My little boy was growing up.
My patience was starting to run out. “Well, I’m going to get some for myself.” I grabbed my purse and headed for the station café, asking Jesus to restore good communication between Jeffrey and me.
When I returned, Jeffrey was talking with a boy a year or two older. “Emmanuel is Romanian,” Jeffrey explained as he introduced us, “but he speaks Italian well. He’s living in a trailer nearby with his mom and two younger sisters, and doing odd jobs to help support his family.” Emmanuel was bright, well-mannered, and said he was willing to do just about any kind of work.
He and Jeffrey continued the animated conversation that my return had interrupted. When Jeffrey told Emmanuel that he had gone to a summer camp in Timișoara, Romania, Emmanuel lit up. “That’s where I come from!” he said. I could tell it really made Emmanuel’s day to find a boy about his age whom he could talk to and relax with. Also, Jeffrey seemed very interested in this boy’s life and in meeting someone about his own age who was fending for his mom and sisters.
When it was time to catch our bus, Jeffrey prayed for Emmanuel and his family and then gave Emmanuel one of the gospel tracts we had with us, along with some money for his family.
“Mom,” Jeffrey whispered as we took our seats, “that was a hundred times better than ice cream!”
Sometimes when we are upset or discouraged, all it takes to make us forget our frustration and feel better is a little giving of ourselves.
Anna Perlini is a cofounder of Per un Mondo Migliore (www.perunmondomigliore.org), a humanitarian organization active in the former Yugoslavia since 1995.
Article originally published in Activated magazine.
By Claudia Becker, Die Welt, Feb. 15, 2013
BERLIN—There were jittery kids before Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In 1908, Berlin pediatrician Adalbert Czerny diagnosed a certain group of pesky children as follows: “Great need to move about, can’t stick to anything whether it be playing or other activities, disobedience, inability to concentrate on their schoolwork.”
So it would appear that ADHD is not an invention of the 21st century. Psychologists have been attributing the problem to ever more hectic daily lives marked by technological developments in both transportation and communication—since the beginning of the 20th century.
According to the just-released 2013 Medical Report published by the German Barmer GEK health insurance company, the number of children and teens diagnosed with ADHD rose by 42% between 2006 and 2011. We should not, however, rush to hasty conclusions blaming technology and ascribing the phenomenon to over-stimulation—even if it is difficult to imagine that the constant flicker of screens in children’s rooms, the over-consumption of computer games, and the permanent stream of music through headphones doesn’t have some sort of deeper impact on the nervous system.
The agitation, the lack of control over their impulses, and the concentration difficulties in children and teens that parents and teachers are becoming increasingly vocal about can be put down to a number things. Gottingen-based neurobiologist Gerald Huther believes that children have too few opportunities, as their brains develop, to build up the structures that enable them to control their impulses and deal with frustration.
Parents keep too close a watch over their kids for this to happen, he says—clearing problems away so kids don’t have to confront them, not giving kids a chance to try things for themselves, not letting kids romp around outdoors enough. They don’t let their kids take risks.
For the first time in the history of humanity, Huther says, we are going through a period where children are not actually needed to help with the household chores or go out and earn money. Yet children right through their teens need chores and other tasks because these tasks not only help them grow but give them the experience of how wonderful it is to do something meaningful together with others.
Anybody who has seen how many hours children spend playing computer games can sense the tragedy behind it—all that wasted energy—and understand how it can find expression in disharmony and aggression. And the open question is: are there really more children with behavioral symptoms matching those of ADHD or are doctors just more inclined to diagnose the disorder?
Even if the restless behavior of kids who supposedly have ADHD isn’t really pathological, the high number of children being diagnosed with the disorder tells us something about the way they are perceived by their parents and teachers—as so active that living with them may become unbearable.
But is it really the kids who are overstepping the bounds? Or are the thresholds of teachers trying to get through their workloads, and parents who expect their kids to “function,” too low? Have we lost the ability to deal with impulse? Particularly those of boys, who in kindergartens and schools are almost exclusively taught by women?
According to the Barmer GEK report, ADHD is mainly a problem with boys—the majority of whom are given psychotropic drugs. In 2011, 2% of 11-year-old girls diagnosed with the syndrome were taking what is currently the favorite drug for the condition—Ritalin, which acts directly on brain metabolism—compared with 7% of boys.
This is questionable not only because these kids are being kept quiet artificially, but also because the long-term effects of taking the drug have yet to be fully researched. Yet stressed-out parents are increasingly letting doctors talk them into treating their hyperactive children with medication on the pretext that they may be suffering from some sort of malfunction of brain metabolism.
Psychotropic drugs for children provide no long-term solution. ADHD is a disturbance in the ability to pay attention—so why don’t we actively try and heighten that ability in children from the beginning? It doesn’t take much: sit quietly on the sofa and read a story together instead of watching 3-D movies and playing computer games.
Or let your children take the time, as you make your way to the playground, to take in whatever captures his or her interest, be it a pebble or a dog, instead of badgering them with the constant and impatient command to “Come on!” And do you really need a weekend trip to Davos with your five-year-old just when the first snowdrops are blossoming in the garden?
Children need the opportunity to develop and hone their senses without being rushed all the time. And that includes doing a lot of the things that made 20th century childhoods rich and that are being lost today. A walk home from school without Mom, where they can dawdle along and have time for their own thoughts. At school, children should be given plenty of time for art and crafts.
Also important are family meals—not only eating together, but not eating microwave dishes, in fact eating real home cooking that doesn’t taste of the same old flavor enhancers but where you can actually make out the individual ingredients.
Children need to know that everything doesn’t have to happen at lightning speed. They need to be both challenged and supported. They also need to have the possibility of learning at their own speed: you cannot force maturity. And they need phases where they aren’t “doing” anything except maybe jumping over a few ditches, feeling the wind against their skin, breathing in the delicious smell of earth.
There are no greater creative moments than those that take place in stillness. We don’t let our kids enjoy these because we enjoy too few of them ourselves. But if they don’t know what it is to experience stillness, how can we expect them to “sit still?”
Each of us is “shy” in some instances and “outgoing” in others; this is normal. If you expect your child to be “shy” (or “withdrawn”) you will be reinforcing this behavior and making it happen more often. Focus on and praise your child’s strengths.
Self-esteem is a powerful force which will impact your child’s success and happiness throughout his or her life. More than any other factor, self-esteem or self-image influences our attitudes about what we can or cannot do, how we cope with problems, and how we get along with others.
Self-esteem is a blend of the way we feel about and “see” ourselves, as well as the way we believe others see us. A strong self-image helps a child feel both lovable and capable. A child’s self-esteem is strongest when parents nurture both love ability and capability.
Feeling lovable means that the child feels loved and worthwhile just because he or she exists in this world, not because of something he or she can do. You help a child feel lovable by praising things that are intrinsic or unique to your child’s personality, like his sense of humor, friendliness, persistence, or creativity.
Feeling capable means that the child feels strong and competent, and proud of his or her ability to do or achieve things. Feeling capable has to do with life skills—things like being able to wash and dress oneself, help with household chores, get ready for bed independently, and know the names of colors. Here are a few points to remember:
§ As an adult, you know that every person is unique and special; your child does not know this. Teach him how and why he is unique.
§ Praise is only valuable when it is genuine and descriptive. Use meaningful praise that describes what you notice, like, or approve.
§ When children are allowed to do as many things for themselves as possible, they feel proud and competent.
By Lloyd Glenn
Last summer my family had a spiritual experience that had a lasting and profound impact on us, one we feel must be shared. It’s a message of love. It’s a message of regaining perspective, and restoring proper balance and renewing priorities. In humility, I pray that by relating this story I might give you a gift my little son, Brian, gave our family one summer day last year.
On July 22nd I was en route to Washington, D.C. for a business trip. It was all so very ordinary, until we landed in Denver for a plane change. As I collected my belongings from the overhead bin, an announcement was made for Mr. Lloyd Glenn to see the United Customer Service Representative immediately.
I thought nothing of it until I reached the door to leave the plane and I heard a gentleman asking every male if he were Mr. Glenn. At this point I knew something was wrong and my heart sank. When I got off the plane a solemn-faced young man came toward me and said, “Mr. Glenn, there is an emergency at your home. I do not know what the emergency is or who is involved, but I will take you to the phone so you can call the hospital.”
My heart was now pounding, but the will to be calm took over. Woodenly, I followed this stranger to the distant telephone where I called the number he gave me for the Mission Hospital. My call was put through to the trauma center where I learned that Brian, my three-year-old son, had been trapped underneath the automatic garage door for several minutes, and that when my wife had found him he was dead. CPR had been performed by a neighbor, who is a doctor, and the paramedics had continued the treatment as Brian was transported to the hospital.
By the time of my call, Brian was revived and they believed he would live, but they did not know how much damage had been done to his brain, or to his heart. They explained that the door had completely closed on his little sternum right over his heart. He had been severely crushed. After speaking with the medical staff, my wife sounded worried but not hysterical, and I took comfort in her calmness.
The return flight seemed to last forever, but finally I arrived at the hospital six hours after the garage door had come down. When I walked into the intensive care unit, nothing could have prepared me to see my little son lying so still on a great big bed with tubes and monitors everywhere. He was on a respirator. I glanced at my wife, who stood and tried to give me a reassuring smile. It all seemed like a terrible dream. I was filled in on the details and given a guarded prognosis.
Brian was going to live, and the preliminary tests indicated that his heart was okay, two miracles in themselves. But only time would tell if his brain had received any damage.
Throughout the seemingly endless hours, my wife was calm. She felt that Brian would eventually be all right. I hung on to her words and faith like a lifeline. All that night and the next day Brian remained unconscious. It seemed like forever since I had left for my business trip the day before.
Finally at two o’clock that afternoon, our son regained consciousness and sat up, uttering the most beautiful words I have ever heard spoken. He said, “Daddy, hold me,” and he reached for me with his little arms.
By the next day he was pronounced as having no neurological or physical deficits, and the story of his miraculous survival spread throughout the hospital. You cannot imagine our gratitude and joy. As we took Brian home we felt a unique reverence for the life and love of our Heavenly Father that comes to those who brush death so closely.
In the days that followed there was a special spirit about our home. Our two older children were much closer to their little brother. My wife and I were much closer to each other, and all of us were very close as a whole family. Life took on a less stressful pace. Perspective seemed to be more focused, and balance much easier to gain and maintain. We felt deeply blessed. Our gratitude was truly profound.
The story is not over!
Almost a month later to the day of the accident, Brian awoke from his afternoon nap and said, “Sit down, Mommy. I have something to tell you.”
At this time in his life, Brian usually spoke in small phrases, so to hear him say a sentence of that length surprised my wife. She sat down with him on his bed and he began his sacred and remarkable story. “Do you remember when I got stuck under the garage door? Well, it was so heavy and it hurt really bad. I called to you, but you couldn’t hear me. I started to cry, but then it hurt too bad. And then the ‘birdies’ came.”
“The birdies?” my wife asked, puzzled.
“Yes,” he replied. “The birdies made a whooshing sound and flew into the garage. They took care of me.”
“Yes” he said. “One of the birdies came and got you. She came to tell you I got stuck under the door.”
A sweet reverent feeling filled the room. The spirit was so strong and yet lighter than air. My wife realized that our three-year-old had no concept of death and spirits, so he was referring to the beings who came to him from beyond as “birdies” because they were up in the air like birds that fly.
“What did the birdies look like?” she asked.
Brian answered, “They were so beautiful. They were dressed in white, all white. Some of them had green and white. But some of them had on just white.”
“Did they say anything?”
“Yes” he answered. “They told me the baby would be alright.”
“The baby?” my wife asked, confused.
Brian answered. “The baby laying on the garage floor.” He went on, “You came out and opened the garage door and ran to the baby. You told the baby to stay and not leave.”
My wife nearly collapsed upon hearing this, for she had indeed gone and knelt beside Brian’s body, and seeing his crushed chest, knowing he was already dead, she looked up around her and whispered, “Don’t leave us, Brian. Please stay if you can.”
As she listened to Brian telling her the words she had spoken, she realized that the spirit had left his body and was looking down from above on this little lifeless form. “Then what happened?” she asked.
“We went on a trip,” he said, “far, far away.” He grew agitated, trying to say the things he didn’t seem to have the words for. My wife tried to calm and comfort him, and let him know it would be okay. He struggled with wanting to tell something that obviously was very important to him, but finding the words was difficult. “We flew so fast up in the air. They’re so pretty, Mommy.” He added. “And there are lots and lots of birdies.”
Brian went on to tell her that the “birdies” had told him that he had to come back and tell everyone about them. He said they brought him back to the house and that a big fire truck and an ambulance were there. A man was bringing the baby out on a white bed and Brian tried to tell the man that the baby would be okay, but the man couldn’t hear him. He said the birdies told him he had to go with the ambulance, but they would be near him. He said they were so pretty and so peaceful, and he didn’t want to come back.
Then the bright light came. He said that the light was so bright and so warm, and he loved the bright light so much. Someone was in the bright light and put their arms around him, and told him, “I love you, but you have to go back. You have to play baseball, and tell everyone about the birdies.” Then the person in the bright light kissed him and waved bye-bye. Then woosh, the big sound came and they went into the clouds.
The story went on for an hour. He taught us that “birdies” were always with us, but we don’t see them because we only look with our eyes and we don’t hear them because we only listen with our ears. “But they are always there, and you can only see them in here (he put his hand over his heart). They whisper things to help us to do what is right because they love us so much.”
Brian continued, stating, “I have a plan, Mommy. You have a plan. Daddy has a plan. Everyone has a plan. We must all live our plan and keep our promises. The birdies help us to do that ’cause they love us so much.”
In the weeks that followed, Brian often came to us and told all, or part of it again and again. Always the story remained the same. The details were never changed or out of order. A few times he added further bits of information and clarified the message he had already delivered. It never ceased to amaze us how he could tell such detail and speak beyond his ability when he spoke of his “birdies.”
Everywhere he went, he told strangers about the “birdies.” Surprisingly, no one ever looked at him strangely when he did this. Rather, they always got a softened look on their faces and smiled.
Needless to say, we have not been the same ever since that day, and we pray we never will be.
Image courtesy of Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net