Teaching Our Children To Be Kind To Every Kind

It has been 13 and a half years since David’s stroke. I will never forget sitting in a little family side room staring at the MRI picture of David’s brain. The Pediatric ER doctor pointed to a large, black area of David’s brain and informed us that was the area which had been affected by the stroke. In that moment I wanted to punch the man. I had never had that feeling before and I didn’t know whether to throw up, run out, or bawl. No matter my feelings, I knew in the blink of an eye my life had changed. I was now the mom of a child with a disability. We didn’t know what David’s disability would look like, but we knew there was a long road ahead of us.

In those moments, and in the time since, we have been surrounded by friends and family who have embraced us and David’s disability as we have walked this path. We are so grateful. Community always makes it easier, no matter what hardship you are walking through. And, let’s be honest. We all face hardship.

Recently a young mom asked me, “How do I teach my children to love kids with disabilities?”

There are a lot of practical ways to answer that question, and yet, one very simple, absolutely crucial answer. I’ll start with the simple answer and follow with a few practical ideas.

The simple answer is to show love. That seems cliché, but honestly, what families with special needs children need is a lot of love. Teaching your child to love those who are different is a task that all parents are called to and it begins with the parent.  Parents must be able to see a child with a disability and then be intentional in showing that child, and that child’s family, love.

Here are a few practical ways people have shown our family love:

  • Meeting physical needs:  Right after David’s stroke, and really until he was about 4, we had to be in Lubbock for appointments 2-3 times a week. People were so faithful to help in so many ways, bringing food, giving gift cards, etc.  I am not necessarily talking about something that was organized, although that did happen. I’m talking about people hearing from the Holy Spirit, calling and asking if they could bring us dinner, or gifting us in other tangible ways. It was always at just the right time and such a sweet expression of Christ’s love to our family.
  • Including David:  When you have weakness on one side of your body, every physical activity is more difficult. You cannot carry a plate of food at a birthday party or open your own juice box. You are not able to ride a bicycle in the neighborhood with the other boys, and people often have to adjust their plans or activities to meet your needs.  I was always so grateful for friends who would call and honestly ask, “Can David come over, and what do we need to do to help him?” Although that can be a bit uncomfortable to address, it is so helpful to the child with special needs and their family.
  • Giving a needed respite:  Raising a child with special needs is constant. It is hard to explain unless you are doing it. I am so thankful for my family and a handful of friends who were happy and willing to keep David and care for him so Brad and I were able to have a few days away.
  • Speaking words of life and truth:  I cannot tell you the number of people who have prayed for David. We have received cards from all over the world. At first it was hard to hear these prayers of concern, largely because of my own disappointments. However, even in my less than grateful response, people continued to pray and believe for David. What joy it brings when people speak words of assurance and blessing over David. His life is different than we imagined it would be when we brought him home from the hospital, but he is the perfect gift that God intended him to be and he will continue to be as he grows and walks in the paths God puts before him. To this day we have a dear doctor friend who believes in David’s complete and total healing. To say the least, it is always refreshing when David sees him.

This post just scratches the surface of our life with David. My prayer is that people will always see those in need and respond in the way God is calling them to respond. Early on God showed me a verse in Proverbs 31. I think it directly speaks to those with a disability and how we should respond. 

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

Proverbs 31:8-9 

David is a normal 14 year old who has minimal limitations, for that we are grateful. But we are surrounded by so many who have extreme limitations. Let’s be sure we are always an expression of Christ’s love to them.

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this post!

Helping Our Kids With Anxiety

With the beginning of a new school year, parents and kids alike start to feel the pressure: pressure to perform, pressure to fit the societal mold, pressure to uphold a strict schedule. Some kids take this pressure more seriously than others and begin to internalize fear. Anxiety can rear its ugly head in many different ways, making it difficult for a parent to identify and to help the child cope. As parents, all we want is to raise resilient, Godly, strong world changers, but they can’t be those things if they are not equipped with the tools to overcome obstacles.

If your child is struggling with anxiety, they could have a wide array of struggles such as: having difficulty sleeping, intolerance of changes in schedule, avoiding activities or events (such as school or social situations), having a need to control other people or events, crying or difficulty managing big emotions, having high or unrealistic expectations of themselves, or even physiological symptoms such as constant stomachaches or headaches. All of these symptoms of anxiety can make it difficult for kids to function in school as well as at home. So how can we help as parents? How can we help our children to walk in a spirit of peace, not of anxiety?

Calm The Body

I would say the first step to easing anxiety is to help your kiddo recognize what it feels like in their body. Help them understand cues in their body that let them know they are anxious. This could include sweaty palms, stomachache, racing heart, tight throat, racing mind, or a feeling of having a weight on their chest. If kids can learn their triggers or cues, it can increase their sense of empowerment over their anxiety, leaving them feeling less helpless. Before kids can learn anything else about what is causing their anxiety or how to dispute their anxious thoughts, they have to learn to calm their body down. Think about it: if you, as an adult, are overwhelmed, flooded with emotion, and have all the physical cues that go along with anxiety, are you able to have a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend? Absolutely not, because your brain is in fight or flight and is not able to reason. Some great self-regulation strategies to calm the body are: 

  • Deep Breathing (in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds)
  • 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique: Notice 5 things you see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing positive about yourself
  • Yoga Poses
  • Sensory Calm Down Kit
  • Drawing or Coloring
  • Building something with Legos
  • Wall Push Ups
  • Stress Balls
  • Music

Pinterest is an excellent resource for coming up with fun visuals and ideas to implement these strategies!

Capture Thoughts

The next step would be to help them take their thoughts captive. Talk about those situations that are anxiety-provoking and figure out what the enemy is telling them: “I’m not strong enough to handle this,” “I’m not going to make friends,” “The other kids won’t like me,” “I’m going to get hurt,” or “I’m not going to succeed.” Most likely, those things they are telling themselves during their moments of high anxiety are irrational and not truth-based. Having kids journal their anxious thoughts creates awareness and gives an opportunity to speak truth over those lies.

Speak Truth

I’ve found that having kids write down their anxious thoughts, then turning them around and writing “antidotes” or truths about who they are in Christ to dispute those anxious thoughts is so powerful. Teaching kids this powerful tool of recognizing the lies anxiety speaks and speaking truth over themselves is so valuable and creates a sense of empowerment. So often, kids (and adults) believe they are just a victim to their thoughts and feelings, but God tells us we are conquerors and have the ability to change those thoughts that lead to high anxiety!

My favorite antidotes for anxious thoughts:

I am strong: Psalm 92:10 “Your anointing has made me strong and mighty. You’ve empowered my life for triumph by pouring fresh oil over me.”

I am brave: Psalms 27:14 “Here’s what I’ve learned through it all: Don’t give up; don’t be impatient; be entwined as one with the Lord. Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope. Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you!”

I am free: Galatians 5:1 “Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free—not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.”

I have control of my mind: 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a Spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and self-discipline” and Philippians 4:8 “So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every Glorious work of God, praising him always.”

I am a conqueror: Romans 8:37 “Yet even in the midst of all these triumphs, we triumph over them all for God has made us to be MORE than conquerors and his demonstrated love is our glorious victory over everything.”

The Lord is my helper: Deuteronomy 31:6 “So be strong and courageous, do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

As we return to the school year routine, be on guard for anxiousness that might creep into your children’s lives. Pray these scriptures over them. Talk to them about what anxiety is and how they can combat it. And above all, use this as an opportunity to point your kids to the love, grace, and mercy of our Savior. 

We would like to thank Macy Williams for writing this post!

Family Game Night

Is your home fun? Psalm 118:15 says that “the sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous.” We, above all people, should have homes where laughter and joy ring out, homes that are fun places to be. In our Kingdom Families trainings, Myles Sweeney talks about the walls of our houses being saturated with laughter. Canadian blogger and pastor’s wife Elisha Galotti even goes so far as to challenge us, “Believe that laughter is as important for our children as proper nutrition.”

As mothers, we are extremely influential in setting the atmosphere of our home, and then RE-setting it again and again, as many times as it takes. It doesn’t mean we have to be perfect at it — but it means we do have that power. Let’s access that power to make our homes those pleasant places where people want to be. 

One excellent way to cultivate that atmosphere at your house is to schedule a family game night this summer. Playing games together builds a family culture, breaks up any routine monotony, and gets everyone interacting around the table. Our family has so many hilarious memories from game nights with aunts and uncles and grandparents. Just mention a naked mole rat to one of my boys and see where the conversation might lead…

When our boys were very young, we did our fair share of CandyLand, Chutes & Ladders, and Go Fish, later graduating to Monopoly, Scattergories, and Clue. We also like to change up the rules on the ol’ classics. Our personal versions of Yahtzee abound — roll straight down the card in order; speed round where everyone plays at once; roll 4 times each turn instead of 3. What about trying a twist on Pictionary — “Charade-tionary,” anyone? Teams take turns acting out the 5 words listed on the cards with a 1-minute time limit. Scrabble tiles can be used to build individual little crossword puzzles. Just pick up 2 additional letters every time someone uses up all their letters. Similar to Bananagrams, this quick-moving little gem is otherwise known as “Take Two.” Sometimes we pass Catchphrase around the dinner table without worrying about teams or score-keeping, and it basically turns into a happy-shouting free-for-all. 

Other Brown favorites that might be less well-known include Telestrations, Guess Who, Pass the Pigs, Ticket to Ride, Whoonu, and 15,000 (played with 5 dice). Creative brain games like ABC’s, Name 5, and logic puzzles have kept us occupied for hours on road trips. We’ve been known to hold Talent Shows, Comedy Nights, and Wii bowling tournaments when the big family comes to town for the holidays. Speaking of tournaments, a group of our friends even prints out championship brackets and awards prizes when we get serious about Marbles. (Competitive, much??) You probably have your own repertoire of favorites. Share them with us in the comments below?

Even if you don’t feel like a “game person,” even if your family members moan or resist the idea at first, I challenge you to be the initiator. This summer might be the perfect chance to shake things up! Try something new! After you get over that initial hump, I’d bet you money that everyone will be laughing and making memories in spite of themselves before the night is over. Game on, girls!!

We would like to thank Jill Brown for this blog post!

Sibling Love

Sibling Love

Editor’s Note: This is a post from a couple of years ago. Teaching the value of loving our siblings is important. This is a great post to revisit as we begin summer!

When we really stop and think about the people who have impacted our life, there are certain qualities that they all have.

They show care: when you’re hurting, they’re there to see what they can do to help.

They show concern: when they see something is different in your life, they ask you about it. They’re concerned for who you are, what you’re going through and what you need.

They display kindness. They let you choose first. They give you gifts out of kindness. They speak words of encouragement over you. They smile and are welcoming. You feel and know their kindness.

Care, concern, and kindness mark the people who impact us. As I think about my boys and raising them, I’m keenly aware of who I want them to become. But I’m also aware that more is caught than taught. I’ve been asked many times, “Do your boys really like each other?  Are they really friends?”  The answer is yes.

Although friendships are never easy, especially within a home, when we model healthy friendships, it rubs off onto our kids. When we show care, concern and kindness, our children learn this as the norm.  When we remind our kids that we are people who show care, concern and kindness, it helps them remember to “be”not to “strive for “—those attributes.

Parenting isn’t easy, but really everything worth doing has its challenges.

I’d rather fight the battle at home and raise men who impact the world, than make excuses for why my children are unkind, self-consumed, and careless. How about you?

Practical To-Do’s for Siblings:
– Always say sorry
– Always say I forgive you
– Always hug it out (sometimes I make my boys sit on the couch and hug each other, or hold hands until they stop fighting…some days that’s worse than a spank)
– Remind them they will always be best friends
– Play together
– Work together
– Pray for each other
– Show gratitude and say thank you to each other

Here’s a few cheap summer activities for you and your kids:
* Go get snow cones
* Buy a decent, over-the-door basketball hoop and shoot hoops indoors
* Make tents out of blankets in your living room and watch movies, read books, have tea parties inside it
* Pour all the Legos out in the living room and build a gigantic Lego fortress
* Visit Palo Duro Canyon
* Run through the sprinklers
* Use mini marshmallows and toothpicks to build mini-tower structures
* Bubbles… all ages love bubbles
* Fly a kite
* Build an obstacle course through the house or in the backyard
* Watch your favorite sports team and make up chants
* Play video games
* Get a month free subscription to Netflix
* Have a sleepover in the living room
* Laugh a lot
* Enjoy the ones God gave you

I love my boys, as I know you love your kids. May we continually remember what precious gifts they are to us and that God has picked you to mother the children he’s given to you, and me to mother the boys given to me.

Be blessed my sweet friends, enjoy your kiddos and enjoy the summer.

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here.

Made To Love

Editor’s Note: May is National Foster Care Month. It’s a time to recognize that we each can play an important part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care.

I’ll never forget the evening I spent packing up my first foster loves’ clothes for the last time. They were going to their “real” home. And my heart was broken.

I fully believed that this was God’s plan.

I knew they were in good hands; their family loved them. But man did it hurt saying goodbye! I put a smile on my face, and I hugged and kissed them, and when an unexpected tear ran down my face,  I explained it away. “They were happy tears.” I was just so happy they were going to be with their mommy. That is what we had been working and praying so hard for! And God had been preparing my heart for this day for years.

Before I welcomed my own babies into this world, God shared 2 others with me. Though only briefly, they were mine and I’ll love them forever. But for reasons beyond my understanding, God needed them in heaven. After reflecting on that, it made perfect sense. He was teaching me how to love someone with my whole heart and hand them back over to Him. 

I wrestled with the thought of this silently for a long time. I had many conversations with God about how I was not foster mom material. They were something like:

“I’m just a regular person. I can’t save these kids.” He said, “You were never made to be their savior. You were made to love them.”

“But I am far from a perfect parent. I make mistakes daily.” He replied, “Your job is to be present not perfect. You were made to love them.

But it will be so hard…I will get attached. How can I let them go?” He answered, “Yes it will be hard but it will be worth it. And you will never be alone. You were made to love them.”

I was given this verse and man did it hit me!

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

What God told me was all these expectations I had put on myself of what the perfect parent was supposed to be, didn’t matter. He wanted to use me in some of the most difficult situations these kids will have to live through. My job is not to be perfect, just to show them His perfect love and to love them so much it hurts, because they deserve it!

One Sunday the sermon jumped out and slapped me in the face. I will paraphrase because as far as I’m concerned this was what I was supposed to hear.

When you step out and follow your calling it’s not going to be easy. Get over yourself and the fears that tell you you’re unworthy. It’s going to be uncomfortable…do it anyway.

Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Ok God, I hear you.

That day Brandon and I went for lunch and randomly he brought up the idea of fostering. I think he was a bit shocked when I jumped right on it. I explained how this had been laid on my heart as well and how I had secretly been looking into an agency already.  

We later had a conversation with our kids. This decision would change their world, too. How would they feel about sharing us? Will they understand the why? The answer was yes! Our son said “Mom, if we can show 1 kid that there is good in the world and teach them how we love, then we have done our job.” He gets it!

Fast forward to the heart wrenching day Brandon and I had to send home our 2 foster loves. By the end of the day we had received 2 calls from our agency; more children were needing homes. We were faced with a hard decision. Who do we take next, and how can you choose?! There are children right here in our community that are hungry, neglected and feel alone. God calls us to rise up and love them.  

Our world has been flipped, tripped and thrown upside down. And what a blessing it has been! We are planting seeds of love in their hearts and although we may never see the end results, we are doing what we were called to do. We were made to love.

We want to thank Misty Rowell for writing this blog post!

Parenting 101: The Art of Letting Go

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

Jeremiah 1:4-5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  Before you were born I set you apart.”

Luke 2:19 says, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

These two verses have stuck with me for over 19 years.  They have been the truth that has sustained me as a mom:

         1.  God has known my children from the foundation of the earth.

         2. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to treasure/ponder the destiny/purpose of Christ in her heart. 

I truly believe, to be able to parent well, our foundation of who our children’s real father is, must be established in our hearts.

The question is…how do we live out these two verses when we’re parenting our children?  I’d say the answer to that question is through PRAYER and SURRENDER.

When I was pregnant with Joshua I began asking God, praying that He would give me words to speak and pray over Joshua.  Words of truth, words of life, words of courage.  I soon had a song in my heart that I’ve sung over all my boys, nieces, and nephews, and every baby I’ve ever rocked to sleep.  The fact that God gave me a song, doesn’t make me special – it’s just a testimony to a living God who has abundant life and vision and purpose for our children.  He desires for us to position ourselves in a way to receive truth from Him so we can speak His truth over our children.  Prayer is powerful!

During different seasons of parenting I remember making conscience choices to let go of control and to trust God and His word, to surrender my fears and concerns to Him.  I started to stand on the truth of Jeremiah 1, and believe that if God knew my children before He formed them in my womb, then I could trust Him with their lives.

I have specific memories of my kids playing at 16th street park and me being over protective of the monkey bars and Jesus whispering kindly to my heart, “Let them be brave.”

Or, the 1sttime Brad took the boys hunting and my fear of harm coming to them surfaced and the Lord speaking to me, “Brad loves your boys as much as you do.  He won’t let harm come to them.”

All three of my boys are dreamers.  They have BIG dreams, dreams that honestly scare me.  I’ve been tempted, at times, to be the “practical mom” that puts doubts to their dreams.  Early on, while I was praying through some of my kids’ “big dreams” I felt the Lord speak these powerful words to me.  It’s helped me remember who the ultimate dream keeper is…He said, “Dreams shape us, don’t smash them.  Just keep pointing them to Me.  I can handle their dreams.”  

The words of Christ have liberated me as a mom.  It’s put motherhood in perspective for me.  I’m not in charge of their destiny, Christ is.  I can’t make them be someone, or keep them safe.  My job is to point them to Christ, to pray my guts out for them, and to ponder their destiny in my heart, just like Mary did concerning Jesus.  

I’ve learned that I can either treasure the destiny and purpose God has for my kids, or I can control and manipulate the situations that parenting bring.  I’ve done both, but I can tell you peace comes when I’m living a life of PRAYER and SURRENDER concerning my kids.  

Here are a few truths that I’ve pondered in my heart for my children:

  • God ordains their steps…Psalms 37:23
  • Every hair on their head is numbered…Luke 12:7
  • They are fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalms 139:14
  • God is intimately acquainted with all their needs…Psalms 139:3
  • They are created in the likeness of God’s image…Genesis 1:27

I spent many years not feeling like a good mom.  I compared myself to others, and often felt overwhelmed and discouraged.  I remember the day my counselor told me, “Julie you’ve never given up.  You’ve stayed, and loved, and been present.”  It liberated me.  

I don’t know where you are today on your journey of mothering, but I can promise you, when you choose to stay, when you choose to show up, when you choose to pray the hard prayers and speak the words of Christ over your kids, God does His part in our children’s lives and we will see His hand accomplish His will concerning our children.  He loves them more than we do.  He knit them together.  They are fearfully and wonderfully made in His likeness.

I’m cheering for you mom!  I’m believing in you!  And I know, when we’ve prayed and surrendered, God moves mountains for us, that we could never move on our own.

I’m praying that God would impart in you an anointing for faith and an ability to speak destiny and truth over your child.  May He bring vision that will not only keep your child from perishing, but also keep you in a place of peace.

With all my love,

Julie

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this post!

Choose Life

During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2018. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2018!

I’m not certain how it happened, but one day I woke up and my kids were BIG. Big enough to see me. The real me. Not the me that could fix their boo boo’s and not the me that could give them a big ol’ mama hug. It had happened. I had been EXPOSED. They had somehow gotten big enough to see MY sin. They could see that I was over-worked, spread thin, wore out and had, over a period of time, become distant and disconnected from them. And while we’re being honest, I was also bitter, short-tempered, selfish and let’s just say it: SINFUL. I had been deceived and Satan had been robbing me from my children.

(INSERT SCREECHING RECORD SOUND HERE.)

Hang with me! I promise that this story ends well! You see, it’s at these pivotal life moments that we can choose to continue to be deceived and believe the lies,

You’re a terrible mom.”

“Look at that mom; her kids adore her.”

“Look at that mom. She can do way more, way better than you.”

 OR 

we can simply choose life.

Life, which is the Hidden Word of God in our hearts. It was an AH HA! moment for me. Repentance was easy and so was the change. I knew exactly what God’s Word said about me.

Ladies, His Word says that He doesn’t call the equipped, but that He equips the called. We are ‘called’ to be wives and mothers; CREATED to do such!  I remember a sermon that Pastor Paul preached where he said, “Parents, LOVE the SNOT out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

God has equipped us with LOVE!  There is something spectacularly supernatural about LOVE. After sowing it, you reap a harvest VERY quickly. I began sowing and pouring intentional LOVE into my children, each so very different. I told Jeremy just recently that I could literally feel God changing me and the atmosphere of our home. I could see fruit everywhere.

There’s more good news. God maps it out for us in His Word. Titus 2 is fantastically plain and simple about the direction we must take in our homes as mothers and in our communities. Hide these truths in your hearts ladies, so that when the enemy comes against you with lies, you can combat him with truth. Titus 2:11-12 says, ‘For the GRACE of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It TEACHES us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this PRESENT age” (emphasis mine). We can literally be taught to say NO to wrongful, sinful behaviors. We can choose life and truth.

So, it is by His abundant grace that I can continue to grow and press forward in this life and journey as a mother. A life that will be ESTABLISHED in and full of His grace and LOVE! Let’s remember to do as Pastor Paul said, “Love the snot out of ’em and let the Holy Spirit do the rest!”

We would like to thank Kaci Searsy for contributing this post.