So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

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Book Review: 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit

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Last month, I got this amazing book through the B&H Bloggers Team for the purpose of reading and reviewing on my blog.  The thoughts expressed here are my own, and I hope you find them beneficial.

I’ve always been drawn to what I consider “leadership” books.  When I was going through the management training program at Office Depot, my mentoring manager was constantly putting books into my hands on management.  This fostered a deep amount of respect for learning from those who have walked the road before me, as well as those who challenged the way we have always done things.  One of my most liberating books was “The Customer Is Not Always Right”.

As I moved into Women’s Ministry leadership, I too was drawn to materials that would help shape and mold me in the leader I needed to be.  I’ve never been naive to believe that Godly Leadership doesn’t involve on going investment into that spiritual gift.  I will never be so bold as to think I already know it all, or that others do not have something to teach me.  I have also been an encourager of not only getting leadership books into the hands  our ministry leaders, but challenging publishers to look at the void in the “women’s ministry” category of their catalog.

To get right to the point, I loved this book from the first page.  Why?  Because, author Nicki Koziarz speaks from someone who has been known to quit.  She’s not the person who has always pushed through, and speaking to you from her life long success to motivate you to be just like her.  NO!  She admits that sometimes staying put, staying the course, is HARD.  She has wanted to run, and she has run from a task not going her way.  She is authentic in acknowledging that she doesn’t WANT to be a quitter, but she has quit.  More than once.  And, she is real when she shares it isn’t a struggle that just goes away on it’s own because we just decided to stop quitting.

The rest of the book walks us through the habits of a woman who doesn’t quit, beginning with the most obvious step… owning our bend to run, but choosing to change that bend.  As we progress through these habits, we see how much Nicki Koziarz depends not on herself, her own gumption…. BUT ON GOD.  It is His strength and motivation that keeps her going and focused on being a woman that sees things through to the end no matter how she feels about it.  That means that YES, sometimes we are going to have to finish something that we are not enjoying, don’t like how it’s shaping out, etc.

The Biblical foundation for these habits come from the book of Ruth, using Ruth as an example of a woman who doesn’t quit no matter what circumstances are thrown her way.   As you complete your navigation through the 5 habits, the book is capped off with helpful scripture to reference during those times you want quit, based on the reason you are considering quitting.  As well as, there is a final page that walks you through the five questions you need to ask yourself anytime you are contemplating quitting.

This is a great book to give to leaders in your church, ministry, or life.  If you know someone who is a default quitter, this would be a fantastic investment into her life.   As a Women’s Ministry Leader, I think this book would be a helpful tool in developing your team or future leaders.   Recently, it was also brought to my attention that there is a special book study that you can use alone, or with a group, to explore these habits more deeply:

5habitsstudy

FRAYED – A Church Unraveling

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My longest posts are, generally, the ones where I am pouring out my heart.   So, consider this your warning.  Grab a cup of coffee and get comfy, we may be here a for a while.   My heart is heavy to day.

In recent days my eyes have been opened to how others view the church, more so than ever.  In particular, it has been most apparent as more church/Christian scandals break the news.  From a popular Christian family (who is caught up in the sinful decisions of one of their sons), the Ashley Madison leak (which exposed the names of Christian men and women wrapped up in adultery), bakeries and state clerks (caught up in the gay marriage SCOTUS decision),  and into the press and debates over the released Planned Parenthood videos (and the push to defund Planned Parenthood).

We are called hypocrites for standing against gay marriage, while divorce is still rampant within the church.   In other words, they wonder why we consider ourselves an authority on what a healthy marriage actually looks like… since we can’t seem to get that right ourselves.  We lost our integrity.

We are called hypocrites for standing against something when our own past, or current hidden sins, are being exposed for the world to see.  We lost our transparency.

We are called a “hate group” because of the words of our mouths and behaviors/actions are anything but Christ like. We say the most terrible things about people who are not “just like us”.  We lost our love.

We tear apart people we have never even met based on what a news article says about them.  We cry paranoia over news reports and internet articles where we are only receiving part of the story.     We lost our discernment.

In stead of loving people, we feel justified in screaming “murderer” at a women who had an abortion.  Without any knowledge of the events that brought her to the clinic that day.  We don’t take the time to understand people, but feel justified in judging them.  We lost our compassion.

What does the world see, when it looks at us?  What are we known for?

By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35 (HCSB)

We have become our own greatest obstacle.

We argue over translations of the scriptures, then we wonder why the world doesn’t trust the scriptures to be accurate.

We argue over personal interpretations of scriptures, to the point that we have divided from a unified body of believers into denominations.  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust that we know what we are talking about.

We rake leaders and teachers, over the coals in public and social media forums.  These are our own sisters and brothers in Christ!  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust us with their failures and short comings.

We put on a false purity, holiness, righteousness, knowledge, wisdom, and illusions of “Christianity” instead of being authentic, transparent, and vulnerable.

We use judgement as a way to sit above others making our sin look smaller, because they are so much worse than we are.

We sell ourselves to the world as people who “have it all together” or “have all the right answers” and then we stumble and fall and discredit ourselves and our faith.  When the reality is that none of us have it all together or the right answers.  We are not spared trials and obstacles.  We simply have a hope that carries us through, and a trust that nothing we do when we fail can separate us from the LOVE OF GOD!

I find myself over, and over again, praying the Holy Spirit would convict us all to get beyond this place of division over foolish arguments and reconcile us to a united body of believers who stand in one accord, sharing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  That we can be like Paul, who admitted of the sinners he was the worst.   Using that as our platform to woe people to Christ, instead of our “holiness”.

We have become slaves to the traditions and human commands of what a “Christian” should look like, that we have neglected what the scriptures say.  These human commands, they sound good and right, but if we are not testing them to the scriptures, and not praying for the Holy Spirit to help us discern truth… we become trapped.

Colossians 2

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ.[a] All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.

I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature[b] dwells bodily[c] in Christ, 10 and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah.[d] 12 Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. 14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.[e]

16 Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.[f] 17 These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is[g] the Messiah. 18 Let no one disqualify you,[h] insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his unspiritual[i] mind. 19 He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.

20 If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. 23 Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.[j]

The hard truth is the greatest obstacle to our sharing of the Gospel, has become ourselves.

We are not known for our love, hope, and faith.

We are known for hate, judgement, and we lack the basic understandings of our faith.

We are guilty of quoting scripture out of context; or stating the Bible says something that can’t be found in any book, chapter or verse.  We look past certain scriptures as being “out dated” or part of a different “culture”  in one breath, while claiming we believe in the full authority of the scriptures in another breath.

We are unable to defend our faith, because we have not learned it.  We are not students of the word.  We are repeaters of other teachers.  And, even worse, we are repeaters of the teachers who say what we want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:3)

We look to the scriptures to learn about ourselves.  How does this pertain to me, when we should be asking how it pertains to God.

We are no different than many of the churches in the NT days.

And difficult times are still ahead.

2 Timothy 3

But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men who are corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress, for their lack of understanding will be clear to all, as theirs[a] was also.

10 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, 11 along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 1Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God[b] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We think that this warning in 2 Timothy 3 is about the world alone, but it isn’t.  This was a letter written to the church, about the things happening within the community and within the church.

We… the body of believers…. will become:

Lovers of self.

Lovers of money.

Boastful and proud.

Blasphemers.

Disobedient and Ungrateful.

Unholy, unloving, irreconcilable.

Slanderers, without self control.

Without love of what is good.

Traitors, reckless.

Conceited and lovers of pleasure over God.

We will hold to the form of godliness, but deny it’s power.

We will become so focused on loving people, that we will distance ourselves from The Word.  Or, we will become so legalistic to the Scriptures, that we will distance our selves from the people who need to hear it the most.

The lion doesn’t go after the animals in the pack, he goes after the one who is isolated, alone, and hurt.  Isolated from the body of believers, as we miss corporate worship.  Isolated from our sisters in Christ, as we hold grudges and fight against reconciliation.  Hiding from our family, instead of embracing them.  Isolated from the Word as we become more dependent on what others say about it, versus reading it for ourselves.  Isolated as we become too busy to – pray, study, attend service, fellowship with other believers.

Our “righteous” divisions are isolating ourselves from the greater body.

And we think we are being holy.

That we have some greater knowledge than they do.

That our self gratifying interpretation is better.

We argue with fellow believers instead of loving them.

We have become proud, and our pride is literally festering and manifesting itself in every area of our lives.

And then we wonder why we are not known by our love?

Our love, has been overshadowed.

We have overshadowed Christ, with our own self righteousness.

We want the world to see us, how holy we are, how knowledgeable we are, and how much will live “in accordance to the scriptures”.

But we are told that all of that means nothing, if we don’t have love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Being right, has become more important than love.

If you wonder why no one seems to listen to you, I wonder…

Are you the sound of love?  Or, are you just making noise?

SEMINARY? How can I justify it?

 

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Autumn comes, and your church starts making announcements regarding the upcoming Small Groups and Bible Studies.  Sign up sheets are at the information desk, emails come from the church with more information about the studies.  You find yourself looking through the menu of possible studies…

Beth Moore’s Daniel Study

Lisa Harper’s study on Malachi.

Dave Ramesy’s Financial Peace class.

Love & Respect for Married Couples.

The MOPS group is doing the “Frazzled Female” study.

A women’s expository study on the book of Acts.

and the list goes on and on.

They are all good studies, and you wish you could make room for them all, but you can only choose one!

For one second, did it ever occur to you that you shouldn’t study the bible, or what the bible has to say on certain topics?

Did you question if you could afford the book?

Did it ever cross your mind as to whether or not it would be worth it?

I mean, really, what would you do with it?

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You may think those are ridiculous thoughts, but I would like to tell you that those questions are the exact ones I heard when sitting in a workshop about women in seminary.

In the New Testament, we had women sitting at the very feet of Jesus to learn from him.

In 2015, we have women questioning… trying to justify… getting formal biblical training.

There were women in the workshop who were trying to grapple with the commitment it would require to get formal biblical education.  Do I have enough time for it?  Can my family spare the time it would take for me to study?

There were women who were trying to justify the cost of seminary, when we live in a time where information is just a few clicks away.  They were wondering if the family could afford, and if they were being good stewards with their money, by investing in seminary.

The number one question asked:  “What would I do with it?”

So, let me get out my soap box for a moment.  And, let’s talk.

Ladies….

You are teachers of God’s word, every time you give scriptural advice to a friend, teach a Sunday School class or lead bible study.

You are messengers of God, when you show up at the homeless shelter, fly into another country to install water filters, or lean into a coworker who is struggling.

You are image bearers of God, charged with being godly women, honorable wives, and shapers of your children.

If all of our thoughts, words and actions should be God centered, revealing God to the world around us…

… how better is it then, that we get to know God’s word in a deeper way?

We should NEVER have to justify digging deeper into the scriptures.

It shouldn’t need to be justified, it should be a PRIORITY.

Can we afford NOT to?

And the good news is this… if God’s calling you to formal biblical training, God is making that more and more possible every day.

You can download a bible app for your phone or device, for FREE.  We have access to commentaries from trusted sources, at our finger tips, a google search away!

We have books that we can borrow from libraries, download into our kindles, and buy off of amazon on every subject from Early Church history to Apologetics for Women In Ministry.

These are all the right steps to take to digging in deeper.

And if God is calling you to formal education, there are affordable options out there.

There are certification programs and degree programs online, which are less expensive than brick and mortal schools.  Christian Leaders Institute offers a certification on a donation based model.   You give what you can afford.

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Christian Leaders Institute, as well as some other online colleges and seminaries offer degree seeking programs.  The cost for these degree programs are a less than traditional schools, and offer you the ability to work at your own pace.  You can take one class at a time, or a full course load.  There are payment plans and scholarships available for seminary education.

For some, there will be the option of attending seminary on a campus.

The point is that there are options out there, for those who are being called. 

I can not believe that God would ever admonish any of his children for investing money, time and energy into formal biblical knowledge.  Too much of the scriptures instructs us to not just listen to The Word, or read The Word, but to CONSUME it.

If you feel God is calling you, pray that He will reveal to you how to go about it.

Even if it begins with you, a couple of friends, and an open bible.

When Your Child Doesn’t Look Special Needs

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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 think 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.

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The great news is that you can find these resources all in one location, http://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.

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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.”

Looking for a Cause to Support?

CLIlogo

A very good friend of mine introduced me to the Christian Leaders Institute.  This program is an online, distance learning school that will help equip ministry leaders around the world.  They have a goal of training up 100,000 Christian Leaders by 2020, and by golly they just might do it!  The great thing about this school is that it is a donation based model for tuition.

Students end up a CLI because 1) they can’t afford to go to seminary    2) there is no seminary training in the country   or   3) they can not move their lives to attend seminary due to job or family.

Some students give generously, they can afford school but can’t make the move.  Some students give what they can, they want the education & pay into it an amount that they can afford without taking on debt or money out of their living budget.  And, some students, are unable to give due to their situation.

We know that Christ equipped those he called.  Many would drop everything to follow him.  Others would use their resources to support the ministry.  I can’t imagine Christ would have turned away anyone who wanted to listen, because they couldn’t give.  Can you?  Well, neither can CLI.

So, why am I promoting CLI on here?

1) I am a student, myself.  CLI fits well into my life because I can work around my schedule – I have family, community and church body commitments that I can’t walk away from.

2) I know that there are readers, who just like me, feel the call to ministry training… but due to their current situation in life … they feel that is isn’t obtainable.  CLI makes it obtainable.  Maybe that person is you, or perhaps you know someone who feels called but doesn’t have the means.  I hope you would share this resource with them, bringing them into the fold of the student body and one of the 100,000 by 2020.

3) I know that there are readers who either have the means to support CLI’s goal … or know someone who does.  It would be my hope that you would share this information with your resources and help fund this amazing opportunity for ministry training and building up leaders around the world.

CLI offers certificates that can take you deeper into biblical knowledge, or if you follow their program to the very end… you will end up with a Diploma in Divinity which is equivalent to a seminary degree.  The professors are vetted, qualified to teach and have received official seminary training themselves.

If you feel called to make  donation to CLI, click the link below.    You can donate as little as $15, and help equip leaders around the world (or even in your own backyard) share the life changing power of Jesus Christ.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!