Tuesday, July 26, 2011

For This I Have Jesus

For this I have Jesus
(Written on the day my daughter left for her deployment)

My daughter just left for her deployment to Afghanistan. This morning and now this afternoon my mind goes back to a summer day sixteen years ago when she left for Air Force Boot Camp. She was so excited. I kept thinking, “She thinks she’s going to church camp. She has no idea what she’s in for.”

We went into the office where she was to check in. She said to the recruitment officer, “Is anyone sitting in the front seat yet?” She could hardly tell me bye. I watched her climb into the van that was going to take her to this new life of hers. I drove off and started crying. My little girl was moving forward and I knew life would never be the same. She was growing up and I was left behind. All those years of teaching and mothering her were over. Now she was off on her own. It seemed like my heart was going to break that day. All I could do was turn her over the Lord and trust her to Him.

Now today she is headed for Afghanistan. We’ve talked a lot in the last few weeks so today not many words needed to be said. Between us was a quiet mature mother daughter love. Oh there are things I wanted to say but I knew if I did I'd break down. Besides she asked me to French braid her hair and if I started crying my eyes would blur and I wouldn't be able to get the braids divided evenly. It’s a small mother kind of a thing I could do for her today.

As she left she hugged me and said, “Thanks mom for coming here. I love you.” She is so grown up now with a husband and three wonderful boys. She knows what she’s doing now. She is dependable and depended upon in her position in the Air Force. She has her orders and she will do a good job. She is a strong and mature young woman. But no mom wants to think of her daughter serving in the military in a foreign country enmeshed in conflict.

So this afternoon I sit in her house with tears streaming down my face yet again, I rest assured that she is safe in the arms of Christ. I tell myself she will be fine. I can help by living here in her house and helping my son in-law take care of her sons.

My job is to be a calm and loving grandmother. I’ll show the boys the yellow ribbon tied to the tree out front and use it to remind them that their mom will come back. I’ll walk the little one around the house and talk about the pictures of him and his mom. These will serves as a daily reminder of how much his mom loves him. I’ll keep the two older boys busy and enjoy their companionship. We’ll have fun and hopefully the time will pass quickly and she’ll be home before we know it.

I will constantly pray Psalm 91 over her and over others that I know who are serving our country.

Life is good when you walk in the shadow of the Almighty.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Does Your Church Welcome Kids From Single-Parent Homes?

What if a divorced single parent family suddenly showed up at your church and unknown to you they were involved in a reality show?

What if you found out, would you handle things any differently than when you didn’t know? Stop and think about that for a few minutes.

What attitude would you betray when you didn’t know? Most of you are probably saying, “It doesn’t make any difference as I love all children. I would welcome them like other children.” Really? Seriously? Because I’ve been at various children’s minister’s conferences and if I could see your face and expression right now, they would tell the real story. Just as they do when I approach you at conferences about working with the child of divorce.

These are some of the comments I get.
• We don’t have any children in our community from divorced families.
• We aren’t allowed to say the word “divorce” in our church. I really do want to work with them but my hands are tied.
• Oh! Those kids! They are too out of control for me. No thank you!
• We tried but divorce kids don’t show up consistently and their parent never knows what’s going on.

Here’s how I’d like to address some of these comments.
• Are you aware that nationally one in three children live in a single parent home? (www.aecf.org) No matter what community you live in, there should be children from a single parent home. If your church is reaching out to the community at large, then in reality you should have one in three children in your church classes from a single parent home.
• Have you tried using statistics for your area with your church leadership? How about finding a successful adult child of divorce and telling your church leadership about what can happen when a church does reach out to some of these children. Or how about giving the statistics about the kids in jail, teen pregnancies or suicide victims and how the majority of these kids come from divorced homes. What might happen if your church reached out to them?
• Ever wonder if you might be out of control if you didn’t know where you were going to sleep each night or where you might wake up each morning? I think if I had to live the life of many of these kids from divorced homes, I’d be out of control too. How about applying some Jesus arms and love to these kids? Or take some classes or read some articles about children of divorce.*
• Know why some of these kids aren’t consistent in their attendance? They go to the other parent’s home every other weekend. Why do we punish the child, when it’s the adult that is causing the problems? Or perhaps the child gets embarrassed at that annual, “attendance contest” we start up every year at the beginning of school. The second week the child of divorce is out of the running.

Let’s go back to that reality show scene. If you knew you were going to be on national television, how would you handle things? Would you react any differently?

Maybe you would be kinder to the children. You might do everything in your power to keep that smile on your face. You might work harder at trying to register five kids from the same family but all with different last names. Instead of talking to the parent, you might actually try connecting with the child in front of you. You just might develop some empathy for their situation.

When the cameras were turned off, I imagine some of you would sit down and seriously rethink your position and your feelings toward children of divorce.

I hope none of you ever have to face T.V. cameras as you welcome children into your church. But why wait to find out how you would react. Sit down today, pray and think about these children. Many will be lost to the Kingdom if you don’t reach out to them. Christ came to save these children too or maybe especially these children, as many don’t have parents that will bring them to the cross.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” Luke 19:10 (NIV)

Linda Ranson Jacobs
Healthy Loving Partnerships for Our Kids
Email: Linda@hlp4.com

© 2011 by the author

* More great articles about how to successfully minister to the child of divorce in your church can be found at Linda’s website http://www.hlp4.com. Linda also offers support, encouragement, and suggestions to help single parents and those working with single parent children.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fill the Jars with Water?

“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’” John 2:7-8

In this story Jesus and his mother were attending a wedding. When all the wine at the wedding was gone, Jesus Mother wanted him to provide more wine. Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water. Now in a practical world this makes no sense. You need wine so you fill jars with water? Huh?

But Jesus doesn’t always do things in a practical way; neither at this wedding feast, nor in your life and your single parent home. Sometimes He does the most impractical thing. Ever run out of money before the next paycheck? You may offer up a quick prayer but then you may start to look for the sensible thing to do.

Do you cut back on groceries? Do you hold the payment for the electric bill? Maybe you’re like me and you sit down and try and try to figure things out on your own. You’ve worked hard and you have really tried but then one of your children got sick and there went your skimpily trimmed budget. Happened to me more than once.

God doesn’t always deal in possibilities but sometimes he does the impossible. At the wedding feast Jesus told the servants to fill all the jars with water and then He turned the water into wine. Usually the bridegroom served the best wine first. When the servants took this wine to the master to taste, the master was amazed that this wine was the best wine of the wedding. He even complimented the bridegroom publicly for saving the best until last.

Allow Jesus to do the impractical for you. Ask Him to turn your problems into something you can manage. Or better yet, ask Him to take care of it for you. And then sit back, have faith, believe and watch what God does. He’ll make it better than anything you can imagine in your human and limited mind.

We learn that this was the first of the miraculous signs Jesus performed. But here is the most important part of the story, “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” John 2:11b (NIV)

By revealing the glory of our Savior in your life, your children can learn to put their faith in him also. 

This devotion and other devotions for single parents can be found at www.hlp4.com

Linda Ranson Jacobs
Healthy Loving Partnerships for Our Kids
Email:  Linda@hlp4.com 

© 2011 by the author

Monday, January 3, 2011

DC4K Evaluation

We are just finished our first DC4K session at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Youngsville, NC.  I hope some of the rest of you will evaluate your group and share your discoveries with me.

First of all the good things: 
* We had a fantastic co-leader. Miss Diane is the most organized person I have ever worked with. She makes my job so easy. She always has all the art projects set up; all the materials and supplies on hand and she studies the lesson plan. She is easy going and dependable. So my first suggestion for anyone that wants a successful DC4K - find yourself a Miss Diane who can be a strong behind the scenes kind of leader. 
* The kids had a good time. They laughed and kidded around a lot and seem to enjoy each other.
* The kids loved the read aloud stories. When it was my turn to do the stories, I was pretty dramatic and expressive. I did not use the questions at the end. We let the kids choose a blanket or a pillow to use during story time. 
* The kids seemed to enjoy and connect with the Safe Keepers and the Jr. Safe Keepers. 
* I think we connected pretty well with the parents. A lot of communication with the parent took place on Facebook after the kids were in bed. We did a lot of IMs back and forth. 
* This group of kids loved the group games. 

Some of the mistakes we made or bad habits we slipped into:  
*  We were never on time with our schedule. That's mostly my fault. We started at 6:30 but most of the kids were late. Then instead of directing the kids into stations, the kids milled around for awhile. Next session I'm going to work on training the greeter a little better and helping them understand part of their job is to get the kids into stations. 
* We got kind of sloppy with our stations. Toward the end our kids tended to wander back and forth between stations. We need to work harder next time encouraging the kids to finish what they are working on and then move to the next station. 
*  We need better boundaries at the snack and break bread time. We had a couple of kids that wanted to stand up and eat or take their food to another station. 
*  Our circle up time needs to be worked on. I think I'm going to move the circle up to a different area next session. Where we had it, the sound echoed and seemed to be too loud. 
* Our Treasure Box was a disaster. We need to figure out how to push this better next session.
* I kept forgetting to do the Alphabet Stretches. The kids did pretty good with them but I got rushed and forget them. Have to work on me!!!!
* Our music got completely lost. Next session we have got to do better with this. 

We have seen a lot of healing. I know this because of what the parents told me. After Facebooking about how much fun the kids had with the "Loving Is" charades, one of the moms whose child was sick that Monday wanted me to explain how to play it so she could play it at home with her sick son. How cool is that? 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Special Christmas experience

Twenty five years ago when I was a struggling single mom and broke, my church provided bunches of Christmas presents for my kids and I. It was hard to accept those gifts and a very humbling experience. I couldn't believe the Lord blessed our little family so much that year.

Tuesday night I had the privilege of taking part in providing Christmas for a single mom and her four kids. It was an honor to take Christmas to this family. It also brought back many memories. I wanted to tell that mom that life gets better when you allow the Lord to be in control. I wanted to explain that I knew I how hard it was to accept the generosity of others. But I knew that she was to overwhelmed too hear those words right now.

Tuesday night brought tears to my eyes. It was special to represent the loving arms of God and our church family. But there was another reason it was special. The teenager in this family finally connected with me. I have been waiting patiently and not so patiently sometimes, to form a relationship with this beautiful young lady. Tuesday night when we got there, she left the room. I was a little disappointed as I wanted her to take part in this family event.

In a few minutes she returned and handed me a folded piece of paper. It was a homemade Christmas card. She had gone in her room and made me a Christmas card. Imagine that? It was in pencil and she had put my name on it and then signed it. It is the most special card I have received this year. I am treasuring it everyday. By the time I returned home, this teen had already sent me a Facebook friend request. We are now officially connected. I look forward to mentoring her and being her friend.

We never know what the Lord is doing with our lives, our experiences, our hurts and pain. But I know if we allow Him, He will use every part of our lives for His glory. For me it's been many years to be able to replicate the experience my kids and I had. I pray this single mom stay close to the Lord and that one day she will be able to pass the kindness forward.