I once knew a little girl who grew up in a family where both parents were alcoholics, she was the baby of three girls, all 5 years apart. The parents moved their family across the country away from all family support and oversight, so they were in survival mode, and didn't make time to raise the girls. Their motto was, "children are to be seen and not heard". Frequently there was no money for food, and her parents were too proud to get the girls on a free, or reduced lunch rate at school. At the age of six...
I once knew a little girl who grew up in a family where both parents were alcoholics; she was the baby of three girls, all 5 years apart. The parents moved their family across the country away from all family support and oversight, so they were in survival mode and didn't make time to raise the girls. Their motto was, "children are to be seen and not heard". Frequently there was no money for food, and her parents were too proud to get the girls on a free or reduced lunch rate at school.
At the age of six, the Sunday before this little girl’s first day of school EVER, her mom walked her to school, explaining to turn left at the Jack-and-Jill Donut shop to get to school. Then she was instructed to "walk in through those doors tomorrow when you get to school, find an adult, tell them your name, they will help you get to your class." So, the next day the 6-year-old little girl dutifully got out of bed, got dressed, and walked to school in a very bad neighborhood.
The girls rarely felt welcome inside the home or safe outside in the bad neighborhood, and drama was ever present, as one would expect in that kind of environment. One night the parents had a Christmas party (there was somehow always enough money for alcohol), and the little girl got scared, so she asked her mom to come lie down with her until she fell asleep. But her father yelled at her, scaring her even more. One of the party guests came to the rescue, offering to lie down with the little girl, saying she was tired anyway because she was pregnant.
That sweet lady told that little girl that night all about Jesus and how, if she prayed, Jesus would hear and answer her prayers. Then she asked if they could pray together. The little girl enthusiastically agreed - she didn't have any other adults to help her, maybe this Jesus would.
She just couldn't stop thinking about that, so in all the infinite wisdom of a 6-year-old, she decided to test this out. She wanted a dog so badly, but she knew there wasn't enough food for the humans, what was the likelihood of getting a dog? But what did she have to lose? So, operation 'DOG PRAYER' began - and within a week the prayer lady and her family were moving and couldn't take their basset hound, Precious, and voila! PRAYER ANSWERED! Hmm, she thought, this Jesus is pretty cool and proceeded to pray for a bike - just as unlikely as the first prayer. Maybe even less likely, because her parents were both animal lovers. So, Operation 'BIKE PRAYER' commenced. It wasn't long before some of the neighborhood kids all donated pieces and parts from their bikes, and her dad put it all together and painted it and Voila! Another PRAYER ANSWERED!
"I will be forever grateful for that precious lady who stood up to my Dad, comforted me that Christmas season, and introduced me to Jesus."
Not long after that, the parents were "out" and their car got towed back to the home before either parent came back. There were two head prints busted through the windshield with blood all over everything. The dad ended up in jail and the Mom in the hospital that night. So, the little girl's prayers turned into some much more important topics than a bike or a dog.
But eventually she forgot about Jesus and prayer all together.
It wasn't until she was in her late 20's that she picked up a Science magazine that had an article about dogs that the Bible came into her radar - an unlikely source, I know - but that's just how God works! The article told of a study where they brought two sets of dogs into a clinic and tested to make sure they were all healthy. Then they cut into the dogs’ bones to make sure the bone marrow was good. One group of dogs were caged separately for two weeks and only their basic survival needs were met. No love, no interaction with the techs or the other dogs. The second group of dogs all got to live together, and the techs would love and play with them a lot. Then they cut into the bones again, and the dogs who lacked the love, affection, and companionship had the bone marrow drying up. The article then quoted Prov 17:22:
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
That was enough to make me think, "If that's true, what else in the Bible is true". That little girl was me - and as I look back over my life, I can see - God was with me, watching over and protecting me the whole time - ever since that first prayer I prayed at the age of 6.
I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who takes the time to love and care for you own kids, and a very special thanks to those of you who love and care for your kids’ friends. You never know what they are dealing with at home. The kindness and love of an adult for a child is PRICELESS, and you never know what God's Plan for them is - I will be forever grateful for that precious lady who stood up to my Dad, comforted me that Christmas season, and introduced me to Jesus.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
There is something so special and heartwarming about the easy connection that forms between people who are just beginning to live their lives and those who have lived a good, full life that is coming to a close. It never fails to touch my heart to see the special band between the Greatest Generation and children...
There is something so special and heartwarming about the easy connection that forms between people who are just beginning to live their lives and those who have lived a good, full life that is coming to a close. Seeing the special bond between the Greatest Generation and children never fails to touch my heart.
We recently had the opportunity for our kids to serve Thanksgiving lunch at the Edgewood Senior’s center, along with my sister’s boys. I really didn't know what to expect when we got there, but what I definitely did not expect was how much the kids would all love serving. The boys would wait eagerly for trays of food to take to each person, and when they set the food down in front of each person, they would smile gently and quietly say ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ and then quickly walk/run off to retrieve another tray to serve. It really caught me by surprise to see how much joy there was on their young faces as they spent the afternoon serving those who spent their best years serving us and our country.
That’s not to say that the whole afternoon went off without a hitch. My 3 year old daughter was eager to help alongside her big bothers and cousins and there were a few battles of the will as she walked to a table carrying a tray, and I tried to walk along with her, helping to steady the tray so that it didn't end up all over the floor. Fortunately, the seniors were gracious and found humor at her strong will instead of being upset that their lunch almost ended up on the floor, or that their mashed potatoes may or may not have had a little thumb stuck in them by little hands trying to grip a large tray.
"The kids got to learn that we can bring glory to God through serving others, and that serving others is actually fun!"
When all of the trays had been handed out, the kids set to work cleaning up the empty plates. They were such eager helpers that we had to make sure they didn't clear any plates that weren't done. During this time they got to visit with many of the people who had come for lunch, and were gifted with candies, smiles, and hugs. When all of the work was complete and it was time to go, the kids were all bummed because they had such a great time serving others and getting to know those they had served.
It was such a blessing that the Edgewood Senior Center allowed these young children to come and serve Thanksgiving lunch, both for the seniors, but even more so for my kids and nephews and their parents.
The kids got to learn that we can bring glory to God through serving others, and that serving others is actually fun! They got to see that true joy comes not through the toys that we have or our fancy clothes or cars or houses, but through showing God’s love to those around us. This Christmas season we are working hard to make sure that our kids know the real reason that we are celebrating the season, and to keep the focus off of the presents and on the love God has for us, and showing that love to others.
Vacation Bible School… definitely sounds like something for the kids, but let me tell you, I grow so much from my experiences with it every year I get to participate. The theme is Power Up: Raise Your Game. It’s cool that we get to tie God’s word to something most kids are seeing or doing every single day...
Vacation Bible School… definitely sounds like something for the kids, but let me tell you, I grow so much from my experiences with it every year I get to participate. The theme is Power Up: Raise Your Game. It’s cool that we get to tie God’s word to something most kids are seeing or doing every single day.
While video games are being played after VBS by these awesome kiddos we’ve had here, I am praying that they remember the spoken truths that we talked about with them.
I was blessed to get to be the storyteller this year at VBS. You know, get up, give the big picture, and hopefully make the kids laugh a bit in the process.
I love telling stories, so this was definitely up my alley; I’ve discovered over the years that I’m a bit of a perfectionist in certain areas and that perfectionist really came out in me yesterday. I had worked hard to memorize all the lines so I could fully engage the kids and not be distracted from reading off a paper.
I was nervous but was doing my best to remember that God was still in control and I couldn’t mess this up- not really, anyway. Well, I got up there, started telling the story…and totally messed it up. I skipped lines all over the place, had to get back on track multiple times, etc. By the time I stepped off stage, I was really disappointed in myself. I couldn’t believe that I had messed up after all that practice!
Did the kids even learn anything? Did any of it make sense? How could I have done this? I went back up to the office to get some work done and while I sat in the quiet, I started praying. Pretty sure it was mostly a pity party prayer, not gonna lie. But God was so gracious and He spoke to me in my frustration. Kind of felt like He was basically saying, “Sarah, you do remember what you just told the kids right? You just told them where our real power comes from. Yet here you are, trying to be powerful on your own without me.” Ouch. That hit hard, but it was a truth I needed to hear. I had gotten up to encourage those kids to turn to God for their power all while I was relying on my OWN strength to get me through the story telling.
It’s neat that we can take a week to really focus on God. We’re answering questions from the kids, making sure we’re giving an example, but we’re also trying to be really honest with these guys. They’re incredibly receptive and are eager to soak up whatever they can. So what is a better way to encourage them than to admit that we still mess up and still need God’s strength to get us through? I’ve gotten to see several adults doing that with the kids already and it encourages me to do the same.
To let go of the pride and let God be glorified through my mess.
Of course, since that’s the last thing the Enemy wants me to do, he is going to be trying his hardest to distract me from the truth, to tempt me to put my eyes back on myself instead of God, and get those seeds of doubt planted in my heart. The awesome thing, though, is that I know he’s going to be doing this. So now I know how to prepare myself for that battle: by stepping back and remembering where my true power comes and letting God be the strength inside me.
Definitely easier said than done, but, just as we’ve been teaching the kids here at VBS, “God’s power gives us everything we need to lead a Godly life.” 2 Peter 1:3a (NIRV)
We love to talk about transformation here at Mountain Christian Church, and truly, it is one of the best, most faith-building parts of Christianity, watching God transform the people around you. But, to be transformed, we first must be offered up. This year...
We love to talk about transformation here at Mountain Christian Church, and truly, it is one of the best, most faith-building parts of Christianity, watching God transform the people around you.
But, to be transformed, we first must be offered up.
This year for the AMPED UP VBS program, I was asked to head up the crafts area, so it was my responsibility to choose which crafts to do, (from a list of suggestions the creator of our VBS program offered), get the supplies either through donations or purchasing, oversee the volunteers, and run one of the craft rooms.
We received several donations, and amongst those was this oddball plastic container of pony beads. Pony beads were on the list of items needed, but these were too few and only three colors. We needed many colors and many, many beads to make the craft work. But everyone has made pony bead bracelets before and we were making bracelets based on binary code, so I decided to purchase some that looked more hi-tech and unique so the kids wouldn’t see it as the same old thing.
I then set aside the oddball container of beads, thinking they were useless.
Day One came and went, everyone made bracelets with the purchased beads. Success!
And in my pile of miscellaneous craft supplies, there still sat the oddball beads.
The craft team got together at the end of Day One, so we could all practice making the craft for Day Two. It was one we knew everyone would love. The kids got to make rock climbers.
By taping straws and a penny to the backside of a paper man, and then running yarn through the straws, they were actually able to make him climb by pulling the yarn in a certain way. Too fun!
While we were reading through the directions - more carefully and thoroughly now that we actually got to make the things - we realized we were going to need some PONY BEADS for that day. We needed to tie them to the ends of the yarn so it didn’t feed itself back through the straws.
Immediately, my mind went to the oddball container. Colors don’t matter here, and each kid only needs two of them, so of course there were plenty, and the smaller beads I purchased would never have worked.
God provided just what we needed.
Thank goodness the person who donated them did, and thank goodness we didn’t just throw them out. So, that “oddball container of pony beads” actually became a lifesaver for our Day Two craft.
Don’t discount those oddballs who volunteer, and don’t stay home because you perceive YOURSELF to be the oddball who just doesn't fit. God has a plan for you! A special place for you to fill. Offer yourself up and watch God transform you, or even better, use you to transform those around you.
(Photo credit to Jasmine Mostrom. Thank you for your amazing contribution to VBS Jasmine!)
I heard a story the other day that I just can’t shake.
A young man, Jerome, was awarded a scholarship to Wheaton College through the Posse Foundation. Jerome was transported from his high school in The Bronx to Wheaton’s beautiful campus in Illinois. He had access to everything he needed to succeed at Wheaton, including a support team supplied through Posse. But Jerome didn’t make it past his first semester before dropping out. Why?...
I heard a story the other day that I just can’t shake.
A young man, Jerome, was awarded a scholarship to Wheaton College through the Posse Foundation. Jerome was transported from his high school in The Bronx to Wheaton’s beautiful campus in Illinois. He had access to everything he needed to succeed at Wheaton, including a support team supplied through Posse. But Jerome didn’t make it past his first semester before dropping out. Why? In his words, Jerome simply believed he didn’t belong there…wasn’t deserving of a college education.
A young lady, Melanie, attended the same public high school as Jerome and was in his graduating class. Everyone always told Melanie that she’d be president when she grew up. She was that smart, and that motivated. When Melanie arrived as a freshman at this school and found that it had no advanced placement classes or library, she concluded that instead of being prepared for college, she and her classmates were being prepared to, in her words, “flip burgers” for the rest of their lives. She, too, sadly chose to believe that she was not worthy of a college education or a bright future outside of the poverty-stricken neighborhood in which she’d grown up. She struggles today as a single mom, and wonders every day what might have been if she’d chosen to believe something different.
The core belief that Jerome and Melanie share is that they are essentially worthless. They believe that they have nothing to offer the world, and so, are undeserving of anything good in it.
These beliefs are false. And we Christians, we are the truth-bearers.
How can we communicate to this generation of children that they are valuable beyond what they can imagine? How can we show them the great love that resides in the Father’s heart for them?
How can we convince them that He made them for a purpose, and gave them gifts to share with the world and glorify Him?
Well…we’re working on it. There are so many factors that come into play in a child’s perspective of his or her place in the world. But we do have the opportunity to become one of those factors…one of those voices in their lives that help form their ideas of themselves and who they were made to be.
Shine has created a database for the purpose of offering special guest presenters to the teachers at A. Montoya Elementary. It is our hope that a teacher could look on our database and find a biologist, a lawyer, a business owner, a stay-at-home parent, a chef, a politician, an artist, and YOU…a person who would be willing to come in once or twice a year to speak to his class or help him develop a special activity that pertains to your area of expertise.
The goals of this database are as follows:
- Lend support to our teachers. Teaching in a Title 1 school means that you fight the core beliefs Jerome and Melanie formed at young ages. This is not an easy task. Help them change these precious kids’ minds about themselves, and give the teachers new depth to their lessons. Show the teachers they’re not alone in their fight for this generation.
- Show the kids their worth. They won’t believe they’re worth your It means a lot when you step out of your busy, important life to be with them. It demonstrates our core belief that God loves them.
- Encourage the kids to dream. When you, a real person from their own community (NOT a teacher) tells them that a bright future is within their reach, it sticks a bit more than when their teacher says it. In fact, you may be the person that causes them to believe it.
Please consider adding yourself to the list of potential presenters. We need artists, scientists, writers, stay-at-home parents, crafters, runners, business people, and YOU! Please click on the following link to fill out the form to be added to the database. Praise God that we get to be part of His transformative work!
Click here to learn more about Shine and all the ways they serve students, teachers and families at A. Montoya!