Category Archives: Christian Life

A New Resolution

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 ESV

While most of us make them every year, New Year’s resolutions have a terribly low success rate. Could it be that we fail because we have misguided goals for ourselves? Or, are we concerned too much with the physical results?

Even though we’re just over a week into the New Year, some of you may have already given up on one or more of your resolutions. Others of you may be still trying to better yourself through dieting, exercise or more, but regretting your decision.

But what if we told you that you can make this the best year of your life? Hint: it just won’t happen through extra trips to the gym, or by trying out the new fad diet. Nothing is inherently wrong with these pursuits, but it is important to keep them from becoming idols. Strive to use your resolutions as ways to grow more dependent on God, because to make this the best year of your life, you have to make it your best year spiritually.

In Matthew 6:3–18, Jesus is in the middle of giving His Sermon on the Mount. In this passage, He speaks specifically of giving, prayer and fasting. Not just that we should do these things, but that He expects us to.

Verse 3: “But when you give…”

Verse 5: “And when you pray…”

Verse 16: “And when you fast…”

Later on, in verse 33, Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

So, how can we have the best year spiritually? Seek first the kingdom of God.

And how do we do that?

We give to the needy, so as not to be overcome with greed and envy.

We pray, exercising our dependence on God and our desire to be in relationship with Him.

And we fast, saying no to earthly things and saying yes to God.

The practice of all these disciplines of the Christian life will help motivate you to stick with your resolutions when you want to quit, and—most important—help you grow spiritually.

Happy Thanksgiving from Family Christian: What We Are Most Thankful For

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. – 1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV

With Thanksgiving just two days away, we’d like to share with you some of the many things we are thankful for here at Family Christian. In response to a survey, almost 20 team members from many different roles within the organization gave the top three things they were thankful for this year. With all the answers provided, this list could go on forever, but here are just a few.

Without a doubt, we are most thankful for God and His grace.

Family Christian would not exist without the grace of God. All the work that we do would be impossible without Him.

And while Family Christian would not exist without God, we would not function without you. We are so thankful for your prayers and support, and all of your purchases that help us fulfill our mission of bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Thankful to Serve

We are so thankful for the lives we touch.

We are also thankful to work for a company which whose mission is to put purpose over profits, striving to make a difference in the lives of so many people all over the world.

From widows and orphans to all of you, our main goal is to share the love of Christ every single day.

We are blessed to be able to provide you with products that will help you find, grow, share and celebrate your faith, and at the same time give hope to widows and orphans all over the world.

Finally, we are thankful for all of our family and friends. They enrich our lives so much, by sticking with us through our ups and downs, promoting our spiritual growth, and helping mold us into the people we are today.

There are so many other things we are thankful for: health, the seasons and second chances to a name few, but ultimately everything comes from God. To Him all thanksgiving and praise is due.

As you celebrate this year, go beyond just thinking about food and football, and remember to give thanks to the Lord for every gift He has given you, including the most important gift of all: the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Heart for Giving

In Acts 20:35 (NIV), Paul tells us that Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

However, it is a struggle for many people today to give without feeling obligated or without expectation of something in return. Whether it is the giving of gifts, of money, or of time, many of us find it difficult to make a sacrifice without getting some type of repayment.

When others need help, is your initial reaction to think, “What’s in it for me?” If so, I encourage you to meditate on the verses below and evaluate whether or not you have a heart for giving.

If this is an area of difficulty in your life, ask God to work in your heart and to teach you to give cheerfully and without expectation.

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

We have been given the greatest gift of all – the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This gift was given freely to all who accept it, without receiving anything in return. This is the heart for giving that we should model in our lives today.

Deuteronomy 15:10

“Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”

Proverbs 11:25

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

Proverbs 18:16

“A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”

Luke 6:30

“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

1 Corinthians 13:3

“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Hebrews 13:16

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

1 John 3:17

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

God asks us to give not out of obligation or with any reservation, but rather to give because He first gave to us. It is not what we give, or how much we give, but whether or not we have a heart for it.

With the holiday season upon us, now is the perfect time to practice your giving. To you that could mean giving a surprise present to someone and not expecting anything in return, or it could mean giving up a Saturday afternoon and volunteering somewhere.

Just remember, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

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This post was written by Family Christian’s own Alex Rogers. He loves coffee, movies, and spending time with friends and family.

Honoring Our Soldiers on Veterans Day

Soldier Covered by Angel Wings“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 NIV

When I reflect on this Scripture verse from John, the first thought that comes to mind is the sacrifice that members of the military make for us. It truly underscores the selfless action that a person makes when they decide to enlist in the military knowing that they could be called to put their life on the line for their fellow man.

This verse takes on special meaning leading up to Veterans Day, the day our nation sets aside each year to honor all of America’s veterans – living and dead. I encourage you not to just think of this as a day that mail isn’t delivered and government offices are closed. Look deeper and remember the true sacrifice that these men and women make to defend the freedom we enjoy.

We have all heard the saying, “Freedom isn’t free.” It is easy to say it without much thought. But when you hear of veterans like Travis Mills who lost parts of both legs and arms from an explosive device in Afghanistan, it is hard not to be moved. Travis is just one of thousands upon thousands of military veterans who have been critically injured in the Afghanistan and Iraq war zones. They are left with debilitating injuries that they will be coping with for the rest of their lives – all in the name of protecting our freedom.

Through the beginning of 2015, 6,800 troops have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. These veterans paid the ultimate price in the name of our freedom. It is staggering when you think about all of the veterans who have died in the line of service through all of the wars and conflicts that our country has been involved in. Lives not completely fulfilled, destinies not met. They all played an important role in ensuring that our country remains the home of the free. And for that they should never be forgotten.

We are blessed to have fellow citizens who stand up and answer the call of defending of our nation’s freedom when needed. They know they could be put in harm’s way but they do it to protect the freedom that their forefathers fought so hard to achieve. From World War I and II to Korea and Vietnam to present day, brave men and women have come forward to serve valiantly.

How do you show your gratitude to the veterans who have served our country? Saying thank you seems so inadequate. Some of these veterans have been critically injured and can’t return to the life they once knew.

I think that a simple show of gratitude, such as saying thank you for your service, is powerful though. This gesture reminds veterans that their deeds haven’t been overlooked or forgotten. Whether they served in Vietnam, Iraq, Korea or Desert Storm, all veterans appreciate having their efforts acknowledged.

Sending a note or gift to a hospitalized veteran or one living in a veteran’s home is a meaningful thing to do on Veterans Day or any day of the year. Even a simple thank you will surely brighten their day. If you live near a veteran’s hospital or veteran’s home, plan a visit to thank some veterans in person. It may feel awkward at first, but it will be something they won’t soon forget.

Tonight, say an extra prayer for our military members. These brave men and women are far from home and are in dangerous situations. Pray that they have the courage to face the forces of evil. Pray that they stay safe. Pray that they return safely to their families.

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This post was written by Family Christian’s own Tammi Skellenger. She enjoys camping, football and spending time with her husband and two golden retrievers.

Helping Your Child Get Into Their Dream College: Part Two, The Scholarships

This is the second part of a series on helping your child get into their dream college. Part one discusses testing.

College is expensive. Tuition alone costs a monstrous amount, but then there’s room and board, a meal plan, travel costs and let’s not forget text books — yes, some really do cost hundreds.

But one of the best kept secrets when applying to school is that you don’t have to pay it all. You can earn it.

Most students concerned about college try to get a job to help pay for school. Instead of looking for minimum wage work, I focused on being a student. And within only two years, I’d earned $40,000 to put towards my college education.

How? Private scholarships.

Most students and parents assume that they will only earn what their school of choice gives them. They then miss out on the wonderful opportunities that exist through private scholarship organizations.

I’m here to tell you that with the right attitude and diligent hard work, students can make more money studying for your SATs and applying for scholarship competitions than most who have a job all throughout high school.

Here’s how.

The Prep Work:

1. Have your student study the SAT by taking practice tests. I lost count of how many times I actually took the SAT and ACT. The best way to do well is to know how the test is structured. Buy the practice test books and have your child utilize them. You can even sign up your student to receive the SAT question of the day sent directly to their email — if they take this every day, they are getting more exposure to the style and format of the questions.

2. Help them make a resume. Students don’t need to wait until they’re job searching to have a resume. They should keep it on file and have it ready at all times. If they haven’t had much job experience, then they can include any awards or accomplishments, volunteer service, extracurriculars or special skills.

3. Help them perfect the short bio application essay (less than 500 words). This is your student’s time to shine and tell the judges about life experience and what makes them a good contender for their competition. Word of advice: students should not over-emphasize other scholarships they have already won, as some organizations want to identify new potential winners.

4. Guide them to read voraciously. Reading deeply and widely will help students answer scholarship questions and will aid them in writing the necessary short answer essays on the standardized tests and on the grant application forms.

collegeprep

5. Assist in identifying candidates to write letters of recommendation. It’s helpful for your student to go ahead and ask important people to write a letter of recommendation for them. Consider a wide range of people — teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors, employers etc.

The Process:

Help your student go for it! Here are a few sample organizations that provide generous amounts of money to high school students applying for college. Your student will usually create an account and then submit your application.

A few scholarships:

National Society of High School Scholars – This is an honors society that I joined as a senior after receiving an invitational letter. They have monthly scholarships that your students can apply for and some are quite simple. Not only is this a great way to earn money, but membership is also a good resume-builder.

Distinguished Young Women – I walked away from DYW with $20,000 to be put towards Wheaton College, the school of my dreams. This organization is for girls in their senior year of high school. Students compete in 5 categories: Fitness, Self-Expression (onstage question), Talent, Interview and Scholastics. Not only can this program help you gain money but it is also a thrilling experience and a wonderful opportunity for students to challenge themselves and to get involved in their community.

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) – This organization is for college athletes, so if your child plans on taking sports to school, look into the leadership programs, grants and scholarships with the NCAA.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) – I also participated in this organization. This program serves to educate young people about patriotism and the fundamental values of our nation. Students compete at several different levels in an essay competition: Post, Regional, State, National. The competition is called “Voice of Democracy”.

Siemens Foundation – Siemens offers both a merit scholarship and a national competition for math, science and technology. Applicants create a project and write a research report on their findings to be evaluated by a panel of judges in the selected field. If your child prefers science fairs to literary analysis, Siemens is one to consider.

Ayn Rand Institute – Every year, there is a substantial essay competition in honor of the magnificent writer and political thinker Ayn Rand. The competition for Grade 12 – College is on her book Atlas Shrugged and the winner walks away with $20,000. It’s worth looking into.

The Official College Board – This is the organization that releases the SAT. Through them, you can find online questions, study guides and other resourceful materials. There are also merit-based scholarships through private organizations. It’s helpful for your student to create a profile with the College Board and browse scholarships that match your needs.

I recently received an email from someone working at my school’s Financial Aid department telling me that I brought in more private scholarships than most students they see. She was asking me how this was possible because they’re always working to make college affordable and she wanted to know my story so that it could potentially help other applying students.

This is how.

In just a handful of hours, any student can apply for a plethora of scholarships. Think about the possibilities! If your child wins one quick-draw $5,000 scholarship that probably took only two-three hours to prepare for, they’ve just made over $1500 an hour.

This is the kind of work that pays off. This is the kind of work that pays for college. Help your child do the research and learn how to apply their strengths. They can work hard and work smart — they, too, can earn $40,000 for college.

——

This post was written by Ciera Horton, a unique blend of academic and artistic. She is a writer and world traveler, a lover of old books and swing dancing, and a student at Wheaton College in Chicago.  She shares her culturally-engaging outlook on literature, education and social hot topics for the Christian millennial on her blog, www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

A Case for Volunteering

Throughout the Bible you can find verse after verse about serving others. As Christians, sharing our time and the talents that God has blessed us with is something we are called to do.

Two of my favorite Bible verses about the spirit of volunteering speak to important principles of serving your fellow man: 1 Peter 4:10 and Acts 20:35.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

I like how this verse from Peter puts emphasis on using whatever gift God has given us to serve others. God isn’t asking us to do something we aren’t equipped to do; He simply wants us to use the talents He has given us.

I have a strong background in reading and writing, so I use these talents to assist one organization with rewriting their website and another helping with kids who are falling behind in reading. While I would love to build housing for the less fortunate, I am not good with power tools, so I have learned to concentrate my efforts in areas that I am skilled at.

That is the wonderful thing – God has blessed us all with different talents. And with so many organizations needing help, you are sure to find a group in your community that can put your talents to good use. If you like working with children, Big Brothers Big Sisters might be a good match. If you are good with a hammer, Habitat for Humanity might be the spot for you. The Internet has made it easier than ever to connect with organizations locally and nationally.

Building A House

The important thing is to find a project that excites you and speaks to your passions. When you find that perfect match, you will be inspired to give your best to others.

And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35 NLT

We are all familiar with this Scripture, especially the end – “It’s better to give than to receive.” I’m sure we all have experienced this feeling. It is always fun to select the perfect gift for a friend or loved one and to watch their reaction as they unwrap it.

It also works the same way with volunteering. This is definitely a case where the giving of your time and talent to a worthy cause is much better than being on the receiving end. You are giving a part of yourself every time you work with an organization. You leave part of yourself with the house you help build, with the kids you work with, with the patients you visit, and so on. You leave the best part of you!

I do have a confession to make. While it’s true that I’m not getting compensated monetarily for the work that I am doing, I feel like I’m getting compensated spiritually. The feeling you get when you volunteer is unlike many feelings. For me, it totally turns my day around. It doesn’t matter what has happened, if I got stuck in traffic, if the dogs made a mess in the house or whatever else is going on, once I get to the school and start reading with my second graders, all that goes away. And the good feelings last a long time – you totally get hooked and can’t wait for the next time you can serve others.

Reading to a Child

I encourage you to answer the call and find an organization in your community to help. It is easy to write a check, and please don’t get me wrong, cash donations are important to organizations – but when you give of yourself with your time and talents it is a totally different feeling. A feeling that I would love for everyone to experience.

——

This post was written by Family Christian’s own Tammi Skellenger. She enjoys camping, football and spending time with her husband and two golden retrievers.

Advice for Parents

Helping Your Child Get Into Their Dream College: Part One, The Tests

Helping Your Child Get Into Their Dream College

Part One, The Tests

Ciera Horton

 

It’s that time of year again, with college students heading back, seniors preparing to apply to school, and parents pulling out the tissue boxes. As I return for my junior year of college and my sister prepares to graduate from high school, I’ve seen all the emotional responses in my own family. “My baby is growing up so fast! They’re moving away! How often will they come home? Will they have everything they need? Are they really ready? Am I really ready?”

Advice for Parents

Parents, if your child is looking towards applying to their dream schools, you have the opportunity to help them make their goals achievable. College may be overwhelming, but if you stand by your student, then this can be an adventure you embark on together. In this article series, we are going to be examining some of the most common questions, concerns and confusions regarding the college application process. As a student myself at the Christian liberal arts school Wheaton College in Illinois, I know from experience how to prepare for standardized tests, apply for private scholarships, gather letters of recommendation, give a winning interview and write a memorable entrance essay. At the end of my college prep, I got my ideal test scores, earned over $42,000 in private scholarships and made it to my dream school. So let’s get started!

1. What is the difference between the SAT and ACT? Does my child need both?
Both the SAT and ACT are official standardized tests that most colleges accept and require. The SAT is a logic and critical thinking style test that will examine your child’s problem solving skills. The subjects on the test are Math, Critical Reading, Writing and the Essay. The Math section will cover basic Algebra and Geometry, but not Precalculus and Trigonometry, and your child can use a standard calculator on this exam. Critical Reading will provide your child with a passage based response section examining their comprehension. Writing is actually a grammar section testing their knowledge of parts of speech and vocabulary. Lastly, there is the essay; your child will have 25 minutes to respond to a prompt in a short written exercise. The number one key to this is having a succinct thesis (single argument or main point) which they then support with logical analysis. If a question is answered incorrectly on the SAT, there is a deduction of 1/4 a point. The highest possible SAT score is a 2400.
The ACT is similar, however the Math section does have Precalculus and some Trigonometry. The benefit, however, is that there is no point deduction for incorrect answers. In addition, there is a Science section — this part of the test does not necessarily ask questions based on high school science classes, but instead asks your child to analyze graphing and data provided in sample problems. The highest possible ACT score is a 36.
When applying to colleges, students typically need scores from at least one of the two options, but you will want to check each school’s requirements individually.

2. How do I know when the SAT and ACT are being offered? How do I register my child?
You can find the dates for the SAT online at the official CollegeBoard website here https://
sat.collegeboard.org/register. Instructions are provided on how to register your child. You can sign up for the ACT on the official website here: http://www.actstudent.org/regist/.

3. What is super-scoring and how might it help me?
Super-scoring is the standardized testing miracle! It allows you to combine your highest scores form different times the test was taken. For example, if your student gets a 25 on ACT Math and 32 ACT Writing on their first try, but then takes the test the next year and gets a 30 ACT Math and 29 ACT Writing, you can show only the highest scores from each category on your transcript. It will only show 30 ACT Math (from the second try) and 32 ACT Writing (from the first). Talk to your school guidance counselor about super-scoring.

4. How can I help my child study for the tests?
The best way to help your child is to actually make them study. A high majority of students don’t practice or do any sample problems before walking in on testing day. This is like trying to
win a sports championship without ever showing up for a team practice! Here are some easy tips.
A) Have the SAT Question of the Day delivered to your child’s Inbox every day. The official CollegeBoard website provides this wonderful study tool and will send an email with a practice question to you and/or your student. It’s definitely worth subscribing! When I was in high school, my parents assigned this question to me every day and I was required to do it, but the continual review kept me prepared.
B) Buy the official SAT Practice Book. There are so many SAT guide books out there from Princeton review and other text book companies. I would recommend getting the official CollegeBoard book, since the CollegeBoard is the organization that actually administrates the official test. This book comes with instructions, tips and several sample tests. My recommendation is to have your student do all of them.
C) Sign up for an SAT Workshop. My favorite was the CollegePrep Genius course taught by Jean Burke. She helps students learn how to think like the test writers and analyze the questions appropriately.

5. How many times should my child take the SAT or ACT?
They should take the test as many times as they need to get the ideal test scores for their school of choice. You can look online to find the average accepted SAT and ACT scores for each school. If your child is applying to Vanderbilt, then make sure their scores are in the goal range for what the school accepts.

6. What is an SAT Subject Test?
A Subject Test is similar to an AP exam. This is where a student can demonstrate expertise in a specific category that is not on the general test. Options include American History, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, foreign languages and many others. Some schools allow high scores in these tests to exempt freshmen from 100 level intro courses.

7. What is National Merit and how can my child qualify?
The National Merit scholarship is a prestigious honor given to students whose standardized test scores meet a specific requirement. This is only given for students who have taken the PSAT, which is the pre-SAT. Students can only qualify during their junior year, but they should definitely take it as a freshman or sophomore to practice. If your student is a junior, then have them study for and take the PSAT. If they qualify, they could receive full ride scholarships to college.
Preparing for college may be a busy and confusing time. For the students, it’s a new challenge and threshold, one that will push them farther than they knew was possible and give them the
chance to define their own identity. For you parents, it’s a time to help your student achieve their goals and start a new life. Stay tuned for tips on writing the application essays, winning scholarships, delivering interviews and helping your child set off on the great adventure of college.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Advice for Parents

With Dr. Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College, presenting the certificate for the Outstanding First Year Student Award, Class of 2017!

Bio: Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she is a writer and world traveler, a lover of old books and swing dancing, and a student at Wheaton College in Chicago.  She shares her culturally-engaging outlook on literature, education and social hot topics for the Christian millennial on her blog, www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

Advice for Parents

 

Serving in our own backyard

As I sat by the bonfire we had on the ranch one evening of our mission trip, I was in awe of the hard yet stunning reality of life. I sat there looking into the faces of handsome young men, whose eyes reflect the pain of their pasts but also hold hope for their bright futures.

Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch is a foster care alternative in Waleska, Georgia, that helps young men go from burden to blessing—from situations where despair, broken promises, neglect and abuse are the norm to a sanctuary where they can find healing, experience a loving home and possibly be adopted.

I was so excited to be able to serve in my own country, and see firsthand how this ministry is working to better our communities and country by investing in those who sometimes go unnoticed and slip through the cracks.

Our team helped build an extension for a pole barn, do some electrical work, paint a deck, organize a clothes closet and more.

In addition to helping build an extension on a pole barn, paint a deck and organize the clothes closet, our time with the boys blessed me and my team in more ways than we can express. Their smiles are contagious, their sports and academic successes are worthy of praise and their plans for the future are grand.

Our team was the 23rd that Family Christian has sent to Goshen Valley. On one trip, the team renovated this barn that’s now used for schooling.

Our team was the 23rd that Family Christian has sent to Goshen Valley. On one trip, the team renovated this barn that’s now used for schooling.

–Alyssa Helm, Family Christian Copywriter

Thank you so much for partnering with us and Goshen Valley to help boys in the United States grow into godly men. Just by shopping with us, you’ve helped us donate more than $270,000 so far!

Joseph’s Adoption

Buying here helps young men find forever families

Joseph was 12 years old when he first set foot on the Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch, a foster care alternative with multiple family-style homes. He arrived from a group home where he struggled with anger and getting into fights. All that changed when Goshen Valley welcomed him in to their family.

During his time there, Joseph began going to church, school and youth group each week and became close with the eight other boys in his home and his house parents, who were devoted to helping him succeed in life. Joseph was also there during Family Christian’s first mission trip.

“The development after Family Christian came in was huge. I saw them put in roads, a learning center, and they did all kinds of stuff to better Goshen Valley,” Joseph said. “If it wasn’t for Family Christian, I feel like the development of Goshen would not be where it is today.

During that first mission trip, Joseph also met Tina, our Senior Visual Manager.

Joseph and Tina

Joseph and Tina

They spent the week together working on projects, hanging out and created a close friendship. Soon after the trip, Tina felt God tugging at her heart to adopt a child from Goshen. And a year and half later, Tina and her husband Kevin adopted Joseph, who was just shy of his 18th birthday.

Joseph with Kevin and Tina, outside Joseph’s home near Chicago

Joseph with Kevin and Tina, outside Joseph’s home near Chicago

“I always thought my husband and I would adopt,” Tina said. “After the mission trip, I kept thinking about how I wanted to do more, so I asked Kevin to pray for one week. I wanted to see if God was saying to him what he was saying to me.”

One week later, Kevin confirmed what Tina had heard from the Lord, which was that their family should share what God had given them with others by adopting a child from Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch. And a year and half later, they adopted Joseph, who was just shy of his 18th birthday.

A year and a half after graduating high school, Joseph moved to Chicago to study in the automotive field. He’s now 22 and works as a mechanic. While he’d like to stay in the automotive industry, he sees himself eventually moving closer to his family again. He describes having Tina, Kevin and his three-year-old brother, Bear, in his life as “a life-changing experience.”

Joseph and his three-year-old brother, Bear, love hanging out together!

Joseph and his three-year-old brother, Bear, love hanging out together!

“The biggest change I saw was a young man who desperately wanted a family and didn’t know how a family works, to a young man who understands that we’ll always have his back and love him,” Tina said. “God has unconditional love for us, and I never grasped that concept until I had Joseph in my life. There is nothing he could do that could make us stop loving him.”

When you buy from Family, you are giving to ministries like Goshen Valley, helping them raise young boys into godly men and preparing them for a possible adoption.

Learn more about Goshen Valley and our other ministry partners.

Ciera Horton

The ‘Write’ Way: Instilling a Love of Writing In Your Child

“Hey, can I read your book?” I looked up at the face of a young boy watching intently as I worked on my newest novel manuscript. Ben lived in my dorm with his family, the community counselors. I smiled and passed the book over and three days later, he became my youngest reader. Over the course of the semester, I began helping him in creative writing and motivating this budding artist. It was incredibly rewarding to have the chance to invest in a young person’s life, but I was truly touched when I received a letter from Ben that moved me to tears.

 

“Ciera, thank you so much for always encouraging me with my writing…I am doing an assignment called ‘whose shoes’ where we write to someone we look up to as a hero. I just want to thank you for the time you have spent with me helping my stories progress and grow…I hope that when I grow up, I will be as generous and loving like you…I will never forget you.”

 

Young people are highly impressionable and the smallest amount of encouragement can go a long way. In this case, I discovered that sharing my work with him and reading his writing in return gave him the necessary motivation to further pursue his dreams of finishing a book.

 

Writing is an integral part of life in that it helps young people learn to appreciate language and culture and formulate their thoughts on the world in a way that is both creative and formative to their development as an individual.

 

As parents, you have an even greater opportunity to instill a love for writing in your children. Not only will they learn by watching you as their role models, but you have the unique ability to touch their hearts with encouragement and challenge, which is both gracious and inspiring. Whether or not you yourself were raised to have a love for the written word, if you desire for your child to have a greater appreciation for the art and discipline of writing, there a few key ways you can encourage them.

 

  1. Expose your child to quality literature at a young age.

 

Consider ways to make books a part of your child’s life, such as making regular trips to the library, giving books as gifts or encouraging your child to read every day. When I was growing up, my mother scheduled reading time for an hour every afternoon. This practice helped me gain the ability to focus intensely for longer periods of time. In addition, it widened my palette of vocabulary and helped me fall in love with the narrative art of storytelling.

 

Furthermore, children who are read to daily are found to test higher in cognitive skills such as language, mathematics, memory and the process of understanding and recalling facts. A study from the University of Melbourne showed that parental reading increases a child’s cognitive skills and reading abilities from the age of six months to age 11. In other words, you can start reading to your baby to help instill a fundamental understanding of cadence, language and object recognition! This basic understanding of reading is the first step toward leading your child to love writing. Words become meaningful to them and they will ultimately have a greater desire to use their own words to express and communicate.

 

  1. Have them keep a journal.

 

Journaling for personal meditation or along with devotions and Scripture is a good life practice for any Christian no matter the age. This is beneficial for any child, both because it helps them learn structure and responsibility and also because they become more naturally self reflective. Furthermore, the progress is tangible and they can see their own growth as a writer as they fill up the pages.

 

I have personally kept journals since I was five years old — granted, the subject matter of my entries has changed greatly, but to look back into the thoughts of a younger me is a beautiful gift. Reading over my old notes is like stepping back in time, having a conversation with myself and it gives me insight to see how certain events shaped me. The practice of journaling can be creative, too, and I often include pictures, sketches or poems, anything that is a personal reflection on what I’m thinking or feeling.

 

  1. Celebrate when they ask questions.

 

Before answers can be found, questions must be asked. That truth is at the very heart of writing. To write is to question, to analyze, to seek truth and to strive to examine what you observe. The heart of this, though, is the art of experience and the acquired ability to reflect what you see in what you write.

 

Questions like, “What does it mean to be a girl? Why do I have to love my brother? Why do we go to church?” are life shaping. Let them thrive on the “why” questions and explore answers though the process of putting thoughts into words.

 

  1. Praise the work ethic.

 

I’ve heard it said “Praise the process, not the product!” But the truth is that we should affirm both. The journey is just as important as the destination and the same truism applies to writing in that we should value the method and time spent working on our craft just as we should appreciate the end result. When your child shows you a story he has written, praise him for the effort, encourage him in his endeavors and challenge him to grow. Illustrate ways in which he can learn more or become better, but understand that the truth is loving and to love is to be truthful. So affirm his desire to use his gifts and interests and show him how to practice his skills humbly.

 

  1. Help them see writing as applicable to various interests.

 

There is a place for the writer in everyone’s world. Not every child will have the same artistic imagination to write their own fairytales; others may prefer journaling or nonfiction or poetry. But the understanding that writing is both expression and communication is key. It’s both deeply personal and can be made public. It is an art and a discipline. Encouraging your child to learn how to think analytically and write critically about the world around them will sharpen important life skills and even help them formulate their recognition of identity.

 

When I received Ben’s letter about his project “Whose Shoes”, I was incredibly honored to be selected as this boy’s hero because of our writing mentorship. His note continued, “Our writing teacher asked for a pair of signed shoes from you, for our ‘whose shoes’ display that we have in class so we can literally walk in your shoes.” He asked for old, worn shoes that I wouldn’t miss.   Instead, I gave Ben my favorite pair of Chuck Norris Converse. Being selected as Ben’s role model has continued to be a reminder to me that we as Christians have the blessing of being able to speak deeply into others’ lives, especially children. I truly believe that leadership skills are not determined by how much we accomplish, but by how much those we lead accomplish. As a parent, recognize that you have the ability to lead, challenge, humble and encourage your child in both the writing process and whatever endeavor they undertake. The “write” way looks different for every child, but to instill a love for the written word in them is to share a valued appreciation for stories, both those of others and their own.

 

Bio: A sophomore at Wheaton College, Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, she grew up hanging out with Christian music stars, artists and writers who greatly influenced her culturally-engaging outlook on life, which she writes about at www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

Ciera Horton