Children: Helping Them Stay Positive During Holiday Absences

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Guest Post By: Kelli Brewer

Holidays are a time when families come together, spend time with one another, and thank the Lord for all of their blessings, but if a loved one is far away, it can put a damper on things. For children, it may be hard to understand their loved one’s absence, and they may have a hard time coping when their loved one has to miss out on special occasions. To keep your child (whether you are the parent or the legal guardian) positive and upbeat, communicate the situation to them, allow other relatives to fill in when necessary, find fun ways for them to stay connected with their loved one, and let them know that no matter what, God is with your child and the loved one they long to be with.

Give Them Details

When it comes to telling your child that a family member will be absent for a period a time, preparing your child depends on their age, personality, temperament, and family situation. Whether the absence is due to traveling, deployment, a move, or medical treatment, it is important that you are as open and honest with your child as they ask you to be, and realize that they may not understand. Some reasons for a loved one’s departure may be more sensitive than others, and your child may have questions that you don’t know how to answer, and that’s okay. It’s important that you try, and they’ll recognize and be comforted that you’re making an effort to keep them out of the dark. For example, if a loved one enters addiction treatment, your child may have a lot of questions about what they are struggling with. It may not feel appropriate to bombard an elementary-aged child with information on what it means to be addicted. However, it will be helpful to let them know that your family will play an important part in helping your loved one feel better, but right now, God is working to heal them.

Time out when you will let the child know of the absence. For children 3 years old and younger, they haven’t yet grasped the concept of time, so telling them you will be gone for one month could translate to tomorrow. Even elementary-aged children may have a hard time differentiating five days from one week.

Rather than focus on the time specifics, use the time before the absence to simply remind them that it is going to happen so that it doesn’t take them by surprise. For older children, give them advanced notice so they have adequate time to get as used to the idea as possible. To help children visualize the time frame, let them pick out a calendar and mark the leave and return dates in colorful marker or pen. Each day, let your child cross out the day or mark it off with a sticker. Alternatively, you could try putting things into a perspective that makes sense to them, such as, “After we attend three Sunday services, Dad will be back home.”

When you are talking to your child, take cues from them and follow their lead. Some may ask a lot of questions and want to know every single detail, such as where you will be located on a map, where you will sleep, or what you will be doing. Others may simply want to know when you will be home. Encourage your child to ask questions and express their emotions. Each situation is different, so determine what information is appropriate for your child to know.

Keep Them Involved

During holidays, your child may be sad or upset that their loved one isn’t there to participate in the activities. Document the event with a camera or recorder, or let your child video chat with the loved one during fun activities such as dyeing Easter eggs or opening gifts. If video chat isn’t an option, set up a time for your child to talk on the phone with them and tell them all about their day and activities they participated in. Many churches now offer their services through live, online streams, so if attending church on Sunday with their loved one is a tradition your child looks forward to, ask your loved one to “attend” the service online so they can talk about the sermon afterward like they always would. You may also want to consider letting your child draw a picture or write a letter. If your child isn’t old enough to write, transcribe it for them.

Regardless of what holiday you are celebrating, it is important to not only document it, but honor traditions. Even if a family member is absent, children often count on certain traditions. It is important to continue them to reassure them that although some things have changed, others have remained the same. Having aunts, uncles, and grandparents around can still make the holiday feel like a family event, and it softens the blow of missing out on an absent mom or dad.

If your child expresses sadness over a family member not being able to participate in a holiday tradition, suggest a new tradition that everyone can participate in, or try a spin on one you already have. For example, if your family says a special prayer at Easter dinner, work with your family member ahead of time and ask them to contribute to this year’s family prayer. Their words will bring comfort to your child, and even though it may feel a little different this year, the tradition will live on.

No matter what holiday your loved one is absent for, it can be tough on children who don’t understand or who have trouble dealing with this type of change. Try to keep the lines of communication open, and try to keep them involved to help them work through their emotions and stay connected with their loved one. Encourage them to pray for their loved one — and offer to join them in doing so — and reassure them that God will bring everyone together again when He knows the time is right.

Kelli writes for DeployCare, where she shares resources and solutions for issues commonly faced by military families.

[tweetthis]#GuestPost: “Children: Helping Them Stay Positive During Holiday Absences” By Kelli Brewer[/tweetthis]

Everyday Miracles: Faith

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photo credit: Hugo Nidáguila viendo el mar via photopin (license)

 

After last week’s call for the everyday, ordinary miracles you have experienced in your life, I got a nice letter from Lance Price who blogs at: Lance-Price.com He reminds us of one of the greatest, most overlooked miracles we can experience: faith itself.

He writes:

While my testimony didn’t take place in one day, it certainly has been quite the picture of a transformed life. I was raised Catholic, but I never believed in anything I was taught. My parents divorced when I was 11, and that brought my agnostic doubts to downright declared atheism by the time I was 13. When I reached the very bottom-most area
of existence and begged for death and tried committing suicide, I finally surrendered to the questions, “Why am I alive? What’s the purpose of existing?” Over a long journey which took me from my original birth state of Michigan to Florida, and then from Florida to California, God met me where I was and opened my eyes to the purpose He has for me. Now, I write on Lance Price Blog 2017, sharing not only
my testimony, but also writing about purpose, pain, how we can find our most fulfilling, gratifying life by asking Jesus to meet us where it matters most.

To give you a more extensive view of this story, anyone can look at my article, “Finding Miracle At Our Breaking Point”.

I believe testimonies are empirical evidence of not only God’s existence, but of His love and the way He transforms us in ways only He could do. We all need a miracle of God, and many times that comes in the form of testimony. I’m grateful that God opened my eyes, and I do believe there’s no turning back once we’ve seen the love of Christ in action. Truly, there’s no one like our God!

Lance

Thank you for sharing, Lance. I agree, testimonies can be powerful forces and we can make more of a difference in sharing our stories than we realize sometimes.

Anyone who wants to can read the long verison of his testimony in his article “Finding Miracle At Our Breaking Point”.

So what about the rest of you? What’s your story?

[tweetthis]Everyday #Miracles: #Faith #callforsubmissions #guestblogging[/tweetthis]

A Fine Mess

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Guest Post By: Diane Velikis

afinemess photo

I was married for eighteen years to a man I thought was my soul mate. Together we traveled the world, and yes, faced some hard times as well. I took care of his aunt with Alzheimer’s for over seven years, loved her, and grieved her passing. During that time I had spinal surgeries that left me in excruciating pain crying out to God for mercy. I rededicated my life to the Lord and prayed fervently for my “good” husband to come to know my Savior. Really know Him.

As a little girl, I often dreamed of returning to North Carolina, and now that my health required a milder climate, we listed our home for sale and planned the move. In a slumped Real Estate market the house sat for a few years. I prayed and prayed for a miracle, in fact, several.

March 2015, my house caught on fire, my husband ran off to…. you guessed it, Myrtle Beach. All was lost. Everything.

I was in utter shock and totally blind sighted. The contradictory of my intense prayers unfolded. My numb brain screamed “I’ve rededicated my life to the Lord. I’m His! How could this be happening?” Husband, home and health, gone. (I came to believe that hell really had three H’s… my sarcastic reasoning remained intact.)

Somewhere in the depth of my spirit I heard a gentle whisper, “For your Maker is your husband—the LORD Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” ~ Isaiah 54:5.

So began the days ahead. I gulped and clung to that verse, even though I felt achy and dazed.

Being “displaced” by the fire, I lived in a hotel for close to seven months.  My self-protection mode kept me a loner even though events and invitations were plentiful. I realize now, that as my heart was under construction, alone-time meant God-time. Throughout this gut wrenching pain, I learned how to make every breath about Jesus, the one who promises to never leave me. I learned that my relationship with anyone else that is placed before the Lord is idolatry. I learned that I don’t need a husband to be complete.

I allowed the Lord to renew my mind. Instead of images of betrayal, hurt and rejection, I received His perfect love and peace.  I had Jesus, and He really had me. The more secluded time I spent with Him, the more peace, comfort, renewed strength, and confidence began to build in my heart.  He’s still working on me, but the emphatic joy is being one with Him! He really is my knight in shining armor.

~Diane Velikis

DianeVelikisauthorphoto
Diane Velikis worked as a Pennsylvania licensed realtor, and in the travel industry.She writes nestled in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania with her dog Pugslie.Her three children, and five grandchildren, are frequent visitors. Sharing Jesus and her journey is her passion.
[tweetthis]A Fine Mess–guest Diane Velikis #testifies to what God did in a time of great trial.[/tweetthis]

8 I AM Statements of Christ.

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8 I AMThe Gospel of John is interesting in that it focuses on 7 “I Am” statements. It starts with Jesus’ genealogy as the pre-existent one1. It’s hard to recognize that as a family record, but each of the gospels presents Jesus in a different way, and three of four have genealogies. Mark doesn’t because Mark presents Jesus as a servant and no one cares about the genealogy of a servant2.

John focuses on Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. To accomplish this, there are 7 “I Am” statements.

The first is “I Am the bread of life3.” In this segment, Jesus uses an analogy of the manna that came down from heaven to feed the Israelites in the Wilderness. Like manna, we can’t collect any for someone else. Each has to get his own4. You can’t accept Christ for someone. They have to do that for themselves. You get exactly what you need5. Jesus meets you where you are and helps you get better from there. They had to strike it to make it edible6. Jesus was stricken for us. You need to get it daily7. Storing it up for future use was no good. You won’t survive well or long if your only dose of Christ is for two hours on Sunday. It tasted sweet8. We have joy in Christ. Unlike manna, though, when we commune with Christ, we will not see death9. Likewise, Jesus is called the Word10. There are times when we are told to eat the word of God11. Recall that clean animals were the ones that chewed the cud12. That means they ate it, partially digested it, and then brought it back up to chew on some more. We should be like clean animals and chew the cud more often by not just reading the Word, but really getting to know it personally. Man shall not live by bread alone13, unless that Bread is the Lord Jesus Christ.

The second I Am statement is “I Am the light of the world14.” Chapter 8 of the Gospel of John contains a massive round of verbal fisticuffs between Jesus and the Pharisees. Don’t let the politeness of the translation fool you. They’re going head to head on this one. The Pharisees call Jesus an illegitimate son, and he in turn explains who their father is. Definitely not for the G-rated audience. To the point, however, Jesus is the light to the world. We, by emulating him, reflect that light to the rest of the world. Because of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives, we become the light to show the way to others in the darkness15. We do need to be careful that we remain in the light because if we stop, the darkness will overtake us16.

Next up, the third and fourth are very close together in the text and tightly related: “I Am the door of the sheep,” and “I Am the good shepherd17.” Jesus is the only way to the sheepfold. If there’s any other way, his prayers in Gethsemane were unanswered. Anyone who comes by any other route than the door is a thief and a robber18, and the thief comes only to kill and destroy19. That’s where Christ’s job as the Good Shepherd comes in. Any but the shepherd would run when they see danger, but the shepherd will give his life for the sheep, and he did. Jesus gave his life for us so that we could stand in the presence of a perfect God. There’s no other way.

The fifth I Am statement is “I Am the resurrection and the life20.” If we die to ourselves and live in Christ, we will know true life now and hereafter. I find it interesting to read how this scenario played out. Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead21. He even told Martha as much, although she misunderstood and thought he was speaking of the general resurrection22. So why did Jesus grieve so greatly23? He was doing what we should all do: share one another’s joys and burdens24.

Moving right along to the sixth I Am statement, we find “I Am the way, the truth, and the life25.” Jesus has gone on ahead of us to prepare us a place so that, when the time is right, we can go be with him26. When will the time be right? Well, either we die in this life and find ourselves there facing judgment27, or the Fullness of the Gentiles will come in during our lifetime, and Poof! We’re outta here28! There is a number of Gentiles at which the Body of Christ is complete. Then the Father will tell the Son to go get his Bride. As amazing as that is, not only is Jesus the only way to heaven, but he’s the way to live in this world, too. Because he went to the Father and sent us the Holy Spirit, we can do great works in his name29.

The last official I Am statement is “I Am the true vine30.” Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The branches of a tree can’t do much except wither and die without a connection to the source of life. Likewise, we can’t, either. As branches from the vine, we are expected to produce fruit, or else we’ll be cut away and cast into the fire where we can’t do any more harm to the vine and other branches31. Our fruit is our changed life and our good works. It’s not the works that save our miserable hides, but the works are the exercise that keep our faith healthy and witness the glory of God to a world that would just as soon not care32.

There is one last “unofficial” I Am statement in the Gospel of John that doesn’t make the usual list but is probably the most critical, the most amazing. In fact, it knocked a collection of Roman soldiers and Pharisees on their rears. Check out John 18. When Judas and company come to arrest Jesus, three times he says, “I Am.” The “he” that is included in some translations is there to help the readability, but in my interlinear Bible, there’s no word there for “he,” and the margin translation says, “I AM” without the “he.” He is, in effect, declaring his identity as God. If you read the accounts of the confrontation in Gethsemane, in fact of all of Holy Week, you find out pretty quickly that Jesus orchestrated the whole thing.

So, Jesus is the bread of life, the light of the world, the door for the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection, the way, the truth, the life, the true vine, the lamb of God, and indeed truly God. He’s all these things and much more.

Endnotes:

1 John 1:1-5

2 Missler, Chuck. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours. Koinonia House.

3 John 6:35-59

4 Exodus 16:16

5 Exodus 16:18

6 Ibid.

7 Exodus 16:21

8 Exodus 16:31, Psalm 34:8

9 John 6:58

10 John 1:1

11 Jeremiah 15:16, Revelation 10:9

12 Leviticus 11:3-7

13 Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4

14 John 8:12-59

15 Matthew 5:14

16 John 12:35

17 John 10:7-18

18 John 10:1

19 John 10:10

20 John 11:17-44

21 John 11:11

22 John 11:23-27

23 John 11:33-36

24 Romans 12:15, Galatians 6:2

25 John 14:1-14

26 John 14:2-3

27 Hebrews 9:27

28 Romans 11:25, 1 Corinthians 15:52

29 John 14:12-14

30 John 15:1-8

31 John 15:6

32 James 2

Three Lessons from Esther.

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condesign / Pixabay

If you’re looking for Esther and having a hard time of finding it, don’t feel so bad. It’s all of 4 chapters. Find Psalms and go left two books. The book of Esther is read in Jewish homes at Purim, which celebrates the survival of the events in Esther. Now, to do this properly, you need to remember that you should hiss whenever the name of the bad guy comes up (Haman. Hissss)1. Okay. Now that you’re prepared, let’s dive in.

There was much argument about whether the book of Esther should be included in the canon. There’s no mention of God anywhere in the book … at least not in the open. The name “Esther” means “Something Hidden.” The name YHWH is actually encrypted behind the text. If you take an equidistant letter sequence starting from a couple places, you get the name YHWH more often than is statistically expected. So, God is in the book. Per her instructions, Esther, the queen and the book, hid her heritage2. For your very great amusement, there’s another hidden bit of text in there, too. “Haman and Satan stink” is concealed in the text using an equidistant letter sequence3.

Anyway, back to the point. The king of Persia at the time was very volatile. In Chapter 1 of Esther, we find that he put away his wife, Vashti, because she wouldn’t appear before a group of guys who’d been drinking for seven days. Some commentators suggest that this wasn’t just a matter of her wandering in to join the party but rather that she would perform, dance, or otherwise become the entertainment4. When she declined, Ahasuerus kicked her out.

So, that gets us to Esther, who was the ward of Mordecai, a descendant of Shimei. Does that name sound familiar? If you’re familiar with David’s adventures, it might. Shimei was a kinsman of Saul. This relative of the former king cursed David as David fled his son’s rebellion, and the king’s soldiers wanted to explain very clearly to this rabble rouser that cursing the king was not healthy. David wouldn’t allow his people to kill Shimei5. Now, I’m not suggesting that David might have known the significance of Shimei’s descendant, but if Shimei had been killed, there wouldn’t have been a Mordecai.

Esther ended up in the king’s harem, then so impressed the king that she became queen. Meanwhile, Uncle Mordecai made one of the king’s advisers, Haman (Don’t forget to “Hissss” when his name comes up) mad by refusing to pay homage when he passed. Haman decided to concoct a plan to make this annoying Jew pay.

Now, when you read Esther 3:1, you find that Haman was an Agagite. That’s also significant. Saul had been instructed to wipe out Agag and his people but chose to spare at least Agag and possibly a few others, unless there were some escapees6. If Saul had followed God’s directions and destroyed everyone and everything, there wouldn’t have been a Haman.

To cut to the chase, Haman hatched a plan to kill the Jews. Mordecai got wind of it and warned Esther. Esther thwarted the plan, and Haman died. For the details, read Esther. It’s short and very engaging.

So, if all Scripture is there for our instruction7, what are we supposed to do with this?

There are actually three good lessons for us to find here. First, Esther had been placed in a position to do something on behalf of God’s chosen, and she took a great deal of personal risk to do it. Not only did she walk uninvited into the throne room, which bore the death penalty unless the king extended his scepter; but she also revealed her identity as one of the condemned Jews, confronted Haman, then worked with her uncle to find a way to give her people a chance in the impending slaughter. Do you take any risks for God’s kingdom? Do you ever step out of your comfort zone to do something boldly for Christ? You may not have to face a volatile king and his wily adviser, but you might have to risk upsetting someone or facing the unknown. God won’t let you do this alone, but the initiative to do it is yours. He won’t force your hand.

Secondly, consider David’s response to Shimei. If the soldiers had gotten their wish, Shimei would’ve died that day, and there would’ve been no Mordecai to raise Esther or get word to her of the impending death sentence. David showed mercy, which is “not giving people what they deserve.” God shows us mercy, too. Are you merciful toward others, or do your thoughts go to making sure a well-deserving adversary gets his comeuppance? Instead, we should be kind to our enemies, and thereby dump burning coals on their heads8.

Finally, Saul’s error could have been very costly. Haman was an Agagite, and Saul had been told to wipe out every single one of them some generations before. He chose not to, Haman’s ancestors survived, and Haman had an opportunity to wipe out God’s chosen. He didn’t succeed, obviously, but as a result of Saul’s disobedience, things were much more difficult for Esther and Mordecai, among others.

Likewise, if we choose not to do God’s will for us, the work still gets done, but there may be hardships and extra burdens for others down the road. James says that God will give you wisdom if you ask for it9. So ask, find out what God wants you to do, and get it done.

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Cindy Koepp is originally from Michigan. She moved to Texas as a child and later received a degree in Wildlife Sciences and teaching certification in Elementary Education from rival universities. Her recently concluded adventures in education involved pursuing a master’s degree in Adult Learning with a specialization in Training and Performance Improvement. Cindy has four published science fiction and fantasy novels, a serial published online, short stories in five anthologies, and a few self-published teacher resource books. When she isn’t reading or writing, Cindy spends time whistling with a crazy African Grey. Cindy is currently an editor with PDMI Publishing and Barking Rain Press as well as an optician at monster-sized retail store.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Three Lessons from Esther by Cindy Koepp #bible #devotional #commentary #faith #mercy #obedience[/tweetthis]

Endnotes:

1 Missler, Chuck. Verse by Verse Commentary on Esther. Koinonia House

2 Esther 2:10; Ibid.

3 Missler, Chuck. Verse by Verse Commentary on Esther. Koinonia House

4 Ibid.

5 2 Samuel 16:5-13

6 1 Samuel 15

7 Romans 15:4

8 Proverbs 25:21-22

9 James 1:5