Viewing: Marriage/Parenting - View all posts

Lord! Bless The Children! 

Lord, Bless The Children a Creative Expression by Sister Wanda Burnside.

 

Another school year has begun and this week on the blog we share a poem by our Sister Wanda Burnside reminding us to cover our children in prayer. Now more then ever we must lift up our communities, families, churches, marriages and especially our babies before the Lord so that they may grow to be a light in a dark word!

Wanda Burnside is an author, poet, publisher and speaker who loves to use her gifts to encourage others in their faith. To learn more about Wanda and Write the Vision Ministries contact here: Email Wanda 

We'd love to hear what the Lord has laid on your heart.  Please share this blog post and leave us a comment if it has blessed you! 

#christianpoetry #christianlifestyleblog #inspirationalpoems #wandaburnside #naimajohnstonbush 

03/04/2019

How To Overcome Negative Body Image - Marriage Monday 

It's Marriage Monday on the Blog! And we are back with our resident experts, Elders LJ and Novica Olinger! This month Novica shares on how negative body image can impact your marriage and how to overcome these challenges from a Christian perspective. Click the picture below to view this video blog!

 

 

 

Elders Larry and Novica Olinger are powerful and anointed marriage mentors - for more information about their work or to seek assistance on marital issues, contact them here: www.marriagematterstoday.com 

 

Domestic Violence In The Church!? 

Domestic Violence In The Church - A Video Blog with LJ and Novica Olinger, Jr. of Marriage Matters

 

Did you know that domestic violence occurs more frequently in Christian marriages then in secular marriages? In this video blog, Elders LJ and Novica Olinger share the stats, stories and vital information about this growing problem in the church today. Watch the video below for more information and an engaging insight on this troublesome topic.

 

 

Elders Larry and Novica Olinger are powerful and anointed marriage mentors - for more information about their work or to seek assistance on marital issues, contact them here: www.marriagematterstoday.com

This Is Not A Punishment 

This Is Not a Punishment by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder, The Refreshing Life

How do you reconcile praying for something and feeling like the answer is no, and will always be no? I have tried my best to handle my infertility with grace and most importantly with faith. Walking through the stages of mourning from questioning, to anger, to bitterness and grief.  Finally making peace with my empty arms despite wanting to hold on to the dream with mustard seed faith. Trying to believe and receive the prophetic words that still come declaring that there will still be a child. 

But at forty-seven all I can do is say, “I believe, help my unbelief, let Your will be done!” 

We always planned to adopt so bringing foster children into our home with a husband who was adopted was just part of the dream and we shared with our Social Worker that we only wanted to foster children that were ready to be adopted, those already in need of a forever home. 

When they plopped a two-year-old and a two month on our doorstep we were ecstatic. And then we got to court, and we met mom and much became clear.  She had no intention of giving up her children, she didn’t appear to be a drug addict or unwilling – rather she seemed like a young mother who had fallen on hard times and needed some help.  What were we suppose to do in that moment when the Social Worker asked if we wanted to keep them while she got things together? And even more alarming to me, we were asked if we wanted to keep them both. I was appalled, we were already in love with them and they were siblings, we don’t separate siblings, no – we don’t rock like that. 

I have to be honest, I was heartbroken, but I wouldn’t admit it.  It looks like I will love and raise them for a season and then give them back. My gut twists even writing the words. With so many people clamoring to tell us congratulations, to give us helpful items, to step in and help us care for them, makes the burden all the harder to bare. 

These are not my children, although I am charged to love them like Jesus loved them, and quite honestly, I would give my life for them.  I already mourn the day when I have to pack them up and send them on their way.  And I must admit it is really difficult not to let bitterness creep in while the devil is whispering in my ear… "God made you infertile, now He's given you children that can never be yours." that's enough to allow bitterness more then a foothold in my life.

I wrestle with the perception that the Lord knows my mother’s heart, He knows the grief of my infertility. He knows how I’ve cried in the middle of the night and felt like less then a woman because I could not birth a living legacy. Children are a legacy of the Lord. That’s what the scripture says. 

This denial often teases me to think that I am being punished.  Have I done something to offend the Lord that He would allow me to watch my former youth group kids have numerous children, or the young ladies who I prayed with in Nashville for husbands now having beautiful additions to their families? Or what about all the women who take this enormous gift from God and destroy it? 

I have cried out to the Lord seeking the answer, asking how have I offended You? Have I not loved enough or served enough or given enough? And the heavens remained silent. Until I came across the following passage of scripture: 

 “What a wonderful God we have—He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we undergo sufferings for Christ, the more He will shower us with his comfort and encouragement. 

 We are in deep trouble for bringing you God’s comfort and salvation. But in our trouble God has comforted us—and this, too, to help you: to show you from our personal experience how God will tenderly comfort you when you undergo these same sufferings. He will give you the strength to endure.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-8 

It’s a hard pill to swallow but His word never lies. The Lord must really want to comfort, strengthen and help me walk this broken road. This isn’t a punishment. Somehow my infertility, the potential loss of these babies that have nestled under my heart, are burdens that I must let Christ carry through me. These are seasons I must walk through so that someone else might be comforted in their own time of questioning, uncertainty and grief. 

When I accepted the call to be an encourager of God’s people, I never knew when or where I’d have to encourage others. I choose to accept in this moment, infertility as a blessing, not for me but for someone else who is walking through this shadow. And if I should pack these children up and send them on their way, I choose to believe that this is not a punishment either, but somehow this part of the journey will be one more opportunity to run into the arms of my Father, who sometimes makes decisions that are in my best interest, but I won’t understand until I’m older.

And later on, I’ll be able to encourage someone else to do the same.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share your comments and questions below.

 

#adoptionstory #adoptionjourney #fostertoadopt #infertility #copingwithinfertility #infertilityandfaith

#fostermom #griefandfostering

 

Photo Credit: Image by MorningbirdPhoto from Pixabay

We Needed Her 

We Needed Her by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder, The Refreshing Life

Sometimes I want to throttle the two year old in my house.  Not seriously, but when I find Cheerios in the oddest places, when she refuses to take no for an answer, when she floods the bathroom after distinctly being told not to touch the faucet, I am amazed at her audacity. Her logic often alludes me, her capacity to forget a simple request and her willingness to get sidetracked by baby sharks and paw patrols leave me frustrated, snappish and tired. 

And who wouldn’t be tired when being jarred out of sleep after finally getting the baby down by a little voice demanding Apple Juice or wanting to, “Get Out” of her bed.  Her needs are apparent and they extend beyond the basic needs for life. She needs lots of hugs, she does not like to be left alone, uncertainty makes her nutty and she is a true attention hog.  Typical for most toddlers, but imagine the typical turned up to the tenth degree. We don’t know much about her past, but we pray over her future and try to love her hard in the present. 

When things get hard, when she frustrates me to the point of anger or I’m tempted to say the wrong thing I remind myself she is two and she’s survived things I can’t even imagine – most foster care children have. I ask myself what would Jesus do and try to rethink my approach while applying the easy answer, the self-righteous answer, the answer that makes me the savior and she the one in need of saving.  The answer… she needs me, I can’t forget, she needs me. 

Then just a few days ago, when she had been banished to bed for some rude transgression that had pushed me to the edge of sanity, I walked into my bedroom and was just about to reiterate to my husband how much she must need us since we were in the middle of another test of patience that required unlimited compassion and love. But I had fallen short and sent her to bed thirty minutes early. 

And the Spirit of the Lord spoke to me at the moment – “You need her just as much as she needs you.”  

I needed her? The more I thought about it and prayed over it, the more I understood that I did need her. I knew I wanted her, any woman who has struggled with infertility and wants a child more then anything understands that wanting. No, I needed her, it was well past wanting, I needed her, so that I could become more like Jesus. 

I need her remind me that Christ loves me no matter what silly transgression I commit. That He expresses this love regardless of what I or don’t do, that no matter what happens He blesses me with grace and compassion. And that I have to learn to love like that as well, not out of obligation but out of joy. 

I need her to illustrate how Jesus never gives up on me, even when I forget to do what He told me to do, when I get sidetracked on the way to accomplish His will for my life, when I make a bad choice and have to suffer the consequences. 

But no matter what… Jesus is there, with a big unconditional love that never fails and my toddler pushes me to that standard every day.  Because after getting in trouble or making me nuts, there she is ten minutes later with the most beautiful smile, big eyes on me full of trust and love. I need that. And my promise to her, her brother, and even her biological mother is to give her big unfailing love right back. Just like Jesus.

#fostercare #adoptionstory #fostertoadopt #toddlermother #learningtoparent #lovinglikeJesus

If It Breaks 

The Foster Files - If It Breaks, Let It Break… by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush

I am enraptured by him, so totally captivated I’d give him the world if I could.  And when she turns to me and calls me Mommy with those large, haunted eyes, my heart seizes and I could cry from contentment.  And I inquire of the heavens, is this forever? Or is this only for a moment? And if it is only for a moment, how do I fight against feeling like this is a cruel joke when my mother’s heart and arms have been empty for so long? 

It’s been no secret that I’ve struggled with infertility and for whatever reason, the Lord has chosen not to answer our prayers for a child in the conventional way in this moment.  We had always planned to adopt, Jon was adopted and even as a little girl, I always knew my love would be big enough to encompass children that I had not birthed.  So as the years went by and we got older, we moved forward to start the foster to adopt process in Florida – and then the call to Louisiana, where we started the whole process again. 

After almost eight months of classes, paperwork and training we were told that it would be the end of February or March before we would even know if we were finally approved to foster.  And so I packed up the second week in February for a week of touring and as I got further and further from home I got a sinking feeling in my spirit.  Something was about to go down, I didn’t know what, but the Lord sure was letting me know it was coming down the pike. 

The babies arrived before the letter from Social Services saying we were approved to foster arrived – by two whole days. I promptly turned around, canceled the rest of my events and came home, no man has Momma powers and we all knew the two year old little girl needed me.  We instantly fell deeply in love and have watched them go from wilted to blooming in the span of just a few weeks. 

But here’s the issue. We shared with social services we only wanted to take in children who were ready to be adopted, and somehow, someone missed that in our file and delivered to our door two children with a mother who has insisted that she has every intention to bring them home.  That’s not what we bargained for.  

It would be easy to be increasingly selfish at this moment, to pray that birth mom does not get her act together and we get to keep them.  We could justify it by saying that we will raise them in the way of the Lord, provide them with a stable home and give them material things that they may not have otherwise. 

 I want these children as my own… but more then that… I want to be a woman after God’s own heart. 

So, I pray for their mother.  I pray that she would have a supernatural experience with the Lord, that she will become a mighty woman of God with the ability and resources to raise these children in a manner that pleases Him. That I hand them back to her having been well loved and well fed both spiritually and physically. 

And I choose today to love them with my whole heart, not to guard it or hold back from them any drop of love that they deserve. And they deserve the best, they deserve all of me.  And if the moment comes when we have to pack them up and send them on their way, I will do so with tears and pain and a lack of understanding. But I will be able to stand before the Lord and say I loved them so fully that it shredded my heart to pieces to give them back and they knew in this place they were safe and they were loved.  

I choose today to give these babies my heart, and if it breaks in the giving, then so help me God, let it break. 

I'd love to hear your feedback, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me a message.  And if this blog blessed you, please share it with someone who might benefit from it. 

#fostermom #adoptionstories #foreverfamily #adoption #fostercare 

 

Valentine's Day... 

Date Night Ideas With Jon and Naima! by Dr. Naima Johnston Bush, Founder of the Refreshing Life

 

This is the first time since we've been married that Jon and I are not together on Valentine's Day! But our move, the stability his job provides and February being my busiest month of the year dictates that we be in two different states this year.  I'm sad, but we've got an amazing get a way weekend planned for the first weekend in March.  

This video was shoot last year when we still lived in Nashville.  It gives you a look into our nutty, silly adventures as a couple determined to live for God and be best friends as well. Jon and I don't always make the grade, but we strive to live a life in the center of God's will on the journey to joy with Jesus.

So if you are looking for some marital inspiration, if you are single and want to be encouraged about what the Lord has in store for you, or if you just want  a good laugh, check out the video below, subscribe to our Youtube Channel to keep up with all the nuttiness and leave us a comment!  

And if you need prayer for your marriage, feel free to shoot us a note, we'd be more then glad to bring your request before the Lord! Email us at: naima@ministryofnaima.com  

 Click The Image To Watch The Video!

 

#marriageministry #christianmarriage #datenightideas #valentinesdayideas #relationshipgoals

 

Looking for a great tool to help you build a strong marriage?

Check out my book, Lessons From The Back Seat or How I Learned To Be A Wife!

Click Here To Order: Refreshing Life Store

 

Marriage Matters 

It's a New Year and the Refreshing Life Marriage Matters Today Ministers, Elders LJ and Novica Olinger has a fresh word for you! 

In this video Larry and Novica ask the question - Are You Coupled Up? Each couple needs to surround themselves with other Christian couples who are willing to be a support and offer wisdom and guidance in the hard times. Check the video out to hear wisdom from this dynamic ministry team!

For more information about Marriage Matters Today with LJ and Novica visit: Marriage Matters Today

 

Jesus and Disney 

Jesus and Disney by Leann Lemons Winton

Now that I have your attention.  This is such a controversial statement. Trust me, I know!  Can the two even go together? Well, stick with me for a bit and let me show you what I think. 

DISCLAIMER: I do not agree with everything Disney.  

I said it. I don’t agree with everything Disney.  In fact, there are a lot of things that I down right say will not be on my tv or in our sight.  That’s just the plain truth of it.  As a mother of two beautiful girls, I waited for almost 20 years for them to come in to my life.  Having said that I am very careful to what they put into their eyes and ears.  

Being a pastor’s wife, mom and business owner, I mull over every decision I make.  Things have to filter through lots of lenses.  First is through the lens of my savior Jesus Christ.  I have to first please Him and everything I do must represent Him.  I am also accountable to my husband, my family and the church we planted close to 10 years ago.  It weighs heavy on me that I am an example of Christ to my little world in central Indiana. 

I come from a home that was based on God and the foundations of the Bible. We were very poor growing up and almost every year we would make the trip to my grandparent’s house in Deltona, Florida.  We would spend most of the time there hanging out and maybe going to the beach a couple of times but the highlight would be going to Walt Disney World.  

It was such a treat to be able to go.  I’m not really sure how my parents made it happen for my brother, sister and myself, but it made lasting memories that I cherish.  I dreamed of the day I could take my family to the most magical place on earth.  

This time was filled with such amazing memories for me and the most important memory was the importance of family.  You see, 20 years ago at the age of 20, my brother Jeff passed away.  I hold on to those very sweet and simple times my family got to spend together.  I decided that when I had a family, I wanted them to have such sweet memories too. 

In 20 years of ministry one of the saddest things we see is the lack of family.  In the two church plants that I have helped my husband plant this is a common denominator.  After the 20 years waiting for our daughters to come into our life through adoption, I was determined to make family a priority. 

My burden for family has brought these two things together, Jesus and Disney. 

Families seem to, now more than ever, have no time.  Our time is filled with work, school, sports, hobbies, and on and on.  Things that were foundations of a simpler life, like when I was growing up, are not a priority anymore.  There is no time for God or family. I mean, those things will always be there right?  

The simple truth is that we need to make these things a priority.  I started to help families find time for rest and togetherness so they can serve the Kingdom of God even better.  I found that when my family took a vacation, especially to Walt Disney World, we came back better equipped to minister to our community. 

The Disney bubble is a real thing.  Things happen when we get to Disney and escape the burdens of our busy lives. We have rested.  We have been inspired to create. We have bonded. We have made memories. 

This love of God, families, and Disney has become a ministry for me.  How can Disney become a ministry?  I help families and especially pastor’s families plan a Disney vacation on a tight budget.  I know how some struggle with finances and being burnt out and they need time to refresh.  They need to regroup. What better place to do that than by taking that dream trip to Disney.  

My sister and I started our Youtube channel over 5 years ago to show people how to accomplish this dream. We teach people how to go on any budget and make the most of your trip by using tips, tricks and hacks.  Also, we use it as a platform to tell people about Jesus.  This community needs it.  Disney is not a Christian company. I know that.  We see ourselves as a light to this community and have ministered publicly and privately to many over these years.  We have now expanded and have an Etsy shop where we sell Disney inspired candles and shirts.  And just recently I have become a Disney Travel Specialist and officially help families plan their trips to any of the Disney Destinations.  

I will say it again.  I do not agree with all that the Disney company does or says.  

I believe in family.  It’s important to Jesus.  It’s important to me. 

Leann Winton is a Pastor's Wife, mother, business owner, ministry leader and church planter who is passionate about Jesus, families, adoption and Disney. She has a growing YouTube Station with her sister and business partner, Amanda Lemons Ables where they share about Jesus, Disney reviews, tips, tricks and park visits to make a vacation to the Magical Kingdom affordable for all.  To learn more about Leann, the work she does or if you need help booking your Disney Vacation contact her at the links below!

www.thelemonssisters.com 

www.vacationwithleann.com

Embrace Rather Than Differentiate - Guest Post By Tara Hayes Johnson 

Embrace Rather Than Differentiate - Guest Post By Tara Hayes Johnson

We had just brought our baby girl home from the hospital.  She was perfect, so we thought.  Her chubby cheeks and sweet disposition had us sold as parents! 

As first time parents, we had no idea that our daughter would be 'different' from other children.  We first noticed these differences when attending a play group for our daughter.  As parents, some of the first cues were lack of developing speech and vocabulary words and her inability to focus and sit still while playing.  Her behavior was very unpredictable and so much so, we felt as parents it was in our best interest to have her 'tested'.  This is when we heard that diagnosis. The question, 'has anyone told you that your daughter might be Autistic,’ came flying out of the doctor’s mouth.  My breath of air had been knocked out of my sail.  I remember as a mother I felt gut punched and wondered how I would recover from the words I just heard. 

The truth is, I didn't recover right away, and I would be lying to you if I said I had.  I allowed myself as a mother to experience and process a range of emotions from anger, to sadness, to hope.  It would have even been easy for me to play the blame game.  Don't think for a moment the questions didn't come to pass in my mind such as, 'What did I do that was so wrong? Why me? Why her? Why can't she be normal like other children?' I am not suggesting these questions are right or even okay, but I am being real and honest in the truest form.  It took quite a while to process what her diagnosis meant and may mean. There were and are continuing to be so many unknowns.  I can tell you now that I wouldn't change a thing.  

Our daughter is perfectly and magnificently created with great purpose.  She has a unique set of gifts and talents that the Lord has greatly blessed her with: her innovation for manipulating fabrics while playing dress up; her passion for math, science, and building blocks; her sense of humor; and her love for being outdoors catching bugs.  In some ways, she sounds just like any other 6-year-old and you know why???? BECAUSE she is! 

There is so much stigma with the word 'Autism'.  When we as parents mention Autism, we get comments such as, 'Oh does that mean she throws fits?' or 'Oh is she non-verbal then?' We should be grateful others are at least taking a moment to show interest and ask questions rather than assuming.  It just makes us realize ONE very important thing -  is my child so DIFFERENT from other children?  

The answer I like to share is 'no', my child just has a different ability and experiences life differently; look at it as a different perspective or angle.  I like to think growing to learn and to understand our children through a lens is a continuation of an ongoing learning process.  We as parents are feeling out our children and how to best foster their development without crushing their little spirit and they are testing our boundaries of unconditional love, permanency, and stability.  I think most of us would agree that we refuse to see limitations put on our children and that we both want to see our children’s' development fostered to its full potential.  A disability should never define our children, instead it should be considered a unique attribute, something that makes our child 'their own' because at the end of the day, your child and my child are still individuals with heart and feelings alike; it's the process of emotions and behavior that create the difference, but it is certainly something that should not define their character or identity. 

I don't blame you though if you have your own thoughts.  I am not an expert here, I am a parent who desires love, acceptance, and awareness for our family and most importantly our daughter.  I would empathize if you fall into the trap of society's standards; it's all about follow the 'leader' and 'Simon says, Simon do.' If anything, I am writing this in hopes that this stigma placed on 'special needs' children is broken once and for all.  Look, all I am saying is what if we took time to embrace differences.  If we continue to declare, 'special needs', that is setting my child and so many children up to be limited in their capabilities.  Whenever possible, even with the stares and dirty looks, I endure putting our daughter in the least restrictive environment possible.  The benefits are truly endless and far exceed any negative.  Our daughter has the opportunity to have positive socialization modeled to her; she has a reason to be challenged and grow more; she is able to see appropriate modeling inside and outside of the classroom; she is taught the sky is the limit and she can do anything with hard work, dedication, and appropriate modeling and mentoring; she has the same opportunities to excel and to demonstrate her strengths and abilities; she has the ability to shine and be her without someone telling her who she has to be; she has the opportunity to overcome any adversity or challenge that she faces with proper help and support. 

At some point, whether 'special needs' or NOT, as parents we have to let go.  We allow more room and growth for our child when we don't hand hold, but rather guide and steer our child(ren).  Our child must learn to become as independent as possible, to problem solve and think for themselves.  We get one shot, 18 years, to prepare them for the good & bad, the challenges, the obstacles, and everything in between.  We as parents cannot save them from everything, but we can embrace hope, we can teach them how to embrace other cultures, backgrounds differences.  We can teach our children in this time how to bring out the best in others and their strengths.  We can teach them how to believe in others no matter what their skill level and ability is.  We can encourage and build their character to learn from others and that every child is a winner, every child is meant for victory, and every child count, for each was blessed with a plan and purpose for here and now.  

Every child, no matter differences matters!  The sooner we can place our stigmas, our differences, our assumptions, and any judgment or critical thought aside, the sooner we can begin listening not just with our ears but listening with our hearts.  The sooner we listen, the sooner we can process and understand.  The sooner we process and understand, the sooner our mindset is able to shift.  The sooner we make that shift, the sooner we can embrace each individual child and learn to love them right where they are at in the here and in the now.

 

Tara Hayes Johnson is wife, mother, blogger, business owner, empowered speaker and an anointed minister of the Gospel. To learn more about Tara and her work visit her here: http://taracherie.org/about/