Monday, January 16, 2017

AN ADVOCATE FOR CHILDREN -- by Guest Author LeeAnn Mancini

My guest today, LeeAnn Mancini, is a fascinating woman who has done a great deal in advocating for helpless children. I hope you enjoy her story.

An Advocate for Children -- LeeAnn Mancini

I have been a life-long believer in Christ, and I have also been a life-long advocate for children. Let me take you through my life’s journey of serving children who are in need. In my twenties, before I was married and before my children were born, I was a Guardian AdLitem for Palm Beach County, Florida. It was a joy to know the work I was doing was saving the lives of children!

After my children were born but still very young, I remember seeing the traumatic news footage of Baby JessicaDeBoer. She was the same age as my son when she was ripped from her adoptive parents’ arms and whisked away in a car. Hearing the horrific cries of both Jessica and the only mother she had ever known still haunts me to this day.

I immediately called to see what I could do, and I ended up starting the DeBoer Committee for Children’s Rights, Florida Chapter. In just a few months, the Chapter grew to 1,500 members. Through our newsletter, we were able to rally around Baby Emily Welsh, a local two-year-old whom the court had awarded to her birth father, a convicted rapist and felon who spent three years in prison.

Our group held a candlelight vigil and contacted Senators and Representatives in addition to many others in order to help save this little girl. It was all in honor of Baby Jessica, who lost her battle in Michigan, that we fought so hard.

In the end, the 5th District Court of Appeals overturned the decision regarding Emily, and on January 10, 1996, the headlines of our local newspaper, The Sun-Sentinel, announced the wonderful news that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the 5th District Court of Appeals’ ruling that Emily would remain with her adoptive parents. The father had terminated his parental rights when he financially and emotionally abandoned Emily’s mother. What a joyous day! The gratification of saving this child was beyond words or description.

Today my children are 25 and 23 years old. They are such a blessing, and they both have a giving spirit and a loving heart! But with them now grown, I was able to go back to school in my 50’s. I received a BA in Religious Studies from Regent University, a Masters in Biblical Studies from Knox Theological Seminary, and a Masters from Evangelical Trinity School (Trinity International University). I am now 58! I am an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

However, my full-time job is publishing and writing Christian children’s books, and I love it! I wrote the stories for my books when my children were just three and five—yes, twenty years ago! All this time, I felt the Holy Spirit tapping me on the shoulder, telling me to get the books published and into the hands of children.

My books are unique because they teach little ones, ages eight and under, to pray to Jesus during difficult times and to show love and compassion to others. Every story centers around a difficult situation, where the main character prays to Jesus. In addition, every story promotes an anti-bullying message and teaches children to love and serve one other. The books even have a fun symbol for the children to find on every page. We have been awarded twenty-two awards so far!
Author LeeAnn Mancini and Pat Boone
Nowadays, my mission is to use my books to reach little ones and help them develop a strong foundation in Jesus at an early age. In addition to donating some of my books directly to various originations that help children locally, across the country, and throughout the world, I also use the sales of my books to help raise money for Christian children’s charities! It’s never too late to pursue a dream as long as it is in God’s perfect will and plan.

I tell you all of this because in every season of your life you can be the voice, the advocate, the teacher, and the example of love for innocent children! Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I personally don’t think there is a better feeling than knowing you have helped a child in need!
You can help support my mission while at the same time giving your children fun, edifying stories with Christian morals to read by ordering my books from As always, part of my proceeds will go towards Christian children’s charities. May God bless you, guide you, and lead you to be an advocate for children!



Friday, January 13, 2017

6 Small Changes Parents Should Make in the New Year -- by Guest Author Sarah Hamaker

The start of a new year brings New Year’s Resolutions, usually big things like lose weight, exercise more, save money, etc. But it’s often the small things that make a bigger difference—and are much easier to implement and stick to than the more substantial resolutions.

Six small changes parents should resolve to do this year.

Pay attention to the small moments. When I ask my children what they remember about a certain event or holiday, they usually pick something minor, like having hot chocolate for breakfast, than something huge, like a particular gift. This year, notice those small moments and cherish them—those are the moments that will warm your heart for years to come.

Focus on relationship first. All too often, parents over-emphasize behavior, and end up spending 90% of their interactions with their children yelling or disciplining. While children do need correcting when misbehaving, if you’re not cultivating closeness with your sons and daughters, punishing will soon define your relationship. Take time each day to have mini-interactions with each child. Simple ideas include:
  • Greeting him at breakfast and when he comes home from school
  • Hugging or other physical touches
  • Listening to her talk about her day
  • Sharing something you thought he might enjoy (a joke, article, website, etc.)Spending a few minutes just snuggling or sitting close beside her.
Keep your eyes on the future. When we’ve set our goal as raising an adult, rather than raising children, we will think and act differently. Remember what you’re doing, what you’re trying to accomplish, and that will help you navigate the rough patches with more confidence and calmness.

Don’t sweat the mistakes. You’ll have plenty of missteps on this parenting journey, but so did your parents, and your grandparents—and so will your children when they become parents. This doesn’t mean you won’t try to do better next time, but when you flub up, admit it and move on. Dwelling on the mistakes can paralyze you as a parent, which can lead to even bigger ones.

Remember who’s in charge. You’re the parent and the adult in the relationship, which means you’re the one in charge. This doesn’t mean kids don’t get a say in family affairs, but it does mean that the buck stops with mom and dad. As the one in charge, some of your decisions will be met with cheers and some with jeers. Some will be popular and some will cause a mini-riot. That’s what comes with being the leader, but kids need a leader who’s not afraid to lead.

Embrace your calling. Sometimes, it’s wearying to be the one in charge, to discipline consistently, to put up with snarling teens or temper-tantrum-throwing toddlers. But being a mom or dad is your calling, so take a deep breath and surrender to motherhood or fatherhood.

In 2017, you’ll have days when you want to trade in the unruly bunch of kids for the life of a carefree single. You’ll have days when you’re so proud, you might burst a button. You’ll have days when you’re so exhausted, you climb into bed without having accomplished a single thing other than keeping the kids alive. You’ll have days when the love you have for your kids overwhelms you.

In the midst of all of those days, keep in mind these six simple ways that can revolutionize your parenting.
End Sibling Rivalry by Sarah Hamaker

About my guest, Sarah Hamaker

A mother of four, Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ and a trained Biblical Parenting coach through the National Center for Biblical Parenting. Sarah blogs about parenting on her website, her articles on parenting have appeared on and in the Washington Post’s On Parenting blog.

Connect with Sarah Hamaker

Monday, January 09, 2017

Adoption: Called to Love by Guest Author Renée Sanford

My guest Renee Sanford
My guest today is Renee Sanford, her husband and adoptive daughter Anna are contributing authors to my book FINDING SARAH FINDING ME, just as I was a contributing author to their Focus on the Family book THRIVING AS AN ADOPTIVE FAMILY.

Adoption: Called to Love by Guest Author Renée Sanford

David and I stood excitedly at the screen door on that unseasonably warm April Day. As soon as we knocked, we heard a happy voice call enthusiastically, “It’s my family!” Little steps pounded up the stairs. The foster mom opened the door, and the child we had hoped and prayed and waited for jumped into our arms.
When we first hugged our daughter, we knew the road ahead would be hard. We knew our love would not be enough to erase the pain she already had endured. We knew we would need the love and support of our family and friends and the wise experience of professional counselors. And we did. We needed them and they gave love and counsel and support in marvelous ways.
What we didn’t know is the road would be a hard and singular path. A path where we would look over at easier parenting roads and wonder how we could have not done better. Then again, a path where we experienced the intimate companionship of the Lord.  
When you chose to love an abused child, you are stepping into the shoes of the Father who loves us, His broken children.  
When a child pushes you away, continues to hurt herself, can’t stop hurting others, and yet you know you will do whatever it takes to help that child grow up, then you experience what God has experienced in loving us. And sometimes that is all that you can point to for why you continue. Obedience to the calling to love. 
Some people admire us for bringing a broken child into our home, as if we are truly amazing people. They haven’t been there when we’ve lost our cool and doors slam and we have to apologize—again. Some admire what we’ve done, but pity us for the pain we’ve brought on ourselves. Others just think we’re fools, I’m sure. 
So I ask myself sometimes: Why did God lead us to adopt this child?  I know His leading her to our family was His will. I know my calling to be her mother. I know my weaknesses. No matter how much I studied and learned and tried to parent in the way she needed, I know where I fell short. Where I failed her and my other children, too.
What is the point if I can’t see how my love and parenting have made a difference in her life?
The point is that I am seeking the Kingdom of God because the Kingdom of God belong to such as these. These little ones whom others’ have hurt. This is my path for seeking God’s Kingdom, and I must follow Him however He leads. Regardless of how He leads others. My calling is to love and protect this child, and I will obey, whether I ever see the results or not. For now that love and protection means accepting that we have done all we can and letting her live away from us in a program that can give her what we can’t. A strange way to parent, but the path God opened.
The point is that, as I bring that hurt into my own life, I am identifying with the Lord Jesus who is the one who truly took all our pain. The only hope I see for my girl is if she truly accepts that Jesus took all the pain and horror and shame of what was done to her and what she has done to herself. But maybe she will see and understand it in our love and sacrifice for her.
The point is that I am called to love my child, not to fix her. This is true for all my children. Only the Holy Spirit can do the incredible work of saving and healing and changing. Adoption itself doesn’t fix a broken child. But adoption rescues him and brings him to a place to experience what he has never had before. Only God can heal any broken heart.  
The point is that, after all is said and done, anything done in love lasts for eternity.   
Verses to Ponder:

The only thing that counts is
faith expressing itself through love.
Galatians 5:6b NIV
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV 
Authors and Adoptive Parents,
David and Renee Sanford
Renée Sanford is the mother of five children and grandmother of ten, who live in British Columbia and four states. Renée works as a Child Welfare social service specialist in the state of Oregon and is passionate about supporting families and children in the adoption journey. Renée also is passionate about teaching Scripture and encouraging women through her writing and speaking.  She and her husband, David, are the co-authors of the 400 pages of devotional / application notes for the Living Faith Bible (Tyndale House, 2000), co-authors of the book How to Read Your Bible (Thomas Nelson, 2005) and general editors of the Handout on Thriving as an Adoptive Family (Tyndale House/Focus on the Family, 2008).