Tag Archive: creative parenting


tbV and i met Lisa and Mark Scandrette and their family while over here in Americaland. They have just released a book titled ‘Free: How to spend your time and money on what matters most’ and so it felt fitting to invite them to share with us a glimpse from their story in terms of hearing some ways in which they have looked to help their children grow up well. Here is Lisa Scandrette [who has possibly one of the best t-shirts ever!]:

We moved to the heart of the Mission District, at the time a neighborhood riddled with gang violence, when our kids were 4, 3 and 1.  We had a desire to raise kids who bring good to the world through the gifts and talents God has given them.  Hailey, Noah and Isaiah are now 19, 18 and 16.  When I look back, two things stand out as being helpful in beginning to instill a vision for doing good in our kids:

When we first moved to San Francisco, a friend asked with great concern, “How can you bring your kids to live in the neighborhood that you are living in?  Shouldn’t you be looking out for their safety and well being?”  I responded that I was certain that when God called us to live where we do, that he hadn’t forgotten about our kids.  He had a plan for them that included the kind of parents he had placed them with. So, we took them with us.  In fact, we took them with us to do lots of things.  Together, we ate with homeless neighbors under the bridge and passed out groceries at a food pantry.  We conspired together to show hospitality to visitors.  They often all three shared a room so that we could offer a bed to a guest.  They would help me clean or prepare food or draw a “Welcome” sign.  They came along to workshops and watched us do the work we felt passionate about.

After many years of them being present in our projects, it has been an honor, as our kids have begun to step into projects that they are passionate about, to be able to support and help them.  When the tsunami hit Japan in 2011, our daughter was in the process of organizing a senior prom.  She was struck by the great need and uneasy contrasting that with what her friends might be spending on prom.  She wanted to do something to help,  so she decided to organize a benefit.  Gathering a dozen or so of her theater friends, she planned an evening full of entertainment, rented a church space, and invited everyone she knew.  Noah baked cookies, Isaiah played his violin, and Mark and I helped with food and behind the scenes details.  Her event was a success, raising over $700 for tsunami relief.  Even more, she was able to host an enjoyable evening for her friends that helped them also think about others with need.

Secondly, we have tried to observe our kids for hints about the work they might feel passionate about. Noah loves to explain things.  In fact, one of his earliest words was the word “actually.” As he’s grown, we’ve looked for healthy ways for him to explore his passion for knowing and telling. When he was twelve, he was asked to assist teaching five and six year olds in a nature studies class.  In high school, he worked at a science museum, explaining exhibits to the public and how various scientific demonstrations work.  One summer, he helped kids in East Oakland document where they saw God’s beauty through photography. Our hope is that as he has had the opportunity to explore different ways of explaining and teaching, he might have a better idea of the sorts of things he is made to do and even some things that he is not made to do.

[For more information about their book titled ‘Free’, click here]

[For another excellent story on how to raise your children as world changers meet Dalene Reyburn here]

scandrette

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apart from having one of the greatest full names known to personkind [say Lara Harler Lahr out loud or sing it to the tune of ‘Deck the Halls’] Lara and her husband Chris and their daughters Alexa, Moriah and India are good friends of ours that we met in Philly in our previous season of life…

having made some very similiar decisions to Nigel and his family in the previous post and demonstrating some true inspiration of what incarnation is really about and how perhaps more of us are called to live like this, here is Lara Harler Lahr…

from left: Moriah, Lara Harler, India, Chris, Alexa

from left: Moriah, Lara Harler, India, Chris, Alexa

We started raising our kids to be world changers before they were even conceived. The day we returned from our life changing summer in  India in 1997, we decided to live differently. It was that experience that led us to name our first daughter Alexa, which means defender of mankind. Soon after, we moved from Wilmore Kentucky to Philadelphia PA. We sold everything except what we could load into our van and bought a house in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Philadelphia 13 years ago. I knew that bringing an almost 1 year old to the ghetto of Philadelphia made no logical sense to our family or much of our friends…and there were days that I thought we were crazy as well!

Our next door neighbors fought a lot. I remember fearing for the woman next door and for those sweet boys of hers. As the screaming went on for hours on end, all we could do was pray…or so we thought…. We started talking to our neighbors a little here and there and eventually decided to take down the little gate between our two back “yards.”  We went in halfsies and bought a baby pool.  I never had any deep conversations with them during that first year, and never pried into their problems. One day Chris was on the front porch hanging out when he saw our neighbor talking to other neighbors. Afterwards she came to Chris and said “Did you see that?! I just talked to a neighbor!! I never talk to neighbors, but I have been noticing you and Lara talking to neighbors and I decided I shouldn’t be the neighborhood bitch anymore!” Then she went on to say that she had noticed our relationship and it really brought hope for a healthy marriage!!

We realized at that point that having a healthy marriage and a healthy relationship with our kids does change the world!  Especially in the area where we live…where hardly and kids have a two parent home!!

Fast forward 13 years to today. We have three daughters who go to a local charter school. We have been part of a local church in the heart of the “Badlands” of Philly.  They witness the reality of poverty, drug addiction, prostitution, incarceration, shootings, and other violence. We have had to listen to our girls share heart breaking stories that they have heard from friends at school. My younger ones love to play homeless like most kids like to play house! This is just the world they know. Because my girls are exposed to such difficult and seemingly unchangeable circumstances, we put a lot of energy into teaching them to pray.  We have had morning devotions every morning for several years now and we are teaching them to pray and believe.

Two years ago we were able to travel to India to visit with our friend and her 48 kids and the child that we have been sponsoring for years. I had been in a car accident that left me with a settlement that covered our trip, and I wanted to go there more than do anything else so that my kids could witness and be a part of the faith of these kids in India. I could go on and on with stories of how much faith these children have and how God answers their prayers. I want my girls to know that closeness with God and to have that kind of faith. My girls hearts were changed. They are being molded more and more every day by their experiences which give them love for people and a deeper reliance on the power of prayer that does change the world.

[For another exciting story on raising children as world affecting people, click here for the story of Lisa Scandrette and her family]

lahr

 

I have already shared an article on my blog about Nigel and Trish before and how they moved into what is known as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods with their family and how some of that has played out. Val and i managed to have a Skype call with Nigel a few weeks ago and it was truly inspiring hearing some of the story of how they got to where they are and how it has been playing out. Nigel takes some time here to share about some of the ways in which their decisions and actions have influenced their children in growing up as World Changers…

Nigel,Trish,Hannah,Rachel,Jordan,Daniel,Sarah

Nigel,Trish,Hannah,Rachel,Jordan,Daniel,Sarah

Reflections on parenting: Choosing to put God first

When my wife and I moved into Hillbrow, Johannesburg over a year and a half ago, the main concern expressed by many of our loving friends was for our children. People literally asked questions like “What if one of them is kidnapped, raped or murdered?”. Hillbrow is just one of those communities which seem to invoke fear.

We were however convinced that God had spoken to us about moving into the neighbourhood, about downward mobility, and about standing in solidarity with our urban poor neighbours. Trish and I had long discussions about the call of God on our lives, and in fact the potential suffering that following Jesus may cost any believer, and therefore also us. The question we had to answer was whose voice would be louder… the voice of God or the voice of fear.

We searched the Scriptures and were convinced that if Jesus were alive today, He would be spending his life not in comfort and convenience, but rather in places like Hillbrow as friends of prostitutes, drug dealers and the homeless. The more I studied Scriptures, the more I became aware of the dangers of greed, individualism and consumerism.

We drew courage from reframing the question as this: what is more dangerous for our children, given the realities of eternity – to grow up in a society and culture which teaches you to worship the unholy trinity of “me, myself and I” or to be in a potentially physically dangerous place where you can learn the values of Jesus of justice, compassion and love?  Jesus said “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Matthew 16:26). An important reflection.

We started to dream of a new world, the kind of world we would want to leave to our children.

We want to see a world in which the rich do not tolerate extreme poverty and inequality. We want to see many people actually laying down their lives of comfort and convenience for the sake of bettering the lives of others. Seeing people freed from poverty, inequality, racism and exploitation is more important than fulfilling our lust for more things! We want to be part of a society in which people are valued more than things. We want to see the god of consumerism in South Africa bowing its knee to a love motivated revolution which results in freedom from oppression and exploitation. We want to see this for all people, regardless of class, citizenship, race or religion. We dream of equality in every sector of society. We believe that if the education system is not OK for a rich kid, it is not OK for a poor kid. The same goes with healthcare, housing, security. The same goes for rural kids and inner city kids. The same for black kids and white kids. We are not more valuable than the least valued in our society. We are doing our lives in a new way. We are going to live our dream and see this reality briefly described above happening around us. We hope others will join us and this will happen around them too. Who knows, very soon, the world can be a different place!”

As we weighed up God’s Word, His call and his promises, we finally came to the decision to move regardless of the cost. As a side reflection, I have subsequently found that the time God gives you grace to do something often coincides with the moment of your decision to obey His Word to you. Grace comes through faith and faith comes from putting the Word of God into practice in your life.

So fast forward a few years from when we made this decision, and here we are living in what many describe as one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the world. As responsible parents, we do all we can to protect our children. They know the rules and the risks and we are always close by to protect them. What we have found is that rather than restrictions, we are now in the most spacious place in our lives and the move has in my opinion been the best thing we could have done for our children. So often we think doing radical things for Jesus will harm our children, when in fact the opposite happens – they grow and develop.

I am so often overwhelmed by the things my children do in response to the poverty they now see in the lives of their friends who they love. My son Jordan, aged 8, has spent very little of his pocket money on himself since we have lived here. A little while after we moved in he came to me with his savings and said “Dad, you give me everything I need, I don’t need this money, who do you think we should give it to?” Needless to say my chest swelled as I held back tears of gratitude at the work God was doing in my boy’s heart. He has since done this again and again. His little brother, Daniel, aged 6, also loves to give his pocket money away or to buy food for the homeless with it.

In our block of flats, one of our children’s friends is a little boy named Sipho. Sipho lives with his 4 year old brother, Thabo, and his two year old baby sister, Princess, (not their real names)and single mother in a single room that they sub-let as a family. The room is barely big enough to fit the double bed which they all share. His father is legally not allowed to see him after he tried about 2 years ago to poison the two little boys and himself in an attempted family suicide. Their mom works at night and so the boys are often chased out the flat during the day so she can sleep. They are often hungry and so our two older girls love making them food. Sipho recently turned 8 years old. It was obvious that his mom was not going to throw him a birthday party or buy him any presents. Enter my children! All by themselves they conspired to bless this boy with a birthday party. They all pooled their pocked money together. Hannah, our 12 year old and Rachel, our 10 year old baked the cake. Jordan bought the presents. It was an amazing event. Through these and other similar stories I have become convinced that you cannot teach your children how to love and show compassion through  your words, you have to demonstrate it as a parent and create opportunities for them to take the initiative. Living among the urban poor and standing in solidarity with our neighbours constantly presents opportunities for acts of love.

I have so many more stories to tell, like how Hannah, our 12 year old has become a real advocate for the rights of the oppressed. Our children have had opportunities to speak on radio and television and to many journalists about how society should be helping their friends. Hannah often comes to me and asks me to help a friend get back into school or to get some form of assistance for someone, whether adult or child. We have often involved friends who are lawyers to help her friends and have even taken cases to the Constitutional Court (South Africa’s highest court) on behalf of Hannah’s friends. God is not only doing a work in their hearts, He is giving them a voice to the world.

Moving into Hillbrow has been the best thing we could have done for our children. When we put God first in our lives, He takes care of all the details of our lives. He really does love us and wants the best for us and we can trust Him with our children as we pursue Him and His call with all of our lives. We should never let our children set the agenda in our lives, as precious as they are. We believe they are more precious to God than to us and that He will work in their hearts and do things in them we could not even dream of if we allow Him to really be on the throne of our lives completely.

So in conclusion, let me quote Jesus who said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We have found this verse to be true in our new life and Hillbrow and know that Jesus can be trusted!

To follow their story a little more closely, check out www.transforming.org.za or connect with Nigel on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nigel.branken

[For the next inspiring story, with a similiar flavour, in this series on raising world changers, read this one on Lara Harler Lahr and family in Philly]

FamilyOnAWalkDanielTrishSarahHannahRachelNigelAndJordan

Trevor and the Mann’s [the irony being the rest of them aren’t] are a family I met in Florida last year when they flew us up to speak at a youth function and spoiled us horribly. He is a very busy man and so this is a short offering but exactly the kind of thing i was looking for – a fairly simple way of instilling a great life lesson in their daughter:

manns

Don’t have time to write much but Nicki, Lacie and I have given each other items from World Vision’s gift catalog.

I think my favorite was that I once received a goat. Obviously, I didn’t receive it but a needy family in a 3rd world country did. Lacie usually chooses clothing and meds. It’s a great lesson/experience to share with your family. Here’s the link: http://donate.worldvision.org/OA_HTML/xxwv2ibeCCtpSctDspRte.jsp?section=10389

[To read the next powerful story of a family moving into an area considered to be really dangerous and how that has affected their children, read here] 

Candice family

When you have a baby, just getting through one day without falling asleep in our cereal is the biggest achievement. As my two ninjas get older, I’m beginning to realise that raising kids, as much as possible to be Jesus kids, doesn’t just consist of trying to make it through the day in one piece, making sure that homework is done, ensuring that veggies are eaten and that naps are taken. God actually relies on me (and Matt) to give our kids character building lessons, to teach them Godly values and to show them how to be Jesus to people. Because we’re the closest people to them, we’re the first example they’ll know and see ~ ahem. The pressure is great.

Noah, my 4 year old, is at school in the mornings. At the start of the year, he was at another pre-school where he was bullied. It impacted him and his little self-confidence and character a lot. As his mommy, it was just the most heart breaking thing to have to walk through. Needless to say, he’s in a different school and loving it BUT even though Noah and I walked that path, and it was horrible, it gave him a chance to learn an important lesson. Because he knows that being ugly to other kids hurts, because he’s experienced it himself, he knows what it feels like. He identifies. So everyday when he gets out the car at school, and we walk into class, I say to him “Mr Noah, you be the little boy who makes another girl or boy smile today.” Look, he’s 4 ~ and he’s totally not into sharing at the moment and really is feisty so of course, he’s got his moments where he’s not even close to bringing a smile to someone else, but rather a flood of tears. But every morning as his mommy, I pray “Lord, help my baby help someone smile today” ~ and I try remind him at the start of every day as he heads into his classroom. He’s never come home and told me he’s been a smile-bringer but his teacher told me the other day that he prayed in class and this is how his prayer went “Dear Jesus. Thank you for our mommies and daddies and please help us to be kind to each other today. Jesus doesn’t like it when we’re ugly to each other. Amen.”

Candice Noah TylaI’m trying my best to teach my kids to bring and be joy to the people around them. By doing that, they’re demonstrating Jesus, even in the small things, like sharing Lego blocks or by asking another little girl or boy if they’re ok if they fall and helping them up ~ it’s a tough one to teach a little person who’s still trying to figure out what they want in life and who they are in life, never mind trying to be a light in someone else’s but we take it one day and one prayer at a time.

There’s also the practical side of things like trying to get my kids to be involved hands on with people who they wouldn’t normally get to interact with, to get them to see and be face to face with kids who don’t have as much as they do.

SUSPENDED COFFEE AND GROCERIES

I read up a couple of weeks ago about this idea of suspended coffee. I’d never heard of it, and its apparently an idea that’s in operation all over the USA but I was totally keen to try it.

Suspended coffee works in some coffee shops, where if you buy a coffee, you can say “One decaf to go and one suspended.” In essence, you’re paying for two coffees but one is suspended. Someone in need, for example, a homeless person, a family in need ~ when they come into the coffee shop, they know to ask for a suspended coffee and they receive a free one because of you, paying for one. Stunning idea and really just demonstrates an act of kindness and giving to those who can’t even afford a simple luxury of coffee in the morning.

So, because I’m not really a coffee drinker, I decided to rope my kids in when we do grocery shopping, in a kinda “Suspended Grocery Shopping” idea. When I take my two little ninjas in the trolley down the aisle at the grocery store, whatever they choose as a treat, they throw another one in the trolley for “a baby who doesn’t have one.” Living in South Africa, my kids come into contact with loads of kids who are less fortunate than they are so I pack the extra goodies in my car. It’s never anything big, maybe like a sucker, or a packet of chips, or a boxed juice, but my kids are slowly learning that things that they have, some kiddies aren’t fortunate to have themselves. When we come across a little girl or boy that is in need, we can dig into the stockpile we have and hand it out. Not only is it a blessing to the little kiddie in need, but it’s a HUGE blessing to my two babies to see how much joy they bring to someone by just sharing something they take for granted everyday. Again, it’s being someone’s smile, even just for a few moments.

Being only 2 and 4 years old, my children still have so much to learn. They are only just beginning to find out what they’re capable of, and just because they’re tiny, doesn’t mean they can’t change the world for good, for Jesus. My kids and I have this little line we always say. I say to them “I may be small” and they end it off with “But with God’s help, I can do big things.” Me, as their mommy ~ I have to show them now that even the smallest things now, make an eternal impact ~ and that’s not restricted to their age at all. I pray every day that my kids, starting now at 2 and 4 years old, will start to realise the kind of impact they can make on the world.

[my friend Candi has also written a great piece on how to be a parent of young children when it’s not so easy and you can follow her writings on her blog titled ‘Moments with a mom.’]

[For another great story on raising your children to be World Changers, click here]

So cousin Brett asks for some practical, creative suggestions that can inspire parents to inspire their children. And we have 5 children of our own and 4 long term foster children. All boys. And people are often saying nice things to us about the boys.  And we get good reports back without looking for them. Often from people we don’t even know. So I’m thinking straight away, like the truly humble guy I am: “Yep, I’m the man for this job”. 

Joel, Daniel, cousin David and Michael

Joel, Daniel, cousin David and Michael

And I know the kind of thing Brett is looking for, because he spells it out in an email. The kind of stuff that I’ve often planned to do, or thought it would be good to do…but actually, in practice have never got round to, or had very little success with. Like getting the boys to choose a charity to which the money which  usually gets spent on them for christmas would go to. That was in my mind to do last year. But I ended up taking them all for a days go-karting. Which of course isn’t a bad thing, but not what my cuz is talking about in this instance.

But here’s my offering. It’s a very obvious one. It’s simply about maintaining a relationship with a child, so that suggestions made when they are young men or women aren’t rejected out of hand. Two years ago our second son Michael, who has very itchy feet, was planning to go travelling. So we said: “Hey, why not go and help at this place for street children in the Philippines, which the daughter of some friends of ours is running?” And that’s what he did for 3 months. He loved it. Now he’s in South America, building walls of horse dung on a community farm, visiting Ecuadorian prisoners, working in bars, doing border crossings from, ahem, Columbia to Peru. And, um, other stuff. We get skyped every 2 or 3 weeks, and Michael tries to scare his mum.

So, yeah. No prizes for originality to me. Or for following the brief. Though I’m looking forward to hearing other people’s input so I can be creatively inspired. It’s never too late. But, you know,  I’m going with: talk, talk, jabber, jabber, laugh, giggle, get angry, apologise for your mistakes, don’t be a judgemental monster, get ’em to adulthood with at least a little bit of that free spirit they had when they were 4.  

ps. And also make sure to follow through on your own dreams so that doing so will seem normal to them. Can’t expect them to try to change the world for the better if you’re not doing the same.

pps. In the changing the world stakes, and for the record, I think the funny vids Brett makes are just as important as all the other more obviously world changing stuff. Brad Fish is my guru! So I could probably do with some counselling really…

[David Fee is my mom’s brother’s son and lives in the United of.Kingdom. We like to refer to each other as ‘cousin’ cos that is what we are. One of his gifts is that of songwriter/singer and if you sign up for his mailing list you can receive his music for free over here]

[For another great story on how to raise your children as World Changers, read Candi’s post over here]

Their voices matter. 

collinses

I have 3 daughters. All beautiful. All unique.

All noisy.

There are many donkeys missing hind legs because of their incessant talking. It’s the easiest thing to tune this out. Their voices can so easily become white noise, punctuated by my “ums” and “aahs”, tricking them into believing that I’m actually listening.

That’s not how it works, though. Kids have built in “parents-are-ignoring-me” sensors. Either they’ll shout louder in order to be heard or, sadly, they’ll walk away, learning time after time that they have no voice and their opinions don’t matter. 

That’s why my wife, Yolanda, and I have decided to be intentional about listening. We make time in our manic existence (that’s usually around a meal or in the lull before bed time) to actively listen to our girls.

What does that have to do with being a world changer?

Here’s my take on it:

When we listen to our children and ask pertinent, probing questions, we will begin to hear what is being shaped in their heart. Their life’s purpose will begin to become audible. As we listen, we earn the right to speak. We receive an invitation to be part of that heart shaping. We have an amazing opportunity to help them understand their kingdom purpose. And, if they understand that, they will change the world.

I have no idea how my girls will change the world but I do know that they already are. I can hear it as they speak of the joys and pains of every day. I hear it as they empathise. I hear it as they pray with mountain-sized faith. I hear it in their tear-filled sobs and in the things that break their hearts.

My girls must know that they have a voice. I desire with all my heart that they understand that that voice has a kingdom purpose. I desire that that voice (their voices) will change this world.

[Bruce Collins is a close friend of mine and he loves Jesus, his wife Yolanda and three girls, coffee and then other stuff. He has a blog he seldom posts on, but when he does it is usually transforming and life provoking stuff which you can check out here]

[For more creative parenting ideas, take a look at this post by my United Kingdom cousin David Fee]

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