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Through the Eyes of One of America’s Forgotten by Jennifer Slattery

sad lonely angry kid child tween grieving alone

I was completely blind-sighted and leveled, for some time to come. In fact, I’m not sure the ache God started years ago has ever left. That ache of knowing, really knowing, and feeling completely and utterly inept. More than that, of wrestling with what God might be calling me to do, and yet, erecting barriers to obedience before the prayer concludes.

Double-minded. Partially surrendered. Angered by the injustice of it all yet paralyzed by fear, selfishness, and uncertainty. Some problems seem just too big to tackle, and yet, God—the infinite, all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God, has a plan. If we’d but tune our ears and step out in obedience, to whatever He calls us to do. For some that means opening our home to broken children. For others that may mean acting like a support for friends who’ve answered the call to foster. The opportunities to help are endless.

And the need, urgent. There are so many reasons we can say now, but there’s a huge and pressing reason to say yes.

Through the eyes of one of America’s forgotten:

Kraigen stood in the doorway holding a large garbage bag that wasn’t even half full despite the fact that it carried absolutely everything he owned. Clenching his jaw, he braced himself for the worst. Based on the sappy faces and wide, almost teary eyes that stared back at him, this was gonna be one long night. He pretended to listen to the high-pitched chirping that pricked his ears, but in reality, his mind was a million miles, and neighborhoods, away.

He knew the drill. They were happy to have him, wanted him to feel at home, yah-da, yah-dah, yah-dah. He’d heard all that before. And he’d pretend to buy it, for now. Until they shipped him off somewhere else. Because they always did. This was his third home this year, the tenth home since those high-and-mighties down at children’s services shipped him off five years ago when they found his mother passed out on the living room floor, a used heroine needle dangling from her limp hand.

“Can I take your…um…bag for you?” A lady with a way too big smile and mascara caked eye-lashes asked, reaching for Kraigen’s things.

He jerked away instinctively and clutched the smooth plastic to his chest. The woman’s eyes went wide. The man beside her, tall with a thick shaggy beard and thick glasses, started to move forward. When Kraigen looked directly into the man’s eyes and squared his shoulders in his best, “Wanna piece of me?” stance, the man slackened and stepped back.

“Are you hungry?” The woman’s voice was shaky. “I made spaghetti and meatballs. Come with me.”

Kraigen followed reluctantly into a brightly painted kitchen with pink and purple flower curtains. A large, round table laden with salad, milk, steamed vegetables and hot spaghetti sat in the center of the room. Hen tightened his throat to stop his nose from inhaling the aroma of Italian sausage and roasted garlic. Last thing he needed was for his stomach to go growling like some wild animal. Yah, he was hungry. So what? He’d been hungry before, and he’d be hungry again. One hot meal, and a few nights in some Beaver-Cleaver home really wasn’t going to make that much of a difference. It was all temporary, despite their lofty promises.

“Here, have a seat.” The man pulled out a chair and patted the cushion.

Kraigen glanced at the clock. How long were these charades going to go on? But that was how the game was played. They’d do their part, give him a few hot meals, tell him how special he was, that it wasn’t his fault his mom was sick, like they had any idea what they were talking about. But then he’d mess up, or they’d get tired, whatever, and he’d be shipped off somewhere else.

“Like spaghetti?” The lady shoved a steaming hot plate piled high with soft noodles and dripping sauce in front of his face. “I made this just for you.”

An image of his mother passed out on the vomit-stained carpet, her thick, matted hair spread out across the maroon fibers like clumps of wool, flashed through his mind.

He cleared his throat to keep his tears at bay. “Thank you,” and began to push the noodles around his plate with a shiny silver fork.

The man with the thick glasses pulled up a chair, sat beside him and nodded for the lady to do the same. Kraigen pretended not to notice the pathetic looks of sympathy that were etched in their middle-class faces. It was like they were watching some mutated cat trying to lap up a pile of spilled milk.

“I know this is hard for you—”

Yah, right. You and your pretty little white picket fence and two-car garage? You don’t know And I know you won’t stick around long enough to find out. No one does.

headshot2013About the Author:

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for Crosswalk.com, Internet Café Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her teenage daughter and coffee dates with her handsome railroader husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

WhenDawnBreaks_N154102_300dpiRGBMore About When Dawn Breaks:

As the hurricane forces Jacqueline to evacuate, her need for purpose and restitution motivate her to head north to her estranged and embittered daughter and into the arms of a handsome new friend. However, he’s dealing with a potential conspiracy at work, one that could cost him everything, and Jacqueline isn’t sure if he will be the one she can lean on during the difficult days ahead. And then there are the three orphans to consider, especially Gavin. Must she relinquish her chance at having love again in order to be restored?

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here.

When Dawn Breaks is also available at Barnes and Noble and Christian Book Distributors.

BeyondIDocoverAbout Jennifer’s First Novel, Beyond I Do:

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage … it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Eight Things Every Kid Should Hear by Mary L. Hamilton

Mary HamiltonMy novel, Hear No Evil, was inspired by young teens I knew who felt unloved by one or both parents, usually as a result of divorce. These kids heard their parents say, “I don’t want you” by their actions, if not verbally.

No child should ever hear those words from a parent. But what words should they hear? What words and phrases do kids need to hear in to help them grow into confident young adults? Here’s a list of eight “words” I believe every child should hear.

I love you. Sounds basic, right? But try saying it when the toddler is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. Or when your tween is sassing you, your teen is rebelling. Kids need to hear “I love you” even—no—especially when they don’t deserve it. Isn’t that what God did for us?

I’m proud of you. When your child has lost the game or didn’t make the team, or brought home less than stellar grades, look them in the eye and say, “You’re my son/daughter, and that makes me really proud.” Children need to hear those words to know their worth is not based on what they do, but on who they are.

What happened? Your preschooler has redecorated the wall…in Sharpie. You’re teenager wrecked the car. And your first impulse is to scream, “Who did this?” or “What have you done?” Both of those questions immediately assign blame. On the other hand, “What happened?” invites communication. There will be time for blame later, but asking this question instead of the others will keep the lines of communication open and make for better relationships.

It doesn’t matter. A lot of what I thought monumentally important with the first child really didn’t matter by the time I had my third child. I’d learned to take the long view by asking, “Will she still want to do this when she’s sixteen?” “Will this be an issue with his employer when he’s twenty-five?” If the answer was yes, then it mattered and I needed to deal with it. If the answer was no, I could relax because it didn’t matter. Consequently, I put up with annoyances like a child sleeping in my bed for longer than I wanted. But I was pretty sure that would change sometime before they turned sixteen!

Yes! It’s easy to say no when our children ask to do things. We’re tired. We don’t want to make the effort. It seems dangerous, or it takes too much time. Train yourself to say yes unless there’s a good reason to say no. You’ll make a lot more memories, and your children will be more willing to accept an occasional no because you’ve said yes so many other times. They’ll trust there’s a good reason for saying no, even if they don’t like hearing the word.

No. Sometimes, we have to be the adults and say no. But don’t make that the end of the conversation. Explain why you’re saying no. Children live in the moment and don’t think about possible consequences. When you explain your reasoning behind your “No” answer, they learn to think farther ahead than the immediate desire. You help them see the process for making wise decisions. Help them see that something may not be an issue right now, but giving in will likely have negative consequences in the future and you want to spare them that experience.

I’m sorry. Children don’t need perfect parents. They need parents who teach by example. If we want them to be quick to admit fault, quick to seek forgiveness, they need to see us modeling that behavior. Every time we react in anger, or fail to keep our word, every time our words or behavior pierce a child’s heart, we need to get down on their level and say, “I’m sorry,” and beg their forgiveness. When we do, something is set free in the relationship that allows it to deepen and grow. Be quick to apologize, and quick to seek forgiveness.

You’re good at __________. It’s often difficult for children to see their own strengths. So tell them where they shine. My children’s strengths and interests were evident from early childhood. At 18 months, my athlete was bobbing a basketball in the toilet. At the same age, my brainiac kid figured out how to get on the Internet (when the Internet was still new and required several steps). And my servant-hearted daughter constantly pretended to be a waitress taking my order. A lot of sibling rivalry might be defused if each child knows his or her strengths, and understands God has gifted each of them for different tasks. There’s no need for competition. In addition, a child who knows where his strength lies has confidence to try other things. If they fail, it’s no big deal because they’re still good at something else.

I believe children who hear these affirming words and phrases will grow up to be confident and secure. Can you think of any others?

About the Author:

Mary L. Hamilton is the author of Hear No Evil, Book 1 in the Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series for tweens. She grew up at a camp much like the setting for her book. When not writing, Mary enjoys knitting, reading and being outdoors, though not all at the same time. She and her husband live near Houston, TX within range of their three grown children who will attest to the power of these words in their life.

Connect with Mary at her Website/blog, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and at Twitter.

HearNoEvilModifiedFront5-5x8-5More about Hear No Evil:

Summer camp is no fun for Brady McCaul. The girl with the cute dimples thinks he’s immature and childish. The camp bully targets him with cruel taunts and teasing, and flips Brady’s canoe to keep him from winning the race. But worst of all, his mom won’t let him come home. She doesn’t want him living with her anymore. Brady wonders if even God cares about him.

Can Brady figure out what he did to earn Mom’s rejection and change her mind by week’s end? Or will he have to live with his workaholic dad, the guy who left when Brady was seven?

All seems lost until a surprising secret changes everything.

Hear No Evil can  be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Be sure to catch Inner Source’s interviews with Mary and her character  Brady McCaul.