Look Who's Talking

Lane, my 3 year old son has become quite the talker. Unfortunately, this also means he is repeating a lot of things he hears. He now rarely calls me "mommy," but instead he refers to me as 'honey." When he is getting in trouble he puts his little hands on my face and says "honey, do you love me very much?" How could I possible put him in time out after that?

Today he went to throw away some trash and found a couple Thomas the Train pamphlets that came with his new train, I had thrown away. "Mommy," he said, "These are not trash, these are my books." I apologized to him and he said "Mommy, you should not throw these away, that was not very nice." He sounded exactly like me when I am scolding him for some wrong doing.

It is so cute to hear him talking so much and understanding more and more. But at the same time it is a little scary, because I am realizing how important it is to watch my words. Not only my words but my tone. When I yell, he yells, when I speak in anger, he responds in anger. He is learning from me, even when I don't want him to be.

Children's Ministry - God or Games?

Ministering to children is a passion of mine and has been for many years. I have worked in Children's Ministry for the past 9 years and my desire to see kids know Christ and scripture on a deep, personal level is ever growing. Before I became a mom I thought I knew everything about ministering to children, I realize now how little I know, but being a mother has made me want to minister to children all the more. When I look at my son Lane (age 3) I see so much potential; potential for him to grow to be a great, godly theologian and at the same time potential for him to do great evil. What a great responsibility I have to raise and train him to follow Christ and pursue a life that will glorify God. Part of my concern about how my own children are raised is the teaching they receive from others at school and church. Over the years as I have visited and worked in various churches I have grown concerned over the teaching that many children are recieving. Here are some common threads I have seen that concern me:

1) Poorly trained teachers and/or teachers that have a weak theological knowledge.
2) Teachers whom regularly seek to get children to "pray the prayer."
3) The use of curriculum that is not God-centered, where the glory is given to man not God.
4) The use of curriculum where the concepts of sin, hell, and the crucifixion are left out.
5) The prevalence of flashy, good-looking children's programs that are just that...purely superficial with no depth of teaching.
6) A desperation for children's ministry volunteers which leads to spiritually unqualified teachers, not running backgrounds checks on teachers, and allowing any warm body to teach.
7) Children not attending church services with their families because "they are too young."
8) Setting low expectations regarding what theology children can understand.
9) Children (and parents too) not bringing Bibles to church; children growing up in "Christian" homes where they are not trained in the importance of treasuring and practicing scripture.
10) Children's programs where moral concepts are taught instead of the full truth of Scripture.
11) Overall lack of organization, vision and goals for children's ministry because "they're just kids."

True, no church is perfect, no children's ministry is perfect, but I believe that we are often times failing our children by expecting so little for them and of them. Church's are often more concerned with the quantity of children rather than the quality of teaching they receive. As a children's church teacher and a mother I have certain criteria I desire to see in a Children's Ministry and church.

1) Truly God-centered curriculum, where God is always the hero and He gets the glory.
2) Curriculum that is comprehensive in its content of Scripture, so that children are taught the whole of Scriptures. Even the "uncomfortable" parts
3) A church and children's ministry that has a clearly defined purpose and vision.
4) Teachers that have been screened and trained.
5) Teachers that know biblical and systematic theology and that are willing to put time into studying the Word and preparing for their lessons.
6) A ministry where ALL children are welcomed and treated with respect and kindness regardless of race, gender, special needs etc...
7) A church where children are welcomed and encouraged to sit in services with their parents to worship and be taught under the "adult" teaching.
8) A children's ministry that is both fun and purposeful.
9) A children's ministry that is family-based and seeks to help parents as they teach and train their children in the Word.
10) A well-organized and planned ministry that takes seriously the task of training children to live lives that bring glory to God.

Somehow many of us have become content to just have our kids "babysat" they are entertained and play games while we attend church. We wonder why so many "Christian" children grow up and live lives full of sin or become accepting of liberal doctrine. We have a great responsibilities to TRAIN our children in the Word and part of that training comes from placing them under biblical church teaching.

My Perspective on Children with Special Needs

Since Hudson was diagnosed with Down Syndrome my life has been changed. Having children changes one's life anyway, but having a child with health problems and special needs really changes one's perspective. I am writing this because I think the world needs a perspective change as well.

When we first learned that Hudson had some kind of chromosomal anomaly we were sitting in the office of a Fetal Medicine Specialist. He explained that he thought Hudson would not ever make it to full term. Then he proceeded to tell us that abortions were legal and safe, and many people in our situation would opt to terminate the pregnancy. I was furious and I truly wanted to slap his face. He also kept referring to Hudson as "the fetus." It is amazing to me how anyone can look at an ultrasound and see fingers, toes, and hear a heart beat, can look and see a life and not have a problem with ending it.

I have spoken with many people who have had a misdiagnosis of Down Syndrome or some other "abnormality." One statistic I read said that 80% of woman who have a prenatal diagnosis of a chromosomal anomaly choose to terminate the pregnancy. What if that diagnosis was wrong? And so what if it is right? Who are we to place a value on a life? Why does the world and even those that call themselves Christians view those with special needs as less valuable or as some kind of mistake. God makes no mistakes. It is not an accident that a child is born with a special need. He is not defective, abnormal, or a mistake. He is special. And there is a beauty and an innocence in children with Down Syndrome that quite frankly I am envious of.

This past summer I read an article in "Cookies" a magazine for "hip, trendy" moms. The article was composed of various stories written by moms telling their pregnancy and birthing journies. One story was written by a mom whose baby was given a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome. The mom said that she knew she could not be the right mom for such a child and that she could not handle having a child with Down Syndrome. So she made the difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy. It was written in such a way to try and make the reader feel sorry for the mother and agree with her decision. She went on to say that a year and a half later she gave birth to a normal, healthy baby girl, so she knew she had made the right decision. She felt no regret, no remorse. I cried when I read it. This is the world in which we live. Are we not guilty of genocide. Of murder in the worst degree. What will it be like in 20 years. Will there be a place for children like Hudson?

I remember the day we were told Hudson would most likely not make it to full term, I went to pick up Lane from preschool. It was obvious that I had been crying. As I walked toward his classroom, the Director of his preschool stopped me and asked what was wrong. I explained, and her first response was, "so now you have to decide whether or not to keep the baby?" This was a woman who claimed to be a Christian. This is the Christianity of America, where abortion is no longer frowned upon, where we can play God.

On numerous occasions, people, including Christians have said things like "I am so sorry" when they learn that Hudson has Down Syndrome. What are they sorry about and why? I'm not sorry. I am more concerned with his heart condition and upcoming surgery and seeing him be healthy. Down Syndrome is only one characteristic that describes Hudson. When I look at him I do not see Down Syndrome, I see a beautiful, sweet, blue-eyed boy. He is God's creation. He is God's gift to us.

I recently made a new friend, Karen who has a daughter with Down Syndrome and we have had many encouraging and funny conversations. She told me that after Sarah Palin was announced as the Republican VP candidate a friend called her and said "Karen, I was so surprised that when Sarah Palin introduced her children, she said nothing about her youngest son having Downs." Karen's reply was "Why would you introduce your child that way?" "I don't introduce my other children as 'this is my daughter Katie, she's 11 and she has an attitude problem.'" "Yes," I said, "I do not introduce my son Lane as 'This is Lane he has a speech impediment." We laughed. But truly, it is such ignorance for people to think of Down Syndrome or any special need as THE defining characteristic of a child. They are children first.

One day Karen was in the check out line at Target with her then 2yr old daughter; her daughter was throwing a temper tantrum over not getting candy. A woman in line behind Karen asked "Is she doing that because she has Downs?" "No" Karen replied, "She's doing that because she is 2." :)

Several months ago I read an article in a parenting magazine about a family who had 5 or 6 children and all of them have some form of autism. Many readers wrote in and said those parents should have stopped having children a long time ago. How they were a burden to the school system. How they were so irresponsible to keep bringing children like that into the world. I was stunned. As if the readers' children were somehow better, more valuable, because they don't have autism. As if the world should be the judge on what kind of children are OK.

I have had people ask me if we still plan to have more children since having a child with Downs. YES, absolutely we do. Children, ALL children are a gift from God. Statistically, the chances of us ever having another child with Down Syndrome are minute. Then again I am only 27 most birth "defects" are associated with much older women. God doesn't care about statistics or science, and whatever children He chooses to give us, we will do our best to raise them to follow Him. We consider ourselves so blessed to have children at all, and we hope to have many more and may even adopt or foster parent children with special needs in the future.

Not everyone's response has been negative though. Last week I spoke with a friend who told me that when his wife was expecting their oldest son they were told he had Down Syndrome. During the pregnancy they started researching and meeting others with children with Down Syndrome, and preparing to care for their son. Their son was born and does not have Down Syndrome. But my friend's response was so encouraging, he said they looked at the situation as just another opportunity God gave them to share the Gospel. They met people they would never had met if they hadn't received that diagnosis of D.S. and were able to share God's love with them. He said it was so awesome that God gave us the same opportunity. That was so encouraging to me. Finally, a Christian who lived what they say they believe!

God has put many new people in our path. From Doctors to Social Workers. Many have commented on how well we are handling all of this. To that we say, it is God. Really He is the ultimate comforter, provider, and friend. We hope that God is glorified through us and that we are a testimony of His grace. Because, yes there are times when we get overwhelmed and times when we feel like incapable parents, but His grace is always sufficient.

My view on so many things has changed. I used to look at children with Down Syndrome and other handicaps and feel bad for their parents. In my heart I viewed them as God making some kind of mistake. My perspective was so worldly, and so judgmental. God has changed our perspective on people, parenting, and life. We are grateful for the opportunity to share His love with others through parenting Hudson, and we take very seriously the responsibility we have to raise both our boys to follow God.

I think the world needs to change their perspective on life, on what is valuable and what is not, on what is "normal," on what is perfect. We are all imperfect, we are all defective, and God has made us all unique. Children with special needs are just as valuable and precious as those without. They are not a mistake. They are just another example of how God the Great Creator creates in beautiful ways.

A great article in Christianity Today regarding people with disabilities, here is the link