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Focus on the Family Magazine - December 2021/January 2022

It can be a struggle to raise a family while balancing your work life, social life and relationships. Focus on the Family magazine is here to help! Each complimentary issue delivers fresh, practical Biblical guidance on family and life topics. Every issue comes packed with relevant advice to build up your kids, strengthen your marriage, navigate entertainment and culture, and handle common challenges you may face in your marriage and parenting journeys. Plus you'll find seasonal advice ranging from back-to-school activities to date night tips for you and your spouse.

It can be a struggle to raise a family while balancing your work life, social life and relationships. Focus on the Family magazine is here to help! Each complimentary issue delivers fresh, practical Biblical guidance on family and life topics.

Every issue comes packed with relevant advice to build up your kids, strengthen your marriage, navigate entertainment and culture, and handle common challenges you may face in your marriage and parenting journeys. Plus you'll find seasonal advice ranging from back-to-school activities to date night tips for you and your spouse.

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TIMOTHY<br />

KELLER:<br />

Helping Families Thrive in Christ<br />

DEC <strong>2021</strong> / JAN <strong>2022</strong><br />

God s<br />

call '<br />

to Mary . . .<br />

and to us<br />

pg. 25<br />

IT’S NOT TOO LATE<br />

FOR YOUR MARRIAGE<br />

HOW DOES YOUR TEEN<br />

FEEL CLOSE TO GOD?


Weary famIlIes need<br />

God’s encouragement<br />

and support<br />

Your d<strong>on</strong>ati<strong>on</strong> will give struggling families <strong>the</strong> help <strong>the</strong>y need to face difficult<br />

circumstances and encounter God’s love and grace. Through <strong>on</strong>line articles,<br />

downloads and videos, <strong>the</strong> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> Broadcast and so much more,<br />

your financial support makes a difference.<br />

d<br />

Will you d<strong>on</strong>ate today so every family that c<strong>on</strong>tacts us in <strong>2022</strong> can find<br />

<strong>the</strong> help <strong>the</strong>y need to navigate <strong>the</strong> difficulties <strong>the</strong>y’re facing?<br />

D<strong>on</strong>ate <strong>on</strong>line at <str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca/D<strong>on</strong>ate<br />

or call 1.800.661.9800


<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong><br />

C<strong>on</strong>tents<br />

Couples<br />

Faith & Inspirati<strong>on</strong><br />

Kids & Teens<br />

© RUTH BLACK / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

13 OUR NEWLYWED CHRISTMAS<br />

A marriage reflecti<strong>on</strong><br />

from Audrey Setiadi<br />

14 IT’S NOT TOO LATE<br />

FOR YOUR MARRIAGE<br />

Before you choose divorce, c<strong>on</strong>sider<br />

<strong>the</strong>se four principles that can bring<br />

healing to your relati<strong>on</strong>ship<br />

by T<strong>on</strong>i Nieuwhof<br />

19 A NIGHTGOWN TO REMEMBER<br />

When my husband and I let go of<br />

our expectati<strong>on</strong>s about gift-giving,<br />

we discovered new ways to feel<br />

loved and celebrated<br />

by Michelle Rayburn<br />

20 THE GREAT JAM DEBATE<br />

Minor annoyances can actually draw<br />

you and your spouse closer toge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

by Jesse Neve<br />

In Every<br />

Issue<br />

4 LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT<br />

5 HACKS & FACTS<br />

12 MEDIA<br />

46 MY THRIVING FAMILY<br />

21 ALL BABIES ARE MIRACLES<br />

A pro-life insight from Tim Tebow<br />

22 HOLDING ON TO<br />

CHRISTIAN ROBERT<br />

Kristin and Kevin faced an awful<br />

choice. Their decisi<strong>on</strong> stunned<br />

every<strong>on</strong>e<br />

by Ginger Kolbaba<br />

25 GOD’S CALL TO<br />

MARY . . . AND TO US<br />

There’s a lot we can learn about <strong>the</strong><br />

way a young Jewish girl resp<strong>on</strong>ded<br />

to God<br />

by Timothy Keller<br />

28 ‘FAMILY TRADITIONS’: A<br />

PAINTING BY MORGAN WEISTLING<br />

Would my apple pie be as good as<br />

Nana’s this year?<br />

by Sheila Seifert<br />

30 JOY STEALERS<br />

Unmasking four thieves that want to<br />

rob you of God’s joy<br />

by Suzanne Eller<br />

33 MY DISRUPTED LIFE<br />

A parenting insight from Jean<br />

Darlae Yim<br />

34 RORY’S ODYSSEY CONNECTION<br />

A l<strong>on</strong>ely college student found<br />

comfort from childhood “friends”<br />

during <strong>the</strong> pandemic<br />

by Thomas Jeffries<br />

38 HOW DOES YOUR TEEN<br />

FEEL CLOSE TO GOD?<br />

Identifying <strong>the</strong> right love language<br />

can enhance your child’s faith<br />

by Dr. Gary Chapman<br />

43 FIRST STEPS<br />

Show your kids how to practice and<br />

receive forgiveness<br />

by Natalie Frisk<br />

44 IS YOUR TEEN AT RISK?<br />

An open dialogue about suicide<br />

by Dr. Mat<strong>the</strong>w Sleeth<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>  FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 3


LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT<br />

Jean-Paul Beran is<br />

president of <str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> Canada.<br />

FOR MANY OF US, CHRISTMAS<br />

really is <strong>the</strong> most beautiful time of year. We get<br />

to see family, enjoy delicious baking, find <strong>the</strong><br />

perfect presents for <strong>on</strong>e ano<strong>the</strong>r, celebrate old<br />

traditi<strong>on</strong>s while creating new <strong>on</strong>es, and most<br />

importantly, we get to experience anew <strong>the</strong><br />

“good news of great joy that will be for all people,”<br />

as we read in Luke 2:10.<br />

For o<strong>the</strong>rs, though, Christmas may be more<br />

difficult. It’s interesting that in <strong>the</strong> same verse<br />

of great joy, we also read “fear not.” As you<br />

know, <strong>the</strong>re has been a lot to cause fear and<br />

sadness in our hearts, and when our eyes are focused <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

challenges, we quickly forget God’s promises. I want to remind<br />

you today of <strong>the</strong> greatest promise ever fulfilled: <strong>the</strong> arrival of<br />

our Saviour, Christ <strong>the</strong> Lord.<br />

In this issue of <strong>the</strong> magazine, <strong>the</strong>re’s a variety of articles that<br />

speak into <strong>the</strong>se different experiences of <strong>the</strong> Christmas seas<strong>on</strong>.<br />

There are great ideas for creating memories with kids of<br />

all ages, as well as ways you can create unique traditi<strong>on</strong>s as<br />

a couple—whe<strong>the</strong>r you’re newlyweds or you’ve been married<br />

for years. But <strong>the</strong>re are also articles that speak into those<br />

more challenging areas. On page 14, T<strong>on</strong>i Nieuwhof encourages<br />

those c<strong>on</strong>sidering divorce that it’s not too late for <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

marriage. On page 30, Suzanne Eller shares what she learned<br />

about true joy in a seas<strong>on</strong> of darkness for those who aren’t<br />

feeling joyful in this festive time. And <strong>on</strong> page 44, Dr. Mat<strong>the</strong>w<br />

Sleeth offers advice for creating an open dialogue about suicide<br />

with at-risk teens.<br />

Whatever you’re walking through this year, I pray you experience<br />

God’s joy, hope and peace. I also want to remind you<br />

that if we can help you and your family in any way, please<br />

d<strong>on</strong>’t hesitate to reach out to us. Call 1-800-661-9800, email<br />

help@fotf.ca or visit <str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca/Help to learn<br />

more.<br />

Blessings,<br />

Jean-Paul Beran<br />

good news<br />

of great joy<br />

CLINT BARGEN PHOTOGRAPHY<br />

president Jim Daly<br />

chief operating officer Ken Windebank<br />

publisher Steve Johns<strong>on</strong><br />

focus canada president Jean-Paul Beran<br />

editorial director Sheila Seifert<br />

managing editor Andrea Gutierrez<br />

copy chief Scott DeNicola<br />

c<strong>on</strong>tributing editors Ginger Kolbaba, Vance<br />

Fry, Jennifer L<strong>on</strong>as, Thomas Jeffries,<br />

Marianne Hering and Jeff Masching<br />

art director Brian Mellema<br />

designer Anneka Jack<br />

cover Erin Drago<br />

media publishing director Kevin Shirin<br />

editorial assistant Kat Bittner<br />

print producti<strong>on</strong> Gail Wise<br />

circulati<strong>on</strong> Sandy Grivy<br />

Thank you!<br />

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> provides this magazine and<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r resources through <strong>the</strong> generosity of friends<br />

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For a subscripti<strong>on</strong>, go to <str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca/<br />

<strong>Magazine</strong>.<br />

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> magazine <strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> /<strong>January</strong><br />

<strong>2022</strong>, Vol. 6, No. 6 ISSN 2471-5921, © <strong>2021</strong> <str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

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4<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 


DECORATING with<br />

with MEMORIES<br />

Throughout <strong>the</strong> year and whenever we were <strong>on</strong> vacati<strong>on</strong> or visiting<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rs outside of our area, my family and I would buy a Christmas<br />

ornament. Then we’d mark it with who we were with and what<br />

we were doing. As we decorated <strong>the</strong> Christmas tree, we’d talk<br />

about where we were and sometimes pray for <strong>the</strong> people we had<br />

been with. I remember buying an ornament after my children’s<br />

great-grandmo<strong>the</strong>r’s funeral. It was held in a mountain town where<br />

she’d lived. We still think of her every time we see that ornament.<br />

My children and I <strong>the</strong>n share memories as we decorate.<br />

—Marla Kiley<br />

©HERNANDEZ & SOROKINA / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>  FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 5


HACKS & FACTS / CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS<br />

Video Sk its<br />

I come from a large, close-knit family, so I wanted<br />

my children to know all <strong>the</strong>ir cousins—those who<br />

lived near us and those who were l<strong>on</strong>g-distance. So<br />

in August, my extended family and I would come up<br />

with a Christmas-related <strong>the</strong>me such as “Christmases<br />

Past,” or “Twas <strong>the</strong> Night Before Christmas.” Then<br />

every family would create a short video.<br />

My husband, kids and I would create a short<br />

producti<strong>on</strong>. One time, my kids pretended to be<br />

spies. Ano<strong>the</strong>r time, gangsters. On Christmas Eve,<br />

<strong>the</strong> families nearby would ga<strong>the</strong>r and watch <strong>the</strong><br />

producti<strong>on</strong>s as part of our celebrati<strong>on</strong>. Those out<br />

of town could watch <strong>the</strong> videos <strong>on</strong> YouTube. Then<br />

my fa<strong>the</strong>r would burn DVDs of <strong>the</strong> videos to give to<br />

each family as a gift.<br />

Not <strong>on</strong>ly was this a fun time and good Christmas<br />

Eve activity, but it also marked <strong>the</strong> years and included<br />

every<strong>on</strong>e in our extended family. In additi<strong>on</strong>, my children<br />

and <strong>the</strong>ir cousins enjoy reminiscing about past<br />

videos.<br />

—Skay Johns<strong>on</strong><br />

Good Gifts<br />

Our family has found that churches and some malls have Christmas<br />

trees decorated with <strong>the</strong> names of children in need. To train my<br />

children in how to give a good gift, I’d tell each of <strong>the</strong>m to find an<br />

ornament <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> Christmas tree at our church that represented<br />

a child who was <strong>the</strong>ir same age and gender. Then we’d go to <strong>the</strong><br />

store and look through <strong>the</strong> toys and games, seeking to buy a gift<br />

that each of my children really wanted.<br />

After wrapping <strong>the</strong> gifts and affixing <strong>the</strong> ornaments as nametags,<br />

we’d bring <strong>the</strong>m back to church <strong>the</strong> next week. With huge smiles,<br />

each of my kids would place <strong>the</strong>ir gift under <strong>the</strong> tree. Doing this, we<br />

were able to start <strong>the</strong> Christmas seas<strong>on</strong> by giving to o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

—Chris Brack<br />

FOTF / ANNEKA JACK<br />

6<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 


VALUING LIFE / HACKS & FACTS<br />

Life-Affirming Volunteers<br />

I work at our city’s pregnancy resource center, so I bring my kids<br />

with me to work regularly throughout <strong>the</strong> year. We work toge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

to dust and clean <strong>the</strong> waiting room and advocate rooms. After<br />

we clean each room, we pray for <strong>the</strong> moms who have upcoming<br />

appointments. We pray that God would help <strong>the</strong>m to understand<br />

that He loves <strong>the</strong>ir preborn children, and also that He loves and<br />

values each woman.<br />

—Mary Holloman<br />

PRAYERS for PEOPLE<br />

BIG & small<br />

In order to teach our 6-year-old about <strong>the</strong> sanctity of life, we<br />

started making clear statements in our prayers such as:<br />

• “We pray for babies and children across <strong>the</strong> world, those in <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

mommies’ tummies, and those in heaven.”<br />

• “We pray for all of God’s people, big and small.”<br />

• “We pray for all of <strong>the</strong> grandparents in <strong>the</strong> world.”<br />

When my daughter asked questi<strong>on</strong>s, I explained that all people<br />

are blessings made by God. Therefore, all people—big or small,<br />

old or young—should be loved and protected because <strong>the</strong>y are<br />

important to God.<br />

—Jacqueline Sullivan<br />

Created for a Purpose<br />

ARTEM VARNITSIN / STOCK.ADOBE.COM<br />

I am <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r of four beautiful children, <strong>on</strong>e of<br />

whom was born irreparably “broken.” Avery, my<br />

5-year-old daughter, has a genetic syndrome that<br />

caused a cascade of visible structural problems<br />

affecting her face and skull. Her sweet, unusual face<br />

invites stares. Her tracheostomy and feeding tube<br />

elicit whispers, and yet Avery is unfazed.<br />

In a culture that devalues life based <strong>on</strong> disability and<br />

<strong>on</strong> arbitrary definiti<strong>on</strong>s of pers<strong>on</strong>hood, our family is<br />

armed with biblical truth. My children know we’ve all<br />

been created <strong>on</strong> purpose for a purpose. This value is a<br />

gift given by God to every human being.<br />

To learn <strong>the</strong>se messages, we memorize Bible<br />

verses about having our identity rooted in Christ and<br />

<strong>the</strong> significance of being an image-bearer (Genesis<br />

1:27; Colossians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 15:49). Even my<br />

toddler participates in our daily Scripture memory.<br />

The world may be loud, but a mind fortified with<br />

<strong>the</strong> Word of God is infinitely more powerful.<br />

—Meg Appers<strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>  FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 7


HACKS & FACTS / CHRISTMAS CLEANUP<br />

Linking Christmas<br />

to Easter<br />

On <strong>the</strong> same day we take down our<br />

tree (Epiphany, <strong>January</strong> 6), we begin<br />

celebrating Easter. Just as Advent<br />

and Christmas are a time of joyful<br />

anticipati<strong>on</strong> for Christ’s birth, we begin<br />

anticipating <strong>the</strong> celebrati<strong>on</strong> of Christ’s<br />

resurrecti<strong>on</strong> with a devoti<strong>on</strong> and<br />

discussi<strong>on</strong> about Epiphany and how it<br />

recognizes <strong>the</strong> Magi’s visit to h<strong>on</strong>or baby<br />

Jesus. We play games and teach less<strong>on</strong>s<br />

about Easter, eat special desserts and<br />

prepare our hearts for Christ’s death,<br />

burial and resurrecti<strong>on</strong>.<br />

—George Burke<br />

Our Un-<br />

Decorating Party<br />

At our house, <strong>the</strong> “un-decorating event”<br />

is as much a family traditi<strong>on</strong> as putting<br />

up <strong>the</strong> tree. We each choose how to<br />

participate: taking down garlands,<br />

ornaments and lights, or packing<br />

things in <strong>the</strong>ir boxes. We plan a favorite<br />

food for our buffet-style supper and a<br />

favorite activity (board/card game) following<br />

<strong>the</strong> Christmas cleanup.<br />

—Nancy Koenig<br />

Tw eet<br />

TREATS<br />

Our annual after-Christmas party makes cleanup more manageable. After<br />

dismantling <strong>the</strong> tree, we tie it upright to a tree in our yard. Then we invite a<br />

few friends over to help us make edible ornaments to redecorate <strong>the</strong> tree<br />

for <strong>the</strong> birds. Strings of popcorn and cereal, seeded pinec<strong>on</strong>es, orange peel<br />

cups and more delight <strong>the</strong> kids—and <strong>the</strong> birds. Of course, <strong>the</strong> hot cocoa and<br />

bird-<strong>the</strong>med treats for <strong>the</strong> kids make <strong>the</strong> party complete.<br />

—Cathy Mayfield<br />

FOTF / ANNEKA JACK


CHRISTMAS CLEANUP / HACKS & FACTS<br />

The Cleanup Game<br />

I put <strong>on</strong> my kids’ favorite holiday music and turn<br />

Christmas cleanup into a game with a list of tasks<br />

and rewards that I write <strong>on</strong> index cards. For kids who<br />

are too young to read, I draw a picture of <strong>the</strong> job and<br />

reward, and I review <strong>the</strong> task with <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

For example: Put <strong>the</strong> ornaments away (without<br />

breaking <strong>the</strong>m) = 10 extra minutes of screen time. Put<br />

your stocking in <strong>the</strong> box = 1 extra Christmas cookie.<br />

As <strong>the</strong>y finish each task, I put <strong>the</strong>ir name <strong>on</strong> completed<br />

index cards and pin <strong>the</strong>m <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> bulletin board.<br />

Our cleanup game makes <strong>the</strong> evening go smoothly.<br />

—Elizabeth Cripe<br />

Memory<br />

ORNAMENTS<br />

(TOP)©LÉA JONES / STOCKSY UNITED; ©GUILLE FAINGOLD / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

We cut a piece of paper into small squares and write <strong>the</strong> letter<br />

B, for bulb, <strong>on</strong> half <strong>the</strong> squares and <strong>the</strong> letter M, for memory, <strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r half. I fold <strong>the</strong> papers and place <strong>the</strong>m in a bowl. Then<br />

<strong>the</strong> kids take turns picking <strong>on</strong>e of <strong>the</strong> squares. When <strong>the</strong> slip of<br />

paper is a B, that child selects a plain Christmas bulb to take off<br />

<strong>the</strong> tree and place in <strong>the</strong> storage box.<br />

If a child draws <strong>the</strong> letter “M,” that child selects any n<strong>on</strong>bulb<br />

ornament. These ornaments, handed down from<br />

relatives through <strong>the</strong> years, all have a family memory associated<br />

with <strong>the</strong>m. Before <strong>the</strong> memory ornament is placed in <strong>the</strong><br />

storage box, we remember <strong>the</strong> story associated with <strong>the</strong> ornament:<br />

a big snowstorm <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> day a family member was born,<br />

Grandma’s wedding in a small chapel in Ireland, baptismal<br />

memories and past Christmases. Sometimes <strong>the</strong> children have<br />

a memory about certain ornaments <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> tree that <strong>the</strong>y want<br />

to share, too.<br />

Secret Notes<br />

—Colleen Lasky<br />

As my family puts decorati<strong>on</strong>s away, we each create a secret note<br />

or drawing and tuck it am<strong>on</strong>g <strong>the</strong> ornaments, to be discovered<br />

next year. Finding <strong>the</strong> notes this year as we decorated <strong>the</strong> tree<br />

was fun! And when it was time to clean up after Christmas, everything<br />

went smoothly because we were all trying to sneak in our<br />

notes and drawings for next year. We now have a fun traditi<strong>on</strong> to<br />

look forward to after <strong>the</strong> excitement of Christmas wears off.<br />

—Autumn Shaffer<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>  FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 9


HACKS & FACTS / NEW YEAR’S<br />

BLESSINGS<br />

in a Cookie<br />

I wanted a family friendly way to inspire c<strong>on</strong>fidence that God has good plans for<br />

our future.<br />

I baked homemade fortune cookies and, instead of inserting “fortunes,” I wrote<br />

down <strong>the</strong> traits of spiritual fruit <strong>on</strong> slips of paper—love, joy, kindness. I also jotted<br />

down some virtues I wanted my kids to work <strong>on</strong> during <strong>the</strong> next year, including<br />

cheerfulness and generosity. I even included little blessings such as “May God<br />

bring you peace.”<br />

My family enjoyed opening <strong>the</strong> cookies and revealing <strong>the</strong>ir words for <strong>the</strong> year.<br />

My youngest opened up “cheerfulness” and resolved to be joyful to her siblings<br />

that week. My oldest pulled “generosity” and wanted to make more fortune<br />

cookies for grandparents. This inspired <strong>the</strong> kids to search Scriptures for more<br />

words to add to <strong>the</strong> blessing papers.<br />

—Maria Weir<br />

may God bring you peace<br />

Time Capsules<br />

My family fills out a simple end-of-year questi<strong>on</strong>naire I created.<br />

It includes topics such as best memories of <strong>the</strong> year, <strong>the</strong><br />

hardest situati<strong>on</strong> faced, examples of kindness witnessed and<br />

observati<strong>on</strong>s of Jesus at work in <strong>the</strong>ir life.<br />

We store <strong>the</strong> questi<strong>on</strong>naires in a c<strong>on</strong>tainer labeled with <strong>the</strong><br />

year, and <strong>the</strong>n we store <strong>the</strong>m with <strong>the</strong> Christmas decorati<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

My kids haven’t always loved this activity, and I’m somewhat<br />

haphazard in following up, but I’m glad we pressed <strong>on</strong>. This<br />

year we pulled out our “time capsules,” some from a few years<br />

back, and read every<strong>on</strong>e’s answers aloud. What a powerful<br />

time! My children shared <strong>the</strong>ir thoughts and memories and<br />

expressed surprise at what <strong>the</strong>ir fa<strong>the</strong>r had felt were hard times.<br />

We celebrated and even mourned toge<strong>the</strong>r. It helped us better<br />

understand each o<strong>the</strong>r and b<strong>on</strong>ded us in ways far deeper than<br />

I could have imagined.<br />

—Kristi Woods<br />

ADRAGAN / STOCK.ADOBE.COM<br />

10<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 


NEW YEAR’S / HACKS & FACTS<br />

New Year Horiz<strong>on</strong>s<br />

Living in <strong>the</strong> Southwest desert, winter is a<br />

great time of year to be outside. On New<br />

Year’s Day, we take an early morning hike in<br />

<strong>the</strong> mountains near our home.<br />

It’s a symbolic journey. As we hike, we<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sider <strong>the</strong> sun rising, <strong>the</strong> darkness of night<br />

giving way to a bright new day and a new<br />

year. We talk about our best days last year,<br />

and <strong>the</strong> hard days, too. We talk about how<br />

we have grown or changed.<br />

By <strong>the</strong> time we are looking out over <strong>the</strong><br />

valley, our c<strong>on</strong>versati<strong>on</strong> shifts to what new<br />

horiz<strong>on</strong>s lie before us. We talk about our<br />

goals and hopes for <strong>the</strong> new year. I tell my<br />

children why we hike at sunrise <strong>on</strong> New<br />

Year’s Day, and I tell <strong>the</strong>m what a gift it is to<br />

be given ano<strong>the</strong>r new year.<br />

And <strong>the</strong>n, throughout <strong>the</strong> year, we<br />

remember <strong>the</strong> sunrise hike and talk about<br />

how we’re living out our goals.<br />

—Melissa Johns<strong>on</strong><br />

© LEXIA FRANK / STOCKSY UNITED; (CONFETTI) OLGA ZARYTSKA / STOCK.ADOBE.COM<br />

A Year of Gratitude<br />

Each New Year’s Eve, before <strong>the</strong> popcorn and<br />

fireworks, we dump out <strong>the</strong> c<strong>on</strong>tents of our<br />

Gratitude Jar and take turns reading <strong>the</strong> entries.<br />

We’ve filled our Gratitude Jar throughout <strong>the</strong><br />

year with little notes of things we’re thankful<br />

for. It usually takes a while to read <strong>the</strong> slips of<br />

paper because we talk and laugh as we share our<br />

memories.<br />

Once we’ve g<strong>on</strong>e through <strong>the</strong>m all, we ga<strong>the</strong>r<br />

c<strong>on</strong>structi<strong>on</strong> paper and scissors to cut new slips<br />

of paper for use in <strong>the</strong> coming year. We keep our<br />

Gratitude Jar, pens and paper in a visible locati<strong>on</strong><br />

so we are reminded to make deposits often.<br />

—Jen Skates<br />

Survey Says . . .<br />

We c<strong>on</strong>ducted a family survey to encourage goal setting<br />

for <strong>the</strong> next year. Each of our children answered questi<strong>on</strong>s<br />

such as:<br />

• How can we bring our family closer toge<strong>the</strong>r?<br />

• What is our greatest needed area of growth?<br />

• Dad, I wish you would .<br />

• Mom, I wish you would .<br />

Our 9- and 11-year-old daughters gave h<strong>on</strong>est answers<br />

including, “Understand every<strong>on</strong>e’s needs,” “Try not to<br />

worry so much, Mom and Dad” and finally, “Enjoy God<br />

and each o<strong>the</strong>r!”<br />

This activity gave us insight into how our children perceived<br />

family life. It also brought us closer toge<strong>the</strong>r, giving<br />

us a spirit of <strong>on</strong>eness as we set goals for <strong>the</strong> new year.<br />

—Sara DuBose<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>  FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 11


MEDIA / PLUGGED IN<br />

UPCOMING<br />

REVIEWS<br />

For reviews of <strong>the</strong>se<br />

and o<strong>the</strong>r titles, visit<br />

PluggedIn.com,<br />

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong>’s<br />

media review and<br />

discernment website.<br />

WEST SIDE STORY<br />

How does Steven Spielberg’s bigscreen<br />

remake handle T<strong>on</strong>y and<br />

Maria’s doomed romance?<br />

Scheduled release: Dec. 10<br />

Every time I turn around, <strong>the</strong>re’s a new<br />

superhero story. How do I know which<br />

<strong>on</strong>es are appropriate for my kids to watch?<br />

You’re right. Superheroes are everywhere<br />

<strong>the</strong>se days, <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> big screen and small.<br />

Let’s start with <strong>the</strong> Marvel Cinematic<br />

Universe, a combined movie and TV<br />

world where this franchise’s heroes fit into a complex,<br />

interc<strong>on</strong>nected story. This year, we’ve got Black<br />

Widow, Eternals, Shang-Chi and Spider-Man: No<br />

Way Home in <strong>the</strong>aters. Disney+ has played host to<br />

“WandaVisi<strong>on</strong>,” “The Falc<strong>on</strong> and <strong>the</strong> Winter Soldier”<br />

and “Loki,” am<strong>on</strong>g o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

The franchise includes intense-but-sanitized<br />

violence, some profanity and occasi<strong>on</strong>al suggestive<br />

references. If you’ve seen any Marvel movies or shows,<br />

expect similar c<strong>on</strong>tent in <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

DC, home to Batman, Superman and W<strong>on</strong>der<br />

Woman, offers a grittier, sometimes R-rated take <strong>on</strong><br />

its famous heroes. You’ll encounter more language,<br />

bloodier violence, more mature sexual material and a<br />

darker, grimmer world—especially in movies such as<br />

this year’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League and The Suicide<br />

Squad (both rated R).<br />

From <strong>the</strong>re, lesser-well known shows such as “The<br />

Boys” (Amaz<strong>on</strong> Prime), “Watchmen,” “Doom Patrol”<br />

(HBO Max) and “Jupiter’s Legacy” (Netflix) all feature<br />

hard-R c<strong>on</strong>tent and a cynical worldview.<br />

It’s a lot to take in. Bottom line: Superhero stories<br />

aren’t created equal. Some are more heroic than o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

Before streaming or buying movie tickets, you’ll want to<br />

research each <strong>on</strong>e. And Plugged In reviews are a great<br />

place to start.<br />

—Adam Holz, director of Plugged In<br />

HALO INFINITE<br />

Master Chief is back! Is<br />

<strong>the</strong> latest entry in this<br />

video-game franchise<br />

too intense for your<br />

kids?<br />

Scheduled release: Dec. 8<br />

SPIDER-MAN:<br />

NO WAY HOME<br />

Will <strong>the</strong> web slinger<br />

retain <strong>the</strong> boyish naiveté<br />

that charmed audiences<br />

in previous installments?<br />

Scheduled release:<br />

Dec. 17<br />

(TOP TO BOTTOM) © 2020 20TH CENTURY STUDIOS; © <strong>2021</strong> CTMG. & <strong>2021</strong> MARVEL; XBOX GAME STUDIOS<br />

12<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> 


our newlywed<br />

Christmas<br />

A marriage reflecti<strong>on</strong><br />

from audrey Setiadi<br />

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SETIADIS VIA LINDSEY ROMAN<br />

Dedy and audrey Setiadi <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir wedding day<br />

MY HUSBAND, DEDY, AND I embraced our<br />

first Christmas seas<strong>on</strong> as a married couple with a sense<br />

of adventure. We chose to experience <strong>the</strong> excitement of<br />

three celebrati<strong>on</strong>s: with my side of <strong>the</strong> family, with his<br />

side of <strong>the</strong> family—and our very own take <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> holiday.<br />

My side of <strong>the</strong> family had <strong>the</strong>ir traditi<strong>on</strong>al eggs<br />

Benedict breakfast, <strong>the</strong> sporting of paired pajamas and a<br />

gift-opening cerem<strong>on</strong>y that included a riotous revealing<br />

of secret Santas.<br />

Dedy’s family held minute-to-win-it games, a colorcoordinated<br />

family picture and a remarkable spread of<br />

Hawaiian, Ind<strong>on</strong>esian and o<strong>the</strong>r scrumptious holiday<br />

dishes that included fish, chicken and king crab.<br />

For Dedy and me, our first Christmas seas<strong>on</strong> as husband<br />

and wife included surfing, making meals toge<strong>the</strong>r, opening<br />

presents (laughing about <strong>the</strong> “hidden” gifts accidentally<br />

discovered in our small apartment) and reflecting.<br />

We also used Advent studies to journal and discuss <strong>the</strong><br />

marvel of Christ. We soaked in <strong>the</strong> surreal recogniti<strong>on</strong> of<br />

God made flesh. In <strong>the</strong> midst of an incredibly busy seas<strong>on</strong>,<br />

taking this time to reflect helped us find deep-seated purpose<br />

and c<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong> in God’s presence.<br />

When our first holiday seas<strong>on</strong> as a married couple<br />

came to an end, we were full of c<strong>on</strong>tented joy and thankful<br />

for <strong>the</strong> relati<strong>on</strong>ships that c<strong>on</strong>nected us to our extended<br />

families and to God, <strong>the</strong> ultimate giver of peace and joy. •<br />

audrey Setiadi is a high school teacher in Hawaii. She and Dedy were<br />

married in June 2020.<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 13


COUPLES / RESTORATION<br />

IT’S NOT<br />

TOO LATE<br />

FOR YOUR<br />

MARRIAGE<br />

Before you choose divorce,<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sider <strong>the</strong>se four principles<br />

that can bring healing to your<br />

relati<strong>on</strong>ship<br />

BY TONI NIEUWHOF<br />

I HADN’T EVEN MADE THE<br />

TURN INTO OUR DRIVE-<br />

WAY when I saw <strong>the</strong> scene. My<br />

husband’s Mazda was balancing<br />

precariously 5 feet in <strong>the</strong> air over a<br />

retaining wall.<br />

You might think my first reacti<strong>on</strong><br />

would have been, “I hope Carey’s OK!”<br />

Instead, with a disgusted shake of<br />

my head, I thought, You’re getting what<br />

you deserve. Now clean up your own<br />

mess. I imagined <strong>the</strong> scenario: Carey<br />

had tried to squeeze 10 tasks into <strong>the</strong><br />

space of eight, fell behind, raced out<br />

<strong>the</strong> door 10 minutes late, sped through<br />

a three-point turn and voilà.<br />

I felt no compassi<strong>on</strong>. That’s how<br />

bad our more than 10-year marriage<br />

had become.<br />

© YAROSLAV DANYLCHENKO / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

14<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


RESTORATION / COUPLES<br />

Living with resentment<br />

Fortunately, Carey had found ano<strong>the</strong>r<br />

way to get where he needed to go.<br />

When he arrived home, I was ready for<br />

a fight—or should I say ano<strong>the</strong>r fight.<br />

We no l<strong>on</strong>ger had isolated arguments.<br />

They ran into each o<strong>the</strong>r because our<br />

resentment and bitterness were c<strong>on</strong>stantly<br />

simmering under <strong>the</strong> surface.<br />

A provocative eye roll was enough to<br />

set <strong>on</strong>e of us off.<br />

I resented <strong>the</strong> way our life had no<br />

margin—<strong>the</strong> relentless cycle of too<br />

much work, not enough hours. I had<br />

often complained, “You’re saying yes<br />

to too many things, and this pace is<br />

wreaking havoc <strong>on</strong> us.”<br />

Carey had his own resentments. He<br />

saw all <strong>the</strong> housework that needed to<br />

be d<strong>on</strong>e and believed I wasn’t stepping<br />

up to help. According to him, I was too<br />

focused <strong>on</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r things and blew off<br />

his priorities.<br />

The worst part was that our marriage<br />

should have been better. After all,<br />

Carey was a pastor, and I volunteered<br />

at our church. We were also lawyers<br />

and had received training in divorce<br />

law. We’d seen up close what divorce<br />

can do to families—and how God can<br />

work to save marriages in crisis. But<br />

<strong>the</strong> truth was, I was <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> edge of<br />

ending it all.<br />

If you find yourself in a similar place<br />

in your marriage, you understand<br />

those feelings of emoti<strong>on</strong>al dissatisfacti<strong>on</strong>,<br />

frustrati<strong>on</strong>, anger and distress.<br />

I mean, who wants to live out <strong>the</strong> rest of<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir days in misery? I get it; I remember<br />

<strong>the</strong> endless nights of lying awake<br />

w<strong>on</strong>dering, How can we make it? Do<br />

I even want to?<br />

Yet we did make it. This year, Carey<br />

and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary.<br />

We’re living a marriage that not<br />

<strong>on</strong>ly measures up to our wedding-day<br />

dreams but also surpasses <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

Less<strong>on</strong>s learned<br />

How did Carey and I make it from that bad to this good? In additi<strong>on</strong><br />

to committed prayer, counseling and determinati<strong>on</strong>, we focused<br />

<strong>on</strong> four principles that helped us move toward a better marriage<br />

instead of divorce court. If you’re thinking about ending your marriage,<br />

I’d encourage you to first c<strong>on</strong>sider <strong>the</strong> less<strong>on</strong>s we learned.<br />

© JUAN MOYANO / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

LESSON NO. 1:<br />

PLANT NEW<br />

SEEDS FOR<br />

A BETTER<br />

HARVEST.<br />

THE PRINCIPLES of <strong>the</strong> harvest apply to marriage. As<br />

pastor Nicky Gumbel says, you harvest what you sow,<br />

later than you sow and more than you sow.<br />

Carey and I would not have survived in our marriage<br />

if we had c<strong>on</strong>tinued planting <strong>the</strong> same old words<br />

and acti<strong>on</strong>s. We discovered that if we wanted a better<br />

harvest, we needed to start planting better seeds.<br />

We saw firsthand that if we planted discord, we harvested<br />

chaos. If we planted resentment, we harvested<br />

c<strong>on</strong>tempt. But if we planted new seeds of kindness,<br />

self-c<strong>on</strong>trol and respect, just to name a few, we began<br />

to see a miracle harvest in <strong>the</strong> making. Though it took<br />

time, <strong>the</strong> new seeds grew into thriving plants. >>><br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 15


LESSON NO. 2:<br />

MAKE SURE<br />

THE LIGHT<br />

WITHIN ISN’T<br />

DARKNESS.<br />

The<br />

Hope<br />

Restored<br />

marriage counselling<br />

retreat<br />

A biblically based program<br />

to restore and rebuild<br />

your marriage<br />

Call us today<br />

to find out more<br />

1.833.999.HOPE (4673)<br />

HopeRestoredCanada.ca<br />

ONE of our biggest problems was that we both<br />

believed we were right and <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r pers<strong>on</strong> was<br />

wr<strong>on</strong>g. In short, we had a problem with our eyes.<br />

In Luke 11:34, Jesus said that when our eyes are<br />

healthy [<strong>the</strong> Greek word implies generous], we are<br />

filled with His light. But when our eyes are bad [<strong>the</strong><br />

Greek word implies stingy], we fall into darkness.<br />

Here are questi<strong>on</strong>s Jesus might ask you about your<br />

marriage: How are your eyes? Do you see what is true<br />

about your spouse? Do you see what is true about you?<br />

I didn’t like what I saw. When Carey wrecked his<br />

car, instead of being generous in my resp<strong>on</strong>se, I had<br />

been stingy. So first I had to ask Jesus to clear my eyes.<br />

I also had to ask Him to clear my ears to hear what<br />

He said. That meant I needed to take time <strong>on</strong> my own<br />

with Jesus—without child care resp<strong>on</strong>sibilities. My<br />

preferred time to pray and read my Bible is first thing<br />

in <strong>the</strong> morning. When our kids were babies, that routine<br />

didn’t work, so I chose evenings or nap times.<br />

I started with God, I have this problem. Please help!<br />

And <strong>the</strong>n I laid it out and asked Jesus to show me<br />

what was true. I asked Him to do what <strong>on</strong>ly He can do:<br />

shine light into <strong>the</strong> darkness. Jesus answered by leading<br />

me to a Christian counselor, wise mentors and<br />

friends who could help me see my blind spots, which<br />

were c<strong>on</strong>tributing to unhappiness in my marriage.<br />

© JUAN MOYANO / STOCKSY UNITED


RESTORATION / COUPLES<br />

LESSON NO. 3:<br />

UNDERSTAND THAT<br />

THE TIME FOR PEACE<br />

IS NOW.<br />

LISTEN NOW!<br />

Mark and Jill Savage openly<br />

discuss <strong>the</strong> marital struggles<br />

<strong>the</strong>y’ve had and how to avoid <strong>the</strong><br />

mistakes <strong>the</strong>y made.<br />

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca/Radio<br />

© MONICA PRONK / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

I MET Marcus* when he and his wife,<br />

Katie*, were getting divorced. They<br />

had three kids between ages 4 and<br />

9. Marcus ran a business, and Katie<br />

was a stay-at-home mom. He saw <strong>the</strong><br />

problems in <strong>the</strong>ir marriage as a box he<br />

could pack up and leave behind.<br />

Throughout <strong>the</strong> divorce proceedings,<br />

I heard both Marcus and Katie say <strong>the</strong>y<br />

wanted what was best for <strong>the</strong>ir kids.<br />

I could see <strong>the</strong>y sincerely didn’t want<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir s<strong>on</strong>s to be caught in <strong>the</strong> middle.<br />

After <strong>the</strong> divorce was finalized,<br />

Marcus discovered <strong>the</strong> marriage box<br />

was taken away, but in its place he<br />

was handed a box c<strong>on</strong>taining different<br />

problems. Now <strong>the</strong> parenting schedule<br />

was a perpetual issue. His finances<br />

were tighter than he ever imagined.<br />

His friendship circles imploded, and<br />

nights of fun disappeared. He had<br />

sources of c<strong>on</strong>flict that he never<br />

dreamed would be a part of his life.<br />

And worst of all, <strong>the</strong>ir kids didn’t<br />

experience more peace.<br />

Katie let slip how frustrated she was<br />

that Marcus didn’t pay support <strong>on</strong> time.<br />

She didn’t think about <strong>the</strong> emoti<strong>on</strong>al<br />

impact <strong>on</strong> her boys when she vented<br />

about her expenses. Marcus didn’t<br />

intend to complain to his kids that <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

mo<strong>the</strong>r didn’t care if he had no m<strong>on</strong>ey<br />

left to spend <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong>m. But <strong>the</strong>y heard it.<br />

When I saw Marcus again after <strong>the</strong><br />

divorce, he looked at me through teary<br />

eyes and said, “If <strong>on</strong>ly I’d known <strong>the</strong>n<br />

what I know now, I would have worked<br />

harder to save my marriage.”<br />

When our marriages are in distress,<br />

we may w<strong>on</strong>der whe<strong>the</strong>r we need to<br />

leave for <strong>the</strong> sake of our kids. After all,<br />

we think, Is this <strong>the</strong> model of love we<br />

want our children to grow up with?<br />

Having been a divorce attorney,<br />

I can say that walking out is not going<br />

to provide more peace for your children.<br />

The time to find peace is now,<br />

before divorce. Children do need <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

parents to stop fighting in dysfuncti<strong>on</strong>al<br />

ways in fr<strong>on</strong>t of <strong>the</strong>m. They need<br />

to see <strong>the</strong>m get past <strong>the</strong>ir cold wars,<br />

stubbornness and indifference. That is<br />

what will bring <strong>the</strong>m peace.<br />

If you think <strong>the</strong>re’s no way this can<br />

ever happen in your marriage, humbly<br />

ask Jesus whe<strong>the</strong>r He agrees.<br />

Would planting tiny seeds of loving<br />

acts (not false feelings of affecti<strong>on</strong>) and<br />

messages spoken with a kinder t<strong>on</strong>e<br />

disrupt <strong>the</strong> negativity you’re caught in?<br />

Could it be that Jesus is leading you to<br />

own something hurtful and genuinely<br />

apologize? Your willingness to take<br />

small steps for <strong>the</strong> sake of your children<br />

may create just enough hope to<br />

save your marriage. >>><br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 17


COUPLES / RESTORATION<br />

LESSON NO. 4:<br />

FIGHT FOR “US”<br />

INSTEAD OF “ME.”<br />

IN EPHESIANS 5:21, <strong>the</strong> apostle Paul said we<br />

should be “submitting to <strong>on</strong>e ano<strong>the</strong>r out of reverence<br />

for Christ.” Carey and I needed to learn to<br />

elevate <strong>the</strong> value of keeping our relati<strong>on</strong>ship str<strong>on</strong>g<br />

over satisfying our individual desires. We needed to<br />

start thinking in terms of us instead of me. That meant<br />

we had to intenti<strong>on</strong>ally humble our attitudes and<br />

compromise some of our wants for <strong>the</strong> sake of our<br />

c<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong> with each o<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

We started simply. Our interior-decor tastes are<br />

different. Whenever we redecorated our home, we<br />

argued over everything, clinging tightly to our own<br />

preferences. But as we began to fight for us, we<br />

became more patient and open-minded, willing to<br />

negotiate and respect <strong>the</strong> views and tastes of <strong>the</strong><br />

o<strong>the</strong>r. We gave up our former way of incessantly trying<br />

to persuade <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r pers<strong>on</strong> to adopt our own<br />

sense of style. Now our shared priority is for both of<br />

us to be satisfied with <strong>the</strong> outcome.<br />

To keep fighting for we when things get heated,<br />

we remember this motto: If I win, we lose. How can<br />

we win?<br />

If I know Carey will be unhappy with a particular<br />

choice, I d<strong>on</strong>’t push for it. Carey does <strong>the</strong> same for me.<br />

Both of us c<strong>on</strong>sider that a choice that leaves <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

pers<strong>on</strong> unsatisfied is an unacceptable choice. As a<br />

result we’ve become more creative as we brainstorm<br />

potential soluti<strong>on</strong>s to our challenges.<br />

Plant new seeds,<br />

even while weeping<br />

At my lowest point, I didn’t want to<br />

take those first steps toward repairing<br />

my broken marriage. Taking <strong>the</strong>m<br />

seemed too difficult. In light of <strong>the</strong> outcome,<br />

I can identify with <strong>the</strong> psalmist:<br />

“He who goes out weeping, bearing <strong>the</strong><br />

seed for sowing, shall come home with<br />

shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with<br />

him” (Psalm 126:6).<br />

Weeping while planting <strong>the</strong> initial<br />

seeds of change in my marriage is an<br />

apt picture. I wasn’t filled with much<br />

hope. I wasn’t inspired by feelings of<br />

affecti<strong>on</strong>. I was filled with grief and<br />

despair. But I trusted Jesus with <strong>the</strong><br />

hope of a harvest.<br />

I could easily have followed my<br />

emoti<strong>on</strong>s out <strong>the</strong> door. But I’m grateful<br />

I didn’t. I’m grateful that <strong>the</strong> next<br />

time Carey had an incident with his<br />

car, my resp<strong>on</strong>se was loving. And his<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>ses to my mistakes have been<br />

generous as well.<br />

Jesus offers Carey and me a power<br />

and a source of love that can’t be<br />

exhausted. He offers it to you and your<br />

spouse, too. The truth is that I couldn’t<br />

imagine <strong>the</strong> harvest God had for my<br />

marriage. I doubt you can see <strong>the</strong> harvest<br />

He has for you ei<strong>the</strong>r. But trust<br />

Him, and you’ll find it <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

side of not giving up. •<br />

T<strong>on</strong>i nieuwhof is <strong>the</strong> author of Before You<br />

Split: Find what you really want for <strong>the</strong> future<br />

of your marriage.<br />

*names have been changed.<br />

© ROB AND JULIA CAMPBELL / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

18<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


EXPECTATIONS / COUPLES<br />

a nightgown to remember<br />

When my husband and I let go of our<br />

expectati<strong>on</strong>s about gift-giving, we discovered<br />

new ways to feel loved and celebrated<br />

BY MICHELLE RAYBURN<br />

RAWPIXEL.COM / STOCK.ADOBE.COM; (PATTERN) GREENBUTTERFLY / STOCK.ADOBE.COM<br />

I HELD UP THE SOFT<br />

FLANNEL nightgown and matching<br />

slippers, a gift from my husband,<br />

Phil. I liked <strong>the</strong>m immediately—until<br />

I glanced at <strong>the</strong> tag. Size medium. I’m<br />

an XL gal.<br />

“I might have to exchange <strong>the</strong>se,”<br />

I said.<br />

“They can’t be exchanged,” Phil<br />

replied.<br />

This n<strong>on</strong>refundable mini-garment<br />

was mine to keep. That did not sit well<br />

with me.<br />

After I cooled down, I suggested<br />

we stop buying gifts for each o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

because our gift-giving practices<br />

almost always resulted in c<strong>on</strong>flict. We<br />

worked out a birthday and holiday<br />

agreement where we’d splurge <strong>on</strong> <strong>on</strong>e<br />

item we wouldn’t o<strong>the</strong>rwise purchase<br />

for ourselves. This arrangement eased<br />

<strong>the</strong> pressure <strong>on</strong> both of us.<br />

When I dreamed aloud about<br />

someday getting a smart watch, Phil<br />

suggested we get it for my birthday.<br />

Ano<strong>the</strong>r time, he urged me to book a<br />

weekend at a bed-and-breakfast to<br />

write. When Phil paused to admire a<br />

pricey canoe paddle at <strong>the</strong> sporting<br />

goods store, I said, “Happy birthday!<br />

Let’s get it.” We bought a dishwasher<br />

for our 22nd anniversary, and <strong>the</strong>re<br />

have even been occasi<strong>on</strong>s where nei<strong>the</strong>r<br />

of us desired anything but time<br />

with <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

In a private c<strong>on</strong>versati<strong>on</strong> during a<br />

marriage seminar more than a decade<br />

after <strong>the</strong> nightgown incident, we calmly<br />

talked about how that moment had<br />

made each of us feel. Our initial fix—<br />

no gifts—had removed <strong>the</strong> expectati<strong>on</strong>s<br />

and eased <strong>the</strong> fricti<strong>on</strong>, but true healing<br />

came when we really listened to each<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r’s perspectives.<br />

Today, we strive to follow <strong>the</strong> adm<strong>on</strong>iti<strong>on</strong><br />

of Philippians 2:3-4: “Count<br />

o<strong>the</strong>rs more significant than yourselves.<br />

Let each of you look not <strong>on</strong>ly to<br />

his own interests, but also to <strong>the</strong> interests<br />

of o<strong>the</strong>rs.” Here are some ways that<br />

we now show everyday thoughtfulness:<br />

• Hide notes of affirmati<strong>on</strong> around<br />

<strong>the</strong> house for each o<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

• Prepare <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r’s favorite treat.<br />

• Give genuine compliments.<br />

• Take <strong>the</strong> time to ask what makes<br />

<strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r feel appreciated.<br />

Gift-giving doesn’t require a perfectly<br />

wrapped present, but it does<br />

require intenti<strong>on</strong>ality, vulnerability<br />

and good communicati<strong>on</strong>. •<br />

michelle rayburn is a freelance writer and<br />

podcaster, and <strong>the</strong> author of nine books.<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 19


COUPLES / CONFLICT<br />

minor annoyances<br />

can actually draw<br />

you and your spouse<br />

closer toge<strong>the</strong>r<br />

BY JESSE NEVE<br />

MY HUSBAND, DAVE, WAS<br />

CONVINCED that <strong>the</strong> “right”<br />

way to put jam <strong>on</strong> toast was with a<br />

knife. I knew it was a spo<strong>on</strong>. For years<br />

this was our discussi<strong>on</strong> every time we<br />

used <strong>the</strong> toaster.<br />

Finally Dave said, “I understand it<br />

now—you grew up with your mom’s<br />

homemade jam, and it’s less thick than<br />

store-bought jam. Of course you would<br />

use a spo<strong>on</strong>!” And from <strong>the</strong>n <strong>on</strong>, we<br />

accepted each o<strong>the</strong>r’s jam spreading.<br />

There may not always be an answer<br />

for why your spouse spreads jam <strong>the</strong><br />

“wr<strong>on</strong>g” way, but here are some ideas<br />

for how to keep differences and minor<br />

annoyances from pushing you apart.<br />

Irritating behavior<br />

I never fully latched <strong>the</strong> linen closet in<br />

our bathroom because I knew I’d be<br />

back <strong>the</strong>re so<strong>on</strong>. The unlatched door<br />

bugged Dave. When he menti<strong>on</strong>ed it,<br />

we debated <strong>the</strong> importance of latching<br />

it. Though not important to me, I now<br />

latch it because it matters to him. So<br />

sometimes I need to adjust.<br />

Different skill sets<br />

I’m our family-trip planner. Dave is<br />

our navigator. Once we understood our<br />

roles, we were able to functi<strong>on</strong> within<br />

<strong>the</strong>m and defer to <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r’s expertise<br />

without opini<strong>on</strong>s getting in <strong>the</strong> way.<br />

We find ways to complement and not<br />

compete with each o<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

Annoying chores<br />

I hate ir<strong>on</strong>ing. I would almost ra<strong>the</strong>r<br />

get rid of a shirt than ir<strong>on</strong> it. Dave<br />

doesn’t mind ir<strong>on</strong>ing. I, <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

hand, d<strong>on</strong>’t mind laundry. I can get<br />

out any stain, and I know exactly which<br />

materials will wash well with o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

Job divisi<strong>on</strong> doesn’t have to be equal,<br />

just balanced, and not all jobs need to<br />

be shared.<br />

Different ways<br />

of doing things<br />

I had my flip ph<strong>on</strong>e far l<strong>on</strong>ger than<br />

people around me. When I upgraded,<br />

a family member suggested I put our<br />

daily calendar <strong>on</strong> it.<br />

Dave defended my paper system:<br />

“She runs our family well <strong>the</strong> way she<br />

does it. Why mess with that?” His<br />

defense of how I did things made me<br />

feel respected as a pers<strong>on</strong>. In marriage,<br />

it’s important to allow for differences.<br />

Dave and I are still discovering ways<br />

that we do life toge<strong>the</strong>r as a couple with<br />

five kids. We’ve found that it’s <strong>the</strong> little<br />

things that annoy us. But <strong>the</strong> little things<br />

also make our marriage w<strong>on</strong>derful. •<br />

Jesse neve is a freelance writer in minnesota.<br />

MOVING MOMENT 322057983-322058004<br />

20<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


all babies are miracles<br />

a pro-life insight from Tim Tebow<br />

AS TOLD TO BENJAMIN HAWKINS<br />

SVETLANAIS / STOCK.ADOBE.COM; GALYANA / STOCK.ADOBE.COM<br />

EVERY LIFE IS A MIRACLE: <strong>the</strong> life of a preborn baby, <strong>the</strong> life of a child<br />

with special needs and <strong>the</strong> life of any vulnerable pers<strong>on</strong> across <strong>the</strong> globe.<br />

My parents believed that my life was a miracle, too. When my mo<strong>the</strong>r was pregnant<br />

with me, a doctor in Mindanao—an island in <strong>the</strong> Philippines where my parents<br />

served as missi<strong>on</strong>aries—told <strong>the</strong>m aborti<strong>on</strong> was <strong>the</strong>ir <strong>on</strong>ly opti<strong>on</strong>. My mo<strong>the</strong>r’s life<br />

was at risk, but my parents refused to end mine.<br />

On Aug. 14, 1987, I came into <strong>the</strong> world. My mo<strong>the</strong>r called me her “miracle baby,”<br />

as did <strong>the</strong> doctor who delivered me.<br />

My wife, Demi, and I believe that God creates life, that He creates every single boy<br />

and girl in His image and that He loves each of <strong>the</strong>m dearly. Demi had a younger sister<br />

named Franje who was born with special needs. “We actually <strong>on</strong>ly found out that<br />

she had special needs at about 4 m<strong>on</strong>ths,” Demi says. “But that didn’t matter to us,<br />

because she was family, she was my sister.”<br />

Franje died in 2019 at age 13. From beginning to end, her life was filled with value<br />

and her family’s love. Franje’s challenges didn’t make her any less of a miracle to<br />

those who knew her.<br />

Every life—preborn or born—is miraculous. •<br />

Tim Tebow is a retired professi<strong>on</strong>al football player and founder of Night to Shine, proms for children<br />

with special needs. He is also <strong>the</strong> author of a children’s book, Br<strong>on</strong>co and Friends: A party to remember.<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 21


FAITH & INSPIRATION / VALUING LIFE<br />

christian and Kristin<br />

HOLDING ON TO<br />

Ch r isti anRob ert<br />

Kristin and Kevin faced an awful choice.<br />

Their decisi<strong>on</strong> stunned every<strong>on</strong>e<br />

BY GINGER KOLBABA<br />

KRISTIN AND KEVIN BOTSFORD<br />

PACKED UP THEIR TWO SONS—<br />

5-year-old Cooper and 2-year-old Cars<strong>on</strong>—and<br />

headed to <strong>the</strong> OB-GYN for Kristin’s 20-week<br />

ultrasound.<br />

After Kristin checked in at <strong>the</strong> fr<strong>on</strong>t desk, a<br />

technician led <strong>the</strong> family back to an exam room.<br />

Kristin settled <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> table while Kevin corralled<br />

<strong>the</strong> boys in <strong>the</strong> corner. When <strong>the</strong> image<br />

of <strong>the</strong> baby popped up <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> screen, Kevin<br />

pointed at <strong>the</strong> fuzzy black-and-white image<br />

moving around, telling his s<strong>on</strong>s, “That’s your<br />

bro<strong>the</strong>r or sister!”<br />

The boys looked excited. Was <strong>the</strong> new baby a<br />

boy or girl?<br />

“It’s a boy!” <strong>the</strong> technician announced.<br />

The family rejoiced—Cars<strong>on</strong> and Cooper<br />

grateful for a bro<strong>the</strong>r, Kristin and Kevin thankful<br />

for <strong>the</strong> boys’ excitement about new life. N<strong>on</strong>e of<br />

<strong>the</strong>m paid much attenti<strong>on</strong> to <strong>the</strong> technician.<br />

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BOTSFORD FAMILY<br />

22<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


VALUING LIFE / FAITH & INSPIRATION<br />

(TEXTURE) FOTF / ANNEKA JACK<br />

Was something wr<strong>on</strong>g?<br />

The technician kept clicking, measuring<br />

repeatedly and more carefully, and<br />

eventually Kristin noticed. She’d never<br />

had an ultrasound scan that lasted this<br />

l<strong>on</strong>g. Cooper and Cars<strong>on</strong> were starting<br />

to get antsy.<br />

“These measurements seem off,” <strong>the</strong><br />

technician said. “Let me have <strong>the</strong> doctor<br />

check <strong>the</strong>m.”<br />

The family celebrati<strong>on</strong> ended<br />

abruptly. Kevin took <strong>the</strong> boys from <strong>the</strong><br />

room while <strong>the</strong> doctor looked everything<br />

over. She gave Kristin some<br />

difficult news: Their baby was badly<br />

deformed, with a dangerously narrow<br />

chest cavity. His limbs were c<strong>on</strong>siderably<br />

shorter than was normal at his<br />

gestati<strong>on</strong>al age, and <strong>the</strong> femur b<strong>on</strong>es<br />

were bent like tiny boomerangs.<br />

But <strong>the</strong> doctor encouraged Kristin,<br />

telling her that more tests were needed<br />

to verify <strong>the</strong> baby’s c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>. She<br />

suggested <strong>the</strong>y visit a maternal fetal<br />

medicine (MFM) doctor.<br />

What would<br />

<strong>the</strong> tests show?<br />

So<strong>on</strong> after, <strong>the</strong> Botsfords received <strong>the</strong><br />

test results, but <strong>the</strong> informati<strong>on</strong> didn’t<br />

put <strong>the</strong>m at ease. Their s<strong>on</strong> had clear<br />

signs of skeletal dysplasia, a c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong><br />

that affects b<strong>on</strong>e and cartilage development.<br />

Since <strong>the</strong> anomalies in his<br />

b<strong>on</strong>e structure could be detected so<br />

early in <strong>the</strong> pregnancy, <strong>the</strong> MFM doctor<br />

believed <strong>the</strong>y were likely to be fatal.<br />

“Do you want to terminate this pregnancy?”<br />

<strong>the</strong> doctor asked. Both Kristin<br />

and Kevin immediately said no.<br />

More testing c<strong>on</strong>firmed that <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

s<strong>on</strong> had Jeune syndrome, a c<strong>on</strong>genital<br />

dwarfism, also called asphyxiating<br />

thoracic dystrophy. His chest cavity<br />

wouldn’t be large enough for him to<br />

brea<strong>the</strong> properly. According to this<br />

diagnosis, <strong>the</strong>y learned, <strong>the</strong>ir baby<br />

wouldn’t live l<strong>on</strong>g, and during his short<br />

life, he would suffer terribly.<br />

Could <strong>the</strong>y rely <strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> God of comfort?<br />

Again, <strong>the</strong> medical team suggested<br />

terminating <strong>the</strong> pregnancy. Again, <strong>the</strong><br />

Botsfords said no. They remembered<br />

what <strong>the</strong>ir pastor had said: “Comfort<br />

is <strong>the</strong> god of our generati<strong>on</strong>. Suffering<br />

is seen as a problem to be solved, not<br />

a providence from God.” They decided<br />

to let God work in <strong>the</strong>ir situati<strong>on</strong> as<br />

He chose.<br />

“If I’m being h<strong>on</strong>est, though, a large<br />

part of me wanted this painful process<br />

to be over very quickly,” Kristin<br />

c<strong>on</strong>fessed.<br />

If <strong>the</strong> Botsfords thought <strong>the</strong> prognosis<br />

couldn’t get worse, <strong>the</strong>y discovered<br />

that it could. After reading a fetal MRI,<br />

<strong>the</strong> doctor c<strong>on</strong>firmed <strong>the</strong> diagnosis.<br />

He told <strong>the</strong>m that a child with <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

baby’s measurements had never survived<br />

at <strong>the</strong>ir hospital, at <strong>the</strong> University<br />

of Texas Southwestern Medical Center<br />

in downtown Dallas—a renowned<br />

research facility.<br />

He would struggle for each breath.<br />

How l<strong>on</strong>g would<br />

<strong>the</strong> baby live?<br />

The Botsfords met with Dr. Natalie<br />

Frost, a ne<strong>on</strong>atologist who explained<br />

<strong>the</strong> different levels of care available<br />

for <strong>the</strong> baby after birth. The truth<br />

was <strong>the</strong>y didn’t know how l<strong>on</strong>g <strong>the</strong>y<br />

would have him. Minutes? Hours?<br />

Days? Weeks? Dr. Frost said that if<br />

she had to guess, she would say hours,<br />

maybe a few days.<br />

Kristin and Kevin prayed fervently<br />

that God would perform a miracle and<br />

completely heal <strong>the</strong>ir s<strong>on</strong>. Recognizing<br />

that He might not choose to heal <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

baby, <strong>the</strong>y also prayed that He would<br />

give <strong>the</strong>m <strong>the</strong> strength to live out <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

faith throughout this journey and<br />

bey<strong>on</strong>d.<br />

On Saturday morning, Aug. 12, 2017,<br />

Kristin’s c<strong>on</strong>tracti<strong>on</strong>s began. The couple<br />

called <strong>the</strong>ir parents, encouraging<br />

<strong>the</strong>m to get to <strong>the</strong> hospital in Dallas<br />

so<strong>on</strong> so <strong>the</strong>y could see <strong>the</strong>ir new grandbaby<br />

before he passed away.<br />

Why did Christian cry?<br />

Later that afterno<strong>on</strong>, Christian Robert<br />

was born—weighing in at 8 pounds,<br />

1 ounce. But something unexpected was<br />

happening. He was crying. Loudly. >>><br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 23


FAITH & INSPIRATION / VALUING LIFE<br />

The Botsford family (left to right): Christian,<br />

Kristin, cars<strong>on</strong>, Kevin and cooper<br />

christian<br />

A nurse placed Christian in Kristin’s<br />

arms. As Kristin held him, she kept<br />

waiting for him to struggle to brea<strong>the</strong>—<br />

or to die. Sec<strong>on</strong>ds turned to minutes,<br />

and her baby kept acting healthy.<br />

Finally <strong>the</strong> nurse took him to check<br />

his vitals—oxygen, normal; breathing,<br />

normal; b<strong>on</strong>e structure, normal.<br />

“This is not <strong>the</strong> same baby we saw in<br />

all those scans,” Dr. Julie Lo, <strong>the</strong> attending<br />

obstetrician, admitted. “I can’t<br />

explain it.”<br />

Kristin and Kevin could—“Only God<br />

could have changed <strong>the</strong> outcome.”<br />

Not l<strong>on</strong>g after Mom and baby got<br />

settled into a room, Dr. Frost appeared<br />

with good news. “OK, we need a new<br />

plan!” she said.<br />

Kristin felt excited by her child’s<br />

healthy appearance, but she tried to<br />

stay guarded. Were <strong>the</strong>y really going to<br />

be able to take him home?<br />

Kristin and Christian stayed in <strong>the</strong><br />

hospital a few days for observati<strong>on</strong>. All<br />

of Christian’s signs were healthy, so <strong>the</strong><br />

hospital released <strong>the</strong>m. There was <strong>on</strong>ly<br />

<strong>on</strong>e problem: Planning for <strong>the</strong> worst,<br />

<strong>the</strong> Botsfords had brought nothing<br />

with <strong>the</strong>m to take a baby home. Kevin<br />

quickly headed to <strong>the</strong>ir house to get a<br />

car seat and o<strong>the</strong>r baby items and <strong>the</strong>n<br />

returned to <strong>the</strong> hospital.<br />

When was<br />

hospice needed?<br />

Even so, hospice workers came to<br />

check <strong>on</strong> Christian <strong>on</strong>ce a week. By <strong>the</strong><br />

fourth week, Kristin told <strong>the</strong>m, “This<br />

baby is healthy. Your services are no<br />

l<strong>on</strong>ger needed.”<br />

Christian, now 4 years old, is excited<br />

to start playing soccer and T-ball this<br />

coming year. He shows no signs of skeletal<br />

dysplasia or any o<strong>the</strong>r issue.<br />

Kristin kept <strong>the</strong> hospital discharge<br />

summary papers she received. The<br />

words clearly state, “Incompatible<br />

with life.”<br />

She shivers to think about what<br />

would have happened had she terminated<br />

<strong>the</strong>ir baby. “God had a plan,”<br />

she says. “Feelings aren’t facts. The<br />

Lord created this child, and we had to<br />

give Him time and room to work—in<br />

<strong>the</strong> way He chose.<br />

“This is all God.” •<br />

Ginger Kolbaba is a c<strong>on</strong>tributing editor for<br />

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> magazine and <strong>the</strong> author,<br />

c<strong>on</strong>tributor and ghostwriter of many books.<br />

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE BOTSFORD FAMILY<br />

24<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


MODELING FAITH / FAITH & INSPIRATION<br />

GOD’S CALL<br />

TO MARY. . .<br />

AND TO US<br />

There’s a lot<br />

we can learn<br />

about <strong>the</strong><br />

way a young<br />

Jewish girl<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>ded<br />

to God<br />

BY TIMOTHY KELLER<br />

ILLUSTRATIONS BY<br />

JULIAN DE NARVAEZ<br />

WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, I recognized<br />

a major difference between o<strong>the</strong>r religi<strong>on</strong>s and<br />

Christianity. O<strong>the</strong>r religi<strong>on</strong>s had origin stories and<br />

accounts of <strong>the</strong>ir various heroes. But such stories<br />

were provided primarily as examples to emulate. The<br />

message was something like, “Live this way to find<br />

<strong>the</strong> path of wisdom and find unity with <strong>the</strong> infinite.”<br />

The message of Christianity is different. It starts<br />

not with, “Here are things you must do,” but ra<strong>the</strong>r,<br />

“Here’s what God has d<strong>on</strong>e for you.” Christianity is<br />

about God, through <strong>the</strong> form of His S<strong>on</strong>, Jesus, arriving<br />

in our world in <strong>the</strong> form of a fragile human baby.<br />

It’s about God ministering to our needs. It’s about<br />

God dying for our sins, being buried in a tomb and<br />

being raised to life before eyewitnesses.<br />

It’s true that Christianity profoundly changes how<br />

we live. But <strong>the</strong>re is a prerequisite: This transformati<strong>on</strong><br />

can <strong>on</strong>ly occur if we first recognize <strong>the</strong> reality of<br />

God and His ministry to humanity.<br />

We see a model of how to resp<strong>on</strong>d to God by taking<br />

a closer look at <strong>the</strong> first pers<strong>on</strong> to hear and c<strong>on</strong>sider<br />

<strong>the</strong> Christmas story: Mary, <strong>the</strong> mo<strong>the</strong>r of Jesus. Have<br />

you ever w<strong>on</strong>dered why <strong>the</strong> Gospel of Luke tells us<br />

so much about Mary’s resp<strong>on</strong>se to <strong>the</strong> Incarnati<strong>on</strong>?<br />

I believe it is largely to show us what a resp<strong>on</strong>sive<br />

Christian faith looks like. >>><br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 25


She reas<strong>on</strong>s<br />

When <strong>the</strong> angel appeared, Mary was<br />

“greatly troubled at his words, and<br />

w<strong>on</strong>dered what kind of greeting this<br />

might be” (Luke 1:29, NIV). Here, <strong>the</strong><br />

English word w<strong>on</strong>dered is about rati<strong>on</strong>ally<br />

weighing and p<strong>on</strong>dering. Mary<br />

was h<strong>on</strong>estly trying to figure out how<br />

<strong>the</strong> angel’s appearance and his words<br />

could be true.<br />

Today we see ourselves as a rati<strong>on</strong>al,<br />

scientific people. We ask hard questi<strong>on</strong>s,<br />

demand empirical evidence. Our<br />

culture has trained us to think that it’s<br />

practically impossible for modern people<br />

to believe in <strong>the</strong> appearance of<br />

an angel, though we understand that<br />

ancient people believed in supernatural<br />

events.<br />

Frankly, that’s an arrogant view and<br />

a misreading of <strong>the</strong> text. Mary was<br />

struggling to understand what she was<br />

hearing. She was Jewish, and <strong>the</strong> news<br />

didn’t fit her worldview. Mary had<br />

different rati<strong>on</strong>al barriers to believe<br />

<strong>the</strong> prophetic message than a modern<br />

pers<strong>on</strong>, but it was just as hard for<br />

Mary to believe <strong>the</strong> Gospel as it is for<br />

us today.<br />

There is no period in history where<br />

<strong>the</strong>re are not enormous obstacles<br />

to believing <strong>the</strong> Creator of <strong>the</strong> universe<br />

came into a girl’s womb to be<br />

born as a human being. So <strong>the</strong> angel’s<br />

announcement takes <strong>on</strong> all cultural<br />

26<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


MODELING FAITH / FAITH & INSPIRATION<br />

LISTEN NOW!<br />

Hear Pastor Timothy Keller share<br />

his perspective <strong>on</strong> finding hope in<br />

<strong>the</strong> midst of difficult times.<br />

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca/Radio<br />

narratives and demands hard intellectual<br />

work; and Mary didn’t shirk it. She<br />

p<strong>on</strong>dered <strong>the</strong> evidence and c<strong>on</strong>cluded<br />

its truth. And if she could do that, we,<br />

too, must be willing to use our reas<strong>on</strong><br />

to weigh <strong>the</strong> Christian message.<br />

She questi<strong>on</strong>s<br />

The Christian faith journey can look<br />

different for different people. Few<br />

become fully committed in a single<br />

stroke. Mary’s faith happened in<br />

stages. Her first reacti<strong>on</strong> to <strong>the</strong> angel’s<br />

announcement was measured incredulity:<br />

“How will this be, since I am a<br />

virgin?” (Luke 1:34). She was humble<br />

and h<strong>on</strong>est about her uncertainties.<br />

I often w<strong>on</strong>der about Mary’s expressi<strong>on</strong><br />

of doubt. The angel answered her<br />

questi<strong>on</strong> with <strong>on</strong>e of <strong>the</strong> greatest statements<br />

in <strong>the</strong> Bible: “Nothing will be<br />

impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). I’m<br />

so grateful for Mary’s doubt, because<br />

that statement has been comforting<br />

and guiding me for years.<br />

H<strong>on</strong>est doubts lead you to ask<br />

questi<strong>on</strong>s. They make you somewhat<br />

vulnerable because <strong>the</strong>y leave you<br />

open to <strong>the</strong> possibility of an answer<br />

that would cause you to shift your view.<br />

H<strong>on</strong>est doubts, <strong>the</strong>n, are open to belief.<br />

She accepts<br />

The angel’s words res<strong>on</strong>ated with Mary.<br />

So she said, “I am <strong>the</strong> servant of <strong>the</strong><br />

Lord; let it be to me according to your<br />

word” (Luke 1:38).<br />

Notice she didn’t say, “Yes, I get it!”<br />

nor, “I love this plan, and I’m totally in.”<br />

Ra<strong>the</strong>r, Mary resp<strong>on</strong>ded with something<br />

like, “It doesn’t all make sense to<br />

me, but I believe it. I will follow.”<br />

This can be a very important space<br />

to occupy, at least for a time. Some<br />

people will make no move toward<br />

Jesus unless it all comes toge<strong>the</strong>r for<br />

<strong>the</strong>m—rati<strong>on</strong>ally, emoti<strong>on</strong>ally and pers<strong>on</strong>ally.<br />

But sometimes you can <strong>on</strong>ly<br />

do what Mary did—submit and trust<br />

despite your fears and reservati<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

That gives you a foothold for moving<br />

forward.<br />

She seeks community<br />

Mary did <strong>on</strong>e last thing that can<br />

instruct us. She went to Elizabeth,<br />

who spoke to her in <strong>the</strong> power of <strong>the</strong><br />

Holy Spirit. That certainly encouraged<br />

Mary—and it might have helped her<br />

understand her situati<strong>on</strong> in a new way.<br />

After Elizabeth was d<strong>on</strong>e speaking,<br />

Mary broke into a s<strong>on</strong>g: “My soul magnifies<br />

<strong>the</strong> Lord, and my spirit rejoices<br />

in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).<br />

Mary’s worship referenced Psalms,<br />

Isaiah and <strong>the</strong> prophets, making<br />

remarkable c<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong>s that reveal<br />

<strong>the</strong> coming of <strong>the</strong> Messiah. And she<br />

recognized something new and very<br />

important: The angel’s announcement<br />

was not a c<strong>on</strong>tradicti<strong>on</strong> of her biblical<br />

faith but was ra<strong>the</strong>r its fulfillment.<br />

How interesting that <strong>the</strong> friendship<br />

and presence of ano<strong>the</strong>r believing sister<br />

helped Mary recognize what was<br />

really going <strong>on</strong>. As believers, we need<br />

community.<br />

She moves forward<br />

God came to Mary and she resp<strong>on</strong>ded<br />

in <strong>the</strong> humblest possible way. She<br />

reas<strong>on</strong>ed, she doubted, she surrendered<br />

and she c<strong>on</strong>nected with o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

We know that for every sacrifice Mary<br />

made for Jesus, Jesus made infinitely<br />

more for her. But we must recognize<br />

<strong>the</strong> example that Mary set for us: As<br />

she accepted her pregnancy, she<br />

accepted God’s will even at <strong>the</strong> risk of<br />

her life and <strong>the</strong> disdain of o<strong>the</strong>rs.<br />

The resources we have in our faith<br />

journeys are greater than Mary’s. We<br />

can read <strong>the</strong> narratives, and we can see<br />

Jesus being <strong>the</strong> Great Servant, surrendering<br />

His will for us. So follow Mary’s<br />

example, and surrender to Him this<br />

Christmas. And d<strong>on</strong>’t underestimate<br />

what He can do in and through you, if<br />

you put yourself in His hands. •<br />

Timothy Keller and his wife, Kathy, founded<br />

Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.<br />

He is a bestselling author whose books include<br />

Hope in Times of Fear. This article was adapted<br />

from Hope in Times of Fear, Hidden Christmas<br />

and Encounters With Jesus.<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 27


FAITH & INSPIRATION / CHRISTMAS STORY<br />

‘FAMILY<br />

TRADITIONS’<br />

A Painting by<br />

Morgan Weistling<br />

Would my apple pie be as<br />

good as nana’s this year?<br />

BY SHEILA SEIFERT<br />

28<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


CHRISTMAS STORY / FAITH & INSPIRATION<br />

PAINTING BY MORGAN WEISTLING<br />

LITTLE DID WE KNOW that<br />

this Christmas Eve was <strong>the</strong> last time<br />

our family would be toge<strong>the</strong>r to make<br />

holiday pies. My oldest sister, Laura,<br />

married that next spring and moved<br />

far<strong>the</strong>r west, just bey<strong>on</strong>d our reach. It<br />

was <strong>the</strong> last time Nana would make a<br />

lattice piecrust and gently say, “D<strong>on</strong>’t<br />

use such thick strips,” or “You’re putting<br />

in too much filling.” And it was <strong>the</strong><br />

last time my youngest sisters, Sarah<br />

and Paige, and youngest bro<strong>the</strong>r, Andy,<br />

would sit beneath our large wooden<br />

table, mimicking our acti<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

I passed a leftover lump of dough to<br />

Sarah, who muffled a squeal, and <strong>the</strong>n<br />

began rolling it out <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> floor. Andy<br />

would pilfer any o<strong>the</strong>r supplies <strong>the</strong><br />

girls might need. I looked to Nana for<br />

an approving nod and was surprised<br />

when I didn’t get <strong>on</strong>e. Nothing used to<br />

get past her notice.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> corner of <strong>the</strong> room, Rachel<br />

began singing “O Holy Night” while<br />

she peeled an apple. She wore a golden<br />

dress with a white half-apr<strong>on</strong>. Her<br />

voice was angelic, which was good<br />

because she certainly wasn’t a baker.<br />

“Maisy, be careful with your stirring,”<br />

Laura scolded me.<br />

Nana would often say, “Baking pies<br />

is a family traditi<strong>on</strong>, so pay attenti<strong>on</strong>.”<br />

But she hadn’t said those words even<br />

<strong>on</strong>ce that morning.<br />

My apr<strong>on</strong> already had a number of<br />

apple preserve and cherry stains <strong>on</strong> it.<br />

That’s why I wore a full-size <strong>on</strong>e over<br />

my lime-green dress.<br />

Laura, <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> o<strong>the</strong>r hand, wore a<br />

pristine half-apr<strong>on</strong>. Ma stood next<br />

to her rolling out pie dough in a<br />

Christmas-red dress that complemented<br />

Laura’s green <strong>on</strong>e. By <strong>the</strong> end<br />

of <strong>the</strong> day, Sarah’s and Paige’s handprints<br />

would cover Ma’s full apr<strong>on</strong>.<br />

“My pie will be as good as yours this<br />

year,” I told Nana, who sat across from<br />

Ma <strong>on</strong> a chair. She had just finished<br />

ladling in <strong>the</strong> apple filling for her pie.<br />

“Mine will, too,” Sarah said from<br />

under <strong>the</strong> table.<br />

Rachel sang <strong>on</strong> as Thomas stoked<br />

<strong>the</strong> fire <strong>the</strong> way Pa taught him.<br />

The day was turning out to be a traditi<strong>on</strong>al<br />

Christmas Eve. Pa had g<strong>on</strong>e to<br />

church to help our pastor decorate for<br />

<strong>the</strong> Christmas-morning service. Our<br />

cousin had packed some food and left.<br />

I doubted we’d see him again until we<br />

ate our thin slices of Nana’s apple pie<br />

at bedtime.<br />

I wanted to become as good a baker<br />

as Nana, but invariably I’d forget an<br />

ingredient.<br />

“Nana’s secret ingredient is love, and<br />

so is yours,” Ma sometimes comforted<br />

me.<br />

Just <strong>on</strong>ce I wanted Pa to say, “I can’t<br />

wait for a slice of Maisy’s pie.”<br />

We’d made our apple and cherry<br />

pie preserves at harvest time, but we<br />

added a few apples from our cellar that<br />

were still edible. Nana would secretly<br />

sprinkle her spice <strong>on</strong> her pies right<br />

before we baked <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

An open-faced pie sat before Nana,<br />

waiting for her lattice of perfecti<strong>on</strong>. Ma<br />

set down her rolling pin and walked<br />

around <strong>the</strong> table to Nana.<br />

Laura focused her attenti<strong>on</strong> <strong>on</strong><br />

pouring fruit into a pie shell. Rachel<br />

closed her eyes, reaching for a high<br />

note. Sarah, Paige and Andy were busy<br />

playing with dough beneath <strong>the</strong> table.<br />

Ma glanced at me, and I knew I<br />

should look away. But to my shame, I<br />

peeked as she drew a small spice jar with<br />

a worn label from Nana’s apr<strong>on</strong> pocket<br />

and placed it in her wrinkled hand.<br />

Nana startled as if waking from a<br />

nap. Ma turned away, and <strong>the</strong>n Nana<br />

sprinkled her secret spice <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> pie<br />

before returning <strong>the</strong> jar to her pocket.<br />

I looked down for a moment, and when<br />

I looked up, Ma was back to rolling out<br />

piecrust as if nothing had happened.<br />

But something had. Now I knew<br />

Nana’s secret. I didn’t know <strong>the</strong> exact<br />

spice, of course, but I’d often seen that<br />

spice jar in <strong>the</strong> pantry. And if I knew<br />

where to find it, so did Laura and<br />

Rachel. And Ma.<br />

“This will be my best apple pie yet,”<br />

Nana said.<br />

From below <strong>the</strong> table, Andy reached<br />

up to steal a spo<strong>on</strong>ful of cherry preserves<br />

as Nana worked <strong>on</strong> her pie<br />

lattice. I glanced at Rachel.<br />

She c<strong>on</strong>tinued singing, “Truly He<br />

taught us to love <strong>on</strong>e ano<strong>the</strong>r . . . ”<br />

If Rachel knew Nana’s secret, why<br />

hadn’t her pies tasted better? And<br />

why had Ma and Laura not used<br />

Nana’s spice?<br />

Suddenly it dawned <strong>on</strong> me: This was<br />

our family traditi<strong>on</strong>, a gift from Ma and<br />

my sisters. They kept Nana’s secret and<br />

let her bake <strong>the</strong> best pie.<br />

I still wanted my pie to taste like<br />

Nana’s, but not that Christmas.<br />

In that apple pie moment, I understood<br />

what it meant to put your own<br />

desires last for <strong>the</strong> good of some<strong>on</strong>e<br />

else. Just as Jesus did. •<br />

Sheila Seifert is a coauthor of more than<br />

20 books, including Stories of Danger and<br />

Courage and Swept Into <strong>the</strong> Sea.<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 29


JOY STE<br />

unmasking four THE SEASON I WAS IN FELT SCARRED.<br />

thieves that want to<br />

rob you of God’s joy<br />

NO. 1<br />

BY SUZANNE ELLER<br />

Believing sadness<br />

disappoints God<br />

GOD isn’t disappointed when we’re sad. He not <strong>on</strong>ly<br />

created us to feel, He also cares about our emoti<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

When we hide our feelings, we <strong>on</strong>ly add to our pain<br />

because our emoti<strong>on</strong>s are still <strong>the</strong>re. We may tend to<br />

distance ourselves from God in an attempt to hide<br />

from <strong>the</strong> truth that we’re not handling our emoti<strong>on</strong>s<br />

well. Yet that’s when we need Him most.<br />

In John 16, Jesus told His disciples He was going<br />

away. When He saw <strong>the</strong>ir sadness, He told <strong>the</strong>m, “You<br />

have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your<br />

hearts will rejoice, and no <strong>on</strong>e will take your joy from<br />

you” (verse 22). Jesus acknowledged <strong>the</strong>ir sadness.<br />

He didn’t rebuke <strong>the</strong>m for it. Instead He gave <strong>the</strong>m a<br />

future hope.<br />

During that painful year, I sat h<strong>on</strong>estly with God,<br />

sharing how I felt. God became my safe place. When<br />

I felt overwhelmed, I knew where to go to feel welcomed.<br />

He meets us in our sorrows.<br />

My daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. My s<strong>on</strong><br />

was trapped in an addicti<strong>on</strong>. And I discovered my cancer<br />

had returned.<br />

I knew what <strong>the</strong> Bible said about <strong>the</strong> joy of <strong>the</strong> Lord<br />

being our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and I needed to<br />

“choose joy.” The problem: I was reaching for joy with all<br />

my might, but it kept eluding me. As I began to study joy, I<br />

learned some surprising truths about joy stealers—and a<br />

powerful joy infuser.<br />

NO. 2<br />

Feeling we d<strong>on</strong>’t<br />

measure up<br />

WHEN we feel inadequate, we can doubt ourselves.<br />

Shouldn’t I know what to do? Why is this so hard?<br />

Yet while we may not know <strong>the</strong> next step, God<br />

knows. He knows us. He knows our capabilities, especially<br />

when we partner with Him. Understanding this<br />

truth allows us to ask ourselves, How can I rely <strong>on</strong><br />

Jesus more in this moment? In this seas<strong>on</strong>? With that<br />

loved <strong>on</strong>e?<br />

To combat this joy stealer, we need to take <strong>the</strong><br />

focus off what we have (or d<strong>on</strong>’t have) to offer and<br />

place it in <strong>the</strong> knowledge that God can accomplish<br />

His will through us, even as He directs our steps. Our<br />

feelings have no bearing <strong>on</strong> this truth.<br />

30<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


JOY / FAITH & INSPIRATION<br />

ALERS<br />

MICHAEL BUCH / STOCK.ADOBE.COM; HENK BOGAARD / STOCK.ADOBE.COM<br />

NO. 3<br />

The need to<br />

be in c<strong>on</strong>trol<br />

OUR s<strong>on</strong> told my husband and me about his battle<br />

with addicti<strong>on</strong>, and that ph<strong>on</strong>e call led to m<strong>on</strong>ths of<br />

recovery and c<strong>on</strong>sequences. I can’t count <strong>the</strong> times<br />

I wanted to step in and try to make it all better, and<br />

yet that wasn’t my job.<br />

We can be tempted with <strong>the</strong> urge to fix and manage<br />

and micromanage, yet <strong>the</strong> more we try to be in<br />

c<strong>on</strong>trol of every<strong>on</strong>e’s circumstances, <strong>the</strong> more out of<br />

c<strong>on</strong>trol we feel.<br />

But biblical joy is deep-rooted. It invites us to put<br />

our trust in <strong>the</strong> Source, instead of trying to be <strong>the</strong><br />

source.<br />

Multiple times I sensed God asking me to step<br />

back and stop trying to fix my s<strong>on</strong>’s problems. When<br />

we step out of assignments that were never ours, we<br />

release <strong>the</strong> lie that it’s our job to make sure every<strong>on</strong>e<br />

we love never hurts, falls or fails, which is an impossible<br />

task. Then we can pick up our assignment and<br />

follow God’s lead.<br />

NO. 4<br />

Hard seas<strong>on</strong>s<br />

disqualify us from<br />

God’s promises<br />

ONE afterno<strong>on</strong> after surgery, I sat in my hospital<br />

room and thought about all <strong>the</strong> plans I had made and<br />

had to cancel. A friend, whom I hadn’t seen in years,<br />

dropped by.<br />

“I d<strong>on</strong>’t get it,” she said. “Why are you going through<br />

so much?” Then she revealed that she had walked<br />

away from her faith.<br />

For <strong>the</strong> next hour, we talked and prayed. I was<br />

h<strong>on</strong>est about my struggles, but also about <strong>the</strong> beauty<br />

of God’s promises and what He was teaching me. As<br />

she left, I noticed tears rolling down her cheeks.<br />

A joy infuser<br />

Jesus’ joy didn’t stem from circumstances or what people said or<br />

thought about Him. His joy came from doing <strong>the</strong> will of His Fa<strong>the</strong>r.<br />

When my cancer returned, my plans were interrupted. But God’s<br />

plans were still intact. This was <strong>the</strong> joy Jesus spoke about—<strong>the</strong> joy<br />

He experienced and offers us. Regardless of what we are going<br />

through, God’s plans for us haven’t changed.<br />

I now see joy differently. Joy is more than a feeling; it’s a knowing.<br />

And nothing can steal that away. •<br />

Suzanne eller is <strong>the</strong> author of JoyKeeper: Six truths that change everything you<br />

thought you knew about joy.<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 31


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The Yim family (left to right): Piper, James,<br />

Jax<strong>on</strong>, Addis<strong>on</strong>, Jean and Micaiah<br />

PHOTO BY TYLER WILLIAM PARKER<br />

my disrupted life<br />

a parenting insight from<br />

Jean Darlae yim<br />

MY LIFE HAS BEEN INCREDIBLY<br />

DISRUPTED.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> thick of raising four children, some with special<br />

needs, I can’t even number <strong>the</strong> ways: Sitting down to eat—<br />

when a child spills her milk. Sleeping soundly—when a child<br />

cries. Paying bills—when <strong>the</strong> smell of a soiled diaper fills <strong>the</strong><br />

room. Talking <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> ph<strong>on</strong>e—when children begin to bicker,<br />

<strong>the</strong>n scream, <strong>the</strong>n shove.<br />

Even when I manage to wake before <strong>the</strong> rest of <strong>the</strong> household,<br />

settling in to meditate <strong>on</strong> Scripture, a child who<br />

has also decided to wake up early surprises me. In those<br />

moments, I think, God, d<strong>on</strong>’t You want me to have this quiet<br />

time with You?<br />

As annoying as disrupti<strong>on</strong>s can be, I’ve learned that God<br />

speaks to us in disrupti<strong>on</strong>. Disrupti<strong>on</strong>s are His gift of grace<br />

that reveal what (or who) we rely <strong>on</strong> apart from Him. In those<br />

early morning moments, I realized I was depending more <strong>on</strong><br />

<strong>the</strong> prospect of quiet and <strong>the</strong> absence of neediness than<br />

I was <strong>on</strong> Him. I have discovered how much I depend <strong>on</strong> c<strong>on</strong>trol<br />

and c<strong>on</strong>venience over where God might be leading me.<br />

Disrupti<strong>on</strong>s are also gifts that beck<strong>on</strong> us to experience <strong>the</strong><br />

reality of His presence in every moment. What we perceive<br />

as a life interrupted can actually be a life lived with God <strong>on</strong><br />

His terms. As we surrender to what He is about—as we open<br />

ourselves to Him in <strong>the</strong> mundane, <strong>the</strong> wearying, <strong>the</strong> ordinary,<br />

<strong>the</strong> disorienting—we discover He is faithful, He is trustworthy,<br />

He is with us.<br />

A disrupted life. His invitati<strong>on</strong> to greater love. •<br />

Jean Darlae yim teaches and writes for a local ministry in Sou<strong>the</strong>rn<br />

California. A graduate of Talbot (Biola University) with a master’s degree<br />

in <strong>the</strong>ology and a certificate in spiritual formati<strong>on</strong>, she has authored<br />

articles about faith, foster care/adopti<strong>on</strong> and mo<strong>the</strong>rhood.<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 33


KIDS & TEENS / ADVENTURES IN ODYSSEY<br />

Rory’s<br />

Odyssey<br />

c<strong>on</strong>necti<strong>on</strong><br />

a l<strong>on</strong>ely college<br />

student found<br />

comfort from<br />

childhood “friends”<br />

during <strong>the</strong><br />

pandemic<br />

rory<br />

BY THOMAS JEFFRIES<br />

PHOTO BY BETHANY VILLERO<br />

34<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


ADVENTURES IN ODYSSEY / KIDS & TEENS<br />

RORY WAS BORN INTO<br />

SADNESS.<br />

Her arrival was still four m<strong>on</strong>ths<br />

away when <strong>the</strong> state troopers showed<br />

up at her mo<strong>the</strong>r’s office—<strong>the</strong>re to<br />

perform a terrible duty that no <strong>on</strong>e<br />

signs up for. They informed a young,<br />

pregnant wife that her husband, a<br />

l<strong>on</strong>g-haul driver for a propane company,<br />

had taken an <strong>on</strong>-ramp too fast.<br />

That his truck hit <strong>the</strong> guardrail and<br />

death was instant. No <strong>on</strong>e else was<br />

hurt, so at least <strong>the</strong>re was that. But it<br />

was small comfort for Rory’s mo<strong>the</strong>r,<br />

Linda. And she was still grieving when<br />

Rory was born.<br />

Rory w<strong>on</strong>ders sometimes if Linda’s<br />

emoti<strong>on</strong>al state strained <strong>the</strong>ir relati<strong>on</strong>ship<br />

in those early years, if her<br />

mo<strong>the</strong>r’s lingering pain hampered <strong>the</strong><br />

natural b<strong>on</strong>ding between parent and<br />

child. What she doesn’t w<strong>on</strong>der about,<br />

however, is her mo<strong>the</strong>r’s love.<br />

“She did everything she could to raise<br />

me well,” Rory says. “I was her world.”<br />

Growing up fa<strong>the</strong>rless prompted<br />

an identity crisis of sorts. Rory struggled<br />

to make sense of her intense<br />

l<strong>on</strong>ging for some<strong>on</strong>e she’d never met.<br />

Some<strong>on</strong>e whose face she saw whenever<br />

she looked in <strong>the</strong> mirror.<br />

Rory could tell that her mo<strong>the</strong>r<br />

didn’t like reliving those memories, but<br />

she was gracious and shared pieces of<br />

Dad’s story. Rory learned that he was a<br />

bit rough around <strong>the</strong> edges, yet a kind<br />

man who loved his wife and Jesus more<br />

than anything. She also learned that her<br />

mo<strong>the</strong>r’s heartache never quite healed.<br />

Maybe that’s why every<strong>on</strong>e missed<br />

<strong>the</strong> signs. Maybe <strong>the</strong>y initially misinterpreted<br />

<strong>the</strong> mental miscues as<br />

l<strong>on</strong>eliness or depressi<strong>on</strong>. Maybe <strong>the</strong>y<br />

didn’t want to acknowledge <strong>the</strong> possibility<br />

that it was something more. But it<br />

doesn’t really matter, does it? Whe<strong>the</strong>r<br />

<strong>the</strong>y noticed or not, Linda’s descent<br />

had begun.<br />

Adventure<br />

Rory was just 9 m<strong>on</strong>ths old when her mo<strong>the</strong>r took her<br />

<strong>on</strong> a road trip from Washingt<strong>on</strong> state to Colorado. Rory<br />

has no memory of visiting <strong>the</strong> Whit’s End Soda Shoppe<br />

at <str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> headquarters in Colorado Springs,<br />

but she likes to believe it was <strong>the</strong> start of her lifel<strong>on</strong>g love<br />

of Adventures in Odyssey.<br />

More likely it began about six years later, when a promoti<strong>on</strong>al<br />

cassette for <strong>the</strong> children’s audio drama came<br />

in <strong>the</strong> mail. Rory’s boombox powered her imaginati<strong>on</strong>,<br />

and every penny of birthday and Christmas m<strong>on</strong>ey went<br />

to purchase new Odyssey CDs. Car trips were measured<br />

not in minutes or miles, but how many audio drama episodes<br />

until <strong>the</strong>y reached <strong>the</strong>ir destinati<strong>on</strong>. Adventures in<br />

Odyssey was even <strong>the</strong> subject of Rory’s sixth grade report<br />

<strong>on</strong> “my favorite thing.” (She got an A-.)<br />

“My love for Adventures in Odyssey ran deep,” Rory says.<br />

“It made sense of things I could not understand.”<br />

She took comfort from <strong>the</strong> audio drama’s stories and<br />

characters: Kirk McGinty, for example, also lost his fa<strong>the</strong>r<br />

before he was born. When D<strong>on</strong>na Barclay’s childhood<br />

friend died of cancer, Rory could relate. Rory’s grandmo<strong>the</strong>r<br />

suffered from dementia, so <strong>the</strong> Agnes Riley<br />

storyline assured her that o<strong>the</strong>rs understood. And when<br />

Rory was later diagnosed with dyslexia, <strong>the</strong> memory of<br />

Oscar Peters<strong>on</strong>’s journey helped her cope.<br />

Adventures in Odyssey, Rory says, was solace for her<br />

soul—a 25-minute escape from a home life she could<br />

barely fathom. By age 10 Rory found her mo<strong>the</strong>r’s mental<br />

decline was noticeable. By 15 she saw it was inevitable. Rory<br />

scoured <strong>the</strong> fridge to make sure Linda didn’t c<strong>on</strong>sume—or<br />

serve—expired foods. She posted sticky notes to remind her<br />

mo<strong>the</strong>r how to answer <strong>the</strong> ph<strong>on</strong>e or use <strong>the</strong> microwave.<br />

“I was h<strong>on</strong>estly afraid she’d drive her car off a bridge<br />

because a voice told her to,” Rory says. >>><br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 35


KIDS & TEENS / ADVENTURES IN ODYSSEY<br />

The Adventures in Odyssey drama series<br />

helps young listeners grow in <strong>the</strong>ir faith.<br />

Visit our website to learn more.<br />

AdventuresInOdyssey.com<br />

Decline<br />

Rory dropped out of high school during her sophomore<br />

year. She didn’t want to, but who else was going to care<br />

for Linda? It was just <strong>the</strong> two of <strong>the</strong>m at home; no <strong>on</strong>e else<br />

saw what Rory saw. No <strong>on</strong>e else understood.<br />

“I ended up ‘home-schooling’ myself for a year and a<br />

half,” she says. “It was a very dark time for me mentally,<br />

but I fully believe [my mo<strong>the</strong>r] would have declined even<br />

faster if I hadn’t been around.”<br />

Rory ran <strong>the</strong> household all day, and at night she<br />

retreated to Odyssey. This girl who grew up faster than<br />

she should have, who faced uncertainty and fear almost<br />

every day, took a few minutes before bed to be a kid again.<br />

Adventures in Odyssey reminded Rory that she wasn’t<br />

al<strong>on</strong>e in her struggles, and <strong>the</strong> ficti<strong>on</strong>al Whit’s End was<br />

her safe place.<br />

She held it toge<strong>the</strong>r as l<strong>on</strong>g as she could, but her<br />

resolve couldn’t forestall Linda’s eventual psychotic<br />

breakdown. Rory was 17 when her mo<strong>the</strong>r was diagnosed<br />

with early-<strong>on</strong>set Alzheimer’s and was c<strong>on</strong>vinced that <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

church was giving <strong>the</strong>m $4 billi<strong>on</strong>. Rory says her mo<strong>the</strong>r<br />

would sit in <strong>the</strong> bank parking lot for hours, just waiting for<br />

a signal from above that <strong>the</strong> m<strong>on</strong>ey had been transferred.<br />

Linda was temporarily hospitalized, and Rory moved<br />

in with family friends. For <strong>the</strong> first time in forever, Rory<br />

didn’t have to be <strong>the</strong> adult. She returned to high school for<br />

her senior year, graduating third in her class.<br />

Rory recovered, but her mo<strong>the</strong>r’s descent c<strong>on</strong>tinued.<br />

Al<strong>on</strong>e<br />

Rory was attending college in Oreg<strong>on</strong> when <strong>the</strong> cor<strong>on</strong>avirus<br />

hit. The 22-year-old watched her friends and roommates<br />

ph<strong>on</strong>e <strong>the</strong>ir parents for comfort, advice or simply some<strong>on</strong>e<br />

to talk to. For Rory, however, <strong>the</strong> pandemic was a<br />

reminder that she didn’t have any<strong>on</strong>e to call.<br />

“It was a l<strong>on</strong>eliness I didn’t know existed,” she says.<br />

Rory was tired, but she couldn’t sleep. Al<strong>on</strong>e <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong><br />

couch at 3 a.m., her prayers were equal parts desperati<strong>on</strong><br />

and tears. That’s when it resurfaced—something she<br />

hadn’t thought about in years: Adventures in Odyssey.<br />

A quick search revealed a free trial membership to <strong>the</strong><br />

Adventures in Odyssey Club, with access to all her favorite<br />

episodes.<br />

Hannah, Rory’s college roommate, says Rory put in her<br />

earbuds and listened for hours. “She described different<br />

episodes to me and reminisced about listening to <strong>the</strong>m as<br />

a child,” Hannah says. “She seemed more at peace.”<br />

Rory’s prayers in <strong>the</strong> present were answered with a<br />

reminder of her past. “Odyssey was incredibly soothing<br />

to me growing up,” Rory says. “When I was overwhelmed,<br />

tired or needed a break, I listened. Years later, when I was<br />

overwhelmed and needed peace, it still had <strong>the</strong> same effect.”<br />

Today, Linda still has no clue that she’s mentally ill—but<br />

at least she seems happy. And Rory is a college graduate.<br />

Her goal is to <strong>on</strong>e day run a n<strong>on</strong>profit for children in foster<br />

care. After all, she knows what it’s like for kids who feel<br />

<strong>the</strong>y have no <strong>on</strong>e to call when life overwhelms. •<br />

36<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


WHOLESOME<br />

ENTERTAINMENT<br />

FOR YOUR FAMILY<br />

Are you looking for wholesome entertainment for<br />

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episodes, m<strong>on</strong>thly web quests, and much more!<br />

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Sign kids up today at<br />

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<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 37


KIDS & TEENS / FAITH<br />

“I d<strong>on</strong>’t feel close<br />

to God when I<br />

raise my hands in<br />

worship.”<br />

“God doesn’t love<br />

me because He<br />

never gives me<br />

what I ask for.”<br />

“I loved <strong>the</strong> serm<strong>on</strong>.<br />

It was good to<br />

be reminded that<br />

I’m of value to God.<br />

Sometimes I d<strong>on</strong>’t feel<br />

very valuable.”<br />

“I feel God’s love<br />

when I work at<br />

<strong>the</strong> food bank.”<br />

“I d<strong>on</strong>’t feel God’s love<br />

when I read <strong>the</strong> Bible.<br />

Maybe I’m not close<br />

to God.”<br />

Identifying <strong>the</strong> right love<br />

language can enhance<br />

your child’s faith<br />

BY DR. GARY CHAPMAN<br />

© BONNINSTUDIO / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

38<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


FAITH / KIDS & TEENS<br />

TEENS FEEL LOVED and c<strong>on</strong>nected<br />

to God in different ways. For<br />

example, those who have physical<br />

touch as <strong>the</strong>ir love language might naturally<br />

raise <strong>the</strong>ir hands while singing<br />

worship s<strong>on</strong>gs. And <strong>the</strong>y will say, “I felt<br />

God’s presence.”<br />

Quality-time teens will not likely<br />

have that experience. They will most<br />

likely feel God’s love as <strong>the</strong>y have <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

daily devoti<strong>on</strong>s and quiet time with<br />

God. They might feel closest to God<br />

and loved by Him when <strong>the</strong>y read <strong>the</strong><br />

Scriptures and talk with God about<br />

what <strong>the</strong>y have read.<br />

Words-of-affirmati<strong>on</strong> teens might<br />

thrive when <strong>the</strong>y read affirming words<br />

in Scripture or hear <strong>the</strong>m in a serm<strong>on</strong><br />

or from ano<strong>the</strong>r pers<strong>on</strong>. Those whose<br />

love language is receiving gifts will feel<br />

loved by God when <strong>the</strong>y realize all that<br />

God has given <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

Teens best c<strong>on</strong>nect with God<br />

through <strong>the</strong>ir particular love<br />

languages—those unique and fundamental<br />

ways <strong>the</strong>y experience love.<br />

Each teen has a primary love language—<strong>on</strong>e<br />

that will speak more<br />

deeply to him or her emoti<strong>on</strong>ally, be<br />

it words of affirmati<strong>on</strong>, acts of service,<br />

gifts, quality time or physical touch.<br />

We can certainly see God’s love in<br />

any of <strong>the</strong> five love languages, since He<br />

speaks <strong>the</strong>m all fluently. So how do we<br />

help our teens experience God’s love<br />

through <strong>the</strong>ir primary love language?<br />

First, we must discover and understand<br />

our teens’ primary love language.<br />

Armed with that knowledge, we can<br />

better guide <strong>the</strong>m into experiencing<br />

God’s love.<br />

To discover your teen’s love language,<br />

answer <strong>the</strong> following questi<strong>on</strong>s:<br />

• How does your teen most often<br />

resp<strong>on</strong>d to you and o<strong>the</strong>rs? If he or she<br />

is often touching you, it’s likely because<br />

your child wants to be touched.<br />

• What does your teen complain<br />

about most often? If a s<strong>on</strong> says to his<br />

mom, “I can’t ever please Dad,” his love<br />

language is likely words of affirmati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

• What does your teen request most<br />

often? If your daughter is regularly<br />

asking you to take a walk with her, it’s<br />

probably because her love language is<br />

quality time.<br />

After Jesus’ death and resurrecti<strong>on</strong>,<br />

when He was returning to <strong>the</strong><br />

Fa<strong>the</strong>r, He said: “When <strong>the</strong> Helper<br />

comes, whom I will send to you from<br />

<strong>the</strong> Fa<strong>the</strong>r, <strong>the</strong> Spirit of truth, who proceeds<br />

from <strong>the</strong> Fa<strong>the</strong>r, he will bear<br />

witness about me” (John 15:26). So <strong>the</strong><br />

Holy Spirit is active in <strong>the</strong> world today,<br />

revealing God’s love to us. One of His<br />

tools is <strong>the</strong> Bible, <strong>the</strong> Word of God,<br />

which gives us a record of what Jesus<br />

taught and did: “The Helper, <strong>the</strong> Holy<br />

Spirit, whom <strong>the</strong> Fa<strong>the</strong>r will send in my<br />

name, he will teach you all things and<br />

bring to your remembrance all that I<br />

have said to you” (John 14:26).<br />

We cooperate with <strong>the</strong> Holy Spirit<br />

in exposing our children to <strong>the</strong> things<br />

Jesus said and did while He was <strong>on</strong><br />

earth. When teens reflect <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> life of<br />

Jesus, <strong>the</strong> Holy Spirit opens <strong>the</strong>ir heart<br />

to all <strong>the</strong> ways that God loves <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

So tell your teens that God loves us<br />

in all five languages, but we feel His<br />

love most deeply in our own love language.<br />

Then encourage <strong>the</strong>m to read<br />

<strong>the</strong> four Gospel accounts of <strong>the</strong> life of<br />

Christ: Mat<strong>the</strong>w, Mark, Luke and John.<br />

As <strong>the</strong>y read, have <strong>the</strong>m look for ways<br />

that Jesus expressed love.<br />

After reading each chapter, have<br />

<strong>the</strong>m answer four questi<strong>on</strong>s in writing:<br />

1. What did I learn about Jesus?<br />

2. Did He express love for people?<br />

3. If He did, which love language<br />

did He dem<strong>on</strong>strate?<br />

4. How might being shown love in<br />

this way make you feel?<br />

Then ask: “Can you think of an<br />

example of how God loves you in<br />

<strong>the</strong> same way?” If your teen doesn’t<br />

immediately have an answer, offer an<br />

example from your life. >>><br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 39


KIDS & TEENS / FAITH<br />

LISTEN NOW!<br />

Dr. Gary Chapman describes how<br />

<strong>the</strong> five love languages can help<br />

you draw closer to God.<br />

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca/Radio<br />

Because we have different love languages,<br />

our experience of God’s love<br />

may be different from that of o<strong>the</strong>r<br />

Christians. Teenagers, like adults, may<br />

sometimes w<strong>on</strong>der why <strong>the</strong>y d<strong>on</strong>’t<br />

experience God in <strong>the</strong> same way as<br />

o<strong>the</strong>r Christians.<br />

Encourage your teen to discover<br />

how he or she best receives God’s<br />

love. Perhaps it’s through volunteering<br />

at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter,<br />

sp<strong>on</strong>soring a disadvantaged child,<br />

taking nature walks or any number of<br />

different ways God has created for us to<br />

experience Him and His love more fully.<br />

But most importantly, as parents<br />

we can instill within our children <strong>the</strong><br />

realizati<strong>on</strong> that <strong>the</strong>y d<strong>on</strong>’t have to experience<br />

God’s love <strong>the</strong> same way o<strong>the</strong>rs<br />

do. If <strong>the</strong>y d<strong>on</strong>’t feel God’s love as you<br />

or <strong>the</strong>ir siblings or kids in <strong>the</strong>ir youth<br />

group do, that’s OK. God created your<br />

teen to love Him in a way that is unique<br />

to your teen. And that’s a good thing. •<br />

Dr. Gary chapman is <strong>the</strong> bestselling author<br />

of The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers and<br />

his newest release, Things I Wish I'd Known<br />

Before My Child Became a Teenager.<br />

© BONNINSTUDIO / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

40<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


FAITH / KIDS & TEENS<br />

THE FIVE LOVE<br />

LANGUAGES<br />

IN SCRIPTURE<br />

God doesn’t just show His love in <strong>the</strong><br />

Gospels; He displays His love for us<br />

throughout all of Scripture—<strong>the</strong> Old<br />

and New Testaments. Have your teen<br />

look up Scriptures that dem<strong>on</strong>strate<br />

<strong>the</strong> ways God speaks your teen’s primary<br />

love language. Here are some to<br />

get you started.<br />

If your teen’s primary love language is<br />

words of affirmati<strong>on</strong>, have him or her<br />

look up:<br />

Genesis 1:27-28<br />

God blessed Adam and Eve. The word<br />

blessed means to verbally affirm. God<br />

affirmed <strong>the</strong>ir worth and <strong>the</strong>ir domini<strong>on</strong><br />

over creati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

Isaiah 41:10<br />

God wants to comfort, encourage and<br />

streng<strong>the</strong>n people.<br />

Jeremiah 29:11-14<br />

God has plans for His people. Plans to<br />

prosper and not harm, to give hope<br />

and a future.<br />

God expresses His love by offering<br />

acts of service to His people. Have<br />

your teen c<strong>on</strong>sider <strong>the</strong>se passages:<br />

Exodus 14<br />

After God delivered Israel from<br />

Egyptian b<strong>on</strong>dage, Pharaoh’s army<br />

gave chase as <strong>the</strong> Israelites made <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

escape. God showed up and acted.<br />

Mat<strong>the</strong>w 20:28<br />

Jesus said that He came to serve and<br />

to offer His life as a ransom for us.<br />

Romans 5:8<br />

Jesus showed His love by dying<br />

for us while we were still rebellious<br />

toward Him.<br />

© BONNINSTUDIO / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

Jeremiah 31:3,13<br />

God tells us how loving and kind He is<br />

and how He l<strong>on</strong>gs to comfort us.<br />

What could be more affirming than<br />

<strong>the</strong>se words? You can extend this list<br />

as you read <strong>the</strong> Scriptures and look<br />

for affirming words from God. These<br />

words will speak deeply to <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

Romans 8:28<br />

God is c<strong>on</strong>tinually working <strong>on</strong> our<br />

behalf for our good, no matter what<br />

happens to us.<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 41


KIDS & TEENS / FAITH<br />

Jesus never hesitated to touch those<br />

who needed Him. He is <strong>the</strong> same<br />

today. Teens can reflect <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong>se<br />

passages:<br />

Mat<strong>the</strong>w 8:2-3<br />

Jesus touched a man with leprosy,<br />

willing to touch even <strong>the</strong> untouchables<br />

of His day.<br />

Mark 10:13,16<br />

Parents took <strong>the</strong>ir children to Jesus to<br />

have Him touch <strong>the</strong>m. And He took<br />

<strong>the</strong> children in His arms and blessed<br />

<strong>the</strong>m.<br />

To show His love, God gives good<br />

gifts. Here are some examples:<br />

Genesis 1:29<br />

God’s first gifts were to Adam and Eve<br />

when He placed <strong>the</strong>m in <strong>the</strong> garden<br />

and gave <strong>the</strong>m an abundant source<br />

of food.<br />

John 3:16<br />

God gave <strong>the</strong> best gift He could give—<br />

His S<strong>on</strong>.<br />

2 Timothy 1:7<br />

Instead of fear, God gave us <strong>the</strong> gift of<br />

power, love and self-discipline.<br />

James 1:12<br />

God gives us a crown of life.<br />

From <strong>the</strong> first chapter in <strong>the</strong> Bible to<br />

<strong>the</strong> last, God gives because God loves.<br />

For those who delight in receiving<br />

quality time, God has all <strong>the</strong> time in<br />

<strong>the</strong> world for <strong>the</strong>m. Have teens c<strong>on</strong>sider<br />

<strong>the</strong>se verses:<br />

Psalm 145:18<br />

The Lord is near to every<strong>on</strong>e who calls<br />

<strong>on</strong> Him in truth.<br />

Isaiah 43:1-2<br />

God calls us His, and when we face<br />

trouble, He is with us.<br />

John 14:23<br />

Jesus promised that God comes to<br />

live with us when we choose to love<br />

Jesus.<br />

John 14:25-26<br />

The Holy Spirit, whom <strong>the</strong> Fa<strong>the</strong>r sent<br />

in Jesus’ name, will remain with us<br />

and teach us all things.<br />

John 9:6<br />

When Jesus encountered a blind man<br />

al<strong>on</strong>g <strong>the</strong> side of <strong>the</strong> road, He made<br />

some mud with His saliva and placed<br />

<strong>the</strong> mud <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> man’s eyes. When <strong>the</strong><br />

man went and washed, he was able<br />

to see.<br />

Today, those whose primary love language<br />

is physical touch will often<br />

experience God’s love through a spiritual<br />

touch that stimulates emoti<strong>on</strong>s,<br />

bringing tears or chill bumps. They<br />

will sometimes say, God touched<br />

me. For <strong>the</strong>m, this is when <strong>the</strong>y most<br />

deeply feel loved by God. These teens<br />

often raise <strong>the</strong>ir hands when singing<br />

worship s<strong>on</strong>gs.<br />

As we encourage our teens to look up<br />

<strong>the</strong>se Bible passages, as well as o<strong>the</strong>rs,<br />

we’re giving <strong>the</strong>m <strong>the</strong> tools <strong>the</strong>y need<br />

to seek and find God’s love <strong>the</strong> way<br />

<strong>the</strong>y most deeply experience it.<br />

—GC<br />

© BONNINSTUDIO / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

42<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


first steps<br />

Show your kids<br />

how to practice and<br />

receive forgiveness<br />

BY NATALIE FRISK<br />

ILLUSTRATION BY HIFUMIYO<br />

I WALKED DOWNSTAIRS to<br />

my husband and 7-year-old daughter<br />

having <strong>on</strong>e of those big c<strong>on</strong>versati<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

My husband was speaking in <strong>the</strong><br />

hushed t<strong>on</strong>e he tries to use each time<br />

he corrects her. She broke into tears,<br />

and her little voice cracked as she said,<br />

“I’m so sorry.”<br />

“I forgive you,” he said.<br />

As parents we want our children to<br />

understand <strong>the</strong> power and freedom<br />

of forgiveness—both offering it and<br />

receiving it. The best way to do that is<br />

by modeling it.<br />

What forgiveness<br />

looks like<br />

When children learn to walk, <strong>the</strong>y<br />

know what it looks like because <strong>the</strong>y<br />

see o<strong>the</strong>rs around <strong>the</strong>m walking. The<br />

task takes time and courage, but eventually,<br />

<strong>the</strong>y take <strong>the</strong>ir first steps. They<br />

stumble before <strong>the</strong>y really get <strong>the</strong><br />

hang of it, but before l<strong>on</strong>g, <strong>the</strong>y are<br />

running everywhere. It is <strong>the</strong> same<br />

with how <strong>the</strong>y practice and receive<br />

forgiveness. They need to see and<br />

experience us modeling <strong>the</strong> process<br />

for <strong>the</strong>m.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> same way that we have<br />

received freedom from guilt and blame<br />

through Christ, we offer that example<br />

to our children. God does not hold<br />

our debts against us. We are free. So<br />

when we say we forgive some<strong>on</strong>e, we<br />

are canceling <strong>the</strong> debt. We no l<strong>on</strong>ger<br />

hold that offense against <strong>the</strong> pers<strong>on</strong><br />

at fault. We forgive him or her without<br />

c<strong>on</strong>diti<strong>on</strong>.<br />

I know that can be difficult. There<br />

are times I want to revisit an offense<br />

my child committed <strong>on</strong>ce I’ve already<br />

offered forgiveness, but I recognize<br />

that’s not Christlike. True forgiveness<br />

is offered with love and compassi<strong>on</strong>.<br />

Give it time<br />

As our children grow, we will have so<br />

many opportunities to help <strong>the</strong>m discover<br />

true forgiveness. The apostle Paul<br />

tells us to “be kind to <strong>on</strong>e ano<strong>the</strong>r, tenderhearted,<br />

forgiving <strong>on</strong>e ano<strong>the</strong>r, as<br />

God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians<br />

4:32). So we need to model forgiveness<br />

over and over. Our children will understand<br />

forgiveness better by watching<br />

how we forgive and ask for forgiveness<br />

from <strong>the</strong>m. •<br />

natalie Frisk is a pastor, a speaker and <strong>the</strong><br />

author of Raising Disciples: How to make faith<br />

matter for our kids.<br />

LISTEN NOW!<br />

Dr. Kara Powell offers advice for<br />

building a foundati<strong>on</strong> of faith<br />

for your family.<br />

<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca/Radio<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong> FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 43


KIDS & TEENS / MENTAL HEALTH<br />

is your teen<br />

at risk?<br />

an open dialogue<br />

about suicide<br />

BY DR. MATTHEW SLEETH<br />

RECENTLY I SPOKE TO A<br />

group of more than 100 teenagers and<br />

met <strong>the</strong>m (with pizzas!) at a nearby<br />

church. When <strong>on</strong>e of <strong>the</strong> teens asked<br />

during Q&A what topic I was currently<br />

writing about, and I said a book <strong>on</strong> suicide,<br />

<strong>the</strong> room fell silent.<br />

Once we’d broken <strong>the</strong> silence <strong>on</strong><br />

suicide, <strong>the</strong> teens shared <strong>the</strong>ir experiences,<br />

questi<strong>on</strong>s and c<strong>on</strong>cerns. Their<br />

candor was heart-rending.<br />

I later learned that <strong>on</strong>e of <strong>the</strong> students<br />

had recently lost a cousin to<br />

suicide. And a nurse was at <strong>the</strong> church<br />

with <strong>the</strong> group because two o<strong>the</strong>r students<br />

were <strong>on</strong> suicide watch.<br />

Let’s open <strong>the</strong> dialogue with our teens.<br />

Let’s nourish <strong>the</strong>ir bodies and souls. I<br />

c<strong>on</strong>sider suicide an illness where preventi<strong>on</strong><br />

is <strong>the</strong> <strong>on</strong>ly acceptable treatment.<br />

Systems check<br />

Teens have routine checkups with <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

doctors and dentists, but <strong>the</strong>y need<br />

mental health checks, too. A great<br />

place to start is with something as simple<br />

as a “systems check.”<br />

My wife, Nancy, and I used <strong>the</strong> acr<strong>on</strong>ym<br />

HALT to train our kids to pause<br />

when <strong>the</strong>y were agitated. They had to ask<br />

<strong>the</strong>mselves if <strong>the</strong>ir emoti<strong>on</strong>s—frustrati<strong>on</strong>,<br />

anxiety, sadness—stemmed from<br />

being Hungry, Angry, L<strong>on</strong>ely or Tired.<br />

With HALT, <strong>the</strong>y were able to identify <strong>the</strong><br />

root of <strong>the</strong>ir feelings, if <strong>the</strong> soluti<strong>on</strong> was<br />

as simple as meeting basic needs.<br />

Angst or depressi<strong>on</strong>?<br />

It can be difficult to distinguish typical<br />

teen outbursts and mood swings from<br />

signs of major depressi<strong>on</strong> and suicidal<br />

thoughts, so trust your gut. You know<br />

your children best. Err <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> side of<br />

cauti<strong>on</strong>.<br />

Here are some behaviors to watch<br />

for with your teens. Are <strong>the</strong>y:<br />

• developing irregular eating habits?<br />

• having more frequent anger<br />

outbursts?<br />

• self-isolating or c<strong>on</strong>sistently choosing<br />

electr<strong>on</strong>ic communicati<strong>on</strong> over<br />

in-pers<strong>on</strong> fellowship?<br />

• chr<strong>on</strong>ically tired or worn down?<br />

If <strong>the</strong>se behaviors arise, pursue lowstress<br />

opportunities to spend time<br />

toge<strong>the</strong>r, ask questi<strong>on</strong>s and seek outside<br />

help.<br />

Time for sleep<br />

The importance of sleep and an unburdened<br />

schedule—even from social<br />

© LÉA JONES / STOCKSY UNITED<br />

44<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


No time to waste<br />

The time between when a teen thinks about suicide and<br />

takes acti<strong>on</strong> can be less than five minutes. Avoidance is<br />

not <strong>the</strong> answer. Ask if he or she is thinking about selfharming,<br />

keep <strong>the</strong> Canada Suicide Preventi<strong>on</strong> Service<br />

number nearby —1-833-456-4566—and call 911 if your<br />

teen is actively suicidal.<br />

Bring<br />

hope<br />

and life<br />

media—cannot be overstated. Because<br />

of c<strong>on</strong>stant digital communicati<strong>on</strong> and<br />

<strong>the</strong> fear of missing out, many teens<br />

never get more than a few hours of<br />

uninterrupted sleep. Defend your children’s<br />

opportunity for rest.<br />

First, turn off or sequester <strong>the</strong>ir electr<strong>on</strong>ic<br />

devices at night. In additi<strong>on</strong>, we<br />

limited our teens’ extracurricular activities<br />

and offered “mental health” days.<br />

They c<strong>on</strong>sisted of a full day each week<br />

for <strong>the</strong>m to be free from homework,<br />

shopping and chores. The practice of<br />

daytime rest encouraged <strong>the</strong>ir mental<br />

health.<br />

Then we were <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> lookout for<br />

<strong>the</strong>se signs:<br />

• sudden changes in friendships<br />

• dropping favorite activities<br />

• deteriorati<strong>on</strong> of pers<strong>on</strong>al hygiene<br />

• weight loss<br />

• expressing hopeless, helpless<br />

thoughts<br />

• rapid decline in grades<br />

While such changes may be part<br />

of normal teenage angst, <strong>the</strong>y should<br />

prompt parents to observe closely, ask<br />

meaningful questi<strong>on</strong>s and give sincere<br />

offers to help.<br />

Understand <strong>the</strong> scope<br />

An unprecedented number of teens<br />

have thoughts about killing <strong>the</strong>mselves,<br />

which is known as suicidal ideati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

Many parents first hear of suicidal ideati<strong>on</strong><br />

from <strong>the</strong> parents of <strong>the</strong>ir teen’s<br />

friends. If o<strong>the</strong>r parents report red flags,<br />

d<strong>on</strong>’t brush those off. Suicide is <strong>the</strong><br />

sec<strong>on</strong>d leading cause of death am<strong>on</strong>g<br />

children between ages 10 and 17 in <strong>the</strong><br />

U.S.—and <strong>the</strong> leading cause of death<br />

am<strong>on</strong>g 13-year-olds.<br />

In <strong>the</strong> 20 years preceding <strong>the</strong><br />

pandemic, hospital emergency departments<br />

experienced a 92% increase in<br />

visits for suicide ideati<strong>on</strong> and attempts<br />

for children. And while <strong>the</strong> impact of<br />

COVID-19 is not fully known, a 2020<br />

report from <strong>the</strong> Centers for Disease<br />

C<strong>on</strong>trol and Preventi<strong>on</strong> shows that<br />

<strong>the</strong> proporti<strong>on</strong> of pediatric emergency<br />

admissi<strong>on</strong>s for mental health issues<br />

was up 31% for adolescents over <strong>the</strong><br />

previous year.<br />

Recognize <strong>the</strong> biblical<br />

worldview of suicide<br />

Since famed sociologist Émile<br />

Durkheim’s study more than a century<br />

ago, my review of <strong>the</strong> literature indicates<br />

that faith plays a protective role.<br />

Believers in God are between four and<br />

six times less likely to commit suicide<br />

as those who d<strong>on</strong>’t believe.<br />

From Genesis to Revelati<strong>on</strong>, God’s<br />

message is clear: He is for life. Satan is<br />

for death. Jesus didn’t die <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> Cross<br />

so that we could take our own lives.<br />

He died so we can have life abundantly.<br />

Our teens need to know <strong>the</strong>y<br />

have this hope. •<br />

mat<strong>the</strong>w Sleeth, m.D., is a pastor, former er<br />

physician and <strong>the</strong> author of Hope Always: How<br />

to be a force for life in a culture of suicide.<br />

You can offer hope to<br />

those c<strong>on</strong>templating<br />

suicide. Whe<strong>the</strong>r you’re a<br />

c<strong>on</strong>cerned family member,<br />

friend or pastor, physician<br />

and minister Mat<strong>the</strong>w<br />

Sleeth prepares you for <strong>the</strong><br />

task with medical principles<br />

plus practical and spiritual<br />

tools that equip you to give<br />

real help to those who are<br />

depressed and struggling.<br />

Order <strong>on</strong>line at<br />

Shop.<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca<br />

or call 1.800.661.9800


KIDS & TEENS / MY THRIVING FAMILY<br />

snow fun<br />

Ruthanne, 9, and Arya, 9<br />

Our granddaughters enjoy great<br />

sledding <strong>on</strong> christmas vacati<strong>on</strong>.<br />

—Suzanne from Iowa<br />

Samuel, 11, and Owen, 9<br />

a snow day of sledding fun for our<br />

s<strong>on</strong>s.<br />

—David from Virginia<br />

Joel, 3, Matteo, 7, Gerik, 5, Brielle, 4, and<br />

Islamic, 3<br />

cousins having fun with what’s left of <strong>the</strong>ir<br />

snowman.<br />

—Lorraine from California<br />

Tayah, 1, and Jad<strong>on</strong>, 3<br />

a kiss from big bro<strong>the</strong>r because he thanks<br />

<strong>the</strong> Lord for her.<br />

—Anastasija from Ontario<br />

Your kids could be in <str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g> <strong>on</strong> <strong>the</strong> <strong>Family</strong> magazine!<br />

email photos* of your child celebrating christmas<br />

or eating ice cream. (Put “Christmas” or “Ice Cream<br />

Treats” in <strong>the</strong> subject line.)<br />

Send to: info@fotf.ca<br />

* Largest photo possible—professi<strong>on</strong>al photos not accepted<br />

46<br />

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY<br />

<strong>December</strong> <strong>2021</strong> / <strong>January</strong> <strong>2022</strong>


Album 71 – Some<strong>on</strong>e is<br />

blackmailing Cooper! Emily<br />

needs Morrie and Suzu’s help to<br />

solve <strong>the</strong> case, but can she trust<br />

<strong>the</strong>m? Meanwhile, Zoe and<br />

Olivia’s ski trip takes <strong>the</strong>m right<br />

into danger. 2 CDs Ages 8+<br />

Vol. 27 in <strong>the</strong> series<br />

In wartime Lithuania, Patrick and<br />

Beth are trying to help a Jewish<br />

family escape <strong>the</strong> country<br />

before <strong>the</strong> Nazis invade. But<br />

getting travel documents for<br />

<strong>the</strong>m seems next to impossible!<br />

Hardcover Ages 7+<br />

The Fruit of <strong>the</strong> Spirit<br />

Teach kids about <strong>the</strong> Fruit<br />

of <strong>the</strong> Spirit with this special<br />

collecti<strong>on</strong> of 12 previously<br />

released episodes that cover<br />

all <strong>the</strong> biblical values from<br />

Galatians 5. 4 CDs Ages 8+<br />

See <strong>the</strong> full Adventures in Odyssey<br />

collecti<strong>on</strong> and more ideas for Christmas<br />

gifts at Shop.<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca


Share<br />

Find last-minute Christmas gifts for every<strong>on</strong>e <strong>on</strong> your list at<br />

Shop.<str<strong>on</strong>g>Focus</str<strong>on</strong>g>OnThe<strong>Family</strong>.ca

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