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Focus on the Family Magazine - April/May 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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Helping Families Thrive in Christ

APRIL / MAY / MAY 2019 2022

Canada

Is the Truth

True for

Everyone?

Teach your kids that

God’s truths are

uncompromising

Faces

of Foster

Care

DR. GREG SMALLEY

Conquering

the Mountain

with Jim Daly

PAGE 29

Arguments

don’t have to

tear you apart


How to Respond

When Your Kids Ask Tough

Questions About God

video series

——

In a world that’s moving away from biblical truth, our children are going to

face challenging questions from others who doubt the Christian faith.

And as they grow, our kids will likely have some hard questions of their own.

It’s more important than ever to show our kids that their faith can withstand

scrutiny and that there are sound answers to their questions.

Join in this FREE, six-part video series with

apologetics author Natasha Crain and learn how

to draw out your kids’ doubts and questions and

provide them with satisfying, biblical answers.

SIGN UP TODAY!

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/ToughQuestions


APRIL / MAY

Contents

Couples

Faith & Inspiration

Kids & Teens

© ANDREY / STOCKSY UNITED

13 SHARED PLAYLISTS AND

PODCASTS

A marriage insight from Jenny

Nanninga

14 ARGUMENTS DON’T

HAVE TO TEAR YOU APART

Conflict can lead you toward a

deeper marriage connection

by Nicole Unice

17 3 PRAYERS TO PRAY

WITH YOUR SPOUSE

Enrich your relationship

by praying as a couple

by Dean Ridings

20 FISHING FOR CONNECTION

Understanding my husband’s

hobbies brought us closer together

by Sabrina McDonald

21 A WAY FORWARD

A spiritual insight from ong>Focusong>

on the Family leadership

by Dr. Daniel Huerta

22 SCRAPPY HOSPITALITY

Show Christ’s love by building

relationships with neighbors

who don’t think like you

by Preston Ulmer

25 MY FAMILY OF FIGHTERS

The Stier family’s journey from body

builders to bold evangelists

by Benjamin Hawkins

29 FACES OF FOSTER CARE

Snapshots of five kids who grew

up in the foster care system

compiled by Dr. Sharen Ford

36 A SHADOW OF FEAR

Even fearless kids can feel

anxiety about something

by Manndi DeBoef

37 KNEES AND PRAISE

A parenting insight from

Quinnise Pettway

38 ‘IS THE TRUTH

TRUE FOR EVERYONE?’

Teach your kids that God’s

truths are uncompromising

by Elizabeth Urbanowicz

41 CONQUERING THE MOUNTAIN

My daughter Annie and I faced

our fears and bonded

by Dr. Greg Smalley

45 MY ABCs OF LEARNING

Laurentz’s mind was flourishing

even before I recognized it

by Elsa Kok Colopy

In Every

Issue

4 LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT

5 HACKS & FACTS

12 MEDIA

46 MY THRIVING FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 3


LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT

Jean-Paul Beran is

president of ong>Focusong> on

the Family Canada.

IN THIS ISSUE of the magazine, we have

stories from five people who have gone through

the foster care system—including our friend

Jim Daly, president of ong>Focusong> on the Family in

the U.S. and host of the ong>Focusong> on the Family

Broadcast (turn to page 30 to read more).

In light of these stories, I want to introduce

you to Aaron and Kveta, a couple in Vancouver,

BC, who have faithfully followed God’s call on

their lives to become foster parents.

Even in the early stages of their relationship,

they both agreed they wanted to be open to

what God wanted their family to look like and

how it would come to be. Even though neither of them were intimately

familiar with fostering and adoption, they didn’t want to close a door if

God wanted to open it for them.

When Aaron went to a conference put on by a social worker who shared

the need for foster parents, he came home and told Kveta they might need

to consider this.

“When someone tells you about how many children are in your city

that need a home, and here you’ve been kind of waiting and wondering

what God was doing with that longing,” Kveta explains, “we were just like,

maybe this is why he had laid this on our heart.”

When people find out Aaron and Kveta are foster parents, one thing

they hear often is, “I could never do that because we wouldn’t be able to

give a child back.”

As Aaron explains: “We have to remind ourselves over and over again—

it’s not about us. For us to say we’re not going to enter into this area of

brokenness because we don’t want to have heartache, well, somebody

has to take care of this child. Somebody has to be there to do that and so

I think we know as Christians that life isn’t supposed to be easy in every

regard. There is a lot of dying to ourselves.”

They both look forward to the day when providing stability through

fostering, for as long a time as a child needs, is no longer a rarity, but

rather normative, especially within the church. You can watch their story

at ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/AaronAndKveta.

Fostering and adoption are big decisions that come with a lot of responsibility,

but we encourage you to pray and ask God for wisdom if this is the

journey for you. Visit WaitingToBelong.ca to learn about our ministry for

foster and adoptive families in Canada.

Jean-Paul Beran

What is God

calling you to?

CLINT BARGEN PHOTOGRAPHY

president Jim Daly

chief operating officer Ken Windebank

publisher Steve Johnson

focus canada president Jean-Paul Beran

editorial director Sheila Seifert

managing editor Andrea Gutierrez

copy chief Scott DeNicola

contributing editors Karen Scalf Bouchard,

Vance Fry, Marianne Hering, Thomas

Jeffries, Ginger Kolbaba, Jennifer Lonas

and Jeff Masching

art director Brian Mellema

designer Anneka Jack

cover Katherine Marie Photography

media publishing director Kevin Shirin

editorial assistant Kat Bittner

print production Gail Wise

circulation Sandy Grivy

Thank you!

ong>Focusong> on the Family provides this magazine and

other resources through the generosity of friends

like you. ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Donate

For a subscription, go to ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/

Magazine.

ong>Focusong> on the Family magazine April/May 2022, Vol. 7,

No. 2 ISSN 2471-5921, © 2022 ong>Focusong> on the Family. All

rights reserved. Published by ong>Focusong> on the Family, a

nonprofit organization recognized for taxdeductible

giving by the federal government. ong>Focusong>

on the Family is a federally registered trademark of

ong>Focusong> on the Family.

To notify us of an address change or to contact ong>Focusong>

on the Family: 800-232-6459; 8605 Explorer Dr.,

Colorado Springs, CO 80920-1051;

HELP@focusonthefamily.com.

Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are

from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version ® (ESV ® ).

Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry

of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text

Edition: 2016.

IMPORTANT NOTICE! By submitting letters and other

materials, you agree 1) they become the property of

ong>Focusong> on the Family and will not be returned; 2) ong>Focusong>

on the Family, its assigns and licensees, have been

granted the nonexclusive right to use and/or

reproduce the materials in any manner for any

purpose. Our agreement is made in Colorado and

controlled by Colorado law.

Send author submissions to

ong>Focusong>MagSubmissions@family.org.

REPRINT PERMISSION:

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Website references do not constitute blanket

endorsement or complete agreement by ong>Focusong> on

the Family with information or resources offered at

or through those sites.

Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to:

ong>Focusong> on the Family, 19946 80A Avenue, Langley, BC

V2Y 0J8; 800-661-9800; info@fotf.ca;

GST# 10684 5969 RT0001

Printed in the U.S.A. Paper manufactured by a mill that

practices sustainable forestry.

back cover: Halfpoint / stock.adobe.com

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LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS / stock.adobe.com

4

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


Hacks & Facts

CLEVER IDEAS FOR SMARTER PARENTING

spring flowers

© SERGEY NAREVSKIH / STOCKSY UNITED

My kids and I enjoy surprising our neighbors with a basket

of spring flowers a few days before Easter. We include

a little note about God’s promise of new life that is coming

soon. The flowers often come from our own garden, and

it’s special for my kids to feel like they’re sharing some of

our blessings with others.

—Emily Yang

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 5


HACKS & FACTS / EASTER

OUR DEBT AND

DOUGHNUTS

To help the meaning of Christ’s resurrection

come alive for our family, we head to the drivethru

of our kids’ favorite fast-food restaurant.

When we pull up to the payment window, we

not only pay for our food but also for the people

behind us. Then as we head home, we talk about

how Jesus paid our debt.

For the younger kids, we have doughnuts

and doughnut holes for one weekend breakfast

before Easter. As I read through the Resurrection

story, our kids form an empty tomb by stacking a

doughnut hole on a doughnut. When I read the

part about the stone being rolled away, everyone

eats the doughnut hole. Then we talk about the

Resurrection as we finish our breakfast.

—Jared Hottenstein

DIY Easter playset

When my daughter was a toddler, I

wanted to bring the Easter story alive in a

way that she could understand. I repurposed

the Nativity figurines to be Jesus,

Mary Magdalene, His disciples and the

angel at the tomb. I found other figurines

to become Roman guards, Pontius Pilate

and Barabbas. I wanted to make sure all

my children knew about how Christ was

sacrificed in our place. I fashioned a small

cross and spray-painted an old toy case

shaped like a cave to use for Christ’s grave.

Then we found a stone in the yard to “roll

away.” And I love when I catch my children

playing with the set even when it’s

not Easter.

—Elizabeth James

“nailing” our sins to a cross

During the Easter season, we talk with our children about sin—

what it does to us and how it harms our relationship with God.

We discuss why sin deserves punishment. Then we take a cross

that we made from two-by-fours and set it in the living room.

We each write on pieces of paper the sins we’ve done. Then

we let our kids “nail” them to the cross with tape or thumbtacks.

Afterward, each person receives a blank piece of paper

representing a clean slate. It really helps our children understand

how Jesus took away our sins.

—Brooke Grangard

6

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


EASTER / HACKS & FACTS

a hallelujah hiatus

Before Easter week, we have our children

write the word hallelujah on a piece of

paper. We put the papers into a box and

all shout “hallelujah” as loud as we can

while the lid inches closed. We bury

the box in the snow or hide it in the

basement. As soon as the box is closed,

that word is off-limits until Resurrection

Sunday, even if it comes up in a song at

church. On Easter Sunday, we open the

box and let the “hallelujah” out, yelling it

as loud as we can. This tradition has been

a fun way to help our kids feel the joy of

the Resurrection.

—Christie Thomas

care basket

During Easter week, one of my daughter’s

friends was bedridden while recovering from

surgery. The girl’s family had little time for Easter

preparations. Our family realized God had

provided an opportunity for us to demonstrate

His love, and we talked about what we could do.

My daughter asked if we could fill an Easter

basket with homemade bread and cookies. She

also suggested that we buy activity books for

her friend. My son donated the basket he had

received the previous year, and we included information

to livestream our church’s Easter service.

While preparing the items for the basket, we

prayed for God’s blessings for their family and

asked that our gift would be well received as tangible

evidence of His love.

We felt that God honored our prayer, blessing

two families that Easter week—ours in sharing His

love, theirs in receiving it.

—Nancy Koenig

EASTER EGG INVITE

FOTF / ANNEKA JACK

I explained to our children that when I was

younger, we used only real eggs for an Easter

egg hunt. They were boiled and dyed, hidden

and hunted. Because many of our senior citizen

friends can’t eat candy, we made a little egg

carrier out of sturdy paper and staples, added

some fake grass and placed a dyed Easter egg

in it. Then our kids visited several seniors who

lived alone and gave them their basket along

with a homemade card. We also included an

invitation and an offer for a ride to church on

Easter to celebrate the Resurrection.

—Donna J. Wright


HACKS & FACTS / JOY

HAPPY HEARTS

Our family recently participated in our church’s workday. At first, our girls weren’t

thrilled about going, but once they began helping with the others, their hearts

were transformed. They weeded flower beds, waxed cabinets, washed windows

and cleaned baseboards all with a happy heart. We were exhausted by the end

of the day, yet the ride home was filled with satisfaction. My 9-year-old daughter

told me, “It made me feel joy when I was helping others.” While finding joy wasn’t

our motive, it was a natural outcome of working together with our church.

—Katie T. Kennedy

enjoy the wow

the flip side

My daughter can become sulky when life seems

dull. Many days after school, she would ask if

she could go play at a friend’s house or visit a

restaurant or store. So on days when we planned

to hang out as a family at home, we used the

phrase, “Enjoy the wow that’s happening now,”

to gently remind her that joy is always at hand—

even in the ordinary. While it took some practice,

now she can find and savor her own fun. For

example, she can recruit her brothers to play a

giant game of “the floor is lava” in the backyard.

She now knows that real joy is not something

“out there” that we chase after. Instead, it’s

something we carry with us.

—Elizabeth James

Our family began something that we call “flip it.”

For each negative thought we acknowledge, we

accept the emotions that go with it, but then

flip it to say why we are blessed. For example,

my daughter would say, “I don’t get to go to

school.” We would flip this thought and turn it

into a reason we were blessed: “Not going to

school is hard and makes you sad, but it means

we are safe, healthy and get to spend extra time

together.” After some time, she began flipping

her own thoughts and seemed to understand

that it is OK to be sad or upset, but that even

in the hardest times we can find ways we are

blessed.

—Autumn Shaffer

VIACHESLAV LAKOBCHUK / STOCK.ADOBE.COM

8

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


JOY / HACKS & FACTS

praise playlist

“Dad, can you play that song?” my

9-year-old daughter asked as we

hopped in the car.

“Which one?” I asked.

“The one from church,” she answered.

I turned back and looked at her. “Of

course!” I played the song from my

playlist, and we all sang our hearts out

in joy to King Jesus.

For 30 days straight, I chose a new

song that praised Jesus. I found lists of

praise songs on social media posts.

I also searched YouTube and asked our

youth pastors what they listen to.

My children quickly moved beyond

merely gravitating to praise music; they

began needing it. They played Christian

music in the afternoons around the

house. And the songs comforted my

daughter as she listened quietly while

lying in bed. It was a dream fulfilled to

hear my children calling on the name of

the Lord.

—Michael B. Kopans

drawing God’s good gifts

We recently cultivated joy in our home by creating a mural of

God’s good gifts.

After discussing James 1:17 (NIrV), I wrote “Every good and perfect

gift is from God” on the top of the poster, and we hung it in

the hallway.

At the end of each day, we gathered around the mural, and each

person illustrated one gift from the day. Some drawings were as

simple as a sunrise or a flower. We took a few minutes to talk about

the simple, powerful ways our loving God gives us His joy.

—Stacey Pardoe

“ JOY IS

deep, cheerful

contentment. . . .

JOY IS CONTAGIOUS.

ong>Focusong> on the Family Parents’ Guide

to the Spiritual Growth of Children


© MAL DE OJO STUDIO / STOCKSY UNITED

PUPPY-DOG

PRAYER

My kids know that our dog will be

waiting for them when they come

home from school. He is always

overjoyed to see them. His joy

comes from his relationship with

our family, and not from the day’s

happenings while we were away

from home.

With that picture of joy in their

minds, I encouraged my kids to

start our bedtime prayers with what

I call a “puppy-dog” prayer—that is,

to begin with all the ways they are

joyful. This has become a reminder

to greet God joyfully and thank Him

for who He is and what He’s done

for us.

—Jared Hottenstein

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 9


HACKS & FACTS / CONVERSATIONS

discussion-starter photos

I’ve found that flipping through a photo album with my kids sparks

great conversations. The often awkward or goofy photos of our

younger years prompt lots of questions from my kids, and I turn

those questions into stories that I share about different stages of

my life. I can handle my kids laughing at some of my awkward

teen year photos if it helps me talk with my kids about peer pressure

and fitting in. The photos are discussion starters. My kids

don’t ever feel like our conversation is scripted or unnatural.

—Jared Hottenstein

moving blues

Earlier this year, some family friends moved away. My daughter

was best friends with one of their children, so I knew it would be

hard on her. For a while, she stood strong and pretended as if it

didn’t bother her. Finally, one night when I was tucking her in, I

told her that I was feeling sad about the move. She looked at me,

and her eyes filled with tears as she admitted her own grief about

their move. By leading the way in showing my own vulnerability,

I gave my daughter a safe opening to do the same, and it paved

the way for a healing conversation about change.

—Elizabeth James

well-timed

connections

My husband’s approach to

encouraging deep conversations

with our daughter is to do a focused

activity of interest with her. From

there, the conversation usually

blossoms naturally. When my

husband carves out time to take

her fishing, our daughter bubbles

over with words. This has proven

very helpful in strengthening their

relationship.

Bedtime can also be a great time

for me to foster conversations. As a

family we share why we are thankful,

and sometimes those statements

can lead to deeper discussions.

With a few well-timed questions or

comments, our daughter can be

very reflective in the evenings, so

I use this time as an opportunity to

reconnect with her.

—Lisa Johnson

‘CAN WE TALK?’

Deep conversations at our house often

start with an apology: “I’m sorry I hurt

your feelings,” or “I didn’t respond to you

well earlier. Will you give me another

chance? I want to hear what you have to

say.” Then, when my child trusts enough

to open up, I’ll hear a soft, late-night

knock on my bedroom door followed

by, “Mom, are you awake. Can we talk?”

Then I’ll hold back the temptation to

pour out all my motherly wisdom, and

I’ll just listen.

—Jennifer Henn

© IVAN GENER / STOCKSY UNITED

10

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


CONVERSATIONS / HACKS & FACTS

BOOK TALK

In our family of book lovers, our goto

conversation starter goes beyond

“What are you reading?” to “Tell me

about the hero or the villain. Why do

you like or dislike that character?” My

husband and I get a glimpse at our

kids’ favorite fictional characters and

also learn what personality traits our

kids admire.

—Julia Springman

reflection

questions

© ALTO IMAGES / STOCKSY UNITED

conversation cues

I use two questions to get great conversations rolling with my

kids: “If you could make our family rules, what would they be?”

and “What is something you’re happy you get to have?”

I always find out something interesting in my kids’ answers.

—Laura Schwier

use your words

When my kids were younger, I started intentionally verbalizing

my feelings. For example, if I heard a loud noise, I would say, “Oh!

That loud noise scared me.” Or when our family endured hardship,

I openly expressed my feelings of heartbreak. After a while, I

noticed my oldest started voicing his feelings more. The more we

talked about feelings, the more my son realized that he was safe

to open up and tell me about situations in which he was scared

or frustrated or sad. As we talked about these challenges, we

discussed the best ways for him to handle his emotions. I am able

to help guide my son in a way that is more productive because we

can discuss feelings openly.

—Niki Poland

Every day, my husband, daughter

and I ask each other two questions

so we can connect and learn

more about each other’s life. The

first question has worked well at

our dinner table to encourage

conversation: “What are you

GLAD about today?” This is a

little acronym we developed, so

my daughter starts things out by

sharing something she is Grateful

for from that day; something she

Learned; something she Achieved;

and something that made her

feel Delighted. The answers

have often evoked laughter and

curiosity as my husband and I ask

follow-up questions to deepen the

conversation. And then it’s our turn

to answer the same question.

The second question concerns

faith: “How were you like Jesus to

someone today?” This prompts my

daughter to reflect on her day to

consider the opportunities she had

to be kind, forgiving or inclusive to

someone in need.

—Colleen Lasky

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 11


MEDIA / PLUGGED IN

UPCOMING

REVIEWS

For reviews of these and other

titles, visit PluggedIn.com, ong>Focusong>

on the Family’s media review and

discernment website.

‘THE CHOSEN’: SEASON 3

Series creator Dallas Jenkins explores

how Jesus’ rising fame rankles political

and religious leaders.

Scheduled release: Spring 2022

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE

MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS

Will Marvel’s latest sequel be a mindbending

trip into mysticism?

Scheduled release: May 6

DC LEAGUE OF

SUPER-PETS

Can these superpowered pets

keep the potty humor to a

minimum?

Scheduled release: May 20

Are there any worthwhile movies

about kids in foster care?

Surprisingly, Hollywood has produced a number of

films that have great things to say about both foster care

and the closely related subject of adoption. Here are a

handful worth considering:

ANNE OF GREEN GABLES

This beloved 1985 two-part, G-rated miniseries

brings the equally beloved book series by Lucy Maud

Montgomery to life. Fiery-haired Anne Shirley mistakenly

ends up in the care of two elderly siblings on Prince

Edward Island in Canada, and nothing is ever the same

for any of them again.

THE BLIND SIDE

This PG-13 drama tells the story of troubled, homeless

teen Michael Oher, who’s taken in by a family who

could hardly be more different. The care and love of

Leigh Anne Tuohy (played by Sandra Bullock) transforms

Michael’s life and ultimately contributes to his

first-round selection by the Baltimore Ravens in the

2009 NFL draft.

ANNIE

This musical tale of yet another red-headed orphan has

captivated audiences in multiple movies since its

1977 Broadway debut. In it, a precocious little girl

named Annie wins the heart of hard-driving businessman

Daddy Warbucks.

INSTANT FAMILY

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne star in this poignant,

realistic film about a couple who adopt three siblings

through the foster care system. Note, however,

said “realism” also involves a lot of language woven

into an otherwise beautiful story, which means

Instant Family won’t be for all families.

—Adam Holz, director of Plugged In

(LEFT TO RIGHT) OUT OF ORDER STUDIOS; MARVEL STUDIOS; WARNER ANIMATION GROUP

12

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


Couples

shared

playlists

and podcasts

A marriage insight

from Jenny Nanninga

MY HUSBAND, SCOTT, AND I

have managed to stay connected through

intentionally sharing our interests. Scott is

an autobody repairman. This allows him

to listen to music, audiobooks or podcasts

while working. Similarly, I often listen to

podcasts while washing dishes or cleaning

house (with only one earbud in to be on

alert for the needs of our five children).

Because of this, we began recommending

resources to each other. I’d hear an

excellent presentation on home schooling

and tell my husband about it. Then he’d

check it out for himself. Or he might hear a

good sermon and share it with me.

In our brief moments after the children

are asleep, we often discuss what we’ve

heard. This activity opens avenues for discussion

on topics ranging from politics

to child-rearing to missionaries to theology

to exercise. We typically don’t have

the time to listen together, but by listening

at separate times and then coming

together to talk, we can get to the heart of

the matter quickly. And doing this creates

a strong bond between us mentally and

intellectually. •

Scott and Jenny

Nanninga

WINTER LIGHT IMAGERY

Jenny and Scott Nanninga home-school their fi v e

daughters. When they aren’t taking care of their

garden, chickens, bunnies and cats, they can be

found adventuring in nature as a family.

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 13


COUPLES / CONFLICT

Arguments

Don’t Have to

Tear You Apart

Confl ict can lead you toward

a deeper marriage connection

BY NICOLE UNICE

ILLUSTRATIONS BY WU HE PING

MY HUSBAND AND I knew we

were too upset for a conversation—but

we had it anyway. What started as a

tense volley of one-liners devolved into

a yelling match and then the ice-cold

silence that often follows our heated

exchanges. By the end of the evening,

we were both exhausted from the tension

and frustrated by our inability to

communicate.

I wish I could say this exchange

happened ages ago. But it didn’t. It

happened last year.

I’ve spent most of my adult life

engaging in the dynamics of relationships—what

works, what doesn’t

and how we move past the hurt into

places of vulnerability, connection

and love. Though I’m a “professional”

relationship person, I still find myself

in frustrating situations with my

husband in which we both feel misunderstood,

unseen and disrespected.

But what made this conflict different

from others in the past is that we

allowed it to lead us toward, rather

than away from, deeper places of connection

and love.

Most of us have experienced

moments of conflict. We try to communicate

our needs or desires to each

other and end up feeling misunderstood,

or even worse, dismissed. Our

natural reaction is to blow up, shut up

or give up. But there is another way. It’s

not about never having a disagreement

or conflict with your spouse; it’s about

what you do after it happens.

Growing closer

after the fight

The moment after the irritated, raised

voices or cold silence is when we recognize

that we’ve misunderstood each

other. What we do next is an opportunity

to either let the argument drive

us apart or bring us together. To grow

closer through conflict, we need some

new tools in our relationship toolbox.

According to Dr. John Gottman,

a marriage therapist, author and

researcher, only 30% of problems that

couples face are solvable. Perhaps

that’s why we rarely focus on the real,

unsolvable problem when we argue.

I might feel frustrated because my

spouse always seems to be on his cellphone

when we’re talking. But the

14

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


CONFLICT / COUPLES

problem isn’t necessarily the phone;

it’s the fact that I feel disregarded when

I want to connect with him.

The majority of the problems couples

fight about have to do with our

personalities, wiring or conflicting values.

When we fight, many of us see only

what is in front of us without asking the

deeper questions about what is really

upsetting us. Next time you argue with

your spouse, allow curiosity to help you

understand what the real problem is.

Curiosity helped me understand that

if my spouse is scrolling on his phone

when I’m trying to talk with him, I interpret

his lack of undivided attention as a

lack of interest in me. That’s the primary

problem. The cellphone is secondary.

perceptions and interpretations, we get

in touch with our actual hurts, desires

and longings. And that is the place

where intimacy can grow.

Moving past behaviors

Fighting about behaviors often keeps

us from addressing more vulnerable

issues of desire and need. But breakthrough

moments happen when we’re

willing to move past the behaviors into

deeper conversations. Only then can

we open ourselves to each other with

vulnerability and courage.

For instance, I once worked with a

couple named Debbie and Mike,* who

were dealing with behavior issues. They

squabbled over weekend plans, social

When we’re curious about our time with other couples and parenting. >>>

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 15


COUPLES / CONFLICT

But beyond the behaviors, Debbie was

frustrated that Mike tended to dismiss

her ideas and then respond defensively

when she tried to bring it up. Mike was

frustrated that Debbie tended to withdraw

and go silent whenever he wanted

to “have it out.”

To move past the behavior, they

needed to have deeper conversations

about how their behavior, such

as squabbling over weekend plans,

led to feelings of frustration and disappointment,

and how each person

was interpreting those feelings. These

moments would happen only when

Mike (or Debbie) could honestly say,

“When we talked about weekend plans,

I felt frustrated that you walked away.

I interpreted that to mean that you

didn’t care or didn’t want to spend time

with me. Can you help me understand

your perspective?”

Connecting through

compromise

Conflict feels most threatening when

we lose connection. When we disagree

and then distance from each other, fear

and insecurity rise to the surface. We

tend to protect ourselves by blaming,

guarding or acquiescing without really

working through the conflict. But when

we maintain connection, we are often

able to compromise on behaviors to

unite with love.

Closer connection happens when

we let down our guard and validate the

other’s experience. This doesn’t necessarily

mean apologizing, although

sometimes it does. Validating means

seeking to understand the other person’s

perspective and choose empathy

that says, “I can see how you would feel

that way” or “Now that I hear your side,

I can see how that would be difficult/

frustrating/disappointing.” Validation

is the willingness to leave our corner

and say, “I’m open to viewing this

differently.”

Another way we move from defensiveness

toward connection is by

conveying commitment. Conveying

commitment can be as simple as saying,

“I’m on your team” or “I’m committed

to us, and I want to work through this.”

When we convey commitment, we

soothe any fears (even irrational ones)

the other person may have about conflict

fracturing the relationship.

Compromise without connection

feels like losing. Compromise with

connection feels like love. This kind of

intimacy happens when we choose to

seek understanding, move past behaviors

and stay connected even amid

conflict. When we’re connected, conflict

becomes less scary and love grows

deeper, one conversation at a time. •

*Names and details changed for confidentiality

Nicole Unice is an author, pastor, leadership

coach and podcast host who helps people

learn how to love one another. Her latest

book, The Miracle Moment, guides readers to

transform conflict into connection.


Enrich your relationship by praying as a couple | BY DEAN RIDINGS

I’LL NEVER FORGET AN EVENTFUL

DRIVE HOME from a road trip to Oregon. My

wife, Kim, our four kids, and I were packed into our

station wagon, complete with luggage in our rooftop

carrier. Coming out of the California mountains, we

passed a semitruck.

Soon after, a huge sandstorm swept over us. I

couldn’t see ahead or behind us. I slowed the car to

a crawl, aware that the 18-wheeler wasn’t far behind

us. Trying to keep our own fears in check, Kim and I

worked to calm our panicked kids.

Most memorably, my wife and I cried out to God

for help.

If you’re like me, the most natural times to pray

with your spouse are in times of crisis: when you get

a late-night phone call, doctor’s diagnosis or sudden

urge to say, “Jesus, take the wheel!”

But praying together can be so much more than that.

Christian couples find greater joy in their relationship

with God and each other when they intentionally take

time to pray together. As Kim and I have made this a

regular practice, we’ve been better able to see each

other’s hearts, gently realize our own flaws, receive

and extend forgiveness, and grow in intimacy.

In the process, we’ve discovered three important,

biblically based prayers to pray together:

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 17


COUPLES / PRAYER

“Lord, help

us to seek

You first”

WE BELIEVE that a couple’s most important prayer is to ask God to

help them seek Him first and foremost, individually and as a couple.

Kim and I start by thanking God for our marriage and each other.

We ask the Lord to show us how to honor each other as individuals

uniquely created in His image. We also ask God to help each of us

thrive in an abiding relationship with Him.

Then we adapt Paul’s prayers for early church believers. Paul’s

words provide a wonderful template for praying that God would give

our spouse wisdom and revelation so our spouse might know Him

better (Ephesians 1:17), that he or she would be filled to the measure

of the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19), that good works would

bear fruit as our spouse grows in the knowledge of God (Colossians

1:10), and much more.

Finally, in light of challenges of the week ahead, we always ask

God to help us cast our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7).

“Lord, we pray

for our family”

IF YOU’RE A PARENT, praying for your children’s

well-being is probably second nature. The following

topics and verses can help direct those prayers:

• Kim and I pray for our children’s personal relationships

with God through Jesus Christ. Keeping

in mind Joshua’s call to “choose this day whom you

will serve,” we declare as he did, “As for me and my

house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

• We also pray that God would be at the center

of our children’s lives. This leads us to think about

what’s going on in their world—at home, school

or work. We also talk to God about our children’s

friends and acquaintances, especially those who

have influence on their lives.

• Finally, we adapt the words found in Deuteronomy

6:5-9. In these verses, Moses encourages parents

to impress God’s commandments on the hearts of

their children all throughout the day: sitting at home,

walking along the road, preparing for bed and rising

in the morning. This Scripture feels as relevant today

as it did when it was written. We ask God to help us

live out these words before our children.

In addition to praying for our kids, we pray

together for our extended families. The idea of

embracing each other’s extended families is so

important that, whenever I officiate a wedding,

I remind people of Ruth’s beautiful words in Ruth

1:16: “Your people shall be my people.” Ruth made

this promise to her mother-in-law; how much more

important it is for a bride and groom to embrace

each other’s extended families.

As you pray for the salvation and spiritual growth

of members of your extended families, you’ll draw

closer together as a couple as well.

18

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


Take our

FREE

marriage

assessment

“Lord, show us

how to love our

neighbors”

THE TWO GREATEST COMMAND-

MENTS are to love God and love

others (Matthew 22:37-39). Praying

together for your community is a

wonderful way to put these commandments

in action.

Kim and I pray for the lost and hurting

in our community, and as the Lord

leads, we invite them into our home

(Luke 14:13-14).

We also pray as we walk through

our neighborhood, letting each

house remind us of the precious lives

within. When we aren’t aware of specific

needs among our neighbors, we

pray for their spiritual health, physical

well-being and their relationships with

Jesus and each other. And when God

brings a Bible passage to mind, we

base our prayers on it.

Finally, we keep the names of our

immediate neighbors written on the

inside of one of our cabinet doors.

Every time we welcome new neighbors

with fresh-baked goodies, we add their

names to the list. The more we reach

out to our neighbors in the day to day,

the more they share their lives with

us, which helps us pray specifically for

their needs.

Start today!

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca

/MarriageAssessment

Now it’s your turn

In case you’re wondering, my family and I made it safely through the sandstorm. It

took a while for the trembling to stop—but you can imagine how grateful to God

we were as we settled into our hotel room that night.

There’s another reason I share this story. Like driving through a sandstorm, praying

with your spouse can feel unfamiliar, challenging, even scary.

Let me encourage you to give it a go anyway.

Scripture tells us that when we pray together, God is present, He cares, and He

hears and answers our prayers. What’s more, the prayers you say with your spouse

can draw you both closer to God’s heart and to each other. •

Dean Ridings is a pastor and the director of biblical counseling at Calvary Worship Center in Colorado

Springs, Colorado. He’s the author of Walking and Talking With God: A simple way to pray every day.


COUPLES / COMMUNICATION

fishing for connection

Understanding my husband’s

hobbies brought us closer together

BY SABRINA MCDONALD

I'VE LEARNED THAT

little can prepare stepfamilies for

the blended journey. Surprises are

standard. So successful remarriages

require adaptability. For me, this

learning curve first appeared in the

form of my husband’s interests—

hunting and fishing.

Robbie is a 21st-century Daniel

Boone. There’s not an animal he can’t

kill, skin and fry up for dinner. I had

never been around an outdoorsman,

and I soon realized I was a fish out of

water.

While watching a fishing show

(something Robbie mysteriously finds

entertaining), an angler explained he

was “ripping the Rat-L-Trap out of the

coontails.” My brow crinkled and head

cocked. It sounded like English but

made no sense.

A new language

Outdoorsman talk was a new dialect

of the English language for me.

Personally, I like reading, writing and

crafting, and I don’t like sweating. So

learning an “outdoorsy” lingo and lifestyle

wasn’t my idea of fun. But I did

know I loved this man, and if being

closer to him meant giving up a little

comfort, I felt the extra work was

worth it.

I started my new education by asking

lots of questions. “What’s a Shakey

Jighead? What’s a Whopper Plopper?

How does a deer rut?”

At times, learning the jargon was

exhausting, and I often felt stupid.

Robbie was confused by my ignorance,

thinking everyone knew these terms.

But in order to communicate, fellowship

and encourage this man, I had to

learn his mysterious language. And

soon he even enjoyed imparting his

knowledge to me, an eager listener.

Speaking his language

Eventually, I organized a fishing trip for

our anniversary. Robbie teemed with

pride when I caught a 6-pound trout.

I’ve never seen him more in love.

Now, years later, I’m still not outdoorsy.

I don’t anticipate deer season

or practice duck calls. I’ve gained new

experiences, though, including shooting

guns at the range and reloading

ammo. But the greatest gain is the ability

to talk to my husband about what

he loves, and best of all, catch that penetrating

glimmer in his eyes when I

join him on his adventures. •

Sabrina McDonald is the author of Write God

In Deeper: Journal your way to a richer faith.

© MEGHAN PINSONNEAULT / STOCKSY UNITED

20

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


Faith & Inspiration

a way forward

A spiritual insight from ong>Focusong> on the Family leadership

BY DR. DANIEL HUERTA

OLGA.AND.DESIGN / STOCK.ADOBE.COM

AS A THERAPIST, I’ve encountered

people who find it difficult to

break their own destructive patterns.

They’re used to behaving one way, and

they continue those habits, despite

receiving an invitation to wholeness.

One young woman told me she was

comfortable with what she knew and

did not see herself being able to change.

Perhaps we all have a tendency to do

that, to continue doing things the way

we’ve always done them, even though

the results are not what we want. But

1 Peter 1:13-25 presents a way forward

for Christians who want to move toward

healthier patterns of living. Because

our actions follow our thoughts, Peter

encourages us to prepare our minds.

Then he tells us to consciously set

our hope in Christ Jesus, not in our circumstances

or the people around us.

The goal is to be holy through the holiness

of Christ. Here are a few questions

to ask yourself:

Is my life governed by the

direction of the Holy Spirit?

(Psalm 105:4; John 15)

Do I take the time to prepare

my mind to demonstrate godly

actions each week?

(Colossians 3:16)

Do I work to authentically

love others in the day to day?

Am I life-affirming to others?

(John 7:38)

The point is to view life in light of

God’s truth, which we find in His Word.

Bible reading helps us take a long-term

view of what God can do—in our decisions,

directions and relationships.

So, to live in a way that allows me

to adjust and continue to abide in

Christ’s holiness, I spend time in

God’s Word and trust the Holy Spirit

to equip me for every good work He’s

prepared for me (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Jesus said in John 15:5, “Apart from

me you can do nothing.” The path

forward may not be comfortable or

familiar, but it leads to wholeness and

purpose in Jesus every day. •

Dr. Daniel Huerta is the vice president of

Parenting and Youth at ong>Focusong> on the Family.

He is a psychologist, a licensed clinical social

worker and the author of 7 Traits of Effective

Parenting.

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 21


FAITH & INSPIRATION / COMMUNICATION

scrappy

hospitality

Show Christ’s

love by building

relationships with

neighbors who

don’t think like you

BY PRESTON ULMER

ILLUSTRATIONS BY

BRIAN MELLEMA

SOME NEIGHBORHOODS

ARE DESIGNED to encourage

friendship. We live in one of them.

Our driveway is a cement canvas for

budding chalk artists, and our 4-foot

backyard fence allows jumping chihuahuas

to greet energetic poodles. The

kids play together, running between

yards and entering each other’s

homes as if they were their own. The

neighborhood pool has become the

impromptu social gathering for introverts

and extroverts alike. The problem

is, no real relationships form by just

talking about sports and the weather.

Not long after moving to this neighborhood,

my wife, Lisa, and I were

invited to a neighbor’s house for dinner.

We were pretty sure the family wasn’t

Christian. Everything went well until,

Brian, the father of the family, asked

who I voted for in the last election.

“Who did I vote for?” I stalled. I

wanted to answer in a way that showed

Brian the love of Christ, whether we

voted the same or differently. After

explaining my reasoning, I eventually

told him.

He smiled. “I voted for the other guy.”

Our conversation continued, and

we talked about the why behind our

election choices. At the core, we both

wanted what was good for the people

in our country. Since then, Brian and

I have had many meals together and

many conversations.

Granted, not all relationships go

this way. So when faced with people

who believe differently from us—politically,

socially, spiritually—I now

apply four principles to show them

Christ’s light and love.

22

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


COMMUNICATION / FAITH & INSPIRATION

Respect

I do my best to treat every person I

talk to with dignity, remembering that

he or she is made in God’s image. As

the apostle Paul said, “Let your reasonableness

be known to everyone”

(Philippians 4:5).

Showing others respect allows people

to be vulnerable without feeling

judged. And if anything shuts down a

conversation, it’s when someone feels

condemned or judged.

Lisa and I consider inviting neighbors

into our home to be an act of

“scrappy hospitality.” Recently, my wife

hosted a gathering at our house. One

of the neighbors confessed how she

was drunk the previous night and was

still experiencing a hangover. Her kids

were playing with ours in the driveway

while she was talking about her

half-remembered evening. Lisa asked

her if she was doing OK and if we could

help with anything.

“No,” she said, and then admitted,

“my grandparents and parents are in

the hospital with COVID. I think I’m

having trouble processing that.” This

was no time to condemn her behavior.

Our friend needed gentle support that

made her feel respected and heard.

Investment

Lisa and I are convinced that there is

something sacred about our driveway

because some of the most important

people sit there. When our children are

playing with neighborhood kids, we

invite other parents over. This is where

we keep conversations going. We check

on the status of their job, upcoming

weddings or anything else that’s

pressing to them. The playing children

are a welcome distraction. Watching

them on scooters brings levity to some

of the most important topics.

Short, quick interactions do not

build trust. Long, intentional conversations

do. And some of the best ways

to initiate relationships are as simple

as walking around the neighborhood

or sitting in the bleachers during soccer

practice. If we put our phones away

and give people more than a hand

wave, our relationships are better able

to withstand disagreements.

Vulnerability

After I pulled into the garage from a

four-day work trip, one of the neighbor’s

kids opened the door from

inside my house to greet me before

my own children did. >>>

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 23


LISTEN NOW!

Amy Lively explains how to cultivate

community and share the love of

Christ with your neighbors.

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Radio

“Hi, Mr. Preston,” she said.

“Hi, Ava! Thanks for holding the door

open for me.”

Ava’s family members aren’t

Christians. One of the best ways we

can rebuild the impression Ava’s parents

have of Jesus is by welcoming

their children as He would.

I’m grateful Jesus has a special place

in His heart for children because children

don’t judge the cleanliness of

our houses. If anything, they judge the

openness of our homes.

Interest

Years ago, when my family and I first

moved to Denver, I was talking with

one of our neighbors who was walking

his dog. But really, I wasn’t all that

interested in what he did for a living.

Like an overzealous church planter,

I couldn’t wait to tell him that we were

starting a local faith community.

“So what do you do?” he finally asked.

“We moved here to start a church,”

I told him.

His eyes glazed over. “A church?” He

gave a light tug on the leash to indicate

to his resting dog that the conversation

was over. It was time to leave.

I’ve replayed that exchange numerous

times in my head. Every time, I’m

reminded that I was so excited to talk

about myself that it kept me from getting

to know him better.

People can tell when we are generally

interested in them. To seem more interested

in people, we have to be more

interested in them. To seem curious, we

have to be curious. To look as if we’re

listening, we have to actually listen.

One of the ways to keep neighbors

in the conversation is resisting the

temptation to talk about ourselves too

much or give unsolicited opinions.

Conversations are supposed to be how

we continue relationships, not how we

end them. Disagreements don’t have

to result in a break in the relationship,

just a break in the conversation.

Perhaps one of Jesus’ most intriguing

personality traits was that He asked

questions. He was always listening to

His Father and to those around Him.

My daughter Piper’s third grade

teacher lives across the street from us.

Her son, James, is one of Piper’s best

friends. Although James and his family

are not Christians, we have seen them

have an increasing interest in Jesus’

way of living. The impromptu driveway

talks, random dinner parties and intentional

conversations have created a safe

space for them to explore Jesus. And

whether they ever think like us will not

determine our commitment to them. •

Preston Ulmer is the founder and director of the

Doubters’ Club, an organization that teaches

people, regardless of their beliefs, to be kind to

one another and pursue truth together. He’s also

the director of the Church Multiplication Network,

the church planting arm of the Assemblies of

God and the author of The Doubters’ Club.

24

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


EVANGELISM / FAITH & INSPIRATION

MY FAMILY

OF FIGHTERS

The Stier family’s

journey from

body builders to

bold evangelists

BY BENJAMIN HAWKINS

PHOTOS BY JAMES STUKENBERG

Greg Stier

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 25


Greg and his mother

GREG STIER WAS JUST 5

YEARS OLD when he noticed an

unfamiliar car pull up in front of the

box-brick duplex his family rented in

crime-ridden north Denver. He immediately

called for his mother. Since

gang members were known to hang

out in the neighborhood, she’d warned

him to watch out for strangers.

But this time Greg recognized the

driver.

“Ma, one of my daddies is here,” he

said. His mother, Shirley, stood at the

kitchen window, where she’d been

washing dishes. A cigarette hung from

her mouth.

“Paul,” his mother growled. “That

jerk!”

Shirley’s husband had walked out

on her and her two sons only a few

months earlier. Paul was back now,

looking to claim a tax return check.

“Where’s the bat?” Shirley asked. In

reply, Greg held up a small plastic bat

that he often played with. Shirley had

something else in mind. She reached

behind the front door, pulled out a

Louisville Slugger and stormed out

of the house, cursing and shouting at

Paul. She shattered Paul’s windshield,

knocked the side-view mirrors loose

and left dents around the vehicle.

Paul jumped out of the car to stop

her, but he never stood a chance.

Shirley bloodied him with the bat until

he climbed back in his car and fled.

“I remember thinking,” Greg says, “as

she walked up that sidewalk with the

bloody, splintered bat, I will never disobey

my mommy again.”

A family of fighters

His mother’s entire family was tough.

Her five brothers were body building,

street-fighting siblings, dubbed by the

Denver Mafia as “the crazy brothers.”

Five-year-old Greg saw with his own

eyes his family’s penchant for violence.

Not only did his mother beat her husband

with a bat, but his uncle Jack also

spent time in jail for choking two cops

who tried to arrest him, and his uncle

Bob nearly beat a man to death.

Greg, however, was different. Rather

than fighting, he preferred to crawl

under the kitchen sink or behind the

couch to read books. One Christmas,

when Greg was only 6, his uncle Dave

mocked him as a sissy by giving him a

girl’s doll. When Greg reacted in anger,

Uncle Dave applauded him.

“Well,” he said, “maybe he’s one of us

after all.”

“I was not a tough kid,” Greg admits,

“and I didn’t know how I got into this

family.”

By the end of the decade that followed,

that same family was barely

recognizable. Greg watched how God

transformed the lot of them from a

gang of lawbreaking street brawlers into

a family filled with passion for Jesus.

“Take out the toughest guy”

To win Greg’s family to Christ, God used

the faithful witness of a tough Southern

preacher known in the community as

Yankee. Born to a counterfeiting and

bootlegging father, Yankee came to faith

in Christ at age 18, attended Bible college

and eventually planted a church in

the Denver suburb of Arvada. There he

met a man who knew Greg’s family.

This man dared Yankee to share

the Gospel with them, and Yankee

accepted the challenge. He started

with the toughest one of all, and when

Greg’s uncle Jack came to faith, the

other dominoes started to fall.

“It was like a gang fight,” Greg says.

“Take out the toughest guy, and everyone

else gives in. . . . So, praise the Lord,

the whole family came to Christ.”

Greg himself accepted Jesus as his

Savior at age 8, and as he matured

as a believer, Yankee taught him

how to share his faith with enthusiasm

and preach sermons that led the

lost to repentance. Later, Greg even

26

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


EVANGELISM / FAITH & INSPIRATION

participated in preaching competitions

through his Christian high school.

In his latest book, Unlikely Fighter,

Greg admits, “Having struggled all my

life with feeling like a misfit in my own

family, I had a burning desire for both

peer acceptance and adult approval

coursing through my veins. That was

one of my underlying drives behind

. . . my desire to be an award-winning

preacher and spiritual leader.”

Greg wasn’t alone in his evangelistic

zeal. Other members of his family

earned a reputation for sharing Christ

without shame—and often with flare.

For example, Greg’s brother, Doug,

once pulled up his bicycle alongside a

car full of young men at the stoplight

of a busy intersection. Doug began to

share the Good News but couldn’t finish

before the light turned green. So he

grabbed hold of the car as it accelerated

to nearly 40 miles an hour. Doug

pedaled and preached as he held on to

the car, not letting go until he finished

his Gospel presentation.

When Greg heard what his older

brother had done, he reprimanded

him. “You could have been pulled

under the tires and killed,” Greg said.

Doug simply replied, “Those guys

need to know Jesus.”

On another occasion, Uncle Jack

shared Christ with another body

builder at the gym. Jack hadn’t been

a Christian very long, and he hadn’t

quite overcome all of his rough-andtumble

habits. As he shared the Gospel,

another man began to jeer at him and

interrupt the conversation.

“I’m trying to tell this guy about the

love of Jesus,” Jack said. “Why don’t

you shut your stinking mouth?” If

the man didn’t stop, Jack warned, he

would take him down.

When the heckler continued to

interrupt the conversation, Jack made

good on his threat. A powerful right

hook sent the message that Jack wasn’t

kidding around.

“Jesus didn’t go around hitting people,”

the other man protested.

“Well, I ain’t Jesus,” he replied. “I’m

Jack.”

Greg's uncle Larry

Greg's uncle Jack

FAMILY PHOTOS COURTESY OF GREG STIER

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 27


FAITH & INSPIRATION / EVANGELISM

And then there were two

While most of Greg’s family members

were transformed from the inside

out, there remained two holdouts who

resisted the call to faith: Greg’s uncle

Richard, who lived out of state, and his

mother, Shirley.

“My mom never thought God could

forgive her,” Greg says. On many occasions,

he recalls, his mother would cry

when she looked at Greg.

“I’m a bum,” she would say. “I’m

nothing but a no-good bum.” When

Greg was older, his grandmother

revealed that his mother’s fits of rage

and sadness grew from the shame of

an unplanned pregnancy and that

Shirley nearly had an abortion before

changing her mind. The child she carried

was Greg, and the shame made

her slow to turn to Christ.

“He’d never accept me into His family,”

Shirley told Greg. But her son

refused to give up. One day, when Greg

was 15 years old, he once more urged

his mother to follow Christ and find

forgiveness for her sins. After listening

once again, she took a drag on her cigarette

and looked off into the distance.

At last she spoke: “I’m in.”

That same year, Greg’s grandfather

died, and his uncles encouraged Greg to

preach the sermon at the funeral. They

all wanted his uncle Richard—the family’s

last remaining holdout—to hear

the Gospel, and they knew Greg could

share it better than anyone in the family.

Standing in front of some 500 guests

at the funeral, Greg proclaimed the

message of salvation. He spoke for half

an hour, and when he called on those

gathered to turn to Christ, many did.

But Uncle Richard was unconvinced,

arms folded, staring at Greg and shaking

his head. He refused the call of

Christ that day, though God used Greg

to lead Uncle Richard to faith 12 years

later as his uncle was dying of cancer.

Even as Uncle Richard remained

unmoved, Greg Stier discovered his

true calling in life during those 30 minutes

in the pulpit.

A new family trait

From that point on, Greg never hesitated

to share his faith. “If you found

the cure to cancer and everybody had

cancer,” he asks, “why wouldn’t you

tell everybody?”

Yankee and others taught him that

sin and its consequences were as bad

as, or worse than, cancer, and they

instilled in him a sense of evangelistic

urgency. He had seen for himself how

Christ could transform an entire family,

and it stirred up his passion for the lost.

Greg writes in Unlikely Fighter that

it wasn’t just urgency that lit up his

preaching. It was the surety that the

Gospel could change lives (as it did in

his), change families (as it did in his),

and change entire cities, as Greg seeks

to do today through Dare 2 Share, a

global ministry he started that mobilizes

teenagers to share the Gospel

around the world. Dare 2 Share equips

youth leaders to build evangelism programs

in their churches and train teens

to share their faith with their peers.

“Every teen everywhere” is the Dare 2

Share motto that encourages Christian

teens to share the Gospel with a friend.

“We’ve trained millions of teenagers

and youth leaders how to share the

Gospel,” Greg says, “how to build what

we call a Gospel-advancing ministry,

and to see themselves as missionaries

on their campuses, with their classmates

and teammates.”

Perhaps Greg didn’t inherit his

Uncle Jack’s natural grit and aggression

or his brother Doug’s fearlessness

and intensity, but his flare for telling

people about Jesus’ love is now a

Spirit-inspired, family trait that Greg

can call his own. •

Benjamin Hawkins is a freelance writer and

associate editor of The Pathway, the news

journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

UNLIKELY FIGHTER

Read the incredible story of how God transformed

Greg Stier’s family of bullies to become bold

witnesses to the power of the Gospel.

Shop.ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca

28

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


FOSTER CARE & ADOPTION / FAITH & INSPIRATION

Faces of

Foster Care

Snapshots of fi ve kids who grew

up in the foster care system

COMPILED BY DR. SHAREN FORD

EVERY FOSTER CARE

STORY IS DIFFERENT.

Some kids need temporary care so

they can be returned to their biological

parents. Others need to be adopted

into forever homes. For some kids, a

foster home is a loving refuge from a

dangerous living situation. For others,

it’s a confusing, scary experience

that does little to reinforce feelings of

acceptance or security.

But many foster care stories have

elements in common, too. A couple of

things come to mind: 1) Fostering kids

in need is typically “messy” because

it involves fractured families, and 2)

every child in foster care needs—and

deserves—to be loved and valued as

God’s child.

The following stories were written by

people who spent some of their childhoods

in foster care. These stories are

powerful reminders that foster care

isn’t about an institution, but individuals.

They also remind us that when

good people care for hurting children

for the right reasons, precious lives are

impacted—sometimes for eternity.>>>

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 29


FAITH & INSPIRATION / FOSTER CARE & ADOPTION

Just Wanting

a Home

BY JIM DALY

AFTER THE DEATH OF MY MOTHER and the

abandonment of my stepfather, my older brother,

Dave, found a family, the Reils, who would take in my

siblings and me. While living with a family I didn’t

know wasn’t my first choice, I took comfort in the fact

that we wouldn’t be split up.

The Reils had a simple routine. We ate cinnamon

and sugar on toast with instant hot chocolate for

breakfast, every breakfast. In the evenings, the family

would listen to the radio, talk and smoke.

In one of my initial visits with our social worker,

she said, “Jimmy, Mr. Reil claims you tried to kill him.”

“Me? But . . . I’m 10 years old! How?”

She leaned forward, raised an eyebrow and said,

“Mr. Reil claims you tried to push him off of a cliff.”

We were living in the desert. There were no cliffs for

miles. My heart started bumping in my chest.

She explained that Mr. Reil was going senile and

we had two options: “We can keep you guys together,

and you can hunker down here until we find another

solution. If so, I’ll do what I can to make sure Mr. Reil

understands you don’t mean him any harm. Or we

can separate you and place you into the appropriate

foster care homes for your respective ages.”

I didn’t like the sound of either of those options.

But I stayed.

Life with the Reils never felt like home to me. I was

thankful for a roof over my head, a place to bathe and

food to eat. But I never felt settled. I certainly didn’t

feel loved. I always felt like an undesirable guest.

Jim Daly is the president of ong>Focusong> on the Family. This story is

adapted from his book Finding Home, a ong>Focusong> on the Family

publication. All rights reserved.

FROM FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FINDING HOME

Read Jim Daly's full story.

Shop.ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca

30

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


FOSTER CARE & ADOPTION / FAITH & INSPIRATION

LISTEN NOW!

Dr. Sharen Ford shares ways to

help children in foster care.

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Radio

Calling Them

Mom and Dad

BY HELEN RICHARDSON

KATHERINE MARIE PHOTOGRAPHY

WE DIDN’T HAVE RUNNING WATER OR ELEC-

TRICITY, and there wasn’t enough food. The trailer

where we lived wasn’t a safe space, and my parents

struggled to care for me. When someone gave my

mother a lift from town back to our trailer, the dangerous

conditions in which we lived came to light—and

the authorities stepped in.

Kinship care

For years, I bounced back and forth between my parents

and foster care. When I was 3, my father passed

away. Three years later, my mother passed away, too.

I moved into kinship care, which is care provided

by relatives. My grandmother took me in, but when

she had a stroke, I was moved into the home of

another relative and then another and another.

The bouncing around continued until I was 18 and

aged out of the system.

Foster families

Sometimes I didn’t live with relatives, but with foster

families. These experiences were the most meaningful

to me. I felt safe. I knew there was enough food.

I had clean clothes, a warm bed and people around

me who made me feel secure.

One of my favorite memories is sitting at the

counter in the kitchen of a new foster family as the

woman explained that I could call her and her husband

Mom and Dad if I wanted to.

Being able to call someone Mom and Dad may

seem like a simple thing, but those words mean that

you are part of a family. That you are loved, wanted,

cared for. That no matter what happens, you have

someone to go to.

After I left that family, I never called anyone Mom

or Dad again.

Aging out

When I aged out of the system, I went on to college

and then work. At first I floundered, but God found me,

and I learned during those years when I felt so alone

that He was with me. And when I became a Christian,

I discovered a huge network of church family.

Today, my husband and I plan to adopt from foster

care so we can be Mom and Dad to kids who

need a safe, loving family. And we consistently pray

for the thousands of other children and youth in the

system. >>>

Helen Richardson is the manager of Foster Care and Adoption

at ong>Focusong> on the Family. She is an advocate for kids in foster care.

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 31


FAITH & INSPIRATION / FOSTER CARE & ADOPTION

Never

Forgotten

BY CHRISTOPHER MOORE

OUR MOTHER HAD PROMISED she would be

back soon, but that felt like forever ago as my brother,

Anthony, and I lay on a pile of cardboard boxes in the

corner of an abandoned apartment complex.

Anthony was 4, and I was 5. Food was hard to come

by. Strangers came and went. Others milled around

claiming their own spots.

Protective care

Sirens rang loud in the night. I was used to that, but

then beams of flashlights were everywhere. Two

policemen found us. We spent the rest of the night

sleeping either in the back of their car or inside the

police station.

I was scared. So was Anthony. We had no idea what

was going on. We wanted our mother.

Eventually, we were taken to a house where we

weren’t allowed to hang out with the other kids in the

home. Every night for two weeks, I sat on the edge of

my bed and wailed for my mother.

On July 5, 2000, a social worker came to our temporary

shelter and took us to our placement. My brother

and I grabbed our trash bags of belongings. Anthony

and I went for a ride and were dropped off at the door

of an unfamiliar house.

My foster family

Inside, we discovered a foster family that cared

about us.

Three years and a long custody battle later, Anthony

and I were given the right to stay in that home and

become Moores. We were adopted on April 2, 2003,

and it was one of the best days of my life.

In spite of all I experienced, I realize now that

God never forgot about me or left me. He had a plan

and purpose for my life, a plan and purpose that is

still unfolding.

Though it took me a few painful years to find healing,

I am now 26 and married to my best friend and

beautiful wife. We own our own home and are dog

owners of the cutest goldendoodle.

I thank God for all He has done and is doing in

my life.

I am blessed.

Christopher Moore works in home renovations and with a

church youth group.

NICK DAVIS

32

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


FOSTER CARE & ADOPTION / FAITH & INSPIRATION

Breaking

the Cycle

BY GENEVIEVE TRAVERSY

BRITTANY CRUSE

I VIVIDLY REMEMBER standing outside

my foster home on a crisp autumn

evening and hearing my caseworker

say that I was “unadoptable” now

because I had turned 12.

I felt numb. The rustling leaves on

the trees seemed to stop moving. The

dirt driveway felt like it was crumbling

beneath my feet.

I was unwanted. Undesirable.

Foster care

Between ages 3 and 18, I was placed

in 16 different homes. I grew up surrounded

by social workers, lawyers,

multiple foster parents and siblings. So

many lives touched mine, yet I felt like

no one could relate to me.

When the other kids in middle

school discovered I was just a “poor

foster kid with no family,” the pain I felt

drove me to act out in unhealthy ways.

I turned to fighting, anorexia, drugs and

abusive relationships with older men.

At age 15, I found myself pregnant,

alone and afraid. When a clinic nurse

encouraged me to have an abortion

to “help my situation,” I literally ran

from the building. Covering my belly

protectively with my arms as I ran,

I promised my preborn child that

I would love and protect him. His life

wasn’t a surprise to God. My child was

wanted and desired by our heavenly

Father and by me.

Taking responsibility

Raising my son while going to high

school and college was not easy. But

I was determined to break the cycle of

foster care in my biological family.

I married my high school sweetheart,

and we had four additional children,

the youngest of whom we adopted.

My former caseworkers began to

set up speaking engagements for me

to share my story. Eventually I started

teaching foster parenting classes.

Through these opportunities and

others, I’ve been able to share what it

means to be a foster child, foster and

adoptive mother, and child of God.

After all, my heavenly Father adopted

me and healed my fractured soul

through His genuine love for me. >>>

Genevieve Traversy is a foster care family

recruiter who helps people become foster

parents. She founded a nonprofit called Lean

on Us to bring foster kids together once a

month for fun activities.

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 33


FAITH & INSPIRATION / FOSTER CARE & ADOPTION

Learning

the Language

of Family

BY ARUNA MOORE

I WAS BORN IN CAMBODIA to an Italian

American pianist and a Cambodian woman. My

mother wanted nothing to do with me.

While my father was not rich, he was considered a

wealthy American in the eyes of the Cambodian people.

But when I was 5, my father got into an accident

and lost his job at the hotel where he was employed.

I was placed in two different orphanages before my

father and I moved to the United States.

Everything new

Once in the U.S., my father and I stayed in a motel. He

was abusive, so I was removed from his care. I was

placed first into a transitional home and then into a

home with a Cambodian family.

At this point, I was almost 6. Living in a home with

running water and electricity was new to me. I also

only spoke Khmer.

The Cambodian couple already had three children.

The county let them take me in because they spoke fluent

Khmer. They were supposed to teach me English.

But as I began to learn English, I started losing my

grasp of Khmer—and apparently my foster mother

didn’t approve. I remember she wouldn’t let me

watch Cinderella unless I asked to watch it in Khmer.

She also wouldn’t let me go into the pool or play with

certain things unless I spoke my request in Khmer.

Another rejection

I started acting out and throwing tantrums. I was

told that if I misbehaved one more time, I would

have to leave.

Eight months after this placement, the couple told

the county they didn’t want me. Their rejection reinforced

my fear that I was unworthy of love.

I knew Jesus loved me and that God had sent Him

to die in my place, but it wasn’t until I was older that

I put my life in His hands.

Shortly before my seventh birthday, I was adopted

into a family that showed me unconditional love.

The day they adopted me is one of the most

important days of my life. •

Aruna Moore is currently beginning her adult life.

Dr. Sharen Ford is a nationally recognized child welfare

consultant and a retired manager from the Colorado

Department of Human Services in the Division of Child Welfare

Services. She currently serves as the director for Foster Care and

Adoption at ong>Focusong> on the Family.

NICK DAVIS

34

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


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FAITH & INSPIRATION / EMOTIONS

Even fearless kids can feel

anxiety about something

BY MANNDI DEBOEF

ONE SUNDAY after my youngest

son, Waylan, had said his nightly

prayers, we talked about the adventure

we’d just had biking the rocky terrain of

the northwest hills of Arkansas. This had

been a first-time experience for him.

I told Waylan how proud I was of

him for boldly trying something new.

His rented bike had been a size too big,

and he’d taken a couple of spills. But

he’d always managed to get up, dust

himself off and hit the trail with more

gusto than before.

A surprising answer

Still thinking about his courage, I asked,

“Is there anything that scares you?”

A shadow crossed his face. With a

slight waver in his voice, Waylan said,

“I’m afraid of being alone.”

His answer caught me off guard.

Even after we talked about it, I

couldn’t get his words out of my mind.

When I was a child, my paternal

grandfather passed away, followed by

my paternal grandmother less than

two years later. I became paralyzed

by the thought that something bad

would happen to my own parents. As

an only child, the idea of being left

alone felt terrifying.

Waylan’s fear resonated with my fear

at his age.

Alone no more

When my son recently decided to follow

Jesus, my heart overflowed with joy

at his decision. His newfound faith also

made it easier to help Waylan with his

fear of being alone. Now when we talk,

I can ask questions such as:

• Does being a Christian mean everything

will now go your way?

• How might knowing Jesus help you

through hard times?

• How can dwelling on your fears keep

you a prisoner to those fears?

• Why is it important to acknowledge

your fears—without obsessing over

them?

• Why is it helpful to tell Jesus you’re

scared when fears pop into your mind?

• What Bible verse can you memorize

when the fear of being alone nags

at you?

As opportunities arise, I tell Waylan

about fears I’ve had and how Jesus

helped me through them. I want my

son to see that God holds His children

in the palm of His hand, and that He

will carry us through whatever we face,

no matter our situation. •

Manndi DeBoef works at the University of

Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy

and as a freelance writer. She writes about

parenting, single parenthood, miscarriage, loss

of a loved one and starting over.

FOTF / BRIAN MELLEMA

36

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


Kids & Teens

knees and praise

A parenting insight from

Quinnise Pettway

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PETTWAY FAMILY

THE CONCLUDING portion of

my family’s nighttime routine includes

prayer, which we call “knees,” and

songs of praise and worship. My girls

were taught from a young age how to

pray and the importance of prayer.

Once their baths are done and PJs

are on, I often excitedly shout, “It’s

time for knees.” Everyone knows to

gather bedside in one of my daughters’

rooms. Each of us takes turns praying.

After prayer, we sing three praise and

worship songs.

We are all involved in the song selection

process. We have two little ones,

so most evenings, each one picks a

selection, and I choose the third. If the

song is a call and response song or a

song with a solo, the girls take pleasure

in leading.

We sing whether we feel like it or not.

We firmly believe in the Scripture that

reminds us to give thanks in everything.

Whether the day was rough or the day

ran smoothly, I want my girls to know

that God is worthy all the time—and

our prayers, praise and worship connect

us directly to our heavenly Father. •

Quinnise Pettway is a licensed professional

counselor, blogger and book author.

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 37


KIDS & TEENS / WORLDVIEW

‘is the truth true

for everyone?’

Teach your kids that God’s

truths are uncompromising

BY ELIZABETH URBANOWICZ

MY NEW CLASS OF THIRD

GRADE students had just finished

practicing their weekly memory verse:

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and

the truth, and the life. No one comes to

the Father except through me’ ” (John

14:6). We had a few minutes before the

bell rang, so I wrote a question on the

board: “Is the truth true for everyone?”

I then asked my students to write their

answers on sticky notes and then post

them on the board below the question.

I was sure that after memorizing

John 14:6 all week, my students would

answer this question with a resounding

yes and clear explanation. To my

shock, more than three-quarters of my

class had noted, “No, truth is different

for different people.”

This must be a mistake, I thought.

Yet, in the weeks to come, as fall

turned to winter and I dug deeper into

their responses, I realized that my

students were not simply confused.

These children had subtly absorbed

the false belief that truth is subjective.

Relative. I was passionately teaching

them God’s Word, but their misunderstandings

left them thinking that

Jesus was the Way for some people, the

Truth for some people, and the Life for

some people.

I realized I had to be intentional

about equipping my students to understand

what biblical truth is, how to

follow that truth with confidence and

how to distinguish objective truth from

personal preferences.

Defining truth

When you ask your kids, “What is

truth?” they may have trouble defining

it. Some will say something to the

effect of, “We need to tell the truth.”

Honesty is certainly important, but

help your kids dive deeper.

Philosophers traditionally define

truth as that which corresponds with

reality. Yet, that sentence has little

meaning for a 4-year-old, 8-year-old

or even a 12-year-old. Instead, simplify

the definition by saying, “Truth is what

is real.” Then help your kids by giving

them phrases that are either true

or false and pointing out that the true

phrases demonstrate what is real.

When working with kids 7 and

under, I like to turn this into a game.

FOTF / BRIAN MELLEMA

38

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


WORLDVIEW / KIDS & TEENS

I start by presenting a number of

sentences that represent what is

real—statements like: “Saturday is a

day of the week.” “My mom loves me.”

“Kittens are a type of animal.” When I

say these true sentences, I have the

children jump up, throw their arms in

the air, and shout, “True!”

I then mix in a few silly sentences

that represent what is not real—statements

like “Blapday is a day of the

week.” “It is always freezing cold in the

summer.” “Puppies run on the ceiling.”

When I say these false sentences, I

have the kids cross their arms in front

of their chests and shout, “Not true!”

This simple and fun activity can help

even 4-year-olds grasp that truth is

what is real.

Knowing and

following truth

Once children have a basic understanding

of truth, the next step is

helping them understand that both

knowing and following the truth are

important. My favorite way to foster

this understanding is through a treasure

hunt using prizes such as candy,

stickers or coins.

I write out two or three different sets

of directions for finding the prizes. One

set of instructions is true, explaining

where the prizes are hidden. The other

sets of instructions are false, leading the

kids to places where there is no prize.

I begin the treasure hunt by

announcing that somewhere in the

room I’ve hidden prizes and have

written directions for finding them.

I explain that some of the directions

are true, and I disclose where the treasure

is hidden. The other directions,

however, are not true; they do not lead

to a prize. I then distribute the various

instructions and let the kids follow

them. After the prizes are found, we

debrief the treasure hunt together. I ask

questions to help them see the importance

of knowing and following the

truth, both in this activity and in life.

Discerning

objective truth

After your children have a working

definition of truth and understand the

importance of both knowing and following

it, the final step is equipping

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 39


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them to discern objective truths from

subjective preferences.

Objective truths are things that

remain true no matter what we think,

feel or believe about them. Subjective

preferences are individual likes and dislikes

that differ from person to person.

For example, I’m not a fan of chocolate.

My mother, on the other hand, prefers

chocolate over any other dessert.

Our subjective preferences are different.

However, those preferences cannot

change the objective truth about

whether a cookie contains chocolate

chips. My mother’s internal feelings

cannot magically make chocolate chips

appear in a cookie. And my preferences

cannot make chocolate chips disappear.

Recognizing subjective

preferences

Baking cookies together is a great way

to help illustrate this concept. As we

pause to enjoy our tasty creations, I ask,

“What are some preferences about these

cookies that might change from person

to person?” After we come up with a list

of preferences, I ask, “What are some

truths about these cookies that do not

change no matter what someone thinks,

feels or believes about them?” Even

young children can pick up the difference

between preferences and truths.

After I got over my initial shock that

autumn day in the classroom, I began

introducing concepts about truth and

worldview to my students. I was surprised

to discover just how quickly

their confusion about truth was

resolved. By the time the winter snow

melted, my students had learned to

think critically about truth, and I know

it found its way into other areas of their

lives. By the time we began preparing

for Easter, my students understood

that the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection

isn’t just a subjective preference.

It’s a vital objective truth—one that’s

true for everyone. •

Elizabeth Urbanowicz is the founder of

Foundation Worldview and develops curricula

and discipleship resources for kids.

FOTF / BRIAN MELLEMA


FATHERHOOD / KIDS & TEENS

Greg and his daughter

Annie about to rappel

down a 100-foot cliff

CONQUERING

THE MOUNTAIN

My daughter Annie and I

faced our fears and bonded

BY DR. GREG SMALLEY

PHOTOS COURTESY OF GREG SMALLEY; © PAEDII LUCHS / STOCKSY UNITED

I WATCHED MY 14-YEAR-OLD

daughter, Annie, start to panic as she climbed

higher up the mountain cliff. She’d done OK

at first, but the height eventually became too

much for her. Annie looked terrified as she

hung by a rope against the steep rock face.

My daughter was strapped into rappelling

gear, and I was positioned under her, also

clipped to a safety rope. Other people in our

group were above and below her on the side

of the cliff. The guides had warned us: Scaling

the cliff was optional, but once you started

you had no choice but to continue to the top.

As Annie began to cry, I tried to empathize

while also pushing her to move forward.

“Hon, there’s no choice,” I told her. “You

have to keep going.”

What happened that day and how Annie

handled the situation is something my daughter

and I will never forget. Here we were in

the middle of the wilderness, participating in

an excursion designed for dads and their kids

to bond. Embarking on this Adventures in

Fatherhood trip with my youngest child connected

us in a way I hadn’t anticipated. In fact,

the entire four-day, three-night hiking and

camping experience was like bonding on steroids

(and I’m regretting the fact that some of

my other children are now too old to share the

same adventure with me). >>>

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 41


KIDS & TEENS / FATHERHOOD

Annie standing on an overlook as the group

hiked to an alpine lake. The damaged tree in the

background is the result of a forest fire.

Annie and Greg at their

campsite posing in

front of the cliff they

conquered together.

Casting our

cares on God

For more than 30 years, Summit

Adventure has been organizing these

trips in Northern California to help

dads connect with their kids and grow

closer to God. After some practice

hikes with Annie, I was still apprehensive

about the whole trip. It was a new

experience for me.

But the shared adventure was

already beginning, though I didn’t yet

realize it. Since Annie was also anxious

about the trip, we talked about

1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves,

therefore, under the mighty hand of

God so that at the proper time he may

exalt you, casting all your anxieties on

him, because he cares for you.” Before

we even set foot in California, we were

discussing what it means to cast our

cares on Jesus and trust that He has

something good in store for us.

On the first day of the trip, we

strapped on our 50-pound backpacks,

and Annie took off hiking at

top speed.

“Oh, this isn’t too bad,” she said as she

trotted a mile straight up the mountain.

Perhaps our fears were unfounded.

When we reached our campsite and

took off those heavy backpacks, it was

the oddest sensation. I felt like I was

going to float into the sky. Annie felt

the same.

“It feels so light,” she said.

That sensation made me think about

our burdens in life and the challenges

we face, and how they can feel like a

loaded backpack. When it was just the

two of us at our campsite, we talked

about that analogy.

“What are the burdens that you carry,

that I carry, and what would it look

like to help each other and cast those

burdens on God?” Soon we were discussing

Matthew 11:28-30 and how

God can take off our backpacks (burdens)

and free us (feel light).

Looking at

the heavens

Our deep conversations resumed each

night as we lay beneath the stars in our

sleeping bags. It was the perfect setting:

no TV, no phones, no technology

to distract us. We were in the middle of

nowhere, and there were no city lights

to hinder our view of the stars. As we

gazed toward the heavens, we spotted

PHOTOS COURTESY OF GREG SMALLEY; © PAEDII LUCHS / STOCKSY UNITED

42

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


FATHERHOOD / KIDS & TEENS

Greg reading his blessing letter to

Annie on their last night of the trip.

shooting stars and talked about life

and faith.

We recalled Psalm 8:3-4: “When I

look at your heavens, the work of your

fingers, the moon and the stars, which

you have set in place, what is man that

you are mindful of him, and the son of

man that you care for him?”

Together we marveled at the

immensity of creation, realizing how

insignificant we are in comparison. Yet

God still knows the number of hairs on

our head (Luke 12:7).

Facing challenges together

So what happened to my daughter

when she was suspended midway up

a mountain cliff, panicked and afraid?

She faced her fears, and I had the privilege

of being there to encourage her.

“I’m not going to die. . . . I’m not

going to die. . . .” she kept telling herself.

She not only made it to the top of

that cliff, but she was also able to rappel

back down. It was an opportunity

to remember God’s help in her time

of need.

Later that night we talked about

Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and

courageous. Do not fear or be in dread

of them, for it is the Lord your God

who goes with you. He will not leave

you or forsake you.” Though the words

were for the Israelite leader Joshua in

the Old Testament, they encouraged

Annie and me in our faith journeys.

I told Annie, “If you could do that,

you can face anything.”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “That was a pretty

big deal, and I did it.”

A touching moment

At the end of Adventures in Fatherhood,

each dad had a chance to speak a

blessing over his child. Annie’s tears

showed me that my message touched

her. Here is part of what I wrote to

Annie at the close of our adventure:

I’m so proud of how you overcame your

fears. I loved seeing your strength and

courage. Watching you lower yourself

over the cliffside was so inspirational

to watch. . . . I love your adventurous

spirit. I smiled when you asked if we

could come back next year. •

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the vice president

of Marriage at ong>Focusong> on the Family. He is

the author or co-author of more than 20

books, including 9 Lies That Will Destroy Your

Marriage: And the truths that will save it and

set it free and Reconnected: Moving from

roommates to soulmates in your marriage.

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 43


NEW

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Children who have heard the Easter story many times will love this

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fresh and unique lesson that uses the biblical events of Easter to

help kids understand the Beatitudes. As you gather your kids for a

daily “picnic with Jesus,” you’ll explore part of the Easter story and

a relevant beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount.

Included in this lesson are fun crafts, games and discussions that

encourage kids to:

• be meekly obedient

• show mercy

• be peacemakers

• and choose righteousness

Download the Easter lesson for FREE at

KidsOfIntegrity.com


MY

DEVELOPMENT / KIDS & TEENS

OF LEARNING

Laurentz’s mind was flourishing even before I recognized it

BY ELSA KOK COLOPY

ONE AFTERNOON I went over

the letter A with my 5-year-old for what

felt like the 37th time. We moved on to

the letter B and then returned to A.

“What letter is this, Laurentz?” I asked.

He looked at me with big brown eyes.

No answer.

“It’s an A, baby.”

“A!” he said proudly.

I smiled, but inside I was having a

minor meltdown. He’s not getting it,

I thought. Does he have a learning disability?

Once he starts school in the

fall, will we need to look into special

education?

Laurentz had come to us from Haiti

six months earlier. He quickly learned

to speak English but struggled with the

written word.

I talked with a friend, and our doctor

suggested resources for kids who learn

a little differently. Then I read books

with my boy until he was pale around

the gills and I was equally exhausted.

Over the next few months, I continued

working with Laurentz. He, on the

other hand, preferred playing with his

new sister, Savannah. We’d adopted

Savannah at birth, and she was two

years younger than Laurentz. At age

3, she loved having a big brother and

already knew the letters of the alphabet.

That’s not to say they didn’t fight

passionately and often. But they were

always quick to patch things up. The

two became inseparable—playing

cards, building LEGO houses and imagining

themselves to be superheroes.

One afternoon, Laurentz and

Savannah were working on an alphabet

puzzle, going over the letters in singsong

voices. I listened and watched in

amazement as Laurentz spouted off the

full ABCs, pointing to each letter in turn.

“Laurentz, we haven’t even gone over

some of those yet. How did you learn

them?”

“I don’t know. I just know them.”

The two ran off to tackle another

adventure.

Like the spring flowers coming into

bloom outside our window, Laurentz’s

brain was growing, and he was learning.

Sometimes parents get worried or

frustrated. Sometimes siblings fight as

often as they play. Sometimes children

develop at their own pace, and sometimes

they need help learning a little

differently—with a sister’s attention.

And in all the love and chaos, young

brains and spirits can and do flourish.

Today Laurentz is in fourth grade and

reads voraciously. •

Elsa Kok Colopy is an author and speaker. She

and her husband, Brian, are parents to eight

children.

APRIL / MAY 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 45


KIDS & TEENS / MY THRIVING FAMILY

EASTER

Joshua, 10, and James, 10

Headed to Easter sunrise service!

—Rosalynne from Tennessee

Kyree, 6

Wearing her special Easter dress from

grandma.

—Lydia from Colorado

Charlie, 9 months

Our baby girl enjoys the Easter daffodils.

—Becky from California

Bella, 6, Kate, 3, and Gracie, 8

Our girls are all dressed up and

ready for Easter Sunday service!

—Sarah from Ohio

Your kids could be in ong>Focusong> on the Family magazine!

Email photos* of your child holding an Easter basket or your child

playing an instrument. (Put “Easter Basket” or “Musical Instrument” in

the subject line.)

Send to: info@fotf.ca

* Largest photo possible—professional photos not accepted

46

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

APRIL / MAY 2022


mom

new

& daughter

devotional

Enjoy precious time with your daughter as you explore

God’s Word together! This creative and interactive 40-week

devotional provides a sweet space for moms and daughters

ages 6 to 10 to reflect together on women of the Bible who

loved the Lord. Connecting through stories, discussions,

prayers and fun activities, you’ll be inspired to develop hearts

of strength, courage and love as you’re pointed to Jesus.

Order online at Shop.ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca or call 1.800.661.9800


Shop with confidence

at ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada

Today there are many ways to shop for

faith‐building resources for your family. And

yet, when you consider purchasing an item,

the same questions resurface:

Is the author offering a biblically based perspective?

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Will the content engage your kids?

When you shop at ong>Focusong> on the Family

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