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How Big a Difference Can We Make?
I'm feeling a little bit introspective this morning.

And I have a question for you.

What big a difference can we really make in other kids' lives?

I don't want to go into a lot of details, but over the last few years I have poured myself into a few kids, wanting to show them love and a godly example of family. And, to be honest, I'm not sure what effect I've had. I've been writing about this for years, but I guess I never really thought it applied to me: it is very difficult to overcome parental deficiencies. Where parents have dropped the ball, it's hard for someone else to pick it up.

That's why programs like Head Start have such absmal records. You can try and try and try, but if kids aren't getting the love and discipline at home, there's only so much you can do, short of God's grace.

I know a family who fostered for eight years. They did such a great job. But eventually they had to close their doors, which was really hard, because it wasn't the best thing for their own daughter. They did see some lives change, which was great, but it took a toll on their family.

I feel that sometimes when we get really involved in some ministries at the church. I am so determined to see these kids change, but it isn't up to me, is it? And eventually, how do we judge our effectiveness?

Maybe it just all comes back to marriage. Yes, we need to be there for the kids who are lost souls, but ultimately it would be better if we as a church took more care in helping couples get married and stay married in the first place, so fewer kids would be lost souls. Because when the family is messed up, what impact can you really have?

So I guess I'm sort of down on myself right now, and I'd love some encouragement. So tell me, did any adult ever have a great impact on you that maybe they wouldn't have seen right away? Was it something that was only visible later? I really need those stories today!

I feel like I'm letting some kids down if I stop doing what I'm doing, but I also feel called to my nuclear family more. But I do want to feel like what I did was worthwhile. I don't want to share more details than that, but that's where my head is at right now.

Thanks for listening!

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At 11:07 AM , Blogger Kimberly said…

The area I grew up in, is a pretty rough area. Of my neighbors, most did not finish school, many drifted into drugs, several are dead.

My home life was difficult, uncertain, scairy. My parents, were in and out of churches, it was confusing

My mother returned to work when I was6 weeks old. She left me in the care of her best friend at church. 42 years later, I am still in her care. She loved and mothered me when my mother was unable to do so, and showed me that being a christian wasn't about church, but how you lived your life.

I am not a drug user, I did not run wild, I did not become involved in things that everyone else did, because, they loved me and expected more from me.

I have been married 24 years to my highschool sweetheart. We have 9 children and a home thanks to the love and intervention of 1 family.

I thank God for them every day.


At 11:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…


This is something my wife and I have wrestled with for years. Because we rarely can know the ultimate impact of our actions on others' lives, we try to assume the best and keep trying.

Even when there's no obvious change in a child's behavior, we know that we've given the child a data point, an example, that confirms to him or her that self-control and responsibility are possible, and also that there are Christians who are loving and considerate. Our children (we have six) are a further example.

Perhaps more importantly, the parents, many of whom feel helpless and overwhelmed by their children, can see that there is another way to raise children, and that parents whose children are well behaved can actually be sweeter to their kids than those whose children are undisciplined. I think this gives some of them hope, and I know that we've seen real change in at least one single mother whose relationship with her young daughter improved.

I think your comments about marriage are, ultimately, spot on. I'd add that parents need to be encouraged to raise their children, rather than turning them over to the schools and television, which I think are more than half the problem.

God bless you.



At 11:53 AM , Blogger Cassandra @ Tripping Around The Sun said…

I know there are limits to our service to the church when it comes to our families...first and foremost, it tells pastors that they must have their home life running in order to be qualified to be in leadership....(not perfect, but in order)...that is meant to be a positive, though so many take it negatively. It means, FAMILY comes first. Even before church. Cause when the family is humming, you are a more effective minister. When the family is suffering, and guilt is nagging, it affects what you have left over to give others.

As humans, we are unable to completely overhaul someone's life. We are just called to love and be an example. And at times, it takes a sacrifice on our part. But we are not called to carry continual angst and feelings of being torn. We have to know our limits and love within them. We plant, we water and trust God with the increase. :)

(BTW, I heart your blog :)


At 12:22 PM , Blogger Catherine R. said…

This comment has been removed by the author.


At 12:23 PM , Blogger Catherine R. said…

OK Sheila, I feel this post was for me. This is an area were I can encourage you : )

For about a year when I was 16 I was homeless after my mom kicked me out of her boyfriend's house where we all lived (for knocking on the door when they were being intimate). I lived with a handful of families who's kids I was friends with at my high school. Some of the moms that were a part of those families have made a permanent positive impact on me.

For the sake of brevity, I'll give one example. This was a lady who's house I was in for only a couple weeks or so. I will never forget her. She wasn't even a Christian, she was Jewish.

She sat down with me and looked in my eyes and asked me questions; I was not used to this and I cannot stress enough how meaningful this was. She didn't cry when I told her about my parents like some other women did. It always seemed like my story was too much for them to deal with, but not her. She gave me my first job working at a business she owned. She was determined to help me learn about life, in a GOOD way, unlike my parents.

She talked to me like she cared. She fed me nutritious food. She told me stories about normal family life. She even brought me to see a counselor.

And you know what? I had a bad attitude and rebelled against some of her efforts. I took off one day when I found a new place and never thanked her. It was years before I even began to appreciate her.

The truth is, my situation was bad. There was no way that I could have been raised that way without having serious problems. My family was so far from ideal that some people thought "why even try?"

The thing is, this woman was determined to try to make the best of a very bad situation and she did. If it weren't for her and a few other people, I wouldn't really know that adults actually cared.

It's like the builders of those gothic cathedrals in old Europe in the 1100's...they died knowing that the church plans would not be realized in their lifetime because the amount of work that goes into something that grand cannot be finished in one lifetime. Google "Chartres Cathedral".

All I'm saying is, they did it unto the Lord and He was glorified even if they had zero gratification. The wounds of a messed up family are very deep and difficult. But a difference can be made, I am proof of that.


At 12:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I think ultimately it comes to it what God is calling you to do? If He is then let Him be in the outcome. So often we won't know on this side of glory what effect we've had. That is so difficult some days to accept. It sounds like you're having one of those days. So here are some ((((HUGS)))) for you! Just know that if God called you to be there for these children then He IS working in their lives.


At 1:18 PM , Blogger Carrie said…

Hey doll! Here's a big ol' hug, an empathetic eye, and an encouragement to keep doin' whatever it is God's put on your heart to do.

My son's roommate has been his best friend since they were 7. When they were 11 or 12, his parents divorced. He spent a lot of time with us during the divorce. We took him to church with us...and my dh took the boys to do guy stuff (baseball games, usually!).

Ultimately, we felt helpless and like we were not doing anything helpful. Years later, his mom thanked us for being there for her kiddo. I don't know that we did anything, really, except love him. He still feels like family and we still love him! He's a delightful young man, college graduate, employed. Did we make a difference?
Don't know...but I do know that some of the other kids he hung around with at that time have had much different outcomes for their lives thus far...harder, tougher, some jailed. I do know the difference is Jesus!!


At 2:33 PM , Blogger Kaye Butler said…

There were adults in my life that made a difference. I come from a divorced family, mom did not have a great paying job, but we had a great church family.

My comment is not about what adult made an impact with me.

I feel like you should know my story. I married my highschool sweeheart. His younger brother had two children with the same woman before they were 19. After tons of heartbreak, tracing down where the mother had left them time and time again, my husband and I finally gained custody of the girls when they were 1 1/2 and 3 months old. They are now 14 and 13.

It has been a very bumpy, pot hole filled road we have traveled. The dad is somewhat in their lives, the mother is just throwing her life away on drugs and 8 husbands and counting and just in the girls life enough to keep them confused.

The 14 year old worships the ground her mother walks on and the mom could care less.

I have caught myself doubting what I am doing in this situation so many times over the years, I often ask "God, where is your hand in all this mess, I know it's there."

If I had not been there for these girls, where would they be?

If I had not been there for these girls, WHERE would I be?

I would not have had the joy of watching them walk for the first time, all those important first. Most importantly, I know they would not have been carried to church and I would not have ever hear those words whispered in my ear at bedtime "Tell me how to love Jesus" nor would I have experienced the feeling of watching them both walk down the isle of the church to profess their faith.

When all that runs through my head, I know exactly where God's hand is in all this mess. Right in the middle where it should be. Keeping me straight and keeping those girls straight. He's there helping show them the way. How to lead a Christian life and how to love someone no matter how much it hurts to give it and not get it in return.

So my point is it's not just the adult that makes an impact on the kids, the kids make their own impact on the adults.

So ((hugs)) to you and if you really need a laugh, I've been fighting the Wii Fit, I hear from others it's sure win for a few laughs...



At 2:39 PM , Blogger pedalpower said…

Aww. Sometimes it's hard to know when you are making a difference...and as you said it really isn't up to us in the end. We are just sowing the seeds.

God's time is definitely different than our own. Many years ago my hubby and I were very active in helping with the youth group. We were happy to be a help and to open our home and form friendships with the kids, but I can't say that we even thought that we (in particular) were making a difference. We mostly thought about helping our pastor make a difference. Just in the last year, probably 18 years later, we got a wonderful email from one of the kids, now a young father himself. He became a Christian while in our youth group. He used to come to youth group, stop by and hang out at our house, and play basketball with my hubby. In his letter he told us he didn't have a good example of what a loving couple looked like at home, and that we were that example for him. He said he thinks we played a big role in his being able to be a good husband and father today. We were blown away, because we never knew we had made such an impression. So Sheila, hang in are probably making a bigger difference than you might ever know!

As far as family goes, the key is probably in whatever ways you can that still enable you to have the quality and quantity of family time you need. You will be a better minister and example for the kids (yours and others) if you do.


At 11:41 AM , Anonymous Kara said…

Great timing! My mom is the children's pastor at her church and she was just telling me about her conversation with the youth pastor, wanting to do more training for parents. She's wondering if by training the parents she'd have less "work" to do with the kids, but doesn't have enough time to do the parenting classes. Catch-22.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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