Teaching discernment in the digital age

It seems like yesterday when the Lord blessed my husband and me with our three sons, and we began the journey of parenthood in the digital age.

When our oldest was born in 1995, the Internet was brand new to everyone. Being a bit geeky, my husband and I explored tools and techniques for creating websites, which led us to bridging the miles between us and our family and friends, sharing each of our boys’ first-year baby milestones and photos via a website that we updated monthly.

Over time, as the boys grew, we continued to share monthly family news and photos using a “cutting-edge” blog platform to house our family website. Together with our sons, we’ve used the Internet to listen to family-friendly podcasts and free audio books, find geocaches and BreakoutEDU solutions, take care of our Webkinz pets, e-mail our favorite authors, learn to program, play games, create videos, design 3-D models, and so much more.

Now our boys are reaching adulthood, and we are fast approaching the empty-nest stage. As I reflect on the years of their childhood, I remember joys and challenges we encountered along the way in relation to technology. In this sinful world, it is impossible to keep our children 100 percent safe from the dangers the Internet invites into our homes. Here are some of the steps we took to guard their safety:

  • Engage with them—Before allowing our boys to visit a website, we tried it out ourselves or sought the opinions of others regarding it. (A great site for reviews of all types of children’s media is commonsensemedia.org.) As they used websites, we used them, too, guiding them along the way and explaining any areas of concern if they came up.
  • Help them create—We used the tools available on the Internet to excite our sons to use it for good and noble purposes. As they learned how to code video games, we encouraged them to expand the program’s capabilities. When their interest was piqued by podcasts, we started a weekly family podcast. Over the years we used our family blog to share the boys’ creative writing, stop-motion Lego movies, and Haiku poetry.
  • Block inappropriate content—Many software solutions for filtering inappropriate Internet content in the home are available. Something we’ve used for many years is OpenDNS, opendns.com/home-internet-security. The free Family Shield and Home plans include parental controls that protect every device in the home.

My husband and I did all of these things with an end goal in mind—giving our sons discerning hearts.

All too quickly our sons have grown up and ventured out into the world alone. Now they must rely on their own judgement regarding the appropriateness of Internet content, and now our prayer is that the lessons learned in their early years will stay with them.

For a comprehensive list of websites to help parents keep their children safe online, visit https://forwardinchrist.net/online-safety-resources.

Sallie Draper and her husband, Kevin, have three sons and live in New Ulm, Minn.

Guiding children as they use the Internet

How many parents would take their two-year-olds to the pool for the first time and allow them to jump into the deep end? None, I hope! Being able to swim in the deep end is a process that requires lessons, practice, and experience, all guided by loving parents who want their children to enjoy swimming safely.

Staying safe on the Internet is not much different. If we want our teens to know how to enjoy using it safely, we must start the process much earlier. This can be done in the light of God’s Word and his commands.

Internet safety is a wide net, but most parents identify several areas in which they wish to keep their children safe online.

  • They are concerned with the addictive potential of games.
  • They share concern over the stumbling upon of offensive sites, such as pornography, as the kids discover what’s out there. This is often connected with the idea of sexting, which occurs as early as middle school.
  • Finally, parents fear the online social sites that encourage kids to talk with others, whether on gaming sites or social media sites that encourage kids to follow and be followed by others. These sites raise the concern of meeting strangers online who may not be who they portray and the opportunity for online bullying.

Unfortunately, many of us ignore these things until a problem arises. Being proactive in approaching these subjects really helps. Start early.

As parents, if we treat technology as a gift of God while training children to be aware of the dark side on the Internet, we can pray that they develop their Christian faith to assist them in making good and responsible choices. One way we can do that is by talking freely about the evil that is in the world that is now manifested online and can be found one click away. We can discuss this during devotions and in conversations with our children from the time they are in grade school and beyond.

The old model of keeping the desktop computer in an area of the home where mom and dad are walking through and can be aware of computer activity may seem outdated since we now deal with smart phones, tablets, Chromebooks, and laptops. I think it is still reasonable to expect grade school and middle school kids to use their technology in a common area of the home. It is legitimate for a parent to be made aware of musical playlists so that when headphones are used, parents know what is being consumed. As kids grow and schoolwork requires technology, a quiet place may be desirable, but it should still be understood that when homework is done on the computer, that is all that is happening, and parents may come by to see how it is going. Parents need to be vigilant.

At a time determined by parents, all mobile technology can be unplugged and kept in a specified spot. For example, maybe all family devices get plugged in at a common location for the night. Enforce the rules as you talk about why they are good for the family.

Parents can also make rules regarding time limits for game playing and can talk openly about gaming choices and their possible effects on those who play them. Conversations about learning to discern should be ongoing. Social gaming sites, perhaps, should not be allowed until an age that a parent feels the child can make competent choices in this regard. Parents will need to model good online behavior and set the tone for what is acceptable in the home. It should be a family effort.

The creation of the Internet brings many good things to us, but the reality is that it has created a whole other level of parenting. Parents must include applications regarding the misuse of the Internet as they teach their children to discern right from wrong in all facets of life. For example, what is learned in the home as far as how to treat one another in God-pleasing ways can help children be aware of the inappropriateness of bullying online, as an extension of bullying face to face. The idea of sexting as a practice can be addressed as veering outside of what God has commanded us regarding how to keep our bodies chaste. This is an extension of pre-Internet conversations with children that now need to be brought into the scope of what sins are possible through technology. We ask God to keep us from temptation in all we do, including our use of technology.

Parents have always taught their children about “stranger danger.” This same conversation now must be expanded to teach children about the very real dangers of social media sites with followers. Talking on those sites, or in online chat areas, should be discouraged. Stories of online predators and the attempt to catch them are heard often on the news, and you can discuss these news items at family gathering times to drive this point home.

We are blessed to have God’s Word as our handbook for parenting, and it is up to us as parents to continue to nurture our children in that Word as we make applications from the technology that is so ubiquitous in our culture today. May he bless our prayful efforts!

For a comprehensive list of websites to help parents keep their children safe online, visit https://forwardinchrist.net/online-safety-resources.

Gail Potratz and her husband, Phil, have three adult children and eight grandchildren. Gail has served as a teacher and technology coordinator for more than 30 years.

Online safety resources

Safety Sites
Google
Google has a great collection of informational tips for individuals, students, teachers, and families for keeping people safe while online. Access by clicking the Digital Citizen button.
http://www.google.com/edu/tools-and-solutions/index.html#
https://www.google.com/safetycenter/ (Good one on this site – Protecting your family online)

Common Sense Media
You will need to create an account as a parent and/or teacher to be able to use the Digital Citizenship material in downloaded or e-book form. It is thorough and complete age appropriate Internet safety information. High quality material. As a teacher you can download an entire curriculum on Digital Citizenship. The individual lesson plans are excellent and full of constructivist ideas for teaching the topic.
https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
Specific to Internet Safety https://www.commonsensemedia.org/privacy-and-internet-safety

PTO today
This group produces material to help schools hold an Internet Safety Night at a PTO type setting. You must register your school to get the free kit, but it is free and the materials are very well done. Includes PR pieces, parent handouts, and many topics in the area of Internet Safety. Easy to download the free materials.
http://www.ptotoday.com/pen/

Pause Then Reflect
A blog that gives a great overview of the main ideas to remember to protect yourself online. Good basic information.

http://pausethenreflect.blogspot.com/2012/08/everyday-best-practices-to-stay-safe.html

GetNetWise
This website will be helpful to parents and families with the goal of internet safety for their families.
http://kids.getnetwise.org/

Homeland Security
Homeland Security has a program by which they provide resources to help families, teachers, and students stay safe. Their initiative is called Stop, Think, Connect, and it links to some downloadable resources to help educate parents at home, through a school group, etc.
http://www.dhs.gov/publication/stopthinkconnect-parent-and-educator-resources

Cyber Bullying Virus
This is a very creative video that portrays the evils of cyber bullying and its spread. Compares it to the spread of a physical virus.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5PZ_Bh-M6o

Welcome to the Web
An internet site with six areas to explore with students. Contains basic navigation information as well as internet safety practices. Good unit to to use in grades 4-6. It is written as a clue gathering game.
http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/welcome/start.htm

Langwitches Top Ten List for Educational Videos
Even though this is from 2007, the videos on internet protection/bullying themes are excellent. One seeks to point out the significance of your digital footprint and the danger when you post without thinking. Another illustrates how the internet allows people to say things to others that they would never think about saying face to face.
http://langwitches.org/blog/2007/12/26/top-ten-list-for-educational-video-clips/

Think B4U Respond
Google lesson on being safe while communicating online.
15 Resources for A Safer Internet Day: collection of great resources to teach about working together to make everyone safer online from Richard Bryne
http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2012/02/thinkb4u-web-safety-tutorials-from.html#.U6nI0_ldXTp

Facebook 101 for Schools
Cool Cat blogger, Vivki Davis, builds a terrific resource to use with kids and parents, as well as teachers, to promote safer use of Facebook by understanding with whom you are really sharing. Very well done.
http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2011/03/facebook-friending-101-for-schools.html?m=0

SafeMood
You Tube videos to follow-up the above post to help kids understand friending on Facebook and how to stay as safe as possible: Little Red Riding Mood – when you friend someone on Facebook, you invite them into your life, and other internet related issues – cartoon and fun version for middle school.
http://safemoods.com/

Fun hangman quiz
For follow up with young students talking about internet safety.
http://www.quia.com/hm/40647.html?AP_rand=115772178&playHTML=1

Digital Citizenship
Using Technology Appropriately
The nine elements of digital citizenship
http://digitalcitizenship.net/Nine_Elements.html

Be a Digital Citizen
This is a great video that shows the wide range of areas involved in our technological world and why digital citizenship is important to practice. It demonstrates the far reaching nature of one’s digital footprint in less than 3 minutes.
http://youtu.be/FdEXijFXfD8

Teachthoughts
Definition of Digital Citizenship components – nice job of breaking down the categories and further defining them
http://www.teachthought.com/technology/the-definition-of-digital-citzenship/

Privacy Intro
It is a great video for students on what the digital footprint means and how they may already have one.
http://youtu.be/DinW62zlWcc

Digital footprints – Your New First Impression
This video shows how the digital footprint is being used in the workplace and by employers.
http://youtu.be/eZjmrJvL_eg

Digital citizenship guide from Edmodo
Join this group and get a nice little lesson on the topic with a descriptive and useful poster.
http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2012/09/a-digital-citizenship-guide-from-edmodo.html#.U6rNG_ldXTq

You and Your Property Online
Six Steps to Keeping Your Data Safe
The Geek Squad lists 6 basic steps which you will want to know as starting points and research further.
http://www.geeksquad.com/do-it-yourself/tech-tip/six-steps-to-keeping-your-data-safe.aspx

Ten Ways to Keep your Personal Data Safe from Online Snoopers
The term “web” for the internet is not so far off when we think of webs that are commonly used for catching prey. Beware of online predators looking for your information.
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/sep/16/10-ways-keep-personal-data-safe

Google – Prevent Identity Theft
Keep your name safe online.
http://www.google.com/intl/us-en/goodtoknow/online-safety/identity-theft/

20 Ways to Keep your Identity Safe from Hackers
The Guardian gives some practical ways to guard our online presence.
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/may/12/20-ways-keep-internet-identity-safe

Creative Commons Licensing
How do you protect your created work online, whether images, photos, written work? Creative Commons (CC) is a way to help creators protect their property, but also allow usage to others in levels or to selected groups. Anyone can license their work this way, and it is free.
http://creativecommons.org/

Creative Commons Search Resource
To help find material free to use and reuse online
http://search.creativecommons.org/

Faith and Technology – Practically Speaking; Honoring on Another’s Work
This article by Rob Jacklin gives our rationale for wanting to be aware of copyright law and licensing and model the faithful use of this in our own personal and educational lives. He goes on to give practical information regarding the topic.
http://www.mtmproject.org/archives/210

Overview: Teaching Copyright
Unit all laid out on how to approach this in a classroom.
http://www.teachingcopyright.org/curriculum/hs

10 Resources for Teaching and Learning About Copyright & Fair Use by Dr. Bernard Bull
This blog post is rich in information that will assist in learning more and teaching more about the subject of copyright. What is fair use anyway? Find out.
http://etale.org/main/2014/03/17/10-resources-for-teaching-and-learning-about-copyright-fair-use/

Fair Use and How it Works for Images
Covers ground all teachers and professionals should be aware of to help them be honest in their use of images online.
http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/copyright-fair-use-and-how-it-works-for-online-images/

These resources were compiled by Gail Potratz.

Being authentic about sin and grace

No effort is more worthwhile than raising our children to love and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior. And there is no other parenting task that makes us realize how much we need Jesus. Children learn primarily by example, and they’re always watching us. I never feel my sin so keenly as when I hear my ungracious words and sharp tone of voice mimicked from my children’s mouths. That is not what I wanted to teach them, but that is what they learned from me.

Showing children the right way to act is only half the battle. It’s just as important that we show them unwavering Christlike love when they fail, just as God shows us. To help our children understand this concept of law and gospel, we must be honest about our own sinfulness. One of the most meaningful examples of law and gospel we can show to our children is being willing to acknowledge our own faults when we sin against our children and ask them to forgive us.

But that hurts our pride. We don’t want to admit to our children when we’re wrong. We want them to think that we’re strong and unflappable and that we don’t make mistakes. But that’s not true. We’re sinners, just like they are. We need God’s grace and forgiveness every day of our lives, just like they do.

When we’re authentic with our children about our sinfulness and weakness and our need for a Savior, we give them a powerful lesson about what it means to live as a Christian.

Our children are sinners too, and we need to expect that they are going to sin—and often against us! When they do, we must be careful not to make matters worse by adding our own sin to the mix with responses that

• take their sin personally (“How could you do this to ME?”),

• overreact (“You’re grounded for life!”),

• heap excessive guilt on them (“Do you realize just how badly you behaved?”), and

• shame them (“You’re so stupid! What’s wrong with you?”).

We simply show them their sin, encourage repentance, guide them to better choices and actions, and assure them of their forgiveness. Younger children may not fully understand what’s happening in this process, and older children may not appreciate what the process involves, but the consistent example we set for them will be powerful.

But above all, we LOVE them—not just when they’re easy to love but especially when it’s difficult. Just as God loves us unconditionally, we reflect that same love to our children, not because they deserve it, but because “he first loved us.” Our children are our youngest brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are walking together along the narrow path to heaven. We want our children to know not only how much we love them but also how much God loves them.

When we’ve taught them that, we’ve taught them what’s most important.

Emily Gresens Strey and her husband, Johnold, have four children ranging in age from 2 to 13.

Helpful strategies for worshiping with children

Jesus said in Luke 18, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” As parents with little children know, bringing their children to Jesus in worship can be quite a challenge.

Our congregation went through a baby boom several years ago. Young couples began building families, adding little people noises to our worship services. My wife and I added four children of our own. It was a joyous time, which introduced to a new generation of parents the age-old challenge of getting children to sit still for worship.

The worship committee at our church offered everything parents needed to help manage their children. A cry room, staffed nursery, and children’s bulletins were available for our use. Parents and their children generally gathered in the last two rows in the back, concentrating the sounds, spills, smells, and general chaos into one area.

One Sunday,  I watched as a young couple walked into church with their baby daughter, passed those of us in the back rows and sat down—in the front row! I was pretty confident that sitting up front was not going to work out well for them. I was wrong.

As their daughter grew, her parents persisted in sitting in the front. Free from the distractions of the back rows, their daughter’s attention was drawn to what was happening in worship, and her parents had a simple expectation that a little child could sit still through a service. Certainly, it took some work. Mom or dad removed the little girl from services more than once.

Those observations and our own experiences taught my wife and me valuable lessons about introducing children to worship. The first lesson is that no one strategy works for every family.

Offered here are some thoughts to help you formulate your own strategy:

  • Make it your default expectation that the sanctuary is the place your children will be. Use the nursery and cry room only when necessary as your child learns and matures.
  • Think little victories. Today you only made it through the first hymn before having to seek refuge in the cry room. Soon you’ll make it to the sermon. Eventually you’ll get to enjoy the whole service!
  • Children are visual learners. Our worship spaces are filled with visual symbols and unique objects not seen at home.  The sanctuary is often decorated at special times of the church year like Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Point out these visuals. Explain what they mean. Ask them to draw pictures of them during the sermon.
  • If the back pews prove too distracting for your child, consider sitting somewhere else. It is easier for them to focus on worship when they can actually see what is going on.
  • Ask the usher for a children’s worship folder. Use it with your child to connect them to simple aspects of the service.

Bringing our children to Jesus and training them to worship are awesome responsibilities. Thankfully, we are not alone in this effort. In Proverbs 22:6, God promises parents: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” By the grace of God, and with the power of his living Word, God will bless your efforts and your children will learn to love their Savior, even if you cannot get them to sit still.

Brian Heinitz and his wife, Sue, have four children and are members of Mt. Olive, Las Vegas, Nev. 

Go with God . . . even on the detours

Our life was going according to plan. My husband and I married a year out of college, purchased our first home, and two years later gave birth to our first child.

Then it happened. God took us on our first major detour together. Our infant son had colic, reflux, eczema, and hernias due to muscle strain during bowel movements. Doctors prescribed various medications and suspected his symptoms could be stemming from possible allergies. Since he was breastfed exclusively, I altered my diet to try to ease his symptoms, but it was difficult to track what was helping or hindering the situation. Nothing brought complete relief.

Two years passed, and by this time I had given birth to our daughter who had health issues of her own. She suffered from chronic respiratory infections, ear infections, and intermittent stomach cramping. We took shifts staying up at night making sure she could breathe while she struggled to sleep.

Then it was my turn for complications. I had been losing weight and had large bruises appearing on my body without sustaining any injuries. At a doctor appointment, I heard the words no one ever wants to hear, “We should run some tests for leukemia.” It was with great relief that I received negative results, but I still had no answers.

With two sick children and my own failing health, I went on a quest for a diagnosis. Many doctor appointments later, along with two trips to the Mayo Clinic, we finally learned we had Celiac Disease—an autoimmune disorder that occurs in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.

Armed with this knowledge, we began the healing process. We changed our diet to strictly gluten and dairy free. Even this did not bring complete relief, so we started a specific diet developed to heal the lining of the intestines. It was very time consuming and involved fermenting our own foods; making our own broth; and eating all organic, homemade, raw (unprocessed) foods. Eventually, relief came, and we could reassess our life.

Our debt from medical bills and the new, expensive, lifelong diet strained us financially, so we decided to downsize our house to better manage our budget.

The hard part was over. We had survived the detour.

Whenever I am asked how we dealt with all these challenges, it is so inspiring to not have to search for answers once again. The answer is simple. When God’s plans altered from ours, he held us close to him as we learned to let go and put all our trust in him. He never put us down as he taught us that hard times can bring blessings, too.

Our Christian friends and family supported us, listening with compassionate ears and never tiring of doing good. We had babysitters for doctor appointments, help with tedious food preparations, and a monetary donation to help pay off medical bills. We even inherited supportive new neighbors in the process. Accepting help was difficult at first, but through this trial, God also taught us how to rely on the help he sends through fellow Christians.

When our children entered school, we again saw God’s love in action. Parents called before parties asking what they could bring that our children could eat. Some sent special non-food projects or toys. Instead of feeling left out, they often felt special. Upon receiving a toy as a birthday treat, my daughter lamented, “I feel bad for the other kids in my class. They ate their treat, but I get to keep mine forever!”

So while life’s detours are unexpected and often unsettling, go with God because he’s looking at the whole road map, leading you in just the right direction. I have learned my life was, is, always will be going according to plan . . . his plan.

Food allergies: A chance to show God’s love

My 14-month-old feverishly scratched at his face. Huge white blisters exploded across his chubby baby cheeks. His lips swelled. He spit the food out of his mouth. He vomited. After a trip to the E.R., we received the diagnosis—my baby had life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies.

So began a new phase of our life—a constant campaign to keep our son alive. A campaign complicated by many people’s lack of understanding.

Food allergies are on the rise. You know someone who has them. So what can others do to help? Overall the answer is simple—show God’s love.

Please be kind in your interactions with the parents and children dealing with food allergies. Families dealing with food allergies didn’t ask for this—but they have to deal with it on a bite-to-bite basis. Put yourself into their shoes—go one day thinking about every item you put in your mouth or on your body. That hand soap—has almond oil in it. We can’t use it. That popcorn—made in a factory with peanuts and tree nuts. We can’t enjoy it. That dog across the street—eats peanut butter as a treat. We can’t pet him. This is the reality of many food allergy families.

Here are a few practical ideas to show your Christian love and concern:

  1. Keep kids with allergies from harm. Check and double check ingredient labels. Even if the label stated nothing last time about a particular allergen, it may this time. Make sure things are washed up as much as possible if your church/school/family consumes the food allergen—door handles, tables, toys, kids’ faces and hands, etc. And, if a family wants to bring their own food please, don’t be offended and let them do so without guilt. That family’s first priority is the safety of their child. If they are comfortable with you, the Ladies’ Guild, or school lunch program making the food, please save the food labels for them to double check.
  2. Don’t leave kids, their siblings, and families out. Institute ways in your church, school, and home to serve safe foods—or to leave food out of the situation altogether. We have chosen to bring non-food toys/trinkets to school to celebrate our kids’ birthdays. It has gone over so well that one of the teachers asked all of the families this year to only bring non-food items for birthdays—even though there aren’t any food allergy kids in her room.
  3. Ask a lot of questions. If a food allergy individual is coming to your home, church, or school, ask, “What is the specific allergy?” Some with egg allergies are fine with cooked eggs, but not raw eggs, so baked goods would be safe. Some with peanut allergies are perfectly fine with the walnuts in the brownies you made. Check in with the families as to what is safe to eat and what is not.
  4. Know the signs of an allergic reaction and what to do. Have the contact information of the parents and local emergency line. Learn how to use an Epipen and do so before emergency personnel get there. Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has some great resources for families, schools, and churches at foodallergy.org. Mylan (the Epipen manufacturer) even gives free Epipens to schools in case there are children who experience an unknown allergic reaction. Visit epipen4schools.com.

Be a blessing to these families. Little gestures let these kids and their families know you care about them no matter the setting.

Rachel Learman and her husband, Paul, have four children. They live in Milwaukee, Wis.

All about Daddy and me

Elliana Bourman, age three, answers questions from her mom, Melanie, about her dad, Jonathan Bourman, one of Heart to heart‘s contributing authors.

‪Melanie: Does your daddy love you?

Elliana: Yup!

Melanie: How do you know?

Elliana: Because he tells me.

Melanie: What is your daddy’s job?

Elliana: I don’t remember.

Melanie: Daddy is a pastor, remember?

Elliana: Oh, yeah. He’s a pastor.

Melanie: What does Daddy do as a pastor?

Elliana: He stands on top and talks a lot.

Melanie: What does Daddy teach you about Jesus?

Elliana: That he washed my sins all gone.

Melanie: What is your favorite Bible story that Daddy has read to you?

Elliana: I like the big storm [Jesus calms the storm] and baby Jesus away in a manger.

Favorite memories of our dad

Kayla (14 years old) and Josh (11 years old) reminisce about special times that they spend with their dad, Dan Nommensen, a contributing author for Heart to heart.

When I was about seven and eight, my dad took me up north a couple times to a cottage that my great uncle used to live in. On our four-hour drive up to the cottage, we had a great time singing camp songs, talking, and telling stories and jokes.

Kayla and her dad, Dan.

Kayla and her dad, Dan.

When we got up there, it was usually dark. Being the great dad he is, he let me trudge in while he took everything in out of the cold. He lit the fire, and we watched the temperature slowly rise, degree by degree. Then, after about an hour-and-a-half of sorting, putting things in the fridge, and setting up heaters, he would finally get the bed ready and we would hop in. We sometimes watched a movie on the small screen of the portable movie player. Then we’d go to bed after saying prayers.

In the morning, I got up to a nice, warm, handmade meal. He already had everything set up and ready for us to eat and go. We then got our fishing things on and walked down to the lake just as the sun was rising. We got into the rocky boat with cobwebs and all and floated off. Dad rowed while we searched for the perfect place to cast our lures. When I finally threw a lure out with as much strength as I could, it would go off course or cross Dad’s line, but he always said, “That was a good one,” and helped me do it correctly.

I loved having those times with my dad. I love my dad and am thankful that I have such a loving Christian father to always watch over me.

Kayla Nommensen

At night when my dad tucks me in we pray five special prayers, including one in German and the English meaning that he learned from his dad. My dad learned two prayers from his mom that we also pray. Then Luther’s evening prayer. This is special to me because he is passing them on to me from his parents, my grandparents, that I didn’t get to know. He plays basketball with me, and he plays Wii with me. He is very patient with me. My dad is special because he helps me get through tough times, and I love him very much.

Josh Nommensen

A lesson from my dad

He listened quietly and patiently while I poured out my frustrations concerning the new place I was living. Out tumbled discontent with my job, the church, the choir, the location, and more. When I finished my long string of aggravations, there was a brief pause. Then, “Well, I am sorry to hear all of that. Life isn’t always easy, nor what you had hoped. But, God does have a plan and purpose for your life there. Grow where you are planted, Rachel.”

Rachel and her dad, James.

Rachel and her dad, James.

As we hung up the phone I have to admit I was far from satisfied with Dad’s answers. I don’t really know what I was hoping for, but “grow where you’re planted” was not it. At least that is what I thought in that moment.

As I considered what he said, I realized it was what Dad had been teaching me all along—through new family houses, financial hardships, the anxiety of his pastoral calls, different schools, moving hours away for college and law school, breakups, and job loss. It was, in fact, even an intrinsic part of my confirmation verse that he, as my pastor, had chosen: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). The context for this Bible passage was the Lord finally allowing the Israelites to enter the promised land of Canaan. God gave them the promised land but didn’t promise them a perfect life in that land.

Dad has shown me this throughout my life.

God puts us in certain places and situations for a reason. We can either follow God’s command to not be afraid and discouraged, living our lives to reflect his love and be joyful in our circumstances—or wallow in self-pity and push away our loving God who has plans beyond measure for us.

Life has changed significantly since that phone call. I have since married; become a mom of four children; moved two more times to two different states, two different churches, and three different companies, yet I continue to apply Dad’s advice.

Rachel Learman is the daughter of James Aderman, one of Heart to heart‘s contributing authors.