Beautiful voice, 5-star book–you gotta read this one!

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I’m extremely excited today because one of my favorite author’s debut novel, Like There’s No Tomorrow, comes out today! I discovered this beautiful writing voice some years ago and I’m thrilled it’s finally hitting bookstore shelves!

Camille Eide writes heart-tugging tales of love, faith, and family. She lives in Oregon with her husband and is a mom, grammy, church office manager, bass guitarist, and a fan of muscle cars, tender romance, and Peanut M&Ms.

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Award-winning author, Camille Eide

I have always loved this story. Eide’s soothing voice is like a soft cashmere sweater. You’ll want to wrap yourself up in this story and get lost in it.

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Like There’s No Tomorrow is about a Scottish widower named Ian MacLean. He lives with a mischievous grannie, bitter regrets, and an ache for something he’ll never have again. To ease the burden of caring for his ornery grandmother, he decides to bring his grannie’s sister home from America. But he soon learns he’ll have to convince her sister’s lovely neice, Emily, to let her go.

Emily Chapman devotes herself to foster youth and her beloved Aunt Grace. Caring for others quiets a secret fear she holds close to her heart. When Ian walks into her life, asking to whisk Grace off to Scotland, everything Emily needs to protect—including her heart—is at risk.

Like There’s No Tomorrow is an amusing yet tender love story about two kind, single caretakers, two quirky, old Scottish sisters,  and too many agendas. It’s a tale of family, fiery furnaces, falling in love, faith, and the gift of each new day.

I give this book a glowing 5/5 stars.

5-out-of-5-starsTweet This:  Did you like “You’ve Got Mail?” You’ll love #LikeTheresNoTomorrow!  @CamilleEide   ow.ly/BKbm9  #books

Sometimes Mama Bear needs to back off

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I’m subbing at the high school this week in a special education classroom. That means that my twin sons who take life skills classes are in my department. This is great fun for them. But today my Mama Grizzly showed a bit when a staff member (not a teacher, a support staff) rudely snapped at one of them, first thing in the morning. No hello. Nothing. Just a bark.

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The reason she snapped at my son was valid. It was how she handled it that wasn’t. He’d left his backpack in front of a locked classroom door, and while waiting for someone to unlock it, he slipped into my room to visit with me.

When the staff member arrived, she flew into my classroom and barked, “Whose stuff is that in the hall in front of Mrs. —‘s door?”

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Isaiah, who is almost always cheerful and sweet, and wouldn’t do anything wrong on purpose to inconvenience someone, jumped up from his chair and headed toward the hall door, “Oh, that’s mine.”

To which she responded with a great scowl and angry voice, “Well then move it, it’s in the way.” (Or some such phrase of which I don’t remember the exact words.) All I know, is that I never talk to students that way, and especially not special needs students.

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It’s all in how you say it. And I realize that teachers and staff have bad mornings. But bad mornings should be left at the schoolhouse door. Being a grouch doesn’t model appropriate behavior to students who need it more than anyone. I dare say that teens with autism need it more than elementary-aged children (although they all do desperately need it).

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I did complain to their teacher about her, but as I was doing so, I felt petty. It’s impossible for me to protect them from all the rude people on earth. Especially now that they are adults. (They are 19 but still in school until they are 21.) Still, as an educator myself, I feel that all students should be treated with respect. Tone of voice speaks volumes.

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As I shared in my post on my philosophy of education, school may be one of the only places some kids have that’s a safe place to fall. If they are to feel valued, school personnel must treat them with respect. It doesn’t matter what a child’s label is, they are still deserving of politeness.

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Maybe the snarky  staff member works with hard behavior cases. I don’t know. But I do know that children will act the way you expect them to most of the time. I know this because I’ve worked with some very, very difficult students. No one should ever be valued less because of their limitations or emotional struggles.

i-believe-in-youThis Mama Grizzly is learning which battles to fight. It’s not easy. There will be many more instances, I’m sure, when I won’t know whether to bite my tongue or take up the torch on behalf of my sons. It’s because of their vulnerability and inability to know if an offense is truly something they should be reprimanded for, or an honest, un-meant mistake. A student with autism isn’t always going to process that a book bag in front of the door might be in someone’s way.

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This frustration at the world for not understanding autism is part of what parenting these kids is so difficult. We want people to understand them, and frankly, most people aren’t even going to care. It’s something I’m learning to accept. Even 19 years later.

autismbI think as long as I live, the Mama Grizzly side of me, will always wrestle with the teacher in me, to teach the world how to get it about autism, kindness, and respect. Thankfully, the kind side of me won today, and I didn’t go toe to toe with the staff member. A part of me wishes I hadn’t complained to the teacher.

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Sometimes I feel I should wear a sign that says, “If you think I’m opinionated, you should know how much I want to say and don’t!” There’s so much inside of me that feels like it’s going to blow at times when people are rude to my children or other people with disabilities.

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Only with God’s help am I able to model appropriate behavior when I’m feeling protective. Since my gift is words, it’s also my weakness, and I know I need to temper my opinions with grace.

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Have you ever felt the need to stand up for your children? How did you handle it? What do you think I should have done? Should I have said something or not?

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 Tweet this: No one should ever be valued less because of their limitations.

 

Strong Girls aren’t ashamed of their Christianity

Stronggirlslogo2We are living in troubling times as Strong Girls. Which is why now, more than ever before, it’s important to remain strong and firm in our faith.

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Christians throughout the world are dying for believing in Jesus. Maybe you think this will never happen to you, but I’m sure other Christian women and girls in the world thought the same thing.

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Mariam Yehya Ibrahim is one of those women. She was put in prison in her own country (Sudan) for being a Christian and for marrying a Christian. Even though she had her little boy with her in prison, and was also expecting a baby, she refused to renounce her faith.

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All she had to do to get out of prison was tell the prison authorities that she would become a Muslim and deny Jesus as her Savior. She was hungry. She was carrying a child. Her little boy was hungry, too. But she refused to renounce her faith. What a strong woman.

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I wonder — are you that strong? Am I?

Mariam revealed the secret to her strength in a recent interview on Fox News. It wasn’t that she had her own superpowers, but the power of faith: “The situation was difficult but I was sure that God would stand by my side. I relied only on my faith.”

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“When I was in prison I was only thinking about my children and how I was going to give birth. I was most scared of giving birth in prison…I gave birth chained — not cuffs but chains on my legs. I couldn’t even open my legs, so the women had to lift me off the table.”

Meriam Ibrahim with her daughter, who was born in Omdurman women's prison last week

Because of the way she was forced to give birth, her baby girl may never walk.

While you watch the video below, think about what you would do in these circumstances. Someday you may need to take a stand for your faith. As a Strong Girl, you, like Mariam, will need to draw on the strength that comes from faith in God.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” Zechariah 4:6b.

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Shana Tova! Happy 5775!

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Wednesday is Erev Rosh Hashanah, two days of Rosh Hashanah, followed by Shabbat.

Rosh Hashanah is known to Christians as the Feast of Trumpets. Some Christians believe that Christ will return on Rosh Hashanah. But since no one knows the hour except the Father Himself, we can’t know, either:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” Mark 13:32

For the Jewish people, today is a day of dipping apples in honey and contemplating what they’ll do differently in the coming year.

roshapplescomic The “Feast of Trumpets” is mandated in Leviticus 23:24:

“On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts”

Rosh Hashanah  is the first of ten days of repentance. The shofar, a kosher ram’s horn, is blown to call God’s people together to repent of their sins. During the synagogue service, it sounds 100 notes. It’s a day of remembering God’s judgement as well as a day of celebrating His mercy in the new year.

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Our church blows the shofar each Sunday at the beginning of the service. Have you ever tried to blow one? It’s not as easy as it looks! I, myself, have never had enough air to get a sound out of it. Ours is a smaller sized one from Israel:

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Here’s a fascinating video about how a shofar is made today:

On Rosh Hashanah it’s customary to greet others by saying: “L’shana Tova – Ketivah vi-chatima Tova.” This means: “For a good year – You should be written and sealed in the Book of Life.”

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Jewish tradition teaches that on Rosh Hashanah, God inscribes the fate of every person for the upcoming year in the Book of Life. In this way, it marks the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe, during which Jews reflect upon their actions over the past year and seek forgiveness for their transgressions in hopes of influencing God’s final judgment.

But Christians believe that their names are inscribed when they accept Jesus as savior, Whose blood covers their sins and He writes their name in the Book of Life. It’s the plan of our loving God that gives everyone a full chance to repent and be saved:

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.

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Tonight at church I’m going to teach my teen class of girls about this holiday. We’ll hold the following little ceremony:

Blessed are you Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Creator of the fruit of the tree. (Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, Borai p’ree ha’aitz.) (Take a bite of the apple slices dipped in honey.) Pray:  May it be Your will, Adonai, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You renew for us a good and sweet year. (Y’hee ratzon mee-l’fanekha, Adonai Elohaynu v’elohey avoteynu sh’tichadeish aleinu shanah tovah um’tuqah.)

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I can hear some of my Christian friends yelling at me now: “Why are you participating in a Jewish holiday tradition! You’re not Jewish!”

No, but Jesus was. And I teach my students about Jesus and how He lived His life. Jesus Himself celebrated Rosh Hashanah! And besides–it’s an excuse to eat apples and honey! Who wouldn’t want to do that?

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Rosh Hashanah also reminds us as Christians to be ready for His return. We should live our lives in a constant state of repentance keeping our ear ready for the sound of that last trumpet:

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Corinthians 15:51-57.

Also, according to Jewish tradition, God told Abraham that the ram’s horn  should be blown on Rosh Hashanah as a reminder of the substitutionary sacrifice provided by the Lord Himself, both in the Garden of Eden when He covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness with animal skin (an animal had to die in the process) and when He provided the ram for Abraham when God tested Abraham’s love for Him.

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How much louder should we blow the horn and celebrate the sacrifice of God’s only Son, Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus)? We should shout, blow the horn, and eat lots of apples and honey, don’t you think?

There’s so much more to tell you about this holiday and its significance for Christians. Dig into the Jewish feasts and you’ll find prophetic messages for Christians in them all.

You can find excellent information about the holiday here:

Rosh Hashanah for Christians

And here’s some fun Rosh Hoshanah music for you to enjoy!!

 

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Tweet this:  Shana Tova! Happy 5775!

 

Strong Girls aren’t Mean Girls part III

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A few weeks ago I wrote to you, dear Strong Girls, about standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

Today I want to share a great Strong Girl story with you.

Last night, in front of thousands of people, Anahi Alvarez gave her Homecoming Queen crown to her friend, Lillian Skinner.

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Lillian, described as sweet and innocent, was targeted by mean girls and told she’d been nominated as Homecoming Queen, which wasn’t true. When her friends, Anahi Alvarez, and Naomi Martinez, who were nominated as Homecoming Queen, found out, they vowed that if they won the crown, they’d give it to Lillian.

Watch the amazing report here:

 

Today, I’m happy to award the first Strong Girl Commendation Award to Strong Girls Anahi Alvarez, Namoi Martinez and Lillian Skinner.

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Do you know a Strong Girl who should receive this award? Let me know and I’ll honor her here.

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My philosophy of education

I’m at that point in my degree program where I have to submit a philosophy of education to my portfolio. I thought I’d share it with you here and I’m eager to hear your thoughts!

Karla Akins
Western Governors University
Bachelor of Arts Special Education K-12 and Elementary K-6 Licensure Track

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I come from a long line of educators. My father was a high school teacher and my ancestors built one of the first school houses in Pennsylvania, where it still stands in Halifax. My formal experience in teaching began when I was a twelve-year-old teacher’s aide in a preschool classroom. “Busy Bees” had a loving, nurturing teacher named Mrs. Reed. By watching her I learned kindness, and what it felt like to see a child go from “not knowing” to “knowing.”

busy_bee-399x411I also formed my philosophy from the good and bad teachers I had as a child. My bad teachers taught me the importance of compassion. My good teachers taught me to look for the reasons behind a child’s behavior. I was fidgety in school, and until my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Strecker, discovered that boredom was the reason for my disruptiveness, I was often in trouble. Instead of punishing or embarrassing me, she kept me meaningfully engaged.

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Because I’m the parent of three children on the autism spectrum who struggled with academics, I’m a firm believer in searching for an open window into a child’s understanding. I enjoy the challenge of discovering the key that unlocks concepts for students. I’m also drawn to children with difficult behavior. I believe that behavior is communication, and I relish in decoding what challenging students are trying to say.

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I believe that lessons in the classroom should be meaningful and engaging for all students. If they aren’t, it’s a recipe for undesirable conduct. I have a tongue-in-cheek motto: “You can’t teach a moving target.” Most young people have a fascination with something that will keep them engaged. Using that fascination, I believe, is the key to keeping their attention and motivating them to participate with success.

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Regardless of ability, all students have gifts inside them that I, as a teacher, am responsible for unwrapping. A good teacher will focus on abilities and gifts of a student to enhance and strengthen weak areas. This goes hand in hand with using a child’s fascinations and obsessions to motivate them to learn. When children experience success, they gain the courage and esteem to try new things and practice skills they are weak in.

thegiftedMy passion as a teacher is to be an enthusiastic encourager. By focusing on strengths, cheering students on through positive reinforcement, I’m able to build trusting relationships with my students, who then develop the confidence to navigate their academic careers. In this way students reach their full potential.

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While firmness is important, I also realize that a teacher’s patient attention and presence in a student’s life may be the only soft place in the world for that child to fall. Teachers now, more than ever, need to realize they are a hero in the life of their students, and may be the only hope some kids have for feeling as if they matter.

For a child who lives with hazards in their neighborhood, or perhaps, poverty, teaching a child what they can do to change their world is a powerful way for the student to accept responsibility and appreciate the power they possess as an individual. Every community has its own challenges and culture. Therefore, I believe, teaching methods should change based upon the needs of the child, their families and their culture.

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I’m a teacher who believes in teaching to the individual needs of the child. I respect my students as fellow learners and hope to motivate them to find answers for themselves. By teaching in a way that piques a child’s interest to the point they beg for answers, I have accomplished the main goal of my philosophy, which is, to guide students toward success not only in school, but in life.

twitter26sepiamsallerTweet this: All students have gifts inside them that I, as a teacher, am responsible for unwrapping.

Why do I write?

111steampunktypewriterThis past summer someone put my feet to the fire and asked me why I spent so much time writing: “So what if you write. All you have left after spending on all that time are words on a page. Who cares? There are other things to do besides sit and write all day.”

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When I told some of my writers friends I was being criticized for being a writer, I got some fabulous feedback. Things that I believed but couldn’t think to say at the time. (I tend to freeze up when I’m confronted and only think of answers later.) I’ve kept these answers and pondered them in my heart. Writing is a solitary experience, and when someone is critical, it makes me feel even more alone.

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Kathy Rouser’s answer was one I absolutely identify with:

“I think of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, when he said that when he ran he felt God’s pleasure.

Writing’s a calling, it’s a release. Words on a page make up a story that could change a life–or save
one. Just like brushstrokes of paint on a canvas make a painting, if you don’t keep adding to
the story and finishing it, you’ll never know what a difference could make–even just for you.

And if you’re being obedient to the Lord, that’s the most important thing of all.”

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This is so true. I feel alive when I’m writing. If there was one thing I was born to do, it is to put words on a page. Words and letters are as much a part of me as the nose on my face. I can’t imagine a life without them.

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Author Rick Barry wrote:

“To belittle words on a page is to belittle God. The Almighty saw fit to record much history, much revelation, and much emotion and inspiration in the form of written words. Anyone who takes the position that words on a page are pointless… I can’t begin to express the ignorance that suggests. And true, our words are not God’s divine inspired Word, but we are created in God’s image, and I believe it pleases Him when we try to be like Him, to follow His example, and to touch others with words.

…Every Sunday pastors step into pulpits the world over. They deliver sermons that are nothing more than words they wrote on a page, either in outline form or in full paragraphs. God uses words to touch human beings for the better!

…I can’t count the times that I have been contacted by people who have read my piddly words on a page and told me that those words worked powerfully in them, helping them to overcome problems or to become a better person.”

 

111womanwriting2My agent, Linda Glaz wrote:

 “‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.…John 1:1′
 
I guess now we know just exactly how important a word can be…”
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“…writing, like the other arts is a form of God’s divine expression though us; we each are called to gifts from the Spirit. A former atheist found conversion after reading the beauty of a poem when he realized that in order to feel such an emotional response to mere words, he must be more than the animals around him. He must have a soul. Even Jesus taught us with stories, using parables, because He knew we would listen and understand.”
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What a blessing to have writer friends! They propped me up when I was feeling a bit discouraged.
But what about my own thoughts on why I write? Next week I’ll write more about my feelings on the subject. Stay tuned! (I blog about writing on Tuesdays.)
What about you? Do you write? If so, why?

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Tweet this: Are you a writer? If so, why?

When autism parents kill–it has to do with hope

autism-1As a parent of twins with autism, I know what it’s like to feel desperate and alone. I know how it feels to have doors close and be left with no one to help carry the load. Professionals go home to their families, most don’t have any idea what it’s like to live with the turmoil. They get to sleep through the night without worrying if their child will harm themselves or wander off.

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Maybe you’re reading this and you have a child with autism. Like me, you probably think you’d never entertain the thought of murdering your child, no matter how desperate your feel. But we have to remember that our experience with autism isn’t another parent’s experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condoning murder in any way shape or form. I think I’m trying to understand the emotions that drive someone to do such a thing.

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And I do get it. I do. When you are screaming for help and no one comes, you feel backed into a dark corner of no hope. I believe it’s loss of hope that causes parents to kill their disabled children. At least, I think that’s what happened in the case of Dorothy Spourdalakis who murdered her severely autistic son, Alex Spourdalakis, age 14, last year. (You can read the story here.  It’s compelling. Sad. And too often a common story regarding severely autistic children.)

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But in the case of Gigi Jordan, I’m not so sure. In that case it appears it was a selfish act. Or was it? Could it be true that she killed her son in order to protect him from an abusive father? It certainly can’t be true that she couldn’t obtain services for the child. She’s a millionaire. If she couldn’t obtain services, then who can?

Cases like this are just one reason I was prompted to write a book about autism (My book, Autism: Practical Help and Spiritual Hope for Parents, will be available in April 2015). Parents need to know there is definitely hope in this journey. Hope doesn’t make the road easier, but it makes it bearable.

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Autism isn’t who my children are. It’s a name of a disability that causes significant challenges in socialization, speech and behavior. All people with disabilities are precious. planned for and valuable to God. As much as I love my children, I know that God loves them even more, and He has a plan and purpose for their life. I sincerely believe that if we pray and ask God to send us help to cope, and what services to access, He open the doors. At least, that’s what He’s always done for me.

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As I wrote in my book:

“With God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26. I clung to that scripture and believed it the entire time
my twins were growing up and I continue to hold on to it today.  Things I thought they may never do, they’ve done. More than I ever imagined.

God’s Word tells us that we can’t begin to imagine what He  has in store for us (1 Corinthians 2:9). I can testify to this.

I will admit, when I see children suffering, I have a lot of questions for God. This is when I lean on the faith that God knows what He’s doing and He is up to something good, whether we see it right now or not.

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As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), I see children suffer more than I want to. Life is hard and I certainly don’t want to minimize anyone’s pain. I know what it’s like to feel alone and hopeless. This is why it’s important that Christians reach out to hurting families. If they reject our offers of help, then at least we’ve tried. Without the hope of Christ, what hope is there, really?

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All human life is sacred because we are created in the Image of God. Murder is never the answer to the frustrations of parenting a child on the autism spectrum or a child with any kind of disability. Yes, it’s difficult. But it’s do-able. More than that, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. The struggle has been worth the benefits. My sons love me with the purest form of unconditional love I’ve ever known besides Jesus’ love. They are truly God’s gifts to me.

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The following video was prepared for Sanctity of Life Sunday which is in January each year. If you’d like to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves, you can find information here: BeAVoice.net.

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How Strong Girl, Cynthia Koenig, is changing lives

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Strong Girl, Cynthia Koenig

If you’re reading this blog from a home with running water, it only took a simple turn of the wrist to turn on the tap. But many, many women and girls in the world spend hours a day collecting and carrying water. Girls carry water instead of going to school. Women must collect water instead of helping make money to support the family or pursuing an education or career.

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The WaterWheel

With the invention of the WaterWheel, women can get water faster and easier. Instead of carrying Jerry jugs on their heads, they can push twice as much water home. Now Cynthia Koenig spends her days trying to get the WaterWheel to the people who need it most in India.

In 1991, two South Africans invented the Hippo Water Roller for use in Africa. On their website, they offer the following stats:

  • Every day, millions of women and children in developing countries are forced to walk an average 6 km per day, carrying heavy loads of water, typically in heavy 20L (kg) containers balanced on their head.
  • Women worldwide spend 200 million hours each day to collect their families’ water.
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Hippo Water Roller

But Africa’s Hippo Water Roller, won’t work in India because the terrain and needs of Indian women are different. That’s why the WaterWheel invention is so important.

The Wello website states the following about the WaterWheel:

It’s…CONVENIENT.
Women spend over 25% of their time each day collecting water. With the WaterWheel, they can now transport 50L at once – between 3 and 5 times the amount of water possible as compared to traditional methods: this means MORE water in less time!

It’s…HYGIENIC
The WaterWheel’s cap-in-cap design prevents recontamination at the point of use. The single most effective strategy to reduce incidents of diarrheal disease (the second leading cause of death in children under the age of 5, according to the WHO)

It’s…HIGH QUALITY.
The WaterWheel is manufactured from high-quality, human-safe plastics. It’s a smart investment: long lasting and is durable enough to handle the roughest terrain.

It’s..AESTHETICALLY PLEASING.
The WaterWheel’s form was inspired by the shape of the traditional matka – both aesthetically pleasing and a clear indication of the WaterWheel’s intended purpose (clean water!).

AND it’s…AFFORDABLE.
In recognition of the fact that the people who need the WaterWheel the most have the least ability to pay for it, we developed an innovative business model that will enable us to offer the WaterWheel at an affordable price. Local manufacturing (in Ahmedabad, India) and CSR partnerships help us keep costs as low as possible.

Strong Girl, Cynthia Koenig, makes the case for the WaterWheel in the video below.

Strong Girls change the world. That’s why it’s important not to remain a victim but to fight hard to be a victor. Someone needs your influence in their life.Ask God to show you what you can do to improve the life of someone else. It’s what your strength is for.

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Tweet this: Someone needs your influence in their life. It’s what your strength is for.