Tuesday, August 23, 2016

REVIEW: God Gave Us Thankful Hearts

One of my favorite seasons will be here soon. The leaves will be changing colors, we will be taking field trips to apple orchards, attending Fall Festivals, having campfires, making warm soups, wearing cozy sweatshirts, and doing lots of baking. Yes, the season is Fall (a.k.a. Autumn). The only problem with the Fall season is that the Winter season follows it. Winter is my least favorite season, and I have to try hard to find things to be thankful for during that time of the year.

Little Pup, a sweetly illustrated wolf cub, has the same dilemma in the book, GOD GAVE US THANKFUL HEARTS by Lisa Tawn Bergren. But, Mama Wolf has a conversation with Little Pup about how there's a reason for us to be thankful in every season. She and Papa wolf give him examples of things they are thankful for, and show Little Pup how God wants us to have a thankful heart.

There are no Scripture references included in this book, but there are definite Biblical concepts:
1.  At one point, Mama Wolf says, "The trick to having a thankful heart is thinking about the things that make us happy, rather than the things that don't." That is a concept based on Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

2.  Papa Wolf says, "God gave us thankful hearts so we could praise him, even when we don't catch fish."  (Hebrews 13:15 says, Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.)

3.  Mama Wolf says, "We can be thankful for how God shows us the way, even when it seems a little scary." (Isaiah 41:10 says, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.)

These are all good reminders for children, as well as adults. So, if you have younger children or grandchildren, this would be a great book to snuggle in and read along with them this Fall season (or any season) of the year.

NOTE:  I received this book from Blogging for Books for the purpose of this review. I have expressed my own opinion.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Ultimate Goal for a Christian

The word of the week is GOAL
: something that you are trying to do or achieve
Francis Chan said in one of his sermons, “Everything I do is going to either bring reward or regret.” Then, he gave one of the best illustrations about our existence here on Earth, and how we all spend too much time thinking about our own comfort and enjoyment rather than looking ahead towards the ultimate goal.


What is this goal he is talking about? The goal for a Christian is to live life in a way that will be pleasing to God, to share the Gospel message with others, and to finally reach the prize of eternal life in Heaven. 

Chan also said “We have one chance at our life here on Earth, and then comes eternity.” So, what are you doing with your time? I ask you to ponder that question this week, and consider how you can spend your time wisely. Try to spend it in a way that will bring REWARD, and not REGRET. That is my goal. That is what I want to try and achieve. How about you?

Check out a short portion of Chan’s sermon here. It is less than 6 minutes long, so please take the time to watch it. I truly believe you will be spending your time wisely by watching it: 


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Obtaining Legal Guardianship for Our Adult Special Needs Child

County Courthouse
Our daughter, EL, has turned 18, and it is a time full of mixed emotions for us. Happy as we celebrate her life and all the accomplishments she has made thus far. But, also a bit disheartening as we watch other girls her age becoming independent young women. We know that type of independence will not happen for our EL. She will always need some sort of supervision, as she is not capable of making important life and medical decisions on her own. With that in mind, David and I had to start the process of obtaining legal guardianship of her and her estate. It is somewhat strange that we, as her parents, need to become her legal guardians. But, in the government’s eyes, she is now considered an adult at the age of 18 and, therefore, presumed to be capable of making important decisions, as well as accepting adult responsibilities in full. So, if she doesn’t have a legal guardian to make the important decisions on her behalf, then there could be a disastrous outcome.

I want to share our experience with you of how we are obtaining legal guardianship, to maybe help prepare other parents of special needs children who will be walking this same road in the future. This has been all new territory for us, and there has been a lot of paperwork involved. But, it isn't as daunting as you might think. Just be sure you have a good attorney working with you and for you. FYI: There is a way to do all of the paperwork and petitioning on your own but, if you are not familiar with doing this, I would not recommend it. Our attorney was able to get certain things waived that would not have happened if David and I had done the petitioning on our own. Plus, having an attorney makes it more reassuring to know that things are being done correctly.

So, here’s a brief summary of our experience so far: 
1.  At the start of the year, we knew this was the year of transition, so we called around to several different lawyers in our area to see which ones were willing to accept a guardianship case. We finally found one, and went to his office to consult with him and get the ball rolling. But, there wasn’t much else we could do at that time. We had to wait until 2 months before her 18th birthday before taking the next step. 

2.  Step two was a very important step. I made an appointment with EL's Pediatrician,  took her in to get a physical, and asked the doctor to fill out the papers drawn up by our attorney. The paperwork included essential information from the doctor explaining the necessity for us to obtain plenary guardianship of EL. (NOTE: Plenary guardianship is when the court gives the guardians the power to exercise ALL legal rights and duties on behalf of a ward [i.e. a disabled person], after the court makes a finding of incapacity.)  

3.  Several weeks later, we had another meeting with our attorney, who drew up papers for David and I to sign. These were signed in order to petition the court for temporary plenary guardianship. This type of guardianship is good for up to 60 days, during which time a final hearing is held to determine the need for ongoing (permanent) guardianship.

4.  We went to court two days after EL’s 18th birthday. My husband gave testimony on the witness stand, our attorney represented us well, and temporary plenary guardianship was granted to us with no problem.  
5.  The next step is coming soon, and that is to have EL served a summons by the Sheriff's department requiring her to appear in court. It needs to be given directly to her, even though she really has no idea what it's all about.

6.  After the summons, we will await our final court date (scheduled in about a month), and that will be for granting us permanent plenary guardianship. 
If you have any questions for us about any part of this process, please contact me (or leave your questions in the comments section) and I will do my best to answer them. It's important to note that we are in Illinois, as each state has different procedures for granting guardianship. It will be important for you to find out what the requirements are for your state.

For Illinois residents, you can find a GUIDE TO ADULT GUARDIANSHIP IN IL at the IL Guardianship & Advocacy Commission website.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

18 Birthdays for Our Firstborn Child

Eighteen years ago, David and I held our firstborn child in our arms for the first time. Our newborn baby required us to make a huge adjustment in our lives. But, we adored her, and thanked God for this precious blessing.


NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL THRU THE YEARS OF BIRTHDAYS:

AGE 1:  She’s not walking by herself yet, but she’s cruising really good on the furniture. She can say a few words now. We’ve heard her say: Mama, Daddy, Hi, and Aggie. And, she likes to play a game called "So-Big," where she raises her arms above her head when someone asks her how big she is.  It’s so cute.
EL - Age 1

AGE 2:  Today, we saw a Lawyer about making a Will. On our way home, we stopped off at the mall and gave EL a couple of rides on the carousel. She was tired, so she was a little cranky, but I think she had fun after we got going. For supper, I made spaghetti, since that is one of EL's favorite meals. Then, we had birthday cake. She didn’t try to blow out her candle. I don’t think she was feeling very good. But, she did dip her finger into the frosting and lick it. She liked that.
EL - Age 2

AGE 3:  This year, we took our little 3-year-old to the Illinois State Fair! We had a fun day looking at all the people, sites and sounds, and especially the animals. EL got to pet some goats, a bunny rabbit, a baby duck and a baby chicken. She really liked that... I think the best part of the fair for EL was towards the end of our visit when we let her pick a plastic duck out of the water in order to get a prize. Her prize was a little, gray stuffed bear. She immediately fell in love with it and held it all the way home.
EL - Age 3

AGE 4: We didn’t have a cake for EL this year. Instead, I made gluten-free cocoa rice crispy treats in the shape of a bear. I put marshmallows on top to make a face and buttons. And, we put balloons and candles on it as well. EL seemed to like the bear and she tried hard to blow out her candles this year. Grandpa Stankus helped her. 
EL - Age 4

AGE 5: Our big girl is 5 years old! This year, on EL's birthday, we took her to Burger King, then went to the Mall and gave her a ride on the Carousel. As soon as she saw the horses, she was talking about them and about all their different colors. She was really excited about going for a ride on one. When we got up to the carousel, I asked her which one she wanted to ride and she patted the horse she wanted and said, “This one.” It had a blue and purple tassle. She had a lot of fun. Then, after we got home, we let her open a couple of presents. We didn’t have a cake or anything on her actual birthday because, yesterday, we went to Shelbyville and had a family party for her there.
EL - Age 5

AGE 6: After lunch, we all went to the Mendota Sweet Corn Festival. EL and JJ both rode on the carousel and took a little train ride. They had fun. EL also got a butterfly painted on her cheek and played the duck game. The prize she got from the duck game was a little stuffed wolf pup. Then, Grandpa S. also bought her a nice bracelet to wear. We also watched a magic show while we were there. It was a fun day.
EL - Age 6

AGE 7: We celebrated EL's birthday early this year because our family was here for a family reunion. My brother and his family were here in IL for their vacation, so everyone came to our house for the weekend. We had a potluck meal, and birthday cake for dessert.
EL - Age 7

AGE 8: In the afternoon, we did some shopping in Springfield, then gave the kids a ride on the carousel in the Mall. That has always been a favorite of EL's. Then, we took them to Burger King for supper. EL had a birthday coupon to get a free kids’ meal. When we got home, we ate cake and opened presents. It was a nice day.
EL - Age 8

AGE 9: We went to Peotone this year and had hamburgers and french fries for EL's birthday, and I made her a strawberry cake with pink strawberry frosting. Her Aunt Jackie helped me decorate it with little purple flowers and balloons around her name.... EL showed a lot of spontaneous emotion and speech as she opened her presents this year. When she opened a present from her Aunt Jackie, it was a nice pink outfit and EL said, "Oooh, look at the beautiful new clothes." She was excited about them. And, when we held them up to her to take her picture with them, she smiled and said, "I'm a princess." It was really sweet. She was also VERY excited to get the silver i-dog she had been wanting and said, "Wow! Its beautiful! Its my favorite silver dog! Oh, I like it a lot!" This was all spontaneous speech and responses. It was incredible to hear her and I was so thrilled. She is really improving more and more with her speech and communication.
EL - Age 9

AGE 10:  We had hamburgers and hot dogs for supper. Then, birthday cake, of course. I made her a butterfly cake this year with strawberry cake and pink strawberry frosting. I used Oreo cookies for the body, stacked up between the wings, and I used Yogos Bits to decorate the wings.
EL - Age 10

AGE 11: On her birthday this year, we were at Grandma & Grandpa Mac's. While there, we drove to Grant’s Farm in St. Louis and had a really nice day. The kids were able to feed the baby goats, take a ride on a carousel (which EL loves), and eat snow cones. We also took two tram rides, walked around and saw all the animals, and saw two animal shows: one about elephants, and one about birds. EL likes fried chicken, so we bought KFC for supper, and I made her a bundt cake and decorated it like a carousel, which she really liked.
EL - Age 11

AGE 12:  We were on vacation during EL's birthday this year. While we were visiting Grandma & Grandpa Stankus, we had our friends, the Lees, over for lunch to help us celebrate EL's birthday. Their daughter is close to EL's age, and also has special needs.
EL - Age 12

AGE 13: This was a big year for EL, as she became a TEENAGER! We had a fun “doggie” birthday party for her this year. The girls put doggie make-up on, made dog tag necklaces, and decorated doggie cupcakes.
EL - Age 13

AGE 14: This year was EL's GOLDEN birthday, and she wanted hot dogs for supper. So, we had friends over and grilled hot dogs and chicken sausages, and ate outside on our newly painted picnic tables.
EL - Age 14

AGE 15: EL had some girl friends over again who did some girly types of crafts, played a fun game of Chameleon Crunch, and ate birthday cake.
EL - Age 15

AGE 16: EL is unable to drive a car due to her special needs, but David did something special for her 16th birthday. He pulled out the lawn tractor and walked along side it while she drove it slowly around the yard. She had such a great time doing this.
EL - Age 16

AGE 17: Friends and Grandparents came to help EL celebrate her 17th birthday. It was a “pink” party - everything was pink - tablecloth, cups, plates, balloons, a new hat, a pink toy laptop, pink lemonade, and a pink cake. Plus, some of us were wearing pink clothes.
EL - Age 17

AGE 18:  Our sweet girl is now a young woman at the age of 18, and we are celebrating today with a few family and friends. Happy birthday to our darling EL. Thank you for blessing our lives with your smiles and laughs.


James 1:17 - Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

When I was a young child, I was afraid of the dark, just like many children. So, my parents allowed me to turn the hallway light on when I went to bed. One night, my brother did not want the light on, so he got up and turned it off. Then, I got up and turned it back on. This led to us standing at opposite ends of the hallway, taking turns switching the light on and off. At one point, when it was my brother’s turn to switch the light off, he didn’t flip the switch but just loudly said the word, “Click!” and, since I was expecting him to switch the light off, and was into a routine, I am the one who switched the light off instead of him. I quickly switched the light back on and, with an irritated tone, I hollered, “Danny!” My parents, who were watching the whole time, thought it was hilarious and laughed along with my brother. But, then, they told Dan to leave the light on, and for us both to go back to bed.

This is a funny story that I can laugh at now. But, it is also a good example of how children will often imitate the things they see. My brother had seen this light-switch routine on a Looney Tunes cartoon called, “The Windblown Hare.” He saw it, thought it was funny, and then decided to try it out on me. It obviously worked.

This reminds me of how we need to be careful about the things we set before our eyes, and our children’s eyes, because of the kind of impact they can have on us. When we eat healthy foods, our bodies will function better than when we eat junk foods, right? It’s the same with our eyes. When we look at something, our brain makes an image of it, and that image stays with us. We might become comfortable with these images, and may even begin to imitate what we have seen. If the images are worthy of praise, they are pleasing to the Lord. If they are worthless, they may end up having a negative impact on our Spiritual lives. 
WORTHLESS:  having no use, importance, or effect : having no good qualities

That's why it says, in Philippians 4:8 to think on the things that are worthy of praise:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

So, I encourage you to take notice of the things you purposefully set before your eyes (or your children’s eyes) this week - the movies and TV shows you watch, the video games you play, and even the things you read - and see if these things would be worthy of praise (i.e. pleasing to God). Are they being helpful to your Spiritual life, or are they being harmful? 


O Be Careful, Little Eyes
Children's Hymn - Author Unknown

O be careful little eyes what you see
O be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Look Out... for the Interests of Others

The word of the week is PURPOSEFUL
:  having a clear intention or aim

A Christian brother mentioned in church last Sunday about how we often don’t realize how much people think or care about us until we are noticeably going through a difficult time. But, what about when our struggles aren’t quite as noticeable? Some of us are more vocal than others about the challenges we are facing, but I believe EVERYONE is going through something that could use the prayers and support of others. So, don’t you think we should be looking out for each other on a regular basis, for ways to lift each other up (encourage each other), even when our struggles aren’t quite as evident?

I would like to challenge you, for at least this week, to be PURPOSEFUL about looking out for those you come in contact with. 
  • If you see someone working hard and/or doing a good job at something - whether they are in the spotlight or behind the scenes - make it a point to send them a quick note of thanks, or compliment them personally about their work. 
  • If you see someone who isn't smiling - make it a point to let them know you care and give them something to smile about (maybe share an encouraging Bible verse with them). 
  • If you see someone who is smiling - make it a point to return the smile, give them a hug, or find some way to compliment or encourage them. Even though they are smiling, you don't always know what kinds of struggles they are facing, and your encouragement could be the blessing they are longing for. 
In other words, make it a goal of yours to notice people around you, and then act on encouraging them in some way, even if there is no outward evidence that they are going through a struggle. Look out... for the interests of others.

If you need to, you can write out the verse above and put it in a place where you will see it every day this week. It will be a reminder to be purposeful about encouragement - because life is hard and we ALL need to know there are people who care.



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: I Love You Just Because [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]


Do you have a family with a mix of skin and/or hair colors? Do you have children who are as different from you as the night is from the day (whether they are biological or adopted)? Do you have a disabled child who often feels out of place because of his/her differences? If YES to any of these questions, then I LOVE YOU JUST BECAUSE, by Donna Keith, would be a good book for you to get. Basically, it is good for ANY family that has young children who simply need to know you love them for who they are.

This book is the 3rd in a series of board books inspired by the interracial family of the author's daughter. I love the adorable illustrations, and the Bible verses included on each page. Not only can  it help your little ones understand it is okay to look and/or act differently than the others in your family, it also teaches them what God's Word says.

Here's an example from one of the pages in this book:

"I know my brothers think that fish are quite a special treat.
To me, they're yucky," Panda says. "I want bamboo to eat!"
"Bamboo it is," says Mama, "for the panda we adore.
It's part of who you are and makes us love you even more."

Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other.
This will bring glory to God. ~ Romans 15:7

If you want to remind your kids you love them "just because you're you," this is a cute book to pick up and read with them as you snuggle on the couch.

Enter below for your chance to win a copy of this book. Entries accepted until Saturday, July 30, 2016, at 8:00 p.m. CST. One entry per mailing address. 



“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

People Out There

 The word of the week is LIGHT
: something that makes vision possible : a particular illumination : something that enlightens or informs

It was 1:30 in the morning, and I had insomnia. I’m not exactly sure why I couldn't sleep. Maybe it was due to the stresses of college, or to the fact that I had been questioning my existence in this world. It was a common pity party for me during that time. So, as I sat and sulked on the bed in my small Chicago dorm room, I looked out the window and noticed Franklin Square in the distance.


Not a very pretty sight, really, compared to other parts of Chicago; but maybe that was a good thing. It helped me focus my attention on the darker corners of the city, the parts that needed more light; and as I began to think and pray about why I was there in that dark city, my heart was redirected off of myself and onto others. I looked out at the darkness, then saw the small lights shining in the distance. The reason for my existence became more clear as I  realized, as Christians, WE are the light of the world. We need to be shining our lights brightly to help illuminate the darkness.

THAT is why I was there.
In fact, that is why we are ALL here - to shine our lights for the glory of God.

Here is what I wrote about that night...

PEOPLE OUT THERE
By: Victoria (McIntosh) Stankus, April 6, 1989

There are people out there.
Real people.
Lonely people.

It is dark out tonight.
Dark in many ways.
There are a few lights shining brightly in the distance.
The light is so small compared to the darkness.

The American flag flies freely on top of Franklin Square.
It symbolizes the freedom of the people.
But, yet, they are not free.

There are people out there.
Real people.
Lonely people.
People who need Jesus.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Worth More Than the Birds



The word of the week is WORTH
:  to the fullest extent of one's value or ability

As children of God, we are much more worthy (valuable) to Him than the birds are. So, if He provides for the needs of the birds, why would He not provide for us?

Here’s another story from my brother, Daniel, about God’s provision for our family. This one took place in Manito, IL. Dan and Dad were home doing dishes while the ladies were out of the house for awhile. Here is the story in Dan’s words:

Dad was washing, I was drying. The phone rang, and because Dad’s hands were wet he asked me to answer the phone. WDUK (Havana Duck Radio station) was on the line and said they were doing a game and randomly called numbers. They said the money pot grows until someone answers right. The previous contestants answered wrong, so the pot was something like $25.00. They asked a question, and if I got it right, they’d send me a check.
The question was, “In Alice in Wonderland there was a card that ruled the underworld. What was that card?”
I didn’t know, so I answered in a questioning way, “Was it the Queen of Hearts?”

They said I was right and, after I hung up the phone, Dad started laughing because he said someone was pranking me. But a week or two later, I got a check in the mail from WDUK, and I signed it, gave it to mom, and she bought supper for us that night. If I remember right, this was one of those times Dad was in-between checks again, and the groceries got us through until his next check.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Out of the Blue - solo Piano Music by Cory Lavine


Do you like piano music that has a mix of a classical and contemporary feel to it? If so, then you will enjoy Out of the Blue by CORY LAVINE. I have the CD and have been enjoying listening to the imaginative and peaceful music composed by Cory.

Back in the early 90's, Cory toured with Young American Showcase along with my husband's brother. It was Cory's FIRST MUSIC JOB/MINISTRY, where he helped encourage teens to say no to alcohol and drugs, and to also say yes to Christ. Years later, he ended up in Nashville, where he composed Out of the Blue, his debut album. It is a collection of songs he composed shortly after he had an encounter with someone while working as a bellman. This person encouraged him not to forget why he originally moved to Nashville. After that, Cory was inspired to pursue music again and things started happening from there.

You can listen to Cory's album online here

If you like what you hear, click below to sign up for Cory's newsletter and you will receive a 20% coupon for any purchase on his website. Cory has MP3 downloads and/or physical copies of his CD available for sale. He has also been giving away one CD each month to one of his subscribers, so be sure to sign up here if you want to be included in future drawings:

http://corylavine.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=c4e96a33f7e26bbc16639fc5b&id=acde756a16

Thanks for your hard work, Cory, and for blessing us with your music.