Category Archives: Inspiration

When Should Kids Receive Awards? By Sue Badeau

Ribbons award morguefile

With summer days ticking away and school days on the horizon, this is a great time to share Sue Badeau’s article about how to really encourage, praise, and award your kids. And, as the mother of 22 kids, Sue should know!

When Should Kids Receive Awards?
By Sue Badeau

Gold…Silver…Bronze…and Oscar…

It has been a season of awards. Who doesn’t like to be recognized for hard work and accomplishments?

Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where every small child could aspire to standing on a podium and receiving a gold medal, or hearing her name read when a special “envelope” is opened?

For children to dream big dreams and aspire to great goals, they need adults in their lives who will draw out and nurture their strengths, building upon them with encouragement and enthusiasm.

Many children who have experienced trauma and others with a variety of special needs or life challenges are often noticed more for negative behaviors than for their strengths. These children need adults willing to be intentional and creative about noticing, encouraging and rewarding positive attributes and behaviors. We need to “catch” them being good and provide meaningful and effective praise.

Research, brain science, the Bible , and even Mary Poppins all agree on the old adage I first learned from my grandmother: “You catch more flies with honey than Sue Badeau kids with awardsvinegar.”

And yet some children just seem to be “asking for” vinegar (i.e. punishment, anger, correction, or even shunning) more than others. Should we give false or insincere praise?

“May it never be!”

Generic, non-specific, insincere or incomprehensible praise can actually do more harm than good.

Praise is a very important tool in both the character-building and behavior management toolkits for parents and others who care for children, but to be meaningful and effective, it needs to be honest, sincere, clear, and specific.

Here are two examples of praise that is not effective:

* “You are so smart!”, or
* “What a good boy you are!”

Here are a couple of better examples:

*“I noticed how you picked up all the crayons that spilled without being asked – that was very helpful.” and
*“Thank you for sharing those toys with Justin, I know they are your favorites, so it was very thoughtful. And he will be more likely to share with you sometime!”

See the difference?

It is also important to notice incremental progress. For example:

Sue Badeau prize jar“Last week when you were upset it took 15 minutes before you were able to be calm. And so you had to miss some of your play time and that was sad for you. But today, even though you got upset, you calmed down in only 5 minutes so you have more time to play. This is great progress! I can see you are working really hard on this.”

Encouraging children to continue to practice their best behaviors can be promoted through the creative use of motivational supports including awards. You may not have gold medals or Oscar statues available, but here are a few ideas we used over the years with our children. I’d love to hear your ideas!

Keep a “Prize Jar” on hand to give attention to “random acts of goodness.” For us, it was a giant pickle jar stocked with little things that would bring a smile to our children’s faces. For small children this often included small toys, trinkets or snack items, and “gift certificates” for things like extra story time, or the chance to choose the next movie to be watched. For older children the “gift certificates” included a day free from chores, or a night out with extended curfew. These were intermittently handed out to children when they were “caught being good!” by sharing, volunteering to help someone, taking initiative, or demonstrating positive character traits such as kindness, honesty or respect.

We also used weekly “Pats on the Back.” Sue Badeau pat on the back photoWe traced a handprint on a sheet of paper and wrote the words “Pat on the Back TO ______________ FOR ___________” inside the shape of the hand. We copied this onto bright colored paper and had a supply of them handy along with craft and homework supplies. Children (and adults!) were encouraged to use them to notice something good someone in the family did and write it down anytime during the week. Once a week, (for us it was during Sunday family dinners) these were all read aloud, to much applause! It becomes contagious, and soon everyone is vying to give a “Pat” away!

Not everyone will win a medal or an Oscar, but everyone can be nurtured, supported and encouraged to do and be their best!

(Image courtesy of


Sue Badeau headshotBIO: Sue Badeau is a nationally known speaker, writer and consultant with a heart for children and a desire to help adults and children build bridges of hope following the pain of trauma or loss. She has worked for many years in child services and serves on several national boards. Sue writes and speaks extensively to public agencies, courts, parent groups and churches. Sue and her husband, Hector, are lifetime parents of twenty-two children, two by birth and twenty adopted (three, with terminal illnesses, are now deceased). They have also served as foster parents for more than 50 children. They have authored a book about their family’s parenting journey, Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip Adopting and Raising 22 Kids, which can be found on or on Sue’s website – – Sue may be reached by email at She lives in Philadelphia and is a member of the Summit Presbyterian Church.

Tide Fool

man on park bench morguefile

What I read,

hand shading the gold glint

of the ocean,

is my scribbled pocket book

of hope.


A smooth cold rock

turns in my hand, like the chorus

of a secret sacred song.


The bench I watch the west from

is a pew to the wide sky and white caps.


What I negotiate here, what I navigate,

what I need is a way to walk on land,

as well as He traversed the waves.

As the deer pants for water. . .

Photo courtesy of Cindy Sproles

As the deer pants for water


 From the psalmist we read:

As the deer pants for streams of water,so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Psalms 42: 1-4 NIV

Face Your Fear – Andrea Merrell

Photo courtesy of & georgina53

“No problem, it’s just rain and slush,” my friend said with a smirk. “If you can’t handle this, how are you going to handle the tribulation?”

“I’m not planning to be here for the tribulation,” I shot back. “You can stay if you want, but I’m outta here.”

The subject of this conversation was my one-hour drive from the foothills of South Carolina to Asheville, NC, and my life-long fear of driving in snow and ice. After a terrifying snow-experience in high school, I have shied away from venturing out in a vehicle ever since.

Several years ago I faced this fear head-on by driving four hours to Crossville, Tennessee. There was an abundance of snow and I drove in, on, through and around it. When my car came safely back down that mountain, I thought my fear had been conquered.

Apparently not. Now it was resurfacing and I had a decision to make.

I chose to face it again and headed up the mountain. Twenty minutes into my drive, I called my husband. “I have a knot in my stomach the size of a grapefruit.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “You’ll be fine. Just take it slow and be careful. And don’t slam on your brakes.” His words of encouragement gave me the courage to press on.

The trees were solid white, snow blanketed the ground, and slush covered the road. I quoted every Scripture I knew on fear, peace, and God’s protection. I sang, “I have the peace of God in me . . .” and tried to concentrate on the beauty around me instead of my fear. Several times I had to remind myself to breathe.

Three days in the North Carolina mountains surrounded by snow-capped hills, trees painted with a icy glow, and fellow believers and friends made the trip well worth the effort. My next hurdle was getting safely back down the mountain—in one piece and back to the security of my home and family.

Once again, God was merciful, gracious and faithful. As I prayed and kept my mind focused on Him, He lovingly guided and protected me, just like He always does. God has truly not given us a spirit of fear and, when that fear tries to attach itself to us, perfect love—God’s love poured out in our hearts—will cast it out.

What are you afraid of? Recognize it and give it to God. He will wrap His arms around you, fill you with His peace, and deliver you safely to your destination.

Photo courtesy & georgina53


Andrea Merrell Photo 10Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She has led workshops at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference (KCWC), Writers Advance Boot Camp, and The CLASS Christian Writers Conference. Her work has been published online and in numerous anthologies. Andrea’s first book, Murder of a Manuscript, was released by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC) in 2014. Her next book, Praying for the Prodigal, will be released by LPC in 2015. To learn more about her, visit her website,, or her blog for writers,

Encouraging Words

encouraging words morguefile

I love to sing. I admit, I’m not all that good at it–certainly not recording artist material–but I still love it. You should hear me in the car when I’m all alone and the music is turned up loud. I sing with abandon, and praise God with my whole heart. I know He thinks my voice is beautiful!

But it’s a different story when I’m in front of the church. I want to sing with abandon, I want to praise God with my whole heart. But instead, my throat tightens, my voice trembles. And even though I know I shouldn’t, I remember the day they laughed.

It was years ago, my first attempt at singing a solo in a previous church. The older couple sat on the front row, arms crossed and brows furrowed. Why did I continue to look at them? Why didn’t I zoom in on the faces of my precious family, smiling at me from the third row?

My heart pounded as the song began. My voice-clear and strong in the car-came out weak and unsure onstage. And then the moment came. The one I had dreaded since I stepped up to the podium. The high note squeaked out . . . off-key.

My eyes went straight to the couple, hoping for grace and acceptance. The husband elbowed his wife. She rolled her eyes, crinkled her mouth into a smirk, and shook her head.

I had specifically chosen that song to minister to our body. Our church was at a crossroad, and the words were just what we needed to hear–a message of hope and confidence in the power of God. But instead of encouraging the people, I had caused them to laugh.

Yes, it was only one couple. But they are the ones I remember. Their response is the one that’s indelibly printed on my mind.

I still sing, and I love it, but oh, how I want to be able to sing onstage with abandon, like I do when it’s just God and me in the car with the music turned up loud.

That experience reminds me to support and lift others up, even though he or she may not be the best soloist or the best Sunday School teacher or the best preacher I’ve ever heard. Ephesians 4:29 tells us to build up others, according to their needs.

Satan is the author of destructive criticism. Let’s look for opportunities to minister to each other through the gift of encouragement.

Instead of being like the couple on the front row, crossing our arms and laughing, let’s ask God to use us to deliver encouraging words. Let’s ask Him to guard our mouths and give us discernment as we help each other through life.

We can be the difference between helping someone sing with abandon or causing them to tremble with fear. It’s all in our words.

(Photo courtesy of

Getting Directions

Like the stars that tease of the brightness of Heaven....

by Will Schmit

A string of naked ladies,
the pink flower,
face away the ridge road.

Orange sunset spent
on the odd nude

The ocean, not a mile away,
but the hill parched.

Our blankets catch shooting stars,
nameless streaks
scorch the night.

Their Father, our Father, knows them,
but for us it’s just point at heaven
and awe.

A New Creation

A New Creation

by Maureen Hager

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17

Since I was a small child,
From that time until now,
I looked out just for number one;
There was no one else allowed.

I found out young how people are,
And life had taught me well.
There was no one around to pick me up;
Except me, each time I fell.

I learned to hold my head up proud,
Even when I fought back tears.
To strike out first and hide my pain;
Refusing to show my fears.

Now I’ve met the Son of God,
Jesus is His Name.
He says that life taught me wrong,
And now He wants me to change.

He wants me to open my heart,
And to tell Him of my pain.
But, I’ve lost my ability to cry,
Even though I’m not the same.

I have always mistrusted and doubted,
Anyone who said they cared.
I’ve been let down before, you see,
Every time I reached out and dared.

Maureen Hager

So now He wants to help me,
Mend my broken heart.
To heal the memories and dreams,
That life has torn apart.

He wants to take my hate and fear,
My prejudice and pride.
All those things I learned from life,
The world’s promises that lied.

I don’t have anything to give,
Jesus, look and see.
But, maybe all you’re asking for,
Is what I have – just me.

Okay Lord, let’s try this out,
I know my life is wrong.
So take these wounds – I’ve had enough,
And to you Lord, I belong!

© 1979 Maureen Hager

Maureen HagerMaureen Hager is a survivor. Her passion lies in empowering women to receive healing from their brokenness through the love of Christ. Caught up in a violent bikers’gang war, she became a victim of two gunshots when a rival gang opened fire with M16 rifles. Within those few seconds, the crippling bullets forever changed her life. In her determination to start a new life, she encountered the hope and healing of God’s transforming love.

How HIV Saved Him, by Lori Hatcher

man on park bench morguefile

When I saw his name on my appointment book, I did a double take. Could this be the same Jack Jones* I know? I wondered.

For many years, Jack was like a big brother to me. He took me to the State House to feed peanuts to squirrels, introduced me to Chick-Fil-A, and bought my first Helen Reddy album. Although he was several years older than I, he wasn’t too cool to be seen with me.

A second glance at the appointment book, however, told me something that made my heart stop.

 HIV positive the note said.

All afternoon long, I wrestled with the implications of those two words. I’d lost touch with Jack and hadn’t seen him for years, but I’d heard rumors that he’d embraced a dangerous lifestyle. Now, it seemed, he was reaping the consequences of his choices.

As the time neared for his appointment, my heart beat harder. My head spun with questions and fearful thoughts. I was worried about his physical condition, but I was even more concerned about his spiritual one. I prepared to ask him first about his health and then about his soul. This may be my only opportunity to talk with him about where he’ll spend eternity, I thought. I knew it was no accident that Jack had chosen the office where I worked, even though he had no idea I worked there. It was a divine appointment. 

When he walked through the door, my heart sank. I recognized him immediately, although I could tell he was very, very sick. He was surprised to see me, and after we worked through some initial awkwardness, I seated him in my dental chair.

“Before you get started,” he said, holding up his hand as I reached for an instrument, “there’s something you need to know.”

“It’s okay,” I said, cutting him off. “I know.”

Somehow I made it through his appointment, lapsing into the familiar routine of scaling, rinsing, and polishing while my thoughts continued to swirl. How do I begin? I wondered. What do I say? What if he’s hostile or defensive? Finally, after the dentist checked his teeth and left the room, I gathered my courage.

“Jack,” I said, “I’m glad your teeth are okay, but we’ve got more important things to talk about. If you died today, do you know for sure you’d go to Heaven?”

“Lori,” he said, “I lived my life my way for many years. I was partying and doing stuff I knew was wrong, but I didn’t care. I turned my back on God.” He paused and collected his thoughts. “And you know what? I’d still be living that way if it wasn’t for HIV.”

He raised his eyes and continued. “I’ve asked God to forgive me, and I’m trusting him to walk with me through the rest of my life.” He paused again. “Someone asked me if I was mad at God for letting me get HIV. I told him I wasn’t.” He laughed softly, shaking his head. “God used HIV to save me from myself.”

We laughed through misty eyes at the irony of it all and talked about how God sometimes allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.** 

I visited him several times after that. We studied the book of 1 Peter until he became too weak to concentrate. My mother called me one day with the news that he’d passed away.

I miss Jack sometimes, when I hear a Helen Reddy song or bite into a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. I wish sin and disease hadn’t ended his life. I wish we’d had longer to share the joy of his salvation. It comforts me that we’ll have an eternity to catch up.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

What about you? Have you ever taken a risk to share the Gospel? I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below to bless us all.

*I’ve changed Jack’s name in this account, but I promise to introduce you when we meet someday in Heaven.

**This idea came from Joni Earekson Tada.

Lori Hatcher headshotBIO: Lori is a popular teacher and women’s ministry speaker. Encouraging and equipping, she challenges women to follow hard after God. With transparency and humor, Lori enjoys speaking at Ladies’ Events and Women’s Retreats. She is the author of Joy in the Journey: Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. Lori relates well to women in all walks of life from her perspective as a devotional writer, healthcare professional, veteran homeschooling mother, and youth pastor’s wife. You can reach her through her website, Hungry for God,  or at loriahatcher (at)

(Man on bench image courtesy of

Spell Checker

Bottlenosed Dolphins

by Will Schmit

New rule.

You are what you hear;
bottle nosed whale slide blues,
mint and fern whipping the air,

to turn your head
the voice of the Shepherd
whistling through His teeth.

Facts and faith, a jumble
of Scrabble letters face down,
we need to spell ourselves.

It’s possible to have the Christ
in ways unbelievable to believers,
but to believe He has us,
that’s worth baking bread.

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