An Unlikely Playground

Bernard on bamboo stilts

Earlier this year I had the privilege of being in Ghana and staying at an orphanage called House of Hope for three and a half weeks. I’ve been on quite a few mission trips in my life, but this one was unique for a number of reasons. First of all, I was there on my own without any traveling companions or people from my culture to share the experience with. Second of all, on this trip, more so than on others, I was living like the local people live – eating the same foods they would eat (which meant stew and banku every night for dinner and rice with oily tomato sauce for lunch). And while many aspects of the trip were eye-opening, I never stopped being fascinated by the different types of things the children came up to play with – many of them from nature.

Daniel and David with their toy "car"

A leaf with a thorn or a small branch poked through quickly turned into an airplane when running into the wind. Stalks of bamboo became stilts. Disposed-of wheels with long sticks inside became “a car.” And an old tire was perfect for rolling along. These simple “toys” brought great joy to the children and provided hours of enjoyment. In fact, I don’t ever remember one of the children telling me they were bored. Of course, with their regular chores (which included everything from hand-washing and ironing their school uniforms to helping in the kitchen), there wasn’t too much time for getting bored.

We’ve all heard the story of (or perhaps have been!) the child who is much more fascinated with the box that his/her toy came in than the actual toy itself, and sometimes I wonder if by giving our children all sorts of fancy toys to play with, we aren’t actually hampering their creativity and imagination. There are all sorts of wonderful things one would never come up with as play-things given other options. But if those options aren’t available and a child is forced to do so, the possibilities for play-things around the house or outside are endless. (I should mention here that I also saw a man using some palm fronds to hold up his pants when his button broke. The same man quickly constructed a fire to cook a snake caught on the compound and used a palm leaf as a “lid” for his cooking pot. Such ingenuity from people of all ages!)

Roland with his "airplane"

Perhaps for fun make a point of putting all the toys away one day and seeing what else you can play with! Before  throwing out a plastic bottle (which were akin to gold to the children I met in Ghana!) or anything else for that matter, see what fun things you might be able to do with it. Take a walk around the house and see what “toys” are waiting to be discovered in your own backyard. And of course, when you do want to buy something for your child, think about play-things that encourage imagination — like puppets and art easels/drawing pads. These types of “toys” are not only great for the creativity, but also allow the child to express themselves. I’ll never forget the little girl who I met in South Africa. She didn’t have a ton of toys cluttering up her room, but when she went to show me her drawing pad, it was full, and her eyes lit up with the turn of each page.

The children in Africa taught me a great deal about resourcefulness and imagination. They also taught me about the joy that comes with new discoveries and from making something out of what seems like nothing. We could learn so much from them.

To learn more about House of Hope, visit:

A Different Kind of Mother’s Day

If you haven’t yet seen this video brought to you by P&G and other sponsors of this summer’s Olympic Games, grab a tissue, enjoy, and then think with me.

I spent a lot of hours getting my daughters back and forth to lessons and rehearsals of various kinds and watching those lessons, rehearsals, and the performances they led to. I don’t regret one minute.

I’m glad I could help my girls develop their talents and skills. I actually wish I’d done a better job of it. But as important as that is, I’ve decided over the years that a mother’s most important job is connecting with her children’s hearts and helping her children connect their hearts to God’s.

It’s not easy. We make mistakes. Our own issues get in the way, or we don’t understand the goal until our children are grown, with lives of their own.

Just like we sometimes have to extend grace to our own mothers and like we hope for our children to extend grace to us, sometimes we have to extend grace to ourselves as well.

But I don’t think it’s ever too late to communicate love and a desire for relationship, to apologize, to live out faith and point the way.

So whatever else we do this Mother’s Day, whatever our situations and the ages of our children, whether we feel pampered and praised when the day is done or not, I hope we’ll take a few minutes to think about the mothers we’ve been, the mothers we are, and the mothers we want to be.

Because being mom really is the hardest job in the world, just like the video says.

It’s also the best.


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© 2012, Diane Stortz

When a Child Changes You

As parents, we influence our children from the moment they are born. But oftentimes the tables turn and our kids affect us in meaningful, yet unexpected ways.

This week I was reminded of how my sons influenced the direction of my writing career in a surprising way. During an interview for a NASCAR blog this week, the host asked how I got interested in racing. I shared this story:

Like many preschoolers, my boys loved toy Matchbox® cars, especially ones with NASCAR paint schemes. Our kitchen floor and living room rug morphed into race tracks as the boys scooted around on hands and knees driving the little cars. Vroom, vroom!

When the boys discovered pictures of stock cars, they glued them onto corrugated cardboard and cut them out, creating sturdy “racecars.” They drew and colored their own original cars, too, writing sponsor names on the hoods. The boys spent hours racing the cars down the hallway carpeting, giving each car a single shove. The car that slid the farthest distance before stopping was the winner.

Soon the boys wanted to see real racecars, so we started watching NASCAR races on television. And do you know what happened? The boys’ mom got hooked on racing. Yep. I started watching racing as a way to bond with my sons, but became so passionate that I began writing about the sport.

My devotional book for female race fans released this year: Race Fans’ Devotions to Go.  This little book exists because my little boys passed on their love of racecars to me. What a blessing!

If you have children in your life, chances are that one of them has influenced you in a significant way. Like me, you may not realize the full impact until someone prompts you to think about it.

So … how has a child blessed and transformed your life? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.


Beth Bence Reinke


In Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, Beth shares observations about drivers and racing as well as stories about her experiences at the track. Each of the 31 devotions illustrates the similarities between motorsports and life and ends with a “pit stop” – an idea to make your life more fulfilling.




Rosie and Scamper – Middle Grade Book Review

  • Title: Rosie and Scamper
  • Author: Vicki Watson
  • Illustrated by Becky Raber
  • ISBN: 978-0-9847242-0-8
  • Genre: Fiction                                        
  • Page count 147
  • Ages 9-12 
  • SRP: $7.95

  Rating:  :) :) :) :)

Rosie and Scamper is the first book in the Sonrise Stable series. Eight-year-old Rosie loves visiting her grandma who lives on a horse ranch. When a new foal is born, they name him Scamper and Rosie gets the job of training him. Grandma’s neighbors have a new addition to their family–a foster child named Carrie who is Rosie’s age. The two become fast friends and both enjoy learning to ride and care for the horses, eventually riding them in a horse show. 

Watson does a good job of tying in spiritual truths with the things the girls learn about horses. I also liked that Rosie is a Christian and Carrie is not. Rosie uses opportunities to show God’s love to Carrie and to share her faith, giving readers a chance to see how it can be done in a natural way.

Watson gives good information about horses and the equestrian life that obviously comes from her own life experience. Kids will learn a lot about horses as they read. At the end of the book she has a page about horse safety, and an interview with a horse trainer. These special features are fascinating reads, especially for kids who may be interested in horse training as a future career. The final page is about making your own horsehair jewelry, just as Grandma did in the story.

Rosie and Scamper is a great book though I would have liked the girls to figure out more of the spiritual lessons through their own experiences rather than through stories the adults told..I would highly recommend this book to girls who love horses and want to grow in their faith..Kids will love the beautiful pencil drawings of illustrator Becky Raber. The second book in the Sonrise Stables series, Carrie and Bandit, is also available. Both books can be bought at or on Amazon at

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Not My Child

[Note: Part 2 of 2 parts on the Sexualization of Our Children: The Internet]
For Part I, see (It’s Not Such) A Brave New World  This content may be shocking, but it’s necessary for us to know!

Not my child. Is that what you’re thinking? Not my child. Not my grandchild.

But it is your child. Your grandchild. Your niece and nephew. Your next-door neighbor. The little girl in your Sunday School program. The little boy in your child’s kindergarten class. Our children are being sexualized.

Our culture is sexualizing our children. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines sexualization as when:

–  the value of a person comes from their sexual behavior and appeal

–  being physically attractive is defined in terms of being “sexy”

–  a person is seen as “sexually objectified”

–  sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person

 Consider the following statistics:

– Norton Symantec (the anti-virus folks) tracked 3.5 million searches by users of their children’s filtering service for six months, from February through July 2009. For an item to be included in the list of children’s top searches, it had to be submitted at least fifty times. The top six searches were:

1. YouTube
2. Google
3. Facebook
4. Sex
5. MySpace
6. Porn

Enough is Enough,an organization dedicated to making the Internet safer for children and families, notes:

  • In America, one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually molested by age 18
  • 87% of convicted molesters of girls and 77% of convicted molesters of boys admit to using pornography

 So what’s a parent or grandparent to do?

Introduce your children to Christ. Encourage them to live for Him and value the things He values…and hate the things He hates. Teach them to call sin, sin.Teach them to focus their thoughts on things that honor God (Philippians 4:8). Teach them to be discerning about the people they choose to be their friends.

Get involved in the lives of your children – especially in their on-line activities.

Do you know what they’re posting on-line? Many children don’t realize the danger in posting their name, location, photos, and contact information in their on-line profiles. Marian Merritt, Internet Safety Advocate for Norton Symantec, notes, “We know children, and particularly teens, are engaging in online activities their parents would be shocked to learn about.”

Pete Findley, of Giant Campus, creator of Cybercamps, said, “Kids today have never known a world without the Internet. Interacting with their peers via social networks is common practice. Unfortunately, without parents who are knowledgeable about the Internet and actively involved with what their children are doing online, kids could (most likely) learn of the dangers of the Web through a damaging experience.”

You are the most important influence in their lives. Pray for them. Model the behavior you want to see in their lives—no double standards!

And get involved!