Family Ministries Blog

All Saints' Episcopal Church in Lakeland, Florida provides this forum as an exploration of family life with an emphasis on parenting, children, and teens. We hope that you will join our conversation and visit our children & youth ministries.
Kathy Hulin

The Role of Stability

One of my devotional readings as of late is a book called Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. The author Esther de Waal digests the rule of St. Benedict and shares with the reader her commentary about how the values of the rule could speak to us today. Today I was reading about stability. Here is a quote that jumped out at me:

"Here is something fundamental to human need. The Benedictine recognition of the role of stability is not a piece of idealism, it is essentially realistic. Everyone needs to feel at home, to feel earthed, for it is impossible to say, 'Who am I?' without first asking, 'Where am I? Whence have I come? Where am I going?' Without roots we can neither discover where we belong, nor can we grow. Without stability we cannot confront the basic questions of life. Without stability we cannot know our true selves. For we are pulled apart by so many conflicting demands, so many things deserving of our attention, that often it seems as though the centre cannot hold."

As I read these words, so many different thoughts come to mind. I have a young adult adopted son who is living out these very words as he navigates daily choices; he can tell you that stability is a necessity to function, but he struggles to make that a reality. I think about our children and youth at church and how our Sunday School and Wednesday evening programs strive to address these very questions as we meet together week after week. We strive for steadfastness in our relationships with one another to live out stability. We strive for being the place where our children and youth want to belong and grow. And I think about our families who feel "pulled apart by so many conflicting demands," and I pray for stability in Christ and a centering in Him. 

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Kathy Hulin

Importance of Community

Have you ever had those days or weeks when a particular idea or word keeps coming your way? Perhaps a thought or word keeps jumping out at you as you encounter it in your devotions and in something that your child or spouse says and something you hear in the media or in a sermon? I have been hearing the word "community" these past few days. Let me tell you how...

I attended the Paul, The Apostle of Christ movie on Good Friday and found it to stir my soul and mind in a variety of ways, but one way, in particular, was the way that they portrayed the importance of community in the early Church. They lived in community together and needed one another for strength, assurance of their cause, ministry to others, for safety, and to share their resources for living. They were encouraged by being together and reminding one another of their purpose to spread the message of love.Then I reflected upon our Easter worship together. What a glorious day of worship and celebration of our Risen Lord and Savior!!! He died not only for my sins and your sins, but he died and redeemed the sins of all who believe in his name -  he died for the Church. Our Easter worship showed how our parish family worked together in sharing gifts and talents for the glory of Christ. I heard several comments from people who were blessed when our worship offerings were done together to make something better than what we could do on our own. I heard a radio spot for Joy FM this morning that pointed out the importance of community in the ministry that they do. The entire radio spot kept playing up the word "we" to refer to the radio station but to make the listener aware that any and all who listen are also part of the "we". Because our culture is driven by individualistic thinking, they are working to be counter-cultural in their marketing and pulling people together in their ministry.

I challenge all of us to be thinking about the ways that we approach our daily lives as being part of a community or doing things on our own. As a minister of the Gospel, my hope is that we are rooted in the Church and that parish life is the center of our community; it is where we gain strength, assurance, and purpose, and it is where we can share resources. I strive to uphold the message of being together and the value of hearing God's message to and through us when we are gathered. But I know that the world pulls us in all sorts of directions. Schools, work, family, extracurricular activities, etc. can overwhelm us and vie for being our community of choice. I believe, however, that our children and teens need to know that the Church is where they gather for strength and assurance of their identity as children of God; our parents need to know that the Church is where they gather for strength and assurance of their ministry in raising their children to know their idenitity as children of God; and all of us, children, parents and all adults, need to know that the Church is where we gather to meet Christ in our worship and that God has a plan and purpose for our lives in the Body of Christ. 

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Kathy Hulin

Trauma in the Home

When students are stressed beyond their abilities to manage, behaviors change in unexpected ways. I used to think that staying positive and coaching a young person through the stressful situation would be all that is needed, but the depth of their emotional disruption can be greater than all the best coaching you can muster. You suddenly find yourself living with a child who is angry, and/or depressed, and/or rebellious, and you don’t quite know what to do. I know from experience that your relationship with God is of utmost importance. When traumatic experiences enter your life, draw strength and healing from talking and praying to God. You might even need to cry out like the psalmist did when he was feeling overwhelmed and overpowered. Use the psalms to express your deepest fears and anxieties, and then hear and receive their gift of hopefulness and faith in God to overcome all adversity. Prayers for your family are of profound importance, too. Gather a network of ministers and friends who will be praying for you and your children on a daily basis. And if you can seek out (as God leads) prayer counselors who focus on healing prayer or a Christian therapist who can meet with your family, you will find spiritual strength and wisdom to support you through the daily parenting challenges. When our children act out in ways that inflict emotional, spiritual, or physical harm on themselves or others, it can be human nature to manage the behaviors and not deal with the source of the trauma. However, the more support we can get as parents to discover the wounds that our children carry and then pour God’s love into healing those wounds, the stronger our children and families will be. 
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Kathy Hulin

Loving Our Differences

I recently shared with a group of women that I value and appreciate the many different ways that God has made each of us. We were considering Psalm 139:13-14 and how God knitted each one of us together in our mother’s wombs in ways where such knowledge is too wonderful for us to understand. In remarking about our uniquely created selves, we also remarked about all of the special qualities that make each one of us different from the next person. Our individual lives are a beautiful tapestry in and of themselves, but even more so when we consider how we come together to form a colorful tapestry in the body of Christ. Don’t we love each child as God uniquely made them?!

 

One of my husband’s former colleagues and a family friend serves as chaplain to a college student community where the racial diversity is striking as compared to most American campuses. She wrote in a recent mission journal about seeing the differences of how God created us: “I used to say that I am ‘color blind’ and that I just see students. One of our students told me that was a shame because she is a beautiful shade of brown and I am missing out. I no longer say that. Lesson learned.”

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Kathy Hulin

Giving Thanks

Since many of you practice the tradition of sharing thankful thoughts with your families at Thanksgiving, let me share some of mine with you...

Lord,

I give thanks for your love and mercy.

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Kathy Hulin

On a Journey

This past week I received communication from Bishop Greg Brewer and the Diocese of Central Florida regarding my journey toward Holy Orders. I have moved forward in the process and I am on track (God willing) for being a Candidate later this fall and then being ordained to the diaconate in January 2018! This discernment regarding the priesthood has been a rigorous process with many stages involving clergy and lay leadership throughout our diocese. I am excited and humbled for the days to come and I covet your prayers. Once I am ordained to the diaconate, a period of no less than six months will be a final discernment period before ordination to the priesthood.

Fr. Reid values my leadership at All Saints' and plans to keep me here once I am ordained. I, too, value being a part of our parish family and look forward to continue serving as I do with the children, teens, and families of our church as Director of Family Ministries, along with continuing to be involved with women's ministries, the Order of St. Luke, outreach, and altar serving. I already enjoy the many opportunities to teach, preach, care for our members and visitors, to be part of outreach ventures, to lead in worship, and to do so working with men, women, boys, and girls of all ages. At All Saints' I have been given encouragement and exhortation to share the spiritual gifts, talents, and passions for ministry that God has given me, and I am grateful to Fr. Reid for the freedom and blessing to do so. He has trusted me to work as needed and there have been many opportunities to collaborate in ministry which is a joy.

I love All Saints' Church and I am grateful to be a part of the vision that God has for us.

 
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Kathy Hulin

Knowing the Heart of God

Homily for Youth Sunday, September 24, 2017, 8:50 a.m. Service

I am titling my homily today as “Knowing the Heart of Our Father.” It is my hope and prayer that we will discover the hearts of the people in today’s scripture lessons, and that by that discovery we will hear and know the Father’s prompting in our own lives. I, in particular, hope that all of our children and teenagers here today will be listening for a new thought to help them know and follow our Father in heaven.

The first scripture lesson we heard this morning was from the book of Exodus, chapter 16. The lesson captures the struggles that the Israelites experienced in traveling through the wilderness. Given our recent experiences of Hurricane Irma and seeing the news from Harvey and Maria, it is not too difficult for us to imagine a tribe of people going through a journey without the materials from home and struggles because of the environment. We here in Lakeland lost power and many of us were uncomfortable, but what the Israelites lost was their familiar surroundings - they lost what they called home in Egypt – they lost pots of meat and bread to fill them up - to then go day after day in a dry land, not knowing where they would end up. They had no food and they were hungry; they complained and they complained against the Lord; their lives had become unfamiliar and they were tired of camping. They did not believe that God was taking care of them, and their hearts were revealed when put in a difficult situation.

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Kathy Hulin

Weathering the Storm

Many of us have been bracing for days in preparation of Hurricane Irma. Only a week ago we had been watching the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and many of us were moved to respond with Christian charity. They will continue to need our help, as well as parts of Louisiana and Tennessee who experienced flooding from the storm. Thankfully, there are Christians organizations like Episcopal Relief & Development and Samaritan's Purse who are mobilized to provide resources through people like us, and they will continue to do so.

Now here we are waiting for Irma to come our way. We have felt the build-up and we have learned by what we witnessed with Harvey. I remember asking my husband just a week ago, "if you just had a garbage bag for carrying your most needed possessions, what would be in your bag?" It was a way of asking myself, when I pair down to the true essentials, what would I have? I have read on disaster preparedness sites about what they recommend, so I am doing that, but then I am reflecting upon all that I can let go. When it comes right down to it, I am taking two wedding photos off the wall, insurance documents, passports, ownership of property documents, a change of clothing, toiletries, two books, the Bible, my phone, my laptop computer, and my pets. I can let everything else go if the storm takes it from me. I could even let some of what I am taking go, but I can take a little more than a small garbage bag.

Now where am I going, you might ask? Why the need to pack? Charles and I have been preparing our home for the chance of flash flooding, so we are taking just these few things (and Charles has his short list which can't include his piano!) and hanging out in my parents' home in S. Lakeland since it seems less prone to having the water issue. It's hard to predict what will happen, but we are working on our intuition and street smarts!

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Kathy Hulin

Teaching to Love

If you've been paying attention to national news since Friday, you know that our country (and our world) needs Christ and his love more than ever. My response to the displays of civil unrest, hatred, and violence has been to pray for Jesus to intervene and bring healing to a broken world. I have also responded by personally sharing lessons and encouraging our midweek teachers to share lessons on loving others as Jesus would want us to do.

On Sunday I asked myself the question, what does it look like for our children to love others as they start a new school year? Perhaps they are in classrooms with children of different ethnicities and skin color? How should they respond to other children but find ways to be loving, kind, and welcoming...to go the extra mile to get to know every student's name as soon as possible so that they start building relationships and help to create a loving, family atmosphere among their peers and classroom.

Our Epistle lesson from Romans 10 this past Sunday reminded us that the feet of those who share the good news are beautiful and I encouraged our children to be those "beautiful feet" who share Christ's love with every one in their classes. Perhaps for our young children, they might be asked to share crayons or markers and they might not always get what they want, but that gives them an opportunity to love a classmate? Perhaps our older children might have to show a new classmate how to do a classroom task and that gives them an opportunity to love and grow in responsibility? Perhaps our teens have the opportunity to invite new students into their friendship circles and they can grow in showing Christ's love to others? There are so many opportunities for us to teach our children to make this world a better, more loving place in which to live. My prayer and hope is that we all continue to reflect on how we can pay attention to the needs of others as we love our neighbors as ourselves.

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Kathy Hulin

Human Being vs. Human Doing

I recently heard a pastor friend mention this idea that we are called human beings and not human doings. What a fun play on our English language, I thought! A day later, I was attending a centering prayer gathering where one member of the group mentioned that she was praying about how she was "being" before God. Then, I reflected upon a billboard that had been up around town which asked, "Who do you want to be?" with the idea that the institution would help you develop your qualities of being rather than specifically focus on how to help you do something as a career. It seems to be a good word that I need to hear this week. How does this thought resonate with you? Let me explore a little bit...

So much of our lives are focused on doing projects, whether it is for work or home, or whether it is for getting our family members to activities and to support them, or perhaps for organizing activities and studies for schools and churches. We are a project-oriented society! I cannot deny that I enjoy having projects and find fulfillment in "human doing"! And I also cannot deny that God does indeed want us to be doers of the word (James 1:22 ), but that drive in us to be active in our faith needs to be balanced with a deep sense of who we are as God's children .

So I, in addition to being a "doer", also realize the deep need for simply being. I think about my family members and friends who know me well and how I can enjoy being myself when I am with them. I can take that for granted, but I receive a huge blessing when I am aware of the love and peace that comes by simply being who I am with and for them. It's a true gift from God and one that comes when I take time to slow down and quiet my doings to simply be. I know that my family and friends value that from me, and I know that when I slow down to be quiet before God (Psalm 46:10 ), I am able to know God better and to know myself better, too.

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Kathy Hulin

Pledge2Pray

Archbishop Justin Welby is leading our Anglican Communion to set aside these next 10 days to be intentional about praying for others and our world. The website is www.thykingdomcome.global/?thankyou=1#Pledge2Pray where you can let the Archbishop know that you are participating, and there are many resources for your personal prayer time or for your familes or teens. There are videos sent to your email which share a good word each day.

Charles and I are committing to praying together toward this cause and we began this morning. We chose 5 people for whom to pray with the hopes of reaching people who don't have a relationship with Jesus.

I hope you'll consider looking at one of the links shared below and praying as an individual or with your family. The resources are varied and unique and well produced.

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Kathy Hulin

Stability during the seasons of transitions

May can be a challenging month for families as the end of the school year brings about a series of transitions and changes. Some students are graduating and preparing for next steps; some students are preparing for being at a new school in the fall so they are already preparing themselves for leaving their current school and the friends they have there; some younger children will be getting ready to leave daycare and start a formal school setting. Then there are the transitions to the summer schedule and what that will mean for the family routine with more time at home, or summer camps and family vacations. Here at church we help see our students promote to the next small group such as Kids' Club, God Squad, Middle School Youth Group, and High School Youth Group, as well as new Sunday School classes. Thankfully, our hands-on leaders Priscilla Baez in the nursery, Carrie Kotal in the children's area, and Stephanie Paul with our teens are steady and consistent with our children and teens and will help welcome them as they move. Transitions are everywhere!

As always, during these seasons of transition, we know that we have God as our solid foundation upon whom we put our trust. He guides us through all of the changes, especially as we remain faithful to his leadership and call in our lives. For me personally, I am glad that God has brought me to All Saints' Church. I know that God has brought me here for this season in the church's life, and I have every reason to believe that God wants me here for many years to come. I continue to be in the discernment process with the Diocese of Central Florida toward Holy Orders and there has been much affirmation during this journey. 

I am still on God's timing and planning for the priesthood, but Lord willing, I should be at All Saints' to serve as a clergy member in the future to continue being part of the wonderful team and family that is All Saints' Parish. This is readily and openly affirmed by Fr. Reid and I am grateful that others are excited, too. I covet your prayers for the variety of ministry opportunities that are available for our children and teens as our Family Ministries team of staff and volunteers come alongside our families to encourage our students to love Jesus and put him first in their lives.

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Kathy Hulin

Experiencing Holy Week

Family,

I am looking forward to our week together as we move from today's Palm Sunday celebration to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. I think about our opportunities to gather for worship each day (and multiple times on some days!). I think about our opportunities to be with our young people (on Wednesday evening, Thursday evening, and Saturday morning) to encourage and teach them about the importance of this week. I think about our personal reflections in scripture and daily devotions to walk each day of this week with Jesus. 

As I think about Jesus' final days, I reflect upon the persecution that he faced. And Christians throughout the ages and in various parts of the globe have suffered in the name of Christ. Non-believers simply cannot accept Jesus as fully God and fully man. They cannot accept his grace, love, and mercy. The novel/movie Silence helped to illustrate this reality of rejection, and just this morning we read or heard about Coptic Christians in two different locations in Egypt who were killed in their houses of worship as the result of a terrorist strike from non-Christians. Also, last week I received an email from English clergy friends who are currently serving an Anglican Chaplaincy in Sicily and they expressed that they don't feel safe wearing their clergy clothing in Palermo. We live in times where persecution of Christians makes our headlines and it is something we should consider with prayerful hearts. The world in which we raise our families is global and we can't forget that.

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Kathy Hulin

The Fullness of God

Ephesians Chapter 3:14-21

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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Kathy Hulin

Covering the Basics

I always look forward to the beginning of a new calendar year. It's a time for new beginnings if one so chooses; or it is a time to get reoriented after the change of routine during the Christmas season.

Personally, I did not make specific resolutions for the new year, but because I have the priesthood journey as part of my experiences in 2017, I am making sure that there are essentials in my day-to-day existence. (I don't believe that these essentials are unique to my calling to the priesthood, by the way, so feel free to use these as a checklist for yourself, too!)

Each day I am trying to begin with prayer as I wake. Often times, I am not out of bed and my eyes might be closed, but I am definitely conscious and talking with God, pouring out my heart and mind as God leads the conversation.I am listening to or reading scripture. Often it is the BCP daily lectionary readings plus other books/chapters I am reading for other studies.I am tending to the relationships in my home. This means taking the time to be present to them and loving them as they need and perceive.I am tending to my own personal needs of health and well-being which usually involves getting outside for time to jog or walk my dog.I am reading and listening to texts other than the Bible that help me to be a more thoughtful Christian and person.I am always returning to prayer as a continual dialogue with God throughout the day to frame my work and understand the best way to encourage others in their walk with God.

I am at peace with God when I do these "basics" and I am realizing more and more how much I don't need what the world is trying to offer to bring joy and happiness and peace; all I truly need is God's love and care for me and to spend my days with Him. 

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Kathy Hulin

The Innocence of Children

Matthew 18:2-5

 

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

I was ringing the Salvation Army bell as a volunteer for our church this week and found that I had much time for reflection since I was there without companionship. As I set in for my duties, I found that there was a steady flow of walking traffic in and out of the store, but rarely did people make eye contact or even acknowledge my existence, let alone contribute to the cause. Patrons were quickly walking by, or avoiding my area, and store employees who were working the carts in the parking lot managed to continue to pass by me without looking my way or saying a word. I saw at least 8 store employees and only 2 willingly made eye contact to greet me and a third employee was willing to respond and then look my way when I said hello. I started to get to the point of counting how many people would pass by without looking before someone would make eye contact and say hello. It was a pitiful percentage. I had strong conviction that I was standing there in the image of God with Christ's presence in me (John 15 ) and people were simply walking by and denying Jesus. I wondered if John the Baptist felt that way as one crying in the wilderness. 

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Kathy Hulin

What Does God Expect?

It is the day after the election and I find myself thinking, "Now what?" There is always so much build up to the American political process that it is difficult to ignore the post-election emotions, no matter which way one voted or which candidate won. I find that I need to simply keep on praying that God's will be done no matter who is or isn't elected to office. No political leader or party is perfectly aligned with God's purposes, so we all do the best we can as we vote.

Thankfully, as Christians we have our hope in God the Father, Jesus as our Savior, and the Holy Spirit to be our comforter and guide. It is this very point that I want our young people to know. I want them to take away from all of this rhetoric that the only perfect worldview is to be aligned with God's will for the world, and God is not controlled by our political processes. When Jesus lived on earth, he did not try to overthrow or control the Roman political structures, but rather, he let those structures continue to function as they did. Jesus was more interested in trying to reorient how the Jewish religious people saw their world; He wanted them to have a "biblical" worldview (if you will permit me to use that term even though anachronistic for its time).

In a recent Sunday School class, our 6th-12th graders were asked to answer the question, "What does God expect from us?" I have several sheets of paper filled with their insightful answers. Here are a few of their thoughts:

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Kathy Hulin

It's About Relationship

I had this phrase, "It's about relationship," come to me during a prayer time recently and it has been staying with me. I keep thinking about it for how it can shape each day of my life when I allow it to do so, but also what it means for how I communicate with all of our children, teens, families, and teachers at church. Here's what I mean...

It came to me when I was praying about our teens and what/how I would see us teaching them on Sundays and Wednesdays. We have a mission statement, we have a plan of activities on Wednesdays for theme nights, we have scripture application challenges, and we have a Sunday curriculum with a comprehensive 3-year plan for going from Genesis to Revelation, but what do I (and we) want to see our teens take away with them as they go off to college? The response that God told me was, "I want them to know that each day of life is about having a relationship with Me." 

I have started to share this good word with others and now I am sharing it with readers here. I posted it on my Facebook page the morning I heard from God; I have been sharing it with Priscilla, Carrie, and Stephanie who head up the grade level areas of ministries with our preschoolers, children, and teens; I will be sharing it with the Youth Steering Team in our monthly meeting this evening; and it continues to be a theme in texts, teaching resources, and workshops that I have encountered the past three weeks. God is guiding this process. 

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Kathy Hulin

Knowing What to Know

We just experienced a full weekend of being together and hearing from our guest philospher and apologist Dr. Douglas Groothuis. The focus of his time with us was to heighten an awareness of the need to pursue knowledge of Christ and one's Christian faith. He asked our parents and teens to consider, "What do you believe?" and then charged them to know and believe the Bible. He quoted, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37 ), (which is a verse that now lives on the wall of our youth floor as a constant reminder of our highest calling). 

So, where do we go from here? Can we do better about engaging our hearts, souls, and minds to love God better? I think the answer will always be "yes" to that question, but I have an idea about a new discipline that we can undertake to do something in response to what we heard this weekend. Here goes...!

Go to www.newcitycatechism.com. 

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Kathy Hulin

The Fruit of Parenthood

It might seem unlikely that I would write a short blog about parenthood based on a 4th-century confessional writing by St. Augustine, but here goes...I promise it's good stuff. :)

In books II and III of his Confessions, Augustine wrote about his older teen years and bemoaning his waywardness, but he explained that something changed within him at age 19. He was in a course of study that prompted him to read a text called Hortensius by Cicero. In his reflections he wrote, "it was this book which altered my way of feeling, turned my prayers to You, Lord, Yourself, and gave me different ambitions and desires...I was on fire then, my God, I was on fire to leave earthly things behind and fly back to You" (Book III, Chapter 4). Powerful stuff! I love when I hear about individual's lives being transformed by the Spirit!

So, how does this transformational experience connect with his parents? I'd imagine that all of us want the young people in our lives or household to be this excited about God. Here's what Augustine continued to write in that confession: 

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