A Book Review: ‘Be the Best Mom You Can Be: A Guide to Raising Whole Children in a Broken Generation’

Be the Best Mom You Can Be

If you are like most moms (including me!) you probably feel stress and insecurity facing the challenges of being a mom in the twenty-first century.”~from the book “Be the Best Mom You Can Be: A Practical Guide to Raising Whole Children in a Broken Generation”

There are many, many parenting books available today. So many, that it can sometimes be rather overwhelming for parents. In fact, this parenting game is a bit like wading through a bog of advice. But for the most part I do enjoy reading parenting books. I like reading about the experiences of others, and I like applying snippets of advice from the parenting book gems that I read. And ‘Be the Best Mom You Can Be’ is a gem of a book. It’s not preachy or condescending like some parenting books can be. And it doesn’t offer a one size fits all approach. But what you will find in this book is a ton of wisdom.

Marina Slayton is a former educator with a master’s degree, and Gregory Slayton is a venture capitalist and visiting professor at several Ivy League universities. He is the author of ‘Be a Better Dad Today.’ They have been married for more than twenty-four years and raised four children. They live in Hanover, New Hampshire.
The Slaytons impart wisdom about how to effectively parent in this challenging generation. While not rocket science, their basic premise is that love is the foundation on which successful parenting of whole children is built. It is ensuring that our children feel loved which is the most important factor. Be the Best Mom You Can Be’ offers six time-test principles (the Six Secrets) for being a truly great mom and is warm, engaging, funny and honest. Slayton offers insights to both educate and equip moms to be the best mothers they can be. Women who need encouragement or who need to grow in confidence in their role as a mothers will find the straight-forward and practical advice beneficial.
I especially liked the premise that ‘Moms don’t have to be perfect, that was never the goal.’ I appreciated Marina Slayton’s honesty about the real life experiences her children and her children’s friends have faced in our ever changing world. Being a mother of littlies, you don’t always anticipate what might be coming up around the corner, and I appreciated that this book discussed how to deal with issues that might come up in the middle childhood and teenage years. This book has real life lessons to help mothers raise their children with real life challenges and issues. I highly recommend this book to all mothers.
To read more about this book and to purchase a copy please see http://www.amazon.com.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book as a Booklook Blogger. The opinions are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
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When You Realize That You Are Living Life in a Bubble

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Like me, do you ever feel as if you live life in a bubble? Living in a bubble is perhaps defined as living safely in the confines of our comfort zone, with all the trappings of modern affluence. Recently I’ve wondered why is it that when bloggers blog about issues of poverty, trafficking or injustice, there is little interest. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it is because we are often overwhelmed with our own lives, and it’s simply too much to hear of the atrocities that are going on in the world. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we care too deeply and we simply can’t cope with the realities of the world’s brokenness.

But I’ve been challenged recently about living life in a bubble. And ignoring the snow forecasts, last night I ventured out into the cold, to hear an inspiring speaker. Sue is a New Zealander who has spent the last eleven years counselling victims of trafficking in Cambodia with Hagar International. She tells the story of having her own bubble popped around ten years ago when she visited Cambodia and came face to face with a young girl of fifteen. Serena (not her real name) was lying in a makeshift hospital bed in a run down hospital, dying of aids. She had been sold into sexual slavery at the age of twelve by her mother to finance her crack habit. At the age of fifteen she had been thrown out of a brothel because she was sick and was picked up by World Vision on the streets of Pnom Phen. Sue tells of how meeting Serena really broke her. She was out of her comfort zone, overwhelmed, and lost for words.

It is coming face to face with personal heart wrenching stories like these that really makes the reality hit home. It is estimated that there are more people enslaved today than ever before. And it’s not just in developing nations. It occurs even in first world countries. But many organisations are doing great work. Just this week, nearly 15,000 bars of soap with stickers listing the National Human Trafficking hotline number will be distributed to 100+ hotels in the US as the Major League All-Star Game approaches by the organisation A21. http://a21.cta.gs/0ia. And also this week,  ‪#‎Visa‬, ‪#‎MasterCard‬, and ‪#‎AmEx‬ have barred their credit cards from being used to purchase ads for sex on Backpage.com, a website that serves as a hub for ‪#‎sextrafficking‬. This is a significant step in the fight against sexual exploitation! http://reut.rs/1glpbJZ.

why hagar

While there are many organisations that work in the areas of prevention, rescue and prosecution,  Hagar International works therapeutically with survivors of trafficking and extreme abuse. They ‘do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, to restore a broken life’. Hagar International provides trauma counselling for child and adult victims of trafficking at a live-in rehabilitation centre. They employ highly skilled specialist trauma counsellors and caregivers. These professionals work with young women like Kaylan.

‘With her black sharp eyes, Kalyan is a friendly and energetic woman. It is hard to believe that she has had such a dark past. When she was 15 years old, she was trafficked for sexual exploitation by her mother. Now 19, she is a beautiful young woman living with a friend with support from Hagar.

Kalyan is grateful to Hagar for providing her with a range recovery services, in particular counselling.

“When I came to Hagar, I learned a lot. The programmes made me feel relieved and happy until I forgot all the painful memories,” she said.

Despite Kalyan experiencing serious trauma, she has enjoyed success in Hagar’s educational programmes. She achieved an outstanding study record in Hagar’s Community Learning Centre while she was living in the Girls Recovery Shelter.

kalyanKaylan was loved by all the teachers and was seen as a top student. Although studying Khmer language was challenging for Kalyan because her mother tongue is Vietnamese, she can read and write Khmer well now.

“I am always the number one student in the class, or sometimes I am number two,” she said.

Kalyan still loves studying but felt it would take too long to finish high school. She decided to join Hagar’s Employment Empowerment project and train in a vocation.

“I know that I am completely adult now, I want to have one particular skill for myself, before I leave Hagar,” she said.

Currently, Kalyan is training at a very reputable bakery café in Phnom Penh and will become an employee next month! Her supervisor is very pleased with her commitment to the job and her overall performance. She hopes to become a barista at the café when employed full-time.

Once she learns job skills, Kalyan would like to go back to live with her mother who has just been released from prison. She forgives her mother for what she did to her, believing the law has punished her enough. Hagar will work closely with Kalyan through the reunification. Read more stories: https://hagarinternational.org/new-zealand/stories/

Living a Wrecked Life

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Do you want to live what is called a wrecked life? Jeff Goins, author of ‘Wrecked’ argues that ‘We all need to be wrecked, to allow the pain of a broken world to slam into our comfortable lives—and let it change us. But that’s just the beginning.’ A wrecked life is one that has come face to face with the most difficult of life circumstances and is shaken up yet transformed. But how to we get out of living life in a bubble? We can admit that we are living in a bubble, do something to get out of our comfort zone, and put ourselves in situations that will require bravery. That’s how we grow.

For more information about the transformational work of Hagar International, and to sponsor a child like Kaylan, please visit:

http://www.hagarinternational.com

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Introducing ‘Women, Leadership and the Bible’ by Dr Natalie Eastman

 Women, Leadership and the Bible

It is my great pleasure to host fellow Redbud Writer’s Guild member Dr. Natalie Eastman as she sends her new book ‘Women, Leadership and the Bible’ on a little blog-and-book tour.

DR. NATALIE R. WILSON EASTMAN (M.Div. ‘02, D.Min. ’05–Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is a freelance writer, editor, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She has served as a full-time youth minister to girls and women; Bible study teacher; worship leader and team developer; missionary to east Asia; and retreat and event teacher/speaker. She lives in Delaware, OH, with her husband and three young children. Links to her blogs may be found at www.natalieeastman.com, and her training and coaching at biblicalbreakthrough.com.

Natalie Eastman photo

But what is her new book about?

Well, can you imagine a ‘Christian Mom Utopia’?

Dr Eastman writes: ‘Imagine a world in which Christian women—even tired, frazzled mamas—humbly, yet skillfully study Scripture to get clarity on their hardest biblical questions! And imagine those very women sifting and sorting through all kinds of opinions and interpretations as they study and consider what the Bible’s text says!

If you’re a mama, can you even dare to imagine such a world? I mean, sooo many mamas spend days wiping tiny bums, washing endlessly-appearing dirty dishes, and magic-erasing genius artwork from the painted-last-week walls. How do I know this is how many mamas spend their days? I am one! I’ve still got the littles: ages 5, 6, & 8, at present, and spend three-quarters of my days wondering where the day went. Can I get a witness?

But, sisters, true freedom and self-confidence await the woman who engages their difficult life-questions through the lens of Scripture in a systematic way.

Wouldn’t you like to believe that you understand biblically and theologically how women can serve in the church? Would you like to know in your soul that you have a good grasp—biblically and theologically—on whether that baby you’re expecting should be baptized or dedicated? Would you like to know who or what the Holy Spirit is and the role the Holy Spirit plays in your life? Wouldn’t knowing how to think about—and how God thinks about—homosexuality and other sexes and orientations make the entire issue much less frightening and help you know how to be when you are around friends, family, or associates who have come out?

That freedom and confidence come from knowing and understanding not only what you believe, but why you believes what you believe. You will know you have formed your own thoughts, opinions, and interpretations using reliable, tested, and grounded methods, carefully testing your own and your community’s beliefs against Scripture. It is life-changing! I know you already know it’s important to read and study the Bible. But right now it seems theoretical. Yet here’s my news today: it doesn’t have to be theoretical any more.

If you can engage your difficult life-issues with competent biblical integrity (and you can!) rather than relying exclusively on emotions, what others say, or the last book you read’s interpretation (as I did for so long, too), just imagine the difference this will make in your life, your church and, yes, the world! You can feel confidence before God that you are attempting to understand his Word as best you can, as you subsequently seek to follow and obey it.

In the book Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe? I’ve broken down the process for studying, understanding, and interpreting the Bible—and distilled two seminary degrees and fifteen years of ministry experience—into a 5-step process accessible to every woman, even those consumed by child-raising. If you have a hard life question that’s been under your skin for a long time, and yet you don’t have the time, inclination, or $35,000-$75,000 in financial resources to attend seminary for 2-4 years in order to gain the skills to sort through the issue biblically to your satisfaction, such that you can feel confident that you’ve done a great job discerning a godly answer to your questions, then I’d invite you to check it out.

Also, please go look at the brand new online video training program I’ve created at Biblical Breakthrough!. Good news: the basic training level is free!!! And you can join it with or without ownership of the book. It officially launches on July 9, 2015, but you can still see the information and the site is live, even if pieces of the text are missing. Hey, I said I wrote a book and created a training program, but I’m still a tired, distracted human. When you’re a mama of 3, with a music business, writing a book, and launching an idea (and basically battling off too many other ideas for one brain to manage) lots of details – even important ones like the front page of your new ministry website – slip through the cracks! Still, in the program you’ll find the same method, only it’s in video form. And you’ll find a community, too, some of whom are mamas just like you. Like you, they’re mamas who take their faith seriously and who want to know the Bible and what God says about life stuff, as best they can. Come join us!

[So, okay, we’re not a utopian community J. But we’re real, we’re available, and we want to be moving and studying and reflecting on God’s Word side by side with you. We, too, want to experience that freedom and confidence that can be ours through our relationship with God and through the truth of his Word. So, now will you come join us?’

natalie's book

I am eager to read Natalie’s new book. To order a copy today please visit Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1dFppcU. or to purchase a signed copy please visit:  http://womenleadershipbible.com/shop/buy-signed-book-wlb/

To connect with Natalie, please check out the following links:

http://bb.natalieeastman.com
http://womenleadershipbible.com
FB: https://www.facebook.com/natalierweastman
FB: https://www.facebook.com/womenleadershipbible
G+: https://plus.google.com/+NatalieEastmanTVI/

 

Bible Study

When You Feel Like You Are On the Outside Looking In

on the outside looking in

‘Everyone’s Welcome, Nobody’s Perfect, Anything’s Possible.’ That’s the title of a blog post that I read this week that got me thinking. It was by well known author Jennifer Dukes Lee. She writes:

It begins by stopping everything we’re doing to let someone know they’re worth it.

You can read the entire article here: http://jenniferdukeslee.com/everyones-welcome-nobodys-perfect-anythings-possible/

So many people feel unseen today. Have you ever felt like you are on the outside looking in? Have you felt like a spectator viewing life through a glass window? Personally I don’t feel lonely, and I have some lovely friends, however I am no stranger to this feeling. I have felt this way from time to time in my life, and in fact, this is such a common feeling that it has been studied as a broad term by many psychologists. Plenty of information abounds on the web about ‘social isolation’ or ‘social estrangement.’ There are many reasons why people feel this way, and one reason is the deep roots of rejection that many people have. No matter where they are or who they are with, they don’t feel included.

The issue of rejection is a topic I’d like to leave for another time, but I wanted to touch on the slightly touchy subject of cliques. It is human nature to form cliques. I only have to observe my two preschool daughters and the little friendship groups that they have formed from the tender age of two! The dynamics of social life never seem to change, whether you are a three year old in preschool, a teenager, a twenty something or in your thirties, forties or seventies. Cliques happen. While this may be nice for the people on the inside of the clique, it may be less pleasant for those who may feel like they are on the outside looking in. I know that most of the time it is unintentional when someone is left out. I’m sure I’ve been cliquey before, possibly without realizing it. Women are busy. Perhaps our social schedule is full. We are weary and worn out and travelling through life often at breaking speed. We don’t even realize that we are being cliquey. So often we are too busy to catch up with close friends, let alone make time to include new friends into our circles. And many of us are a little introverted or somewhat shy. We like people, but we are worn out by being around people too, and often times we stay within the comfort of the people we know in social situations, rather than making small talk to get to know others.

And what about in the church? I have heard many dear people describe their feelings of ‘aloneness’ in church. They don’t feel a sense of belonging. They don’t feel planted and consequently, they don’t flourish. Sadly church communities can sometimes be cliquey places, and sometimes people can fall through the cracks. When I write about this issue I’m thinking in general terms, and not about any person, church or community that I know of in particular, so if you read this, please don’t be offended!

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What can we do to change this culture of cliques in our communities? Well for a start, in this era of social media, we need to be very careful what we share on facebook and the like. If we have a party or other social gathering, perhaps we ought not to share it on social media, for our other friends who haven’t been invited to see.  Another good place to start is to simply to be aware of how common this issue is, and to be intentional about reaching out to others. Just as we can help our children to make new friends and to include others in their play, we also need to be friendly, and treat others equally, whether they are someone that we ‘gel’ with, or someone who is a little prickly, the ‘extra grace required’ people. I’m sure that we are all ‘extra grace required’ people at some time or other! Jennifer Dukes Lee writes:

I want to be that kind of Christ follower. I want to be the kind of person who refuses to let one person go unnoticed. I want to be the kind of person who drops everybody to let someone know: “You are worth it.”

People are hungry for love, and our challenge in today’s fast paced world is, in the words of Heidi Baker, to stop for the one. Can we make room in our schedules to stop for the one? If you do feel alone, I hope that this beautiful song by Kari Jobe ministers to your heart.

The High Tea Party……For Kids!

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With two of my children being girls, I’ve had the pleasure of organizing little girly tea parties for the last few years. And tea parties are just so much fun! For my daughter’s third birthday this month, I had so much fun hosting a ‘High Tea’ for children at home. Typically, high tea is of British origin, and is a meal eaten in the late afternoon or early evening, consisting of a cooked dish, bread and butter, and tea. Today, often sandwiches, cakes and scones are served. A high tea is usually for adults but this little party was given a kiddie twist. A high tea @ home turned out to be an inexpensive party that wasn’t too difficult to organize. To host a vintage children’s high tea at home, you’ll need:

A lace tablecloth

1-3 high tea platters. I borrowed two, and bought one from a local second hand shop.

I also bought some old china plates from the op shop, so if any of the children broke them, it didn’t really matter. And no plates were broken. In fact, the only person who broke anything was me!

I borrowed some glass jars from a friend. Apparently serving fizzy drink in glass jars is really trendy at the moment!

I upcycled some organza into bows for the seats.

I made a simple ‘Tea Time’ banner with some doilies.

tea time
hightea9For the food, we served:

  • homemade butterfly cakes
  • macarons
  • blackcurrent jellies
  • berry parfaits
  • fairy bread roll ups
  • mini lemonade scones with jam & cream
  • cucumber sandwiches
  • heart shaped cheese puffs
  • homemade sausage rolls
  • hightea7

hightea platter1

For drinks, we served tea for the grown ups and lavender lemonade for the children (lemonade with a drop of pink and blue food colouring and a few sprigs of lavender).Lavender Lemonade

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For games we played old vintage favourites – Pass the Parcel and ‘Musical Thrones’. We also made hats for the races, which the children then wore for High Tea. The hats were made out of paper plates and bowls. The children decorated them with glitter, stickers, pens and other craft supplies. There was one heck of a mess!

hat for the races

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After high tea was served, we cut the cake and then it was time to go home. The children were given crayon daisies to take home as a party favour (crayons melted into the shape of a daisy).

crayon daisiesI had so much fun creating a high tea for kids. Now I need a cup of tea and a lie down!

katie 3rd birthday with cake2

Each to Their Own – My Response to the ‘Birthday Party Guidelines’ Blog Post that Went Viral.

Each To Their Own

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I am party mad. I enjoy throwing kids birthday parties. For me party planning is a passion that I enjoy cultivating. Why? Simply because it’s so much fun. Celebrations are big in our family. I look forward to those dates of celebration each year and in our family we use any excuse for a celebration. I’ve been changing nappies for eight long years now, and when my delightful yet slightly obstinate daughter finally nails toilet training, we are going to have a ‘No More Nappies’ Party.

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But I’m also aware that mothers who throw themselves head first into birthday party planning, receive a fair amount of flak from other parents, both spoken and unspoken. I’ve been told that my parties are ‘over the top’ and I’ve heard many folk express their concern that children’s birthday parties are ‘out of control today’. I’ve never spent lots of money on my kids birthdays, preferring to opt for ‘retro’ styled parties at home. Yet I know that it is not uncommon in some circles for parents to spend literally thousands on their children’s birthday parties, but I don’t move in those circles! I have however, spent lots of time on my ‘party extravaganza’s’ as my mother refers to them. Many an evening has been spent decorating vintage lace crowns, laminating invitations, or paper mache-ing a Humpty Dumpty pinata for my two year old’s birthday. This particular pinata resulted in someone from the States emailing and asking me to add a credit to her company on my pinata pinterest pin, otherwise I might face legal action! Honestly I had no idea that I had done anything wrong, I mean, I had just copied a design I saw on Pinterest. Isn’t that what Pinterest is for?

flower

Sometimes I have felt like I ought to tone my parties down, or keep them low key. I look back at some of the cakes I have made over the years and okay, I will agree that some of them were a little too large. I could have started a diabetes epidemic with each one of them! Really I don’t know what I was thinking, but when you are in the sleep deprived stage with young children, perhaps one is not always thinking straight. The pink castle I made for my daughter’s first birthday was ridiculously large. A castle half the size would have been fine. Hind sight is a wonderful thing. And the heart shaped pizzas that I made for my first child’s first birthday? No one noticed them, least of all my son, but I enjoyed making them and that is the main thing. There is a mixture of fun and stress involved in planning a birthday party, and some of the parties I have organized over the years have nearly killed me. Crazy I know. For my son’s soccer party I remember making eight layer jellies. They took hours to make and the kids didn’t really eat them! After my daughter’s ‘Wearable Arts’ themed party I recall it took me about a week to recover. I exaggerate, but you get the idea.

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Other common criticisms of children’s birthday parties today include trends such as loot bags, inviting the entire class to a party and the potential sense of entitlement that having birthday parties may create. This week I read a blog post about children’s birthday parties that went viral. You can read it here: http://not-your-average-mom.com/birthday-party-guidelines-all-parents-should-follow/. The author’s premise was that parents need not throw birthday parties at all especially when children are under four, as they will not remember them. There is some truth to this. There is nothing wrong with a small low key celebration. Nor is there anything wrong with a store bought cake, or a party at ‘Chuck E Cheese’. We don’t have ‘Chuck E Cheese’ in New Zealand, but the name conjures up images of a vomiting Chucky figure from Child’s Play! (a google search confirms that it’s a little like Pizza Hut).

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My response is simply this. Let others be their authentic selves. Other people doing things well doesn’t diminish what you do well. If birthday parties and Pinterest are your thing, then party and pin on to the glory of God. If someone wants to spend hours decorating their house with Elmo decorations and making intricate themed food (including getting red dyed coconut all over their kitchen as I did when I tried to make Elmo cupcakes), then why not? Perhaps these Pinterest party mothers don’t see parties as a competition or ‘mompetition’. They are not trying to prove something, impress guests or their friends on facebook, and nor are they trying to make others feel inadequate. We can never judge the motives of others. Perhaps they are doing it simply because of the pleasure that it brings them.

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But if birthday parties are not your thing or there is limited time or finances, know that whatever you do. the kids will still enjoy it. It doesn’t take much to entertain small kids. Meeting at a park with a cake, ice-cream cones, bubbles and balloons is a celebration the kids are sure to love and one that will create lasting memories.  It’s about blessing our child and not impressing others. It doesn’t have to be overly stressful. We need not feel pressured to have a party every year, or obliged to have an elaborate party. Don’t plan throw a big birthday party for your child? Good for you. Plan a simple party for your child? Good on you. Throw an elaborate birthday party for your child? Good on you too.

What is your take on children’s birthday parties? 

birthday party

‘Unoffendable': A Book Review

unoffendable

Would you be offended if I suggested that anger is one of the most fundamental problems of the human condition?

Have you ever struggled with being easily hurt or offended? I have. In fact, I still do. Life affords many opportunities to be offended every day. Over the years I have heard numerous sermons and talks on overcoming offense, and part of me has always felt that if we humans weren’t so jolly offensive, then we wouldn’t have so much to get offended by. The book of James in the Bible says much about the tongue.

‘All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water’. (James 3:7-12)

So on one hand we need to engage our brain before we act or speak, however on the other hand, no matter what others say or do to us, it is our response that affects our emotional and spiritual health. Offense is like a cancer. We aren’t free until we can let go of what others think of us, and the unhelpful things that they say or do.

If you are someone who struggles with offense, I can recommend the new book ‘Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All Of Life Better’. This book was released in April of this year by author Brant Hansen who is an award winning radio host in the U.S. He also works with CURE International, a worldwide network of hospitals that brings life-changing medical care and the good news of God’s love to children with treatable conditions. Brant currently resides in Northern California with his wife, Carolyn and his two children.

‘Unoffendable’ coaches people in how to be just that: unoffendable. This book is for “those who want grace for themselves but struggle to extend it to others. Wait: that’s everybody.” But how, you might ask? For turning the other cheek and being ‘unoffendable’ is a simple concept to grasp, but a difficult concept to apply. Many of us spend our lives trying to make progress in this area. Furthermore, we may think that we have a right to righteous anger. After all, Jesus got angry, didn’t he? However, Hansen argues that there’s no such thing as “righteous anger.” Our anger isn’t righteous. To think that our anger is righteous is to assume that our beliefs and motives are always right, and the other person’s are wrong. Hansen suggests that. ‘Choosing to not be offended will make our life better. Giving up our perceived right to anger will make us happier and healthier. And will probably make people take us more seriously. No one wants to be around an angry, judgmental person’.

brant hansen

Hansen also argues that becoming unoffendable is at the ‘heart of discipleship’. He  is not for a minute suggesting that we ought to ignore injustice in the world, but he is suggesting that we will live more enjoyable and fruitful lives if we let things go. This isn’t rocket science, but it espouses what the Bible has said all along. It’s a life changing book that isn’t preachy or condescending, and doesn’t get bogged down in theological discussion. It’s humorous, down to earth and easy to read. This book is written from a Christian point of view, but it could also be a helpful book for someone of another faith, or no faith.

This book gave me so much to mull over. I want to live lighter and freer by letting offences go-the small ones, the big ones and the ones in between So after reading this book, am I unoffendable? The short answer is no. But the long answer is that I’m working on it.

‘Love people where they are, and love them boldly. And if you really want to go crazy, like them too.”

hansen

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Unexpected: Grit, Grace and Life In Between: A Book Review

unexpected

‘When I woke up, something was different, like something had changed in the air. There was a heaviness, and the nurses who were joking with me a few moments before weren’t joking anymore…’

What is one to do when life throws you a really large curveball? Especially a curveball that comes with a capital C – Cancer. This is the subject of Trina Pockett’s first book ‘Unexpected: Grit, Grace and Life In Between’. It’s a young mother’s memoir of her journey from the pit and back. It has been a joy and a privilege to review a fellow Redbud writer’s debut book.  Trina Pockett is a wife, mother, speaker, writer, and leader with over fifteen years of experience serving in Christian ministry, including roles within The Salvation Army, and MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). Currently she works for Compassion International.

Trina

Trina is also a cancer survivor, and her story is one of heartache, and triumph over illness. ‘Unexpected’ documents her journey of being diagnosed with Hogkin’s lymphoma as a young wife and mother. In fact, Trina was pregnant with her second child when she was diagnosed with the unexpected and the unthinkable. Trina had to start life saving chemotherapy, even though the effects to her unborn child were unknown. This book shows how she coped with this traumatic blow, how she managed fear, and how her faith sustained her amid many dark despairing moments. Unexpected is real, raw and authentic. It’s also filled with practical wisdom and brings brings hope to those who may be going through the valley of difficult times, whether it be a diagnosis of cancer, or another trial. Yet ‘Unexpected’ isn’t heavy. There are plenty of uplifting and humorous, witty stories intertwined throughout.

It’s a mark of a truly gifted writer when a book can make you laugh one minute but cry the next. And Unexpected does just that. It’s a tear jerker, but it’s also a soul lifter. I rather like the title, especially the ‘Grit and Grace’, and Trina delivers both the grit and the grace in this compelling inspiring memoir. The take home message is simply this: God gives us grit, but God also gives us grace to be able to handle the grit. From bald and broken on the bathroom floor, Trina lived to see beauty in the world again. And hope won.

‘Whether you live, or whether you die, it doesn’t change who I am. I am your God and I love you.’

For more information and to purchase a copy, please see: http://www.trinapockett.com.

‘Noble’ – A Film Review

Noble Film Review

Many years ago I read an inspiring book called ‘Bridge Across My Sorrows’ by Christina Noble. It documented the astonishing life of this feisty and fearless Irish heroine who survived and overcame a traumatic and brutal childhood in Ireland, to become a champion for children’s rights in Vietnam. When I saw that the life of Christina Noble had been made into a film, I jumped at the chance to go and see it. I went to see this film last night with my friend Kirsteen McLay, editor-in-chief of The Forever Years Blog. She worked in Vietnam for many years and once had a long conversation with Christina Noble over the telephone and she also met her son.

The film Noble’ was a difficult yet inspiring and hopeful watch. Like most books that have been made into films, many details are left out. But the film does a pretty good job of documenting her life, jumping from poverty stricken Dublin in the 1950’s to Birmingham in the 1960’s and Ho Chi Min City in the late 1980’s. Christina Noble’s childhood was as difficult as that of the Vietnamese children she later sought to help. ‘An Irish gutter is the same as a Vietnamese gutter’. She was one of five children born into a poverty stricken Irish Catholic family. Her mother was loving, but she regularly saw her father come home drunk and become violent, clearing out a room. Her mother died of tuberculosis when she was still small and after the bereavement her alcoholic father was unable to cope. The children were subsequently split up and placed into separate institutions, run by cruel and abusive nuns.

At the age of seventeen she was turfed out onto the street where she made her home for awhile. Alone and vulnerable, she was attacked by a gang and became pregnant as a result. She was moved into a convent for the remainder of her pregnancy and when her baby Thomas was born, he was given up for adoption by the nuns without her informed consent. Several years later she moves to Birmingham with a friend where she meets and marries a man and has three children. Her husband turns violent and they separate. She spends much of her early adult life coming to terms with the absence of nurture and protection in her traumatic childhood and adolescence.

noble film poster

The second half of Christina Noble’s life was the better half. This tenacious woman had several God-given dreams throughout her life about going to Vietnam to help children there, and at the age of forty, this dream becomes a reality. She gains a permit to work for three months and sets to work establishing a home for street children. Miraculously she gains a longer work permit and acquires the sponsorship from business contacts to enable the home to grow. It is now known as The Christina Noble Children’s Foundation and it has helped more than a million children and their families throughout Asia, by providing them with food, shelter, healthcare and education. Noble is a compelling watch about the capacity of the human spirit to overcome adversity and to love others well. She had no one to love her throughout her life, yet she knew the love of God, and because of this revelation,  she was able to overcome her anger and resentment about her past, to go on and change the world. Superbly acted, this heart wrenching film demonstrates that it only takes one person to make a difference. Christina Noble still talks to God.

For more information about The Christina Noble Children’s Foundation, please see: http://www.cncf.org

christina noble

When You Are Hungry for Courageous Contentment Yet Thirsty for Change

Contentment

It’s not uncommon for people to struggle with change. Change is unsettling, stressful and in some circumstances, even anxiety producing. But I’ve never been someone who struggles all that much with change. Mostly I embrace changes as an inevitable part of life (provided that they are positive ones). In fact,  I almost sit on the other side of the fence. I become impatient when anticipated and longed for changes take a long time to come to fruition. And here’s my most recent example. You see, we have been planning to move to England for many years. We have felt that this is where we are called to go, despite the fact that New Zealand has a good quality of life in many respects due to the low population. My husband is from England and we still both feel very much drawn there. But our prospective move has been much, much slower to birth than anticipated. My husband has been required to complete a 1343 page application to be accepted to work in his profession! We have nicknamed this ‘The Beast’. On top of a busy job and a young family, this application has taken the best part of eighteen months to complete, and the process of completing it has put some pressure on our family as we have sought to balance work, family and completing this rather large application.

We enjoy life in the small southern city that we have called home for seven years. We miss our family but we have some good friends here and we live in a friendly neighbourhood. Life is good. But we’ve felt like we have been living in limbo for over a year now. Since we had our third child, our house has become full to bursting (by modern standards) and if it weren’t for the anticipated move overseas we would have bought a larger house by now. But we have had to wait. And wait. And wait some more. We renovated our kitchen last year because of a major leak, and this afforded us a lot more space. In fact, the house is pretty manageable with three kids now that we have an open plan kitchen. Before the renovation the lack of space in the dining room was driving me crazy, especially as I am home a lot. But I have wrestled with the fact that we could have moved by now, yet everything has had to be put on hold. I have found this difficult. Frustrating even. A blog post by Lisa-Jo Baker (who writes fabulously on the topic of motherhood) recently resonated with me. She writes:

‘We didn’t plan to put down roots here. We didn’t plan to paint or garden or change the sixties light fixtures. We didn’t plan to unpack those three boxes that are still stacked against the utility room wall. We planned to move on to something bigger and better.

And when that didn’t happen I spent years letting this small house stunt my hospitality and eat away at my contentment. I believed that large expanses of hardwood floor and flowerbeds would yield a sense of home, of having arrived, of being ready to call ourselves grown ups and embrace our community.

Instead, each June the dandelions bloom and we don’t move.

But this year I discover to my surprise that the house has started growing’.

– See more at: http://lisajobaker.com/2015/05/how-the-size-of-your-house-has-nothing-to-do-with-the-size-of-your-life-a-post-especially-for-those-tired-of-being-renters/#sthash.lpCeobUs.dpuf

In our case, living in the Southern Hemisphere it’s case of ‘The snow falls each June, and we don’t move’. For me, the struggle with wanting a new house has led me to be reacquainted with my old friend guilt, as I realize that to want to move house is perhaps a little materialistic. We have high material expectations today. After all, people used to raise families of 6 or 8 in 3 bedroom houses. I ought to be thankful. It is a nice house. It has central heating (not especially common in New Zealand). A bit more space would be nice, we could sure do with an office, a guest room and some more storage. Oh, and a bathtub would be lovely. But I am keenly aware that many people struggle to afford a first home, or struggle to afford children and a mortgage. And we all know that in developing countries even more people have a mud hut to call home. Amid a world with Isis and poverty, and violence on many a street corner, who am I to complain about my house? Hashtag #firstworldproblems!

iraqi child

A picture drawn by an Iraqi child as he fled Isis with his family. There are no words.

Hands up who knows that waiting is character building? Have you ever felt that you were stuck in a rut and ready for change? Have you ever felt that you are in labour and about to enter transition, yet the transition and anticipated delivery was taking time? God’s timing is never our own. In fact it seems to be a little slower, don’t you think? The Bible talks plenty about contentment. It says that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content’ (1 Timothy 6:6-8). And Paul said in the book of Philippians ‘I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11).

There are many examples of waiting that are far more painful than wanting a bigger house and a change of scenery. Many of you may have experienced infertility or the loss of a child. You may desire to raise children for His glory. yet this godly kingdom desire is unfulfilled, leaving a heartache in your soul.

Perhaps you are a wife who wants to honor God in your marriage, but your husband puts you down continually. Your love of God draws you to raise your children to love Christ, but your husband may be hostile toward the God you know and serve.

Or perhaps you are a single woman who longs to be married. You are committed to God yet you too experience both a heartache for hopes deferred and a loneliness that runs deep.

Maybe you suffer with a chronic illness and you long to be able to run, and swim and do things that other people take for granted.

You may find yourself say “God how do I be content with my lot?!” Do your really require me to be content in the midst of THIS suffering?   It takes courage to be content. In a world of comparisons and advertising aimed at making us feel dissatisfied with the status quo, a person who is content with their lot stands out.  There is always someone else’s grass that is greener, and in the age of Facebook the green grass in the lives of others is ever more visible, but we forget that their grass still needs to be mowed. We know that comparison is the thief of joy, and we know that being happy comes from being content with little and thankful for what we have. Perhaps however, we also wrestle with the idea that nobody achieves great things for God simply by being content.

It is only God’s grace that enables us to wait graciously for the change we desire, whether it be for a job, a husband, a spiritual breakthrough, a publishing contract, or a whispered answer to a prayer. But we can be equipped for contentment, even when we are camping out in the waiting room. I’ve had to take an inventory of the messages I am saying to myself in this season. For we know that there is often warfare against our mind, from the lies of our culture and the enemy of our souls.

And I am also encouraged by the promises in Scripture: ‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. (Isaiah 66:9) ‘And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.’ (2 Corinthians 9:8). 

To be content is courageous and counter cultural. We can even out the balance scales, by coming to the place where we are content, yet still ready and willing to embrace change. 

having it all

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