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. That is, 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. This has put some pressure on our family as he has 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, being 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, a new kitchen. 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 in developing countries even more people have a mud hut to call home. And 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 Phillipians ‘I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Phillipians 4:11).

There are much graver circumstances that you may have had to wait in. 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 forgranted.

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?  There are many examples of waiting that are far more painful than wanting a bigger house and a change of scenery. 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

How to Blog When You’d Really Rather Blob

How to Blog When You'd Really Rather Blob

‘When Blogging Becomes A Slog’ was an article about blogger burn out last year that generated lots of interest. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/25/garden/when-blogging-becomes-a-slog.html. While a friend of mine told me that I ‘blog like a mad woman’ I don’t know if that is true any longer! It’s true that I used to blog prolifically, but recently I’ve been adopting a blogging style called ‘Barely Blogging’. Perhaps it is because I’ve just finished writing my book and I need a little break. Perhaps it is because life can get rather crazy sometimes. Either way, It was inevitable that it was going to happen and it is not uncommon. Many bloggers have been there before. But how does one avoid blogging burn out? Here are my ‘Top Ten Tips to Avoid Blogger’s/Writer’s Burn Out’

1.) Set Realistic Goals. Don’t be too hard on yourself. When I started blogging last year I set a goal of writing one (rather lengthy) blog post per week. And with a busy life and three children, at times it got a little too much. Now I have cut back to something more manageable, which often looks like 2-3 blog posts a month at the most. Find a rhythm that works for you. This rhythm can be flexible, depending on what else is going on in your life.

2) You don’t need to write a thesis! Short blog posts will do. When I started blogging I was used to writing in academia.  This looked a bit like 3-4,000 word essays. But now I realize that readers don’t necessarily want to read giant long essays and I have reduced the size of my blog posts.

3) Don’t worry about your blog’s stats. Can I say this again?  DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR BLOG’S STATS. Even if only one person reads your blog, do it for your own enjoyment.

4) Go for a walk and gain inspiration. Read widely. Get adequate rest.

5) Don’t get distracted on social media. It is easy to get distracted by the online clutter. We read an article and then we are directed to another one, and so forth. Let social media work for you. Even if you are going on a blogging diet, you can still ‘microblog’ on social media by posting photos to instagram and keeping an active twitter account.

6) You don’t have to blog just for the sake of it. There are no rules. Blog what is on your heart when you feel inspired. Write more personal content rather than sponsored posts if this takes the pressure off.

7) Stockpile a list of blog post ideas.

8) Define the mission statement of your blog. Why do you write and what do you hope to achieve? Write about what you know and love. Write about what matters to others.

9) Arrange for a fellow blogger to write a guest post, or hire a ghost writer. Create a blog post recap.

10) Take a blogcation! This is advisable if you’re starting to feel burned out. We live in a world where we often feel like we should be ‘doing something’ or ‘achieving something’ every second of every day. So often rest is undervalued. But having down time and even wasting time can be good for our emotional health. In a world of blog posts about ‘Working Faster and Smarter’ it can be healthy to sometimes just blob.

I still love blogging. I’m just learning the art of blogging in a balanced way. If you have suffered from blogger burn out, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s brain storm solutions together.

the couch

On Logging Off and Living a Hands Free Life

hands free blog post

I haven’t done much blogging lately, because I’ve been a little burned out from writing my own book. In fact, I really ought to write a blog post on ‘How to Blog When All You Want to Do is Blob!’ But I have been enjoying reviewing books as part of several book review blogger schemes. And a really important read that stands out for me this year is the book ‘Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters” by Rachel Macy Stafford.

Do you ever find yourself saying ‘Hurry Up’ to your kids? I know that I do, even though I know that rushing children doesn’t really work. My middle child in particular doesn’t like to be rushed and she has articulated this to me on several occasions.

“Rachel Macy Stafford’s post “The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up” was an overnight success on The Huffington Post, and it got people all over the world talking about how we can be set free from the insidious trap that we find ourselves in with our overscheduled lives.  We are a generation of multi-taskers. We surf twitter while cooking dinner, post a facebook status update while showering the children and send emails over breakfast. Recently a facebook app calculated how much time it’s users spent on there, and the results were rather staggering.  We waste time on social media and we have more dates with our ipads, phones and laptops that with our loved ones. Technology is a wonderful gift, but it can add noise and clutter to our already distracted lives. So many of us are aware that technology is the new addiction. I’m mindful of this with my children and I don’t want them to fall into this trap. But what about what I am modelling to them?

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In July 2010, special education teacher and mother Rachel Macy Stafford decided enough was enough. Tired of the rat race, losing perspective of what matters most in life, and people asking her ‘how do you do it all?’, Rachel began implementing simple strategies that enabled her to release largely meaningless distractions and engage in meaningful soul-to-soul connections. She blogged her endeavors and soon saw how both external and internal distractions had been preventing joy and her ability to bond with the people she loves most.

‘Hands Free Mama is the digital society’s answer to finding balance in a media-saturated, perfection-obsessed world’. Thankfully, going ‘Hands Free’ doesn’t mean giving up all technology forever. I’ve tried that and I only lasted one week! And giving up facebook for Lent each year is quite a challenge for me! Going hands free means making the most of little moments that life offers us to engage in real and meaningful interaction. It means making eye contact with our loved ones and giving them the precious gift of our undivided attention, leaving the laundry till later to jump in puddles with our kids in the rain, and living a present, authentic, and intentional life filled with ‘purposeful connections’ despite a world full of distractions.

Hands Free Mama is a practical book that offers simple solutions to one of modern life’s challenges. I don’t want to be glued to my phone. And I don’t want my children to remember me as the mother who was always on the computer. Hands-Free Mama offers many reflections throughout the book, and one in particular caught my attention, and that was simply this – that the further away from childhood we venture, the more the demands and stresses of life increase.

In ‘Kid World’ there is time,

In ‘Kid World’ there is time to dance in the rain.

In ‘Kid World’ there is time to jump in puddles and time to examine daisies.

I also appreciated the suggestion of ‘Do Nothing Moments.’ We as parents today sometimes need a gentle reminder that we don’t have to be achieving something every second of every day. Rather, we can give ourselves permission to just be with our children.  We can have a cuddle with our children. we can chill out and play in the autumn leaves, feeling the crunch underfoot. We can sit and listen to their heartbeat.

wonders of His love

Are you willing to try going hands-free? I love the anthem of this book. It’s a book filled with wisdom and common sense, and it is one that every parent should read. Much of the content covers what we already intuitively know. It is putting it into practice that is the harder part. But with little steps, we can free up our hands to the possibilities that each moment brings. The principles in this book are specifically related to parenting, yet they are principles that can easily apply to all of life. They are important principles for our marriages, relationships and general health. From the same author is her latest book, ‘Hands Free Life: Nine Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better and Loving More.’ To follow Rachel’s blog, please see: http://www.handsfreemama.com. Now to go and practice what I preach!

‘The Mother and Child Project’ – A Review of a Recently Released Title

The Mother & Child Project

Imagine having to give birth unassisted, on the dirt floor next to a rubbish dump. It’s unfathomable really. I’ve always been aware of the pitfalls in our maternity system here in New Zealand. It isn’t a perfect system. Even the Health and Disability Commissioner argues this.  In fact, before I had my children I didn’t really trust our maternity system. However I am grateful to have received excellent care while having my three children, but there are heartbreaking cases of when birth goes horribly wrong, right here in our own backyard. There are the cases of babies who didn’t make it, and babies who sustained birth injuries caused by multiple system errors. Errors that were preventable. Sadly it does happen. But most births in the West go well, and with our obstetricians, anesthetists, pediatricians and tertiary hospitals readily available if we need them in childbirth, we western folk tend to forget that being born is still a risky business in many parts of the world, for mothers and for babies.

I’ve always had an interest in maternal and child health, and with Mother’s Day coming up next week it seemed timely to review the recently released book ‘The Mother & Child Project.’ This book is a collection of short, well written essays by influential leaders in different spheres – medical professionals, pastors, artists and policy makers. Leaders such as  Melinda Gates, Kay Warren, Bill Frist, Kimberly Williams Paisley, Christine Caine and Michael W. Smith speak out about why people of faith must get on board with ‘The Mother and Child Project: Raising Our Voices for Health and Hope’. This is a project that aims to increase healthy pregnancies and lower maternal and child death rates in developing countries. The book is divided into four sections: Maternal and Child Health: How Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy Saves Lives; Strong Mothers: The Key to Healthy Families, Communities, and Nations; Other Concerns: Male Involvement, Child Marriage, Slavery, and Orphan Care; and Why Maternal Health Matters to People of Faith. It provides a mix of interesting statistics, personal stories and success stories too.

Ponder this for a moment – even today, almost 287,000 women die each year because of pregnancy and birth complications. Many children are orphaned due to this tragedy, and without a mother, many of those children die as well. This compelling book opens one’s eyes to the injustice and the epidemic of child marriage and child birth which is common in developing nations. Today there are numerous campaigns and missions geared to assist people in poverty, however young women are still marginalized in many poverty stricken countries.  Many teenage and even younger girls are forced into early arranged marriage and childbirth.  These girls suffer physical trauma and even death as their bodies are not ready for marriage and childbirth.  They also suffer the effects of complex psychological trauma. They also have no access to health care, much less prenatal care.  Furthermore, if something goes wrong during labor, which is quite probable given their young age, and the fact they themselves are not fully grown, then these girls endure hours and even days of painful, non productive labor, which often ends in maternal death and stillbirth. Even if the mother survives, she may face permanent debilitating injury such as obstetric fistulas which result in ongoing infection as well as urinary and fecal incontinence. Furthermore, these women and girls are often shamed as a result and forced out of their homes to lead a life of begging on the streets. These girls are denied what we take for granted – an education, advocacy, health care and simple methods of birth control. This book provides a Christian voice to these complex issues.

How are we going to respond to the cries of mothers and children bound in poverty? Hope Through Healing Hands, a nonprofit organization promoting awareness for healthy mothers and children worldwide, is already spreading the word about improving maternal and child health outcomes. This organization aims to save lives and decrease death rates. It also aims to build healthier, flourishing families and bring stability and sustainability to families, communities and nations. To find out more about Hope Through Healing Hands, please visit their website: http://www.hopeforhealinghands.org.

MOCP

‘Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti': A Book Review

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain

Ever thought to yourself ‘Oh no, I could never do that?’ I know that I have. For twenty four year old Megan Bourdeaux, it took months of God waking her up in the middle of the night before she realized she was the one He was calling to leave her comfortable American life and move to Haiti.

If you love children, justice and have a heart for the nations, you are sure to love this new book ‘Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti’. I don’t know a great deal about Haiti but I know that it is a beautiful, dark and poverty stricken island in the Carribean. Furthermore it is a nation that has suffered the trauma of a devastating earthquake five years ago.

Written by Megan Boudreaux, ‘A Miracle On Voodoo Mountain’ is a remarkable memoir of how as a young twenty four year old fresh out of university she sold everything she had and moved from the United States to Haiti in response to a unsettling God-given dream she kept experiencing. The dreams all featured the same tamarind tree that sat on top of Bellevue Mountain near Gressier, Haiti. Without a clear plan of action she trusted God’s leading, taking a leap of faith with a good dose of courage and bravery mixed in.

Megan had visited Haiti on a few missions trips and each trip heightened her impression that someone needed to help the people of Haiti,  —especially the children, many of whom were caught up in slavery. Rather than being alone in a foreign land, God guides her every step as she moves to a country without knowing the language, or anyone in the country. She becomes the adoptive mother of two daughters who were former child slaves, and she receives the divine gift of the Haitian Creole language. She meets and marries the love of her life and she plants and establishes a Christian school for more than 500 children.

Megan is certainly an inspirational and tenacious young woman. Coming from a somewhat challenging background herself, Megan is an overcomer. While missions folk in Haiti wrote her off as a naive young woman, she was not deterred. Of her passion for what God has called her to do, she writes: “Now I know what I can do. I can show these children love. I can show them joy. I can show them compassion. I can show each of these children Jesus. Fear will not affect Haiti. Politics will not have an impact on Haiti. Jesus will.” (p. 31).

Only three short years later, Megan proves her critics wrong, and today six acres on Bellevue Mountain in Gressier is the home of the nonprofit Respire Haiti. Ironically Respire Haiti is built on the former site of voodoo worship, and in the area that many still come to make animal sacrifices. What the enemy meant for evil, God has turned it around. Megan leads a 200 strong staff that are transforming this community through the love of God and their healthcare and educational initiatives.

This deeply touching book is a page turner that will break your heart yet build your faith. A must-read for any wannabe world changer. It is greatly encouraging to know what God can do with a small seed of our faith and a step of obedience.

* I received this book free through the Thomas Nelson Booklook Bloggers Programme. I was not required to write a positive review.

megan bourdreaux

Megan Bourdreaux with a Haitian child

‘Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends’ – A Book Review

Women Are Scary Book Review

‘Get out there all you geeks and weirdos. The world is waiting and you are fabulous.’

Ever found yourself making awkward small talk with other mothers at the park? Well this book really was a breath of fresh air. Friendships with other women have always been important to me and the title of this book surely caught my attention. ‘Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends’ is a catchy provocative title that really encapsulates the essence of what the book is about. This book was recently released by Zondervan this month, and it is funny. Really funny. It’s a light refreshing read, but more than that, it touches on the sometimes complicated topic of female friendship, honestly putting into words what many of us have found in motherhood – that we need ‘momlationships’.

In this book, Dale highlights the importance of mothers doing life together, journeying to each other, ‘finding our people and being other people’s people, and learning how to bless each other and not destroy each other’. This book is both humorous and honest. Sometimes the humour seemed a little over the top. I mean, I know that I can be clumsy, but is anyone really that clumsy? Sometimes humour itself can be a mask. But Dale does share vulnerably with her readers about her years as a new mother navigating for the first time the world of playdates, ‘mommy wars’ and social comparisons. She gives practical advice and tips for forming relationships that go deeper.

Forging authentic friendships with other mothers requires intentionality. We are so busy after children come along, and friendships with other parents can be complicated by the fact that we all have different parenting styles. Have you found this? Many mothers feel alone in our individualized society, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

‘We don’t lack food, clean water, or clothing, but we lack relationships. Whereas my friends in northern Uganda reside in small mud homes and live life together, outside, as a community, gathering at the borehole for water, working their gardens side by side, and looking out for each other’s children, we live in elaborate homes with multiple rooms and water that comes out our own faucets. We drive our cars into garages and close the doors behind us, and we can go days and weeks without interacting with the neighbors unless we’re intentional about making friends.

And while I will continue to champion the orphans and widows whom I love, I’ve realized that it’s no less noble to reach out to the hurting moms and kids right in my own community. If we can learn how to develop real, soul-soothing relationships, there’s no stopping what we can do together for our kids, our families, and the world. But first we have to stop being scary and scared of each other. (Melanie Dale, Women Are Scary)’

‘Women are Scary’ is authored by the very likable Melanie Dale, who is a wife and minivan driving mother of three children, one biological and two adopted from across the globe. She describes herself as a ‘total weirdo who stinks at small talk’. Her laugh is a combination honk-snort, and it’s so bad that people have moved away from her in the movie theater. She adores sci-fi and superheroes and is terrified of Pinterest. If you are a Doctor Who fan, then this book is definitely for you! There are many references to Doctor Who in ‘Women Are Scary’. Melanie writes from a Christian perspective but this book isn’t just for Christians. In fact, any mother could receive something from this book as we all need relationships with other women. Dale blogs at Unexpected.org about motherhood, orphan care, adoption, and sometimes poo. She’s passionate about the power of people partnering together to make a difference in the world and loves her work with Children’s Hope Chest on long-term development projects rooted in relationships. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It provides light hearted yet concrete advice to mothers of young children who might be feeling a little isolated. Check out this clip about her new book.

*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

melanie dale

‘Make It Happen’ – A Book Review

Make It Happen Book Review

‘You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do?
You should go do them’.

In a world where we constantly receive the message to ‘do more’, I must admit that the title of this book made me a little nervous. There are many inspirational books on the market today that aim to encourage people to live a life of meaning and purpose. Books that help people to live the meaningful life that God desires for us. But ‘Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose’ by Lara Casey is really worth a look. In ‘Make It Happen’ Lara, a wife, mother, business woman and ‘believer in the impossible tells her story of how she surrendered her fear, took the leap, and ‘got a life’. In her case, ‘a perfectly imperfect, fulfilling life as a mama, a working woman, and a grateful wife’. It is the story of how she chose to make “it”—a greater purpose than her own—happen, and how others can too.

Make It Happen is a great book to read for women who find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the unrealistic expectations that society places on them, those who are struggling to ‘do it all’, those who have grappled with the pressure to be perfect, and those who dream dreams and want to see the fruition of them. It is also a must read book for worn out women who want to slow the merry-go-round of life and find relief from ‘burning the candle at both ends’.
This book is an easy read and it offers God centered, practical tips for fulfilling one’s dreams and living a life of purpose and meaning. The book is ordered into four sections: Surrendering your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose and a workbook titled ‘Your Guide to Making It Happen. I’m often reminded of the author’s catch phrase – ‘Progress not perfection.’ and I like the way Casey encourages readers to clear through the clutter in their lives and to find what really matters. I also appreciated how she challenges the reader to think about their own goals and whether they promote God’s kingdom or their own. But what really won me over in this book was Casey’s raw honesty and vulnerability about the struggles that she has faced in her personal, professional and spiritual life. You won’t finish this book feeling overwhelmed but you will hopefully feel encouraged to live a life of purpose.
 *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
 

Joy for the Battle: Reclaiming Your Joyful Inheritance

Joy For The Battle

This week I was privileged to write a guest blog post on the topic of joy for the Joy360 series on the Peacequility blog. Check out http://www.peacequility.com for some great wisdom from Julie on a variety of topics.

When troubles, trials or tribulations cross your path, is joy your natural response? I know that it isn’t mine. We probably all know that it isn’t what happens to us in life that determines our attitude, but rather it is our response to those events. If we are a believer, we also know that we are in a spiritual battle. ‘The devil goes around seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). Ann Voskamp talks about ‘preaching the gospel to herself’. And I for one really need to hear this message about joy. I consider myself to be content most of the time, but I’m also a realist, I’m a glass half empty person. God doesn’t promise us a world of roses and rainbows, but he does want us to walk in joy. Read more here: http://peacequility.com/2015/03/11/joy-for-the-battle-7-steps-to-reclaiming-your-joyful-inheritance/

‘How to Motivate Your Child’ – A Book Review

Motivate-Your-Child-Book-Review

Recently I became a ‘Booklook Blogger’. This means that I can request paperbacks or ebooks of my choice for free, in exchange for posting a review on my blog. I’m not required to write a positive review, nor do I receive compensation of any kind, but I couldn’t rave more about the first book that I was sent – ‘How to Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need To Do Without Told’ by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. It’s a big title, and sometimes I avoid ‘How to’ books, especially on the subject of parenting, Sometimes I’ve discovered that books like this are all about encouraging us to do more with our children. And one can come away from such books feeling a little exhausted or overwhelmed. Like there are more things that we ought to squeeze in to our already busy schedule. I’m also a little wary of a titles like ‘Motivate Your Child’ as we seem to be pushing our children to do more and more today, when in fact they might not be ready to handle quite so much.

But preconceived ideas aside, I thought that it might be a good idea to read a book about encouraging motivation in children. While I’ve been pleasantly surprised that my eldest has been motivated with his homework this week, helping with chores around the house or tidying his bedroom however is a different story! Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth trying to get my kids to help with age appropriate tasks around the house. My children are only little, but my aim is that they would be able to do a few things for themselves without having to rely on ‘parental prompters.’ ‘We don’t want to do what we have to do’. they might say. Yet life is full of things that we don’t want to do.

Authored by the founders of the National Centre for Biblical Parenting in the United States, this book offers a rich toolbox of strategies – it is jam packed with gentle, down to earth, practical and manageable suggestions for motivating our children and imparting faith to them. Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanna Miller have a wealth of experience helping parents cultivate a healthy conscience and a vibrant faith in their kids.  It is a Christian parenting book woven with helpful scripture throughout, however if you aren’t a Christian, many of the concepts will still be helpful. It isn’t preachy, nor is it condescending, as some parenting books can sometimes be. The book is divided into two parts – Part One emphasizes the encouragement of moral development in children, and part two is about encouraging spiritual development in our children.

heartparenting3

Reading this book has enabled me to reflect on how to build intrinsic motivation in my children. I love the idea of heart based approach to parenting. We know that problems happen in the heart before they are seen in behaviour. Behaviour modification works to a point, because behavioural rewards appeal to the selfishness that is in our own hearts. However, this book demonstrates that there is a ‘large bucket’ of parenting tools that are heart related. The authors argue that a heart based approach to parenting enables children to make more progress quickly with what they need to do each day.

heartparenting1

The take home message that I received from this book is that we need to be intentional with our children about discipling their hearts, and praying about heart issues that come up. The authors argue that many of us have been influenced by secular humanism in the way we parent, and that perhaps we overemphasize rewards and punishments. I really liked the emphasis on relationship building with our children as a way to engage with their hearts. I liked the simple ‘Family Time’ concept, which is a family devotion over dinner once a week. It’s a strategy that is manageable, even within a busy family structure. And I liked the emphasis on teaching children to care for others, and not making life all about them.

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This book is certainly worth a look if you would like to learn about:

  • How to encourage internal motivation so your kids don’t have to rely on you to get things done.
  • How to train a child’s conscience – ‘Courage without a strong sonscience can lead children into all kinds of calamity.’
  • Ways of talking about faith and spiritual truths in ways that are engaging and fun.
  • How to help children respond when they make mistakes.

review

When there are no words.

When there are no words This afternoon I made pancakes with Missy Middle and her just as miniature friend. Light and fluffy pancakes for Pancake Day. In the morning I enjoyed swimming with Miss Youngest in an outdoor pool overlooking the ocean. It was a glorious day. It wasn’t a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It was a good day.

Yet while we made pancakes and swam on the cusp of the ocean, on the other side of the world, the ocean filled with the blood of twenty one martyrs. Almost on the eve of Lent, twenty one husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, were brutally murdered in the most barbaric way. That this occurred is unfathomable. Unthinkable even in the 21st century. And that in the age of the internet we see still images and video footage of this horror is surprising to me also. I haven’t watched these videos but the photo of the 21 men published on social media is now forever etched in my mind, imprinted in memory, much like a trauma. I know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).  Still, I find myself wondering why world leaders can’t take decisive action against these unspeakable crimes.

This is a hard and heavy topic to write about. Being a blogger and wannabe writer, I find solace and comfort in words. Words are nourishing. Words bring life. But this time I have no words. For what words are there to describe the depth of depravity that this crime encapsulates?  I’ve also felt short on words lately. I’m working on a manuscript, and with my energy poured into this project, there just aren’t any more words left over. And so I can only craft crumbs. I thought about writing a post on bloggers burn out, but then I felt too burnt out to write a post on burn out!

As I bring to the table the crumbs left over, I, like many others around the world, grapple with how to respond to the news of such evil. Atrocities happening in places far away can offer a new perspective on our own lives. But in the comfort of my home this Ash Wednesday in God’s own, I feel heavy with the horror and heartache of this world.  Yet I also feel hopeful. I know that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. As we bear one another’s burdens, and weep with those who weep, Christ carries our burdens to so that we can live lightly, despite the depth of darkness we discover in our world.  1 Corinthians 12:26 says that we as the church are one body. And as we are one body, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. In times like these, it isn’t any wonder that people tremble with fear. Though I am reminded of the words of Jesus himself when he said ‘Fear not, for I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).Hearing of unspeakable atrocities in faraway places gives us a gift – the gift of perspective.

The season of Lent encourages us to practice disciplines that are unpopular in our culture. Practices such as self-discipline, sacrifice and self-denial. Every year I give up facebook for Lent. For some it may be chocolate, others it may be coffee (if I could ever be that brave). My daughter offered to give up weetbix, trampolining and DVD’s (in that order!), and my husband has decided to give up procrastination….oh no, wait, he’s decided to leave that until next year! Jokes aside, I enjoy social media. For all the foibles of facebook, I enjoy keeping in contact with friends and family in other places. Yet I also waste time on facebook. And for all the time I waste on facebook, this Lent I want to spend that time in prayer. God seems to be calling His people to really exercise their prayer muscles. Lent is a time of lament, and perhaps this Lent calls for a prayer boot camp of sorts. To pray fervent and heartfelt passionate prayers for the persecuted church. That our hearts may be broken by the things that break His heart. Are we going to stand in the gap and be obedient to what God is calling us to?

Our minister has suggested that our church give up judging others for Lent this year. What a great idea. Imagine how our relationships and communities could be transformed if we prescribed grace instead of judgment for minor petty concerns. A word here, a slight here – insults that hurt, yet are possibly minor in comparison with the tribulations that our brothers and sisters are facing overseas. A merciful response to this evil may not come naturally, for me anyway. Yet I am reminded that these terrorists are someone’s son, someone’s daughter. They themselves may be trapped in terror and torment, the torment that is deception. God calls us to love justice and mercy, and I can only pray that I may come to the place where I am able to pray not only for justice, but also for mercy.  It’s a case of ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:24). beach

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