So recently I’ve been approached by a few companies and asked to review different products. And I was particularly interested to review the latest gadget – a Beets BLU Heart Rate Monitor. Anyone who knows me will be aware that I am by no means an exercise junkie. However I do like to stay moderately fit and I’ve recently taken up cycling again. This was the perfect opportunity to review the Beets BLU Monitor. Control of one’s heart rate is very important for training, as it helps you to achieve your desired results. Depending on the goal of one’s workout, you can:
- Strengthen your cardiovascular system
- Increase your stamina
- Burn fat
- Avoid your heart beating too fast
The Beets BLU Monitor is a wireless heart rate monitor that sits around your chest with a comfortable chest strap. It features:
- Heart rate sensor with belt around chest delivers the most accurate heart rate readout thanks to ECG-based technology
- Smoothly sync with iOS phones (iPhone 5, 4S) and selected Android devices* No dongle required
- System consumes low energy therefore a small firmware battery is enough for more than a year
- A recorder that works with all popular apps like Endomondo, Runkeeper, Map My Run, etc
- Wearable tracker approaches to running, fitness, crossfit, spinning, workout, exercise and other athletic sport.
The Beets BLU is compatible with:
— Apple iPhone 4S (and later)
— Apple iPad 3 (and later)
— Any smartphone with Android 4.3 (and later) with Bluetooth 4.0
- It also works with Ipads.
I found the Beets BLU easy to use, once I had downloaded the app (which was a bit fiddly). But this device is comfortable to wear and provides a very accurate heart rate measurement. The only downside to this product is that you have to take your phone with you, which for runners may be a little tedious if you are used to running without carrying anything with you.
Overall, this is a great product for those who wish to maintain an active lifestyle, or those with cardiac problems. Father’s Day is coming up in the UK next weekend. The Beets BLU would make an ideal Father’s Day gift!
Have you heard of ‘Unashamed’ the recently released title by Christine Caine? I’ve heard Christine Caine speak many many years ago. Her testimony is powerful and simply inspiring. Caine is an Australian activist, evangelist and international speaker. She and her husband Nick are best known for founding The A21 Campaign in 2008, a non-profit, non-governmental organization that combats human trafficking, as well as Equip & Empower Ministries, which seeks to aid the development and growth of Christian churches and church leaders. In 2015, Caine founded Propel Women, an organization designed to honour the calling of every woman, empower her to lead, and develop a sense of God-given purpose. Caine is the author of several books, including “A Life Unleashed”, “Run to Win”, “Can I Have (And Do) It All, Please?”, “Undaunted”, “Unstoppable”, and “Core Issues”. I’ve read ‘Undaunted’ and I was excited to get my hands on a copy of’Unashamed.’ Shame is such a pervasive issue for so many people, especially women. Whether it is about our background, our past, our appearance, our marital status, or mental health, many of us will have areas of shame in our lives that we are aware of, or perhaps even unaware of. Shame hides in different places.
In ‘Unashamed’, Christine talks candidly about her struggle with shame and the journey of healing that God has taken her on. She writes very transparently, and it’s her vulnerability that will really minister to millions. “I know. I’ve been there,” writes Christine. “I was schooled in shame. It has been my constant companion from my very earliest memories. I see shame everywhere I look in the world, including in the church. It creeps from heart to heart, growing in shadowy places, feeding on itself so that those struggling with it are too shamed to seek help from shame itself.”
“Shame can take on many forms. It hides in the shadows of the most successful, confident, and high-achieving woman who struggles with balancing her work and children, as well as in the heart of the broken, abused, and downtrodden woman who has been told that she will never amount to anything. Shame hides in plain sight and can hold us back in ways we do not realize. But Christine Caine wants readers to know something: we can all be free. In Unashamed, Christine Caine reveals the often-hidden consequences of shame—in her own life and the lives of so many Christian women—and invites you to join her in moving from a shame-filled to a shame-free life.”
The book’s subtitle: “Drop the baggage, pick up your freedom and fulfill your destiny” says it all. But Christine is realistic about the healing journey for most people – it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take time. I appreciated the stories of the many different women that were interwoven throughout the book. The stories of women who had been trafficked and later rescued by A21 were harrowing and rather hard to read. But I’m glad I didn’t put the book down as it was encouraging to see the transformation that God has done in the lives of these women.
Shame is such a pervasive problem for so many people. You may not have suffered horrific abuse like the women who were trafficked, however there will be areas of shame hidden in your heart, regardless of your background. Shame affects mothers, grandmothers, single women, children, teenagers. Everyone. This is an important issue and it’s one that has been sensitively tackled in the book ‘Unashamed.’This book is grounded in scriptural truth and has the potential to reach so many hurting people. A must read.
Rest. We all need it right? But sadly rest seems to be undervalued in our culture today. I’ve written about this subject before, and when the book ‘Rest Assured’ came across my path, I knew that it was a must read. Rest Assured is written by Vicki Courtney, a speaker to women of all ages and the best-selling author of many books and Bible studies including 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter and Ever After.
Rest is such an important subject. Jesus asks us to come to him, all who labour and are heavy laden. In return He promises us His rest. This is a rest that the world cannot offer, but one that is so desperately needed. Frequently we find ourselves overcommitted, pressured, overconnected yet without community, overburdened and overwhelmed. Our lives our full, but what about our souls? Our souls are longing for rest. But if we really want rest, we need to paddle upstream in a downstream world. For rest is countercultural, or so it seems.
Rest Assured is divided into two parts, and it offers a study of rest and also an intervention and recovery plan. It cover topics such as:
- The Badge of Busyness
- The Exhausting Pursuit of Happiness
- Tethered Souls
- Worried Sick
And a recovery plan:
- Prioritize the One Thing Needed: Time for God
- Create Room to Breathe: Time for Solitude
- Give Yourself a Break: Time for Leisure
- Pay It Forward: Time for Others
A “Rest Stop” challenge is included at the end of each chapter for use in Bible studies and book clubs. Bonus material includes a 30-Day Restitution Plan and 100 Ways to Give It a Rest.
While I found Rest Assured to be a helpful and encouraging book, I would also add that I disagreed with a few points that the author made. Courtney asserts that busyness “is not a scheduling problem, it’s a sin problem.” Some seasons just are busier than others, and not necessarily because we make it that way, but because of legitimate reasons, such as being a single parent, having very young children or a demanding job. There are many life situations that we really don’t have control over. Being busy by itself doesn’t qualify as a sin. It’s the heart attitude of the person that determines whether busyness is a “sin problem”. Busyness might be sinful if you are making busyness an idol or you are not prioritizing time for the Lord – but I don’t think that all busyness is sin.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is feeling swamped, or anyone who wishes to pursue more rest. ‘Rest Assured’ is the book for women who really want to challenge the status quo and lead healthier more restful lives. After all, God doesn’t want us running ourselves ragged.
What’s for dinner? It’s an age old question isn’t it and getting dinner on the table is a significant daily task in most families. We seem to be busier and busier these days and I don’t know about you, but I want a meal system that is quick and easy to organise so that I have time for other pursuits. I’ve always planned out our family meals on a weekly basis, because I’ve found that it works well for us. I typically shop on a Monday morning and I buy all the ingredients that I need for seven meals at a time. Then I write down the meals on my little blackboard:
Now that we live in England, my two eldest children receive school dinners every day. And the school dinners work on a three weekly system. It’s similar to the system I recall having as a boarder in a university hostel, where you could tell what day it was by what was on the menu for dinner! As an aside, I’m pretty impressed with the school dinner system. They are all prepared on site and are pretty healthy. It’s not nuggets and chips everyday, thanks to Jamie Oliver.
Along the lines of the school dinner system, I decided to formulate a three weekly family meal rotation. This way there’s never the decision of what to purchase or prepare, it’s all arranged. Other benefits of a meal rotation include saving the old pennies and becoming a dab hand at the meals one prepares.
All you need to do is to come up with twenty tried and true family favourites that you know your family will eat (the homemade fish and chips is repeated twice in the rotation). You can even arrange the meals into categories such as Meatless Monday or Thermal Thursday (Curry Night). Selecting meals is perhaps an overwhelming task but there are so many recipes available online today. If you are anything like me you might try to buy what is in season and what is on special. In which case, you might like to devise a three weekly menu for each season. This may work well especially if you get tired of the same recipes. And you can still experiment with new recipes whenever you like by altering the rotation. Have you ever meal planned before? Are you a fan? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.
‘What are you going to do with yourself once all the kids are at school?’ – Sounds like an innocent enough question and one that I’ve been asked rather frequently in recent times. Sometimes it’s a statement rather than a question, such as ‘You won’t know what to do with yourself!.’ I put this question in the same basket with other curly questions that people often encounter, such as ‘Are you still single?’ ‘When you are going to have kids?’, ‘Are you going to have more kids?’ and ‘Have you lost weight?’ But ‘You won’t know what to do with yourself’ has been said to me a few times recently, and not wishing to sound too defensive, I usually say something along the lines of ‘There are always plenty of things to do.’ Because that’s what I’ve found – even though two of my children are school age now, it’s still really quite busy. It’s perhaps not quite as intense as when they were little. It’s a bit cruisier and I have a bit more down time, however mornings before 9 o’clock are frantic, and afternoons after 3 o’clock are full. Though we don’t do a whole lot of after school activities, the engagements increase as they get older, as does the homework. I have a preschooler at home on Mondays, Fridays and Wednesday afternoons and I have a little down time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But as it so happens, my preschooler is about to start school in September at the ridiculously young and tender age of four and a quarter. I’m not too happy about it. In fact I think I’ll go and have a good cry into my coffee when she starts school, but I know that she will be fine, and I’ve taken the approach of when in Rome, do what the Romans do. She herself, can’t wait to go to school! Thankfully the curriculum involves a large component of free play in the first year.
If you’ve been a stay-at-home mum with children reaching school age, how have you found that question? I know that it’s probably said in jest, but sometimes that question does feel like a pressure. And there is a lot of pressure for mothers to get back into the workforce. I feel like it’s acceptable to be at home with children when they are preschoolers, but society expects you to get a job once they are school age. Yes I’d like to get back into the workforce in a part-time capacity, and of course it will help the old bank balance, but there are weeks that I wonder how that is going to operate in practice. My husband works twelve hour days. Being in a new country, the children have come down with one illness after the another in the last few weeks, and I wonder how I would manage this if my husband and I were both employed. There are also twelve weeks of holidays a year to think about.
I know this is a touchy subject, and I should probably add a disclaimer – I know that all our circumstances are different and this is in no way intended to be a dig at mothers who work outside the home. Truly. Kudos to working mums. Please hear my heart on this. I have been reluctant to address this touchy subject for fear of offending someone or stirring up the ‘mommy wars’. I know that I’m fortunate in this day and age to be able to stay at home. But do people really think that stay at home mums with school age children have nothing to do? Even with school age children most mothers find that their day fills up rather quickly. I’m inclined to think that all mothers work. Yep, that includes those with children at school.
If you have faced that question, how have you handled it with grace? I usually try and think of a witticism like ‘Oh I’m just going to lie on the couch, eat fairy buns and paint my nails.’ When children start school it can be a time for redefining our role. It can also be a time of great growth and opportunity for women. The opportunities are overwhelming and exciting. If you have returned to the workforce, how did you find the transition? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.
Have you ever searched for a church? Seeing as we recently moved to the other side of the world, we have been hunting for the right church to commit to as a family. I hesitate to use the term ‘church shopping’, however you get what I mean. My husband and I have never really church hunted before. But this time we wanted to have a good look around. You know there are even apps around to help one with this whole process! But we just comprised a mental checklist and I looked at various church websites to get a feel for the heartbeat of the church. On our list were the requirements that the church be:
- Committed to biblical truth and missions. We also wanted to be discerning about the doctines that the church teaches.
- We also stipulated that the church be gracious, and a place where there is loving community.
- We were looking for a place to belong, a place to be known.
- We also wanted a church with a thriving Sunday School and Youth Group, and a critical mass of children that our children can grow up with.
We live out in the countryside, and so we began our search for a church in a nearby town and city after visiting our local village church which has only one service a month (and is also very traditional). So we set about visiting around six churches and two of them made the short list to the next round! All the churches we visited were different denominations, but all were denominations that we were familiar with, and we took the premise that it’s the same God after all! There will be no denominations in heaven!
I was initially reluctant to go to another inner city church, as I have spent a large part of my life in inner city churches and have found that sometimes it is difficult to have community when the congregation comes from all over a city. However of the two small town churches that we visited, one just didn’t feel right and the other didn’t really have a critical mass of children. Last Sunday we went to the church that my husband grew up in which is a large and very vibrant C of E church. And they were so friendly. They had the welcoming of visitors down to a fine art. I’ve started going to a Monday morning women’s bible study at this church and they told me that no matter what decision we make about church, the group is for all women, regardless of what church you go to.
We also took into consideration the feelings of our eldest child. And the church that we have chosen to go back to is one that he is really enthusiastic about. Yay! And if the kids are happy, I’m happy. Sure it’s a 25 minute drive into church, but that is doable. So for now we have decided on an inner city church. I’m glad that we have decided on a church for now, as I didn’t want the whole process to take a year or so. I want to be in community. But here are some thoughts on church hunting:
If you are in church leadership, you may wonder what people in our culture are looking for and how you could best welcome them into church. I think many people in our culture are hungry for community and connectedness. For church leaders, it’s important to get the balance right between engaging visitors to make them feel welcome and giving them space so they don’t feel pressured. Churches need to be friendly but not pushy. One of the pastors we met put it rightly – ‘I realize that you might want to have a good look around, but you are always welcome here.’
Obviously a church can’t spend all its time trying to make visitors happy. If a church tries to become what it thinks people want, then it may risk watering down the gospel. And a danger for church hunters like us is that we can easily move into a consumer mentality. When we look for a church, we can think about it like we are visiting someone’s home. We can be gracious rather than evaluative. Rather than focus on the things that we don’t like, instead we can affirm what the church does well. Perhaps the music isn’t quite our cup of tea, but they do pastoral care really well. We can seek to worship rather than evaluate. And we can look for a church where we can serve. After all, we go to church to give rather than to receive. I also think that we need not worry about our ‘fit’ with that church. Sometimes we can worry too much about ‘fitting in.’
I now have a new appreciation for what it is like to be a visitor to a church, and when we find a church home I want to make it my mission to be friendly and welcoming. It can make such a difference to a person’s day if someone has a simple chat with them at church. But of course, for community to flourish it needs to go deeper than this. In our hunt for a church, we haven’t been hunting for a perfect church, just a welcoming, healthy and vibrant one. It’s a difficult thing, finding a church that will spiritually feed all members of the family, and also be a place where you can impact the church and have a role. And it’s even more challenging if you have been hurt in church. That’s most of us, right? If you have church hunted, what have been your experiences? I’d love to hear from you.
“If I Live to Be 100 If I live to be 100, it won’t be because I tidied up the house before I left each day. It will be because of the glorious mess I made while I was living life.”
A year or so ago I reviewed Rachel Macy Stafford’s first book ‘Hands Free Mama.’ Recently I have just finished the sequel to that book, titled ‘Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better and Loving More.’ It’s a very similar book to ‘Hands Free Mama’ however it appeals to a wider reading audience as it isn’t just geared toward mothers. Businessmen, Businesswomen, students, mature folk – anyone can benefit from the wisdom that is contained between the pages of this book. ‘Hands-free Life’ is a must-read for anyone who has grappled with the distraction filled, technology saturated society that we find ourselves living in. This book is about switching off your phone and paying attention to what is directly in front of us. I rather like my phone, and I think that technology can enrich our lives. So often cell phones and social media get a bad rap. However cellphones, ipads and the like can so easily become barriers to leading a fulfilling life. And don’t get me started on how technology can be a battle in family life. Perhaps we don’t need a book to tell us what we already know, but this is still a. book well worth reading for its timely reminders.
“Today I will set aside my insecurities and ask my spouse, child, parent, or loved one if I can hold them close. I will listen to their heartbeat, breathe in their scent, and tell them how much I love them. There will be obstacles and challenges that will interfere in carrying out these moments of connection, but I will not let the distractions of my life stop me from investing in what matters most — at least not today.”
This week I had the pleasure of reviewing the film ‘Old Fashioned’ (2015). In the style of the book ‘I kissed dating Goodbye’ by Joshua Harris, “Old Fashioned” is a drama about old fashioned courtship. Free spirited Amber (Elizabeth Roberts) has spent her life running away from failed relationships. She plans to drive until she runs out of petrol and set up house wherever this may be. She runs out of petrol in a quaint little town, and Clay, the owner of an antique store called ‘Old Fashioned’ helps her set up in a newly furnished apartment. However, he won’t go through the screen door outside. He has made a vow, he tells Amber: he won’t be alone in a room with a woman who isn’t his wife. Amber finds this rather strange. She’s also surprised to learn that he’s not married. Clay would rather fix broken furniture than mend a broken heart.
Clay reminded me of a dark and brooding Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. His character was refreshingly real. But this is a straight laced bachelor with a past. He wasn’t just a ladies man in college, but a producer of risque videos. Then he changed. “You found Jesus?” Amber asks him. “More like…he found me,” Clay responds.
Written, directed by, and starring Rik Swartzwelder, ‘Old Fashioned’ is a faith-based counter-film to the controversial, steamy “Fifty Shades of Gray.” However Swartzwelder keeps the Christian content low key. The film doesn’t preach and as such it would be a suitable film for anyone. It is hard to produce faith-based films that aren’t contrived, cheesy or condescending. Though not prudish, this contemporary film portrays the Christian characters trying to function counter culturally in a social milieu that discourages values such as chastity and modesty. The characters stand up for what they believe in.
‘Old Fashioned’ hasn’t received good reviews, however I have observed that faith based films rarely receive good reviews. But it is an interesting and intelligent film that provides lots of food for thought. It would be very suitable for youth groups or a ladies movie night. There is no swearing in the film, it has a good soundtrack, it’s reasonably well acted (with good performances from from Elizabeth Roberts) and it features beautiful cinematography. My only reservation is that the film moves very slowly and in places it is rather dull.
Overall I found Old Fashioned to be an endearing and encouraging film. From complex and broken pasts, two very different people come together and help each other bring out their best selves. It’s refreshing to see a male character with respect for women. And for that, “Old Fashioned’ is to be commended.
To purchase this film please see: https://www.fishflix.com/old-fashioned-dvd-christian-movies.html
Well hello there. I know I haven’t blogged for an awfully long time. It feels really great to be blogging again. Late last year saw the publication of my first book ‘Heart Matters in Early Motherhood.’ You know they say that if writing a book doesn’t kill you, promoting the book will. Ain’t that the truth.
Oh and did I mention that during the book promotion process, our family also began the process for relocating……..to the other side of the world. Yes a week ago we moved from New Zealand to Britain with our three small children. You see we always knew that we would move to England. In fact, people used to chuckle that we had been talking about moving to England for many, many years. Frustratingly, as it turned out my husband had to complete an enormous application that took 18 months to complete on top of full time…
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