Friday, December 19, 2014

WINNERS CHOSEN!!

The giveaway for Every Bitter Thing is Sweet is over!  It ended yesterday, and the computer chose two winners at random today.  Fabiola McDonald and Janet Young are the lucky winners!  Janet, I still need to hear back from you!  Thank you to all who registered - there were over fifty unique entries for Sara Hagerty's special book!

Have a lovely Christmas, everyone!  I am taking next week off from posting.  I pray we are all able to relish the unique joy this special season brings in the coming days...Sending love and warm wishes for Christ's light...


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meet the Author of Your Next Free Book: Sara Hagerty

Sara Hagerty and her family

I am delighted to share my exclusive interview of Sara Hagerty, the author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet.  She is a fellow mom and Christ seeker who has discovered the true meaning of these words:  "The satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet" (Proverbs 27:7).  If you missed my review of her book on Monday, click here to learn more about it.  Reading her book will reignite your faith; reading this interview will give you insight her life as a Christian mom.

Sara, you have four adopted children and one son by birth.  How do you stay connected with God while raising five children?  I'd love to hear how you protect and adapt your times for prayer, scripture, and adoration in daily living.  What does that look like for you - and do you have any tips that you can pass on?

I’m slowly learning that communing with God really can happen over dishes and laundry and in between reading books on the couch and refereeing children’s squabbles. As a recovering cynic – worst-case scenario thinker – I’ve found that I desperately need His Word to inform my thoughts and my conversation with Him. I have a lot of lies about who He is and “what I’m not” bouncing around in my head on any given day. Adoration – speaking God’s Word back to God, in my own language – up the stairs, and down, and out to the mailbox, and over laundry, has been a great entry point for talking over my heart with God. These tiny prayers (as I’ve heard them called before) have been a lifeline for me during my day.

Bedtime seems sacred in your book.  It's a time for snuggles and teaching your children about faith.  I like how you describe going through the alphabet and using each letter as a way to adore God.  Can you give us an example of a poignant time that you have seen this particular practice resonating with one or all of your children?

Just the other night as we were adoring “The One Who Directs My Heart” from 2 Thessalonians 3:5, my son prayed: “Jesus, thank you that you take us where we don’t want to go. Thank you that you have us do things other people don’t want to do.” I think it spoke more to me than maybe even to him at the moment – it felt like words too big for him – but I love how God is informing His understanding already, at seven.

That being said, we have nights like this maybe one out of four. We continue to show up – with our children – regardless of the words they say or the impact it seems to be making on their hearts. Yup, even on the nights they’re elbowing each other or falling into a giggle fit. I think God enjoys it all.

Your conviction that faith is the salve - and hope - for wounds is uplifting.  What has been the most effective way that you have presented that "salve" to your adopted children?  I am curious what avenue you've opened that you've witnessed God utilizing the most (journaling, family prayer, Sunday school, etc.) in light of their painful past.

At this stage, so much of their healing is seemingly passive. Most of my children don’t yet have the bandwidth for processing the history that brought them to us. In the meantime, we pray over them and for them. And we hug and hold and try and build a bridge of trust with the way we enjoy them -- that one day it will allow us to have the deeper conversations that introduce His fuller healing to their hearts.

You can discover more about Sara's compelling story by visiting her website or joining her in adoration on Instagram.  Don't forget to register for your chance to win a free copy of her book!  The contest ENDS tomorrow at 7 pm EST.  Either scroll to the bottom of this blog page or click here to register.

Can you name five scriptural promises to live by?  You can receive a *free printable* of those promises by subscribing by email to this blog!  You can do so on the top right hand corner of this blog page.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Win a Book That Changed My Faith


Every once in a while you come across a book that should do more than remain on your "one day I'll read it" list.  It begs you to create the space for it, and once you do, you can't put it down.  Today, I'm writing about such a book.

Face it, our schedules are full and our lives are harried as moms.  Especially this time of year, my mind races with internal lists even when I'm not ticking tasks off of my to do list. But there is something sacred about this season that begs us to slow down and notice its wonder, and if we don't, we'll miss it.

The writer of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet is well aware of these whispered invitations to delight in God's presence.  But she hasn't noticed them in the quiet glow of Christmas lights. She has noticed them through pain and struggle in her life - through the bitter things.

Writing with boldness and vulnerability, Sara Hagerty invites us into a world - her world - where things are not working out as she'd planned.  Her marriage is rocky, her finances are strained, and her infertility leaves her broken.  She writes in short vignettes akin to personal journey entries as she seeks God in the darkness.

But in the darkness, she finds a great light.  She discovers the bitter things are developing a hunger within her.  It's a hunger for a genuine faith relationship with God, one which is rooted in adoration.  Yes, in the midst of the darkness, she begins to adore.

It is through adoration that her story becomes so compelling and life changing for her readers.  I felt motivated to reach for God in the hardened recesses of my being as I saw her strain for God through her tears.  I was inspired to enter into an increasingly intimate conversation with our Creator as I saw Sara do the same - and as I saw God subsequently lift her up.

In the pages of her book, readers will discover the great lengths God will go to to be faithful and answer our every prayer.  If you have been feeling listless in your faith relationship, look to Sara's book to ignite a new passion between you and Jesus.  If you are hardened or in darkness, reach for its hope.

The gift of faith journaling is that our experience of God's faithfulness will forever live on the page.  The gift of Sara's is that now it can also minister to us.  Jesus indeed is coming to Earth to be born in a manger this Christmas.  By reading Sara's book, he's now even more at home in my heart.

This week I will be giving away TWO copies of Sara's book.  To register for this giveaway, simply scroll down this blog page and enter your information or click here.  You will also get a prompt for bonus entries when you do!  Tune in on Wednesday for my exclusive interview with Sara! The contest ends on Thursday evening, 12/18, at 7 pm EST.  
Please note, these books will be coming straight from the publisher, so they may not get there by Christmas.  



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

WINNER CHOSEN!!

I just wanted to thank you all for the many entries I received for Laura Sassi's book this week.  The computer chose a winner at random today, and the lucky winner is Lindsay F. of Indiana!  In addition to receiving a free copy of Goodnight, Ark straight from the publisher, Lindsay will be receiving a personalized autograph sticker from Laura to put inside the front cover.  Laura, we're grateful for your spirit and fun writing for our children - such a blessing!

Please tune in next week for my next Christmas giveaway.  This book is for YOU, moms, and it is such an ENCOURAGING gift on faith to read.  Especially if you're going through a hard time right now and wondering if God is really beside you and working, you won't want to miss it.  You will read bold, vulnerable words from a fellow mom that will bring tears to your eyes and hope to your hearts.  I can't wait to tell you more about it, and announce TWO lucky winners next week!  Register, register!  Until then...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Meet the Author of Your Next Free Book: Laura Sassi


I am delighted to share with you my interview of a fellow author and new friend, Laura Sassi.  Laura's book, Goodnight Ark, is a captivating children's book that's illustrated by the award-winning Jane Chapman.  Readers enter the delightful world of Noah's ark.  If your children have ever been frightened in a storm, then they will find animal friends aboard it. Although her book is not expressly Christian, what follows is a  "behind the scenes" look at how her Christian faith and life as a mom shaped her writing!  

To register for a chance to win a free copy of her book sent to you, either scroll to the bottom of this blog page or click here.  The contest ends tomorrow, 12/10, at 10 am EST. If you'd like to read my review of her book before today's interview, check out yesterday's post.  To see the book trailer, click here.  

1.  What attracted you to entering the world of the biblical story of Noah?

Since I was not raised in a Christian home until I was in 2nd/3rd grade, my first introduction to God and Jesus was through the invitations of a very dear neighbor to attend AWANA and vacation bible school. It was there that I first heard about God through the skilled kid-friendly storytelling of the teachers and camp counselors. In addition to the story of Christmas, one of my early favorites was the story of Noah. Indeed I loved it so much that the first story I ever wrote (as a first grader) was a funny illustrated retelling of Noah and his ark which I still have, thanks to my mom. Given all this, when I got the idea to write a stormy, yet ultimately soothing, bedtime story, the world of Noah and his ark seemed a natural and fun setting.  

2.  Do you see any resonances between your Christian faith and your book?  Explain.  

While Goodnight, Ark is not religious other than the setting, it reflects my deep faith in God as a loving father. After all, just like Noah in the story, God comforts us and loves us through every storm. When looking at Jane’s delightful depictions of all those animals, I also can’t help but think about how creative and amazing our Creator is.

3.  How has being a mother yourself shaped your authorship of this book?

We’ve had some mighty ferocious storms around here in the past few years including two hurricanes and lots of blustery snow and rain storms.  My daughter and the dog have both wanted to climb into our bed. Getting them back to their own beds, in the midst of howling winds and pounding rain, however, has sometimes been challenging, especially when my daughter was younger. So the mother in me thought it might be helpful and fun to write a story that would address some of those fears in a humorous, yet soothing way. 

4.  What do you hope will be the biggest take away for readers of your book?

First and foremost, I want kids (and their parents) to enjoy the story! There’s so much to see on every page, and the rhymes and sound words are fun to read aloud.  Second, I encourage my readers to interact with the book.  It lends itself well to a little game of “I Spy.”  It’s great fun for practicing counting by twos as well.  Third, I’d like children to come away knowing, that like the animals in the story, they too are loved by their parents.  And for anyone seeking a deeper truth, it’s also great reminder that, like Noah in the story, our God is a loving father who comforts us and loves us through every storm.  

ABOUT THE  AUTHOR: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in rhyme.  She writes daily from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie. Her poems, stories, articles, and crafts have appeared in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. and elsewhere. GOODNIGHT, ARK is her first picture book.  

If you'd like to take advantage of her book's educational opportunities, click here for the exciting ideas Laura has complied from her background as a teacher.  Also, to see another interview I've done, check out what I learned when I met my first CNN Hero by clicking here.

Be sure to tune in next Monday for another giveaway, except this one isn't for your children, it's for YOU!  Win a book that will reinvigorate your faith in the goodness of God, even in the midst of trial. Subscribe by email to my blog so that you don't miss this news AND to get a free printable today!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Children's Book GIVEAWAY: Goodnight, Ark

Me and Author Laura Sassi of Goodnight, Ark

One of the first church camp songs I remember singing told the tale of Noah's ark.  The song was especially popular for its memorable repetition and nifty hand motions.  The beginning went like this:

The Lord said to Noah: there's gonna be a floody, floody
Lord said to Noah: there's gonna be a floody, floody
Get those children out of the muddy, muddy
Children of the Lord...

Perhaps you or your children have sung these lyrics too.  But the story of Noah is more than a classic Christian camp song.  It's more than a captivating tale spun in Sunday school classrooms.  It's one of the first times we learn that God's deliverance from life's "storms" is real, and we can see it in a rainbow.  

As we look into the sky, we never outgrow the wonder of a rainbow - and it's promise.

We have all had to navigate life's storms.  Sometimes these storms are scary.  But when there is no rainbow in sight, we can still reach for a hand to hold.  The more I think about it, the ark represented safety for Noah not only through its physical structure, but through the community housed within.  Noah, under God's direction, was not alone - he had his family and all those animals!

Laura Sassi has crafted a compelling tale about what exactly that community was up to.  If your children have ever been frightened in a storm, then they will find animal friends aboard her ark.  And she spins rhymes even more memorable than that early Christian camp song.

My children not only loved her rhymes, but the endearing pictures by award-winning Jane Chapman.  They were already familiar with Chapman's illustrations in Bear Snores On.  The combination of Sassi and Chapman together is magical as it brings to life a familiar tale and demonstrates the power of community.

Want a free copy of Goodnight, Ark sent to you?  Then register for this giveaway through the entry form below or by clicking here.  It's fast and easy, with bonus entry options too!  

The contest will run from 10 am Monday, December 8th to 10 am Wednesday, December 10th EST.

Stay tuned tomorrow for an exclusive interview with Laura!  Although her book is not expressly Christian, we'll get a "behind the scenes" look at how her Christian faith and life as a mom shaped her book!  

For more encouragement as we journey through life's storms, read my post entitled What to Do in a Storm.  For the full lyrics to the "Rise and Shine" song quoted above, click here.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reclaiming Christmas


I live in a neighborhood that really gets into decorating.  Inflatables were everywhere in our neighborhood last Christmas.  And by inflatables, I do not mean small ones.  No.  There were penguins in a life-sized sleigh, a six-foot Frosty, an eight-foot Snoopy, and a traveling twelve-foot Santa who graced several lawns...that was curious.

Our kids loved riding around and seeing the characters, huge outdoor ornaments on trees (we never had those growing up), and lights.  But on one drive by, I was disappointed to see an inflatable Santa in an outhouse.  He would move to peek his head out as the sign above him read, "Occupied."

I get the joke, three shades more crass than the beloved movie classic Christmas Vacation.  But we can choose when to turn a movie on and off in our house.  When something's on a neighborhood lawn, it's a different story.  Every child who saw the Santa was mesmerized, and even if they didn't fully understand the joke, they were still learning.

That inflatable struck me as representing everything wrong with Christmas celebrations in our culture.  Jesus has been replaced by Santa, and even that generous elf isn't safe anymore.  It makes me wonder:  Are we at risk of losing the sacredness of Christmas?

Click here to continue reading this article on iBelieve.com.  
Find out how we can steer clear of emptiness and cultivate rich spiritual meaning with our families this Christmas.

If this article resonates with you, here is a prayer to say this week as we seek to intentionally ground our Christmas season:

Dear God, Thank you for sending your precious son Jesus into the world.  Help us to honor that gift as we teach our children.  Give us insight into establishing meaningful traditions that breathe new life and hope into our families and bring us closer to you.  Make us your witnesses, for we praise your glory and marvel at your love.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

*****

I hope you enjoyed this Christmas encouragement from the archives!  Be sure to tune in on MONDAY next week and the next.  I have two exciting book reviews with free giveaways coming up - the books would make perfect Christmas stocking stuffers! Next week is something for the KIDS, and the next week is something for YOU!  Please spread the word and stay tuned!

{Photo by KB35 at Flickr, Edited}

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Key Difference between Surviving and Thriving

          
          As mothers, it can be hard to escape the barrage of constant requests and find time to clear our minds.   It can be hard to give proper attention to our own needs, like eating or getting sleep ourselves.  When you compound that with the necessity of meeting life's challenges that inevitably arise along the way, it's easy to worry and get overwhelmed.
That's why something strategic happens when we gather for mealtime at my house.  After wrangling my littler one into his seat, having lengthy discussions with my older one about why we aren’t having candy before the meal, and reminding both of my boys to put their food down until we’ve blessed it, we are ready!  We say a prayer, and then we go around the table and say three things that each of us is thankful for.  Every day.  
            I’m trying to foster a grateful heart in my family.  Thanksgiving is the best antidote to worry and anxiety (Philippians 4:6).  It's therefore an important life skill.  I recently read that anxiety is on the rise in our country, with the depression rate growing by about 20% per year.  Couple that with society's increasing pressure on our children to excel, and there is a dangerous crucible.  Teaching our children the value of thankfulness is a way of grounding them.  They are more inclined to see the larger picture of God's grace and orient themselves accordingly.
            A spirit of thanksgiving doesn't just equip our children to be stronger on life's journey, but it frees us up as moms to better enjoy our own.  I have heard many experienced parents say that the days go by slowly but the years go by quickly when raising children.  Even though the days can be slow - and frustrating and draining at times - they are also filled with beauty.  I want to nurture a heart that doesn't miss out on the good that God has brought into my life.
          I am convinced that a spirit of thanksgiving is the key difference between being a mom who is surviving versus a mom who is thriving.  It’s a difference in perspective.  When we are able to praise God without ceasing, no situation can get us down.  We can use our strength to meet life's challenges rather than wasting effort in anxiety or worry.  And we can better enjoy the present moment all the while.  A Christian who knows the power of thanksgiving is an unstoppable force.  And a mom who knows it - well, she's the kind of mom I want to be.
*****
HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  If you liked this, I encourage you to check out last year's Thanksgiving post.  Also, are you new to this blog?  Don't miss a post by subscribing by email on the homepage and receive a FREE PRINTABLE today!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Special Interview: Moms Helping Moms Foundation


Motherhood is a time of abundance. We experience the joy and privilege of new life, marvel at its innocence, and celebrate its triumphant milestones. Meanwhile, God grows our heart in ways that were previously unimaginable.  

But motherhood can also be a time of lack. We are stretched emotionally, physically, and even spiritually as we wrestle with the expected and unexpected difficulties of its task. All of us wrestle, but some do so more than others. It has been my joy and privilege to make the acquaintance of a mom who is well aware of that fact.  

Bridget Cutler started The Moms Helping Moms Foundation because she wanted to do something to help fellow moms in need. She noticed the poverty rate in her home state was significant and climbing. Her work organizing supplies for moms in New Jersey has garnered her national attention -- She was named a CNN Hero this year. But I met her because our children attend the same preschool.  

Want to get to know Bridget too? First, watch this CNN Hero video snippet (click here), and then read her answer to my question below.

Bridget, in your own words, how would you describe the work of your organization?

"I started this organization in 2011 after my first daughter was born. I wanted to help local families who were facing financial hardship get access to basic supplies for young children. Over the years we have grown, and we were granted 501c3 status last year. Our organization collects donations of new and gently used baby items from families who no longer use them. Through partnerships with local service organizations, we distribute the supplies to local families in need. It's a very simple idea, but it's very impactful! We have been told countless times that our help has lifted a burden and allowed recipients to focus on being better parents."

I am grateful for Bridget's vision and work. The beauty of it doesn't stop with the donations themselves, however. It also has to do with the face to face assistance that moms receive when they "shop" for free at the foundation's store. We all know that motherhood supplies can be overwhelming and baffling at times - what a gift to have experienced moms personalize that aid!  

Would you like to help the Moms Helping Moms Foundation? Click here to learn how you can donate your time or items if you live in or around Union, NJ. Union is in the New York metro area, and it's the location of their new store. Otherwise, they accept donations through their website and certainly welcome your prayers!  

The foundation models that there is power in community. I love the solidarity of moms coming together for a common purpose, and I pray each of us is able to do so in our respective communities. God will do the nudging; we just need to respond. When we embrace our role as the body of Christ, we can make a big difference by offering even simple gifts. Sometimes it just takes:
  • one text to check in
  • one phone call to show concern
  • one carpool shift to lift a burden
  • one donation to make a difference
...And one act of kindness to start a movement that can change the world.

*****

If you want to be a part of a community of moms who are looking to infuse God into motherhood, consider becoming an email subscriber to this blog!  Those who do will receive a free printable!

Monday, November 10, 2014

7 Expert Tips on Parents Talking Sex


Let’s be honest.  We live in a world in which sex is used to sell – you name it. 

The issue of sex concerns me as a parent, and I know I’m not alone.  The world is so intensely sexualized.  And instead of sex being portrayed as the beautiful, biblical gift that it is, it's used as a marketing tool and means of exploitation.  Further, children are encouraged to experiment with it earlier and earlier.  

I recently heard youth culture and sexuality expert Jason Soucinek give a lecture to empower wary parents.  Although this topic is a bit down the road for me with young children, I am always up for information gathering on important issues. And I'm excited to share this information with you - whether you are in the information gathering phase too, or if you have teenagers and need some workable advice now.

Sadly, the internet is currently children's number one information source on sex.  As parents, we know that we need to appropriately restrict their access to inappropriate material.  One source said that the average age of introduction to pornography is now only four years old due to the nature of public advertisements and computer pop ups.  But censoring is only part of the solution.  We have to be willing to talk about sex too.  

Why talking is important

The number one thing that Jason advocated is that parents be willing to talk to their children about sex.  Statistic after statistic proves that parents are simply the most influential in shaping their children's views.  This is true even if you think it isn't.  Even if you think your children aren't listening, even if it appears they are blowing you off - they're still influenced.  The key is to be willing to meet them where they are, really listen to their perspective, and be willing to "go there" in communicating our own.

What do I mean by being willing to "go there?"  Jason talked about how a parent's elliptical treatment of sex is often passed down.  If our parents didn't really address the issue with us, then we're likely to do the same with our children.  He was adamant that sex education is not the primary responsibility of schools or the church; these institutions should build upon a framework that parents have already established.  A direct line of communication between children and parents is essential.  

It is this direct line of communication that can save our children from unnecessary pain and provide them with valuable instruction.  It also encourages children to go to us first with questions.  Because the issue is so relevant and pertinent to our children’s formation, we should guard our role and create a safe and protective space for our children as their primary resource.

Framing the issue

Jason provided a helpful metaphor to breach the issue of sex with our children.  Sex is like an iceberg, he said.  Did you know that only 10% of an iceberg is above the water?  Yes, 90% of an iceberg is actually hidden underwater, and that’s what sunk the Titanic.

Like an iceberg, when people approach the issue of sex, they often think of the visible 10%, which is the physical act.  But sex is much more beneath the surface.  It also has social, communal, emotional, and spiritual components.  To neglect that would be to put ourselves at risk.

In an age when puberty is happening earlier and marriage is happening later, children must wrestle with the issue of sexual restraint more than any preceding generation.  Educating our children about the gravity of the act with its various components helps to balance out the pervasively superficial cultural view.  It’s also an entry point for a biblical discussion about sex - one in which sex is certainly celebrated, but framed as well.

7 Talking Tips

Jason had seven important tips for parents who are ready to talk with their children:

1.  Remember that talking about sex is more of a process than a confrontation.  This can remove tension on both sides and invite meaningful dialogue.

2.  Statistically speaking, we need to communicate important messages over 7 times.  Just having one good talk about sex isn't enough to ingrain the message.

3.  In order for the message to really hit home, a teenager needs to hear the same message from 5 different adults.  This is when cultivating relationships with other families who have similar values can be helpful.  

4.  We can't parent out of our own pain or our own shame.  Sexuality can be a constructive or destructive force.  If we have experienced pain, we need to be able to separate our experience from that of our child's - but that doesn't mean neglecting to appropriately share our wisdom.

5.  Don't shelter yourself.  Parents need to educate themselves.  Have your children play their music for you, listen to conversations when driving carpool, and read school newspapers – do “field research” so that you can give poignant advice.

6.  No age is too young to start answering questions.  Gear your responses to your child's age, and if they are on the younger side, invite them to tell you when they have heard enough to satisfy their curiosity without feeling uncomfortable.

7.  Be sure to use the proper names for body parts in your discussions too; this simplifies the communication line and allows any adult to understand your child should there ever be a concern.  (This is an important step in combating child abuse.)

On an issue this prominent in our culture, it’s a sad fact that the church has often been a lacking voice in the conversation.  As influential as the church might be, however, Jason’s research shows that parents are more successful in transmitting values.  So instead of pointing fingers, we as parents need to accept our own responsibility on the front lines.  It’s an important first step.

*****

Are you interested in learning more about navigating hot parenting topics from the Christian perspective?  I invite you to become an email subscriber to my blog and receive a free printable today!  In the past, I have covered topics like worldly success and eating disorders.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Parents, Is Success a Dirty Word?


This fall, my oldest son started kindergarten.  As he pulls his homework out of his backpack, I watch him sound out words, sort shapes, and draw pictures with crayons.  He tries his best to complete each task.  I find myself wanting to try my best too.  I want to try my best as a parent to balance challenging him and shielding him from our culture’s anxiety.  I want to provide him with every appropriate resource to excel yet protect his right to simply be a kid.  I realize each of these pressures rub up against how I – and we as a culture – dare to define success.

The fall is therefore a great time to reexamine our approach to it.  The most provocative article I read on success this year was featured in the Opinion section of The New York Times back in January.  The article, What Drives Success?, was co-authored by the Tiger Mom.  Amy Chua’s controversial, matter-of-fact style has made her a parenting icon that people either love or hate, but always have an opinion on.  Because of the article’s popularity, and because it reflects a cultural ethos that some would argue should inform parenting, it’s essential to revisit it from the Christian perspective. 

Financial Success

First, it is clear that Chua defines success as strictly monetary.  Although she admits that “material success cannot be equated with a well-lived life,” those who are successful are top-earners in her article.  Her view is therefore consistent with culture. 

It goes without saying that Christianity would not endorse an end goal of strictly financial success.  Instead of focusing on amassing material wealth, we are to seek and nurture the intangible blessings of this life.  With eyes fixed on Jesus and a drive to further his kingdom, we have the invitation to be a part of something bigger than our own selfish gain.  It is this ability to refocus contrary to culture that actually brings the true fulfillment all desire.

But if we stop there, we miss something.  There can also be an aversion to wealth in Christian circles that proves counterproductive.  Certainly, the sole pursuit of wealth is a hollow enterprise that’s contrary to the gospel.  But we cannot forget how God used the wealthy patriarchs of the Old Testament, or how Jesus commended the servant who wisely invested and skillfully multiplied his talents either.  Financial gain, if obediently accrued and generously given, can undeniably bring glory to the kingdom of God by funding ministries and aiding God’s people.

Ultimately, God cares about the heart.  As Christian parents, our goal is to best equip our children to wisely guard it and answer his call.  Success is therefore a measure of obedience and passion, not financial gain.  Some calls will naturally involve more influence and larger paychecks.  But if we teach our children intentional stewardship and the value of shining God’s light in their respective industries, we are doing our job. 

The “Triple Package”

Second, Chua asserts that there are three traits that together foster success.  The three traits form a winning “Triple Package,” and those who manifest them have this:  “The first is a superiority complex – a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality.  The second appears to be the opposite – insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough.  The third is impulse control…”

Certain cultural and even religious groups, like Mormons and Jews, have been better at manifesting the “Triple Package” than others.  It’s therefore interesting to consider how they resonate with Christianity and our parenting goals.  Going in reverse order, the third trait is an easy fit with the Christian faith.  Impulse control and the ability to resist temptation is not only something Jesus modeled, but it is a byproduct of the sanctification process.  We gradually die to the flesh to augment the Spirit.  Applying this scriptural tenant to our vocational obedience to God is natural.

Second, the trait of inferiority has some resonance.  We are mindful of our innate sinfulness and the scandalous grace of Christ.  We serve God not to attain salvation through our own merit, but in utter gratitude for his blessings.  Our life effectively becomes an ongoing doxology.  Teaching our children this principle to fuel their respective ministries is being faithful to the Christian message.

It is the trait of superiority that might leave our head spinning, but perhaps not necessarily so.  After all, we cannot forget that we are God’s chosen people.  This scriptural principle is not license for belittling – it is not that we are superior to others, but that God’s gifts to us are superior to what the world can ever provide.  When we claim the gifts of our faith – an unshakable trust in God, for instance – we can unlock a boldness to risk and be faithful, a confidence that is not conditioned by the circumstances.  It’s a valuable resource that’s sorely lacking in our often frantic, anxious, and short-sighted society.

Looking at my kindergartner, I don’t want him to be afraid of worldly success, but I don’t want it to be his sole driving force either.  I don’t want his life to consist of desperately trying to keep up on society’s hamster wheel, but rather to be an exciting adventure of call and response to God.  Toward that end, we can best guide the heart of our children by honestly examining our own.  We need to look inward and parse our own desires before inadvertently teaching them.  For nurturing a heart that’s focused on God, is emboldened to risk and faithfully utilize every available resource for his kingdom – that’s the kind of success a parent can be proud of

*****

If you liked this post, then check out Tiger Mom and French Musings.  These articles help you examine other global parenting models and find out what you can take away as a Christian parent.

Also, don't forget to sign up for my blog's email list to get a free printable!  The printable is a lovely rendition of five scriptural promises you'll want your children to live by!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

FREE PRINTABLE!


Dear Friends,

I am excited to present this blog's first FREE GIVEAWAY!  I have been working with Emily Burger, of Emily Burger Designs, on a truly special printable.  Emily is a fellow Christian mom and talented artist!

This printable holds five scriptural affirmations for children.  It is one that you can hang on the wall in your child's bedroom, by your dining table, or even inside your medicine cabinet to remind you of God's special promises.  Memorize them, teach them to your children, and keep them close to your heart.

ALL you need to do is become a new subscriber via email to my blog to receive it.  You can submit your email address in the blank on the upper right hand corner of this blog screen.  Once you do, you will receive a confirmation link to your email.  Click on that, and you're subscribed!  Please look in your spam if you do not see that confirmation link in your inbox promptly!  After your subscription is successful, I will email you the printable.  It will come to you as a PDF attachment for easy printing.  Now, you will get each blog post sent to your inbox too - this is valuable because with Facebook's filters, sometimes you can miss something!

Thank you all for your support!  I am delighted to be on this ministry adventure with you.

Noelle


Monday, October 20, 2014

What I Learned from a Staircase


I learned an unforgettable lesson from a staircase.  Surprisingly, the teacher was my dawdling toddler.

He was learning to go down the stairs by himself.  He had mastered going up a long time ago.  At first, going down was a little scary for him, so he was cautious.  Then it became a game.  He was not sure if he wanted to go up or down every time he was on them.  But he was very sure he did not want my help.

I was sure I did not want him to fall.  Our stairs were not yet carpeted, so a spill down the wooden staircase was especially dangerous.  I would stay a few steps down, encouraging and spotting him.  I would remind him to climb down on his belly, since he had more control.  I tried to anticipate any slipping.

I was happy that he was learning this new skill - my back needed a break!  But I was not thrilled about how much time he spent practicing.  And inevitably, he would start to play his game when the phone was ringing downstairs and my older son was calling for me. 

As I resigned myself to being patient on the stairs one day, I thought about how God sometimes waits for us.  Sometimes we are well aware of something God is calling us to do, whether it is to learn a new skill, follow through on a particular commitment, or begin an endeavor.  God encourages us by reminding us at poignant moments of his call, but it is easy in the everyday rush to put it off - or even play games ourselves.

It’s true - the staircase is a metaphor for God's call.  It might be challenging, it might take some practice, but making the journey takes us someplace different and someplace better.  My son didn't know on that particular day, I was taking him to his favorite gym class once he climbed down.  And following through can bring its own blessing for us too. 


God reminds us in Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  When we choose bravery and obedience to his call, we can best experience God’s goodness.  It might be scary to obey.  We might have to fight some old procrastination tactics.  But I love that we’re still children, children of a big God who has his own surprises in store – for us.

So climb, fellow moms, climb.  See where your journeys take you.  And one final thing:  Remove any abandoned socks on the stairs.  Little boys like to leave them.  

*****

Did this post encourage you?  Then you might also like Music Class Changed My Faith. Did you like the scripture verse from Jeremiah?  Then stay tuned for news about a FREE GIFT this week!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My *Live Sermon* on "Family Matters"


I am excited to share my recent sermon on three ways we can honor God in our family today.  Gain godly direction, clarity, and the permission to slow down and capture quality time!

It was a joy to preach on Sunday about a topic so close to my heart - and this blog!  Learn more about why I created this blog and the invitation that each of us has to make a difference.

Click here to watch it.

You will now also find this sermon link under the "Resources" tab.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

How to Craft a Lasting Legacy


Have you ever thought about your legacy?

Housed within the well-known Ten Commandments is a less known, but important scriptural promise that concerns your legacy.  When the Lord commands us not to make any graven images, he also says, "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Exodus 20:5-6, emphasis mine).  When we seek to honor God as we raise our children, we are not only blessing them, but we have the power to bless a thousand generations beyond.

Can there be any doubt that our work as mothers is valuable in the Lord's eyes?  I am done with the tired debates about the value of motherhood.  I am eager to elevate it to the sacred task, the vocation, that it is.  

I am eager to grow a community of mothers who believe:


  • We are not perfect, but we believe that God can magnify even the smallest act of faithfulness for the benefit of our families, and we seek to be faithful. 
  • Amidst the sometimes lonely moments of motherhood, we have the power to connect meaningfully with one another and remember that we are never alone. What's more, we're stronger together.
  • Parenting is difficult and life is not without its challenges, but God is bigger than any of them and he's given us divine resources.  We look to scripture for the framework of our daily life so that we can live encouraged and inspired.  
  • Motherhood is a vocation, and by esteeming it as such, we will invest in our own well-being and that of our children.  We want to use our gifts to create homes of abundant blessing.
  • Love is our motivation.  We bask in the unconditional love of Jesus, whom we want to know more each day.  Further, we give love to others out of its overflow so that we are continually renewed on our respective journeys.

Parenting is not the art of mastery, but the art of surrender to God.  For as we listen, he will inform.  As we question, he will gently nudge.  And as we seek to grow our family witness, we can leave lasting footprints for a better world.  

Right now, we can only imagine how the years will unfold and God will shape our legacies. I can't wait to share that journey with you!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

3 Common Mistakes Every Parent Should Avoid

3 Common Mistakes Every Parent Should Avoid

When you’re a parent raising little children, it can be difficult to find time for introspection.  You can become so busy in a cloud of activity that it’s hard to lift your head above the fog.  Advice that’s seasoned, timely, and respectful is a treasure trove, but who really has time to seek it?  Exactly.

Luckily, I happened upon a parenting lecture that was helpful, and that I’m eager to share with you.  The lecturer, Dr. Amy Flavinis a mom of two grown children who has practiced family therapy for over twenty years.  What I respect most about her is that she’s not someone who happens to parent, but someone who approaches parenthood with intentionality, or as I like to say, a vocation.

Parenting as a Competitive Sport

In her lecture, Dr. Flavin notes three pitfalls of modern parenting and includes suggestions on what to do about them.  First, she is surprised by the prevalence of “parenting as a competitive sport” today.  Parents compare their children and activities with others, resulting in busier children and increasingly overloaded parents just trying to keep up.  Yep.  We all know it’s easy to get overloaded...

To find out what to do about this pitfall and discover the two others, click here to continue reading the article on iBelieve.com.  Don't miss these valuable insights from a favorite mommy mentor of mine!

Friday, September 26, 2014

What I'm Praying as School Starts


For the first time, I now have a child who is in full day school. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I was ready to do cheers or pull out the Kleenexes - sniff, sniff. It's the start of a new chapter, and one in which I will have less control over his day...But that's okay, because when Mommy stops, prayer begins.  This prayer is for all of you fellow mamas who are entrusting your children into the arms of others this fall.  I wrote it for my son, but you can easily adapt it for your daughters too.

Dear God,

You are such a merciful Parent.  Thank you for the way you gently guide us through our day.  You are a font of infallible instruction and unending love.

Bless my baby as he is apart from me.  Form a hedge of protection around him.  If he is ever unsure or afraid, draw ever closer to him.  Whisper your promises to his heart.

Help him to walk confidently in this new chapter of self-definition with you by his side. Guide him, gentle Shepherd, into your fold and place your call upon his heart.  Assist him in its exciting discovery.

You are amazing and will always provide more than I can ever give, for you are a constant and perfect presence.  As our family transitions in this new school year, continue to shape me and us so that we can best support him and together shine your light exactly where you've placed us.

We praise you for your faithfulness.  We look forward to celebrating life's ensuing milestones with you.  Continue to strengthen our family as we seek to be faithful and bask in your love.

In Your Son's name I pray,

AMEN.

If you appreciated this post, you might also enjoy The Power of a Praying Mom and The Power of a Child's Praise.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Music Class Changed My Faith


Experienced parents will tell you, if they are wise, that you learn as much as your children when you parent. My older son taught me something when he was three that has changed the way I practice my faith.
My story begins in a parent-child music class. As a three-year-old, he had taken a new and definitive interest in the cymbals. Baby versions of the cymbals make a muffled sound, but these were real ones with a diameter about the size of a kickball – complete with wooden handles for a firm, loud crash! He would wait patiently until the end of music class for free music play. The vat of instruments would come out, and he could sift through it to find his prize.
It was the start of a new semester and I was with a new group of moms. I noticed other children getting quiet instruments and lightly strumming or plucking them on their mothers’ laps. Meanwhile, my son was proudly marching around with his cymbals crashing. The sound was rather annoying and I felt like everyone was watching. I made a couple of comments to the moms around me, “They are his favorite. You can see why I don’t have them at home!” I tried to fight the fact that I was embarrassed.
That night at dinner, I asked him if he had enjoyed music class. He said, “Mommy, the cymbals are loud,” and he hung his head down. Although his social awareness wasn’t fully developed, I couldn’t help but wonder if he had come to that realization because of my actions that day. I decided right then that I did not want my embarrassment to cost him something he looked forward to.
After all, the cymbals were included in the vat to be played...
Please click here to find out the two important faith lessons I learned from this experience.  Are YOU living your faith to fullest?  Many thanks to Kaitlyn Bouchillon and the (in)courage team for inviting me to guest post again!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

6 Reasons Aladdin on Broadway is Unmissable


We tried two times and failed.  The third time, we actually got tickets!  My husband and I took our two young boys to see a matinee show of Disney's Aladdin.  It's a hot ticket, and now we understand why.  To say we enjoyed ourselves is an understatement.  (My littlest keeps taking about how much he liked "that blue guy," a.k.a. the Genie.)  So I decided to write about the 6 reasons I'd recommend seeing the show:

1.  The show is kid-friendly.  Despite the fact that it is on the longer side at two and a half hours (and I went with a three-year-old, so I know), it is engaging - even mesmerizing at times - and clean family fun.

2.  You will see the REAL Jafar (Jonathan Freeman).  You've already heard his voice if you've seen the movie, and now you get to see him in person playing the role.  Remember when he responds dryly about the princess' choice in suitors?  His line of being "ecstatic" is even better on stage.

3.  The Genie on Broadway (James Monroe Iglehart) will go down in history as one of the greats.  Sure it's tough to imagine besting Robin Williams, but it's a pleasure to see some of Williams' famous lines performed while allowing someone else to lend their own genius and unique spin to the role.  Trust me, that's done.  There was even a spoof on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, but that's all I'm gonna say...

4.  There's a magic carpet ride on stage.  Let me say that again:  There's a magic carpet ride on stage! The carpet floats, swerves, climbs, and falls to intervals of melody while two characters fall in love.  It's just plain incredible to see this special effect.  I'm not sure how it's done, but you HAVE TO see it.

5.   Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) delivers his role to perfection.  He's everything you'd expect from a leading man.  You root for him.  He makes you laugh.  He might even make you cry - like when he sings his heart-felt appeals about turning his life around and pleasing his mother in heaven.  His voice is not only memorable, but it's laced with charismatic transparency.

6.  The show is a visual feast for the eyes.  My favorite extravaganza is Aladdin's parade to the castle after the Genie makes him a prince.  There are costumes with long yellow feathers that are especially breathtaking.  But rest assured there are enough sequins, sparkles, colors and lighting effects to satisfy anyone's need to be wowed.  And Princess Jasmine (Courtney Reed) is the most beautiful leading lady I've seen on stage.

I've been blessed to live in the New York metro area for over ten years and have seen well over a dozen Broadway shows.  This one is near the top!  It's nice to find kid-friendly entertainment that packs such appeal.


Let me know what you think by leaving a comment if you've seen it too!  And just in case you're wondering, please note that this review is unsolicited and is not tied with any monetary endorsement.  But you can tell the powers that be that I'd always accept free tickets for a blog giveaway LOL! 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

4 Life-Saving Lessons When Adversity Strikes


The story of Daniel in the lion's den is not just a childhood tale for Sunday school classrooms.  It's a story that applies to adults like you and me.  If we look past its intrigue and simple exhortation to trust in God, we begin to ask the right questions.  Namely, who are our lions and what do our own dens look like?  And more importantly, how does our God save?

There are times in our lives when we are simply brought to our knees.  The circumstances are too dangerous for us to live through alone - too emotionally taxing, too physically draining, too spiritually challenging.  Sometimes these circumstances are the result of unfair actions on the part of others, as was the case with Daniel, but they are always the result of living in a broken and fallen world.

We have no choice but to stand naked before God in scary vulnerability.  We want to believe that faith can move mountains, but the physical facts are undeniable and bleak.  After all, Daniel was in a den with hungry lions all night.  The only exit was protected by a huge boulder and the king's decree that it remain in place.  Hopelessness was certain.

In situations of hopelessness, we can discover the true nature of God.  The greatest gift God provided Daniel was a protective presence that never left him.  Daniel spoke of an angel who shut the lion's mouths.  There is a promise embedded in his story for us.  For what God has done once, he will do again.  God continues to shut lions' mouths today - your lions' mouths - so they will not consume you.

Deliverance looks different from person to person.  Sometimes the immediate circumstances change as a result of prayer, and sometimes they do not.  But here are four lessons I've learned:

1.  God gives us a perspective that allows us to rise above our circumstances.  Our time in the lion's den is not an isolated incident, but one incident on a journey with God.  When we look at adversity within the context of a faith relationship, we can experience the freedom of a new perspective and better recognize the footprint of our Creator's love.

2.    God will always bring deliverance when we remain faithful.  As I examine my journeys through adversity, I recognize "lifelines" that I often did not recognize as such at the time.  I marvel at God's gracious provision in retrospect.  So if you are currently in the lion's den, keep moving forward.  God is working.

3.  Sometimes deliverance is best evidenced by a change in our hearts.  The lions may prowl, our circumstances may or may not change on the outside, but make no mistake that there will be changes on the inside.  If we remain dependent on him, God will honor our humility by grafting more of himself into us.  And that new part is stronger.  Much stronger.

4.  Deliverance comes with reward.  An earthly king rewards Daniel after his survival in the lion's den. There is an earthly king in Daniel's story so that we do not forget a far more powerful king.  The King of Kings is with us and watching.  Who knows what blessings our faithfulness will unlock?

We can't forget these lessons.  Write them down.  Pass them on.  Remember God's unfailing presence, and trust.  Psalm 91:11 says, "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."  Angels still protect.  Romans 8:31 reminds us, "...If God is for us, who can be against us?"  God still fights on behalf of the faithful.  When you are shut up in the lion's den, feeling the cold and darkness of fear, remember:

"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark."  ~Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore

Sing, dear friends, sing.

****

If you want to read more encouragement, I love this article on the value of our suffering entitled A Field Guide for Suffering Well, which was posted on Her.meneutics.  Also, check out my other posts entitled Truth in Suffering and Warning: Peaks Ahead.

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