Saturday, December 23, 2017

Watch This Christmas TV Special!

As we conclude the Advent season, I am thrilled to pass along this Christmas TV special! Hear an encouraging sermon, popular Christmas music hits, and a live nativity narration to ground your holiday in the true meaning of the season. Sermon highlight: "Christmas is like a fresh rainfall in the tired, dusty sands of our wilderness." Discover how you can renew a Christmas hope in your own life right where you most need it.

Watch HERE

This special is courtesy of my church, Central Presbyterian Church, and their contemporary WAVE worship team. I am blessed to serve with them!

Looking for more Christmas inspiration? Check out last week's post or the post from the week before!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Resources and News

I can't believe that Christmas is less than a week away! As you prepare for the festivities, I hope you're considering ways to nurture the true meaning of Christmas in your families. It's here that we can reap the richest blessings of the season.

This year, my family took part in the Living Nativity at our church. I loved the idea of dressing up and sharing the joy of the Christmas story with the community.

In case you're wondering, my boys and husband were shepherds and I was a lantern angel. (I'm still trying to figure out what a lantern angel is!) If you are looking for ideas to tap into the true meaning of Christmas too, I encourage you to:

Read this.

Watch this.

And wait for an Advent worship service link from Sunday coming soon!

You can also consider this. It was in this interview that Laura Sassi, the author who guest posted on the blog last week, relayed her life story and love for sharing the Christmas message with children. A lucky winner has been chosen and contacted for the free, signed copy of her book Goodnight, Manger. Congratulations to S. Rogers of Georgia! She works at a school and is looking forward to sharing the book there!

This contest adds Georgia to our long list of other winning states: Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Texas, Indiana, Kansas, Illinois, South Carolina, and Arizona. So keep registering when giveaways come along — it doesn't matter where you are in the country, you could win next!

As I thank author Laura Sassi for contributing here, I am excited to announce a new collaboration coming this spring: New York Times best-selling author Leonard Sax will be appearing on my show, Chaos to Calm, for a series special! Stay tuned, and in the meantime, learn more about his impressive background here — I'm delighted to have him!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Guest Author Post and Christmas Giveaway!

Author Laura Sassi

As a parent, I often wonder this time of year how I can creatively reinforce the true meaning of the season. I'll be exploring that question in the next couple of weeks on my blog leading up to Christmas. My guest today will help us do that by giving us entry points into the Christmas story itself. Welcome back Laura Sassi; Laura is a trained teacher, the children's book author of Goodnight, Manger (among other titles), and a dear friend. Here are her meaningful words, followed by the giveaway information:

SIX Nativity Themed Activities for Older Kids (Ages 6 - 8)

Thank you so much for having me back today for this special GOODNIGHT, MANGER giveaway. My Christmas bedtime story, about trying to put a weepy baby Jesus to sleep in a very noisy stable, was inspired by watching my then preschooler play with the sturdy little nativity we take out each Christmas. Her sweet play led to some wonderful kid-friendly conversations about the true meaning of Christmas. Inspired by that, I previously shared with your readers 8 Nativity Activities to Teach Little Ones about Christmas. Today I’m delighted to be back with a six more ideas — this time for slightly older children. Enjoy!
  1. Play “What’s Different at the Manger?” Begin by arranging your family’s indoor nativity with your children, taking time to name and explain the significance of each figure in the nativity. Reflect together at the wonder of the Christmas story. Then, take turns having one family member be the “finder.” The “finder” leaves the room, while the “changer” changes one small thing in the nativity. The “finder” returns. Will he/she be able to figure out what’s different? Take turns until everyone has a chance at both roles. 
  1. Ask 20 Questions “Nativity” Style. First, gather around the nativity with a stack of index cards. Then, brainstorm together single-word components of the nativity. Examples include a manger, Bethlehem, angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and a star. Have the children write a word on each card. Then shuffle the cards. One person selects a card. Without seeing that card, the others must guess what the word is by asking YES/NO questions. After twenty questions, the round is over and the person with the card can share what their word was.
  1. Compare Stories. Pick a nativity-themed picture book to read together. Then compare it to the actual account of the Christmas story from the Bible. See if your children can find three ways the picture book is similar/different from the Bible story. The picture book, for example, may reconsider the story from a different point of view — such as the POV of the animals in the beloved nativity-themed picture book Who Is Coming to Our House? Or it might imagine “what would happen if..." such as in my Goodnight, Manger where I imagine what might have happened if baby Jesus cried. Be sure to wrap up the discussion with the reminder that the deeper truth behind each picture book is that Jesus, our savior, is the amazing gift of Christmas.  
  1. Build Your Own Nativity. This is a big, fun project that can be done individually or as a group and will occupy a nice bit of an afternoon (perhaps while you put your feet up and sip some tea). First, have your children list all the parts needed for a nativity. Next, have the kids decide what their building materials will be — Legos, clay, felt, cardboard? The possibilities are plentiful. Third, decide who will build what (if you are working together). Finally, build! Afterwards, have the children take turns retelling the story using their own handmade nativity.
  1. Go on a Nativity Hunt. Here’s an engaging STEM activity that will get you and your children outside on a crisp day. Walk around your neighborhood (or drive around town) looking for nativity lawn scenes. Younger children can name the figures you see and older children can keep a tally of each distinct finding. Their tallies, for example, could include the number of stables, stars, angels, sheep, and baby Jesus figurines they find. Afterwards, they can create a colorful pictograph to show their results. Be sure to wrap up the conversation with praise and thanksgiving that Jesus loves us and came to save us, and that’s why we celebrate Christmas.
  1. Create a Nativity Book of Poems! A Family Book of Nativity Poems is a great way to celebrate Christmas and create a family heirloom at the same time. Using sturdy drawing paper, have one child design the front cover. Another can design the back cover. Each page of the book will contain an illustrated poem. Using the index cards you created for activity #2, have each child select a nativity-themed word. That word will become the subject of their poem.  Have them write the title of the poem — the word — across the top of the page. Then let each child decide on their poetic form. The poem could be as simple as a deeply felt phrase:  

    Example: (for angels) “The angels sang for joy! La, la, la, LA!!!”

    Or, they might choose an acrostic:

    Example: (for Mary)

    Mother of Jesus
    Amazing grace
     Resting by the manger
    You smiled at Jesus’ face

    Finish off each poem with a beautiful illustration and bind everything together with ribbon through punched holes. 
And now, do you want to win a free, signed copy of Laura's book? Fill out the form by clicking here before Sunday at noon EST — and watch for bonus entries! 

Want more? I interviewed Laura on my cable TV show, Chaos to Calm. You can watch the episode here. Listen as she shares her heart-felt life story and more tips!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Watch An Encouraging Sermon On Demand Here!

I am pleased to announce my first televised sermon! Please watch, share, and give a thumbs up for this exciting new venture that will only be getting better from here! Special thanks to the WAVE contemporary worship team at Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, NJ and HomeTowne TV who made this happen. 

For those of you tuning in, discover how the everyday image of a rock can provide you with an invaluable spiritual lifeline in uncertainty. Uncover powerful biblical promises through poignant life stories. This on demand recording includes inspirational worship music, a children's message, a sermon and prayer. You can watch this half hour recording here:

I'll be preaching a Christmas service later this month — stay tuned for the link!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Don't Miss This Thanks at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us, and that means taking time to catalogue our blessings. Yet this activity isn’t only an appropriate seasonal one, it’s food for a solid Christian faith. Paul reminds us to continually have thanksgiving on our lips when making requests to God. The underlying implication is that there will always be things that we want God to do, but noticing what God has already done can give us hope for the future and reassurance right now.  
I remember the handprint turkeys my children used to make in preschool. As they cut them out, each of their fingers would form a feather on the turkey, and each feather would symbolize one thing that they were thankful for. I cherished them because they inspired me. I read things like “My Family,” “God,” and “Cake” on those little feathers.
This past Sunday, I was a Sunday school helper for grades 1-3. While the children didn’t make turkeys, they did something just as symbolic. A teacher drew a mountain, and the children filled it in with their prayers that they printed on slips of paper. I was particularly drawn to the “You are great, God, because…” section of the mountain. I asked the children, “When you think about your answers, think about what only God can do in your life.” They wrote things like:

“You forgive.”
“You move the Earth.”
“You love everyone and me.”

Perhaps my favorite answer, however, read: “You hold my grandmother in your hands.” The young girl who wrote that had asked for prayer earlier in the class because her grandmother had recently died. Her simple words demonstrated a rich theological truth. Indeed, only God could now hold her grandmother — she knew it and was grateful.
As you catalogue your blessings, I hope you’ll include a recognition of what only God can do for you as well. As scripture says, “A little child shall lead them…”

Want to read more? Here's my favorite article on thankfulness

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Prayer to Grow Stronger, Part IV: Leaves

          While some conceive God’s favorite answer is no, I’ve discovered it’s a resounding yes! God not only says yes to our life, but desires us to have an abundant one. Some of the richest biblical images for God involve life and growth. Perhaps my favorite is when Jesus describes himself as the vine, and we are the branches; we simply cannot flourish apart from him (John 15:5). As I seek to grow at God’s direction, as I look to deepen connections to my Source, I offer you this prayer that revolves around the different parts of a tree. Relevant stories illustrate each part. My hope is that we will flourish in our life and service by praying it. This week is the final edition and ends in leaves, which are timely for the season. For last week's reflection on branches and the importance of taking risks, click here.

Lord, I want to live subject to your Spirit. May my obedience further your church as I connect with your people and reach out to the world. Thank you for being a God of jubilation — like a leaf, I want to dance!
            I’ve noticed when there’s a storm approaching, tiny leaves can actually make an awful lot of noise. I marvel at how thousands can move on their branches as the wind brushes past them. I’ve come to understand what the psalmist meant when he describes the trees as “clapping their hands” (Isaiah 55:12). It’s humbling to watch them move harmoniously to the rhythm of our Creator. But this scene holds more than a simple reflection of God’s majesty — it holds instruction too.
            There’s wisdom in imagining ourselves as one of those leaves. When I think about a leaf blowing in the wind, I remember the Bible describing the Holy Spirit as breath and wind, and I imagine living my life in accordance with the blowing direction of the Spirit. A leaf shakes at the smallest gust; I wonder how I can better obey the Spirit’s tiniest promptings. I’m also challenged to view my role as a single leaf in light of an entire tree. A tiny leaf can make a roar when it is connected to its source and joined with others in motion. The same can be said of us as we join with one another in Christ’s service.
            So often faith is a solitary enterprise today. From competing church commitments to a penchant for individual spirituality, the body of Christ is easily neglected. And while a single leaf on the ground can make a crunch, it misses the swaying, spectacular dance. Beautiful things can happen when a community comes together for change; the same can be true of the church. That's why I link arms with my local congregation. And as I desire to make a difference at the Spirit’s prompting, I remember of the humility and power of a leaf.

In the past four weeks, we have explored vital elements to Christian growth that are symbolized by a tree’s roots, trunk, branches, and leaves. As you think about your own life in the weeks to come, consider episodes when God has directed your growth respectively by giving you deeper roots, a patient heart, an exhilarated soul, or a jubilant obedience.

Closing Prayer
          Lord, grow me in each element above toward a unified vision of my life that’s flourishing. Help me to find true fulfillment in your service. Thank you in advance for your faithfulness! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you for joining me in praying these past few weeks! If you've enjoyed this series, please bookmark this prayer to come back to and share it today with a friend!

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Prayer to Grow Stronger, Part III: Branches

          While some conceive God’s favorite answer is no, I’ve discovered it’s a resounding yes! God not only says yes to our life, but desires us to have an abundant one. Some of the richest biblical images for God involve life and growth. Perhaps my favorite is when Jesus describes himself as the vine, and we are the branches; we simply cannot flourish apart from him (John 15:5). As I seek to grow at God’s direction, as I look to deepen connections to my Source, I offer you this prayer that revolves around the different parts of a tree. Relevant stories illustrate each part. My hope is that we will flourish in our life and service by praying it. For last week's reflection on the trunk of a tree and the importance of patience, click here.

          Lord, speak to my soul and equip me for the risks worth taking. As I listen for your voice, help me to take hold of your hand. May I live the exhilarating life you destined just for me!
            When I was younger, there was a particular tree that I loved to climb at a neighbor’s house. You had to be a certain height to throw your arms around its lowest branch and hoist yourself up. I remember the day I was first able to do it and the fun that ensued. At first, I mounted up the tree slowly and carefully. But the tomboyish spirit of my youth quickly won out as I swung from branch to branch. I felt tall, strong, and invincible. Luckily, the worst repercussion I ever experienced while climbing was a random splinter or scraped knee.
             There’s a balance of exhilaration and danger that a tree offers a young child, and I find the same to be true as I follow my calling as an adult today. On a daily basis, I need to have a comfort level with risk and sometimes, an appetite for adventure. From trying something new in ministry to writing vulnerable words on a page, when I get it right, the thrill feels like it did the first day on those high branches — it’s exhilarating! At the same time, there have been things that didn’t work, outcomes that I didn’t desire, and pushing through those bumps and bruises is a part of the process.
          American author and professor John Shedd once wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” {Tweet that.} I’m convinced that a well-lived Christian life will involve risk; otherwise, faith would not be necessary. It’s no mistake that “do not be afraid” and its derivatives is the Bible’s most repeated statement. In fact, Jesus says it almost three times more than anything else. He knew we’ll never know the fun — nor view — that awaits us if we don’t have the willingness to grab that first branch. Today, he's saying to you, "What are you waiting for?"

Are you new here? Thanks for stopping by! You're reading Part III of a four part prayer. To read week one, click here. To read week two, click here. And be sure to come back next week for the conclusion! Thank you for reading — and praying — with me!

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Prayer to Grow Stronger, Part II: Trunk

While some conceive God’s favorite answer is no, I’ve discovered it’s a resounding yes! God not only says yes to our life, but desires us to have an abundant one. Some of the richest biblical images for God involve life and growth. Perhaps my favorite is when Jesus describes himself as the vine, and we are the branches; we simply cannot flourish apart from him (John 15:5). As I seek to grow at God’s direction, as I look to deepen connections to my Source, I offer you this prayer that revolves around the different parts of a tree. Relevant stories illustrate each part. My hope is that we will flourish in our life and service by praying it. For last week's reflection on roots and the importance of a strong foundation, click here.

Lord, may my life demonstrate the splendor of a mighty oak for your glory. Enable me to be patient as you grow me. Keep my eyes, ears, and spirit attentive to your full purpose for my life.
When I was in high school, I went on a mission trip to do flood relief in Idaho. I remember staring at the mountains on a cold night with a star-filled sky. My favorite pair of jeans and a warm sweatshirt did little to comfort me. Talking with my youth pastor, I was overwhelmed with the need I saw in the world. Our group was making a difference; I wanted to keep doing that in real time and not be relegated to the sidelines with years of schooling ahead.
          My youth pastor had an interesting response. While I expected him to mimic my frustration and encourage an alternative plan, he talked about trees instead. He contrasted two kinds of trees: a sapling and an oak. A sapling, he said, is quick to shoot up. While it’s presence is known right away, it’s fragile and tender. It has limited resources to contribute in the moment with only a thin trunk. A mature oak, however, is slow growing. Its towering height is a testament to the roots, branches, and leaves it has produced one at a time. There are many uses for its substantial trunk, indicating that its maturation time was well spent.
          My youth pastor’s trunk imagery encouraged me to think strategically about my ministry from a long-term perspective for the first time. Having now served in churches and as a hospital chaplain, I continue to reflect upon its truth. I’m grateful that I indeed pursued my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. While training and preparation can take a variety of forms dependent upon our respective callings, it inevitably opens doors. Whenever I’m tempted to feel impatient, I remind myself that the work of the kingdom of God often hinges upon slow, quiet growth. {Tweet that.} In the end, the thicker our trunk, the more facets we can serve, and the richer our canopies.

Next week's reflection on branches will concern risk-taking. Stay tuned for Part III of the prayer!

Friday, November 3, 2017

I'm Preaching THIS Sunday!

A quick note to local friends:

Find out how everyday rocks can inspire you through tough times by faith. Bonus: This service will be recorded by Hometowne TV for the first time! Come to Central Presbyterian Church's auditorium at 5 pm this Sunday, 11/5. The church is located in Summit, NJ. The sermon is part of a nature series at Central's contemporary WAVE service.

I'd love to see you there!

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Prayer to Grow Stronger, Part I: Roots

While some conceive God’s favorite answer is no, I’ve discovered it’s a resounding yes! God not only says yes to our life, but desires us to have an abundant one. Some of the richest biblical images for God involve life and growth. Perhaps my favorite is when Jesus describes himself as the vine, and we are the branches; we simply cannot flourish apart from him (John 15:5). As I seek to grow at God’s direction, as I look to deepen connections to my Source, I offer you this prayer that revolves around the different parts of a tree. Relevant stories illustrate each part and will ensue in the coming weeks. My hope is that we will flourish in our life and service by praying it.

Lord, help me to cultivate my roots in you. Gift my foundation with wisdom and my fruit with abundance. Guide me so that I bend, not fall, when the winds of life blow — for many are the benefits of life with you!
I began practicing yoga about seven years ago in order to stretch and strengthen. I soon discovered that balance is another one of its benefits. Yoga classes often include balancing poses. Tree pose is a popular and basic one. It entails finding a concentration point in the room and balancing on one foot. The other foot is often delicately tucked above the knee and against the groin. The arms are raised and fan out like the branches of a tree. Holding this position takes focus; when concentration wanes, the body often wobbles. Instructors encourage practitioners not to fight the wobbling, but rather to try rooting the standing foot into the ground even more intentionally. The concept of growing roots releases a stabilizing force.
In relationships and life, I’ve found the same to be true. I remember a particular conversation with my father one day when I was a college student. He wanted to impress upon me the importance of building a future marital relationship wisely. He explained that a healthy marriage, like a thriving tree, is dependent upon its root system. In order to grow strong and healthy, it’s what is under the soil that really counts. Faith enables a couple to draw upon support that is stronger than themselves; in essence, it enables them to prosper in good times and be fortified in tough ones.
It didn’t take long for me to discover the truth of his words. While I was dating my future husband, we experienced 9/11 as New Yorkers. We drew strength from the unique hope and uplift of regular church attendance during that trying time. Our faith cemented us together. We’ve since been married for over fifteen years. As I consider the challenges and changes we’ve weathered, root imagery still applies. The best metaphor to illustrate this is the palm tree. Its root system anchors the tree so that its flexible trunk will bend and not fall over amidst hurricane-force winds. As the winds of change have blown in our lives, and even as I wobble during yoga class, I’ve discovered the strength that can come from a good foundation.
While activity underneath the soil can better a marriage, it can also better a person. Roots have the capacity not only to anchor us, but to ensure a positive growth trajectory. Jesus’ parable of the sower illustrates this principle (Matthew 13:1-9). The sower discovers that the path, rocks, scorched ground, and thorns all threaten growth. When soil is fertile, however, roots develop and produce fruit one hundredfold. The hectic pace of culture, a desire to people-please, and empty worldly goals are not the fertile soil for building wise foundations. We need to root deeper to unearth the alternative scripture offers. It’s not just what we build, but how we build it that counts. {Tweet that.} As we cultivate fertile soil, our resultant fruit will be richer both in relationship and as individuals.

Next week features Part II of the prayer, which focuses on patience and is based upon the trunk of a tree...Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Watch the Cure for Hectic Schedules!

Do you feel like you're operating on autopilot?
Are you struggling to simply get through your days instead of enjoy them?
Is your schedule turning you and your family into something you're not?

We don't have to allow our culture of rush to rob us from what's authentic and important in our lives. But having a conviction to fight isn't enough; we have to have a game plan. Luckily, faith can provide us with just that.

This week last year, the premiere episode of my TV series went live on the topic of hectic family schedules. Hear one ordinary mom of two raised children reflect on what's at risk, and hear one dad who is also a teacher and coach struggling through it all as he raises two young children. How can their perspectives bless your life and bring wisdom to the decisions you're making right now? WATCH HERE to find out.

You're not alone in the chaos — calm can be right around the corner. Stay tuned for more episodes this year from my series Chaos to Calm! Finally, if you loved this episode, please SHARE IT!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why We Don't Have to Live Discouraged

This Monday marked the worst shooting in US history. Our hearts break as a church, community, and people of faith. As we learned about the event in disbelief, it’s hard to find our bearings. Sometimes it feels like tragedy just keeps unfolding on the wide-screen of our TV’s and in our very lives.

I remember hearing an encouragement to “look for the helpers” in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Mr. Rogers, the popular children's television icon, coined that phrase as a sign of active hope.  He said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."

As the country lit candles, sang songs, pledged dollars, and honored rescue workers this week, we have seen those helpers. Living in New York City during 9/11, I can testify that that show of solidarity indeed means something. But I believe as a people of faith, our job isn’t just to look for the helpers; our job is to be the helpers.

It is through the eyes of people who have suffered that we can see the suffering of others anew. We can work to bless others who are in pain. We can bind together what once was broken, and in our effort to mend fences, the holes in our hearts can heal too. The miraculous promises of our Savior are active in the world partially to the extent that we open ourselves up to be those "helpers" — in the broader communal sense and at home. Here are some ways we can do that:

·      Pray. This isn’t a trite, quick-fix solution; the Bible promises that it unlocks the power of God to move redemptively.
·      Give. We can send money, supplies, or handwritten letters to those who are hurting. Recently, my youngest son made teddy bears for children affected by Hurricane Irma at his school. He was so proud to help make a difference for another child.
·      Model. I love the quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Whether we’re modeling with our life or patiently teaching character-building to our children, we should never underestimate our power to plant positive seeds. These seeds can grow and become much more impactful than any tragedy, as they are not limited to a single event, but rather reflected over an entire lifetime.

This week and always, remember your God-given power to make a difference. Share your tears, open your palms, and shine your light.

It's good to be blogging again after a late summer/early fall break, though I wish it were not under these circumstances. My prayers continue for Las Vegas. If you'd like more encouragement, you can read my full Boston Marathon post here. Also, be sure you've signed up for my free devotional ebook and email updates here

This post was also shared with my church site

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Learning to Listen

I wrote this article in response to a writing teacher's challenge: Write about a humiliating moment (of hopefully redeeming value)! I hope it inspires you to listen — an important challenge and responsibility as we parent. 

I felt confident walking into the New Jersey post office that afternoon. I had set clear rules beforehand for my children. They knew to avoid the automatic door buttons. As tempting as the buttons were, an open door would land them right on Main Street with oncoming traffic while I was still in line.

In typical 2-year-old fashion, my younger son was not persuaded after our arrival. He wanted to push the door buttons. My left hand held his; the other was juggling two large, rather awkward packages of art that I was sending to his grandparents. What started as a gentle pull, a slight lean toward the door really, soon became a full-body pursuit.

“Mom, let me goooo! I want to push them!” he exclaimed. He threw himself to the floor, hoping the weight would cause me to drop his hand. But I knew that trick from raising his older brother. I held onto his hand tightly when I saw his attempt at a jump.

My son swung from my arm, a few inches off the ground until he stood back up. He started crying. Here comes a tantrum now that he knows I will not give in, I thought. Line, please hurry up! I made it to the front, quickly paid for the packages with embarrassment, and left with my two sons, one still screaming.

When we got to the car, he told me his arm hurt as I tried to strap him in. I was gentle with my movements but emotionally raw. I wanted to get home and get him down for his nap. I needed a quiet moment to compose myself. I tucked him in as soon as we got home. I told him he would feel better after his nap as he often did after boo-boos, real or imagined.

After about ten minutes of a quiet room, he started crying again as he had in the post office. It was the first time it clicked that something was wrong. I rushed into his room to see my son sitting up in his bed, telling me his arm hurt. It was lying motionless. He couldn’t move it. Panic ensued. What was going on? I rushed him to the ER.

After an X-ray, the doctor told me that nothing was broken, but my son had nursemaid’s elbow. I didn’t know what that was. Then he said these simple words: His elbow is dislocated. And it had happened when he swung from my arm.

While the doctor reassured me that this condition is common in young children, I was devastated. In an effort to protect my son, I had hurt him. Further, I hadn’t listened to him. He had told me that his arm hurt. He had been screaming at the post office, and I had misread the signs.

The latter particularly stung because I’m a minister who’d worked for two years as a hospital chaplain. It was my job to listen to people’s pain and accompany them through their healing process. I had learned the best chaplains erase their own agendas and become skilled at empathizing with patients. I had done this with countless cancer patients and high-risk pregnancy mothers. I had held hands with those who were dying. I had helped others, but not in this instance for my own vulnerable child, whom I adored.

After the doctor had manipulated his elbow back into place, I looked at my now pain-free son. I recognized that sometimes listening was easier at hospital bedsides. There, it was typically a conversation between two adults. With my children, I was used to knowing better and instructing them. They often depended on me for that.

I’d spent the afternoon talking nervously on my cell phone with my husband, keeping him informed. When he got home from work that night, our 2-year-old bounded toward him with his arms flung wide for a hug. My husband picked him up gingerly and let out a quiet sigh as he held him close; meanwhile, our son chattered about the events of the day. He seemed unfazed. I, on the other hand, was different.

Parenting is one of God’s best character crucibles. Even the best parents have imperfect moments. I learned that day that good parenting doesn’t just involve sincere attempts to keep my children safe. It doesn’t just involve imparting necessary care and guidance. It also involves pushing aside my preconceptions and agenda, getting down on my children’s level, and saying, “I want to listen.” I still needed to learn something.

If you resonated with this article, please give it some love here! It's been published by my writer's guild in their monthly RedBud Post. Discover their other parenting-themed articles here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

How to Receive My First Free E-Book

"The first step to living a soul-filled life is to make time for what feeds your soul."

I am delighted to offer YOU my first e-book. It's one that I hope will impact your life as I've written it with you in mind. 

Are you looking to move from chaos to calm? For parents, this is a daily journey ... and this devotional can help! Every day for one month, read a different meditation complete with Scripture and a challenge to think about that day. Your parenting, personal development, and connection to God will grow as you experience this resource and its professionally-edited, color-illustrated pages!

Going on a monthlong journey together is intentional. You'll get to know me better as I honestly convey my thoughts, aspirations, and struggles in an effort to encourage us all ... Parenting is no easy gig, and we're in this together!

This e-book is yours for FREE when you sign up for my mailing list and follow the prompts. Those of you who are already on my mailing list got the download link this morning. YOU can join hundreds of others and sign up by clicking this link. Please note that you will not be spammed. This service is simply for weekly blog updates and occasional newsletters. My hope is to give you an exclusive sneak peek into my new book on life purpose through the newsletter, for instance.

Thank you for reading and being a part of this community. I am grateful for you. Please let me know what you think of my e-book. I can't wait for you to read it!

Want to keep the momentum going? This resource is named after my TV series. Don't miss its episodes, which are available on demand. Watch here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Provision

The end of the school year is no joke. I’ve heard parents describe it as a busier time than Christmas! With the end of the year productions, teacher gifts, and goodbye parties, that might very well be true. It’s a scramble to fit in everything that’s important.
That’s why I added one more thing to the calendar a couple of weeks ago. Yes, you read it right, I ADDED something. And that something was cooking a meal for the homeless with my children for Family Promise.
In case you’re wondering, Family Promise is a national nonprofit that serves homeless and low-income families. My church, Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, occasionally hosts some of its families. Most of them are employed; they just cannot afford New Jersey’s high rent.
Equally saddening was the news I heard recently that approximately 40 percent of the children at a nearby school, Jefferson Elementary, are food insecure. That makes snow days, holidays, and summer break precarious times in which some children could go hungry in my community and perhaps in yours.
As we turn to summer and think about the wonderful memories that are hopefully in store, I want to also consider the fear that some might be feeling as well. As farmers’ markets burst with abundance, let’s take the time to share some of our provision to make our community stronger, our children wiser, and our hearts just a little bit softer.
Are you local and interested in helping? Contact Amanda Parish Block (nokidhungryin07901@gmail) of GRACE. She’s looking for surplus produce! GRACE stands for Giving and Receiving Assistance for Our Community’s Essentials. To learn more about it, click here to read an article from a New Jersey paper. 
This post was also shared with Central Church on the staff blog.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Season Finale: Watch HERE!

I am delighted to pass along the on demand link to watch the season finale of my parenting TV series, Chaos to Calm with Noelle Kirchner! In this episode, entitled "The Calm of Connection," I explore the many benefits to a church connection. People often think of the church as simply a provider of religious education. This episode will explore how it is SO much more - largely, how it can be a valuable partner for parents in the character building of their children. I'll explore transformative moments through mission, racial reconciliation, key components to resiliency in children, and more! Meaningful connection is essential to help us all move from chaos to calm! 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sermon Sunday and Show Tuesday!

I am excited to pass along some important end of the school year news! 

For those of you who are local, I will be preaching for the last time this school year on Sunday at 5 pm. The service is Central Presbyterian Church in Summit's contemporary service called WAVE, which will be held this week in the sanctuary. We've been covering the beatitudes from Jesus' first sermon, and I'll be exploring: "Blessed are the pure at heart, for they will see God." How can we have a pure heart? What does it mean to see God? I'd love to see you there!

Also, the season finale of Chaos to Calm will air this Tuesday night! You can watch "The Calm of Connection" on Verizon (channel 33) or Comcast (channel 36) if you're local, or via live streaming here if you're not at 9 PM EST. In this episode, I sat down with other church leaders to explore the many benefits of a church connection, which span well beyond simple religious training. Find out how the church can partner with parents for important character development, foster healing in our communities through reconciliation, and empower the voice of your child. Meaningful connection is essential to help us all move from chaos to calm! I can't wait for you to see it! 

On set for the finale with two of my guests!

Friday, May 12, 2017

​9 Reasons Why I’m Celebrating Mother’s Day

This post is in honor of the "I'm a Great Mom Because..." challenge for the TODAY Show Parenting Team. Like it? Laugh at it? Click here to VOTE UP and spread the word! It's also over at the HuffPost. Happy Mother's Day!

  1. I try hard to ignore the mess when I trip over Legos as my child explores. The small ones really hurt, however, and warrant a guilt-free glass of wine.
  2. I kiss boo-boo’s and am an expert stasher for emergencies. Just check my purse or car for anything you need … seriously.
  3. I choose to care more about how my children feel at the end of the day rather than what my internal mom says about the dirty dishes in the sink.
  4. I delight in the cuddles, even if I’m disturbed by the icing-covered faces (and fill in the blank) on my new clothes … Keep them coming.
  5. I am my child’s best advocate. In fact, although the quote “A worried mother does better research than the FBI,” makes me giggle, it’s probably true.
  6. I know that “mommy brain” is a fallacy. If ever I am forgetful, that’s because I am juggling more than the average person … times X number of kids. 
  7. I can drive safely with loud carpools, be a pinch kickball player in work clothes, and magically find missing, needed items (like homework) around the house. In fact, hand me my superhero cape, please.
  8. I am an expert in teaching hygiene lessons, potty training, and germ prevention … just don’t ask me the last time I got to shower (without company knocking especially).
  9. I’ve learned firsthand that my heart can beat outside of my body and in another as I send my children off to school each day. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

First Book Deal!

I have been SO excited to share the news with you! My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has just contracted me to write a book for their best-selling Being Reformed workbook series. The book will be an interactive discernment tool to help people live more fully into God’s plan for their lives. It will be forthcoming in 2018.

Life purpose has been a topic that I've been exploring a lot this year. In addition to watching my recent episode on fulfillment, I hope you didn't miss my article for on three steps to discerning life purpose. The article includes insights I preached about at my church as part of its New Year, New You series.

You won't have to wait until 2018 to read a book from me, however, as I am also writing my first e-book! It is a short 31-day devotional journey for parents looking to move from chaos to calm, in honor of my TV series. It will be forthcoming later this year. My hope is to offer it for free to all subscribers to my blog!

Speaking of Chaos to Calm, this season's final episode will air later this month. I'll be exploring the virtues of a church connection for families - and believe me, we'll go far beyond simple formal religious education! Stay tuned for more details. Are you already a blog subscriber? If not, subscribe here to have the episode sent right to your inbox!

And for those of you who are local, I will be preaching for the last time this school year at the WAVE service on May 21st at Central Presbyterian Church in Summit. I will be exploring one of Jesus’ beatitudes, his basic teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. WAVE services are kid-friendly and begin at 5 pm. Hope to see you there!

Thank you all for your support!

TODAY Video Clip