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Three Fab Books for February

I am so thankful to be sent some great resources for parents to read through and review on your behalf.  This month I want to share three books that I’ve been asked to review, my honest opinion on them, and who should read them.  Lets begin!!!

Lessons I learned from My Little Girl

lessons i learned from my little girlHave you ever realised something new about God from something your child has done?  I am a firm believer that becoming a parent helps you understand the father-heart of God in a more real way, and that is what Dai Hankey is trying to capture in this beautiful coffee table book.  Full of beautiful illustrations, endearing stories of his daughter and perfect parallels drawn into parts of God’s character and story, this book is a delight to read.  Each of the 8 chapters takes only 5-10 minutes to read, and so is perfect for a coffee break.

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This book would be a lovely gift to give an expectant or new parent, and with its gospel themes it would be ideal for those who are on the fringe of church or non-Christians to point them to God in that new season.

Buy it here for £7.99 from Christian Focus Publishing

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Idols of a mother’s Heart

idols of a mothers heartHave you ever wondered why motherhood is so hard and why it brings out the worst in us sometimes?  It’s because God is trying to sanctify us and make us more like Jesus.  This book explores how idolatry is something that really manifests itself in motherhood and how we can recognise and deal with that. The book is split into three sections – the first one setting the scene and getting you up to speed on idolatry in the bible (I found this quite a dull section to be honest, as I was already aware of what it was), the second section identifying what idols might be prevalent for mothers, and the last section helping you deal with those.

This book has been one I have had a love hate relationship with.  I have enjoyed reading some chapters, and others not so much.  But each chapter is finished with some questions to ponder over and a well thought out prayer that captures the heart of that chapter.  I have been forced to look at myself and what things might have taken the place of God in my heart as a mother, and just in general.  It is a necessary but not easy read, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to properly check their hearts are in the right place during this season of life.

Buy it here for £7.99 from Christian Focus Publishing

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Raising Kids in a You Can Do It World

raising kids in a you can do it worldI have loved this series of books as they are short, snappy and to the point, whilst dealing in a biblical way with some of the biggest issues we face as parents in our current world.  This one particularly deals with our over positive world, where you are told you can achieve anything and everything, and yet we have to balance that with what the bible teaches us about sin and needing a saviour.

I love the way that each chapter only takes 5 minutes to read – it is bitesize and perfect for parents to be able to digest in the time they have spare.  There are 8 different “signposts” on how to approach and deal with this world in a biblical way, and all are very practical such as “Thrill them with the gospel”, “team up with a faithful church” and “teach them God is awesome”.  I was left feeling equipped and as if actually this wasn’t a big problem anymore, as I am already doing lots of the things suggested in the book to give my children the tools to deal with the world we are in.  For the sake of a couple a quid (yup, the book is really that cheap!) it is worth investing in and preparing yourself, even if you only have young children, so that they have the best foundation to take on this current world from.

Buy it here for £2.99 from 10ofthose.com

DISCLAIMER: I was sent free copies of these books by the publishers for my honest review.  I have received no payment for doing this, and all opinions stated here are my own. 

 

In HER Shoes – Esther (week 5)

 

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As I came to think about this week’s verse I was acutely aware that I hadn’t found much time this week to ponder it and meditate on it.  I was gutted that I hadn’t given it enough time, as I don’t feel like I’ve got everything I could have out of this verse.  If thats you too, then welcome!  You are at home here with those of us who have rushed through this week with barely a moment to spare.  Instead of feeling guilty, I hope you read this post and that God reveals something to you through it, and I also pray that you (and me too!) can find just a bit of space in our coming week to meditate over the next verse.

It is weeks like this that I am so so grateful for the Mummy Meditations Community, for their comments and input and ideas, and I’ll be sharing lots of them below.  Our verse this week has been:

“Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favour and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:17

That feeling

I read this verse in the King James Version and it threw open a whole new understanding of it.  Instead of the words “attracted to” it used the word “loved“.  The king LOVED Esther above any other woman.  He loved her.  This had stopped being a contest to find the best woman in bed, because the king had felt something.  He’d been moved.  He’d felt a connection to Esther.  The bible doesn’t tell us what or how Esther felt about the King unfortunately, but I’m sure she would have wanted to feel the same way.  The way you feel when you both click, and you could spend all night up talking to the other person about anything and everything!  That rush of connection and emotion.  Esther was not just any woman, she was the one.  Lets not overlook how amazing this moment could have been for this couple.  We assume that because it was the king and there were hundreds of other women involved that it was all forced, but what if it wasn’t?  What if Esther and the King were truly in love?

When I asked the Mummy Meditations Community to think about what it was like to fall in the love, a “spark” was mentioned and that “fluttery feeling”.  If that was how these two were feeling then it would have been one amazing night.  In fact it doesn’t mention in the verse that she was asked to leave and go to the different part of the harem for the concubines.  Instead it says that he put a crown on her head.  So maybe this was a night that lasted longer.  Maybe they were chatting and sharing their hearts and bodies with each other in a way like the King had not done with anyone else.

I always thought she was being groomed to be raped by the king, and forced into marriage.  But that one word of translation – love – changes everything when I read it this week.

That “thing”

From Hegai, to the whole palace court, and now to the King.  Everywhere Esther goes she finds favour, approval and gets special treatment.  What is that all about???!  We chatted about this in the Facebook live and some of our thoughts as to what made her different included:

  • her faith in God – even when she tried to hide her heritage it shone through
  • her dependence on God – she would have had to trust in her as her Father after losing her parents at a young age
  • her lack of dependence on physical things to win people over – she didn’t take extras in with her, just the bare minimum.

In the same way that the light of Jesus shines out of us for all to see, the light of God shone out of Esther as her hope, her confidence and her provision.  This would have been starkly different to the other virgins there who would have been mostly Persian, and trusting in other things to win the King over.

We may not always think we are different to the world, in fact sometimes we might hide who we are in Christ, but lets not forget that the light within us will always shine through everything we do and be visible to others.

Royal crown

The climax of this verse is that Esther is made Queen, and lots of you loved the imagery of the Royal Crown being put upon Esther’s head.  There were lots of parallels drawn to Christ with his crown of thorns – being elevated into this position was not necessarily going to be an easy place to be, and like Jesus on the cross, it would come with its own sacrifices.   It also reminded us that we wear a crown now because of Jesus, and that if we continue through life and stand during trials, we too will be bestowed with crowns of life.

Stepping in to Esther’s shoes, I started to wonder how she felt in this position.  The previous Queen had been humiliated and cast aside, and so there may have been some doubt in her heart about her future in that role.  I wonder if there was also a sense of being a winner!  Out of 400 women, she was the one he chose.  Did she boast in that news?  Did she commiserate with the other virgins in the harem who might have either been her friends or enemies for the past year?  Did she take the news gracefully and accept this new role well?  Again, we can’t be sure, but when I put myself in her shoes I felt this torrential mixture of emotions – pressure of a new role, joy of security, sadness for those who lost out, compassion and perhaps the dizzy feelings of new love!  One thing is for sure this would have been an exciting and confusing time for her with lots of new experiences (she had just lost her virginity – thats big enough on its own without throwing in becoming Queen!!).

next week

Well, now that Esther is officially Queen, we are going to jump ahead in the story.  The rest of Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of the book don’t actually mention Esther at all, but do read through them to catch up on the plot before meditating on our next verse:

“When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them.” Esther 4:4

I would love for you to join me live at 8pm tomorrow (Monday!) night for a Facebook Live discussion to kick off the week!  I want to hear about how you deal with success?  Would you have reacted the same was as Esther when she “won” the prize?

 

In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 4)

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Well, its been an interesting weekend with out internet refusing to work properly, so its a miracle really that this is written at all!!  But welcome to week 4 of our Esther series.  We are now a quarter of our way through the story, and I think we’ve learnt a lot about Esther already.  This is a young women who hasn’t had an easy start to life – she’s lost her parents, been adopted, forced to keep a rather large secret and live in a harem with 400 other women.  But despite all of these challenges, she seems to be able to keep making a good impression and make friends where it counts.

This week we were meditating on the following verse:

“When the turn came from Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the King, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested.  And Esther won the favour of everyone who saw her.”  Esther 2:15

There are four things that I want to highlight that have come through in our discussions and in my own meditations on this verse:

Anticipation

Lets take a moment to think about the magnitude of this moment for Esther.  As a young girl in this culture, getting married would have been a big landmark in her life, signifying her separation from her old family and joining to start a new one.  Throw into the mix that this is with the King of the country she was currently living with, that she was in competition with 400 of the most beautiful women around, and that if she got it wrong she would be tossed aside like nothing, and you’ve got yourself a high stakes situation.  Nervous, anticipation, fear, stress?  Those would be the things that I would be feeling in that situation.  My own wedding night was stressful enough, and I was with someone I loved, trusted and knew! So I can’t even begin to imagine how this would have felt for Esther.  As she walked down that corridor towards the King I am sure there were butterflies in her tummy, but perhaps there was also a air of certainty or confidence, as we know that she had taken Hegai’s advice……

Advice

Esther wasn’t unprepared.  In contrast to the other women who were trying to think up all the amazing things they could take with them to woo the King, Esther took a different approach.  Instead, she befriended Hegai, the eunuch, and asked for his advice.  Esther recognised that she was young, naïve and didn’t know the King at all, and so went to someone who could help.  Hegai was older, wiser, knew more about the King than she did, but we also think he may have been of Jewish heritage, so possibly shared the same values as her.  He had the inside knowledge, and was able to wisely recommend to Esther how to proceed.  This must have been a great comfort to her, and Esther was wise enough to listen to someone greater than her.

Acceptance

She hasn’t even reached the King’s chamber yet (that happens next week!) but it mentions again that she is winning favour with everyone she meets.  I can’t help but see the hand of God in this, as she walks around the palace and has a different demeanour and attitude to the other women because of her relationship with God.  Perhaps she wasn’t trying so hard to catch attention or be flirtatious.  Perhaps she was more confident in herself as women.  We don’t know, but we know that she was making all the right steps.

answers

I don’t know about you, but for me this passage threw up way more questions to me than it answered.  I long to know what Esther took in with her, what the others took in, how were they being prepared in the harem?  So many things unanswered.  What questions do you have from this week?

application

The application that has been jumping out at me all week from this verse is this: WHO AM I TAKING ADVICE FROM????

Is it from the internet, is it from a person who hasn’t earnt that position in my life, is it from someone less wise than me?  Check who it is that you are listening to and taking advice from and follow Esther’s example – someone wiser/more experienced in that area, someone who has inside knowledge, someone who shares the same values as you.  If you are taking advice from someone who doesn’t tick these boxes, then that advice is useless.  There are so many pressures and stresses in this world that we need to make sure we are getting help from the right places.

next week

It’s a landmark week for Esther next week as we move on to looking at this verse together:

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favour and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.” Esther 2:17

There is a new FREE PHONE LOCK SCREEN design coming out to you all on Monday over in the Facebook community, along with the opportunity to join me at 8pm tomorrow night to kick off the week’s discussions and thoughts.  Do join me there and share your comments on this weeks verse below or in the Facebook group.

 

 

 

 

 

In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 3)

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Welcome to week 3 of our Esther series, and its fair to say its been a bit of a controversial week this week!!  I love when a topic sparks discussion, so lets jump straight into the verse in question:

“Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.”  Esther 2:10

to lie or not to lie

White lie or lie of omission, the first thing that jumped out to me in this verse is that Esther is hiding something intentionally from others.  So whether she had to tell a lie and say she was Persian, or whether she just didn’t mention it and let people assume what they wanted, she was trying not to let on that she was of Jewish descent.  This started us straight into a discussion of whether it was ever ok to lie, and what God’s heart on that is.  Ranging from the black and white view that it is always wrong to lie, to the more grey areas of moral values and whilst truth is high on that list, stopping potential evil is even higher, we had lots of different opinions and thoughts.

I’m not going to share my own opinions on this – there are plenty of articles and other sources shared in our Mummy Meditations Community – but I am going to draw one observation.  Clearly we all see truthfulness as a desirable quality, something that is characteristic of God and hence something we should strive for.  And so it must take the thought or prospect of something pretty horrendous to make Mordecai forbid Esther from being truthful.  Something unimaginable, that he wants to save his precious adopted daughter from.  Or perhaps even just the fear of the unknown.

Yes, the Jewish people were accepted and allowed to live in the Persian Empire, but that doesn’t meant that they would have been treated the same once inside the palace.  One mum also mentioned that perhaps as an orphan and adoptee that she might have been considered lower ranking too.  Maybe this would have lowered her chances of seeing the king and pushed her back in the queue (when she had been fast-tracked last week by Hegai) or perhaps it could even have resulted in physical abuse or death.  We really don’t know, but we know that Mordecai acted out of love to protect Esther, even if that was by telling her to lie.

forced to lie

As I stepped into Esther’s shoes, I tried to remember a time when a situation had come up where I had been forced to lie or protect some piece of information and how it made me feel.  Examples flooded into my mind, such as safeguarding issues at church where you may need to only share information with certain people on the team, or when a friend had confided in me.  Work examples of news such as concert line-ups which are embargoed until a certain date and time.  All these examples have made me feel very uncomfortable, almost anxious, with having to keep information to myself.  I have felt threatened and accused when people asked me innocent questions around them.  Esther might have felt similar, as if every question, comment or action of those inside the harem was designed to catch her out or make her reveal her true identity.  It is not a nice place to be in by choice, and even worse when someone forces you to be there.

When it is someone else who requests you lie, then you feel like you are going to let them down if you slip up, there is added pressure and responsibility on your shoulders.  Esther must have been so aware of everything she was doing, trying to hide her prayers, trying to forget about special days and not seem bothered, trying to hide her accent, way of dress or distinguishing features that would mark her out as different.   How tiring that must have been.  Despite being surrounded by 400 woman and her own set of servants, I am sure she would have felt isolated and alone in that place.

what can we learn from Esther?

Well, we don’t know an awful lot more about how she dealt with this situation, because as we already noted – the book is written from a male perspective, and so they can only report the facts that they knew.  On her own in that harem, who knows the struggle that Esther went through inside, whether she turned to God in that dilemma and found comfort in him, or whether she just isolated herself and avoided everyone so that no questions were asked.  However, as we know from last week, she found favour with people inside, so I doubt highly that she did that by hiding away.  The only thing we do know is that Esther succeeded in keeping her nationality a secret until later in the story.

Esther was obedient to her adoptive Father, even when she didn’t know why is was necessary, even when it would have been hard for her to do so, and even when it battled with her inner conscience that wanted to be truthful.  In this messed up and sinful world, sometimes we have to be obedient to those wiser than us and to God, in ways that we just don’t understand.  Obedience is certainly a characteristic that Esther displays here, and perhaps one that we need to practice more.

Next week

I’d love for you to join our Mummy Meditations Community over on Facebook to discuss our next verse over the week:

“When the turn came for Esther (the young woman Mordecai had adopted, the daughter of his uncle Abihail) to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the harem, suggested. And Esther won the favour of everyone who saw her.” Esther 2:15

Please do share your own comments and thoughts below or over on Facebook.

 

Esther week 2 verse

In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 2)

 

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Welcome to week two of our Esther series (I already feel like we’ve been looking at Esther forever!) and we move into the start of the story this week now that we’ve met the main character!

“She pleased him and won his favour. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem.” Esther 2:9

who did Esther please?

Now, a bit of a blunder on my part, but for the first half of the week I had assumed that the “he” in question was the king.  But I was really jumping ahead of myself, and it was only when I read this verse in the Message version that I realised it was Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the virgins, that was being talked about!!  Big well done to you if you didn’t make that mistake!!  Always good to learn to check the context and who is being spoken about.

So this verse is right at the start of Esther’s progress through the palace.  She has just arrived, along with hundreds of other candidates for the role of Queen.  When I researched I found that there could have been as many as 400 virgins assembled in this particular harem, making it a pretty busy place to be.  But even amongst that many other girls, Esther stands out.  She makes an impression.  The phrase used is “she pleased him”.  The Message translation puts it like this “Hegai liked Esther and took a special interest in her”.

Hegai was surrounded by beautiful women day in day out, and he wasn’t really able to or allowed to act on that beauty.  So there must have been something else that made Esther stand out from the crowd.  Some sources speculate that perhaps Hegai was of Jewish descent and that he recognised that in her.  In our Facebook Group discussions we erred towards this showing her true character, and being a contrast to the physical attractiveness mentioned last week.  I guess we’ll never know, but we can be inspired by Esther that it is not a bad thing to get on well in the place that we are at, even if we think it is an unfavourable place to be, as God can use us in those dark places.

Fast-tracked for a reason

Esther week 2 verseSo why was it so important that Esther was noticed by Hegai?  Because of the things that he then set it motion.  Esther had four huge blessings come out of this, but the biggest one (and probably most overlooked) is that she got to start her beauty treatments early.

All the virgins had to go through them (and some people suggest it might be because they had fungal diseases and other things that they wanted to make sure the king didn’t catch) and they last about a year.  Esther, being resident in Susa where the palace was, was probably one of the first virgins to arrive in the harem as part of this search.  The search went across the whole Persian Empire, and would have taken months if not years to collect together all 400 possibilities for the King.  Being within the first batch arriving and then also being one of the first to start her beauty treatments meant that Esther would be one of the first few women to have her night with the King.

Esther was fast-tracked, and this increased her odds of getting to see the King in the first place, because if he saw someone before her that he quite liked, then that was game over and they would become queen.  God needed Esther to be seen early so that the King would fall in love with her.  Time as of the essence and so Esther wasn’t just fast tracked to make her life easier, but because God needed her there.

in her shoes in the Harem

Its amazing to see God working in this verse to make sure that Esther was in the right place at the right time (“for such a time as this”!).  But this week I also tried really hard to step into Esther’s shoes and understand how she might be feeling about all this.  My first step was to consider what actually was a harem.  The first thoughts that jump into my head are of prostitutes, concubines and basically a whole load of women just sitting around waiting to be called on to have sex with the king at his whim.   It doesn’t sound like a nice place to me, and I’ve always viewed it negatively.

I thought Esther would have hated being taken from her family home with her adoptive father and put into the harem, but then I read more about them.  A harem was actually supposed to be a place of protection and safety for these women.  The king was taking them away from the prying eyes and attention from other men that they may have had outside the harem.  They would have had security as they would have been fed and looked after, possibly even educated within the harem.  Contrast this with outside, where Esther probably would have had to work and risk herself in a mans world, where she was a virgin and very desirable.  Maybe Esther actually felt relief to be inside the harem.  Yes it did mean that she was being lined up to basically be raped by the king so he could choose his favourite virgin, but in this situation that might have been a better prospect than what lie outside the palace walls.

How might Esther have felt to be given preferential treatment?  I wonder if she had any backlash from the others in the harem because of this?  There are so many questions I have when I step into Esther’s shoes that I don’t know where to start!

Next week

Join us over in the Mummy Meditations Community as we discuss the following verse this week:

“Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so”  Esther 2:10

I would love for you all to join me at 8pm on Monday night for a Facebook Live discussion to kick off the weeks thoughts!  So do head over to the Facebook Group for more information.

 

 

Down in the Dusty Basement….

These last few weeks, my husband and I have been attempting to improve our basement.  The house we bought has five amazing basement rooms,  but they were dusty, dark and not quite fulfilling a useful purpose.  What initially seemed like a quick job of just smartening them up is now taking a reasonable length of time, as we seek to do things properly and so that we won’t have to do it again anytime soon!

We started with clearing out all the stuff stored in them, which meant we had to make space for that in other places.  We then mopped and cleaned the floor numerous times ready for painting.  This was proceeded by a primer coat on the floor, then two coats of heavy duty grey floor paint.  The floor is looking mighty fine right now!!  Gone is the red dust, random sticky patches (don’t even want to know what happened there!) and dusty corners.

Next, my Father-in-law installed new lighting to brighten it up and make it more energy efficient.  He dug in the wires into the joists so that the roof could be boarded over, stopping draughts upstairs through the floorboards.

We then decided to move on to the walls. My hubby took down all the old shelving units on the walls that were sagging and rusting.  We brushed the walls down, hoovered up all the dust, primed them with a watered down coat of paint and did a full coat of white paint on every wall we could get to!

Every step took a day of our time, to let things settle and dry (and to let us recover from working hunched over – did I mention the basement rooms are half the height of normal rooms!).  It was slow, it took longer than hoped, and just when you thought you might be finished, another preparation step popped up.  As I type, we are now having to do another coat of grey paint on the floor to hide the white splodges that got there after painting the walls.  There is more sweeping to do after the mess made from boarding the roof, and then the job of boxing everything up in plastic to keep it dry and safe from rodents.

So what’s my point?  I guess all the DIYing has got me thinking about how long it really takes for God to move and work and change things in our lives.  Quite often I’ll identify an issue I have and pray about it, expecting it to be instantly resolved.  But then a year or so later it comes back, and I’m annoyed that I am still battling it.  I like to think that as I grew up a Christian, my problems aren’t that bad and I’ve never really sinned big style!  But I know now that the sins and issues in my life are ones that are taking many years to be noticed and then to be resolved.

I am currently reading a book called “Idols of a mothers heart” and the author says that motherhood is a season that reveals things in us in a way that no other season can.  The unique stresses, pressures and challenges of motherhood throw things out of us that we never expected, and only then can God deal with them.  Well I can certainly attest to that!  But what I now know, and hopefully will remember, is that most things take a long time to do right.  There are unexpected steps and extra steps we never bargained for, there are the times we have to go over the same job twice because we messed up again.  But if we do it right, and take the time, then we will make a positive change to our lives that will last through future seasons.  Just like we hope our new basement will.

Nothing is unfixable, we just have to deal with the next task on the list to making it better.

 

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In HER Shoes – Esther (Week 1)

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Welcome Mummy Meditators to the first summary post of our new Esther series!  I am very excited to kick off this series with you all, and who knows where God is going to take us over the next 16 weeks.  We all probably know the Esther story reasonably well, it’s a Sunday School classic and a women’s ministry favourite too.  But that is not why I have chosen it as our next series.  I want us to step right into Esther’s shoes, to experience this story like we never have before, and to truly grasp to magnitude of the task set before her.

We started off with meditating on this verse this week:

“Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.” Esther 2:7

What’s the situation?

We jump straight into being introduced to Esther, but its really helpful to know the cultural situation of the time.  The Jewish people documented in the story are not in the promised land, they are resident in Persia despite being given the freedom to return to Jerusalem.  After being taken into exile years before by the Assyrians and dispersed amongst various towns and cities, the lives of the Jewish people were now entwinned with those of the places they had moved to.   They have lives, friends and family there, and the thought of going back to rebuild the temple and repopulate the promised land wasn’t that appealing.  So they are not slaves, they are widely dispersed across the area, and they are mixed in with the other nations around them.

In my head before studying this I thought the Jews were still in exile, badly treated and forced to live in a foreign land, and that was why Esther didn’t want them to know her nationality.  But clearly I was wrong!  The king of the Persian Empire actually quite like the Jewish people and gave them freedom to worship as they pleased.   Even if that was under his rule.  So that begs the question….

why two names?

esther bible verseOne of the things that lots of you Mummy Meditators picked up on straight away and wanted to look into was why did Esther have two names?  You quickly found out that Hadassah was her Hebrew name and Esther  her gentile name.  Taking a deeper look, it seems that this was common practice, but it is not known if her name was changed when she married the king or before that.  I guess it might have been a bit like when Chinese students come over here to study and adopt an English name that is a bit easier to pronounce for us who suck at Chinese!  Either way, it allowed Esther to fit seamlessly into the Kings courts and not stick out as different.

Adopted, not orphaned

As mothers we were all drawn to the part of this verse where it says that her mother and father had died.  When we step into Esther’s shoes we can feel this sadness, this loss of her parents, even though we are not told how old she was when they died, if they died at the same time or different times, and the circumstances surrounding that.  We can perhaps assume that she was quite young when it happened, as no brothers and sisters are mentioned.  This is not a sweet innocent girl who has had a sheltered life, this is a young woman who has been through some emotional times and had to find a way to deal with that.  She would have questions, doubts and fears surrounding her.

Although our hearts break for Esther to hear that she lost her parents (and doesn’t seem to have any brothers or sisters to share the burden with), we are told the joyful news that she was not an orphan, she was not left to fend for herself or fall on the mercy of others, she was adopted!  The way this phrase is written “that he took her as his own daughter” reveals a tenderness, a fondness and love between Esther and her cousin Mordecai who became her guardian.  This may have been an adoption of necessity (if he was the next closest family member then it would have been his duty to take care of her in the circumstances) but she is now considered his daughter, a fully fledged member of his family.

It doesn’t mention a wife for Mordecai or any other children that he has, and so it seems like a really close set up between the two of them.  Despite the awful events that have happened, Esther is loved and cared for by him and has a place of safety and security.

Beautiful for a reason

As we were chatting through this verse in the Facebook live I mentioned that it would likely have been written by a man, from a male perspective, and that was probably why it was mentioned that she was beautiful (men notice these things you know!).  But looking deeper into it this week, actually we saw the necessity of this aspect of Esther for the story to succeed.  If Esther was not beautiful and physically attractive in the eyes of men, she would not have been invited into the courts of the king.  So this is not a throw away comment or slightly interesting character note, but a key piece of information for later on.  Esther was beautiful for a reason, and it is amazing to see that God can use the things of this world to bring glory to himself.

Novella, not fact

One final thing to mention as we move on in our study of Esther, so that most people seem to think that the book of Esther is written as a historic novella and not a pure historical document.  This means that not every detail in it is strictly historically accurate, but it is a historical story fleshed out so that we can understand better what happened at that time.  It was written to explain to the Jewish nation about the origin of the Jewish Holiday of Purim, and why it should be celebrated.  Amazingly, Purim is celebrated on the 20th March, which will be within this series, so hopefully we can celebrate this together in some way (suggestions welcome!).

next week

Well what a way to start off the series!  There is so much to take in, and this is just the introduction of the main character.  Next week we will move on to meditating on this verse:

“She pleased him and won his favour. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem.” Esther 2:9

Do join me at 8pm on Monday night for a quick Facebook live discussion to start off the week over in the Mummy Meditations Facebook Group, and don’t forget there is still time to download a workbook or grab other resources in the shop.

My 2019 Reading Wishlist

I love reading, but I often find that I don’t have the right books around me that I want to read, or sometimes I’ll hit a brick wall with a book that I really just don’t get!!  There is also that problem of finding time and planning it in to our already hectic lives as mums.  But I think there is great value in putting together a reading list for the year to inspire you and keep you going reading when life gets busy.

I have put together a few books on my list to inspire you, and the reasons why I want to read them:

  1. Raising Kids in a “You Can Do It!” World.  I have loved the “raising kids” series that 10ofthose.com have published, and have worked my way through two other titles already this year.  They are small enough to pick up when you have 5 minutes break, but really address current parenting issues in a relevant and biblical way.  This is the next in the series that I want to get my teeth into.
  2. Idols of a Mother’s Heart.  I was sent this book to review, and it’s been sitting in my pile for a while.  The first chapter has already captured my attention, as it refers to motherhood as a learning and stretching period for us as mums and I am fascinated to know more!  We often lay ourselves down on the alter of our children, but this book aims to dethrone the idols that we can so often pick up during motherhood.
  3. .  This book was recommended by a friend at church and as a self-professed worrier and stress head, I think this will be a useful resource to try and gain a biblical perspective on issues of the mind and to deal with them.
  4. .  I’ve read a few parenting books in my time, but this one was bought for me by my mum and I  am hoping to get a chance to read it over the year.  With two very clever and high energy boys, I want to escape the cycle of shouting at them and bring a sense of peace into the way we parent them.
  5. .  A classic marriage book that I have yet to read!  My hubby always goes on about my love language being gifts, and I get a bit annoyed with him as I have never taken the quiz to find out!  So we are hoping to sit down and work through this together over the year.
  6. I love Francine Rivers and the way that she weaves Christianity and biblical truths into her writing, whether that is by adapting stories based on the bible and taking them further, or writing new stories altogether with themes of love and restoration running through them.  This is one that I haven’t read yet so I’m adding it to my list!
  7. .  I have recently stumbled upon the author Jo Watson, and if you like a bit of chick lit escapism then her books are perfect!  Yes, there is always a happy ending, and yes it is a bit far fetched and romantic.  But they are lovely to get lost in the stories and characters.
2019 plans and prayers

2019 Plans and Prayers

 

2019 plans and prayers

Welcome to my second reflective post for the New Year – this time I am turning my attention to what I am planning and praying for in 2019.  If you missed my praise points from 2018 then catch them here!  Lets go into 2019 with prayerful hearts, dedicating this year to God. Here are some of my plans and prayers:

  1. ROME!!!  I write this once again, but we have now actually booked the flights and hotels so 2019 will finally be the year we visit this amazing city.  It was on the shortlist for our honeymoon, so this is our treat for the year.  If anyone has any recommendations on restaurants/tours etc that we should go to do let me know.
  2. DIY.  This year will be filled with a lot of DIY as we try to turn our 60’s house into a modern space.  Yes, this is partly because we want a nice place to live, but we also want to have a house that we can use for hospitality, a gift that we have both been given by God to bless others with.  This will hopefully see a new bedroom being created in our garage ready for another lodger, and the kitchen and other spaces being transformed so we can do more meals and open house days.
  3. Reuben starting school nursery. reuben in uniform My youngest is now the grand old age of three, and so after Christmas he has a 30 hour place at the school nursery.  He is so excited, and has missed nursery a lot the last 6 months.  It will also take away a lot of stress for me in regards to childcare, housework and blogging, as I will have at least one day a week where I am not working so can catch up on mum admin!!  I am praying that I can use this time wisely, and that it means I will be able to value the quality time I have with both boys after school instead of trying to be with them and do housework at the same time.
  4. Colour Conference.  This year I have signed up to go to Hillsong Colour Conference with the ladies from my church.  It is down in London, which scares me a lot, but I am praying now for an immense time of spiritual growth over those few days and for relationships to be build up during that time.
  5. Mummy Meditations growth. mummy meditations banner After launching the shop last year and rebranding, I feel like now is the right time to make Mummy Meditations even bigger and better.  I have been collecting feedback and planning new things, so my prayer is that whatever God wants me to do to encourage mums in their journey with him will be successful, and anything that is just my selfishness and pride will fall away.  I am praying for more mums to join us in this journey in 2019 too – maybe we’ll even reach 1,000 members!!
  6. Northumberland.  Yes I  am that annoying person who has their holidays all planned in and booked already!  Family time is so important, and so this year we are going to go and explore Northumberland with is castles, coastline and Holy Island.

So thats my 2019 plans in a nutshell!  Most of all my prayer is that I stay close to God through whatever 2019 throws at me.

verse for 2019

I stumbled upon my verse for the coming year quite by accident, but felt like it was right for the new season I will be in.  Last year was about strengthening myself, getting through things, and recovering ready to bloom again.  This year, I feel God saying this to me:

When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.  When you come looking for me, you’ll fine me. Yes, WHEN YOU GET SERIOUS about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed” God’s Decree.”  Jeremiah 29:12-14 (MSG)

This verse to me was a wake up call – stop just messing around at the desires I’ve put in your heart and GET SERIOUS.  If you want to follow me, then you have to actually follow me with everything!  If you want those things then you have to actually pray about them.  If you want those dreams then you have to actually pursue them!  If I do these things, then I won’t be disappointed with what God does through me. Am I brave enough to do this?!! We shall see!

will you get serious with me in 2019?

Is getting back on track with God on your list of things to do in 2019?  Then why not join me and over 500 other mums in the Mummy Meditations Community as we look to study the bible, one verse at a time, during the chaos of motherhood.   Make it your New Year’s Habit!   You can find out more over in our Facebook Community.

 

praise points

2018 Praise Points

praise points

This time of year is fast becoming my favourite – the empty space between Christmas and New Year when you get to breathe (the chaos of Christmas is over!), reflect and regather your thoughts ready for the New Year.  So, in my first in a series of a few reflective posts I want to share with you all my praise points from 2018.

It is so great to look back and see what God has been doing over the last year, and this has been a biggie for me and my family.

  1. MOVING HOUSE!!!  Have I mentioned this at all?  Maybe not, but the big milestone event of new house2018 (which finally happened in May) was moving house.  That means that HS2 and all the stress that it caused is now behind us, we are settling in to our new home and community and have a fresh start as a family.  At the end of 2017 I asked for prayers of wisdom about where/when we should move, and as we stepped in 2018 I felt God saying it was time.  So we found a house that I fell in love with in January, and then commenced the 4 month saga with HS2.  But its over now, and we have so much space and quirkiness in our new home (even if it is a DIY to-do list!).mummy meditations mug
  2. Launch of the Mummy Meditations Shop.  September saw a brand new look for Mummy Meditations, and with it a huge step in faith as I launched the Mummy Meditations Shop with a selection of resources for those taking part.  It is a slow start, but hopefully one that will benefit all the amazing mums who take part in Mummy Meditations each week.
  3. Hubby starting a PHD.  This has been a dream of Rob’s for a while now, and this year the government launched loans for PhD students which has meant he can take a day a week off to start on this (possibly 8 year long) endeavour.  I know this is pretty scary for him, but its so great to see him step out and start it.
  4. 10th Wedding Anniversary. 10th anniversaryYes, we made it!  10 whole years without killing each other!! We had a night away in a lovely hotel in the Peak District to celebrate, as unfortunately our Rome trip had to be postponed again.  I can’t imagine my life without this man by my side – he is my champion, my comforter and my best friend.  Words cannot explain how thankful I am for having found him all those years ago.
  5. New school. sam new schoolA real stress for me over the last year was finding a new school for my eldest son and whether or not he would settle in it.  He loved his old school, as did I, and had a small class of close friends. I also had many mums I knew, so this was a big step into the unknown.  But it has really paid off, and his new school is lovely.   Sam is flourishing, on the pupil parliament, getting Star of the Week and making friends.  Has it happened instantly?  No!  But I am gradually making friends at the school gate, and love the atmosphere around the school with many extra things taking place for the kids and parents.   It is a still a church school, so I know that Sam is getting spiritual input too.
  6. Launch of Bible Journaling on my Bed.  Another thing I wanted to take forward into 2018 was my bible journaling passion.  This started with a new Instagram and Facebook account dedicated to my journaling, and has expanded into hosting my first two “Introduction to Bible Journaling” Workshops in my own home.   I felt so spiritually alive hosting these – the kind of feeling you get when you KNOW you are doing what God meant for you to do!
  7. Fitness, friends and fun.  This past year I have been leading a parents lifegroup at our church, and I am so thankful for the growing and deepening relationships I have with those women.  They have been my strength and joy this year.  I have also taken up Airfit and tried to take back my fitness with a couple of friends which isn’t going quite as well (my pelvic floor is not quite trampolining ready!) but is a good laugh.
  8. Family time. I am always thankful for the times we get to spend together as a family.  This year my boys have started playing together nicely, sharing a bedroom, and life as a parent is becoming a little bit easier.  We had an amazing few days in the Lake District camping (cut short due to moving house that week!), a trip up to Scotland and many more days out.  I may moan about them sometimes, but I really do thank God and praise him for my family. Ridler family
Things I didn’t get to do

Once again, our Rome trip was postponed for various reasons, but as I type this the flights and hotel are already booked for us to go in June 2019!!!!  We are combining it with a friend’s wedding in Italy – it was the push we needed to actually book the trip!  Quite chuffed that this was the only plan from my 2018 list that I didn’t get round to doing.

My verse of the year

Last year’s verse was Isaiah 35:1-4 (check out last years post for a reminder!), and I can truly say that many things in our lives have come into bloom this year, although still much more to look forward to (life never works out perfectly like you expect it to!), but I have clung onto the final part of the verse for dear life through the tough times.  There have been times when I have given up praying as it seemed nothing could change the situations we were in.  There have been times when I have been so angry with things that I could have punched someone.  But my God is faithful, and He has strengthened my feeble hands and calmed my fearful heart.  I come to the end of this year with new dreams and plans that God has put into my heart, letting go of the perfect vision I had of our life.  Life is messy but beautiful.  What a 2018!