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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. 

 

10 things to do this Christmas Break

WE ARE THERE!!!  Yes – parents across the UK have heaved a big sign of relief as the busiest term at school is over and we are now in the Christmas holidays.  Yes there might be a few days of excited pre-Christmas children to put up with before the big day, but you made it.

So what now?  I am sure there are many things on your to-do list, but I want to share with you 10 things that I will be doing over my Christmas break this year to invest in both myself and my family and set us up well for the start of 2019.  Perhaps you’d like to join me in some of them:

  1. REST and RELAX.  This is your Christmas holiday too, and you shouldn’t have to do all the jobs of all the child care.  Make sure you plan in time for you to rest and relax.  And if that means not planning hundreds of trips or activities, then thats fine!  Let the kids be wild for a bit, let them play with their new toys and watch hours of TV.  It is not going to break or ruin them, but it might just give you that bit of space and recharge time that you actually need. Accept offers of help from family members (or ask if you need help), curl up with a good book or have a nap and rest.
  2. FIND A BIBLE VERSE FOR 2019.  Maybe you already do this, maybe you don’t, but I have found it useful the last few years to pray over and find a verse for the year.  This gives me something spiritual to focus on, and often it reflects where God is taking our family that year.  I find comfort in it when life is hard, and I often write it somewhere so I can see it throughout the year and reflect on it. (You can read mine from last year here)
  3. REFLECT ON 2018.  Did you have a list of goals, aims or activities that you wanted to do in 2018?  Then take a look back and see what you achieved or didn’t.  That way you can congratulate and celebrate the successes of the year, take stock of what didn’t go to plan, and maybe refocus for the year to come.  Its great to do this at least once a year, as we often forget how far we’ve come!  Me and my husband like to do this on New Year’s Eve together with the next step…
  4. WRITE GOALS FOR 2019.  Whilst we are reflecting on the year gone by we look to the year ahead and write some goals and aims we have for the year.  This keeps us focussed, and the span various elements of our lives.  They might be personal, work related, hobby related, spiritual.  Whatever you want to do in the next year, write it down and keep it safe!  This really helps us to get rid of the unnecessary things we are doing and focus on what we are passionate about for that season.
  5. MAKE YOUR FAMILY YEARBOOK.  Whilst looking back on 2018, you might also want to remember the times you’ve shared together as a family.  I like to do this by creating a yearbook with all the photos we’ve taken.  We download all the photos from our respective phones and filter through for the best, then I put them in a photobook online ready to be printed.  I love this time of remembering the highlights of the year, birthdays, holidays, big events.  And to have these in print makes them even more special.  Photo books normally cost around £35 so its a good way to use any Christmas money you might get!  (We love this one with the cut out numbers on the front from photobox)
  6. CREATE A READING WISHLIST.  Leaders are learners, so as the leader of your household (and whatever other ministries you are involved in!) you should be planning to learn more over the next year.  Whether that is books, audio books, podcasts or you tube videos, make a list of topics you want to grow in over the next year and research what books and resources will help you do that.  Then collate a wishlist of what you want to read/watch/listen to over the year.  Be realistic – we are mums and don’t always have a lot of reading time!  So maybe 1 book a month might be achievable, or 1 every couple of months.  Why not add a few books for pleasure to the list too from your favourite fiction authors.   Watch this space for my list…..
  7. WRITE A FAMILY BUCKET LIST.  I am sure we all get lost in the routine and busyness of school, swimming lessons, football, etc.  So its great to sit down with your kids and chat about what extra things you might like to do this year.  We did something similar over the summer holidays, but a bucket list for the year could include places to go, activities you want to try, restaurants you’d like to eat at, people you’d like to visit, films you’d like to see.  Let everyone contribute and them type it up and frame it, so you can tick things off throughout the year.  Then when you have a free Saturday, you can look at the list and do something fun together!  Make sure you add a mixture of free/cheap/treat things to the list so there’s always something to suit your budget. (Here’s ours from last year – I think we managed 9 out of the 20!)
  8. PLAN IN THE BIG THINGS.  Buy yourself a planner, calendar or diary and book in the important things of the year right now!  Holiday weeks, special birthdays, trips to family members.  The non-negotiables of life go in first, and then the things that you really want to find time to do.  Without planning, we can miss out on some great things and seeing important people, so make sure you plan to have a great 2019.
  9. BUY NON-PERISHABLE SUPPLIES IN THE SALE.  This might just be me, but I like to alleviate the stress and cost of next years Christmas really early by getting non-perishable things in the sale now.  Christmas cards, wrapping paper, even reduced gifts to stash away.  You can also get the next size up clothes for your kids ready for the coming year, and even buy all the birthday cards you will need now and write them ready! If you can take some stress out of 2019, then do it!!
  10. RECYCLE THOSE CHRISTMAS CARDS.  Maybe you don’t get as many now, but we always try to recycle what Christmas cards we do get.  The fronts get cut into tags for presents next year, and the bits with names on get put into a box and made into prayer cards so we can pray over those close to us over the coming year (thanks Gospel Centred Parenting for this fab idea!).
10ofthose review

Mum on a Mission Reviews Goodies from 10ofthose.com

10ofthose review

I was so over the moon when 10ofthose.com got in touch with me to ask if you would like to review some of their products! I love that their heart is to get resources out to as many people as they can and as affordably as they can, and there are often some great bargains to be found on their website.  Today I am reviewing three products, so check out what I think below:

Raising Kids in a screen-Saturated world

raising kids bookThis is one of the books that 10ofthose.com have published in a series called “raising kids”.  They aim to be quick and easy to read, whilst equipping us as parents to deal with some pretty big topics in the parenting world right now.  I was able to read this book in a few days of snatched 10 minutes.  The chapters are really short so you can read it in chunks, so if you read it cover to cover it would probably only take half an hour or so.  The aim of the book is not to tell you exactly what you should do in regards to the issue, but to discuss it within a biblical context, get you thinking about it and provide you with a few tips and principles on how to deal with it.  I love that it hasn’t gone for the “ALL TECHNOLOGY IS EVIL” approach, but has accepted we are in a changing world, where we are parenting kids who are digital natives.

Definitely worth a read, and at only £2.99 (with heavy discounts if you order more for your mum friends at church!) it won’t cost you much either (buy it online here).  For those of you with babies or toddler, read it and prepare yourself for the future.  For those of you with older children or teenagers who feel like they are already failing in this arena, then read it as it will help you figure out a plan to get back in charge.  Other books in the series include Raising Kids in the way of grace, in a you can do it world, and in a hyper-sexualised world.  

Devotional Dippers

devotional dippersLots of you mums got REALLY excited out there when I showed you the Devotional Dippers!  This little tube brings lots of fun and will help to initiate bible related discussions with your kids.  There are little cardboard sticks inside it with a big idea, a bible verse to read, a question to think about and something to pray about too.  They are idea for younger kids who want to explore things but don’t have a great attention span!  Also great for family discussions, and for those with kids who have just got their first “proper” bible to help them start looking up passages and verses in them.

There are three different packs – Prayer, God and Key Bible Words.  They are £5.99 each or £12.00 for all three packs (buy them here).  Each contain 40 sticks, so if you did a weekly family devotional it would last you almost a whole year!!

I recorded a video review of this product too, so if you want to see the it up close then do watch that here.

ESV Scripture Journals

love joy peace journalsMy final lovely product to review was less parenting based, and more bible journaling themed.  This set of three scripture journals are really lovely.  They have a bible verse at the top of each page on the theme – either love, joy or peace.  The pages are a lovely thickness and cream coloured with lines in them for writing.  I actually sent one of these as a present to a friend and she loved it.  If you want somewhere to use as a prayer diary, to explore these three themes, or just to start doing some bible journaling before getting yourself a proper journaling bible then these are perfect.

The RRP is £14.97 for the pack of three, but you can get them all for just a fiver over at 10ofthose.com!!!  What a bargain!! Why not buy a pack and give a couple away to friends who might like them?

parenting for faith website

Should you do the Parenting For Faith course?


parenting for faith

Have you heard about the Parenting for Faith Course?  Maybe you are involved in a mum’s bible study group or lifegroup at your church and think it might be a good resource to use?  Then have a read below of my own experiences running and taking part in a Parenting for Faith Course.

what is the parenting for faith course?

You might think its just a parenting course for Christians, but you would be completely wrong.  I went into it thinking it would teach me normal parenting skills, things that will be useful to make sure I have “good Christian kids”, but that is the wrong idea entirely.  The truth is that this course will teach you how to help your kids have an authentic faith of their own in the future.  This course will help them to not just hang off your faith as the parents, but to truly get to know God for themselves.  And if our kids know God and can manage that relationship with Him on their own, then when they reach the teenage years maybe they will just carry that on and turn to God when they go through the rough times.  Doesn’t that sound like one of the most amazing things that we as Christian parents can do??!

how does it work?

parenting for faith websiteThe Parenting for Faith course is a free video based online course.  This means that you can do it anytime, anywhere.  You can do it on your own, or with a group of other parents, and you don’t really need to wait for church to organise it – just get on and do it!!!  I have run this as part of our parents lifegroup that meets on a Wednesday morning in our church building.  There are usually between 6 and 12 mums and the accompanying tots in attendance, so it can get a bit loud.  We agreed to watch the videos in our own time before coming, and we then printed off the accompanying workbooks to go through together.  There is a leaders workbook, but in my opinion it doesn’t add much than the participants workbooks, so we just go through the questions in their together.  There is space to write if you want, and also some questions to think over at home after the session.

Are THE VIDEOS ANY GOOD?!

OK, so lets not beat around the bush.   There are lots of resources out there we could use, and you don’t want to waste your time on things that aren’t going to work!  But I can honestly say that the videos, as well as being free, are some of the most engaging Christian course videos I have ever seen.  Rachel Turner speaks in a really easy way, and the videos have a good mix of visuals and filmed scenes to keep you interested.  They are all around 25 minutes long, which makes them the perfect length for watching during midnight feeding sessions with babies (this has been road tested by some of our group!) or during nap time.  So yes – they are pretty good!

Here is a little snippet of a video that shows you what they are like and a bit more about the concept:

how has it gone in our group?

Well we are currently on session 6 out of 8, so not quite at the end yet.  But what has amazed me is how much I have learnt and how common sense it all is!!  Sometimes you don’t see things until they are pointed out to you.  There are lots of really practical ideas for different aged children, and most weeks there has been a technique that we have taken away to try with our kids at home.  Even our kids pastor said that she hadn’t thought of things in that way before, and that it would be helpful for all the parents to be able to go through the course!

why should you do it?

I would highly recommend every parent, whether their child is a baby or older, to spend the time and do this course.  If nothing else, it opens your eyes to the fact that we have to be intentional about teaching our children our faith, we cannot just leave it up to Sunday School to do that or else a real relationship will not flourish and when it comes to being their decision they will not know God for themselves.  I pray that as I use the techniques I am learning from this, that my two boys will get to know God and be equipped to stand firm with Him in every situation they find themselves in.  If that is your prayers for your kids too, then make sure you do this course.  You can find all the information over on their website.  Happy Parenting for Faith!

(p.s. if you need to persuade anyone at church about it or need some more persuasion yourself then check out the promo video here.)

 

spiritual growth in children

Spotting the Signs of Spiritual Growth in Our Children

spiritual growth in children

This week we have been doing lots in our new garden.  We emptied old plant pots of dead plants, refilled them with soil and planted new seeds.  Then came the anxious waiting period, where all you can do is keeping watering them and seeing what will happen.  Every day me and my boys would go out to see if anything had started to grow, and the excitement when the first little green leaves poked through the dark soil was huge!  We’d actually grown something!!

But that isn’t the end of the story – we will continue to watch these little plants and care for them in the hope that they will produce fruit, or carrots, or pretty flowers in the future.

I think I have forgotten to look for the new growth in my children’s spiritual lives.

Yes I celebrate their physical and mental achievements – starting to read or learning to use the potty (my sons are 5 and 2 at the moment so these are forefront in my mind!).  But I often fail to see the little things that they are learning and grasping about God.

Whilst we were on holiday a couple of weeks back, we went on a walk up to a waterfall.  There were some steep steps with slate edges, so we warned Sam our eldest to be careful.  However, he decided it would be much more fun to jump up the steps than walk, and so grazed the whole front of one of his legs in the process.  Much crying happened, and we eventually were able to carry on and reach the waterfall.  As we carried on walking Sam turned to me and said “Mummy, it still hurts.  I need to ask Father God to heal it”.  He then stopped on the path and prayed (right in the way of all the other tourists trying to reach the waterfall!).

This may seem like a little thing, or perhaps people might assume its a habit I’ve gotten him into, but it wasn’t.  It was entirely his choice.  I hadn’t pushed him to pray, but only gently taught him over the last year that when we feel poorly we can take our hurts to God and ask him to heal them.  Sam knew there was nothing I could do to fix his leg (I had no plasters which of course fix everything), so he took it to the person he knew could – God.  This was a tiny little glimpse into the growth of his spiritual life, and I almost missed it trying to hurry on walking and get him out of everyone’s way.

You see sometimes I feel like what I try to teach him about God isn’t sinking in.  Prayer times are hurried or giggled through in an evening, and sometimes church can be a time of messing around.  But when I look back at where he was a year ago I can see how much he has grown spiritually.  He thoroughly enjoys worship at church and has a “dance team” of friends who join him in dancing to the songs.  He loves the Sunday School, can’t wait to go to Messy Church at Grandma’s, and comes home from school excited to have made a “tell everyone about the good news of Jesus” banner!  There is a long way to go, but we have come a long way too.

Perhaps if you are feeling discouraged in your spiritual parenting, just stop and take a look at the tiny little leaves in the same way you would a plant pot of seeds.  Maybe there is growth that you haven’t spotted yet.

Tackling Head Lice Head-on

I remember the night.  I was breastfeeding my 4 month old baby in the middle of the night during the start of the Christmas holidays.  Sat in my breastfeeding chair I could feel my head itching.  I thought nothing of it – I hadn’t had head lice since I was at primary school so why should I have them now?!  Plus my son had really  short hair.  He was in nursery but surely he couldn’t have got them?

I left it two weeks until the end of the Christmas holidays thinking it was just an itch, but it just got worse and worse!  I had to find out so went out to get the comb and whatever stuff you use to treat it.  The annoying thing was that when I checked Sam’s hair he didn’t have any – he had just passed them all to my nice long hair!!  I was devastated to have to admit I had headlice as a grown up.  So now I am insistent on not ever getting them again.

Getting ahead with head lice

For all those joyful hours that the children play together and the memories they share, unfortunately the close contact and endless selfies, brings an increased risk of head lice infestation – so as parents we need to be prepared! Luckily, with the help of Ian Burgess, head lice expert, Hedrin have put together a brief guide to getting ahead of head lice.

If in doubt, check it out

Head lice expert Ian Burgess, explains, “Head lice can appear at any place and any time, so there is no need to avoid certain situations, but just be vigilant and ensure that you check your child’s hair regularly. Some parents wait until their child starts to scratch, however, not all infestations cause an itching sensation.

Firstly, to diagnose a case of head lice, you need to find them alive. Lice range in size from a full stop to a sesame seed and they remain close to the scalp, however, you will need to check all over from the back of the head to behind the ears and under the fringe.”

How to check – remember the three C’s

Comb: Use a fine toothcomb, with teeth no more than 0.3mm apart to ensure that you can trap them and ideally use a white comb so they are more visible.

Conditioner: To ensure the process is as hassle free as possible, try combing the hair when it is wet and use a conditioner as a lubricant. This will allow the comb to glide through easily without causing any fuss.

Comfort: As the process should be part of your weekly routine, make sure they are comfortable and distract your child with their favourite TV programme, this will ensure you can check for lice quickly and thoroughly.

Treat and defeat

Ian continues, “If you find lice, don’t panic, head lice are a normal part of life. You should use a non-pesticide treatment that smothers the lice instead of poisoning them. Research suggests that lice have become resistant to traditional pesticide treatments so they are less effective although most people do use a non-pesticide product these days. “Home” remedies are sometimes used by parents, such as dosing the hair in vinegar, mayonnaise and olive oil, however, none of which are clinically proven to eradicate lice. If you are unsure about what treatment to use, speak to your pharmacist.”

How to ensure the treatment is effective

• Remember, only treat if you find live lice. Your pharmacist can advise on protection options if this is what you are looking for.

• It is very important to follow the instructions on the pack and cover the full length of hair until it is saturated for the recommended time.

• Whilst ensuring the product is used thoroughly, it is important to keep it away from your child’s eyes, face and shoulders and ensure you keep the lotion away from heat sources such as hair dryers, naked flames and cigarettes.

Detect and Protect

Once you have completed the course of the treatment, you should check thoroughly to see if there are any live lice left – remember, you need to see them moving. If you do find lice, this could be a result of a failed treatment or a re-infestation. At this point, you will need to treat again and ensure that you follow the instructions carefully.

“It is likely that some of the empty eggs are left behind, as they have a strong bond with the hair and are difficult to remove, these are called nits. Previously the removal process was done by hand or using a comb on dry hair, but ultimately this may cause hair breakage. There are now products available that help loosen the bond between the nits and the hair, to allow them to slide off easily when using a suitable comb. When you are confident that you have got rid of the infestation and the remaining nits, it may be worth considering a protection product as other children are likely to still be carrying lice in their class. Ask your pharmacist for more information.”

For more information about head lice, you can download or order free resources at www.onceaweektakeapeek.co.uk. For regular tips on head lice management check out www.facebook.com/onceaweektakeapeek

The Hedrin range:

Hedrin Once spray gel (60ml £7.49, 100ml £11.99), available from Boots

Hedrin Stubborn Egg Loosening Lotion (RRP £4.99) and as a kit (RRP £7.29) from pharmacies including Boots.

Hedrin Protect & Go (120ml £4.29, 200ml £6.29, 250ml £7.29), available from Boots

Hedrin Head lice Detection Comb is available for £3.49 from pharmacies.

 

NOTE: We were sent samples of hedrin products to review, but all opinions are my own.  Facts and advice provided by Hedrin. 

 

In Her Shoes – Lois and Eunice

in her shoes

Welcome to another week looking at some amazing women from the New Testament (don’t forget to check out Naomi’s post about Pricilla).  We get two for the price of one this week as we look at the mother/daughter team that is Lois and Eunice, the grandmother and mother of Timothy, one of the recipients of Paul’s letters who he met on his missionary trips.  We focused our meditations on this verse:

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded now lives in you also.”  2 Timothy 1:5

Sincere Faith

The first phrase that really jumped out at me this week and which I spent quite a bit of time thinking about was “sincere faith”.  I wondered why Paul had used this turn of phrase, rather than just the word faith on its own.  What was it about the faith shown by Timothy, Lois and Eunice that made it sincere?  When I looked up the definition of sincere, I loved this explanation:

“free from pretence or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings.”

They weren’t just pretending to love God, they had a genuine love for the Him.  I imagine their actions and the way they looked after Paul when he visited proceeded from their love for God, and Paul was witness to that.  Do we have sincere faith like Lois and Eunice?  Or are we just pretending?  I pray that all of us have a faith that is born out of a genuine love for God.

Passing on our faith

The main thing that both Lois and Eunice are commended for in this verse is that they successfully passed on that sincere faith to their son/grandson Timothy.  I know that as mums this is something a lot of us worry about – will we be able to pass on our faith?  Over in our Facebook Group we had a discussion about ways in which we do this and resources/techniques that we can use to help our children grow in faith.  There are so many amazing resources now, like kids bibles, subscription boxes, special church services and music.  But Lois and Eunice wouldn’t of had any of that, and so I think that its important to realise that those resources can only ADD to what our sincere faith already teaches them.  If our love for God is genuine and takes over our lives, then our kids will see that.  Let them witness your relationship with God – every bit of it – and then they will want that for themselves.

Coincidentally I also started the first week of the “Parenting for Faith” Course with a group of mums at our church this week and it inspired me a little.  I learnt that often we hide ourselves away for our quiet times and so our kids never get to see a proper one on one relationship with God.  We have a lot more doors now a days to do that!!  So lets try to make sure we our living out our lives of faith so that our kids can see, because if they can’t see how amazing a life of faith with God is, why would they ever want to live one themselves?

Confidence in whatever our situation might be

There is only one other verse that mentions Lois and Eunice, and that is Acts 16:1-3.  This verse tells us a bit more about Timothy’s family background, as it says “whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek“.  Eunice was a mum who faced raising a child with a husband who did not share her faith.  Last week we looked at Priscilla who had the privilege of sharing in ministry with her husband, and what an amazing thing that is.  But we know that perfect situation isn’t always what happens.  Here is a young woman who has managed to pass on her faith to her son despite her husband not sharing in that.  For those of you who share that circumstance, please be encouraged that here are two ladies who have succeeded, so don’t think that it is hopeless.

next week

We look at our last inspirational woman from the New Testament next week, so do join Naomi and me as we meditate on the following verse:

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then she was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying”  Luke 2:36-37

Naomi will be leading the discussion over in our Facebook Group so do head over there to join in and get access to your free phone lock screen with this weeks verse.

Mary (week 1) – Who does God say she is?

December is now officially upon us and we have launched fully into the season of Advent.  So it is only right that at Mummy Meditations we acknowledge that!!  So we have decided to follow the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, throughout this season and in to the New Year.  Our first verse of the series was:

“Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God” Luke 1:29-30

Mary – who do we think she is?

Mary verse in lukeNow this passage might be quite familiar to you – we as a family have read the Christmas story every December for the past five years and before that I would hear the same passages read at church in the lead up to Christmas.  The angel appears to Mary and she becomes pregnant.  But I wanted to dig down deeper into who this woman (or girl is probably more appropriate!) is and was.

In our Facebook community we shared what the world thinks of Mary, through comedy Christmas card pictures of a laughing pregnant cartoon Mary, to traditional artwork with a serene looking halo clad Mary, and everything in between.  Its fascinating to see that our modern pictures of her are influenced by symbolism used in previous artwork.  Mary is always wearing blue – why?  Because this symbolised royalty and peace.  But in actual fact, if you research the history of the time she would most likely have been wearing brown/beige clothes as only those with wealth could afford dyes to colour their clothes (especially blue and purple dyes which were the most rare and expensive).

Another thing we commonly view Mary as is in her twenties.  This has been a common time for young women to become mothers in the last few centuries, but actually in biblical times it was more common for girls to become engaged around the age of 14.  This means that Mary would have actually been a teenager, probably in our equivalent of Year 9/10.  So we need to throw away our view of 20 year old Mary for a much young looking girl.

We want the holy, peaceful, blue coloured Mary, as that fits nicely with what we think God would choose in the mother of His son.  But I’m not 100% sure that is who Mary was.  This woman, who has been elevated to almost the same level as Jesus in some places, was not chosen to be elevated in that way or for the reasons we think.  So lets see what God says.

Mary – Who does god say she is?

God sends His messenger down to speak to Mary on His behalf, and he doesn’t say much, but what he does say reveals a lot about who Mary is.  Her reaction also reveals a lot about her true character.

Firstly we see that Mary was troubled at the angel’s words.  When we look back to verse 28 we see the angel greets her in a surprising way “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you”.  Now, I guess the arrival of an angel might be quite scary on its own, but then to have that holy being tell you that you are favoured?  That’s just odd!!!  A proud kind of person might go “yeah, I’m gonna own that – I’m pretty amazing aren’t I!” and puff themselves up with the complement.  But Mary isn’t like that.  Mary probably remembers the times in the Old Testament where people were struck down dead just for seeing the likeness of God’s glory because they were not worthy.  So her reaction of being troubled I think reveals her knowledge of her people’s history, an awareness of her imperfections and a humility that doesn’t quite accept those words about herself.

Secondly, we see that the angel comforts her and calms her as she reacts in this way.  He says not to be afraid.  And those words work!  Mary truly believes that this is a messenger from God who means her no harm.  We see this is the continued conversation she has with him in verses 31-38, where she calmly asks some follow up questions to what the angel announces.  Mary has faith that this is really God and that is an important characteristic for her the have!  Even at a young age of 14, Mary has grasped who God is and knows that it is an amazing privilege to be chosen to be part of His work.

Lastly, the angel says that Mary has “found favour with God”.  This is echoed from the verse before where the angel says she is “highly favoured” and speaks of someone who is first choice, the best candidate and special to the person choosing.  To me this speaks of someone who already has a relationship with God, who is known to him.  I can picture Mary praying and studying the word, getting closer to God throughout her childhood, so that when this happens it is not a huge shock, but more some exciting news from a close friend that Mary gets to share in!  Of all of God’s children whom He loves so much, He has a special relationship with Mary and that is why she is favoured.  That is why when He sat and thought about who the ideal person to do this job would be (and He knew exactly the pain, rejection, confusion and heartbreak that would be involved) Mary was the name that came to Him.

how would you feel to be mary?

So this Mary that God is speaking to is humble, she’s a close friend, she isn’t perfect but she is faithful and believes whole heartedly in her God after seeing Him move in her nation’s history.  She has characteristics known to God that even she isn’t aware of yet, and strength greater than most women put together.  Perhaps she was “meek and mild” but I think Mary was much more than that.  And I for one am excited to see more of her character come through over the next 5 weeks.

One final thing I want to say is – how would you feel to be Mary?  If an angel came to you and said you were favoured, would you get puffed up and boast about it, would you curl up in a ball afraid, or would you embrace what God is saying as you know Him personally and understand what He is calling you to do?  Mary was ready to accept this difficult and important task because she was special to God already – are you making sure you are favoured by God too by getting to know Him better?

Next week

We carry on looking at Mary’s reaction to being part of God’s amazing plan with this verse:

“From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name” Luke 1:48-49

Do join Naomi as she leads the discussion over in our Facebook community and posts her thoughts on the verse next Sunday.  You can sign up to be part of the community below, where you can get your hands on free workbooks and phone lock screens as well as joining the discussion throughout the week.

[contact-form to=”rachel.ridler@gmail.com” subject=”MM sign up”][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″][/contact-form]

 

school sign

Being a Christian Mum at the School Gate

school sign

For the last few weeks I have been wondering how best to use the opportunity of being a mum at the school gate to share the love of Jesus.  I don’t want to be a weird mum who stands in the playground and preaches, but I also don’t want people to be completely unaware of my faith either.  It is a very difficult balance, but I am determined not to let this opportunity pass me by.

I asked the lovely Captivated mums their advice and ideas on how to do this, as I know many of them have school age children and have walked this road before me.  The collective advice was to be normal, make friends and let things grow from there.  As you would in any other situation, just being there for people, showing you care and taking an interest in their lives can make a huge difference, and it is how true friendships are formed and trust developed.

This was great advice, and I have already been praying for opportunities and boldness to get to know the other mums and dads a bit better.  This is easy with some and harder with others, but I will persevere!

As well as doing this I am planning to do some other things along the way to show love and demonstrate my faith to the parents and staff at the school.  Here are some of my ideas, and I hope you will share yours with me too!

  • Commit to praying for your child’s teacher and their class and let them know.  It is an amazing blessing to pray for someone, and even those who don’t share your faith will be complemented that you have taken the time to think of them.  As my son goes to a Catholic Primary School this wasn’t such a shock when I emailed his two class teachers to let them know I would be praying for them and the class.  I also asked them to send any prayer points over the year, whether personal or for the class in general, and one of them did!  I might follow this up with a card at each half term to remind them I have been praying.
  • Setting up a parents prayer group.  Someone on Captivated mentioned doing this and I think its a great idea!  Not only can you then reach out and forge relationships with other Christian parents, but you can cover the whole school in prayer.  I have heard of these groups blessing teachers on parents evening with meals and loving on the staff too, so I have enquired about whether there is one or if I can be involved in setting one up.  Again, this is probably a bigger mission opportunity in a non-faith based school.
  • End of Half Term Party. My son has already been inviting every member of his class round to his house for tea, and with us living a bit further from the school than I would like this makes it difficult.  But I came up with the idea of maybe hosting an end of half term party, where he can invite a few friends for tea on the last day of half term.  That way, he gets to play with his new school friends and I get to properly meet some of the mums and dads.
  • Suggest a class whats app group. Some parents in Captivated mentioned that they have a class whats app group where they can share reminders and invitations with other parents.  I am not sure whether to suggest this yet, but it is definitely an option to build community amongst the parents.

What has worked for you at the school gate?

catch up with joanna may chee

A Catch Up Cuppa with Joanna May Chee

catch up with joanna may chee

I offered all the lovely people that I spoke to a year ago in my first series of cuppa with interviews the chance to catch up and tell us all what they’ve been up to.  Joanna was the first to take me up on the offer, so lets see what’s been going on in her life…..

1. Hey you! Its been a year or so since we last spoke, so remind us a bit about yourself in one sentence…

I’m Joanna, wife to an amazing man, mum to four incredible teens, and I blog at MumsKidsJesus.com.

2. What has happened in the last year for you and your family?

It’s been a huge year. We moved back to UK from Turkey. It’s been a time of adjustment, getting used to English culture again, making new friends and enjoying easy food!

3. Have there been any answers to prayer or moments when you have seen God moving really clearly?

Lots! The six of us arrived back in UK with six suitcases and no home! God miraculously provided a wonderful house, a job for my husband, and schools for our kids. A lovely answer to prayer has been being able to get pets for our kids. We promised them a dog and cat when we moved back to UK but our landlord had a strict ‘no-pet’ policy. Miraculously, after he met us, he allowed us to get a puppy, and now one year later, after many prayers and continued begging from my daughter, he has also allowed us a kitten!

4. How have your kids grown and changed? Has this changed your parenting style?!

It’s been a year of change for our children. Two of them miss their friends in Turkey terribly, and have found it very difficult to settle here. Another, who was very unhappy in Turkey, is thriving here! Our eldest has left home and is hugely enjoying university life. I don’t think our parenting style has necessarily changed but we have had to be very sensitive to our children’s needs, and help our kids through the grief of leaving home and friends, and help them deal with anger and upset, which at times has been directed at us. I have needed to apologise to the two children who have had the toughest time (for uprooting them), and they are slowly becoming happier here.

5. What does the next year hold for you and what can we be praying for?

I’m really excited. Some of my life-long dreams are becoming reality! I’ve always wanted to write a book, and my first book ‘Forever Loved: Eve’s Story’ is going to be published in the next few months. It’s a creative retelling of the Bible story of Eve, focusing on God’s incredible love for Eve (and for us as women). I’ve also just released an online course called Knowing God: Going Deeper. This is a free 3-day course for women who are hungry for more of God. I’m quite nervous about putting it out there as it’s the first time I’ve ever videoed myself, but I really pray it reaches and blesses many women. God’s done so much in my life, and I want to share it.

On top of all that, I’m about to launch a new website – JoannaMayChee.com – which will feature my upcoming books and courses and be a devotional resource for women. I’d love you to pray as I put the finishing touches to all these projects, especially to get the book out there soon – there have been many hitches and delays, and it will be amazing to just have it done! Thank you!

6. Have you come across any great resources for mission or teaching our children about the bible that you can share with us all?

A great resource for families in transition (especially going to or from the mission field) is 22 Activities for Families in Transition by Amy Young (scroll down her page to view it). It’s filled with fun activities to help you and your family prepare for and process change. I also recommend Girls Created To Shine – a fun 12-week course in God’s word and the issues girls face today. This course is created by a wonderful friend of mine, and I hugely respect her heart to reach tween girls with God’s truth and love.

7. Finally – show us a pic of your favourite mug!

I don’t actually drink tea or coffee, so this mug gets used more by my daughter! But it’s still a special mug, given to me by my lovely sister-in-law.

sister mug

Its been so great to catch up with you Joanna – praying for this next amazing step in your writing dream x