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O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E

Obedience… as a mom it’s something I live for. I set boundaries for my girls. I give them instructions to follow and inform them that if these boundaries are crossed or they fail to follow the instructions given, there will be consequences. I think about consequences in two ways; you can either receive something or not receive something, either way consequences come as a direct result of an action (or lack thereof).

I find as a mom, it is helpful to show or share with the girls the consequences that come with doing what mommy and daddy says. It shows them how their obedience benefits them and hopefully provides an incentive to encourage obedience. No this isn’t a psychology article on obedience and consequence, as you may be thinking, but in my prayer time recently, I felt a tug in my heart that I wasn’t operating in obedience in certain areas of my life. Was I being disobedient? The verdict is still out on that one, but I knew that some of the actions that I am called to take, as a believer in Christ Jesus and His truth, wasn’t being orchestrated in my life and therefore my efforts in various areas of my life have seemed fruitless.

I felt hopeless, miserable, emotionally exhausted and I realised that I had to make the deliberate choice to obey the Word of God and do what it says to shake my current state of mind and refresh my heart and soul. This mind led me to search the scriptures for the consequences of obedience as a child of God. Just like ‘children’ when we are aware of the benefits, it helps our hearts to make the choice to obey each time.

Today, I want to share with you 6 truths to obedience that I found when I began to search the scriptures.

I am not going to focus on the disobedience, because there are countless examples of the children of God disobeying the command of the Lord and inviting God’s wrath upon them in the scriptures. Instead I want to open your eyes and reveal the goodness that comes as a result of an obedient heart.

Stay with me and let’s discover what happens when we truly and whole-heartedly obey God.

When you obey God’s voice, whether through His Holy Word or through his Holy Spirit speaking into your heart:

  1. You show your love and devotion to Him.
    God created us to worship Him. He has given us free will, and He invites us to freely enter into a relationship of love, trust, and adoration for Him. John 14:15 says If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments. [AMP]
  2. You remain under His protection and covering.
    His Word gives us clear instructions to stay connected to Him and receive the covering of protection and security that comes with being one of His own. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession…Exodus 19:5
  3. You will experience true joy in all things.
    When we walk in obedience, God’s Power goes before us and His Favour surrounds us as He fills our hearts with the joy of the faith, we have in Him to take care of us in every situation. If they hear and serve [obey] Him, they will end their days in prosperity and their years in pleasantness and joy. Job 36:11 [AMP]
  4. You not only remain in God’s Love, but you are moved to show and express the same love to others.
    Obeying God keeps us near to His heart and we experience the fullness of His love so powerful that it has to overflow from us into others. Obedience calls us to Love and His Love urges us to be a beacon of light in His kingdom, loving others as he loved us. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. John 15:10 [NIV] But if anyone obeys his word, love for God[a] is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. …..vs. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister[c] lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 1 John 2:5- 6 and 10. [NIV]
  5. You stand against conformity and become transformed into His light.
    When you obey God’s command to stand your ground against sin, you can walk in the purpose to which He has called you. Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 [NIV].
  6. His blessings will follow you always in all things.
    Obedience brings an overflow of blessing into your life, in more ways that you and I can count. Things that we never asked for or even knew e desired, God will start to multiply and expand our territories because obedience to God show His Glory. It allows God to show off His Awesomeness, His Sovereignty His Might and Power. His GODNESS! Deuteronomy 28: 1- 12.

I hope that you can see that there’s a lot to be gained from an obedient heart and that you now have more than enough incentive to do what it is God is leading you to do. It’s hard, I’ll admit, especially when you have a million obstacles and challenges being hurled into your path, but the price of choosing Christ and choosing to obey our heavenly Father is nothing compared to the abundance of blessing, favor and security in return. I encourage you today, Choose to Obey!

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MARRIAGE NUGGETS FROM THE RUSSELLS

Anniversary Edition

Can you believe it? It feels like yesterday I was leaving for university saying goodbye to this young man, looking for adventure, new sights, new prospects, just everything NEW. I tried to say goodbye to Geron, but he wouldn’t let me go and here we are 7 years later.  I am grateful that God has given me this man to love on me for the last 7 years and I am excited for our next season together.

It is said that 7 is the year of completion, and I do believe that this past year is a completion of one season of our lives together and that we are crossing the threshold into another season. Together, we are turning another page in our story, and I can’t like I’m thrilled to do life with him,

This past year has had its trials and it has really put some muscle into our relationship. We’ve had to make hard decisions and tough sacrifices. It’s been a ride! But we have also found peace, and joy and have been able to celebrate great victories. We’ve seen God show up and show out. We’ve seen Him turn things upside down and then right side up. Like I said, it’s been a ride! But now more than ever, I am honoured to be walking into the unknown with my guy, my rock, my hubby!

So without further a due, we thought we’d share with you 7 gems we have learnt in our 7 years of marriage…. And the bonus: You get an exclusive once in a lifetime opportunity to get his perspective!
Keep reading, I hope you enjoy!

Niclair’s Lessons

1. We are on the SAME team! Partners not opponents.

2. To see my husband through God’s eyes. God has opened my heart to see Geron not selfishly as ‘my’ husband, but more as the spouse that HE has divinely created and placed in my life. Geron is God’s choice for me and he has a role to play that God has divinely given him as my husband.

3. I have a choice in our marriage, to either build him up or tear him down. If I’m not doing one, I’m doing the other! I try to choose to build him up, even if, to me, my efforts seem fruitless.

4. To see his weaknesses not as a DIY project but as an invitation to fill in the missing links gracefully and humbly so that we can grow together.

5. Just because we can’t read each other’s mind doesn’t mean that we’re not in sync, it’s more important to know each other’s heart.

6. Yes, I am a phenomenal woman! But I’ve got to give him a chance to do his part and let Him be the Man of Valour God made him to be.

7.  Control my tongue! Tell it to Jesus before I spit it at him.

Geron’s Lessons

  1. Small things matter
  2. Although we are married, we are still individuals with different personalities and characteristics that do/react to things differently. You must accept, respect, and learn.
  3. Listen carefully because she will come back to a previous conversation expecting you to remember the previous conversation in great detail.
  4. Sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to either keep peace or create happiness.
  5. Quality alone time with your spouse is paramount.
  6. Family time is very important.
  7. Be intentional about building a relationship with God and fostering the same in our girls.

People, Love is risky business…but MARRIAGE is a risk we chose to take with God leading the way!
We’re holding onto each other, but we’re holding onto Jesus too!

Cheers to 7 years!

Love and Light to you ,

Niclair

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Sit. Stay……. Rest.

I haven’t done a writing prompt in a few months, so I pulled one out from my stash that I use sometimes: ‘Write some words that speak to you.’

Sit. Stay. Rest.

The world seems to be spiralling out of control, between disease, riots, tragedy, job loss, economic downfall…. There is hopelessness everywhere, I breathe it in, the faces, the headlines, the images, the videos, it burns my eyes. Right now, I feel choked physically by the thick cloud of despair and I feel smothered by the desperation that surrounds me… But I have a hope, I have a promise, I have a Saviour. This knowledge allows me to exhale with confidence. It is times like these, when I look upwards to God and I say to Him, ‘‘my eyes are on you.’’ I run to Him, I hide in Him and I stay there. Sometimes hiding in God, is stopping the daily grind, lying on the floor with the kids and watching them play make believe. Sometimes hiding in God is putting the phone on vibrate or better yet, turning it off for the evening. Sometimes hiding in Him is -not checking and answering messages for the day. Hiding in Him is sometimes, going for a walk, taking in the beauty of God’s glory as He speaks to you through the breeze of His Spirit. Sometimes hiding in Him is leaving the wash sitting in the corner for just one more day. Sometimes hiding in Him means cancelling that lunch date… I’ve learnt that sometimes you have to remove yourself from the craziness, but remain in His Presence, in His shadow and under His wings.

It calls for turning off the expectations of the world and entering a place of rest and solitude with Jesus. Sit with Him. Sit in the Stillness. Rest in Silence.  The devil sometimes tries to make me feel guilty and tells me that I’m wasting the day, that i’m not being productive-but I know that time spent in the stillness of God’s presence, sitting with Jesus is NEVER wasted time. Here are a few scriptures that you can use as reminders, for when you need to hit ‘PAUSE’ and just rest in HIM and in the assurance of his faithful promises.

Psalms 119:114, You are my hiding place and my shield; I wait for Your Word [AMP]

Psalm 27:5, For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His shelter; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. [AMP]

Psalm 17:8, Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.

Psalms 4:8, In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalms 32:7, For You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble; You surround me with songs of victory[NLT].

Psalms 23:2-3, He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.

This has been my encouragement in the last few weeks. My ‘Woosah’ if you like! I hope that it helps you as well to navigate these stressful and crazy times. I’m also sharing a set of scripture cards that you can print and stick them up wherever you like to just remind you to Sit, Stay and Rest in Christ. Click download below to get the printable.

Be blessed.

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This Week I Was Most Blessed By….Connections!

The weekend is upon us and I have been reflecting: What am I most blessed by this week?
My Mum. My Hubby, Karlie, Donval…?

I began thinking, I can’t choose which one of them I was really blessed by, and then ‘the girls’ came into the picture as well. And I realised that it’s not any particular individual alone, I feel blessed by them all. This week all of them (and others) have poured into me, encouraged me, and laughed with me.  I feel blessed that I AM NOT ALONE. I am not alone in this world and I am not alone in this life.

 I am very aware that some people are physically alone, or at least they may feel so, and I pray that the presence of God surrounds you, if you are one of those persons, but I have to acknowledge the fact that God has surrounded me with persons who care about me, my well-being, who look after me, my concerns, my whereabouts. I am grateful to have persons who are there to celebrate with me during times of celebration, encourage and lift me up in times of despair, and comfort and support me in times of heart ache and loss.

I am confident in my relationship with Christ and I believe with assurance that with Jesus at our side, we are never alone. However, He does demonstrate to us throughout His Word, the power of human connection as well in our lives. Connection is so important for mankind. It is how God created us to be. It is why God created man AND woman. God created each of us with a desire to be apart of something greater than us, His Kingdom and connection is an integral part of building HIS Kingdom. ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching’ Hebrews 10:24

I like how Brene Brown puts it, ‘’connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.’’ Jesus wants that for us. This is why his greatest command is to love one another. Through that Love we can see, hear and value persons for who they are. Through Love we can give and receive without judgement, but with compassion. Through love we can build relationships and connections that sustain, strengthen and support each other.

Connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives. All of us have an important part to play in someone’s life. However, we are not always aware of these roles. It takes us acknowledging our purpose in the wider scheme of God’s will so that He can use us to bring joy, love, encouragement to the lives of others. These connections intended by God, are what enable us to do the great things that we may feel unable to do on our own. I could not raise my girls without my mom, my aunties, my best friends, my grandmother. They are important connections in my life, and they all have a part to play in helping me to carry out my role as Mom.

There are times we do feel threatened by certain people God places in our lives, and we do try to isolate ourselves or push them away. But God’s will is for us to honour those connections and grow. I am reminded of Moses and how he felt incapable and ill- equipped to go to Pharaoh when God had sent Him. But God had already worked it out by connecting him to Aaron. Connections take away our excuses and make ways for us to do what God has purposed us to do.

Let’s not forget Paul. In Paul’s writings you can always find him, advising, encouraging, reminding, reassuring or simply just checking in. He was a guy that valued connection and relationship. What I love about Paul’s writings was, he was very personal and transparent about his life to the churches. He was open and eager  to share his feelings and his state of mind no matter the situation he found himself in, partly because he wanted to establish that trust, but also because he relied on the strength of  the relationship he had with the churches to sustain him in difficult times. He trusted and depended on them to pray for him. Paul knew how important being connected to the body of Christ was in ministry. He understood relationship and brotherhood. He honoured the strength that lies in community.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 the word of God admonishes us to ‘’…encourage one another and build each other up…’’ The truth is, some of us will lose our way, many of us will lose faith and become discouraged but most of us will experience seasons of turmoil, weariness and disappointment; and this is why we need each other.

Ultimately, Jesus himself, is our greatest example. One of the first things he did at the start of his ministry on earth is assemble his ‘tribe’, his family of disciples, and although he had many disciples throughout His time on earth that he sent forth, the ‘twelve’ were his closest friends and he established relationship with them because HE needed connection.

Throughout the bible, we see where Jesus dined and fellow-shipped with his disciples and with people along His earth journey, building friendships, establishing connections. This is what we are called to do, this is how we survive life here on earth, as children of God. Galatians 6, verses 2 and 3 tells us to ‘‘share each other’s troubles and problems, and so obey our Lord’s command.  If anyone thinks he is too great to stoop to this, he is fooling himself. He is really a nobody.’’ We cannot succeed at life thinking we can do everything on our own or that we do not need anyone. It is the biggest lie we can feed our hearts. We may need to vet some of the people we include in our circle, but in doing that, we shouldn’t be self-centred in our thinking. We should not choose who we want to be connected to based on how they can help us advance, but sometimes be led to choose people who we feel we can extend ourselves to help. It goes both ways!
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds us that ‘Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.’ This week I was most blessed by ‘my people’ and you know who you are. Near and far, every day and every couple weeks. It doesn’t matter, how often we get to chat or talk, I Love You! I appreciate you and I am grateful that God has divinely placed you in my circle, in my life.

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This Week I Was Most Blessed by…..Lock-down Reflection

Hmmm… thinking about this prompt is making me realise how I need to make this a routine to reflect on my blessings each week. As I sit here, drumming away at these keys, anticipating the awesome words that I hope will eventually cover this space as I stall while I gather my thoughts, what comes to mind is the number of times I  have witnessed the girls, sharing and getting along this week. Sarai has really been trying to be a responsible and helpful big sister and Hannah has been exercising true patience and cooperation as well. I am thinking now that I must make a reward certificate for them. Big sister has been emptying the potty in the mornings, preparing the bath water for bath times and doing her best to tidy her room daily. Of course, thrown in the mix is her ‘bossy’ nature but that’s her and while I have so many expectations of her, she is killing it as a very able 5-year-old. She deserves far more credit than I give her at times. I will not deny that she has tested my patience with her behaviour and attitude this week, but when I think about it, the good moments heavily outweigh those brief moments of obstinacy.

I started off the week, obsessing over filling my time and our days with what I deemed as productive activities. These were activities where we as a family engaged with each other lovingly and activities that promoted opportunities for ‘structured’ learning like the perfect world I sometimes try to pretend that I live in. HA! Immediately, my perfect picture shattered, because once again , I was taking the image imprinted on my mind by observing and reading countless social media posts and tried to paint the exact same scene in my home and instead of a masterpiece, I ended up with paint all over everyone including myself and empty canvas. A perfect, well-orchestrated and planned ‘mess’! It didn’t work! It couldn’t work! I spent days 2- 4 in prayer: ‘Lord, show me what to do, teach me how to be, give me a clue on how to make this work for all of us,’’ and I remembered someone once said, ‘‘Do the next right thing.’’ ‘Ok Lord, what IS the next RIGHT thing?’ He brought me to this verse in Colossians 3:23, Whatever you do [whatever your task may be], work from the soul [that is, put in your very best effort], as [something done] for the Lord and not for men….

What had God called me to do in this present season, serve my family and get to know HIM better. That is my worship to HIM. And I began to do just that. HE asked me to put my ‘ideal’ masterpiece of a plan to the side and do what was required of me by my family. Just do it! Do it with honour, love and humility. Do it with Joy! Do it in worship! I meditated on that scripture along with this one: Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17.

Slowly each day as I released my need for an idolatrous plan, I saw GOD’s HOLY SPIRIT emerging in our hearts as we not tolerated each other, but loved on one another, demonstrated patience and grace with each other. This week I was truly most blessed by the Power of God’s word to change my mindset, my attitude, my heart and consequently the spirit and mood in my home. I was blessed to see God listen to my whining, be gracious enough to endure it and love me enough to help me get out of my own way.

I am Blessed through His POWER!

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3 Actionable Steps to Improving Your Bible Study.

Needs some encouragement for how to get started with your personal bible study time?

Read on as I share some ways that has helped me to purposefully spend time more time digesting God’s Word.

1. Choose and follow a bible reading plan

Youversion Bible App which you can get here has some great bible reading plans that you can select and schedule to follow daily. The app encourages you to set reminders as well. The bible plans help you to spend quality time in study as many of them start off with a brief, but enriching devotional, followed by several scriptures that follow the theme for that day. You can also develop a support community by inviting friends to study alongside you and share your thoughts on the application of scripture to your life. This is a great resource. I find it very useful and it also acts as a gateway to other resources to encourage you in your faith journey.
Biblegateway.com also has loads of bible reading plans and devotionals you can sign up for. They have an app that you can download as well by clicking here. It works quite similarly to Youversion. I’ve used it in the past for email devotionals. (Subscribe to my page for updates, as I will be posting some reading plans here very soon!)

First5.org an extension of Proverbs 31 Ministries is another option I found very useful. They have an app, but you can also use the website. What I enjoy about the first5 app is that the devotionals are powerful but short enough for you to follow if you don’t have much time. In the app you can also join the community with other readers who offer encouragement and share their testimonies. I plan to do another post on this in more detail so I can really express to you how valuable it was for me and why.

2. Use a bible study template:

Two of the most common ones are S.O.A.P. and H.E.A.R. I will explain them further below if you stay with me. If you don’t have time to read it all now, it’s fine. Add this page to your favourites so you can come back later.

  • SOAP stands for Scripture. Observe. Apply. Pray.

I use this method mostly during my study time, but more recently I have been merging it with my prayer journalling method. (This post coming soon!)
There are lots of information and templates on using this method, but I prefer to just use my own personal study journal.

To briefly explain:

Scripture:  You record a few verses of scripture from the passage you read that spoke to you.

Observe: What parts are most meaningful for you? What words, phrases, questions or commands speak to you? You can highlight them in different colours, underline them, circle them…totally up to you!

Apply: This is the part where you quiet your mind to really listen to how God wants you to use this scripture in your daily Christian walk. How can it transform your attitude? behaviours? conversation?

Pray: Use your answers to the previous section to help focus your prayer. Ask God to show you how to apply what you have learnt, studied, and meditated on and thank him for illuminating your mind with His Truth.

  • HEAR stands for Highlight. Explain. Apply. Respond.

This is very similar to SOAP.

Highlight: You are meant to highlight, colour, underline portions of scriptur that stand out to you.

Examine: You can pull apart the words of the scripture using a commentary or by comparing different translations to gather meaning from the verse of text. Ask questions like: What am I learning? What does this mean for me? What do I understand from this?

Apply: Much like I mentioned earlier. This is taking what you learnt from examining the scripture and noting ways that you can make these lessons a part of your daily walk with Christ. Here you are asking yourself: How can I integrate this wisdom and guidance in my decision making, my conversation and my daily interactions?

Respond: Your response can be  a responsive prayer to what you learned, thanking God for what he has shown you or asking him to help you make some necessary changes in your life. Sometimes your response can be a call to worship and how that looks for you. Sometimes a response can be something more practical like, sending an encouraging text or lending assistance to someone in need.

3. Bible Journalling

Bible journalling has become very popular in recent years. Some persons tend to think that it is just for the creatives, but if you find that it works for you, go with it! What is it ? Bible journalling is artistically or creatively representing scripture  or responding to scripture verses during times of study and meditation, either on the pages of a journal bible, a sketch book or your actual bible. You can use the link below to see a really good journal bible that I have gifted to friends who wanted to get started.
(Please note, by making a purchase using this link I may earn a little commission.)

These are 3 simple ways to be intentional about your study time that you can easily implement right now
It’s best to decide which works best for you and the dynamics of your daily life and how much time you can set aside to spend in study. I have tried a number of methods over the years and sometimes different methods worked better during different seasons of my life. If you have tried something that you believe is no longer helpful to you, it’s ok. You can change course, but do NOT give up!

Links to the bible app downloads mentioned:

Youversion
First5.org
Biblegateway.com

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Messy Lessons

A few weeks ago, I was cleaning up. To be specific, I was (in the America they say) vacuuming the carpets. I live in England however, so I should say: ”I went to ‘hoover’ the carpets.” But, since I am from a British overseas territory- in the Caribbean- which is heavily influenced by American culture, I will say that I was ‘vacuuming the carpets with the hoover.’ However, I digress, let me get to the point.

Anyway, I was having some problems with it and complained to the hubby. It did not seem to be working effectively, the floor was still quite dirty. I could see particles of all different sizes still stuck in the carpet. Basically, as he always does, he took it from me and gave it a try himself, and ‘Wallah’- it worked beautifully for him. Of course, I asked him what did he do that was different?

This was his response: ‘‘You need to take your time as you move it back and forth across the floor! Give it a chance to actually suck up the dirt. If you pass over so quickly, it doesn’t get a chance to really absorb the particles directly up the pipe and into the [holding] can.’’

And that was that. I said ok, but in my mind, I thought I want to get this done, I really don’t have time to be slowly passing this thing across the floor. I would like to do it quickly and do it once and for all!

Now, I was vacuuming with the hoover again this morning, and I remembered what he told me. I proceeded on this occasion to take my time moving the hoover back and forth across the floor, giving it time to extract the dirt particles from the carpet.
I thought to myself as I saw the pleasing results of taking my husband’s advice. The floor was gradually becoming spotless.

PATIENCE. PERSISTENCE. TAKING TIME. These words ruminated in my mind.

As I finished, and placed the hoover away for the next use, my mind went to the thought that sometimes, we don’t give our hearts enough time to extract what we need from the Word of God. We do not remain long enough in HIS presence to give our hearts time to soak in HIS guidance and direction, HIS truth and HIS peace. I realised that I run my life the same way I had been running that hoover back and forth across the floor, expecting it carry out its purpose but not being deliberate in my efforts to allow it to work efficiently. I move from one thing, one person, one idea to the other looking for answers, solutions, satisfaction. Instead of just deliberately sitting with God, being patient and consciously let HIS Word take root in my heart to fill me, encourage me and advise me. I find that even when I do open the Bible to search scripture, I flip back and forth reading chapter after chapter intent on feeding my spirit. But what I needed to do, was give the life- giving words I was reading, a chance to be consciously absorbed by my heart. Hubby revealed to me that I wasn’t giving it time to travel up the suction pipe and into the holding can of my heart.

This challenged me to be intentional about the way I study and use the Word of God to feed my Spirit, satisfy my soul and comfort my heart.  I know many of you probably make a habit to read your morning devotional or your evening scripture daily, but are you allowing it to take root in your heart so that it can be watered into wisdom for daily living. This is something I have been working on and I want to encourage you to do the same. You can have a look at this post on 3 effective ways to spend more time in God’s Word.

That was my messy lesson for you today. Be encouraged to keep growing.

Niclair

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3 simple and enjoyable activities to do to connect as a family

In a time where many of us are safe at home and spending a lot more time than we would normally have with our family, we have been pressed into each other’s space 24/7.  For me, I welcomed the opportunity to enjoy some family time but after a while I did feel like I wanted back ‘my space’.

With young kids, quality time is more than just being around, they actively want to feel your participation, they want you to be involved and sometimes being involved 24/7 can feel overwhelming if you give into their demands all of the time.

Today I’m sharing 3 simple ways to enjoy family time together.

I have found that it works better when we plan our family time. The girls are satisfied knowing that there is special time designated for them and they look forward to that with real anticipation. Like …. they don’t EVER let me forget!

I am very aware that many of us are not just sitting at home twiddling thumbs and looking for ways to keep boredom at bay. Many of us are working doubly harder than usual because we are stretching ourselves between our 9-5 jobs and managing the kids full time- at home- as well.

I still believe however that this ‘pause’ which has been forced upon us, is not a punishment but a blessing in many ways. My husband has been totally enjoying his time at home. The girls love having both of us around.  Yes, there is the hanging concern about the future and what that looks like for us, but Matthew 6:34 tells me that I shouldn’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will take care of itself.

Right now, we have today, and today I can make memories and build relationships.

Spending family time can make some of us cringe, especially if you have teenagers. Yikes (I’m not there yet!) but I do know how teenagers can be.
This week, I wanted to share some ideas on how you can connect as a family.

Here are 3 simple ways that you can spend quality family time together:

  1. Karaoke or Family Dance Party– All you need is YouTube. Pull up some old Disney favourites. The Disney films have something for everyone!  I have two daughters, so you know we live for Disney!

    If you have teenagers, this is a good time to get familiar with all the latest bands and what the teens of today are listening to. You can even give them a dose of the groovy music of your time.
  2. Watching Films– My girls absolutely love watching films with us. They enjoy snuggling under blankets, and it is a ‘big thing’ in our house. You MUST have popcorn ad set the atmosphere and everything to watch a family film! You don’t need a Netflix account or Hulu or whoever, Amazon Prime has films as well as Google Play and the Apple Store that you can rent for a small price or purchase and keep it forever if it’s a family favourite.

  3. Games- For us, games have been very tricky as the girls are too young to understand and follow the objective of some of the board games we adults enjoy, but UNO is a hit with my 5 year old and the 2 year old is happy to ‘pretend’  play with a few cards from the deck. ‘Tumbling Monkeys’ is a family favourite that everyone can enjoy, little ones and older ones. Dominoes are an easy one for little ones to join in on the fun as well.

    But there are some of us who don’t enjoy board games or you may not have any lying around at home. That’s fine! Charades is a great one as well. You can play individual or if your tribe is large enough you can split into teams to play. Hide and seek is a fun one. It becomes a challenge between hubby and I to see who can find the best hiding spots in the house.


Sometimes spending time is just hanging out together. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is sometimes, to just sit in each other’s company and share stories, reminisce and dream together as a family. It’s a great chance to find out what’s on your little one’s heart. What’s going on in your young adult or teenager’s or preteen’s world?  What are they feeling? What are they excited about? What they are looking forward to?

Meaningful connections are what shape the hearts and minds of our kids and is important for nurturing emotionally resilient children.

This week I’m challenging you to rethink and be intentional about quality family time.
I’d be interested to know what simple ways do you spend quality time with your family.
Share your ideas in the comments!

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Table For One

A few days ago, I was listening to a recording of a message spoken at a ladies’ conference. It really spoke to me, stopped me in my tracks and made me pause to have a heart to heart moment with GOD. She gave the illustration of God making this grand feast for us. He sets the table and fills it with ‘good’ stuff, ‘deliciously good’ food specifically for you and me. She continued preaching that GOD then invites us to come and take a seat and eat from the table. HE invites us to take everything that we need for nourishment and fulfilment. The part that really tugged at my heart is {she said} many of us get up from the table and leave what God has so exclusively prepared for you and I right there on the table. We do not bother to take our fill or even take it carry. Everything we need, everything that can and will help us in life, everything that will give us a more fulfilling experience, everything that will strengthen our spirit, our faith and nourish our souls, our bodies, our relationships, our finances, our dreams, we leave it there on the table. She continued by saying, when he calls us to feed us, HE is giving us everything we need to be who HE has made us to be. HE equips us, but we leave the equipment and pick up our own useless, makeshift ‘junk’ to go forth with. (my words, not hers.)

That really hit me. I began to talk to God, right there in the kitchen where I stood washing dishes. My prayer went a little something like this:

 Lord I have been feeling like I am stuck and my dreams or what I thought were the plans you had for me feel so distant. Lord I trust you, but sometimes it feels like YOU are taking me further and further away from where I thought we were going.
Am I just getting up from the table and not bothering to take the lid off these shiny silver platters? Lord am I not taking part in this feast you have personally cooked up just for me? This prayer has been on my heart from that day until now.  

What I have learnt about prayers is that they never go unanswered, but it is quite common to miss the answer, because either the answer was not delivered in the way you expected or it wasn’t the response you were hoping for.

In my prayer, as I lean into HIS grace daily, I am asking him to open my eyes that I might see the splendour of what HE has created especially for me. I am asking HIM to heighten my spiritual senses to the aroma of HIS plans and HIS purpose for me and for HIM to let me taste the tantalizing experience of HIS joy and fulfilment in my life just as HE has designed and purposed it to be.

Are you enjoying and filling up on the special ‘feast’ HE has prepared for you? Or, are you taking a few little bites and leaving it all there to potentially waste? Maybe you brought your own snacks to munch on but are realising that you’re not experiencing true ‘fullness.’ Maybe you need to pray a prayer like I did that God would help work up our appetites, so that you and I both leave nothing behind and take everything our Father has laid out for us.

I would love for us to pray on this together as you let your heart ruminate on these thoughts. Share your heart’s prayer in the comments!

Sending GOD’s Love and Light to you,

Niclair

*Thoughts from my heart, inspired by a message given by the HOLY SPIRIT through Mrs. Chrystal Evans Hurst.

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How GENEROUS are you?

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

I really do not remember what sparked this line of thought, but I do remember that I had been scrolling my social media (not a junkie, but I have my days) and I saw a post. It made me ask myself the question, are you a generous person?

When I think of generosity, I always think of persons I know with a natural inclination to extend themselves to others, persons with a genuine giving nature. Those persons who always slipped a kind twenty in my palms or who buy little trinkets for my kids, who always volunteer to give you a lift or donate something to a good cause. I always thought of generosity in a tangible aspect. People who are always willing and want to do something for you… they are generous. Generosity for me, was something that could evidentially be seen.

I never think to describe myself as a generous person, and not out of modesty either. I love to give and make people feel happy, but I don’t always extend myself willingly. This is truth, but I have learnt over the years that by giving of myself, I then feel more blessed and eager to keep doing so. The more I gave, the more I wanted to give again and again. So, don’t worry, I am growing! 😊

As I am typing this sentence, it comes to me, I was reading a post that quoted a portion of Proverbs 31. 😊 Every now and again, I go and read Proverbs 31 and meditate on it and try to ‘will’ the persona of this awesome woman from the pages of my bible, or the screen of my phone rather… onto myself. I read it and try to clothe myself in her ‘virtuousness’. Don’t we all, strive to be her! She has got it all together! So, this time, a portion of the scripture jumped at me in verse 20:

‘‘She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.’’

And I began thinking, do I do that? I have given away some clothing and toys that my girls have outgrown before, I have bought baby necessities for other moms who were in need. I have given the homeless person a few coins or a loaf of bread before. But somehow ‘‘open her arms’’ and ‘‘extend her hands’’ made me wonder, if what I counted as generosity was enough? And further, am I only generous towards strangers who may be in dire need or do I have the same generous attitude towards my husband, my children, my friends, my inner circle?

Upon further thinking, the image of open arms, and extending hands, doesn’t just make me think of giving ‘something’ to someone, but it gives me the picture of welcoming and beckoning someone/something ‘into’ your arms, into your space. And so, I imagine that this idea of generosity is not just about giving of yourself it’s about inviting people into your home, into your company, into relationship so that they can be blessed by the compassion, understanding and love that is extended by the Saviour through you.

…for with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

I was reminded of the widow who gave all she had as opposed to the rich who gave a portion of their wealth. (Luke 6:21) Jesus said, the poor widow’s gift surpassed them all because she gave not only ALL of what she had but of what she needed to live, and that took sacrifice.  After doing a heart check, I can say that I have probably been opening just my hands, instead of my arms and I’m not too sure that that I was really extending or stretching myself in service and love towards others.

Looking into THE WORD, I’m asking God to show me how I can please HIM in this area. Read on to discover ways you can open your arms and extend your hands to those in your inner circle.

As a wife…

  • I can support and stand by him even when I am not entirely on board with his ideas. That’s extending and stretching myself past my zone of comfort.
  • I can go the extra mile to make him feel appreciated, honoured and respected.
  • I can listen to his thoughts and his heart even when it may not interest me or when I am sure I can find a million and one other things to get done.
  • I can humbly step in and mask his imperfections to ensure he looks good and is successful in what he does. And I say the term ‘mask his imperfections’ lightly because ain’t nothing imperfect about my man! 😊 But I genuinely mean not highlighting his shortcomings, but instead make your man look good. Talk him up! And where he may not get it all right, you ‘straighten’ his tie’ so to speak, but with kindness and admiration. (work in progress, over here!)

If you do this, that’s GREAT! I respect you and I am happy for you. I know that this is something I need to consistently work at, especially the ‘willingly’ part.

As a mommy…

  • I can intentionally give my time and attention, instead of being otherwise occupied. (and trust… it can drain you at times, I know, but the bond of trust and respect that is built is so rewarding and so beneficial – more about that later!)
  • I can find out, listen and help them through their deepest and treasured concerns. (Gal 6:2)
  • I can gracefully accept their slip-ups, messes and mistakes and show them love amidst the beautiful chaos of motherhood.
  • I can be self-less in serving my family, meaning do it in excellence and not out of obligation. You know what I mean, slapping together some dinner just to get it done. Sweeping the floor for the hundredth time in a day but grumbling all the way through. Picking up toys but screaming at them for leaving it on the floor. Instead, showing true and considerate effort in taking care of my family. (2 Cor 9:7)

Hey, if you’re rocking it out and acing this thing, I lift my glass to you, but I genuinely struggle at times and the Word of God keeps me in check. It is the most authentic mirror I have used to date!

As a Friend…

  • I can reach out to friends and check on them more than I do now. In this digital age, because we double tapped your post from last night, we feel like we’re in regular communication, like we are up to date with each other’s lives. However, I know that I need to be more intentional in typing a message to say ‘Hey, how are you?’ or better yet, dialling their number and asking ‘Did you enjoy your trip last month? How was the doctor’s visit?’ Not just because they posted: Everything checked out! Praise the Lord means that I am up to date on their life on their concerns or stare of mind. Send a note to show that you are genuine about your love and concern for them. Schedule a lunch date or skype date.
  • I can make myself available to assist by giving my time. I am guilty, for sure, of getting wrapped up in my own life of mommyhood and wifehood that I do use that as an excuse at times. And while I know my friends do understand I have different responsibilities; I should try to carve out time to support them. Notice I said time, not just buy gifts, but a phone call, a visit, a spa date, movie night, coffee stop. Pray for them through a voice note, send an encouraging word or scripture. (Prov 11:25)
  • I can pray for their success in life.

Essentially, I can demonstrate more generosity by establishing meaningful connections with the people in my life and pursuing quality relationships because that’s what the Proverbs 31 woman is doing by opening her arms. She is calling them into relationship and extends her hand to establish that connection. This is a part of living generously, God’s way. Christ never fed the people just physically, but he always fed their spirit as well as he ministered. Jesus walked this earth giving generously of himself to the end, by welcoming people into relationship with him and teaching them how to feed and nurture that connection with HIM.

Think about it… Are you really being generous in your life?

Hopefully this post isn’t too long, but I really wanted to share my heart with you on this. You can always save this, bookmark it and come back and read later:)

We say we are generous, but what kind of generous are you?  the ‘open hands’ generous or ‘open arms’ generous?

Thanks for sticking with me! Love and Light to you as we consider the well-being of each other during this trying and uncertain period. Let’s remember to not only pray for our safety and the safety of others, but for those who have already been affected and have experienced loss.

Niclair

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7 WAYS TO BUILD YOUR CHILD’S FAITH

Joshua 24:15

A– As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. This was our memory verse of the week. The first one in our new scripture memory challenge.

I was listening to a sermon the other day, where a young man shared on the role of parents to instil good values in their children. He was reminding of us of our God given task to bring up our children to know the truth of God’s word. The truth is the family is of great importance to God. HE created family to show his glory and to share his love. Our homes are where our children will first begin to see and experience compassion and love, forgiveness and grace through Christ. Children witness the devotion, kindness and humility between their parents, and they experience first-hand the love and patience showered upon them from their parents.

I realise that I’m raising world changers! My daughters have a spirit about them that I know will impact lives and it’s my duty to make sure that I give them what it takes to make a powerful and positive impact. With all the distractions and antics that grab us and our children’s attention these days, this is something that I know I must be intentional about. It does take some effort, but I know that it is important to not only teach them God’s word but to demonstrate it in our daily living.

I know that a long bible study session shoving the scriptures down their throats is not going to work in my home. I don’t think I can maintain their attention for that long, but I have been trying a few different things that has been effective in developing their understanding of God’s word. You’re probably doing this already but today I am sharing 7 ways to intentionally build your child’s faith and strengthen their love for God.

1.Talk about Jesus in regular conversation.

Children need to understand that Jesus is not entirely abstract but that he is accessible to us as believers. Ask questions like, ‘what do you think Jesus would do in that situation?’ ‘How did Jesus help you today?’

2. Share an experience of your own.

To tell our kids about something is useful, but to show them is invaluable. It’s meaningful to share some of my own challenges with making the right choices. My daughter feels less defeated when I can identify with her struggle to do the right thing. I share how I ask God to help me with certain areas of my life and she draws strength and encouragement from my experiences. She knows that she is not alone!

3. Read Bible stories together.

Get a good Kids bible story book. We use the Beginner’s Bible which you can purchase from Amazon or most Christian bookstores. It has bright, colourful pictures and the stories are short and simplified. Perfect for my 2 and 5-year-old. I also love that you can find some animated versions of the stories on their YouTube page. The girls love watching these. They help to make the stories relevant and accessible to them.

4. Let them hear you pray out loud.

My girls know their morning, evening and mealtime prayers, but it’s also very important for them to know that they can make their prayers personal. I sometimes try to pray out loud so they can hear me personalising my prayers and asking God for help in different areas. I remember my mom doing this when I was younger. My siblings and I heard her pray all the time and this helped to shape our confidence in talking to God.

5. Ask them if there is something they would like to pray about or if there is someone they would like to pray for. Pray with them.

My mom is good at doing this with my girls. Any time the girls are upset, or in pain or feeling poorly, she asks them if they would like her to pray and they always reply with ‘Yes, NANA’. They crawl into her bosom and she prays with them. Sometimes she would tell them what to say and they will close their eyes and repeat her words with the purest faith I have ever witnessed.

Sometimes if someone isn’t feeling well, she would say, ‘Let’s pray that they feel better’ and they would do a quick prayer together in that moment. Take advantage of great opportunities to demonstrate ‘ACTIVE FAITH’.

6. Take a moment to notice the evidence of God’s glory all around you.

 Ask them what is the most amazing thing they think God has created. Look around you for evidence of God’s handiwork and talk about its beauty. We talk about nature, and how God made the birds. We talk about how God gave the ants strength to carry their own food for long distances. All the things that naturally spark curiosity in a child is an excellent way to remind them (and ourselves) of the wonder of God and his magnificent creation.

7. Worship Dance Party.

And of course, we gotta shake those wiggles out ever so often. Our dance parties usually happen in the kitchen when I’m cooking dinner or when we’re tidying up after playtime. We turn on some praise and worship music, sing and dance together as we worship God. It’s a good way to switch into a cheerful mood as well. We love Listener Kids videos on YouTube!

Tried not to make this one too long. Maybe there are a few things here that you do already, if you are that’s awesome! If not, please don’t feel like you’re failing and definitely don’t feel like i’m adding to a list of things that you have to make happen in your home. Most of these are probably things that happen in your home naturally, and you just need to work (like I do as well) at being more intentional about it.

My prayer is that you are inspired and challenged to live and demonstrate Active Faith for the little ones whom God has entrusted to you.

I am interested to know how discipleship looks in your homes. Share in the comments below!

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Kids have BIG EMOTIONS too!

Previously, I shared about my own experience with anxiety and how I am learning to focus on the positive and release my grip on things I have no control over.

Today, I wanted to share a little about what I have been observing in my 5 year old. I have a very clever and expressive 5 year old. Anyone who knows her, knows that she is quite the talker and full of life. An encounter with her is truly an EXPERIENCE  that will remain with you. I am incredibly inspired by her boldness and love for people and life. She thrives on social interaction and constant attention. She also is a very emotionally intelligent girl (for her age, I think). She would watch a film and become very upset by sad and unfair scenes from as young as 3 years old. I mean the girl was in tears during ‘Curious George’.

As I observe her, I notice a lot of myself in her- the way she carries the ‘weight of the world’ at times. Taking on the distress of her peers and family members. She would be so upset upon witnessing any injustice done to someone.

So recently, we have been in a bit of a struggle, because she has destroyed countless blouses from her constant chewing on the neck of them. Along with that, we argue daily about her putting things, small items in her mouth. It was like, every moment, you had to tell her ‘’take that out of your mouth’’ ”that’s not for eating!’’ Even after a trip to the hospital from swallowing a coin, she still didn’t seem to understand that nothing other than food and water, should enter her mouth.

I kept thinking to myself, this just isn’t normal! I don’t have this problem with my 2-year-old at all. Actually, the only thing my 2 year old ever puts in her mouth is food! But my elder, just didn’t seem as if she could help herself, and the more I got on her case about it, it’s almost like the worse it got. So I took to the internet to do some research on how common this was in 5 year olds.

It opened my eyes to the possibility that it was probably something that she was doing unconsciously as an emotional coping mechanism.

I have been biting my nails from a little girl and still do to this day! Nasty habit I know! Don’t judge me! But I have way more control over it than I did as a child. It was somewhat comforting it was a release of some sort. But my daughter doesn’t bite her nails like I did. She chews!

What I found from numerous sources was that she could be dealing with a level of anxiety. Some of the common signs in children included the following:

  • Chewing or biting on nails or objects
  • Unexplained tummy aches
  • Fits of crying for what may seem like ‘trivial’ things
  • Excessive questioning about what may seem to be ‘the obvious’
  • Overly- emotional over stories or movies etc.
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Sleeplessness

These are just some of the typical signs, most of which I have noticed in her behaviours.

I know that like myself, she is a high achiever, and she does put pressure on herself to get it ‘right’ all the time. She is very competitive. And so like I spoke about in my last post, just like me, she feels pressure to do things perfectly, consistently. This is part of the reason why I wanted to learn to manage the anxiety in my life. I could see an impending cycle and I don’t want my daughter to subject herself to that same sort of pressure. I believe that she has inadvertently learned this anxious behaviour by observing and watching me. Now that I have identified that she can be quite anxious I have been working on ways to help her cope when she begins to feel this way.

It’s important to me to me to address the emotional need behind the (irritating) behaviours first, so I will start with some ways to address and help relieve the anxiety itself.

IDENTIFY THE FEELING

  1. The first step is recognizing the feeling. For children at this age it may be hard to put in words what they may be feeling or thinking. She usually says something to me like, ‘‘mommy I don’t feel like myself, my body feels weird and different’’ or she may say ‘‘mommy I feel like my legs don’t work’’ Don’t worry I have checked that she is physically ok! Which she usually is, but she is trying to relate that she feels like she has no control over her body and her emotions that are overwhelming her at that time.

So I encourage her to describe to me what she is thinking about. I ask her pointed questions about her day, her friends, things she may be afraid of, or excited about or worried about. It’s important to note that you can be anxious about something good or something you are expecting, like a special trip or new baby brother/sister etc. So it doesn’t always have to be negative, but it helps that our children can identify the feeling and have strategies to self-manage and cope in any circumstance.

This is important in raising our kids to be resilient.

USE THE GROUNDING TECHNIQUE

  • When she is describing the different feelings in her body, I use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique that I described in my earlier post here. It works and it seems to break her fixation on whatever is turning in her mind to allow herself to regain a sense of control.

PRAY WITH THEM

  • Pray about it. If it’s something she is worried about or concerned about, we pray together. In instances when she can’t say for sure what may be bothering her, we still pray. I let her lead and usually it comes out when she begins to mention things in her prayer. I learned this from my mom. Many times, when I felt powerless to help, her NANA would call her and pray for her. Those NANA prayers are POWERFUL!

ILLUSTRATE THEIR THOUGHTS

  • Draw pictures. This is a good way for kids to express what they can’t say to you explicitly. You can derive lots from a child’s description of a few circles and scribbles. It’s also very useful as a calm down strategy, as they can transport their thoughts to the paper and off their mind.

CREATE A SAFE SPACE

  • Create an open and honest space. It’s important to me that she feels comfortable to come and talk to me about any and everything. I know that this will almost be non-existent when she approaches those teenage years, so I am trying my best to build the foundation to encourage that from now.

GIVE A CUDDLE

  • Sometimes a warm hug of reassurance is just enough to settle the nerves and remind our kids that they are safe, and you are there for them. It’s also very important that they get that cuddle time from you as a parent so that there is no desire to seek that comfort outside of the safety of your family or home. This is something I am still working on. Let me be clear in saying that I am not perfect and do not do this consistently, but I am working at it as I try to be what my girls need me to be.

ALLOW SOME QUIET TIME

  • Lots of people implement a calm down/ quiet corner to help children to settle and cope with their big emotions. This sometimes helps my daughter when she is in a crying fit. However, she better responds to closeness and attachment. So, sending her to a quiet space isn’t usually a good solution I find. Taking her and sitting with her would work better in her case. These quiet corners can include a calm down kit, with items such as a relevant storybook, sensory bottles, stress ball, stuffed animal, relaxation pictures. This is not something I have tried with her yet, but I have seen it being used effectively with kids in the classroom.

ENCOURAGE POSITIVE SELF TALK

  • Positive affirmations. I started this about a year ago with her, and I haven’t always stuck with it, but she does. At one point when she was very anxious about issues at school. I wrote down some affirmations on a poster for her which we would read every morning on our way out the door. Eventually she had learnt them by heart, and she would repeat it by herself just before she ran to her classroom. It really helped to settle her nerves and prepare her for the day ahead and it has always stuck with her. So up to this day, she would turn to me when she is uncertain and repeat it to me as if to say. ‘I’m feeling a little shaky today, but I know I got this!’  An example of the affirmation I did for her was I am brave. I am strong. I am beautiful. God loves me. I find it to be a little more meaningful than ‘’have a good day’’. You can also include things like I am a good friend. I am smart! I can do hard things…etc.

SET TIME LIMITS

  • Set a focus timer. This one may be strange. But because she gets super anxious when she is excited or sometimes worried about something not going right. This sometimes leads to less desirable behaviours. To help her to stay on track with what she needs to do considering her excitement, I use a timer. No, I don’t use a sand jar or digital hand timer. Although you can! But let’s be honest, we ain’t always got time for that! I countdown myself: Let’s get this done by the time I count to 5 or 10 etc. If she’s worried about something, she will become distracted in her thoughts or avoid doing things or just do them painfully slow! So a timer is a good way to snap her out of the anxious trance and get her going. The competitive nature in her allows for a good redirection of her thoughts.

GIVE THEM A SENSORY RELEASE

  • Lastly, there are lots of suggestions for using sensory chew toys, as excessive chewing, especially in older children can be indications of a sensory disorder, however we haven’t tried this. I feel if we are able to keep anxiety to a minimum then the chewing will eventually be non-existent! We will see! My goal is to deal with the underlying problem so that I can reduce the NEED to chew.

Note that the last few points address some of the behaviours that come with anxious feelings. I added this at the end, emphasizing that the CAUSE of the concern or worry should always be addressed first.

These are based on my observations with my girls and what works in our home. Yes, I have a psychology background but it is framed by my experiences as a young mom. If you as a parent feel that things are more serious. Don’t feel afraid or embarrassed to seek professional advice. As parents it’s our duty to do what we need to do to ensure our little ones are living a mentally healthy and productive life. We are living in a world where 6-year olds are committing suicide, 8-year olds are suffering from depression, 10-year olds are walking into schools and shooting their peers. Kids have stress too! And just like you need to offload as an adult, they need to offload as well. But they also need to be coached and supported in figuring out how this looks for them.

I know this was a heavy one, but I think it’s important to recognise and acknowledge that our kids are little human beings trying to navigate this world too! And truth is…you and I know how challenging it can be.

Until next time……Grow in Grace,

Niclair

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Let’s chat about ANXIETY.

I stood in the girls restroom trying to stifle my uncontrollable sobs so no one could hear. After a few minutes, I began to breathe easier. Looking into the mirror I dried my eyes. ”Niclair, you can do this! You’ve got to do this! You’re almost there! Pick yourself up and keep going!” I whispered these words to myself as I stared into my now red and puffy eyes.

This was one of several attacks I had suffered in high school and college. At the time, I thought I was overwhelmed and stressed and you know- over- emotional like we assume teenage girls are. I now know that I had been experiencing anxiety attacks.

The stress of constant studying and pressure to achieve the grades I needed, to be accepted to my universities of choice was overwhelming, especially in an academically competitive school like the one I attended. I was pushing myself beyond my physical capacity with late nights, early mornings and still failing to achieve the desired grades.

While I am happy I did it, and am pleased with my success, I can’t hide the fact that it was TOUGH! But, I wanted it, so I pushed for it!

Anxiety is something that I have always struggled with. It’s the ”perfectionist” side of me that I believe is the root of my anxiety. Not that I, myself wanted to be perfect, but I had always felt that people expected me to be ‘perfect’ and so I always felt that pressure to perform, to be the best, to do the right thing, to do the expected thing. There was no room for mistakes. People depended on me. I know that my parents only ever expected me to do my personal best, but I carried a misconception that ‘I’ couldn’t afford to ever disappoint, so I put pressure on myself to out-do my own ‘best’.

Let me just interject here that, Perfection is something none of us can ever achieve. Only CHRIST is perfect. The perfection that some us strive for is just a false sense of security and satisfaction that we get to shield us from our insecurities and vulnerability about others may think about us. I love how Brene Brown describes it in her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’.( Go read it now if you haven’t! I’ve read it twice. It’s so enlightening!) ”Perfectionism is , at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance……we want to be perceived as perfect.” Truth is, as long as it looks perfect on the outside to everyone else, we have achieved success!

I digress a little. I’m sharing my story- not struggle- with anxiety because it is real and many people are affected by it and don’t realise. As described by the NHS website, Anxiety is characterised by feelings of worry, uneasiness or fear. While feelings of anxiety are completely normal at times in ones’ life, for example, life- changing event, a big exam, etc. if these feelings are affecting your regular routine and daily life, then you may have to seek help.

For me, help wasn’t as serious as seeing a therapist or GP, but I do have some strategies on hand to help me when I feel an attack coming on and some ways to lessen my anxiety in general about certain life situations.

Just to give you an idea, some common symptoms of anxiety are:

-insomnia
-a sense of dread
-difficulty concentrating
-irritability
-constantly feeling stressed
-nail- biting/chewing habit
-refraining from unplanned or spontaneous activities
-the need for a predetermined plan all the time

Signs of an anxiety attack are mostly physical, and can include:

-dizziness
-Heart palpitations ( irregular heartbeat, strong or fast)
-confusion
-Shaking
-excessive sweating
-shortness of breath
-feeling nauseous
-Feeling faint or weak
-Uncontrollable sobbing

Please bear in mind that everyone is different and this is by no means to be taken as official medical advice! It is purely a synopsis of my personal research and experience. Anxiety doesn’t only affect your psychological health but can affect your physical health as well. I encourage you to do a self- evaluation and make the choice to see a professional if you feel anxiety is hindering your daily life and normal routine.

We were on our way to church, it might have been our second or third Sunday as newlyweds. Hubby was driving, and we were both just in our thoughts and I burst into tears. I couldn’t help myself, I didn’t know what was wrong. My heart just suddenly felt like someone had set a couple of bricks on it. Of course he was concerned and pulled over until I was calm. And I was so embarrassed, I thought, ”my brand new husband probably wondering what is wrong with this girl and fretting about what he may have to deal with in future.”

Truth: I had just done some major life changing stuff and I barely took the time to really let it sink in. I graduated school, returned home, started two jobs and got engaged all in the space of 6 months. A year from my engagement, I was married and ‘living with man’! (Homegirl grow up in church you know, that’s a big deal!) And it was all just hitting me like a ton of bricks and……yeah! However I am grateful for such an understanding and supportive husband. He is never and has never been judgemental or scared of these ‘imperfections’. He just goes with my flow! 🙂

Since then, I’ve had a few other attacks as an adult, but now that I can recognise them and understand that as a result of anxiety, I try as much as possible to release my grip on always trying to ‘have it together’ or knowing the plan.

I aim to keep my mind on the things that I can control and surrender what I can’t. And on those few days that everything falls to pieces, I use the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding technique. This was suggested by a close friend of mine, and it really helps me during an attack.

During the onset of an attack, I take slow, deep breaths and look for
5 things that I can see
4 things that I can feel
3 things that I can hear
2 things that I can smell and
1 thing that I can taste

I also look for an object to focus in on and concentrate on its details. e.g a window drape, the colour, texture, pattern etc.

Anxiety is quite common with many people today, especially in woman because of the many social pressures to again be fit, be successful, be a model career woman, be an entrepreneur, be the ‘magazine’ mom, be the ‘trophy’ wife, to be…PERFECT!

I am at the point where I am so tired of trying to live to other’s expectations! it’s exhausting! It’s stressful and self- destructive! So while I know anxiety is real, and I accept that. It’s something that I am trying to reduce as much as possible these days by releasing myself from these pressures and just following, at my own pace, the path God has laid out for me.

Philippians 4:6-8:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This verse is always in my back pocket. It’s a constant reminder to surrender my concerns, my worries, insecurities to Christ- and honestly, when you fully let go of them you will experience HIS Peace. His Peace will keep you. His Peace reminds me that HE has the power to ‘perfect’ everything that concerns me, so I don’t need to worry!

Matthew 6:25-34 reminds me that, if God has strategically and divinely placed everything in nature around me, then surely he has a divine plan for my life as well.

I also don’t need to try and keep up with everyone around me, I can run/ walk/skip at my own pace because Romans 8:28 tells me that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’

I know what it is to strive for something with everything in you because you fear to disappoint yourself and others. I still struggle with that now, but I’m learning that my success and accomplishment cannot be based on other’s measuring stick. If that’s the case I will forever be trying to ‘keep up’ but instead falling short. I’m seeing the need to be compassionate with myself because I cannot control other’s perception of who I am or who they think I am suppose to be. What defines me is who God says that I am!

As I leave you with these thoughts, this scripture is one that I keep in my other back pocket:
Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Trust God to take you where he wants you to be!

If you feel like anxiety is something you struggle with and would like someone to talk to, I am happy to be a listening ear and shoulder for support. Get in touch with me! We can pray on this together!

Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll be sharing about anxiety in children, how to spot it and coping strategies. Until then,
Keep Growing!

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Yesterday was a good day! How was today?- Ask me tomorrow!

Do you sometimes feel like you can’t ground yourself? What are you talking about Niclair? Today your feeling great, motivated, recharged, Tomorrow your back at the bottom struggling to bring purpose to your day. Well if that’s not you, awesome! Some people just always seem ready to bring the force! This is not me! Let me give you an example. Last week Thursday, I had a really good day. I was THE mom! I didn’t shout or raise my voice at the girls. We played and laughed together. They tried their hardest to play cooperatively and ate all their dinner without too much fuss! It was a GOOD day! And when I stepped into the shower that evening, all I could do was sing praises to God, because I had such a peace. I felt God’s presence with me all day. Fast forward to Friday…….it was dreadful! I started the day willing myself out of bed. I felt myself spiralling out of control all day. I ended Friday in tears as I stood in the shower, feeling guilty for not having a day like yesterday! I find myself constantly in this cycle so I prayed about it and told God this was an area I needed some help with. So lately, I have been working on some ways to help me keep a positive mindset and grateful attitude so that whatever drama the day brings, I am mentally prepared to take it on and not let it drag me down.

Truth is, this happens a lot with me. I have an awesome day and then a horrendous day! Like…. what gives? And when I reflect on it. It wasn’t really a horrendous day, but I did have some ‘stuff’ on my heart that were a real burden. Instead of laying them at the feet of the one who says to us to give HIM everything, I carried it around all day. The weight of the burden on my mind was hindering my focus so much that I couldn’t even tune in to my worship music. It affected my mood and because my mood was off, everything else became out of balance.

I replayed the negativity continuously in my mind and so I couldn’t steer my thoughts on the goodness of God and HIS love for me. We sometimes do this thing where we put something down but it’s still in our sight, so it remains on our hearts weighing us down. And you know us moms, when something is there long enough we pick it back up.

How do you give something to God and make sure you leave it with HIM? Choose to pick up something else instead. When you go to the feet of Jesus, in prayer and you pour out your heart to HIM, i’m encouraging you make sure you leave with something when you get up. Not the same thing of course but something which he has offered to you….HIS unconditional love for us, the promise that HE is always with us and a reminder of HIS all- sufficient GRACE. A reminder to give yourself a little more grace and to offer those around you a little more grace. BE GRACIOUS.

For me, if something doesn’t go as planned, or I lose track of time or the girls did something that threw my day out of whack, I always get stressed. There I begin losing control and falling into that disappointed, negative mindset as I scramble to get my day back on track. And I am realizing that I put so much pressure on myself and the people closest to me, no wonder I get stressed! We all get stressed! I’m learning to be gracious!

I sometimes take my thoughts towards others and pretend as if it was Jesus saying the same to me: ”This is your last chance. It’s about time you get this right, Niclair !” And immediately I’m like Whoa… ummm Niclair, where’s the grace? I recall once being quite frustrated with Sarai and I asked ”Do you think you deserve a second chance? How many chances have I given you already?” And in that exact moment, I heard God echo those words in my heart! ”Niclair, do you think you deserve a second chance? How many chances have I given you already?” And I thought in my heart, Lord please don’t put a limit on it, because I know I’m going to need more!

I say that to say sometimes those around us, those closest to us could use a little more grace. For me as a mom of a powerhouse 5 year old and a spirited 2 year old, I tend to be very firm sometimes. Firm, because I love them and I know that these are the tender years and I want to make sure that I am teaching them wrong from right and how to do the responsible thing. Still, i’ve got to remind myself to be gracious with myself and with them. We are doing this together. They can’t do this thing without me and I can’t do it without them for sure!

One of the things I began to do, is wake up with worship music and have it playing in the mornings as we start our day. Well it has been working and I am so much better prepared for the day and the challenges it may bring. I even find that I feel more in charge and in control of my mood throughout the day. It’s also been beneficial to spend more time in the word of GOD. Setting aside time to meditate on God’s promises makes it easier to draw on them during the day when I need a little boost.

As I am writing, in the time I have allocated as ”my time to write”, Hannah is demanding that I go and get her some food 🙂 . So before I go, I want to leave with you these scriptures that encourage me:

2 Corinthians 12:9 – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Philippians 1:6- being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Until next time, keep going and keep growing!
Niclair x

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BE the one to kick ‘comfortable’ to the curb!

I always use to think that one should grow within the area of their strengths. I believed that one should develop what you’re good at, follow your natural talents and abilities because those were the areas you would excel in and more likely to be successful in. With this mindset I began to approach various things in my life. I stuck to (and still do) what I was good at. I restricted my self to doing what came naturally. That was ok for me, because I knew I wouldn’t fail in that area. I knew it was my strength and I was bound to be successful. So I entered into a feel good, all settled, comfort zone. This is dangerous territory for various reasons:

1- You can become complacent and start doing things at a mediocre level;

2- You can fall into a slump, where you don’t experience any growth.

About a year or two ago, I found myself slipping into this place. I wasn’t stretching myself and I wasn’t learning anything new. I began to feel bored and trapped because I refused to challenge myself. I felt comfortable in a box doing things I knew I could do well without much effort. I wanted more, but wouldn’t dare leave the box! Why couldn’t I leave the box?

F E A R! Fear keeps us from discovering what’s beyond the boundaries of our current experiences. It keeps us in the safe zone! And while I might have felt protected from the unknown, which may have included possible failure, defeat disappointment, the ”unknown” just might have included greater opportunities, growth and other successes. More importantly FEAR stunted my FAITH! FAITH in what God has already promised me. Faith in his HOLY Spirit to guide me and Faith in myself and my ability to do all things in HIS strength!

Fear hangs on to our skirt tail more regularly that we realise, but that’s why this year I am focusing on realising some of my dreams. The dreams that you know we pretend aren’t there, because we DOUBT they will come to pass. I am putting my faith to the test in 2020 by leaving that comfy spot on the couch. I am pushing myself to take on new challenges. I am pursuing ideas that are not within my areas of strength because I want to do more, grow more, be more and to do that I am going to have to encounter some new experiences. It will require a greater effort on my part, but that’s how you build muscle, You don’t get muscle lifting balloons.

People, we will meet resistance! It will take many forms! One to look out for is naysayers!There will be people who doubt your success and would encourage you to play it safe! There will be people who will tell you to ‘stay in your lane.’ And when they do, just say to them ”Tell Jesus, it’s him not me at the wheel!”

People it will feel HARD! The harder the task, the sweeter the reward! Jesus met resistance throughout his journey teaching, preaching and performing miracles. But I can just imagine how full his heart must have become when he met that woman whose faith was such that she only wanted to touch his garment.

People, it will get lonely sometimes but those are the opportune times to surround yourself in God’s presence! Look up encouraging scriptures to help you in these times. I’m not ashamed- I type into google ‘ scriptures to encourage lonely women’ and BAM! Hey, I’m still studying and still growing!

This year I challenge you to BE obedient to the call within your heart. BE someone who rises to the occasion and doesn’t sit back and let awesomeness pass you over. BE someone who crosses new territory in confidence because you got the BIG MAN leading the way. BE someone who is not afraid to FAIL because your FAITH is bigger than your FEAR.

BE COURAGEOUS!

Am I TOO SPIRITUAL for you?

So, the other day, I was all bent out of shape and catching real ‘feelings’ because someone said to me that I was ‘‘overly spiritual.’’ We were discussing a topic and I was giving my views from a biblical perspective. Yeah! They said to me, ‘‘you’re too spiritual about everything’’. Say what! Yes, that hurt a little bit.

Why did this hurt? Here I thought I was on the right track, studying the Word committing God’s Truth to heart, for times like these! It hurts because I want to live a ‘souled’ out life for Christ. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I want people to see Christ in me, on me, around me and through me. I represent him and so I am on a journey to living my life wholeheartedly for Him, through his Spirit and guided by His Word. Which means yes, if you ask my opinion on something, I’m not going to give you Niclair’s opinion, I am going to seek God first and use HIS wisdom in my response to you. Is that not what you would hope for?

I guess you can tell I was wound up about that, but it also hurt because it’s not my intention to have the ‘holier than thou’ pharisee syndrome.  I want to be accessible to people, to my friends, to my colleagues, my family. I want to make myself available to people to confide in me, share with me, pray with me. My desire is to stay close to God and let His Holy Spirit impact my relationships, conversations and interactions I want people to trust me as their fellow sister in Christ, so this whole thing led me to thinking that maybe I need the correct balance, and I began to pray in that regard.

This one comment made me begin to lose confidence in the Holy Spirit within me as I pondered this ‘‘accusation’’ and reflected on my younger days.

To be honest I have always been considered the ‘churchy’ one, the ‘preacher girl’ in the clique of friends. And I never ran away from that. My girlfriends refer to me as the ‘grandma’, not just because I am older, but because I’m usually the more ‘grounded’ one, who doesn’t delve too deep into the risky situations. And I accept that.  I am grateful that they have that confidence to confide in me. I am grateful that they trust my opinion on certain things, they trust my advice because they know that whatever I tell them is going to be as biblical as I can get, biblical meaning as truthful according to God’s will and purpose for them.

I have never made apologies for my personality in that regard. And I won’t start now. I grew up a Pastor’s kid for as long as I can remember. I lived the weekly night services, being dragged to church almost every night, homework in tow. I lived the life sitting up in the very front bench, where your parents could see you and being volunteered to take part in EVERY SINGLE thing because that’s what was expected. And while I might have complained and maybe resented it a little at the time, I wouldn’t change a thing because I know that a foundation was being laid and it has helped me to be the individual that I am today. My parents were teaching me how to live a well-disciplined life. They were instilling Godly morals and values, and nurturing virtues that represented a disciple of Christ.

So I will not label myself with the popular ‘pastor’s kids’ phenomenon. I am proud to be a pastor’s kid. No, I didn’t have a rebellious period, if I did, it was my choice to be rebellious, not because my parents were forcing me to go to church. My rebellion was because I was a young teenage girl trying to navigate life and find my identity in this world; and a life strongly rooted in Christianity and church ministry involvement, helped me on my journey to womanhood.

While I accept that everyone’s story is different! This is mine and I am better for it. I say all of this to say, I cannot make apologies for sharing with you THE truth of God’s Word. If someone confides in me or you about something, I believe it’s because he or she trusts the advice that you or I would give. It’s because they know that we will do our best to give you a ‘Godly perspective’ otherwise they would confide in someone else.

Ok, I am rounding up my rant and I think the only way to release my feelings about that comment is to surrender it in prayer:

Lord, help me to not be judgemental, but give me wisdom on what to say to encourage, but also how to say it with gentleness and compassion, with love and kindness. Lord help me to remember that I am not above any one or better than anyone but help me to always trust your voice within me regardless of what people think.

Truth is, after I prayed that prayer, there was nothing that God prompted me, through HIS spirit to change about my ‘too spiritual’ response to that person. I left it at that and made peace with my hurt.

Thank you, Lord, for your Light and Truth.

Here are a couple scriptures that encouraged my heart, as I worked through this:

 1 Peter 2:1-6
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Have you ever encountered something like this? What was your response? What passage of scripture did you find encouraging? I would love to hear from you!

Niclair.