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!

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

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

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!

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.

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.

6 reasons to start journals for your kids

A few months ago, I started journals for both my girls. I am no stranger to journaling. I have been writing journals from as young as 10 probably. It’s always been a way for me to clear my mind and refocus on what is important. Journaling also allows me to release and work through every emotion that I am feeling at any given time. Journaling helps me to keep track of my growth, lessons learnt, setbacks and failures, prayers answered. It’s all in there! Recently, I have completed reading ‘The Resolution for Women’ by Priscilla Shirer (very inspiring read, maybe I will do a post on it) and she mentions that she started journals for her boys. I thought to myself that is a great idea. I write significant moments in my own personal journal, but I thought it would really be a treasure to be able to pass on to them a record of those moments for them to keep and maybe pass on to their children. So, I have started this on their 2019 birthdays, and I try to write on their birth-date every month of the year. I have reminders set in my calendar each month, on those days, to complete an entry. It’s not the only time I write in their journals, sometimes I just record something they said or something they did that blew me away.

I thought I’d share with you some of the great reasons why you should keep journals for each of your kids.

1. It helps me to keep track of big moments. I’m terrible at the baby book thing. I mean to be honest most of them only go as far as 2 years. These days we try to record a video clip or take a picture and that’s great as well, but if you’re like me and get caught up in the moment, you may forget to press the record button. But being lost in the moment allows me to really be able to remember all of the details, so I can write them down along with the feeling and emotion I experienced.

2. I feel like I’m leaving a bit of legacy and a guidepost for growing up with them. I want them to know the prayers I prayed for them and how God responded.


3. It has helped me be more intentional in how I connect with them daily. It allows me to reflect on my role as mom, friend and teacher and holds me accountable to the quality of young ladies that I am trusting GOD to help me raise. When I pen my heart, my dreams and my hopes for them, those words become a mirror for me that draws me into examining myself and how I parent. Is my parenting guiding them and helping them grow into the purpose to which GOD has called them as individuals? Am I modelling the kind of mom I hope they would be? Am I modelling the God- fearing woman I pray for them to mature into?

4. Journaling for them has helped to keep me accountable to the goals and intentions I set for myself as a present mom. It makes it much easier to remember to extend the grace and kindness that I want them to experience in our home.

5. I can speak & pray the promises of God over their present and future. Journaling prayers and quoting scripture enables me to put all that’s good and perfect into the atmosphere for them to grab hold of at the right time with GOD’s leading.

6. And lastly, it’s something for them to cherish and maybe even pass down to their children.

I must add that it’s important that you write one for each of your children. (Easy for you Niclair, you’ve only got two!) Sure, it would be easy to just write one for my kids to share, but there’s something very special about having your own little book about just YOU! Writing separate journals gives me a chance to see the differences in their nature, their attitudes and their spirits. Each of my girls have their own unique personalities and this allows me to tease apart and appreciate their individual strengths , abilities and challenges as well as to pray specifically towards such.

I really recommend this, especially if you’re in the practice of journaling already. You don’t have to do it, every month, like I do. That’s just my preference. It’s totally up to you how often you do it. You can record in it once a year if you like.

A previous tradition of my parents was to keep photo albums, and they would record special moments in the caption or behind the photograph. My problem with that, is I never get around to printing photographs in this digital age. You can make it your own. Maybe you just want to record encouraging scriptures or uplifting quotes in your kids’ journals instead. That is totally fine, but create something that they can cherish, that they can hold long after you’re gone that will remind them of your love and desire to see them fulfil their purpose in Christ.

So, grab a notebook and a pretty gel pen and start with the first prayer you prayed as you held your little one for the first time and go from there. I promise it will add to the beauty of parenthood!

Share with me, how has journaling for your kids, helped your parenting journey?

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

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!

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