Adult Coloring Books – #Write31Days

coloringbook

Look what I found at PUBLIX!  I am super excited about this little find.  I actually grabbed it a few weeks ago, and my intention was to color it.  I had been going back and forth between using colored pencils, markers, or pens.  The pages are thick and single sided, which even brought to mind using watercolors for some of them.

Reality was that I just didn’t have the time to get started on anything, so it sat on my desk.

Today, I had a bit of free time.  I plucked the booklet off of my desk and began thumbing through the pages trying to decide my plan of attack.  Did I want to treat this as a coloring book, working my way through the pages?  Or, would I pick a few pages out and spend a little more effort on staying in the lines.  If I did this, I could potentially frame the pages and hang them as art pieces in my house.

However, to my surprise, I didn’t want to color a single page.  As I looked through some of the intricate designs I had an epiphany!   I could use the pieces for inspiration for a few quilling projects.  I think for now, I just want to work on some of the individual images.  However, I may then piece them together and create a picture/scene of some sort.

I’m curious if anyone else has ended up using the adult coloring books for something other than a relaxing color session?

What About Me? – #Write31Days

octopus

To those who know me, I love anything arts and crafts.  I love to craft with paper, or grab a paint brush and create something new to hang in my house.  My home is filled primarily with pieces of art that have been made by various family members.  Occasionally, I will head out with some friends to one of the “sip and paint” style events.  You can bring food and drink, socializing with your friends for a ladies night out… while you paint. 

Painting is not something new to me, I take to it pretty easily but even more so when I am being given step by step instructions. 

A friend invited me to a “sip and paint” party at a local studio, we were going to paint an Octopus on these cool boarded plaques.  There were about six women seated at my table, and despite the instructors best efforts these various octopi couldn’t look any more different from each other if we tried.  Well, maybe if we painted them different colors would could get one step further.

The instructor would pass by and comment on my octopus. 

“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”

“That’s really good.  I like how you painted the tentacles.”

“I love the detail spots you added.”

“Wow.  That’s coming along so well.”

Let me key you in on something, I really do not like public affirmations like that.  I don’t.  I get embarrassed easily (shocking, I know).  It makes me uncomfortable for others who may be struggling.  I am also highly critical of myself and would prefer to float under the radar… or I’m too busy fretting over that mistake no one else notices but is staring me in the eyes challenging me to “fix it”.

After her first few passes and comments, the gal sitting next to me was starting to feel something about the attention.  Kindred to my own soul, she made funny comments about it.  Not directly TO me, but in my range of hearing.  I’d laugh about it, because… well… she was funny.  I’m down with self deprecation, so I chimed in a bit myself.  She laughed.  I laughed.  Then just as the tension was dying, the teacher would whiz by again commenting on my octopus.  The cycle would start over. 

Finally, she began to speak a bit louder to ensure the teacher heard her.

What about me?  Am I not doing a good job?  Is she the teachers pet?

While her tone suggested she was saying these things in jest, we all know there is usually a bit of truth in these types of comments.  The teacher was not picking up on it, but I already had.  So I began complimenting her on certain aspects of her piece.  I pointed out a detail that she added that I had skipped because I didn’t think I would do it right.  I  shared that I was worried about messing up the piece.  The one of the other gals chimed in, complementing another facet of her finished piece.

It is hard, when you are trying to do a good job.  We seek encouragement so that we know we are on the right path.  If we have put in a lot of effort, we desire someone to notice it and appreciate that effort.  That’s a lot to handle and balance with being humble.  It is a check to our pride, graciousness, and humility.

Sometimes, it’s more than just a painting or a task we completed.  We just want to be acknowledged as a person.

There are times, however, where the Lord doesn’t want us out in front of the pack.  He doesn’t want us waving our arms, bouncing in our seats, shouting “look at me”.  In fact, he wants our work to unknown… no credit, pats on the back, accolades.  In a world that is giving prizes for participating, picking weekly superstars, and overloaded recognition we can begin to expect it within all the facets of our lives.  Then, when it doesn’t happen … we take it too personally.

I wonder though, if we are supposed to give the Lord the glory in ALL THINGS… why do we demand such accolades for ourselves?  Why do we demand to be seen, even when He clearly is asking us not to?

Lord, let my human fleshy needs take a back seat to your wonderful righteous glory! Amen.

Midfaith Crisis – con’t from Failure blog

MBA

Yesterday’s blog piece on Failure was my attempt to wrap my head around a fellow writers statement that “Jesus failed her”.   As I read through the piece, I just couldn’t get passed it.  I can’t think of a time where things didn’t go my way resulting in my feeling as if Jesus somehow failed me.  Even when I feel discontent with God’s answer or lack of movement in an area, I’ve never blamed Him.  More often than not, I will point the finger at myself assuming that my desires were not in His will or perhaps I have been walking in disobedience.  I may even remind myself that I have to be more patient because things happen in God’s timing not my own, or that His answers will always be infinitely better than my own.

I can remember being pregnant with my second, the doctor alerting me to precancerous cells found in my uterus and cervix.  I listened intently at the options before me, what risks each carried for me and the pregnancy.  I don’t ever remember being angry at God over the risks to my pregnancy.  My husband came upon me in the bedroom crying over it, and he told me “God wouldn’t give you a baby just to take it away”.  His words were sweet, but we all know that sentence isn’t true.  Women lose babies.  I said as much to my husband, and told him that her purpose may simply have been to save my life.  I was trusting that however this was going to play out, it was part of God’s good plan.  That doesn’t mean I stopped crying over it, worrying over it, praying that the Lord would protect her.   Had I lost the pregnancy, I would have grieved.  I just don’t recall ever feeling let down by God.

That is not to say that I haven’t had my moments where I have cried out to the Lord, because I couldn’t understand  what He was doing in my life (or the lives of those I care for).  I think that is an entirely different thing.  I can be confused or concerned, worried or sad, and even angry with a given situation.  I just don’t see an emotional response as being the same as feeling that Jesus let me down.  So, as you can see, this was just a concept I couldn’t understand or agree with.  When I read the piece a second time though, something else caught my attention and then I had my “a-ha moment”.

The author penned the term “midfaith crisis” and suddenly it all began to make sense.  At some point, whether via a movie, television show, or happening right before our eyes, witnessed someone going through a midlife crisis.  Mid LIFE crisis is a term we all know, even if we don’t understand it personally.  Entertainment will portray it heavily, as the guy who cheats on his wife with a younger women… or lightly, the man who comes home from work one day with an ear pierced, a tattoo, and a motorcycle.   A result of an nonacceptance of aging, desperately clinging to their youth, or attempting to accomplish those bucket list items before they are too old to do so.

When someone has a midlife crisis, we can at least have an understanding as to why they are making some crazy choices even if we don’t approve of those choices.

A mid FAITH crisis wasn’t really a term I was familiar with, or even a feeling I could understand.  However, when I consider the totality of my faith walk… well, I joined the party on the late side.  Maybe, I will be spared the midfaith crisis… or it’s just lingering further down the road.

As I spent more time trying to understand the concept of the midfaith crisis, I found myself softening to the author and beginning to grasp how she could feel that Jesus let her down.  Sometimes our immediate knee jerk responses are more about our ownselves and perceptions than they are about the other person.  Being able to apply what I understood about midlife crisis, midfaith crisis was a bit easier to work around.  The more I thought about that, the more sense the whole piece made.

If I had to imagine myself as a person who worked hard all of my life, dedicated to my job and family.  A person who volunteered in the community, was a good steward with my money, living a modest life and helping others.   If I think of these things, and then imagine that all through my life I could never catch a break.   I can see how that would bring me to the brink of crisis when I hit that half way point of my life.  You wonder “will it get better?” and you may even begin to take things into your own hands to control a better outcome.  You believe that you worked hard all of those younger years, full of sacrifices, so that your golden years would be easy and carefree.  You worked hard, you deserved an easy retirement.  Then one thing after another comes along that takes you money, your health, etc. away… and crisis strikes.  You feel let down by life, you wonder why you sacrificed for nothing.

I could understand the author’s point more clearly.  Imagine that all of your life you had been a faithful believer.  You prayed every morning, and each evening with your kids.  You were a faithful wife, who was a perfect helpmeet to your husband.  You taught your children about God, tending to their hearts.  Every week you were at service, never missing a Sunday.  Volunteering in the church, leading studies, tithing above 10%.  You heeded the call to full time ministry service or missionary work, selling your belongings and raising the funds.  You put your hands and feet into kingdom work every single day.  Then crisis knocks down your door.  You cry out to God…. “Have I not been obedient to you?  Have I not gone where you told me to go, served as you told me to serve?  Have I not sacrificed with joy, followed you word, shared the gospel… all that you have asked of me?

Then WHY God… why this?  Why now?

Then I felt it, I could understand.

Part of the reason I couldn’t wrap my head around it from the beginning was because I still feel like I fail at following Him to the fullest.  I know I could sacrifice more, give more, serve more, pray more, follow better.  Which is why I lean toward the belief that I let God down, not the other way around.

But, for those who have… and we all know those people exist (even if the number is few)… that serve God, love God, obey God with every bit of their being?

I could understand that moment (however long it lasts) of being honest with God and saying, Lord… you let me down on this one.

The good news?  Our God is big enough, and loving enough to handle that feeling.  He can handle your midfaith crisis.  He knows our hearts, because He dwells there.  He knows that we love him, serve him willfully, and that sometimes the directions He will take us can be tough.  He understands that we are confused, and can’t see what He is doing.  He understands that we are hurt, and don’t see the good in what has happened (yet).   He loves us through it.

As a parent, I would love to be able to give my children all of the desires of their heart.  However, I also know that all of those desires are not good or healthy options.  My 10 year old would be content with eating cake the rest of her life, my middle schooler would love for me to allow her more freedoms, and my high schooler is entering a time in her life where she teeters between childhood and adulthood.  There are times when our answers to their requests are no, and they will cry or get angry.  No matter the words they hurl in that moment… they know that I love them, and I know they love me.  Despite that crisis mode they are in, or the hurt, or the words.

My eldest recently asked me a question, and she started it with:  “I need to ask you something, and I hope you will say yes…”  I knew it was going to be a weighty question, and probably one I couldn’t answer on the spot.  Yet, even with those words spilling out of her mouth… I could sense hope.  She had her hopes up already, even knowing that my answer would not likely be what she wants to hear.

Just as we know our children, our Father knows us.  He hears the hope in our voices, He knows the desires of our heart.  As I reflect on the blog piece that started the wheels in mind to travel down this road, I realized how raw and honest this woman was being.  But, I was also able to see that despite her feeling that “Jesus had failed” her… she had not given up on loving Him.  Her words were not as dire as I first perceived them.

Perhaps, we could all learn from this exploration to be a bit more patient before we jump to conclusions.  To listen better, to read through things a few times before we jump to judgments.  To take the time to process it and see situations or statements from other perspectives, so that instead of judging someone harshly… we can stop and pray for whatever situation they are dealing with.  Quite often we only have part of the story, or we focus on a small detail and miss the bigger picture.

Had I allowed myself to stay hung up on her statement of being failed by Jesus, I would have missed so much more of what she was attempting to share.  I would have missed her endurance, perseverance, honesty, transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability.  I think we could all do well with a dose of being real and raw, with the world… with ourselves… and with our God.

Avert Your Eyes

MBA

Women are a funny creation, I’d love to have a one on one conversation with the Creator of the World about how women work.  I want to know how much of our way of thinking, behavior, etc is just “how we are wired” and how much is a result of the fall.  How emotional did God really want for us to be?  How complicated were we intended to be?  When woman first bit that piece of fruit, why is it that her mind became a pile of yarn balls all unraveled and going in so many directions at once?  Why did men get the capacity to compartmentalize things and function so differently with thought and deed?  We both ate of the tree of knowledge, yet our brains work so entirely differently.  Why?

It is a mystery.

Interestingly enough, what also happened after woman bit that apple… she saw herself.  She felt shame and guilt.  And, she hid from God.  Until that moment, the Lord had blinders on her eyes.  She saw Him, she saw Adam, she knew her God given task and purpose.  When she bit of the apple, those blinders fell off.   “What if” entered the world.  “What if God didn’t say ….”.  “What if I take a bite…”.  “What if I didn’t hear God correctly…”.

What if.

Throughout the scriptures there are cries out to God to be seen.  See me, search me, do not cast your face from me, see your people, hear your people, help your people…

Eve hid from God.  Eve said… do not see me.  Do not find me.  Do not cast your gaze upon me.  Do not search me.   She didn’t want to be found in her shame and her guilt.

Avert your eyes.

But the Lord looked for them, he sought them out in their shame, held them accountable, and then as He always does… he made a way out.

I’ve known so many women who want to be seen.  They want their spouses to see them, instead of take them for granted.  They want their children to see them,  and consider them worthy of praise.  They want their parent to see them and apologize for past hurts.  They want their boss to see them and recognize their efforts.  They want their church to see them and welcome their gifts.  They want world to see them and say you add value and are worthy to know.

And yet, some of these same women will hide from those who see too much.   When a spouse gets too close, and they feel vulnerable… they push him away.  When the children begin to see through her perfect mom facade, she builds up taller walls and come up with new covers to her sin.  A parent who desires to fix the past will be kept at arms reach because of fear, we do not want to be hurt again.  Women don’t want their bosses to know how much they sacrificed for the job, because they fear it shows weakness vs. strength.  A woman  who wants the church to see her gift but hides the journey to faith that brought her there.  Women who want the world to see them, but only the parts they want to be seen.

Women are complicated creations.  By our design or as a result of our choices, we seem to have the ability to complicate our lives even more than they need to be.  We say we want authenticity in our friendships, but we do not want vulnerability.  We say that we want iron sharpens iron friendships, yet we do not understand that for iron to be strengthened it’s weaknesses must be exposed.  We would rather our friends look up at us as a model of inspiration versus walk with us through our valleys.  We put on a show, get a circle of friends, build relationships… always keeping our arms stretched out so that no one can get too close.

From a distance our cracks and fractures are not as noticeable.  From a distance we can put on a show and no one can see us reading from the cue cards.  From a distance our grand actions are easily seen but our slight of hand goes unnoticed.  From a distance we look holy and righteous, masking our sin and deprivation.  From a distance we appear to have it all together, all of the right answers, the perfect family… no one can see the brokenness behind our closed doors.

Social media has made the perfect playground for superficial relationships, because we can connect with hundreds and thousands of people… posting our perfectly thought out words, edited photographs, and stories spun to make our lives look like a highlight reel of perfection.  When those people began to infiltrate our real lives, and see how we really live… that facade can only last so long.  When they get too close and begin to the see the truth, we cut them out and replace them with someone new.  Cycling our “friends” in and out of our lives to protect the image we have created for ourselves.

We tackle authenticity from a place of mentor to mentee versus a mutual relationship of accountability.  We want others to be authentic with us, so that we can use our gifts, talents, knowledge, wisdom, et’al to help them.   Yet we dare not expose the thorns in our sides, the planks in our eyes, and our sin to those whom we consider our closest friends.   When they come across them and call our attention to it, we are quick to dismiss it.  Quick to blame, and quick to create distance.  We speak truth in love, but I question how much love is really there.  We speak personal conviction as biblical mandate, standing on a soap box of righteousness that is filled with worms.  We are quick to label others sins and quantify them as more terrible than our own, so that when the time comes we can stop the friendship and feel no remorse.

Righteous indignation is easier than self retrospection.

So, we hide.  We hide from God under the guise that our sin is not as bad as others.  We tell ourselves that God is angrier about greater sins in the world, than this little thing I have done.  We hide from those who love us, because we fear that if they see us for who we really are they will leave… judge… or hold us accountable to change.  We hide from ourselves by focusing so much on how others have wronged or hurt us, that we can put our own sin on the back burner.

We want others to avert their eyes to us, while we look at them under a microscope.

Lord help us to be vulnerable with one another, to walk our roads not alone but in the company of our family of believers, let us not fear accountability, and help us to stop hiding from you.

A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit – STUDY

Just last week I posted about the book 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit, today I want to talk about the Study Workbook that goes with it.

Some of us can pick up book like 5 Habits, read it, and glean everything possible from it.  Others of us, need to dig a bit deeper.  We need to flesh out the ideas and concepts on paper.  We need to work through it, taking our time to digest the content and determine how to best use it to affect our lives.  And, there are occasions where we need to even hear the words coming from the author, peppered in with their personal accounts and feelings to make it more real.

If you click on the books above, you’ll be taken to the Lifeway.com page that lists not only the book for sale, but the black Study Workbook and even downloadable video links for individuals and groups.

The Pro’s of “A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit” study workbook:

  • The study is 6 weeks long, which makes this a perfect length for a summer study.  It can be a lot harder to gather your small group during the summer vacation months, and I generally find a 6 week study is the perfect solution.
  • The structure of the study is easy to follow along with, if you choose to facilitate the study for a group of friends (or if you decided to tackle this one solo).
  • The study workbook can be used independently of the original book, and videos!

The Con’s of “A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit” study workbook:

  • Even though the study is a 6 week session, there is daily homework.  I’ve often found this tends to be the area that hangs up women the most, in a small group setting.  This is particularly difficult for moms with young children or working women.

SOLUTION:  Take your time working through it, don’t rush to be done in six weeks.

  • There are some areas of the book that provide ample writing space, but others I fine to be lacking.

SOLUTION:  Consider a small notebook, or use the larger post it notes for added space.

Other than that, it is very solid study that explores the book of Ruth and what we can learn from her on how to be a woman who doesn’t quit.   The study walks us through scripture, explores our own past habits, and then encourages us to build new ones.

A Pretty Important Book

jcalled

Every so often I take on a few books to read and review for various sites and publishers, and this was a book that caught my attention.  Within just the first few pages, I couldn’t put it down.  In fact, I put aside many other things on my to do list and pretty much consumed this book.  There is a lot that I like about this book, but even more that I loved.  It spoke right to my heart about things I already believed, and challenged my thinking on other aspects of the church.  And… it struck a cord and convicted me too.

I think there are important books being written for the church & ministries.  Word-filled Women’s Ministry, for example, I think is an incredibly important book for Women’s Ministry.  But, as I read through Jesus Called, He Wants His Church Back, I may be so bold to say that this may be one of the most important books that I have read.  Right off the bat, author Ray Johnston comes out swinging with some big points.

Jesus is still popular in America.  We currently have better resources, than ever.  Our buildings are world class buildings, corporate level leadership, mega churches scattered about, and better communications thanks to the explosion of technology.  With all of the resources we have available, we should be seeing exponential growth in the church.  However the prevailing question that Johnston asks (and answers throughout this book) is:

Why is it that nobody wants to go to church anymore?

To find his answer, Ray Johnston had to go to Africa.

What an introduction, right?  Readers, all of this and I hadn’t even gotten into the first chapter yet!  I was invested in riding this through, put my highlighter to the test, and I’m blown away.  Ray Johnston was able to put his finger on the pulse of the church, detecting that slowing rhythm, and then puts himself to task to understand what is happening in the American church and how to fix it.

By the time you finish with Chapter Two, a quick journey spanning seven decades of decay in the American Culture is outlined right before you.  It seems so obvious, as you read decade to decade.  However, when you look at the cumulative of seven decades of loss… you almost have wonder:

Why aren’t we losing even more people from the church?

The good news is that everything we have lost can be found in Jesus, and there are those of us in the church who know this.  However, we are doing a poor job in ensuring that everyone walking through our church doors know this to be true.  We are doing a worse job making sure the world is pointed to the answer, the Truth.

As the book continues, Ray Johnston tells it like it is.  We are starting off with cracked foundations that are being influenced by the world around us.  Christians are taking the initials steps of seeking Christ, and saying the prayers for salvation… but coming up short of real trans-formative change.  If we want to really have an affect on the exodus of people from the church, we must repair these foundations.

If you know me personally, Bible Literacy is a big topic for me.  I’ve written about it before on the blog, talk about it more often, and even teach small groups on how to study the bible.  I’m pleased by how often throughout these pages Johnston points us toward Bible literacy in order to shape our biblical worldview.

After addressing the cracks in our personal foundations, we need to look at the church as it sits today with very honest and open eyes.  Johnston helps us to gain the perspective of those who are leaving (or not coming in the first place) and you can’t get through these passages without a sting of conviction.  Sure, some will feel a stronger sting than others… but I don’t think any of our churches are immune from these thoughts. Johnston doesn’t stop there has he also calls attention to the lukewarm churches who may have numbers but lack substance.

It is at this juncture in the book, we begin a new course.  The overall problems are identified and now it’s time for the solutions.  What holds us back, how do we get beyond them, and why is this so important?

How do we give Jesus back His church?

As I said, I think this is one of the most important books written for the church.  I would highly recommend this book for not only your Pastor Staff, but any leader in the church who is part of that vision cast.  Church Planters should start here, and even our ministry leaders need to ask how this applies to their ministry.

Jesus called, and He wants His women’s ministry back…

…and His youth group, children’s ministry, MOPS group, worship band, and every other part of it.

The book Jesus Called, He Wants His Church Back was provided to me via BookLook Bloggers program for the purpose of reviewing, all thoughts on this book are my own and not influenced by the organization.

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

countriesJ

A good blogger considers the statistics of their site, they want to see how many views the blog is getting.  We can even look to see which posts are getting the most attention, feedback, or views.   This helps the blogger get an idea of who their audience is and what they are interested in reading.  From this information we can mold future stories to fit the demographic of our readers.

That is what a good blogger does anyway.  Many months ago, another blogger challenged me to not look at my numbers but instead to look to the locations my readers were coming from. 

The photo above is a screenshot of every country that had at least one person access my blog in 2015.  My eyes opened.  Over forty countries were represented, even in my wildest of dreams I couldn’t imagine going on over forty missions trips in a year.   I couldn’t imagine a single speaking engagement from 2015 that would have given me access to people from all over the world.

I realize a greater responsibility for my words now that I see the weight of such a blog.  I sit here, typing, as  representative of Christ.  A witness to my home town, state, country and the ends of the worth.  This means that I must make the greatest effort in ensuring that I handle the word of God with accuracy and humility.  I need to handle hard topics with sensitivity to culture and in submission to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. 

As I move forward in 2016, I will remind myself of something our Pastor says often at the close of service…   “The Mission Field Starts Here”.

#Write31Days – Post 6 – Sweetest Day

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I don’t think there is anyone who is reading this that isn’t familiar with Valentines Day, a time when we declare love in our romantic relationships.    It has gone on to include gifts between parents and their children, card exchanges in classrooms with small parties, and even friends will celebrate their affections for one another.
Recently, the holiday “Sweetest Day” was introduced to me.  To be totally honestly, I had not clue what it was about.  Being someone who likes to research I took on the task of learning about this holiday.  The origins were not quite what I expected.  I assumed it was a pre-Valentines Day type thing…. or that it was simply about being intentionally kind to one another.   Since I was unfamiliar with it, I assumed it was fairly new and probably one of those made up holidays to increase retail sales.  Although I wouldn’t complain if I had the chance to swing by a confectionery for a free gift.
In my research, I learned that it was a midwest thing… being from the south… that explains a lot.
I also learned it goes back to the 1920s and all began out of an act of kindess and compassion toward the “least of these”, the orphans & shut ins from around Cleveland.  A local candy store owner gathered friends and families and delivered sweet little gifts to those who were being overlooked, forgotten about, or had fallen on hard times (this was during the depression).  The idea stuck, other people starting pitching in, and it spread into neighboring towns, cities, and states.
What an AMAZING idea!
And, since I like to PARTY…. why not invite some friends to join YOU and plan a SWEETEST DAY party.  Sweetest Day is the 3rd Saturday in October, so you still have PLENTY of time to plan!
Sweetest Day is on the 17th of October.  Consider one of the following party types:
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  1.  Prepping Party on the 16thgather with your friends, put together your sweetest day gift bags, while fellowshiping, munching, and praying over the recipients.  Then you (and your family, or your friends) can deliver them to recipients on the 17th.

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  1. Sweetest Day Party on the 17thperhaps your church could host a fun day at the church of games, activities, food, etc. and invite groups of disadvantaged children from your surrounding neighborhoods to celebrate together

Don’t forget about the kids who are in hospitals or centers that care for children removed from their homes. You can call ahead and plan something with their coordinators to ensure the gifts are approved, and you know how many to plan for.

Or, your heart might be calling you to celebrate with the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  There are also the men, women, and youth who are in prisons and detention centers who could use a little extra love and encouragement.

If you are going to have a party, think SWEETS but don’t forget the healthy foods too!

If you are celebrating with friends, you might want to have a more indulgent menu of desserts and treats while you prepare your gifts.  However, I am sure that hospitals, nursing homes, children’s centers, and even prisons are not going to be keen on a bunch of junk food!  Apple slices with caramel dip are a great balance and still a sweet treat.  Don’t forget about your friends who need a little salt with their sweet!  Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods are easy, quick, and tasty!

Online retailers, like Family Christian, have items for various age groups and interests.

When putting together gift bags for kids, you may want to consider some of the following ideas:  (Click any photo for more options and suggestions)

coloringpagesbarnbear biblekids

Velvet Wall Posters, Coloring Books are always kid friendly and enjoyed.  Stuffed animals like bears, are a great companion to cuddle into.  Sharing the New Testament with kids in an easy to read format, that has colored illustrations, is a wonderful way to share the Gospel with those you are reaching out to.

books

If you can find out the ages of the children you will be visiting, and gender in some cases, you can also bring a gift of books!  It encourages reading, something they can take with them when they move, and with many great Christian titles you can leave them with a gift that will not only be enjoyable but point them toward Christ.

If you are reaching out to the elderly, some great options include:

largeprintbible

Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not have Bible available for their residents, and if they do… they are usually ones that are donated from personal libraries or a church has purchased new ones for their pews.  This means they are rarely large print Bibles.  If the resident brought one with them to the facility, it is possible that it too is not a large print Bible.  When speaking with volunteers at a local center, large print Bibles were a top request!

hymns

A CD of Hymns might also make a great gift, as most of our older generations grew up on these songs as part of their Sunday worship and even weekly family devotion time.

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And never underestimate the joy a few hand drawn pictures from your children, or the ones in your church!  Take a collection, I am sure moms have a few they can spare.  Or have a party at the center, bring the kids and let them celebrate along side the older generations.  Prepare some sing along songs, have crafts on hand to do together, and check with the facility about any dietary restrictions on food brought in.

tracts

For Larger Gifting … a simple snack size candy bar, lollipop, or individually wrapped cookies and snack packs can be paired up with tracts.  They cover a variety of topics, come in different languages, and there are versions for adults and children too.  They are also inexpensive, a pack of 25 tracts can run you less than $3 per pack!

Some additional thoughts, as you consider the least of these:

A trip to a prison, may have much more stringent rules on what you can and cannot bring it.  These rules may very from prison to prison.  So, you are best to contact them ahead of time and get a list. Due to the number of inmates, you may also want to look for something that you can buy in bulk and give everyone the same thing.

Also keep in mind that addiction recovery centers & mental health care facilities may not allow any outside materials due to the nature of their residents conditions.

If you would like to reach out to women, men, or family shelters (particularly abuse shelters) may ask to pick up your donation to distribute themselves, due to the security and protection of their guests.

Budget Friendly Christmas. PLUS 10 GIFTS to GIVE AWAY!

Our family is very budget conscious. I really enjoy giving gifts to my family and friends, but some years there isn’t enough room in the budget for everyone I would like to give gifts to.  That is why I started planning my Christmas shopping out earlier in the year.

* Make a list early, who are you shopping for and what would you like to get them.

* Budget a small amount each month toward your list.

* Take advantage of sales, free shipping, and packages that you can split apart into multiple gift.s

* Shop for your packaging and accessory items from your local dollar store.

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I spent $47 on all of the above items.  I was able to get the books & journals for half off or less from Family Christian.  They have sales throughout the year, plus I had some gift certificates to redeem which helped reduce my cost..  The wrapping paper roll, shred, gift boxes, tape, tissues, pens, candles and butterflies were purchased at the Dollar Tree.


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There were 3 boxes per package, and I covered them with wrapping paper.  I started with the outside and folded the paper into the lids and bottoms.  I then had a cut piece to lay inside to finish it off nicely.

Then I added the brown paper shreds, and began arranging my gifts.  These boxes were a little more shallow than I planned for, so I couldn’t fit everything I wanted.  So yes, I had to leave the chocolate bars out of some of the boxes.  Fortunately, I was able to dispose of them promptly.  How is a secret I’m not permitted to share.

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I put the tops on the boxes, wrapped with ribbon and topped with a butterfly.

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I had  a total of six gifts for under $50!

And here is the best part, Family Christian would like to help you get started on your Christmas Shopping!

giveaway

I will select TEN random winners who will receive a $10 Family Christian Savings Pass!

Simply leave a comment on this page on how you would spend it!

Winners will be drawn on Friday June 12th at Midnight!  So enter quickly!!!!

For my shopping list:

Silver Metallic Thinline Bible

Forgiven Journal

Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin

10 Piece Inductive Pen Set

Savor, by Shauna Neiquist

Everything else was purchased at my local Dollar Tree.

BOOK REVIEW: More than just THE TALK, by Jonathan McKee

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “More Than Just The Talk” by Jonathan McKee.  While Family Christian sent me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own.

thetalkFor a Christian book, More Than Just the Talk, is pretty raw.  It was not what I was expecting, at all.  At the same time, it was exactly what I needed. I am a mother of three daughters, one of which is sixteen… and has a boyfriend.  A great kid.  Who despite how much we love him, still wonders when we will “trust him” and “trust them” to be alone together.

I say, when they are married.  My husband, he claims never. HA.

This book is so entirely relevant not just to my sixteen year old… but to my twelve year old… and to my eight year old.  All of which are exposed to the sexually charged media of the world we live in.

It’s time to be real, parents, the influence the world has our kids … even from those who sit in our church pews … is a struggle we not only need to fight against, but a fight that has to start sooner.  We can not afford to give up.  This is a real battle, that will not be easy to win.  Some of us won’t.  Thank God for grace.

Recently I was in a discussion regarding 1 Corinthians 7.  In this letter, Paul basically says it is best to be unmarried (to remain fully focused on God and His calling), if you can’t avoid temptation to get married, and if you get married to stay committed to that person for ever.  Pretty straight forward, but we have to understand WHY Paul wrote this letter.  The Church at Corinth, was in the midst of a city full of sexual sin.  The Church at Corinth, was itself spiritually immature.  This is exactly the situation we find ourselves in, in the United States.  We are country, much like Corinth, that is a hub of various cultures and religious beliefs.  With many different views as to what is and isn’t moral, pure, and good.   We are influenced by those around us, because the further we draw away from the New Testament days, the less mature we are as a body of believers.  We no longer have that same fervor that the early Christians… those taught by Christ and his immediate disciples had.  That fervor gets watered down each generation.

Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth, could easily be a letter written to every church in the United States.  This is what our youth today face. They face music, television and movies that are sexually charged.  We have phones with apps that can allow us to secretly view materials and participate in conversations, and many parents are blissfully unaware.

And, as author Johnathan McKee points out in the book, we are not alone.  This temptation and these materials are making their way in to the hands, minds and hearts of Mennonite and Amish communities.  It’s flooding in from everywhere, and even the “good kids” are getting exposure to it when they are at a friend’s home.  Even when that friend is another Christian.

Many parents are familiar with giving “The Talk” about sex.    It might be very technical about how the body works, coupled with scripture and religious views.  Some may delve in a bit deeper talking about the consequences (physical and emotional).  Some parents may be stricter teaching abstinence only, where as others will support abstaining coupled with information should the child choose not to.  It is a subject talked about at church, school and also home.  Usually, but not always.  In fact there is still some uncomfortably in talking with our own kids, about such a big topic.

If you are hoping this book is going to make you more comfortable talking to your kids, let me forewarn you…. it won’t.  In fact you are probably going to find yourself a little comfortable reading it, let alone thinking about talking to your kids about it.  However, with that uncomfortably … you will also find yourself feeling a sense of urgency to act.  You are going to realize that you need to do more than just talk about it, but actually take some steps.

Investigate what your kids are reading, what music they are listening to, and watch television shows they are watching.  Understand the way teens are looking at sex, and justifying what is and isn’t ok.  Be honest with yourself about not only what they are being exposed to at school… but what is seeping into the home (what channels are you subscribing to, that show late night content that is pornographic).   Take a moment to really understand that those lyrics you think you kids don’t understand the context, they know more than you think.

When your 8 year old asks you, “Mommy… what is 50 Shades of Grey about?”  …. when you don’t own the books, didn’t watch the movie, and don’t talk about in your home.  That tells you, this stuff is everywhere.  They are seeing it & learning about it, somewhere.  Someone is talking to them.  The radio?  Their teachers?  Their fellow students?

There is a lot of influence and we need to be prepared and proactive with our children.  More Then Just the Talk is not a comfortable read, but a necessary one.   Whether you are a public schooling mom, or a Pastor’s wife…. your kids are exposed, they are in need of real … straight forward … and sometimes explicit truth.

First, More Than Just the Talk, exposes that the content of “the talk” has changed.  We are also given tools on how to talk about it with our kids, with chapters specific to sons and daughters.  Each have their own approach, own needs.  However, I wouldn’t advise skipping one of those chapters.  Even if you only have daughters, you need to read the chapter on sons.  Your daughters will one day have boyfriends, and the sons chapter gives you some perspective, and you may… at some point… find yourself having a conversation with him.  This chapter will be beneficial.  The book also helps us navigate through the tough and uncomfortable questions they will surprise us with.  Because, right now, statistics show us that Google is where they are getting most of their information.

I don’t know about you, but I am not ok with that as their primary source of information.

What I also appreciate about the book, McKee recognizes that some of us will be reading this book after the fact.   There will be some of us that have a child that has had a sexual experience to some degree. Instead of shaming, the book helps us point our kids back onto the path.  We help them to realize that their past mistakes don’t negate a positive future.  New choices can be made, new standards put in place.  They can be forgiven and not defined by who they were at that time.  I also appreciate the book addresses children who have been victimized, where they had no control over the decision to become sexually active.  They are not forgotten, and they too are not defined by their past.  There is hope for all of them, for all of us.

More Than Just the Talk, as uncomfortable as it may make you, needs to be in your arsenal.  Use it, don’t just shelve it.  Read through the difficult parts.  Decided, under prayerful consideration, how and when you will begin these conversations with your kids.  Don’t assume it won’t apply to you, your kids, because of your conservative beliefs.

“More Than The Talk” is a powerful tool, that we can use to shape and redirect the path our children are taking.  It opens our eyes, and calls us to action.

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