Devotions for Kids

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to get a preview of the Sparkhouse Family’s Play and Learn series as well as their Devotions for Kids books in exchange for writing my honest opinion about the materials. Now I’m mad at myself for waiting so long to share my thoughts! Tory Herman

Let’s start with the Play and Learn series of books. The Play and Learn books have an average of 12-16 sections in each. Each section includes a short story from the Bible, a conversation starter, a prayer to share, a section to draw and discover, a puzzle, a verse to learn, a guide to reading more about the particular story, how the story relates to us today, and a family activity. A cute little bonus is a character named Squiqqles. Squiggles is a caterpillar that appears in every story and engages the child by identifying and expressing feelings and emotions.

The Devotions for Kids book is a great devotional for kids and adults! Each devotion includes a story, discussion questions, a prayer, key verses, and an activity the family can do together. I really like the fact that Squiggles is a constant companion for the kids and is also featured in the devotional. This makes it really easy to combine the stories from the Play and Learn books and the devotional.

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The best thing about this line of books is that it is a great way to spend time together as family. Whether you only have five minutes or 30 minutes, you can have intentional and meaningful discussion and playtime with your kids.

Below is an example of how I took the story of Naomi and Ruth, where the theme is family, and stretched it out over the course of a week.

Day 1: Using the Play and Learn book, I read the short story and asked the questions already provided, “Where does your family like to go together? How do you welcome each other home?” We discuss how it feels to be loved and what that looks like using Squiggles. We finish by reading the short prayer provided in the book.

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Day 2: This time I used the Devotions for Kids book and read a short story about Naomi and Ruth. I asked the questions already provided in the devotional book and we go over the key verse from the story. There’s a fun activity suggested where the kids walk around the house and take pictures of items that mean “family” to them.  After this we go over the short prayer in the book. (The devotional provides details as to where to find the story in your Bible if your family wants to go more in-depth.)

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Day 3: We reviewed Day 1 and Day 2 by just going over how Ruth and Naomi are related to one another and the importance of family. Then we looked at pictures of other families doing things together. One thing our family likes to do is go out for ice cream on Sunday evenings, so we discussed that and the girls drew pictures of our family. We finished the evening by saying the short prayer from Day 1.

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Day 4: Play dough fun! We didn’t have a chance to do this yet but the book provides the instructions. We finished by going over the prayer.

Although we ended on Day 4, the Play and Learn book offered at least three other activities to do as a family.

Overall, I loved the books!! If you would like to purchase these books for your family I have a treat for you! From now until 10/15/2016, you can get 25% off discount on Sparkhouse Family products. Just click on the picture below and type in the promotional code BLOGGER to receive your discount! Enjoy!

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Slip and Slide

The other night I felt like quite the accomplished mother having put the girls in bed bathed and fed at exactly 9pm.

I’m on the phone talking to my husband and he asks, “How long have the girls been sleep?” To which I proudly respond, “I don’t know how long they’ve been sleep but it’s been silent for the past ten minutes. SCORE!” We both laugh and continue our conversation. Not even a minute passes after my major “score” announcement and I hear little voices coming from upstairs.

“Uh, let me call you back in a couple of minutes,” I tell my husband, “I hear the girls.” I quickly trot up the stairs and look in their room, only to find empty beds. Cross the hallway over to my room and there they are staring at me with mischievous eyes and sly smiles as they have taken every single baby wipe out of the container and placed a very neat pile on my bed. Do you know how many baby wipes come in a container?!

In the best momma voice I can muster, “Out of my room and into your beds, AND you better not get out of your beds again!” I lock the child gate and hustle back downstairs, again, feeling accomplished. I mean, have you heard my mommy voice?! It’s something fierce I tell you!

I make it back downstairs just in time to pick the baby  up before she goes into full-out wailing because she’s ready to be nursed. And then, not even three minutes later…

“Mommy, I have to use the bathroom. Mommy, open the gate, I have to pee.” Did I mention the toilet upstairs is clogged?

I place the baby, Berrington, back into the swing and she starts crying as I head upstairs. I politely open the gate and step to the side to let Bellamy go down the stairs but she just stares at me and starts grimacing.

“Bellamy, go! Go down the stairs,” I tell her and she doesn’t move. The trickling sound I dread begins and I look down at the puddle starting to surround her feet. “Bellamy, no. No, Bellamy,” I say, knowing full and well it’s too late.

Then I hear the sound of another tiny person with heavy feet running my way. I look up to see Braelynn running out of my room. It seems to happen in slow motion and in real-time simultaneously, before I can stop her, Braelynn, in her quest to make it back to her room before I catch her (too late, kid) runs out of my room straight across the hallway to her room. But as fate would have it, her dash to home base is abruptly interrupted by the fresh warm puddle of urine left by her sister.

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DOWN, DOWN, SHE GOES!! (Like my visual effect, there?)

You know what makes it a little better? She doesn’t just go DOWN, she also slides right through that bad boy!

For a brief moment, Bellamy and I make eye contact and I can tell she doesn’t know whether to cry for peeing on herself or laugh at the hilarity of Braelynn slipping in it. We both smile for a quick second but we quickly realize we can’t break character and must play our roles.

Then I do the only thing I really can at this stage of the game. I give them both a good bath and send them off to bed.

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Funny story, huh? Today I can laugh about it but at the time it wasn’t THAT funny to me. I was quite honestly annoyed and frustrated. My husband was away on business and I had three kids all under three years old who all grasped for my undivided attention in some form or fashion.

When reflecting about that night, it made me think of Christ, our Savior.

How often do we act like children? We go against His will for us, doing things we know we shouldn’t do. We have “accidents” that He has to clean up for us time and time again.

I like The Message translation of Titus 3:3-8 because it puts it out there as boldly and plain as can be:

It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.

Notice the parts I underlined?

God is loving, He is merciful, and He gives grace.

And sometimes when He reminds us of His love for us through our kids, he also reminds us He has a sense of humor.

Hope you had a good laugh and good reminder of God’s redeeming love through this post! Smile, God loves you!

After These Messages, I’ll Be Right Back

Hi there, friendly people!! Well, it’s been awhile since you’ve heard anything from me and I wanted to let you know, I’m still here! In the past two months, so much has happened, I had a baby, hubby lost his job (more on that to come), spent a month away from home and so much more. With that said, I think I needed some time away from my blog to hear and UNDERSTAND the message(s) God wanted me to hear. Some of the messages I’m still working towards understanding, other messages I know need to be shared. With that said, I can’t wait to get back to writing and the first post after my “maternity leave (thanks, Marissa)  will be on September 1st. Can’t wait!

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

A couple of nights ago,  I had to “check myself”, I mean literally have a “keeping it real” talk with myself. I assure you I’m not crazy, or at least I haven’t been diagnosed yet. I came across a post on social media where an acquaintance was talking about how great her first day of work went after taking off for maternity leave. She spoke of how she missed her job and the responsibility that comes with it. As I was reading through the comments, I felt myself starting to get upset and dare I say, offended. The other moms said things like, “I have the best of both worlds being a working woman and a mom”, “Working and being a mom made a better woman out of me”, and so on and so on. 

People, hear me when I tell you, I was so close to writing about how stay-at-home-moms (SAHM) are just as good and blah, blah, blah, blah. Listen, I’m embarrassed now just sharing this with you but what can I say, it happened. So, back to the story. Now I was about to defend all stay at home moms everywhere across the world, when that little voice of reason popped into my head. The conversation between me, myself, and I went like this…

“Erika,” said self.

“Uh, yes,” I respond.

My voice of reason asks, “Erika, can you tell me where any of those moms said something about you?”

“Right there! Right there she said she’s a better woman for it and….,” my stubborn self responds.

“But where did any one of them directly compare themselves to YOU? Furthermore, where did they mention stay-at-home-moms at all? Please, show me where they typed out E-R-I-K-A or where they said one mom is better than the other? I’ll wait on you to show me,”said self.

Talk about a swift kick in the butt!

My own insecurities about my own self worth as a stay-at-home-mom completely got the best of me. As Ice Cube says, “You betta check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self” and I seriously had to get myself in check.

To be clear, I know my worth as a stay-at-home-mom and what this means to my family, not just my girls but to my husband, too. But sometimes I struggle with going between caring and not caring what other people think of SAHM’s. There are so many stereotypes out there that I sometimes feel I need to defend myself and name off all of my credentials gained outside the home. However, that’s MY struggle. I had to realize that  getting upset with what those women posted had nothing to do with them but everything to do with me. I was feeling insecure about my place in this world as a SAHM, that’s not their fault! But how easy it was to take offense when it was completely unnecessary. Can anyone relate?

After I had this revelation, it got me to thinking about how often so many of us do this to ourselves? We take personal offense to general statements made by others that have completely nothing to with us as individuals. So often, we compare ourselves to others, forgetting that God has something for them to do, just like He has something for you and me. We don’t all get assigned the same tasks and that’s perfectly okay. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we fulfill our purpose for God by allowing Him to use us wherever He has placed us.

The second and final point is this, sometimes we really do have to put ourselves in check.

*1 Corinthians 11:31 states, 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 

Although it’s “funny” to say, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” there is a truth behind the importance of doing so. I highlighted the words “judged ourselves” because I want to focus on the meaning. According to Strong’s Concordance, or Blue Letter Bible, judged ourselves has a few meanings, which are:

a. to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, to prefer
b. to learn by discrimination, to try, decide
c. to determine, give judgment, decide a dispute
d. to withdraw from one, desert
e. to separate one’s self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, contend
f. to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt

As you can see, I highlighted the last meaning, f., because I feel it most closely applies to the message. I had to literally go against myself and my initial thoughts in order to put myself “in check”and I’m so glad I did. Could you imagine how silly I would’ve looked if I would have commented about how SAHM’s are just as happy and content? Thank goodness my voice of reason stepped in and helped me judge myself and in turn, prevented me from being judged by others as an overly sensitive, get over yourself, crazy SAHM. 

If I could sum up the point of this post, I guess it could be summed up in two points. Number one, everyone has something they are called to do. If God has placed you somewhere, stay there, enjoy it and be blessed by it. Number two, sometimes you need to put yourself in check and “keep it real” with yourself.

Praying for you always! Be blessed.

*Please remember when reading scripture to always read the verses before and after to understand the context. The verse I pulled from is talking about the act of communion and being of a clear mind and heart but I thought the verse was applicable to the post. Thanks!*

My Intentional Summer Plan

Recently I was looking through my Facebook feed and I came across a great post about a Bucket List for Toddlers. The list was awesome but I as I looked over activities planned, I realized it was great for that particular family and not necessarily mine. So I decided I’d come up with my own bucket list of activities for my family. Easy right?! My gosh it took much longer than I expected! I wanted a list of items that of course were summer themed but also intentional. Some of the activities are just for fun, some are educational, some are merely for exposure to other cultures (ie.food festival), and so on. As I get closer to the birth of third child, I’m becoming more concerned about making sure my other two aren’t placed on the back burner.  I want to be intentional with their time and with mine. I know that the new addition will take some time for all of us to adjust to but adjusting does not mean inability. With that said, I would hope that I would be able to attend all 25 of the things I have planned for my girls but realistically this may require some help from family and friends. But you know what? That’s perfectly okay. Trying to be a supermom and doing  it all will only stress me out and everyone else, too. So, what are you plans for the summer? Do you have a bucket list? I’d love to hear what you are doing.Summer bucket list

Who Are You Fleeing To, Married One?

A couple of days ago, I sat down in my office chair as I was reading a text from a dear friend whose marriage is at a crossroads. I put my phone down without responding because I wasn’t sure what to say at the time. I wanted my words to be ones that would uplift and encourage her, not feed into her despair. I grabbed my Jar of Promises (check out my previous blog, 3 Motivational Things…), a container full of verses to look up that contain God’s promises.  My daughter asked if she could pick the scripture this particular day and I let her. She picked the first one right off the top and I’ll be honest and say I wanted her to dig in there a little more but she didn’t. Thank God she picked the scripture she did.

This is for my friend, she knows who she is, and anyone else who may be at a crossroads in their marriage.

Hebrews 6: 17-18 (ESV)  17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

This particular scripture is referring to God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants. However, when I read this scripture I believe that the same God who wanted to show Abraham His unchangeable character is the same God we serve today.

When we are in the midst of troubling times, we have two choices to make (For my own testimony on hard times, check out Perfect and Ideal ). The first option we have, is to believe in ourselves and our ability to fix things. The thing we must ask ourselves with option number one is what is our track record? Is it perfect? Sure, we can make decisions that provide us with an immediate feeling of relief but what about the long run, do those decisions always pay out in the long run? We live in a world where we’re taught if we’re not happy with our spouse, leave and move on to the next person who will make us happy. We treat marriage as though it’s the same as dating and we end our marriages the same way we ended our relationship with our high school boyfriend. We’re outta here at the first sign of trouble.

The second option is to do as verse 18 states and “flee for refuge so that we might have strong encouraging to hold fast to the hope set before us”. While this may seem like an oxymoron, sometimes fleeing means sitting absolutely still, praying and waiting. Flee to God in prayer for your marriage, asking Him to not only heal your marriage and not just change your spouse but to change you as well, none of us are perfect.

When we say our marriage vows, we are entered into a holy covenant, an agreement. I think so often we forget that when we enter into this covenant with our spouse that there is a third-party present, God. Sadly, because we forget that He is just as much a part of our marriage as the man and woman themselves, we easily fall into the trap of believing there is no hope. But friends, God’s character is unchangeable and if we are believers like we say we are, then we have got to hold fast to God’s promises to us. The question is who do you believe in more, God’s ability or your ability? Or maybe it isn’t that you doubt God’s ability but you doubt He will do it for you.

Hebrews 17 states, “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed with an oath.” Friends, God created marriage to be a beautiful thing and I truly believe that God has a purpose for each and every one of us and for our marriages. But how can our full potential be reached in our marriages if we run in times of trouble? Could God’s desire be to show you just as convincingly as He did with the Israelites the promise of His unchangeable character through your marriage. If everything is always great, where is the opportunity for growth and refinement? Where is the opportunity to see God move and work in only ways He can if we don’t give Him the chance (and His timing) to do it? I love this image I came across on Facebook the other day, particularly the last line and it states, “They become”. Friends, marriage takes work, hard work and we (husbands/wives) can’t do it alone. Just as God guaranteed with an oath in Hebrews verse 17, our wedding vows are too an oath that our Father enters in with us. We need Him to help us, especially in times of trouble.

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Friends, I am here to encourage you in marriages today. While well-meaning friends and family members will agree with you and concur that your spouse is not fulfilling their duty, that feeling of validation does nothing to save your marriage. Instead, I encourage you  to turn to God, flee to God for refuge and let Him show you how if you depend on Him,  He will fulfill his promise to you because He doesn’t lie and His character is unchangeable.

I reached out to two of my friends and I would like to share their testimonies with you.

Friend #1 shared this:

The first year of my marriage, the word divorce came up probably every other week. I was pregnant with our first child and on our first anniversary we were living separately (We didn’t even get to eat our wedding cake that we had kept frozen from that special day).
Although we had dated for about 7 years before marriage, somehow we were not making it as husband and wife. We had premarital counseling and received approval to be married.

Trouble came because things that we disagreed about during counseling started to appear during the marriage. One of the major disagreements was that my husband felt like he shouldn’t have to come home at a decent hour. He wanted to hang out with his friends as if he was still single. I didn’t have a problem with him hanging with his friends, I just wanted him home at a decent hour. That became a huge problem in our marriage and caused many arguments. So my response to his actions was divorce. My husband would get mad when I would bring up the dreadful “d-word”.  I couldn’t understand my husband.  He didn’t want a divorce but he didn’t want to compromise with me either.

Of course I believed in God and prayer but the flesh in me called my mom and dad first. Both of my parents listened to me and they never suggested divorce. I remember thinking, “Dang, why am I the only one trying to solve this by getting a divorce?” I would pray and ask God to help me because I didn’t know what to do. Months went by and of course, being as pregnant, I shed a lot of tears. This situation added so much stress to my life. I couldn’t fathom the possibility that I was going to give birth to a child and bring her into a broken home. I believe that was my breaking point, I didn’t want to raise my child as a single parent because I grew up in a single parent home.

At this point my prayers began to change, I started to pray for my husband. I was being selfish in my previous prayers because I only asked God to help me! After many prayers for myself, my husband, our marriage and our child, my situation started to turn around. My husband called me one day and said that he wanted to come home. After a of couple dates and long conversations about making the necessary changes to fix our marriage, he came home.

This year we will celebrate our 7th year anniversary! Oh and yes we have small disagreements, but divorce is never apart of the discussion. Most disagreements we can fix on our own, but if not we take it to God in prayer!

Friend #2 shared this:

My husband and I have always had a pretty solid marriage until this recent 3rd year. Things became very stressful. His sense of job security became very shaky when another company came in for a buyout, and it began to affect our entire marriage. Not knowing the entire story (because it takes time for my husband to get things out of his system) I could not understand the stress that he was going through. I felt like my husband did not want me or didn’t even love me. Many things that I’d never thought about before began to creep into my head… is he cheating on me? Why doesn’t he love me? Did I marry the wrong man? Should we get a divorce? The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy and I was allowing him to put his foot into the door. I then even considered stepping out, myself, on my husband.

I spoke with my best friend… who told me she would pray for me and that I needed to pray harder for my marriage, but more specifically, my husband. It was the turn of the year and I decided to fast and pray to save my marriage… not knowing what to expect. At the very beginning of my fast, the movie “War Room” was on demand and it was if God himself was speaking right to me. The #1 thing that I learned was that my husband is not the enemy. Satan is the enemy. Anytime I felt like blaming, complaining or criticizing my husband, I decided to pray for him instead. I begin to fight the enemy, not my husband. Almost instantly, my marriage improved.

My husband and I have dedicated to having one night out the week for family night with no screens and no interruptions where we solely focus on each other. We recently went on a marriage retreat where we were reminded of why we loved each other so much in the first place and we’re looking forward to a nice vacation in the Caribbean this summer and celebrating our 3rd year anniversary. Things have not changed at his job just yet, but we’ve changed as a married couple. It’s amazing how we went from 3 months in such a dark place to feeling like newlyweds again! God has definitely been our answer. And why that may seem cliché to most couples, we have definitely found prayer and God to be the key to our successful marriage.

Can I tell you something? Neither one of these friends saw the other’s response but do you see the commonality, here?

I pray this helps one person in some small capacity. Praying for you always, friends!

 

 

Additional Resources to Consider:

War Room DVD (There is also a Bible study in addition to the movie.)

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Armor of God Bible Study by Priscilla Shirer

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40 Lessons from 40 Years of Marriage

Sacred Marriage Series of Books

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Boundaries in Marriage

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Love Dare

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Updated: 3 Motivational Things You Should Get Today

If you know of something that might be a blessing to others, it’s always great to share, right?! Well, I just wanted to take a little time to share three things that have really been a blessing to me over the past couple of months. Check them out!

Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story by Angie Smith

Please hear me when I tell you this, I absolutely, beyond a doubt, unapologetically, enjoyed the Seamless study. Angie Smith, the author, does exactly what she sets out to do, she helps you understand the Bible as ONE complete story. If you are anything like me before I completed this study, I knew the Bible as pieces and chunks. I had taken a couple of precept studies that helped me to understand a book of the Bible or a concept but I still had yet to understand the complete story and how they all relate to one another.  From Genesis to Revelation, Angie explains what happened, why it’s important to know and how it all comes together as one big “seamless” story, and even how it pertains to YOU. Another plus is Angie’s sense of humor that just leaps from the pages. She’s relatable, she’s real, and she is funny (she’s not bad at sarcasm either). This study truly blessed me, I know it will do the same for you. Here’s what my friend over at Jubeelee Art had to say about  how “relentless” I was about encouraging my friends to do this study.

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In All Things Give Thanks: 90 Days of Gratitude Journal by Charles F. Stanley

This was a gift given to me by my secret sister from Mothers of Preschoolers, or  MOPS. I’ll be honest with you, I had this journal for over a month before I started to use it and I didn’t begin to use it because I was so happy about life that particularly night. Actually, it was quite the opposite. I had just one of the worst days possible, so bad that at one point that day, I was standing outside of a bathroom stall at Carrabbas Italian Grill crying (literally), holding one baby on my hip, while helping my other one use the potty. All this girl wanted was to just sit and her car and have her food delivered curbside while her hubby was out-of-town, but a certain three year-old couldn’t hold it any longer. Many other things happened that day and I was at a point where I just wanted to curl into a ball a just cry. So, at the end of the night I just needed some encouragement. I opened the journal and read the foreword and here is a little bit of what the author had to say, “Of course, you may imagine this to be an extremely difficult command (express appreciation to Jesus) especially during those season when it’s a struggle just to get out of bed in the morning. But there is a reason that Scripture admonishes us to praise the Father in every situation-not only when life is joyful or easy, but also when our souls most desperately need hope. And that is because nothing in the world ministers to our spirits or lifts our hearts like praising God.” I enjoyed this journal so much that I looked it up in order to buy it for a friend and I discovered that is free. Yep, you read that right, absolutely FREE!! Click here to get your 90 Days of Gratitude Journal for free, no gimmicks, no hassle.

Jar of God’s Promises

The next item also came from my secret sister and I have absolutely no clue whether it was a purchased gift or if it was made but I love it. It is a jar filled with Bible verses that contain God’s promises. Again, I didn’t read the first one until that horrible day but God’s timing is always perfect timing. Every day I stick my hand in and pick a little slip of paper with the verse that I should look read that day. I read the verse, pray about it and write it in my journal along with whatever thoughts I have for that day. I wish I could tell you where to get one but I’m sure a little time spent on Google will lead you in the right direction. I even saw a couple of similar items on Pinterest. Update: My secret sister purchased the jar from the $1-$3 section from Target that is normally located in the very front when you walk in. She then typed up the daily reminders of God’s promises from the 2015 calendar, printed them and cut them up into slips to place in the jar. I am not sure if this is the same website she used but here is a link to 365 Promises.

I pray these items bless you as much as they have blessed me. If you decide to follow me up on any of these, let me know what you think. Praying for you always!

Go Tell or Go Help?

Go Tell

Nine days ago I received a mass email from the program director of my daughter’s Mother’s Day Out program. The general purpose of the email was about the upcoming book fair the program was having. However, at the end of the email, the director stated that a few moms had brought something to her attention out of concern. At the end of the letter, the director said, “I trust you hear the “heart” through which this request is made.”

Let me begin by saying that the director of the Mother’s Day Out program is beyond fantastic. It was her duty to do address the concern brought by those mothers with other parents. But still, something bothered me about the email, it wasn’t the director, she was doing her job, but rather it was the moms who reported their sightings to her.  While I heard the “heart” at which the director was making the request, it made me wonder about the heart of the fellow moms who went to her.

You see, around the time I received the email, the pastor of my church introduced a new message series called “10,000 Steps”.  The inspiration behind the series is the FitBit and the daily goal of reaching 10, 000 steps. The question posed during my pastor’s message is how are you spending those steps? Are you spending those steps reaching out to others? Are you spending those steps judging others? What are you doing? The message isn’t saying that you should go up to everyone you encounter and say, “Hi, my name is Erika and I would like to know if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior”. No, that’s not the purpose. But what the message is saying is that God can use you in your everyday life to be a light towards someone else.

Now going back to my daughter’s MDO program, I have thought about the moms who spoke to the director. You are probably asking yourself what was the complaint. Well, I’ll warn you this can be a touchy subject but here goes…a couple of moms were either running their children inside or picking their children up but leaving a baby in the car while doing so. The three main reasons the email bothered me are 1. There was so much ambiguity as to which mom or moms were doing this since it was a mass email. 2. I could possibly be one of the moms the email was addressing because I have left my youngest child sleeping in the car. 3. If I was the mom they were referring to, if they would’ve approached me, they would’ve been informed that next to my car was a van that contained a pretty and petite friend of mine named Wendie, who was watching my little girl for me. I would’ve been able to share with them how for a while, Wendie and I would just sit next to each other in our cars and talk about everything from the life of being a mom, bible study, the advantages of driving a mini-van and just life in general. I would also have been able to share with them how Wendie watched me carrying one year-old, while holding the hand of my energetic three year-old with my pregnant belly poking out and how one day she just said, “If I’m here, don’t worry about carrying her inside with you anymore. I’ll watch her for you until you come back. We’re both moms and I’ve been there.” But that’s just my story of being blessed by a fellow mom.

I can’t help but to wonder about the other moms the email could’ve been referencing. I also can’t help but to wonder about how those moms who expressed their concerns  to the director could have spent their steps differently. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to express concern over the well-being of a child, that’s not what I’m saying at all.

One mom had four kids with her and one of the kids notified her that she had left her lunchbox in the classroom AFTER all four kids were seated and buckled in the car. She ran inside with her daughter to grab the lunchbox but was literally afraid she would be reported by another mom for leaving her kids in the car. Am I the only one who thinks there’s something wrong with that picture?

To express how I feel, I have to directly quote my pastor because he put my feelings into words. He stated, “Society now wants justice over mercy. We believe in judgement over forgiveness. We extend criticism over benefit of the doubt. And we believe in works and merit over grace.”

Instead of spending their 50-150 steps looking for the director to “report” other moms what if the following happened…

What if they used that thing called empathy and weren’t so quick to jump to conclusions?

What if they looked at things in context and said to themselves, “Hmm, it’s raining and cold out here today, I’m sure she probably didn’t want the baby out in this type of weather, she normally takes the baby in with her”?

What if they went to the director and said, “Hey, I noticed this mom left her baby in the car today, would you mind giving her my name and telling her I don’t mind watching the baby for a couple of minutes while she runs in”?

What if the baby was sick and finally fell asleep after being up for hours and the mom just wanted her baby to finally rest and literally ran in to pick-up/drop-off her other child?

This is about taking the time to notice people, not just in school parking lots, but everywhere. Although the MDO program is at a Christian church, it would be silly to think all parents share the same faith. I wonder if one of those moms who received the email, just marked it as another reason why she thinks Christians are judgmental or some other notion.

Listen, I pray that you can see the gray area here that I’m talking about. I’m not encouraging moms to leave their kids in the car and go on shopping sprees. But what I am saying is that opportunities are being missed in our everyday steps to be the light and the salt of the earth.

Matthew 5:13-16 NIV

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How will you spend your 10,000 steps today?

 

 

 

Thank God, I Was Too Sick to Go

About a year ago, I felt that God was speaking to me and telling me that I needed to go into ministry. Not the kind of ministry where I’m speaking from a pulpit but in the areas of teaching and just being there for women who are married, women who are mothers of young children and so on. I prayed about it and within the next week I felt led to do two things, join the women’s ministry at my church and put in an application to become a Discussion Group Leader, or DGL, for MOPS International. For the purpose of my message today, I just want to focus on the women’s ministry at my church.

A couple of weeks ago, I got really sick on what I deemed the worst day EVER to get sick. It was the first day of returning to Women’s Bible Study at my church after the winter break and we were starting the study called Seamless by Angie Smith. Not only that, my friend Marissa and I are co-teaching this study together and had spent lots of time preparing for our first day. Again, it was the worst day EVER to get sick.

I remember sending my husband a text that morning saying I didn’t feel well and he honestly thought it was just my nerves. Although I do get nervous, I usually don’t get physically sick because of it but on this particular morning, I hung on to that notion, it was my nerves.

I remember texting Marissa saying I was coming but I didn’t feel well, I had every intention of going. I had left the house twice, only to return home to use the bathroom. I dropped my oldest off at Mothers Day Out and I remember sitting in the parking lot and feeling like I needed someone to get me and my youngest home. I called my mom and asked for prayer. I sent a group text to my friends asking for prayer. I called my dad and he said, “Where do you have to be this morning that you are getting so worked up about if you’re sick?” As much as I wanted to, I. JUST. COULDN’T. DO. IT.

I finally sent a text to Marissa and said I was too sick to come. I literally cried driving back home. My dad called again and made the following statement, “You know Erika, God allows things for a reason. Maybe there is a reason you are not there today. I think you should pray about it and really seek to find out why He blocked this for you today.”

Umm, WHAT?! SERIOUSLY?! That’s what my dad says to me?!

As confused as I was, I listened and I really prayed about it, “God, if there is a reason, enlighten me.” And He did.

While my intentions may have been good, I was too worried about “me”.  Would “I” do a good job? Would “I” get the message across? Am “I’ good enough to co-teach this study? Am “I” knowledgable enough to teach others about Christ? Would “I” be a hindrance to not only my co-teacher, Marissa, but to the other ladies who lead Bible study? I had let the enemy fill my head with all sorts of self-doubts and reasons to worry about “my” role.

Praise God for His lessons in what seem to us to be the most “inopportune” times. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

The truth is that I wasn’t completely trusting that God would equip me with what I needed to co-teach this study. Marissa kept telling me, “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.” But I didn’t fully understand that until I got sick and couldn’t go. God needed me to completely trust Him and depend on Him for this study. It wasn’t about me or anyone else. It was about Him and what he had and still has for the women who were in that study group. God needed me to miss that first day.

I will also share this, the following week at Bible study, about two minutes before we got started,  a well-intending lady made the following statement, “Oh, you’re the one who didn’t show up last week. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I were Marissa but she did an excellent job. I mean she was amazing!”

I’ll be honest and tell you that for a split-second all those insecurities crept their way into my heart and that feeling of self-doubt started rearing its ugly head. But I remembered what God had laid on my heart and instead of letting those feelings get the best of me, I looked at Marissa and said, “Let’s go pray.”

We had a great study that day, praise God for He was there and equipped us all.

 

Social Media and Race

It’s something you see everyday if you’re on any type of social media. I look through my Facebook timeline and it reminds me of a tennis match. One “side” serves and the “other” side hits back. “Oh yeah, well take this,” the other player hits back again. “Not good enough,” the other side shouts back, “this post will get ya!”

Tennis Player 1: Black Lives Matter

Tennis Player 2: All lives matter

Tennis Player 2: Beyonce’s Racist Super Bowl Show

Tennis Player 1: Beyonce’s Performance More Than Just a Good Show

Tennis Player 1: White Cop Shoots Unarmed Black Man

Tennis Player 2: Black Man Shoots Off-Duty White Cop

Tennis Player 1: If This Offends You and Not This, You’re a Racist

Tennis player 2: If This Offends You and Not This, You’re a Racist (Yes, I purposely put this for both players.)

And so the never-ending tennis match continues on and on, on and on, and on, and on, and on, and…..on.

This isn’t to say that race, racism (on both sides), and differing culture beliefs shouldn’t be discussed. But here’s the thing, it’s NOT being DISCUSSED.  Instead, people are shouting from behind computer screens in efforts to shout a little louder than the other side. It reminds me of that song, “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”, you know, the one sung by children.

Here are my questions:

What purpose does posting news story after news story serve? Awareness? I think people are aware. And I personally think it’s counterproductive no matter who it’s coming from.

If someone is or isn’t offended by something, or speaks out about something, and so on…is “racist” the only label we can come up with?

Can someone make an ignorant statement and not be deemed a racist? And while we’re on it, let’s stop being offended by the term ignorant. Ignorant means lacking knowledge or information about something. A little while ago, someone said, “Next time that happens, you should go all black on them.” Ignorant statement? Yes. Racist person? Not so much.  Have I made ignorant statements before? Sure. I remember years ago, a couple of coworkers invited me out and the first question I asked was, “Will there be any other black people there?” Ignorant question on my end? Ugh, do I have to admit it? Okay, yes. Did the question make me a racist? No. They were both offended but guess what, they asked me about it and we discussed it. I was able to share my reasoning for asking the question and they were able to share why it offended them.

More questions to ponder: Are you a part of the problem or a part of the solution? Because quite honestly, if all you’re doing is shouting for your “team” on social media you’re helping your team lose. Wait, did you catch that? You’re both losing.

(If you’re a believer, than really you should know that we are really ONE team and that this whole thing is a scheme by the enemy, but I’ll digress.)

 

Here’s the thing, either you are a part of the problem or you’re a part of the solution. It’s that simple. If you’re not trying to find a solution, you’re fighting a losing battle and you my friend, are a part of the problem.

Now let me pause, the solution is not to ignore it, say it doesn’t exist or say that talking about it further perpetuates it. It can’t be ignored, it DOES exist, and not talking about it is like letting a forest fire continue to burn, eventually it gets out of control. Sex trafficking, poverty, hunger, and unemployment won’t resolve themselves and ignoring those things doesn’t make them go away, same goes for the racial climate that exist today.

Instead of posting away behind your screen, why not pray and ask God how you can be apart of the solution and not the problem? Why not start a conversation with someone whose viewpoint may differ from yours so that BOTH of you can be enlightened? Ask God to open your ears so that you can actually listen and not just hear what the other person is saying. Ask God to open your heart so that even if you don’t agree, maybe you can understand the other point of view. Pray that the other person will do the same for you, open their ears and listen. Pray that they will attempt to understand you, even if they don’t agree. Ask God to help you go into the conversation with a heart towards finding a solution and not with a heart to make the other person agree with YOUR stance.

The truth is that things won’t get better until there is an open dialogue, a conversation, and not a shouting match. So make a decision now, either you can keep the tennis match going or you can put your racket down and work toward something that can actually benefit your “opponent” AND you. Let’s stop letting the enemy use us to further perpetuate problems by posting antagonistic memes and news articles. Remember that saying that was out a couple of years ago, “What Would Jesus Do” (WWJD)? Well, what would He do? Pray about it.

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Praying for you daily, love you!