How to find “mental space in the midst of motherhood”

How to find “mental space in the midst of motherhood”

You don’t need to have spent long on our blog to have read some of the hilarious/ embarrassing/ cringe-worthy anecdotes of life with our two little boys. We try to keep it real here. Parenting isn’t a competition. Our kids aren’t are personal trophies. And crucially – JESUS is the answer! The answer to our brokenness, their brokenness and to all the stresses and strains of life.

We love blogging about how the good news of the gospel speaks into the messiness of our lives. The gospel is so good, a sweet antidote to all of life’s troubles. That’s the reason we started this blog in the first place, and we hope we’ve remained true to that over the nearly 2(!) years that we’ve had this blog. 

And yet, perhaps we are too critical or negative at times. Not necessarily on the blog. But we have realised that perhaps we have a personal tendency to dwell on the negative in life.

In addition, and linked to thinking negatively, I (Cathy) am a worrier… and all the things that go along with it. I over-think. I get stressed and anxious about things. I am critical of myself.

Well enough is enough!

Jesus doesn’t want us to live life like that.

He died and rose again so that we can be free from guilt, sin and fear, and he fills us with his Spirit to live courageous, joyful and hope-filled lives. That doesn’t mean that hard times don’t come, or that we don’t still struggle with our sin – but it does mean that there should be a trajectory of growth in the Christian life. Such growth that when the hard times come they have the effect of beautifying us and sanctifying us and drawing us close to Christ – not the other way round.

So I decided to do something practical about it.

A week or so ago I bought “The Mama Book”. 

It was designed by a Zoe Powell, a Christian mum of three young children.

It’s a journal which is designed to give you “mental space in the midst of motherhood” and £4 from each sale goes to PANDAS foundation which supports mums with pre and post natal depression. (Give me a chance to buy from a Christian mum with a small business, who gives from her profits to charity and well I’m starting to struggle to find reasons NOT to buy it!)

But, I don’t need to find reasons not to buy it, because this product is really really great.

What is the Mama Book?

The Mama Book is a journal (it’s undated so you can start at any point of the year), and you can use it as a weekly planner.  But what makes it different from any other journal is that it is designed to give you a safe place to process motherhood. For me, as an external processor, this tool  is exactly what I need!

In the introduction to the journal Zoe writes this:

“Hey Lovely Mama!

The Mama Book was born out of my desire to have a space to process, plan and reflect on life as a mother. I needed a physical space dedicated to this important job as my mind was getting crowded, and some time to process the complexities of motherhood. This is your safe place to dream, process, document, scribble and write through your season as a Mama.”

Zoe has come up with some great questions to get you writing. My personal favourites are:

WHAT MATTERS MOST – My top 5 passions and areas that I really want to invest in. Does my day-to-day match up with this?

MY LITTLE ONES – What things do I want to remember about them as they are right now?

BUCKET LIST – Things to do together before they are grown.

I haven’t had the discipline or inclination to journal for years – even though I knew it would have been good for me. But I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of this journal for getting me into the habit. The questions are so thought-provoking and reflective that I consider each time I sit down to write in my journal to be a real treat. It gives me a little bit of time to be refreshed, take stock, and collect my thoughts. I sometimes use my journalling time as a launchpad for prayer.

I can say that with Zoe’s book, and Jesus’ help, I can already see that I am developing more of an attitude of gratitude and joy and that I am thinking negatively less! Thank you Lord!

And because I love it so much, I decided to buy a copy for a friend and write a blog post about it too!


Ladies if you’re struggling with the mental strain of motherhood then consider buying this book. Click this link to purchase yours.

Gents, why don’t you buy your wife a copy? She’ll be grateful, and you know she deserves a little treat for all that she does for your family.

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Children: A help or hindrance to Christian ministry?

Children: A help or hindrance to Christian ministry?

One of the biggest shocks for me about motherhood was the sudden decay in decent conversations! 

I had been used to having long, luxurious and uninterrupted conversations, using the normal conventions. Sitting; eye contact;  asking questions; listening and talking – oh, and a hot beverage. But then children came onto the scene and I had to kiss good bye to all of that (or to be more specific, to give up doing all of that at the same time). Add in sleep deprivation, baby brain and a sudden fascination with ALL THINGS BABY, and well the topic and quality of conversation decays, it just does.

Before having our first child I was in paid Christian ministry. Pastoral and evangelistic tasks involved being able to give theological talks and have conversations with similar content. Boy oh boy did ministry, and church involvement, for that matter, change after having children!

Fast forward a few years and picture the scene…

Our second child is six months old and I feel like I might be ready to resume a one-to-one Bible study with a student from church. I invite the student over for our “one-to-one” (with a six month old baby and two year old toddler in the room too!). I stick on the TV, get some toys out and crack open the Bible.

The experience was horrendous! I tried to breast-feed the fussing baby, bat off the jumping, attention-seeking, highly jealous two year old from climbing on top of me, while trying to string together a sentence related to the passage we had just read. The Bible study just didn’t work, and suffice to say that was the first and last time I attempted that. Scott and I did some reshuffling of schedules and we found a slot in the week where I could meet this student without any children.

Which got me wondering: is having children detrimental to meaningful church involvement? Was having children a hindrance to ministry and suppressing my spiritual gifts (at least in this season of having very small kiddos?).

Then I came across these verses from 1 Thessalonians 2, where Paul addresses the people who he witnessed to and discipled in Thessalonica:

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

This parental imagery struck me. The Apostle Paul wasn’t a father to biological children, but he uses parental metaphors to describe how he evangelised and discipled his spiritual children. In these verses we get a glimpse at the method and manner in which he did his ministry – there’s a blending of word based ministry and practical, sharing lives together type ministry too. He explained the gospel to them using words, and demonstrated the gospel to them through his life. His ministry or his “church involvement” was very holistic. He didn’t separate the spiritual stuff from the real-life stuff – there is no separation after all!

This is liberating, and challenging too.

Meaningful church involvement won’t always look like sitting down and opening the Bible with someone, although it’s an amazing blessing when it does!  But sometimes church involvement whilst having small children will look like going to the park with someone and having chats about what’s going on in their life and how the gospel applies to that – interspersed with catching the toddler at the bottom of the slide. Or having an impromtu prayer time with another parent at a play date. Or chatting at the school gate with another church parent and her friend, and inviting that friend along to the church-run BBQ which is happening at the weekend. There’s a myriad of different ways to do it.

There’s great opportunities that come from being a parent, both in outreach as we get to know other parents, and in discipleship as we let other Christian’s see the crazy-messy-rowdy-preciousness of our family lives.

Paul’s parental imagery in the verses above show us the model and method for church involvement, but also reminds me of what parenting our physical children is all about too – explaining the gospel to our children using words, and demonstrating the gospel to them through our lives.

So, is having children a help or hindrance to our Christian ministry?

In all honesty, it could go either way.

So let’s be intentional to use this season to pursue evangelistic and discipleship opportunities – both within our own families and beyond them. It is hard. There are times when what we’re able to do is very limited, and that’s fine – we’re not justified by our church service. There are times when conversations are interrupted, children embarrass us, we are TIRED. But its so worth being intentional in this season.


Well because of the final sentences of that passage above…

For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

What an exciting prospect it will be for us to stand before Jesus on that last day, to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people that we invested in – both our own children (hopefully), and others who the Lord has brought into our lives. As we bask in his radiance, we’ll know that the people surrounding us are our glory, our joy, our crown and our gift to him.


Here are links to a couple of resources which may help you to think further about this topic.

Total Church*

This book was so helpful for helping us develop a biblical view of the church – the community of God’s people. Full of practical ideas and theological reasons to live your life in community.

Episode 97 of this podcast is all about Biblical hospitality and using our homes for evangelism and discipleship – in a season of life where we are more confined to our homes because of little one’s routines, it makes sense to make the most of the opportunity to invite others in to our homes. This episode is full of encouragement and some practical ideas for crafting a spiritual conversation with your guests.

This is a blog post that we wrote earlier in the year about hospitality. Read it for some gospel-encouragement to get started, particularly if you’re like me and wouldn’t naturally relish the thought of it!

If you found this post helpful then we’d love it if you could share it with your friends. 

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The Christmas Card Hack To Improve Your Family’s Prayer Life

The Christmas Card Hack To Improve Your Family’s Prayer Life

Christmas is over. Decorations are coming down. Presents are finding their shelves and drawers.

But what can you you do with all of those lovely Christmas cards you’ve received this year? It seems a shame to throw them away. You could recycle them for crafts? Or use them as kindling?

Or here’s another idea…

We can’t remember where we first came across this little prayer-life hack or if we made it up ourselves (apologies for not giving credit if it’s your idea!). But we love it, and we’re going to try it this year.

Here’s what you could do with those Christmas cards. Why not gather them all up in a lovely box (maybe one of the many chocolate or biscuit tins from Christmas?) and then use them to pray, with your children, for your friends and family?

Pick a pace that suits your family (maybe one a day/week/fortnight?) and each time you come to it, take the card from the front, open it up and pray for whoever sent you that card. Then pop it to the back once you’ve finished (after doing some of our suggestions below…).

With ever increasing globalisation, many of us find that family and friends are scattered all over the country or world. Often we have little contact with them throughout the year, but we’d love our children to remember them, to feel a connection to them and (most importantly) to learn to love them by praying for them. Well this little idea might just help you achieve some of that, and we think children might actually find it really fun… opening up the box, taking out the card and seeing who we’re praying for this time. What’s there to lose?

Here are a few little ideas to take a little further…

Decorate The Box

Those of us with younger children may find we are awash with stickers at this time of year, or other crafty little bits and pieces. Well why not help your children take ownership of the Christmas Prayer Cards by getting them involved with creating the box.


Get them to bling it up with an array of stickers, glitter, pictures, or whatever takes their fancy. Here’s our preschooler’s attempt…

Make A Note Of What You’ve Prayed In The Card

When you open a Christmas Card, what you’re often greeted with are lovely felicitations to the right of the fold, but to the left of the fold is a blank space. Why not use that blank space to make a few brief bullet points of what you’ve prayed for this person/family? Then perhaps later in the year – maybe Christmas Eve, or New Years Eve, you could go through the cards to see how God has answered prayers. Or if you’re going through them at a greater pace, each time you repeat the card you can add thanksgiving for answered prayers or you can add new prayer points.

Let Them Know You’re Praying

To increase the sense of connection with the people you’re praying for, why not get in touch and let them know? You could ping them a quick message the day before to ask them what you can be praying for. After praying, why not get your children to contact them to let them know you’ve prayed? Something as simple as dropping them a text will do it, or if you’re looking for an activity to occupy your children then maybe get them to write a letter, make a card or send an e-card? Get them to be specific about what they’re praying, to help consolidate their appreciation that God is involved in the details of our lives, and loves to hear us pray about real things.


So that’s the Christmas Prayer Cards idea. What do you think? If you like it, why not give it a go? And maybe share this post with your friends on Facebook or on your church’s Facebook group so others can try it too?

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Marriage Matters | Date Night

Marriage Matters | Date Night

Life is busy. Time is short. Everyone is exhausted.

Having children around all day (and night?) is a joy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not exhausting. When you add to this other responsibilities – keeping the house (vaguely) tidy, being out one or two or three(!) evenings a week for church, time spent with wider family and friends, work, time to just veg… the list goes on… all of this adds up to a recipe for tiredness.

So when it comes to date night, we can all too easily resort to “sit in front of the telly in the same room as our spouse night” rather than anything more meaningful. Or even worse, they become the night of getting those annoying little jobs done, and our spouse just happens to be in our vicinity doing little jobs too. Who says romance isn’t dead?

But our marriages matter in our parenting – a healthy marriage is a strong foundation on which we can build a healthy family. There are lots of things to consider when we think about building and maintaining a healthy marriage – in this blog post we want to consider how a date night can be an important brick in the building of our marriage.

It seems to us that date nights have increased in popularity in recent years. We don’t remember them really being talked about a decade ago… but we weren’t married then so may not have been paying attention. Not that it’s a bad thing – date nights can be great for marriages.

But busyness and tiredness can result in the death of date night at worst, or for many of us date nights are in critical condition.

This is certainly true for the two of us. Before we had children date night was thoughtful and intentional. Now, it’s usually not. But we want to do something about it. We’re not condemned for our poor date nights – they neither add to nor take anything away from our salvation and Jesus can work in our marriage without date nights. But we think that date nights are a wise tool in the belt of maintaining our marriage.


A good date night can serve as a calm sea in the middle of a stormy week.

It can be a pause for breath in the middle of the breathless sprint of life.

Date nights give married couples the opportunity to take stock – to properly talk and listen. They enable you to address any issues that you’ve not been properly able to address in the busyness of life. On date night you can refocus on your values and priorities in life and see how you’re doing. And, more than that, you can just enjoy each other. You can look into one another’s eyes without the distraction of a thousand other things averting your gaze.

So here are three practical suggestions for creating date nights that serve your marriage.

Switch off

We’re all guilty of it. We’re in the middle of what’s supposed to be time spent together, and then there’s a little tinkle from our mobile. We can’t help but check – who’s getting in touch? What’s happening in the world? Nothing wrecks the mood quite like it. Once you’ve opened pandora’s box, you want to then have a quick check of your emails… and see what’s happening on Facebook…. and see who’s tweeting…. and – well you get the idea.

The reality is that there’s probably nothing happening that needs to be dealt with right now. There’s nothing that’s so important that it can’t wait a few hours. So switch off. Or at least put your phone to other side of the room so you won’t be tempted to keep checking. Be in the moment, and the moment will be all the sweeter. Give your spouse your attention for this one evening a week – the investment will be worthwhile, and you’ll probably find the break refreshing too.

Do something special

Don’t let date night revert to sit-in-front-of-the-TV night. Try to do something special that will mean you’re spending time interacting together, not just being in the same room as one another.

Special doesn’t have to be expensive. Eat dinner together but dim the lighting, light a few candles, put on some music that’s significant to your relationship and have a glass of wine. Or a hot chocolate with all the trimmings.

Or get a babysitter if you can and do something nice out. That could be something that’s a treat – have dinner; get a cocktail; book into a hotel for the night; go bowling; go dancing; take a pottery-making class; sing karoake. Or go out and do something free – go for a walk; find a secluded spot to watch the sunset; build a den in the woods and have a picnic; go for a bike ride.

Try to do things that will enable you to chat.

Be intentional in your conversation

If you or your spouse aren’t natural conversationalists, be intentional in your conversation. Think before about some topics that you would like to talk about.

Consider what areas of your life you’re finding hard at the moment and decide to figure out the path forward.

Think of a special memory and recount it together – the story of your relationship is a vital part of it’s identity, so take time to re-live it together and celebrate who you are.

Or maybe dream together – think about what you’d like for an aspect of your family – your family’s spiritual life, your financial circumstances, your holiday plans, your characters. Dream together about what you’d like from these areas in 1, 5, 10, 25 years. Think about how you’re going to get there. Pray together about it.

So there we have it. We hope you can see that if we committed to nurturing our relationships through a weekly date night, our marriages could be stronger and our parenting would reap the benefit.

What do you think? Why not share this with your spouse and chat about whether it’s something you could implement, or even take ideas from to strengthen your relationship?

A footnote: We’re careful with this blog to try to make everything gospel-centred. That’s not explicit in this post, but read our introduction to this series to see why think keeping our marriages healthy is important to building gospel-centred parenting. This post very much ties in with that goal.

If you found this helpful we’d love it if you shared it with your friends. Sharing is caring after all!

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Christmas Tree Decorating And The Gospel

Christmas Tree Decorating And The Gospel

We LOVE decorating the Christmas tree. For us, like many, it marks the beginning of the Christmas season.

Why do we all love it so?

Maybe it’s the memories that it evokes? Those ornaments that your children made take you back to their sticky fingers and snotty noses. That time the cat pulled the tree over 5 minutes after you made it. The way your Gran always hid those chocolates for you to find in the tree when you were small.

Or perhaps it’s the slightly hysterical giggle you get as you just finish decorating the tree and go to plug in the lights and remember (too late) that the lights stopped working last year, just before the neighbours all came round for mulled wine and minced pies. (We may have done exactly that this year… oops! #schoolboy)

Here at Gospel-Centred Parenting we wanted to create something that would help make recounting the gospel an important part of dressing your tree. That’s why we’ve created a number of Christmas tree decorations that feature an image from part of the Christmas story, so that as you hang the ornament you can marvel in the glory of when God became man.

There are 4 options to choose from – each come in either red, green or black and are only £2.50 each (we ship worldwide too – the price will automatically be adjusted to your currency at checkout). Postage is fixed for however many you buy, and read to the bottom to see the option of buying a set of 3 for a reduced price. Here are the different designs:


This wooden ornament features a hand-stamped image of the stable with the manger and the star. As you decorate the tree and hang this ornament, you can together recount and delight in the wonder of the incarnation. The maker of the universe made the wood for the manger in which he was laid on that first Christmas morning – isn’t that extraordinary! Click here to get yours.


This Christmas Tree Decoration features an image of one of the angels who announced the birth of Jesus. As you place this on your tree you can reflect on the fact that choirs of angels thronged the air at the coming of Jesus – it was the turning point of history, and all heaven broke loose to celebrate! Click here to get yours.

Three Wise Men

The three wise men journeyed, following the star, to worship the young Jesus. Just imagine what lengths these men went to to get to Jesus. That’s one of the astounding things about the coming of Jesus: even as an infant people travelled from far away lands in order to worship him – this is no ordinary child! Click here to get yours.

Starry Sky

As you ponder the stars in the sky, you can reflect on how Jesus is the fulfilment of all of the promises of the Old Testament, not least the promise to Abraham. God promised Abraham that his children would number the stars of the sky – that was made possible through Jesus calling the nations to himself. As you hang this ornament why not reflect on that, recount some of the other promises that God fulfilled in Jesus, and bask together in the light of the glory of Jesus. Click to get yours.

Set of Three

Or finally, if you can’t choose which to buy, why not get a set of 3 ornaments at a reduced price of £6.50. Once again you can choose either red, green or black. Click to get yours.

As with our Jesse Tree Ornaments, 10% of profit will go to the work of Bible translation and distribution.

So there we have it. We really love these ornaments and are thrilled to be able to bring them to you for sale, most of all because of the conversations that they may spark as you decorate your tree. We hope you love them too!

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Trusting God with your child’s wellbeing

Trusting God with your child’s wellbeing

Do you remember those first few hours when you arrived back home from hospital with your new baby?

It’s such a surreal yet special time. After the whirlwind of labour and the catalogue of tests immediately after the birth, it’s possibly the first moment of peace and quiet that you have to reflect on what’s just happened.

I (Scott) vividly remember sitting in our living room and looking at our new born baby. A myriad of thoughts went through my head: thankfulness that he seemed fit and healthy; astonishment that a human being could be so small and fragile; wonder at what the life that lay ahead of him may bring.

As these thoughts floated around in my foggy brain, a verse from a song came into my head.

It’s a song from my childhood – I’d probably not thought about it since then:


“How sweet to hold a newborn baby,

And feel the pride and joy he brings;

But greater still the calm assurance:

This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!”


Now in many ways it’s quite a sentimental, twee song – I see that. But in those emotionally-charged moments I found it quite moving and wonderfully reassuring.

I have no idea what will come along in our son’s life. It may be a relatively straightforward life, with no major upsets – he may breeze along like some people seem to. But equally, he may face uncertain days. Health issues, relational problems, pressures from wider society, job-insecurity – who knows?

Whatever comes along – even if what comes along results in Cathy and I not being there to support him – we can have the “calm assurance” that this song speaks of: “this child can face uncertain days because He lives.”

That’s not just a throwaway line. It’s a wonderful peace-bringing, worry-lifting, rock-solid-security. Jesus is alive! He reigns, he is sovereign and he is good.

Jesus already knows the valleys and the mountaintops that our son will traverse. Through it all he will be sovereign and in charge. Whatever life throws at our baby will not come as a surprise to Jesus, and he will be there as a reliable, living, kind stronghold.

What a wonderful calming assurance this brings. Our boy can face uncertain days because Jesus lives. Praise God!

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The Star Movie | Review

The Star Movie | Review

Did you know that a new Children’s animation has just been released about the very first Christmas?

It’s called “The Star” and it claims to accurately portray “the greatest story ever told” – the birth of Christ. Interestingly though, in this film the familiar story is told from the perspective of the animals (primarily Bo the donkey). This has given the filmmakers some artistic license to tell a funny, sweet and entertaining story outside of the story of the birth of Christ.

Intrigued, and having read a glowing review written by a Christian mum, I (Cathy) took our three year old to the cinema to see it.

Overall, I was really impressed.

It’s really well made and it has all the ingredients required for a Hollywood hit (a strong cast, great script, beautiful animation, lovable characters and plenty of slapstick humour).

The story of the birth of Christ remains true to the gospel accounts of the events (although the timing in the film is not quite accurate, for example the prompt arrival of the Magi at the stable).  The baby is unapologetically referred to as the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of the Jews and Jesus. God is assumed to be real, sovereignly at work to fulfil his plan, and Mary and Joseph are depicted as people of faith but who sometimes struggle with the enormity of the task they’ve been given.

It’s an artistic representation and exploration of the birth of Christ; and it does a good job of both being an entertaining film and stirring awe and wonder at the birth of Jesus.

Because the film makers have used artistic license, you may need to explain to your children that the animals are just fictional but the birth of Jesus was historical. For my three year old it’s important to make this distinction because he’s too young to understand this for himself.

It’s a personal choice, but for our family I think it’s a keeper. I love the idea of watching Christmas films together year after year. It’s a good addition to Home Alone, Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Stickman, and it’s the only one that actually represents the birth of Jesus.

It’s no substitute for actually reading the Bible, or going to church to hear the Christmas story through hymns, talks and children’s teaching. But in a world where there are a million distractions from the true meaning of Christmas, this movie is a useful and fun tool in the belt for helping to keep the reason for the season front and centre.

Below is a trailer of the film.

Have you been to see it? If so, we’d love you to leave a comment with your thoughts!



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Santa Claus is coming to town…or is he?

Santa Claus is coming to town…or is he?

There’s no conundrum like the Father Christmas conundrum!

Should we embrace the cuddly old man with open arms? Or should we nip the deception in the bud?

Time for another round-up!

You might think it’s a bit early, but we really don’t think so – Santa is already everywhere. There’s no time like the “present” to ponder such things.

It’s a big decision.

For some, ditching Santa will impact relationships, unnecessarily raise eyebrows and damage the grandparents expectations for Christmas day. Surely it’s just harmless fun?

Others think that embracing Father Christmas is going to cause our children to mistrust us and cast doubt upon the very gospel itself – is Jesus just another myth?

These (and other) thoughts are shaping people’s opinions of what to do about old St. Nick.

The following articles represent a bunch of different opinions on the Santa Claus tradition. Some are more philosophical, some are more practical and one is really all about decision-making as a parent.We hope you find them helpful.

Have a read, and let us know your own thoughts.


The Gospel-Centred Mom: What to do about Santa

Sara Wallace shares why she and her husband decided not to do Santa Claus with their family, despite enjoying the tradition themselves as children.


Christianity Today: Why Santa belongs in your kids’ Christmas 

A helpful article about the historical Christian, St. Nicholas, and the importance of keeping the Santa tradition alive.


The Guardian: Belief in Santa could affect parent-child relationships, warns study 

This is very interesting. It is written from a secular viewpoint, but argues that lying to your children may damage trust and discourage belief in the supernatural in later life. Give it a read.


The beginning of Wisdom: Santa, Strategically 

We’ve included this post because it contains some helpful practical advice for how to encourage imagination in our children but not to lie to them.


Crosswalk: What to do with Santa Claus 

This post reflects on children and their love of fantasy with examples from the works of J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.


Christian Mom thoughts: Should Christians include Santa in Christmas? 

This article doesn’t necessarily address the Santa conundrum directly, it more encourages a discussion about how to make difficult parenting decisions. After reading all the above articles you should use her question to provoke a conversation with your spouse (or friend if you’re a single parent) to help you come to a conclusion.

Well that’s all folks! Please do comment with your own experiences, advice and questions. We’d be particularly interested to know how you felt as a child when you found out the inevitable?

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One Simple Question To Transform Your Conversation

One Simple Question To Transform Your Conversation

How life changes when you have children! There isn’t an element of life that’s left unscathed by arrival of a chubby, pooey, nocturnal little person into your life. It’s wonderful, but it’s also quite an upheaval!  It’s not uncommon for parents to feel like they’ve lost some (or all?!) of their identity, capacity and sanity.

Before our eldest was born, we both worked in Christian ministry as staff workers for UCCF: The Christian Unions. It was a brilliant job. We got paid to help students reach out to students with the good news of Jesus on their university campuses.  This involved lots of things: doing training seminars at regional and national conferences; giving evangelistic talks; running planning meetings with Christian Union leaders; discipling a recent graduate in the “relay” programme; and doing bible studies with students in coffee shops. As with any job, it had its pressures, but really, what’s not to love about that as a job description?!

Before our son was born I (Cathy) would rock up to Starbucks/Costa/Nero (or another haven of caffeinated bliss) ready for intentional conversations with a student about the gospel. Armed with Bible, beverage and brain we’d delve into a passage, have an edifying chat and then wrap it up with a round of prayer. There was plenty of time and space to reflect on the gospel and apply it deeply to life, with the Spirit’s help.

They were wonderful times, which I look back on with nostalgia.

Nostalgia, because they seem to be a distant memory.

Now when I rock up to a café (which is far less of a frequent occurrence for a start), our son is in tow. I’m armed with different things these days; a bottle, bibs and baby-brain are more likely companions.

3276347787_e77a287481_oNow don’t get me wrong – lunch outings with mums and tots are great fun. I really love them. But it’s tricky to have a complete conversation about anything while you’re trying to stop your child from dipping the toy train into his yogurt, or throwing his lunch on the floor, or from shoving 4 segments of orange into his mouth at once (yes he actually attempted that!)

Children are just so distracting.

So I might not be able to give you eye contact, ask you interesting questions or answer your questions using complete sentences when we’re out for lunch. Never mind have a decent gospel chat. Conversation usually revolves around one of these things instead: the contents of nappies; the latest milestone; childhood ailments; eating habits; or (increasingly commonly!) that embarrassing moment in the Supermarket yesterday.

It’s quite a change from the theology-rich chats of just a few of years ago.

But the other day I felt like I had the best lunchtime conversation that I’d had for months.

Here’s what happened.

We’re out for lunch. I have the little man with me. The other mum has her two little ones with her. We’re having general chit-chat about various snippets of our lives (when we’re not preoccupied with feeding our young in a half-civilised manner). And then my friend comes out with this corker: “So, how can I be praying for you?”

Our lunches definitely look a lot less sophisticated than this!
Our lunches definitely look a lot less sophisticated than this!

It was a game-changer.

Such a simple question.

Nothing heavy. Nothing complex. Nothing weird about it.

Just a simple question which could have a simple answer.

But here’s what’s happened…

It forced me to think about my life. To actually stop for a moment and think. What is happening in my life at the moment? In what areas of life do I need to be more dependent in prayer? How’s stuff actually going at church?

It was revolutionary! Not only was I stopping to reflect (something I rarely do now) but I was reflecting in light of the gospel. As it turns out, I need prayer for lots of things.

Then I asked my friend the same question back. “How can I pray for you?” And that, alongside some follow-up questions, led to chats about different areas of life: her marriage; her husband’s job; family life; and evangelistic efforts.

There were still plenty of moments when the conversation had to pause because we were distracted by caring for our little ones – but the general train of thought wasn’t lost. Rather than an insubstantial conversation where we flit here, there and everywhere, it actually felt complete. And it was edifying.

I went away from that lunch time elated! Hooray! I’m still capable of chatting about spiritual things. Not only that, but I was thrilled about what it demonstrated to my little boy.

Quite often my “spiritual times” are when I can get a bit of peace and quiet from my son. When he’s at the children’s group at church and I can engage with the Bible talk, when I’m reading the Bible with someone during his nap time, or when he’s in bed and I can be a part of our mid-week Bible study. But this time I was engaging in gospel thought and conversation in front of my son, despite of my son, alongside my son.  What an exciting thought!

I’d like my parenting to be more like this. I want our children to hear me chatting about Jesus in ordinary life – in the middle of a messy yogurt-smeared lunch. I think this kind of thing is maybe what God had in mind when he said this:

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

(Deut 6:v6-7)

So from now on, if you’re hanging out with me and my boy, you might just hear me ask the question, “How can I be praying for you?” As far as questions go, it’s a pretty good one.

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Stitches, scars and stretch marks. What the gospel says about post-partum bodies.

Stitches, scars and stretch marks. What the gospel says about post-partum bodies.

It’s the butt of many-a-joke and the heartache of many actual women – the loss of their pre-baby body.

We know that the miracle of growing an actual human being, birthing them into this world and nourishing them with life-sustaining milk is an epic feat!

Women are amazing.

And yet pressure from society, the memory of life before children and well just our own insecurities can make us feel like anything other than the 18-year old version of our body (or more likely, the 18-year old version of every poster-girl’s body) is what is truly beautiful. It’s a body with smooth skin, well-proportioned curves and a flat stomach.

Our body may or may not have been like that before children. But now – well it’s definitely not.

There are the short-term pregnancy changes – the expanding and contracting, the hair thickening and then falling out, the sickly complexion, followed by the “glow”, followed by the puffy, dark-circled eyes. And then there are the long-term changes, which impact us all differently.

I wonder how you felt when you looked in the mirror before children? Did you like what you saw? Perhaps the reflection wasn’t perfect, but there were some assets – perhaps your nose and your waist. Or maybe your curves and your hair. Your body wasn’t perfect, but you’d come to appreciate it. And you knew your husband appreciated it too!

But how did you feel when your tummy expanded? Did you look in the mirror with amazement or horror? How did it feel to look and move like Pooh Bear?

And how does it feel now? What do you see when you look in the mirror now?

The saggy boobs, the new weight and dress size, the stretch marks, the cesarean scars, the greying hair? What do you say to yourself when you peer back at your new body? “Ugly”, “Chubby”, “Saggy”, “Scarry”? “How can he find me attractive now? He’s just being kind but he can’t mean it.”

Actually stop and think about it. What do you say to yourself?

Maybe you avoid the mirror all together, it’s too depressing.

Maybe you are committed to getting your pre-baby body back as much as possible through exercise, diet and push-up bras.

Maybe you like to think positively and you tell yourself – “yes my body’s different but it’s amazing – just look what it achieved!”

Can I suggest another way?

We need to think about a different body.

A body which, like ours (and much more so), went through torturous pain, undignified exposure and blood-streaked exhaustion. Another body which through it’s own suffering birthed the life of others. A body which sacrificed itself for the benefit of it’s posterity.

And yet here’s the difference, unlike our own birthing experiences, this body was wounded and battered and shamed not to give us an earthly birth but an eternal one.

Isaiah 54v4-5:
Surely he took up our pain

    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.”

You see, it is through the very wounds of Jesus that we are healed. It it through his sacrificial death in our place that we receive forgiveness and eternal life. It is precisely because of his suffering that we get blessing. In short, his wounds are the means of our salvation.

Those nail-pierced hands and feet and that spear-wounded side were for our salvation. Jesus blood was spilt for us so that we can be in a right relationship with God. Jesus died the death that we should have died, so that we can freely live an eternal life with him.

So then, dear mum with an “imperfect” body: if there’s anyone who know’s what it’s like to sacrifice their body for the sake of another, then it’s Jesus. And he says you were worth it.

You weren’t just worth a few stretch marks and a few extra pounds – you were worth him bearing indelible wound marks in his flesh for eternity.  

You see, Jesus could have resurrected with a “perfect” body. A spotless, blemish free body. But he didn’t. He rose from the dead still bearing the scars from his crucifixion. Why would this be the case?

John 20v24-28:
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 
So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”

So why would Jesus choose to bear the marks of the crucifixion after his resurrection, and therefore for the rest of eternity? In the text above we see that it’s in part so that the disciples can identify him as their saviour, and in fact as the God of the universe. But also because Christ’s wounds are his glory. His wounds are the means of our salvation and his wounds are his glory.

Charles Spurgeon beautifully puts it this way:

“Christ wears these sears in his body in heaven as his ornaments. The wounds of Christ are his glories, they are his jewels and his precious things. 

Nor are these only the ornaments of Christ: they are his trophies—the trophies of his love. Have you never seen a soldier with a gash across his forehead or in his cheek? Why every soldier will tell you the wound in battle is no disfigurement—it is his honour. “If” said he, “I received a wound when I was retreating, a wound in the back, that were to my disgrace, If I have received a wound in a victory, then it is an honourable thing to be wounded.” Now, Jesus Christ has scars of honour in his flesh and glory in his eyes. He has other trophies. He has divided the spoil with the strong: he has taken the captive away from his tyrant master; he has redeemed for himself a host that no man can number, who are all the trophies of his victories: but these scars, these are the memorials of the fight, and these the trophies, too.”

So dear mum with the stitches, the scars and the stretchmarks, take heart when we see your body in the mirror. Your wounds tell your birthing story and are your honour. As you sacrifice your body for the sake of your children you image your God.

But remember too, that however imperfect your body is, Christ sees you as infinitely valuable and precious – precious enough to die for.

And finally, you can take heart that one day soon, you will stand in the presence of your God and you will actually be perfect. You will stand before him with no blemish or spot, but you will be holy and blameless forever. All because of Christ’s wounds in your place.

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