Tag: relationships

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

The birth of a baby is an exciting time. Whether it is the family’s first child or sixth, there is an air of anticipation and celebration when the little one arrives. In the weeks immediately after a child’s birth, there may be visits to see the new baby and gifts given to the parents.

While all gifts are wonderful, after having two children of my own, there were a few practical gifts that I absolutely loved and appreciated very deeply. So I am sharing these practical gift ideas with you. If there is someone in your life who is expecting a new baby or recently gave birth (or adopted!), these are great ideas to bless the family and provide help during a time that can be challenging.

1. Homemade meals

I cannot thank our parents enough for helping us with meals the first few days after giving birth. Homemade and delicious meals, especially that provide easy-to-reheat leftovers like soup and stew, were life-savers. My mom’s delicious tomato soup and quinoa waffles, my mother-in-law’s vegetable stew… It may seem simple but when a woman is recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth, homemade meals are a very important gift.

Tip: Be sure you ask ahead of time if there are any foods or ingredients that need to be avoided due to allergies or sensitivities.

2. Housework

Washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, cleaning the toilet… Sure, this is definitely not the most glamorous of gifts but all it costs is a little bit of your time. Especially during the first two weeks home from the hospital or birthing center and depending upon the woman’s recovery, the gift of housework is extremely precious. Most of us probably would never have the courage to ask a family member or friend to do such chores, but if you were to offer and insist in spite any feeble protests, it just might bring tears of relief to the new mother.

My mother-in-law swept and mopped the floors in the main living area both times I was in the hospital, and I must say that it was wonderful coming home to a clean house.

3. Diapers

Going to visit a family with a new baby? Ask them what brand and size diapers they are using and grab a package on your way over. Babies go through diapers very quickly and it is never fun to run out or stress about how to get to the store for more. Does the family have multiple children in diapers at the same time? Grab a pack for the newborn and for the older sibling, too, and the parents will be forever grateful with your thoughtfulness and generosity!

4. Gift cards

Not quite sure what to get for a family with a newborn? You cannot go wrong with a gift card, especially to a store they will go to on a regular basis to buy diapers, formula, and other last minute or unexpected items. Our first son, Peanut, was unable to breastfeed due to a severe tongue tie and though my parents bought an electric pump for us, we suddenly had the unexpected need for bottles, a bottle brush, drying rack, special soap that cuts through the breastmilk residue, and pump parts. With our second son, Pickle, we now have two kids in diapers and are going through diapers and wipes quickly!

Gift cards to Target or Walmart make an excellent gift for the routine expenses. Cards to specialty stores like Babies R Us or BuyBuyBaby also make a good gift to help alleviate the cost of bigger items like high chairs, strollers, etc. that may not have been purchased or gifted earlier.

5. Babysitting

Whether it is an hour watching baby while the mother showers or naps or taking the older child(ren) for the afternoon, many parents would love the offer to babysit in the weeks immediately after a new baby’s arrival. Granted, you have to be comfortable with newborns and young children and also be close, trustworthy family member or friend.

6. Re-gifting

If you have older children and still have some of the items you used for your newborn lying around, you can re-gift them. Whether it is newborn clothes, a baby carrier or wrap, an outgrown high chair, an unused stroller — whatever you no longer need nor anticipate needing in the future. It is good to know that these items are going to a family member or friend who can put them to good use.

These are six practical gift ideas to bless a family with a new baby. Do you have more ideas? Was there something someone did for you that you really appreciated? Please share in the comments below!

His Encouragement: Colossians 3:23-24

His Encouragement: Colossians 3:23-24

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” — Colossians 3:23-24, ESV

Have you ever been frustrated, fed up, or overwhelmed with your work, whether it is paid or not, whether it is for a living or volunteering? I must admit that while I enjoy my job 75% of the time, there are moments when I am overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work my superiors sometimes expect from one person (me) without any assistance. On a good day, I single-handedly do the work of two people. On a bad day, new projects come rolling in with high expectations and unrealistic deadlines. When I voice my concerns, I am basically told: “Just get it done.”

The last year has been especially stressful due to additional circumstances, both at work and in my personal life. Though I am usually an over-achiever, I admit that there have been times I have been so frustrated and overwhelmed that a part of me actually contemplated (for the briefest of moments) slacking off and letting a project slide just to demonstrate that the workload simply cannot be done by one person alone.

It is not like my job is one with huge consequences on the line. I am a web developer for an university… not a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, nurse, doctor, or any other profession who literally deals everyday with potentially life and death situations. If a website’s content is not updated until next week instead of this week or that latest security update is not pushed through today but tomorrow instead, it really is not going to make that much of a difference.

During my weak moments when such thoughts do flitter through my mind, I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s words to the Colossians. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”

That is right. Even though in the grand scheme of the universe, my job is rather insignificant, I am called to do my best in all situations — even the overwhelming ones. As a child, I memorized a Psalty song based on Philippians 4:13 that goes like this: “Do my best! Do my best! With Jesus as my strength, I’ll do my best. He’ll do the rest!” That is all we can do.

No matter our circumstances. No matter how tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, or even angry we might be. No matter if we feel like it or not, we should always strive to do our personal best and let God handle the rest. Even in the mundane tasks and toils of every day life, we “…are serving the Lord Christ.”

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?


Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: Week 37, 38, or 39?

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: Week 37, 38, or 39?

With all of the false contractions I have been experiencing this last week, this very well might be our last pregnancy update.

How far along: 37 or 38 or 39 Weeks

Sooooo… As I may have mentioned previously, we were originally given the due date of January 28th, which would make our little Pickle 39 weeks as of now. At our first ultrasound, the tech discovered he was measuring a little small so the doctors decided to push back the due date to February 10th, which would make him now 37 weeks. That is a two week difference, and when it comes to fetal development, that is a huge difference.

Then at our doctor’s appointment yesterday, she mentioned that the ultrasound office had put down in my file “38 weeks” after our most recent two ultrasounds.

*sigh* Apparently, no one can agree with how far along we are. We could be 37, 38, or 39 weeks. I’m going to go with the middle and just say 38 weeks. I have been 1cm dilated and 50% efaced for a week now with no further progress, so — as long as there are no sudden changes — it looks like we just might have another week to go before our little Pickle decides to arrive.

Size of baby: 5 lbs at last ultrasound so he is, hopefully, about 5.5 lbs now. After taking our first son’s lower birth weight (4 lbs 11 oz) also into consideration, the doctors determined that it is probably genetic: we just make smaller babies. But in a society where “average” babies are now being born in the 8-10 lb range, I am more than happy to have smaller babies! I, myself, was around 6 lbs when I was born.

Movement: Except for the hour or so in the middle afternoon when he is napping, this little Pickle seems to be moving all of the time. He especially loves to kick and stretch as his home is getting rather cramped for him. At my last check in, he had already shifted and was in launch position: head down.

Sleep: Much, much better! I think part of it is because he has shifted down so the pressure on my diaphragm and organs have been relieved some, allowing me to breathe easier. Another reason is that we splurged on a memory foam mattress topper for our bed. It supports the belly so nicely when I lie on my left side and removed quite a few pressure points, allowing me to sleep much better with less aches and pains.

Workouts: None. I am not supposed to be doing anything strenuous — not even walking — but I still do more than I should just helping to get the kids’ room ready, the regular chores around the house, and going into work.

Maternity clothes: I am literally wearing my largest pants (jeans) and pairing them with the nicest shirts I can for work, and I change into lounging clothes when I get home. Comfort is the only thing that matters at this point.

Symptoms: Pretty much every single normal late pregnancy symptom that I missed on out experiencing with my first, including muscle and joint aches, Braxton Hicks/false contractions, false labor, bloating, gas, swelling of feet/ankles, tingling in legs below the knees, pain in the right hip upon standing, frequent trips to the bathroom, fatigue, etc.

Cravings/Aversions: Now that Pickle has shifted down and I can eat more than tiny meals (like just a bowl of cereal), I find myself ravenous, especially at dinner. No real cravings, just hungry! The batch of strawberries we just picked up are amazingly delicious, especially with some coconut yogurt (diary-free), but my husband has said the same thing so I would not could that as a craving. Well, I might be craving popcorn, but I have not given in yet because when I eat too much corn, I end up with a headache.

Missing most: Being able to walk and move without pain and being able to play with Peanut again.

Preparing for baby: We just need to re-assemble the bassinet that he will sleep in and find that bin with all of the newborn clothes…

Cannot wait for: Pickle to come!

Raising children on the principle of love

Raising children on the principle of love

My husband and I are Christians, meaning we are followers of Christ Jesus and strive to live according to His teachings. We both grew up in Christian households that shared similar foundational principles and, as a result, our beliefs have shaped our worldview, guide our thought processes, and influence our actions on a daily basis.

Before getting married — and long before children entered the picture — my husband and I talked about our overarching ideas and plans for raising any future children we might be blessed with. But, as when many things, parenting styles, goals, and philosophies tend to be more abstract until a little one is actually present.

Then it becomes real.

Since becoming parents to our son, we have had numerous discussions on how to parent. Not just the when and how to discipline conversations, though it is very important for both parents and any additional caregivers (like grandparents) are all on board with the decided methods of discipline. No, we began talking about the far-reaching results — some might even say consequences — of certain parenting styles, attitudes, behaviors, etc. Then we compared our childhoods and our parents’ parenting styles with all of the positives and negatives we could recall.

Every time we had one of these deep, self-evaluating discussions, we found ourselves circling back around to very simple but crucial questions:

  • How do we want to raise our children?
    • What kind of childhood and home environment do we want to provide for them?
    • What character traits do we want to nurture in our children?
    • What kind of people do we want them to grow up to become?
  • What parenting methods would achieve these goals?

In continuing my exploration into the idea of a heavenly home, I will attempt to share some of our answers to the above questions.

First and foremost, the type of childhood we desire for our children is one of joy, love, laughter, and learning in a home environment that is warm and nurturing.

To achieve that goal, we decided that we want to raise our children on the foundation of love. Deep, self-sacrificing, understanding, patient, resilient, courageous, unconditional love as modeled by Christ Jesus.

Out from this foundation of love grows other important character traits, such as respect for oneself and respect for others. We want our children to grow up with an understanding that, in spite of their flaws and mistakes, they are precious, valued, and loved for who they are as uniquely individual human beings.

Their worth and self-esteem is not based on what they do, how well they do it, how much they succeed or achieve, nor based on the opinions of others. That does not mean we will not have expectations for them, but we want to give them realistic expectations that encourage them to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

By extension, we want to instill in them a respect for others as precious individuals. We want to demonstrate this love and respect every day in our interactions with each other, with our children, and with those outside our family.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8, ESV

We want to raise our children with the knowledge that God is love. We believe in a loving Creator who originally created this world perfect and intended for humanity to live perfect lives in peaceful harmony with Him, each other, and the nature around them. Because He is love, He did not create us as robots pre-programmed with a specific set of directives that must be followed.

He gave humanity the freedom of choice: free will. Because of free will, we each have the freedom to choose whether to love God and obey Him or not.

It is our hope that our children will come love God as we have but not out of fear or obligation or tradition. We desire for them to have an intelligent faith of their own and love God as a personal response to His love for them.

 “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19, ESV
From this love, they will choose to follow His example and apply His teachings in practical ways in their daily lives. All of the teachings of the Bible can be summarized in these two principles:

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:36-40, ESV

Next time I will share some of the specific character traits and values we hope to instill in our children.

Join the discussion

What are the principles that guide your parenting style and philosophy? What type of childhood are you aiming to give to your children?

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Personal note from Jacquelyn: I have written and re-written this post a dozen times over the last few days. It is time to share it. I know this post is imperfect and, in spite of my humble efforts, cannot hope to grasp the entirety of the situation. Many books can and have been written on this topic! However, this is the coherent part of what has been weighing on my heart and mind over the last few days. (I have been a bit sleep deprived due to a teething baby.) My only hope is that it provides comfort and encouragement to those who need it and prick the hearts of others to take time to seriously re-evaluate their opinions and beliefs.

A response to hate

The violent and tragic acts of hate groups in recent days have deeply sadden me. It has taken me time to be able to put my thoughts into words. First, let me start by saying that my heart goes out to the family and friends of Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a man filled with hate and evil, and all of those who were injured in the same attack. Heather gave her life standing up for what she believed in: that all people are equal and should be treated with respect. I also pray for the family and friends of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates of the Virginia State Police killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the situation. They gave their lives while serving and protecting their community, fulfilling their duty and serving with honor.

Let me be very clear: anyone who embraces ideology steeped in hatred, intolerance, and violence is NOT patriotic. White supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazis… these people are pathetic COWARDS, filled with hate and fear — fear that they displace on others. Their contemptible words and vile actions reveal to the world that they have embraced evil.

We need to stand firm against hatred, fear, and intolerance. We need to stand for justice, equality, and freedom. However, remember that the world, the country, and our children are watching. We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. If we behave as they do and commit our own acts of violence against them, we become no better than the very groups we condemn.

We need to rise above knee-jerk, anger-filled reactions. The emotional response of anger itself is not necessarily wrong, but anger needs to be controlled or it will control us. We need to take the high road. Hard though it will be, we need to show compassion for hatred, peace instead of violence, love and unity in response to fear and division. Let us put aside arrogance and superiority, and start to esteem others as equals. Let us win with our words and actions, through our voices and our votes. Let how we respond lift up those who are downtrodden, encourage the discouraged, seek true justice, and show mercy towards the poor and vulnerable.

Our children are watching.

You CANNOT be a Christian (a proclaimed follower of Christ Jesus) and harbor hatred for others, especially whole groups of people based on arbitrary or imagined differences (skin color, ethnicity, religion, etc.). Let me repeat myself: you cannot be a Christian and a racist.

The Bible is very clear: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NKJV)

Christ Jesus Himself said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NKJV)

And He also admonished His followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43-45, NKJV)

Our children are watching.

The Declaration of Independence, though written by flawed men, states a truth that is vital to be reminded of, especial at times like these: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

And I would like to add that among these unalienable Rights endowed by the Creator is the right of ALL people, especially those who have historically been marginalized and greatly mistreated, to respect and being treated as a valued human being. Native American, African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, Arab-American, certain minorities among European-American have all experienced turmoil in our country’s history (including recently), though some groups (such as the Native Americans and African-Americans) have born more atrocities, persecution, degradation, and disenfranchisement than others. Sadly, to this day many communities still struggle with the aftermath of bias government policies and social prejudices.

We need to admit that our country is not perfect and has made many mistakes… Some downright and absolutely horrible, such as the removal of native people from their lands, the enslavement of Africans, the internment of American citizens of Japanese heritage, and more. We need to stand firm on the side of Truth and Justice for ALL and move forward together to fix what is broken in our country.

Hatred and violence is learned. So is peace and compassion. Let me repeat: We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. How about we try leaving the world — or even just our small piece of it — a better place?

Our children are watching. What are our words and actions teaching them?

Our children are watching. What are our responses and reactions to times of great upheaval saying about our hearts and our characters?

Our children are watching. What legacy are we leaving for them?

Our children are watching.

Being present in the moment

Being present in the moment

About six months ago, I was working extra hours on a few freelance jobs with the intent of building some income outside of my regular 9-5 job. The ultimate goal would be to eventually transition into working from home so I could spend more time with our son.

After two months of working 8 to 8.5 hours at my regular job and then 2-4 hours at night after the baby went to sleep, I realized that I was wearing myself out. I was not sleeping enough, I was fighting the worst allergies I have ever experienced, I kept getting sick, and despite my husband’s valiant efforts to keep things tidy, our house had quickly fallen into disarray.

However, I pushed through because I really want to be able to stay home with my son.

Then within the span of a week, I observed my mom and mother-in-law interacting with my baby, and I realized that they were present in the moment. I was so sleep deprived that even when I was with my son, I was not there mentally. He may have had half of my attention — changing him, feeding, him, encouraging him to grab a toy or flip through a cloth book — but I was not fully there.

A part of my mind was always focused on other things. “I need to check my email.” “Once he falls asleep, I have to do x, y, and z before going to bed.” “Ugh, the dishes have piled up again.”

One afternoon when my parents dropped my son off after watching him for the day, I quietly watched my mom feed him a bottle and then my dad play with him. I almost burst into tears. In trying to pursue my goal of one day being able to stay home, I was missing the beautiful moments with my son now.

I had to change.

So I declined the next freelance job that came my way.

I put away the laptop. I did not just shut it or turned it off, I put it completely out of sight. I removed the email and Facebook apps from my phone, and began to leave my phone in my purse or on the charger in a different room of the house.

With these changes, I was able to go to sleep earlier so in the mornings, I could shower before our son woke up, greet him with smiles and songs while he was still happy, nurse him and pump, and carry him with me around the house as I got ready for work instead of putting him in a walker or the play pen.

In the evenings, I had the energy to make dinner and clean up the kitchen while my husband played with our son, did laundry or vacuumed. Bedtime was much easier, because I was no longer eagerly waiting for the baby to fall asleep so I can do other things. I wanted to spend that quality time nursing him, rocking him, cuddling with him. After he was tucked into his crib, my husband and I would relax together instead of me being occupied with work on the laptop.

Our house was not only cleaner and tidier, but it was happier and filled with sunshine, music, and laughter.

Six months later, I do not regret this decision one bit.

Do I still long for the day when I can stay home with my son? Absolutely!

As much as we appreciate our parents for helping us watch our son for six months while both my husband and I worked, we still desired to have at least one of us at home. We determined that it is not financially feasible at this time for me to be the one to stay home. My income is what we rely on for rent, bills, every day living expenses, and health insurance.

So at the end of May my husband resigned his job with a local school district to stay home with our son. Being a stay-at-home parent is not an easy job. There are great days when the child is happy and you get a ton accomplished. And then there are terrible days where the house is a disaster and pretty much the only thing that happens is cuddling with a teething child.

Bradley has taken to being a stay-at-home dad, and every day he continues to amaze me. I am so grateful to be blessed with such a wonderful husband. Even after a long day of watching our son, he still cheerfully takes care of our son, me, and even the dog when I am feeling too sick to make dinner or too exhausted to wash the dishes.

Sometimes circumstances happen that do not allow us to live out our ideal dream, but instead of being disappointed, we should be thankful for the blessings we have.

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
Philippians 4:11, NKJV

Life is more than just a checklist of accomplishments. It is about relationships, and it is about spending time with those that mean the most to us. It means treasuring precious yet fleeting once-in-a-lifetime moments. It means letting go of those things out of our control and stop worrying about the future. Give your worries and burdens over to the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and decide to be present in the here and now.

I have, and I love it!

3 Ways to Make Facebook More Enjoyable and Secure

3 Ways to Make Facebook More Enjoyable and Secure

Facebook. Founded in 2004, this revolutionary social networking site had 955 million monthly and 552 million daily active users at the end of June 2012. This site allows you to connect or re-connect with family and friends separated by distance, make new friends, swap information, share hobbies (photos, music, sites, etc.), and even play games. For many, Facebook is the first site they log into in the morning and the last site they log out of at night. Yet it is not always fun and games.

Due to the nature of the social networking site, misunderstandings and arguments have arisen from status events, sometimes even relationships have been broken, and even jobs have been lost. Facebook, like most modern media, is a double-edged sword: it can be used for good or could be misused and cause great harm. If you use Facebook or have considered jumping on the bandwagon, what can you do to keep from being sucked into the black hole?

Today I will be sharing three things you can do to make your Facebook experience more enjoyable and more secure.


The first and most important thing to consider is the privacy settings of your Facebook account. The default privacy is Public, which means everyone and anyone with an Internet connection has access to everything you post, share, like, or comment on. If you don’t want your actions broadcasted to everyone, you need to change your account’s privacy settings to Friends.

Facebook Privacy Settings

How To Do It: When logged into your Facebook account, you will see a little upside triangle on the top right of the page (to the right of the ‘Home’ link). Click this upside triangle and select ‘Settings’ from the drop-down options.

On the General Settings page that loads, select “Privacy” from the left sidebar to go to the Privacy Settings and Tools page.

Facebook Privacy Settings and Tools page

Edit the first option, “Who can see my stuff?”, and choose your privacy settings. You can change it to Friends. If you want to have a default setting even more restrictive, you can select More Options and a dialogue box will appear. You can select the lists or individual friends you want to use as a default.

Facebook: Change who can see your posts.

Note: This default privacy setting will apply to status updates and photos you post to your timeline from a Facebook app that does not have the inline audience selector, like Facebook for Blackberry or iPhone. When you post via a computer, you can manually choose the privacy setting for that specific status update or photo from the inline audience selector, as seen in the image below.

Facebook Inline Audience Selector

Facebook setting options There are also other privacy settings that you should look at and decide upon. Under Privacy, you can decide who can contact you, who can look you up, and whether your profile is searched by outside search engines (like Google).

Timeline and Tagging controls who can post on your Timeline (previously called Wall), who can see what others have posted to your Timeline, who can tag you in photos and posts, who can see photos and posts you have been tagged in, etc.

Blocking is a bit self-explanatory but important. You can block people and apps from accessing your Facebook, block receiving messages or event invites and more.

Notifications allows you to decide what method (if any) you would like to use to be notified of Facebook activity.

Remember, the stricter your privacy settings, the more secure your Facebook account and personal information will be. This will not only keep you safe from phishing and malicious apps, but also help make your Facebook experience more pleasant overall.

Accepting and Rejecting Friend Requests

The next most important task has to do with sending, accepting, and rejecting Friend requests. Let me be very clear: You have absolutely NO obligation to accept every single Friend request that you receive.

To avoid needless drama, stress, and other unpleasantness, you need to be cautious who you accept as a Friend and you who reject. Just because you attended high school together x-number of years ago does not mean that you must let that individual into your life via Facebook today. Participating in social networking, like Facebook, can leave you vulnerable to malicious acts if you are not careful with whom you share your personal information and details about your daily life.

There are many individuals who pose as potential friends yet whose sole purpose is to steal your personal information, such as usernames, passwords, phone numbers, birthdays, etc. This is known as Phishing, and can result in your identity being stolen or worse.

Facebook Friend Request

I highly encourage you to establish a personal policy regarding what type of requests you accept and reject. For example, my personal policy is to accept Friend requests from individuals: 1.) family members, 2.) I know personally in real life, 3.) I have known for at least five years online through a safe community and we have become very close friends, and/or 4.) share similar views and I get along with.

I have received and rejected countless friend requests from strangers, I have known in the past (such as from high school or my early college years) and even people I know right now. Think carefully before accepting a request: Is this individual someone you know? Someone you can trust? Would you consider them a genuine friend? Do you share similar interests or views on the important topics?

Facebook Friend Request Denied

There is no prize for having an extraordinary number of friends. If you do not choose your Facebook friends carefully, you will suffer from frustration, stress, and unnecessary drama. Facebook should be a pleasant experience, not torture. Just as you would not allow a random stranger to walk freely into your home and start making a meal in your kitchen or be privy to intimate conversations between you and your closest family and friends, you need to be smart about who you allow into your virtual “home”, aka your Facebook account.

Use Lists

Facebook has a very handing feature called Lists. Basically, you can use the default lists (Family, Close Friends, etc.) or create custom lists that you can then group your friends into. Lists not only help you later one when you want to choose who among your friends you want to share specific status updates or photos with (through the inline audience selector), but it is also a faster and easier way of getting rid of unwanted junk from your ticker/News Feed. You can choose the update types you want to receive or not receive from each list, turn email or Facebook notifications on or off, and other important control settings.

Facebook Lists

How To Do it: When logged into your Facebook account, there is a column to the left and within that column is an area titled “Friends”. It should show a default number of lists: Close Friends, Family, etc. Hover on “Friends” and a “More” link appears to the right. Click it to be taken to the list page. Here you see all of the default Facebook lists and have the option of creating your own custom lists.

Facebook Lists

To edit a list, click the list’s name. You will be taken to a News Feed for that particular list. At the top right, there are two gray buttons: “Notifications” and “Manage List”. Since I check Facebook regularly, I turn my notifications “off” so as to avoid cluttering up my email and Facebook messaging. Under “Manage List”, select “Choose Update Types…” and a drop-down will appear. (If it does not appear automatically, click “Manage List” one more time for it to appear.) Check or uncheck the options you want. I highly recommend unchecking “Games” and “Comments and Likes”. Repeat with the other lists.

Facebook Lists

Underneath these two gray buttons, you will see an area called “On This List (#)”. This shows you how many of your friends are on this particular list and will show the profile image of a few of them. Beneath the profile images is a box where you can add friends to the list. If you want to remove a friend from a particular list, click the gray button “Manage List” and select the first option “Edit List”. A dialogue box appears that displays all of the friends on the list. When you hover on a profile image, a white X appears in the top right corner. Clicking the X will remove that friend from that particular list.

In Conclusion

Facebook can be a wonderful tool to keep in contact with your family and friends or an instrument of hurt and misery, depending upon how you use it. If you customize your Privacy Settings, choose carefully who you accept as Facebook friends, and make use of the lists feature, you will avoid needless drama, stress, and keep your personal information more secure.

Raising Successfully Selfish Kids

Raising Successfully Selfish Kids

While driving home from work Friday, October 23, 2015, I tuned in to a radio talk show hoping to catch a local weather update. Instead, I had the opportunity to listen to two rather annoying gentlemen talk about a new study that shows that children who talk back to their parents tend to be more successful as adults. After ten minutes of listening to them go back and forth and the examples that callers shared of their own children, I had an epiphany.

The world’s definition of successful means an individual who is self-centered and manipulative, always looking out for what is in their best interest at the expense of others.

It is true that an individual who pushes back against authority, manipulates others, and always seeks out that which would benefit him or herself will most likely find success in their professional careers.

However, is this the type of person we want to raise our children to become? Someone who has no compassion or empathy for others? Someone who is always looking out for Number 1? Is this selfishness and lack of cooperative spirit truly a characteristic of a good leader? And even if these traits might bring more success in a professional capacity, how much harm are they doing to the individual’s personal relationships and emotional health?

The Bible warns:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5, English Standard Version

This list of negative characteristics includes many attributes that the modern world would deem as essential for a successful person, but those who desire something better are encouraged to “avoid such people”.

Philippians 2:3-4 tells us: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Notice that the Bible is not saying that we need to be doormats, just that followers of Christ should be concerned with others. As parents, we should be striving to raise our children with godly characters, molded from the traits listed in the Fruit of the Spirit passage.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5:22-26, NKJV

The world would be a better place if more children were being raised to be kind, gentle, patient, content, and with the ability to exercise self-control. Contrary to how society may think, I believe that true success is not measured in what an individual has material-wise but the relationships he or she has built along the journey of his or her life.

The world needs love

The world needs love

I am praying that all those who have experienced tragedy from the recent violence around the world may find comfort. There is no fear in love. “There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

What is love? “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Let go of hatred and prejudice and embrace genuine love and compassion for one another as brothers and sisters. The world needs love. Not the feel good sensationalism in songs but the every day acts of compassionate love that makes a true difference. Not hashtags and catchy slogans, not pictures to evoke emotions, but a conscious decision by millions of ordinary people that we won’t let fear and hatred control our lives. That we can make a difference right where we live today, everyday, with our words and actions. And this love will grow as more and more people experience genuine love through compassionate acts until it spreads around the whole world.

I want my life to be a beacon of God’s love, love of the highest ideal and purity, shining out in a world of darkness and sorrow, spreading hope. This is my humble prayer.

Adapted from a series of tweets I posted on November 16, 2015.

Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit

Harsh, mean-spirited, and judgmental.

More and more often, I am hearing saddening accounts of brothers and sisters within our church families who have been attacked by fellow church members for having different experiences, different opinions, different likes and dislikes. Attacked by individuals displaying the works of the flesh and not the fruit of the Spirit. Individuals who have exalted themselves so highly in their own mind that they actually feel that they are entitled to cast judgment upon their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ… Continuing reading at UNashamed →