troubleshooting populated boxes

April 2023 OTJ blog

The Plane Encounter

In May, we celebrate National Nurses Month. In preparation for the monthlong observance, let me encourage you to connect medical professionals with Baptist Nursing Fellowship, a WMU Compassion Ministry. Baptist Nursing Fellowship exists to empower, educate, and encourage nurses and medical workers to fulfill Christ’s mission through healing skills. One Christmas break when Linda Gibson, a nurse anesthetist, was a student at Baylor University School of Nursing, she excitedly packed for a trip to visit family in Florida. She glanced down at a small white New Testament the Gideons had presented to student nurses and decided to toss it in her purse. The 21-year-old found herself assigned the plane seat between a military soldier and a businessman. As the plane taxied, the businessman struck up a conversation by asking, “What kind of work do you do?” Linda responded, “I’m a senior nursing student, and this month, I am assigned to the oncology ward. You know, it’s interesting to hear from patients their views on death.” Linda secretly hoped that would end the conversation. She was not prepared for his next question. He asked, “So what’s your philosophy on death?” Linda said, “Well, first I would have to tell you my philosophy on life!” She whispered an urgent prayer for the Lord to give her His words as she reached for that little white New Testament in her purse. After Linda read a few verses from the Book of Romans that explained all of us are sinners and Jesus came to reconcile us to God and thereby provide the gift of eternal life, the businessman began to cry and confess his sins. Linda became embarrassed as she felt all eyes on her. That’s when God took over. She said, “Literally, my mouth continued explaining the way of salvation through the Cross . . . without any conscious effort from me. A life was changed for all eternity. Praise be to God alone.” When they disembarked in Atlanta, the businessman asked Linda for that little white New Testament. Then he said before turning to leave, “There are churches on every corner, but you have done more for me in this past hour than any of them.” On the walk through the terminal, the young soldier tapped Linda on the shoulder. He told her he had been raised in a Catholic home and believed in Jesus Christ, but he had never heard the gospel explained so plainly that someone was so ready to accept it! Baptist Nursing Fellowship equips you to integrate your faith and your vocation. Visit for more information.   Father, May we look for divine appointments wherever You place us this day. Ready the hearts of those within our radius. Give us courage to proclaim You boldly. In Jesus’ name, amen. Sandy Wisdom-Martin serves as the executive director/treasurer for national WMU.

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April 2023 Student Acteens Panelist Blog

Keeping a Clear Mindset in Regard to Exercise

Society, as a whole, often focuses on physical health as a priority for one’s wellbeing. In reality, we need to also focus on spiritual and mental health to ensure a healthy mind and overall wellbeing. We need to have a healthy mind when we spend our quiet time with God because it is in that state where we are best equipped to receive His word with an open mind and heart. Reading God’s word, painting, and even exercising are all ways we can keep a healthy mind. Exercise can have many beneficial effects on one’s mind. This includes, but is not limited to, decreased risk of memory loss, stress relief, and improved quality of sleep. Exercise has been known as a contributing factor to help fight depression and anxiety. This is primarily because exercise can release endorphins which are chemicals released by the brain that work to alleviate pain and promote satisfaction. Ultimately, exercise is an excellent opportunity for one to focus on something productive as opposed to staying in a cycle of negative thoughts that will only bring more harm. Unhealthy stress could lead to insomnia, stomach-related issues, and overall wear and tear on your mind. However, including exercise in our daily routine can release built-up tension and stress. Even though I play tennis weekly, I have challenged myself to be even more active. Some days I push myself to work out early in the morning after my devotion to help kickstart my day. As followers of Christ, it is crucial that we reflect Christ in all areas of our lives including fitness and the gym. It can be very easy to get caught up in what the world deems most valuable when it comes to exercising, such as the perfect body type to achieve by going to the gym. However, Christians must be careful to not allow Satan to creep into our daily lives. To do this, one must keep a clear mindset on what God says regarding our overall health in the Bible. First Corinthians 6:19–20 says: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (NIV). God asks that we take care of our bodies because they are essentially His, not our own. Just as one would take their car to get a routine oil changes or new tires to keep the car functioning at a high-performance level, it is vital that we take the same thoughtful steps to take care of our bodies through exercise as we are able. In this same way, we must take care of our own bodies for optimal mental health. As Christians we must be capable of discerning worldliness versus godliness. We are not to “conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). When we make it a priority to renew our mind through spending time in God’s word and focusing our health and wellness efforts on the glory of God, then we set ourselves up to grow spiritual fruit. When you take the initiative to do this, you will begin to see God work in your life like never before! You will also be equipped to grow in His truth and live out His plan for you, which may be missions! Taylor Glover, a 2022 National Acteens Panelist, is from Fayetteville, Georgia, and attends Harps Crossing Baptist Church. Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is the personal opinion of the author for inspirational purposes only. You should always consult with a medical professional before commencing any new exercise program or activity. This information is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.

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May 2023 Project HELP Mental Health Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression: While the Symptoms Can Be Overwhelming, There Is Hope

Becoming a mother is one of the best things that has happened to me, but I’ve also had no harder job or been in a scarier position than as a mom. While joyous, motherhood can also be filled with uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. I am thankful World Maternal Mental Health Day is in May, as it draws attention to these conflicting feelings that can exist for many women. It is normal to feel different things during pregnancy and after the baby arrives. You could feel anxiety, joy, depression, excitement, fear, and exhaustion all at the same time. You may also suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), which is a more serious mental health challenge for a woman after her child is born. The keys to promoting maternal mental health are self-care, having a support system, and the ability to identify when to seek professional help.   What Is Postpartum Depression? PPD is not the same as the “baby blues” many women experience after childbirth or bringing a child home through adoption. The Cleveland Clinic reports between 50 percent and 75 percent of moms experience the baby blues. These symptoms typically last for a few days to two weeks after the baby is born and are usually not as intense as PPD. Common symptoms of the baby blues include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, crying, reduced concentration, appetite problems, and trouble sleeping. As a clinician, I become more concerned when these symptoms are persistent, increase in intensity, and last longer than two weeks. According to the American Psychological Association, one in seven women may go on to develop significant enough symptoms to meet the criteria for postpartum depression. For women living with PPD, these graver symptoms affect their ability to care for their children and severely impact their ability to cope with everyday life. Symptoms of PPD include a depressed mood or severe mood swings; excessive crying; difficulty bonding with the baby; withdrawing from family and friends; loss of appetite or eating much more than usual; inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much; overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy; reduced interest and pleasure in previously enjoyed activities; intense irritability and anger; fear of not being a good mother; feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy; diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate, or make decisions; restlessness; severe anxiety and panic attacks; thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby; and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.   Treatment Options While these symptoms can be overwhelming, there is hope. First, reach out for help. Whether you are struggling with the baby blues or PPD, tell those around you. There is no shame in sharing your struggles. Try talking to your spouse or a trusted friend, or look for a support group for moms in a church. Talk to your doctor at a postpartum visit. He or she can offer suggestions and assess whether you might benefit from medication. Second, self-care is vital when struggling with postpartum depression. If you birthed your child, your body has been through a rapid change and needs to be cared for well. Sufficient sleep and healthy eating are paramount, and, when you are cleared by a physician, going for walks is important. Self-care also includes finding time to do things that bring you joy. This could include calling a friend, going out to dinner, reading, or spending time on a hobby of some kind. You need to see life outside the stress of having an infant in your home, and by engaging in activities that bring joy, you do just that. If these steps do not lead to major symptom reduction, reach out to a professional for counseling. A therapist will help you develop a self-care plan and begin the work of stabilizing your mood through coping skills. With a treatment plan that manages your PPD, you will feel more in control.   How to Help If you know someone who is experiencing PPD, be willing to come alongside her. PPD can be isolating and feel shameful. Do not judge her or tell her she should be feeling differently. Rather, let the mom know you are there for her. You can look for tangible ways to help reduce stress: set up meal calendars, offer to help with household chores, or watch the baby while the mom gets much-needed rest. Often, when women feel supported and not alone, symptoms are greatly reduced. The more you know about PPD, the more helpful you can be. Check out the resources from the US Department of Health at to learn more. Lisa Keane, MAMFC, LPC-S, is a licensed professional counselor supervisor in Birmingham, Alabama, and a national board-certified counselor. For more than 15 years, Lisa has helped individuals and families find hope and healing through counseling. “Postpartum depression: Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.” American Psychological Association. Accessed December 6, 2022. “Postpartum Depression.” Cleveland Clinic. Updated April 12, 2022. “Postpartum depression.” Mayo Clinic. Updated November 24, 2022. Disclaimer: The information shared on is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.

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April 2023 Spotlight Update

Spotlight Update: Michael and Traci Byrd in Saint Louis, Missouri

Michael and Traci Byrd and Faith Community Bible Church of North Saint Louis, Missouri, are preparing to send out another church planter this upcoming September. “There’s been an intentional effort to live on mission,” said Michael. “Our members are grabbing hold of it and inviting others into it.” The Byrd family is prioritizing being in the Word of God together even more. “God has been knitting our hearts together not only for Him but also for one another,” Michael shared. “We’re trying intentionally to be present with one another while also pushing one another to mature spiritually.” God has answered prayer, as the Byrds’ spiritual strength and their ministry’s reach have continued to grow. “As we move ahead in 2023, join us in praying for our oldest children — that God would keep them focused as they live life and also that He would restore the joy of salvation to them,” Michael said. The Byrds aim to continue developing men and women who are growing in the gospel. “As a church, we are praying we can foster a community that invokes reverence, adoration, and submission to Christ,” Michael said. “Through missional living, robust worship, and discipleship, we desire to see people come to know the Lord.”

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April 2023 Blog Image

Giving Kids Tools to Manage Big Emotions

As parents and leaders, we often to want to fix a child’s hurts, make the uncomfortable situation return to normal, and rush in to rescue them. When children are very young they do need quite a bit of rescuing. As they get older, however, if the child is not involved in helping solve problems they encounter, we are inadvertently teaching them that they are incapable of working through their hurts and problems with confidence. Our children are growing up in a world that is increasingly precarious and unstable. We have a great responsibility as parents and leaders to help children learn to regulate their big emotions by giving them “tools” to use in moments of anger, sadness, fear, and all the myriad emotions they experience. But before we can begin to help children through their problems, we need to help them identify their feelings and reflect those feelings. As a school counselor, I spend a great deal of my time teaching children that all of their feelings are OK. Feelings are feelings — they aren’t right or wrong. Allowing space for children to feel their emotions and then reflect their feelings is a validating experience for a child and very simple for leaders and parents to do but is often neglected. Let me share an example to illustrate this technique. While teaching a parenting class at my school a few years ago, the homework for the following week was for parents to watch for a time their child had a big emotion and practice “reflecting” the child’s feelings. The next week, a mom choked back tears as she related a situation that had occurred when her child perceived there was danger but the mom knew there was no real danger. The child started crying uncontrollably, terrified by the perceived threat. This mom said, “Normally, I would just start saying, ‘You are fine. There is nothing to be scared of. There is no reason to cry.’” She then remembered the class homework and said, “I crawled into the back seat of the car with my child, put my arm around her and said, ‘That really scared you, didn’t it? I can tell you have some really big feelings about what happened.’” Mom said her child stopped crying, calmed down, and started to talk about those feelings. Reflecting a child’s feelings communicates acceptance, which helps the child feel understood, accepted, valued, and worthwhile. As a believer, Jesus is our greatest example of having this kind of compassion. We can also remind children that Jesus understands them better than anyone, knows all their feelings, and they are valuable and accepted by Him. There are many tools and strategies that can be taught to children to foster self-regulation and emotional control. One of the tools children can practice is taking slow, deep breaths when they are upset, angry, overwhelmed, or fearful. Breathing in slowly through their nose and then out through their mouth can usually help calm their brain right away. Stretching and exercising, listening to music, talking to someone, or drawing or journaling are a few other tools children can use. Parents and leaders can help children learn which tools help them best.   Additional Teaching Strategies Following are four additional teaching strategies parents or leaders can apply in various situations when emotions become overwhelming for a child.   Teaching Healthy Self-talk The next time your child is upset about something, try listening to what they say to themselves by paying attention to body language, their emotions, and what words might be coming out of their mouth. Sometimes in overwhelming or fearful situations, a child’s self-talk will be irrational, untrue, and cause unnecessary stress and emotional dysregulation. Once you have an idea of what the child is thinking or saying, you can rephrase or reframe their experience, making it more rational and healthier. Helping your child verbalize God’s promises such as “Jesus will never leave me” or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” will give them the courage and strength to get through stressful situations. When you hear your child making a negative, self-defeating statement, gently remind her who she is in Christ.   Teaching Perspective/Size of the Problem Children can be taught to ask, when confronted with a problem, worry, or crisis, “Is this really worth getting this upset about?” “Is it a big problem or a little problem?” These questions are posed to help children measure the size of the problem they are experiencing. When children learn to examine a situation and determine how big a problem is, they begin to understand that the size of their reaction or expected response must match the size of the problem. This can greatly reduce the dysregulation, anxiety, and worry that can occur. Parents and leaders can also help model how to change the outcome of a problem by not overreacting to a small problem — remember that our children are watching! When someone else took the parking spot you wanted, did your emotional reaction match the size of your problem?   Teaching about Things I Can and Can’t Control Childhood ought to be a time of relative freedom from worry. Unfortunately, the pandemic and its aftermath shined a bright light on the mental health issues children are facing, including fear and anxiety. While we cannot shield our children from all anxiety, we can minimize it. Much of what children worry about is out of their control, and we need to help them recognize this. One activity you can try is having children write two things that are in their control inside a circle (their choices, what they watch on television, etc.) and write two things that are out of their control outside the circle (what their friends do, the news, things that have already happened, etc.). As Christian parents and leaders, worrying about things outside of our control might hit close to home. Reminding ourselves and our children that God wants us to trust Him in all things, that God takes care of the birds of the air and will certainly take care of us, is such a comfort.   Teaching Children to Pray If prayer is to become real to our children, and if God is to become real to them, real-life prayer experiences will be necessary in building a solid faith foundation. From very early on, children should be encouraged to talk to God using their own words. You can teach this best by letting children hear you pray to God in your own words — simply “talk to God.” Children need to talk honestly to God about things that are fearful or concerning to them. They learn this best from parents and leaders being honest with God in prayer about uncertain situations in our world and circumstances in our lives that we don’t understand. We should not worry that when children’s prayers aren’t answered in the ways they hope that their faith will diminish. It is in these very disappointments and hard times that God becomes real and they see that God can be trusted in everything. Thankfulness comes easy for young children. Nurturing children to praise God in difficult times in a world that is so discontent produces spiritual maturity. When my youngest son was suddenly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a lifelong disease with no cure, at the age of seven, I will never forget a single word of the simple, childlike prayer he prayed in the hospital: “Dear Jesus, thank You that I have type 1 diabetes, because You know what You are going to use me for. Amen.” My young son’s prayer of faith surprised me as I struggled in that moment to make sense of my own faith. Now at 20 years old, my son will tell you there have definitely been many discouraging and hard days, but his foundation in faith and prayer began when he was a young child. God has given us the honor, privilege, and great responsibility of loving and helping children in our care, but He doesn’t leave us to do it alone! Spending time on our knees on behalf of the children in our lives and, most importantly, asking God to come alongside us with His wisdom and strength as we raise the next generation, is vital. Fondra Magee is mom to two grown sons, elementary school counselor, and wife to Tom. Her passions include type 1 diabetes advocacy, play therapy, clown ministry, and sharing God’s love with her community and all who do not know Him.

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May 2023 Student Leader Devotion

Be Courageous: Joshua 1:1–10

Let’s quickly back up before we dive into the passage Joshua 1:1–10. Years earlier, Joshua and some spies proceeded to go to the land God promised the Israelites. Apart from Caleb, the rest feared entering the promised land because they felt inadequate. Their unbelief cost them the opportunity to live in the promised land. Fast forward and now Joshua is given a second chance to enter the promised land. However, there were clear instructions and conditions. To enjoy the promised land, he and his people must study God’s word. They must meditate on it day and night. They must not deviate from all the instructions. If they were living in line with God’s ways, God promised them victory. God promised them land. God promised success and prosperity. God promised them they would have nothing to fear for He would go with them wherever they went so that they could walk boldly, courageously, and without fear. The King of kings was on their side. They would never need to be afraid or discouraged. Although this was written thousands of years ago, there are some principles from this text that still apply to us. First, when God calls you to do something, whether it be to lead a group of kids or go on a missions trip to a foreign land, do not be afraid. Do not miss out on the blessing God wants to give you by expressing disbelief that the God who has called you is not capable of equipping you. Next, God wants to bless you. He wants to give you an abundant life! In our world of health and wealth and “me-centered” gospel presentations, we have probably heard this message before. Sadly, what we do not hear much about are the conditions that continually go with these commands. God wants us to obey so that we will prosper and meditate day and night on His word. Many people like to quote Jeremiah, saying God knows the plans He has for you, plans to prosper you. They rarely finish the verse in the full context with the condition that we must seek Him with all our heart. To seek Him with all our heart means to meditate on Him day and night and obey all His commands. As a leader, God is giving you some territory. The more faithful you are with a little, the more territory He will give you. Here is my encouragement to you. Always remember that your ministry’s success rests on you being completely surrendered to seeking God first. Literally remain in Him so you bear much fruit. But here is what I love. When you know that you are living according to God’s word and following where His Spirit guides you, you never need to be afraid. God will never leave you nor forsake you and all the power rests in Him to complete His mission through you. As I type this, I am in the country of Botswana in Africa. When I was 12 years old, God clearly told me I would be a missionary to Africa. For years, God led me to pray for the nation of Botswana for an opportunity to teach this entire country about Christ. As I type this, we will be sharing the gospel tomorrow with 4,000 people. It took years of prayer, but a couple years ago, God clearly said, “It is time! Rise up and speak out. Do not fear. I will go with you and you will be my mouthpiece to teach my truth to this nation.” We now have the privilege of teaching thousands through various media platforms and 18-day family building campaigns. In this particular campaign, the army has 1,000 soldiers attending daily, about 300 from the police, 650 students, chiefs, school teachers, social workers, politicians, etc. If you would have told me these people would be instructed by the government to come and listen to us teach for three weeks in a row every day, I would have said, “No way! How will that be possible?” But God didn’t give us the land overnight. He gave us small steps of obedience that over time have led us to this point. What is God calling you to do? Don’t be afraid! Remain in Him and go forth with confidence knowing He has already given you the victory! Ashley Thaba and her family live in Botswana where they use media as a platform to teach biblical family values on an international level. They do this through television in Botswana and through weekly national newspaper columns in Zambia, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. They also work with the government to lead village-wide campaigns promoting biblical family values.

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