Sibling Love is Intentional

by Rey Cooke

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Beginning a family at age 20 wasn’t exactly my plan, but I can confidently say it was God’s plan!

When my husband and I found out we were going to be parents, we only had one year of marriage under our belts. It wasn’t a ton of notice, but it was the plan for us. The only plan I really had was, WHEN I had children, I wanted them to be close in age and friends for life!

My daughter came into our loving home and suddenly, I was a mother.  No longer just in charge of myself, I was the one someone else was utterly dependent on for sustenance.  Ready or not, I stepped up to the plate and life began in a new way.  Later we would add three more daughters to the mix.

Intentionally, I trained the girls to be loving and kind toward one another. I reminded them that one day they would need each other and their parents would not be here. Each day had its challenges of daily squabbles. Honestly, there were days I felt like ALL I said was, “No and keep your hands to yourself!”

My daughters are grown now. I survived those exhausting years of refereeing arguments and a small vocabulary, but I haven’t forgotten the exhaustion through those seasons. It can bring the worst out in you. I was never a “yeller” until I had to yell for them to hear me.

So what does it take to raise kids who love God, love you, and want to be around you and their siblings for life?  

The bible speaks of reaping a harvest of righteousness and peace. The one thing I know about harvesting is that it takes time!  You never reap in the same season in which you sow.  A farmer doesn’t sow seeds and come back two days later expecting a harvest.

For sure, the tough part about being a good parent is sowing seeds of thoughtfulness and doing what is right. At times it seems like nothing is happening, but later you will enjoy the harvest that comes.

I didn’t really care if my kids had the highest SAT scores or that they were super star athletes. But I did care that they obeyed God and loved each other enough to be intentionally involved in one another’s lives, not drifting away from each other as they got older.

With all my heart I believe in the final analysis of life, wealth will not be measured by our accomplishments or the things we’ve accumulated. It will be measured by the quality and depths of our relationships.

Continue reading →

Seeking Jesus in Seasons of Brokenness

by Michele Cable

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I’m going to be real honest friends. I feel like the last person who should be posting today.

I told the Lord, “I’ve got nothing. I feel raw and just a bit broken. Who am I kidding? I feel cracked and battered. What could I possibly have to say to a few thousand Moms? All I’ve got is You.”

And there it is. Jesus. Honesty. Truth. That’s what I have to offer you today.

This year has been defined by cancer.

I endured a double mastectomy at the age of 37. Three months later, my sister was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer. She, too, endured an amputation. Less than a month later, my precious friend shared of her diagnosis. All of that seems enough, except it comes after 8 years of flat-out hard—one really hard thing after another.

As I found myself ready to admit the depth of my exhaustion and sadness, grief set in.

Grief.

I am grieving life before January. I am grieving my body before cancer. I am grieving my days and nights before necessary medications altered my hormones and left me drenched in pools of sweat and a mind that too often feels blank. I am grieving what once was, but will no longer be. I am grieving what I feel the rest of my 30s should have been instead of the stark reality of what they are. I am grieving the dreams that cancer took from me.

But I’m not without hope or joy or truth.

On the mornings when my eyes open and I feel weary, I am reminded of the One who waits for me. The One with all the answers who patiently longs to sit with me. The One who holds the truth to shatter the lies. When life gets hard, the wind gets knocked out of you, the enemy seems to thrill at the chance to crack the foundation. Questions, lies and accusations are hurled and it’s in those moments that you will crumble or stand.

In the midst of struggle and deep ache, there are treasures to be found.

The truth is, Jesus was not as real in my 20s as He is today. He was not as tangible. Continue reading →

God is Still Good: A Mother’s Journey Through Grief

by Brittany Brooks Reed

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God is still good. God is still good. God is still good.

I wrote this sentence over and over again on a blank page. Trying to get what I know to be true from my head into my heart. I had just returned from the cemetery where I sat for 30 minutes just staring at my son’s gravestone marker. The reality of what my life was now, hit almost as hard as it did the morning I found him without a pulse. Why now Lord are you taking me back to that dreadful morning?

May 6, 2016

I awoke to Bennett stirring at 3:17 a.m. Wiping my eyes, I reached for him in his crib right next to our bed. He was only 24-days-old, and as a nursing mama, I had gotten little to no sleep in the last three weeks. I changed his diaper, and took him into the den so as not to wake my sleeping husband. He nursed for 45 minutes and I stroked his hair, and remember thinking, “I am so tired, but he looks so peaceful.”

We all fell back asleep, unaware that this would be the last time I saw my son alive.

My husband’s alarm went off at 6 a.m., and I leaned over to check on Bennett. When I went to move him, he fell limp in my arms. I quickly looked for respiratory effort and checked for a pulse while screaming for Eric, my husband, to call 911. As a Labor and Delivery nurse, I am trained in neonatal resuscitation, so I began CPR. The fire department was at our house within two minutes, literally. The ambulance was close behind, and I loaded into it along with Bennett.

We sped away to Children’s Hospital of Birmingham, a short commute from our small suburb of Gardendale, Alabama.

The whole way there I cried, “Lord, have mercy. You can save him!”  The two men in the ambulance were silent.  I asked them, “Have you found a pulse yet?”  The man shook his head.  My Mama heart was hanging onto hope, but my nurse heart knew he was already with Jesus.

My prayer for mercy had been answered, just not the way I had hoped for. Being with Jesus is far better than this sin-filled world, and yet I still felt a longing to have my son in my arms. After all, I am simply a mom who loves her son.

The morning of his death, I looked at Eric and said, “God is still good. He is sitting on His throne holding Bennett, and what Satan meant for harm, the Lord will redeem.”

Life now… four months later

My husband and our other two sons, Brooks (5-years-old) and Brady (2-years-old), are trying to find our new normal.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: grief is messy.

It is ugly, making you feel and say things you never dreamed you would. It comes in waves, sometimes to stay for awhile, sometimes for only a brief moment.

I’m a fixer, so as soon as we got past the first two weeks of constant family and friends, funeral home meetings, and the funeral itself, I began immediately searching for a purpose to this pain. If I believed God was a good God, that He was sovereign, and that He was going to redeem this, then I had to find purpose in all this yucky grief mess.

I began reading anything I could get my hands on. I flowed in and out of all the stages of grief except for anger.  Anger hasn’t come… Not yet, anyway. I dug into books, songs, and God’s word. I prayed and I cried, and prayed, and listened and cried. I leaned in, and then leaned out only to reel myself back, leaning into the Lord. I began to grow frustrated with what he was doing and why he wasn’t showing me what I longed to see.

People said, “Oh, your tragedy is making a difference in so many lives,” My response to God was, “Why my son? Why did you have to use my son?” And clear as could be, I heard him say, “Brittany, do you think my mom wanted to carry the savior of the world? Do you think she wanted to watch her son die a miserable, painful, unimaginable death for your sins?” Continue reading →

Are They Hungry?

by Diane Nix

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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  Matthew 5:6 (NASB)

It is safe to say that the Nix’s love to eat!  We are not bashful about it one bit. Meal time was always an important part of the day in the Nix household.  It was filled with much laughter and just plain craziness.

When the girls were small we didn’t need to delay dinner.  If the meal was late, then it was important to give them a small snack or we would have a full blown meltdown.  Food was a very important part of their emotional well-being.  When hunger struck, we needed a plan in place or there was not going to be laughter or craziness, but rather tears and wailing.  The physical hunger drove them to extreme emotional outbursts!

I have been struck by the fact that most of us in the U. S. are not really hungry. I’m not writing about the hunger for physical food. I know in fact, that many Americans are physically hungry at this very moment. Physical hunger has driven many to desperate measures.

I am writing and wrestling with the fact that we are generally fat on religious knowledge.

In truth, I believe my generation is religiously fat and apathetic. Apathy is a killer and causes us to want to stay in our “holy huddles”. We have allowed the enemy to help us breathe a sigh of relief that we are NOT like those sinners.  We live righteously, but we check the righteousness off a list that can become legalistically Pharisaical.

Recently, I have attended a few churches that are more concerned with the appearance they have in the community rather than the impact they have upon their community. Continue reading →

A Letter to My 4-Year-Old Twins (GIVEAWAY Closed)

by Shelby Vafinis

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Dear Wonderful, Energetic, Delightful, Dramatic, Exhausting 4-Year-Old Twins,

Life with you is… a whirlwind. You are so active that you hardly ever slow down for a nap anymore, even on days when every fiber of my being is crying out for one. You need me constantly, and yet you long to be so independent — often at the most inconvenient times imaginable, of course. You say so many funny things, and I know I should record them somewhere, but there’s no way I could ever keep track of them all. You try to read nearly every sign at the grocery store, and you succeed so often that it scares me a little. And when you spot “ICE,” you’re not above bursting out into a rousing rendition of “Ice Ice Baby…” which sure brings me some interesting looks!

Every day I tell you how glad I am that you’re mine. How I wouldn’t trade you two for anything in this whole world. That you are gifts to me from the hand of a good, good Father. And at night, when I sneak up to your room to check on you, I gently push your hair back from your faces and kiss your soft plump cheeks. I see your chests rising and falling, and I am just so incredibly thankful.

It’s not hard for my mind to drift back to a day not all that long ago when I sat in a waiting room, praying that we would see a heartbeat from both of you at my appointment, week after week. And then rejoicing like a crazy person every time we did.

My pregnancy with you was a wild experience. I went from wondering if I was losing a baby, being nearly convinced I had in fact lost one, and praying feverishly for God to spare the life of the baby who might still be alive in my womb. Then, finding out that there were actually two of you in there! I watched your blurry images on the screen through tears of joy, delighted to see that both of you were alive and well.

My joyful tears were suddenly replaced with desperate cries for God to save your lives, as we learned you were a particularly risky type of twins to be carrying.

Through it all, your Dad and I came face to face with the reality of God’s sovereignty in a very real way. It was nothing like we had ever before encountered. We were completely out of control of everything, just like we actually always have been, but this time the feeling of helplessness was palpable.

And then you came — suddenly, violently, frighteningly — you came, in the middle of the darkest night, at 29 weeks and 4 days. I will never forget shaking uncontrollably, praying for God to spare your lives. I was so afraid I would lose you. I would not let myself Google anything about prematurity or Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, the reason you had to come so soon. And I sure couldn’t research anything about low birth weight, because one of you weighed 1 lb 15 oz, and the other was 2 lb 14 oz. I don’t even know how long you measured — the scene was so chaotic that I never knew for sure. Continue reading →

A New Season

Brigitte Harrison

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It seems at this time of year everyone is experiencing something new!

On Monday, August 29th, I drove my son to school for his first day of second grade. As we pulled into the parking lot, I said to him, “Cade, would you like me to walk you to your class?” His response, “No thanks Mom. Just drop me off.”

My heart sank. I have walked him to his classroom on the first day of school every other year thus far. I did as he asked and drove away with a heavy heart.

This was a new experience. Sometimes new is hard and good at the same time.

In talking with friends, this theme is everywhere!

  • Kids are taking the bus for the first time.
  • Moms have started new jobs.
  • Others are first-time empty nesters.
  • It’s the first year that all kids are in school all day.
  • Some families have gone from homeschooling to public school, while others are the exact opposite.

Whatever your NEW experience is, it can cause all sorts of feelings to rise up. Whether your feelings are excitement or anxiety, one thing is for sure, we are all stepping into the unknown. Not one of us has been in this exact place before, that’s what makes it new. 

Deuteronomy 31:6, 8 reads…

Vs. 6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or tremble for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

Vs. 8 He goes ahead of you

What assurance God gives and what compassion He has expressed! I love these verses!

In this passage, we find the Israelites (God’s chosen people) getting ready to enter the land God had promised them many years before. However, their leader, Moses cannot go with them. (That’s another story, but well worth reading!) What a sea of emotions they must have been feeling. Excitement, because they have been looking forward to their own land for so long. Nervousness, because the person they have looked up to cannot lead them any further. Fear, because they don’t know what this new land will be like or the obstacles that may come.

All new seasons of life or new adventures bring to us the element of the unknown. It’s at the very beginning that we must decide to either TRUST God and step out in faith, OR not step out and miss out on whatever God has for us.

These verses are telling us to be strong and courageous, because we know and are trusting in God. We cannot trust in ourselves, but continually trust in the one who made us. This continual trust leads us to a deeper faith.

Continue reading →

Teaching Our Children Biblical Finances

by Amy Wootton

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Moms have “to-do lists”. We get things done! Our lists include doing the laundry, tying shoes, wiping messes… and bottoms, giving baths, fixing hair, chauffeuring the kids all over the Western Hemisphere, kissing boo boos, singing ABCs, cutting food into bite-size pieces and trying to keep our kids entertained. Most importantly, we aim to teach our children about Jesus and how truly incredible He is! The list sometimes seems endless! But do you have anywhere on your list, “teach my children how to view and handle money”?

Now, I realize talking about money may not be the spiritual uplift you were searching for today, but hear me out. Jesus talks a lot about money! Many of His parables were about finances alone. I read that there are more than 2,000 verses about money in the Bible. Money is a big deal! How we, as His children, manage it is an even bigger deal. Our babies get their first course in finance 101 from us. We not only need to teach it by what we say, but also by what we do.

Have you ever been aimlessly roaming down the beloved aisles of Marshalls, TJMaxx, or HomeGoods and you keep discovering all these adorable things? Something inside of us begins to salivate. We turn into Veruca Salt from Willey Wonka and break out into “I want the world, I want the whole world”. We want the shoes, the purse, the fancy Parisian soap, the delectably smelling candles, the new picture frame and the cute polo shirt for our husband. Not to mention all the furniture we want to load up in our trunks and use to renovate our homes!

But in moments like those, it is important to step back from the sliding doors, put down the dress, and evaluate both our desires and our wallets. Are we buying things in an attempt to find some form of contentment? Are we exemplifying wisdom and self-control in our purchases? Are we financially able to make these purchases without causing damage to our bank accounts, marriages, or our own security? Believe it or not, our children are watching how we spend our money, and what we do impacts how they might manage their finances in the future. 

Now let me clarify, if you can afford it, and do not allow spending to control you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying things! I repeat, nothing wrong!  It is so much fun to go to the store and get a new (you fill in the blank). The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3 that we are to enjoy the fruits of our labor, because they are gifts from God! I imagine the same way we adore watching our children’s eyes light up when they get something new, God also loves watching His daughters proudly put on a new pair of earrings or finally buy those new jeans we have been wanting. But we still need to make sure we are being good stewards of what He has entrusted us and pass on these foundational principles to our kids.

This is a big job and one that I want to succeed in. The last thing I want is for my three little girls to grow up with the mentality they can spend whatever, whenever and however with no consequences. They need to understand the order of give, save, spend, mixed with hard work and wisdom. I want my girls to know that contentment doesn’t come in a size 8 1/2 shoe, but their fulfillment, joy and purpose comes from Christ alone.

A while ago, I was sitting in the den after everyone had gone to bed. I began to think about some of the things I wanted for our home; a sofa table, patio furniture, etc. I was then reminded that even when I get everything checked off my “wish list” and get my house exactly like Pinterest tells me it should be (if that is even possible), it isn’t going to bring me real joy.

The Lord then so beautifully dropped in my heart that familiar verse in Matthew that says “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…” What an incredible verse to apply to our finances. Seek first His kingdom! Handle money God’s way. Be obedient to God’s Word and give your tithes and offerings cheerfully and consistently. Pay your bills and work hard to be indebted to no one. Save wisely for the future. Be generous with others (this doesn’t always involve money). Enjoy life and buy that new shirt. And finally, be content with what you have because it’s all a gift from God. These principles are priceless for our sweet kids not only to be told, but to watch right before their cute little eyes. We are raising up the future, so let’s lead well! Continue reading →

What I Learned in a Season of Darkness

by Lee Stewart

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I think the farther you get from a particular season, the more clearly you see it sometimes.

That’s why your grandmother is telling you to cherish each moment with your baby, even while your eye bags are huge and your shirt is covered in spit up. She’s ignoring all that because she’s just looking at YOU. She looks at you and your 30-something self, but her mind sees the baby version of you. She knows all she did was blink and you had a baby of your own.

That’s why your friend with four kids is looking at you with your one kid and saying, “You’ve got this, mama!” And she might even sound like she’s saying, “No biggie. Just wait till you have more.” But she’s not. She just wants you to know you can find your footing, even when you feel maxed out.

But sometimes we’re not just in a busy season, or in the midst of a new journey. Sometimes we’re in a season of darkness. And that was me in 2015. My outer world went on as usual in many ways, but my inner world was another story. And I guess that’s usually how it goes during these seasons. We put on our brave face for others and then go home to our rooms and fall apart.

So if you’re in the throes of some darkness right now—a place where you feel like you fall more than you stand, where you grow weary faster than you grow joyful.

If you’re overwhelmed by things that you think are not overwhelming to other people. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night and overcome with fear. If you can’t go back to sleep because your mind goes to darker places than the darkness in your room. If you deal with resentment. If your tiredness feels a lot like sadness. If you have the right information, but still you lack the clarity.

If you just can’t seem to SEE.

Tell a friend to pray for you. Risk yourself for the healing. Your friends love you more than you think.

Talk to your doctor or a counselor. If you sense there may be more going on than you can pinpoint on your own, then seek professional help. This is often a last resort for people, but it doesn’t have to be.

Read the Psalms! They will sharpen you and empathize with you at the same time.

Admit the hurt. Don’t compare your struggles to someone else’s. This season is hard for YOU. I think the longer I spend comparing hardships, the longer I take to tackle my own stuff. Comparisons may help you gain perspective. But if they keep you from moving forward, then they aren’t helping. Continue reading →

The Quiet Life that Shakes the Heavens

by Lindsey Wingo

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I’ve spent many moments with the Lord over the past five-and-a-half years telling Him the truth about how I feel some days as a mother. Though I know in my head what I do day in, day out is not worthless and has much meaning, I can’t help but sense the nagging fear that I’m wasting my life away making peanut butter sandwiches and cleaning up tiny specks of play dough. But I can honestly say that just like Hagar experienced in the dessert, God has seen me and He has met with me in those moments.

As I’ve studied scripture I’ve always been drawn to the lesser known women God used for His glory. Lately I’ve been struck by one woman in particular; her name was Huldah.

Huldah is only mentioned twice in all of the Bible (two accounts of the same story), and she only takes center stage for a few verses. But her story speaks volumes to my weary heart.

Huldah lived in a time when God’s people had turned their hearts far from Him and worshiped the gods of the pagan nations surrounding them. They lacked godly leadership politically and spiritually. The temple where their ancestors had worshiped the Lord was in shambles. God’s Word had been hidden away for years unread, and consequently, disreguarded. During this time God raised up a young king who had a heart for Him in spite of his heritage. This young king’s name was Josiah. Josiah led the charge in tearing down the altars used for idol worship and cleaning out and repairing the temple. During this process the priest discovered God’s Word hidden among the rubble. When Josiah heard the Word of God read for the first time he was devastated, and he sent Hilkiah the priest to “go and enquire of the Lord” on behalf of his people.

Who did Hilkiah go to for this word from the Lord? Huldah the prophetess. Huldah tells Hilkiah God’s warning against His people who had turned their hearts from the Lord and from His Word, but she also gave a favorable word to King Josiah. After that scene Huldah is never mentioned again in scripture.

Huldah was the wife of Shallum who was the “keeper of the wardrobe.” It is reasonable to assume she was probably a seamstress herself. Her life was not glamorous, it was most likely filled with repetition and she definitely didn’t seem to be acclaimed for her daily work. But when the king needed a word from the Lord, she was the one the priest and the king’s men went to. That did not happen by chance. She must have had a reputation for her wisdom and intimacy with the Lord.

As I’ve pondered Huldah’s story in light of my life as a mother, I have come away challenged and encouraged. I’d like to share a couple of things I believe we can learn from Huldah, this woman of great faith and discernment. Continue reading →

Training In Truth—Raising Faithful Christ-Followers

Guest Post by Virginia Roberts

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August has always been one of my favorite months. As a child, I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait to go back to school after playing “teacher” with my stuffed animals all summer. I enjoyed buying new school supplies and organizing them, finding out which friends were in my classroom, and picking out the perfect outfit for the my first day of the year. As an adult I still enjoy the fresh start of a new school year and usually celebrate by purchasing a new planner. Despite all the excitement this past month my heart has been burdened.

I honestly have struggled in writing this post more than anything else I have written. The main reason is because the topic on my heart is a heavy one; it isn’t flowery, girly, or necessarily “positive and encouraging.” I have spent a lot of time listening, reading, studying, thinking, praying, and wrestling with this topic for nearly a year now. With that said…please hear what God has laid on my heart.

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The first time I saw this picture it gripped my heart and it still sends chills down my spine. It is a glimpse of the reality of what is happening on the other side of the world. The Islamic State group has boasted in preparing more than 500 children for suicide and combat missions against American targets. Some of these children are as young as 6 years old. In these training camps the next generation of ISIS is being intentionally and systematically indoctrinated into the religion of Islam. It is sobering to realize that these children have been trained to fight and die for their cause—which is built on a foundation that is a LIE.

What’s even sadder is that we hold the very TRUTH of God yet we are often so casual with training up our next generation in spiritual matters.

As believers, we know that the only thing in this life that truly matters is what we do with Jesus, however our lifestyles often show something quite to the contrary. We spend tens of thousands of dollars to put our kids in the best schools and give them every opportunity to become top scholars. We place great pressure on our kids to perform and create a detailed plan on how to make them the next Michael Phelps or Simone Biles. This often involves endless hours of practice, traveling, and competition – much of which takes us away from valuable time at church and with the body of Christ. We fill our calendars then wonder why we have so little margin in our life for training our children in righteousness. We in the Western church have reduced our faith to occasional Bible stories, coloring sheets, and spotty church attendance.

Our kids deserve far more than to simply be entertained; they deserve to be trained in the Truth.

Continue reading →