Oh Summer, I Love Thee

Let me count the ways.

I love the slower pace. I love ice cream. I love working out. I love a cleaned up yard. I love flowers. I love watching the kids swim. I love movies. I love walks with the kids and chatting with neighbors in the cool of the day. I love reading books. I love reading books. I love reading books. LOL

I love opening the sun roof on our super-sassy minivan and pumping up the bass on Kirk Franklin’s “Revolution” as the kids scream, “OOAH! OOAH!” (I don’t really know how to type out that sound, but I’ll bet if you’ll go listen to that song, you’ll figure it out.)

I love impromptu dinners with other families when they come over and bring what they have and I haven’t cleaned the house. I love when my hubby takes the girls on Triple Daughter/Daddy Dates to Sonic to get a coke. And I love how even when I say I don’t need anything, he goes ahead and gets me a milkshake. And I drink it all.

I love the chance to go to the lake with my family and watching the kids with their cousins. It is an all-or-nothing experience. There are sometimes 20 people sleeping under one roof. The kids are never guaranteed a bed and they don’t care. They love exploring the barns, of which they affectionately renamed The Kids Only Club. Summer is for reconnecting with family. And we’ve been blessed with great family on both sides.

I love that we can take naps at 9:30 in the morning if we want. I love making a list of to-do’s that the girls have to complete before they watch TV. You know those giant math consumables their teachers send home with them at the end of school??? We use them! For a moment in time, I feel like a super-intentional mom.

I love that summer gives me freedom to try new things. Last night I sat on the turquoise bench my husband made out of a bedframe his grandfather made many decades ago. I sat there with a cup of hot tea and read a book. And I started to cry because I was looking at the grass and it was so beautiful to me. I hadn’t even mowed it yet! I was moved by our imperfect yard with a whole variety of grasses and weeds growing. But they’re all green, so whatever, right??? The bench on which I was resting my rear hadn’t even been dusted. I didn’t even care. I could BREATHE. I could HEAR. I could FEEL the blessing of God allowing me to experience a moment to refresh my soul. And there were no mosquitoes. So I know that we are living in the will of God. Haha! Summer brings some of that out in me.

I love summer because it reminds me that God created a season where all of nature shouts, “THRIVE! BLOOM!” And it feels sooo good!

We want to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post!

Sibling Love

Sibling Love

Editor’s Note: This is a post from a couple of years ago. Teaching the value of loving our siblings is important. This is a great post to revisit as we begin summer!

When we really stop and think about the people who have impacted our life, there are certain qualities that they all have.

They show care: when you’re hurting, they’re there to see what they can do to help.

They show concern: when they see something is different in your life, they ask you about it. They’re concerned for who you are, what you’re going through and what you need.

They display kindness. They let you choose first. They give you gifts out of kindness. They speak words of encouragement over you. They smile and are welcoming. You feel and know their kindness.

Care, concern, and kindness mark the people who impact us. As I think about my boys and raising them, I’m keenly aware of who I want them to become. But I’m also aware that more is caught than taught. I’ve been asked many times, “Do your boys really like each other?  Are they really friends?”  The answer is yes.

Although friendships are never easy, especially within a home, when we model healthy friendships, it rubs off onto our kids. When we show care, concern and kindness, our children learn this as the norm.  When we remind our kids that we are people who show care, concern and kindness, it helps them remember to “be”not to “strive for “—those attributes.

Parenting isn’t easy, but really everything worth doing has its challenges.

I’d rather fight the battle at home and raise men who impact the world, than make excuses for why my children are unkind, self-consumed, and careless. How about you?

Practical To-Do’s for Siblings:
– Always say sorry
– Always say I forgive you
– Always hug it out (sometimes I make my boys sit on the couch and hug each other, or hold hands until they stop fighting…some days that’s worse than a spank)
– Remind them they will always be best friends
– Play together
– Work together
– Pray for each other
– Show gratitude and say thank you to each other

Here’s a few cheap summer activities for you and your kids:
* Go get snow cones
* Buy a decent, over-the-door basketball hoop and shoot hoops indoors
* Make tents out of blankets in your living room and watch movies, read books, have tea parties inside it
* Pour all the Legos out in the living room and build a gigantic Lego fortress
* Visit Palo Duro Canyon
* Run through the sprinklers
* Use mini marshmallows and toothpicks to build mini-tower structures
* Bubbles… all ages love bubbles
* Fly a kite
* Build an obstacle course through the house or in the backyard
* Watch your favorite sports team and make up chants
* Play video games
* Get a month free subscription to Netflix
* Have a sleepover in the living room
* Laugh a lot
* Enjoy the ones God gave you

I love my boys, as I know you love your kids. May we continually remember what precious gifts they are to us and that God has picked you to mother the children he’s given to you, and me to mother the boys given to me.

Be blessed my sweet friends, enjoy your kiddos and enjoy the summer.

This post was written by Julie Snellgrove. To read more about her, click here.

Made To Love

Editor’s Note: May is National Foster Care Month. It’s a time to recognize that we each can play an important part in enhancing the lives of children and youth in foster care.

I’ll never forget the evening I spent packing up my first foster loves’ clothes for the last time. They were going to their “real” home. And my heart was broken.

I fully believed that this was God’s plan.

I knew they were in good hands; their family loved them. But man did it hurt saying goodbye! I put a smile on my face, and I hugged and kissed them, and when an unexpected tear ran down my face,  I explained it away. “They were happy tears.” I was just so happy they were going to be with their mommy. That is what we had been working and praying so hard for! And God had been preparing my heart for this day for years.

Before I welcomed my own babies into this world, God shared 2 others with me. Though only briefly, they were mine and I’ll love them forever. But for reasons beyond my understanding, God needed them in heaven. After reflecting on that, it made perfect sense. He was teaching me how to love someone with my whole heart and hand them back over to Him. 

I wrestled with the thought of this silently for a long time. I had many conversations with God about how I was not foster mom material. They were something like:

“I’m just a regular person. I can’t save these kids.” He said, “You were never made to be their savior. You were made to love them.”

“But I am far from a perfect parent. I make mistakes daily.” He replied, “Your job is to be present not perfect. You were made to love them.

But it will be so hard…I will get attached. How can I let them go?” He answered, “Yes it will be hard but it will be worth it. And you will never be alone. You were made to love them.”

I was given this verse and man did it hit me!

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

What God told me was all these expectations I had put on myself of what the perfect parent was supposed to be, didn’t matter. He wanted to use me in some of the most difficult situations these kids will have to live through. My job is not to be perfect, just to show them His perfect love and to love them so much it hurts, because they deserve it!

One Sunday the sermon jumped out and slapped me in the face. I will paraphrase because as far as I’m concerned this was what I was supposed to hear.

When you step out and follow your calling it’s not going to be easy. Get over yourself and the fears that tell you you’re unworthy. It’s going to be uncomfortable…do it anyway.

Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Ok God, I hear you.

That day Brandon and I went for lunch and randomly he brought up the idea of fostering. I think he was a bit shocked when I jumped right on it. I explained how this had been laid on my heart as well and how I had secretly been looking into an agency already.  

We later had a conversation with our kids. This decision would change their world, too. How would they feel about sharing us? Will they understand the why? The answer was yes! Our son said “Mom, if we can show 1 kid that there is good in the world and teach them how we love, then we have done our job.” He gets it!

Fast forward to the heart wrenching day Brandon and I had to send home our 2 foster loves. By the end of the day we had received 2 calls from our agency; more children were needing homes. We were faced with a hard decision. Who do we take next, and how can you choose?! There are children right here in our community that are hungry, neglected and feel alone. God calls us to rise up and love them.  

Our world has been flipped, tripped and thrown upside down. And what a blessing it has been! We are planting seeds of love in their hearts and although we may never see the end results, we are doing what we were called to do. We were made to love.

We want to thank Misty Rowell for writing this blog post!

Gardening from the Heart

Genesis 1:11-12
“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’  And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”

As I prayed about what to share about my garden and my experiences with gardening, my heart was continually drawn to look at the heart of the one true Gardener… God!

God has created each of us to plant our own gardens with His seeds. He has directed us to plan, prepare, plant and enjoy time in the garden, live in freedom, and enjoy our lives! 

In scripture, God refers to seeds as His words that are not perishable seeds, but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

Just as God has given us His seeds (words) to plant, sow, water and nourish, He has also given us talents to plant and grow flower gardens for beauty or vegetable gardens for nourishment. Which ever garden you desire, here are a few tips to help you design and grow your gardens.

Gardening tips : Easy Gardening 

  • Make a plan – Find a space – Check out amount of time for sun or shade in that space.
  • Check out Better Homes and Garden – Free garden plans (5 Easy Garden Plans ) or other websites.
  • Prepare – Clean it up and add necessary nutrients with fertilizer, compost and/or garden soil.
  • Flowers – Look around your neighborhood, visit with professionals or friends or check out Pinterest. 
  • Head to Nursery – Read the cards – Annuals vs. perennials – Sun vs. shade.
  • Budget – Know what you can afford and shop around! Sometimes people are thinning out their flowers and you can get free flowers – start from seed if you have time.
  • Plant – use a variety, mix colors and textures, add rocks or other decorative items.
  • Feed/Water – Water daily and feed once a month (dry fertilizer).
  • Deadhead – Cut off dead flowers. This allows for a second flush to develop. Weed. Add or move flowers as needed.
  • Mulch – Helps to control weeds and holds moisture.

My encouragement to you is: as you plant flowers and seeds in your gardens this Spring and Summer, take time and speak to the Ultimate Gardener and ask where your spiritual seeds can be planted! 

…Be patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2) as you wait on The Lord for His seeds (words) to flourish in the hearts of the people God places on your heart. The Lord will bless your efforts as you design, plant, nurture and love your gardens.

“The glory of gardening: 
          hands in the dirt,
          head in the sun, 
          heart with nature.
To nurture a garden
          is to feed not 
          just on the body,
          but the soul.”
                           Alfred Austin

Happy Gardening!

We would like to thank Bambi Lutrick for writing this post!

The Unexpected Expiration Date: Divorce

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

Every story is different. He cheated, she cheated, finances, loneliness, abandonment, alcohol, drugs, mental and physical abuse, etcBut such stories end with an unintentional expiration date leaving many women not knowing where to turn.

We had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary when a series of events began to unravel that revealed betrayal, defrauding, and sexual immorality. At one point, there were hopes of reconciliation, but a turn of events left our family shattered, in shock, and broken. 

No one gives us a book on how to be divorced when we first get married, yet community and family love to tell us how we should act or how we should “handle” our situation.  NOTHING can prepare a woman of faith for the demise of wearing The Scarlet Letter: D among your believer friends and family. 

I did not know how to be single.  It was so difficult to hang out with a singles Sunday School class.  Even being divorced, I did not feel single.  I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO BE DIVORCED. 

What I discovered after being raised in a church community is the church community is “family-centered”.  The divorced single is not always the most welcome in a “family community”.  The adjustment is not easy. I hated being alone. 

What I did discover through the guilt, the anger, the bitterness, and the daily emotional roller coaster was that I learned to embrace something new I had not known. And that was SILENCE.  And in that silence with God and his ultimate stillness, I just learned to listen and let God be God. There were no dramatic downpours of spiritual renewals, but stillness and peace became my comfort and solace at night when coming home from work that finally granted me SLEEP I had not experienced in a long time. 

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

When I learned to BE STILL and LISTEN, I learned to embrace SILENCE and hear God’s words and voice for my life. I became a better person and a better mom to my college age girls. I asked God to use what I had gone through to help others find their way through this path of divorce, so they would not feel so alone as believers. 

No matter your story Women of Faith, JESUS PRAYS FOR YOU when you don’t know what to say or where to turn. 

Even as a believer, when you don’t know what or how to pray, Christ intercedes and prays for us. His grace is bigger than our insufficiencies.

“I have prayed for you” Luke 22:32

“Jesus prays for you as well” John 17:11, 20

There must be a recovery and restoration of YOU. RAISE the BAR for yourself and expectations of relationships.  

“You are precious and honored in my sight, and I love you” Isaiah 43:4

Don’t settle for less than God’s best for YOU.  There is life after divorce.  There is HOPE.  

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” Jeremiah 29:11

No matter how difficult the situation, FORGIVENESS must take place in your heart.  The need to SALVAGE (not required to go back into a relationship, but gain insight and understanding) a relationship when there can be no RESTORATION to the relationship…Pastor Brad, Sept. 2018

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for those who love God….” Romans 8:28

I finally realized that I was OKAY being alone and understood the basis of truly relying on Christ instead of another human being for my happiness.  When I came to that place after being single for 5 years (went back to school for Ph.D.) following 25 years of marriage, the Lord allowed me to meet Chris Buford.

And a new chapter in my life began……  

We would like to thank Debra Flournoy-Buford for writing this blog!

You Can’t Rush God’s Promises

During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2018. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2018!

Editor’s Note: This semester women from our three campuses have read Titus 2 and shared what God placed on their heart. May you be encouraged and challenged to connect with God and the power of His presence in this season of your life.

Ten months ago, Brent and I decided to try adoption again.  Our hearts were ready.  The timing was good.  Johnny would be 3 when Baby would arrive, so they could share a room.  The girls are the perfect age and would be so helpful.  He and Johnny would be best buds.  They’d play dinosaurs, giggle, and wrestle.  I had dreams.  After our first international adoption attempt, we said that we wanted to have the next one “handed over to us”.  This one was.  How could this not be God?  Doors kept opening, so we kept walking.

My husband was apprehensive the first three months.  We sought counsel from God, family, friends, attorneys, etc.  Over the next few months, I went to sonograms and grew a relationship with the birth mom.  After four months, Brent finally decided this baby boy was going to be our 4thchild.   Two days later, the birth mom started having complications.  We immediately texted our support system asking for prayers and wisdom.  Liam Jacob was born at 23 weeks and went to be with Jesus that same day.  I’ve never experienced pain like that before.

The joy I had was sucked right out of me.  How could this be God?  I felt angry at Him.  “We’ve been faithful.  We’ve done everything right.  Why are you taking this away from us?” I just didn’t understand.  I felt alone.

The devil knows when we are vulnerable, and his subtle deceiving whispers walked me into a season of fear, anxiety, and stress.  I didn’t notice it at first.  I just felt disappointed, confused, and embarrassed by another unsuccessful adoption.  “God, why do we feel called to adopt when it’s not working?”  When our birth mom was in the hospital contracting the night before Liam was born, I went up at ministry time during Core to receive prayer.  I tried to be strong, but I was disappointed.  That night God brought some healing and comfort through the prayers of my friends.

But after Liam passed away, unhealed emotional wounds became a stronghold in my life.  Ladies, we need to expose the devil when his lies feel true.  Find a few ladies that you trust, be honest and let His light shine into your situation. I couldn’t have done this alone. God has given us the gift of community. Throughout this process I received advice, wisdom, and guidance from friends.  I’ve been a recipient of what Titus 2 is supposed to look like because the ladies in my life have taken Titus 2 seriously.  What did that look like?

  • The book a friend gave me on miscarriages.
  • The hug another gave me.
  • The text to check on how I was doing.
  • The encouragement from another friend, “God wants you to know He hasn’t given up on this dream, so you don’t either.”
  • The prayer from another, “Allow disappointment to happen.  You don’t have to guard your heart.”
  • The spoken words of my Father to me, “I am faithful. Your plans pale in comparison to what I have for you.  Keep trusting deeper.”

Does it hurt? Yes.  Is it sad? Yes.  Did it bring Brent and me closer? Yes.  Is my relationship with my Father any different because my trust in His plan didn’t work out? Yes.  It’s actually stronger, because I’m certain He has a better plan for us.  

When we guard our heart and mind in truth, we won’t be shaken.  When we call upon the name of the Lord, we won’t be shaken.  Titus 2:13-14 reminds me that we can have hope.  We find peace, worth, and infinite value in our Lord.  You will endure hardships and the Lord WILL be with you.  Don’t lose hope, Friend. He’s got this!

We would like to thank JuLea Bouma for this post.

Seeking the Healer, Not Just the Healing

**During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2018. We hope these will encourage you and connect to your heart. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February 2018!

Editor’s Note: This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

You know that plan for your life? The one you’ve been dreaming about since you were a little girl? Mine somewhat looked like: getting married to a great man, having a job so great it didn’t feel like a job, and having two, maybe three kids by the time I was thirty, three years apart max. Does that saying, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans” ring a bell?

The married a great man part, nailed it!

The having a job so great it doesn’t feel like a job, I’ve got that one in the bag.

The two, maybe three kids by the time I’m thirty, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, we have been INCREDIBLY blessed with an all boy, ornery, “just like his daddy”, fun, three year old after an incredibly traumatic miscarriage and two years of longing for that positive pregnancy test, and we are SO thankful for him.

But who knew you could still battle infertility after having a successful pregnancy? I didn’t. But, here we are again. The sting is just as fierce as the first go round, and the hurt is just as deep, but seeking God and His plan over my own has left me in a true state of peace.

We all have that one thing, or maybe more than one, that we want healing from. Whether it be a life altering disease, a broken marriage, a financial situation, the broken heart of losing a loved one, an addiction… mine is infertility.

Mark 5:34 says, “Jesus said to the woman, ‘You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain’ ”. This has been a comforting passage for me over and over again, but I remember a particular morning during Sunday morning worship, crying as I asked God, “Why have you not fulfilled the desires of my heart? Why have I been left unhealed? I have always had faith in you and give you the glory!” I heard Him whisper, “Seek me. Not just the healing that I can provide you.” You might as well have knocked me over physically, because I was floored! Isn’t that our human nature though?

I’ll follow God, so then I’ll be blessed.

I’ll tithe my first 10%, so I’ll reap a hundred fold.

I’ll praise His name, so that I may be healed.

And the list goes on.

But what if we stopped looking for our own benefit and just started following, praising, seeking and loving God above all else just because He is God and he is GOOD!?

Trust me, I’m preaching to the choir here, we are in the same boat ladies. I mean, of course I want God to show me His plan for my family, give me the joy of a second child, and bless my family like only He can, but my trust in Him and His perfect and detailed plan has to be based on how good He is and how he loves me, not what He can do for me, because let’s be real, He’s already given me His all.

That true state of peace I talked about earlier? It has been found during this time of my life when I have decided to quit dwelling on the things I don’t have yet, and thanking God for the things He has blessed me with. Seeking His mercy on the days that I fall into that “why me” trap, His love when I worry about what or what doesn’t lie ahead, and His goodness everyday are a few of the things that keep me longing for the Healer, not just the healing.

I wish this was one of those stories that I could tell you that my prayers have been answered because of my trust in Him. But just because that hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean He is done and that His plan is not perfect.

Keep seeking, trusting, and loving Him. Because He is GOOD.

We would like to thank Beckah Hunt for writing this post!