Parenting

Just a mom?

You are more than just a mom. Those words actually make me wince.

Today is International Women’s Day and social media is all lit up with phrases like ‘you are more than just a mom, you are a woman, you can rule the world’. Hashtags like #girlboss #bossbabe #girlpower and #thisgirlcan constantly remind us that we can have our cake and eat it, that our identities are not found in the mouths we feed or in the nappies we change, but are found in the very core of our being, in our passions, gifts and talents.

As the next generation of powerful women, we are called to use our passions and become entrepreneurs, CEO’s, politicians and public speakers. We are women, hear us roar, and we are destined for greatness.

But what if you are destined to be a mother?

But what if you are destined to be a mother? What if, since you were a little girl, all you have dreamed of is holding your very own baby in your arms and raising a family?

What if you just wanted to be a mom?

I am a big advocate for women achieving all they can be and more, and I don’t want to offend anyone who thinks I don’t approve of their life choices. Your personal path in life is exactly that; personal. I love that women can run FTSE100 companies and manage to run a household at the same time. I love that women can hustle with the best of them in the board room then come home to read bedtime stories. I love that women can lead our country, do all these things and more, providing that they are happy and fulfilled while doing them.

As for me? I have always just wanted to be a mother. Sure I have talents; I am a voracious reader and as you might have guessed an avid blogger to boot. I love networking, communicating and being creative. I am passionate about writing, in pretty much any form, from web content for a client, to worship songs on my piano. But I don’t see myself as a writer who is also a mom, I see myself as a mom who is also a writer.

I don’t see myself as a writer who is also a mom,
I see myself as a mom who is also a writer.

Rightly or wrongly, motherhood is an identity that I truly identify with. I see it as less of a label and more of a mantle bestowed upon me by God Himself. Yes, there are days when I might gladly trade my beautiful children for wild animals, in the hope that the animals will be easier to control, but by and large, motherhood is, in my humble opinion, the greatest role I will ever have. And if you don’t agree with my thinking, then guess what? That is ok too!

Alongside my husband, I am responsible for shaping three little lives. I am responsible for keeping them safe while teaching them how to eat, drink, speak, dress and navigate this dark world in which we live. As a mother, my role is to ultimately prepare my children for life without me, and I don’t want this responsibility to fall on anyone else’s shoulders but mine.

I am so incredibly grateful for my self-employed businesses, which means I get the best of both worlds; the freedom to raise my family and the finances to help support our home lives. I love my work and I don’t take it for granted. But I do want to acknowledge the stay at home mom’s who have chosen to commit to the most incredible, selfless and, at times thankless, job of raising their family full time.

On International Women’s Day 2019, whether you are high flying career mom or homeschooling hippie mom, (or both!) please remember this:

You are not just a mom, you are a manager of a human being.

And that, my friend, is pretty awesome.

R

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Faith

Burning the candle at both ends

This is a topic that I feel hugely qualified to talk about. The craziness of life, juggling school runs and toddler tantrums while managing a family home and a writing business is a daily battle against the clock. I feel like I’m in a never ending episode of countdown with the second hand whittling away the minutes left in my day as I try to achieve my writing deadlines before ironing the uniforms for the next morning.

There are some days that I win my battle against the clock with remarkable aplomb, chores done, deadlines smashed way in advance and I find myself in the surprising state of relaxation, glass of wine in hand and Netflix on my laptop rather than Google Drive. There are others, however, that I fail miserably, forced to admit defeat as I fall asleep at the laptop and wake up in my fifth paragraph of ttttttttttttttttttttttttttt. I can’t count how many times I have wished for two or three 28 hour days in my week just to try and catch up with the mountainous laundry pile or clean my bathroom, much less spend time with my wonderfully supportive, long suffering husband.

But it’s just a season right? Burning the candle at both ends is an activity long endured and at times celebrated by hardworking parents who juggle life in order to provide security and stability for their family. A self confessed night owl who can’t function in the mornings before 7am, my days are frequently (and voluntarily!) fuelled by exorbitant amounts of caffeine that makes my evening routine far easier to bear.

This need to be awake and alert is not uncommon, and in fact God has recently been speaking to me a great deal about remaining just so in my daily walk with Him. I have found myself returning to the parables of the Ten Bridesmaids in Matthew 25 over and over again, and when it was preached on at church last week I realised that God obviously wants me to hear this, and hear it thoroughly. This story, told be Jesus, is of ten bridesmaids who were required to keep their lamps burning into the night so that they could welcome the bridegroom when he came unexpectedly to take his bride. Unlike my less successful evenings when deadlines beckon, the bridesmaids were able to sleep during the night while they waited but they had to be prepared and alert, lamps filled with oil, ready to receive the bridegroom at a moments notice.

The first point God whispered to my heart was that they wouldn’t have been able to be alert and ready if they weren’t first rested.

To expect someone to function fully at a moments notice in the night requires them to have had the right amount of rest beforehand, and God revealed to me that unless I am fully rested, finding my peace and fulfilment in Him, then I will never be able to fully function in the night; the dark world that I find myself in today.

Whether we like it or not, darkness reign on this earth, and night time has come. BUT there is a glorious dawn on the horizon, when our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ WILL come again to reclaim God’s creation and redeem His sons and daughters.

My friend, we are in dark times, and I believe that God would say to us that we need to be awake, alert and aware of what is going on around us, and in order to fully function at a moments notice, like the bridesmaids we need to be filled and fulfilled by God Himself on a daily basis.

Seek Him for your healing, seek Him for your spouse, seek Him for your financial miracle, seek Him for your children. Don’t allow previous disappointments and doubts for the future cloud your ability to seek first His face, to rest in His presence and be filled with every good thing that you need.

The second point God spoke into my heart was that without their lamps burning they wouldn’t have been able to see who was coming.

We are in dark times and the devil is on the rampage. You may be quietly going about your life, doing great things for the Kingdom of God, building your business or raising a family, but know this; the thief comes in the dead of night, to steal, kill and destroy. And he will do everything in his power to distract you and throw you off track. You need to make sure that your lamp is burning brightly so that you can illuminate the darkness and make sure that the person leading you forward is Jesus, no one else. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the devil cannot influence you. True, when we are born again he has no power over us, he cannot touch us, but he can cause us to doubt, to be distracted, to be delayed and ultimatley lead us on a path of self destruction without us even realising it.

My friend, as a believe you are the bride of Christ. You are His perfect, spotless, beautiful bride and He is coming back for YOU. Rest in Him, find peace and fulfilment in Him and Him alone, and keep your lamp burning bright so that you let the bridegroom and only the bridegroom come to claim you.

R x

 

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Faith

Expect persecution for the promise

Persecution is not a word we like to meditate on. This isn’t a topic for discussion over a cuppa and biscuit, it won’t bring you light relief at the end of a long day and it won’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

But it is promised.

Jesus Himself warned his faithful followers that they would be persecuted;

“If the world hates you, remember that they hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”

This warning is as real and relevant to us as Christ’s followers today as it was to the disciples of the early church.

The definition of persecution is hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; oppression. This means that anyone who receives negative comments, is the victim of malicious gossip, is excluded, or is subject to cruelty of any kind for their faith is persecuted.

There are many thousands of Christian men, women and children across the globe who have died or are dying for their faith right now. People who bravely stand up for their belief, refuse to surrender to extremist bullies and worship God in the face of the enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. May we never forget these precious people in our prayers, and may God rescue them from this world and bring them home to Himself.

But as I ponder their persecution, I wonder what this looks like for us, in a relatively safe western civilisation. Did you ever have a group of friends as school, college or work who took a dislike to you because you were different? Took offence at your impressive grades or rapid rise through the ranks? I understand that this playground style bad behaviour pales in comparison to the atrocities suffered by Christians worldwide as we speak… or does it?

What constitutes persecution or abuse in the Western world? Where do you draw the line of unacceptable social behaviour towards those who dare to be different? Because, effectively that is what we are called to be. As followers of Jesus we are called to be salt and light in a dark world, to preserve love, peace and patience, to promote good and extinguish evil. Like a struck match our faith is as the flame, bright and effervescent, burning in our hearts and casting a light around us for all to see.

But oh how quickly that flame can be extinguished, and not least when our light illuminates the darkness in another. Not least when our words convict those who know they should know better. Not least when our actions support the prompting of the Holy Spirit in another, making them uncomfortable. Because like it or not, we are all imperfect and we all need to change and grow, but this is rarely a comfortable process.

Our faith can waver as we face the loss of a friendship, a relationship or a business deal because we are different. Our steadfast feet can wobble as the persecution we are promised in the Bible is exacted upon us and the promises we read in the Bible don’t come to pass in our time frame.

But this is not how Jesus intends for us to live.

We need to remember that we are living in the end times. We need to cling to the hope we have in Jesus and remind ourselves that THIS IS NOT OUR HOME. We have an eternal home in heaven and we are merely passing through. When hopelessness hits, when financial ruin threatens and when health fails, don’t lose sight of all that God has planned for your life. The devil may think he has won the battle but we know who won the war. Hold you head up high, face your battle knowing that the angel armies themselves have got your back.

I love this quote. I read it earlier in the week and I think it is just so fitting for those who are in a battle right now;

An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus and keep aiming ~ (Unknown)

If you are in a situation at the moment that is dragging you down; a classmate who spreads malicious lies about you, a colleague that is making work a living nightmare, or the breakdown of a relationship because of your beliefs, stop and consider that God can and will use it to propel you in to your future.

He can work ALL things together for the good of those who love Him, and His promises are always Yes and Amen.

And then my friend, when we have battled our belittlers and prevailed against persecution, we will know and experience the very real promises of God.

R

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Faith

Fall in love with autumn

Autumn (or Fall to my American readers) is hands down my favourite season. There is nothing better than walking in the last of the summer sunshine breathing in the sweet smell of chestnut trees, my eyes feasting on the vibrant russets and golds all around me while savouring the crunch of fallen leaves beneath my feet. Creation sings and begs the world to gaze upon it’s beauty and, for me, there is simply no other season that compares.

While enjoying one of many walks through our local park recently, I couldn’t help but think how terribly sad it was that such beauty was temporary; that these exquisite trees who proudly displayed their autumnal décolletage were about to lose the very leaves that gave them this beauty. Furthermore, this beauty was at its most splendid right before it was lost.

When something is beautiful, attractive or successful we don’t like to let it go.

I have found that almost every autumn I have been faced with a difficult decision or experienced a turbulent time as a result of a change in attitudes of those around me, the environments that I am in or the circumstances that present to me. From redundancies to cancer scares and two house moves, the past autumn seasons have brought me to somewhat painful periods where I have fallen from the heady heights of a blissful summer holiday and hit the ground of reality with an unceremonious thud. As the beauty of health, home stability or financial security that defined me fell from my fingers I had two options – panic and scrabble around amongst the fallen leaves of my life, or embrace the new season and allow my heart and soul to rest and heal in the winter.

Because after winter comes spring.

The circle of life is perpetual, and as winter follows autumn, so spring will follow winter, and with it the promise of regeneration and new life.

Don’t be frightened of letting go of this season’s leaves. You are not defined by your job, the success of your latest deal, or the pay packet in your purse. You are not defined by the friends that support you or your marital status. You are not defined by your current health situation.

People will come and go in your life, health will improve and decline, love will ebb and flow, finances will increase and decrease and the only way to navigate the changes in life is to know when to let go of people, possessions and positions.

The Message Bible puts it this way;

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

9-13 But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

There is a time for everything, there is a time to gain and a time to lose, there are some friends that you have for a season and some you have for a lifetime. There are some positions and promotions that you must accept and many more that you must turn down, there are many doors that you could open but more still that you need to firmly close. My friend, if you are in a season of change, don’t panic. Embrace the pruning and the shedding, the dying away of the old and look forward to the new life that will spring forth in due course.

R

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Faith

What does your bloodline say about you?

I love my parents. I had an unconventional, if slightly turbulent childhood at times however if it wasn’t for my Mom and Dad I would not be here today, and for that alone I am so grateful! The picture perfect family of a married couple and their 2.4 children are so rare they are practically on the endangered species list. A couple who have made it to ten years of marriage are hailed as heroes as the divorce rates rise in 21st century Britain, however it is for good reason and in extreme cases for safety that some couples choose to or are forced to separate.

Over my three decades on this earth, I have learned that there are so many men and women, boys and girls who have lived through parent relationship breakdowns, abuse, neglect and the resulting dysfunctional family unit. It is not the norm to live at home with mom and dad, much less to have a good solid relationship with either. Secrets, lies and heartache are central to more families than ever, and the cycle simply keeps repeating as hurt people hurt people and we perpetuate the past for generations to come.

If you are dealing with the secrets of your past, processing the scars of abuse that happened so many years ago or are agonising over the heartbreaking split of your parents, please know that I am not going to write and tell you to that everything is going to be OK and to move on and forget about it. Your past pain is very real and very valid. You have every right to feel sad, anxious, depressed or even angry about what has happened and I would urge you to seek professional help and counselling to process things fully in the right way.

However, I want you to know that you are not defined by your parental bloodline.

Your parents are human. Humans mess up. They have done ever since that fateful day in the Garden of Eden when Eve persuaded Adam to sample fruits that were not his to take. Please understand that I am not making excuses for those who have hurt you, whether they let you down, neglected you, hit you, abused you or did all of the above to you or the ones you love. The mistakes made by your parents are not yours. They are not your fault, nor are they your burden to carry. My friend, I want to tell you that although our lives are indeed shaped by the circumstances that surround us, they do not define us and we can choose to change our mindsets and direct our lives in a different direction.

Your biological mother may have abandoned you at birth, your earthly father may have favoured the local pub over time spent with his child but beautiful one, you have a supernatural, heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally, perfectly and completely. God created YOU in your mother’s womb, He knew every detail of you whilst you were formed and has not taken His eyes off you ever since.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.” Jeremiah 1:5 NLT

‘You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.’ Psalm 139:13 NLT

Whether you know God or not, you have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus, who died on the cross for you. His death, His shedding of blood has given YOU a NEW BLOODLINE.

No longer are you known as the son or daughter of parents that failed you, if you accept what Jesus is offering – a relationship with God – you can have a new bloodline, a new heritage, with a perfect heavenly Father. You can be free of the guilt of your past, you can remove the shackles of shame that have bound you and kept you from experiencing a life lived to the full. Why? Because that it exactly why Jesus came to earth;

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 NIV.

I don’t want to belittle the burden you have carried during your life, I only mean to reassure you that there is a meaning and a purpose to your life regardless of the turbulent start or tumultuous journey you have faced. And the first step in discovering that purpose is surrendering your heart to Jesus Christ. I promise you, you will never regret it.

R

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Faith, Parenting

Enjoy the view from the harbour

Nowadays we are always in such a rush. We simply cannot wait to be independent; as children we can’t wait to walk, ride a bike, catch the bus to school alone, to start secondary school, learn to drive… the list goes on and on. It is human nature to want to be independent, to learn new skills and to survive under our own steam, and we fight against anything or anyone that holds us back.

I was reminded of this during our recent holiday to North Devon. We made a quick whistle stop at a gorgeous little harbour town to try to get some panoramic shots of the coast, and as I stood on the harbour walls looking out at the vast ocean the small stone harbour to the right of my view kept drawing my attention. The tide was in and the waves crashed against it’s rocky walls, creating great swathes of white froth fizzing around the base, however the waves within the harbour were lapping gently against the boats that were moored there.

“You feel so restricted sometimes,” God whispered to me. “Like those boats bobbing along in the harbour, my sons and daughters are full of potential, ready and raring to go on the next adventure on the wide open sea as they peek through the narrow harbour entrance and glimpse the promise of undiscovered territory. Yet like these boats they are held back by an anchor, hemmed in by a harbour and they feel impatient. I hold you back to keep you safe. Your faith in me is your anchor in uncertain waters. My Holy Spirit is the harbour that protects your bows from the crashing waves as the angels fight unseen battles in the spiritual realms.”

A smile spread across my face, as I thought of how many times I tell my own children that I am keeping them from harm when I tell them they can’t cross the road unsupervised or can’t play out alone.

If you feel like you are in a harbour, desperate to get out on the open waters, just stop a moment and consider that the waves rippling around your feet were buffeted by your heavenly Father before they ever reached you. Don’t be in a rush to move forward into what ever you feel God has put on your heart. If He called you to it, He will bring you through it, but first you must fix your eyes on him and wait for Him to say “Come”.

When the disciples were on their boat in the middle of Lake Galilee, I am sure they would have given anything to be back in the harbour, to have their vessel protected from the powerful tidal waves threatening to capsize them. But Jesus was there in the middle of the storm, and when He said “Stop” the waters stilled, when He said “Come” Peter was able to walk on the water. When the time is right and you are ready for that new venture or the next chapter in your story, Jesus will say the word. He will give the command and will direct your steps when it is time to walk out on those troubled waters. He will be your strength and your stay as you dive into depths you have never been to or swam out to unchartered territory, but just as Peter soon discovered, the key is keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus at all times. (Matthew 14:22-33)

But meanwhile, if you are in the harbour, just enjoy the view while you get ready, relax in the rippling waters and trust that God knows the timing for everything.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

R

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Faith, Parenting

The letter I wish I had read as a new mom

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Dear beautiful,

Congratulations! You have joined the prestigious, bleary eyed, milk stained, caffeine fuelled club that is motherhood.

Firstly I want to tell you to enjoy these precious few moments as a brand new family.

Ignore the phone, wave off visitors and bed down with your baby. Cherish each gurgle, each smile, each milestone. Hold your baby. Yes, I mean ignore the do-gooders who advise you not to carry them too much in case you spoil them, there is such a thing as the fourth trimester and baby-wearing has proven benefits for both mother and baby in these first few weeks. You don’t see 14 year olds being carried by their moms. This phase will pass as your child grows too big for you to carry so jolly well make the most of it now.

Your role as a mother will not define who you are.

This is an important statement for you to hold on to when you are knee deep in nappies and can’t remember the last time you looked in a mirror, much less brushed your hair. You are more than a cook and bottle washer, more than a cleaner and laundry attendant. You are an independent woman who is strong, confident, accomplished and gifted, no matter how you may doubt and question yourself. Can I really do this? Can I ever be good enough? Am I qualified? The answer to all these questions in God is yes. If He has called you to it He will bring you through it.

Rather than breaking new ground in ministry, just getting dressed and brushing your teeth is your greatest mission right now and that is OK. Your girlfriends are your world and social media helps you stay connected to fellow moms who are going through the same stages as you. These wonderful women that you have so much in common with will be the lifeline you need to sustain you through sleepless nights and tantrum-filled days so invest in your relationships even if only through midnight whatsapp messages and mid feed tweets.

Make your motions effect your emotions.

There will be days when you want to flop in a heap and sob uncontrollably after six days straight of sleep deprivation, and this is ok, but remember this too shall pass. Allow the hormonal (and non hormonal) emotions to wash over you but don’t wade in the waters of self pity. Ride that tidal wave like a boss and get yourself to the shore asap with positive attitudes and a lot of prayer. Also don’t take things to heart when your worries or opinions are not received the way you would like. You have a tendency to wear your heart on your sleeve a little too much so why not protect it and keep some things just between you and God. He knows your heart, He knows your desire to be loved, accepted and to belong which is why He sought you out to become a daughter of the King, part of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is also the reason He gave you a great marriage, a husband who knows you intimately and loves every part of you. A strong man who will uphold you and strengthen you in every area, a man who has got your back. Open your heart to him and to God first.

In the years to come you will face trials and tribulations but you will never be alone. God is with you, He is for you and He has gone ahead of you. You will overcome redundancies, health scares and depression. You will rise above doubts and dilemmas, bad decisions and bad behaviour. You will learn the difference between being a friend and being faithful and your personal faith will reach levels you never dreamed of.

Take courage and stand tall, the future is bright, you just need to believe it and grab it with both hands.

R

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Faith, Parenting

Are we ever really ready for parenthood?

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If someone had told me what motherhood was really like I wonder if I would have gone through with it.

Now don’t get me wrong,  I adore my sons and I would not part with them for all the world, however I don’t think I was entirely prepared for parenting. I am not talking about the sleepless nights associated with newborns,  or even the challenging tantrums that lasted way beyond the terrible twos, I am in fact talking about the huge heart wrenching responsibility of raising a little life. From the moment they were placed in my arms as wriggling newborns, my life and world was completely turned inside out and I was captivated by my sons, and my maternal instinct towards them flooded my soul.

My heart swells with pride whenever I think about my boys, they are both so individual and their smiles simply light up my day. Their personalities are so different yet so complimentary, and I love how they approach life so differently. The thought that my words and actions will mould them into the men they become is more than a little daunting however, and I reminded daily of how much I need to teach and invest in myself in order to do the same for them.

More than this though, I realise that it is external influences, often that are outside my control, that can have the greatest impact on and be the greatest threat to my children. When I look at them together, playing so innocently with no realisation about the atrocities committed across our city never mind our world, the fear I have for their safety, their happiness and their future in a somewhat hostile world just overwhelms me. I know that we are privileged to live in a civilised, democratic and relatively safe world, however the news tells a very different story with rapes, murders and most recently the horrific beheading of innocent victims from IS extremists being reported on a daily basis.

As a mother all I want to do is protect my children. They are literally my heart walking around outside my body, and they are on my mind every single minute of every single day. When they are not with me I want to know who they are with, where they are going and what they are doing. I want to know that they are safe, that they are happy and that they are not alone or afraid. My job as their momma is to love them, care for them, teach them and ultimately make everything okay but there are so many things I have cannot protect them from. I can deal with bad mouthed bullies or bumps and bruises, but how do I counteract the cowardly acts of criminals who seek to hurt and destroy? How do I protect them from fundamentalists and suicide bombers? How do I keep them from the clutches of child traffickers and paedophiles hiding in society waiting to prey on innocent children while their parents are distracted?

I yearn to offer my children the fun and freedom that I enjoyed as a child, so that they can learn and grow in the same way that I did, but I fear that this will never happen as the world we live in now has changed so much since the eighties and nineties. Where I was allowed to play out all day every day in the holidays, I know that no matter how street savvy my sons are, I would massively struggle with them playing out alone in our street much less away from home unaccompanied. Of course,  there will come a day when I have to let them go, and I will have to trust that the education we have given them at home, church and school will stand them in good stead to keep safe while out and about.

I pray for the safety of both my sons daily, not only that they would be physically safe and unharmed as they go about their day at school and at home, but also that they would be spiritually and emotionally protected, that they would guard their hearts and minds. The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future, so as Dave and I keep sowing the seeds of God’s word into our family life, I trust that this truth will prevail as my handsome boy’s become grown men and find their own way through this life.

Knowing how fast they grow up, this mommy is going to enjoy every precious moment with the undivided attention of my young charges, so that I can invest into their lives, influence them and help them to make good life choices as they enter manhood in the future, but in the meantime I am happy to stick to supervised park play dates and having friends round to stay.

R

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