HomeLife Family Times

Each month I have the joy and privilege of writing for HomeLife Magazine. This is a magazine that features great articles that surround building a strong family.

My monthly feature is near and dear to my heart….Family Nights. FOr years, we have had themed family nights that are based on a biblical devotional. We have had such fun and built some great memories about God’s Word. Teaching your kids the Word does not have to involve Exegetic Romans in the original Greek, but it does take some intentionality. We have found that have activities that reinforce what we are teaching has been super fun and beneficial. I thought I would share a link to the January 2013 HomeLife Magazine and my Hero in the Making Family Time. You can also read the entire magazine online!

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

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Do You Remember the Day of His Birth?

Today Judson turns 6.

I always feel a deeper connection to Judson’s Birth Mom on this day.  The woman who carried him in her womb, who felt the first tinge of labor pain.

 I wonder if she felt excitement that she was about to meet her child or did she feel nervous that she was about to be responsible for another life?

I wonder where she was when her water broke. Did she have her Mom coaching her through the early stages of labor? Or was she alone and an outcast because of her young age? 

I wonder how long her labor was and if she had someone beside her to encourage her and hold her hand. 

I wonder if the sun was shining of was their rain falling on her roof that day. 

I think about the moment she made that final push and discovered she had  a son. Did she cry for joy, count his toes, touch his nose, and marvel at how perfect he was? On that first night did she just hold him close and snuggle him? 

Did she have any idea she would only hold this perfect baby boy for 19 months? Was fear rising within her because she didn’t know how she was going to provide for him? Did she know she would one day entrust a foreign, unknown American family to raise her son?

I think about this new baby boy too. How much did he weigh? How long was he? Did he have a lot of hair? Was he hard to soothe or was he an easy newborn? Did he like to sleep on his back or his side?

Did he feel completely loved in those first moments? 

And then I think about that day six years ago and I have zero recollection of what I was doing on the day this baby boy was born. According to @kelstew, I was “Out and about doing some work,” and I was “Trying a diet cherTy limeaid for a change. Living on the Edge this Friday afternoon.” While hopefully what I share on social media is a bit more thought provoking these days, the reality is that I don’t remember. 

I bear the name Judson’s mom and I have no idea where I was on the day of his birth. 

While I grieve the lack of information on this day six years ago, I also rest in the knowledge that God knows every detail of each moment of Judson’s life. While I can’t share with him how big he was or what the day was like, I can point him to the One who does. I can point him to his Heavenly Father who breathed life into his lungs and has orchestrated every step he will take, who knew Judson would begin his life in rural Africa, loved by one Mom and continue his journey with a mom, who lived in a far off place, with skin that does not match his own at the age of 2.  

I think about Judson’s Africa Mom today. I hope she has moments today where she remembers him, the day she gave birth, the smell of his baby skin and the love she has for him. I pray she rests in the knowledge that he is safe, he is healthy and he is loved. I’m thankful she has her own memories with him that are hers alone. I treasure the thought that there is knowledge in her heart and mind about her Obsi that no one else can know. 

Judson turns six today. 


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Living to Tell

Adoption is obviously a big deal to us and I am constantly reminded of how it is a true picture of the Gospel. We, as believers, have been adopted by the Father and given a new name, a new identity and the same inheritance as that of Christ. 

Recently, I have been given new ways to share about adoption. The first was through guest lecturing for a couple of college classes in an Adoption focused class.  We shared about the International Adoption process. I loved being able to dust off the Adoption Social Worker hat and share the technical part of adoption. I also was able to weave in our adoption story. They had a ton of questions. We were encouraged by their interest. 

A couple of weeks later we were able to share in another college class. Judson’s preschool teacher, Kristian, teaches at a local college in the Early Childhood Education department. She asked Jason and I to come and share about Adoption, brain development in children from hard places and how it effects their learning.   I really loved this side of it because it is what we have lived and how we have seen tremendous progress and growth. 

Lastly, I was asked by our friends, Greg and Angela Pullen to travel with them as they go to China to pick up their son.  They wanted to take their three kiddos with them, but also wanted to be able to focus on their new little one. I was super excited to be able to go.  Jason was a trooper and so kind to let me go because this isn’t a short trip. And in case you haven’t forgotten, we have four active kids, who live on the opposite side of the country from our parents and built in help. 

So I’m in China and seeing adoption from another perspective. I’m seeing it from the point of view of an adoptive Mom, an adoption social worker and a friend. Either way, it is a blessing to share what God has taught me, to walk this journey with our friends and see a child come to life with the love of a family. 

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Lucky, Lucky, Lucky Family Night




SO…anyone have any idea who the heck St. Patrick was?

Me either, so I decided to changed that and discovered, he was one cool dude.

If you are curious about what the shamrock really means…check out this LuckyFamilyNight I wrote to help you and your family celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a way that is more than drinking green milk and eating corned beef.

Let me know what you think!

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The Year of

2014 will be a year marked by change and transition. A year of uprooting and resettling. The enormity of navigating a huge move for our family took its toll on us all. We learned, oh how we learned, more and more about our call to follow Jesus, firmly embracing the Truth of His Word and grounding our hearts and minds in Him Alone.

I used To think the moments made up the Stew Family Adventures when, in actuality, the journey is the adventure. The adventure is the daily journey with Jesus. No matter where you walk it, a
life lived out for your Savior will always involve a bit of risk and sacrifice, but oh the Joy that comes from clinging to the sheer fact that He is enough.

I learned that in 2014.

He is my greatest adventure, the journey and destination all wrapped into One. I learned more about anchoring my identity to The Truth of who the Father has declared me to be…not the words of others, the behaviors of my children, the number on the scale, the Pinterest worthiness of my home. In my 41st year, I let go of some of those hindrances, those easy entanglements and learned that guarding your heart and mind isn’t just for single and searching 20 year olds. The guarding simply looks different. The narrowing never stops so the fences never end. They just shift.

I felt the stirring that our days are not guaranteed, they are but a mist and I really want mine to count for the Kingdom of God. End of story…or just the beginning.

Each year, I pray through what word the Lord wants me to embrace, work through and develop. This year, He clearly led me to one distinct area of my life that could use some pruning!

2015 will be the Year of GRACE.

We are nothing apart from it, we are His chosen vessels because of it and we have life Only through it. We receive it to give it selflessly.

I deeply long to be known by the GRACE that radically saved me. I am keenly aware of when I fall short and pray that each day GRACE becomes more of my natural response because I daily walk In the shadows of the GRACE I was freely given.

This verse speaks volumes to me…

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
(‭John‬ ‭1‬:‭16‬ ESV)



I would love to hear your word!!

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Adoption: A Raw Look into the First Year

November is National Adoption Month.


A month that helps raise awareness for children awaiting adoption in the foster care system. Our adoption journey began 4 years ago this month. Our journey to bring Judson home was fairly easy compared to most until the day it wasn’t.  After we brought him home the long days of waiting felt like a cake walk. I can say now that I needed the hard days because it was during those days that God began a much harder process of redeeming the broken that lingered in me. Toddler adoption became more than just helping our sweet boy adjust. His journey became the vehicle God would use to shift many areas of my heart and life that needed to be moved.  This was a letter I wrote myself one year in to help me process all that had happened. When I wrote it, I never knew if I would ever share it.  My prayer is that for anyone who is in the midst of struggle, this will bring hope. For anyone in the midst of waiting, that is will bring perpsective.  For anyone in the midst of contemplating adoption, that it will bring truth.  Please let me know what you think.


Dear Kelly

I wanted to write a letter to the you of one year ago.

I wanted to let you know that you were absolutely clueless. You had no idea of the depth of what would be required of you. You had read the books, knew all the lingo, counseled parents for three years about adoption, but you truly had no frame of reference with which to speak so casually. Sweet Kelly, hold on to these few moments of ease, because that is not anything you will experience over this next year.

I want you to know that the first time you bathe Judson, you will want to throw up. To physically see the life that he has endured in the sunken, infected flesh will give you your first glimpse of what is before you. When you enter a room, he will cry. When you leave a room, he will cry, too. More quickly than you can imagine, you will see your life look like a prison and you have no idea how quickly you will be released, or worse yet, will you ever have any freedom.

And then, naïve Kelly, you will feel tremendous guilt and uncertainty over the depth of fear and uncertainty you feel as a result of this precious child.

You will learn to live in two worlds.

The world inside your home of biting, kicking, hitting, screaming, disobedience, exhaustion, chaos and trauma and the world outside that you will walk, desiring to paint a picture that life is not as hard as it is, that adoption is all roses and sunshine and that with just a little time and love, all will be ok.  You will quickly learn that toddler adoption is a whole different issue that few have knowledge or expertise in.  You will see God begin to strip you of every thought but of getting through the next hour and today.

And Kelly, I know you don’t understand what I am about to say, fully, but you will grieve. You will grieve the loss of childhood that this precious child did not have. You will also mourn the loss of time with your other three children and feel on a daily basis like you have let them down. You have been quickly impatient and tried to negate the feelings of loss they have because, you know, GOD called us to this and this is HIS journey for us. The pep talk and reminders you are giving them, is the mantra you need to be reminded of over and over. You will feel anger on their behalf at the aggression inflicted on them, your precious children, at the hand of, your other precious child. These dual feelings of guilt and anger and intense commitment will rage a war in your mind and heart that you will not know how to process.

You are a trained counselor, an adoption case worker, have two Masters degrees, have written articles about building strong families and you have no clue what to do.

You will also be moved to tears when you look at your three biological children and see the depth of love and commitment they have for each other. You will weep and look in awe as they LOVE and ACCEPT and FORGIVE. They will RISE, Kelly, not because of anything you have done, but only because of what JESUS is doing through them. They are simply amazing.

Kelly, you will be slow to share the true depth of your emotion or lack there of. After all, this really isn’t what people want to hear and you really would never want to discourage anyone from adoption. But when you do share, you will have zero tolerance for anything that resembles a quick response to the depth of pain, anger and resentment that you are trying so hard to process and redeem. So Kelly, you will withdraw, keep the circle small, be quiet, and pray this is just a phase that you can quickly pass through.

You will also realize that some journeys are not meant to be shared casually, but are uniquely designed to be walked with your Savior.

You have a man who will prove, yet again, that he is the absolute biggest blessing, outside of Jesus, that you will ever receive. He will love you through the hardest of days, challenge you to rise above your emotion and focus on Truth, listen to you, encourage you, pray for you and just simply help you.

You are not in this alone.

Kelly, lest you think that there was no good seen, let me set you straight. You will also get to experience, life, personality, joy, language and love being reborn. You will be stunned at how far he will come.

He will go to sleep without screaming and thrashing around.

He will go into his preschool class with no hesitation after a hug and a kiss.

He will love routine and structure.

He will begin to obey and respect boundaries.

He will gain weight, be healthy and grow from the 20% to the 60%.

He will use words like “delicious” and “adorable” that will show how adorably delicious he is to behold.

He will make you smile and laugh and you will share funny stories about him with your Mom.

He will LOVE you.

He will NEED you….and Kelly….you will begin to surrender to this journey.

You will realize the depth of your need for JESUS, every moment of every day, as a result of this child’s great need for you.

You will fight that with every ounce of your being, but slowly begin to release yourself of any expectation, perception of reality that you have ever had and simply love him.

You will embrace the techniques that help bring order to what had been a wildly chaotic world for him.  You will begin to feel a peace and calm that is not determined by your circumstances or how well your children behave, but from choosing to live according to TRUTH, believing the identity that Christ has given you.

You will be shocked that the very thing that has brought you to the pit of your life came as a result of the most beautiful, amazing, survivor, you have the privilege of calling your own.

Kelly, I know this sounds scary, and hard, and ugly, and you want to run away.

Let me tell you the two things that will get you through this next year….Jesus and your man. There will be times when you will literally drop to your knees and call out to Jesus, because you are at the end of yourself….that is a good thing.

You are not walking this alone. You are more aware of your Savior, His plan to prune away all areas of your life that are not of Him, and use your family to restore and redeem the life of one of His precious children. You are unable to walk this in your own strength for your flesh is so very weak.

But God, HE is strong and mighty and HE will not abandon you.

As I close this letter to you, let me remind you of a few things. Just because you are walking a hard road does not mean you are not right where the Lord wants you. It simply means that the Lord needs to narrow, refine and prune away that which does not bring Him glory. That is the definition of a Christ follower.

Next, is that you need to be real about the reality of adoption. The fact is you need to share about how hard it is and break down the walls between adoptive parents.  There is space that exists between honoring the journey of your precious boy and offering hope and support for those in the trenches with you.

Kelly, this year will be a ride, twisty, long, exhilarating, joyful, scary, high and low, but it is your ride.

Enjoy it, learn from it and hang on. And never forget….it’s going to be worth it…

Your boy is worth it all.


Blessings on your journey,


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What happens when three year olds can read

I love my kids.

I think they are amazingly, awesome in so many ways. I get to watch Parker walk out her love for Jesus and have a heart for the orphan. I get to see her play the role of the oldest with joy. I get to see Emery adore and bless the little ones around her. I get to watch her toughness and grit like determination and I love it. I get to see Bradley and his fierce focus when he is on the court or the field.  I also get to see his sensitivity to others and all the feelings.  I get to watch Judson interact with people and inevitably bring a smile to their face. I also get to watch him learn and enjoy the simple things.

I see the great things in my kids and the not so great things. Just like you.
I think some of the greatest blessings to my kids comes when others see the same things in them. I watch their eyes light up when a coach or a teacher praise them. I see their confidence grow when my friends encourage them.  I see their faith become greater when other adults affirm what we are teaching them at home.

Simply put….my kids need you.

Recently I saw the exact opposite of the above happen at Jud’s preschool.  His teachers were praising and sharing another student, who at the age of 3.5, had learned to read. They had balloons and were sharing it and I saw this look of protectiveness come over a lot of the parents.  I watched them struggle to encourage and celebrate this amazing accomplishment in this cutey. And I thought about the thoughts I have had in so many situations with my kids and their peers.

Straight up competitiveness. That feeling of being threatened because of the success/accomplishment/talent of another child.

We have believed the lie that another kid’s awesome makes our kid’s awesome less.  We have bought the idea that our identity is found in the behavior/accomplishments/talent of our kids. When our identity and worth is wrapped in our kids we can only walk in jealousy and competition.  We lose the ability to celebrate because we are too busy downplaying the abilities of a three year old to make ourselves feel better.  We place the weight of our worth on our kids and they are not built to withstand the load.

The enemy wins every time when we are more focused on making our kids better than yours.

What would it look like if we began to actively embrace the unique gifting and design in each other? What would it feel like to be excited when our sisters walk out their calling? How would the environments our kids find themselves in each day shift when we take the load of our worth and root it in Christ?

My kids may never amount to much in the eyes of the world or other parents or even their peers. But, my prayer is that they have so securely anchored their identity in Jesus that none of that matters. I pray that they will walk in confidence because they know they are NOTHING apart from Jesus and He has declared them worthy.  And the reality is that starts with me and them watching me choose the Kingdom instead of the world.

Sweet friends, let’s raise our kids with voices that celebrate how Jesus has wired them and the race He has marked for them. Let’s fight for our identity to be marked by Jesus not the accolades of our offspring.

Let’s raise world changers together.


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Calling All Adoptive Mama’s

For several years, I worked for an agency that wrote home studies for adoptive parents. I read, did a lot of research, attended conferences and went on countless post adoption visits. I had my easy explanations, advice, tips, one liners and opinions for my new, in the trenches, haggard, exhausted and overwhelmed parents.

Basically, they were stuck somewhere in between the I love this child, I’m afraid to tell the social worker what is really going on, and what the heck have we done.

So, feeling uber confident in my knowledge and experience as an adoption social worker, I just knew we would sail into the adoption sunset within 2-3 months of bringing Judson home. I would apply all my adoption expertise and our little guy would be attached, sleeping through the night, fully integrated into the Stew fam.

That lasted 2 hours of being home. I might as well have brought home pink flamingo to raise for all the knowledge I had.  There was quite a bit of breakdown between my head, my heart and my emotional stability. Pretty much I was a mess and that was just the start.  Discipline, sleep, routine, bonding and nurturing….all those things that we have had to change up some paradigms to inch towards our new normal.  And when we were knee deep in it, I had zero brain power to read a book about post adoption issues. I just wanted someone to give me ideas…in a short, non judgy, bullet point way.

SO, almost three years later, we have weathered some storms, made some mistakes, come to some realizations, laughed, cried, and basically pieced together what works for our guy within our family. And now, being on the post adoption, we survived the early years side of things, I had an idea…

Real adoptive Moms.  Real Advice. Real In the Trenches Ideas.

I would love to gather things that families have tried  in regards to Bonding, Eating, Language, Sleep, Siblings and Discipline, etc.

After I have gathered all of the info, I will compile the info and have it ready to share!

Please leave a comment with 2-3 tips that worked for your family. Include the age and gender of your adopted child when they came home also! Thanks so much. I really believe that we can help each other and encourage one another in the journey. I can’t wait to see how we are able to reach out and help other trench dwellers!


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The word that stirs so many emotions and catchy phrases. The word that implies a place and also a heritage. I am learning a lot about that small word that carries great meaning. I am a southern born and raised girl who loves monograms, hair products, SEC football in the Fall, a dish for every occasion and making two syllable words sound like three. I love the hills of East Tennessee and the big hometown feel of Nashville. I don’t like sweet tea but I sure know how to make it.
Home for me holds memories of long, hot and humid summer days that were spent by the pool, on the lake or in the air conditioning with my friends. It is Sunday dinners at your parents house and catching up on all that’s going on with your Mississippi family. Home is memories, both the ones you have and also the ones you are making.

But, while the south is home in so many ways, it is not our HOME.

Our home is where we choose to root and plant our family. More than that, our home is simply found in Christ. I am learning that He is the only security that is eternal, not a place, not an address, not a memory or a heritage.  People often say things to us like, “I could never move from my family.” Guess what…I thought the same thing.

I learned a long time ago that the words NEVER and ALWAYS can only refer to God.  Any time I use them in reference to myself or others, I am simply putting a limitation on God and His plan for my journey.

NEVER keeps you from living out all God has planned, just like ALWAYS limits how you see yourself and others in the building of the Kingdom.

The reality is just because I utter the words NEVER and ALWAYS, it does not change, alter, skew, reverse, or disqualify what God is wanting to do in and through me.  Stepping out in faith will often mean leaving comfort. Whether that means going across the street to meet your neighbor, inviting a co worker to lunch, volunteering at a homeless shelter,  moving to another country or taking a new job.  Making the decision that your security is not the goal but simply choosing to trust Him more than you trust your comfort, your idea of what you need to live, and what you can do, opens us up to see God move in a new and fresh way.

We can do some good, decent things on our own. We can also omit a lot of what we could do because of the limits we put on God.



We can you know….do all things through Him.  We can rely on Him to be your strength. We can do immeasurably more than we think we can….because of Him.  We can believe Him when He says there is a way that seems right to man, but its end is death (Prov. 14:12).   The way of man that seems right…the way that seems right, that is safe, that makes sense.  When we determine our rights and automatically equate what makes sense/is right/ with what God wants and expects, what God’s plan for our life must be,  is the minute we choose death. Because we serve a God whose ways are higher, whose love is deeper, and whose will is sovereign.

Life or Death?

Our life is not our own, just as His death, for us, is not something we deserve.

Life or Death?

Never and Always……

May we always choose Life and Never underestimate the journey God has for us.





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Lessons Learned while Stuck on an amusement park ride

The Swings…the place where one of my worst “what If” fears became the “oh sweet Jesus, we are actually stuck.”

On a bright and cheery Monday morning, our fam of six set out with friends for a day of thrilling adventure courtesy of an amusement park full of rides waiting to be explored. We started out small on a kiddie coaster and it was pure, hands in the air, JOY, for our brood of six.  Right next door was this fun little ride.


We coaxed our notoriously non rider to ride it. “It will be great. NO big deal. YOU got this. These are totally safe.”

To our utter astonishment, he agreed. It was a two seater so I took Judson, Jason took Bradley and the girls rode together. Great. Awesome.

We buckle the belt, listen to fourteen announcements, and up we go.

Up and Up and Up and Up..150 feet in the air. .0284 miles.  50 yards. 15 stories…in the Air.

Then we started swinging. Around and around at 40 mph and I’m thinking.. “This is so cool. Look at Bradley conquering his fear. Thank you, Jesus, for giving him courage.”

It was glorious. I was answering one of the 45 questions Judson had in a 2 minute span, looking around.

Then all of a sudden we are a slowing. Slowing. Slowing and I’m thinking. “NOoooo, this is just part of the ride.” Until we STOP.

Just Stop.

And hear, “We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are experiencing technical difficulties. Maintenance is on its way. You are safe.”


So here are the lessons I learned over the next 10 minutes while suspended 150 feet in the air with my five year old, waiting to plummet to my death.

1. We either fuel our fear or we face it

Fear is simply the emotion we feel when we believe we are in danger of a person or something and it is likely to cause pain.   The crazy thing is we often label something as a fear, that simply has NO power to harm us. For instance, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof our mouth…not a fear. Fear of peanut butter causing us to go into Anaphylactic shock due to an allergy…legitimate fear.  While suspended in the air, I had to make the choice to calm my heart, trust the Lord, and speak Truth to myself. I made myself look around, down and all around.  My entire family was on this ride and I had zero power to control the outcome.  Fear could have caused me to think that we should never get on a ride again because we could die.  Facing our fears, many of which are based on what ifs, often stops us from living. Abundant Life is usually not on the safe side of fear, where we overestimate our ability to control things, but rather on the facing of it, moving through the lies to the Truth, and choosing the overcome that which has held us back.

2. I answered the question of what if.

What if we are up here for two hours?  What if we fall to our death or life altering injury? What if Judson slips through the two safety belts? What if Bradley starts to panic? What if?

What if every one of these fears happens?

We are up here for two hours and live to tell about it.  We die or have a life altering injury, which makes God no less Awesome. Judson will not slip because my hand is on him the whole time. Bradley panics and his Daddy is right beside him to walk him through it.

We spend so much energy on the mere possibilities of life that we miss on the realities right in front of us. We live so much of our life in the worst case scenario. We live in the contingency plans of our own making instead of choosing to trust God and His infinite plan. I decided while suspended in the air, that when the what if’s lead me to living in fear, then I am going to remind myself of the Truth on the other side of the what if. Bad things happen. But that doesn’t make God any less Sovereign or me any less loved.

3. Perspective changes everything.

It really does start in your head. It really does start with a choice.  You are the only one who can control what you say to yourself. Life happens, bad things happen…but so do great things. I realized that this could be our worst nightmare, but it could also be part of the greatest adventure that God is allowing us to walk. Courage is a decision, a choice. No matter what, His GRACE is enough. He promised that to us and I chose to believe it. Daily, I am choosing to believe it. If we plummet to our death, if we are stranded for hours…His love never leaves me, nor do my circumstances make God any less good, and perfect and enough.

4. Judson does not possess the fear of death gene.

This is really just another way of saying he doesn’t know to be afraid of things that can cause him pain. Since day one, he has pushed the boundaries of his own safety.  There is just a part of him that wants to always see if we mean what we say. Yes, the stove is hot, Judson. Don’t run in the road, Judson. Right after he asked me why the ride stopped, we went on to have a conversation about what would happen if he fell. “Would I die?” he asks, to which I make the 3 second, split second decision to say, “Yes, yes you most likely would.”

So what does Judson do?

Look at me and scoot down in his seat towards his imminent death.

He seriously may be the death of me.  My hand might have clamped down on his leg in lightening speed and the words might have come out of my mouth in a much more severe manner than normal, but I shared, with love, not to do that again.There is courage and bravery and then their is reckless stupidity. I am praying he learns to be brave because I know there is so much he has overcome and still more that he will face, but let’s not throw gasoline on the fire, and learn to practice a little wisdom.  As his mom, I want to set him up to choose courage, to live life based on the Truth of God and not the fear of man. I have seen my fair share of helicopter parents who want to shield and protect and SPF their kids to the point that their natural response is to choose the safe route, the predictable, winnable path. We do our kids a disservice when we allow our fears to become the banner that they raise to live life on this side of what could be. There is a difference between seeking parental wisdom, trusting our gut and knowing the line and just flat out trying to keep our children from the very lessons that God will use to bring out his character in them, for His plans, for His Kingdom and for His Fame.

The swings taught me a lot that day. They reminded me that I am not promised tomorrow, this afternoon, or even my next breath. Life is fleeting and fast, but I have this moment to live, to enjoy, to learn, and to embrace.

So for today, I choose to not live in the what ifs, to trust Him in my every moments. ,


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