The Friendship of Women: It’s the Little Moments that Deepen Our Bond

“It’s the little moments that turn friends into family.”

Three years ago, I sat in my almost empty house as I grieved deeply, preparing to leave a sweet community of friends whom we called “framily”.

 

After 9 years of investing in each others lives, working side by side in our community, our children playing together and double dates with our husbands–I was now having to say goodbye to my tribe, my community, our “framily”. It was one of the most painful things I’ve had to do.

I grieved the loss of doing life with those friends and my heart felt overwhelmed at the thought of starting all over again in this thing we call friendship.

Over the years God has taught me many things through the sweet and heart-wrenching friendships he’s put in my life.  Here are a few things I’ve learned.

Small = Big

I teach parenting workshops and one of the concepts I enjoy talking about is that of “filling your child’s bucket”. Parents immediately picture the grand things they will do from now on to “fill their child’s bucket” but I constantly remind them it’s the “small offerings” in the day to day stuff that make the biggest impact.

The same applies to our friendships–it’s the little things.

Catch and Release

The book “Same Kind of Different as Me” is about an unlikely friendship between a rich man and a homeless man. One of the lessons learned from this true story is the whole idea of “catch and release”. It’s the idea of friendships being fickle, so when things get hard, uncomfortable or that friend no longer meets our needs, we release them.

Denver says, “So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me: If you is fishin’ for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend.’…
Suddenly his eyes gentled and he spoke more softly than before: ‘But if you is lookin for a REAL friend, then I’ll be one. Forever.”

It’s hard to patiently wait and watch the seed grow to let it get strong over a period of “little moments”. These moments can be as simple as texting a gif, or patiently listening to their interests that have nothing to do with what you like, carving out time for each other even if it’s short spurts of meeting up at a playground.

It’s hard to make time when we already don’t have time but here’s the hard truth you have to invest a little of yourself if you want more than a casual acquaintance!

The Big Moments

These big moments can be wonderful but they are more like the icing on the cake, they are not the cake.

On social media we mostly see the “big moments” like girls night outs, girl getaways, big cook outs where everyones children are happily playing with each other or friend reunions.

But don’t be fooled…

Just because we don’t see the small intentional moments of a mom watching her friend’s kids who are sick so her friend can get a nap. Or images of the tears that come from being hurt by that friend and the courage it takes to talk it through.

You may not see the texts that say, “Hey! I prayed for you today.” Or the serious but joking text that reads, ” Check on me, I’m home alone with the kids and I just started my cycle.”

Doesn’t mean they aren’t happening, they are! My life is a testimony of countless small offerings from precious friends. These gifts may have seemed small to someone else but they meant the world to me. It’s these small gifts that weave our paths into strong cords.

Solid friendships are built on small offerings of intentionality and choosing to invest in that friend over a course of weeks, and months that turn into years.

Small Offerings

Our willingness to make room for others is a good place to start.

To “make room” what does that mean exactly in a world where there is barely enough room for us to breathe?

I know we are all short on time but the gifts of love are small. You “make room” when you check up on a friend, remember to ask them about that interview, work out a misunderstanding, text her to make sure she’s okay. It’s showing up with a meal for her family, or letting go of a hurtful word because you know they’re on your side and they weren’t trying to hurt you.

You make room when you open up and share what God is teaching you, what’s been hard, when you’re real.

I constantly hear women say how frustrating it is to make friends and how they haven’t had much luck making real friendships but as we continue to talk they confess– “I have not made time to invest in that friendship.”

I get it, life is busy.

But it’s those thousand small offerings that add up and turn a casual acquaintance into a deep friendship that can battle a storm.

If your friendship are only filled with the big moments like girls nite out or the holiday party you’ll end up walking away frustrated with the lack of depth and commitment.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,” Hebrews 10: 24-25

When the Seed Doesn’t Grow

Here’s the thing not everyone will accept our “small offerings” nor value them, reciprocate or enjoy what we we have to give.

Sometimes no matter what we do that seed will not grow.

Just like when you plant a seed you have no guarantee that it will yield any fruit or for that it will grow and the same goes with friendships. All you can do is your part and trust God will use all of it including your pain for His glory.

I have experienced the gut wrenching pain that comes from being misjudged, betrayed, rejected and I wish I could tell you it won’t ever happen. But what I can tell you is there is hope so don’t go packing your bags to become a hermit.

He will bring healing. Remember we do not walk alone in this journey of being misjudged, betrayed, rejected–Jesus knows exactly what that feels like.

Ask Him to help you remain soft and transparent so you can move forward with discernment not bitterness. We can “live loved” because He loves us just as we are and as a result we overflow with His love. He doesn’t ask us us to do something he hasn’t already done. He is the initiator and pursuer of our souls.

You know what? You have the ability to change the hate, gossip, caddy or fake friendships that might surround you or currently have hurt you. With God as your example and the Holy Spirit in us we can rewrite the dialogue.

If you feel like the women around you are hurtful, gossipy and caddy I want to tell you that God can use you to change the narrative of friendships for yourself and the women around you.

God can use your ache and loneliness to draw women into a different dialogue of friendship that doesn’t include gossip or jealousy. Often we walk into social gatherings wondering what will we get out of it. Or maybe I’m the only one who does this.

Let’s change that around next time! You can make a difference when you walk into a room by going in with the perspective of who needs a friend, who can I encourage…

Own Your Stuff

I’ve also learned that I have to own up to my own stuff. In order to grow in a friendship, you have to put your finger on your own insecurities. We walk around carrying messages from our past that are unhealthy and they spill over into our relationships. We need to ask God to give us the eyes to see the unhealthy patterns and the boldness to say “This has to stop.”

Sometimes we limit emotional intimacy with people because of the voices that we aren’t even aware of but are in our head. Ask God to give you wisdom and help you see what is happening and the courage to dig deeper so you can remove them.

We have to remind ourselves that He loves us and we love because He first loved us. That’s the foundation of our friendship–His love. Not what we own, can do, don’t do, or look like but it’s Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith and that’s what we build our friendships on.

The best way to find a friend is to be a friend.

Where are you?

No matter where you find yourself in your friendships whether your heart is overflowing or if it’s dry and lonely season please remember that Jesus is your friend who is closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) You are not alone.

Remember we live in a fallen world on this side of heaven and our friends, family, and people in general will let us down but we can always trust that God works all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28)

I leave you with this:

You can pick your friends and choose who you’ll share the deeper parts of yourself with but you can’t pick and choose who you’ll be kind to, kindness is shared with everyone.”

One of the Most Powerful Parenting Things We Can Do for Our Children as Parents

As we bring our summer book study to a close, it’s time to look at how this all translates into motherhood. 

How does our everyday parenting journey look different because of all we’ve learned about being a “Mom Set Free”? If we really don’t have to put so much pressure on ourselves and we can actually trust God with the children He’s entrusted to us, then what does that mean for today?

 What’s so great about learning to live in freedom? Well, everything, but what happens is when we learn to live in grace and freedom ourselves, we automatically begin letting others live in the freedom that Christ died for them to experience too.  We can stop pressuring our kids to be better at everything and teach them to rejoice in who God made them to be. We can be moms who walk alongside our kids, broken and in need of a Savior, as we let the grace of God overflow from our own lives.  

Now, does that mean that we don’t expect our children to obey? Does God’s abundant grace mean that we don’t need to set rules, boundaries and consequences for our kids?  Absolutely not. We are still responsible to train up our children so that they learn to trust and obey God as adults. 

The best way we can apply grace and freedom to our motherhood daily is to relate to our children the way God relates to us. Think about how God treats you when he wants to get your attention about something that needs to change in your life.  When God convicts, he doesn’t condemn. When he points out a weakness he does it firmly but with kindness. When he corrects you, he does it with unconditional love and acceptance. And that’s our model for parenting.  

Do we always get it right? Well, I sure don’t, but I keep going back to my Heavenly Father for more grace, wisdom and mercy. Remember, we can’t give what we don’t have, so in order to lavish God’s grace on our children we need to be sure we’re receiving a hefty portion for ourselves.

What’s Powerful in Parenting?

One of the most powerful ways we can parent with God’s grace is to confess when we’ve sinned against them. Let’s face it, they already know we aren’t perfect so when we blow it with our kids, why don’t we just admit it?  When we apologize for losing our temper or acting out of anger it gives our children hope for their own shortcomings. When we model for them how to come back to the cross for forgiveness when we mess up, we’re making it a little easier for them to do the same.  

Confessing, apologizing and asking for forgiveness make a powerful impact when it comes to parenting. Not only do they show our children we aren’t perfect and we don’t expect them to be but it also points them to the one who is perfect–Jesus.

I think it’s important to make another distinction when we parent with grace.  There’s a difference between the child’s behavior and the child himself.

We can be completely against something the child has done while also being completely FOR the same child.  Let me give you an example. When one of our children was in middle school, we faced a shocking and devastating situation. This child, who was actually a teenager, had been sneaking around for months, lying to all of us and others, doing things we had specifically forbidden. When it all came out, there were many people hurt, relationships wounded and trust broken. I cried for days. It was as if we didn’t even know this child anymore. 

Of course, we talked through the situation and spelled out how these actions impacted us and others. Of course we needed to give consequences. Trust needed to be rebuilt and that would take time. But when the dust settled, we made every effort to treat this child with the same love and kindness as before. I remember a young friend who knew the situation visiting the next day.  She was astounded to see us treating this child the same as we always had. See, that’s not how it would be at her house. And that’s not how it was in my childhood home either.

Grace makes all the difference.

The Truth Will Set You Free

Jesus said, ”And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” 

(John 8:32) This summer we have learned the truth from this book study and God’s word.  It can set you free to be a mom who lives in grace and freedom.  

On page 229 of Mom Set Free, author Jeannie Cunnion asks some big questions that can transform our lives if we let them…

  • How would your life – and your parenting – look different if you really believed and lived from the truth that God can’t stop loving you? Just as you are, not as you wish you were.
  • What burdens can you now lay down at the Cross…because you believe He is for you and can be trusted with your life?
  • What shame can you finally shed…because you believe there has never been a moment of time or even a minute of your life that His heart has not belonged to you?
  • From what striving can you cease…because you believe Jesus has already been “good enough” for you and that He will never abandon you?
  • What sin is no longer your boss…because you believe you are a new creation in Christ and you desire to live out of that identity?

Wow.  I think I’m going to grab a journal and sit with these questions for a while.  I’ll ask God to show me how He wants to set me free. Will you do the same? 

By Contributing Writer: Deb Ober

You can check out our whole Mom Set Free Summer Series here.

Mothering with Confidence of God’s Love

An article with a title like, “Mothering with confidence of God’s love” seems like something you would say, “No, duh!” and move on but the reality is many of us know this in our minds but it hasn’t clicked in our heart. Keep reading!

I looked at my husband from across the table at one our favorite eating spots and said as the well of tears came rolling down, “I can’t give our boys grace if I don’t accept it for myself. It’s not that I want to win my salvation. I know I’m saved by grace alone. I can grasp the fact that only Jesus dying on the cross brings me salvation. But it’s the day to day grace I can’t grasp. It’s day to day sanctification that I feel I need to accomplish.

It’s the desire to make sure I’m earning my keep. When I haven’t earned my keep I feel like he’s disappointed. The reality is I can NEVER earn my keep there’s always something to work on. But here’s the thing when God sees me He doesn’t see all of my brownie points or my pathetic attempts He see’s the saving work of Jesus.

All along I’ve had it all wrong! This earning His love thing has left me exhausted and critical of myself and others.  I DON’T want our kids to grow up believing this distorted theology.”

Grasping God’s Love

Here’s the thing because I had not grasped how God’s love works I was not able to live out of His grace with my own kids. Our lack of grasping His love and grace leaves us unconsciously inflicting shame, guilt and criticism on others.

I accepted His merciful gift of salvation but I couldn’t accept His gift of grace therefore struggled with grasping His love.

When I finally put my pride aside and stopped depending on my own goodness and accepted that I am not enough and nothing I do or don’t do changes my relationship with my heavenly Father that’s when freedom began. I’m still baby stepping my way on this journey.

God helped me see that my sinfulness and shortcomings are designed to lead me to the cross not to condemnation. Repentance leads me to the feet of His grace and readily available forgiveness and that’s when I was able to walk in freedom. I was finally able to grasp that I didn’t have to earn His love I just had to live out of it.

We need to be certain of God’s love so that no matter what happens to us circumstantially, emotionally or physically, the security of His Love is always there. So when our feelings tell us otherwise we can push the override button and go with what we know to be true–His word.

When I finally allowed the truth of His love and grace not my own version of it to sink in I literally felt my like I was a 100 pounds lighter. How had I not seen this before? It was life changing!

But this grace story is one God has repeatedly taught me throughout my life. I remember the first time “God’s grace” clicked beyond head knowledge, I was in college, Then it was when I was a young mom and now it was as a mature Christian who was a missionary but was utterly covered knee deep in the muck of “doing”.

This is why I am willing to share my weaknesses in order to help and encourage you out of this muck of mud. This is why we are reading Mom Set Free for our Summer Book club.

Repentance Doesn’t Mean Try Harder

“Repent doesn’t mean “try harder”. It means “run to Jesus”. (pg 148)

This is a great reminder as we do life in general but also as we mother our little ones.  Here’s the thing we have to continuously remind ourselves in the midst of perfect Pinterest photos and all the social media updates that go through our feed–there is NO perfect mom, we all fall short.

We WILL make mistakes and fail in this thing we called motherhood. And when we do we are assured that “he is faithful and just to forgive us”. (1 John 1:9) Unlike the popular author Hollis said about motherhood, “You were made for this you will not fail.” She obviously forgot the story of creation when Eve utterly failed at the garden.

If you’re like me you may be tempted to wallow in your mistakes or hide in shame but as I mentioned 2 weeks ago don’t stay there. Our heart and mind are desperate for the peace that comes from no longer carrying that burden around–freedom.

When we go to God and wholeheartedly ask for forgiveness we will ALWAYS find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. Not only sometimes or when it’s not a big sin–always!

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Exchanging Striving and Shame for Rest

“You and I have been personally invited to exchange striving and shame for repentance and rest…Restlessness will rule the hearts of those in pursuit of self-perfection. But rest will enfold the hearts of those who anchor their identity in the perfection of Christ.” pg 150

Rest that sounds beautiful. We may not be in a season of rest with mothering because of our children’s ages and stages of life but the rest God offers us is soul rest.

When our mind or feelings are prone to wander we must take those thoughts captive and bring them up against God’s truth.
In repentance we find freedom, we find rest.
In taking out thoughts captive we find freedom, we find rest.
In His truth and not our actions we find rest.
When we cease striving, we find rest.

That’s how we baby step our way to living out of God’s love is by living in His grace. Remembering we do not need to earn His love. “God’s Love is nota gift that only some receive, but a gift that we ALL receive when we are saved. Therefore, if you have asked (Jesus into your heart) to be your Savior and Lord, then not only is Jesus in your heart, but His Love is there also.” ~ Nancy Missler

It’s how our homes are full of grace and truth.

So here is a printable you can download in my SHOP (with a white background) to remind you what God says in His word about His love for you so when your feelings or experience says something different you can hold on to Truth. But if you do not want to download the printable the verses written below. Enjoy filling your mind with what is true,

Knowing God Loves Me Verses

*Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you, my people with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

Romans 5:8 “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

*You were chosen before the foundation of the world to be God’s beloved, adopted, accepted, redeemed and forgiven child. Ephesians 1:3-8

*Isaiah 43: 1-5 “because you are precious to me.You are honored, and I love you…” You are loved. You are known. You are valued.”

*Zephaniah 3:17 “He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you…”

John 15:9 “As the father has loved me so he has loved you.”

1 John 3:1, John 15:13, Psalm 17:8, Romans 8: 16-17, Ephesians 2: 8-11, Isaiah 43: 2-4

Two Ways to Thrive in Motherhood and Not Just Survive and It’s Not Something You Can Buy

The gift we all need as mothers to survive motherhood and I’m not talking about something you can buy or make. Keep reading this article written by Deb Ober to discover two ways to survive motherhood.

We have established that we are all broken, sinful people in need of a Savior. And we know that Jesus came to set us free! This is what our next three chapters of our Summer Book Club focus on–freedom.

But what does freedom look like? 

Where does it come from and how do we find it and live in it? I’m glad you asked. Let’s go to the only reliable source, the Bible.

In Galatians 5:1 Paul writes, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Let’s break this verse down a bit. First of all how did Christ set us free?  Well, remember how we acknowledged earlier that we are not enough. None of us can be good enough in our own strength. We aren’t the perfect mother, wife, friend, or person that we wish we could be.

There is only One who has ever been perfect and that, of course, is Jesus. But He just didn’t stay up in heaven being perfect and looking down on all of us failing at life and laughing.

No! That’s what’s so remarkable about Jesus!  He came down into our mess. He came and lived a perfect life among all the same trials and temptations that we all face, and then He allowed himself to be crucified even though He had never done anything wrong.  

Why would He do that?  Well, He did it to set us free.  Free from sin and death. Free from condemnation and having to work hard to prove our worth. Because the moment He died on that cross, He took all of our sin, failure, shame and guilt with Him.

In some miraculous, incredible, not-even-a-little-bit-fair supernatural transaction, He traded His perfection for our imperfection and called it even.

What?? Who does that?? And WHY would He do it?? Because that’s just how much He and His Father LOVE you. And me.  It’s almost more than I can comprehend. But I try and keep on trying to understand it, to GET IT, really get it deep down because if I really get His grace-filled love and live like it’s true, it changes everything. 

Martin Luther said,”To be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing.” And that is OUR part of the transaction.

Just like any other gift we are given, Even though Jesus paid our debt and sacrificed everything for us, it doesn’t really belong to us until we accept it.

The first way to “Survive Motherhood” is to accept His gift of Grace that only comes through Jesus.

Grace just means that someone is giving us something we don’t deserve.  We didn’t earn it, can’t do anything to pay for it, it’s just a gift. The grace of God, the most precious gift. Have you received it?

If you aren’t sure, reach out to us or talk to a trusted friend, but don’t let another day go by without accepting His gift. Because this gift not only means that when we die we will be in Heaven with Him for eternity, but it means that we can walk in freedom today! And every day!  Because it is for freedom that Christ has set us free!

The second part of our verse says, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” So why would anyone ever go back to slavery after tasting freedom? Well, I don’t know about you, but I do it all the time. 

Whenever we feel like we don’t measure up, either to our own expectations or to someone else, and we forget to shut down those thoughts and replace them with the fact that we are already perfect in God’s eyes. Not because of anything we’ve done, but ONLY because of what Christ has done for us.

If you have accepted Jesus as your savior, every time God looks at you He’s looking through His Jesus glasses! You say, “But I yelled at my kids today!” God says, “You look perfect like Jesus to me!”  “But I didn’t get the laundry done, and my kids ate frozen pizza for dinner again! “You look just like Jesus to me!” I can’t seem to stick to my diet and when my husband got home I said “Tag, you’re it!” God says, “ALL I SEE IS JESUS”

Now, don’t get me wrong, God isn’t pretending that we don’t sin. He sees it all. Every word and action that we regret, even the thoughts that you wouldn’t share with your best friend. God sees it all and He knows your heart, and because of Jesus He says, “I remember forgetting that. The day you accepted Christ, you became perfect to Me.” 

1 John 3:20 says, “Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.”  We need to stop living by how we feel, and listen to what God says about us. The next time you feel guilty, remember that God is greater than your feelings, He knows everything, and because you’ve accepted Jesus He calls you His perfect daughter. 

 But the question still remains, how can we stop sinning?  How can we improve in our parenting, become a more supportive wife, make better use of our time if we don’t constantly feel guilty and ashamed, and keep promising to try harder and do better tomorrow? Well, have you tried that?  Is it working for you? I sure have, and all it did was make me feel like more of a failure.  

Secondly, we “Survive motherhood” by embracing His love and walking in it. 

When we realize that we are completely known, loved and accepted by God we can relax into that love and begin to obey him from a place of security instead of trying to perform to make him happy or earn his love.

What a difference! Jeannie reminds us on p.140,

Saving faith is what produces good works-not the other way around. When we believe we are His beloved, we will live like His beloved.”

And all the weary mamas said AMEN!

Follow Along our relaxed Summer Book Club and don’t forget you can watch the videos on our Facebook page.

Our Favorite Books to Read Together as a Family & Great Audio Books for Long Trips

Below I share our family’s favorite books to read together.

Books not only open up a whole new world for our children but as they’ve gotten older it provides us a springboard of great conversation to chat about their thoughts on the situations, issues and adventures we read about.

We Get our Books at…

We read as a family at home before getting them in bed, on long car trips using audio books, while camping in our tent or around the fire, at the beach or anytime were traveling with just our family. We buy used books at yard sales, get them at the Library or buy them on Amazon. We also like to listen to audio books that we check out from our local library or I use Audible.

This list are some of the books we have thoroughly enjoyed as a family and some that are on my list of books to read. We enjoy reading together with a book in hand but sometimes it’s audio books while on long drives having some of our own adventures. Some of these books are considered Juvenile fiction, biographies and others fall into the category of historical fiction. I personally like books on social justice and welfare, empathy, resilience and a little history sprinkled here and there.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a wonderful juvenile fiction book that both adults and children will enjoy. We began reading it as a family and then I read it with a group of friends in a book club. It was fabulous plus there’s a movie based on the book.

“August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.”

Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games by Lopez Lamong – We read this book about 6 years ago as a family. This book was truly inspiring. It’s the epitome of resilience and hard work in the midst of challenging times. I was able to read most of  this out loud to our kids but there were some parts that I skipped over because of the intensity of his hardship. I cried, we laughed and we cheered Lopez on as we read through his story.

“Lopez Lomong chronicles his inspiring ascent from a barefoot lost boy of the Sudanese Civil War to a Nike sponsored athlete on the US Olympic Team. Though most of us fall somewhere between the catastrophic lows and dizzying highs of Lomong’s incredible life, every reader will find in his story the human spark to pursue dreams that might seem unthinkable, even from circumstances that might appear hopeless.”

Fish in a Tree by Lynda M. Hunt -This juvenile fiction book is our most recent book. We listened to it in the car on our way to Shenandoah Valley. Our kids wanted us to take it in the hotel and finish listening to it every night because they couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. It touches on the real life struggle of dyslexic children. It encourages anyone and everyone not to compare yourself to others but instead discover your own abilities and never give up. As a former educator and the wife of a teacher it was refreshing to see how her teacher Mr. Daniels impacted her life. I highly recommend educators to read this and anyone really.

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – Is considered one of the most influential novels ever written. It’s a story full of symbolism and wisdom that you’ll enjoy. We started reading the modern edition because the original uses too many words that my children wouldn’t enjoy.

“The classic story of Pilgrim’s Progress is told in a fresh way as Christian faces many dangers and adventures on his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. As Christian tries to stay on the right path he faces lions, giants, monsters, terrifying forests and people who try to steer him away. This story of a life adventure is told especially for young readers and the amazing illustrations bring Christian values to life.”

Poppy by Avi – Ben read this book to the boys over the school year. It’s a story of courage and determination.

“Poppy knew she was taking a risk following her beloved Ragweed to Bannock Hill, but a night of dancing with the handsome golden mouse was just too tempting. So when Ragweed is scooped up by the sinister owl, Mr. Ocax, who rules over Dimwood forest, she’s devastated. Her whole life she was warned of Mr. Ocax’s evil ways…how could she have been so foolish to put herself and Ragweed at risk?”

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie S Carlson – A touching story that tugs at our hearts to remember what truly is important in life.

“Armand, an old Parisian living on the streets of Paris, relished his solitary life. He begged and did odd jobs for money to keep himself warm and fed, and he liked his carefree life.

Then one day just before Christmas, a struggling mother and her three children walked into his life. Though he tried to ignore their troubles, Armand soon found himself caring for the family and sharing his unusual home under the bridge with them. It did not take Armand very long to realize that he had gotten himself ready-made family; one that he loved with all his heart, and one for whom he would have to find a better home than the bridge.”

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis is a series of books that appeal to children of all ages.  Some of the books have also been made into movies which also make great motivators to finish a book–so we can see the movie.

“On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan’s song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible.

This is a stand-alone novel, but if you want to journey back to Narnia, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia.”

The Box Car Kids by Gertrude C. Warner – My husband read this as a child and loved it so he wanted to read it to our boys. It’s a great book series about adventure and mystery that your kids will love.

“Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden take care of one another. They have no parents, no other family—except for a grandfather they don’t care to see—and no home . . . until the night they find the boxcar. Old, rusty, lonely, and abandoned in the woods, it’s the perfect home for four brave children on their own.

Through hard work and courage, the Aldens begin to build a life full of fun and adventure. But when they’re faced with a problem they can’t solve themselves, they’re forced to look for adult help—and will find it in the most unlikely ally.”

Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris Holloway This book is good for older audiences and a few sections do require some explanations which we don’t mind having with our kids or you can also fast forward those parts. I only fast forwarded one section that had too much information about their personal relationships with men.

“Monique and the Mango Rains is the compelling story of the author’s decade-long friendship with Monique, an extraordinary midwife in rural Mali. It is a tale of Monique’s unquenchable passion to better the lives of women and children in the face of poverty, unhappy marriages, and endless backbreaking work, as well as her tragic and ironic death. In the course of this deeply personal narrative, as readers immerse in village life and learn firsthand the rhythms of Monique’s world, they come to know her as a friend, as a mother, and as an inspired woman who struggled to find her place in a male-dominated world.”

Hiding in the Light: Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus by Rifqa Bary This book is also another great book for families with older children because of it’s intensity.

Hiding in the Light is the story of Rifqa’s remarkable spiritual journey from Islam to Christianity. It is also the untold story of how she ran from her father’s threats to find refuge with strangers in Florida, only to face a controversial court case that reached national headlines. Most of all, it is the story of a young girl who made life-changing sacrifices to follow Jesus—and who inspires us to do the same.”

The Squire and the Scroll by Jennie Bishop – This is a great book to read with your kids.

“This captivating adventure follows a young squire who travels a long, dangerous road beside his brave knight, on a quest for their king. The action builds until the final face-off with the monstrous, evil dragon. Only then does the squire learn of the secret beyond the cave that ends in a joyous celebration for the entire kingdom.Children will gain valuable insight as they learn, along with the young squire, what it means to face the dangers of temptation, and what it takes to guard one’s heart from all that is impure.”

God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew is a wonderful reminder of God’s protection and sovereignty. We love to read stories of missionaries so this was one we read last year.

“In the anniversary edition of this electrifying real-life story, readers are gripped from the first page by the harrowing account of a young man who risked his life to smuggle Bibles through the borders of closed nations. Now, sixty years after Brother Andrew first prayed for God’s miracle protection, this expanded edition of a classic work encourages new readers to meet this remarkable man and his mission for the first time.”

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle is a wonderful classic that has been made into a movie.

“A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.”

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan I cried, laughed and was deeply moved by this touching story.

“Esperanza thought she’d always live a privileged life on her family’s ranch in Mexico. She’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and Mama, Papa, and Abuelita to care for her. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard work, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances-because Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.”

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom this is a wonderful book that will remind us what real love and forgiveness. How light triumphs over darkness! This story also contains some parts that you may want to skip over.

“Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. In World War II she and her family risked their lives to help Jews and underground workers escape from the Nazis, and for their work they were tested in the infamous Nazi death camps. Only Corrie among her family survived to tell the story of how faith ultimately triumphs over evil.”

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly B. Bradley – We are about to finish this book and our kids listen to it intently every time we get in the car to run errands. I’ve been surprised how much they’ve enjoyed this book. It’s educational, you learn about War World 11 and the culture, and it has great values that focus on family, love, determination and resilience. This book maybe for older audiences, the main character’s history is troubling and might be hard for a sensitive child. It does bring up lots of topics for discussion with your children.

“Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.

So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.”

You Are Special by Max Lucado – This book is one of my favorites and the lesson behind this story resonates with kids of all ages even adults.

Every day the small wooden people called Wemmicks do the same thing: stick either gold stars or gray dots on one another. The pretty ones–those with smooth wood and fine paint–always get stars. The talented ones do, too. Others, though, who can do little or who have chipped paint, get ugly gray dots. Like Punchinello.

Amon’s Adventure by Arnold Ytreeide is typically read around Easter but it really is a great book to read throughout the year.

Thirteen-year-old Amon, the son of Jotham and Tabitha, enjoys playing with his friends but is also ready to join his father in the temple court where only men are allowed. Eager to be considered a man, Amon struggles to divide his time betweenhis friends and his duties to family and faith. But when Jotham is falsely accused of a terrible crime, Amon willingly sacrifices his childhood ways in order to save his father’s life.