God’s Plan for Our Children Isn’t Always Ours

Written by Nicole Collier

person having tea while working

Jeremiah 29:11

 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

In May of 2008 I became a mommy for the first time. I had never been one to dream of having children, but, after our wedding, it felt like the next thing to check off. During my pregnancy I had grand dreams for our first- born. Once we found out we were having a boy, those dreams included playing football and I was sure he would be a great defensive tackler. Maybe he would play guitar. I knew he would be all things boy: puppy dog tails, snails, mud, and all things dirt.
My dreams could not have been further from the truth. My son hated all things dirt. He would rather sit inside and play with toys than go outside. It was too hot, or too dirty. When it came time to sign him up for soccer he was not having any of it. “I don’t like it mommy, my legs hurt when I run,” he’d say. He would run up and down the field, though, just so he could enjoy the snacks after the game.
During all of this time my prayer for my child has always been, “Lord, let him shine your light, let him be kind, and a leader for you.” God began showing me that while the dreams of his growing up may have not been realized, my prayers were in fact being answered. He shines the light of Jesus to everyone he meets with his big smile. He is kind to the kids who need a friend, and even to the ones who don’t. He is a natural born leader, and will soon lead his very own small group for boys his age.
I realized one day that the dreams I had for him were not really dreams, as much as it was me wanting to have a do-over with my own childhood. That stung. I realized how unfair I had been to try to mold him into someone he was not.

When I chose his life verse of Jeremiah 29:11, I did not understand at the time the impact and reminder it would have on myself. The reminder that no matter what our dreams may be for our sons and daughters, God has the final plan in place. He will protect them, and they will flourish under God’s plan.

These days I am enjoying this time in the transition between preteen to teenager years. I am watching him navigate the social world of fifth grade, as hard as it may be. He is as steadfast and true to who he was created to be now, as he was at four years old refusing to run during a soccer game.
Let us not be afraid for our children to be their own person. Let us trust the one who made them! He has the perfect plan for their life.
Nicole Collier grew up in Montgomery, AL. She now lives in Shelby County with her husband, Matthew, and 2 boys, Ethan and Russell. She is a lover of all things creative, including photography and music. She and her family are involved with The Just People Project non-profit ministry serving the homeless throughout the city of Birmingham.

My Deliverer

Written by Jodi Davis Lybrand

adult back view beautiful bench

Your tormentors have said to you,

“Fall prostrate that we may walk over you”

And you made your back like the ground,

like a street to be walked over.

But the Lord your God says:

“I will rescue and redeem you

out of the hands of your enemies.

Though many gather against you

to gloat over you, to make your situation appear hopeless.

They do not now my plans for you,

plans not to harm you but to give you hope and a future,

to restore the years the locusts have eaten.

They do not understand my plans

to gather them to the threshing floor,

to place your foot on their necks.

Do not be afraid!

Do not be discouraged!

Be strong and courageous!

This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.

I will make your feet like the feet of a deer.

Rise and thresh, O, Daughter of Zion!

I will give you horns of iron,

I will give you hoofs of bronze!

You will have My strength and My power,

to overcome all your enemies.

Praise be to my God!

He trains me for battle,

He gives me His shield of victory!

The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!

Exalted be God my Savior!

It is He who saves me from my enemies.

Therefore I praise you with my whole heart!

Thank you for your unfailing love and mercy!

Deliver me according to your promise.

( Isaiah 51:21, Micah 4:10-13, Joel 2:25, Joshua 10:24, 25, Psalm 18:33-35, Psalm 119:11 NIV)

JodiJodi Davis Lybrand is a lifelong resident of Shelby County. She is married and has raised two wonderful sons, has a beautiful daughter-in-law and 3 of the most adorable grandchildren ever!

Her favorites include playing with those awesome grand sweeties, enjoying long walks and sunsets, visiting with friends, old and new, painting and working on her bucket list!

A Bible teacher for 30 years, teaching preschool to senior adults (before she was one!) Jodi jests that she can teach you a Bible lesson in sixty seconds or sixty minutes! Most of all she loves to encourage people through the truths found in God’s holy word.

What MORE Do We Need? Part 3


Written by Jennifer Morrow

There is a struggle within our hearts and minds that we all face daily in order to really experience the MORE that truly fulfills.  This is the something that is MORE BETTER – okay, not proper grammar, but it works to make this point.  THE MORE THAT TRULY FULFILLS does not derail or kill the heartfelt desires that God has placed within each of us for His purpose and glory.  WHY?  Because the God who knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves and knew us while we were yet in our Mother’s womb, created us to desire, to hope for something better, and that something is more than we can often imagine or think in our finite minds.

C. S. Lewis, the great British lay theologian and writer/creator of The Chronicles of Narnia and other eloquent works of literature, has a powerful quote regarding our desires.  This quote is taken from the book entitled, The Weight of Glory:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half hearted creatures … like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 
Here’s something MORE to remember:
  • You were lovingly created by God who knows you and knows the very number of the hairs on your head.
  • You were uniquely created by God and no one else even has your same fingerprints!  Amazing!
  • You were created to be loved by God and to be in a love relationship with Your Father God.
Here’s something MORE to consider:

The next time one of your old desires for MORE leads you to carry out an old habit that continues to leave you empty, unfulfilled, and not so happy or glad, but maybe even sad(?), how about trying MORE of at least one of these new choices today my friend?

  • Spending MORE time in God’s Book and a little less time on Facebook? 
  • Spending MORE time bringing all your needs, fears, and specific requests to God while also being thankful for God’s goodness and faithfulness in your life? 
  • Spending a little MORE time actually getting together with friends who are traveling the same journey of faith for encouragement and support? You know that small group and church community thing works really well. 
  • Spending MORE time praising and thanking God over complaining?
  • Spending MORE time worshiping over worrying?






Still, beyond all our unfulfilled desires, hopes and dreams, there is still MORE to come and the MORE that awaits us at our final destination is truly abundantly beyond and MORE than we can ask think or even imagine. 

Heaven will be so much “MORE BETTER” – Amen!


Other References:  Jeremiah 29:11, 31:3; Psalm 18:2, 119:1-2, 139; Matthew 10:30; Acts 1:14; Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 3:20-21; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7
IMG_3712By God’s amazing grace, I am a covenant daughter, a wife, a mother of 2 adult children and a son-in-love. I love God’s Word and I love studying it, teaching it, and listening to others teach and preach. I also love to laugh, dance, pray and worship – so I am sort of a rare bird.
My problems and my pain have always pressed me to pray, pen and pursue God’s presence in worship, not necessarily in that order. After the murder of my beloved brother, God turned my mourning into dancing for Him, which led to a ministry through dance over the past 20 plus years, including being the founder of Destiny Dance and Restoration Arts Dance. Since 2012, I have had the privilege of teaching dance at a Christ centered non-profit dance studio.
Writing, like prayer, worship and dancing, is a release of what is deep within my spirit. I also love fashion, festive parties, family gatherings, concerts and plays, reading several books at one time, cheering on the Crimson Tide, and traveling.
I am a member of Church of the Highlands, where, since 2004, I have been blessed to serve in the areas of prayer, outreach, leading small groups, coaching, and Women’s and Freedom ministry teams. I began practicing writing in 2009 on a Restoration Arts blog and in 2015, I started another blog at http://www.ponderit.org. I am experiencing a true restoration of joy despite all of the ups and downs of life.
I now even call myself “Joyful Jenny,” and I choose to laugh a LOT and uncontrollably at times! My heart’s motivation is to share what has helped me to live in love, joy, and freedom no matter what life throws our way. Having encountered the brokenness and pain as a result of my own childhood, family alcoholism and mental illness, tragic loss and grief, and a prodigal son’s journey, I empathize with other hurting hearts.
My prayer is that you will experience more of God’s love and joy and the intimate fellowship of His Holy Spirit. In His presence is fullness of JOY! Psalm 16:11

A Girl and Her Sword

Written by Jodi Lybrand

One of my top five favorite movies of all time are the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I just love the character Eowyn. Talk about a girl and her sword!

As she prepares to lead her people to a safe place, she lifts her sword and takes a few practice moves with it first. She turns and locks swords with the “yet to be revealed” king. His observation? “ You have some skill with a blade.” Then, she swiftly disarms him!

I admit I’m a bit obsessed with swords. I would love to train as these actors did for this movie. Until that happens, as a Christian, I am to wield a different sword.

…take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God  (Ephesians 6:17b NLT).            The call is to take God’s truths and turn back what attacks us.

The Bible also tells us, God’s word is alive, you see! It’s powerful, and it’s sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12a NTE)                                                                          We have been given the greatest weapon needed for victory!

There will never be any fiercer battles than the battles we are faced with in the spiritual realm. The battles to defeat fear, depression, addictions, battles to protect our families, battles to see the lost saved, battles to hold on to truth, our joy and hope, battles to change hearts and defeat division, hatred and bigotry.

My question is, “Where is your sword?”

Is it hidden away, rusting? Go, find it!

Is it on display, cared for & shiny, but useless?  Put it back into action!

Is it only a device used occasionally? Always keep it near!

Or is it in your hand, ready to fight and defend?

Girl, raise your sword!  

Take a few practice moves!

Are you weak? Declare, The Sovereign Lord is my strength! ( Habakkuk 3:19 NLT)

Have you lost your way? Say out loud, My own ears will hear him. This is the way you should go.. (Isaiah 30:21 NLT)

Whatever your battle is, there will be a powerful word sword to use! All you need to do is become more familiar with God’s word, the Bible. Read it. Meditate on it. Study it. Ask others to help.

O, Daughters of the Most High King, disarm the enemy who is trying to conquer you!

The war is all around us, the call is to all believers, not just a select few. The enemy is relentless, be more relentless! A girl and her sword is a force to be reckoned with!

JodiJodi Davis Lybrand is a lifelong resident of Shelby County. She is married and has raised two wonderful sons, has a beautiful daughter-in-law and 3 of the most adorable grandchildren ever!

Her favorites include playing with those awesome grand sweeties, enjoying long walks and sunsets, visiting with friends, old and new, painting and working on her bucket list!

A Bible teacher for 30 years, teaching preschool to senior adults (before she was one!) Jodi jests that she can teach you a Bible lesson in sixty seconds or sixty minutes! Most of all she loves to encourage people through the truths found in God’s holy word.

Sometimes You Have to Log Out

Written by Nicole Collier

access adult blur business

Could I do it? Did I want to do it? Uninstalling Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter was harder than I would have liked to admit.

When my church began the New Year with a 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting, I rolled my eyes.  Here we go. Everyone posted about how they were going to log off to draw closer to God. It felt almost cliche’. I could have given up something simple, but in my spirit I knew I had to let go of social media. It had taken over my life and I knew it. I didn’t want to admit it.

Each morning, my routine included checking notifications, scoping out who had posted Instagram pictures while I was asleep, and reading tweets of the latest political hot take. What I did not realize at the time, was how much this was taking away from my time with God. His voice was being drowned out by the rabbit hole of Facebook videos. We’ve all been down that hole. You click on one video of a recipe and end up watching dogs say, ” I love you.” His voice was being replaced with anxiety from words on the phone screen. To be transparent, it also had me a little more narcissistic than I wanted to be. I was living for the red heart or the thumbs up instead of living for the love of Jesus. I HAD to post that selfie. Please do not misunderstand me.  Selfies are wonderful.  Sometimes we are just feeling like we want to post a selfie- POST IT GIRLFRIEND!

However, I knew in my heart this was not my intention, I craved the likes. I was looking for the validation of my feed than resting in who I am in God’s word.

The first few days it was hard, but as the days went on I found it easier to pick up my morning devotion instead of my phone. I found it easier to have a short conversation with my husband before the kids were up. I found it easier to have a conversation with God. Ouch, this realization hurt.

During the time away from social media I was able to read two books. In 21 DAYS! My idea that I never had time to read, a pastime I love, was not true. The truth is, I could not give up the scroll to enjoy simple things like reading.

During this time of fasting I did have these four realizations.

  1. Not every thought I have needs to be put on the internet. It is OK to keep opinions to one’s self. Rarely will we change the opinion of another with a post. Change tends to happen in the context of real relationships.
  2. It is so much more fun to catch up with friends in person. It helps us connect to each other better. We can hug each other, and we can hear the excitement or the disappointment in each other’s voice.
  3. My anxiety levels were considerably down when I was not able to allow comparison to steal my joy. You cannot compare yourself to what you cannot see. The Jones’ were living their life, and I was living mine. I enjoyed staying in “my own lane.”
  4. Above everything else, I grew deeper in a relationship with Jesus. I felt peace within my soul that had been missing.

While, yes, I am now back on social media, I have begun taking measures to ensure I don’t let it overtake my life. I have an app that tells me how much time I spend on each app daily. And, I do see the irony of an app that tells you how much time you use apps. This does keep me accountable. I do not visit Facebook, my biggest time consumer, through the app with a simple click. I use the internet where I have to login each time. It sounds odd, but sometimes it does force me to think, “Do I really need to go through this login process?”

I make plans. Yes, I live my life. If I am busy living my life, I do not have the time to worry with my online life.

I think it’s important for us to occasionally take a break to realign our heart and mind. Do you think you could? What are some things you do to ensure you are not spending life online more than enjoying the life we were given?

IMG_6550Nicole Collier grew up in Montgomery, AL. She now lives in Shelby County with her husband, Matthew, and 2 boys, Ethan and Russell. She is a lover of all things creative, including photography and music. She and her family are involved with The Just People Project non-profit ministry serving the homeless throughout the city of Birmingham.

There Is a Way From Here

Written by Jackie Tinkler

For years I had a rainbow over my head and the sun shining wherever I went.  Nothing ever really happened that was considered a “crisis,” “stressful,” or even remotely “devastating.”  I think sometimes our little bubbles preclude us from trouble, but as life moves on and we meet more people outside of our “bubble,” we try new things, we live long enough, we make mistakes and decisions that alter our course, we find out things don’t always work out as planned.

Somehow our beautiful day now becomes heavy with responsibility, challenges, crisis, stress, heartaches, financial pressure, and just difficulties all around that become chronic and most days are like this.   You may wonder, “Why is it that some get to skate by in life with very little to contend with?”

Do you ever try to  pinpoint exactly when it happened?  When did it go “wrong?”  Where was it?  Do you beat yourself up for decisions you wish were different?  Me too!   But, God doesn’t think like this, in fact, he sees you sitting in the green grass with the sun shining on your face because he knows the way you should take from here.  There is a way you can take “from here” which does not require going back to make it right. It can be right “from here.”  You won’t find God saying,  “See, I told you not to do that, now go back and fix it.”  It’s more like, “Hey, look to me, forget that stuff and I’ll make you smile again. I know the way from here”

” I admit that I haven’t acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose that Jesus Christ has called me to fulfill and wants me to discover.  I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however, I do have one compelling focus; I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead.” Philippians 3:12-13 (The Passion Translation)

Girlfriend, there is power to change it, to hold on, to be okay and to find a way through the mess. If we only know which way to take.  God said this in Jeremiah 29:11-13:  “I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.  When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.”

The problem is the negative voices swirling around in our heads, the well-meaning, ill-timed advice from friends or the notion that we can figure this out on our own and it will all be fine. But, it isn’t.  I think we get to the place where we have no other choice but to find God and His way.

In this age of immediate gratification, we can’t fathom going the slow way, but often it’s the little steps taken everyday that lead to progress. No pressure, no weight, just one foot in front of the other much like following the “yellow brick road” that led to the adventures and lessons, that led to  the “Wizard of Oz” and finally that led to the power (faith) that was inside all along to get back home.

Maybe “everything” is not always supposed to work out.  If it did, we may never find the path God intended for us all along.  You see, it’s in the hard places that we finally acknowledge we need God and where new life is forged.

Jackie Tinkler is the Co-Founder along with Amber Edwards of Something More and lives in Birmingham, Alabama. She has been ministering to women for 20 years as a Women’s Ministry Director, Counselor and Producer. She has also written a women’s small group study “Something Beautiful” and when not leading women to freedom can be found worshipping at Church of the Highlands, decorating her friends homes, enjoying time with her family and chocolate lab Nelson or sitting in the balcony at the Alabama Theatre.

Five Smooth Stones…

balance business cobblestone conceptual

Written by Vivian Nelson

Many of us, if not all, know of or have heard the biblical story David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1–58); but, how many of us have thought about the weaponry David used to destroy a formidable opponent…a stick, a sling and “five smooth stones”. It is the “five smooth stones” I find most intriguing.

The story opens with opposing armies…enemies, the Philistines and the Israelites. From the reality of war, the Israelites were at a total disadvantage because the Philistines had a formidable foe and champion, Goliath.

Goliath stood over 9 feet tall. He had a helmet of bronze, an armor of bronze weighing 125 pounds; he had shin guards of bronze; his spear was pointed like a weaver’s beam with a head that weighed 15 pounds, and a shield carrier walked in front of him. Goliath taunted the Israelites, “Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me.” If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us. I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.” This taunting went on for 40 days leaving King Saul and his army dismayed and greatly afraid.

David, an Israelite and shepherd was too young for King Saul’s army, but was chosen and anointed by God. While everyone (including David’s three older brothers) were wringing their hands with dismay and fright, David approached the front line asking, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised (unclean) Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?”

When you call out the enemy, you can expect opposition.

David’s elder brother became jealous and saw David’s questioning as a scheme to become part of the army. King Saul expressed doubt in his ability because of his youth and inexperience in warfare. But, David was not deterred. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” King Saul suited David with his personal battle clothing…a bronze helmet, armor and sword…items David had not tested. “I cannot go with these.” David takes his stick, chooses “five smooth stones” from the brook, places them in his shepherd’s bag and with his sling readies himself for battle.

Goliath proceeds to meet David with his shield bearer in front of him, taunting, “Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks? David remained calm and fearless and said to his enemy, “You come to me with a sword, a spear and a javelin but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands and I will strike you down and remove your head…that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”

So why did David choose “five smooth stones”, Scripture does not say. Is it possible the stones represented how swift, how effortless and without hindrance David would take out Goliath because he knew the battle was not his. The battle belonged to the Lord, the living God.

All too frequently we allow Goliath…the one looming large and controlling; the one pressing in from all directions and consuming; the one threatening and taunting causing emotional stress and depression; the one that is mocking, laughing and shattering self esteem to win. The Goliaths dominate and rule our lives because we fail to recognize the power of the “five smooth stones”. JUST ONE will swiftly, effortlessly and without hindrance strike down any Goliath because the battle does not belong to us…it is the Lord’s.

Vivian Nelson is married and resides in Birmingham, img_6475Alabama. She is a follower and believer of Jesus Christ and is a retired Integrated Steel Professional who enjoys all needle work (sewing, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitch); and is an avid reader. Vivian has traveled 40 contiguous states; six of seven continents and over 100 cities and countries. She is a member of Church of the Highlands, and an affiliate of Alabama Civic Chorale.

When the Fizzle of My Marriage Fell Flat

Written by Nicole Collier
John 15: 12
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
There is not a specific time I remember it happening.  I honestly think it was a culmination of multiple things. I was unemployed, we had a four year old, and a newborn. In addition, I had just lost my daddy and was dealing with postpartum depression. Somewhere along the way we were losing ourselves, and had turned into roommates more than a married couple. At the time we were chasing toddlers, wiping bottoms, cleaning spit-up, and making sure basic needs of another person who cannot communicate were met.   You could be like us, who right now, are battling the half kid/ half teen hybrid who like to talk back, know everything, and smell funny.
Have you ever found yourself in a familiar place? You’re not sure how it came to be, but you are here. Now what? Now, I would lovingly tell you to straighten your shoulders, stand tall, put on some red lipstick and FIGHT! Ladies, we are about to go into battle! We are going to fight for our marriages and for our relationships.
I want to enlighten you to the best advice I ever received. It was completely opposite of how I felt, and what I thought was the right thing to do. It worked, though. The advice was this: Put your spouse before your children. Over time I had fallen into the trap…the trap of our children coming in front of my husband.  In the beginning, he was the one whom my heart longed for, but when the little pitter patter of feet came along, my heart more often than not, longed for quietness in the house. Quality time for him would always have to wait until the next day, as I was too exhausted, but the cycle continued to where he never received time for him.
At the end of the day, or even in the middle of it, the last thing we are thinking of is giving attention to our partner. I get it. I was there for the longest time, and still tend to drift there under stress, however, when we put the  needs of our relationship first, our children are better for it. When we love each other as God loves us, we are living out the greatest commandment.
Plan that date night!  Do not let anything stop you from time alone together. It does not have to be elaborate. One of our most favorite things is grabbing a quick bite to eat and then heading to Walmart. Seriously. Slow dance in your living room after the kids have gone to bed. It may be awkward at first. Let the butterflies fill your heart again as it did in the beginning.
Lighting the fuse of passion wasn’t the easiest. It sometimes felt almost like we were learning about each other all over again, and in a sense we were. Over the course, of almost a decade together at the time, we had changed. What I realized in the end was that he truly was made for me by God. He was not my soul mate, but the perfect balance of structure and steadiness that offset my “messy and crazy.”   We actually complimented one another. His weaknesses were my strengths and mine were his and we were each other’s helpers. We began to serve one another, one of the things we are called to do. I had to learn to lay myself down, and put him first. When we did this collectively, we found our marriage had become a place of safety for the other, a place of rest, and of  love.
If you are in the place I was six years ago, I encourage you to be vulnerable. Discover the one you fell so deeply in love with, the one you made a covenant with. Know that it will not be easy, but nothing that is worth having truly ever comes easy. Trust that God can restore, heal and bring love back to any marriage and restoration is possible! We are proof!

IMG_6550Nicole Collier grew up in Montgomery, AL. She now lives in Shelby County with her husband, Matthew, and 2 boys, Ethan and Russell. She is a lover of all things creative, including photography and music. She and her family are involved with The Just People Project non-profit ministry serving the homeless throughout the city of Birmingham.