Finding Grace

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When we dropped Little E off for one of his weekly visits with his biological father, my heart broke once again over this little boy. If and when E is reunited with his parent(s), the difficult circumstances that he found himself in the first two and a half years of life will not vanish without a trace. Our stresses of three children will return to only two, our frustrations with the state and its ways and regulations will momentarily be put on hold until we feel  we are ready to serve and love another child, and our contact with this precious child will be primarily non-existent.

As our car pulled out of the gas station where we meet his dad, tears filled my eyes and I told God once again, “This is not fair.” Only weeks before I had written a post for iBelieve on the subject of fairness.  I am linking to it below. Once you have read the article in full, please come back and see if you would add anything to the list of God’s grace in E’s case. If I think on it, I know there are multiple graces in the face of a seemingly unfair situation.

Even if we have not verbalized it, we have all thought it, “That was not fair, God.” Someone else was rewarded the promotion at work, the date with the guy, the house that we bid on. Another friend tells of her unexpected pregnancy when we have labored in prayer over just one child. Children are born with disease, into poverty-stricken homes, or left as orphans.

It’s simply not fair. He is not fair. Or is He? If He is, do we sincerely desire God to treat us fairly?

Think for a moment, what our lives would look like if God treated us as we so often demand: fairly. What if that which we worked for was all that His hand allowed; if people, including our families, treated us only with the kindness and respect which we have shown toward them void of mercy and forgiveness; if our religion was based on merited works?

My life, for one, would look drastically different if God treated me tit for tat. Would yours?

Click here to continue reading the entire article over at iBelieve.

God’s grace is demonstrated to E in his placement into a loving, Christ-filled home. Yes, he is separated from his biological parents, but he has received the best medical attention we could give him, he sleeps in a safe environment, and has two great siblings. Had it not been that he was taken away from his family he may have gone much of his childhood void of the message of Jesus and God’s great love for him.

This all reminds me of a Laura Story song that I am sure you have heard. If not, click here, or on the link  below and close our time today in reflections on the grace wrapped in pains of life.

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A Day Remembered

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Saturday marked Ron’s and my 11th wedding anniversary. I would love for you to take this day to visit his blog, Raise the Risk, and read the beginning of our story. Blessed to be loved by such a godly man and wonderful daddy. Click here to read his post, The Big Ask.

*Photo by Corey Conroy Photography

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What I Learned at My First Youth Pastor’s Conference

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Sitting in the Hard Rock concert hall in Orlando, I contemplated the irony that my first youth pastor’s conference comes about eight months after our six year tenor as youth pastor and wife had officially ended. I further considered the hilarity that the “cool” students in youth groups  initially intimidate me nearly as much as the youth workers with swag!

After settling into my cushioned seat, along with my surroundings,  the people watching began. As workers and volunteers filed into the auditorium it didn’t take long for mommies and daddies carrying babies in infant backpacks to catch my attention.  I was instantly reminded:

The sacrifices and juggling youth pastors and their wives endure to meet the needs of students is one of the most unseen tasks of the ministry.

For moms partnering alongside their pastor husbands, babies bring love and logistical issues. The will, passions, and heart of the mother are oftentimes torn between the desire to be the visual, involved helpmate of her pastor husband. While loving my job and joy as a mother, I often struggled with the desire to experience all of the riches of youth ministry: trips, conferences, discipleship, after church meals and fellowships. However, the choices of: a. bring the kids and chase after them… and the youth, or b. find a sitter to pay while I enjoy ministry, were both less than ideal.

If you are in the midst of ministering to teens or are parents of teens, would you agree that at times this portion of ministry seems like the leach and daughters in Proverbs 30; always crying for more? As a youth pastor’s wife, I often felt this way. (I can say that now, although it is with great fear and trepidation even after running in a different lane of ministry for 8 months!) Youth ministry is demanding and the pace strenuous.

Please understand, I loved pouring our lives into the next generation. Our aim was to minister so that fully devoted disciples would be made to reach the nations and the generations with the gospel for the glory of Jesus Christ. However, there was an ongoing struggle, a wrestle if you will, with my flesh, our families needs, and the demands and desires to minister as God would have both of us do.

At this conference I learned very valuable ministry methods, was reminded of the global needs of God’s created world, and reviewed with speakers the true critical issues of youth ministry. But, perhaps the most valuable challenge for me specifically was the reminder to pray for youth pastor’s and specifically their wives.

Join me today in praying for the youth pastor’s wife in your church. I hope the bullet points below would be a good launch pad for your prayers.

  • Pray for God’s peace for the current pace they are running.
  • Pray for endurance and perserverance under stresses.
  • Pray that they will see the value in all tasks both the seen (ministering to and with teens and adult workers) and the unseen (ministering to their husband within the home).
  • Pray for peer friendships and women to pour into them.
  • Pray for peace when she cannot go with him on trips.
  • Pray for God to guard and guide their marriage relationship.
  • Pray for their children and the faith and Christian worldview to come to full fruition in their lives.

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We Have Been Published!

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Five years ago, Ron took our first group of students to Student Leadership University (SLU). This fabulous leadership program for today’s youth is headed and founded by Dr. Jay Strack.  Dr. Jay has been a youth evangelist for over 30 years. I had the privilege of hearing him myself as a youth growing up in the 90’s. His experience and expertise in the youth industry is in a league of its very own.

SLU has proven to be a wonderful tool to train young people to be the godly leaders with integrity that our country desperately needs today. Back in the fall of 2012, Ron received an e-mail from Dr. Jay asking him to be a contributor for his newest book, #CriticalIssues #AbsoluteAnswers. Ron was delighted with the offer and made one additional request…”Can my wife write two chapters as well?”

Think of the humility and the selflessness of my husband! How many people, either male or female, would put the heart’s desires of their spouse for publication equal to their own? Not many I would sadly say, but that is the level of servant leadership which Ron possesses. Praise be to God!

Dr. Jay agreed to having both the Cooney’s as contributors and, with thrilled hearts, we set to writing our respective chapters.

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After months of editing and ordering the chapters written by contributors such as Dr. Jay Strack, Chuck Allen, Dr. Danny Akin, Brent Crowe, and Dave Edwards; Jack Countryman and the team at Thomas Nelson have packaged a wonderful resource for youth, parents, and youth workers to benefit from. #CriticalIssues #AbsoluteAnswers tackles 70 issues that teens face and the questions concerning them. This book provides Bible-based answers to such questions surrounding identity, self-esteem, leadership, missions, faith, pain, sex, divorce, homosexuality, and discipleship, plus much much more.


It is with humbled and excited hearts that we are proud to share this wonderful, newly published resource with you. Our teens are bombarded with the pull of the world and it is our hearts desire that they acquire biblical answers and direction to choose the narrow path towards Christ-likeness and ultimately home.

You can purchase a copy by clicking the link below. Ron and I would love to send this wonderful resource to you! If you would like to make a bulk order for your youth-group or for graduation gifts, please e-mail me at Brooke.Cooney.1@gmail.com and we would love to make that happen for you.



 

God bless you and the lives of the youth that you influence! For His Kingdom’s glory!

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The How and Why of Blogging

“Human creativity is derivative and reflective, working within the bounds of what God has formed,” writes Os Guinness. As. C.S. Lewis put it, “an author should never conceive of himself as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before, but simply and solely as trying to embody in terms of his own art some reflection of that eternal Beauty and Wisdom.” Because of the Fall, we do not have a clear glimpse of Beauty or Wisdom; we see only a poor reflection. But because of Christ’s redemption, the arts can be restored. (How Now Shall We Live, Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, 1999)

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I have not always considered myself an artist, nor, for that matter, a writer.

In 2008, I began a family blog to chronicle the life of our first child, Emily, in such a way that relatives in neighboring states could observe her growth and development. That blog consisted primarily of captioned pictures and a smidgen of video clips. Later, in August of 2010, I began writing a ministry blog: Raise the Risk. Fairly quickly I came to love the art and craft of writing. I began reading other more popular bloggers and learned more about this creative outlet I am called to.

In 2011, I decided that writing two blogs was too much. I wanted to graft my family blog and ministry blog together. I also wanted the freedom to write about all aspects of my life; not only the ones that involved everyday risks. As a result of that decision, This Temporary Home was born. I now consider this blogging home a place where I can capture the days and express my thoughts through the lens of  a Christian worldview. It is my way of embracing everyday beauty.

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Interested in starting a blog of your own? There is no one way, however, I would love for you to learn from my past experiences in blogging and shorten your learning curve a bit.

  1. I suggest starting with your own website versus a Blogger or WordPress blog. I have used all three and would forgo the headache of transitioning from one to a dot com. To do this you need to purchase a domain name and secure a server. BlueHost is the server that I use. A detailed description of how to go about this can be found here on Amy Lynn Andrews’ helpful website for all things technical on blogging. As you decide on your domain name (web address) the easiest thing to do is use your name as a dot com. For example: www.brookecooney.com. I did not choose this for various reasons, however, in retrospect this may have been a better option. Using your name gives you the flexibility of changing your blog’s name without purchasing another domain.
  2. Next, begin writing. Once you establish a regular writing schedule, you will discover the theme connecting your posts together. You may begin a food blog only to discover you continuously write about the guests you have over for dinner! Once you develop your writing style, and the theme woven into it, then you can begin working on your branding. More about that next.  The most important element of writing a blog is consistency in posting. The more you write, the better you will become.
  3. Branding. By this I am referring to the web design and overarching message of your posts. These YouTube vlogs may be helpful in pursuing this idea further. I hired someone to design the look of my blog. I have no regrets for doing so. For a very reasonable cost, and much less anxiety on my part, a beautiful space was created for me to call my writing home. I would suggest that you look at your favorite blogs and websites and determine what exactly draws you to the look of those blogs. The look draws you, but the content is what makes people return again and again.
  4. Next, once you have blogged for a year, I would highly recommend converting your blog into a book. The company that I use each year is the Cutest Blog on the Block. These books are our family’s “scrap book” and also make for great gifts!
  5. One last piece of advice. When writing your blog and pursuing a reader base, always write with your audience in mind. In other words, try to tie in how the lessons you learn can impact your readers lives.

If you sense the Holy Spirit calling you to pursue blogging, be it writing, photography, cooking, or a creative how-to website, then I hope that the above suggestions will be of benefit to you. May you blog for His glory and for beauty!

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*Photography by Ron.

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A Birth Remembered

 

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 As we reflect on the five years lived with our Emily, we are overwhelmed with blessings. Emily, you have grown into a beautiful little girl full of love for others, a nurturing spirit, thoughtful ways, and an increasing vocabulary! Daddy and I pray for you a year full of growth in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. We pray this year or one soon after will usher in rebirth for you as you profess to know Jesus through repentance and salvation.

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*Last two photos taken by Corey Conroy Photography.

Last night Emily created a booklet from her scraps and marker scribbles. As she presented the book to me she asked, “Mommy will you remember me forever?” ” Yes, I will always remember you. Emily, if my mind stops working and I don’t remember you, yes, even then my heart and spirit will forever know you. When we meet again in heaven I will say, ‘There is my Love!'”

A mother’s heart will never forget that which the mind may fail to remember.

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Dearest Emily, our firstborn and only daughter, Happy 5th Birthday! You are dearly loved.

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Lessons for Every Day

Every day there are lessons to learn, truths we must remember, and His promises that we must cling to.

Our lives have significantly changed adding a third child to the mix. It feels we are in constant motion trouble shooting one situation after another. Ron and I joke that I need to start wearing black and white vertical stripped shirts and have the kids call me “Ref” as I referee most of their waking hours.

The verses from last week’s post need to be printed out and referred to daily in our home. In fact, perhaps I simply need to staple them to my forehead?!  I am constantly reminding myself not to complain, to use kind words, to treat others the way that I want to be treated while simultaneously pointing the finger at the children and instructing them to do the same.

The lessons that I want our kids to learn first need to be modeled in their own mom and dad before they can adequately take root. This is true for everyday lessons and in missional, intentional living.

With our step into foster care there have been multiple people who have told me, “I think it is great what you are doing. I wanted to foster, but I couldn’t bare the goodbyes. It would be too hard for me to say goodbye.”

I felt the same way initially. Ron and I were only open to adoption in the beginning. We didn’t think we were “made” to foster. The change in our attitudes came when we realized that there are more children than homes with foster parents. We learned that many of these kids were living in group homes or separated from their brothers and sisters.

We were reminded that all of our children are with us temporarily. The truth is, there are only finite days that God gives us to parent our children before they leave the nest. We decided that we will take the days given us with as many children as we choose to foster over our lifetime; be it one or twenty.

The final kiss goodbye to our sweet Little E is not something that I look forward to with anticipation. I am still relying on today’s grace for today’s race and will leave what remains to God. We continue taking our fears and frustrations to Him as often as we need to in prayer.

My emotions are no different than the next person. I, and all of my family, get attached. We love deeply, we apologize often, we forgive one another and live alongside each other with the love God has given us. This is no less true in foster care.

His love never changes(Hebrews 13:8), the people in our lives in which we can share His love do change.

If you or someone you know has any interest in foster care or adoption I encourage you to take a step in faith. It is a wild and difficult ride…one that our family has only begun. Perhaps hearing from a couple that has adopted multiple times would help? I encourage you to join us at our church to hear guest speaker Tony Dungy and his wife, Lauren, as they share their adoption story. Click here for more details.

You might think that learning everyday lessons every day seems elementary, but mastering everyday lessons isn’t. Keep at it friends…every day.

With love,

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Tomorrow’s Race

Each child is a gift from God. No matter how children come to us, they are made in His image and were created to bring Him glory. Ron and I are blessed with two such children. We are seeking to adopt to make it one more.

As we have considered adoption we are now pursuing a license to foster as well. People will caution that you shouldn’t foster to adopt. However, this scenario happens and we are hoping that it does so for us.

Two nights ago Joshua was pushing his over-sized dump-truck outside and went down hard after he raced his truck bobsled style down a small slope in our court. He incurred two pretty nice knee scrapes that kept him awakening multiple times in the night. With little sleep from frequent calls for mom and dad, I came back to bed muttering, “And I want to foster only newborns?” Oh my!

Yesterday on the very few hours of sleep that I did manage to get, I kept asking, “Is foster care really going to work for us?”

The truth is, I really don’t know.

With another night of minimal hours of sleep, I awoke early this morning to some much needed quiet time to read.  I need that early morning time alone to be with my Father…and uninterrupted silence is golden. In my study I came upon these verses that spoke directly into my worried heart concerning tomorrow.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

~Matthew 6:33, 34 ESV

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

~Hebrews 13:20, 21 ESV

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

~James 1:5-8 ESV

God promises grace for today and hope for tomorrow. I cannot rely on today’s grace for tomorrow’s race.

What worries do you need to give God today that require tomorrow’s graces?

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6 Miles with DRIVE

This morning as I was running, I reflected on the past six years. Our stint in student ministry started out much like my morning run…will power to keep going even when the cup of joe I had just downed was shouting, “You know it is more comfortable walking!” The longer I ran the easier it got and the less I had to tell myself, “Just keep pushing.”

There were moments in our ministry and moments in my run that looked like the story of the little red caboose; an object bracing the weight of a digressing train and in need of two black steam engines to give a boost from behind to make it over an ominous hill.

In the course of the ministry God sent much needed relationships to get us successfully over mountainous terrains. We are forever grateful for the mountains and for the people that God sent because without both we wouldn’t be the people that we are or are becoming. Likewise the student ministry would not look as it does now either.

Yesterday, it was Ron’s turn to tell our students that he is passing along one baton and taking up another.

He hasn’t stopped running. It is still the same race. It is a different track.

In the midst of the past 6 years some stretches seemed so long. However, in looking back it was truly less than a breath. A compilation of moments each allowed by an infinitely wise and loving heavenly Father.

Ron has continually told me that he wants to be faithful with what God puts in front of him. I can attest during this portion of the race he has done so.

More than anything this mission has hammered into me Galatians 6:9:

 Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

This year has been a year of harvest. We have watched the students who are serious about their faith rise up. We have seen them disciple one another in community groups, be faithful counselors and planners in Intersection Weekend (a three day high school led middle school event to transition the 6th grade class into the ministry), and act in such a way as to bring God glory.

It is true of youth leaders as disciple makers as it was of John:

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

~3 John 1:2-4 ESV

More than anything as we transition out of student ministry we long to hear that our students are walking in the truth.

Likewise we pray for continued growth.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

~Philippians 1:9-11 ESV

There is so much more work to do. If it were not so Christ would have already returned. Students, look around you. Pray for one another and hold one another accountable. Read your word and become a student of it. Pray also for Travis and Jessica and the new youth pastor and his family.

 

I ask you to pray for Ron and I as we set forth in this new area of ministry. As Ron puts on the adult discipleship hat, pray for God’s will to be done in and through us and for faithfulness to obey all His commands. Join us in praying for the health of adult life groups and for God to send out workers into His harvest field both in our local body of the church and to all areas of the world.

May you realize this truth and may we not rob God of the glory due His name:

Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

~ Isaiah 26:12 NIV

Likewise, we agree with Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:

 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:7-9 NIV

It has been our absolute privilege to run the last 6 miles with DRIVE Student Ministries. May God bless the next man who is set to run miles and miles more.

To the volunteers who have worked with us the last 6 years, our deepest gratitude. You have made all the difference! To the students: We LOVE you and count it the greatest blessing that you would have chosen to worship with us.

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Because It Is True

“I want you to read the Bible to me because it’s true.”

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Nearly two weeks ago Ron and I adjusted our bedtime routines with the children. Before bed we would read a chapter book with Emily and three or four picture books with Joshua prior to reading a Bible account. Our dearest Emily has fallen in love with reading. She will sit for hours listening to us read; that is until we reach for the Bible at bedtime.

Ron decided it was time for a change. Our desire is that the Bible would be the most treasured book for our children. Therefore we reserve chapter books and picture books for nap time and throughout the day, but give the Bible center stage at bedtime.

This Wednesday we were home late from church. It was bath night and we were tired. So what if we skipped one night of reading the Bible before bed? There is always tomorrow right?

Emily did not share our sentiments. She was crying and asking Ron to please read a chapter of Luke to her.

As Ron joined me on the couch I joked, “What kind of parents send their kids to bed begging for them to read the Bible?” He was simultaneously thinking, “What kind of pastor am I to not read the Bible to my kid when she is asking?”

When I tucked her into bed (for the second time that evening) Ron picked up his iPad and said, “I am going in there. I cannot send her to bed when she is asking me to read the Bible to her.”

Through tears Emily says, “I wanted you to read the Bible to me because it’s true. I wanted you to read the Bible because you said you would read it every night.”

What if we were at the mercy of some literate adult to read the word of God to us? Consider how starved for the truth we could be.

Tonight we are attending a high school graduation. I know that in fourteen very short years our Emily will be walking across a stage, receiving her diploma, and completely responsible for choosing to read and follow God’s word on her own. Then two years later, Joshua will follow her lead. After that point we will not know what time they go to bed, where they have been all day, nor exactly what temptations they are facing.

Sowing the seed of God’s word now prepares them for the independence that lies ahead. Because it is true, this home and this time we have is temporary, it is our desire to equip them to live for Jesus all the days of their life. After all, we are planting wheat fields, not beanstalks.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

~Deuteronomy 6:4-8

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