Today I want to tell you about one of my heroes. Her name is Cori, and she’s my little sister. Ok, so she’s not my sister by blood. Ok so she’s not my stepsister either. But this also isn’t a “my sister in Christ” type relationship. You see, when we were both just two years old, our mothers were roommates. From that point on we spent pretty much every holiday together, we vacationed together, we played together and we fought together. We grew up just like brother and sister. At some point, it became too complicated to explain to people that Cori was more than a friend to me but not anything like a girlfriend so we just started telling people we were brother and sister. Some people don’t think that is a legitimate claim, but to us, it’s true. My son’s will call her Aunt Cori (or Aunt Corny as Joshua has begun referring to her), our kids will grow up looking at each other as cousins, and her son Loki will know me as his uncle.

Now that that is out of the way, let me tell you about my little sister. From what I remember growing up, Cori was the happiest, funniest most carefree person I have ever met. She never felt like she had to follow a fad or be like other people. She always marched to the beat of her own drum and had a good time doing it. Cori was always up for trying new things or pretty much anything that seemed like it might be fun. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my childhood was infinitely more interesting because Cori was a part of it.

Both Cori and I grew up tough though. We both had fathers that for whatever reason were not around. We did have Ronnie who was a father figure to both of us but I think there’s something that gets scarred in a kid’s soul when their father is not involved in their lives. Both of us learned how to fight young, and both of us had tempers that once they clicked, our entire countenance would change. I would go from being super laid back to yelling and bouncing and fighting. Cori went from happy and carefree to clawing and punching and kicking.

By the time high school rolled around both of us were dabbling in drugs. We both had pain in our hearts which we wanted to drown out. After high school, we both got worse. I got deep into using drugs and the gang lifestyle and Cori got deeper into the pills and the parties. When I was nineteen, I went to a program to seek help. For Cori, things kept getting worse. The drugs got harder and the parties got darker. She got tougher and tougher due in part to the abusive relationships she was in. Heroine somehow found it’s way into her life and sunk it’s claws into her soul.

As Cori fought to be free of her addictions, going to several rehabs, she just wasn’t able to find freedom from the devil of a drug that is heroine. Life was pretty much upside down for Cori when she found out she was pregnant. She tried so hard throughout her pregnancy to get her life turned around but even after Loki was born things still seemed to spiral downwards.

A pretty crazy turn of events wound up forcing Cori to take Loki and go to a rehab in Birmingham. She was already moving in that direction but now her hand was forced and DHR was involved. Cori excelled in the program she was in for about a year, but the stress of living in a rehab, working crazy hours at her job, and raising an energetic boy on her own caught up to her and she was kicked out of the rehab for drinking a specific energy drink that they had outlawed.

Cori tried to get into another rehab and it just did not work out and the state decided they needed to take her son from her. She found a friend that would be willing to temporarily take her son so that he would not go into foster care. After some time went by Cori returned to Baldwin County (which is where her son was) and began trying to piece her life back together. She was done with the drugs completely, and had a new boyfriend named Andrew. Andrew has been such a huge blessing to Cori. He has shown her what it is to be in a relationship with a man who adores her, would never hit her, and will be on her side no matter what. Cori continued going to drug classes and even reaching out to encourage others who have gone through similar situations as her.

We moved to Alabama this past January and got the opportunity to hang out with Cori, and the first thing I noticed was that for the first time in over a decade, I looked into my little sister’s eyes and saw the girl I grew up with. Cori was back. She has such a simple, sweet faith in God that has been so encouraging to me over these last several months.

I had the privilege of being with Cori in court the day she got her son back. I can’t say I have ever been more proud of her than on that day. There had been some issues with this friend of hers who she had given custody of her son to. The friend and his wife became very attached to Loki and began to see him as their own child. They had known Cori at her lowest point and were understandably apprehensive in giving Loki back to her. But Cori has become fully capable of being an amazing mom to Loki and giving him the life he deserves. Whether they didn’t know that or their affection for Loki wouldn’t let them see that I’m not sure, but whatever the case, it was quite a struggle for Cori to regain custody of her son.

As we sat in the hallway outside the court room that day Cori was so kind and talkative and gracious to the people who had custody of her son. I was having a hard time doing that but she showed me just how much kindness we are capable of. Even after the judge ordered reunification, meaning Cori gets custody of her son back, she offered to let them take him for a few hours so they could say good bye. I thought that was so huge of her. As we were leaving, I patted the man on his back and asked him if they were going to be ok. He said it would take some time, but they would be. As Cori, Andrew, Loki, Cori’s mom Ann and I went to lunch Cori thanked me for being kind and asking the man if they would be ok. I couldn’t help but laugh. “ME?!” I exclaimed, “I figured if you could be so kind and gracious I SURE AS HELL could!”

I’ve learned a lot from my sister these last few months. I learned about determination and persistency and faith and trust. She had confidence that at some point she would regain custody of her son and she never gave up hope on that. I’ve learned that we can be gracious to anyone, no matter the circumstance.

Cori is a shining example of God’s grace and mercy and life changing power. I pray that her son will grow up knowing how strong his mother is. Oh by the way, Andrew proposed to her recently, so I’ll have the honor of calling him my brother-in-law soon! Things are going pretty good now for Cori and her little family. Please keep her in your prayers as Cori, Andrew and Loki adjust to normal life.

Finally, I just wanted to share Cori’s story because I know there are so many out there who are struggling with drug addiction or know someone who is. When you are in the midst of that it may seem like things are just never going to get better. Cori is an example of why we should never give up on people. She may have been trapped in the darkness for roughly a decade, but now she has been set free! Now instead of taking drugs she plants flowers. Instead of being involved in drama she catches amazing pictures of sunsets. Instead of finding trouble she finds fun, unique things to do with her family. Cori is who she was created to be. She is the fun, adventurous girl I grew up with. I am honored to be her brother. And I hope you get the chance to meet her someday. She’s a pretty amazing person!