Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Famly, Friends, Siblings for Life

It has been one of my greatest joys to spend my time being a mother. These kids have been in each of each other's lives. I have often said that I learned to be a good friend by first being a sister. I, being the middle of five kids. Each of my five kids have lived in a home where each person is celebrated for their unique individual personality. The unique design straight from God.

How do you celebrate each individual child in your home?  I look at Emerson below. Since the boy could hold a guitar, a microphone, a mandolin, and pluck his little fingers at the piano he has loved music.  Along with Elliot and Emily. Three out of five is not bad for the gift and passion for music. We have scoured many garage sales for instruments to practice on. Encouraging those musical passions.
My children have learned to give and to take, and to wait and to share. And if you asked each one of them today who their best friends are, all five would say each other. I witnessed something on Mother's Day weekend. Young men who are caring and thinking of each other. I use to pray that someday when they all grow up they would want to hang out together, be friends, and desire to be in relationships with each other. The Saturday before Mother's Day Ethan asked his older brother Elliot, and his wife Sarah to coffee. He then invited Eric and Emerson. There was that split second when I almost said, "I want to come." But I held back. Today was that prayer being answered. Ethan had some birthday money and he wanted to take his brothers and Sarah to coffee.
They are all growing up. These pictures found in my archives. Pictures I had no idea I had. When I found them, I just stared at each one. Their faces and the joy of being brothers many years ago and still today. I pray that as the years go by they will always look back on the friendships they had with each other growing up.
Elliot and Emerson, my oldest and youngest building Lego's together. Believe it or not this picture has not changed much, they have only gotten bigger. I have been asked over the years what I have done as a mother to build these friendships. Emily is not in these pictures, but she, too  just as much part of the sibling friendship factor. What do I do?  I think the most important part of mothering my children was to teach them to serve each other. Teach them to be helpers to each other. Teach them to always speak kindly to each other and teach them to apologize to each other.

Each of them will always remember the little chairs facing each other. If you had a conflict, even at a young age, you would be asked to sit in a time-out facing each other. The instruction was that both had to talk to work it out and come to a mutual agreement. And then they could invite me into the conversation to assure that all was well.

There will always be days when we struggle at a parent. There are many sleepless nights, or waiting for curfew, or homework, or reading.  All those days will soon pass and one day you will look back and ask yourself what did I teach my children? Teach them to be friends with each other and they will have friends for life. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Love Never Fails

Some days we wake up tired. We think we have failed because we did not have the perfect breakfast, or the hot cocoa when we promised. Then love steps in, and we are reminded that when there is love, even what we think are small failures mean nothing more to our children than just a fleeting moment. They know love is not measured in green eggs & ham.
 As single parents we work hard. The blessing of having my kids in my space after school. Their friends coming to play and being able to kiss mama when the day is done. Working. Have I failed my children? Of course not. I have been blessed as an entrepreneur to be present in the raising of my five children. Even with a tired face, from working all day there are kisses on the house. Love never fails.

Selfies, we take lots. For those who have raised children before phones with cameras we were the one's behind the camera. I have very few pictures with my first two children as I was always taking the pictures. That one single thought of turning a camera around and including oneself never occurred. Now my children will always be able to say, "oh and that is my mom the picture." Love never fails.
Love never fails. When your teenagers allow you in their selfies it's a win not a failure. I am truly blessed for the friendships I have with my children. They know our story of hard, easy and inbetween and because of the love we share, we  are all still here.

Dear Parents,
Our children know the difference between stuff, time and love.  They may beg for all the stuff. But I can tell you one thing is for sure. My grown children thank me more for the time, and expression of love more than any stuff they ever had. That time earns us the right as parents to speak into our children. When love steps in, it will never fail.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

God Sends His Promises

It was several weeks ago.It had been a few days of the sheep wandering off. On this new day I woke up early to take care of the sheep and today they were behaving. I had a chat with them before opening the barn door. Telling them that I am like they are. I understand. That straight path to the perfect pasture for grazing has so many distractions. I told them they had to trust me in leading them to that pasture. Stay on course. It's only a 3 minute walk, but then you can run free. And they did as they were told. No herding circles around the house and out to a pasture that was not planned.

Later I dropped Ethan off at school and before closing the car door he looks back, smiles and says, "Thank you mama I love you."  Sometimes that is all that this mama needs is sheep who obey and your teenager saying sweet kind words.

I went on to my Bible study. I love these ladies. I love hearing how God is growing their hearts through life experiences. Together we discussed last Sunday's teaching on "Loving your Enemy". It was a wonderful dialogue.  Then I see  a call on my phone. I take the call and return to the table shaking and crying.

It was hard news. And the tissue box was passed my direction and the mascare I put on has all been poured down my face with tears. Today was suppose to be easy.  Says who?  Who said any day would be easy?  We all go through our days with the realization that things can change or not go as planned. I wanted to curl up in the fetal position, turn off my shop lights and cry my eyes out. That is not what God had planned. No he put me smack in the middle of the hearts of praying and loving women. Stopping the direction of our meeting and covering me in prayer. And guess what these are some of God's favorites. These women slighted the fear and the fretting with their prayers. And then one very sweet sister shared and prayed through Psalm 37. And God steps in with HIS words of encouragement and HIS promises.

Oh how God shows up and sends His promises. He put me right where I needed to be when a hard phone call comes. Have you had a blow to your day? Read the following passage. I highlighted those promises that have touched my heart. My heart was lifted and once again, as the weeks and months have shown me God is still in the business of the very promises written in the Bible.

My circumstances may not have changed, but my heart left less heavy covered in prayer and scripture.  Stay the course with Jesus through the harder days. He knows these days and his promises are true. Remember all the other times he has been there for you. 

Psalm 37 (copies from Biblegateway)

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

11 But the meek will inherit the land
    and enjoy peace and prosperity....

17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
    but the Lord upholds the righteous.
18 The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care,
    and their inheritance will endure forever.

19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
    in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
    but the righteous give generously;
22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,
    but those he curses will be destroyed.
23 The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;

24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

26 They are always generous and lend freely;
    their children will be a blessing.[b]
27 Turn from evil and do good;
    then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves the just
    and will not forsake his faithful ones.
Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed[c];
    the offspring of the wicked will perish.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
    and dwell in it forever.
30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
    and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
    their feet do not slip.

33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
    or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Hope in the Lord
    and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
    when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

Do you walk through each day with the confidence that God's Word and promises are true?  Look for His promises in your daily walk. Thank God through out the day for the ways he has covered your heart. Today I am thanking Him for Psalm 37 and these sweet gals. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Generous Heart of One Family

In this post I want to share the generous heart of one family. A family I do not know. Yet God prompted to write a check on the precise day I cried out to God.

It was October 15th when my three boys were removed from my daily care. It was a law that a judge had to abide by. Even in his own words stating, "this is NOT in the best interest of the children I have to abide by the letter of this law." And my kids moved an hour and a half away from. The events took it toll on me. It was hard on all of us. It was breaking my heart in half. My work had suffered during the months leading up to court cases and representing myself over and over with no means to hire an attorney.

The very next day after the boys were removed from my daily care I cried out to God for even more help. The kind of crying of, "Dear God how I am going to see my boys. I can not even buy gas to drive into town let alone an hour and a half away."  God has always provided just enough. AND in my desperation my heart breaking over not being able to go and visit my boys.

Have you had prayers and cries of desperation?  I know we have all been there. It is hard and we know is having walked with God that there will, no doubt, be hard times. And in those hard times we are called to  "consider it all joy" and well joy, tears, and heartbreak get all mixed up.

I made myself get up and go to church that next morning. I could not imagine being around people. I sat where the boys and I always sit, the front row. Worship poured and cleansed my broken heart. I took notes on a message that could help. I made myself stand up. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I felt that if I stayed in bed and cried then the enemy had won. I asked God to get me up and out the door.  The enemy will not have my family. And I WILL stand in church praising and worshiping God. There was a call to come forward and be prayed over and I have no idea how my legs took me those few steps forward but I went and prayer came that morning. God penetrated my heart with hope.

Later that evening one of the young men in the Cone home, Tyler, handed me a piece of paper. It was a check. A member of his church wanted to do something. Wanted to help.  It was enough money to pay for gas for the next 3 months to go and visit my boys. They could not have known the timing of this check or the prayers of my heart. They felt God's leading and generously gave to our family Not one dollar was wasted. God provided in way that came from a stranger. My heart completely humbled.

What is challenging your faith? What are you not seeing? God is working on your behalf. It may not be as tangible as a check. But the check was yet another way God answered prayer. God answered prayer that day by helping me to have the courage to get out of bed and take my broken heart to the cross. God answered prayer  that day by blessing my broken heart through worship and praise. God answered prayer by bringing people to pray over me. All not easy AT ALL when less than 23 hours earlier your children have been taken from you.

The generous heart of this family was really the ending of a day filled with God's care and blessings. Look for God's care for you. It's there and HE is there to carry you.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

One Simple Move of Obedience #FarmLifeWithCones

It was just a summer bbq invite. I was tired. I was emotionally spent. I had nothing left to give. I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. I had no extra money for fuel that week. As a matter of fact I was past counting how many gas tanks I had left on my credit card. I was out of money and this invite was at least an hours' drive.

I felt God's prompting. I argued with God about not going. These were dear friends. They would see past my fake smile and surface conversation. They would ask questions and I was not ready to start answering questions. Why go? It's not something I had planned on doing. My boys, now that is a different story. They have nothing but joy and happy memories in this home we've been invited to. I should have never mentioned the invitation because they were begging to go. I told them I was way to tired and we can plan another time. Yet still God's prompting on my heart to go and so we loaded up my gas guzzling SUV and we went.

There was lots of food and lots of people and the boys were outside playing with all the kids. I knew this was where I was suppose to be. God's prompting was a prompting of renewal to my heart. It was just as simple move of obedience.  I had no idea what God had in store for my heart. It was as if God was saying, "Elizabeth I have my angels waiting to love and care for you here on earth. Just listen you silly." And later that evening I sat with these beautiful ladies who asked me questions. Who allowed me to share. Who embraced my heart and the heart of our family. I shared what I was embarrassed to share. I shared the situation. A situation that for some reason I thought I could have avoided. And the love the poured over my heart was just what I needed.

Later that evening my dear friend Ann, the home we were in, invited our family to come and live with them. Invited the weight of the events to not be weighted down by trying to find a home to live in. At first I said, "no". I mean friends really should not live with each other, should they?  I have known this family for well over 22 years. I have watched their kids grow up. Our lives have had seasons where months went by without seeing each other but our friendship never wavered. Now an invitation to move three busy boys onto their little farm in the country. Kind of a dream invitation for boys who love the outdoors. And I said, "no thank you." And then I said, "I will think about it." Again God pressing on my heart. God pressed for about a week. Then another simple move of obedience.

I said yes. More importantly I said yes to God's prompting of my heart. Another simple move of obedience.  I had no idea I needed a family to love on all of us. I have three boys, and here in this home three of their own boys living at home. Grown children and their youngest son the age of my boys. What a blessing to our family.

Obedience to God is hard. Not just sometimes but all the time. Why?  We may think we have a plan. That plan may be well laid out and make perfect sense. But then along the way there is a change and we think, "no that can't be right."  And when the plan to move to this farm was presented I had to laugh. I had to remind myself that God keeps putting me where I am most able to grow closer to him. Nature, views, animals and a farm. Always somewhere in the midst one or the other.

It has now been six months living in his home.   This is just the beginning of how God has provided and prepared our family through life changing events that would unfold. He moved us into a home that HE could be glorified and honored in. . For His plans are always better than our plans. One simple move of obedience provided more blessings in the midst of heart break than I could have imagined.

What is God prompting in your heart?  How could one simple act of obedience move the course and direction of our your life?

There are many moments I have shared through Facebook with the hashtag #farmlifewithcones check in on that for little adventures here and there.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Secret to Youth is Forgiveness

The Secret To Youth Is Forgiveness. Forgiveness is not easy. Forgiveness is not a onetime act. Forgiveness is a habit that needs to be practiced and covered with holiness and prayer.

Psalm 86:5 
"You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you."

I wake up most every single day saying this simple prayer, “Dear God please let my heart love the way YOU love even when it hurts and is hard.” And throughout the day, when anger or resentments want to take up space in my head or heart I will pray and cover myself in more prayer. And one day you wake up and say this prayer, “God I know I pray this every day and it may seem monotone but really I am sure that anger and resentment would like to creep in. Cover me in your love that nothing about who I am carries anger and resentment into my day.” And the calm of forgiveness comes.

Many years ago, I was speaking at a women’s retreat. I felt like I was NOT even qualified to be talking to women about God and life, but I had to trust that they trusted me and therefore God would somehow use me. I spoke on developing habits in our relationship with God. I shared how the habit of forgiveness is not an easy one when we are in relationships that continually hurt us. I shared some habits I had developed in hopes that these ladies may learn and grow through forgiveness. One gal came up to me afterwards.  She got within a few inches of my face and told me that she had been praying for 25 years and forgiveness was not something she could do. I did not back away. I looked at her worn, stone hard face. I learned that she was in her late 40’s. I was in my early 40’s. She went on to tell me that I had not been hurt hard enough or lived long enough to understand what real pain is. And when that time came I would be “preaching a different message.” She was shocked to learn that I was in my 40’s.

I came away thanking God for intervening into my heart. I just listened and asked her if I could pray with her. Her face, her body, her tone and her countenance were riddled with resentments and anger. I wanted to tell her that I was abused as a child. Beaten, bruised, and molested. I wanted to tell her of damaged relationships that left me empty. I wanted to tell her the pains of my life that was caused by others. I did not. I just prayed with her. And it was then I began to take notice of how people wore their anger and resentments. The health issues and the pains. The hardness of hearts and it was then I postured my heart more to see that no matter what offenses come my way I could be a forgiving daughter of Christ.

How do you forgive and let go?  I heard once that we have this notion that we, “forgive and forget.” “When really we forgive, and remember.” There is love in forgiveness. And when we do remember, because scars are reminders, we choose to love. We choose to cover the other person in love, and in doing that we protect our own hearts with love. Easy enough, right?

Five Things I have Learned About Forgiving
1.    Forgiveness is a verb. Taking steps and action on your part. No one is responsible but you. Not the person who offended or hurt you. YOU are the only one who can act on that stage of forgiveness.
2.       Pray for the person. I cannot forgive on my own. On my own I would be inclined to say bad words in my head. And I am not even a person who uses bad words. However, when I feel the pain of the hurt or the offense, I just pray for that person. I mean good Godly Holy prayers that last an hour and have me speaking in old testament dialect. Not really. It’s more like, “Dear God you know I am in pain here. Help me to forgive and give me a heart of love toward that person.” And really God intervenes into my thoughts and heart condition.

3.       Write their name(s) in your journal. Next to their name list ways you can pray for them.  And then pray for them. Ask God to speak into your heart how you can pray for that person. I would like to pray, “Dear God, may this person rot in a cold dark place for what they did.” However when you truly seek God  how to love and forgive HE pours the wisdom of praying into your thoughts. “Dear God, I know this person is in need and I pray you would provide and through those provisions you would bring someone along to show love and kindness.” Really on my own I do not come up with this stuff.

4.       Serve those who have hurt you. I am not saying go out of your way and put yourself in a position of more hurt. That is not what I am talking about here. Trust me, the day the courts handed me over to the state at the age of 11 years old. I had no desire to EVER face my step-dad. In my late 20’s I started praying for him. If you are interfacing with the peoples who have hurt you then step into how you can serve them. I faced a person who hurt me deeply in a coffee shop a couple of years ago, I was kind of mad at God about that one because I felt God saying, “you need to go over and show her love. Ask her questions and give her a heart that says forgiveness.” DRAT!!!  I sat in that coffee shop for 45 minutes arguing with God. And then my legs stood up. I walked over to her and asked if I could sit down. I asked about her life, her kids and how she was doing. She thanked me and even squeezed my hand. There was no talk of the offenses. Out of obedience to God, I could sit and love on her with a true heart of forgiveness.

5.       Avoid gossiping about the people who have hurt you by name or affiliation. The world is small and just last week I faced a very big deal that could have been bad had I blabbed about it. There were some HUGE injustices towards my daughter. I had decided to go into social media and use this company as an example. I mean don't you think future customers should know about this company? But then God, and again an argument between me and God. Okay talking about God and my fighting obedience seems to be common. Why? There is that need to let everyone know just exactly what that company did. Yet I talked with my daughter and said I would not be using social media and that we could just move on and forgive. And it turns out that there is a friend affiliated with this company.

Forgiveness is never easy.  I titled and started this post with, “The Secret To Youth Is Forgiveness”. Resentment and anger wear our faces and bodies down. Holding on, and keeping the icky stuff inside weighs heavy on a person’s countenance. I get asked all the time what kind of skin remedies I have. I always chuckle. “Uh Ivory soap and Banana Boat after Sun Care.” I have used these two products since I was 14 years old. But really the secret is forgiveness. I am sure that is it. Which also contributes to my good health.

Psalm 86:5 
"You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you."
What are you hanging onto?  What consumes your thoughts? What hurts are lingering?  Un-Forgiveness causes hurts to linger. Not forgiving eats a person up from the inside out. I submit to you right now that if you do not know how to forgive, just practice for two weeks these five steps. Ask God to step into your heart and thoughts and HE will intervene. The freedom of forgiveness is the secret to youth. Love and Blessings dear Friends~Elizabeth

Sunday, March 12, 2017

God's Faith Building Moment Comes From the Sky

It was a very tough week. It was late summer of 2016. It was the kind of week where you decide to grab some overnight bags, load the kids in the car and go somewhere fun. We were on summer vacation and it was time for some vacation. One thing is for sure. We LOVE roadtrips and we love being together.

Within minutes of being in the car, we were singing to Cold Play, and laughing over silly things. I was thankful that God had put on my heart to just go, without a plan. We had a destination of Seattle fun. Being with family and friends. All things my boys love doing. All things to distract us of harder things.

One morning while on this adventure we decided to drive down to the water front in Port Orchard. We then decided to take the walking Ferry to the other side and look at the big ships. It was just an easy morning to get out and play, be on the water and distract ourselves from the hard stuff left back home.

I wore one of my summer outfits with my darling shoes. The kind of shoes that are good for about two hours of walking. And based on the morning's plan that was the extent and thus I wore these darling shoes.

Once on the other side of the bay, we decided to take the bigger Ferry into downtown Seattle. Whoa I am wearing my "only walk for about two hours"shoes. Not my "walk all day" shoes. Come on!!!  Tell me I am not the only who knows her shoes well. The shoes I was wearing had produced the biggest blister months earlier after walking all over the Portland waterfront. Now heading the the Seattle waterfront I already had a blister forming. Not again.

Once on the big ferry I went to the kiosk asking if they had a band-aid. I was asking strangers if they had a band-aid. No one could find me single band-aid.  I was fearing the end of the day with these silly shoes on.

While we were on the ferry to Seattle our family was in a heavy discussion on why God does not just answer our prayers when we want Him to. Why does there have to be pain and suffering in this world? Why would God even allow this stuff?  Once we got off the ferry the conversation continued. Meanwhile I am still on a hunt for a band-aid. Then I got the idea of how to help my kids understand God just a teeny bit more using the lack of a band-aid experience.

I explained that God always provides.I explained that God's timing is always better than our timing or our demands.   I explained that sometimes God gives us glimpses of HIM working in our lives as a faith building moment. Like..."hey I am working this out for you, and here is a bit of proof."  That example is often so tangible you know it came directly from God. I then explained that sometimes God just does not show himself to us unless HE knows we need to be reminded that he is working out things on our behalf. I said that my shoes were causing me a blister. And do you really think that God would just drop a band-aid out of the sky when I already knew I should not wear these shoes. I said that God might do that if he needed to remind us that HE truly is in the middle of our circumstances. Just then the 5 year old looked up. And then all six of us were looking up. And there floating out of the sky was a perfectly  wrapped band-aid. Did you read that? A band-aid blew through the air and landed right in front of me.

We all freaked out. I mean really freaked out. God had a faith building moment that came from the sky. I went over to a bench and sat down to unwrap and adjust this band-aid. I started weeping. Thanking God for having my back. Thanking God for helping me explain to my kids, that even in all this hard stuff, God is caring for us. A band-aid fell out of the sky. A story my kids will never forget. Truly God is the the smallest parts of our lives.

A side note this event is that my fourteen year old attending a summer youth camp the following week.  During cabin time he shared this story. The next morning my oldest son, a youth pastor at this camp, called telling me that Ethan was telling crazy stories during cabin time. I assured him that the story was very much true to how it was shared. God using this story to share with others of HIS faithfulness.

And that is one faith building moment from the sky. Thank you Lord Jesus. And those shoes....well they have been tucked away for good.