Thursday, January 26, 2017

What if your last year was your best year in your worst year ever?

 My son Ethan asked me what has been, "the best year of your life mom?  I mean the best year of your life ever."

It might be easy to look back on 2016 and think that things can only be better after having what seemed to be my worse year of my life. What if your last year was your best year in your worst year ever?  Think about that for a moment. Your best year came through the worst circumstances EVER!!  So how can we begin to think that 2017 will be better?

I did not know that my light could shine in the deepest darkness I have ever faced. Yet in this tunnel of hurt God has shown himself to me in ways I have never known. God has taken my heartache and pain and has used it to show me more of his love and grace for me. Tenderly opening my heart through more tears than four oceans could hold and showing me Himself. Showing me through others that He truly has a deep love and care for me. More people,in this past year, have come up to me and told me what a joy and light I am in this world. Strangers, check out ladies at the store. "There is something about you that just shines." "You have brightened my day." "What is it about you that makes you smile?" It's hard to think and wrap my brain around so I will try to dissect a bit more.

You ARE my Family!!  Family is very important to me. Not only those in my immediate family, but those who walk through my front door of my home or business are considered part of the family. I appreciate my mom. As a kid she welcomed EVERYONE in her space with conversation and sweetness.  With five kids there have been 100's of kids through my home. Their parents, their teachers and playgroups and mom groups. My home always open. I am not one who stressed over unexpected company. I am not one who quickly swept the floors and stuffed dirty laundry in closets. What you see is what you get. And God, knowing my heart for family, has given me family through friends over the past 50 years. Yes 50 years. As I sip from a mug of encouragement. A coffee mug sent from a dear friend, Angie, who I have known since 2nd grade. Encouraging me through this hard season by sending me a mug. When family was divided up and taken away, God surrounds me with HIS family. And there is joy at that dinner table.

I have had to learn in this hard season that in aligning my heart with God my identify is to be in HIM alone. I walked this faith since I was six years old. I have had things given and taken away. But my kids, really God?  Life steps in with the hardest circumstances. Circumstances that are not from and of God. Circumstances born out of anger, fear and confusion. None of which are from God. Oh but friends what do we know of God. He makes all things beautiful in his time.  Taking my hardest year of my family, my kids taken from me and what does God up and do. He pours family back into me through my hardest year.

I am one of those kids who was taken from her own home as a young girl. Put into the foster care system, brought into a wonderful family, and decided when I was young that no one person would ever feel left out, alone or without family. And here I was, a judges order. He had to follow the "letter of the law". Geography before this messy stuff. I understood it and the law is the law. It was not my parenting, or mothering, but no matter the law family was upset, changed and taken. Over the steps of my life I have poured into and given with a heart of joy, love and care as best as I can in hard circumstances.  Given because that is how God wired me. And then the most important little people that I have given to are taken from me. My three boys. A decision a judge had to make. "Status Quo".  The judge had to rule on the letter of the law. And my heart breaking. Hardest year of my life. Perhaps in looking back my best year. How is that possible?

Today it is Thursday January 26th, 2017. And guess what HE is making all things beautiful to me today. the God of the universe cares for me. I am still without two of my children. Today with a sweet visit from a friend God speaks to me so loudly that I am sitting here writing. Identity and purpose.Confidence in who I am. Confidence in my identity in a God who knew all this. He's been here before. I am not HIS only daughter to cry over the loss of little people.Twenty-Nine years of being a mom. Waking up to little sillies.

It felt like my identity was raped from me. My identity as a mom. Mom to my kids. Mom to the friends of my kids. A loving mother's heart to every kid God brings into my space. The very heart of my purpose in life taken like a thief in the night.  Apart from God this might seem like a weird and strange blog post. So let me explain it this way. What gives you purpose?  What esteems who you are? What wakes you up every morning and puts a smile on your face?  What separates you from the rest of the crowd? Your purpose. The cause of living that God designed in you, guided in you and made you to build your life passions around. My purpose for 29 years. Mothering.

The first day I found out I was pregnant with Elliot I vowed to God that I would be the best mother I could be. With the next four children I vowed the same. I vowed that I would never compromise my mothering for other things. I would not grow my kids up in daycare. I would would be present. I would see that they had music lessons. ( A void I felt as a young girl who loved music) I vowed that I would listen to the heartbeat of their interests and build life around being a mother and nurture each child individually with their interests. Creatively seek out opportunities to grow each child up with a balance of spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and emotional growth and development.  It's my calling and God provided in ways for me to be that present mom.

I worked hard at keeping my kids in the middle of my work. I had this creative side to me that was bursting. So I took my skills into retail and started my own business. My kids telling stories of growing up in the middle of that store. A store that afforded help, so I could continue to be present in my kids lives before and after school.  I have appreciated all that I have had in being a mom. It has not always been easy. Even able to sit on a floor for hours and teach my deaf child to speak and articulate words. Seeing his personality and driving force to never be left out of this hearing world I was going to see that he could function. My mothering gave me purpose.  With all the challenges we face as mothers I can say that I have always had absolute joy in mothering. Biblical parenting and embracing God's word in teaching my children in the ways they should go. My purpose.

Then one day a court decision took my children from me. I was no longer planning meals, making lunches, teaching my kids to cook, play-dates, looking into backpacks for uneaten lunches, and important papers scrunched up, and homework folders to review and sign. I was no longer trying to figure out math homework, or rereading reports. I was no longer listening to the sweet voices of my children reading. I was no longer faced with mountains of laundry or mismatched socks or wondering how one family can go through so many towels in one week. I was no longer checking my watch for that time school got out and I would put a sign on my shop door to dash out to pick kids up. I was no longer met with kids who walked from school to my store after school. I have a snack drawer still full because no kids are in my shop needing after school snacks. No more text messages from other moms checking to see if their kids are with my kids or scheduling plate-dates.   Many friends over the years allowing their own children to have play-dates in a kids shop which they loved. Missing sounds of their chatter, their laughter or boys fighting over who sits in the front seat. Or boys freaking out because someone farted, or someone is breathing to loud.  There was no longer those daily deep profound conversation with my kids. Helping shape their own opinions, desires and dreams. No play-dates to schedule. No special one on one mom dates at random. Sitting quietly. All is quiet. The evenings quiet. The drives are quiet. My brain of being organized and ready for what was next, the unexpected that happens with kids was no more.    My purpose yanked by one decision. My family taken with one court decision. 

For the first time in 29 years as a mother I have faced a pain that is UN-explainable. I could not have imagined the impact this would have on my life. I have said that it's strange. Tears just start falling out of my face when I am alone doing things I have ALWAYS done with my kids. Simple things like grocery shopping. Or handing Emerson the keys to pen the mailbox. Or Eric and I planning dinner and all the kids cooking together.  I have faced a host of hurt over the years. Our hards may not look the same but we all face them and this IS hard.  Nothing in life has ever had tears pouring out of my face daily. Nothing has ever fought so hard to rob me of my joy than to have my purpose and identity taken. A mother. My calling. The calling to be a mom. the calling God put on me to be present in raising my children.

And then in 2016 God wraps his arms of love around me through friends in ways I have never known. It was my turn to accept. It was a my turn to be given to. It was God's time to show me the best year of my life, 2016. The best year in understanding HIS family. The family of God, the family of friends, the family of hearts who care, the family of doing and helping. The family of life that expands all the way back to being born.  Every single day of this journey God has provided someone to speak into me. To remind me of who I am in HIM.  God showing me and reminding me that my joy and identity are in HIM. Not being a mother. Not being a business owner. In Him alone. In my worst year ever my eyes have been opened wider to the divine love God has for me and for my family. I thought I was doing what I was suppose to be doing. In all of my doing, I found success on many levels of my life. Yet alone and by myself my time with God was in fact the best year of my life. My greatest success is walking with a God who knows. Writing in my journal, sometimes 2-3 times a day of how HE showed up through family, friends and strangers to care for me and to care for my boys. This long season of being quiet and listening. A very long period. And anyone who has just one child knows the unending noise and chatter. All is silent.

It may have been one of my hardest years, but in my walk with God it has been one of my best years.

When we face the hardest moments in life it's easy to be bitter, angry and mad. But each day I wake up and I have had to say, "Okay God, today show me." Show me how to keep loving those who have hurt me. Show me how to smile and be joyful. Show me how to wake up and serve others that this season would not be wasted. Show what is next. Show me how to grieve. Show me how to be quiet. Show me how to understand your Word. Show me what to read in your Word. Show me how to accept the love and care others have to give me. Show me how to be humble. Show me how to ask. Show me how to walk close to you through the hardest year of my life. Show me how to walk this out with grace. Show me how to walk this out with honor and integrity.   I don't know what God might show me and I have to admit I did not always know how to pray, but just to empty the thoughts from my head at HIS feet. And what happens.

God shows me. God shows me what family looks like when my family is taken away. God shows me how to pour into my children an example of love when others are hurting us. God shows me how to accept that laughing and joy are OKAY when we are hurting. God shows me how to serve others by dropping me smack dab in the middle of a family that I could love and serve. Oh he not only showed me but HE showed up. He gave me a season of quiet. And the words of the Bible, God's word have been my prayers. My writing out scripture when I have no thoughts of my own to pray. And God has shown me what true love is all about. What true love looks like and it has nothing to do with candy hearts and chocolates. It has everything to do with family and friends crossing over every part of my life showing up to come alongside. And it brought me to a place of humility to accept the love and care. God has given me a heart of grace. Praying for those who have hurt me. Accepting this season and if 2016 was not my best  year than I do not know what to say.

The story, my story is still being written.  And as God shows up through each of you, you have become part of a story that God already knew about. He has included YOU in giving me the best year of my life 2016.

"I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this."

Not sure of who wrote that quote, but I have it written on a piece of paper at my desk.

What if your last year was your best year in your worst year ever? 

What if you are reading this and you think...oh LORDY this God stuff. What is it with God? The God of the universe. Our creator. Does he really exist what is this girl talking about?  This next year I will be sharing the daily moment when I had a need and provisions were made. Because I do not believe in coincidences.  I do not believe in strokes of good luck. I believe that there is a God who loves me, cares for me and knew exactly what HE could use to teach me more of his love for me. We live in a broken world where bad things happen. God can use those things to bring us closer into his love and care. He certainly has done that with me which is exactly why I had my best year in the worst year of my life. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Five Ways To Add Christmas Cheer With Blended Families...

 Allow the kids to be part of the process.
 Christmas 2015 was a new kind of Christmas for me. It included new people in our family. I can not say that I have mastered the art of a blended family, but I do believe we are off to a great start. Last Christmas was so much fun. Including new people you love and want to share such a special time of year with is important. Do what you can to include everyone, and make them feel special by the memories your are creating for them.
You can even throw up some cute socks with unexpected guests.
My home has always been one of adding a few more place settings at the last minute, and having extra stockings stashed away in the pantry and ready to hang in a moments notice for unexpected guests on Christmas Eve. I imagine that is why having new family dynamics seems a bit easy and natural for me.
Bring kids into your story, even let them sing their favorite songs.
It is very hard on our children to have their families divided. Do not think for one moment that while your kids are opening gifts, laughing, and eating their weight in Christmas cookies that those smiles are also masking a lot of sad. Kids want to be with both parents. No matter what the grown-up issues may be kids feel drawn, especially during the holidays, to both parents.  There are some things you can start doing now with those blended in family members.

Today I was in an online chat with @Cinnabon. Chatting about gifts, traditions, and holiday favorites. You can go to this hashtag to read the entire conversation here: #SweetTalk The  question was asked about how to do Christmas with blended families.  I found myself firing off tweet after tweet to answer this question.  Seeing the response others had I decided to turn this into a blog.

Five Ways To Add Christmas Cheer With Blended Families...

1. Ask the new family members what are some special traditions for them.  Ask the kids, the grown-ups and then implement some of their favorites into your traditions. Ask why this tradition is special to them. Include that child into making this part of your new traditions together.

2.  Ask each family member what is one thing that they would like to do, that is brand new.  Create new traditions for your new family dynamic. Make your story joined with theirs creating a new story. Include everyone. Maybe it's a walk that ends at a coffee shop and hot cocoa. Maybe visiting a nursing home and delivering treats. Then do this every year.

3.  Include the new family. Both immediate and extended family. Create events around their family so that they feel accepted and part of the new family dynamic. This one may not be so easy. Maybe you are not fond of the extended family. Make this season a time to bring good cheer. Have an appetizer evening, potluck style and exchange cards. Put a two hour limit on it so you only have to show up and be lovely for two hours. You might actually find this time to learn more about the new family and like them. Serve this extended family with your best good cheer.

4. Plan a menu during the Christmas break. Ask the new blended family what they might like to eat and to help prepare for dinner. Make it a special dinner that follows each year. It does not have to be Christmas dinner. However you can teach a child to have that one dish they contribute every year.

5.  Embrace their stories. Do not, I repeat, do not cringe when they share stories they love when their daddy or mommy were once with their daddy or mommy together.  Kids want to hold onto those memories.  Ask questions from their past. "What are some memories you have from the past?"  Allow that child to maintain that identity of being the son or daughter to two people who once loved each other.

 6.  Create a photo album of your new family.  Including each of the new family into the story of pictures. This is an important way in making everyone feel welcome, valued and part of the family. Believe me when I tell you that even the teenagers will be caught months later looking at this album.

7. Honor their mother or father.  I happen to be dating the father so thus I shall honor her mother. We made ornaments last year. I asked that sweet five year old who we should make ornaments for and of course she said her mama.So guess what, we did.   I chatted away with this sweet five year old girl. The daughter of a man I am dating. She sat on the counter eating cookies and I asked her what her favorite thing to do with her mommy is. She chatted about the things she loves doing. Unedited, she had the joy of sharing her favorite person and their experiences. I loved hearing it. 

8.  Post their Christmas wish-list along with all the other children in your house. Hang it up and talk about it in the same way you would your own children.

9.   DO NOT EVER short "his' or "her" gifts. The best way to make a child feel left out is to actually leave them out. If you have five gifts for your children to be opened on Christmas morning, then you better have five for the new  kids. I was one of those kids left out and perhaps that is why I go out of my way to make sure every kid is valued the same way.

10. Include the family in all aspects of Christmas. There will be special ways to value your own children. Extend your love, your resources, and your Christmas Cheer.  Be an example of love and service to those in your sphere of influence.

You are building life long memories. You will make a difference for a lifetime in how you nurture your blended family. Embrace this time and take joy in the new traditions and new memories being made.

Embracing Christmas and it's traditions are important to your family. Even more important when Christmas is redefined with a blended family.

Friday, October 28, 2016

When God Uses Humilty and Humilation

For the past several months I have lived in the nightmare of a custody battle with my boys. It did not start out that way.  It started out in a way that should have never landed in family court. But it did. My boys and I have faced some of the most devastating times. To be that strong mama in the face of extreme weakness has had me going to GOD at every single turn. Begging for strength, to keep being that mom in my boys lives, when I was needing to be held up. Begging to God to help me direct three boys in this massive life altering circumstance.  What did God do?  How could God love me in this hard time?  Why would God even allow this?  If God loves children so much then why my kids?  How do I trust in God? All questions I have asked. Then, all questions aside. Sleepless nights turned into God pouring into me wisdom of what to do next. Long car rides produced each of the boys going around the car and saying what we are thankful for. Sometimes long quiet moments because in the midst of this storm it was not always easy to daily find that one thing to be thankful for. Even a band-aid falling from the sky showing us HIS love and care.  As days turned into weeks God showing each of us how HE is working things out. We may not know one day ahead of what would be next, but in the midst of each day, God blessing us through people, through prayer, through provisions.

I thought that I had to walk this season alone. It's a private matter. Oh but isn't that what the enemy of truth and love tries to do. Drag you into a dark alley and beat the crap out of your heart and soul. I was in that alley for while. I was embarrassed. I have been fiscally responsible for most of my entire adult life. Even a millionaire a few times over. I was that person who could secretly write a check to help others in need. I could open my home and allow people to sit and outward process all the hurts, and pray and support and encourage and provide a meal, and love these people.That person who did all these things for others was now living in someone else's home. That person was now the one in need. But felt fear in expressing those needs. Could I have my kids taken from me because I did not have my own address? How do I keep being the mom, friend and colleague if my own house is out of order? How do I maintain order with this confusion? Confusion was on the tip of every thought and decision I made.  That is what happens when the enemy attacks in a dark alley where you are alone. And then LIGHT stepped in. Light stepped in when I chose to remember that God will give me boundless confidence in HIM. And in that boundless confidence I asked for help.

Courage, boldness and most important Truth & Love.  To understand more of this story please take a moment to read my daughter's post on Facebook.
You see I went for help. I went to a local Youth center to get help for Ethan. To get him into counseling. They directed me to the local authorities that took a recorded statement. The authorities directed me to the courts. They took matters out of my hands and in a courtroom. A hearing where "he" gave these facts.  A judge who removed custody as Emily stated and this man was put on supervised visitation.  I had no legal council, nor did I realize that these events would  and could turn into a battle to destroy my integrity as a mother and as functioning person in society. A battle that put me in a place to go to trial, which is still pending a date.

Our family, the boys and I, have been poured on with blessing after blessing. We have been surrounded and uplifted by a lifetime of family and friends. There is not one day I look back on and question evidence of God's hand. I took this case into the light. I got out of that dark alley and asked for help. Yes there are many things that happened in this case, which would never have happened had I had an attorney. Not only do I not have the means for an attorney I had no ideas on how to quickly retain one. Legal Aid takes 3-6 wks. to qualify and the opposing attorney came at me fast with motions after motion before any aid was even obtainable. Then a long time friend's son Tyler Cone stepped up and asked if he could set up a GoFundMe campaign. I told him no. I told him that it would be embarrassing to ask for money from friends. I thought for two hours over this decision. I am going to fight for my boys at what cost?  At the cost of humility and humiliation? And God pressed on my heart. My heart of hope, of peace, of truth, and honesty. Going before my peers, my colleagues, and being that girl that needed help. Yes, God and yes Tyler you can do this for me.

I found an attorney. I found one who agreed to accept half of his fee up front to get started. I called him after two days of the GoFundMe campaign and said we had raised almost half and by our first meeting I could bring half. But then something happened in my heart. I went to God and asked for affirmation of this attorney. That he was the right choice, that this was a good idea. I asked God to show me and provide the full retainer before our meeting. That I could go to this attorney with this full retainer. This was so heavy on my heart that on Oct. 14th I read Proverbs 14. (Go and read this passage here.) I was begging God to affirm that the full retainer was what I needed and begging God for clarity. The weight of this was heavy on my heart. I scribbled in my journal the verses in Proverbs 14 that affirmed over and over what I was begging for. And then I asked God for the full retainer by the day of my scheduled meeting.

"Dear God,  you have affirmed me through your Word, through wise people and one more thing, please provide the full retainer before this meeting. Please God."

That night at dinner. Sitting with my family, the Cone family. (Tyler one of their son's who set up this GoFundMe). As we all chatted about our day, their youngest son Jacob began to speak. Jacob is soft spoken. He gets my attention and says, "Elizabeth I want to help you. I want to loan you the full retainer for your meeting."

A 15 year old boy was willing to give up his savings, on loan, to get the custody issue handled in full force. God using the heart of a young man, a boy, friends with my boys. Everyone started crying. Jacob nor this family knew my prayers to God that morning. Yet here we all were crying over the generosity of Jacob. A loan. My heart may not have known this day, but God sure did. God has known every single one of these days. He is teaching my boys and I what complete faith looks like. Faith in HIM. Hope in HIM. Joy in HIM. Thankfulness in HIM. The God of the universe showing Himself daily through people.

One day I will write a book marking every single day God showed up.

Yesterday I got a text from my sweet daughter-in-love to go and read Ethan's Instagram post. (Ethan is my 14 year old who has struggled the most through these life events.) I opened my app and read his post. Tears started streaming. Tears turned into bawling my eyes out. Sitting at my desk and knowing that not one tear was lost. God has been working on behalf of our family. My fourteen year old struggling and now honoring me in the most public way possible.  Here is his post:

My boys are currently living with their dad. On a technicality, yes a technicality. All of the past few months would have never happened had I had the means to retain an attorney.  I am driving to see them every Monday and Tuesday. (They are about 90 miles away.) and have them every other weekend until the custody trial.

I am coming before strangers, friends and family. Submitting my heart and the need for help. I am thankful and grateful for how YOU have helped where the need is. I was wrong. Need does not interpret losing my kids.  Need does not interpret my inability to care for my kids. Need does not discount my call to see that others can see and know the God of the universe. All the things the enemy tried to speak into me in that dark alley. Come into the light and allow God's holiness to bless you through the hearts of those whom he has designated.  I always thought that my purpose in life was to mother my own children to the heart of Jesus by living in the example of Biblical truth.  I always thought my call was to use the gifts God has given me to bless others, and lead others to knowing Jesus. That call has not be taken from me. Today, if you are hurting and your heart needs encouraged then guess what. God is waiting to hear from you. The God I know has me awake every single morning around 5am. NEVER in my life have I been an early riser. Yet God calling me into time with Him, in his Word and my pen ready to write what he is teaching me,  and how he is guiding me through the hardest event of my life. Waking up without an alarm and going about my day sharp and ready with HIS full Armour on.

I am here for every person who reads this and needs prayer. I am here to tell you that God already knows your heart. He knows the answers to every unanswered prayer and in His time he will make all of this a beautiful testament to His glory and honor.

Please if you feel inclined to help you can pray specifically for each of my sons. Call them out to God by name, Ethan, Eric and Emerson. Pray for their hearts, souls, and minds that God will protect them from the lies of the enemy. Pray for strength for my heart. To be able to continue to show up in all the hard places. Pray for clarity of my mind. The focus away from my work and being able to provide for my family has been compromised greatly and God is rebuilding, this I know. Pray for funding that all the funding will be met.

Thank you!  Blessing and Love Elizabeth

Here is Eric my 12 year old with Tyler Cone.

The GoFundMe link:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pine-Cone & Bottle-Cap Parenting

Let's face it, parenting is hard. It's not always easy to be creative with how we discipline our children. Working daily to pour enriching life lessons and wisdom.  No matter how society would like to think kids should be raised, the reality is YOU get to make the decisions that are going to grow your kids into caring, kind, responsible, and loving adults.

#ParentingIsHard #ParentingIsEasy #ParentingIsShowingUp

I am on my 3rd teenager. I managed to grow the first two up into their, now, late twenties.  We are great friends and today those kids laugh, chuckle and tell stories of "mom" and how I handled their teenage moments.  There is a mutual respect and love for my older two as grown up humans. The badge of honor as a mother is when others know your grown children, and then come to you and tell you what great kids you have. Thank you Elliot and Emily for honoring me as your mother by being caring, loving, and responsible grown ups.

Now onto to teenager number three. He is no different than the first two. His opinions are now strong and he owns them.  We were on a car ride yesterday with a young man I have watched grow up from the age of four to twenty-six.  Conversations between all four boys in the car.  Ethan has an opinion, I have an opinion that differs from his. The challenge of trying to get the other person to share your opinion begins with every teenager known to mankind. It's a very good thing, but as a parent requires direction, and this young 26 year old man says, "Ethan, your mother has an opinion that is different than yours. Do you think arguing with her is going to change her opinion?  Or if she were to argue with you, would that change YOUR opinion?"  That was some amazing wisdom and questions from a twenty-six year old who happens to be the middle of child of his big family. Ethan pondered and the course of what could have been an argument turned into dialogue over our differing opinions.

Teenagers have opinions, and we as parents can embrace them.  Allow that opinion, ask more questions as opinions are formed and still maintain our own.  There are no offenses with being an individual who experiences the world differently. Emily, when she was fourteen years old worked hard on trying to get me to agree that the sky was gray not blue.  I finally said, "You are correct, through the lenses of your eyeballs tis the color you see."

Now the real meat of this post. Distractions from the energy of a fourteen your old who is board. He was board and wanted something to do. Somehow I convinced him it would be worth his time to go on a scavenger hunt.  A game I use to play when all the kids were little. Hide things all over the house, and then for forty-five minutes they would go hunting. And for forty-five minutes I could sit and sip my coffee.  Yesterday I re-introduced the scavenger hunting idea. Boys were at the store, homework was finished and now what?  I could not remember my password to Netflix.  Which all the kids have great memories from over 25 years of being in my store getting to watch a movie if homework was done.  Today I had to dig into my basket of creative distractions.

I simply said, go outside and find a bottle cap, a stick shaped like a "Y" and four pine-cones. It was just as random as that with no thought. The fourteen year old dashed out of the building. Off he went. And later returned with these...exactly as the picture is. It was fun, it was silly, and it brought back happy times of being a young boy. Parents, sometimes it's those memories from the past, that remind our kids how much we truly do love and care for them.  I am still chuckling that he did this and loved it. Now he did want to be paid for his findings, but that is another subject for another post. Happy pine-cone and bottle cap parenting.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What if we just jumped right into the middle of the hardest events?

Why do we wait?  Months? Years? Sometimes a decade to share the pain of our journey.  After all the learning?  After the trial and error?  What if we just jumped right into the middle of the hardest events of our lives and said, "Okay God it's just you and me, and those who read.  It's my story of complete opened handed trust.  And no matter how hard, God you are going to be honored."  End of Story, no really in the middle of my story.

Please understand that details are not always important to the hardest moments of your life.  It's how you are working it out. I am working out some very hard stuff.  The most hardest event in my life. (child custody)  Today, sitting before God with my Bible and journal in the middle of hard stuff. ......Today's journal entree.
Aug. 13, 2016

Dear Father,
In my physical hunger I submit to you. I ask that the evil-deceit and confusion thrown my way is thwarted.

Romans 12:12
" The night is almost gone and the day is near.  Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of the darkness and put on the armor of God."

Father, fill me with you light. Cover me with holiness. Give me Holy peace, wisdom, and justice. I submit, I surrender, and I stand firm on your promises. Give me strength, wisdom, and a light in my path. My feet are planted Father. All of this is for YOUR glory. For YOU are to be honored.  I give all of this to you. (Believe me readers, God knows my "this" and your "this"). Thank you that you love me. Forgive me Father for all the specifics in my life. Reveal to me more of who I am to be in You.

Ephesians 4: 31-32
"Let ALL bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice. Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has also forgiven you."

Really God? Yes, Really!! Help me to be kind to those who have harmed my heart deeply. Please cover my heart and protect me from bitterness, wrath, and anger.  As my dear friend Marie has said over and over, "do not get sucked into the emotions of spoken words of deceit over your character." ( Thank you Marie for those words of encouragement.)

Ephesians 6:13-20
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand firm.  
 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

I grew up in Sunday school learning that last passage. We even sang silly songs and decorated ourselves in costume.  Like a child, Lord Jesus. Give me the faith of that little girl who danced, sang and praised you for equipping me with a foil breastplate, and scarves for belts, and a helmet made out of milk cartons and a cardboard sword covered in foil.  You had me covered then and you have me covered now. Amen!!! 

Lord Jesus, Holy Father, in the name of YOUR Spirit protect the minds of my boys. Father you know their hearts, their names, and they are YOUR children.  Give ear to my words oh Lord. Consider my meditations.....Full Armor!!!"

In addition to my journal entry I will say this......

We ALL have various degrees of hard. My hard is not more or less than yours.  We must equip ourselves with the WORD of God.  Today, fasting and praying and hungry.  And thinking what good can starving myself do.  Only to sit in quiet and ask God to show me who I am suppose to be in this trial and turbulence.  And then scripture pours into me. Pours instructions, and blessings, and I sit here praying that my words, my personal journal entry will reach into the heart of one person struggling as I am. Humble yourself before God.  He is there waiting.  

I think fasting also makes you incredibly weak.  So weak you are sitting home on a Saturday and realizing your energy is sucked, and then that beautiful moment when God steps in and says, "Okay Elizabeth here is my WORD. The direction you asked for."

Be blessed knowing that truly God is in the middle of it all. It may not make sense, it will hurt. Believe me when I say I keep thinking I have cried out all my tears, but there are always more. Cling to your Maker and give him honor and glory. I am in the middle of the hardest events of my life. I may not shower for days, or even put on make-up.  Again, Marie asking me, "Did you shower today?"  I walked with this dear friend in her hardest and darkest moments. Walk with me, these next few weeks and see how God shows up.

Love and Blessing, Elizabeth

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Never Apologize For Where You Were

Never, as in never ever apologize for where you were. Never apologize for how you feel.  Never apologize for what you felt in that moment, or in many moments while you were there. Never forget what you learned, laughed over, cried over and felt like you could die over. For that time it was all very good. At times a struggle and hard and you were there for that time because you were suppose to be.

Have you ever stood at the river's edge?  Looking across to the other side you see something you want to get a closer look at?  You hop in a canoe and start paddling. If you have ever tried to navigate a canoe in a river, you know it's is no easy task. I think back to my Young Life days at Malibu located in the Gervais Inlet in Canada.  Those could be some very rough canoe times. You have moments of arm muscle burning, and you work  hard. You also are smiling because really there is a bit of an adrenaline rush while working so hard to get to the other side. Then you get to a calm spot and you sit and take in all that beauty, fresh air, breathtaking, heart stopping feelings of that moment or season.

Start paddling again and you are there. Standing on the opposite side of where you once were. And now looking back to where you were. It all looks so different. Very different than what you thought. You turn your head a bit, squinting from the sun because what you thought was not really how you see it now.

Life is exactly like this. Standing on the other side of where you were. And because we do learn, and grow we do see things differently. Have you ever questioned yourself? Wondering about this decision or that one. Is this the right one? Or is that the right one?  When you get to the other side and look back, there is this deep sinking feeling of things should have been different. Maybe you feel a little embarrassed. Perhaps when the topic comes up you start apologizing.

Yes, many can say that they wished they had made a different decision or taken a different path.  But here you are. And today you are who you are for every good and bad decision you have ever made. And you are exactly who you are suppose to be.

Never, as in never ever apologize for where you were. Never apologize for how you feel.  Never apologize for what you felt in that moment, or in many moments while you were there. Never forget what you learned, laughed over, cried over and felt like you could die over. For that time it was all very good. At times a struggle and hard and you were there for that time because you were suppose to be.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Fine Art of NOT Reacting to your Teenagers.

The fine art of NOT reacting to your teenagers. Is there really an art to this?  I think I should thank every difficult customer I ever served in my early twenties with my retail store.  Thank them for teaching me through mouthy rages of insistence how to respond.  The customer was not always right. Neither are our teenagers.

The customer could bring in an item that was not purchased in my store and scream in face that they wanted a refund/money for that item. Or a customer would get all red in the face and angry because the item that was available last week was no longer available, and I was demanded to get it to them now. Or a  customer who wanted their furniture NOW as in right now, as in stop what you are doing and serve me now. With no understanding that their furniture was secured in a warehouse and that our trucks were out delivering to scheduled appointments. Yet even with that knowledge would get so worked up that I would not physically close my store, run to the warehouse and pull large pieces of furniture that required manly strength and deliver myself.  Customers who left messes in my store and walked out. Food, dirty diapers tucked in a corner, finished beverage containers.  My favorite was a customer who insisted we were having a half off sale on ALL our furniture.  Threw such a fit that she would never shop in our store again. And came back next week to again tell us how awful of a store we are but still wanted to buy the furniture and did. (Kind of like our teenagers who are nice when they want money or a ride somewhere.) 

Here is what I learned in my twenties that truly helped me with my teenagers. No matter what comes out of their mouth, do not react. I learned that most people have about 2-4 minutes of angry energy and steam.  If I was quiet and practiced active listening skills with concern for my customers it was almost always the 2 minute mark that they ran out of steam. If I tried to inject and react to what they were saying it was like locked and loaded and 2-4 more minutes added to the fuse.  The fact is simply this. Customer's truly believed they were right, even in obvious and factual wrongs. Teenagers are the same way. They will say and do things that are so factual wrong, but they believe they are right. Do not take offense to what comes out of their mouth. Do not react to what is coming out of their mouth.  Listen. Actively listen and try not to inject. Let them get out what they need to get out. I trained my entire sales staff to respond this way.

I made the mistake many times with customers in my earlier months of opening my store to try and point out that they were in fact either lying or their facts were not accurate. Like the women who insisted that our entire store was 50% off. She showed me an ad, which was from another store and then insisted I match their 50% off sale. I listened, let her blow all the steam and energy around what she thought should be her right. I asked if I could ad her to our mailing list, so when we did have sales she would get them.

Teenagers just want to be heard and understood. Really that is mostly what it is. In the same way I trained my sales staff to never take to heart what the customer was saying, in the same way never take to heart the hurtful words that come out of our teenagers mouths. Breath deeply as they are blowing off steam. Actively listen. This does not mean  you are agreeing or allowing the offenses. It means that they are able to outward process, unedited, and after it's all out you will be amazed at how ready they are to come to the table for a more controlled conversation.

I can not tell you how many angry customer's were diffused by just listening. Like the customer who bought a lamp for her 8 year old. Came into my store yelling and screaming at my sale person because her one year old touched the lamp and burned his fingers. Somehow that was my store's responsibility. She yelled and screamed. I stepped in and excused my young 18 year old sales person who sold her the lamp. I listened. I breathed and I allowed this customer to have a voice. When she was done, I asked her if she needed some water?  I told her that I had kids and burns are scary.  I asked her where the lamp was. She did not bring it back. She just thought we should educate parents on the dangers of lamps. She came back over and over and continued to buy products from my store. But believe me when I say she came in red faced and angry that day and left happy and heard.

Our teenagers get red faced at angry at us.  It's going to happen and that is when we get to make a choice. Join the screaming and fuming match or wait it out. Then ask if you can get them a drink of water. Let them know you are so glad they felt that they could come and talk about it with you.

Now on my 3rd teenager and I can say that I may not get it in the moment at all times, but I have the resources in my back pocket with the experience of years with customers and my first two teenagers. My first two have grown up and into good friends. Now on my way with my 3rd teenager and still two more after that. Whoa baby it's sure is a ride.  So remember, try not to make a face or interrupt the outward processing of our teenagers.  Actively listen without trying to inject your own opinions and ideas. And if this is hard, then take some very slow deep breaths while they are unloading. Not always but easy, but we all have it in us to give it the ol' colllege try.  Happy teenager raising.