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. 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.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Does The Enemy Keep You Quiet?

What exactly is the "enemy". The enemy of fear. The enemy of worry. The enemy of deceit. The enemy of robbing me of sleep. The enemy is that which keeps you from being who God designed. The enemy attempts to hinder you in ALL areas of your life that God wants to step into the middle of. Imagine if we could, in the middle of  facing difficulty, release our thoughts from worry, from fear, and from deceit? What might your story look like?

I decided that I did not want to wait until the end of the story or the end of the journey or the end of this season to share the miraculous ways God has stomped on the enemy. I felt fear. Fear is standing in a court room and hearing a stranger try to prove I was an unfit mother. When I received notice that within 48 hours I was to be in court to represent myself on being a mother. I was full of fear. The enemy of deceit had a strong-hold on my thoughts.  I did not sleep for two days. I opened up my computer and panicked over what I should be googling to defend my honor as a mother. I cried non-stop for most of those 48 hours and sleep. Forget about sleep. I prayed every moment my breath could utter a prayer. I prayed every moment my head cleared. And the enemy of fear, worry, doubt, deceit and rest robbed me blind.

And here begins a story of God stepping in when we release to Him ALL of this. I called my daughter not knowing what to do. I cried my eyeballs raw. I could not eat or sleep. Being a mother for almost 30 years and two people  now wanting to prove me an unfit mother. Lord have mercy on me. Emily suggested I call my church. And I did. I knew the pastor's wife and I left the crying-est message ever. I asked if her she could send someone my number to just simply pray with me. I did not know what to pray. I did not know what I was doing. I was clueless and living with the strongholds of the enemy. My life was not around lawyers, and legal matters. I only had one full day to prepare for this court hearing and according to my daughter there were 32 of her friends praying for me. And I went to my Facebook community and asked them to pray. And then something miraculous happened.

My heart calmed down. My head cleared and if this was a modern day parting of the sea, the waters parted and a way was made. It started with a call to a friend who had worked in family law.  I had not talked with her in months. Her name and face just came to my mind. She instructed me to print anything and everything from text messages, to emails, to receipts to whatever "God puts on your heart." And then the next thing is that my printer that was "out of ink" and went on to print over 150 pages. And then I needed a document. A legal document that I was already told that I could not get access to. The process was 7-10 business days. I cried and decided to get into my car and beg them face to face. I pulled up to the offices. Before getting out of the car my phone rang. A stranger. A stranger from my church called to pray with me. And she prayed over the situation and she prayed that God would make a way for providing the paperwork I would need. And I went to the office and  a woman passing through the office heard my name. And she knew my name. She had been instructed to provide that document for me. And I walked away with the papers in my hand.

My mind was sharp. I researched online every legal word I did not understand. I researched the law and God gave me wisdom I can not explain. God removed the fear, the worry, the unknowns the words of deceit. Because not only did that lady in the office know my name, but God knows my name. And God knows your name. And He knows all your worries, your fears, your hard. AND He is there waiting to help.

I went to bed at 10pm that night. I was prepared and ready for my case. And there was no sleep to be found. I tossed and turned. Finally at 1am I got up and took my shower, did my hair and make-up and drove an hour and a half away to where court would take place. I texted my friend in that town letting her know I was driving straight to her house and may be sleeping on her sofa when she woke up. She was going to court with me that day. I arrived at 5:30am and instead of sleeping I prayed. And then she and I prayed.

And I stood in court and to this day I really have no idea what happened. I know that God gave me wisdom. God gave me the words to speak the truth in HIS name. God stepped right in and took over what the enemy tried to control. And the enemy of fear, worry, and deceit lost in court. And my friend sat in that court room praying. The judge ruled in my favor. I was prepared. I was ready and I have no idea how I even did that except I did nothing but step into what God promises.

How much do we trust God to hand it over to Him? Are we even confident that HE will see us through?   I would like to say that my trust is perfect just by walking close to Him, but guess what. It's a daily release. A daily ongoing conversation I have to have with God.

Are we "approaching" God's throne? I have to believe that this is not just a one time act and we get it. As least not for me. AND God's promise of grace and favor. Hallelejah and Glory-Be. Like I said I can not tell you about that day in court or the many other times that followed but God's grace and favor followed my "approaching" his throne.

Hebrews 4:16

"Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

The enemy would like to keep you quiet, alone and captive to his ways. Does the enemy hold you captive and keep you quiet? Do not allow that in your life. Every single day I have to renew my heart's condition and release to God all of the fears and worries. 

If you are in a situation and you know that the enemy is distracting you with fear, with worry and deceit I ask that you stop right now what you are doing and call out to God. He knows you. He knows your story and HE promises grace and mercy. And then call on your friends who can pray for you. Call on strangers to pray for you. God crushes the enemy. God wins. 

Lord have mercy on me!! Thank you for reading, 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Adoption & 15 Seconds

Photo Credit: Velinda Davis

Today it took me TEN takes for a 15 second video for the "The Talk" talk show on CBS. One of the topics was "Adoption".  I was brought into the love and care of a family as a young teen. I decided when I was in high school that no one would ever feel un-loved or left out. When the producer asked if I might make a statement about adoption my heart just leaped with joy.

I have hundreds of kids, now grown ups, on my Facebook as friends because they were once kids visiting my home. They have since grown up and on any day of the week they know there is a place for them at my dinner table. Every kid who walked through my front door has been adopted into my heart.

In the late 90's I went through a four week training class for those considering adoption. I wanted to do for other kids what was done for me. Bring a child into my home to grow up around community and love. Circumstances in my life at that time did not allow that season to come.  Today when asked to talk for 15 seconds about adoption, the only message I wanted to communicate  is, "there is always room for one more." I had to do a total of 10 takes. When the producer called and said "we are running #10" I laughed. I kind of always joked that I would love to have 10 kids. Well with so many kids in need of a home, you never know if that may happen in my future, but I think and pray about it. My kids and I have talked about it over the years. Emerson has weighted in as wanting a younger sister. He is the youngest of my five and it's appropriate to ask. After all his big sister Emily has been like his best friend his entire life.

There is a growing need to place kids in loving homes. I just hope someday one of those kids can land in my home.  He are my thoughts in 15 seconds on adoption.

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.