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Our Adoption Story…

It began with a dream, as many worthwhile things do. The dream that became a hope is now becoming a reality – adopting a new member into our family.

Steve and I have long-desired to have a houseful of kiddos – biological and adopted alike. Our family motto has long been, “There is always room for one more.” Just shy of celebrating our second anniversary, we welcomed our first-born son into the world. A short 16 months later, we welcomed his sister after many long hospital stays. Each pregnancy was difficult, dangerous even, not only for the babies, but for me as well. So, when our youngest was four, we began our journey into foster care, hoping to adopt.

Our foster daughter was beautiful and, oh-so-precious! Witnessing the miracle of her healing was one of the greatest privileges of our lives. And yet, we knew she wasn’t going to be ours forever. We were merely a stepping stone of her path to healing and safety. So, after only four months, we said goodbye.

The following months and years saw fear, doubt, and lies seeking a foothold in my soul. I allowed fear to provoke me to believe that having more children in our home would be too much, too much for my heath, too much for our homeschooling, too much for our capacity . . . just too much. And, for me, the dream that once was vibrant and alive, was buried.

When I finally hit my knees and asked God what He had to say, the dead and decomposing dream took in a fresh breath from the Life-Giver. In a span of mere minutes, doubt gave way to desire, fear gave way to faith, lies gave way to love.

Praise God for His resurrecting power!  

And here we find ourselves in the final steps of our years-long marathon. We’re working with a wonderful agency who will help connect us with a birth mom. This young woman is still unknown to us, but God knows exactly who and where she is. She is in the midst of her own process, seeking to find a forever family for her precious child.

Will you help us make that final connection?

We’ve begun a campaign to raise the funds needed to cover the adoption expenses, including birth mom and baby care, home study, training, marketing, legal fees, and more. Please consider how you can be a part of bringing our little miracle home! Thank you for supporting, encouraging, sharing, and, most especially, praying through this with us!

Click here to help!

Our adoption story…the beginning…https://www.gofundme.com/babycohencominghome

Posted by Courtney Cohen on Friday, April 28, 2017

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Finding Beauty in the Bleh

Have you ever had one of those bleh sort of days? When the mundane rules and the body moves slow and the cozy sounds delightful?

It’s a bleh sort of day over here. No downer moods. Simply a sense of a low-key day. My body doesn’t feel energized. I’m a bit lethargic. It’s okay – enter hormones, blood sugars, and chores to do.

But mid-morning on this bleh-sort-of-day, God whispered to me of beauty. On my way to the bathroom counter to grab a hair tie and stick this mess of curls up in a bun, He said to me, “Look up.” There, in the mirror, I caught a glimpse of my reflection, in all my free-flying, messy curl, mascara-free, blonde eyelashes, freckles beyond number glory, wearing jeans and a T with a tear near the hem. A bit sloppy. The comfy feeling of being relaxed in my space. But nothing glamorous, to be sure.

Look up.

“Embrace the messy curls today,” He whispered to me.  “See the blue in the iris. Don’t long for the black in the lash. There’s beauty here. Now.”

There’s beauty here. Now.

Usually I hide my curls with the flat iron. Hair is easier to deal with that way. Easier to control. Usually I apply mascara to point out that, yes, I do in fact have eyelashes. I know they’re virtually invisible. I know I look like every European Renaissance portrait ever painted with the people of the invisible lashes. (Yes, those are my people.)

Sometimes the struggle is simple practicality. Sometimes it’s about fitting in. Sometimes it’s about fulfilling a sense of a perceived standard of beauty. But the struggle is there.

What struggle do you face when you face the mirror? It’s so easy to gloss over our feelings there because it seems so vain, surely not nearly as important as the “spiritual” issues of life. But God created us in bodies, which are our vessels for living out these lives of ours. 

Not only did He create these bodies, but He created us in His image, after His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27).

And, even more, He is the Author and Creator of this substance called beauty. Beyond all the flowers and trees and clouds and waves He created a beauty that is eternal – humanity. And there is a special sort of beauty in the broken, the raw, the unveiled, the vulnerable, the tender, the wrinkled. 

Am I tossing out my flat iron or my mascara? Nope. I enjoy those. Maybe you enjoy your flair for fashion or your tattoo or your lip color. There are all kinds of creative expressions. And I am not here to demonize those. I, too, have fun getting creative with the clothes I have, glancing at my tattooed wrist, or trying on a new color. Yes, enjoy. Yes, create. But, may we not hide. May we not hide the beauty that has always been there.

May we embrace the beauty He has placed within us as well as on us as we live surrendered to Christ, reflecting God’s image to the world.

Here’s to the messy curls, the invisible lashes, the freckles in great supply. Here’s to the real.

In case you need to hear it today – You are beautiful. And you are beauty. All because He is Beauty.

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Breaking Silence

Have you ever felt overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time? Overwhelmed with tasks. Underwhelmed by God’s presence.

Perhaps this best sums up the past several months for me.

Since October, a mere four months ago, we have been in an accident which totaled our car and led to the need for physical therapy since, faced the passings of two family members, crossed the country by car twice to be near family in this difficult time, my husband and I have agreed on his making a transition to a new company, experienced new growth in our publishing company, keeping us on our toes and busy, and then there has been life to live in the midst (homeschooling, home projects, and the like).

In our nation, a new President took office. Awareness (and opinions) of the refugee crisis erupted again. Women pitted against women in the disagreement of “choice” and life. Protests and riots and loud mouths have prevailed. Not that I’ve personally noticed much of this with my head in the proverbial sand. I’ve watched practically no news. Engaged in practically no social media. Kept my thoughts to myself for some time, relying upon a few close friends to keep me abreast of the happenings.

In the face of such life extremes, have you ever wanted to hide? To go back to a time when simplicity reigned. When right and wrong were easily distinguished. When simply sharing a word could be taken at face value rather than receiving immediate backlash laced with offense? When perspectives were clear, untainted by tragedy and cynicism?

These recent months have left me feeling a sense of distance from my Creator, the Lover of my soul. Not due to any bitterness or blaming on my part. Rather, the race of busy, the tyranny of the urgent has often stolen the selah of silence. And, even more, it’s easy to lose sight of His nearness when you are struggling to survive the day.

Perspective is a powerful thing.

We are now into February, but I’ll let you know that I wrestled through December and January to seek my word for the year. Deeper than a New Year’s resolution, I needed a lens to view the world through – fresh for this season. Ultimately, the Lord clarified His word for me (rather than my word for myself)…

KINGDOM.

Viewing everything – myself, my family, my marriage, my struggles, the world, other people – through this lens of God’s kingdom. This kingdom which John the Baptist made the way for and Jesus ushered in. This kingdom which seems upside-down in its realities and truths. This kingdom which emphasizes the unseen over the seen.

This lens helps me see anew: Where is God in this?

Where is He when our loved ones die? Where is He when those left behind reel with grief and pain? Where is He when daily decisions press in and pull down? Where is He when our nation turns, brother against brother? Where is He when a people no longer grasp righteousness or purity or brotherhood or patriotism or selflessness? Where is He when I’ve failed, yet again, as a woman, a wife, a mom, a friend?

I am Jacob, wrestling with God through the night, desperate for His blessing, longing for His touch.

In the face of pain and loss, disagreement and uncertainty, chaos and struggle stay desperate. May we not seek answers. May we seek the kingdom – that realm of reality where God is King. King above kings. King above circumstance. King above fear. King above all self-focus.

 

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When Life Requires A Reroute

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My husband was supposed to arrive at 3:13pm that day after a 12-day trip. It was a Friday afternoon and storms began rolling in, delaying his flight little more than an hour. I gathered my things and began to make my way through the torrential downpour and rush-hour traffic, exhilarated to see my hubby after days of waiting.

Waiting in the terminal for him to land, he texted me. They’d been circling above my head, and the storm, for an hour. The storms were too thick, too dangerous – the only option was to reroute to Austin, a 40-minute flight away. Not knowing when I would need to come back, I headed home – back into the fray of traffic and thick, sideways rain.

Steve’s flight landed in Austin, along with many other diverted planes. He and his fellow passengers sat on the tarmac for three hours. At home, the kids were disappointed I hadn’t brought their Daddy with me. Steve and I sent messages back and forth, trying to prepare a back-up plan. Do I drive to Austin to pick him up? Do I book him a hotel before rooms run out? Do I book a rental car for him to make his way home?

All plans ceased when he replied, “They’re arranging for buses. We’ll be at the airport around 2am.”

A very long day for him. A few, brief hours to nap for me.

It seemed providential that my father-in-law was in town, staying at our house that night. I could leave in the middle of the night to pick up Steve without dragging sleeping children to the van.

On Steve’s end, after five hours in the air, three hours on the tarmac, at the end of a working day, he and the other passengers unloaded and dispersed onto four coach buses, headed for the metroplex, another three hours away. When the driver became sleepy and swerving just 45 minutes out of DFW, Steve took the initiative to sit with him and talk through the rest of the trip. Steve wondered if he’d been placed there for such a time as this.

Driving in the wee hours, storms and traffic long gone, my heart leapt to see the buses pull in at the terminal, to catch my husband’s awaited embrace. It was 4am by the time we finally slept in our own bed. But the digression of events that day had me wonder.

What do we do when plans change? When things are completely out of our control? When the other passengers on this ride with us get upset, angry, impatient? How do we lay not only our circumstances but our attitudes before the throne of God in the face of disappointment?

Steve didn’t arrive at 3:13pm as planned.

But he did come home.

God flooded us with patience and peace.

God paved the way in having my father-in-law available to be there for the kids.

Steve played a role in assuring the bus arrived safely.

Are we too caught up in the inconveniences of life to see the opportunities? Too overwhelmed with wondering how it will pan out to see how God has paved the way? 

What is God doing in the midst of your reroute today?

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Identity Lost

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We’ve forgotten who we are.

We’re facing an identity crisis. And the reason is very simple: We have forgotten that it’s the very Person of God which defines us. Who He is speaks who we are into being. So, when God is resisted, pushed away, ignored, considered to be imaginary…that’s when we’ll allow anything but Him to define our deepest selves.

Here, in this nation we like to call the “Land of the Free,” we’ve ousted God from the public square. Pushed Him to the periphery. Surrendered to relativity in the name of tolerance.

And many of us have forgotten that it’s the very Presence of God which defines us.

It’s not the opinions of others which define us.

…Or sexual preference.

…Or past performance or future plans.

…Or present situations or hopeless circumstances.

…Or careers or relationship statuses.

The very definition of identity is under scrutiny in our nation. What does it mean to be human? To be married? To be a parent? To be a man or a woman? To be a Christ-follower? To be free?

David had no qualms about who he was and how he was defined, whether in his lowest moments or in his highest peaks. “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.” (Psalm 18:20)  I’ve struggled with these words – this declaration of right-standing before God – because I know I’m not innocent. I know the inner struggles of my heart, the many, daily failings I face.

Yet in my struggles, God has reminded me that my righteousness has nothing to do with my past. It has everything to do with the sacrifice made for me while I was still a sinner, the sacrifice God made for me. For me! For you!

I just can’t get over the fact that God loves me (and you!) unconditionally. In the middle of my mess, covered with the stench of my choices that are rooted in pride, all the times I’ve sought anything but Him to define me – He still loves fully! He embraces completely! Me…and you…right where we are in this moment.

But He won’t leave us there.

This God who loves us passionately created us for such a time as this. He conceived us in His mind before we were ever conceived in body. And He daily invites us to take steps towards becoming the people He designed us to be.

So, when we’re in the onslaught, facing another attack against the essence of who we are, stepping into His Presence is where we can find the truth that brings freedom.

When we look at what we do and we think it’s who we are, we’ve missed a critical reality! What we do stems from who we are – and who we are is defined by the One who dreamt of us, created us, and stands ready to partner with us in living this life authentically – with love, truth, abundance, and freedom.

 

 

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How can we know who God has created us to be? In my book, Refining Identity, you will dive deeply into God’s Word, coming to understand more of Who He is and who you are. He sees the beauty and potential in you. Will you partner with Him in becoming the you He designed and desires you to be?
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On the Other Side of Our Excuses

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Do you ever feel like an opportunity is too much work? Too many hurdles to overcome? It would be better to just skip? Maybe it’s just me.

I knew days before that the meteor shower would happen in the wee hours on Friday morning. But the idea of rousing myself, much less my children, at the insane hour of 1 am was simply too much. So I scratched that off my planner.

We needed our rest, after all.

My husband would be away that night for work, so I wouldn’t have any help dealing with the kids and getting them back to bed.

I don’t function well when I’m tired.

I don’t like the dark…or the grass…or bugs in the grass.

So many excuses…ahem…reasons not to.

By the time Thursday evening rolled around, I’d completely forgotten the foreshadowed night display. But sleep would not come. Hours slipped by. Eyes wide open. A friend posted a song on Facebook that captured my heart – one of my all-time favorites – “Adagio for Strings.” I let the strings lull my body to calm. And at the height of the piece, like a burst of light, my memory jogged. Nearly 1 am and there I lie, wide awake. And I thought…why not?

Pajama-clad, I stepped onto the dark patio and looked up. No streaking meteors. But the stars, they captured me. God stoked my soul with the heavens of His majesty. I couldn’t wait to show the kids!

When I tried to wake them, my daughter, surprisingly, got up quickly, excited, wrapped in her cozy blanket. My son, stuck in his sleep, refused to get up. So, a mommy-daughter date it would be.

The ladies of this house don’t care for the dark. Or shadows. Or unidentifiable night noises. But suddenly none of that mattered as I lay our softest blanket like a bed on the grass. We rested, snuggled, and waited.

In the waiting, I felt my tension. As eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realized my flexed muscles held stiff, my tendency to want to hurry the moment along.

Then I saw it! A shooting star careening through the heavens. My heart leapt in wonder. My body began to relax. There we cuddled together on our blanket-topped grass, watching fiery meteors streak across the night sky – perhaps about 20 flew by during our 45 minutes outside.

What if I had allowed the hurdles to get in the way of that moment with my daughter? What would we have missed out on and not even realized?

In those wee hours of the morning, God captured my heart – so serious and task-oriented of late – and restored a sense of awe. Gazing at the vastness of even that sliver of sky, I sensed my smallness, yet His profound love for me. Hurdles faded away. Excuses evaporated.

And another meteor shot across in blazing glory.

What opportunity stands before you today, just beyond a hurdle? What beauty? What wonder?

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Chronic Healing is NOW Available! When does a chronic condition open the way for God to move miraculously? Courtney shares her raw testimony here of living with Type 1 diabetes in the midst of experiencing a healing God. Order your copy today!

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Free Books Giveaway – Ends 8/20/16

CH Front Cover PerfectAugust is a special time around here:

So, just for fun, let’s have a giveaway! Today, if you subscribe to Now Found, you will be entered to receive one of two available prizes: a copy of Refining Identity or a copy of Chronic Healing.

What you need to know…

  • Subscribe today to Now Found where you will receive blog updates and our monthly newsletter!
  • Entries will be accepted through 10:00pm CST on Saturday, August 20, 2016.
  • Shipping is only available to the continental U.S.
  • Winners will be notified via email.

If you’ve ever asked the questions “Who am I?” or “How is God working through this situation?” these books are for you!

Subscribe and enter to win HERE!

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Chronic Healing is NOW Available!

CH Front Cover PerfectA chronic condition is persistent, ongoing. And for physical, chronic disease, medically speaking, is usually incurable. Facing my own chronic issue has been a decade-long struggle. I’ve wrestled with scriptures and promises of healing, coming to realize deep-seeded beliefs about God as Healer.

As He’s shown me more of Himself in the midst of my circumstances facing a chronic condition, I’ve come to see how healing can be chronically (persistently, continually) received.

My most vulnerable and nakedly raw book, Chronic Healing: Hope and Healing For Body, Soul, & Spirit, is now available. If you face any kind of ongoing circumstance, be it physical, soulful, or spiritual, this book is for you!

Order your copy today!

 

Also available at Amazon, BarnesAndNoble, and Google Play!

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Gear Up To Declare

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This blog is nearly 4 years old! And I am readying to attend the Declare Conference for the 4th time – that place where I’ve gone to find rest and inspiration to continue on in this bloggy space. Where women gather to worship. Where friends find one another for the first time. Where the #digitalevangelist is equipped.

To gear up for this year’s conference, attendees are linking our digital arms and answering a few questions…So here we go!

1. If we were meeting in person, how would you introduce yourself? Wife to Steve, homeschooling mama to two (so far!), writer, speaker, editor, writer’s coach, and native Texan. I’ve always been an old soul, an avid reader, a lover of music. Although I’m an introvert in need of recharging time on my own, I love people – meeting, encouraging, diving deep.

S & C in Vail

2. What is your favorite thing to write and why? I love writing nearly everything. But books are my favorite, by far! I enjoy the long-range project, the life-message, the time spent with God processing on paper. My first book  – Refining Identity – a Bible study, a discipleship journey. My second, an ebook – The inTentional Mama – a super-short and practical read to uplift mamas everywhere. My third releases in ONE WEEK! Chronic Healing follows my journey living with a chronic condition, walking alongside the Lord who is my Healer.

CH Front Cover Perfect

3. What is your favorite thing to read and why? Can I just say ALL the things? Articles and blogs, commentaries and Bible reference, Christian novels, Christian inspiration, classics of the church fathers and mothers that challenge me to go deeper. I wrote recently about the books I couldn’t stand to part with during our recent move. Give me words to read, to ponder, to apply, and I’m generally content to sit for hours [if anyone will let me…ha!].

4. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? Have my pre-dawn writing time followed by listening to waves on a beach, toes in the sand. Dine slowly at delicious, local restaurants with people I love. Hold my hubby’s hand. Kiss my daughter’s freckled face. Tickle my son. Nap. And read.

5. What’s one thing you love about your blog and one thing you’d like to improve? I love this space dedicated to finding God in the midst of everyday life. I love the freedom to express, to share, to challenge myself and others. I’d like to tweak a few things to make the site more aesthetically pleasing and current.

6. [Lightning Round] Would you rather…

Read on Kindle or paperback? Silly question…paperback! Pen and coffee go with my reading time.

Drink coffee or tea? See above =) Coffee, for sure. But I don’t mind a cup of tea in the evenings either.

Go to a musical or a movie? Unless the musical is Les Miserables, I’ll take the movie option.

Vacation at the beach or at the mountains? Engaged on a mountain, married on the beach, I love them both! Beach ultimately wins – crashing waves, bare feet in sand, endlessness of the ocean.

Have an exciting night out or a relaxing night in? Relaxing night in. Games, pjs, cuddles, deep conversation = happiness.

Watch sports, play sports, or no sports? I’ll watch as long as hubby is nearby. Then it classifies as a date. =)

Thanks so much for joining me on this link-up intro!

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A New Normal

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I’m establishing a new normal today. For over 3 years, I’ve awoken before 5am on Saturday mornings, tossed on clothes, and headed out the door for coffee and writing.

But last week we bought a new house! And with the move comes changes, like writing more at home. So I allowed myself an extra 15 minutes of sleep…all the way until 4:55am…before rising to brew my own coffee and set up my laptop across from our dining room window that presently looks out over the pre-dawn blackness of the open field behind our property.

It has been a whirlwind, an exhausting whirlwind – moving every scrap of our possessions from one place to another which is no small task. Here are a few observations from the other side of the crazy:

  • We’ve been so blessed by the friends and family who have come to help us pack, unload, and begin to settle. I’m rocked by their selflessness and generosity. And, yes, my eyes began leaking in moments when I realized a friend packed up those closets and cabinets for me that I’d been avoiding.
  • It’s taken quite a lot of mental energy to encourage the kiddos who are big enough to help, but old enough to have complex emotions about uprooting their “normal.”
  • The enemy will do everything he can to steal, kill, and destroy the goodness God provides. He has sought to instill fear, steal my joy, overwhelm me with tasks, and create uncertainty throughout this whole house-building process.
  • It is completely possible to walk a house from foundation pouring to final touch ups, at least once a week with a critical eye ready to catch any flaw, and be pleasantly surprised upon actually moving in at things we’ve overlooked all of these visits.
  • My husband is basically a superhero. His strength, endurance, and tendency to get all the big things assembled, connected, and in place within a few days of moving is jaw-dropping in its wonder.
  • After 7 moves in 11 years of marriage, I think we mostly have this thing down. Our first move as a married couple was stressful as we learned all kinds of lessons about how not to communicate with love and effectiveness. We may be exhausted, but I’m so deeply thankful that there’s a whole lot more flirting than fighting in this process.

Our last home was such an unbelievable blessing to our family. Our little place, built in 1980, housed first steps and laughter and lessons learned. Our very own pear tree provided hundreds of pears annually. The canopy of trees in the back gave us shade while we played. But mostly, the sense of God’s peace on that space was the stand-out for us and for the visitors we had over the years.

Here, in a new place we now call “home” I feel that peace as well. But there’s more. There’s light. I long for this to be like a lighthouse, set on a hill, pointing everyone we meet to Christ. I pray that this place will not only be where we retreat to rest, but also it will be a place we invite others into – even despite our imperfections that range from dirty dishes in the sink to moments of frustration – because God’s love is sufficient to cover all our imperfections and His grace is sufficient to give strength in our weakness.

Has your normal changed lately? How is God meeting you where you’re at today?