West Coast Christian Writers Conference Awesomeness

I can literally cry right now thinking about how good God is to me.

I am on a plane on my way back from San Jose to Phoenix and in awe of all God has done over the last few days.

My word for 2017 is Purposeful. A month ago when I sat down with about 3 hours to focus on next steps for my book and re-lauching of my speaking career, I began with a prayer that God would guide this time. That it would be purposefully used.

Well, of course, He did. He reminded me of a literary agency I had run across months prior. When I got to their page, I researched how to submit my proposal to them, but I also ran across a list of conferences their agents attend. It clicked. My personality comes across a lot better in person. I needed to get to one of these conferences. The first one I clicked on was pretty far outside my budget. The second one was practically perfect in every way….just like Mary Poppins. It was in the Bay Area, so I could stay with friends and family and the cost to go was amazing low…which meant I could totally swing it.

Only picture I took at the conference….so you get a little head popping out of my hair. Oh well! 🙂

Ainsley was already going to be gone for the weekend on a mission trip with a sweet family who invited her to go with them. Jerilyn can always stay at the group home if needed. All I would have to do is cover someone to hang with Daisy, which was quickly solved the next morning. I booked the trip without a second thought.

I absolutely believed God had good things planned.

The event was a month away. A couple weeks after I registered they announced they would be offering one-on-one coaching and critique sessions with industry professionals, including the two literary agents attending (who, by the way, were from great agencies that were in my first picks to work with if possible.) However, there were limited time slots and you had to apply and submit work to be considered.

By God’s awesome grace, I was offered one of the spots with an agent. I only had time to attend one session on the first day of the conference before my session, and it just so happened to be one of the sessions she was teaching on the agent-author relationship. I felt like I got to know her as she spoke and was impressed by her knowledge and sweet spirit as well.

Next, I was able to go into my session with her. She started off apologizing that she hadn’t had a chance to read through my work but had heard it was terrific or fabulous….I can’t remember….but, whatever she said made my heart happy. We had only 15 minutes, so I started with my 30 second speech and then just got to chatting. Around the 5 minute mark, she asked me to email her my full proposal directly. I took that as a great sign of God’s favor on this project.

We spent the next 10 minutes getting to know each other. Her last question to me was what other projects I was working on. I let her know about the courtroom victories stories I was compiling for my next book. She seemed to get excited about that right away and even suggested the title, “God in the Courtroom.” I can’t tell you how encouraged I felt leaving that room.

My big hope in coming was to get a literary agent interested in reading my proposal and it had been accomplished. Miracle #1. Yay God!

However, I wasn’t done with my big dreams and big prayers for the conference. About a week before the conference, they announced they would be giving away a scholarship to a speaking conference the following month. And the conference was in Prescott…less than two hours away from Phoenix. As soon as I saw that, I began praying for God’s favor. I prayed a prayer circle around it. (Thank you Mark Batterson!)

To enter the contest for the scholarship, you had to answer questions about why you deserved it, what you planned on doing, etc. I filled it all out and prayed.

Bet you can guess what happened? Nope. You can’t. Because it was unexpected. They only had one scholarship to give away. However, the day before the conference, someone had gone to the graduates of the program last year and had surprised Kathy Lipp with offering to sponsor two half scholarships as well.

I was sitting in my chair and they called the first half scholarship. Not me. I knew my name would be either next…or next after that. I didn’t care which. I just KNEW it would be called. Not out of pride, but out of trusting God’s calling on my life and his moving in my spirit that it was time to get all of this kicked into high gear. Second half scholarship….April Chapman. Woo hoo!!! I jumped out of my seat and hollered. Miracle #2.

Out of all the attendees at the conference there was one woman who I had hoped to meet because her ministry was to the special needs community and to families in crisis. I was feeling some serious overlap with my heart. Well…she won the full scholarship to the Speakers Conference and now we get to be roomies! Already feel like we will be fast friends. Her name is Diane Kim. Miracle #3.

We had a worship service led by Josiah James next where I could literally not stop the tears rolling down as I thought of how good God is to me.

I CAN NOT wait for the Leverage Conference next month. Excited to pray circles around it and see what God does!

Dreaming big dreams.

 

 

Update On My Book

Beta readers. Check.

Edits completed. Check.

Title – “An EXTREME GOD for EXTREME TIMES”. Check.

Proposal written. Check.

Next step, finding the literary agent God has chosen for this book. It is in His hands. I’ve sent it to a handful of agents on this first round and now it is a waiting game. It can take months to hear back. All in God’s time.

Just to give you a little background. God spoke to my heart many years ago letting me know his plan included me writing a book. At the time, I remember thinking I had no idea what I would write about! Of course, I didn’t know I was in the beginning phases of living the life he wanted me to pen (or more accurately…type) later.

About 15 years ago I released my “fear of trials” to God and told him I didn’t want to live in fear. He certainly took me at my word and I’ve had a steady stream of trials or extreme times ever since. But guess what?? I’m no longer living in fear. God has given me plenty of opportunities to stretch my faith muscles to the point that I can fully and completely get behind this verse found in James 1:3…

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

This last year, although not without its challenges, has been a season of blessing in so many ways. It feels as though we are making our way out of the desert we’ve been wandering around in for so long. God has taught me so many things along the journey and I pray that He allows me to minister to others who need encouragement and hope.

I am also re-launching my speaking career….more to come in future posts. Super excited about doing what I love though, I have truly missed it.

I am attending a writer’s conference this weekend. Please pray for “God-encounters.” I love being surprised by God and seeing how He is working in the lives of those all around us. Also, please pray for God’s favor on me and to open the door that leads me to the correct literary agent.

Best. Prom. Ever.

The Tim Tebow Foundation sponsors a prom night for Special Needs youth and adults. We had no idea what to expect, but it was better than Jerilyn or I would have dreamed. The entire atmosphere was so alive with love and encouragement.

Let’s start from the beginning…once you arrived you registered and received a “buddy” for the night. They had over 200 volunteers all dressed up in their best and ready to help their buddy through the night….which meant caregivers were actually given a break….and I will get to that in a minute.

Once the attendee received their buddy, the girls could go get their hair or makeup done, and the boys were offered a shoe shine. Each were given a corsage or boutonniere. Next, they were led to a limousine to catch a ride where they were delivered to the red carpet area.

Each person or couple were announced amidst cheers and proceeded to walk down the red carpet with the flash of cameras. They were ushered into the 29:11 Church, host for the event in Tempe, and could choose to go have a yummy Famous Dave’s dinner, pop into the activity room where they could sing karaoke or play games, or hit the hoppin’ dance floor.

Later in the evening, every single attendee was crowned King or Queen. You wouldn’t believe the smiles on their faces and how happy each one was! Then the base cranked up again and the dancing went into full swing again.

Meanwhile, the caregivers and parents were given a special treat as well. There was a respite room set up for us which included couches, movies, food, specialty coffees, and, drumroll please, massage therapists waiting to give you a massage. We were waited on and honored. What an unexpected gift!

My heart is full seeing how many people were blessed and humbled knowing how much the volunteers poured their effort into this event. Jerilyn couldn’t stop talking about how fun it was and how she just HAS to go again next year. She said it was the best night of her life. Wow! That does a momma’s heart good.

If they have one in your area, get involved! You will be blessed. Guaranteed.

EVERYONE SHOULD GET THEIR DAY IN COURT!

I know many of you were praying on August 13th, when we were scheduled for trial, but it was unexpectedly delayed once again. I was so disappointed. But once September 8th rolled around I felt ready. Totally at peace, which I am sure, was absolutely a direct result of so many people praying for me, because feeling at peace or calm when you head into court is a miracle by itself. I was asking God for 3 miracles…

  1. The Judge would make a same-day ruling. (Very uncommon here in Arizona…usually a Judge takes 4-6 weeks to rule on this kind of matter.)
  2. Mr. X would walk away with zero parenting time. (Basically no visitation)
  3. Mr. X would be stripped of his legal decision-making authority so I could be free to make all the medical, educational and religious decisions regarding the girls.

Court started with some possible setbacks. The judge informed us that we would each have only an hour instead of the original hour and fifteen minutes. This worried me because I was already stressed about needing MORE time since I had two witnesses and almost 20 pieces of evidence to get into the record. Also, Mr. X brought his current girlfriend (even though he has a current wife as well) and convinced the Judge to let her sit at the table with him as his Occupational Therapist. Lastly, Mr. X had been required to show proof regarding the earlier delay he caused in August and the Judge ended up accepting his extremely weak proof. Normally, this would cause me to feel sucker-punched and get me worried about the rest of the case, but this time I felt a supernatural peace, and took it all in stride. “Whatevs…”

Mr. X took the stand first. He wasn’t prepared and had NO pieces of evidence. He was also prevented from admitting any evidence since he had missed the original deadline. His testimony included a fabricated disability and misleading information about a past job. I was able to cross-examine him, but it was extremely difficult because…surprise, surprise…he just so happens to be a belligerent witness…refusing to answer any question directly and sucking up all my time with talking around the issues.

One of the things I was able to corner him about was his dog. Our youngest daughter is deathly allergic to ALL dogs…and no…there is no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” dog for her. She is allergic to dog dander or skin…which all dogs have. I have had to epi pen her before for dogs, and her allergist said she has the highest allergy of anyone she has ever treated for a dog allergy. So…Mr. X having a dog is a big no no if he wants to be able to see his daughter. He claimed his Maltese was a service dog…for his undocumented and unverified eye-sight disability. Sure appeared he chose a dog over a future with his daughter…not a good strategic move, right?

Once he was off the stand, my daughters’ therapist went on. She did an excellent job conveying the extent of previous abuse and communicating the desires of the girls to the judge. The ironic thing was that after I finished questioning her and as we waited for him to begin the cross-examination, I thought of a few clarifications I still needed to ask her. Well…Mr. X unwittingly did it for me. His last question was what kind of training she had, which allowed her to end her testimony mentioning her multiple master degrees and that she was only three classes away from completing her PhD. Perfect! I couldn’t have planned it better.

I was next on the stand. Unfortunately, I only had twelve minutes in which to give my entire testimony. Twelve. Minutes. Ackk!

I took my notes up to the stand and basically read them at break-neck speed. Now, all of you who know me and have heard me speak, know I can talk fast….really fast. The awesome thing was that the Judge never told me to slow down, he just took furiously fast notes. I was able to get my most important pieces of evidence in…including a letter from a psychiatrist in favor of removing Mr. X’s parenting due to the abuse of another child (not one of ours), four of my Orders of Protection, and past Department of Child Safety reports.

Mr. X then cross-examined me. Whenever he asked a question, he yelled at me to only say Yes or No. It was especially ridiculous because he had bloviated on all the questions during his testimony, but didn’t want me to be able to elaborate at all. He just came off as a jerk (or should I say psychopath). The Judge told me to just stick to yes or no. This normally would concern me, but I still had such a peace I didn’t worry about it.

Mr. X only had a few questions for me since he obviously hadn’t prepared any ahead of time. Then we were done. The Judge said he wanted to take 15 minutes to deliberate and then he would return with a ruling. (MIRACLE #1) Within a minute or two of him leaving the courtroom all of a sudden two armed guards appeared. It was the first time I actually felt hope take flight. If he wanted two armed guards…maybe it was because he was about to lay down a ruling he knew Mr. X would not like.

After about 20 minutes, the Judge returned. Our case included about 25 different statutes/conditions the Judge would need to consider. He went through EACH one. He would read it and then elaborate, basically EVERY SINGLE TIME stating how Mr. X had failed in the area. Whenever one would come up that would include me, the Judge supported my parenting…even saying from the bench that I was a good mother out to protect my children. He told Mr. X he didn’t find him to be a credible witness and used his testimony against him. He told him he found him to be the perpetrator of “significant” domestic violence. He had also done his research about all my Orders of Protection and seemed amazed that FIVE separate commissioners had approved my previous orders, basically telling Mr. X it “doesn’t matter who she gets in front of” they see the need for protection. Which was AWESOME because it meant the Judge had seen through all the lies and landed on the truth. Praise Jesus!!

At the very end, he pronounced NO parenting time and NO legal decision-making. MIRACLE #2 AND #3!!!

I was also able to serve Mr. X while he was in court since he refuses to give us a current address regarding how delinquent he is in child support…around $30K. So, it looks like I will be in court again soon about that but PRAISE GOD everything else besides my girls safety is just secondary. We have what we need….each other and peace for our future.

I can’t thank you all enough for the way so many of you went to your knees in prayer for us. I will surely be in your “Thank You” line in heaven. Like I said in my Facebook post…I see this as a kingdom victory. We had an army of prayer warriors.

I am currently writing a book on courtroom victories, so if you know of anyone who wants to give God all the glory for what He has done for them in court, send them my way.

Love These Girls!
Love These Girls!

Behind The Scenes Before Court

As some of you may know, I have been in pretty consistent court battles with my ex (whom we will call Mr. X) since we divorced ten years ago. Bottom line…it’s hard to divorce and get away from a psychopath. Maybe one day I’ll write a book just about what I’ve learned! In fact, this post is going to have to be broken into at least two posts because there is just so much that happened! Today’s will be about what happened before we made it to the courtroom and then tomorrow I will post about our day in court.

Court building (AAP Image/Comstock) NO ARCHIVING, INTL OUT
Court building (AAP Image/Comstock) NO ARCHIVING, INTL OUT

Our recent courtroom battle was regarding parenting time, legal decision-making power, and child support. It took over twenty months to get to trial, primarily because of all the delays caused by a certain somebody. We would go to a Status Conference in court about every six weeks, which ended up helping because true colors were starting to show. We were both on our own, attorney-less.

Days before our trial, I received an email stating he was willing to consider any proposal I would send that would avoid court. Hmmm…unusual. I replied back that the only proposal I would send would include him losing his parenting time and legal decision-making and asked if he would be willing to consider agreeing… I wasn’t expecting a response. However, I ended up getting one two days later that said yes…he would consider it.

While waiting for him to write up a formal proposal, before going to bed that night, I prayed and asked God to make it VERY clear to me whether or not I was supposed to go to trial. My prayer was that I was willing to do whatever would give God the most glory. Right after handing it over to God in prayer, I pulled out my Bible, not expecting an answer right away, but God gave me one anyway. I randomly picked Psalm 23 to start reading in. When I got to the verse that said he would prepare a feast before me in the presence of my enemies, I began to wonder if God meant me to apply that verse to my life. I decided…Nah…I mean I wasn’t looking for an answer right then, just whenever I received the email. I kept reading…it seemed like verse after verse were referring to liars being revealed and integrity winning out. When I got to chapter 26: 1-2, I KNEW I had my answer…

Declare me innocent, O Lord,
for I have acted with integrity;
I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.
Test my motives and my heart.

Minutes before I had been asking God whether or not I needed to go to trial. The answer was obvious. No matter what Mr. X sent me, I already knew the response God wanted from me. This made it so much easier when he did send two proposals…one saying he would give up his parenting time with a bunch of conditions in exchange for child support; the second offering he would sign off on the children permanently. This second one was hard to turn down because it would guarantee future freedom for my girls. However, since God had given me such a clear answer, I knew He had an even better plan for them!

sale

 

Court Update

courtroomWhy is court so intimidating? Maybe it’s the design. ..the heavy doors, dark wood, and raised bench. Maybe it’s the sounds…quiet whispers, broken by the occasional outburst of someone finding out things didn’t go their way, the opening and shutting of courtroom doors and the thought that with each one a decision with lasting effects is being made, the sniffling of a sad woman, the hum of audio recordings, and the absolute quiet in a room as you await the judges next word, next judgment.

Court has always felt intimidating but even more so for me now as I have become my own attorney. Cheaper…but more stressful.

I had to renew our Order of Protection for the third time recently. Even though I went with new evidence to support keeping the Order in place, you still walk in not knowing what will happen. You can never count on a specific ruling. It depends which Commissioner happens to be on the bench and what they require. Praise God the Commissioner ruled in our favor again. This marks year three free from a psychopath.

Then this week I went back to court again for a Status Conferences on our longstanding case to change child support, parenting time and legal decision making. A Status Conference is basically a check-in to make sure both parties have done what they were supposed to do. In our case, it’s usually to check to see if my ex has submitted the paperwork he was required to. The answer is usually no and so the judge sets another court date six weeks out again. This has been going on for a year and a half now. This time the judge promised we would be setting the trial date at our next hearing. So, we could actually go to court for our trial sometime this summer. Pray God gives me an extra dose of wisdom and understanding for that time. I can already see how God has used these multiple delays to reveal my ex’s true character to the judge. It has been time well spent. I’m hoping it pays off when it is time for a final verdict. I’ll keep you posted about when that will be because I will need to call in ALL the prayer warriors I can!

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. (Proverbs 19:21)

 

 

 

Back In School Again…This Time As A Substitute

Substitute WarningLife is a-changing.

Children beware! I have started to substitute teach and may appear soon at a school near you.

I am loving the freedom substituting offers. Every day is a new adventure. I may be in a high school honors biology class (like I am right now as I type this) and an elementary school classroom the next day. I have learned though that my preference starts at twelfth graders and ends in kindergarten. Those kindergartners are hard!! 🙂

Substituting also allows me the opportunity to understand what my kids are or will be exposed to in junior high and high school. It is eye opening and often not in a good way. School culture has changed quite a bit. What is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable are in flux.

About half the teachers I sub for allow cell phones out during class. This one blows my mind. The kids are distracted and not paying attention. Most teachers allow them to listen to music while working. I’m confused about this one because there have always been kids who went home and did homework with music on. The problem is monitoring what they really are doing with their phone in class. Is it music or a video? I’ve caught quite a few “music” listeners doing other things on their devices.

Our culture is so saturated with the idea of instantaneous we are losing every place where and when it is appropriate and respectful to turn everything off and offer our undivided attention. What do you think? Should kids be allowed to have phones in the classroom? Also…what age do you think it is appropriate to give your child a phone? Comment and let me know what you think?

Still Playing Catch-Up

Now on to some other updates…

First day of school 2014
First Day of School 2014

Ainsley has started 7th grade ,which means I have two girls in middle school right now. So far, the world hasn’t imploded, although hormones are running high and changing by the nano-second. I am actually super proud of Ainsley. She is making straight A’s, her teachers all love her, and she is making good choices even with the peer pressure surrounding her. Ainsley is also a very talented poet and artist. Friendships are the life-blood for a 13 year old, so join me in praying for some strong Christian friends for her at school and in our youth group.

Daisy is in 5th grade now and just turned ten. This is the first brithday milestone one of my children achieved that gave me pause to consider how the time has flown and just how soon they will be grown and gone. A little hard for this momma. Daisy is such a fun young lady, who seems to draw people to herself and is often surrounded by friends. She has some strong leadership abilities and is quick to tell anyone who asks that she wants to be an “entrepeneur” when she grows up. Her latest business venture is called Family-Friendly Freezer Foods. She has done her market research and is planning on launching it to our neighbors very soon here. My prayer for Daisy is that she is a leader worth following who loves the Lord first and foremost.

We have also had a new addition to our home this year. My nephew Noah, came to live with us in March. He is nine years old and in the fourth grade. Noah is a sweet boy, quick to do his chores, homework, or anything you ask really. Such a change from my girls…LOL. He loves video games, but also enjoys playing games with the family as well. He got a pair of fish recently and takes care of them so well I am almost considering allowing yet another hamster in our home.

Daniel is still going back and forth between Jacksonville and Phoenix. He is here for about a month and gone for the next. It sucks, but we are making it work.

I’ll update you next on all the craziness going on with me as well.

Remember Me…Yeah I Am A Total Slacker!

A lot of changes have taken place since my last post, and I will try to spend the next few days updating you. I know, many of you follow me on Facebook, so some of these won’t come as a shock to you.

First, I will start by apologizing for flaking out on this blog. My site was hacked and given a nasty virus. It took forever to deal with it because I kept telling myself I will deal with it tomorrow, but then tomorrow bacame more like next year.

I’m going to begin a cliff note version of what has happened in our crazy, chaotic family with a Jerilyn update.  She did end up spending about a year at the treatment center in Texas, coming back to Arizona after making some vast improvements and with a better handle on her coping skills. We decided on a step down program, which means she is in a therapeutic group home (TGH), and coming home here on most weekends.

I love this picture of Jerilyn. The girls at the TGH had helped her straighten her hair. Sorry the light was in the background.
I love this picture of Jerilyn. The girls at the TGH had helped her straighten her hair. Sorry the light was in the background.

Getting her into the TGH was an overwhelming task, as we received denials from almost all of them and were down to one last one, which is of course where God wanted her all along. The place is wonderful, we had a few hiccups in the beginning, but let’s face it, if a transition were to go smoothly for us it would shock the pants right off all of us.

She is blossoming and doing well at the TGH. The staff there truly sees this as their ministry, not a business, and it shows. Last weekend when I went to drop Jerilyn off, she wanted me to come in, pray, and anoint her and her room with oil, like we do at our home. I asked the staff if it would be okay, and the director’s response was, “Please, go right ahead…I do it every week while the girls are at school.” Praise God for this place and the girls they show Jesus’ love to. I once heard, “The hardest-to-love people are usually the ones who need to be loved the most.” So true with these girls, and I try to pour love into them any chance I get as well.

Jerilyn is going to be fifteen in January and I can hardly believe it. She is about to be taller than me. She is excelling in school right now and is starting to make a friend….BIG deal for a kiddo with autism. We were also able to get her back into the behavior-based private school she was in before she left for Texas and the school district is still footing the bill.

For right now, she is content where she is, connecting with other girls in her home who feel marginalized by society as well. This is a great environment for her to explore how to develop and maintain friendships. All in all, a lot of praises. Continue to lift her up in prayer whenever God brings her to mind because there always seems to be a new challenge right around the corner.

I promise to keep you better updated from here on out. There is still so much to tell so I will keep the posts coming. Love you all!!

 

My Magnificent Mother’s Day

I had the best Mother’s Day! I knew this one was going to be good because the girls have been working on “secret” gifts for the last two weeks. So sweet! I was blown away by their thoughtfulness, so I have to share here, mostly so I can remember it later (especially on days when maybe they aren’t so sweet….lol.)

Daisy had been working on a craft on our patio for the last week. I wasn’t even allowed to go out there because I might see it. She had MothersDayGifttaken 30 popsicle sticks and painted them all green and wrote chores on each one. Then she took tissue paper and made them all into flowers, along with two carriers for them all. So creative and totally her own idea….along with the other nine gifts she made for me. Love that sweet thing! I feel soooo loved.

Ainsley got up and made me a yummy pancake breakfast, served in bed, along with beautiful cards she made and a necklace she ordered (with Daniel’s help) a few weeks ago for me. She recently wrote this poem for me too and entered it into a contest. Isn’t she brilliant? Seriously….I can’t write a line of poetry and she blows me away because she wrote this in ten minutes.

 

MAGNIFICENT MOTHER

by Ainsley Broussard

 

My mom is there when I shut my eyes

My mom is there when I rise

She is there to comfort when I cry

She is there to tell me try

She gives me lots of love and care

I always know she will be there

We have a saying we always say

Something I won’t ever forget, even today

We say to my mom, “We love you”

She says, “I love you more”

There’s a confident spark in her beautiful eyes

Why can’t I be as wise?

I love my mother with all my heart

We will never be set apart

I could say more but more isn’t enough

Narrowing it down would just be too tough

I’ll just let my poem say a thousand words

Hopefully it will be as beautiful as the song of a bird.

 

I had the chance to talk to Jerilyn today as well, who made me a card and a little something to send. Can’t wait to see it! I feel like a very blessed woman and (at least for today) my girls “arose and called me blessed” like Proverbs 31 says, which is every mother’s dream.