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My Story of Friendship & Hope by Connilyn Cossette

I grew up in Spokane, Washington but my husband and I moved away when we had been married just one year, in 1998. I always tease him that he has a bit of gypsy blood in him, he used to get restless after a couple of years in one place, so we spent the next few years moving around, a lot. We went from Spokane to Utah, from Utah to Seattle, from Seattle to Idaho, from Idaho back to Utah and then from Utah to Texas! Phew! Makes me tired just remembering all the packing and unpacking that went on in those wandering years!

Throughout those many moves I made a few friends in those different places, some friendships that have remained precious throughout the years and some that faded into memory after time, distance, and seasons of life eroded those ties.

When I first moved to Texas I was completely disoriented. It was a strange place and a drastically different culture (they say things like “we’re fixin’ to go” and call shopping carts buggies, people!). To top it off, my husband is a truck driver and at that time was traveling for weeks at a time, leaving me and my one-year-old son alone. I felt like I’d been dropped off in the middle of ocean without a lifejacket.

There were many months I prayed, Lord, please just bring me someone who wants to really know me, someone that cares enough to see that I am lonely and hurting and scared to put my heart on the line.

Although it took some time for me to let down my guard which, as a highly introverted person, tends to be pretty high gradually, through church relationships and gracious neighbors, I slowly began to gather a few trusted people around me. And as my children got older and we became involved in homeschool co-op, that circle grew wider and deeper and richer with friendships. And once I began writing, the Lord gifted me with new connections with other creatives that truly understand my heart and passion.

There are times, however, I have worried that my tendency to hold my innermost thoughts close to my chest and to literally hide in my closet (which is where I write) might damage some of those ties, especially over the last couple of years when I have been learning to balance writing, homeschooling, sleep and you know, life.

But in the past six months I have experienced such an outpouring of love and support from the people around me that I am left with an overflowing cup that just keeps on spilling over.

When my first book Counted with the Stars released I decided that since it was my debut novel and since it happened to be near my 40th birthday, I would throw a big party to celebrate. For weeks,  one of my BFF’s and I planned and plotted (and spent way more money that was budgeted) to launch CWTS in the world.CountedWiththeStars_mck.indd

I’ll be honest friends, I wasn’t sure anyone would come, other than the local friends that were on the launch team and maybe a few people from church. But I figured, hey, a debut is a once in a lifetime, I’ll have fun even if only a few people show.

Wow. Was I wrong.

By the time the night was halfway over it was standing room only in the banquet room I’d rented. And the majority of those people were my friends, from various circles of my life. I had to work very hard that night to control the tears that kept welling up when I considered how many people cared for me, supported me, and were willing to give up their Saturday night to celebrate a story about my imaginary friends.

And then, last Saturday night, the same thing happened with my second launch for Shadow of the Storm!shadow_of_the_storm

I marveled at the selflessness and support of those friends who spent the entire day helping me set up our crazy decorations, cutting strips of paper for the kid’s crafts, dressing in costumes, frosting cupcakes, and then serving all the guests who arrived later. I marveled at the many people who showed up to celebrate Shadow of the Storm with me and those who joined me in my first Facebook Live broadcast to attend the party virtually (even though the sound quality was a mess). I marveled at the gifts of friendship that the Lord has bestowed on this wallflower over the years.

Eleven years ago I did not even want to move to Texas, I was terrified of the snakes, the heat, and the loneliness. But I have seen the Lord answer those desperate prayers for just one or two friends to care about me many, many times over.

Maybe you are in that time of loneliness, a time when you feel no one around you cares, or that you are invisible or forgotten, or maybe you have been wounded from lost or damaged friendships. But may I remind you that God adores you? He hears you, even in those empty desert times. He made you and knows your deepest hurts. Perhaps like me, stepping out and be vulnerable and sharing your heart authentically is a struggle, but it is so worth the effort. Pray for courage! Pray for friends!

Perhaps you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and have no problem making new friends and are confused by people like me who pull into our shells in social situations. Can I encourage you to keep trying? We introverts need you to draw us out, to call us and invite us to coffee—because most likely we won’t call you, even if we want to. It may take a little more effort, but the opportunities for a deep and loyal friendship are high with us introverts. Pray that the Lord would open your eyes to a lonely soul!

We need fellowship. We need other women to speak into our lives. From the beginning God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” and that means women as well. It is His desire that we connect with others, reach out, and allow ourselves to be known.  Friendship is at the heart of the gospel, for who is a better friend than Jesus who laid down his life for us?

So I challenge you, whether extrovert or introvert or somewhere in between, reach out and take a step towards relationship this week. Whether that’s calling someone who needs encouragement, approaching a stranger, or renewing a friendship that withered away over time. Pray that the Lord will show you who needs you to take that first step. And, like me, I have little doubt that in time your friendship cup will overflow as well.

Recipe for “Manna Cakes”

The Bible describes the heavenly food, manna, which in Hebrew is loosely translated “what is it?” as “white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31) So, for the release party last week my awesome friends helped me make these “Manna Cakes” which I concocted by altering a cake mix. They are super easy and quite yummy with honey buttercream frosting!

Cupcakes
1 Box White or Cake Mix
1 TBSP Apple Pie Spice
¾ cup honey
½ cup oil
3 eggs
½ cup water
Mix together and follow Directions on the back of the box for cooking times. Frost with Honey Buttercream and top with white non-pareils  (tiny white ones, so it looks like manna!)

Honey Buttercream Frosting
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
Add milk, as needed, for thinning

Variation:
Use applesauce in place of the oil to give the cupcakes a yummy, fruity flavor.

shadow_of_the_stormThank you Sheila, for once again having me on your blog to share my story of hope and friendship. One lucky commenter will be receiving a copy of Shadow of the Storm, so tell us how you’ve been blessed by a friend lately or how God has been faithful to supply a friend in times of loneliness.

About Connilyn Cossette
When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure out-of-print history books. There is not much she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible, uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus and weaving them into fiction. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

They Call Me “Mama” by Connilyn Cossette

Conni032editThank you Shelia, for your invitation to share a story of hope from my life. It was quite easy to come up with a story to share, since the two main characters live in my home and call me “Mama”.

I’ve been married to my husband Chad for over eighteen years and we were always aware that adoption would be the way our family would grow.  Since I was adopted at birth as well, it was an exciting, wonderful prospect. But, as young as we were and just starting out in life together we had no more than a couple of pennies to rub together. It would be seven long years of waiting. Truthfully, more often than not, that wait was not at all patient on my part and sometimes quite painful.

The longer we waited, my friends began to marry and get pregnant and as much as I rejoiced with them, there was honestly an edge of jealousy in my heart—a smile on the outside at the news, paired with weeping on the inside.

“Lord!” I said, “Why would you give me this great desire to be a mother if you won’t bring me one of my own?”

There was one event that was particularly painful for me. A co-worker’s daughter was caught up in circumstances where she was unable to care for her child and there was a possibility that we might have a chance at adopting the little girl. When everything fell through, I was devastated. I had gotten my hopes up, again, only to have them dashed to the ground.

But my God, He is faithful. And He is the origin of hope.

The next day, I was doing laps in a swimming pool and pouring out my heart to him about the crushing of my dream. And he said to me, in such a clear voice, directly in my mind, “Do not grieve over that little girl. She isn’t the one. I will bring you a daughter some day.” I was so stunned. It was first time in my life that God spoke to me in a voice that almost seemed audible. I stood up in the pool and looked around, half-wondering if other people had heard it too.

So, I waited. And I waited. I taught pre-school for many years and poured my mama heart into my students.

And then one day, one of my girls from the Youth Group I worked with got pregnant.

I was devastated. Simply wrecked. I went home, laid on my face in my bedroom and literally screamed at God, “Why? Why would you rub my childlessness in my face? It is so difficult and so impossibly expensive to adopt! It will NEVER happen!” (It was not my best, most trusting moment to be sure).

But, even in that ugly moment my loving God said to me, in another clear voice, “What if I chose not to give you a child? Will you still trust me?”

After a deep struggle between my desires and his challenge, I surrendered my will. “Yes, Lord. I will trust you, even if you never bring us a child. “

“And, If I do chose to make you a mother,” he said. “Will you take any child I bring you? In which ever way I chose?”

“Yes! Lord, any child! No matter what! No matter how!” and then I added, “But we are so broke Lord, if you do want me to be a mother, you will have to drop one right out of the sky.”

And so, he did.

Within a month, our Pastor approached us to say he had received a call from a lawyer friend who was searching for an adoptive family for a client. I ran home that day  (I worked at the church preschool), wrote up an adoption portfolio and by the end of the next week, we had been selected by our son’s birthmother and met her in person soon afterward.

The adoption looked nothing like I thought it would. I expected an agency would be involved in everything and we would just sign some papers and get a baby.  But this was a private adoption; I took the birth-mom to the doctor, helped her find an apartment, drove her to the grocery store, met her family and got to know her personally. It was the opposite of what I expected.

But what a blessing! I got to be there in the doctor’s office and hear his little heartbeat for the first time. I got to stand in the aisle at the grocery store and feel her belly as he kicked and squirmed.  The hospital even gave us our own room down the hall and allowed us to feed our son for the first time and snuggle with him and bond with him for the first 24 hours before his birth-mom signed the papers. All with her, and her family, congratulating us on the birth of our son. It was beautiful. It was miraculous.

Oh, and by the way, the Lord provided every penny we needed through friends, family, and our church to pay for the entire adoption. Our boy truly came right out of the sky.

But wait a minute! Didn’t God say he would give me a daughter?

That he did. I was almost shocked when the lawyer told me the baby was a boy! But God wasn’t done with his miracles.

Two and a half years later, we had moved to Texas. We were a little bit more settled into life and thought, our son needs a sibling! So we signed up with an agency and were told that the average wait time was 9-12 months. “Great!” we said, “We have plenty of time to gather the necessary funds.”

Thirty days later—the phone rang. “You’ve been selected by a birthmother, come meet her!”

And so we did, and crazily enough, the next morning she went into labor.  But, although we went through the whole birth with her, the next day she changed her mind. The baby, a little boy, was not meant to be our son.

Again. Devastation hit me like a ton of bricks. It was almost as if we’d had a miscarriage. Our hopes had been so high, and we’d snuggled and loved on and named that little boy.

But God wasn’t done with his miracles.

One week later, the phone rang. “Another birth mother has selected your family. Come meet her!”

And we did. This young girl was so adamant that we were the right family for her baby that she assured the agency she would not change her mind after hearing what we had been through.  We met her, promptly fell in love with her, and spent the next three weeks anxiously waiting for another baby to be born.

And I’ll be honest. It was tough. We were terrified she would change her mind. We hadn’t had all the necessary pennies saved up since it happened so fast and we worried it would all fall through for that reason.

But the Lord reminded me of his promises. He reminded me that he was a giver of good gifts and he reminded me that he owned the cattle on a thousand hills and a few thousand dollars was no problem for him. Within the time allotted, God brought us every single penny we needed. We had people we barely knew hand us checks for a thousand dollars. One complete stranger gave us twenty-five hundred dollars, which ended up being the exact amount left on the total. I actually ended up giving back donations! Our cup ran over!

But again, the adoption was nothing like we expected. It was a newer agency, there were a few glitches, a few stressful moments, and since I bonded with this very young birth-mom over phone, messaging, and in person, I became tied up emotionally in the grief she was dealing with over such a weighty decision. I was a mess.

But then, the day came. The baby was born.

And it was a girl. My beautiful daughter, promised to me in a swimming pool years before.

God’s promises never fail. He is a God of Hope. Our ways may not be his ways. Our plans may look different than his. We may have to wait, a long, long time before answers are revealed. And there may be some suffering along the way, some  dredging up of the sin, some work on our fickle, untrusting hearts.

But as one of my characters in Counted with the Stars says “As long as we have breath in our bodies, there is always hope.”

Kids with Book _edited-1I am blessed beyond measure by my two miracle children. And blessed that Shelia had given me the chance to share my story of hope. I hope it encourages you in whatever situation you find yourself today.

Sheila also asked that I included a recipe to add to the theme of “Friendship, Hope and Fried Fruit Pies”. I must confess; I am not a very good cook. I am too impatient, I abhor measuring and dishes are the bane of my existence. But, since my first book Counted with the Stars takes place in Ancient Egypt I did some research and found an ancient recipe for candy! This recipe was apparently found on an ostraca (a broken piece of pottery used for writing) from 1600 B.C. My daughter and I made these together and they are very easy and really yummy!

date_candypic2ZxMP2Ancient Egyptian Date Candy

Ingredients:
1 cup of chopped fresh dates
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2tsp of cardamom
1/2cup of fresh ground walnuts
Small amount of warm honey
Dish full of fine ground almonds

Procedure:
Mix the dates with some water to paste
Mix in cinnamon and cardamom
Knead in the walnuts
Form balls, spread with honey and cover in the ground almonds.

About Connilyn Cossette:Conni032edit
When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure out-of-print history books. There is nothing she likes better than digging

into the rich ancient world of the Bible and uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives near Dallas, Texas.

Her debut novel Counted With the Stars will be releasing in April 2016 with

Bethany House Publishers. Connect with her at http://www.connilyncossette.com

Counted with the Stars – Back Cover Copy: Releases April 5, 2016CountedWiththeStars_mck.indd

Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation. When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.

Choosing to flee with the Hebrews, Kiya finds herself reliant on a strange God and drawn to a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away and now facing the trials of the desert, will she turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh?

Counted with the Stars can be purchased at the attached links.

http://www.amazon.com/Counted-Stars-Egypt-Connilyn-Cossette/dp/0764214373/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459763266&sr=8-1&keywords=counted+with+the+stars

http://www.christianbook.com/1-counted-with-the-stars/connilyn-cossette/9780764214370/pd/214370?event=ESRCG

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/counted-with-the-stars-connilyn-cossette/1122232787?ean=9780764214370

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/counted-with-the-stars-P005784774