Some of my published pieces:

True Beauty
as seen in Miracle Magazine (click title above for full article) – Fall 2009

Remember that feeling you get after you’ve just had your hair done? You know the one. You waited way too long to get your hair cut and now you’ve found someone who seems to be able to bring out the best in you, all by just a few snips of the scissors. You walk out of the salon feeling like a queen and – I swear I’ll keep up with my regimen. But when I get to that six month mark of wearing sweat pants and ponytails, I’m able to rationalize equally well that my appearance really isn’t that important and has no effect on who I am or what I do…

Starting the New Year in a New Place
By Samara Cone
The Good News

To be completely honest with you, I wasn’t going to make any New Year’s resolutions this year. After all, why should I set myself up for disappointment?

Then I stepped back and realized it’s just another way of setting goals and re-prioritizing. So I figured I’d give it a go, but I’d better start in October instead of January. That way, by the time the true New Year came around, I’d have a head start on actually keeping the promises I’d made to myself. After all, it takes about three months for something to truly stick in my routine, so why not get a leg up on everyone by being proactive and purposeful?

Of course, time got the better of me and then the holidays snuck up on me, so I’m left with the rest of society to figure out what hasn’t been working in my life and what needs to improve.

Really, we should be thankful for this time of year. Self-imposed or not, it’s healthy to take a step back and reassess where you’re going in your life and what you stand for. Otherwise, it’s like driving without a destination. You can’t truly know how to live if you don’t know what you’re living for.

Well, as it turns out, I was faced with some forced self-assessment because New Year’s Day 2009 also marks moving day for us. This adventure brings with it a new state, a new home, new jobs and, hopefully, new friends! Though we’d been contemplating this move for years, the actual process happened in a matter of weeks, which is very unusual anytime, much less in our current economy.

In the midst of the frenzy, a mentor cautioned me with the following words: “A successful transition to your new location relies upon you being intentional before you ever leave.”

You see, she recognized that if we just threw things in boxes and assumed we’d sort it out once we moved, we’d be setting ourselves up for failure. Likewise, if we rushed through our only week available to pack without stopping to reconnect or solidify the relationships we’d be moving away from, we would end up full of regrets and resentment. We had to give weight to the fact that with the excitement of moving there was also going to be a mix of sadness for what we were leaving behind.

God’s plan or yours?
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps, Proverbs 16:9 warns us.

On our day-long drive home from Thanksgiving this year, we made an early stop at the Starbucks we’ve frequented locally. While waiting for our drinks, I discovered a “playbook” (they were careful not to describe it as a “workbook”) that took you through your values, beliefs and goals for the next five years. If all of us stopped to take the time to contemplate such things over coffee (or chai, in my case), we’d not only have a much clearer sense of self, but a heightened awareness of others.

After all, you do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body, as it says in 1 Corinthians 6:19b–20.

Why else would a book like “The Purpose-Driven Life” have sold millions of copies?

People want to find their ultimate calling and the reason they were put on this earth. What most people don’t realize is that understanding their destiny is simple; they must simply obey God. When we walk in His will, we fulfill His purpose for our life.

Should we then walk through our days waiting for life to happen to us? Not at all. God created us with the ability to think and therefore not only should we plan, but we should submit those plans to Him. What greater joy could our Heavenly Father have than knowing that His girls are not only thinking, but thoughtfully considering His ways higher than our own? When we plan with the knowledge that those plans could change, we leave room for the possibility that God has something different and possibly even better than we ever could have imagined on our own.

Created for relationship
On that same car trip home, I checked my Facebook and found another friend who was starting her resolutions early this year as well. There is no better time than the present to prepare for your future. Start now before today becomes tomorrow’s yesterday.

Ultimately, we were all created for relationship – first with God and then with others. We become more complete in fellowship.

What is it you wish you could be doing? What are you really doing? If something is important to us, we make time for it. The problem is that many of us don’t even take the time to stop and ask ourselves what that is. As women, we either subscribe to roles we think others want us to fill or we get caught up in trying to live for those around us. When your life is balanced, others will find comfort in your presence.

You become what you believe. If you sit around lamenting your life, you will most likely lead a miserable existence, always wanting more and wishing you were someone else. However, if you set goals, keep your focus on higher things and keep a positive attitude, even challenges become a part of the road towards your overall purpose in Christ.

Remember, We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28).

You can reach Samara Cone at SamiJCone@

From Mentor to Mentor: The 7 “P’s” of Making a Relationship Last
(also titled “I get by with a little help from my friends”)
Sami Cone
The Good News

As little girls, many of us dreamed of being married one day. We acted it out with our dolls, we played dress up and we imagined everything from what our gown would look like to the music that would play as we walked down the aisle.

Of course, once some of us got engaged, those hopes and dreams got kicked into high gear as the planning for the “happiest day of our lives” got underway. We spent more time planning for this single, four-hour event then preparing for the actual marriage.

Back when I was a newlywed, I wanted to do everything right. However, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I couldn’t do everything perfectly. I had endless questions and didn’t know who to turn to. For some reason I felt that as a Christian woman, I should be able to answer the questions, not ask them.

My husband and I both have parents who are divorced, and we purposed early on in our relationship to leave a different legacy. So over the next five years, I found godly women who wore a variety of hats (author, speaker, teacher, prayer warrior, business woman, volunteer, pastor’s wife … just to name a few) who mentored me, counseled me and prayed for me.

I discovered the definition of a good woman wasn’t so much about doing as it was about being. It has very little to do with how often I make homemade meals – and everything to do with how often I stop to pray. My decorating and cleaning will never compare to how well I surrender and submit, both to my Lord, my husband and the other authorities God has placed in my life. When I do these things, I find that my husband appreciates how I do things much more than what I’m actually doing for him.

One of my first and favorite questions posed to my mentors was, “What is the most important thing you’ve learned as a wife?”

The answers I received were practical to me as a newlywed but they are also important at any stage of life:

1. Personal relationship with God should be first
I am only as effective as a wife, mother and servant of God in proportion to my own spiritual growth. My relationship with Christ has nothing to do with the person I married or the people I spend time with but everything to do with the One who created and saved me.

2. Power of influence
“One of the most important things I’ve learned as a minister’s wife,” a friend noted, “is to understand my power of influence over my husband. The way I live can either make or break my husband’s ministry.” In the same way, the way I live can make or break someone’s opinion of my Savior. We must do our best, in word and deed, to serve God, our husbands and others whom God has placed in our lives. We must faithfully and accurately represent Jesus to a world full of hardened hearts.

3. Prioritize
Don’t allow the “work of God” to ever get in the way or replace the “work of God in your life.” If you don’t have a scheduled time set aside for those most important to you, it will never happen. Whether it’s a date night with your husband, personal time with the Lord, or dinner with loved ones, take time to schedule it.

4. Personal passion
We cannot be all things to all people. If you are married, be careful to preserve and protect your own passions and identity while encouraging your spouse in his own areas of ministry. Whether you’re married or single, never forget your dreams. God gave them to you for a reason. Do not think you are too weak to accomplish your dreams. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

5. Prayer
One of my mentors told me, “I’ve learned to fully worship God. That worship, in turn, made me feel more of God’s love, acceptance and presence.” We must pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17) because prayer is the source of communication and intimacy with God and one of the best ways to experience God’s love.

6. Peace
Put on the garment of peace and rest in His wisdom as you go along the life’s journey. Whether you’re single, married, widowed or divorced, take comfort in knowing that God knows your heart and will reveal to you the steps to take. Remember that your peace comes from Christ alone. There is nothing more powerful than a woman who is authentic before her God, her family and God’s people.

7. Patience
A friend once advised me, “My job is to make my husband look good doing his job.” She went on to remind me that constructive comments should be made at home, out of the earshot of others, and that I must be patient and pray my husband through the process. How true for all relationships! We must be supportive and patient – bearing with one another in love, just as Jesus exemplified for each one of us.

Let’s not forget the power of mentors. In Titus Chapter 2, we read: Teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the Word of God.

Wherever you’re at in life, whether you’re a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, a friend or all of the above, be a godly influence in someone’s life … and allow yourself to be influenced by a godly woman.

Sami can be reached at You can check out her blog at


By Samara Cone
The Good News

I’ve always received a lot of attention for my name – Samara J’aime Strauss. It’s a unique mouthful that represents many different nationalities and meanings. My mother actually chose ‘Samara’ because though she liked ‘Samantha’, she thought it would be too difficult for a young child to spell. ‘Samara’ came with the blessing of my Jewish grandmother (meaning “guarded by God” in Hebrew), while offering a seemingly easier spelling and pronunciation (though I’ve since learned this is not the case!).

As an aspiring actress from a young age, I perpetually pondered the perfect stage name. Though my parents chose ‘Sami Strauss’ for my headshots, I thought simply going by ‘Samara’ would be much more elegant and sophisticated. After all, some of the most famous actors and singers were known by a single name.
Eventually, the time came when I finally met my beloved.

Not only did I have to contemplate my new name, but also my new identity as a wife. Should I hyphenate? Should my maiden name be my middle name? Should I shun tradition and keep my maiden name?

I’ve always liked my middle name (“J’aime” means ‘I love’ in French), so I knew that had to stay. For a short while I tried keeping the whole mouthful, “Samara J’aime Strauss Cone,” but who really wants to say all that when answering the phone at work or writing a check? For some reason, people have always had a difficult time pronouncing and spelling Strauss, even though it is a rather common European, Jewish name (you know, like the composer and the jeans?) So I ultimately landed on Samara J’aime Cone.

Perhaps the more difficult struggle for me was one of pride. You see, I always imagined I would make a name for myself: first as an actress, then as a singer and, somewhere in between, as a tennis pro and writer. The only problem was that by the time I was ready to get married, I had yet to achieve my imagined celebrity status!

Believe it or not, I actually thought to myself, “If I become famous now, who will know it’s really me?”

Even as a Christian, I still experienced conflict between making the most of my spiritual gifts and actually getting noticed and praised for doing so.

At that moment of realization, it finally dawned on me: If I’m doing things only for others – so that someone will notice me – I will always walk away empty. For some reason, I thought that I could both serve God and be thanked for that service at the same time.

Fast forward to today.

Society’s standard for success is not that far off from my misconceptions. People are still seeking out a corner office, a fancy title or an entourage. Our current definition of success usually measures what we have instead of who we are as individuals. I recently heard a Biola professor on the radio who even challenged how Christians give today. Too often we give of our money and time in an effort to get something in return, especially recognition. Instead of giving purely from a grateful heart, our motivation now seems to stem from a free gift or the chance to see our name engraved somewhere in our church.

Selfish ambition is described in Galatians 5:20 as one of the desires of our sinful nature.

Romans 15:18 offers a stern warning against such things: Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me (NIV).

Perhaps Philippians 2:2-4 sums it up best by saying: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (NIV).

In an era of reality stars and YouTube, I would imagine I’m not alone in my visions of fame. In fact, a recent survey that asked kids what they most wanted to be when they grew up returned some surprising results.

Long gone are the days when our youth dreamed of becoming firefighters and astronauts; the No. 1 answer from today’s kids is “famous,” followed closely by “millionaire.” They don’t seem to care about what they do as long as people know who they are. This is a dangerous trend.

I’ve learned an important lesson: if God’s not in it, it’s not worth it. The only fame I now crave is famous obscurity, that I might be a conduit for the message of God’s love, grace and peace. I pray that people don’t see me, but instead see Christ in me, that I would decrease and that the Holy Spirit would increase in me.

Whatever you are doing this summer, stop today and check your motivation. Beware of serving your own personal interests instead of doing things solely for the glory of God. If you’re spending too much time thinking about how you can make a name for yourself, you’re most likely not actually doing anything for the sake of furthering God’s Kingdom. Whether you’re going on vacation, a mission trip or to a local gathering with friends, whose name do you want to be on the lips of those around you after you leave their presence – yours or God’s?

If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord. –1 Corinthians 1:31.






By Samara J. Cone
The Good News


“Jupiter Teen Challenge was our last resort and it should have been our first. It’s the best kept secret around!”

Kevin* had just about given up on finding a program for his teenage daughter, Caitlyn*. Everything from the most expensive private schools to exclusive counseling programs had failed to meet her needs and help her through the toughest teenage years. When he asked her what was wrong with all the programs they’d tried, she simply replied, “God was missing.”

Now, 24 months later, Caitlyn is just one of the many success stories coming out of this program.

Perhaps the most powerful testimony is not from the girls themselves, but from the friends and family members that have witnessed their transformation firsthand.

Kevin admits that he didn’t “see the light” of Jesus until after his daughter entered Teen Challenge. Their collective experience has radically changed his life and that of his family.

“We’re carriers now – infecting everyone with the positive message of Teen Challenge,” he says.

Anger, rebellion, defiance, low self-esteem. These are just a few of the feelings that are common amongst the young women seeking help through Jupiter Teen Challenge.

“These girls walk in with no purpose, no place in life. They feel like they will never amount to anything,” according to Gregory DelValle, who along with his wife, Essie, are executive directors of one of the most unique facilities for troubled teens in South Florida.

Teen Challenge began 50 years ago in New York and has since grown to over 400 centers in 92 countries around the world. They strive to introduce every student to Jesus in an early intervention program and alternative Christian boarding school environment for troubled girls. Each student receives an individualized program that emphasizes advanced discipleship, compassionate outreach and academic excellence, all while being nurtured in an environment of love, accountability, positive role-modeling and shared Christian values.

“We introduce them to a positive peer-culture where they are accountable to one another and face the consequences of that accountability. Most of these girls have never been in a situation where they have to judge and be juried by their peers. Not only do they get to be part of a group here, they learn to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. These kids infect one another with a sense of empowerment,” explains Gregory. “We have the answer to what these kids need – and it’s Jesus.”

Greg and Essie know firsthand the transformational power of the program.

“I was saved at the age of 12 at a Teen Challenge rally. It was then that I realized my past did not have to dictate my future. Someone took a chance on me, and I want these girls to know people still believe in them,” Essie says.

And they do; it’s been shown that a student’s emotional intelligence increases four times from the time they arrive to the time they exit the program.

Some girls come in with more severe problems than others.

Hillary had been under a doctor’s care since the age of 14, had attempted suicide three times and had tried 20 different types of medication before entering Teen Challenge. Her father, the vice-president of his synagogue, admitted this was their “last hope.” Not only did Hillary complete the program, she now radiates joy where she used to be afraid to even open her mouth.

Her mother has since converted to Christianity, and both her parents are thankful for the variety of family events as well as the marriage and parenting classes the center offered while their daughter was there.

“There’s truly nothing like it; we’re forever grateful,” say Hillary’s parents.

With endorsements from the likes of Billy Graham and two U.S. Presidents, perhaps Charles Colson summed it up best when he said, “The Teen Challenge Program succeeds when all of the government programs fail.”

Studies have shown that Teen Challenge has the highest success rate in the nation amongst similar programs when it comes to helping teens become contributing members of society.

The 11 staff members provide more than a 2-1 ratio for students and aspire to excellence in all they do. These girls compete against some of the largest schools and churches in the state in everything from the arts to sports. They won the 2007 Girls Rugby Championships for the state of Florida, took sixth place in the state Bible Quiz competition and will send all 10 girls to the National Fine Arts competition in North Carolina later this year. Every other year a missions team travels to Guatemala, and they continually reach out within their community, regularly working on service projects with everyone from the Tequesta Police and Fire Department to the Lighthouse Center of the Arts.

Gregory communicates a realistic faith to the girls.

“It’s easy to serve God in the confines of four walls, but can you serve God when you’re competing and getting pushed on a field? We don’t keep them in a bubble – that sets them up to fall on their face.”

The staff believes in getting the girls out in society while they can still be counseled within real life situations while also building a family environment and encouraging their parents to see their daughters in a different light.

Currently, the program has its sights set on bigger dreams. They hope to continue facilitating life-transformation one person at a time by creating graduate student housing, vocational training and additional facilities on site for when students complete the 15-month program. Students don’t receive their certificate until successful follow up occurs six months after leaving the center.

Though the program has the capacity to house 22 girls, 12 have graduated since January, leaving the facility in a difficult predicament when it comes to funding. With 85 percent of their budget coming directly from tuition and a number of girls attending on scholarship, Teen Challenge daily trusts in God’s provision and dreams of a time when an endowment might come into a place so that tuition funds would not play such a large part in the operating budget.

Throughout it all, Gregory and Essie will continue dedicating their lives to redefining the character of each girl – one life at a time.

*Last names have been omitted to protect the identity of minors in this story.

For more information, visit

Tune out the chaos
Tune into God
By Samara J. Cone
The Good News

We all have our moments.

All women, at one time or another, has had a “WHY ME?” moment – and probably more than once. Married, single, widowed or divorced; mother to 10 or mother of none, every woman has moments when life seems inexplicable and overwhelming, and all we can do is cry out to God.

However, as a mother of two preschoolers, I figure I’m allowed a few more moments than most.

Both of my kids have always been good nappers, but last month my daughter balked at going to sleep in the afternoon. Throw in an early appearance of Daylight Savings Time, and most would agree that we had a recipe for disaster.

At this point, some of you may be thinking, “I have four kids and none of them have ever napped!”
To that all I can say is, “God bless you.”

For me, those three hours in the afternoon provide me a time of quiet, a time to reconnect and a time to get done what I would otherwise not attempt while trying to cook, clean, sing, dance, teach, play, exercise and basically maintain my sanity throughout the day – with my kids in tow by my side.

So you can imagine my dismay when, after a day of not napping, 3-year-old Kariss decided to also challenge her bedtime. It was more than I could tolerate after such a day; so I simply stood up, walked out of her bedroom and closed the door behind me (a signal that things must be really bad because her door always needs to stay open in her world).

As the cries of horror began, I walked into my own bedroom, looked up to the sky and said, “Lord, you REALLY need to give me a word right now!”

I then walked over to my closet (which I like to imagine as a much more serene version of itself when it functions as my “prayer closet”) and opened my Bible to Psalm 139:3, having no idea what it would say, but only obeying the whisper of the Holy Spirit in my head.

Now I know this is a poor time to interrupt my own story, as I’m sure you’re anxiously awaiting the brilliant epiphany I discovered, but I do have to emphasize the last line of that last paragraph: “the whisper of the Holy Spirit.”

See, I discovered something interesting while driving home from work a few months ago. As I drove on I-95 singing along to the radio, a great deluge of rain came pouring down on my car, drowning out the music. The volume of the song didn’t change, but the circumstances around me did. If I wanted to continue listening, I had to turn up the volume on the radio to compete with the sounds of my environment.

It made me think of God’s voice. Though we cannot make His voice louder, we can turn down the noise in our lives so that we can hear Him better. The Holy Spirit is not pushy or intrusive. However, His voice is a constant. Sometimes when we feel we’re not hearing the voice of God, perhaps it’s because our lives are drowning Him out.

OK, so back to our story. As I looked up Psalm 139:3, I found this: You discern my going out and my laying down; You are familiar with all my ways.

I realized that when I don’t understand my children, sometimes I allow myself to doubt whether I’m truly a capable mother or wife. But in that verse, God reassured me that He knows everything about me – and my daughter. Even in our simple bedtime routine, God is present, and He created me for that moment in that place with that person.

He made me to be Kariss’ mom. And when He creates us, He equips us.

Essentially, it all comes down to this. God knows. I don’t, but God does. To be completely honest, I’m still a little confused, but if I study God and study my daughter, I have a chance to be the mother she needs me to be.

By the time it all sank in, the sobs from the next room had settled, and I returned to my daughter’s bed a more confident, yet more humble, mother. I spoke more gently, I kissed more sweetly and I squeezed her tighter than ever before. I knew in that moment that all we had was that moment.

So the next time you’re tempted to ask, “Why God?” first try to quiet yourself and tune in to the Holy Spirit, who’s usually whispering to you beneath the noise.

Are you Properly Nourished?

Many people around me have recently embarked upon new, healthy eating plans. A lot of these plans seem to fail unless there is additional accountability, whether through a friend, spouse, or organization. I’ve even told my husband that I have a hard time sticking to a diet unless I have a specific plan and someone to chart my progress.

Although I consider myself a healthy eater, I have periods where I forget to eat altogether. Other times I’ll just grab whatever I see in front of me at work simply because it’s free! Even worse, I’ll eat an entire meal standing in the kitchen talking on the phone without even recognizing what I’m pouring into my body. Just before we started our family, I considered how I would change my diet if I became pregnant. In that moment, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Why wait? I’m already living inside of you!”

Why is it that we can care enough to change when someone else is depending on us, yet our own well-being doesn’t seem to be a strong enough reason to necessitate healthy habits? We are precious children of God! If we believe that the Holy Spirit truly dwells within us, then we are feeding more than ourselves, both physically and spiritually.

…don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? -1 Corinthians 6:19a

I think it’s safe to say that we all know how we should live and what we should eat; however, doing it is another story. In order to shift the focus in any area of our lives, we must first humble ourselves. If you’re not willing to change for yourself, then consider the Holy Spirit who dwells within you and the healthy impact He craves to make in your life.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD – Deuteronomy 8:3

The area of nutrition is only one area in life where many of us struggle. Safeguarding time for devotions is also a constant struggle in today’s fast paced world. Though nutrition and spiritual disciplines may seem like two separate entities, I would argue that they are intrinsically related.

While I was pregnant, I desperately tried to keep a consistent morning routine. I knew that those foundations had to be set in place well before my baby arrived if I had any hopes of it continuing after the birth. Typically, that meant my morning devotions consisted of a prayer walk where I would recite my memory verses, and then a quiet time back home where I would read a passage from my Two Year Bible in the New Living Translation.

On paper, there seems to be nothing wrong with that combination. However, my Greek/Hebrew Key Word Study Bible remained untouched in my nightstand for longer than I care to admit. I used to pour through the derivations of each word I questioned and cross-reference scripture without concern of what time the clock read. As much as I appreciated the daily reading from a more modern translation, I realized that it wasn’t nourishing me the way I needed to be fed.

Most of us don’t have the time to pour ourselves into God’s word for hours on end. Even if we did, that might not be the universal activity that everyone needs to be filled by the Holy Spirit. However, each of us ought to know exactly what we do need to be nourished spiritually and just how much of that spiritual food we need in order to ‘get full’!

Think of it this way: once a baby transitions to solid food, it becomes very difficult to entice that same child with a bottle or pureed vegetables. Once the body and mind discover the variety that exists, coupled with the array of nutrients from the newly found foods, baby food simply doesn’t satisfy anymore. Sure, it may continue to fulfill the basic needs of the body, but it won’t stimulate growth in the same way.

I have learned to look at my devotion schedule in much the same way. While a routine may be satisfactory and contain all the necessary components, it may not be one that encourages growth in both faith and knowledge of God. Items like the Two Year Bible are great tools to encourage consistency in reading the Word of God, but I have learned it is not enough on its own to mature me into the woman Christ desires for me to be. Each of us have different spiritual tanks, and we need to discern the best type of fuel to fill them up with and never settle for less!

By studying God’s Word, we nourish our spiritual appetite by learning the language through which we hear the Spirit. It’s time to wean yourself off of the baby food and pull up a seat once again at the adult table.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:13-14

Samara J. Cone


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