My Birthday | A Post About Whimsy & My Mid-Thirties

I stood with my back to the counter in our kitchen. My husband, the young one that he is, held out his hands and said with glowing eyes and a wide, w i d e smile, “Laura! You are officially in your mid-thirties!(!!!!!!!!!!!)” My eyes rolled then just as they are now.

Friends, today I turn 34.

Sometimes I think it’s the fact that I cannot imagine myself being “old”, but the truth is, by all life-experience accounts, I’m excited for the growth in wisdom and experience that lies ahead. I’m excited to watch my children grow and to get to participate with them as they walk into the fullness of their creation. I’m excited to get to save for those bucket list moments like bringing our kids to the Black Hills, or getting to finally take that dream trek up the west coast with my 3 favorite people in tow. I’m excited for the day I’ll get to stay up and play games and eat popcorn until midnight with them, and for the mornings us parents can actually leisurely rise because the children are old enough to fend for themselves (and survive).

There’s a lot of really great things to look forward to, and that’s just a morsel of things pertaining to this little family of mine alone. I cannot wait for the friendships that will blossom in the years ahead, the new places we’ll call home one day, the sides of those we know and love that we will come to learn through shared meals and campsites and heartache.

Life is dang beautiful, and I’m putting another tick on the board of years I’ve gotten to experience it.

So what’s with the uneasiness in my belly about turning 34? If I know that I know that I would never trade the wisdom gained to go back a decade, then, what’s behind the resistance to welcome a new year with open arms?

I think it’s whimsy.

When I ask myself why, this is what I come up with. There’s this whimsy about youth—carefree and ready for all that life will hold. Teen years hold within them all of the potential for what you might become. What job you’ll have, where you’ll go to school. Twenties hold within them the excitement of truly entering adulthood. New jobs. New relationships. New homesteads. And for some, commitments that will carry them to the end of their lives. This was true for me and it was exciting, challenging, and beautiful.

But thirties. There’s this air of hunkering down; whether it’s because kids are growing older, or jobs are getting serious and you’re doing things like buying houses and cars that mean you have to keep that job and stay put because everything depends on it.

And hunkering down sounds like the antithesis of whimsy.

So here I sit, in that literal transition from one year to another, wishing I could bend the ear of that little girl who used to put on dance shows in the living room and run with arms flailing across the great big back yard clothed in nothing but a swimsuit and sheer joy. That little girl with big hazel eyes and a boyish haircut who’s favorite thing was using her imagination. Who wrote love letters to Devon Sawa and clung to boy bands like barnacles to a boat.

What would she tell me about today?

I think she’d say that 34 is a number and I actually have the choice to embrace as much whimsy as I’m willing to welcome. I can choose to hunker down and survive or I can choose to embrace each and every opportunity to live in the magic of the life God has given me.

I think she’d tell me to stop being so serious—that we could work on that together. I think she’d tell me to buy a pet bunny and invite it to tea (an activity she hosted often). I think she’d ask me all about the man she’d one day marry—do his eyes sparkle when he looks at us? What does it feel like when he holds our hand? Do we dance together in the kitchen when our favorite song comes on?

Then I think she’d want to know about the kids she always dreamed of—Who are they? Do they look like us? Do we paint with them and explore and have dance parties together? Do they like to dunk Oreos between their pointer and middle or are they sort that hold it with their thumb and pointer finger? Do they love playing grocery store as much as we do? What do their laughs sound like?

I’m so grateful for that girl—little Lulu. She’s a pretty special girl, and I find the older I get, the more I am trying to be like her. While I don’t have the slightest idea of what’s ahead of me in this, my 35th trip around the sun, one thing I do know—for all of my days, I will give Him praise, for He has given me this one, good thing: a life beyond my life, where the beauty of this one will collide with the perfection of the one to come, and I will fully, truly, live.

“As for me, I will wait for the Eternal, even though He feels absent, even though He has hidden His face from the family of Jacob. I will put all hope in Him You see, I and my children whom the Eternal One gave to me, we personify the promise.” -Isaiah 8:17

This verse is my 34. Assurance that the only hope I have is the one I have in my unfailing God, and the complete certainty of this one thing: this life and where He has taken me proves that I, Laura, personify the promise of God.

“The Spirit of the Lord, the Eternal, is on me.
    The Lord has appointed me for a special purpose.
He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to repair broken hearts,
And to declare to those who are held captive and bound in prison,
    “Be free from your imprisonment!”” -Isaiah 61:1

At 34, I am a receiver of good news, bound up, and set free. And fully released to take hold of all of the whimsy I can get my hands on. Hallelujah!

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME! I’m grateful for all of the versions of myself that I have been over these 34 years. Leaning in and learning all that I can from what God has given me so far, knowing full well that what is to come will be sweet and beautiful and full of that heavenly magic that only God can bring.

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32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.32

I recently heard someone refer to their birthday as the amount of times they have traveled around the sun. I really liked that.

So today, I am celebrating my 32nd trip around the sun, and I feel so blessed. Truly. Why have I gotten 32 years and all of this to show for it? Completely by the goodness, love and mercy of God.

With that said, here are 4 of my most favorite memories.

29) Riding the chairlift with my dad as he yelled down to the skiers below, "Hey, Jackson! Hey, Wanda!"I always thought it was hilarious. I know that the older I got, the more embarrassed I got by it, but as a kid this was the highlight of the chairlift ride. My dad would yell this down to a random guy as he skied below us and we would laugh and laugh. If he saw a random lady he would yell, "Hey, Wanda!" They would look around, confused, wondering if the crazy guy on the chairlift was yelling at them. It was so funny. What did I learn? That I was silly. That I could enjoy shared laughter in the calling out of Jacksons and Wandas with the guy that gave me my silly sense of humor. It wasn't weird or annoying to him and it wasn't to me either, so we could be goofy and ridiculous and there wasn't anyone to tell us to do otherwise. Krista always thought we were weird, Jimmy just laughed it off (likely in the hopes we would stop) and my mom usually gave a big laugh and then moved on. Maria was like us--able to laugh and cry out of nowhere. We could laugh at that same joke or silly experience for longer than anyone else and somehow that bonded us. I learned that I like that I find random things hilarious and that I can see that part of me directly carried down from my dad.  He's silly and awkward and weird (sorry dad, but it's true. Embrace it.) and I love that I am, too. 

30) Coming out of the bathroom in the open lounge and meeting the new kid at school, Thomas. It was a "free day", as everyone was arriving back to school after having the holidays off. I had been in a room down the hall watching a movie on my laptop with my then-boyfriend, and I had to run to the bathroom. I noticed two new guys crammed in between two other people on the couches just outside of the bathroom but I didn't have time to stop and introduce myself then, so I decided I would when I came out. So upon exiting the bathroom I stood at the group and said something to the effect of, "you two must be two of the new students! I'm Laura" to which Joe, a short, young British kid, shook my hand and then the guy next to him stood up, with his long, dark, floppy hair and his super tight pants, and shook my hand saying, "hey, I'm Thomas!" I could already tell he was goofy and silly and I knew we would be friends. We sat in that open lounge a lot in the days ahead, hanging out and being nerds. He always sat next to us at mealtimes, and was so silly and carefree. I also remember sitting in that open lounge next to my then-boyfriend and him expressing to me his fear that I would "one day start to like Thomas." I laughed out loud and reassured him that he was just a really good friend. I also expressed to him my concern for Thomas' decisions and that I was "just so worried about him and all of his shenanigans." What did I learn? Watch out. One day you might be leaving the bathroom to head back to your boyfriend and you will meet someone who will become your most favorite person in the whole entire world. Those Canadian, emo boys will kill you with their sweetness and goofyness. Be careful. *If you know us, you know that we have disagreed on our first meeting since the very beginning. He thinks is happened after I think it did, so obviously he is never going to admit that he is wrong. I'll keep standing my ground.

31) Slowly waking to the quiet words of You are my sunshine being sung to me by my mom. I had a wood canopy bed, with a light pink bedspread and a light pink canopy thing on top of it. I have this very clear memory of being asleep and my mom's lips just nearing my little right ear as she whispered to me, "you are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You'll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away." I also remember beginning to wake up to these words with a smile on my face and my hair all over the place. She had a smile on as she sang and I felt really, really loved. I also remember the sun shining in. It always shone brightest in my little room at the break of day, which, was warm and comforting and significant for some reason. What did I learn? That my mom loved me. Like, really loved me. She still does, and in my adult mind I decided it was different now than it was then. But now that I have Hazel I don't know that that is true. Hazel has been, to me, the one who has made right so many things in my heart. She is my rainbow baby and the girl that makes me want to be a better woman. And with all of that in mind I remember this moment so differently. I was that rainbow baby to my mom. I was that little girl she loved so tenderly, with the same brightness that I love Hazel. I'm learning that the way parent's love their small children might look differently as they get older but it doesn't lessen and it certainly doesn't diminish. My mama loved me with her entire self, and I really think I was her sunshine. Maybe I still am.

32) The time the moment I had dreamt about for months was being played out before my eyes and I could feel my heart exploding and being put back together at the same time. There are so many memories of Thomas coming back to me from a time away, but there was something about this particular moment that is tangible and real, even 4 years later. I couldn't stop smiling as I waited for the buses to pull up. I had on a new dress, one that I felt so very pretty in, and had our baby boy next to me who was so incredibly different than the last time we had seen Thomas. There had been so many lonely nights that I had imagined the moment I would look into his eyes again. So many times I had rocked Malachi, reminding him that his daddy loved him so much. And now, we were going to see his face and hold his body close to ours again, and it was surreal. Jade, our wonderful and hilarious, photographer, had been trying to get onto post in time to photograph our reunion and the place was bustling with excited families. One of his friend's wives was with me, trying to chat a bit while we waited, but between my excitement and Malachi's wanderings, I was a poor conversationalist. We spotted the buses coming up from the right and the cheering and screaming began. I couldn't contain my excitement. I didn't know I could smile that wide and that my breath could be that deep and that shallow at the same time. He was coming. It was happening. The sun was hot and my feet were pacing. The buses stopped and I knew that somewhere in those windows were the eyes of my husband searching for us in the crowd. The guys piled off the other side of the bus and it felt like the air stood still. Then they came. The filed into their places on the field, the higher-ups said their stuff, of which I remember nothing of, and then they broke. I searched and searched and then, from amidst scurrying soldiers and families, came the eyes I love so much. He knew where we were and he came towards us with the intentionality and drive that comes from 10 months away from half of your heart. I felt my heart break and be put back together at the same time and I don't know that I will ever feel anything like that again. He was home. I was home. Everything else in the world was right and nothing else mattered except that I could look into his brown eyes and feel his arms around me and that Malachi could hear the voice of his daddy again in person. I will never forget this moment. What did I learn? How much I need my husband. And not need because of something he does for me but because God designed my heart to be paired with his. I am a fraction of myself when he is not with me, and getting to pick up and do the rest of our lives together, without interruption, was a defining moment. He was home for good, and we were so deeply thankful. 

I've lived a really beautiful life, and I have no doubts it will only get all the more beautiful with each year He gives me. Jess Connolly says, "The full picture, you see, requires you and me to acknowledge that the main character of the story is not the masterpiece, but it's Creator." I couldn't agree more. Lord, be ever magnified by each day of life You give me. May they see You in me, Lord God. 

Ready for 33 with tenacity and grace. It's going to be a good year. Now if I can just hurry up and make it to July so Thomas can stop teasing me about being 5 years older than him. 

32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.28

The fourth installment of my 32 memories and warning--this one gets personal. I also don't feel any shame for my story, so the warning is more so for you.

Onward.

23) Sitting at the breakfast bar in our hotel room in Orlando, educating my cousin on the fact that the white part of our scrambled eggs was the umbilical cords of the little baby chicks and that we most definitely shouldn't be eating them. I feel like I can remember her eyes widen as her education on egg anatomy grew. I also remember the two of us picking apart those eggs like a paleontologist sifting through dirt for bones. As a mom, I now look back at that and laugh because I know I likely spoke with so much authority on the matter. What did I learn? That kids are obviously the experts on everything. And that they will take what you tell them and magnify it ten-fold before taking their place at the teacher's desk of life. I was a pretty smart girl, you know. I knew all the things then and I definitely know them now. (Please note my sarcasm. Please.) Also, let it be known, that while I know the white wiggly part of the egg is not the umbilical cord, I still don't eat it because, well, gross.

24) Sitting on the bus by myself, heading back to Friedrichshafen from Meersburg, listening to Jack's Mannequin and looking out at the shining sun over Lake Constance.  I "found" myself in Germany--or at least I did my first real archeological dig into the bones of this woman God had formed so many years earlier. It was my first experience with people from all over the world and I found that there were so many things to like and enjoy and adopt as my own. From emotional, artsy music to American Apparel hoodies in an array of colors, I decided for myself the kind of woman I wanted to be and it was really cool. I also learned a lot about God in those 6 months, and I connected so much with His presence in that little part of Germany. The beauty of the water and the mountains as it's backsplash--my soul still feels connected if I close my eyes and call the scene to mind. I had the best white mocha in a small, little coffee shop, made by a blonde German man named Bernard, I witnessed an array of European shaving preferences at the Thermal Bath and I learned that I was created with a heart that longed for this part of the world. When I chose to go to school in Germany, I never knew I would feel so deeply connected there. What did I learn? To explore this wide, wide world. I learned that there were deposits made in my creation that were withdrawn when my feet hit the old, weathered ground of the European countryside, and I felt a part of myself come alive for the first time. I also learned that if you don't step out and try the thing you never imagined trying, you might miss out on the thing that changes your life forever. Remember, I met the man I would fall in love with there. So, that's pretty monumental. 

25) Oreo dunking parties at our "too small" kitchen table. We had this table, with oh-so-'90s padded, swivel, arm-chair-like kitchen chairs. There were 5 chairs and 5 of us. Eventually the family grew (see #26) and only continued to grow from there. I remember sitting at the table, late at night, everyone in their appropriate spots, and dunking Oreos into our milk. We all had our different ways of doing it, but I recall wanting to adopt my dad's way because, after all, it was the best and most efficient way to get a perfectly soaked cookie. You see, you had to hold the cookie in-between your pointer and middle fingers, with your thumb out to the side and other fingers curled, so that you could get the entire cookie into the milk. I remember not liking the idea because my fingers would get so full of milk, but I always tried it anyways because I had learned that it was the ultimate way to dunk. We laughed a lot, and plowed through a pack of Oreos a lot faster than we probably should have. But what I remember most about this is that it was a time when we were all together. My siblings, all older than me, were busy with school and activities, and my dad was working to provide for us. So our Oreo parties were a time when we came together and were living as family simply. No agenda other than to consume calories and laugh. What did I learn? That my family is pretty great. That at the heart of it all, we were made for one another. We were made to laugh together and to grow together. It looks a lot different as the years pass, but the lesson is still the same. Now, years later, I don't think any one of us can have real Oreos or drink milk, but I'm sure if we took the opportunity, we would find a really good alternative to consume while remaking that childhood scene.I really love my family and I really love that God made us for one another. 

While this photo doesn't contain Oreo's or my entire family, it does contain the old, too-small table, so that's something.

While this photo doesn't contain Oreo's or my entire family, it does contain the old, too-small table, so that's something.

26) Walking up to meet my sister that I had known about my whole life but never met. I was wearing a white, puffy, pirate-esque shirt tucked into a black skirt with white polka dots and a red belt. I was so excited because for my entire little 8 year life I had dreamed of meeting the sister I always knew about but had never met. This was the moment.  We pulled up to the park and in front of me and to my right I could see a brown gazebo with a young girl standing inside of it. She had brown, curly hair and it was so pretty and big. I think she had her hands in front of her, likely nervously playing with her fingers, as her life was about to change forever just like ours was. I remember this excited nervousness over all of us, and I also remember there was so much I didn't understand other than that this was a big moment. I remember the river just on the other side of the sidewalk from the gazebo and all of the flowers that surrounded the path. I remember the big trees and the constant smiles. I remember sitting, for what was an eternity to an 8 year old, and everyone asking questions. Then we went to Red Lobster where my mom pulled out her check book at the same time as Maria and they learned that they had the same check design. What did I learn? There is so much that children don't understand as they witness us walk through the gigantic things in our lives. This was a defining moment for my parents and my sister, and so much of it I didn't understand until now. I recently got to hear the story as a wife, a mother, and an adult, and my heart softens and feels so much more as I think of this day. This was a big day for us all and I learned then that my family's story was so much more than "ordinary". God was there, in that gazebo with us, weaving together a tear in the tapestry of life, and I got to dance around in my polka-dot skirt while He did so.

27) The moment I lost control of my own actions and entered into a level of girlfriend-hood I never, ever, wanted to be a part of. The details are crystal clear, but I will save them because they aren't necessary. The part that matters most is the one where a boy decided his desires were of greater value than my purity, and he forcefully asked me to exchange my innocence for his pleasure. I honestly thank the Lord that my story is as "vanilla" as it is in comparison to some of the women I know in my life, but that can't take away from the fact that my understanding of God's design for men and women was completely skewed from that moment on. What did I learn then? So many things. I learned, in that moment, that "his" (whoever the "he" in the situation might be) pleasure, need, desire, far outweighs my comfort. That I was a tool, and could've been anyone so long as his needs were met. That pleasure was wrong, and that I should be ashamed. What have I learned since? SO. MANY. THINGS. I've learned that God designed men AND women for this thing called pleasure, and it is intended to be explored with the one you've committed your life to. I've learned that young people are not educated nearly enough on sex, dating, and the things that will tempt them. People do not talk candidly enough about sex in the midwest. Sex is as normal of a part of the human experience as eating and pooping and breathing. The call to wait until marriage for sex should not be delivered in such a way that young people feel they are being kept from something that they could have now but that they are building up and saving something spectacular that truly is at its absolute best when it reaches it's end date (i.e.wedding night!) They should be taught that there is excitement and joy in the anticipation and that selling out for something fleeting is like choosing a McDonalds ice cream cone over a brownie sundae with whipped cream, caramel, chocolate sauce and sprinkles. One might take longer to make but holy crap is it way better. **To my nephews, nieces, children and friend's kids--beyond the typical message of, "wait until you're married because it will be better for you" I want you to hear this. When you ask another person to enter into an activity that they do not want to do, and that you know isn't right for them (or you), you are inviting them into a life of shame. You are not "just" asking them to step over physical boundaries set up by the God of the universe, but you are opening a door for the father of lies to taunt them with for, potentially, the rest of their lives. Kids, it's way more than a few moments of pleasure. It's the difference between a lifetime of shame or a lifetime of liberty. I beg you, please think of the rest of their life as well as the rest of yours. Please. There is no "not really sex" type of act that is worth the price you will pay.

28) Going down the black diamond run at the top of the "Such and Such" Bowl at Winter Park Resort in Colorado. I was little. Like, 10 or something. We had always gotten off the lift and headed to the left, but every time we traveled up that chairlift we would look off to the right and see the moguls that carved the mountainside. Then one run we decided to give it a go. I made it, and enjoyed the tedious task of getting down without breaking anything. But I remember nearing the bottom and falling in the powdered snow and, despite my best efforts, not being able to get up. I laughed so hard I cried. I kept trying to get up and each time I would fall right over. I know my dad was down the mountain just a ways, leaving him helpless at getting my little skis out form underneath the heavy snow, and he was likely laughing and frustrated at the same time. My memory of this is that it took me a solid 10 minutes to get up and going, but for my dad's sake I hope it was a lot less than 10 minutes. What did I learn? To laugh at the things that keep me down. To let uncontrollable laughter be the thing I remember and hold on to.  I also learned that some of the most surprising parts of an experience can be the ones that stick with you the longest. Of all the parts of that trip, I remember that laughter the most vividly. I also remember coming down to my mom at the ski lodge and being so absolutely elated at getting to retell the scene to her. Kids are funny, and I like remembering that I was one of them.

I can't wait to share 4 of my favorite memories tomorrow!

32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.22

To be honest, this memory lane business has been harder than I thought it would be. It's one thing having strong memories, but it's an entirely different endeavor trying to find the ones that you've learned life-altering lessons from. And also ones that are appropriate/interesting to share. I'm thankful to get to share these and ready to share with you 6 more.

Let's do this.

17)  When my grandpa ordered my grandma's coffee at Outback Steakhouse on the night of my high school graduation. I distinctly remember the noisy, dark restaurant and watching my grandpa look back over his shoulder at the waitress and order his coffee and then slightly point over at my grandma while he told the waitress the kind of coffee she wanted too. I also remember that they never once discussed this before the waitress came by. He just knew. While this was just a simple drink order, it told of the many years of knowing that had been lived before that night. What did I learn? To know my person and to be known by them too. Oh how my heart lit up at the thought of one day having my coffee ordered for me without even needing to express my want for it. Even now, as I remember that seemingly insignificant event on a very meaningful night, I am challenged to know Thomas more. My grandparent's love wasn't perfect--no one's is--but it was a gift to be able to witness it and I pray to one day sit at my granddaughter's graduation dinner and let Thomas do the ordering for me. 

18) The moment I learned I had "love handles". I had to have been somewhere around 8 years old, but I distinctly remember sitting on my aunt's lap in the backseat of the car and her laughing as she grabbed at my waist, introducing me to a part of my body that would eventually become an relentless nag, day in and day out. I remember this moment so vividly and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't wondered how my life would be different if I had not been introduced to "love handles" in the first place. What did I learn? When speaking to women, young, old, or anywhere in-between, do it with nothing but wonder on your lips at their creation. God never makes a mistake, and when we poke fun or show signs that there is something negatively set-apart about another person, especially at a young age, we are setting them up for shame. I also learned how very deeply angry I am at society for pointing out differences in God's creation and claiming that some are less desirable than others. Just because the word, "love" is included doesn't make it less awful. I was a girl with a body and it could run and jump and cartwheel. As far as life is concerned, my body was pretty darn perfect. Oh, and one more thing: just because you may have grown up being talked to in a certain way, does not give you permission to do the same to others. If you grew up with other women teasing you for your differences, is that a free pass to tease others? Even if it was done "in fun"? Just because you accepted generational bondage like a son accepts the family business doesn't mean you must pass that on to the generation coming after you. To me, this is a thing worth burying deep in the ground and fighting for a new way for the girls coming up behind us.

19)  Asking Christ into my life like I was being given a sales pitch and saying yes was "the right thing to do". I am a born and raised people-pleaser, and a prime example of this is my salvation story. While yes, I was (and still am) a sinner, I tended to stay away from trouble because I didn't want to disappoint my parents. I always wanted to make sure that I did what I was "supposed to do" in any and all situations. I remember sitting on the curb of a parking lot next to my small group leader as she asked me if I had asked Christ into my heart to be my Savior. As an adult, I know that she did the exact thing I would do, even today. The tough part about leading young people to Christ is that it is so much more than a moment of prayer. It's ministering to them and coming alongside them through all of the ups and downs of finding one's self. What did I learn? That when I asked Christ to be my Savior, I did it more for the assurance of proper placement within the group I was now a part of. I wanted to please people, and this seemed like the ultimate step in doing so. I recently remembered this moment and came to the reality that I don't think I knew just how much I needed to be saved. Regardless of whether I knew then or not, I am inexpressably grateful that God did. He is Sovereign and it's so cool that He let's me see just how much. I'm also challenged to walk the next generation through all of the elements of salvation, and let them in on just what it means for them. It's definitely more than just saying a prayer, and I hope to get the opportunity to explain all of that to them.

20) Sitting in the auditorium at Oak Grove Middle School, watching some military appreciation video and having this feeling I would one day have a deep, personal understanding of that life. I was 18. My dad served in the Air Force long before I was even a thought, but aside from that I had no affiliation with anyone in the service. But I distinctly remember looking at the waving American flag in the video and thinking I would one day feel all the feels about it. Who would have thought that 6 years later my brand new husband would fly off to basic training to join the US Army. What did I learn? God whispers. He gives us previews, hints, ideas, and dreams. You never, ever, know how things will come back around. It is memories like this that convince me that God is actually a God who likes giving us hints. 

21)  The lyrics that ran through my mind as I learned of the little life lost inside of me. I had taught a 6am Holy Yoga class that morning, and had the song, "You Speak" by Audrey Assad as our final song. Fast forward a few hours later and Thomas and I sat in a waiting room, excited to get to meet our newest little love. I had always had a weird anxiety about this baby, but the Lord had given me specific reassurance, so I quieted the whispers of fear as I waited to be called back. Laying on that table, the technician to my right, the screen ahead of me--up and to the left--and Thomas out of sight, but to my right. She moved the stick around and I stared at the semi-familiar sight on the screen. I began to notice the lack of communication coming from the technician and the increasingly curious movement of the stick. I saw the black of the amniotic fluid and then this tiny, little white figure in the center. I knew that was the baby because I had seen the same thing with Malachi years prior. I couldn't figure out why she had stopped poking around and then she said it. "There doesn't seem to be a heartbeat." And in that instant these words blared through my head and heart, 

In the silence of the heart, You speak

In the silence of the heart, You speak

And it is there that I will know You, and You will know me

In the silence of the heart, You speak

What did I learn? It's hard to breath when walking through your greatest fear come to life, but there is One alongside who gives you breath in any way and every way you need it. I still don't know why He brought those words to me in that moment, but they served as oxygen to my empty lungs and  I trust that one day He will explain it all. For now, it has served as such a beautiful gift of reassurance that He knows me and I get to know Him. Even in the fear, He let's me know His ways. He doesn't have to do that, but He does because He's that kind of God.

*If you would like to know more of our story of grief in miscarriage, you can read it here.

22) The first time I played a game with Thomas' parents. We played Dutch Blitz and his mom was standing up because she was that intense, my new boyfriend was laying down cards so fast I could barely keep up, and I was watching his dad cheat, plain as day, and lie to his wife when interrogated about it. I didn't know whether I should call him out or keep my mouth shut, but what I did know was there was no way I was winning this, or any other, game. What did I learn? Don't play games with the Ferguson's. Unless you want a show. Then play games with them for sure, but don't expect to win by playing fair (and even if you do, don't expect it to matter because to them, there is always second place.)

That's all for tonight. Life (and its sticky memories) is funny. Can't wait to share more.

32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.16

Well yesterday was fun! If not for the stories, the photos of me in all of my '90s and early 2000s glory was worth it. If you missed it, head on over to catch the first 7 memories.

On to more.

8) The burning sensation that consumed my entire chest cavity as I hiked the Swiss Alps. We had barely begun our hike, and I had started out in the front of our pack of predominantly North Americans. When I was finally able to lift my head from it's semi-permanent position facing my feet, I saw that I had taken up the caboose position of our group. It was so freaking hard, and we had barely just begun. The two things I remember the most are, 1) the beauty I took in along this hike that rivals few other sights in my short life, and 2) the breaks to catch my breath along the way. What did I learn? It is absolutely crucial to take in all of the things when hiking the mountains in life; the sensation in the pain, the release in the break for breath, and the widening of the eyes when you truly take in all that is surrounding you on the mountainside.  I got a little freer on that mountain, and by the grace of God I have the memory to tap into whenever I need to remember what I am.

9) Standing underneath the pop-up tent, lips zipped, after my brother's dirt bike race. I spent my entire childhood running around the motocross track, hair-crazy and exposed skin covered in dirt. As I grew in years, somehow I received the message that I was to stay silent after the race was over because (usually) it had not gone as my brother would've hoped and my little voice was the furthest from helpful to him as he came down from his anger and disappointment. No one ever said those words to me, but somehow they echoed so loudly that I fearfully took my place behind everyone else, race after race, well into my adult years. What did I learn? To stay small. I learned my place on the totem pole of  giving input or consolation, and I made sure to never misstep. The men in my family were hot heads and I was better off not even thinking about poking the bears. As a woman of 32 years, I have to mentally talk myself into my place as a woman of God with the freedom to speak her heart, even if it's just about the funny thing that happened the other day. These things from our family of heritage shape us, but glory to God they do not have to define us. 

10) The complete awe and speechlessness I was left in after I ended my very first Holy Yoga training call. It was like I had been given a glimpse into the heart of God for the first time in my life and there were no words to describe it. I felt full and warm and astounded and like my life was first beginning. What did I learn? Even when you've been a Christian for years, God will save you and make you brand new, again. Give Him the littlest "yes" and He will give you the biggest glimpse into who He really is. From that anxious and uncertain "yes" He completely changed my life and gave me the chance to live a different kind of life for Him. I'll never know how to thank Him enough for choosing for me this kind of relationship with Him.

11) Sitting with my cousin behind a wall of wood flooring planks, acting out all the imaginary things. My grandpa made his way across their living room and kitchen floor, trying not to take wood from our fort, tediously finishing his project, while my grandma played the best of the ratpack or Elvis in the background. He didn't have to let us take up residence in the middle of his project, using the very thing he needed to complete it, but he did. For the entire weekend. What I learned? There was freedom and security in being allowed to interrupt their plans. Room for expression and imagination and we all, grandma and grandpa included, took part in that imagination at play. There is so much in this memory for me to take with me in my mothering. Be interruptable, Laura. Let them make something awesome with the boring tasks of life, and be sure to get them some tea to drink in their makeshift chair.

12) The first time Malachi called me Mama. Well, it was more like, "MAAAAMMAAAA!!" because we were on our flight to Minnesota from Texas, after seeing our man off for his second deployment, and preparing to pick life back up in my home state. He was sick, I was sad and we were crammed on an airplane surrounded by not-to-be-bothered professionals. I was standing up to walk him and console his cries when he cried my name for the first time. Suddenly all of the steely eyes around me disappeared and all I took in was this baby boy who needed his mama. It was glorious and beautiful and so funny in hindsight. What I learned? I was his mama. Was then and still am today. The older he gets the quieter his cry for me will be, but I hope I always stand up and walk with him through it whenever he needs me there with him. 

13) Being wheeled out of the pre-op room, down a white hallway and into the cold, bright operating room where my life would forever change. In the months, weeks and days prior to my first proctocolectomy surgery (surgery to get all or part of your colon removed--I had all of it) I clung to this passage from Psalm 16, quoted in Acts 2, "“‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’" (25-28). If I close my eyes I can see it as if I were there again; the white sheet draped over my legs, the bars on the side of the wheeled bed, the voice of the nurse coming from behind me, saying words of assurance that I never paid any attention to, and the soft sound of David's words rolling off of my lips as I entered into one of the greatest "unknowns" of my life. I can also still feel the overwhelming sensation of peace that washed over me, from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes, as I traveled down that hallway and into that freezing room. Where there should have been fear there was peace, and that, I think, was my first real dance with the Holy Spirit. What a place to dance, huh? What did I learn? Being brave never requires going it alone. Not for one second was I on my own, and even now, almost 9 years later, He reminds me of all that He did for me in those hours of life change. Psalm 127:2, "For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep". He has given me life, real, joy-filled, dreams-made-real, milestone-moment life after many years of longing for death, and He opened the door to that life during that sleep. He is faithful and in our bravery to believe it He gives abundantly. 

14) Sitting in the gray, over-sized chair in my parent's living room, teasing Thomas into kissing me. "You're totally never going to get the nerve to kiss me." Yep, that's how it happened. Could it be said that I kissed him first? Not technically, but I might as well have (he won't appreciate that last part). Could I have handled that a little differently? Probably, but it wouldn't have made for as funny of a story. What did I learn from this? What I didn't know then, and what I am still learning now, is that it is more than okay to have a voice in my relationship with the man I love. Whether it's for welcome things (like a kiss) or hard-to-express things (like, the bills or my hurt heart), there is always security in my voice (and my desires!) being heard, and while that security is found in Thomas, it is also found, in even greater supply, in my Father. Even in the most intimate of earthly relationships, my heart is secured in His strong and just hands. So speak, Laura. Your words are safe here.

15) The very first story I wrote just because I felt inspired. It was about a girl with an old cigar box behind some trinkets on her bookshelf. Her heart had been broken and she was picking up all of the little torn pieces off of her floor and adding them to the collection in the cigar box. It was good. It was vivid. And it was just because I wanted to express something inside of me. I never knew I liked to write, or that I even had any sort of knack for it. I really don't think I ever actually had any sort of knack but that the Holy Spirit gave me a gift when I said "yes" to living my life solely for Him. What did I learn? That when we discover a gift given to us by our Creator, we feel the most at home when we exercise it. I didn't realize then that the feeling of release I felt upon writing those words was the result of utilizing a gift given to me by God. I like to look back at that late, middle of the night writing session as a moment where I was introduced to myself--to Laura as creative, expressive, emotive--and it was a pleasure to be me.

16)  The way my chest felt as I wept at the sight of my just-born daughter. Because of the spinal block, my entire chest was numb. It wasn't noticeable until the uncontrollable bawling began and then I realized that absolutely no sound would come out of my mouth as I cried. It was weird and distracting and oddly memorable for all that was happening in that moment. I couldn't stop myself from bawling. This was the accumulation of so much heartache, so many dreams, countless prayers and moments of stubborn faith in the goodness of God come to pass. She was here. Our rainbow baby. Our miracle girl. The little one God had finally prepared me to mother, and the one who would set so much right in my heart. It is no wonder the part of my body that houses my heart was silenced, for what was happening inside of my heart was bigger than any sound could ever express. I witness the fleshing out of God's radical love and I don't know that I've ever cried so hard from pure joy in my life. What did I learn? God's love is not just an idea. He actually loves us physically, and He does it in ways that seem impossible. I also learned that God is not afraid to bowl you over by His absolute, undeniable goodness. You will never, ever be able to convince me that God is not good. Ever.

 

Until tomorrow. 

32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.7

In 4 days I turn 32. It's weird because if I become really introspective I can't actually determine exactly how many years I feel like I've been around. It doesn't feel like 32 and yet it does and that's weird. 

I'm the sort of person that holds on to all of the things--memories, hurts, dreams, sewing notions. I've been told I'm wrong in doing so but I think it might be time to accept that there is good to be found in this part of my creation.  Whilst rocking my littlest love and pondering my upcoming "special day" I thought it would be fun to jot down 32 memories and the lessons I've learned from them. 

To save us all some reading (because so many of you are going to read all 32) and to be completely realistic with my available writing time and the fact that, hey, I'm a mom of little people, I'll be sharing these 32 over the rest of the week.  So here they are, in absolutely no particular order, and in complete and utter honesty. {I think, after 32 years of life, I've earned the right to crack open some of these memories and shed light on what has happened on my insides since then. Will they potentially stir up a conversation? Maybe. Is that conversation necessary to continue on in peaceful living? I don't think so. God has done a mighty good job of taking care of me thus far and I trust that if a conversation is in our future then He will bring that to pass.}

Here we go.

1) Sitting in my mint-green-carpeted bedroom learning how to shave for the first time. Why is this coming up as my first memory? Truth is, it's not my first one, but I thought we should start out easy. I remember using a white electric shaver and my mom coaching me through how to run it up my young, blonde-haired leg. I also faintly remember feeling lame for being scared of using a real razor like my big sister did. What did I learn from this? Milestones into womanhood are scary and awkward. Must remember to give Hazel lots of grace and only be as cheesy as she allows.

 

2) The three times I had to drive away from my husband after saying a long goodbye. It hurt, folks. That tangible feeling of heartbreak that is so familiar as a teen? Yeah, this was immeasurably worse. What did I learn? That there is life after heartbreak and that somehow God mends and renews in the healing.

3) Standing outside the main building of Big Sandy Camp, asking my youth leader for approval on the length of my shorts. My youth-group experience can be summed up in a handful of words, and "ostracized" is one of them. I still deal with a lot of shame for my appearance because of these years under the microscope wrongly labeled "modesty". What did I learn? That my created being is something to be ashamed of. That there will never be any true liberty in this skin this side of Heaven because something about my creation must have been done outside of God's intended design if it causes men to stumble so much. If I'm honest, there's still a lot of healing underway with this one.

4) Sitting on the rocky beach of the Bodensee, crying to the Lord over my lonely heart. During this time in prayer I picked up a small rock and used it as a token to remember that He saw me and knew my deepest sorrows. I kept that rock as a reminder that He did, in fact, have a plan in place for me to one day meet the man I would partner with in this life. Little did I know, that man was going to meet me over there in Germany a couple of months later. I still have that rock--but that's likely not surprising to anyone. What did I learn? He always knows and usually the thing we are feeling the most desperate for is the thing He is in the process of moving mountains in. It's darkest before the dawn, people. Trust it. 

5) Standing in the Abercrombie & Fitch dressing room (yes, I said it), slipping my frail and ill little legs into a pair of size 2 olive green corduroy pants.  I was ill. Very, very ill. I also still believed, even in an A&F size 2, that I was fat. I remember feeling this disgusting pride wash over me at the fact that I could fit into a size 2 and yet what I saw in my reflection still needed to lose more. What did I learn? Body shame doesn't have an end-game. It'll keep eating away at you, and it doesn't care what mode gets you there--be it sickness or hard work--it'll eat at you until there's nothing left. Twelve years later and my flesh still wants to celebrate the potential illness that might cause a drop in the scale. What a sick, twisted, enemy I have. Glory to God for the salvation of Christ that CONTINUES to save me in spite of myself.

6) Driving home from the hospital with our fresh little baby boy in the backseat. I was freaked by the fact that they let us take him home all by ourselves. We for sure were not adults enough to be responsible for such a tiny little person. What did I learn? Becoming a grown up is surreal when you're living out the big moments, and the small ones. There are things in life that will leave you in awe even as you are experiencing them, and what I've realized is that is what all of life is made up of if we take the time to notice. 

7) Sitting in the front seat of my mom's car as she drove through the black morning to get me down to Mayo Clinic for my second proctocolectomy surgery. There was this really cute Canadian boy in the back seat who sat, leaned forward, the entire hour long drive just so he could hold my hand. I couldn't wrap my head around why this young kid, who truly barely knew me, was willing to sign on for such a crazy ride. He proceeded to hold my hand every second they would allow until they wheeled me back for surgery. And then he bought me a bear that I named Sir William and he snored on the cot next to my bed all that night. What did I learn? That love happens whether you're prepared for it or not and it will come in whatever package God decides. I didn't know I was going to fall in love with a boy 4 years younger than me in a hospital room while undergoing one of the most vulnerable experiences of my life. But this guy knew my crap (literally) and wanted to keep learning more. I learned that love looks a lot like the bestest friend you could've ever imagined come to life and it's pretty freaking rad.

 

That's all for today. Mom, you get a break until tomorrow.

29 - A Birthday Blog

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I realize 29 is still young; I'm not going to be that woman, but for the baby of the family (by 8 years) it's hard to imagine myself so close to 30. Especially when I'm married to a man who is 4 years younger than me. (Yes, it's true. He's the luckiest of 'em for snagging an older chick.)

I woke up quite early today (4am) and as I laid there my mind began to dutifully travel down the path of birthday drudgery- "Man, you're almost THIRTY!", "You're only going to get fatter and frumpier from here on out.", "You've only got a year or so left before your joints start to ache and you lose your spunk."

Obviously these statements are all absurd, and it took me all of 2 seconds to snap out of it and change course. The truth of my heart is this: the older I get the better I get. Maybe not everyone is like this. I know there are many women who try to hold onto their twenties with all they have, but that's just not me. Thankfully, my husband doesn't mind a woman with little makeup on her face, dirty feet from never wearing shoes and hours spent in the kitchen or craft room home-making like the best of them instead of hours spent pampering herself. The older I get the less I care about myself... but in the absolute best way possible.

Recently I've been contemplating just how much our "self-worth" can't actually be about self at all. I plan on writing about this one day (soon) but today I'd like to put pen to paper some of the things that make me glad about being that much closer to 30. (And no, this is not going to be a "30 is the new 20" thing... honestly, I'm not interested in living my 20's any longer than God intended me to.)

What's So Great About Heading Out Of My 20's:

1. The older I get the more life I've lived. Duh. But in that obvious statement is a very beautiful truth: God has been faithful to me. Part of parenting that terrifies me is the reality that I am NOT guaranteed any number of days with my sweet boy. He belongs to God and each day with him is quite literally a gift. Even the bad days. Similarly, my life and each day of it I've lived has not been guaranteed. It has been a product of His faithful love to me and to those that love me. Above that, I believe He has chosen these days in order that He may complete His work in me, that He decided before the earth was formed. He still has more to do with me... I can't even conceive how awesome that Truth is. So, I'm heading into my 30th year of God choosing to keep me around, choosing to show me who He is, and choosing to bless me and use me and love me immensely. Guys, each one of us should be jaw-droppingly grateful right now for all the days we've lived. How faithful is the God of the universe? Inconceivably faithful.

2. In these 29 years I, like everyone else, have experienced challenge. I've made bad choices. I've chosen myself or the world or idols over my God. And I have an enemy who tries with all his might to wash me in guilt and shame over these experiences. This, again, is something I plan on writing about in the (soonish) future. Again, the Truth here, is that in each of those instances I've been showered with grace, mercy, love and restoration. And in turn God has grown me in wisdom. When I think of this I can't help but look ahead at the next 29 years with anxious anticipation. If each hardship or bad decision has already been washed by His saving grace and will in turn grow me in wisdom and closeness with God, then how could I not be excited for each year He blesses me with?

3. That husband of mine. While he still has some time to camp out in his 20's, I can't help but love "growing older" with him. Knowing that as each year passes I get to fall more in love with him makes my eyes widen in wonder. How is it possible? Knowing that God will use us for His glory makes me never want to leave his side. There is adventure and love and joy and heartache that we can't begin to imagine awaiting us in this future of ours. I absolutely can't wait.

4. Sweet little M. How is it possible for God to love me so much? This child (and I'm sure our future children as well) is a constant reminder of my Lord. In each smile my heart swells at the love lavished on me, and in each tantrum I'm left with nothing but to cry out for the strength to parent from His spirit, not my flesh. If you desire to grow in your faith and love of the Lord, have a child and open yourself up to allow God to use that child. You will be taught things no pastor could ever teach.

5. Something I've struggled with for most of my adolescent and adult life has been friendships--specifically one-sided friendships. In those relationships was a deep-rooted need for affirmation. "If she would just want to be my friend as much as I want to be her friend then that would mean I matter." Sometime this last year I spent a good amount of time thinking about this part of my past and I found myself feeling sad. How many great relationships were overlooked because I was focused on someone else, thinking they were the ones to give me value? As God has graciously opened my heart to see the dark spaces, He has shown me how no human being is able to give me value. Only He can give me value, so even if I were best friends with each of those women I would still be left wanting more. In the not-so-pretty revealing moments of this part of my heart God has been faithful (yet again). He has brought some wonderful women into my life. Our lifestyle has forced us to be away "physically" from many that we love, but I've been blessed to establish some deep and meaningful friendships despite the distance. While I may not get to shop or have coffee and study God's word with my best friends, I always know that they deeply love the Lord and me, and that no matter where life takes us, they are a blessing and never the source of my value. What an awful burden for anyone to have to carry. (I'm glad you ladies don't know who you are otherwise you'd probably feel an immense pressure knowing how much I had riding on our friendship in this anxious heart of mine.)

Those are just some of many reasons why I'm happy to be making my way out of my 20s. I'm grateful beyond words for each and every way He has directed my life thus far, and in that gratitude I can't help but be so joyful as I look to the future.

These days that we celebrate our birth... they are really absolutely not about us. They are 100% about our Maker. It is because of His faithful love that He has chosen this many days for us. Days of love, heartache, loneliness, joy, growth, change, and above all, blessings.

Guys, 29 is so good. Just wait until Taylor Swift is 29; she'll know exactly what I mean and write a catchy song about it. #justyouwait