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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Some Changes | A Post About Saying Yes and No

Hey there. It’s been awhile since I’ve been here with you. The reason is two-fold: 1. I am a chronic starter-stopper. I could stand to grow in the area of longevity. And 2. I’ve been distracted by my own life and yours. Well, maybe not yours specifically, but the lives of others in the world that I follow along with on social media.

But I’m changing some things.

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With these changes, I hope to be on here more—sharing the “little things” I’ve shared in days past on things like Instagram. Maybe these little things on here will become something meaningful to others, but I know they will prove meaningful to me and I hope one day to my children.

To answer the question I’m guessing you’re asking, the changes are as follows:

  • Eliminate social media and any other technological distraction in my life:

    • This is a really tough one because, for the last 7 or so years, I’ve been pouring out my life’s lessons, words to my children, and overall grumblings-turned-humble-pie over on Instagram. I’ve loved it. I’ve loved sharing both words and pictures of my life, because it is a really beautiful one, and finding commonality with so many other beautiful women of God. But what was once a place for me to share, has now become the place by which I seek to find where I measure in the world of all things. Am I popular? Am I liked? Am I valued? How do my talents measure up to others? What can I do to be better? These are all things I thought in middle school, high school, college, new churches, old churches, friend groups, life groups, jobs… basically everywhere. But add to those questions the boundary-less world of the internet and I’m a goner. The truth is, I don’t measure up in a lot of ways. But in my own life and for my own community—I’m exactly where I should be. I forget that when my eyes and heart are glued to that little screen filled with beautiful squares. So much that is so beautiful—but is that beauty intended for me? Or could it serve as a means for the enemy to rob me of joy in my surroundings.

    • Creating strict boundaries on tv watching is another hard step I am learning how to take. Whether it’s due to a childhood of television, or countless seasons where I’ve been without my husband and people like Jessica Day or Leslie Knope have become my best friends, I’ve grown to find some sort of comfort in television. With a humbling awareness of the place I’ve let this outlet take in my life, I’m stepping into what God is asking and learning to limit the time I spend in front of the tv.

  • Trying (and failing) to get rid of WiFi:

    • We set out to eliminate WiFi from our home all together, but one little afternoon of a cut connection quickly made us realize that about 75% of our movies (for both us and our demanding, adorable little children) are on iTunes. *way to go, Apple. Your sneaky plans have succeeded. So we reexamined our options and what would be the next best thing, and opted for a slower speed with a cheaper price, while setting strict boundaries on device usage. With slower speeds comes less accessibility and more frustration—and hopefully less of a draw to grab a device.

  • Saying “no” to some really good things:

    • There are some really wonderful things in my life, but I’m hearing and receiving the reality that they might not be the best things for me today. So in life and ministry I am learning what seasons are coming to an end and how to navigate the unknowns of majorly clearing my metaphorical plate.

It dawned on me some time ago that I’ve been on facebook for 14 years. That’s 14 years of my life chasing something, always. Acceptance, popularity, approval. While driving the other day I had a cute little slogan run through my mind that made me chuckle:


Instagram: leaving me feeling inadequate, insecure, and discontent for 7 years.


I’ve had to ask myself over and over in the recent days a question I will ask you, too, because the pull to give it all up and keep things status quo has been strong.

If God had written all the days of your life in His book before you ever took your first breath (Psalm 139), do you think He included in there this platform that would distract you from the gift of life being lived around you? Would He have included a source of discontentment that would shade your eyes from the blessing and love of God all around you?

The answer, to me, is a resounding NO! These are questions I’ve had to ask myself because for me, social media, tv, and overall distractedness has robbed me of years and moments I will never get back.

So I’m saying yes to slowing down and being present. I’m saying yes to building relationships with the people God has placed in my own community. I’m saying yes to these years with my children because, from what I hear, they are short. I’m saying yes because I trust that God holds all of my dreams and all of His plans and will, together, make for me a beautiful life.

We only live once and, by golly, I refuse to miss any more of it because of distraction.

I’m ready to be here, now.



Having said all of that, will you do something for me? If you want to make sure you don’t miss a post, will you sign-up for the email list below? I PROMISE they won’t come too frequently (🤗) and I don’t have any connections to anyone who wants your email

Stop & Take It In | A Call To Pause

The best piece of advice I was given before my wedding was to pause and take it all in. To quite literally stop, look around and let my mind take in what was happening at that given moment. I vividly remember sitting at our little head table, looking out over a beautiful, warmly lit ballroom filled with the sounds and sights of significant people in our lives, all gathered to celebrate two lives becoming one. In that moment and in this one today I am grateful for the advice to pause and take it in.

 

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This morning as I fed Hazel her bottle I found myself mindlessly staring at her eyelashes--taking her in without even realizing I was doing it. I then began to intentionally take in this miracle girl as she dozed off into her beloved and trusty morning rest. My mind then wandered back to my time of worship last Sunday morning. How I had to painstakingly bring myself to sing with i.n.t.e.n.t.i.o.n.a.l.i.t.y. Even with the good and beautiful things, our minds have been made in such a way that they jump right into what is familiar and well practiced without much intention or effort. I can worship my Almighty God and still wander about in my thoughts regarding what I'm wearing or what we are going to do later or the tray of donuts that are always calling my name a mere handful of feet away. To worship Him, really worship with my entire being, required the effort intentionality calls for.

The pause to take all of Him in.

Pausing takes a lot of effort if you really think about it. We are wired to go, go, go. So today I paused and took in my daughter. "She is really mine. She has been given breath and life and a soul that will long for the Savior the same way mine did and still does even now. This life with her is real and happening now and will never happen in this same way again."

As I walked throughout my home, I was acutely aware (as I usually am) of the amount of toys, socks, and randomly misplaced items strewn about each room. Usually this causes me to swing into a flurry of irritability, frustration, and panic while a rain cloud of "should's" begins to pour over me, drowning me in my apparent "failure at life and keeping it all together". But this morning I was given the incredible gift of pause.

There will be a day where there are no toys strewn about.

There will be a day when all the things stay in their place because little hands are now big and responsible and have their own things in their own places.

There will be a day when neither my arms or my provision will be required for that daughter of mine to fall asleep or find the rest she longs for.

There will be a day when that son of mine will help himself to snacks and shows and decisions and mistakes. Neither my ability to create adventure nor my opinion on what is considered adventurous will be required because he will have become a man of his own ideas and faith and living.

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So today I took in all the toys, the sounds of his laughter from the other room while he watched Curious George, and each and every demanding and exhausting detail of this current life. Each day I have a choice: wish my life looked easier/prettier/freer or love every single raw and real bit that is now.

I'm pausing today for the days ahead. The days when:

Fake tattoos become real ones

The cries of a bumped noggin become the ones of a broken heart

The nonexistent "me-time" becomes a search for a new passion and purpose in this calling of motherhood

The two little sets of feet crawling about our bed find their own place to land and the two of us that started this thing become "just the two of us" once again.

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Can you see the weight of beauty and glory that is this one life we get to live? If you cannot, the best advice I can give you is the same that was given to me at the start of this all.

Pause. Take it in. This thing that is happening is yours.

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Life Without It

It's been nine years since I walked (or wheeled) into the greatest life-changing experience of my life. It changed things emotionally, mentally and physically. Nine years ago my life began because I lost a part of me.

Nine years ago I lost my colon.

Recently I got a fresh dose of the shame and embarassment I used to experience on the regular for my illness and my story. I think the hardest part of the reminder was knowing that I used to feel that way most of my days--that rarely was there a day that I wasn't acutely aware of my vulnerability and lack of control.

It was a loss in the sense that I lost my colon, but in any and all other ways it was a complete and total gain because nine years ago today I was given the chance to actually live my life. Crazy how something seemingly awful can turn out to be one of the greatest acts of God in your life.

God has been so kind to me by bringing people my way who get it. Recently, at Holy Yoga Instructor Training Retreat, I absolutely lit up when my friend told me she had someone for me to meet--someone who also didn't have a colon.

Someone like me.

There's a lot that's different but there is immeasurably more that's the same. I still get to, by the grace of God, grow my family. I still get to, by the grace of God, run and jump and play. I still get to, by the grace of God, stand up on a stage and preach His Word.

So actually, I guess it's not the same as it was at all. It's completely and totally better.

I've lived without a colon half as long as I lived with one. I honestly can't wait till it's been 18 years and I can surpass my years lived with that bad boy.

Here's to being completely undone by God's mercy and entirely blown away by His goodness.

Even in the stuff you never asked for or wanted.

 

 

Because It's Mother's Day

Mother's Day. Such a hard day because it's in celebration of moms, who are, on the whole, an abyss of emotions and scars and dreams.

Being a mom, and wanting to be a mom, is emotional.

Not being a mom and not wanting to be a mom is also emotional. 

There's just a lot of assumption surrounding the title, and yet we all just want to know that we are enough just as we are, whether we are mothering or not.

So to all women, who were designed with a gift of loving and nurturing, I celebrate you. I celebrate that you care for people in your life with tenacity and grace. I celebrate you for every single moment that you have chosen to get up and keep going, against all thoughts and feelings taking up residence in your brain.

I wrote this to myself two years ago, and not-surprisingly, I still need it today.

May these words be salve to your mighty and brave heart, dear woman.

"To you, mom. 

Do you know that what you do is excellent and worthy of praise? Do you know that, whether you believe it or not, you are in fact clothed with strength and dignity? I know this because I see you get up and love, every single day. You choose them, over and over. You set aside convenience for fierce and selfless love. To do that takes strength and dignity, and you, beautiful one, are clothed in both.

So whether you feel worthy of being celebrated today, the truth of the matter is that you are. You are far more than you believe yourself to be and today, I'm thankful for you. For all that you have taught me about loving and living as "mom". 

Bask in the goodness of your job today. It's such a good one!"

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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.