P E A C E & loss | A Blog for Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day

It passed without me realizing it, as it usually does. It’s been almost exactly 4 years since we went to that doctors appointment and saw nothing instead of something. I still remember the confusion on Thomas’ face… how do you understand everything and nothing all at the same time?

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I remember this girl above. Newly pregnant and so excited about the things to come. Sometimes I look at her and cringe a bit at the events that are about to unfold. If only she hadn’t gone on that road trip to Chicago. Maybe she wouldn’t have gotten that blood clot that might have caused her miscarriage. The thing with if only statements in that we see things one-sided. Had the events not unfolded as they did, would we have had our sweet Hazel? An answer I’ll never be able to find, but what I do know is that God works everything together for our good. And His. And He wanted Hazel to set her feet on the soil of this earth.

Then last year another loss, one unexpected in so many more ways than just the obvious. The pregnancy was a surprise; the loss left me utterly perplexed. What was it for, Lord? I guess we find those answers along the way, but we can’t let the answers be our destination. Our destination must always be closeness with Christ.


My grief has worn a lot of different shades over these last 4 years, and I imagine it will continue to change in the years to come. The mistake I’ve made is in thinking that I’ve finished grieving, or that I will one day. I’m thinking, today anyways, that if we ever got to a place where we were done grieving the things that cause us pain in this life, then we’d have no need for the peace of Christ.

I forgot I needed it for awhile.

Around Christmas time last year I went to a church service specifically for those grieving the loss of a loved one. I went for my grandma, and I realized not too far into it that I was really there for my babes. I was recognizing the places in me that had yet to accept their swift journey Home. Maybe this was the cause for the anxiety always on the rise inside of me?

My pregnancy with Hazel was full of depression and anxiety, which was odd because I felt the best I’ve ever felt when I carried Malachi. I didn’t know a person could become depressed during pregnancy, and unfortunately I had to learn that in real-time. And then that anxiety never really went away. Like my grief, it just sort of took on another shade, and I learned how to live amongst it. But it was always there, creeping up on me and doing a dang good job of sounding convincing.

Amidst a hurricane of anxiety and fear this week, the Lord kindly called my attention to Philippians 4:6-7:

“Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.”

I don’t know the answer to this anxiety that has come upon me since the loss of our first babe other than it comes when I saturate my life with prayer each. and. every. day. His peace was there in that doctors office. And on that phone call. And in that hospital room. And as we faced one another and soaked our pillows with tears.

What I know is He is good. And that His peace is a promise He will always keep.

There's a peace far beyond all understanding
May it ever set my heart at ease
What anxiety fails to remember is peace is a promise You keep
Peace is a promise You keep

-Peace | Hillsong Young & Free



To that girl down there who was about to enter into a kind of heartbreak she’d never known before, what I know to be true is that God will be faithful. He sees you, He loves you, and He is already working everything out in a way that will leave you feeling the unexplainable peace and contentment that only He can give.

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To every person out there who is living their days as the “1” they refer to in the 1 in 4 who will experience miscarriage or infant loss, your story and their little life, is immeasurably valuable. I’m grateful for a God who is still good, even through life’s greatest hurts.

Reflections From Mark 5 | That Woman Who Dared To Believe

We're adjusting to a new normal over here these days. With M now away at school most days, I find myself actually free to do some of the things I regularly tuck away in the back of my mind and never find time to dig out again. Really, by "some" things I mean one: writing.

Another activity that's been quietly beckoning my attention again is journaling--the lack of which leaves me feeling embarrassed and exasperated. Who has time to journal? My abide time so easily turns into a quick read (or a long one) without the effort to process and pray through what He showed me. Man, I used to journal all the time, and I can see the shift in my heart and mind because I've neglected to make the effort. Dang.

It's funny, because for whatever reason (or an all too-intentional one) I've had this line from a video at church this last weekend constantly on my mind. Something to the affect of,

"I kept spending time with Jesus, and at first it was difficult and took a lot of effort, and then eventually it became natural and easy to be with Him."

I remember hearing that and thinking, "time with Jesus difficult? Pff! How could time with Jesus be difficult?" And then, not too soon to be embarrassing but soon enough to sting a little, I remembered just how painstakingly difficult it feels for me to journal.

Well geez.

So I guess this is why that line keeps hanging around. I, Laura, admit that it is difficult for me to spend time with Jesus with a pen in my hand and paper on my lap. Can't we just talk about it via my thoughts? That's so much more accessible to me when I've got to deal with H whining at me, demanding more cookies or cereal or Moana.

Turns out, one-sided dialogue via my scrambled thoughts isn't exactly amounting to a real relationship with my Lord. So today, after we sent the big boy off on the bus (which, for those wondering, is getting easier. K, you were all right.), I hunkered down on the couch with my Bible AND my journal, gave H some Sesame Street crackers for breakfast (#winning at this mom thing) and dove back into Mark 5, where I left off yesterday.

I made it a whole 2 verses before I had a thought cross my mind that I just had to journal about. Two pages later, I had processed through this crazy cool revelation of who Christ is. (And if you want, I'll share that one with you.) Then I made it a whole ZERO verses down through that story because the story within the story caused me to stop and write AGAIN (for Pete's sakes, Lord let Hazel be eerily pleased with these crackers and Moana in the background because I can't stop now!). And this is what I want to share with you today.

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We know her. The bleeding woman. This woman, for a long season of my life, gave me so much comfort, because I felt like she would've known my own pain well. She bled for 12 years. I bled for 5. Maybe if she had been sick during our time of medical advancement, she wouldn't have suffered for quite as long. Regardless, she was a woman who had been forced to define her life by her body and how it was failing her. She didn't know how to control it. She spent everything she had to try to fix it. She was cast out because of it. She was a desperate woman, left with an out-of-her-control body, and if I were a betting gal, I'd put money on her slowly losing a grip on the woman she was before this all began.

She was the bleeding woman.

Many of us have our own version of this story. The thing that happened to us that was out of our control, and has therefore become our identity. Disease, abuse, circumstances out of your control, born into a seemingly inescapable world of sin. So much of life is about what's happening around us, and if we don't intentionally find our identity in the One who made us, we will identity with that which is the easiest to claim.

You may come from a family of addicts, but your identity in Christ is that of adopted child of the King.

You may have been wronged physically, emotionally, or verbally, but your identity is one rescued by the One True Victor, Jesus Christ.

You may have a body that seemingly "fails" you every day, resistant to your efforts to find health and answers. But your identity is found in your Heavenly realities--that this life and this body is not your own, but for the telling of the story of the Gospel that says you aren't Home yet, and if this failing body is the vehicle that takes you there, then hallelujah amidst the pain and sorrow.

We all relate to the bleeding woman in some way. Which is why I can't not tell you what He showed me this morning.

Jesus is on His way, with His disciples and a man named Jairus, to see Jairus' daughter. Mark specifically tells us that there were people pressing into Jesus on all sides. And there's this woman, with this faith that could barely be contained inside her weak body, who believes that if she can at least touch His cloak, she will be healed. Scripture tells us in Mark 5:29, "As soon as her fingers brushed His cloak, the bleeding stopped. She could feel that she was whole again."

First of all--brushed His cloak--for goodness sakes she didn't even have to GRAB ONTO His cloak and she was healed. Immediately this disease that not only consumed her body physically, but changed every single aspect of her life, was gone. Amidst a crowd of people all around her, the most incredible thing that would ever happen to her in her lifetime, took place. And here's the clincher:

Had Jesus not stopped and asked a question (one I believe He very well knew the answer to) no one would've known it.

"He stopped. Everyone stopped. He looked around.

'Who just touched My robe?'"

God is omniscient--all-knowing--so this question is really for the benefit of everyone else. In the tizzy of people following Him to watch Him do the thing they had all heard He could do, which was bring someone back from the dead, He caused them all to stop. 

I find what the Disciples did next to be entertaining, mostly because it's what many of us do in the church all the time. Amidst the likely awkward silence, the disciples offer up a little bit of that holy common sense that we are all-too good at giving.

They had to remind Him that the crowd was thick, so obviously someone had touched Him. What's with the question then, boss?

"But Jesus waited" (vs 32)

He didn't answer them. He waited. He looked for her. He knew her, and He waited for her to have the courage to step out and grab hold of that which had been done for her.

"At last, the woman--knowing He was talking about her--pushed forward and dropped to her knees. She was shaking with fear and amazement."

You know that feeling--when the Spirit is like, "Hey, I'm picking you to share. I'm not going to stop tapping your shoulder until you open your mouth and start talking!" Jesus just waited. No amount of common sense observations from His disciples would cause Him to let this moment pass by. This woman needed to proclaim what He had done for her. 

For her benefit and for theirs.

As I journaled through this I wondered 2 things:

1) How many others had received their own silent miracle at the touch of Jesus? Had He not paused, this woman's story would've gone undocumented. So who else received a new life, a new identity, simply at His touch?

2) Had she not voiced her miracle, would she have truly moved forward made-whole? When you find your identity in your circumstances for years on end, how do you suddenly stop slapping that label on yourself? How would she, in a place where physical illness made her unclean and unable to be in certain places and around certain people, have gone on healed and whole, without somehow letting others see it for themselves? I believe Jesus knew this. I believe He knew her propensity to throw that label back on herself, and I believe He knew the likelihood of others continuing to shun her despite this miraculous healing. And so He called her out. He made her talk.

And because of it, countless people have been spurred on to have faith like that of the bleeding woman. I sure wish I knew her name, because even now it seems unfitting to identity her with what no longer suits her.

There are people who are longing for a story of faith to help spur them on in their own journey... dare I say, your story. I believe that Jesus pauses and waits for each of us to open our mouths and to tell those around us of the miracles He is doing in our lives. Where is He showing us our freedom and redemption? Where is He fighting our battles for us? Where is He bringing peace despite our pain?

He waits for you to come forward. And He'll wait as long as it takes.

Verse 34 is the cherry on top, in my opinion: "Daughter, you are well because you dared to believe. Go in peace, and stay well." Oh how He knows our tendency to go backwards, even if it's back into illness or sin. So He sends her off with peace and the command to keep her feet firmly planted on this new ground He has given her.

Phew. What an incredible insight into such a special story. My prayer is that we would never assume we know the stories of Jesus. We just simply don't. God is far too intentional to ever be fully known, even in the retelling of His time here on earth by mere men. 

Go tell your story. Step forward and let the world around you know who this Jesus is that you call your Lord! Let Him get His glory.


Lord, keep my eyes ever-open to who You are. Let me never assume that I know You "well-enough". And give me the courage to come forward in the crowds and tell of what You have done for me.

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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Reverence | An Awakening

Earlier this year I felt led to submit an article to two different online magazines. I felt smoked by the Spirit as I wrote this, and yet neither magazine wanted it. The words are still His and it's time I share them.

So, without further ado, a word on Reverence


Maybe it’s because we live in first-world Americana, but the idea of reverence seems to be lost on many. We can’t tangibly understand the idea because, after all, we live for ourselves much of the time. The Christ-follower in this culture might believe that she is “dying to herself” and revering the Lord she serves, but there are so many simple and yet humbling questions to be asked of her.

We don’t know what it is to bow before a Sovereign, and for some, if given a face-to-face meeting with the President, it would almost be frowned upon if they did not greet him with words of disdain and disrespect.

We are not a culture that reveres.

We boast, we bully, we believe that the ideas created within ourselves are the best of the best and anyone who disagrees loses their place at our table.

And somewhere in the midst of that lies the Sovereign Most High.

 

“For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” -Joshua 4:23-24 | NIV

 

What would happen inside of us if we closed our eyes, quieted our hearts, and let the reality of these events (and the countless others) sink deep into our souls, past our inward-focus, past our distractibility?  What if we entered into the House of God fully aware of the God we were about to meet?

The God who told Moses to take off his sandals because in His presence, the ground is Holy.

The God who is worshipped around the clock with tongues of fire belonging to beings our minds cannot even begin to imagine.

The God who saw the deepest stains of sin and bondage within her and decided to wash her as white as snow.

Could it be that God desires an awakening of reverence? He has not forgotten about His majesty and might, but He has seen each and every time we have.  And in His mercy and grace, He patiently awaits our reverence. He invites us to take off our sandals. He invites us to unveil our faces. He beckons us to lift up our hands.

Because He is worthy of all of that and so much more.

Reverence: to cause astonishment and awe; be held in awe.

When we look beyond ourselves, when we remove the veil of pride, disengagement, and fear, we can do nothing but stand in awe of the God we serve. 

 

I will remember the actions the Eternal has taken,

    reminisce on Your ancient wonders.

I will reflect on all of Your work;

    indeed, I will study all You have performed. 

O God, Your way is so different, so distinct, so divine.

    No other god compares with our God.

You, God, and Your works evoke wonder.

    You have proved Your strength to the nations. 

-Psalm 77:11-14 | the Voice

 

Jess Connolly says in her book, Wild and Free, “The full picture, you see, requires you and me to acknowledge that the main character of the story is not the masterpiece, but its Creator.” How many of us enter into worship and inevitably worship ourselves? Our hands are raised and our hair is done for the glory and praise of the wrong “one”. But the heart that reveres worships with abandon. The ambassador who glorifies and honors the One she represents does so in accordance with what He says is right and true.

 

“Your adornment must not be merely external—with interweaving and elaborate knotting of the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or [being superficially preoccupied with] dressing in expensive clothes; but let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 | AMP

 

Imagine yourself a little girl, leaping downstairs to twirl in front of your Papa in your brand new dress. Do you know the One it is that you twirl before? He is the Papa who says, “Darling, that dress is lovely,” and placing His big, tender, powerful hand over your heart, He continues, “but you [the “you” that rests in here] are beautiful.”

When we stand in awe of this God who chose us, we lose interest in standing our ground on our rights as free women who can “do as we please” because the longing to worship in truth and grace is far too great.

We remove our sandals and unveil our faces.

We stand in abandoned awe at this Holy King who says to each one of us, “I choose you.”

 

Pretty Pretty

Last Friday, T and I flew to Phoenix. It was exciting, and still is even now, because for a moment it felt like we could be that jet-setting couple who just goes places on a whim.

That's not us. But it was fun to pretend for a while.

Maybe I'm alone in this habit, but I have a tendency to notice the random actions of others, and for some reason or another, they hang on a bit in my mind before permanently leaving. As we were waiting for our plane to board, T was incessant about not just standing there with all the other cows waiting to herd onto the tiny plane. As we were wandering around I noticed a man walk behind the group and do the all-too-obvious head turn towards the behinds of two young, twenty-something blondes in yoga pants. I remember thinking two things, "Man, that was obvious", and "Those are the "pretty" girls--the ones who get looked at".

We got on the plane, mosey'd to our seats, and hunkered down. Within a few minutes I heard some cackling that drew my eyes upwards. Here came the two "pretty girls". As they got closer though, I noticed some feelings begin to surface and, lets just say, they could not be described as "pretty" themselves. 

I don't know that I'll ever understand the origin of this female practice, but somewhere along the way the message was extended that if we can talk loudly, sound dumb, and laugh a lot, then we will succeed at being desirable. 

Praise God for righting that wrong in me a long time ago.

I distinctly remember one of the girls being straight-up mean to her "friend". I think she might have even called her dumb right to her face, and to that the other girl gave a louder-than-necessary shriek-ish laugh and took her seat, because apparently, she was "taking too long". Again, I found myself wondering at another of our female behaviors--being mean. Why, oh why, do women believe that it's ok to be mean, snarky, rude and hurtful and then assume that laughing afterwards and saying things like, "just kidding, I love you" makes it all ok?

Ugh. I can't handle it.

Shortly after this little gem of an interaction I witnessed the young, tanned man sitting next to them jump at the offer of moving up to one of the empty seats towards the middle of the plane. "Mean girl" made some comment to the effect of, "what, you don't want to sit by us? Hahahahahaha" (cue head-thrown back and hands moving this way and that) to which he said, "oh, I just wanted to get a little more room."

Yeah, buddy. I get it.

I couldn't wait to get my ear-buds in and lose myself in Beauty and the Beast because one more minute of their loud conversation just might've made me lose it. That's the other thing... what's with thinking everyone wants to hear about the oh-so-trivial things of that party or that pair of yoga pants? Your conversation is your conversation, and I'm totally jazzed to not have to hear about it unless you are actually talking to me.

As I watched the movie, these girls kept lingering in my mind. I beautifully watched the Lord carry me through the previous events and share with me His opinion on the whole thing--at least as far as I am concerned. 

Laura, remember when you thought to yourself, "those are the pretty girls"? They don't seem that pretty once the contents of their hearts comes forth. Remember how I said that your beauty is found in the gentle and quiet spirit within you? This is what I meant. And this is what I gave you.

As I engaged in this dialogue with Pops, I found myself growing increasingly grateful for the kind of "pretty" He has made me. I remembered the girl I was--the one who was always looking for the head-turn. Who was always trying to be:

  • cool enough
  • funny enough
  • pretty enough
  • sexy enough
  • smart enough

It really all depended on the group that I was with, but there was an effort that could be put forth and you better believe I extended that effort. Anything to be accepted, right?

This call from God out of 1 Peter 3 is so often misinterpreted and it saddens me. If we read it in light of what we know of the character of God, there is a breath-taking invitation out of the hamster wheel and into a spacious and vast freedom to be the kind of pretty God made us to be. 

"Don’t focus on decorating your exterior by doing your hair or putting on fancy jewelry or wearing fashionable clothes;  let your adornment be what’s inside—the real you, the lasting beauty of a gracious and quiet spirit, in which God delights." -1 Peter 3:4-5 | the Voice

I (like most church-goers) always thought this meant that God didn't care about outer appearance and beauty. But that assumption is made from a heart that knows not the Creator God. All we need to do is open our eyes and see that He is a big fan of beauty. More than a fan, beautiful things were His idea, and so were we.

To create beauty one has to have beauty within them. He created in beauty, He thought up beauty, and He makes everything beautiful. In light of this fact, 1 Peter 3 actually gives a message a little more like this:

Be beautiful, for I made you that way. Know that your beauty catches eyes and hearts when it is all encompassing--when it originates in the depths of who I made. Your outward beauty will move and evolves throughout your days, and it will always be just that--beauty. The beautiful spirit that I set deep inside of you--that's the ticket.  The ticket straight to My heart, and to some of the ones I've placed around you, too. Daughter, I love to see your outsides, but goodness do I LOVE to see your insides. Remember that. Don't get too hung up on the lesser thing. 

With each mile travelled I found myself growing increasingly grateful for the kind of "pretty" God has made me to be. There will always be women that are more outwardly beautiful than I--that's a fact that I'm not striving to change because that isn't the way my story of life was written. What I love is that God gave me an invitation when I was 16 to change course and move towards something so much more valuable. 

And at 32 I think I might be starting to get what it's all about.

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That scum on the surface of the ocean--that's the stuff my enemy wants me to focus on. And I'll admit, it is quite distracting, in a literal sense (hello, nasty and questionable foam at the beach) and also in a figurative one (why do I have so much chub around the waist of this body that houses this heart that recklessly longs for adventure with God?) It just doesn't matter. There's a vast ocean to be enjoyed when we get past the foam, and there is a beautiful woman of God amidst the chub and all the other things.

I think maybe this is why He asks us not to worry about all the outside stuff. Because when we do we miss out. We think we'll be happier when we ______, but I think He knows something we don't. Maybe we will actually be happier when we tap into the things that make Him happy.

I think He's right. Obviously.

The tanned young man never came back to get chatty with the blonde girls. I couldn't wait to get off the plane and walk hand in hand with the man who says I'm the most beautiful woman in the world. And I walked into that day so grateful for the invitation that He has given me to understand this greater beauty that I get to carry with me to my dying day.

"This is how, long ago, holy women who put their hope in God made themselves beautiful" -1 Peter 3:6a

I think I like the idea of being known for the kind of beauty the holy women of the ages past were known for. I think that kind of beauty would make for a much more enjoyable and lasting legacy than the kind that comes with shredded abs and perfect skin and zero depth.

I'm just saying.

Today, I sit in joy-filled awe at the breathtakingly beautiful women that surround me in this life. They are kind, generous, loving, joyful, adventurous, wise, tender-hearted, bold and in love with Jesus. I love that their beauty spills over onto me and in that we become this radiance of the character of God.

It's pretty incredible and pretty beautiful.

When I Almost Brought My Idol To My Worship

This morning, like nearly every morning, I excitedly poured myself a cup of coffee before hurrying to the couch to get my time in the Word before the start of the day. I looked to the right of my coffee maker to find a little, glistening, plastic box of leftover chocolate chip scones from yesterday's playgroup. I have this rebellious spirit when it comes to "treats". My mind fills with thoughts paralleled to a teenage girl sneaking out her bedroom window. As I reached for one little scone, telling myself that one was the sensible choice, I quickly countered that thought with a more pleasing one:

"Shoot. These two are attached to one another. I could separate them, but let's be real--I'm coming back for a second anyways."

As I left the kitchen and headed for my daily seat with the Lord, He whispered to me, "well, would you look at those little idols your bringing with you to your worship."

Dang it.

My story with food is a long one, but it's also not long at all.

I'm a disordered eater.

The pendulum swings really far with me when it comes to food, so the drawing of my attention to my little accompaniment this morning was nothing short of grace-filled mercy and a reminder of reverence. 

Daughter, you can come to Me with those two little scones and I will love you and speak My truth to you; but I want to ask you one question... to what degree do you revere Me? Enough to choose what I've told you is best for you?

Paul's words rang in my ears and I sat in disbelief of what I was actually about to do. I was about to sit at the feet of my Savior with one (of many) of the things that keeps me from the liberated life He gave me. 

"I can hear some of you saying, "For me, all things are permitted." But face the facts: all things are not beneficial. So you say, "For me, all things are permitted." Here's my response: I will not allow anything to control me." -1 Corinthians 6:12 | the Voice

I can't eat wheat. Or dairy. Or corn.

Will it kill me if I do? No. (Do these words linger in my mind each and every time I face a bakery case filled with delicacies or am given the option of Mexican for dinner? Yes.)

Will it benefit me if I do? No. (Do these words keep me from listening to the rebellious girl inside who just wants to jump out her bedroom window? Rarely.)

Except for today.

In light of Paul's words I'm faced with this question: How many times have I brought my idols with me to my worship?

Maybe it's the idol of comparison, or the idol of perfectionism. How many times have I snuck a quick peek at Instagram during Sunday's sermon or made sure my outfit was on point before heading out to a church event. 

Gotta impress. Gotta feed the monster.

But what if I just went to worship and decided that the idols needed to stay at the door? What if there were an "idol detector" at the door of my worship, blaring at the detection of anything that stood in defense of complete reverence for God?

It's crazy the things you'll notice when God decides you're ready to.

Forgiveness, Jesus. You are far sweeter and tastier than any scone and the sound of your whisper satisfies me deeper than today's treats ever could have. Thanks for saving me from something less-than. Oh, and also, not today, satan.

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.

He Is Now My Lord

"Hear this, daughter; pay close attention to what I am about to say; you must forget your people and even your father's house. Because the king yearns for your beauty, humble yourself before him, for he is now your lord."

-Psalm 45:10-11 | the Voice

 

You know when you've read a verse multiple times and you pass it off as "heard and understood"? This verse is one of those for me. Reality is, much of the Psalms are that way for me, which is why my mind has been exploding morning after morning since January when I began diving into a new translation. We have a way of carrying our old stuff with us, even when it's good stuff, and that can potentially keep us from something new and wonderful. 

The above statement is also true in relationships and our "life labels" (the things we've identified ourselves by, whether given by ourselves or others, that shape the way we receive and perceive events around us).  This morning, as I sat back down after interruption #37 of my time with the Lord, I forced my eyes to linger a little bit over these words. You see, I tend to get distracted by the purposed audience of scripture, which then keeps me from seeing a possible alternative meaning to God's words. In literal terms, I read that the author wanted to talk to some girl because the king (I'm guessing David??) thinks she's fly and wants her to leave all she knows and be with him. Truth is, there's something here for this daughter too.

I'm your textbook holder-on-er.

What is that, you ask?

I'm the one with the memories that blare like an obnoxious television and a photographic memory that seems to favor the bad snapshots. Much to my husband's dismay, I can't seem to let things go, but rather I find myself longing to understand why they stay where they do. Why do I keep these memories locked up tight and pull them out at the first chance I get? What treasures lay within them that will, in turn, make me a freer Daughter of my King?

As I read the words of Psalm 45 again, straining with every ounce of attention I had in me amidst the clanging of "guys" and the screams of a little voice learning to find itself, I heard it.

Laura, My daughter, will you pay attention now to what I am saying. Forget your "people"--the culture that you live in that calls you to look this way and that, straining to measure up and fit the part. Forget the norms that come with being "wife, mother, daughter, woman, friend, Christian"; both the lifestyles of these things but also the struggles. Is it normal to believe that "you aren't enough because you can't do it all, so why try to feel anything but less-than?", therefore dismissing any effort towards something better? Forget that. You must choose to lay down and leave behind the things that are "normal" in your world with your people. You also need to leave behind your father's house. What does that mean for you? That means putting down and leaving behind the things that hurt you there--the labels you continue to put on yourself because one time, long before you knew Me, they might've fit. It's time to leave your father's house in that the value of the opinions of those found there are no longer the ones of highest value. It's time to take the last of your things and head out of the place you once needed but no longer do. It's time to do these things because I've been waiting and yearning to see you walk out in the beauty that I placed in you long ago. I yearn to see you walk in the way I created you to walk, exercising and enjoying the gifts I fashioned in you. I yearn to see you walk secure in your King and full of hope, love and joy. Be humble before me, admit your feelings and struggles because I am not offended by a single one of them, and remember Who you belong to. I am your Lord and I am now the one that you live for.

When you hear a message like that, you can't help but sit up a little straighter. In the flash of a moment, I was set straight in the most loving of ways--fully reminded of the place in which I stand. The place of obedience and adoration to my mighty and gracious King. I can learn from the memories that linger, but I must know when it's time to close up the boxes and leave them at His feet. I can bring them before Him, asking Him to show me what they mean for me today, but I cannot do that at the expense of forgetting who I belong to. My honor must always go to my King and never to my people or to my past.

"Hear this, daughter; pay close attention to what I am about to say; you must forget your people and even your father's house. Because the king yearns for your beauty, humble yourself before him, for he is now your lord."

-Psalm 45:10-11 | the Voice

Is it time for you to forget your people and your old home in order to take up permanent residence with the King who adores you? It is for me, too. May we be a people who find our complete adoration spent on God and God alone.