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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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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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.

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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