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.

fullsizeoutput_4679.jpg

Exile

Hey. It's been awhile. Life has been crazy, a little bit disjointed at times, and not-surprisingly covered in the goodness of God. His plan is always so far beyond my realm of understanding and He is so patient with me. I'm so thankful for that. I'm also thankful that He chooses not to let me in on His plans too far in advance. I enjoy being surprised in life, and I also don't have the capacity to not freak when I don't understand where He is going with me.

So it's good.

While I haven't been blogging as much, and I haven't been keeping up with my year of freedom, I've been digging deep into His Word and finding freedoms I didn't know I was in need of. If you aren't aware, I've been contributing over at Brooke Boon's blog and have had the privilege of working more with the ministry of Holy Yoga. There's been a whole lot of busy and it's been really, really good--even if some days I feel I'm not enough for the task. He says I am and for me, that's more than good enough.

I have, however, been feeling the tug to share more of what He's been opening up to me in our time together. So today, that is what I intend to do. While it feels a lot like describing to you each individual piece of gold in a giant treasure cove, it's a task I am more than willing and honored to take on.

So let's get going.

If you know a bit of our story you know that we have had our fair share of tumultuous seasons. Somewhere in my little mind I thought that once we were done with the military we would be done with our problems--at least for awhile. The trouble with circumstantial thinking like that is that we place blame where it doesn't belong, or we look at the problem as just that--a problem--instead of seeing it as a season of refinement or maybe even a saving grace from something that would have left us worse off. T and I are so guilty of blaming everything on the army. And I mean ev-er-y-thing. In hindsight I see God keeping us from things, preparing us for things and sometimes just outright leaving us to our own false gods.

Today I was reading in Jeremiah and came across a slightly (and I mean slightly) paralleled story of the people of Israel and Judah being exiled to Babylon. The land was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar and the people were forced to leave their homeland.  But they did not leave without a promise from their High King.

"'The days are coming', declares the Lord, 'when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,' says the Lord."-Jeremiah 30:3 [NIV]

Before we entered into the hard season of military life we knew the promises of our High King. We just chose not to keep them ever on our hearts and minds. We let circumstances take the place of truth and our emotions and understanding followed suit.

Ferguson-57
Ferguson-57

Before we entered into the hard season of loss we knew the promises of our merciful Father. As we wrestled with the loss of our baby we knew that He was still good. That He was still loving. And that He had a better plan somehow, even if it meant we would suffer for a time. Choosing to keep this at the forefront of our minds and hearts carried us through deep grief and physical pain. But hear me when I say that it did not make the "bad" feelings go away. They still came, along with questions and words cried out in anger. So many times I longed for "home"--the place where things felt right and the pain ceased. At the end of each of those days, or even each feeling as it came, was the choice to believe God for His Word. To choose to believe Him instead of our circumstance. To know that "home" was coming.

As I entered into a very difficult season of revelation of sin in my marriage I had a choice:

Mercy or Anger.

Love or Fear.

Jesus or sin.

While this was not a circumstance I would have ever chosen for myself, it was a necessary one. It was necessary for the depth of pain caused by sin to be revealed to my husband. For him to see firsthand what the poison of darkness can do to a marriage--to his marriage. Friends, I clung to the promises of my God like I've never clung before. And you know what? He never let me down. Not once. And He never let my husband down. And because of that He has done a good and miraculous work that will, in turn, never let our children down. We have, by the mercy and grace of God, been taken from that place of exile and my deepest hearts-cry is to never go back.

We can live by our circumstances or we can live by His word.

“‘So do not be afraid, Jacob my servant;do not be dismayed, Israel,’declares the Lord.‘I will surely save you out of a distant place,your descendants from the land of their exile.Jacob will again have peace and security,and no one will make him afraid.I am with you and will save you,’declares the Lord." -Jeremiah 30:10-11 [NIV]

The truth is that our home, the place where we don't need to make the choice between circumstance and Jesus, is awaiting us. He promises that we will return to where He always intended us to be. Our exile is for a time and for His purposes. But it is not our reality--our reality is Jesus and in Jesus is full life, even if our circumstances and our sin say otherwise. We don't deserve this home He has created for us. The stench of our sin in pungent and the affect is widespread. But just as He promised Israel and Judah thousands of years ago, He too promises us, and because of Jesus these promises are ours to take hold of today:

He is with you and will save you.

Peace and security is yours.

He will bring you back home.

If you are in a place of exile today, friend, don't let go of His promise to you. Keep your eyes locked on His. Let your knuckles be white by the strength of your hold on Him. Home is coming. He is the One you worship--not your circumstances.

Walking with you,

laura b
laura b

The Battles That Won't Go Away and The Savior Who Won The War

Want to know what is exciting about today? Ok, there's actually 3 things that are exciting about today:

  1. We have a working laptop that I am currently.typing.on. We've been praying and hoping and wishing for a laptop for months. Our computer is tucked away in the basement and our two year old is not exactly trustworthy upstairs on his own. So our to-do's have been limited or pushed off because our times without child are few and far between (especially for me). God, in His awesome wisdom and knowledge, showed us that we actually already had this "dream laptop" and it just needed a little tuning up. So here I am, on the laptop we already owned, and writing away in.... A COFFEE SHOP! (That's my #2)
  2. I'M IN A COFFEE SHOP!  (Ok, so I have a problem. It's called coffee. But I don't want to talk about it.) When asked what I would do for myself if I were given the time without child or other obligations my answer is always always always "Oh, I'd go to a coffee shop and read and write." THAT'S HAPPENING TODAY! Yay! Which leads me to #3...
  3. I'm writing. I've been wanting to write regularly for such a long time. Mom life is demanding and while that is not my excuse for not writing, it plays one part of many as to why I am not writing like I wish I were.

Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset

The other day I taught a class on Galatians 5:16-17. This verse jumped out at me and spoke directly to the inner struggle I've been having most of my life, but have been acutely aware of as of late. The questions I ask myself are these:

"Laura, you are a woman who loves her Savior Jesus Christ fervently. You chase after Him. You rest in Him. You desire to be more like Him. You encourage others in the freedom they have available to them in Christ... and yet you do wrong. You give into this sin and that. You nit pick about your body, your attitude, your thoughts. You strive for perfection while constantly holding your life up against everyone else's as a rule by which life should be measured. You desire contentment and yet you strive to be perfect and for everyone around you to be perfect. You long for acceptance just.as.you.are. and yet your eyes continue to wander and seek the beauty in what everyone else has. Why do you think what they have is what you need? Where is Christ when you are giving into your false identity and lashing out at those you love? Where is the woman you know you are in Christ when the going gets tough and your attitude is challenged?"

This inner dialogue rages through my mind, sometimes quietly like an annoying hum and other times at seemingly deafening volumes. So when I came across Galatians 5:16-17 I was intrigued, relieved and confused.

"So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from conflict."-Galatians 5:16-17 NIV

Never free from conflict? Seriously? So the dialogue probably won't ever completely stop? Awesome.

But as I sat in that attitude of defeat I chose to read  bit of commentary on the passage. Matthew Henry says in his commentary on Galatians 5,

"That there is in everyone a struggle between the flesh and the spirit (vs. 17): The flesh (the corrupt and carnal part of us) lusts (strives and struggles with strength and vigouragainst the Spirit: it opposes all the motions of the Spirit, and resists everything that is spiritual. On the other hand, the Spirit (the renewed part of usstrives against the flesh, and opposes the will and desire of it: and hence it comes to pass that we cannot do the things that we would. As the principle of grace in us will not suffer us to do all the evil which our corrupt nature would prompt us to, so neither can we do all the good that we would by reason of the oppositions we meet with from that corrupt and carnal principle."

The perfectionist in me sort of wants to crawl in a hole and never come out upon reading this. We are set up for failure as far as the perfectionist is concerned. We will always have this battle being fought, flesh vs. Spirit, and while we know who the ultimate Victor is (Jesus Christ), the"other guys", or as we call them with our children, "the bad guys", will always be scrambling and striving for our attention and our worship, believing that winning the small battles will ultimately allow them toe victory over our souls. When we have the attitude that we are set up to fail we are taking the focus off of Christ, the ultimate Victorious King, and placing it on ourselves, our sin and on this side of eternity.

It's a reality, we aren't there yet, and so we are stuck with these bodies, this flesh and the sin that comes with it. But when we keep our focus on that sin and that flesh and that body we aren't having the mind of Christ. We aren't saying,

"Yeah, Jesus, my mind travels to places where you are not. It goes to the places of anger, of selfishness, of idolatry. But Jesus, YOU are King and Victor of my life, so once again I will take your hand as you walk me out of those places of self-preoccupation and into the bountiful places of Christ-preoccupation. You are not shocked that I'm here. You are not offended that I'm here. And You are merciful and gracious to keep ushering me back into the Spirit of Truth. May Your Name be praised!"

We can't get wrapped up in our failure. We have to get wrapped up in His victory, mercy and love.

I've been a believer for 14 years and I still need to be reminded that He is good in these things. That He's not the one expecting perfection here...

I am.

Matthew Henry continues to write, "where there is something of a good principle, there is a struggle between the old nature and the new nature, the remainders of sin and the beginnings of grace; and this Christians must expect will be their exercise as long as they continue in this world."

When the inner dialogue rages, that is where the remainder of sin meets the beginning of grace. Where the reality of salvation becomes tangible. And where Jesus is always waiting.

Paul says it best in Romans 7 when he says,

"14 This is what we know: the law comes from the spiritual realm. My problem is that I am of the fallen human realm, owned by sin, which tries to keep me in its service. 15 Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise. 16 If I am doing the things I have already decided not to do, I am agreeing with the law regarding what is good. 17 But now I am no longer the one acting—I’ve lost control—sin has taken up residence in me and is wreaking havoc. 18 I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. 19 I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do. 20 If I end up doing the exact thing I pledged not to do, I am no longer doing it because sin has taken up residence in me.  21 Here’s an important principle I’ve discovered: regardless of my desire to do the right thing, it is clear that evil is never far away. 22 For deep down I am in happy agreement with God’s law; 23 but the rest of me does not concur. I see a very different principle at work in my bodily members, and it is at war with my mind; I have become a prisoner in this war to the rule of sin in my body. 24 I am absolutely miserable! Is there anyone who can free me from this body where sin and death reign so supremely? 25 I am thankful to God for the freedom that comes through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One! So on the one hand, I devotedly serve God’s law with my mind; but on the other hand, with my flesh, I serve the principle of sin."-(verses 14-25 in the Voice)

Call me crazy, or selfish maybe, but I find a lot of comfort in knowing that Paul and I weren't necessarily too different in this area. He struggled. I struggle. And you struggle too. But pick your head up and I'll pick mine up too because it doesn't stop there...

"Therefore, now no condemnation awaits those who are living in Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King, because when you live in the Anointed One, Jesus, a new law takes effect. The law of the Spirit of life breathes into you and liberates you from the law of sin and death."-(Romans 8:1-2 in the Voice)

You are not condemned. I am not condemned. Not only is He not shocked by this inner struggle (He knew what He was signing up for when He chose us, which makes it all the more incredibly glorious) but He does not hold it against us. He does not cast us aside because of it.

He liberates us. He breathes life into us over and over and over. Stop and take a deep breath. Really, just stop and breath. As you inhale and fill your body with new breath remember that He can and will breath new life into you in those dark moments of battle. His supply never runs out.

Glory! Halleluia!

So let's all choose to go into battle with one another, and recognize that we're all deep in the thick of it and not one of us is actually perfect or has it all together. The only One who is is Jesus. And He wants to show us "us" and how to be like Him.

laura b

My Big Question

My great, big, scary body-image question. No, more like a self-image question, because truly, my insecurities and short-comings and false notions revolve around more than just my physical form. But before I ask you the question, and in turn truly ask myself the question for the very first time, let me backup.

As stated in my previous post, I am a believer in the Author's sincere interest in my life; the tiny and the mighty, and everything that fits right in between. He romances, that is for sure. He also asks. He asks for my service, for my love, for my devotion, for my time. Recently He began asking me something I wasn't quite ready to hear. As a self-proclaimed victim of "seriously low self-esteem", I've created a life for myself that , in one way or another, revolves around how poorly I feel about myself. The trouble with this is that I have spent about 65% of my life feeling this way, so naturally, it has become somewhat of a character trait. My story is no different than anyone else, and honestly, that's not what I want to spend time sharing anyways. I will forewarn you in saying that this may or may not take two posts, and it may or may not be very esthetically pleasing to the English majors eye, but just stick with me.

Last week, a blogger that I follow began a series called 31 Days to Reclaiming Body Image (or something to that affect) and my immediate thought was, "yes, another thin, athletic, talented woman giving me advice on how to reclaim body image." And immediately I reminded myself that yes, it is possible for someone who has "all that I think will make me content" to have her own body issues too. So I swallowed my chill pill and kept on. With that topic lingering in the back of my mind one morning I felt challenged with a question.

 

What if you never change?

 

What if, for the rest of your days, you stay the very size you are right now?

 

Your waist doesn't get smaller, and definitely not firmer. Your boobs don't magically shrink and start defying gravity. Your skin keeps on keeping on in the pimple department.

 

What if?

 

While hating every fiber of this question, I also felt intrigued. It was almost as if a tiny shard of these lie-ridden glasses I've been wearing came loose and fell off. A little light of hope? A little glimpse of what might actually be my reality? So I kept mulling over this question, all the while poking and prodding each area of disdain... but with each day the pokes became a bit lighter, less hate-driven. Then I sat to do my BSF study. And I heard what was quite possibly written just. for. me.  We are studying Matthew 4 this week. To save you my interpretation I will simply share the words directly.

"Self-control and trust in God must replace a determination to control their own situation and others. And a truly contented spirit has no room for an attitude of self-pity and complaint." Ouch.  Remember back when you were in High School and instead of just feeling bad about yourself you also made sure everyone else knew how bad you felt about yourself? No? Well I do, because I did it often. See, that's the twisted thing about the deception of low self-esteem. It tells you that you really just feel oh so badly about yourself when in reality it's a serious pride issue.  It's a way of making everything about you and not needing to feel guilty or prideful about it. I mean, how could you? You're the sad chubby girl with no boys that like you. Or so you say. As an adult this habit changes slightly, but at the core it is the same. Instead of friends at school hearing your woes, it's your husband, or your family, or your boyfriend. In an effort to trudge through this life, I've resolved to control the one thing I know how; my dislike of myself. Truly trust God? Have self-control? What are these things they speak of? Do I long for a truly contented spirit more than I enjoy my attitude of self-pity and complaint? This is just one of many pieces that the big question brings about, and yet another reason why I didn't want to answer it when asked.

"Will you put aside your self-centered life of urgent but empty pursuits and ambitions? Will you trust the One who offers God's acceptance and transformation to real security and peace? Your Savior and King is here for you." The society we live in offers a lot of quick fixes for a lot of things. Just watch an infomercial. Major results in minor [time, commitment, money, effort]. This has always been my beef with diet fads, which is why my story does not include many of those. I have, however, bought into exercise tapes (Hip Hop Abs, anyone? Insanity?), the fitness magazines, and endless pins on Pinterest. The basic idea in our culture is that everyone has a "better" that they could be. Or for me, "should" be. I should be:

  • shorter
  • thinner
  • faster
  • stronger
  • dress "hipper"
  • be "more frugal"
  • crunchier (or more "natural" for those who don't get what that means... mom...)

I could keep going. And let me clarify one thing. No one, and I mean no one has told me that I need to be these things. These are things that have been fed to me by the thief of joy and author of deception. He has no greater love than seeing me live a life controlled by pity and pride. Two key words stuck out to me in the above quote: acceptance transformation

In a life filled with Pinterest and Facebook and mommy-wars and living "naturally", what woman (or man) in their right mind isn't desperately searching for acceptance? In a world of crazy, fat-melting Amazonian fruits and fitness magazines and Crossfit, what person doesn't long to see their physical body transform? But the truth I am beginning to see is that the acceptance and transformation will never be found in these places. It is found in the quiet places. Places of solitude, places of love. Family, laughter, joy, this is where we can truly feel accepted because we can truly just be. And the more I take the time to place myself there, in those moments that truly matter, the more I will see my soul, mind and heart transform. This weekend was my High School reunion, and it was absolutely no coincidence (maybe more like a harsh joke) that I would be pondering this question while returning to the place that birthed so many of these insecurities. I'm not a makeover story, the girl who walks in the room and blows everyone away with her crazy weight-loss and gorgeous hair and clothes and blah blah blah. I'm just an older, more mature version of the same girl who shied away from cool kids and ate lunch by her locker. As Saturday progressed and my womanly nerves began to get a little wracked, I truly asked myself that question, "Is it okay if you don't change?" (I decided that while I might be willing to discuss my options on being okay with the state of my physical form, I do know that there are parts of my mental, emotional and spiritual form that I do not want to see stay the same. But that is a topic for another post.) As I made my way to the neighborhood Target I passed something that made me smile and remind God that I had, in fact, not forgotten our previous discussion.

IMG_2596

I mean, what? This handmade sign, in a random person's front yard. Not a question. Not a call to confidence. Just the words that have been on my mind some five days or so. "Laura, your self-esteem is not found in anyone you will see while looking straight ahead but only when you look up." Needless to say, I made some giant leaps in acceptance that afternoon and resolved to enjoy myself no matter what. And I did. And the question still lingered.

So I will ask you the same question. If nothing changed, would you and could you be okay with that? If the answer is no, what are the things you do not want to carry into your life fifteen years down the road? Will these things hinder the way you love yourself, your family and your life? Will this drive a wedge between you and your Maker, the One who crafted you with such great care?

There are always ways to better ourselves, but I'm challenged to take a step back and see where I'm allowing my focus to lie. I always tell myself (and I know you do this too, so don't deny it), "Once I [do, make, lose, accomplish]_______, then I will finally be able to be content and put this whole big mess behind me." Another question to ask myself is, "If _____ changes, will I truly be content? Or is that an excuse to continue to look inward instead of out?"

I don't know about you but I've missed a whole lot of lives around me simply because I've been too busy feeling sorry for little old me. Some 17 years have passed and I can honestly say I do not want to spend another 17 replaying the same scenes.

So to that I guess I would like to ask you "My Big Question". Would you, could you, be content? (Cue the green eggs and ham.)

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it" (1)... not even a hot bod with killer hair and glowing skin. Not even an awesome "body after baby". Not one single bit of it. So to this I aim to remember that my body is a temple of the Holy of Holies. My husband and son deserve my very best. My future children deserve a healthy oven from which to be baked. So I must do what I can to take care of what has been given to me. But to these aims, not the aims of the society of which I live.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money (or beauty or societal acceptance) and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." " (2). Guys, this is really what He wants... for me, for us... to truly know that He will never leave us, even when we wish so badly we could leave ourselves. This is what life is about. Contentment in Him, because He is here for us.

Next time you look in the mirror, really look at yourself and ask. It might be interesting to see what you find.

To read more about the 31 Days of Reclaiming Body Image you can visit www.thelittleway.net

Verse references: 1. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 2. Hebrews 13:5