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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When You Come Together Changed--A Post About Reuniting

I've been MIA. This post will shed a little light as to why.

He came home. Like, home home. FOR. GOOD.

Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!

For weeks I had been preparing, cleaning, ready-ing, organizing and anticipating. Then he came home, and since then we've been embracing, unpacking, relaxing, adjusting, moving and just overall figuring this thing out. Because as wonderful and blessed any reunion is, there is always adjustment--and those are the feelings that aren't talked about much.

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Do you know how wonderful it feels when I look over at him and breathe in deeply the truth that we don't have a set number of days? Those moments when I choose to forget all the things and simply embrace the truth of today are invaluable. There isn't much like it, I must say.

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Then there's the moments where my mind begins to gear up for the usual routine (rest, write, blog or practice yoga during naptime; grab a bowl of cereal and netflix to hunker down before bed) and I'm reminded that life has changed. And it hasn't changed in the sense that now we must both revert back to life as it was before our year of separation, but changed as in we have now entered an entirely new land... and I don't know how to begin the journey of exploration.

You see, we've both changed. A lot. Our God brought us each to a new place in our intimacy with Him. Most days I marvel at what He brought us through and how He must've seen it as necessary to bring us through separately. It's a wonderful, glorious blessing. I'm so utterly grateful for His willingness to show us the parts of ourselves that needed to be left behind, and for graciously showing us how to shed those layers and break those chains.

But what do you do when you come back together?

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There has been a lot of pull to go back to those old habits, because they are what we have always known of life together. "Laura and T" life looks like this ______. But there are pieces of that picture of the past that I don't care to bring with us to this new place. With simple, and seemingly harmless habits like eating dinner while watching tv, or baking a batch of cookies and eating a solid half of the batch before they are even fully cooled, comes deeper strongholds and ways of life that I know neither of us want to continue in. In them lies joylessness-- a settling of sorts. And yet, while our desires to make changes now that we know will bring us joy are so present, our minds and bodies seem to want to go into autopilot.

In enters our will.

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The word "will" means, "Diligent purposefullness; determination: an athlete with the will to win." "The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action."

A mind or body on autopilot doesn't often dance with the will. They seem to keep to their corners of the room. But when I step back and I look at the two, square in the face, I unabashedly choose the will. There is so much more work, humility, face-planting and friction with that choice, but there is also so much reward.

Jeremiah 25 shares the story of Jeremiah trying, yet again, to knock some sense into the people of Judah. For years and years (23 to be exact) he had been trying to get them to turn from their evil ways of worshiping false gods and in doing so be able to live in the bountiful land the Lord had given them.

"Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the Lord has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever;" (vs 5)

I taught in my class Saturday that the word "evil" used here doesn't merely represent malignant, wicked things but also means "sad", "unhappy" and  "miserable". The times when I struggle with depression, sorrow and overall listlessness are at their worst when I am living life on autopilot. In this understanding of our present circumstance, that we are on the cusp of choosing a land of bounty at the price of greater effort, or a land of sorrow at the cost of little effort, every day, all day, I will deliberately choose the way of greater effort. I may need to breath heavier and at times might feel the strain in the deepest parts of me crying out for the days of old, I know that truly living and loving doesn't happen comfortably. It takes hard conversations. It takes sore muscles. It takes falling into bed at night because while the day might have taken much from you physically, it has filled your heart to the brim with all the goodness that comes from living it. It might also take laying face to face, heads on pillows, and humbly expressing wrong choices made and attitudes held--and voicing that sometimes living life together is hard and weird and we aren't always very good at it. Do you know how much freedom is held in those honest conversations? Mountains upon mountains.

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I'll take conversations at the dinner table over mindless Netflix binges.

I'll fight for evening family bike rides over cookie baking.

And I'll have the hard conversations, when I feel I've been misunderstood in this mess of figuring out how to live and love together, over closing up inside because "how could we possibly be arguing already?"

Life is arguments and feelings and romance and adventure and nothingness all wrapped up and happening at the same time. It never stops. It's always moving.

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We will change some more, and we will figure out what life looks like then too. But for now, every day is a day of small battles against our flesh so that we may live in this bountiful land God has given. Somewhere we were told that life should be joy-filled and effortless. What I'm realizing is that we need to see the joy in working hard for the life we've been promised. A life of contentment-- a life of completeness in Christ.

So that's what we are doing. And the best part is we are doing it together.

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I struggle with Gluttony...

There I said it. Many people will admit openly that they struggle with certain sins or addictions or damaging behaviors. But few will admit to this one. So here I go.

When I say I struggle with gluttony I don't mean to paint a mental picture that resembles this:

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If that were true, it would be no surprise to anyone who ever went to a restaurant with me that I did indeed have an issue with gluttony... No, what I am referring to closer resembles this:

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Relatively healthy looking female, of average size, who can't help but eat an overly large amount of cake, cookie or pastry batter at each and every opportunity. She dips a finger, maybe two when others are within sight, and as soon as they duck out for even a moment, in goes the spatula. Once the contents are emptied into the cake pan and enter the toasty oven, her fingers scrape the sides of that bowl with ferocity and abandon, until every last drop is consumed. The bowl could skip the dishwasher all together and go right back into the cabinet.

This is the glutton that I am. But these behaviors don't happen all day, but do happen at least once every day. They are not because the food in mind is so irresistible that I am paralyzed by their powers of persuasion. This sin comes from a much deeper place.

Origins Of A Sinful Slippery Slope

As a young girl, like most, I slowly developed what has always been coined, "Low Self-Esteem". Biting retorts from angry relatives, mean bullying as a twisted form of flirting from boys on the playground (Seriously boys? Where the heck did you get the idea that teasing a girl would make her like you? Whoever the men were in your life did you no favors teaching you this, whether directly or indirectly. Shame shame.), and beautiful and stylish (and thin) older sisters all played a part in the tapes that began to play in my little brain. Along with this I've always had an adoration for delectable desserts and colorful sweets. When you're pre-puberty this is neither here nor there. Once good 'ol womanhood begins it's journey through your fragile adolescent body, your love for all things sweet begins to do you absolutely no favors. This was the story for me. So as I grew so did my little body. Nothing overly large by any means, but enough that it was noticed by boys and became more and more noticeable by me. I never established a very healthy attitude towards food as a young adult. I never learned (to my recollection) the importance of making wise choices about what I put in my body. I just felt caught between to opposing sides: "be thinner" and "indulge and reward yourself".

As life and womanhood progressed bigger things began to happen. Life happened, without the shelter of youth, and I found myself finding solace in those indulgences. If I couldn't fix the problem I could at least find comfort, even for a moment, in something sweet and satisfying. I guess this is probably a similar feeling to those who struggle with alcohol, or smoking, or maybe even pornography. Finding that escape from all of the troubles life brings with it. At two different times in my life I dabbled in the opposite sin of gluttony: starvation. It didn't do much for me. While I did lose weight, my eyes still saw the fat girl in the mirror. It was never enough. Size 0 jeans  and a bony back were not enough confirmation in my mind when I looked at myself in the mirror. So I ditched that plan, by the never-ending grace of God.

But I never really admitted to myself or anyone around me how I felt about food. Fast forward to my married self, living in a new and very foreign land (Texas) in a new lifestyle (military) with little to no friends. In the loneliness I ate. In the frustration I ate. In the uncertainty I ate. In the insecurity I ate. Not overly excessive amounts, but just enough of all the wrong things. And only because I wanted to punish myself for being myself. As a form of punishment I would eat large quantities (in secret, mind you) of something sugary, fatty and usually chocolate-y because in my mind, I didn't deserve anything better. 

Within the last year, my bondage of gluttony reached it's climax. Earlier this year I knew I needed to get a handle on it. So I read a book called, Made To Crave by Lysa TerKeurst. While this book was definitely encouraging, doing it on my own, with no accountability was not very life-changing. But I believe that this was a time of true revelation for me. This is when I realized what I really wanted freedom from and freedom to do. I wanted overall balance, with food, family and my faith. I believe this was when my new journey began without me even knowing it.

This is still a struggle for me. When I miss T so badly it hurts you can usually find me with a huge cup of hot chocolate piled high with marshmallows. And as soon as those marshmallows get all gooey I suck them down and refill the other half of cocoa with more. I have yet to figure out how to stop in my tracks and make a better choice. Because of this I've decided to begin, what I pray, is a study that will allow the Spirit to truly transform my mind, and in turn my body. A ministry called Revelation Wellness is doing an 8-week online Bible Study called Weigh Less To Feed More. It is a part of a ministry that I will be becoming more involved with (more on that later) called Holy Yoga. My prayer of desperation is to be able to find freedom from the hold that food has on me. I believe our society is overly obsessed with food, and I would really love to develop a strong anti-body to this disease. I don't enjoy thinking about what I will eat for breakfast before I've even gone to bed. I would love to just be able to go to bed. Period.

I pray that as you read these things about me your attitude would not be to judge my craziness but to show grace, and maybe come face to face with some areas of darkness in your own relationship with food. I think if we all got a little bit more comfortable with the idea that we all have bad relationships with food, accepted that reality in one another, and moved forward to encourage better choices in each other, we might have less of a weight and disease epidemic in our country. We live in a society that pressures us to be thin, toned and hot and also offers us chemically enhanced, nutritionally empty and overly starched foods to sustain us in our misery over not being hot. We're all in a hamster wheel and I'm believing God to be big enough to stop it so I can get off. 

So there you have it. If you also struggle with any aspect of food, I pray you are able to find the courage to speak out about it. Even doing that can give you enough freedom to begin down the path of better decisions. If you're interested in doing the study I believe they are still taking students. And if you need someone to walk alongside you as you venture down this dark and dusty road, don't hesitate to ask me. I've been hanging out at the trail head for quite a long time and I'm ready to venture out into the darkness and bring His truth to light the path.

 

 

The weight of the world on my shoulders

It's been awhile since we've been together, and there are many reasons why... but to sum it all up I will just say that life has happened, as it always does. Sickness has happened. Fellowship has happened. Weariness has happened. It's all been here these days, but I'm still here and my mind still keeps ticking with the lessons and ponderings of this place. Christmas is in a week. One week. I don't recall a Christmas before where I have felt as weary and burdened and tired as I do at this moment. Much of this could be due to some circumstantial elements. I'm just ending a wonderful long weekend with my best friend whom I have not seen in three years. So being filled up and encouraged and embraced by my Lord through fellowship with her was an incredible blessing that I did not want to end. This leads me into the other element I'm up against that I just don't really want to think about. He's not here. Oh how I want him to be. Any other year, if you presented me with Christmas money or asked for my gift list, I would have a few things in mind that I'd want for myself. But this year, truly, all I want more than anything is to hold his hand while we watch our sweet boy open his presents... to sing Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra while decorating our little tree... to watch him taste test his favorite Christmas cookies. But, alas, I know this is not a possibility. So the second thing on my Christmas list would be peace. Peace when I want to be sad that I can't cup his face in my hands and tell him I love him, or that I can't get frustrated at him for eating all of the cookies before Christmas has even come. Peace when I want to be angry watching all those around me hustle and bustle over gifts and money and things. Peace when I want to bury myself in a mountain of blankets and sleep my way through the next two weeks. Oh Lord, if I can't have my first wish then please give me my second. I'm learning to say "no". And also to make time for the things I need to say "yes" to, such as time for my soul to meet with my Savior. This morning, as I sat here with tears, wishing so bad for so many things, I turned to see a verse taped to my side table.

"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." -Matthew 21:22

Despite my circumstances, despite those around me, I choose to believe that my God is big enough to supply me with the peace I need to say "No" when I need to, to accept the times when I must say "yes" and to remember that He is beside me to carry the weight of the world for me.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and 'you will find rest for your souls.' For my yoke is easy and My burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-29

The world around us is a very heavy load to carry most days, but I believe it is even more so in December. There is so much expected of us: Elf's, presents, sales, perfect Pinterest parties, baked goods, Christmas cards... the list is truly a long one. And every year there are those who take the time to call us to action, to encourage us to embrace the real meaning of Christmas. I am thankful for those people. Because we need them, year after year, to elbow their way through newspaper ads and tv commercials, Christmas music and viral videos of virtual Christmas cards, to remind us what we are here for, why we come together to celebrate the last month of the year. A year of successes and failures, triumphs and tribulations has come to an end and we cannot go back and redo any of it. But what we can come back to is the Savior Jesus, who knowingly accepted His position as Savior of the world, and came down to become a lowly and fleshly human so that we could be saved from year after year of mistakes. He accepted, lived with, and loved the fleshly and sinful humans that were with him while He was here so much that He sacrificed Himself for them. He also accepted and loved the fleshly humans that were to come, for thousands and thousands of years, and sacrificed Himself for them too. Take a second to ponder how many sins, how many mistakes, that one sacrifice paid for...

Sacrifice: an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.

Holy Spirit, when we shop, bake, cook and wrap, gently remind us of the reality of this sacrifice. That He was born knowing He would be given up for the sake of something worthy in Your sight. The Son of the creator of the universe, the Prince, given up for me? How can I even begin to fathom this truth. Gently walk us through this reality, and be patient in the moments when we don't quite grasp it's magnitude. Give us eyes to see a little less value in the twinkle lights and the indulgent desserts and a little more value in the people around us whom You love just as much. You died for them just as you did for us. In remembering You let us remember to show a little kindness, because really, that is a gift that is carried with the soul much longer than anything that could be wrapped in pretty paper. May we be pleasing in Your sight this Christmas, and may You show Yourself clearly, Father, through the thick haze of the world around us. We do not deserve the peace You are able to provide, and are so grateful that You offer it to anyone who asks. Thank You, Emmanuel, for Your goodness.

I pray that whether you are joyfully anticipating the week to come or are wishing you could become a big brown bear, get your fill of cookies and sleep the days away (just as I do) that He could and would become your focus. There's hope for this, we still have a week left.

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Multi-tasking Mom

I'd like to say that I am a multi-tasker. I've been known to have several plates up in the air, being sure they don't come to a complete stop and come crashing down. But I think it's safe to say that's a woman thing. We are able to keep one foot in this door and another in that one... and an arm here, another there, and our head some place else all together. Recently I attended an all day motherhood conference at my home church. It was unbelievably refreshing to let my always-going-never-stopping perfectionist mom heart take a day and just soak it in. Being a mom, and just a person in general, is a lot like being a sponge. As the day passes we squeeze a little more out, and if you're anything like me, the end of the day hits and your wrung dry. So it was nice to let my little sponge heart and head sit in a big bath of wisdom and love and peace.

Something seemed to have soaked right to the core because after a week and a bit I can't seem to get the image out of my mind.

Enter the Multi-tasking Mom.

We were introduced to three types of moms. With each we were given a visual and while many of us laughed I have a sneaking suspicion that most women in that room felt a lot like I did. Convicted. The beauty of conviction is that it is not condemnation. It is the ability to see where you're heading off track and adjust where needed. We all have a path we want to take in our lives, and in order to stay on it we need these moments of conviction. They are good and wonderful and hard and necessary.

The third "mom" we met was what I called the "Modern Mom".  Along with the title was this photo:

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Immediately my heart twinged and my brain went into overdrive. How many blogging, crafting, baking, trendy moms do I spend hours (collectively) admiring and secretly setting up as my standard and goal in life? The statement that was made about this photo was the fact that, to this mom, her baby is just another thing in one of her many arms. Another ball to be juggled.

Another plate to be dropped.

My heart broke at the thought then, and even as I type this now it breaks again. When I look at my gifts and talents I can see a life like this, filled with many different outlets to showcase all that is me. But that's not the path I want. I don't want to set M on the floor with a pile of toys so I can be sure to get my funny and witty blog posted (you know you think they're funny and witty). I don't want to leave him to always play on his own so I can get another craft finished or a cake baked. I want moments like this:

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Instead of doing something that fills me up, doing what will fill him. And ultimately that fills me more than any awesomely baked good (that will add to me all of the wrong things... i.e. inches and pounds. No thanks) or creatively crafted bib (which I did yesterday and felt less than accomplished by the end of it.) Taking twenty minutes to take him outside and teach him about leaves, bugs, water... even now these are the crucial moments. Five years from now when he's off to school and I'm weeping over having nothing to do, I will quickly remember this photo of this mom and how now my baby is big enough to stand beside me and learn from me and I can take all of those arms and wrap them around him tight.

I have to clarify something though. While I believe there are a lot of moms and dads who leave their little ones to fend for themselves far too often, so they can go and do what makes them feel good, I am also aware of many who are able to keep their personal plates spinning and still give their children their whole heart. I know this because I've seen them both. This statement and conviction is simply me realizing my strengths and weaknesses.

Yesterday I spent whatever nap hours I had trying to make some pocket bibs for M. I'm really cheap, and every time I pass these bibs in Target I can't bring myself to spend the kind of money they are asking. So I set out to resolve the problem myself. While I enjoyed being able to sew and create, I carried a fairly heavy heart all day. I couldn't shake feeling like the project had become a greater priority than my boy. He still got all of my attention when he was awake, but I felt rushed. I counted down the minutes to naps so I could get back to the project and just get it done. All of this left me feeling sad. This is not what I want motherhood to be like. As I laid my head on the pillow last night I felt disappointed. I wondered how moms and dads are able to work from home and still give their child their all. It's going to take me some time to get the hang of this. I guess that's why they say the first one gets jipped. They're the trial and error child. I know I can't sit around and do nothing while he's awake, and I realize he needs to learn to be on his own (we have recently initiated playpen time, and it's going wonderfully. He's getting better and better and playing on his own in a safe environment). But one thing I do know: I do not want M and any of our future children to be another plate. Even the prettiest of china pales in comparison to my family.

 

So if you don't see me posting it's probably because I'm still trying to figure this all out, all the while making and cherishing memories with my sweet boy. He's almost one. I can't believe it. Today, if weather permits, take a cue from M and go learn about the leaves or the bugs or the water. It's a pretty fun lesson to learn and relearn.

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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.

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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

Today, I've been romanced

and it was in the most unexpected of ways. We started our morning with an outing to the farmer's market. After grabbing a 1/2 peck of Honeycrisp apples (thank you, U of M, for creating such a deliciously crisp apple) we got in the car to head home. But I faced a dilemma of sorts. You see, I have a thing for a little place called Caribou Coffee, and she and I have been separated these last three years. So as you can imagine, I take advantage of most opportunities to indulge myself (I say "most" but what I really mean is "each and every"). Here in lies the dilemma... the farmer's market shares a parking lot with Caribou. Shares it. So you can see why I really basically had no other choice. And they have a drive-thru, a.k.a. I don't have to take the baby out of the car seat. Double-whammy. Before I even realized what I was doing I was already sitting at the speaker listening to the cheerful lady ask what she could get started for me. After discovering that one of my favorite drinks (a vanilla rooibos tea latte) had zero caffeine I quickly adjusted my course of action and asked for a medium light roast with white chocolate... the cheap girls version of a frou-frou drink. *Let me pause and adjust your visual here. My parents just got a new vehicle and I have been blessed enough to cruise around town in it. It is by no means flashy but definitely new and definitely an upgrade from our already "good and gets the job done" Endeavor. As I drive it I enjoy pretending like I actually could own a car with satellite radio and a back-up camera. It's fun and I'm enjoying it while I can. I also, personally, don't believe that young people should be able to have such nice things. There's a reason why the older you get the nicer your stuff gets. You work hard while your young to enjoy your harvest when you're older. So I enjoy little glimpses to the future. Or maybe even the never, who knows.*

As I waited for the car in front of me I counted the dollar bills I had with me and talked a bit with M in the back in an effort to keep him awake until we got home so he could lay down for his nap without interruption. We pulled up and I waited. A lovely young girl carrying my precious coffee greeted me with a grin and said, "The person in front of you already paid for you coffee and wanted to tell you to have a great day!" So, naturally, I quickly adjusted myself and lifted my chin from the dropped position and began to smile so wide and asked, ever so awkwardly, "What? Are you serious?" To that she said, "yes" and more smiles were exchanged and even more stutters and stumbles (all from my end). All in all the exchange lasted a little longer than probably necessary considering I didn't actually have to give her anything at all, just had to take the cup from her. After I took it and drove away I began to really realize what had happened. You see, I've been making a significant effort to spend M's morning nap doing my BSF study as well as spend some time in prayer. These last few days have been pretty busy, making today the first day in a while I've had to set the better part of his nap aside to spend with my Lord. Knowing this, I was all the more anxious to get him in bed for a full nap because time was of the essence. As I pulled away with my coffee I made the realization that I was, in fact, being romanced by the Man I was about to have a date with.

And He treated.

Talk about romantic. There was always something special about going out, even for coffee, and having T offer to pay. I felt special. Taken care of. Worthy. This morning, He showed me that I am those very things to Him. He needed me to know that even though I cannot go on a coffee date with my love, my Lord and love will join me on one every day of the week. And He will romance me in a season that could be considered very romance-less.

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Another thing I realized upon receiving this coffee was the power of obedience, which coincidentally came up in my study time. The person in front of me could have seen a young girl in a nice new car and thought, "pssh... she obviously isn't in want. I'm sure she has no problem affording a cup of coffee. I'll seek out someone who I think is more deserving." There was no way of them knowing that I am actually an Army wife who is not in want but does not necessarily have excess. He has provided for us all that we need, but it is true that sometimes a cup of coffee is a luxury and I am more than okay with that. Or that my husband, and the father of my child gurgling in the back seat, is across the world and we will not see his face, except for a blurry skype call, until the beginning of summer. But they did not judge. They did not assume. They just blessed.

How often do I just bless? Without asking questions, or making assumptions. Just do as I'm asked. I have to say, not often. I always just know that I know what's really going on. Who people really are. Reality is, I have absolutely no idea. Repeatedly I am surprised by the kindness of people around me, most of which are the most unsuspecting. And yet I still walk around like I know all. It's pure madness!

Obedience is the lesson of my romantic encounter with my Lord today. It's pretty tough to be obedient in an very disobedient world. But it's something I will always need to be brought back to.

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And that He delights in romancing me. He knows my heart. He knows what makes me smile. He knows I'm worth far more than a $2 cup of coffee. And He will forever show me that in beautiful, unsuspecting ways. How sweet is my Lord.

P.S. Can we just take a minute and look at how cute my honey is? *He's the one with the killer smile and smiley eyes*

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My heart melts.

Childbirth

I've been thinking a lot about childbirth lately (no, not because I will be experiencing it any time soon. Although I do have the fever pretty bad). You see, I've returned to my home town just in time for the recent births of several babies. Friends, friends of friends, co-workers... Seriously, babies everywhere. It's just the most wonderful thing. My heart just smiles seeing these families become parents for the first time... remembering our not too distant past filled with sleepless nights, crying for what felt like hours and a belly button scab that I just couldn't wait to be rid of. All of those beautifully exhausting things, that truly slip by in a moment. Now he's almost a year old and so much of that is of the past, never to come again (for him anyways). How many more times will I experience them? How many more times will I anxiously (and angrily and painfully) anticipate the birth of the baby I've been making for 9 months? Only He knows and I will boldly and loudly exclaim that if it's even once more we are blessed beyond what we deserve. We are already blessed beyond what we deserve simply because we have M.What's been on my mind has been the process of childbirth. You see, due to my proctocolectomy (surgery to remove my entire colon and do some pretty cool stuff with my small intestine to get me up and running again) I am unable to have a vaginal birth. I must always deliver via c-section. For some moms this would be devastating. For me, I was just thankful to even be able to carry a child. We were given hopeful odds for conception, so we went into it thinking it wouldn't be a problem. Motherhood reality check number one. It doesn't happen very easily for everyone. Nearly two years (and many tears) later we found out we were expecting. This news, coming amidst news of loss and heartache for others around us, was the second motherhood reality check I had received and for me the chapter had only just begun. How different motherhood is for everyone. How fascinating to know that it happens to people in so many different ways. Whether by surprise, after many heartaches, accompanied by lots of doctors and injections or by someone who is not able to care for the child themselves, the process of becoming a mother is wonderfully unique. My third reality check was two days after M was born, when I realized I was unable to breast feed. Years ago I had a breast reduction under the impression from my surgeon that I should "have no problems breast feeding when the time comes." He had "never had a patient who was unable to successfully nurse their child." Suffice it to say I went into this whole nursing thing with my head in the clouds and my heart left unguarded. Little did I know, there is a very small percentage of women who are able to nurse after a reduction. (For more accurate information on this go to www.bfar.org.) To say that my heart was broken would be quite the understatement. By His grace I was able to watch my heart change by the hour as I went from heartbroken to thankful for whatever He provided that would allow our son to grow healthy and strong. After months of playing around we landed on goats milk formula as the best possible alternative for him. That is a different story for another time. The fact that I couldn't nurse was hard but I got over it relatively quickly... Until recently. Something about seeing so many friends with new babies... Hearing the stories of their milk coming down, or how well their child is eating... A little voice in by head asks the question, "Am I less of a mother? I don't know what it feels like to have my milk come down, so am I not the real thing?" In hearing these recent stories of childbirth, so fresh in their minds, I've soaked in the uniqueness of each one. It's truly amazing how no birth is the same. I love each story just as I love the families who brought these little people into the world. The thing is, you don't often hear many stories of people just walking into the hospital for their appointment to get numbed up and cut open to birth their child. Usually there are contractions, timing, walking, bathing, squatting, and a whole slew of other things involved... Even if the end result is still a c-section. I love our memory of waking up to the alarm, getting everything in the car, kissing the pups goodbye and praying the entire 4 minute drive to the hospital. I love the memory of walking up to the desk with a giddy smile across my face and saying, "I'm Laura Ferguson and I'm here to have my baby." There was no rush. There was no contracting or Lamaze breathing or yelling at my husband. It was scary and exciting and nerve wracking and possibly one of the best moments we will ever have shared together. But I didn't feel any pain. I don't know what it feels like to be in labor. Am I less of a mom because I don't know what that feels like? Am I not "in it" as much as the others because I haven't felt that horrible pain (so I hear)? Reality check number four. The thing with this reality check is that it didn't hit until 10 months after he was born. It took that long for the lie to grow and fester to the point where I could acknowledge it. All of our birth stories are different. And all of our birth stories are valuable. As I've fought this ugly slimy lie these past few days I've tried to focus on the women in God's word who were mothers. Certainly He would've included some truth to comfort me in this battle over my mind. I found that none of these women's birth stories were recorded. None. The fact that the child was born, that was it. No hint to their pain, their delivery method, whether they labored for five hours or sixteen. Just the beautiful miracle of the person. The little, wonderful, life changing person. There is also no mention of nursing. Obviously one would assume that they all did this, but what about women who just couldn't? I mean there had to be some around back then too, right? But again, no mention of that, just of the strong men their babies became. The recording of the amazing futures these men held, to me, is a nod to the provision they were given by their mothers. They were obviously cared for. They were nurtured, fed, clothed, changed, kissed, disciplined, taught and let go. These women were moms. They did what they needed to do. The only thing that was recorded was the reoccurring theme of barrenness. This is a very real and very prominent thing in the lives of so many women. So many that each of us interact with regularly, whether we know it or not. Children are truly a gift from God. To some, it may seem more evident. As I've read about them, their struggles and blessings, and I've thought about the mothers around me, I've been encouraged to know that mothers are kinda like snowflakes. There are no two that are alike. Similarly with the way we become mothers. Sure there are only a handful of means but each heart, each family, has been perfectly crafted for that child. There is a reason why God not only wants but needs for you to be the mother to that child. Whether you carried the child or not, labored or didn't, nourished by the breast or by a next best thing, you are just what that child needs. There is no one who could do a better job than you. So, after all of these words and all of these thoughts, I'm prepared to put these slimy lies behind me and know in full confidence that even though I can't say I know how it feels to be in labor, I know that I am just the mom for M. The one who was created so that he might be created to live a life to bring Him glory. In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah (who was barren and was blessed by the birth of Samuel) says to Eli regarding Samuel, "As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to The Lord. I prayed for this child and The Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to The Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to The Lord." That is motherhood. Giving them to The Lord, for their whole lives.

Be still my heart. Thank you for letting me process these things with you. Be encouraged, mama. You are everything they need for this day.

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Two things: quirks and goals

Just two things tonight. One

It's been decided. I just have to set a calligraphy goal for myself. My overarching goal for deployment was to get more practice in but I feel as each day passes I'm just itching to learn and practice and fail and try again. So it's official. Tomorrow the table goes up and the supplies come out. I'm thinking of taking an online class from www.melissaesplin.com. I'll keep you posted on the status of that as well as my progress. You are the lucky ones who will be keeping me accountable, so be looking on Instagram for my progress.

Two

In missing my man I'm thinking of the little quirks I just have to do when he is away. We feed our son homemade goats milk formula and I'm the uber organized mom who labels each bottle and places the in the refrigerator in order of use. Shortly before we left, T had to make a new label for a bottle and its since been tucked in with the others (in my efforts to help the environment, I also reuse my little post-it labels until they are basically falling apart). Tonight as I picked out the necessary labels I grabbed for the one marked "lunch" with his ever so cute and manly capital letter chicken scratch. I stopped and slowly ran my finger across it and my heart warmed just a tad. These are the things that remind me that he is still here, just temporarily away.

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Upon our arrival at my parents I was quick to make sure my mom understood that the "lunch" label was not to get thrown out, even in the worst of conditions.

My other quirk is in the bathroom. In the toothbrush cup, to be exact. This deployment I didn't even need to tell him, he just knew to leave it (or forgot to take it. I choose to believe he knew to leave it. That makes it sound more romantical). Last time I couldn't bear the thought of, day after day, staring at a toothbrush cup with only one brush in it. I'm not a single person living on my own! I'm a married woman who temporarily resides in a different place than my husband. So he left it, and each time I looked at it my heart warmed. He's still here.

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Do you have any deployment/business trip quirks that you require of your loved one? I think they are necessary in keeping normalcy in our lives, no matter how silly they may seem.

Just sitting here, looking at myself

I spent my afternoon straight up retro-mom style by spending a few hours at the beauty parlor, or more literally, the Beauty Room. It was doubly awesome in that my crazy talented friend just so happens to also fix me up when I'm oh-so run down. As we chat and laugh and carry-on I can't help but flip through images of ladies in the '50s under the huge dryers in the back of my mind. The only thing missing is M playing on the floor. I'm not sure how they managed hours at the beauty parlor with their babies in tow. Today, I'm thankful for grandma. Getting my hair done is doubly great though because this very talented friend of mine is extra special to me and I'll tell you why. The few friends of mine who read this already know, but for those of you who have stumbled upon me via Wordpress, here's a little Lulu factoid:

I have one less organ than most people.

And what makes my friend so extra special is that she's missing one too.

The same one in fact. That's how we met. I had just had my first of two surgeries to have my colon removed due to irreversible Ulcerative Colitis when a mutual friend "got us together". She had just made her decision to do the same and I was able to make a feeble attempt at making a pretty major thing seem not so major. Or at least doable. The rest is history and when we are together you better believe we talk mostly of the "joys" of colon-free living. There aren't many salons where you will find two women talk as much about farting, pooping, food consumption and what it does to us as you will when you are sitting next to us. There is something so refreshing about talking to someone who just gets it. And Katie gets it. More than any of my colon-having friends ever could. So if any of you are feeling shafted because we don't also talk about pooping and farting and food eating, don't. You just won't get it and that's ok.

Yesterday I was challenged by the idea of appreciating others. We all want to be appreciated ourselves but the challenge was to really make the effort to give someone else your full attention and also your full effort. Conversations can be passive. A person can have my attention but that doesn't mean I'm putting all of my effort into the conversation. For me, it takes a great deal of effort to think of questions to ask about you and it takes a great deal of effort not to then bring the conversation back to me. I'm selfish, it's just a fact. So this morning I set out confident in this challenge and in my desire to see it come to fruition... And I left the salon and my extra special colon-less friend who I haven't seen in months and realized I did it again...

Why do we do this? Why do we make it about ourselves? It's a miracle whole conversations ever happen in the first place and we aren't just all sitting around talking about ourselves all at the same time like super selfish robots. I'm sure if I asked her she would say I did nothing of the sort but if I can think back to specific moments of self involvement then it happened too much. I'm thinking this whole others-focused thinking is going to take some serious work and some serious intentionality.

Are you a conversation hog? Or are you an awesome question-asker? I have some friends that are awesome at asking questions... I appreciate that about them and wish they could show me how. Whether its in a conversation with a friend or family member or even in prayer, sitting around just looking at ourselves is a pretty draining way to spend our words. Especially when they have the power to encourage and build others up, or to give glory where Glory is due.

I bet if we all made a little more effort to spend our words appreciating others we would in turn feel more appreciated. Just a thought. I'll try to let you know how this works for me this week.

Blog Expectations

So I realize that the rate of ones success in blogging is largely dependent upon how often they blog (I.e. every day) but can I just say that I just don't have the time. Ok, that's a lie, time isn't always the excuse. There is a large part of me that just doesn't want to. Not because I don't want to be a "blogger" but because I still have that little girl inside my head that just can't stand doing what she's supposed to. If I hadn't set this as a goal for this deployment and could just do it out of pure enjoyment and knew that only strangers were going to read it, I can guarantee I'd be blogging much more frequently. There is something about goals, or to-do lists, that bring out my rebellious side... And let me tell you, I don't have much of a rebellious side. Just ask my family. Sweets and expectations. Those are my areas of rebellion.

So what about blogging? Heck, I could do it daily, I sure have enough going on in my brain to make for a few interesting posts every now and then. I know I could squeeze in some time to write it out. I think a few people would read them... At least I know my sisters would. So why not do it?

Beeeeeeccaaaaaaauuuuuuuusse.

I actually don't have a better answer than that.

See, apparently I'm halfway decent at writing, and I'm not sure why or how. I will not go around saying I'm even mildly capable of good writing because, lets be honest, who that is truly talented walks around telling people that they are? Humility. That's the ticket. But also, I'm just a person writing what I think. So I guess it's not about being a talented writer but a creative, albeit wordy, thinker.

I have a lot of thoughts every day, mostly unimportant, but usually one that carries me through the day. Sometimes it is an encouraging thought, other times its a challenging one. Today, for example, it was a bit of a downer. After having read a blog post about "Mom Wars" or something of that nature, I have found my brain being bombarded with the ways I don't measure up. This doesn't make sense, I know, because if you have read the post you will understand that it is a message of liberty and freedom in parenting and womanhood. An invitation to not try to measure up to everyone else but to just be so thankful for you. Maybe it's because the best person I know is halfway across the world and I haven't gotten to really talk to him in a couple of days. Or maybe it's all of these changes catching up to me. Or maybe it's just a good old fashioned down-in-the-dumps kind of night. Whatever the cause my mind has been thinking lots of things and none of them are particularly flattering.

The lesson for today though, is that sometimes, if you can get over yourself enough to talk to the people you try hard to be strong and independent in front of, you might actually find freedom in the humility. There is something so scary and so liberating about humility. I learned that today.

I'm a stubborn woman and an even more stubborn daughter. But tonight I found comfort in the words of my mom while sitting at the kitchen table crying over a cup of hot tea. It doesn't matter how old you are or how independent you try to prove yourself to be, there is always comfort in an honest conversation with someone who loves you.

There's my thoughts. Well, some of them anyways. I have some thoughts about comparing pregnancy to deployment but I can get to that later. As far as blogging goes, I'd have to say keep bugging me. Maybe if I have the accountability I'll sit down and do it. But then again I just might not.

Time

I've been thinking a lot about it today... time... and my thoughts have ranged from too many cuss words to admittedly type, to warm and fuzzy and full of hope. Tomorrow is the day. In my darkest of thoughts I have gone to the extreme of counting the hours we have left. (It's 22 hours and counting at this point... but I'd rather not be counting, if I could help it.) The thing about time is that it always passes, even when we wish with every fiber of our being that it would just stop. Or when the opposite happens and we wish with all of our might that it would speed forward. It just keeps. passing. tick. tick. tick. And that is what makes me want to slap it in the face.

When I think about 22 hours and I know how quickly it will pass I want to scream and throw up and crawl under the covers. I want to weep for my son. I want to weep for my husband. And I do weep for myself. Because no matter how hard we pray and no matter how well we spend the last hours, they will still pass. We will still hug and kiss and say our "good-byes" (or rather "see you soon"s)... and I just don't want to. I want to be the little girl in the corner with her arms resting on her knees stomping her foot in defiance. I just don't want to say goodbye.

Here's why time is a bitch. Because all of the things in life that are hard, that we dread, happen eventually. Grace is when we don't know they are going to happen ahead of time and we are forced to accept it and move on in order to keep functioning. Time is a mean girl sitting in the corner during every interaction we've had together these last few months, with her legs crossed and her finger gently tapping the watch on her wrist. She doesn't need to say anything, we all know she's there. And in these last days and hours she's grown to be about the size of an elephant... I'd love it if she'd leave.

But another reason why time is a bitch is because it can be so dang sweet. For every mother who has waited and carried and prayed for 9 months, time can be the most annoying and exciting thing in her life. I don't think I've ever been more excited than when we counted down the days till we met our son. I didn't like time then, but in the best way possible. For every family member who has excitedly awaited the arrival of their loved one who has been gone from them for months, the passing of hours is enough to make you explode with butterflies and tinglies. Minutes feel like hours but the smile on your face is enough to let any passerby know something amazing is about to happen to you.

Today, someone who passes me by may wonder if my dog just died or something equally horrible. (Side note: when either of my dogs do die, I can guarantee you I will be approximately 125% worse than I am right now.) I can't stop thinking about the passing of time, first with feelings of hatred immediately followed by so much hope. Because my soldier will come home. In about nine months I will be close to exploding with butterflies and tinglies. And we will be reunited and it will feel so good.

Because of His goodness I will not be overwhelmed. His grace will cover me. His grace will cover my husband. His grace will cover our son.

My life has been filled with hugs and cooking and laundry and walks and dishes and kisses and everything else that is oh so sweet about our life together. And for a very short season it will look a little bit different... a little less full of those things. But it will still be full, and this I know. Because no matter where we are or where our "home" may be, I know he is coming. I know he loves me. He knows I love him. And Christ will bridge the physical gap ahead.

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So bring it on, time. And I promise I won't call you a bitch again... I'll search for a more creative option.

And Friends Are Friends Forever

As I prepare to write my thoughts for the last few days, this classic Michael W. Smith song is playing in my head... and I have to say it's not the greatest. No offense to Michael but that's one of those songs where you never really knew what he was trying to say but the words were mercilessly trapped in your brain, unwilling to leave. Thankfully, I have not been pondering the meaning behind these words, but rather one single word and all that it entails.

Friends.

There's the show, which let's face it, might be one of the best shows ever. (I know many will argue this, but honestly, you will get no where with me. I've seen every episode, several times... which may be why I, at various times, have felt like I have few friends. They all know I spend my time watching a decade-old show over and over and over. I think my husband sometimes doesn't want to be my friend when he sees me take the DVDs out again.)

There's the memories of times-past. Childhood friends. High school friends. College friends. Work friends.

There's mommy friends. Church friends. Neighborhood friends. The ever-touchy and ever-changing couple friends (one we have only nailed twice. This is a touchy subject in our home.)

My trouble is that I find it ridiculously difficult to really find a friend. *To my dear friends (who are mostly far, and some near) please know that I am about to explain why I run into this feeling time and time again and that it has nothing to do with the amount of how much I love you and know that you love me.* I have this thing, that I've decided is actually a huge act of God's grace but at times I think it's so inconvenient. I can't remember an exceptionally large amount of my past. I remember the big things, but everything other than those large, monumental moments looks a lot like what I see when I take my glasses off... only even more blurry and maybe even just straight up dark. (I am pretty blind, FYI... -4.25 or something like that.) So my frustration is that I can see the general idea, like:

Elementary school was awesome, I had lots of friends. I got teased a lot by boys though. I remember that. And that's when I learned what it felt like to feel fat. To recognize that something about my little girl body was not what it should be to other people. That part I didn't like.

High School was a whole lot of crazy. I was popular (in my mind anyways. I had a lot of friends. I thought people liked me.) I could never get that one guy to like me though... which shot right back to my life lesson from elementary school-I'm too fat. Then one day I became not-popular. I could count the number of real friends I had on one hand. Then I came to Christ and youth group proved that I could have friends again and people could love me and care for me. "Friendship" had regained it's value.

College (age... couldn't finish) was when I learned about thick and thin friends... the kind who really stick with you. Through terrible bouts of disease. Through traveling the world. Through it all, really.

Army life was when it all came crashing down. Maybe it was moving across the country and starting over in a new place. Maybe it's being in a transient environment. Maybe it was just me; maybe I had given up on reaching out and giving my all to the women around me, regardless of how they responded. I don't find it coincidental though that through this relentlessly tiring experience I have found a couple of friends that will stick. For forever, I hope.

I was once told, by a very wise woman, that there are three kinds of friends:

  1. Friends for a reason
  2. Friends for a season
  3. Friends for a lifetime

I think of this often and can say that this is very true. I am thankful for all three of these friends, for they all serve a purpose in the ultimate goal in my life: to bring Him glory. But can I just be honest and ask a question?

Does anyone else find it to be one of the loneliest places, as an adult, trying to find a friend? Someone who just wants to know you.

There are thousands of people all around us everyday and yet we can walk around not really being known. And how much fuller can our lives feel to just know that there is that friend who knows you - like really really knows you- and chooses to keep calling, keep hanging, keep growing with you...

The problem is I have this. I have these women in my life. They may not be near to me geographically but they couldn't be closer in my heart and mind. Yet time and time again the voice in my head reminds me of how lonely I feel. In those moments of weakness I choose to turn my face away from Truth... From what He has commanded me to do; fix my eyes on what is true, pure, holy, excellent, praiseworthy. And let me tell you, these women, these friendships, are praiseworthy. So as I've pondered this word "friends" the past two days, I've come to realize that I have as many friends as I choose to have. Plain and simple. It was my choice to focus my eyes on the ones who didn't reciprocate. Who were too busy. Who already had a best friend (that's a touchy one for me). Each and every one of those choices brought me here, to this place. I am a very loved woman walking around feeling very unloved all because I chose that for myself.

And so this I have been robbed of these last three years here in Texas. How many friendships could have blossomed had I been brave enough to offer myself to them. Been brave enough to try and try and be ok if it didn't work out. Trying to make friends as an adult reminds me an awful lot of what it felt like to have a crush in high school. I thought I was free of that dreadful feeling when I married my dude. But then again, my memory of those years is quite hazy.

So I guess I challenge you, as I am challenging myself in this new chapter of life, to be brave. Put yourself out there. Don't be a spectator. I've always felt the most comfortable just watching... but now I look back at my life like a movie and feel like I'm watching a whole lot of life pass by with a lot of missed opportunities. And I also challenge you, young and old, to be brave enough to walk away. If a person doesn't see how special you are, how very much you have to offer them, then you must simply turn and walk away. Because I'm pretty certain once you turn you just might find someone who will see and love and know all of those things about you and be so thankful they do.

*Parents of school-age kids: I challenge you to teach your children to be brave in this area too. In a world where kids are so horribly awful to one another, they need to be armed with bravery to know and love themselves so others can know and love them too. And teach them to open their eyes to everyone around them. For every popular girl or boy who's affection they are dying for there are five great kids who will truly appreciate them for who they are. This is a lesson I wish I had learned when I was young.

So let's all be friends, ok?