How's Your Sight? | Reflections from Luke 11

Whatever color you want to call them, if we’re not intentional and vigilant, we can throw these colored glasses on without even thinking twice. And this is where I want to talk about this thing that the Lord was so patient and purposeful in showing me, and in doing so reminding me that I have a choice in this.

“You need a light to see. Only an idiot would light a lamp and then put it beneath the floor or under a bucket. No, any intelligent person would put the lamp on a table so everyone who comes in the house can see. Listen, your eye, your outlook, the way you see is your lamp. If your way of seeing is functioning well, then your whole life will be enlightened. But if your way of seeing is darkened, then your life will be a dark, dark place. So be careful, people, because your light may be malfunctioning. If your outlook is good, then your whole life will be bright, with no shadowy corners, as when a radiant lamp brightens your home.” -Luke 11:33-36 | the Voice

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Looking To The Right Or Left | A Blog on Worship & The People Around Us

“My friend, this is what we were designed for. We were made to worship, the only problem is that we often worship those around us more than we worship the One who made us. There’s so much talk about the worship of other things, but maybe we need to start talking about how many of us are worshipping one another?

Through comparison, through envy, through striving to keep up with the Joneses, we are in many ways worshipping each other and they ways we believe we can be satisfied through relationships.”

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Reflections From Acts 9 | The Unmentioned Aspects of Conversion

You know that Enneagram train everyone is riding these days? Yep. I’m on it. Maybe it’s because I am unashamedly curious about all the ways I can get better at being Laura, or maybe it’s because I weirdly like having spelled-out before me the areas that I am weak and need improving. Whatever the reason, the Enneagram has me hooked and I want to know everyone’s number and talk about all the ways we can become the best versions of ourselves. (For those dying to know… I’m a 9 ;) )

What’s crazy about the Enneagram is that the belief behind the system is that we take on the version of ourselves that we are as adults when we are children. So it’s not necessarily that we were born this way, but rather that life circumstances and choices forced us to put on a certain self as a coping mechanism or a way of navigating our own little worlds, and thus we became the people we are today.

It’s fascinating to me just how influential our surroundings are in the people we become. Where we lived, who we spent our time with, the kinds of food, music, and activities we consumed—it all weaves together the tapestry that is each individual person.

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Our surroundings shape the pages that write the beginnings of our lives.

I wonder at the details of Paul’s surroundings early on in his life. (Or Saul, rather, at that point in time.) The book of Acts tells us that he was a severe man, with a fiery intentionality for whatever he set out to do. In the case of the early church, Saul set out to persecute and rid the world of all those who claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Later on, after his conversion, he tells us that he was as straight as they came in terms of his Hebrew heritage and way of living. Not only did he dot every “i” and cross every “t”, he did it better than all the rest. So the pride, and social status that fueled his actions was likely of astronomical proportions (Acts 22:1-5).

In his circle, he was doing all the right things.

And then Jesus Christ, the One Saul had devoted all of his time, energy, and resources to slander, intersects his life in a blinding way, and everything in Saul’s life turns upside down.

[You can read the story of the road to Damascus in Acts 9:1-18. What I want to point out are the days following this miraculous conversion.]

Verse 19 of chapter 9 tells us that,

He spent a lot of time with the disciples in Damascus over the next several days.”

As I read that I wondered, what about all the guys he was traveling with, all on their way to persecute believers in Damascus? Paul had made a HUGE decision to follow Jesus. And he didn’t do it privately so that no one in his regular life knew about it. He was baptized and proceeded to then spend all of his time with those he had intended to kill.

What did his friends think? His family? His boss? The other Jewish believers who saw him as a wise and powerful man “on their side”?

He had ditched his comrades and the life he lived before that moment he met Jesus, and the word spread quickly.

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.” (Acts 9:20-22 | NIV).

Paul had “everything to lose” and yet he knew that he had, in fact, gained everything the moment he gave his life to Christ. People were dumbfounded that this man was now living for the One with whom he had devoted his life to wiping out. As I read this, I am floored by the reality that we as believers live our lives so ashamed of this incredible gift we have been given. We try to hide from a watching world the eternal life and salvation we have been given through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

There is so much we can learn from Paul—God knew the tenacity with which this man would get after anything he was passionate about, so He made sure Paul would be passionate about His Son.

Couldn’t that be true of you and I, too?

He knows the exact way He wants to use you and your commitment to Christ to influence your surroundings. He knows the head-strong people you work with, or share a family name and genetics with. He knows the story of your past and all the ways people like to define you by it. He knows where you’ve been and He knows where you’re going. And He wants His Name to be what defines your life from here on out.

So don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of who you were or who they are. Perfect love drives out fear, and His love in you and for you and through you is perfect. He knows how to wash-white your past, He knows how to supply your every present need, and He knows how to lovingly navigate your future, so that His Name would be made great through your passionate love of His Son.

So can you and I be like Paul, and run head-long towards the One from which we have been given true and lasting LIFE? Can we cease caring about how life will go on for those around us, and start leaning in and doing life with those who are devoted to Jesus, trusting that He will use our stories to speak to the hearts of those who have influenced us before we met Christ?

It wasn’t easy for Paul, at first. But he pressed on, and was given an advocate—someone to encourage him, guide him, and support him on his journey towards complete devotion to Christ. RPromise me you’ll read the rest of the story—it can be found here. If you are new to your faith, like Paul was here, find yourself a Barnabas. If you can’t, then pray with boat-loads of faith that God would bring you one. His heart is not for you to do this life of faith alone, so broaden your vantage point and start looking to places you’ve never looked before. I promise you, you’ll find your Barnabas.

What could happen to this lost and lonely world if we all turned and followed like Paul did? Lord, would you do this again in each one of our lives; that Your church would grow and the lost would be found in Jesus.

Giving Myself Up to God's Plan

But that’s not what Jesus says in Mark 8.

Because I don’t want to follow you, or you, or you. I want to follow Jesus. And He makes it pretty clear that if He is to be my Lord, then I need to get over my own ideas about what my life should (or could) look like, and relent to His plan—His way—not because He is a Lord who withholds, but one who gives in abundance. In an age where we follow people all the time, I believe there needs to be a major revival in our understanding of what it is to have a Lord. We need to look at what Jesus is not saying in this verse in Mark 8—He isn’t saying that we get all the benefits of salvation while getting to keep our lives as we think they should be. Give ourselves up to God’s plan. Take up our crosses. Follow HIM. We need to do as the disciples did and throw it all away to go where He is going and do what He is doing.

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Reflections From Mark 5 | That Woman Who Dared To Believe

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

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

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

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

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

Well geez.

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

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

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

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

She was the bleeding woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He stopped. Everyone stopped. He looked around.

'Who just touched My robe?'"

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

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

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

"But Jesus waited" (vs 32)

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

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

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

For her benefit and for theirs.

As I journaled through this I wondered 2 things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

To Proclaim in the Bright Light of Day

Earlier this week I had the privilege of teaching two different groups of women from our church straight out of the book of Matthew. Typically when I teach I am given the curriculum and I take it before the Lord and ask Him to show me what it looks like from the lips of Laura. But this time I got to teach straight from my own time with the Lord.

Man was it fun.

And also extremely difficult. Because who am I to teach others from the Word of God? What credentials do I have after my name that merit me the opportunity to instruct others on what God's Word has to tell us? If I've learned anything from following Christ and learning from His time here with His disciples, He errs on the side of "lacking in training" when He chooses people to use, and in that regard I'm a great fit.

I feel compelled to transcribe this message for you, because it is one that really needs to be heard by anyone who spends any time at the feet of Jesus. I pray it packs the same "punch" as it did from the platform on Tuesday.


As you read this I encourage you to open your Bible to Matthew 10. (I pray you have confidence from the Spirit to engage in His Word knowing you have all that you need to understand what He wants to show you. May we never enter into any time in His Word fearful that we just don't get it. He is all we need to get what is written here.)

I have one of those letter boards in my living room. You know the ones--really trendy right now and went from being hard to find and crazy expensive to available in your local target store. Isn't that how things go? Anyways, moving on. On said letter board I have a verse from Matthew 10 that I found over a month ago and loved. It spoke to me, albeit not in it's fullness at the time, and I've loved having it in my home. But the day we were having our Global Team over for a reunion dinner, I felt like changing it. With the bustle of the day, I never got around to it, and lo and behold, it became a hot topic of conversation and encouragement that night with those in my living room.

Huh. I guess this verse IS really encouraging.

As I anticipated what to teach the women of my church in the week that followed, I found myself coming back to this verse again and again. So I went to the Scriptures and found a call to action I, and likely you too, desperately needed.

Hold tight though. We'll get to that call in a minute.

At the end of Matthew 9, we find Jesus with His disciples, having been healing and driving out, and restoring what was lost. His disciples have been witnessing and learning, and He has been likely blowing them away at every turn. In verse 36 we see Jesus taking in the crowds around Him, and feeling such compassion for their lostness. There is such a great need for what He has come to bring, and yet at this point there is only One who is able to do the work. He goes on in verse 37 to tell His disciples, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."

Translation: "Guys, do you see this great need around us? There are souls ripe for the hope found in Christ, but there are few who are bringing that hope to them. Pray for a solution. Ask the One who is over this great harvest to raise up those to do the work." -That's how I read it, anyways.

This is the beloved missionary verse. 

*NOTE TO THOSE WHO READ 2 CHAPTERS A DAY AND CALL IT GOOD* here is a perfect example of why you should explore the next chapter before you officially end your reading. If you end at chapter 9 and wait to go onto chapter 10, you miss the ironic and glorious part that happens next.

Matthew 10:1-2a- "Summoning His disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles..."

Did you catch it?

There's this problem. People need an encounter with Jesus Christ, and yet there is, at this point, only One who is able. Jesus tells them to pray for a solution. Then He gathers them and GIVES THEM THE VERY EQUIPPING THEY NEED TO BE THE ANSWER TO THEIR OWN PRAYERS. He gives them authority and a new title. They are no longer merely disciples but apostles with orders from the Messiah.

In the church we are encouraged to "fill the empty seats" and "grow community" and "invite our neighbors". And we pray, "Lord, encourage others to fill these empty seats and grow community and invite their neighbors!"

But what if you are equipped enough to be the answer to your own prayers? What if Jesus isn't asking them but He's asking you?

In verse 5 Jesus tells the apostles not to go to the lands that make the most sense to them. I imagine these men to have received this incredible authority to do the very things they've witnessed Jesus do, and then begin down a trail of thoughts about all of the far off lands that need this kind of power to intervene. But Jesus says, (my own paraphrase and assumption) "Those places that seem like they are the most lost? That's not where I'm sending you. I'm sending you to the people within My own house--I'm sending you to your own people, because they are the ones in need of what I have come to bring."

We are so quick to assume who needs to message of the Gospel and who should be the ones to bring it (you know, those called to missions and whatnot). But is Christ the one who told us that? Because these few passages alone would tell us otherwise. It's the people down your street, at your favorite coffee spot, in the office next to yours, and even sitting in the same row as you on Sunday mornings.

As you continue down in this chapter you will see Jesus give the apostles instructions on coming and going--the what-not-to-dos--and then go on to inform them of all of the persecution they will face for this charge they've been given to fulfill. A point in the conversation that I would likely have begun to second-guess my previous decision to leave everything and follow this Man. But the kindness of Jesus is that He is both bold and reassuring. He tells it like it is--there will be trouble AND He has overcome the world.

And here, friends, is where we find this beautiful verse that has been accompanying me these past weeks:

"And you should proclaim in the bright light of day everything that I have whispered to you in the dark. Whatever whispers you hear—shout them from the rooftops of houses." - Matthew 10:27 (the Voice)

Jesus has just told them of the persecution they will face, but what He doesn't do is tell them to keep this message on the down-low so as not to ruffle feathers or cause dissension. Amidst all of this, He tells them to speak in the light the things He is telling them in the darkness. The wisdom He is whispering in their ears, the revelation they experience in the darkest corners of their souls, they are to speak out in the brightest light of day--without a shadow of doubt or fear--so that those around might come to know the wisdom and truth found in Christ.

And we sit. And we hesitate. And we are content to keep what He is showing us to ourselves.

Well, what if they don't know the Lord? I mean, what if they aren't a Christian? What if they don't like what I have to say and turn me down or don't want to be my friend anymore? What if they call me ridiculous, or even tell me I'm naive and stupid to believe such nonsense?

So we take all of those "what-ifs" and we keep to ourselves the gift of wisdom and understanding we get to continually unwrap by the grace of God, and we hope that someone will reach these lost sheep around us.

Friend, can I tell you something? You are the answer to the problem. You have all of the equipping you need to share the Hope of Christ to the lost around you. For the sake of those who are desperate for a reason to keep living, a reason to keep moving forward, and a reason for their existence, be BOLD and share the things God is whispering to you.

And guess what? It's doesn't have to be as awkward as you think it's going to be.

How did Jesus talk to people about the Kingdom of God? He spoke in stories and shared this ground-breaking, earth-quaking truth in a way that could be received by the ears it landed on.

Mom friend from preschool and a playdate:"My husband doesn't talk to me. And when he does he's so negative. I feel so unappreciated."

Me full of fear: "Oh man, I'm sorry. Yeah, that totally sucks, I've been there."

Me following the instruction of Christ in Matthew 10:27: "Oh friend, I'm so sorry. You know, whenever I feel like my husband is distant, I try to find ways to encourage him and love him for exactly where he is. I've spent a lot of time praying for God to change him so that I feel better, but God showed me that if I love my husband where he is at, just like God does, then my heart changes and I soften towards my husband and what he might be going through that I am unaware of."

Because we have to fear God more than we fear being unliked. 

Jesus says in verse 32 that if we acknowledge Him before others, He will acknowledge us before His Father in Heaven. Every one of us who think we could be instant best friends with Joanna Gaines "if only we knew someone who could introduce us", this is that scenario times one hundred billion. There could be nothing better in all the world than to have the Father hear my name from the lips of His very own Son, and He says that if we will simply acknowledge Him before others, He will do just that for us.

Please tell me you see the incredible value in this!

Jesus also tells us in verse 39 that whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ will find real life. And I know what you're thinking, "I live in a free country where no one is going to kill me or imprison me so I'm good. This only mildly applies to me and in ways that are more metaphorical than anything."

But what if it said, "whoever loses his convenience for the sake of Christ will find real life" Or "whoever is willing to have their plans, dreams, and goals disrupted for the sake of Christ will find real life"?

The Spirit of God is whispering to us all the time, asking us to be willing to put down our own desires so that the souls ripe for the hope of Christ might be tended to by the children of God. Are you willing to be interrupted? Are you willing to miss your meeting, or be late with dinner, or make others wait on you because you followed the prompting of the Spirit to have a conversation with someone around you? Because there are people all around you DESPERATE for someone to care to know them. There are people who have lived where you are, in your community, for months or more and never had someone care to get to know who they are. And you and I are brushing past them daily, so focused on our own agendas and needs that we are missing the chance to show them that there is a God who KNOWS them and LOVES them.


How do we follow Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 10:27?

  1. Don’t fear: (vs 28)-“Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul;” Have greater reverence for Jesus than you do for your own likability to others.
  2. Know your value to the Sender: (vs 30-31)-“But even the hairs on your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." He sends you because He has placed value on you to be the one to accomplish the work around you. What is the price being paid for being unable to grasp your value in this whole thing? Souls still desperate to know the Hope found in Christ--a very high price, indeed.
  3. Understand the mission: (vs 34, 37-39)- “Don’t assume I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword… The one who loves a father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; the one who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.” Do we "keep the peace" at the cost of the Gospel?
  4. Frequently evaluate where you stand on this journey of being a disciple of Christ—are you moving forward? Like the disciples, we have the opportunity for promotion--to be given greater tasks and to go further with Christ. Are we willing? Are we pursuing Him now with a heart longing for more?

Friends, we cannot keep this revelation to ourselves. The people we do life around are not just people--they are valuable to God, and He has chosen to use us to show them that. Will you be bold in the reality of Christ in you? Will you share with those around you the things He is doing in you? Will you cease to let fear hold your tongue and keep your life with Christ separate from your life in the world? We have been called to be Ambassadors of Heaven--to represent our Homeland amongst a broken and hurting world. Can we be bold for the sake of the Gospel and remember that this can happen in the simple acknowledgement of Christ in our lives?

 

I would LOVE to hear how you are doing this, what your response is to this lesson straight from Scripture, and how you feel challenged to change your ways. Comment and let's start a conversation!

 

 

The Last Diaper

Tonight, I put the last diaper we own on M. He's actually been potty-trained for a few weeks now, but we've been slowly working our way through his last pack, coining them his "night-time diapers" so as not to confuse him. For days I've glanced at that pack and thought, "man, when is that thing ever going to run out?" Tonight, I guess.

I'm feeling oddly emotional about this. Some would say, "it's just a diaper", but I think the sadness is coming from a deeper place.

I never really thought I'd have a break from diapering between my children. And now I'm done. With no idea of when I will begin again.

The pile of wipe-packs will no longer deplete (thanks, Honest Co, for sending ridiculously unnecessary amounts of wipes) and my cubby specifically for diapers can now be used for other things. And I don't think this is something that I want.

**SIDE NOTE: I am over the moon about my potty-trained boy. He has been an absolute champion at this potty business and I am so freaking proud of him. Like, nearly everyone we come into contact with hears the good news. My sorrow does not leave me wishing we hadn't potty-trained him. So just so we are clear, the potty is awesome.**

It was this time last year I became pregnant with our little one lost. I never thought I would want to be pregnant around the same time because it would be too difficult. But these days I find myself wishing more than anything that I were. My heart believes, some might say foolishly, in God's goodness and provision. I know He will give us another baby. There is so much gladness in that "knowing" and also a bit of fear. Not fear of Him not coming through...

... but fear of my own doubt.

You see, I'm not afraid of losing another one (as it is somewhat likely due to a blood clotting condition I have called Factor V Leiden). I'm not afraid of the high-risk pregnancy that will inevitably ensue as soon as I see those two lines. I'm not even afraid of needing to stick a needle in my belly every day to try to lower the risk of loss.

What I'm afraid of is the part of me that doesn't believe to the point of peace that God's way is best.

There is absolutely nothing that can change about our circumstances just because my attitude wills it to. The dream of kids close in age, while I'm still obnoxiously young (that dream died a long time ago) and able to keep up is getting further and further away, and I'm here trying to understand and grasp God's dream in place of my own. You see, when I close my eyes, the walls of my imagination are still papered in those images I've carried since childhood. 4 babies. All close. Me being perfectly capable of handling it all. But as I close my eyes I see something that is not possible for me, and what I really want to see is the beautiful reality that God is unfolding for us.

But right now we are just at the bold edges of the tapestry. We haven't unrolled it to the point where things get intricate and beautiful and wild.

But I feel we are on the brink.

We are praying big prayers this year. We are believing God to do some incredible things with our lives, simply because we have asked Him to and we are willing to say "yes". If it doesn't play out as adventurous and fabulous in someone else's eyes, we don't care; for our hearts will know the wild adventure that we have gone on with our God.

So tonight, as I say a final farewell to diapers, I'm clinging to hope and praying for a heart that fully believes His way is better. More beautiful. More glorifying.

Because I would rather die than take any other way.

"For I know the thoughts and plans I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans  for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." -Jeremiah 29:11-13|AMP

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.

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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

Being Set Right - #freedomin15

freedom in 15 When Caitlin and I entered into this year-long commitment of receiving and experiencing the freedom we've already been given in Christ, I knew He would have some deep heart work planned for me. But that's how it usually goes for those of us who say "yes" to more of Jesus--we go in, guns blazing, with no clue of what's waiting for us as we venture in. I'm actually thankful for my ignorance otherwise I don't think I would always choose more of Jesus.

I entered into 2015 on the heels of some major loss and grief and weirdness in life, assuming that the worst was behind me, and that it was "safe" to give my boarded-up heart to my Redeemer to do some healing and setting right. I sort of laugh at myself, and the control I thought I had in this act of surrender. It wasn't exactly surrender, it was leaving my thumb and first finger gripped semi-tightly as I handed my wounded heart to God.

And the thing is, life has continued to happen, and because of that I've:

  • Exchanged regular practice time for regular study and reflection time.
  • Exchanged heart opening yoga postures for awareness and correction of my normal, every day posture.
  • Exchanged feelings of "rightness in the world" for questioning how things are the way they are.

See, all of those things I thought I'd do and feel as I ventured in were all within the realm of my own understanding. His realm of understanding is remarkably larger...

I taught this morning on 4 things: He is our protector. He heals our broken hearts and binds our wounds. He is still good. He is still God. I need all 4 of these things. I need to drink them in, have them hit me hard like a wave, and surround me and seep into me like the water does when I'm fully under it. But one thing stuck out to me as the Spirit moved and spoke today:

As he wraps up and binds my wounds, He needs to first set them right. The way I saw it in that moment is that in the midst of heartache there are two options: let the break heal as is, and heal incorrectly creating dysfunction in how life is lived thereafter, or let the wound be set right, so that it can heal as it was originally intended and go forward in victory and in wholeness and restoration.

When I entered into this year of asking my Papa to heal my heart, He knew He needed to do the painful work of setting some things right first. He needed to break some things so they could be moved and changed into their original design.

I began to question the other day if I should keep teaching, or if I should take some time to heal. But the Spirit kept telling me to get on my mat. So I planned a heart opening class this morning and practiced as I taught. At the very end of our active practice I ended us in a forward fold with heart opener, the very same pose I began my year of experiencing freedom with... And guys, I sunk into that pose like the comfiest of sweaters... Like the most perfect embrace... Like my heart felt safe to come out of hiding. I can't explain the feeling beyond saying that it felt like home. A smile crept across my face and in that moment I knew what He's been doing all along.

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Setting things right.

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"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."-Psalm 147:3 (ESV)

It's hard. It hurts. Sometimes I want to yell out in pain and sometimes I want to drown myself in silent tears. But I remember that He hears my cries and He collects my tears, so in whatever I do, it is all for a greater purpose--becoming more like Christ and less like Laura. Nothing is wasted.

I'm totally ok with that.

So if you're joining us on this year of Freedom in '15, let me encourage you to keep letting Him do the hard work of setting things right. Keep leaning into Him, in all the unbearably hard times, and reach out and ask others to lift you up when you can't do it on your own. It takes a room full of people to perform surgeries and fix bones... It's no different in the spiritual surgeries either. He's equipped some awesome people around you to assist Him in creating a good work in you.

Keep placing one foot in front of the other, friends.

laura b

If you are joining us on this journey we would love to see your progress or your postures you hope to find and experience space and freedom in. You can post them here or join us on Instagram by tagging #freedomin15.

My "Ocular Migraine" Season

receivingF Yesterday began like most Mondays--up by 5:45 and out the door to teach Holy Yoga by 6:15. As I drove I prayed over the Truth God had given me for these students on this day, but also noticed how fitting it was for my current season/struggle/wrestle match with God.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever." -Hebrews 13:8

You see, I'm entering (or I thought I was first entering... Turns out He's been prepping the soil and gathering the tools for a long time) into this year choosing to receive and experience the freedom Christ gave me on the cross. When I wrestle with my insecurities, specifically with my body these days, it's easy to think I'm wrestling because I'm trapped. But really, it's sort of like how my son wrestles with his lifeless stuffed animals in his bed. He's grunting and thrashing and wearing the wrestle face like a WWE champ, but he's doing so with powerless beings. I'm wrestling with insecurities that have as little power over me in Christ as the stuffed batman has over M. So this uncomfortable season is always on my mind. A wise woman I know challenged me in considering that these deep things are coming out in a "purging" process of sorts. So I accept that--He needs me to really see how deep these things go so we can remove them one by one. Together.

Back to yesterday. I pulled into church, ready to rely completely on the Spirit as I felt ill-prepared (as per usual) and I read a sign. You see, since I was a kid I've randomly gotten Ocular Migraines. They come on quickly and they are completely random. And they almost entirely wipe out my sight. And every time the plans for my day are kidnapped by said migraines, it always begins with the reading of a sign... and then realizing that I, in fact, can't read the sign at all.

That afternoon, after recovering from the less than enjoyable events of the morning, I spent some time praying about life... About this purging process... And about this season of unknowns. You see, so much of life is like these migraines. Unwanted, unexpected, debilitating and yet familiar.

Wrestling with The Lord over my insecurity is not uncharted territory--we've been here. Many times. But it's still hard. This season was not expected. It feels debilitating in how I live with and love those around me. And it's familiar. And in all of that Jesus Christ is the same.

The same as He was yesterday.

The same as He is today. 

And, spoiler alert, He'll be just as good, faithful, strong and loving for all the rest of my tomorrow's.

If you're facing a migraine-type situation, one that's familiar and leaves you somewhat blinded, remember Hebrews 13:8.

He's the God of the mountaintops and the God of the valleys. He's not the one who changes from location to location; we are. And we get to find so much comfort in the steadfast character of our King.

 

laura b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

freedom in 15

Thanksgiving : Giving Thanks

These days it seems harder and harder to get here, and yet my heart longs for it more and more. Through our season of loss and grief there have been so many moments that the Holy Spirit has made the Word beautifully alive to me. All I've wanted to do is shout each one from the rooftops (or post it on here and let it spread like wildfire--or so I'd hope), but busyness, mom-hood and sometimes simply this season of sorrow have kept these gems between me and my Father. Which is pretty awesome actually. My prayer is for more time here in 2015--I believe wholeheartedly that He has called me to some good things here. But until then, there is one thing I must share with you.


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Now, you maaaaay not know this, but tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I know, I know, it's a little bit nuts. I think it's safe to say that I'm not alone in feeling very unfulfilled at the thought of an American Thanksgiving.

  • Way too much food.
  • Stresses of family.
  • Corralling kid(s) and living on the prayer that they will stay sane throughout this very out-of-routine day.
  • And dishes. So many dishes.

What's it all for these days? We hear so often that we need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude as we enter into the holiday season, kicking it off with the holiday of thanks. But I think what's unsettling to me is this idea that we are to simply walk around with an attitude of thanksgiving.

As I prepared for my holy yoga classes this week, I did some perusing on Wikipedia; you know, for all of the legitimate historical information that would transform me into a scholar on the topic. I found some very interesting facts on the origin of this holiday that, to no surprise to me, correlate pretty perfectly with this faith-life we live with Jesus.

Firstly, there is the pretty oft-forgotten original intention of Thanksgiving. President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, declared it to be an official Federal holiday by proclaiming a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

In a time when Thanksgiving is about all the wrong things, can we take a moment to remember what we are actually supposed to do on this day?

The definition of Beneficent is "characterized by or performing acts of kindness or charity."

Our Father's very character is kindness. It's not something He simply decides to give--it's a part of Him; one that cannot be separated or taken away. If you're like me, you thank God for His kindness with a spirit similar to that of a debtor. Like it was so much work and such a burden for Him to show that kindness to me. But if I focus on the reality that my God's character is to be kind, would my thanks be given with a spirit of adoration? Maybe similar to that of a wide-eyed child thanking their parent from which they are unshakably secure in the knowledge of their love for them? I mean, can't you agree that there is a whole-body shift in you when you thank someone whom you feel indebted to versus someone whom you know you owe nothing in return? That is our Father. Our King. The One we celebrate tomorrow for.

The other thing that I just have to say is this: there is a mighty huge difference between simply having an attitude of gratitude and actually giving thanks. You can walk around all day long feeling thankful, but at that point your gratitude is about you. Sort of. But when you open your lips and speak out your praise, so that the One you are thanking (and all those around you) would see your joy and praise for His character of kindness, it becomes about Him.

Say your husband shovels the driveway for you. You feel thankful. Inside. Your gratitude cannot reach any further than your own self. But as soon as you open your lips and tell your husband how appreciative you are of his kindness and service, your gratitude has reached another--it's become about him and not about you.

The same goes for our King. And the same goes for what we celebrate tomorrow.

So as you prepare and bake and shop and clean today, can I challenge you with something? Please, oh please, take 5 minutes, a pen and some paper and sit. Prayerfully meditate on the kindness of the Lord in your life. And yes, things like food on the table and loved ones are important, but I'm talking specific things.

"The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating "thanksgivings"--days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought."-Good ol' Wikipedia

Has the Lord just won a battle for you? Where has He been victorious in your life this week? This month? This season?

Are you finally beginning to experience springs of Living Water after a season in the desert with the Lord? Are you seeing the harvest of your commitment to sowing the Truth in your mind, your family or your ministry?

Now once you've meditated on these things I want you to write them down. Make a list, sloppy or neatly bulleted, and carry this around with you tomorrow. As you visit with family members or friends, share one or all of these things with them, because as Psalm 105 tells us, we are "to make known His doings among the peoples". Let it be known to those around you that you are loved by a Father who is kind. Any maybe, just maybe, let this year be the beginning of your families accurate celebration of this very battered and stolen holiday.

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"O give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His Name, make known His doings among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; meditate on and talk of all His marvelous deeds and devoutly praise them. Glory in His holy Name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek and require  the Lord [as their indispensable necessity].-Psalm 105:1-3 AMP (emphasis mine)

Tomorrow is your thanksgiving. The schedule, food, family or black friday ads needn't determine how you celebrate it. So celebrate your King tomorrow. Take back the holiday for yourself and your family. Maybe, if we each share this with our own families this year, it can continue to grow and one day we can see this holiday as it was meant to be.

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Swapping Trolls For Truth

My heart has been heavy these days. There has been several little troll-like thieves rummaging through my heart and mind, taking the Truth and leaving in it's place little poisonous mines for me to trip, setting off bombs that seem to take me longer to recover from than I'd like to admit.

Troll #1: Comparison.

Troll #2: Doubt.

Troll #3: Defeatism.

If you were a kid in the late 80's/early 90's than you may have had one (or many like me) of these:

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So cute, right? The little gemstone belly buttons, I mean, come on. That combined with their matching mood-lifting florescent hair is almost enough to make you forget that they are trolls. Weird looking, and really actually creepy, trolls.

Most of the time, as I'm living in little "t" truths, these are the guys managing my mind and heart like a factory. Producing the best of lies so that I might continue my life under the cloak of despair, only living in a sliver of the freedom and redemption that He paid for on Calvary. Because they are cute I don't fight with abandon to get rid of them. But I know they are there and shouldn't be. I know that Truth is being replaced and so I begin to seek it out; to find what has been lost. There's awareness that something is not right.

After piecing together thoughts, Truths and the whispers and booms of the Holy Spirit, it all begins to make sense. Truth, like BIG "T" TRUTH, floods my mind and I immediately feel like this:

 

 (If you watch Sherlock **If you're not you should** then this makes a whole lot of sense to you)

All the clippings, the Truth's, the sightings of reality and original design, coming into alignment. And the trolls are out of the job. They are seen for what they really are. Trolls. Trolls that don't actually have gemstone belly buttons or magical hair. As a matter of fact, their hair is probably the second grossest thing about them.

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Days and revelations like this are why it is so important for us to have fellowship, discipline and, most importantly, regular time with Jesus. Unless we keep pinning up Truths on the walls of our hearts and minds, those trolls will keep working hard at replacing them with lies. And it's so crucial that we have others that we invite in to pin truths up for us when we can't lift our heads to find see them ourselves.

Mediate. Find a passage or two and med-i-tate. Mull. Chew. Sit with it and feel, smell and taste all that it is.

Want to know what I'm chewing on today?

May He keep us centered and devoted to Him, following the life path He has cleared. -1 Kings 8:58

and

You have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence. -Acts 2:28

We always want to know what we can do or take to make our life what we want it to be. Just a quick fix, please, Lord. But today, let's slow down, fire the trolls, and meditate on His Truth. Let's begin to build a fortified wall around these sacred places in us. Brick by brick. Truth by Truth.

Remember, again, that the "today" in this journey is just as important as the "one day".

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Rescued. Redeemed.

I have a lot of thoughts. Today was one of many times when all the loose threads seemed to intersect and make something beautiful in my head. A complete thought. A complete reality.

I've had several moments in the past few weeks where I've been reminded of my youth. My painful past, full of a significant amount of regret and many wrongdoings, both from me and to me. Isn't it just hard when you face those things again? And then immediately after you taste that ugly, you are washed with grace remembering that it is no longer a part of you anymore. You're clean. You're white like fresh fallen snow. The kind that when the sun shines on it it's almost blinding. That's how redeemed I am. And if you know and proclaim that Jesus came for you, to rescue you on the Cross, then so are you.

I'm often in awe of the reality that God set me apart... that He made the choice to save me for His purposes. This has always been a beautiful truth to me but not one where I've been able to recall memories of His hand on my life before I knew of salvation. Yesterday, while going through boxes of my old childhood junk (including my shrine to 'NSYNC, to which my 13 year old niece said, "Who are these guys?" I mean, can you even believe that?!) I was taken aback by how present God was in my life long before I ever knew Him.

I found a Veggie Tales journal, that I, no doubt, had because I thought the vegetables were cute, and inside I wrote what Bob the tomato always said at the end of each episode: "God made you special and he loves you very much." I was like, 12, so I didn't frequently watch those vegetables, but my little cousins did. While I was enamored with the animation and the cute veggies, somewhere in my youthful and fragile heart, He was drawing me. Without knowing it, each day that I wrote an assignment in that journal for school, I was doing so on a page with scripture printed on it. His Word was in front of me, long before I knew how life-giving it would be.

In Holy Yoga we often come against those who feel strongly against what we believe God is doing in the hearts of those who worship this way. And please hear me when I say this:

*I am not inviting debate on the topic by writing about this. While I am always open to discuss what I believe God is doing in this, I do not believe in doing so via comment reels. So please refrain from taking a soapbox here, and if you would like, I'm happy to speak directly. Just shoot me an email.*

I read a discussion between several instructors yesterday about this topic and as I drove home from attending a Holy Yoga class this morning I found my mind going back to the whole idea. Everything on this earth was created by God. Everything. The movements we make. The air that goes in and out of our lungs. The words that we speak. Everything.

My God is big. He's big enough to redeem everything back to Himself.

He was big enough to redeem me.

You see, He created me, but like yoga or sex or alcohol, I could have been lost for forever. All that bad that I did as a youth could have continued into adulthood and I could be contributing to corruption in the world I live in and influence the same way that alcohol, sex, drugs, adultery and violence do in others.

But He rescued me.

Because in the midst of all that badness was the imprint of the Creator on me.

As I drove this morning and listened to a beautiful song that spoke directly to my rescue, I couldn't help but think of a couple of specific poses that very personally reflect my adoration of God for saving me.

In my eyes, that is like His imprint on yoga.

Others can use yoga for their purposes, just as they use their bodies, which were created by God, for their own desires and self-fulfillment. But for me, and many others, so many of the poses reflect one beautiful action: full worship of the Creator God.

We don't live in a culture that often practices full-body worship. But I encourage you to try it once. In your own space, just between you and God, see what it's like to lay flat on your face while you cry out the song of your heart. Or stand in your room, close your eyes, lift your hands with fingers spread wide, and just move for Him. Show Him how worthy He is of ALL of your praise.

Because whether we think it's appropriate or not, He is worth immeasurably more worship than we ever feel free enough to give Him.

The enemy would like us to waste breath and heart on discussing whether something is right or wrong. God looks at the heart. He looks at your heart. Are you willing to look with Him? And believe me, if He knows your heart is out of line He will waste little time in telling you so. So take your Bible and your body and stand before Him. And do yourself and God a huge service and leave anyone else's opinions at the door. In this time, they will not serve you.

John 3:30 says, "He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less." (NLT) The "less and less" in this passage means "to decrease in authority or popularity." Do you think that maybe, when it comes to matters of political correctness or "choosing the right side", "we", with our opinions and ideas, should become less popular and the Truth that comes from the Spirit through the living Word of God should be given ultimate authority?

Just remember, He was planning out your rescue plan long before you knew you needed it. And maybe, just maybe, He has a redemption plan, even for yoga, to be used to bring Him glory.

When I got home I just had to move a bit to that song, and worship Him for having His hand on me long before I knew of my need for salvation. While it is so far from perfect, and not exactly planned out, this is worship. Just move for Him. He gave you your body so that the Spirit of the Almighty would dwell there, so worship Him with it.

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Sugar God- Call A Spade A Spade.

Before I sat down to write this, I polished off a little bowl of trail mix. Not so bad, you say? Well noshing on M&Ms before 11am is not exactly a winning way to start my day. Just because there's peanuts and raisins mixed with them doesn't make them any less sinful. Let me just clarify something here- Eating M&Ms is not a sin. I find this topic to be very similar, if not spot on, with Jesus giving perspective to adultery and murder.

We say, "It's not like I killed anybody." He says, "I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder."

We say, "I've never cheated on my spouse." He says, "Don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices-- they also corrupt." (verses from Matthew 5 of the Message)

I say, "I only worship the one, true God. I have no other idols before Him." He says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mk 8:34)

And to this I ask myself, "How willing am I to die to this desire of my flesh?" Because for me, this is not just a matter of occasional indulgence. This is something that, more often than not, nearly consumes my thoughts, and definitely drives my actions and attitude. So it no longer becomes "sugar" that I need to die to but the idol of self-indulgence. The "right" to call the shots and "satisfy" myself whenever I want.

And that right there, friends, is the unveiling. The moment when something "common" and "not that big of a deal" is seen for what it really is--something that takes the place of worship in my heart and mind.

So, am I willing to die to those yearnings. While the sugar itself may or may not be horrible for me, it's a question of obedience. Will I place Him first before self-satisfaction? Will I believe Him to be of greater worth and satisfaction than that which my mouth can taste?

We are asked to give things up not because we have a power hungry God. We are asked in order that He may see where He can go with us. How far down this God-glorifying life can we travel? Because unless we die to ourselves and our desire to be glorified, He will not be given glory.

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So where do we go from here? This week, check out these verses with me and see what the Spirit has to say about them to you. Because we all know this is bigger than the over-processed white crap in our pantries. As are most things, it's a matter of the heart, and our hearts are deceitful above all things, so they need a good talking-to on the regular.

1. Matthew 7:13-14: Our culture relies heavily on the latest fad diet to get us ripped quick and wafer thin by Sunday. What if, in this, we took the narrow road? What does that idea look like for you? Is cutting out sugar the "narrow" or "wide" road? Does the idea of digging deeper bring about feelings of anxiety or a welcome challenge?

2. 1 John 5:19-21: Take a moment, close your eyes, breath, and whisper to yourself, "I am a child of God." Do this over and over and over... and over. Do this until your mind begins to open up to this holy truth. Then read this passage again. What understanding has He given you regarding this little idol? Ask Him to show you what your body is really yearning for that sweets are simply numbing temporarily. Ask Him what you can do now, today, to keep yourself from the idol and nearer to your King.

3. Mark 8:22-24: Believe your God. Believe that He is for you. Believe that He is more satiating than the most decadent of desserts. Believe that, even if it's every 45 seconds, He will hold your hand as you say "no" over and over and over again. Meditate on this little treasure and as you face the "lions" in your kitchen this week expectantly ask Him to show up and, with dukes raised, help you knock the temptation out. Because He actually does care about these things. These types of things are not below His level of concern. When it comes to His son or daughter, any and every level is of His concern.

I would really love to hear how this goes for you this week, and I will share how it goes for me. And know that, even if tomorrow is another day that includes M&Ms before noon, there is no condemnation there. This is much more than that and He's not interested in shaming for a handful of sweets. He's interested in lifting our eyes so they are fixed on Him and not what's hiding in the cupboard.

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When They Met Jesus

Well, I am (almost) officially a Holy Yoga Instructor. Once I get that certificate in hand it will really be real. Entering back into "the real world" leaves me, at times, wondering if all of the memories of the past week actually happened. It went by thoroughly and quickly; each moment dripping with meaning. I know that these photos in my mind represent reality because seeping through all of them is one truth: it was there I met Jesus. While that could sound somewhat confusing, seeing as I've written about, talked about and learned about Jesus for years and years (He first ransomed my heart when I was 16), let me clarify. Similar to Mary, or Thomas, or the others who saw Jesus after His resurrection, it wasn't a first meeting. But also similar to them, it was a meeting that would change the way I worship, serve and adore Him forever.

I've been trying to decide what to do next. My days have been full of homework, practice, reading and anticipating since March. Now that's all done and I'm wondering, "what do I do?" I decided, after conversing with my King, that I should spend some time seeing what others did after they met Jesus.

Upon reading the gospels, it doesn't take long to see that Jesus met a lot of people. The proud. The sick. The educated. The lame. The desperate. The "satisfied".

Each had their own responses to Jesus. Each acted or reacted differently. The one similarity is that they all came face to face with the opportunity for change.

The Pharisee's, time and time again, ridiculed, cornered and slandered Jesus. They had the One true Messiah right there with them, and they chose to listen to their educated minds instead of opening their hearts to what God was doing.

The man born blind obeyed, regardless of how ridiculous Jesus' command was. In that obedience he not only witnessed but was a part of an incredible miracle. He didn't laugh at Jesus and tell Him He was nuts. He didn't doubt and tell Jesus He was unable to do as He asked. He got up and went to wash, just as he had been told, believing there was a purpose for it; a purpose that would immensely bless the blind man and wonderfully glorify Jesus.(Jn 9:6-12)

While enjoying their last supper with Jesus, having been explained the events that were to come, the disciples chose to discuss which of them was the best. With the Messiah right there at the table, their focus was still inward. (Lk 21:24)

Jesus, pulling a little child into their circle, sets the disciples straight by stating that unless they become more like-minded with this little child, they will never enter the Kingdom. How uncertain, and possibly anxious, must that child have been, being pulled into the middle of a discussion with Jesus and His disciples? That's like the popular of popular kids choosing him to come and partake in their secret discussions. And yet Jesus used him, the least likely, to educate the ones who were the "chosen". (Mt 18:1)

I have seen myself in all of the above stories. There are so many things I've taken away from them and many other stories of meeting Jesus. Seeing the close-mindedness of the Pharisees, the simple obedience of the blind man, the pride and self-awareness of the disciples and the unknowing use of the child all encourage me and inspire me to heed these examples as I process the last week of my life. There is one person, however, that really brings courage, understanding and hope to my heart.

Peter.

When Jesus asked him to leave his job and all he knew to follow him he obeyed. He earnestly proclaimed to Jesus his undying devotion. Throwing caution to the wind he unabashedly fought to protect Jesus from danger. When cornered by unbelievers, he chose non-confrontation over the truth of his heart and denied his devotion to his King. When he heard Jesus' body was missing he ran to it, and without fear entered in. Jesus appeared to Peter and some of the others while they were out fishing and upon seeing that the Savior was ashore, Peter jumped into the water to run to his Lord. He was given a new start--a clean slate-- and never turned back. He went on to save thousands and proclaim the Messiah Jesus Christ. Peter got to be a part of some incredible things, and like so many before him, he was chosen regardless of being so very far from perfect.

I'm so thankful for Peter. Remembering him reminds me that, even though I've loved and served and proclaimed Jesus for many years, there is grace for all of those moments I chose myself over Jesus. There is mercy for the many times I chose my sin and my idols over my God. That it is more than possible for Jesus to ransom my heart, yet again, and this time for it to "stick".

You see, the reason things haven't stuck in the past has nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with me. Each and every day that I wake up and take that blessed breath, I have the opportunity to choose life over death. The things I saw, the freedoms I felt, are true and real and good. The realities of my past were washed away long ago, and my heart and mind have finally made the choice: to believe my Savior and to no longer live in the false reality that I am unforgivable.

Isn't it crazy that it's really that "simple"? All I had to do was believe. Really believe.

Believe that Jesus is who He says He is... because either all of scripture is true or none of it is. I can't believe He died and rose from the grave but not believe that it happened to wash me clean.

This is (a bit) of the story of what happened to me when I met Jesus on that mountain.

Like Peter, and countless others, I've chosen to believe the truth of my salvation. I've chosen to grab hold of my Savior and never look back. He is undeniably holy and good. I am ruined for anything other than Him.

From what was: "too fat, never enough, always disappointing, ever-failing, never succeeding."

To what is: "child of God."

Hallelujah!

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He Thought He "Might"

I've been given the assignment to read Luke 22-24 every day this week, in varying translations, in preparation for the celebration of my Saviors Triumph over sin and death. So tonight I thought I'd get started. Chocolate in hand, I nestled in to begin my reading. I distractedly fumbled through various translations until I came across the one I felt my busy mind could clearly digest. I believe I read the first 3 verses at least 5 times, each time ending in some sort of distraction. When I finally got focused enough to read past verse 3, I came to a screeching halt at verse 4.

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"And Judas went to the priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus."

We all know how we feel about Judas. I mean, right from the get-go we know not to like him because some way or another we know he's the slimy one. He's the "one" who dared to betray Jesus. But if we hadn't been given a glimpse into the end, would we feel that way? Would we know him to be any different than the other 11?

"They were delighted and agreed to give him money." (V. 5)

Whether these priests and temple guards knew of Judas' temptation with money or not, Satan knew. Verse 3 clearly states that Satan "entered Judas", so really, the guy had a lot going against him. As I read this, I couldn't help but think of my weaknesses. Of your weaknesses. Of all of our weaknesses and things that set us apart from Jesus. There's always a tug for us to come back to this dark world; the things that could turn our "might"s into "will"s. Satan knows which strings to tug because he sees the weak ones.

So the priests offered him money.

I found this commentary on Judas and his money-lovin' to be quite enlightening: "Then entered Satan-- but not yet in the full sense. The awful stages of it were these: 1) Covetousness being his master... the Lord let it reveal itself and gather strength by entrusting him with "the bag" as treasurer to Himself and the Twelve. 2) In the discharge of that most sacred trust he became "a thief", appropriating its contents from time to time to his own use. Satan, seeing this door into his heart standing wide open, determines to enter by it, but cautiously; first merely "putting it into his heart to betray Him" (John 13:2), suggesting the thought to him that by this means he might enrich himself. 3) This thought was probably converted into a settled purpose by what took place at Simon's house at Bethany (Matt 26:6). 4) Starting back, perhaps, or mercifully held back, for some time, the determination to carry it into immediate effect was not consumed till, sitting at the pashal supper, "Satan entered into him", and conscience effectually stifled, only rose again to be his tormentor." -Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Commentary on Luke 22

Judas struggled with other gods. I struggle with other gods. You struggle with other gods. We all have a door, that just might be wide open, and Satan sees it. What's so incredible to me in reading this commentary is within the first couple of sentences. "The Lord let it reveal itself." Often the question arises, "If Jesus knew everything, why did He let someone like Judas into the Twelve? I think He knew what all of their doors were. Maybe some were open wider than others. But that is not the point-- the point is that He chose him anyways. He knew Judas would betray him in an awful way, and yet He loved him, chose him, and entrusted His wealth to him.

One of my doors is food/self-indulgence. God knows that. He knows that over and over I will have chosen those things over Him. But He doesn't relinquish food from me in an effort to ensure that I will prove myself faithful to Him. If anything, I'd like to know why He has given me a love of baking and a talent for cooking--seems a bit counter-productive if you ask me. He could have made me an awful cook or a failure at baking. But therein lies the beauty.

He wants to see Himself in me. This can only happen through refinement by fire. Refinement cannot take place in the absence of defect. If it were so, there would be no need for refinement.

"For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver." -Psalm 66:10

God is not put off by the work required in refining me. He attentively, tenderly, and passionately sees through the muck and mire and stays by my side until refinement has taken place. And I think this is when we can see the doors close, if not completely, at least a little bit more.

By grace and His attentive care, I can confidently say that my food door is closing rapidly by the minute. Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son!

Judas, like millions of others before and after him, did not enter the fire. His conscious stifled, he allowed Satan to enter in. I think that Judas merits our efforts, upon reading of Jesus betrayal, to move ourselves from the side of "oh I know him, he's that guy who did the horrible thing I would never do." to the side of, "oh I know him because I know me. Jesus, mercy please. Thank you for saving me." Because the reality is, we all might, do a lot of things. It is when we draw close to God that He allows those "might"s to reveal themselves and in mercy we are given the choice to go a different way.

Judas, like the other disciples, has a mighty lesson to teach us if we will be honest enough with ourselves to listen. We are more like him than we think.

Praise you, Jesus, for your merciful love. Thank you for trusting us anyways, even when you know we will fail you. Your love is boundless and we will never understand it. Please, Savior, show us how deeply you entrust Yourself and Your commission into our feeble, failing hands. Mercy, beautiful One. We praise you.

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love." -1 Corinthians 16:13-14

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29 - A Birthday Blog

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I realize 29 is still young; I'm not going to be that woman, but for the baby of the family (by 8 years) it's hard to imagine myself so close to 30. Especially when I'm married to a man who is 4 years younger than me. (Yes, it's true. He's the luckiest of 'em for snagging an older chick.)

I woke up quite early today (4am) and as I laid there my mind began to dutifully travel down the path of birthday drudgery- "Man, you're almost THIRTY!", "You're only going to get fatter and frumpier from here on out.", "You've only got a year or so left before your joints start to ache and you lose your spunk."

Obviously these statements are all absurd, and it took me all of 2 seconds to snap out of it and change course. The truth of my heart is this: the older I get the better I get. Maybe not everyone is like this. I know there are many women who try to hold onto their twenties with all they have, but that's just not me. Thankfully, my husband doesn't mind a woman with little makeup on her face, dirty feet from never wearing shoes and hours spent in the kitchen or craft room home-making like the best of them instead of hours spent pampering herself. The older I get the less I care about myself... but in the absolute best way possible.

Recently I've been contemplating just how much our "self-worth" can't actually be about self at all. I plan on writing about this one day (soon) but today I'd like to put pen to paper some of the things that make me glad about being that much closer to 30. (And no, this is not going to be a "30 is the new 20" thing... honestly, I'm not interested in living my 20's any longer than God intended me to.)

What's So Great About Heading Out Of My 20's:

1. The older I get the more life I've lived. Duh. But in that obvious statement is a very beautiful truth: God has been faithful to me. Part of parenting that terrifies me is the reality that I am NOT guaranteed any number of days with my sweet boy. He belongs to God and each day with him is quite literally a gift. Even the bad days. Similarly, my life and each day of it I've lived has not been guaranteed. It has been a product of His faithful love to me and to those that love me. Above that, I believe He has chosen these days in order that He may complete His work in me, that He decided before the earth was formed. He still has more to do with me... I can't even conceive how awesome that Truth is. So, I'm heading into my 30th year of God choosing to keep me around, choosing to show me who He is, and choosing to bless me and use me and love me immensely. Guys, each one of us should be jaw-droppingly grateful right now for all the days we've lived. How faithful is the God of the universe? Inconceivably faithful.

2. In these 29 years I, like everyone else, have experienced challenge. I've made bad choices. I've chosen myself or the world or idols over my God. And I have an enemy who tries with all his might to wash me in guilt and shame over these experiences. This, again, is something I plan on writing about in the (soonish) future. Again, the Truth here, is that in each of those instances I've been showered with grace, mercy, love and restoration. And in turn God has grown me in wisdom. When I think of this I can't help but look ahead at the next 29 years with anxious anticipation. If each hardship or bad decision has already been washed by His saving grace and will in turn grow me in wisdom and closeness with God, then how could I not be excited for each year He blesses me with?

3. That husband of mine. While he still has some time to camp out in his 20's, I can't help but love "growing older" with him. Knowing that as each year passes I get to fall more in love with him makes my eyes widen in wonder. How is it possible? Knowing that God will use us for His glory makes me never want to leave his side. There is adventure and love and joy and heartache that we can't begin to imagine awaiting us in this future of ours. I absolutely can't wait.

4. Sweet little M. How is it possible for God to love me so much? This child (and I'm sure our future children as well) is a constant reminder of my Lord. In each smile my heart swells at the love lavished on me, and in each tantrum I'm left with nothing but to cry out for the strength to parent from His spirit, not my flesh. If you desire to grow in your faith and love of the Lord, have a child and open yourself up to allow God to use that child. You will be taught things no pastor could ever teach.

5. Something I've struggled with for most of my adolescent and adult life has been friendships--specifically one-sided friendships. In those relationships was a deep-rooted need for affirmation. "If she would just want to be my friend as much as I want to be her friend then that would mean I matter." Sometime this last year I spent a good amount of time thinking about this part of my past and I found myself feeling sad. How many great relationships were overlooked because I was focused on someone else, thinking they were the ones to give me value? As God has graciously opened my heart to see the dark spaces, He has shown me how no human being is able to give me value. Only He can give me value, so even if I were best friends with each of those women I would still be left wanting more. In the not-so-pretty revealing moments of this part of my heart God has been faithful (yet again). He has brought some wonderful women into my life. Our lifestyle has forced us to be away "physically" from many that we love, but I've been blessed to establish some deep and meaningful friendships despite the distance. While I may not get to shop or have coffee and study God's word with my best friends, I always know that they deeply love the Lord and me, and that no matter where life takes us, they are a blessing and never the source of my value. What an awful burden for anyone to have to carry. (I'm glad you ladies don't know who you are otherwise you'd probably feel an immense pressure knowing how much I had riding on our friendship in this anxious heart of mine.)

Those are just some of many reasons why I'm happy to be making my way out of my 20s. I'm grateful beyond words for each and every way He has directed my life thus far, and in that gratitude I can't help but be so joyful as I look to the future.

These days that we celebrate our birth... they are really absolutely not about us. They are 100% about our Maker. It is because of His faithful love that He has chosen this many days for us. Days of love, heartache, loneliness, joy, growth, change, and above all, blessings.

Guys, 29 is so good. Just wait until Taylor Swift is 29; she'll know exactly what I mean and write a catchy song about it. #justyouwait

One Of The Nine

Well, I am one of the nine. I was sure it couldn't be true but turns out it is. Allow me to explain.

This morning, as I rocked my sweet M before his nap and read to him out of his Jesus Calling Bible Storybook, I found myself reading a story of Jesus' healing that I didn't remember. If you've ever read either this children's bible or the Jesus Storybook Bible (an absolutely amazing one that I sort of want for myself), it's easy to find yourself uplifted, challenged and/or encouraged by stories you've read a hundred times before. There's something about reading it through the eyes of a child that brings about simplicity.

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As I read the above story (which you should read too) I told myself, with such confidence, that I was definitely the one who came back. Surely I would have remembered Jesus and gone back to thank Him first thing! I mean, how could you not?

Fast forward about an hour.

I had just finished spending some time with the Lord on my mat, and with each stretch of the tight spaces I found my heart crying out for Him to come into the tight spaces of my heart. To bring release to the "ways of the world" that are so ingrained in my behaviors and responses. By the time I finished I found myself so encouraged by His promise to bring healing to this heart of mine that I just knew I needed to share that encouragement with the world.

So, naturally, I got out my phone, snapped a few pictures, examined which was the best, and began my usual social-media-posting process.

And then it happened.

I joined the nine.

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As I stared at this photo, I came to realize the parts of my heart that I don't like to see. The parts that find a little more satisfaction in telling others of His goodness and grace than in coming back to Him and thanking Him, in the intimacy of the two of us, for all that He is doing in me.

I could chalk this up to reason #498 that Social Media is slowly ruining our lives but really, that's just blame shifting. It's not that those nine had it "wrong", they just got ahead of themselves... but sometimes care must be taken to not "get ahead" of where He wants to take us. I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus wants us to share these revelatory moments with the world, in order that the Truth of who He really is might be known. But I CANNOT forget to thank Him-always. In everything. And I cannot forget that while He wants to use our stories to encourage, grow and change others, our relationship is not about the "others". It's about Him.

And sometimes, like the story of Jairus' daughter in Mark 5 (thank you, again, Bible Storybook), Jesus asks us not to tell the world. Sometimes He wants to keep it between us, because that's when intimacy is created.

So there you have it. I'm one of the nine.

Oh Lord! Open my heart to love you more, that I might become that one.

May I discover what it means to share His goodness with the world after first delighting in Him with a heart of thanksgiving. And may you, too.

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