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

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

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

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


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

I forgot I needed it for awhile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Peace | Hillsong Young & Free



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

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

Reflections From Mark 5 | That Woman Who Dared To Believe

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

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

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

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

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

Well geez.

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

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

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

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

She was the bleeding woman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He stopped. Everyone stopped. He looked around.

'Who just touched My robe?'"

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

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

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

"But Jesus waited" (vs 32)

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

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

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

For her benefit and for theirs.

As I journaled through this I wondered 2 things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

#freedomin15--His Unique Creation

One of the best things about being with other believers is the (hoped for) grace usually given by all. It's March 16th and this month's freedom post is just now posted. Grace. February was a shorter month anyways, so I'm not as off track as the calendar says. How are you? Where is the Lord taking you in your freedom journey? How far off were you in your assumption of how this would go down? I was way off. Like, waaaaaay off. And I can only assume I'm still way off, even knowing what I do 2 months in. Grace again, right?


receivingF

The Lord has brought Psalm 139 to the forefront of my mind this month. Several times it has been referenced in various places, and has come across in my own study time. For me it's one of the many verses that I sort of skim over because, well, I know all about it (insert finger quotations).

I'm wonderfully made. 

His works are marvelous.

He knew me in my mother's womb.

But He knew I needed a lesson in His heart. I needed to know, in a different way, the words He knew my heart and mind longed to read.

O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am; You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again.     Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking. You observe my wanderings and my sleeping, my waking and my dreaming,     and You know everything I do in more detail than even I know. You know what I’m going to say long before I say it.     It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone. You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me,     and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder. It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out;     the realization of it is so great that I cannot comprehend it.

Can I go anywhere apart from Your Spirit?     Is there anywhere I can go to escape Your watchful presence?

If I go up into heaven, You are there.     If I make my bed in the realm of the dead, You are there. If I ride on the wings of morning,     if I make my home in the most isolated part of the ocean, 10 Even then You will be there to guide me;     Your right hand will embrace me, for You are always there. 11 Even if I am afraid and think to myself, “There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me,     the light around me will soon be turned to night,” 12 You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes.     For You the night is just as bright as the day.     Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes.

13 For You shaped me, inside and out.     You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. 14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.     You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;     Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul. 15     You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You As I took shape in secret,     carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb. 16 You see all things;     You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb; Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;     You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it. 17 Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them!     How grand in scope! How many in number! 18 If I could count each one of them, they would be more than all the grains of sand on earth. Their number is inconceivable!     Even when I wake up, I am still near to You.

19 I wish You would destroy all the wicked, O God.     So keep away from me, those who are thirsty for blood! 20 For they say such horrible things about You,     and those who are against You abuse Your good name. 21 Is it not true that I hate all who hate You, Eternal One?     Is it not true that I despise all who come against You? 22 Deep hatred boils within me toward them;     I am Your friend, and they are my enemies. 23 Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am.     Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain. 24 Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me,     and guide me down Your path forever.

-Psalm 139 (the Voice)

There is so much here. And if you do like I had always done, and skim through this, you are missing a very direct love letter to that girl inside who shames herself and her body. Who tells herself that her talents aren't good enough and that her body will always disappoint. Come with me to verse 14:  

"I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.     You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;     Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul."

Read that verse again and then stop and ask yourself this question: What kind of woman or man would I be if I truly lived these words?

What if your heart was deeply grateful for His handiwork? For the ways in which He is using you in this world? For the wife He made you to be, or the mother? For the brother He has made you to be or the son? What if you could truly open your hands to heaven, let a smile sweep across your face, and stand in wonder and awe for what He. has. given. you?
This is a big deal, brothers and sisters. Because regardless of what we feel or see with our own eyes, the TRUTH is that HIS WORKS ARE WONDERFUL. Period. There is no possible way you could win an argument against this truth. You would lose. Badly.
So trade in your debate cards on this subject for the knowledge of this truth. And begin to carry it deep within your soul. The exchange is a no-brainer.

And allow me to challenge you to something greater. To a life immersed in His truth. Ask the Lord to grow you in your ability to default to what you know of HIM instead of what you know of you when the going gets tough and the enemies taunting words of deceit seem to sound a lot like truth.

-Laura

*For added encouragement this month, go ahead and print or save this image. And make this your mantra--for March and maybe even for the rest of the year. image


experiencingF

My life these days is a far cry from what it used to be. A few years ago, if you had asked me who I was I would have immediately recognized myself as an endurance athlete, but now I no longer consider myself one which is at times odd considering I somewhat branded myself as a triathlete by tattooing it on my arm. I no longer train or follow a weekly regimented plan. There are no future races on my calendar to obsess over, and honestly, I am barely practicing yoga on my own except when I am teaching.

Yet, I am the happiest I have ever been in my body.

When I reflect back on my time as an athlete, I realize now I was striving for deep perfection in body image. I started racing because I was running from deep hurt in my life, and so I identified myself through training and the way I was disciplining my body. My time on the road, in the pool, or in the gym became the spaces in my day where I could escape from life, and at times God. I found myself so ingrained in training for perfection, that I misconstrued the idea of healthy living. Though my body was probably in it’s best shape physically because I was pushing it so hard, I was never truly happy--with life or with my body image. I always needed a little more definition, more shapely abs, and less curve in my hips.

Now, as I practice yoga for healing and the sheer joy it brings to my soul by being able to connect with my Creator on my mat, I am starting to view my body in a different light. Though my legs are not lean and taut, and my abdominals are not defined, God has opened my eyes to what my body has been designed for. The way He has created us as women, our bodies are meant to go through changes, and mine, in all of it’s curves, is preparing, eventually, to house a tiny human and give life. Though my journey to the splits has not advanced over the last two months, and even in my realization that I physically may never be able to move my body into this pose because of how I am structured, my striving for this pose does not run my life. As I advance in my forearm stand, I see how God is helping me to let go of my deep-seeded distaste for my curves allowing me to freely shift my world upside down. I am letting go and learning to fly.

I am no longer practicing yoga to escape from something.

I am practicing yoga to find the woman God has created me to be. Every curvy piece of her.

-Caitlin


Yoga Poses

If you are working on your heart space, hang out here. If you are working into your hips and lower body, head on over to see what Caitlin has for you this month!

I'm so thankful that winter is over so I can get outside and cartwheel around in the sunshine. So I can #stopdropandyoga any and everywhere. It's not the easiest to kick up into handstand or hold crow pose when you've got a big ol' jacket on, boots, mittens and a hat. I'm in dire need of some dirty bare feet.

This month for me has consisted of a lot of non-yoga exercises to open my heart space.

Christina Mroz has published several great posts about opening the shoulders and realigning your posture. Please oh please head over and view her video on opening shoulders. If you don't have a bolster yet then go and get one. They are amazing and can be used to release basically any part of your body.

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I've been doing this one almost daily and just love it.

Another part of my problem is my neck. Chad Walding and his wife have created a program called Sitting Solution, and their website is chock-full of wonderful resources. This exercise has been a good one for me to strengthen the muscles in the back of my neck. Along with this I have been very aware of the placement of my head during my practice. So instead of hanging my head in plank/bear/chair/up-dog, I've been intentionally drawing up and back and engaging those muscles along the backside of my neck. image

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Sometimes it's a matter of adding a variation or another whole pose to your practice in order to move into greater openness and sometimes it's a matter of doing things off of your mat in order to create more freedom on it. Please take a few minutes and check out these resources, and see what else you can be doing off of your mat to increase openness in your heart space. Our dysfunction is still our dysfunction whether we are on our mats or not. Becoming more aware of that can be the key to greater success and fruit for your labor.

Thanks for being patient this month. March is halfway over, so I will see you in about two weeks!

Peace, dear ones.

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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

When You Come Together Changed--A Post About Reuniting

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

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

Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!

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

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

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

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

But what do you do when you come back together?

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

In enters our will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Six Years Without You

Because of all of the excitement last week, I blew right past a pretty important day of celebration in my little life. It was six years ago that I "went under the knife" and said, "good riddance" to my always-troubling colon. I never had much of a chance to reminisce and soak in all the mercy and faithfulness of my God, but I have been these past couple of days.

 

Guys, God has been incredibly good to me-with and without my colon.

 

I wrote a post last year for my five-year anniversary, and if you wish to learn more about my story I encourage you to read it below. While this may not be a much talked-about subject, it happens to more people than you would think. In this past year God has carried me through a journey of wholeness-to a place where I have learned to not only appreciate this physical being of mine, but to praise Him for it. To love it. To care for it. My God is a God who heals-Mind, body and soul. Hallelujah! All glory to God!

 

Life can flourish, and your body can heal... even if that means your poo will be a little bit different.

 

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Originally posted May 18th, 2013:

This weekend I am reminiscing. Dreaming. Rejoicing. Soaking in His grace. Would you like to know why?

Tomorrow marks the 5 year anniversary of the day my life irreversibly changed forever. On May 19th, 2008 my five year relationship with Ulcerative Colitis officially ended and that lovely little colon of mine was headed for greener pastures… or something like that. For most, it is difficult to empathize with me on this because, well, you just don’t quite get all that this magnificent organ does. For others, like a few of my friends, you know all too well. To say that this is a relatively vital organ is pretty spot on. Is it needed to keep breathing and living? Absolutely not. Is the health and well-being of said organ important for your quality of life? Abso-freaking-lutely. I’m going to be extremely blunt and say that bleeding out of your butt and pooping 20-some times a day is no life. For anyone. I don’t care who you are. And don’t get me started on the pain. Aaaaanyways, I’m saving all that good stuff for the book I’m writing with my girl Katie one day.

This weekend I’m reminiscing on this event specifically.

Fear of the unknown is a b*#@%. But you know what I had? I had my Jesus. Who on earth is able to prepare for an 8 hour surgery that will leave them without an organ that cannot be put back in and NOT have fear? I’m pretty sure no one. THAT is why I can say with absolute confidence that HE is the only reason I made it through. His comfort came to me in this; “I saw the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will You let Your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” (Acts 2:25-28). Sitting here, eyes closed, trying to remember the thoughts, the feelings, the words, I find my brow furrowed. The memory of those moments is painful. Then I remember… After more hours than promised in the pre-op room they finally came for me. As I was rolled away from my parents, and heading for those white doors, every ounce of me began to cry. I don’t mean I sobbed, I mean the tears that fell down my cheeks came from the deepest part of me. The little girl afraid to face this big life on her own. And as quickly as that loneliness came my Savior showed Himself along side me. I began to whisper His words from Acts and as each word came off my lips the tears dried up and I became strong- He made me strong.

I was in surgery for 8 hours. I PRAISE God for nurses. You women and men are angels. Each hand you hold and word you say is what carries us from our fear filled consciousness into a dreamless sleep and I think I can speak for others when I say that you are appreciated to the fullness of the word. I woke up to a very annoying man in the recovery room and an inability to move really, but all I knew was that the damn tube in my nose and down my throat was probably one of the worst things ever. 

I really really woke up a couple of hours later, in my room, to my family. They were the strength I needed to face this day, and the joy and laughter I needed to face my new life. It wasn’t easy learning how to pass food with the new fandangled thing on my side but alas it would be removed a few short months after and life would continue.

The photos above are a testimony to God’s Sovereignty. The life laid before us will never go the way we planned. He is far too creative to let us live life the way we think we should. Why He chose for me to be unique in this way I won’t know until I see Him face to face but I pray, I plead, that He may be glorified in this. His faithfulness is… well, it’s the most beautiful thing we will ever see in this world. To see myself on that day, and to know that He went before me- to my wedding day, to the day I would find out I was pregnant, and to the days I have with the two best men I will ever know- fills me with more joy then I deserve to feel. Really truly…

how great is our God?

I am thankful. I am blessed. It is only because of Christ that I live.

Well, that’s a little of my story. I’m sure you’ll hear more or have already heard some. Just promise me something? Don’t ever take for granted your health. It is not promised to you. It is a gift and should be treated as such.