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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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.

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!

 

 

Stop & Take It In | A Call To Pause

The best piece of advice I was given before my wedding was to pause and take it all in. To quite literally stop, look around and let my mind take in what was happening at that given moment. I vividly remember sitting at our little head table, looking out over a beautiful, warmly lit ballroom filled with the sounds and sights of significant people in our lives, all gathered to celebrate two lives becoming one. In that moment and in this one today I am grateful for the advice to pause and take it in.

 

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This morning as I fed Hazel her bottle I found myself mindlessly staring at her eyelashes--taking her in without even realizing I was doing it. I then began to intentionally take in this miracle girl as she dozed off into her beloved and trusty morning rest. My mind then wandered back to my time of worship last Sunday morning. How I had to painstakingly bring myself to sing with i.n.t.e.n.t.i.o.n.a.l.i.t.y. Even with the good and beautiful things, our minds have been made in such a way that they jump right into what is familiar and well practiced without much intention or effort. I can worship my Almighty God and still wander about in my thoughts regarding what I'm wearing or what we are going to do later or the tray of donuts that are always calling my name a mere handful of feet away. To worship Him, really worship with my entire being, required the effort intentionality calls for.

The pause to take all of Him in.

Pausing takes a lot of effort if you really think about it. We are wired to go, go, go. So today I paused and took in my daughter. "She is really mine. She has been given breath and life and a soul that will long for the Savior the same way mine did and still does even now. This life with her is real and happening now and will never happen in this same way again."

As I walked throughout my home, I was acutely aware (as I usually am) of the amount of toys, socks, and randomly misplaced items strewn about each room. Usually this causes me to swing into a flurry of irritability, frustration, and panic while a rain cloud of "should's" begins to pour over me, drowning me in my apparent "failure at life and keeping it all together". But this morning I was given the incredible gift of pause.

There will be a day where there are no toys strewn about.

There will be a day when all the things stay in their place because little hands are now big and responsible and have their own things in their own places.

There will be a day when neither my arms or my provision will be required for that daughter of mine to fall asleep or find the rest she longs for.

There will be a day when that son of mine will help himself to snacks and shows and decisions and mistakes. Neither my ability to create adventure nor my opinion on what is considered adventurous will be required because he will have become a man of his own ideas and faith and living.

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So today I took in all the toys, the sounds of his laughter from the other room while he watched Curious George, and each and every demanding and exhausting detail of this current life. Each day I have a choice: wish my life looked easier/prettier/freer or love every single raw and real bit that is now.

I'm pausing today for the days ahead. The days when:

Fake tattoos become real ones

The cries of a bumped noggin become the ones of a broken heart

The nonexistent "me-time" becomes a search for a new passion and purpose in this calling of motherhood

The two little sets of feet crawling about our bed find their own place to land and the two of us that started this thing become "just the two of us" once again.

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Can you see the weight of beauty and glory that is this one life we get to live? If you cannot, the best advice I can give you is the same that was given to me at the start of this all.

Pause. Take it in. This thing that is happening is yours.

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The Day He Asked Me Why | Entering Into Healing

My son has this obsession with Band-aids. I'm going to be honest with you--it drives me completely crazy. There are band-aid wrappers all over the house, and even worse, used band-aids in odd, and questionable places. For every owie, and everything that could maybe, potentially be an owie, a band-aid is a must.


Today I asked myself a couple of times, "why don't you want to get healed?" An interesting observation on my part, because my prayer life would reflect that I do, in fact, seek healing in specific areas of my life, and yet when approached with the opportunity, I hesitate.

Interesting.

Later on I heard that same question but from my Savior. "Why don't you want to get healed?" You see, when I ask it of myself, I do so under the false assumption that I have some sort of control over the matter, which would be the reason why I never actually answered myself in the first place.

But when asked that question from the One who holds within Himself all power to restore and renew, I feel the breath lost from my lungs. There's a gasp in my spirit--like embarrassment mixed with shame mixed with maybe-I-can-pretend-I-didn't-hear-myself-the-first-two-times.

The Savior Jesus wants to know why I don't want what He wants to give to me.


Remember my band-aid obsessed kid? Well, one of the reasons he drives me bonkers with these band-aids is that he will keep them on for. days. I tell him repeatedly, "Malachi, if you do not take it off and let it heal you will get an infection. I don't think you understand what that means--you will have to see the dr and get a shot and it will be so so so so so so bad." (Maybe my tactic isn't the greatest, but I'm grabbing at straws on my best days.) And as I drove home from work today I saw that I am, in fact, worse than my son.

I want my band-aids; my coverings. I want my hope and security in the thing that is hurting in me to be found in something tangible instead of trusting that time and fresh air and healing balm with make it all better. If I cover it up then that must mean it's safe. Phew. Except that that couldn't be further from the truth.

Often times, I will find Malachi with his hand wrapped around the finger of his other hand, strenuously attempting to keep a gross, no-longer-sticky band-aid on. Today I see myself doing the same thing. I've got wounds that have been around for more years than I can recount, and I'm still here, a 32 year old woman of God, working that bandage like it's the day I put it on.

So I guess I might need to give Malachi a little slack seeing as I'm more of a band-aid freak than he is.

As I sit here and ask the Lord, "what do I do with this? How do I get to a place of uncovering so that You can do what You do?" And immediately I'm reminded of a restorative holy yoga class I led last weekend. I asked the women 3 questions and today He asks me the same:

"Is God good?"

"Is God good to me?"

"Is God good at being God?"

It's as if I can see His face, and hear His gentle voice as He whispers over me the very same words I whisper (or shout) over Malachi: "You have to trust Me. I need to be the best Savior that I can be, and that means asking you to do something scary and trusting Me while you do it."

I have to reach my hands out, however shaky they might be, and I need to loose my lips, however much they might quiver, and I need to let Him do what He does. I need to say yes to healing, and believe that even if the other side seems scary and unfamiliar, that He is in that place, too.


I don't have any answers for you and I can't proceed to give you a testimony of received healing. I'm walking this out, today. But I know that His question to me is also His question to you. So, my dear friend, 

"Why don't you want to get healed?"

 

The Last Time

I had a thought yesterday morning whilst putting on my makeup--

when was the last time I did that thing I used to do to my hair?

It was this braid thing and I used to do it all the time and then, for some reason in my subconscious I'm unaware of and unconcerned with, I stopped. This revelation led me to another more serious one, which is usually how revelations go in my brain, and I found myself thinking of all the lasts in life.

The last time I fed M a bottle.

The last time I sat with my parents over a late night bowl of cereal.

The last time I woke up for a midnight feeding.

I'd say with 95% of our lasts in life, we don't know they are happening; which for overly sentimental people like me that's probably a good thing. I then began to think about all of the lasts I have yet to experience, like the last time I'll read to my kids, or the last time I'll send them off to school, or the last time they will sleep under our roof.

It's depressing, I know.

But what about the others lasts? The victorious lasts. The whole-and-free-and-alive lasts.

For all the things we do that don't serve us: what if there was a last-time for those?

The last time I self-sabotaged?

The last time I overate?

The last time I said those words to myself?

The last time I danced that age-old two-step with sin and traded my pretty shoes for hiking ones and trekked a new path towards the things of God and away from the things of my sin and flesh and failure?

There are so many things in our lives with lasts that are long overdue. We keep going back to our sins and our patterns of behavior because they are familiar, and if we are honest, the idea of being done with them is scary. Familiarity is a trusted companion but not always the best one. 

As I continued getting myself ready for the day I wondered at what it would be like to not remember the last time I said those worthless and devaluing words to myself. Or how it would feel to have this life of comparison and "not enough-ness" be but a hazy, distant memory. While I realize that women deal with these lies long into their golden years, I also stand with my two feet firmly planted on the Truth that I have a Father who is in the business of wiping away desolation and bringing life to dry bones. So for me, I long to fight for my golden years to be just that: golden. And with very little memory of the things that plague me today.

Let's fight for some more lasts:

The last bow to failure

The last whisper of defeat

The final act of worship to the deceiver

and lets fight by actively inviting in more firsts.

What firsts do you need to welcome into your life? What new habits, behaviors or thoughts do you need to actively integrate into your mind, heart and body so that you can say goodbye to things that don't serve you?

The first gaze of self-acceptance

The first inhale of pride and love

The first memory made full of love and laughter without a sliver of self-deprecation 

And once they're gone, let's not sit and ponder when the last time was that we _____. It's not worth the mourning. 

 

 

BONUS:

What are the lasts you can't quite remember but you should?

The last time you initiated holding your spouses hand?

The last time you asked someone new to go out for coffee and get to know one another?

The last time you put away all of the to-do's just to play with your kids?

Make a list and then make it right--give yourself a memory to go with each so that when asked the question, you can give an exact answer of when you last did that because you make a point to do it often.

Choose Your Words Wisely

You know how God tends to speak in themes? Well, here's the theme for me as of late.

Choose your words wisely

Recently at our Mamas Lifegroup we were discussing the way in which we speak about church involvement to our kids. I was curious of their opinions on how to raise kids in the church and not bring them to a point of running for the hills as soon as they turn 18. One of my friends had such simple and beautiful advice: 

"We get to go to church" not "We have to go to church"

She went on to share how when they go and serve in the baby room, she talks with her daughter about how they get to go serve Jesus--of which she then later repeats, in typical 4 year old fashion, with great enthusiasm as she tells of their day's activities.

It's all about the words.

Then yesterday, as I mind-numbingly scrolled Instagram, I came across a post that ignited soul-exposing truth and conviction in a way that brought with it mercy and empowerment and a setting-of-my-place that was so incredibly necessary.

Let me back-track a bit first.

I've got all these dreams and to-do's. I will talk about all the ways I'm going to get this thing done or stop doing that other thing that doesn't serve me, or how I'm going to one day be a part of this other big thing that will spill over into people's lives in a really beautiful and God-honoring way. This type of self-talk has also developed in the way that I handle the everyday-ness of my life--how eventually I will mother this way, or wife in that way. 

There's a whole lot of "one day"'s and not many "today"'s.

The root of it is that I have this tendency to distract my soul. All of the hard work and perseverance to do any and all of those things is found in an alive and active soul. But apparently I like to keep mine distracted.

(I also came upon this revelation whilst scrolling Instagram. Good to know God is mighty enough to use my soul's greatest distraction to bring conviction and release and truth in Light.)

So yesterday, when I read the words that brought my soul to a halt, I could've cried at the conviction and the mercy that collided right before my eyes.

"I'll do it tomorrow. Four words, that seem like basic procrastination, are actually a hiding place for so much sin... "I'll do" and "tomorrow" are staples in my mental vocabulary, giving me a false sense of power, security, and dominion over my flesh. But they lie. The lie of "I'll do..." is that in my own efforts, by my own intelligence and savvy, I can muster up the ability to create lasting change. It's thinking that I'm able to wake up one day and be different, just because I want to be. It's living in the delusion that my flesh isn't that strong, sin isn't that bad, and I'm not that enslaved. I can do it. The lie of "tomorrow" is that I'm in control of time and don't live by human limitations. Although the sins of others need to be stopped immediately, I can do mine for a little longer without really reaping any serious consequences. It's presuming God's grace, making it cheap for my own convenience. It's thinking that I'm in charge of what happens tomorrow, and believing it's guaranteed to be there." -Risen Motherhood's Emily Jensen

Can you see the collision? The conviction, oh the conviction! Sin has a way of coming off as so innocent, doesn't it? It's not like I set out to do these completely inappropriate things in the face of God's incredible mercy and favor. But they happened. I assumed my sin was not as appalling as someone else's. I  gave my own willpower and can-do spirit credentials that are completely unfitting. I assumed, somewhere inside of me, without realizing it, that I was going to be the one to bring about change in the way in which life happens in my world.

Excuse me while I bring my palm to my face and slowly shake my head from side to side.

Emily continues on by saying, 

"Instead of "I'll do it tomorrow", it's time to start saying, "God, help me.... today." It's immediate repentance when I feel my heart resisting holiness and longing to live for myself. It's stopping in my tracks, acknowledging my own inability, and crying out for His ability. It's getting down to pray in those moments, even with my kids beside me, to admit, "Mommy needs God's help."

Funny how changing just a couple of the words we use can either make or break where we find ourselves at the table with God, and where others find themselves, too. Either eager and full of zeal for who He is and the place in which we stand in service to Him, or full of pride and distant, believing that His death wasn't as strong as our own will-power.

A collision of conviction and mercy.

Will you be choosy with me? In the words we use and the posture we take? Sin, while at times seemingly innocent, will not hold back it's sting. Knowing that, lets make the first words we choose be, "God, help me... today. Thank You for all of the 'get-to's'!"

Pretty Pretty

Last Friday, T and I flew to Phoenix. It was exciting, and still is even now, because for a moment it felt like we could be that jet-setting couple who just goes places on a whim.

That's not us. But it was fun to pretend for a while.

Maybe I'm alone in this habit, but I have a tendency to notice the random actions of others, and for some reason or another, they hang on a bit in my mind before permanently leaving. As we were waiting for our plane to board, T was incessant about not just standing there with all the other cows waiting to herd onto the tiny plane. As we were wandering around I noticed a man walk behind the group and do the all-too-obvious head turn towards the behinds of two young, twenty-something blondes in yoga pants. I remember thinking two things, "Man, that was obvious", and "Those are the "pretty" girls--the ones who get looked at".

We got on the plane, mosey'd to our seats, and hunkered down. Within a few minutes I heard some cackling that drew my eyes upwards. Here came the two "pretty girls". As they got closer though, I noticed some feelings begin to surface and, lets just say, they could not be described as "pretty" themselves. 

I don't know that I'll ever understand the origin of this female practice, but somewhere along the way the message was extended that if we can talk loudly, sound dumb, and laugh a lot, then we will succeed at being desirable. 

Praise God for righting that wrong in me a long time ago.

I distinctly remember one of the girls being straight-up mean to her "friend". I think she might have even called her dumb right to her face, and to that the other girl gave a louder-than-necessary shriek-ish laugh and took her seat, because apparently, she was "taking too long". Again, I found myself wondering at another of our female behaviors--being mean. Why, oh why, do women believe that it's ok to be mean, snarky, rude and hurtful and then assume that laughing afterwards and saying things like, "just kidding, I love you" makes it all ok?

Ugh. I can't handle it.

Shortly after this little gem of an interaction I witnessed the young, tanned man sitting next to them jump at the offer of moving up to one of the empty seats towards the middle of the plane. "Mean girl" made some comment to the effect of, "what, you don't want to sit by us? Hahahahahaha" (cue head-thrown back and hands moving this way and that) to which he said, "oh, I just wanted to get a little more room."

Yeah, buddy. I get it.

I couldn't wait to get my ear-buds in and lose myself in Beauty and the Beast because one more minute of their loud conversation just might've made me lose it. That's the other thing... what's with thinking everyone wants to hear about the oh-so-trivial things of that party or that pair of yoga pants? Your conversation is your conversation, and I'm totally jazzed to not have to hear about it unless you are actually talking to me.

As I watched the movie, these girls kept lingering in my mind. I beautifully watched the Lord carry me through the previous events and share with me His opinion on the whole thing--at least as far as I am concerned. 

Laura, remember when you thought to yourself, "those are the pretty girls"? They don't seem that pretty once the contents of their hearts comes forth. Remember how I said that your beauty is found in the gentle and quiet spirit within you? This is what I meant. And this is what I gave you.

As I engaged in this dialogue with Pops, I found myself growing increasingly grateful for the kind of "pretty" He has made me. I remembered the girl I was--the one who was always looking for the head-turn. Who was always trying to be:

  • cool enough
  • funny enough
  • pretty enough
  • sexy enough
  • smart enough

It really all depended on the group that I was with, but there was an effort that could be put forth and you better believe I extended that effort. Anything to be accepted, right?

This call from God out of 1 Peter 3 is so often misinterpreted and it saddens me. If we read it in light of what we know of the character of God, there is a breath-taking invitation out of the hamster wheel and into a spacious and vast freedom to be the kind of pretty God made us to be. 

"Don’t focus on decorating your exterior by doing your hair or putting on fancy jewelry or wearing fashionable clothes;  let your adornment be what’s inside—the real you, the lasting beauty of a gracious and quiet spirit, in which God delights." -1 Peter 3:4-5 | the Voice

I (like most church-goers) always thought this meant that God didn't care about outer appearance and beauty. But that assumption is made from a heart that knows not the Creator God. All we need to do is open our eyes and see that He is a big fan of beauty. More than a fan, beautiful things were His idea, and so were we.

To create beauty one has to have beauty within them. He created in beauty, He thought up beauty, and He makes everything beautiful. In light of this fact, 1 Peter 3 actually gives a message a little more like this:

Be beautiful, for I made you that way. Know that your beauty catches eyes and hearts when it is all encompassing--when it originates in the depths of who I made. Your outward beauty will move and evolves throughout your days, and it will always be just that--beauty. The beautiful spirit that I set deep inside of you--that's the ticket.  The ticket straight to My heart, and to some of the ones I've placed around you, too. Daughter, I love to see your outsides, but goodness do I LOVE to see your insides. Remember that. Don't get too hung up on the lesser thing. 

With each mile travelled I found myself growing increasingly grateful for the kind of "pretty" God has made me to be. There will always be women that are more outwardly beautiful than I--that's a fact that I'm not striving to change because that isn't the way my story of life was written. What I love is that God gave me an invitation when I was 16 to change course and move towards something so much more valuable. 

And at 32 I think I might be starting to get what it's all about.

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That scum on the surface of the ocean--that's the stuff my enemy wants me to focus on. And I'll admit, it is quite distracting, in a literal sense (hello, nasty and questionable foam at the beach) and also in a figurative one (why do I have so much chub around the waist of this body that houses this heart that recklessly longs for adventure with God?) It just doesn't matter. There's a vast ocean to be enjoyed when we get past the foam, and there is a beautiful woman of God amidst the chub and all the other things.

I think maybe this is why He asks us not to worry about all the outside stuff. Because when we do we miss out. We think we'll be happier when we ______, but I think He knows something we don't. Maybe we will actually be happier when we tap into the things that make Him happy.

I think He's right. Obviously.

The tanned young man never came back to get chatty with the blonde girls. I couldn't wait to get off the plane and walk hand in hand with the man who says I'm the most beautiful woman in the world. And I walked into that day so grateful for the invitation that He has given me to understand this greater beauty that I get to carry with me to my dying day.

"This is how, long ago, holy women who put their hope in God made themselves beautiful" -1 Peter 3:6a

I think I like the idea of being known for the kind of beauty the holy women of the ages past were known for. I think that kind of beauty would make for a much more enjoyable and lasting legacy than the kind that comes with shredded abs and perfect skin and zero depth.

I'm just saying.

Today, I sit in joy-filled awe at the breathtakingly beautiful women that surround me in this life. They are kind, generous, loving, joyful, adventurous, wise, tender-hearted, bold and in love with Jesus. I love that their beauty spills over onto me and in that we become this radiance of the character of God.

It's pretty incredible and pretty beautiful.

Our Little Life Celebrated

Today we celebrated our baby's second DueDate Day. The further away we get from her actual loss,  it feels a little more like a celebration and a little less like a day of mourning.

I tend to hear that lie, the one that says I'm making too big of a deal of it.

But today, like all the other days, I'm continuing to celebrate her life because that's just what it was--a life.

Today I had my act together though. I called our favorite donut place (shout out to Puffy Cream Donuts) two days ago and placed an order for four raised glazed with pink frosting and sprinkles. Just what I would imagine she would have loved.

Recently my memory was jogged and I remembered in detail the cloud of sorrow that hovered over our small little home two and a half years ago. It was just a dark, dark time. Then I remembered all of the incredible women I know who have been brave and have shared their loss with the world. I think women on the whole are becoming more brave these days, and it's a magnetic and breathtaking thing to watch.

I would venture to say that any mother who has had a miscarriage would agree when I say that it's not a cry for attention or pity. It's a longing to let the world around us know that we absolutely are not doing alright, and that something big and life-shaping has happened to us. It's an inability to pretend like that life doesn't matter enough to be spoken of. It's a soul-deep understanding that life matters from the moment it is sparked. 

It's also the laying-to-rest of dreams, thoughts, ideas, musings, plans, hopes and joys. It's a picture of your family wiped clean in a moment and the flood of questions that comes after that.

So, sharing about loss is not a cry for attention or the sharing of too much information.

It's the mourning of so many things and of one little life all at the same time.

So today, we celebrated her little life awaiting us in Heaven. I love telling Malachi about her, and I love that as he gets older he asks more questions. I said to Thomas the other day, "wouldn't it be so cool if when the kids are older and on their own they still stopped and got a sprinkled donut on May 20th?" He said that it is more of our own thing and that they probably won't but I'm holding on to hope that our kids are even half as sentimental as their mom--which means they are getting donuts on May 20th.

To all you mamas who have lost little ones, I stand with you, holding your hand, and remembering the little life that belongs to you and yours.

To all the mamas who are awaiting a little life to join your family, I stand with you in faith that the God we serve is one of abundant grace and sovereignty and that the desires deep within you were seeds planted by His very hand.

Continue in your beautiful bravery, warrior women. Your voices are heard and your mourning is seen and you are absolutely not alone.

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**If you would like to read a bit more of our story of loss, you can find it here**

Life Without It

It's been nine years since I walked (or wheeled) into the greatest life-changing experience of my life. It changed things emotionally, mentally and physically. Nine years ago my life began because I lost a part of me.

Nine years ago I lost my colon.

Recently I got a fresh dose of the shame and embarassment I used to experience on the regular for my illness and my story. I think the hardest part of the reminder was knowing that I used to feel that way most of my days--that rarely was there a day that I wasn't acutely aware of my vulnerability and lack of control.

It was a loss in the sense that I lost my colon, but in any and all other ways it was a complete and total gain because nine years ago today I was given the chance to actually live my life. Crazy how something seemingly awful can turn out to be one of the greatest acts of God in your life.

God has been so kind to me by bringing people my way who get it. Recently, at Holy Yoga Instructor Training Retreat, I absolutely lit up when my friend told me she had someone for me to meet--someone who also didn't have a colon.

Someone like me.

There's a lot that's different but there is immeasurably more that's the same. I still get to, by the grace of God, grow my family. I still get to, by the grace of God, run and jump and play. I still get to, by the grace of God, stand up on a stage and preach His Word.

So actually, I guess it's not the same as it was at all. It's completely and totally better.

I've lived without a colon half as long as I lived with one. I honestly can't wait till it's been 18 years and I can surpass my years lived with that bad boy.

Here's to being completely undone by God's mercy and entirely blown away by His goodness.

Even in the stuff you never asked for or wanted.

 

 

Because It's Mother's Day

Mother's Day. Such a hard day because it's in celebration of moms, who are, on the whole, an abyss of emotions and scars and dreams.

Being a mom, and wanting to be a mom, is emotional.

Not being a mom and not wanting to be a mom is also emotional. 

There's just a lot of assumption surrounding the title, and yet we all just want to know that we are enough just as we are, whether we are mothering or not.

So to all women, who were designed with a gift of loving and nurturing, I celebrate you. I celebrate that you care for people in your life with tenacity and grace. I celebrate you for every single moment that you have chosen to get up and keep going, against all thoughts and feelings taking up residence in your brain.

I wrote this to myself two years ago, and not-surprisingly, I still need it today.

May these words be salve to your mighty and brave heart, dear woman.

"To you, mom. 

Do you know that what you do is excellent and worthy of praise? Do you know that, whether you believe it or not, you are in fact clothed with strength and dignity? I know this because I see you get up and love, every single day. You choose them, over and over. You set aside convenience for fierce and selfless love. To do that takes strength and dignity, and you, beautiful one, are clothed in both.

So whether you feel worthy of being celebrated today, the truth of the matter is that you are. You are far more than you believe yourself to be and today, I'm thankful for you. For all that you have taught me about loving and living as "mom". 

Bask in the goodness of your job today. It's such a good one!"

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When I Almost Brought My Idol To My Worship

This morning, like nearly every morning, I excitedly poured myself a cup of coffee before hurrying to the couch to get my time in the Word before the start of the day. I looked to the right of my coffee maker to find a little, glistening, plastic box of leftover chocolate chip scones from yesterday's playgroup. I have this rebellious spirit when it comes to "treats". My mind fills with thoughts paralleled to a teenage girl sneaking out her bedroom window. As I reached for one little scone, telling myself that one was the sensible choice, I quickly countered that thought with a more pleasing one:

"Shoot. These two are attached to one another. I could separate them, but let's be real--I'm coming back for a second anyways."

As I left the kitchen and headed for my daily seat with the Lord, He whispered to me, "well, would you look at those little idols your bringing with you to your worship."

Dang it.

My story with food is a long one, but it's also not long at all.

I'm a disordered eater.

The pendulum swings really far with me when it comes to food, so the drawing of my attention to my little accompaniment this morning was nothing short of grace-filled mercy and a reminder of reverence. 

Daughter, you can come to Me with those two little scones and I will love you and speak My truth to you; but I want to ask you one question... to what degree do you revere Me? Enough to choose what I've told you is best for you?

Paul's words rang in my ears and I sat in disbelief of what I was actually about to do. I was about to sit at the feet of my Savior with one (of many) of the things that keeps me from the liberated life He gave me. 

"I can hear some of you saying, "For me, all things are permitted." But face the facts: all things are not beneficial. So you say, "For me, all things are permitted." Here's my response: I will not allow anything to control me." -1 Corinthians 6:12 | the Voice

I can't eat wheat. Or dairy. Or corn.

Will it kill me if I do? No. (Do these words linger in my mind each and every time I face a bakery case filled with delicacies or am given the option of Mexican for dinner? Yes.)

Will it benefit me if I do? No. (Do these words keep me from listening to the rebellious girl inside who just wants to jump out her bedroom window? Rarely.)

Except for today.

In light of Paul's words I'm faced with this question: How many times have I brought my idols with me to my worship?

Maybe it's the idol of comparison, or the idol of perfectionism. How many times have I snuck a quick peek at Instagram during Sunday's sermon or made sure my outfit was on point before heading out to a church event. 

Gotta impress. Gotta feed the monster.

But what if I just went to worship and decided that the idols needed to stay at the door? What if there were an "idol detector" at the door of my worship, blaring at the detection of anything that stood in defense of complete reverence for God?

It's crazy the things you'll notice when God decides you're ready to.

Forgiveness, Jesus. You are far sweeter and tastier than any scone and the sound of your whisper satisfies me deeper than today's treats ever could have. Thanks for saving me from something less-than. Oh, and also, not today, satan.

Holy Week With The Real Man

Let's just get this out of the way first--I'm not a scholar. For anyone who thought I might be, because I'm so lofty in speech and whatnot, you can let your curiosity rest. I'm just a follower of Christ who never got to finish college. 

It's Holy Week. For someone who grew up Catholic, I have very little experience in letting my Easter celebration grow in the days prior to Resurrection Sunday. I never grew up practicing Lent, and it wasn't until well into my "Christian-dom" that I had even heard of people practicing any sort of worship or spiritual fasting in the days prior to Easter. To me it was eggs, bunnies and church with a big dinner afterwards. (A dinner that always took place around 1pm. Midwesterners are weird like that.)

So over the past several years I had decided in my heart that I wanted to really get "into" Lent and Holy Week. Easter is, after all, the absolute BEST day of the year, and the day in which I celebrate the thing that completely changed my life, and the course of humankind for all of time. The problem is, I'm a person with a scattered mind and a complete inability to think ahead for things like birthday cards, parties, bills and Spiritual Practices. It takes intentionality. Something that does not come naturally to me.

In my disappointment of myself and my lack of reverence for this week, I decided I ought to dive into John and read along with the telling of the days leading up to Jesus' death. What I love is that Jesus, while the Son of God, was also totally man. And in His humanness, even now, He knew I needed a way to revere Him this year that took into account my reality that is kids and sickness and a husband on crutches.

Enter Beautiful Outlaw

I've been picking away at this incredible book for awhile now. I'm convinced that my "idea" to pick up a book where I left off is not my idea at all but God's Sovereignty. In my desire to worship with a heart of gratitude this week and into the weekend, He reminded me of something absolutely vital to my worship:

Jesus was a man.

I had paused in the middle of this chapter a week or so ago and when I picked it up today I found myself challenged with this question:

"How will my worship and celebration on this Good Friday and Easter Sunday change in light of the fact that Jesus was fully man?"

It completely changes everything. 

"You might think that keeping Jesus all mysterious and heavenly is the proper thing to do, but consider this: When he came, he came as presented in the Gospels--very much human, a person, a man, with a very distinct personality. This is the primary witness we have of him, recorded for all who would know him. This is how he chooses to make himself know. This is the "self" he presents to us. Be careful you don't push him away with your religious delicacies."

When I picture myself on Sunday morning, in my Easter best, having just argued and bartered my way through getting my family all cute and perfect and to church on time, singing and worshiping my God, I wonder how it would be different if I worshiped with this in mind. What does it look like in my heart to worship a Savior who was fully God and fully man

I think it looks a lot less delicate and divided and a lot more intimate and raw.

Or what about on "Good Friday"?

"The religious glaze over Jesus--over our hearts--is so thick we have to keep striking it, over and over and over: Jesus was human. Jesus was a man. His humanity was real. He wasn't pretending. Those nails actually hurt."

What makes Good Friday "good" cannot be remembered by religious practices or ceremonies or even making sure you've checked church attendance off of your list. It is actively choosing to call to mind the Son of Man that willingly walked His own cross to the top of that hill and told His Father to forgive us for what we were about to do because we didn't fully get it.  "Good" is defined as not depreciating in value. His plea to the Father on our behalf then has not depreciated in value--He still advocates for us, and He does it as the Son of God and the Son of Man. His actions on that day and in the days leading up to it never have, and never will, depreciate in value. They will continue to be the absolute most valuable actions ever taken by man. Ever.

What could shift for you on this Holy Week if you took this into account? If you closed your eyes and imagined Jesus as completely man, and worshiped Him not as an untouchable religious figure but as a man who just really, really loves you?

"Jesus' humanity will cause you to fall in love with him all the more. His personality, his remarkable qualities... they burst with color and brilliance like fireworks because of his humanity. Think of it--the Man of Sorrows had a sense of humor. The Prince of Peace could work himself into a lather. This wonderful counselor could be downright ironic. The man on a mission had time to sit and chat. Far from diminishing Jesus, this will only quicken your worship and deepen your intimacy."

I'm thankful that the Man I love knows where I'm at and He let's me know Him all the more in the midst of it. May we be as intentional as life allows us and let grace fill in all the rest.

Happiest of Holy Weeks to you all.

 

 

*All text quoted from Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge. 

32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.32

I recently heard someone refer to their birthday as the amount of times they have traveled around the sun. I really liked that.

So today, I am celebrating my 32nd trip around the sun, and I feel so blessed. Truly. Why have I gotten 32 years and all of this to show for it? Completely by the goodness, love and mercy of God.

With that said, here are 4 of my most favorite memories.

29) Riding the chairlift with my dad as he yelled down to the skiers below, "Hey, Jackson! Hey, Wanda!"I always thought it was hilarious. I know that the older I got, the more embarrassed I got by it, but as a kid this was the highlight of the chairlift ride. My dad would yell this down to a random guy as he skied below us and we would laugh and laugh. If he saw a random lady he would yell, "Hey, Wanda!" They would look around, confused, wondering if the crazy guy on the chairlift was yelling at them. It was so funny. What did I learn? That I was silly. That I could enjoy shared laughter in the calling out of Jacksons and Wandas with the guy that gave me my silly sense of humor. It wasn't weird or annoying to him and it wasn't to me either, so we could be goofy and ridiculous and there wasn't anyone to tell us to do otherwise. Krista always thought we were weird, Jimmy just laughed it off (likely in the hopes we would stop) and my mom usually gave a big laugh and then moved on. Maria was like us--able to laugh and cry out of nowhere. We could laugh at that same joke or silly experience for longer than anyone else and somehow that bonded us. I learned that I like that I find random things hilarious and that I can see that part of me directly carried down from my dad.  He's silly and awkward and weird (sorry dad, but it's true. Embrace it.) and I love that I am, too. 

30) Coming out of the bathroom in the open lounge and meeting the new kid at school, Thomas. It was a "free day", as everyone was arriving back to school after having the holidays off. I had been in a room down the hall watching a movie on my laptop with my then-boyfriend, and I had to run to the bathroom. I noticed two new guys crammed in between two other people on the couches just outside of the bathroom but I didn't have time to stop and introduce myself then, so I decided I would when I came out. So upon exiting the bathroom I stood at the group and said something to the effect of, "you two must be two of the new students! I'm Laura" to which Joe, a short, young British kid, shook my hand and then the guy next to him stood up, with his long, dark, floppy hair and his super tight pants, and shook my hand saying, "hey, I'm Thomas!" I could already tell he was goofy and silly and I knew we would be friends. We sat in that open lounge a lot in the days ahead, hanging out and being nerds. He always sat next to us at mealtimes, and was so silly and carefree. I also remember sitting in that open lounge next to my then-boyfriend and him expressing to me his fear that I would "one day start to like Thomas." I laughed out loud and reassured him that he was just a really good friend. I also expressed to him my concern for Thomas' decisions and that I was "just so worried about him and all of his shenanigans." What did I learn? Watch out. One day you might be leaving the bathroom to head back to your boyfriend and you will meet someone who will become your most favorite person in the whole entire world. Those Canadian, emo boys will kill you with their sweetness and goofyness. Be careful. *If you know us, you know that we have disagreed on our first meeting since the very beginning. He thinks is happened after I think it did, so obviously he is never going to admit that he is wrong. I'll keep standing my ground.

31) Slowly waking to the quiet words of You are my sunshine being sung to me by my mom. I had a wood canopy bed, with a light pink bedspread and a light pink canopy thing on top of it. I have this very clear memory of being asleep and my mom's lips just nearing my little right ear as she whispered to me, "you are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You'll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away." I also remember beginning to wake up to these words with a smile on my face and my hair all over the place. She had a smile on as she sang and I felt really, really loved. I also remember the sun shining in. It always shone brightest in my little room at the break of day, which, was warm and comforting and significant for some reason. What did I learn? That my mom loved me. Like, really loved me. She still does, and in my adult mind I decided it was different now than it was then. But now that I have Hazel I don't know that that is true. Hazel has been, to me, the one who has made right so many things in my heart. She is my rainbow baby and the girl that makes me want to be a better woman. And with all of that in mind I remember this moment so differently. I was that rainbow baby to my mom. I was that little girl she loved so tenderly, with the same brightness that I love Hazel. I'm learning that the way parent's love their small children might look differently as they get older but it doesn't lessen and it certainly doesn't diminish. My mama loved me with her entire self, and I really think I was her sunshine. Maybe I still am.

32) The time the moment I had dreamt about for months was being played out before my eyes and I could feel my heart exploding and being put back together at the same time. There are so many memories of Thomas coming back to me from a time away, but there was something about this particular moment that is tangible and real, even 4 years later. I couldn't stop smiling as I waited for the buses to pull up. I had on a new dress, one that I felt so very pretty in, and had our baby boy next to me who was so incredibly different than the last time we had seen Thomas. There had been so many lonely nights that I had imagined the moment I would look into his eyes again. So many times I had rocked Malachi, reminding him that his daddy loved him so much. And now, we were going to see his face and hold his body close to ours again, and it was surreal. Jade, our wonderful and hilarious, photographer, had been trying to get onto post in time to photograph our reunion and the place was bustling with excited families. One of his friend's wives was with me, trying to chat a bit while we waited, but between my excitement and Malachi's wanderings, I was a poor conversationalist. We spotted the buses coming up from the right and the cheering and screaming began. I couldn't contain my excitement. I didn't know I could smile that wide and that my breath could be that deep and that shallow at the same time. He was coming. It was happening. The sun was hot and my feet were pacing. The buses stopped and I knew that somewhere in those windows were the eyes of my husband searching for us in the crowd. The guys piled off the other side of the bus and it felt like the air stood still. Then they came. The filed into their places on the field, the higher-ups said their stuff, of which I remember nothing of, and then they broke. I searched and searched and then, from amidst scurrying soldiers and families, came the eyes I love so much. He knew where we were and he came towards us with the intentionality and drive that comes from 10 months away from half of your heart. I felt my heart break and be put back together at the same time and I don't know that I will ever feel anything like that again. He was home. I was home. Everything else in the world was right and nothing else mattered except that I could look into his brown eyes and feel his arms around me and that Malachi could hear the voice of his daddy again in person. I will never forget this moment. What did I learn? How much I need my husband. And not need because of something he does for me but because God designed my heart to be paired with his. I am a fraction of myself when he is not with me, and getting to pick up and do the rest of our lives together, without interruption, was a defining moment. He was home for good, and we were so deeply thankful. 

I've lived a really beautiful life, and I have no doubts it will only get all the more beautiful with each year He gives me. Jess Connolly says, "The full picture, you see, requires you and me to acknowledge that the main character of the story is not the masterpiece, but it's Creator." I couldn't agree more. Lord, be ever magnified by each day of life You give me. May they see You in me, Lord God. 

Ready for 33 with tenacity and grace. It's going to be a good year. Now if I can just hurry up and make it to July so Thomas can stop teasing me about being 5 years older than him. 

32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.28

The fourth installment of my 32 memories and warning--this one gets personal. I also don't feel any shame for my story, so the warning is more so for you.

Onward.

23) Sitting at the breakfast bar in our hotel room in Orlando, educating my cousin on the fact that the white part of our scrambled eggs was the umbilical cords of the little baby chicks and that we most definitely shouldn't be eating them. I feel like I can remember her eyes widen as her education on egg anatomy grew. I also remember the two of us picking apart those eggs like a paleontologist sifting through dirt for bones. As a mom, I now look back at that and laugh because I know I likely spoke with so much authority on the matter. What did I learn? That kids are obviously the experts on everything. And that they will take what you tell them and magnify it ten-fold before taking their place at the teacher's desk of life. I was a pretty smart girl, you know. I knew all the things then and I definitely know them now. (Please note my sarcasm. Please.) Also, let it be known, that while I know the white wiggly part of the egg is not the umbilical cord, I still don't eat it because, well, gross.

24) Sitting on the bus by myself, heading back to Friedrichshafen from Meersburg, listening to Jack's Mannequin and looking out at the shining sun over Lake Constance.  I "found" myself in Germany--or at least I did my first real archeological dig into the bones of this woman God had formed so many years earlier. It was my first experience with people from all over the world and I found that there were so many things to like and enjoy and adopt as my own. From emotional, artsy music to American Apparel hoodies in an array of colors, I decided for myself the kind of woman I wanted to be and it was really cool. I also learned a lot about God in those 6 months, and I connected so much with His presence in that little part of Germany. The beauty of the water and the mountains as it's backsplash--my soul still feels connected if I close my eyes and call the scene to mind. I had the best white mocha in a small, little coffee shop, made by a blonde German man named Bernard, I witnessed an array of European shaving preferences at the Thermal Bath and I learned that I was created with a heart that longed for this part of the world. When I chose to go to school in Germany, I never knew I would feel so deeply connected there. What did I learn? To explore this wide, wide world. I learned that there were deposits made in my creation that were withdrawn when my feet hit the old, weathered ground of the European countryside, and I felt a part of myself come alive for the first time. I also learned that if you don't step out and try the thing you never imagined trying, you might miss out on the thing that changes your life forever. Remember, I met the man I would fall in love with there. So, that's pretty monumental. 

25) Oreo dunking parties at our "too small" kitchen table. We had this table, with oh-so-'90s padded, swivel, arm-chair-like kitchen chairs. There were 5 chairs and 5 of us. Eventually the family grew (see #26) and only continued to grow from there. I remember sitting at the table, late at night, everyone in their appropriate spots, and dunking Oreos into our milk. We all had our different ways of doing it, but I recall wanting to adopt my dad's way because, after all, it was the best and most efficient way to get a perfectly soaked cookie. You see, you had to hold the cookie in-between your pointer and middle fingers, with your thumb out to the side and other fingers curled, so that you could get the entire cookie into the milk. I remember not liking the idea because my fingers would get so full of milk, but I always tried it anyways because I had learned that it was the ultimate way to dunk. We laughed a lot, and plowed through a pack of Oreos a lot faster than we probably should have. But what I remember most about this is that it was a time when we were all together. My siblings, all older than me, were busy with school and activities, and my dad was working to provide for us. So our Oreo parties were a time when we came together and were living as family simply. No agenda other than to consume calories and laugh. What did I learn? That my family is pretty great. That at the heart of it all, we were made for one another. We were made to laugh together and to grow together. It looks a lot different as the years pass, but the lesson is still the same. Now, years later, I don't think any one of us can have real Oreos or drink milk, but I'm sure if we took the opportunity, we would find a really good alternative to consume while remaking that childhood scene.I really love my family and I really love that God made us for one another. 

While this photo doesn't contain Oreo's or my entire family, it does contain the old, too-small table, so that's something.

While this photo doesn't contain Oreo's or my entire family, it does contain the old, too-small table, so that's something.

26) Walking up to meet my sister that I had known about my whole life but never met. I was wearing a white, puffy, pirate-esque shirt tucked into a black skirt with white polka dots and a red belt. I was so excited because for my entire little 8 year life I had dreamed of meeting the sister I always knew about but had never met. This was the moment.  We pulled up to the park and in front of me and to my right I could see a brown gazebo with a young girl standing inside of it. She had brown, curly hair and it was so pretty and big. I think she had her hands in front of her, likely nervously playing with her fingers, as her life was about to change forever just like ours was. I remember this excited nervousness over all of us, and I also remember there was so much I didn't understand other than that this was a big moment. I remember the river just on the other side of the sidewalk from the gazebo and all of the flowers that surrounded the path. I remember the big trees and the constant smiles. I remember sitting, for what was an eternity to an 8 year old, and everyone asking questions. Then we went to Red Lobster where my mom pulled out her check book at the same time as Maria and they learned that they had the same check design. What did I learn? There is so much that children don't understand as they witness us walk through the gigantic things in our lives. This was a defining moment for my parents and my sister, and so much of it I didn't understand until now. I recently got to hear the story as a wife, a mother, and an adult, and my heart softens and feels so much more as I think of this day. This was a big day for us all and I learned then that my family's story was so much more than "ordinary". God was there, in that gazebo with us, weaving together a tear in the tapestry of life, and I got to dance around in my polka-dot skirt while He did so.

27) The moment I lost control of my own actions and entered into a level of girlfriend-hood I never, ever, wanted to be a part of. The details are crystal clear, but I will save them because they aren't necessary. The part that matters most is the one where a boy decided his desires were of greater value than my purity, and he forcefully asked me to exchange my innocence for his pleasure. I honestly thank the Lord that my story is as "vanilla" as it is in comparison to some of the women I know in my life, but that can't take away from the fact that my understanding of God's design for men and women was completely skewed from that moment on. What did I learn then? So many things. I learned, in that moment, that "his" (whoever the "he" in the situation might be) pleasure, need, desire, far outweighs my comfort. That I was a tool, and could've been anyone so long as his needs were met. That pleasure was wrong, and that I should be ashamed. What have I learned since? SO. MANY. THINGS. I've learned that God designed men AND women for this thing called pleasure, and it is intended to be explored with the one you've committed your life to. I've learned that young people are not educated nearly enough on sex, dating, and the things that will tempt them. People do not talk candidly enough about sex in the midwest. Sex is as normal of a part of the human experience as eating and pooping and breathing. The call to wait until marriage for sex should not be delivered in such a way that young people feel they are being kept from something that they could have now but that they are building up and saving something spectacular that truly is at its absolute best when it reaches it's end date (i.e.wedding night!) They should be taught that there is excitement and joy in the anticipation and that selling out for something fleeting is like choosing a McDonalds ice cream cone over a brownie sundae with whipped cream, caramel, chocolate sauce and sprinkles. One might take longer to make but holy crap is it way better. **To my nephews, nieces, children and friend's kids--beyond the typical message of, "wait until you're married because it will be better for you" I want you to hear this. When you ask another person to enter into an activity that they do not want to do, and that you know isn't right for them (or you), you are inviting them into a life of shame. You are not "just" asking them to step over physical boundaries set up by the God of the universe, but you are opening a door for the father of lies to taunt them with for, potentially, the rest of their lives. Kids, it's way more than a few moments of pleasure. It's the difference between a lifetime of shame or a lifetime of liberty. I beg you, please think of the rest of their life as well as the rest of yours. Please. There is no "not really sex" type of act that is worth the price you will pay.

28) Going down the black diamond run at the top of the "Such and Such" Bowl at Winter Park Resort in Colorado. I was little. Like, 10 or something. We had always gotten off the lift and headed to the left, but every time we traveled up that chairlift we would look off to the right and see the moguls that carved the mountainside. Then one run we decided to give it a go. I made it, and enjoyed the tedious task of getting down without breaking anything. But I remember nearing the bottom and falling in the powdered snow and, despite my best efforts, not being able to get up. I laughed so hard I cried. I kept trying to get up and each time I would fall right over. I know my dad was down the mountain just a ways, leaving him helpless at getting my little skis out form underneath the heavy snow, and he was likely laughing and frustrated at the same time. My memory of this is that it took me a solid 10 minutes to get up and going, but for my dad's sake I hope it was a lot less than 10 minutes. What did I learn? To laugh at the things that keep me down. To let uncontrollable laughter be the thing I remember and hold on to.  I also learned that some of the most surprising parts of an experience can be the ones that stick with you the longest. Of all the parts of that trip, I remember that laughter the most vividly. I also remember coming down to my mom at the ski lodge and being so absolutely elated at getting to retell the scene to her. Kids are funny, and I like remembering that I was one of them.

I can't wait to share 4 of my favorite memories tomorrow!

32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.22

To be honest, this memory lane business has been harder than I thought it would be. It's one thing having strong memories, but it's an entirely different endeavor trying to find the ones that you've learned life-altering lessons from. And also ones that are appropriate/interesting to share. I'm thankful to get to share these and ready to share with you 6 more.

Let's do this.

17)  When my grandpa ordered my grandma's coffee at Outback Steakhouse on the night of my high school graduation. I distinctly remember the noisy, dark restaurant and watching my grandpa look back over his shoulder at the waitress and order his coffee and then slightly point over at my grandma while he told the waitress the kind of coffee she wanted too. I also remember that they never once discussed this before the waitress came by. He just knew. While this was just a simple drink order, it told of the many years of knowing that had been lived before that night. What did I learn? To know my person and to be known by them too. Oh how my heart lit up at the thought of one day having my coffee ordered for me without even needing to express my want for it. Even now, as I remember that seemingly insignificant event on a very meaningful night, I am challenged to know Thomas more. My grandparent's love wasn't perfect--no one's is--but it was a gift to be able to witness it and I pray to one day sit at my granddaughter's graduation dinner and let Thomas do the ordering for me. 

18) The moment I learned I had "love handles". I had to have been somewhere around 8 years old, but I distinctly remember sitting on my aunt's lap in the backseat of the car and her laughing as she grabbed at my waist, introducing me to a part of my body that would eventually become an relentless nag, day in and day out. I remember this moment so vividly and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't wondered how my life would be different if I had not been introduced to "love handles" in the first place. What did I learn? When speaking to women, young, old, or anywhere in-between, do it with nothing but wonder on your lips at their creation. God never makes a mistake, and when we poke fun or show signs that there is something negatively set-apart about another person, especially at a young age, we are setting them up for shame. I also learned how very deeply angry I am at society for pointing out differences in God's creation and claiming that some are less desirable than others. Just because the word, "love" is included doesn't make it less awful. I was a girl with a body and it could run and jump and cartwheel. As far as life is concerned, my body was pretty darn perfect. Oh, and one more thing: just because you may have grown up being talked to in a certain way, does not give you permission to do the same to others. If you grew up with other women teasing you for your differences, is that a free pass to tease others? Even if it was done "in fun"? Just because you accepted generational bondage like a son accepts the family business doesn't mean you must pass that on to the generation coming after you. To me, this is a thing worth burying deep in the ground and fighting for a new way for the girls coming up behind us.

19)  Asking Christ into my life like I was being given a sales pitch and saying yes was "the right thing to do". I am a born and raised people-pleaser, and a prime example of this is my salvation story. While yes, I was (and still am) a sinner, I tended to stay away from trouble because I didn't want to disappoint my parents. I always wanted to make sure that I did what I was "supposed to do" in any and all situations. I remember sitting on the curb of a parking lot next to my small group leader as she asked me if I had asked Christ into my heart to be my Savior. As an adult, I know that she did the exact thing I would do, even today. The tough part about leading young people to Christ is that it is so much more than a moment of prayer. It's ministering to them and coming alongside them through all of the ups and downs of finding one's self. What did I learn? That when I asked Christ to be my Savior, I did it more for the assurance of proper placement within the group I was now a part of. I wanted to please people, and this seemed like the ultimate step in doing so. I recently remembered this moment and came to the reality that I don't think I knew just how much I needed to be saved. Regardless of whether I knew then or not, I am inexpressably grateful that God did. He is Sovereign and it's so cool that He let's me see just how much. I'm also challenged to walk the next generation through all of the elements of salvation, and let them in on just what it means for them. It's definitely more than just saying a prayer, and I hope to get the opportunity to explain all of that to them.

20) Sitting in the auditorium at Oak Grove Middle School, watching some military appreciation video and having this feeling I would one day have a deep, personal understanding of that life. I was 18. My dad served in the Air Force long before I was even a thought, but aside from that I had no affiliation with anyone in the service. But I distinctly remember looking at the waving American flag in the video and thinking I would one day feel all the feels about it. Who would have thought that 6 years later my brand new husband would fly off to basic training to join the US Army. What did I learn? God whispers. He gives us previews, hints, ideas, and dreams. You never, ever, know how things will come back around. It is memories like this that convince me that God is actually a God who likes giving us hints. 

21)  The lyrics that ran through my mind as I learned of the little life lost inside of me. I had taught a 6am Holy Yoga class that morning, and had the song, "You Speak" by Audrey Assad as our final song. Fast forward a few hours later and Thomas and I sat in a waiting room, excited to get to meet our newest little love. I had always had a weird anxiety about this baby, but the Lord had given me specific reassurance, so I quieted the whispers of fear as I waited to be called back. Laying on that table, the technician to my right, the screen ahead of me--up and to the left--and Thomas out of sight, but to my right. She moved the stick around and I stared at the semi-familiar sight on the screen. I began to notice the lack of communication coming from the technician and the increasingly curious movement of the stick. I saw the black of the amniotic fluid and then this tiny, little white figure in the center. I knew that was the baby because I had seen the same thing with Malachi years prior. I couldn't figure out why she had stopped poking around and then she said it. "There doesn't seem to be a heartbeat." And in that instant these words blared through my head and heart, 

In the silence of the heart, You speak

In the silence of the heart, You speak

And it is there that I will know You, and You will know me

In the silence of the heart, You speak

What did I learn? It's hard to breath when walking through your greatest fear come to life, but there is One alongside who gives you breath in any way and every way you need it. I still don't know why He brought those words to me in that moment, but they served as oxygen to my empty lungs and  I trust that one day He will explain it all. For now, it has served as such a beautiful gift of reassurance that He knows me and I get to know Him. Even in the fear, He let's me know His ways. He doesn't have to do that, but He does because He's that kind of God.

*If you would like to know more of our story of grief in miscarriage, you can read it here.

22) The first time I played a game with Thomas' parents. We played Dutch Blitz and his mom was standing up because she was that intense, my new boyfriend was laying down cards so fast I could barely keep up, and I was watching his dad cheat, plain as day, and lie to his wife when interrogated about it. I didn't know whether I should call him out or keep my mouth shut, but what I did know was there was no way I was winning this, or any other, game. What did I learn? Don't play games with the Ferguson's. Unless you want a show. Then play games with them for sure, but don't expect to win by playing fair (and even if you do, don't expect it to matter because to them, there is always second place.)

That's all for tonight. Life (and its sticky memories) is funny. Can't wait to share more.

32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.16

Well yesterday was fun! If not for the stories, the photos of me in all of my '90s and early 2000s glory was worth it. If you missed it, head on over to catch the first 7 memories.

On to more.

8) The burning sensation that consumed my entire chest cavity as I hiked the Swiss Alps. We had barely begun our hike, and I had started out in the front of our pack of predominantly North Americans. When I was finally able to lift my head from it's semi-permanent position facing my feet, I saw that I had taken up the caboose position of our group. It was so freaking hard, and we had barely just begun. The two things I remember the most are, 1) the beauty I took in along this hike that rivals few other sights in my short life, and 2) the breaks to catch my breath along the way. What did I learn? It is absolutely crucial to take in all of the things when hiking the mountains in life; the sensation in the pain, the release in the break for breath, and the widening of the eyes when you truly take in all that is surrounding you on the mountainside.  I got a little freer on that mountain, and by the grace of God I have the memory to tap into whenever I need to remember what I am.

9) Standing underneath the pop-up tent, lips zipped, after my brother's dirt bike race. I spent my entire childhood running around the motocross track, hair-crazy and exposed skin covered in dirt. As I grew in years, somehow I received the message that I was to stay silent after the race was over because (usually) it had not gone as my brother would've hoped and my little voice was the furthest from helpful to him as he came down from his anger and disappointment. No one ever said those words to me, but somehow they echoed so loudly that I fearfully took my place behind everyone else, race after race, well into my adult years. What did I learn? To stay small. I learned my place on the totem pole of  giving input or consolation, and I made sure to never misstep. The men in my family were hot heads and I was better off not even thinking about poking the bears. As a woman of 32 years, I have to mentally talk myself into my place as a woman of God with the freedom to speak her heart, even if it's just about the funny thing that happened the other day. These things from our family of heritage shape us, but glory to God they do not have to define us. 

10) The complete awe and speechlessness I was left in after I ended my very first Holy Yoga training call. It was like I had been given a glimpse into the heart of God for the first time in my life and there were no words to describe it. I felt full and warm and astounded and like my life was first beginning. What did I learn? Even when you've been a Christian for years, God will save you and make you brand new, again. Give Him the littlest "yes" and He will give you the biggest glimpse into who He really is. From that anxious and uncertain "yes" He completely changed my life and gave me the chance to live a different kind of life for Him. I'll never know how to thank Him enough for choosing for me this kind of relationship with Him.

11) Sitting with my cousin behind a wall of wood flooring planks, acting out all the imaginary things. My grandpa made his way across their living room and kitchen floor, trying not to take wood from our fort, tediously finishing his project, while my grandma played the best of the ratpack or Elvis in the background. He didn't have to let us take up residence in the middle of his project, using the very thing he needed to complete it, but he did. For the entire weekend. What I learned? There was freedom and security in being allowed to interrupt their plans. Room for expression and imagination and we all, grandma and grandpa included, took part in that imagination at play. There is so much in this memory for me to take with me in my mothering. Be interruptable, Laura. Let them make something awesome with the boring tasks of life, and be sure to get them some tea to drink in their makeshift chair.

12) The first time Malachi called me Mama. Well, it was more like, "MAAAAMMAAAA!!" because we were on our flight to Minnesota from Texas, after seeing our man off for his second deployment, and preparing to pick life back up in my home state. He was sick, I was sad and we were crammed on an airplane surrounded by not-to-be-bothered professionals. I was standing up to walk him and console his cries when he cried my name for the first time. Suddenly all of the steely eyes around me disappeared and all I took in was this baby boy who needed his mama. It was glorious and beautiful and so funny in hindsight. What I learned? I was his mama. Was then and still am today. The older he gets the quieter his cry for me will be, but I hope I always stand up and walk with him through it whenever he needs me there with him. 

13) Being wheeled out of the pre-op room, down a white hallway and into the cold, bright operating room where my life would forever change. In the months, weeks and days prior to my first proctocolectomy surgery (surgery to get all or part of your colon removed--I had all of it) I clung to this passage from Psalm 16, quoted in Acts 2, "“‘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 rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not 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.’" (25-28). If I close my eyes I can see it as if I were there again; the white sheet draped over my legs, the bars on the side of the wheeled bed, the voice of the nurse coming from behind me, saying words of assurance that I never paid any attention to, and the soft sound of David's words rolling off of my lips as I entered into one of the greatest "unknowns" of my life. I can also still feel the overwhelming sensation of peace that washed over me, from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes, as I traveled down that hallway and into that freezing room. Where there should have been fear there was peace, and that, I think, was my first real dance with the Holy Spirit. What a place to dance, huh? What did I learn? Being brave never requires going it alone. Not for one second was I on my own, and even now, almost 9 years later, He reminds me of all that He did for me in those hours of life change. Psalm 127:2, "For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep". He has given me life, real, joy-filled, dreams-made-real, milestone-moment life after many years of longing for death, and He opened the door to that life during that sleep. He is faithful and in our bravery to believe it He gives abundantly. 

14) Sitting in the gray, over-sized chair in my parent's living room, teasing Thomas into kissing me. "You're totally never going to get the nerve to kiss me." Yep, that's how it happened. Could it be said that I kissed him first? Not technically, but I might as well have (he won't appreciate that last part). Could I have handled that a little differently? Probably, but it wouldn't have made for as funny of a story. What did I learn from this? What I didn't know then, and what I am still learning now, is that it is more than okay to have a voice in my relationship with the man I love. Whether it's for welcome things (like a kiss) or hard-to-express things (like, the bills or my hurt heart), there is always security in my voice (and my desires!) being heard, and while that security is found in Thomas, it is also found, in even greater supply, in my Father. Even in the most intimate of earthly relationships, my heart is secured in His strong and just hands. So speak, Laura. Your words are safe here.

15) The very first story I wrote just because I felt inspired. It was about a girl with an old cigar box behind some trinkets on her bookshelf. Her heart had been broken and she was picking up all of the little torn pieces off of her floor and adding them to the collection in the cigar box. It was good. It was vivid. And it was just because I wanted to express something inside of me. I never knew I liked to write, or that I even had any sort of knack for it. I really don't think I ever actually had any sort of knack but that the Holy Spirit gave me a gift when I said "yes" to living my life solely for Him. What did I learn? That when we discover a gift given to us by our Creator, we feel the most at home when we exercise it. I didn't realize then that the feeling of release I felt upon writing those words was the result of utilizing a gift given to me by God. I like to look back at that late, middle of the night writing session as a moment where I was introduced to myself--to Laura as creative, expressive, emotive--and it was a pleasure to be me.

16)  The way my chest felt as I wept at the sight of my just-born daughter. Because of the spinal block, my entire chest was numb. It wasn't noticeable until the uncontrollable bawling began and then I realized that absolutely no sound would come out of my mouth as I cried. It was weird and distracting and oddly memorable for all that was happening in that moment. I couldn't stop myself from bawling. This was the accumulation of so much heartache, so many dreams, countless prayers and moments of stubborn faith in the goodness of God come to pass. She was here. Our rainbow baby. Our miracle girl. The little one God had finally prepared me to mother, and the one who would set so much right in my heart. It is no wonder the part of my body that houses my heart was silenced, for what was happening inside of my heart was bigger than any sound could ever express. I witness the fleshing out of God's radical love and I don't know that I've ever cried so hard from pure joy in my life. What did I learn? God's love is not just an idea. He actually loves us physically, and He does it in ways that seem impossible. I also learned that God is not afraid to bowl you over by His absolute, undeniable goodness. You will never, ever be able to convince me that God is not good. Ever.

 

Until tomorrow.