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'!"

We've Got The Bread

Based on my usually vague and yet broadly informative social media posts, I would say most people have a general knowledge of the "road to career-dom" we've been on these last three years; by "we" I mean Thomas, but the reality is it's a journey for each person in our family when it is the journey of the main-man of the crew.

 

We thought we were on our way, that we had finally "arrived", at least for a little while. We still held onto hope that eventually we would see our biggest dream fulfilled and have the mountains in our "backyard", but to have a "real job" seemed a lot like arriving, and we were thankful. 

 

Then came the most random tearing of an ACL in the history of young, handsome Canadian men, and we were left wondering what God was up to--again.

 

This week T had to, for the second time, withdraw from promotion into law enforcement due to aforementioned injury. So here we sit... again... wondering what's happening.

 

Last night was one of those ugly, finger-shaking-at-God kind of nights and in my tizzy I picked up an old study guide from church that Hazel had taken out of my journal. Of course, in typical all-knowing and Sovereign God fashion, the lesson from months ago contained just the words my heart and head needed last night.

"Focus on what I do understand--about God, about who I am, about my circumstances."

This is what I had written along the top of the paper and the very thing I needed to do in light of our once-again questionable circumstances. 

"Let His faithfulness in the past propel me into my future."

I had also written that.

So it turns out I actually had processed all the things I needed to face yet another round of uncertainty, and in pretty typical human-fashion I had forgotten all of it.

Then I read Mark 8 and remembered that Jesus had a name for those who forget so easily:

hard-hearted.

Well dang.

"...Jesus asked them, 'Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Are you hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" -Mark 8:17-19 | NIV

Allow me to show you the conviction with which I received from these few words, in chronological order:

1) I'm talking like I've got no bread. When has He ever left us with no bread? Never.

2) My heart is harder than I'd ever care to admit--for the sake of my ego it's a good thing I didn't realize it. In my pride, I credit myself as one who has a good handle on common sense, but apparently my common sense of the character of God escapes me regularly. So yep... I don't understand.

3) There's a link to my eyes and ears and the memory of the miles behind me. I'll proclaim all I want of the faithfulness of God, but an immediate bout of blindness and Alzheimers has the tendency to come upon me when everything seems uncertain and God seems confusing.

4) Remember that time, just recently, when I did that thing you were so desperate for? Sigh... man, Pops... how could I forget so quickly?

 

It's a crazy ride, living a life of expectant faith. Choosing to believe what your eyes cannot see is hard work. It sounds enchanting but in reality its ugly and tough and full of a lot of pacing and flailing arms. I think what I'm the most thankful for though is that none of that surprises or deters God from doing what He set out to do a long time ago when He invited us into this. He's consistent, and His faithfulness doesn't depend on mine. So with that, I'll stand up, grab a slice of sprouted Ezekiel bread and give a loud, "we've got bread!"  

 

And I'm also leaving out my breadbasket, for whenever He plans on stopping by and giving it a good fill.

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. 

32 Memories for 32 Years | 32.7

In 4 days I turn 32. It's weird because if I become really introspective I can't actually determine exactly how many years I feel like I've been around. It doesn't feel like 32 and yet it does and that's weird. 

I'm the sort of person that holds on to all of the things--memories, hurts, dreams, sewing notions. I've been told I'm wrong in doing so but I think it might be time to accept that there is good to be found in this part of my creation.  Whilst rocking my littlest love and pondering my upcoming "special day" I thought it would be fun to jot down 32 memories and the lessons I've learned from them. 

To save us all some reading (because so many of you are going to read all 32) and to be completely realistic with my available writing time and the fact that, hey, I'm a mom of little people, I'll be sharing these 32 over the rest of the week.  So here they are, in absolutely no particular order, and in complete and utter honesty. {I think, after 32 years of life, I've earned the right to crack open some of these memories and shed light on what has happened on my insides since then. Will they potentially stir up a conversation? Maybe. Is that conversation necessary to continue on in peaceful living? I don't think so. God has done a mighty good job of taking care of me thus far and I trust that if a conversation is in our future then He will bring that to pass.}

Here we go.

1) Sitting in my mint-green-carpeted bedroom learning how to shave for the first time. Why is this coming up as my first memory? Truth is, it's not my first one, but I thought we should start out easy. I remember using a white electric shaver and my mom coaching me through how to run it up my young, blonde-haired leg. I also faintly remember feeling lame for being scared of using a real razor like my big sister did. What did I learn from this? Milestones into womanhood are scary and awkward. Must remember to give Hazel lots of grace and only be as cheesy as she allows.

 

2) The three times I had to drive away from my husband after saying a long goodbye. It hurt, folks. That tangible feeling of heartbreak that is so familiar as a teen? Yeah, this was immeasurably worse. What did I learn? That there is life after heartbreak and that somehow God mends and renews in the healing.

3) Standing outside the main building of Big Sandy Camp, asking my youth leader for approval on the length of my shorts. My youth-group experience can be summed up in a handful of words, and "ostracized" is one of them. I still deal with a lot of shame for my appearance because of these years under the microscope wrongly labeled "modesty". What did I learn? That my created being is something to be ashamed of. That there will never be any true liberty in this skin this side of Heaven because something about my creation must have been done outside of God's intended design if it causes men to stumble so much. If I'm honest, there's still a lot of healing underway with this one.

4) Sitting on the rocky beach of the Bodensee, crying to the Lord over my lonely heart. During this time in prayer I picked up a small rock and used it as a token to remember that He saw me and knew my deepest sorrows. I kept that rock as a reminder that He did, in fact, have a plan in place for me to one day meet the man I would partner with in this life. Little did I know, that man was going to meet me over there in Germany a couple of months later. I still have that rock--but that's likely not surprising to anyone. What did I learn? He always knows and usually the thing we are feeling the most desperate for is the thing He is in the process of moving mountains in. It's darkest before the dawn, people. Trust it. 

5) Standing in the Abercrombie & Fitch dressing room (yes, I said it), slipping my frail and ill little legs into a pair of size 2 olive green corduroy pants.  I was ill. Very, very ill. I also still believed, even in an A&F size 2, that I was fat. I remember feeling this disgusting pride wash over me at the fact that I could fit into a size 2 and yet what I saw in my reflection still needed to lose more. What did I learn? Body shame doesn't have an end-game. It'll keep eating away at you, and it doesn't care what mode gets you there--be it sickness or hard work--it'll eat at you until there's nothing left. Twelve years later and my flesh still wants to celebrate the potential illness that might cause a drop in the scale. What a sick, twisted, enemy I have. Glory to God for the salvation of Christ that CONTINUES to save me in spite of myself.

6) Driving home from the hospital with our fresh little baby boy in the backseat. I was freaked by the fact that they let us take him home all by ourselves. We for sure were not adults enough to be responsible for such a tiny little person. What did I learn? Becoming a grown up is surreal when you're living out the big moments, and the small ones. There are things in life that will leave you in awe even as you are experiencing them, and what I've realized is that is what all of life is made up of if we take the time to notice. 

7) Sitting in the front seat of my mom's car as she drove through the black morning to get me down to Mayo Clinic for my second proctocolectomy surgery. There was this really cute Canadian boy in the back seat who sat, leaned forward, the entire hour long drive just so he could hold my hand. I couldn't wrap my head around why this young kid, who truly barely knew me, was willing to sign on for such a crazy ride. He proceeded to hold my hand every second they would allow until they wheeled me back for surgery. And then he bought me a bear that I named Sir William and he snored on the cot next to my bed all that night. What did I learn? That love happens whether you're prepared for it or not and it will come in whatever package God decides. I didn't know I was going to fall in love with a boy 4 years younger than me in a hospital room while undergoing one of the most vulnerable experiences of my life. But this guy knew my crap (literally) and wanted to keep learning more. I learned that love looks a lot like the bestest friend you could've ever imagined come to life and it's pretty freaking rad.

 

That's all for today. Mom, you get a break until tomorrow.

He Is Now My Lord

"Hear this, daughter; pay close attention to what I am about to say; you must forget your people and even your father's house. Because the king yearns for your beauty, humble yourself before him, for he is now your lord."

-Psalm 45:10-11 | the Voice

 

You know when you've read a verse multiple times and you pass it off as "heard and understood"? This verse is one of those for me. Reality is, much of the Psalms are that way for me, which is why my mind has been exploding morning after morning since January when I began diving into a new translation. We have a way of carrying our old stuff with us, even when it's good stuff, and that can potentially keep us from something new and wonderful. 

The above statement is also true in relationships and our "life labels" (the things we've identified ourselves by, whether given by ourselves or others, that shape the way we receive and perceive events around us).  This morning, as I sat back down after interruption #37 of my time with the Lord, I forced my eyes to linger a little bit over these words. You see, I tend to get distracted by the purposed audience of scripture, which then keeps me from seeing a possible alternative meaning to God's words. In literal terms, I read that the author wanted to talk to some girl because the king (I'm guessing David??) thinks she's fly and wants her to leave all she knows and be with him. Truth is, there's something here for this daughter too.

I'm your textbook holder-on-er.

What is that, you ask?

I'm the one with the memories that blare like an obnoxious television and a photographic memory that seems to favor the bad snapshots. Much to my husband's dismay, I can't seem to let things go, but rather I find myself longing to understand why they stay where they do. Why do I keep these memories locked up tight and pull them out at the first chance I get? What treasures lay within them that will, in turn, make me a freer Daughter of my King?

As I read the words of Psalm 45 again, straining with every ounce of attention I had in me amidst the clanging of "guys" and the screams of a little voice learning to find itself, I heard it.

Laura, My daughter, will you pay attention now to what I am saying. Forget your "people"--the culture that you live in that calls you to look this way and that, straining to measure up and fit the part. Forget the norms that come with being "wife, mother, daughter, woman, friend, Christian"; both the lifestyles of these things but also the struggles. Is it normal to believe that "you aren't enough because you can't do it all, so why try to feel anything but less-than?", therefore dismissing any effort towards something better? Forget that. You must choose to lay down and leave behind the things that are "normal" in your world with your people. You also need to leave behind your father's house. What does that mean for you? That means putting down and leaving behind the things that hurt you there--the labels you continue to put on yourself because one time, long before you knew Me, they might've fit. It's time to leave your father's house in that the value of the opinions of those found there are no longer the ones of highest value. It's time to take the last of your things and head out of the place you once needed but no longer do. It's time to do these things because I've been waiting and yearning to see you walk out in the beauty that I placed in you long ago. I yearn to see you walk in the way I created you to walk, exercising and enjoying the gifts I fashioned in you. I yearn to see you walk secure in your King and full of hope, love and joy. Be humble before me, admit your feelings and struggles because I am not offended by a single one of them, and remember Who you belong to. I am your Lord and I am now the one that you live for.

When you hear a message like that, you can't help but sit up a little straighter. In the flash of a moment, I was set straight in the most loving of ways--fully reminded of the place in which I stand. The place of obedience and adoration to my mighty and gracious King. I can learn from the memories that linger, but I must know when it's time to close up the boxes and leave them at His feet. I can bring them before Him, asking Him to show me what they mean for me today, but I cannot do that at the expense of forgetting who I belong to. My honor must always go to my King and never to my people or to my past.

"Hear this, daughter; pay close attention to what I am about to say; you must forget your people and even your father's house. Because the king yearns for your beauty, humble yourself before him, for he is now your lord."

-Psalm 45:10-11 | the Voice

Is it time for you to forget your people and your old home in order to take up permanent residence with the King who adores you? It is for me, too. May we be a people who find our complete adoration spent on God and God alone. 

 

Going Without: What I Learned From Two Months "Unplugged"

Well, it's November 30th. I told myself (and everyone else) that December 1st was the day. It might seem silly to make any sort of hoopla over coming back to "life" (cue Soul II Soul's "Back To Life") after a two month hiatus but if we are all honest with ourselves, being connected to everyone all the time has truly become our life, and in many ways it's a shame. The other interesting thing about this feeling I feel is that no one is forcing me to plug back in. I could extend this break for many more months or, dare I say it, follow the footsteps of the very few who don't have a social media account of any kind. While there have definitely been thoughts swirling that entertain that end, I've learned a few things that will allow a clearer and healthier perspective on social media as it stands with me, Laura. They may not be revolutionary, and they may be seemingly insignificant, but I find myself treasuring them, holding them close to my heart like rare gems, and it's likely best that they are extended to potentially serve the greater good.

 

What I learned is as follows:

 

Facebook won't let you break up with it:

You know those girls that, after a break up, keep talking as if that conversation just never happened? They make plans for the weekend, they speak of their boyfriend in the present tense as opposed to the past... well, Facebook and that girl have a lot in common. When one ceases to open their facebook app or access it via web browser, facebook begins to email you what others are up to. Comments on photos you are not tagged in, posts regarding people you  don't know, events that quite literally have absolutely nothing to do with you, and facebook thinks it's absolutely imperative that you know about all of it. So they email you. A few times a day. Every day. She won't let you break up with her and it's super obnoxious.

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Being "left out" of all the crazy is wildly liberating:

I had the PRIVILEGE of missing out on allllllllll of the election crazy because accessing social media wasn't an option for me. Did I survive? Yes. Did I still make an informed decision on voting day? Absolutely. Did I do my own research and listen to my own musings on both candidates? Oh Heck Yes. For real people, when the crazy ball starts to roll, just unplug. 

You do not have to sit and stay in the seat of scoffers (Ps. 1:1-3 AMP). 

My day's "insignificant moments" are very, very significant:

One morning I was standing next to the kitchen counter, where #HazieBaby was lounging in her bouncy seat and our eyes locked for what felt like hours. My face began to hurt from smiling and cooing at her endlessly and as the moment dragged on I found myself realizing what I could have (and normally would have) been doing instead of this--mindlessly bouncing her whilst scrolling my feed, getting my morning fix and missing the magic taking place in her eyes. How many of those moments, while not "life-changing", are being missed because something inside of me thinks that life is found "out there" instead of in here, in this very home and with these very people? One of the most powerful things my eyes have been opened to these past months is the magic that is taking place every single day right here under this very roof. Fellowship has happened here, peace has been found here, laughter has been shared over and over and over again, whether with a multitude of friends or simply between two souls in the quiet hours of the night. The insignificant minutes of my day have become the ones that fuel my spirit and remind me of the rich goodness of my God. He is found in the big, triumphant things but He is also found in just as profound of a way in the eyes and the voices of my three loves.

Beautiful community is right outside the door:

I am so immensely blessed to have deep and meaningful relationships with people all over the country. I've learned, however, how to invest in the people who are right here beside me, doing the mom-life, wife-life and ministry-life, and it's been really sweet. Seeing kids play, growing and learning beside one another, and getting to flesh out community here in my own living room has filled me in ways that I didn't even realize needed filling. The people around you are worth taking the time to invest in. God knew what He was doing when He placed you where He did, and turning your eyes to virtual community at the cost of physical is far too high of a price to pay. Dig deep where you are and see your spirit flourish. 

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Meaningful relationships can withstand the miles:

While I've learned how to invest in those around me, I've also grown to appreciate and value the relationships God has given me that are held together by technology. My ministry, my job and many of my soul-friendships are held together and nurtured via text message, social media and phone calls. While it is easy to buy into the lie that those friendships aren't "real" (as I usually hear it), I've learned just how much these women mean to me--how they inspire me, how they encourage me and challenge me and how much my own life is enriched by getting to witness them living theirs. **There is no shortage of people who will suck the life out of you with their social media presence. Cut the cord on that and let the time you do spend scrolling be filled with those who point you towards the beauty, love and grace that is found in this world. There are a lot of them. If you want a list to refer to just check out my instagram account. There are also a multitude of arrows that the enemy will throw when trying to clean up our social media intake--proclaim the name of Jesus over any lie that leaves you feeling "less-than" anyone you are looking at on social media. You are you and she is she. Both beautiful.** Also, on the note of long-distance friendships, make phone calls, send text messages and use as many GIFs as possible. Laughter travels the miles, as do tears. Make the effort. 

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My son's behavior does not improve--but my attitude does:

If you are anything like me, you have had a moment or two (or twenty) where you have barked at your kid because they've done something naughty/annoying/bad while you are on your phone. This, unfortunately, is an all-too common occurrence in our day. Because I wasn't engrossed in a life that wasn't "present" I was able to be engrossed in the life that was. M's behavior did not magically improve, but because I was fully present in our home my response to him was more gracious (still not always as gracious as it could've been). I wasn't distracted. My mind was fully engaged in my job as mom. And I could see how deeply M's little heart needed that from me. 

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It's okay to be in the dark:

Did I have my moments of panic when a friend mentioned something major in their life and I was completely clueless? Absolutely. Did I survive that? Yes. There's nothing wrong with saying, "oh my goodness I had no idea! Tell me about it." Looking or feeling dumb is not nearly as scary and awful as our insecurity leads us to believe. You move on and you build deeper roots in your relationships because the effort to know what is happening in the lives of others leaves them feeling cared for and loved. It's a win-win. 

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My little family is my biggest "thing":

As a follower of Christ I feel this large call on my life to do something big for the Kingdom of God. I often get caught up in the inspirational/writing side of social media and inevitably catch my thoughts lingering around the topics of likes, followers and comments. I've grown, however, to deeply appreciate my impact here in my home. I've learned and lived out the reality that if all I ever did was mother these two beautiful kids and support this incredible man, that would be a full and mighty life lived for God. To give my husband my full and undivided attention is not only an invaluable gift, it's the way of living I committed to when I said, "I do". To dream of the things my children will one day do for the Kingdom of God, and to pray powerful prayers over them, believing in this honorable seat I sit in as their mom, is just the way this role of "mother" was structured when God called me to it. I've learned to refuse to let the outer world get the parts of me that my inner world needs more. They will forever give me a better return on my investment than anyone else ever could because they are the people God placed around me to love me the fiercest and support me the most.

Time allotted for God to move rarely turns out as expected:

I imagined these months to be filled with my own personal blogging and lots and lots of reading. It's been full of big, powerful things--things I didn't even know I needed to walk into in my life--and none of them were blogged about. I had expected some loud and audacious movement from my God for such a bold and selfless step (cue the apathetic applause) but the truth is, stepping away from my false god is not something that should warrant me any sort of applause or pat on the back. It is something that should be done often and done with conviction. He may whisper or He may shout, but the volume to which He responds can never be the motivation. He has been gentle with me--simple, as I put it early on--and yet in that simplicity it has been like the richest and most wonderful of delicacies. 

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Everything you experience can be shared but not everything you experience must be shared with everyone:

Hazie still turned 2 and 3 months old over this time, and I still shared her photo, but it was with those close to me via text message and not with the "masses" that is my social media following. T got his very first piece of police officer apparel and I got to capture that  smile of his in my memory and not on my instagram account. M turned 4 and our house was packed to the gills, and the laughter and bustle of 20 kids in our home was enjoyed and shared with all those present. Each of those moments and all of the feelings I felt so deep within me were still meaningful and powerful and sweet--even if their memory is not forever archived online. I've learned to appreciate photo-taking for the joy of it and for the way it freezes a moment in time forever and not just because it allows people to come to some flighty conclusion of what my life is like. Photography is an incredible gift we have been given, and I will continue to take advantage of every opportunity to freeze in time this beautiful life of mine. I only get one and man, by the grace of God, it's a really good one.  

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Everyone should take some sort of break from social media--this time has been invaluable to me and to my family. I exchanged familiarity and temporary fulfillment for a greater understanding of what my life really is--the four of us wildly chasing after God, loving one another and loving Christ, and deeply grateful for the forgiveness we have been given.  Do you need to take two months off? No. Two months was the time given to me by the Spirit to accomplish what He needed to accomplish in me.  But if you want to be able to grow in your appreciation for the life you are living, then get with God and ask Him what He wants from you.

Then commit.

Let your "no" be "no".

When you mess up repent.

And take your commitment seriously. Because for as seriously as you take your commitment God will seriously do a work in you.

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Here's to prayerfully and slowly entering back in. Holy Spirit, be swift in your conviction, lest I leave behind all the richness You have given me.

The Last Diaper

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

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

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

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

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

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

... but fear of my own doubt.

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

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

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

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

But I feel we are on the brink.

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

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

Because I would rather die than take any other way.

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

laura b
laura b

Exile

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

So it's good.

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

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

So let's get going.

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

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

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

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

Ferguson-57
Ferguson-57

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

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

Mercy or Anger.

Love or Fear.

Jesus or sin.

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

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

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

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

He is with you and will save you.

Peace and security is yours.

He will bring you back home.

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

Walking with you,

laura b
laura b