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Love

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Rare Air.

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Leading up to my recent foot operation Rob and I had one of those rare air moments...

We were on a date, enjoying one another. There were lots of tender words shared.

You see, our entire 31 years of marriage I have told Rob if I were to die before he does, He DID NOT have my permission to re-marry. Not that I would have any real say in the matter, but the very thought of him with another woman just doesn’t set right with me. Some would call me selfish... “What will I care since I’ll be in Heaven”... “Don’t you want him to be happy?”...

Of course I want him to be happy. Just not with another woman. :) 

But God had been dealing with me, so...

Sitting in the car, looking into each other’s eyes (and a few tears in mine), I told him I’d been thinking and praying... and I decided it would be okay with me if he marries again, if I didn’t make it through this surgery. I told him I’d want someone else to know how it feels to be the most loved woman on the planet.

Rare Air.

It’s true, my husband knows how to make me feel more loved than anyone else. That’s saying a lot since I’m pretty particular... can be a bit cranky at times... am what he calls ‘a high maintenance woman who thinks she’s low maintenance.’ (I’ll defend myself in another blog)

Love is hard work... Marriage isn’t easy... Relationships require a ton of acceptance, patience, forgiveness, celebration of who that person is rather than who we want them to be.

May I challenge you to think of and connect with one person, right now... Who’s worth going the extra mile for... One person who needs you to not give up on them... One person who needs to experience...

Rare Air.

-Laura

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I THANK GOD FOR YOU!

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I recently ran across a letter I wrote to our daughter Danielle a few days after she entered rehab for drug and alcohol addiction, 3 years ago. It’s not very pleasant; in fact it is pretty painful thinking back to that time.

The letter reads:

11-19-14 Wednesday – Day 2

Danielle,

I love you my girl. Dad read me the letter he wrote you, so I know he told you about my tears as we left you at The Arbor... and my convo with our dear friends, the Evans, last night. The entire family really does adore you and KNOWS God has a good plan in store for your life! They would love to have you anytime, if God leads you in that direction.

Today, I woke up, and in regular fashion, turned over in bed and began thanking God for the things I DO have. On that list was: “I thank you God that I do have a daughter who loves you, who loves her family, who loves others deeply, and who desires to get well.”

I DO thank God he blessed me with you as my daughter.

Then I had a whole group of women come over and decorate our home for Christmas. It was bitter – sweet... putting up yours and Caleb’s stockings was hard, since neither of you will be here this year. But once again I stopped and thanked God that I will get to celebrate an eternity of Christmases with Caleb; and am grateful for you and your willingness to do the hard work you are doing, to get the tools you will need to live your life with success for the rest of your life; and prayerfully there will be many more Christmases to celebrate together.

My emotions have been a bit all over the place because I haven’t had much time to process since Shine, and the whirlwind of activity getting you ready to go to the Arbor, dad coming home from Africa, decorating for Christmas... but I will get to chill a little in these next few days so I know I’ll be fine. We have walked through a lot in these last few years... I am learning to trust God more and more, no matter what, even when I don’t understand or like what is taking place.

What I DO know, is that God is a redeeming God and ALL we walk through has a purpose. And when we place the crap we’re walking through in his hands – he has a magnificent way of making something beautiful out of it.

I know our stories are not the same in any way but I do look forward to processing with you because there are things I think I can relate to.  And I know God allowed me to be your mother and you to be my daughter for a reason.  I am looking forward to discovering those reasons together.

I thank God for YOU!

With so much love, MOM

Life seems to unfold a bit imperfectly... However, the imperfect allows our hearts to express gratitude to God for his faithfulness to perfect that which concerns us. (Psalm 138:8) And to fully accept & love those God has placed in our lives. (Romans 15:7)

Danielle has now been sober 3 years and leads Celebrate Recovery for young people. I love that girl!

This Thanksgiving season, regardless of what state your relationships are in, no matter who is near or far, take a few moments and thank God for these precious ones who are Heaven sent gifts! And may I strongly urge you to thank them as well! It will melt pain and bring fresh life to hearts longing to be held.

Philippians 1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you.

-Laura

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Crowned for Mission

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Jesus talks a lot in the Bible about compassion. He shared how God would leave the ninety-nine to go after one. He spoke of a prodigal son returning home to his father’s open arms. He stood up for a woman caught in the act of adultery as he drew in the dirt and told the onlookers to cast the first stone if they were without sin. One by one they walked away.

In all of these stories, compassion involves action.

I’ve heard it said that compassion is just emotion until you cross the street. To Jesus, compassion means responding to the needs around us.

One story in particular highlighted this truth. In Luke 10:25-37, an expert in the law asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. Jesus asked him what the law said, and the man recited that it says we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. Great answer! Jesus agreed with this answer, but then the man took it as step further as he asked, “And who is my neighbor (Luke 10:29)?”

Jesus was a story teller and he stayed true to form as he answered this man’s question. Instead of telling him, he painted a picture as he shared about the Good Samaritan. He said in Luke 10:30-36:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’"

Jesus then asked him who was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers and the man responded, the one who had mercy on him. Jesus’ parting words to him were, “Go and do likewise.”

These words hold true for us today. We are crowned to love other people. This is our mission! The neighbors we are called to love aren’t just the people who live next door. They are everyone around us— the homeless, the destitute, the broken, the kids around our kids who act out because they come from broken homes, and the prickly people who struggle to be kind and loving to us.

Imagine what our world would look like if we all really walked this out every day - if we paused for the compassionate cause of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves!

WE ARE THE ANSWER TO INJUSTICE.

Let’s take a closer look at how we are crowned for mission:

  1. Describe a time God interrupted the routine of your day by prompting you to respond to a need around you.
  2. What are the biggest hindrances to you living with this mindset daily?

For further reflection:

Let’s do a little test this week. Each morning, ask God to interrupt your world to show love to your neighbors. Keep a journal of each moment where God uses you. Describe how it makes you feel to be his hands and feet to the people around you. As the week wraps up, take some time to reflect back. Think through each situation. Say a prayer again for each person with a need you were able to help meet in a moment. How did it make you feel to be used this way by God?

Verses on compassion:

Mark 6:34 - And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.

Mark 1:41 - Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

Matthew 18:27 - Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

Matthew 14:14 - And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

Matthew 9:36 - But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

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Secure

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Imagine with me, if you will, that you are a young woman, engaged to be married to the man of your dreams. Wedding plans are in motion. You have the most amazing dress picked out. All of your family is excitedly talking about coming together to celebrate you and cheer you on as you step into your future, and then… WHAM! An angel of God appears out of nowhere and tells you,

“Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you” (Luke 1:28, MSG).

At this point, I imagine you’d probably be feeling a little complimented and at the same time, a little thrown off your game. Perhaps you’d even feel slightly frightened and more than a wee bit curious.

Let’s play this scenario out a little farther. The angel continues speaking to you, and the next thing he says is,  

“You have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:29-33).

Surprise!! You’ve never even been with your husband, or any other man, and you’re going to have a baby!! How would you respond? How would you feel?

After the shock, my first thought might be concern for what my fiancé would think. I’d likely ask myself what the family would think. I’d wonder if I was even going to fit into that dress. And what, I’d ponder, would people say about me?

What a difficult situation to navigate through.

This is exactly the situation Mary found herself in before Jesus was born. Her response is a golden reminder to us of what it looks like to walk in the security that can only be found in our relationship with God regardless of our circumstances. In Luke 1:38 a, she said,

“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true”

Mary modeled a sense of security based on her personal relationship with God and her trust in his character.  Like Mary, we too can walk in confidence regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, the status of our emotions, or the opinions or accomplishments of the people around us. Security in Christ comes as we recognize and internalize that we are God’s beloved daughters. We are the apples of his eye. And he is head over heels in love with us. That love chases all our fears away as 1 John 4:18 (AMPC) says,

“There is no fear in love…but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!”

Beloved, my prayer for you is that you will live securely anchored in God’s love for you. May you head out each day with your head held high. Knowing he is with you. He is for you. He is on your side, and every promise available in Christ is yes and amen for your life!

Let’s take a look at living anchored securely in Christ:

1.     Read the account of Mary’s story in Luke 1. What stands out to you most about Mary’s confidence in God and trust in his plans for her life?

2.     In what areas do you find it difficult for your sense of security to stem from your position of being anchored in Christ rather than what others think of you?

For further reflection:

1.     This week make a plan to do something that you have to totally rely on God to do and will get you one step closer to being more secure in Christ, more free, more confident.

2.     Take 30 minutes of self-care time; put on your favorite, fun worship song in your living room or bedroom (somewhere private). Dance with Jesus and feel another level of freedom and security in HIM. Dance with HIM and for HIM; no one is watching! Get your journal out and write down the transformation that came forth in your heart and mind. Remember that moment when you feel insecurity trying to creep in your life. Remember how Jesus has made you not only free in HIM, but SECURE in HIM.

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The Art of Validation

Have you read the news lately OR had a recent conversation with your family or friends.... or the person standing behind you at the grocery store? It seems everyone is fighting with everyone about everything. There are always the hot topics like politics, sexuality, climate, race, & religion. You name it, there’s a squabble going on. I’m actually amazed we haven’t blown each other off the planet by now.

However, on a much less dramatic plane, the way we relate to one another on an everyday basis is equally... interesting. The people I chat with, or overhear having conversations, seem to struggle a little with their finances, health and a few other non - human issues. But for the most part they are frustrated or having a difficult time navigating...

Relationships.

That’s what life is made up of for the most part. PEOPLE. More than ever, we, as a human species are wrestling with the ability to live in harmony with one another.

Why is that?

Taking an inventory of my own life, I’d say, for the most part, it’s because I want to be heard, understood, and valued regardless of what I’m feeling, I’ve said, or am experiencing in any given moment... but surprisingly all those people I thought were so amazing, quickly become the enemy when I find myself ‘dis-regulated.

We all want to be heard, understood, and accepted...

In another word: VALIDATED.

Validation is a relatively new term for our family, but this ONE SKILL alone has made the biggest impact in resolving conflict in our home over the last several years!

What is validation?

Validation is the art of affirming another person by actively listening & accepting the person as they are, in the moment, and communicating that acceptance to them.

It’s the ability and willingness to enter fully into the experience of another person. Validation honestly, is love in action. It requires that you reflect back what the other person is feeling even if you don’t feel the same way – or do not agree with what they are feeling. Validation is purely observing the other person in a nonjudgmental manner that communicates clearly that you are really interested in what they are thinking and feeling. There is no right or wrong to feelings – because what a person feels is simply what a person feels. Validation is all about describing what you observed in an unbiased, empathetic way. After the person has shared their thoughts or heart, it’s saying things like:

“I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you.”

“Wow, I can see how painful it must’ve felt for you to experience what you experienced.”

You’re simply reflecting back to them with nonjudgmental tones. It’s also very helpful to share what you share with the same intensity they shared their concerns. For example, if the person you are listening to communicates with strong emotion – mimic their emotion with a strong emotional validating response. This let’s them know you understand how upset they are.

It’s also not about understanding the other person – you don’t need to know ‘why’ they feel how they feel – it’s not about logic. It’s simply about the other person feeling valued and loved. In fact, you can truly love someone their whole life without validating them – but if you do not validate them they will not feel loved. When you validate someone – all of the emotion and toxicity of the moment is released – then you can move to understanding and logic.

The crazy thing is that validation works even when you know someone is doing it. It’s like magic.

I remember one day a few years ago – our church was hosting a city wide women’s event with Beth Moore, and I was suppose to MC that night – our daughter Danielle was in a rough spot on her journey and coming to visit from out of town – our son Luke was moving out of our house into an apartment after a year of living with us – and our son Caleb’s birthday was coming up. Needless to say my emotions were all over the place & I was feeling completely overwhelmed. I had cried all day long, prayed and talked to a few friends, but honestly I could not get ahold of myself. I felt like I was losing it, and had no idea how I could host this huge event. Then Rob came home, I told him what was going on – and even though I knew what he was doing, he grabbed me, held me in his arms and tenderly said, “Laura, you are an amazing woman, you are a fantastic leader, you love your kids so deeply, and you are missing your son. It’s 100% understandable that you feel the way you feel. I am a father and I love our kids, but I can only begin to imagine how you must feel, as a mom, to have all of our kids leaving the nest when you’ve nurtured them and had them in our home all these years. I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing in this moment. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to feel sad. Can I pray for you? And Laura, you are going to do a fantastic job tonight hosting these women, because you are so great at loving others.”

All I have to say is - it worked. The tears stopped, peace came, and off I went to one of the most memorable evenings ever!

Believe me, validation takes some practice and it’s easy to drift back into judgment, shame, defensiveness, anger, and all those other ‘not so kind’ responses we’re use to engaging in... But if you learn and practice the art of validation, you will be astounded at how wonderful your relationships become.

You might even discover all those PEOPLE are a lot like you...

AMAZING!

-Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 Things I Admire About You... After 31 Years of Marriage!

1. That you love and accept me just the way I am.

For the first few years you tried to change me, but when you started celebrating me... I believe that one act as my husband, released me to allow the Holy Spirit to do the work that desperately needed and still needs to be done in me!

2. That you take care of your physical body.

For 15 years I left health books open & nagged you - but for the last 16 years you have been conscientious about the gift of your physical body. Healthy eating – exercising daily – taking your sups religiously - drinking the crazy looking but healthy green concoctions I come up with that will help you live longer! You’re the sexiest 56 year old man I know!

3. That you validate me when I’m acting a mess.

I know when I’m behaving poorly, believing lies, allowing my grief or pain to get the upper hand... but you almost always take the high road, seek to understand, and choose empathy instead of judgment.

4. That you live a godly life.

I realize a pastor should do this, but you do it because you genuinely love and want to please God, and be an example to others. The integrity you live with is real. Your recognition that remaining under the waterfall of God’s love and grace is your anchor, brings stability to our relationship, home, and those you lead.

5. That you are a learner.

Not a week goes by that you haven’t learned some new skill or read some fresh information about an activity or interest. Your hunger for growth inspires me to reach higher.

6. That you live and lead by conviction. 

I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard you say to our kids, our team, or me, “I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do. This is in our best interest. I want you to feel secure if ‘something happens.’”

7. That you put on music while we’re doing the finances.

You make life fun! I love how we giggle over the silliest things. How you are always looking for ways to bring a smile to my face or laughter into even the mundane tasks of life.

8. That you believe the best in our kids at every season.

Your reaction to our children’s births was laughter because of the joy you felt! You practiced every sport with them & went to every game, did homework, showed them how to live well, disciplined in love, told them they could do anything, believed the best when they made mistakes... have cheered them on from the moment they existed.

9. That you have an adventuresome spirit.

Regardless of the season of your journey, you choose risk, excitement, life. I am in awe of your thirst for things that thrill your heart and how you ‘go for it’ with every fiber of your being.

10. That you send me kind & romantic texts.

One of the most recent:

  • I love you!!
  • So proud to be your husband!!
  • You are hot hot hot!!
  • I’m very fond of you!!
  • I love how you love people!!
  • Everybody wants to be your friend...
  • Me included!!
  • Can’t wait to go on our anniversary trip!!

I’m not sure why God chose to gift you to me, but I am so very grateful!

You are my very best friend. We share the most beautiful love a girl could desire. You are my forever dream come true! Thank you for your faithfulness and undying love.

-Laura

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Come Away With Me

Song of Solomon 2: 8-10 (NLT) - "Ah, I hear my lover coming! He is leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills. My lover is like a swift gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he is behind the wall, looking through the window, peering into the room. My lover said to me, “Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one!" 

This scripture is about the intimacy found between two lovers and their pursuit for one another. It kind of reminds me of the love that Rob and I experience! Just the other day, after having been away from each other for 10 days, I came into the room and Rob grabbed me and held me close and tenderly whispered in my ear, "I'm so glad we won't be apart for the next 3 months!" What sweetness filled my soul. 

These verses are also a beautiful illustration of the love that God has for us - His beloved! God is always pursuing us with His immeasurable love! 

I remember just after our son Caleb relocated to Heaven, I had all kinds of emotions and questions about Gods love for me. But a dear friend sent me these verses and I read them over and over again so that I could remind myself that regardless of what I am going through, God is pursuing me with his love!

Maybe you are questioning Gods love for you because of a tragedy, a difficult circumstance or some sort of failure in your life. Let me assure you that there is no place internally or externally where you can hide from God and as long as you live, He will PURSUE you and encourage you to come away with Him, so He can love, heal & free you, bringing you hope, strength and wholeness!! 

This week leading up to Easter Sunday, I pray you will embrace the constant pursuit of Gods amazing grace and love each and every moment! 

-Laura

Use What You Have

Everybody loves LOVE!

In fact, when it comes to what is most important to God, I think love is at the top of his list. There are over 550 scriptures about love in the Bible. One of the most famous is 1 Corinthians 13:13, “These three will last forever – faith, hope, and love and the greatest of these is LOVE.” John 3:16 says, “God so LOVED the world that he gave his only son…” God is all about LOVE, and God IS LOVE.

Since God is all about love, it makes sense that we should be all about love too!

Over the last 30 years Rob and I, and our ministry team have done our best to create an environment at Shoreline Church, where love is infused into every part of what we do. The result has been mind blowing as we’ve watched people from every background and walk of life experience the unbridled LOVE of God!

However, as wonderful as love is... we’re not always good at it. Let’s take a look at a story from the Old Testament that will give us a few pointers on getting better at love.

In 2 Kings 4 we read about a woman who lost her husband and had no money to take care of her 2 sons – bill collectors were going to sell her and her sons into slave labor if she couldn’t pay her bills. She reached out to Elisha, a miracle - working prophet for help. Elisha replied, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha then instructed her to go around to all of her neighbors and ask for their empty jars, then go inside her house and pour oil into all of the jars.

GOD WANTS TO USE YOU!

Often times we want God to do a quick work and make all our relational problems better – we want instant love miracles, but God wants US to be involved in the process of the miracle. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, ACCORDING to his power that is at work in US.” God’s plan involves you and me. With the widow it involved her gathering some jars. He wants us to be his hands and feet and resources to LOVE the people we know! In fact, we’re all he’s got to be his expression of LOVE in the world. What an honor and privilege to be a part! God wants to use you!

WHAT DO YOU HAVE?

Elisha asked her a question… “What do you have?” In other words, what can you give God to work with? Her answer was, “I have nothing at all.” God wants to use our lives to bless and help and LOVE others but often the first thought we have is: “I don’t have anything, I can’t be used by God.” We think, “Surely God, if you want all those crazy people in my life to be loved, you will use the pastor, or that established organization or all of the other, more qualified people…” But then the woman says, “Well, I do have a little bit of oil.” What she meant was, “Well I do have this tiny bit of something, but it is so small, I didn’t think it was even worth mentioning.” HELLO!! Never underestimate what God can do with the tiniest little bit. Jesus took a few loaves of bread and fish, and multiplied them to feed 20,000 people. So, if we will take a little closer look at what we do have – even if we think it’s worth nothing – we’ll see that there is always something we can give God to work with. Let me ask you, what do you have? What has God already graciously done in your life? It might be so small you are overlooking it. But I guarantee, you have something God can use! There’s a miracle he’s done in your marriage, with your kids, in your health or finances, or relationships. What is in your hand?

USE WHAT YOU HAVE.

Jesus tells a story called, the parable of the talents, about 2 men who multiplied the resources they were entrusted with, while the third man buried the one talent he was given – the master came back and said to the two who had used/multiplied what they’d been given, “Well done, good and faithful servants, you have been faithful over a little, I will make you ruler over much.” However, to the one who did nothing with his talent, he said, “Depart from me you wicked and evil servant.” The master continued by saying, in Matthew 25:29, “For whoever has, more will be given, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”  

The worst thing we can do is sit around and do nothing with what we have.

When we exercise, our muscles grow... In the same way, when we use what God has given us, it grows. God has poured so much love into our lives, let’s be willing to pour out his love to everyone we come in contact with and watch LOVE grow!

DON’T BE AFRAID TO LOVE BIG!

The prophet told the woman “Ask for all the empty jars you can find… don’t just gather a few.” God is a big God – he loves to do big things! Jesus did big miracle after big miracle; He opened blind eyes, raised the dead, multiplied wine and food so there was an abundance left over! He LOVED in the biggest way as well… Those who were the worst of sinners: prostitutes, despised tax collectors, and even those who persecuted, mocked and crucified him. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”

HE LOVED BIG. Ask Jesus to help you LOVE BIG!

GOD WILL MULTIPLY YOUR LOVE TO RESCUE OTHERS.

In the rest of the story it says the widow began filling the jars her sons had brought her, and as each one was full she filled another jar, and another, until there was not a jar left. That’s when the oil ran out. This is a pure miracle! I think it’s worth noting that as many jars as she gathered, is how much oil she had. I bet if she had more jars, more jars would have been filled, or less jars filled, if she had less jars. The oil was multiplied according to how many jars she had. This is significant when we think about LOVE.

Maybe as many people as we are willing to LOVE – God will use us - to love!

Then the best news of all is that when the oil multiplied, she had enough money to pay all her bills, and enough resources to live on until the draught was over. The miracle RESCUED her and her entire family! The miracle multiplied! 

God wants to multiply whatever is in your hands – whatever he has done for you – to help you love and rescue others!

He will use your once broken marriage that he rescued, to help a couple that needs hope. He will take your now healed body story to encourage someone who just got a bad doctors report. He will multiply your resources, so you can give financially in ways that will bring real change. He will use your story of depression, addiction, or whatever he has done for you... And multiply your love for those who need to be rescued in those areas too!

Father, help us to be aware of all you have richly provided and all you have done for us. Please multiply and empower us to use it to reach out in LOVE to rescue others who need to know that you are a God who LOVES them so much!

-Laura

 

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Landscape - Legacy - Ladies - Love

He’s got the whole world in HIS hands.

This morning as I was walking my dog Mellow and praying – this song kept ringing in my mind: He’s got the whole world in his hands... he’s got the little bitty babies in his hands... he’s got you and me sister in his hands... he’s got Ounaminthe, Haiti in his hands... he’s got the whole world in his hands!

BY THE WAY THAT MEANS GOD’S GOT YOU IN HIS HANDS TOO! IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT!

LANDSCAPE

 I am in awe of this gorgeous nation. Breathtaking mountains and refreshing beaches are the panorama of Haiti. Such beautiful people. And a God who loves every single ONE!

LEGACY

It still sends a shock through my system to see my sons name on these buildings...

Then I look into the eyes of the boys and girls – the young men and women growing up at Danita’s Children... immediately peace and joy flood my soul. They are full of: Life.  Laughter. Wholeness. Learning about God’s ways and experiencing the depths of his love! Many feel motivated to continue their education so they can do their part to bring positive change to this impoverished yet lovely country! What more can a mom desire... Caleb’s legacy continues to be etched across the globe. For that I am eternally grateful.

LADIES

WHAT A FANTASTIC 2ND YEAR OF SHINE HAITI! CLOSE TO 900 WOMEN WALKED FOR MILES AND MILES JUST TO COME HEAR THE MESSAGE OF FREEDOM THAT ONLY JESUS CAN PROVIDE!

Two precious women traveled for 4 days even though they were robbed along the journey. My sweet daughter – in - love Katy gave them some of her clothes to wear to the conference! And she preached up a storm on Saturday!

Friday night Danita and I opened the conference. God alone knows the plowing that took place. For we walk by faith!

My girl Danielle, so bravely and eloquently shared her testimony of freedom with these women. I know the seeds planted will take root and blossom for eons of time!

My dear, dear friend Cheryl Luke – what in the world? Her testimony of a painful marriage brought courage for many to reach out and grab freedom! And it was a week filled with training Danita’s team with the Celebrate Recovery curriculum. Years of freedom are on the way!

As always, one of my favorite moments was giving each girl a gift to remember our time together. This year it was a key with the words ‘I AM FREE’ – in Creole ‘Mwen Lib’ May they never forget!

God loves his Haitian daughters! I can only imagine the radical change for good that will take place as they continue to embrace the FREEDOM Jesus brought at Shine Haiti 2017! 

LOVE

When God knits our hearts together with others, it is always because of his grande plan to woo this world into his loving embrace!

UNTIL NEXT YEAR...

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5 Tips to Keep Your Marriage Spicy

5 Tips to Keep Your Marriage Spicy

As girls we sometimes assume that our guy should just know what we are thinking and what they should do to keep us happy.

Relationships can be tough! I mean sometimes it feels like you don’t even speak the same language! However, most of the time that is simply not the case. Here are a few time tested, proactive practices Rob and I have learned over the last 30 + years of marriage that I believe will keep your relationship fiery fresh!

1. Acceptance

In the first 2 years of marriage this was a huge struggle for us. Everywhere we went – to dinner with friends, to church... I was having a ball – just being myself. But then on the way home Rob had a whole list of things he wanted to share with me about how I wasn’t acting the way I should. That was even before I started cussing! J Mostly he felt like I was being too vulnerable, sharing all our ‘stuff’ with people. I really felt like he was trying to shape me into some ‘ideal’ he had in his head, but I certainly wasn’t feeling accepted for who I am! I finally told him one day, “There are a whole lot of people who seem to like me just the way I am... and if you don’t stop this, you’re going to make me into someone YOU don’t even like.” The good news is, as he began to accept me for who I was, it created an environment for my heart to be open to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in my life.

2. Vulnerability - Openness

One of my favorite things about mine and Rob’s marriage is our friendship. Of course we share the same vocation, kids, family and friends, but we are VERY different when it comes to what activities we like to do. Robs idea of a great day off is to insert as many adrenalin laced activities in as possible: work out with weights, ride his bicycle, play golf, ride his motorcycle, have sex…I’m just saying... Whereas my idea is to take a leisurely walk with the dog, then sit on the back porch drinking coffee and have a long quiet time, read books, browse shopping websites, & take a nap. Our differences could kill vulnerability. Yet, we do share some common interests. I actually enjoy being his biker babe on a short ride to the movies or Starbucks – girls, I need a goal to ride. We both like hiking, and I do like sex… A LOT! But what I love the most about our relationship is the intimacy and connection we share about everything. Rob, for the most part, has always been an excellent & tender partner when it comes to listening and seeking to understand me in all the different stages of life... which creates intimacy & openness between us, especially for me as a woman. It is so crucial to build that foundation in the beginning so that when life gets hard you have a solid foundation to land on. Do everything you can to leave space in your week to bear your heart & soul with one another.

3. Respect & Love

Ephesians 5:22, 25 - Wives submit to / honor your husbands, as you do to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Men want & need respect. 

Women want & need love.

I can tell you for sure that one of the biggest fears women have is that at some point her man is going to stop loving her; whether it’s because of how much she is juggling AND also wanting to be a blessing to him... but isn’t sure she has what it takes; OR because she compares herself to the perfect images our culture portrays of what she should look like. But when a husband consistently communicates to his bride how much he loves her, it brings safety and reassurance to their bond! Men, on the other hand, are looking for honor. He needs to know that his woman respects him. One of the quickest ways to ensure marital bliss is to brag on your husband: to him, to your kids, and to everyone else you know. I promise it will get back to him and make him feel like a million bucks. We can all find something imperfect about our spouses; may I boldly invite you to celebrate and verbalize your LOVE & RESPECT to one another.

4. Validation. 

Last year for about 6 months, Rob was dealing with an inner ear dysfunction that caused vertigo... I was so use to him being strong, active and invincible... but it was really tough. He had to rest a lot more... slow down his activities, decrease his salt intake, stop eating fun foods! He just wasn’t himself... One day, after he had researched a whole bunch of stuff... he decided to pour out his entire heart to me. We were standing in the bathroom and sadly I just wasn’t as tuned in as I normally am. Actually in my heart I was, but I was trying to get out the door for an appointment. Instead of validating him right then and there... and asking him for another time to hear his whole heart, he could tell I was agitated and I kind of dismissed him. Ugh! It really hurt his feelings. Needless to say, I had to do a whole lot of makeup work to get him to understand that I always want to know how he feels when he’s going through something... and then really take the time to validate his feelings!

The point is ladies, it’s not always easy for men to open up – so when they do – let’s make sure we stop - focus - and validate them!

5. Prioritize.

Keep your relationship a priority.

I know it’s not rocket science but I am always shocked when I start asking questions to couples who are struggling, about how much time they really spend together connecting heart-to-heart - on a consistent basis.... it’s usually very little. I know when you have young kids – you have to really fight for the time – or if one of you is working a night shift – you might have to get creative, swap babysitting your friends kids, or grab random or late night moments... but let me assure you, it’s worth fighting for! At the very beginning of our marriage, Rob and I adopted a ‘777’ plan and have continued it to this day. Every week, we take the 7th day off, part of which we use to connect on a deeper level. Every 7 weeks, we take a day and a half off and spend more focused time together, which occasionally entails a day trip or quick over night away. And once every 7 months, we enjoy a vacation or stay-cation, making sure our relationship is in a healthy place. Of course there are our daily connect moments, even if it is over dinner or pillow talk. This year I started a new tradition where at the end of the day we toast and talk about all the things we are grateful for on that day. Weekly, we take turns planning our date night.

Life can get so busy... it is vital to prioritize your relationship!

-Laura

 

God Our Father, Will Always Find You

This is the story of a girl who is often lost but always found…. When I was a little girl, around age 5 or 6, my family and I were traveling and along the journey we stopped at a gas station. I was a curious kid filled with wonder, so everything to me was an adventure including this ordinary trip to the store. Naturally, I began to explore; leaving my parents and siblings in the dust. After a while I finally decided to look up and to my dismay, my family was nowhere in sight. My whole world started to shift as I realized I had wandered too far. I made my way to the front of the store and sat on the curb in defeat. At that moment, I looked up and I saw my dad running towards me with open arms and heart on his sleeve. He couldn’t be more thrilled that he found his daughter, it was a beautiful reunion.

If you have attended Shoreline for more than a year – then you’ve heard my dad preach this story a little differently, but this is the way I see it. My dad has never stopped finding me. I am so blessed to have the earthly father that I do. This story is the first example of me losing myself in the world, but it certainly wasn’t the last. I have lived a life filled with satisfying my curiosities and I have lived a life filled with grace meeting me at every turn.

In case all of you haven’t heard, here is a little bit of my story… During my college years I found myself struggling with addiction. How I got there is irrelevant, but like I said before I was a curious girl and nonetheless ended up with a severe dependence on drugs and alcohol. I was up to my neck in shame. Life was pointless, I never attempted to take my life but I definitely wished I didn’t exist. Once again I found myself sitting on a curb in defeat and just like before my dad came to find me.

I woke up one morning to a letter from him. With the utmost grace and compassion he revealed to me a gut feeling he wasn’t able to shake. Without any condemnation he told me that if I needed help, all I needed to do was say the word and he would be there. You know what happened next – right?… there was a beautiful reunion. I was so ready to be found. This is the kind of dad I have.

I know right? I have a pretty amazing dad… But let me be the first to tell you, so do you. My dad is only human, and he scores pretty high on that scale but still he is only a man. What I didn’t tell you, is that he actually left that store without me. He made it half way up the street when he realized that he was traveling with one less kid. It’s all good now, we laugh about it often and it makes for a really good story, but can I tell you something? God will never forget you, and he will always find you. His love never quits.

Maybe you haven’t had the best earthly father and maybe there is even pain surrounding the word “dad’. But just as real as your pain, there is real a God, a father that is greater than your hurts. Let him find you. Rest in the reality that you are completely, in every way his child and he is your father.

- Danielle Koke