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Motherhood

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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 to Nurture

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One of the most famous painters of all time, Rembrandt, crafted a well-known piece of art called, The Return of the Prodigal Son. In this painting, Rembrandt captures the full expression of God's character by drawing our Heavenly Father with two vastly different hands. One hand is drawn masculine; the skin and fingers rugged, protective, and strong. The other is clearly depicted as feminine; slender, soft, and tender looking. What a beautiful and eye-opening way to demonstrate both the masculine and feminine sides of God. The Bible says we are created in his image; male and female he created us (Genesis 1:27). We are crafted to depict these different characteristics of God to the world.

We are going to look closer at what’s depicted by the feminine hand. We could say those are nurturing hands.

The word nurture itself is a verb, and it means to care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing.

That tender hand reminds us of the ways God nurtures us. He is our caregiver. He is loving and kind. We can read how he tends to our needs all throughout the Bible. Here are just a few verses that show us the tender heart of God:

·      "He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds."—Psalm 147:3

·      "The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears."—Isaiah 25:8

·      "He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young."—Isaiah 40:11

Don’t you just love that! He bandages our wounds. He wipes away our tears. He feeds us like a shepherd. He carries us, holding us close to his heart. There is so much comfort we can draw from these reminders. We need this nurturing support from God all throughout our lives.

In the same way we are surrounded by opportunities to represent God to others through nurturing. To extend the hand of God in this way to those around us. To pour into them and encourage them. To tend to their needs. To have the coffees and the one-on-ones that bring life.

We women are especially equipped for this task. We were created to nurture even as we lead, inspire, and as we run in all our lanes and wear the various hats we wear. This doesn’t take away from our strength. It lends to it.

Through nurturing we raise up others around us to be who God called them to be. We are an extension of God to them.

We bring the same comfort that God himself offers us. This world desperately needs this tender loving care, and as we awaken to the call to nurture, the world is awakened by the love of Jesus displayed through his royal daughters. We are crowned for this!

Let’s take a closer look at how we are crowned to nurture:

1.     When you think of the word, nurture, what comes to mind?

2.     Who has been a nurturer to you in your life?

3.     Who in your world can you nurture, care for and protect?

For further reflection:

It’s so common to hear women say that we are so used to being the givers and the nurturers that it’s hard for us to receive care and support from the people around us. If your nurture tank is running on empty, think of someone in your world you receive encouragement and life from spending time with them. Reach out to them via a phone call or set up a time to get together. Take time to nurture you this week so you can keep pouring out to others.

Verses on nurturing:

1 Thessalonians 2:7-12New Living Translation (NLT) - 7 As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but instead we were like children[a] among you. Or we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children. 8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too. 9 Don’t you remember, dear brothers and sisters, how hard we worked among you? Night and day we toiled to earn a living so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we preached God’s Good News to you. 10 You yourselves are our witnesses—and so is God—that we were devout and honest and faultless toward all of you believers. 11 And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. 12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 5:11New Living Translation (NLT) - 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Romans 15 1-2The Message (MSG) - Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

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The Mirror That Matters

20 years ago when I was a young mom, I had no idea that I would have the honor of standing on stage this Mother’s Day with my beautiful daughter, Danielle, and my lovely daughter in luv, Katy! Dreams do come true!

We shared with our church family about their unmatched VALUE to their Creator. In stark contrast, the culture tries to tell us who we are, what we should look like, act like, weigh, and even that we need to have certain things to live a significant life. It encourages us to conform to a particular mirror image. But the problem is, the culture is elusive, it’s always changing. If we try to find our identity there, it will always lead to frustration as we compete and compare ourselves to everything around us. Romans 12:2 (Phillips) - Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold, but let God re-mold your mind from within. We need to let God change us from the inside out!

The culture we live in often gives us the wrong mirror images to look at, but as Danielle shared, “There is a perfect mirror – God’s word - that gives us accurate and wonderful images to believe!”

As a mom, it was breathtaking to hear my daughter share with thousands of people how we need to allow God’s thoughts alone shape us. “His word makes up our mind for us - it tells us who we are – all we have to do is read what he says about us to discover our true identity.” She shared how life can sometimes look and feel like a disaster, that it is messy and hard. But God has a way of turning even the messiest disasters into something beautiful. Psalm 139:44 - I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Only God’s word will consistently tell us how beautiful, valuable, and accepted we are, regardless of the stage of life we are in. We are so very loved by God, but life has a way of making us feel devalued! She shared how when she was a little girl, her older brother Caleb asked to trade her $20 bills for his $1 bills. She gladly did it thinking it was a fun ‘trading game.’ What a stinker he was. “The fact is, when we understand our true worth, we won’t exchange our value for something less!” As she concluded, she encouraged, “You are never too young or old, you’ve never made too bad of a decision, and it’s certainly never too late to start believing the truth of God’s word! When you look to His word to define your value, you will begin to see ‘much less disaster and much more beautiful!’”

Wow! I could not be more proud of my girl! She is brilliant and as authentic as they come!

Then there’s Katy. What an incredible communicator and gift to our personal and church family! She encouraged us to stop comparing ourselves with others because we are each uniquely created. 1 Peter 4:10 – God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. She shared what a huge weight there is in being uniquely created. Unique means = the only one of it’s kind! There is only one YOU... so we need to get better at celebrating who God made us to be, and then championing all the other people around us to be the unique person God created them to be! She bragged on how growing up her mom always praised the special personality and character traits each of her daughters had, so they always knew their individual value and worth. She said, “As we embrace our uniqueness, it empowers us to fulfill the purposes for which God designed us. Don’t ever forget that the world around you needs you to be the best YOU, you can be! ” Concluding her message, she left us with a brilliant thought she and her BFF adopted. They decided their friendship would always have a no compete clause; and that the only time they would look at each other’s mirror would be to lift and lend strength, because... Real queens fix each other’s crowns.

Let that be said of us all – that we embrace the unique person God made us and cheer on everyone else around us!

Father, help us to never let anything or anyone - this culture - the enemy’s lies - or even the unhealthy thoughts we sometimes have about ourselves, stop us from becoming the unique, beautiful reflection of Jesus in our world! Give us eyes to see ourselves the way you see us, so that every part of our lives, even the things we think aren’t so great, become the very things that propel us into our destiny!

Happiest Mother’s Day Ever!

-Laura

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What I Would Tell My 30 Year Old Self...

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I know you’ve heard that saying numerous times, but it really is a huge waste of time to be concerned about things that just don’t matter all that much. Of course, it’s a lot easier said than done.

In my 30’s, my kids were little so things were always a small disaster, and I so desperately wanted order in my home… for things to look beautiful. My solution: I literally took all of the ‘pretty’ things on my coffee table and the other places that cute little hands could reach, and put those items up high on my fireplace mantel by day. Then by night, as soon as the kids were in bed I put them all back down again… every single day, for years. Looking back, I still can’t believe I did that. Not only was it a time-consuming exercise, but it took up an extremely large and unnecessary amount of brain space to keep up with it all.

That example is minor in comparison to how I felt when my kids spilled things on their clothes or the sofa… or they were seen in public without their hair brushed or wearing mismatched clothes… or they didn’t make the bed just right…or as they grew, and they made blaring mistakes for all to see. Like the time our sons got into a fist fight with each other at school. Great – the pastor’s kids are a mess! Granted, it’s not a bad thing to want your home to feel sane, and your kids to look and act like decent human beings. And depending on your personality, these things probably bother some of you less than others. I’m sure by now you’ve guessed that I’m a first born, ducks in a row, recovering control addict.  But the issue was not so much external as it was internal. The bottom line is, all that focus on the small stuff simply wasn’t important, but it was driving me crazy on the inside.

What helped me change? I’d be lying if I said I finally reached a place where nothing small ever bothered me, but there are a few thoughts that helped:

GRATITUDE

I began thanking God every day that I have kids. And that God uniquely created each one just exactly how they are. When I caught myself complaining about or comparing them to others, I took that as my cue to have a gratitude party! Being thankful for what I had always changed my perspective from negative to positive and helped me let go of those little insignificant things!

1 Thess. 5:16-18 - Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

IT IS WHAT IT IS

I can still hear her now, my friend Jess, calmly saying those words over and over: ‘It is what it is.’ I can’t tell you how many times I felt ruffled by the relentless monotony of parenting, or weary of trying to keep up a perfect home or image of the kids… then those words would come flooding into my mind. I’d tell myself: If the milk spilled – ‘it is what it is - so what?’ If the car got a scratch – ‘it is what it is - who cares?’ If our AC broke again – ‘it is what it is - o well.’ Those words rang in my ears over and over until I finally realized that when I accepted what was – my frantic state of mind calmed down and I was able to see that those seemingly monstrous situations weren’t as big a deal as I originally thought, and they certainly weren’t too much for me and God to handle together.

Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

LIVE IN THE MOMENT

It seems like when you’re young, you go from one thing to the next… Always trying to reach that next goal. Hoping, wishing, praying that ‘when’ you get that one thing situated, fixed, or done– ‘then’ you’ll enjoy life more fully. But the fact is… There’s always something else that will need your attention, a new issue to deal with, another problem that demands to be solved. The proverbial arrival of Nirvana will never happen because life is in constant motion. One of the quickest ways to keep the small stuff small is to tune into the moment right in front of you. Relish in that chocolate covered little face, the fork marks in your table, the lovely sunset filtering through your baby’s cries, and the quiet nights as a single person when you thought by now you’d be married. When you stop and live in the moment, the insignificant items slip into the background, and the beautiful & important come alive to satisfy you heart and soul!

Psalm 118:24 – This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Whatever season you find yourself in right now, married or single, your perfect weight or not, working at your dream job or counting down the days to quit, living your ideal life or in the midst of a dark battle… please let go of the silly little things that seem to bug you, there’s a big wide world waiting to surprise you with wonder.

-Laura

Expectations Versus Expectancy

“MY SOUL, WAIT YOU ONLY UPON GOD; FOR MY EXPECTATION IS FROM HIM.”

PSALM 62:5

It’s so easy to have unrealistic expectations in our relationships. Yet, I think it’s almost impossible to live without any expectations. As we learn how to put our expectancy in God, He will always fulfill our deep need for love AND will empower us to navigate our relationships without placing heavy expectations on people who will never be able to fulfill them! Especially when it comes to our children. We love them so much and we want the best for them but things don’t always go as planned.

I like most first time moms, had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I went from being a full-time doctor and working with Rob to get our church started, to the next day giving birth and becoming a full-time mommy. Boy was I in for a surprise when this little human couldn’t talk back to me, or tell me what he wanted. I had never even baby sat in my life! I really had to read books, learn skills, pray like crazy, cry a ton and rely on the wisdom of my own mom! For goodness sake, couldn’t God have sent a manual with each child?!

I had a lovely picture in my mind of feeding my baby and putting him down for a nap or to bed at night, that would allow Rob and I to enjoy much needed “alone” time; or I pictured having a majestic moment to get some task accomplished on my to do list.

But it wasn’t like that at all! Our first-born, Luke, didn’t sleep through the night until he was over a year old. Needless to say, I was constantly exhausted. In fact, I remember one night when Luke woke up, Rob looked at me and said, “I’ll pay you $1000 if you get up with him tonight!” And potty training was a whole other issue… it took forever! Why didn’t God just make potty training something that came by instinct?

My expectations of what being a mom looked like were constantly challenged.

When you have children, they are yours forever and you are attached heart and soul, which means you can easily get disappointed. Regardless of what expectations you start with going into parenthood, or have today, you will always have to stay in a place of laying down and surrendering those expectations to God and trusting him to help you navigate each stage and season so you can enjoy the parenting journey.

During my motherhood journey, there have been two main things that kept me sane, faith-filled, and enjoying my children and family in each season of life:

Scripture and friends. 

I had, and still have, scriptures for every single season and circumstance my kids are going through. Each day I take time to quote these scriptures and meditate on God’s faithful promises for my family.

  • Pregnancy: “Even from the womb he has called me by my name.” Isaiah 49:1

  • Babies/Toddlers: “And all my children shall be disciples, taught of the Lord, and great shall be their peace and undisturbed composure.” Isaiah 54:13

  • Teenagers: “Train up a child in the way he should go (in keeping with his individual gift or bent) and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

  • Adult Children: “To him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20-21

God’s Word reminds us that He has a wonderful plan for our kids. His unfailing promises will keep us strong when we are facing challenging times.

My dear friend, Katie Luce and I prayed weekly for our families. We saw one miracle after the other that we still pray together even today! There is nothing like the tenacious, love filled prayers of a mom.

So, my best motherly advice is to surround yourself with some faithful prayer warriors and PRAY, as you stand on God’s faithful promises.

Embrace each season with joyful expectancy, because before you know it, they will be graduating high school, graduating college or starting jobs, getting married, having children of their own... and thus the circle of life goes round and round. Savor the moments as you partner with God in training and loving your children along the way.

- Laura