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O The Pain

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Our son Caleb’s would be 26th birthday is drawing near... and here it comes again... the pain.

O that horrid pain.

I guess in some ways I’m glad because I genuinely miss him, and since I can’t see or touch him, the pain reminds me that my love for him is still alive and well.

But pain has this weird way of making us feel broken, un - whole, shattered... un - beautiful.

The mysterious thing about brokenness is what our broken Savior can do with all those fragments...

Perhaps you’ve seen a vase or picture, or some other gorgeous art form that is made up of a bunch of fragmented pieces. Each raged edged shard alone seems pointless... yet put together with a bunch of other misfit pieces, it forms a stunning mosaic.

Mosaic = mixture – conglomerate – complicated – convoluted – tangled – involved – intricate – multi faceted creation.

Isn’t that the story of our one beautiful life?

A gazillion broken pieces that come together to create something staggeringly magnificent for the world to see and receive hope from.

We don’t see or feel it, but others do. Perhaps God made it that way.

I’ve read many times that mother Theresa, in her latter years, whether from tiredness, the enemy’s schemes, or just a super keen awareness of her own sinful nature… Often wondered if she was even worthy of entering heaven. How could that be after all the faith filled prayers she prayed – after all the pain and poverty she brought healing and provision to?

She felt lost – others saw one of the most admirable, selfless lovers of humanity... A beautiful mosaic.

Then there’s Jesus.

I love Ann Voskamps description of a mosaic-type painting of those final moments in Jesus’ life: “In the semi – abstract painting, there's no tidy pattern, just light and dark bleeding into this subtle suggestion of Jesus hanging on the cross. He was hoarse with the begging, for himself, for us: God, why have you abandoned me? Yet he surfaces in the patches of color, the broken brush strokes, the silhouette of him visible in the chaos – Christ entering all this chaos.”

Even Jesus, in his darkest hour of brokenness, wondered where God was... yet depicted the most glorious mosaic of all time.

I would never in a million years assume to have felt the same sacrificial pain Jesus experienced, but I do know the disturbing allurement of pains grip. Each birthday, anniversary or any random moment, when I feel the gut wrenching sorrow of no more todays spent with Caleb in this earth life... hopelessness creeps in, my brokenness becomes more pronounced and I wonder how in Heavens name I can ever be a beacon of light or hope or anything good for anyone to see.

Then I surrender to God’s perfect peace - his soothing presence - and remember HIS ability to take the broken places, the scars and shattered pieces, mixed with his divine touch... and I trust again that...

He will make all things beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Maybe you can relate to feeling broken, ugly, useless... may the Holy Spirit remind you that while you may only feel & see scattered devastated parts & pieces, others really do see God and goodness in the grand, panoramic, mosaic of your life.

Heavenly Father, please take every fractured place, mend the pain – full spaces, and do your thing in such a way that YOU shine through the cracks and crevices for others to have hope that they can also become a mosaic of your resplendent beauty.

-Laura

 

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Getting Through the Holidays

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The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year. They can also carry with them the weight of unmet expectations, the drain of dysfunctional relationships and the vacuous space left by lost loved ones.  So how do we navigate the season while we are navigating painful places?

I’ll tell you how I managed during the dark ages in my marriage. I chose numbing. I pretended. I coped with denial. I pressed my way through November and December by steam-rolling my feelings into the ground.

I was already going through the motions. The holidays upped the ante and I had to fake it at another level. Looking back, I realize that faking it left me hollow and the holidays lost their meaning.

Can you imagine a Christmas with no meaning?
Have you ever lived one that way?

Fast forward a few years, add forty-eight weeks of therapy and by the grace of God our marriage was on the mend. The temperatures dropped and yet our hearts were warm. Feelings of love began to burn again. I was waking up once more to good news of great joy.

When life came at my heart one December with a brand new kind of pain I had a decision to make, would I turn to my old familiar habit of shutting down or would I look for a way through?

If you find yourself at a similar crossroads and you are wondering how to be present this holiday season despite difficulty or struggle, I have a few strategies to suggest.

Feel what you feel. Denial is a gift in the short term. It buys us a little time until we find a safe place to process or safe people to process with. But denial is crippling in the long run. The sooner you allow yourself to feel what you feel, the sooner you will find a way to move through the struggle. Remember God created our feelings. They serve an important purpose in our lives. The healthy thing to do is pay attention and then find a way to get your feelings out. Journal. Call a friend. See a counselor. Write a letter you may never send. If you need help owning your emotions read the Psalms – they are full of feelings.

Recognize your needs. When I’m hurting my first instinct is to isolate. I don’t want to need anybody. I don’t want to need anything from anyone. But I’m far better off when I admit my needs. I need someone to hold my hand. I need to laugh. I need to cry. I need a hug. What do you need? Would you be brave enough to ask for it?

Lose the word should.  Nothing steals from the potential joy of a holiday more than unrealized expectations, the should be’s or the should have been’s. So stop shoulding! Rather than one rife with expectations, embrace a Christmas that invites you to be expectant. When you let go of the shoulds, it’s easier to imagine what God will do. Life may not look like your plan A. It may really stink right now, but God has something good prepared for you.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
    and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
    for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 NTL 

Step into the longing. It’s been helpful during my hard Christmases to celebrate Advent. Advent is all about waiting. It recognizes that all is not well. Something is broken. It aches with hopeful yearning for the promised Messiah. When Christmas has been difficult, I’ve been reminded how desperately I need a Savior and I’m even more grateful for his incarnation.

I heard a sad old country song on a Christmas playlist over the weekend, and it was all about making it through December. Really, it was about making it past Christmas. I get it. I’ve been there. But that’s like taking your road weary, dirt-splattered car to the car wash, hitting the gas and speeding through the tunnel. You can say you made it through, but your car is not only dirty, it’s splattered with some of that rainbow colored soap foam. It’s one mess on top of the other.

There is another definition of the word through which means going in one side and coming out on the other side. It creates time and space for an experience, for transformation. Like driving your same road weary, dirt splattered car through the car wash while allowing time for the soap to break apart the caked on dirt. Waiting as scrubbers beat away the soap and grime. Settling in for a nice long rinse and then slowly moving forward through the jet dry to emerge fresh and ready to take on the road again. That’s a better way to think about getting through the holidays.

We may be going into the season with sadness or pain but there is an other side. Along the way, if we tune in instead of shutting down, we’ll find a Savior, a Mighty God, a Prince of Peace. He meets us there in the messy middle. Whatever we are feeling, Jesus has felt it. Whatever we are facing, the Lord is close. If we tune in, we remember our suffering is why he came. He came to redeem and rescue. So take your road weary, splattered self and feel the promise and provision of Christmas deep in your soul. That is the best way through the holidays.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.                          Psalm 34:18 NTL

-Lynn Cherry

 

Lynn Marie Cherry is an engaging speaker and the author of Keep Walking: 40 Days to Hope and Freedom after Betrayal an award winning daily devotional that helps women find a way through the pain and trauma of betrayal. After experiencing the detrimental effects of sexual addiction in her marriage, Lynn determined to inspire hope in others and shine a light on the path to freedom. Lynn and her husband David have been married for 26 years. They have two boys. You can connect with her at lynnmariecherry.com.

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Abundant Life

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As we quickly approach Christmas, I think it’s a good idea to remember the true meaning of the season.  We hear it all the time in Christian circles… “Jesus is the reason for the season”, but what do we actually do to keep our mind, body and spirit focused on what they were originally designed to be focused on? If Jesus being born into this world is the true gift that we’ve been given and celebrate on December 25 each year, what was he given to us for? Of course, He was the sacrifice that was given for eternal salvation, the redemption of man, and for the forgiveness of sins forevermore, but it doesn’t just stop there. In John 10:10 (ESV), Jesus said “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” 

What does it mean to have abundant life? While we are all originals and designed on purpose with a specific purpose unique to us, it typically boils down to a few common things. When you ask people what it means to have abundant life, they will typically say something like, “peace, health and happiness!” Nobody says, “lots of presents!” Or “more Facebook friends and followers on Instagram”. No one, at the end of their life, says that they wish they had more money or things, but they wish for more healthy days to spend with family and friends and a chance to make things right those where relationships have gone wrong so that there can be peace in their hearts.

I like to redirect my patients to the four basic pillars of health, as they are always the foundation of a truly abundant life.

The Chemical pillar is comprised of every substance that goes into our bodies: from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and the supplements we take, to the chemicals we’re exposed to in the world around us.

The Physical pillar encompasses the alignment of our body’s frame (Spinal and all other joints), exercise, stretching and the rest and sleep we get each day.

The Mental pillar encompasses all of the things that have to do with your mind, your relationships, your perception, your attitude, how & what you think about, and the stress that you deal with.

The Spiritual pillar encompasses all of the matters of faith, your belief in God and the part of you that will live on forever.  

It’s the BALANCE of those 4 pillars that is really critical to attain. 

This Christmas season, let’s not let all of the distractions and hustle and bustle derail us from keeping our lives in balance and what will bring us true joy and abundant life...The kind of life that Jesus came into this world to give us.  To do that, make sure you are not using the season as an excuse to stop exercising, or to eat every baked good that comes your way, or to buy into hurrying around and getting stressed out with all that “needs” to be done.

In the end, spending relaxed, quality time and making memories with your family and friends is more important than having the Clark Griswold Christmas light display in your yard, eating everything in sight, and staying up late every night to do things that will ultimately throw your health and life out of balance. Sure, enjoy a few holiday treats, but getting sick will ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the season. Stay in balance and focused on what Jesus came for and your Christmas will indeed be merry, healthy and bright!

Go to www.DrMarkShannan.com for more info. or to get a copy of The Original Design for Health.  God bless!

 

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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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Crowned

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The concept of a crown goes way back to ancient times. It was a decorative object made into a circle and worn on the head of a king or a queen, a prince or princess. It is the mark of royalty, honor, and authority. It is the sign of “power or authority to rule”. And is placed on the head of one who has been chosen as the rightful heir to a throne.

You might be surprised how many times the Bible talks about crowns:

We are crowned with righteousness.

We are crowned with victory.

We are crowned with eternal life.

God crowns us with loving kindness and tender mercy.

And praise God – gray hair and living to an old age is a crown.

But perhaps the most powerful and beautiful revelation is that we have been crowned ROYALTY… with all that that implies. 1 Peter 2:9 says,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

We are crowned. Once we realize we are God’s Royal kids, we step into a new realm of privilege. We GET to serve, give, love and lay down our lives for those who our KING laid down his life for! We’re his ambassadors – his representatives! We are the crown that God himself boldly holds high for all to see his Majesty and love on this earth!

It’s so good to be Royal!

I know sometimes life has a way of knocking our crown off – or it feels like it’s barely hanging on. Maybe you are feeling like something has knocked your crown off kilter. It could be as simple as buying into what Hollywood says you should look, have and act like. Or similarly comparing yourself to everyone on social media (I read a stat that said, 86% of women who constantly look at social media walk away feeling ‘less than’). Maybe somewhere along the way you had a friend, parent, or some other authority figure tell you that you were worthless or not as pretty or smart or athletic as others. Maybe you had less than the best of family upbringings. Or even more painfully, maybe you are or have been in a domestic violent relationship – whether as a child or an adult. But perhaps the most devastating of all is when you yourself are convinced you are not royalty – you don’t see yourself the way God sees you – you don’t realize you were crowned by God himself to rule and reign in THIS LIFE!

If that’s you today – I just want to remind you how truly valuable you are! How loved by God you are. That you can live anchored in his love for you, a love that is without rival! YOU are without rival. The ways God has moved through the stories and testimonies of your life become your message of hope to this world. No mess up, or words spoken over you, or difficult life circumstance is enough to knock God’s crown off your head. So chin up! Straighten that invisible crown and hold your head up high! You are ROYAL, you are immensely valuable, and this is your ‘for such a time as this’ moment in His-story, to rule and reign and take dominion for his glory! Here’s to embracing your value and rocking your invisible crown!

 

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Crowned Victorious

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In life it seems like we are always running on parallel tracks of good and difficult. We experience highs and at the same time, lows. Peaks and valleys seem to go hand in hand. Don’t you wish we weren’t always facing some kind of a battle? And when we get to the place where we get past one battle, it seems another is looming right around the next curve. If only life could be all rainbows and sunshine! Yet something beautiful unfolds in our lives and hearts each time we overcome a difficulty.

With every storm we endure we learn and grow more about the character of God and his faithfulness.

We serve a God who is bigger than every battle! A God who wants to lead us in one perpetual victory parade.

In the Bible, King David definitely knew what it was to face battles. He was anointed king at a young age, even as his father didn’t think him worthy enough to be considered when the prophet Samuel came to his house to anoint one of his eight sons (1 Samuel 16:11-13). After all seven older brothers were crossed off the list of potential candidates by Samuel, David was brought in. As he stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he brought with him and anointed David. And the Bible says the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on.

David was anointed. In the Jewish culture anointing is interchangeable with the word crowning. David was literally crowned victorious here. In the physical, Saul was still King. But spiritually, David was crowned victorious.

In 1 Samuel 17, just after being anointed, we read about David facing Goliath. Goliath wasn't just a giant, he was a champion. He had a record of victory. Yet David wasn’t afraid to fight him because he knew God was on his side. God had already worked in and through him to defeat a lion and a bear. He used this past experience to convince King Saul to allow him to fight this looming giant.  And he was victorious was just a slingshot and a few rocks. It only took one well aimed shot to send the giant to the ground. David won that battle.

I imagine you might be fighting a Goliath sized battle. Whatever it is you are facing likely popped into your mind before you even made it past the first paragraph. Maybe you feel like throwing in the towel.

Maybe you are wondering if God has forgotten you.

Perhaps you are confused and unsure of what your next steps should be.  If this is you, let me remind you today, beloved, that you are fighting from a place of victory, not for victory. You are crowned victorious. So hold your head up high and fight to the finish, knowing God is with you and for you and he is fighting on your behalf. And on the other side, he has a crown with your name on – a crown for overcoming – your crown of victory!

For further reflection:

1.     What battles are you facing right now?

2.     How has God and is God moving in the midst of your circumstances?

3.     As we look at David’s story, we see he drew courage from his past victories. If you are feeling discouraged in your current battles, list out a few past victories God has brought you to. How does remembering how he moved then give you the courage to keep going now?

Verses for reflection:

Psalm 18:35 - You have also given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand upholds me; and your gentleness makes me great.

1 Corinthians 15:57 - but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:14 - But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Psalm 20:7-8 - Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright.

1 Samuel 17:45-47 - Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. “This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD'S and He will give you into our hands."

Proverbs 2:7 - He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,

Romans 8:28 - And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

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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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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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This One's for the Girls

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Would the Women of the House, please rise up? 

There are two things that make me cry, every time, without fail. 1) Watching Tyson play princess with Symphony and Bravery and 2) standing in the midst of a room full of women singing to Jesus. 

Every. Single. Time. The tears just won't stop. 

And you know, now that I've typed that out loud, there's probably a profound connection between those two. 
 

It's the idea that every little girl knows she a princess until the world tells her she's not. Either by defining princess a certain way or by knocking off your crown. 


Well, it's not true. It's just not true.
Who said princesses have to wear pink?
Who said they have to be doe eyed and pointy toed?
Who said they don't catch bugs or put out fires?
Who said they don't play sports or wear all black?
WHO SAID THAT?!

It wasn't God. The creator of all things. The initiator of the universe or the designer of life. 

He created woman and called the earth, very good. 
 

She was the CROWN of His creation. Before she did or said or wanted to BE anything, she already was royal. 


And so were you. 

Ya'll, I could talk about this all day every day. But I don't have space or time here so I need you to come to Shine. Not even just for you. For your girls. For your boys.

For the generations who will come up behind us. We HAVE to get this identity, authority, royalty stuff into our souls and spirits now because the time is coming when we'll have to stand up and fight, knowing who we are and WHOSE we are.

Let me rephrase. The time is NOW. We need to get this now because the time to teach and love and nourish our hurting world is NOW.


I believe in you. Now I need YOU to believe in you. 

-Julianna Morlet

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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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Significant

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We are hardwired with a longing to rule and reign and take dominion, to lead, to build, and with a desire to make a lasting impact with our lives. These are good, God given things, but our lives get slightly wacky when we seek to fill those innate desires in unhealthy ways.

Women throughout time have fought this battle for significance. Women like Eve, who had everything she could possibly desire and yet, when tempted, still chose to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden. Women like Sarai, who were on the receiving end of a promise from God, yet took matters into her own hands with her maidservant Hagar to get ahead of God’s plan. In so doing, a child entered into the world who wasn’t heir to the promise and a whole host of struggles followed suit. Women like Esther who was whisked away to royalty and could have placed her identity in her title, her beauty and the beauty of her surroundings, and yet was called to possibly lay it all down by risking her own life to bravely save her people. Women like Leah, who was less loved than her sister, Rachel, and given to her husband in marriage by trickery from her Father. And Rachel, the more loved of the two was desired by Jacob, the husband she shared with her sister, but she struggled with an inability to bear children while her sister popped them out like Pez candies.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate. No matter how much we achieve and attain or how far we go in life it seems that search for more is always there. If we are not seeking to fulfill that longing to feel like we matter and make a difference by finding our identities in Christ alone, then we are sure to seek it out in something else. And this world is full of things vying to deliver what only staying connected to God can. John 15:5 reminds us there is only one sure way to live lives that impact this world greatly. Jesus himself spoke these words:

"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing.”

That longing we have in our hearts for significance is a wiring only working from a place of staying connected to Christ can fulfill. When we live joined with him, anchored as His Beloved, we experience abundant lives. Separated, we can’t produce anything of lasting value. Let’s put our anchors down deep in his love for us and trust him to work in and through us to live impactful lives!

Let’s dig deeper into this battle for significance:

  1. Where are you tempted to find your identity?
  2. What around you is most tempting when it comes to taking matters into your own hands in order to feel significant?
  3. What makes you feel threatened on your journey to living a significant life?
  4. As a child, did you feel significant in your family? What words were spoken over you then and how does that shape your understanding of your significance now and the way you seek to fulfill that need in your life today.

For further reflection:

Read the stories of Eve (Genesis 2 & 3), Sarai (whose name was later changed to Sarah) (Genesis 15, 16, & 17), Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29 & 30). For each reading, write out in your journal your thoughts on their personal struggles to find significance. How do you see yourself in their stories? How might you have done things differently? How does seeing God’s redemptive love woven through out give you hope that even if you have made mistakes, he can redeem it? Lastly, ask God to show you from these readings any areas you might need to make adjustments in, in order to stay living from a place of being anchored in him.

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Satisfied

Have you ever watched a child’s transition from the dependence of infancy to the relative independence of an older child? Each new accomplishment in picking out their own clothes, eating their meals without assistance, bathing and brushing their teeth on their own, builds in them the confidence that says, "I can do it myself!" Becoming more independent is a normal and healthy part of growing up. However, we cross over into unhealthy self-reliance when we seek to meet our own needs and make things happen apart from God.

Romans 12:2 message says, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

This verse reminds us that real, well-formed maturity in our spiritual lives is not the same as what we consider maturity in our natural lives as we progress and become more independent. Spiritual maturity, is a maturity that relies on God for every area of our lives. It’s taking our sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around areas of our lives and placing them before God as an offering. When we do this we give God room to move in and have his way.

Let’s take a look today at self-reliance vs. God reliance -

1.      What circumstances tempt you to rely on yourself?

2.      What do you feel is the root feeling or need behind these situations? How does identifying the root help you to pin point the lie and lead you to find the truth in God’s word? For example, if you seek to self- promote in the workplace, would you say fear of being over looked or left behind could be the motivating factor? Could it be a fear that God won’t come through for you? In this example, a verse to counteract this fear is: If God is for me, who could be against me. Or My God shall supply all of my needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus

For further reflection:

Carve out a time to sit and have coffee with Jesus. Grab a notebook or journal and a pen. Ask the holy spirit to remind you of a time you self-navigated or relied on yourself to meet your needs. Write down what he brings to mind. Then ask him to help you pin point the underlying feelings or needs that contributed to you taking matters into your own hands. Write down each word that comes to mind. Then reflect on those words. Could those feelings, fears or needs contribute to this pattern in other areas of your life? Allow some time to ponder and sit with him and talk it through in prayer. Then look for some verses that have to do with those feelings and needs. Write them out in your journal and read them aloud this week daily as a reminder that God will take care of you and supply everything you need.

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Relax

My friend Jenn went to the Holy Lands not too long ago. I asked her what affected her the most. She told me about a conversation she had with her guide. She asked him what he thought Jesus’ main purpose was other than to die for the sins of the world. His answer came swiftly, “To get the human race to relax and trust God with EVERYTHING!”

Matthew 6:30-33 MSG - “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

I’m sure like me, you wish you weren’t so easily sucked into the busy-ness and difficulties’ of life, but it seems to be human nature. I’m amazed at how immediate my response is when things go hay wire...I become stressed out. Why can’t we just relax, trust God, and have a party regardless of what’s going on? Why can’t we get this straight?

Is it possible we’re all a little freakish in thinking we can control, fix, and change everything and everyone around us? I think so. But if you’ve lived more than half a minute on planet earth, you quickly realize it’s simply not true. God is God and we are not. And if we’re really bright, we recognize worrying doesn’t do any good either.

The relaxation solution?

God says:

Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, give I to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

Cast your cares on me for I care for you. (1Pt. 5:7)

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell me what you need, and thank me for all I’ve done. Then you will experience my peace, which exceeds anything you can understand. My peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6–7)

And you know that all things work together for good to them that love me, to them who are called according to my purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Stand back and see the salvation of the Lord. (Ex. 14:13)

Do not be afraid or dismayed… For the battle is not yours, it is mine. (2 Chron. 20:15)

I heard a song on the radio recently that included a verse that went something like this, “Why do I keep trying to fight a battle that is not mine to fight, and has already been won?”

Good question...

When you can take a deep breath in and let it out! Trusting that God, who created you, knows every detail about you, knows exactly what you need, when you need it... is willing, excited, and responsible to get it to you!

RELAX!

-Laura

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SAFE

Earlier this year my husband went to Africa. We are empty-nesters and are enjoying this season – but when he’s gone… You know how it is – the house decides to come alive and make noises. Every little sound makes me think someone is trying to break in. Of course, it’s just the ice maker, a random bird running into the window, tree branches scrapping the house, or some other oddity. But it produces fear... a sense of feeling unsafe.

Side tangent...

That reminds of when we were first married. We had a cute little starter home with our bedroom on the top floor. One night I awoke from a deep sleep convinced that I saw a strange man staring in the window. I was afraid so I immediately shook Rob and told him about the intruder... to which he astutely replied, “He must be a very tall man!” We both died laughing. To this day, when an unrealistic fear tries to sweep us into it’s grip, one of us repeats this hilarious line.

I said all that to say, so much of what we fear is unrealistic and simply does not EVER happen.

At the same time, there truly are some frightening happenings around the globe, in our neighborhoods, and in our very lives, that produce true founded fear.

Needless to say – fear is pervasive.

When fear captures our hearts, regardless of where it comes from, we have these wonderfully calming promises found in God’s word, to settle things down.

  • Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.
  • 1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear.
  • Psalm 5:3 – What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
  • Philippians 4:6 – Don’t worry about anything. Instead pray about everything.
  • Isaiah 41:10 - Fear not, for I am with you.

And my fave...

Deuteronomy 33:27 – The Eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, he will drive out your enemy before you, saying, “Destroy him!”

I’m not an avid baseball fan but from time to time I watch the last inning of a game with my hubby. (That’s the most exciting inning for sure and about my sports watching limit.) Anyhow, I find myself holding my breath as a guy hits the ball and starts rounding the bases, while the guys on the other team are trying to throw him out. When he finally slides into the base and the ref yells, “Safe!” is when I breathe a sigh of relief and have that sense that everything is going to be okay!

In a much bigger way, our EVERLASTING, Heavenly Father really – and I mean REALLY has us safe and secure - right smack dab in the middle of his gracious, strong arms. He is G O D! He cares about his kids and is watching out for us every waking second! He neither grows weary, nor tired... and no one is a match for him!

When we have no idea how we will be able to meet our obligations – when our physical bodies are sick or hurting – when our relationships are in trouble – when they are laying people off at our job – when our hearts are broken – when our kids are young and fragile, or older and making their own decisions – when the world around us starts falling apart ...

We can lean on his everlasting arms and rest assured, knowing that we are...

SAFE!

-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

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

Quick & Easy Style Tips For Your Spring Transition Wardrobe

March is a transition month... it's no longer winter but it isn't really summer either so what the heck should you be wearing? Check out these simple tips that are sure to keep you feeling fresh & fun as spring arrives!

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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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Grief Sucks

Grief Sucks

Perhaps I shouldn’t be writing when I’ve also got a horrible cold and a shooting pain down my leg... and... It’s a few days away from my son Caleb’s ‘would be’ 25th birthday... IF he were still on planet earth...

My heart is aching.

Last night while talking (complaining) to a friend about all my woes I said, “I hate sickness with a passion, I hate sin, I hate sorrow, I hate death... I use to feel sorry for the devil but no longer – I can’t wait to see him burn. I think I’m going to write a blog called grief sucks.

So here it goes...

We have now been walking this grief recovery journey for 7.5 years.

Has the extreme pain diminished? Absolutely. Are most days filled with joy as we trust God’s promises concerning Heaven and the eternity we will get to spend with Caleb? Yes. Are we blown away at the privilege and opportunities we have to carry on his legacy through the Caleb Foundation? 100%.

In just two weeks, I’ll have the honor to love on some precious orphaned children and gorgeous women in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. What a sincere joy. And there are countless other young people, all over the world, being loved on, nurtured, taught God’s ways, treated medically, educated and led to what matters most – a life forever with Jesus! Giving my life away is like a balm to my sorrow.

At the same time, in ways, it all still seems like a nightmarish dream. I see Caleb’s pictures around my house and these haunting feelings & questions surge again, “Why can’t he just be here?

I want to touch him – talk to him – know what he would have chosen as his life vocation – who might he be dating or married to... There’s this inconsolable longing – this itch that can’t be scratched – this pain so deep that time evades.

I want to see my son. So I choose to allow myself to feel... To grieve.

Grief sucks.

There aren’t too many other words I can think to describe grief really. Grief hurts, it has no happy (earthly) ending. No resolve for today. It just hurts. Our hearts are broken. Our feelings are bruised.

And it’s okay to feel it.

Feelings are exactly that – just feelings. They are neither right nor wrong. Good nor bad. Sinful nor holy. Feelings just are. When we allow ourselves to sit with our feelings for a hot second – it causes us to be honest in the moment – to remember – to be human.

Stuffing our emotions doesn’t help, and remaining too long in the pain certainly isn’t healthy either... but often, we don’t give ourselves permission to simply feel. It’s okay to feel.

It’s here in the pain – in the heartache – in the tears – in the overwhelming sucky feelings of, “I am sad, I miss Caleb, I hate this.

That beckons my Father to draw near.

I NEED his comfort.
I NEED his peace.
I NEED his love.
I NEED him! O how I need Jesus! And he always does come. He comes with EVERYTHING I need. His presence covers it all.

Jesus knows all too well.

“We despised him and rejected him – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our back on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we didn’t care. Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins. But he was wounded and bruised for our sins! He was beaten that we might have peace; he was the lashed – and we were healed! We - every one of us – have strayed away like sheep. We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us!” (Isaiah 53:3-6 – TLB)

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”

(1 Corinthians 15:54–55)

Sickness – healed.
Sorrow – carried away.
Sin – forgiven.
Death – conquered.

God has experienced and understands grief – he comes to us in our grief – he smashed grief forever.

I’m so grateful grief only sucks for a little while.

-Laura

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3 Secrets to Discovering Your Worth

Hey Beautiful girls!

Do you ever feel replaceable? Like you aren’t good, bright enough, beautiful enough... compared to all the other girls out there?

I certainly do at times. Even though I’ve been walking with Jesus over 40 years, from time to time, I still find myself asking the same questions… Do I matter? Am I still wanted? Am I valuable?

We HAVE to stop this madness!

These lies are constantly coming at us from every direction.  We probably all have ‘voices from the past’ that communicate less than worthy messages. Our culture does a ridiculous job of trying to get us to compete and compare ourselves with the ‘perfect’ images they portray. We have our own negative, invalidating mind chatter to constantly combat with.  AND... We have a real enemy, satan, who is consistently telling us that we are not enough. However, this isn’t a new thing. From the beginning, the devil questioned our value as God’s daughters when he lured us into temptation. Can you imagine how Eve felt after being deceived and the curse had fallen... and she and Adam were “kicked out” of the garden? Every time life was hard, I bet she heard a nagging, condemning voice reminding her, “It’s all your fault, you aren’t good enough, you can’t do anything right…” But the truth is, after God created man and saw that it was not good for him to be alone, he uniquely crafted a woman and gave her to Adam as a gift! Eve(Woman) has been God’s solution, his answer, his gift to mankind and our world ever since.

Women. Are. Valuable!!

God believes in His daughters! Our true value can only be found in one place and that is in how valuable we are to Him. Jesus LOVED us so much that he laid down his life for us. He wanted US. He valued US. His actions shouted, “YOU are worth it!”  Once you know how loved and valuable you are to God, it changes your perspective on everything! You begin to hold your head high. You start walking with confidence... Loving yourself... Taking care of others. You set out to intentionally lend your strength and give your life away in the same way Jesus did! You start SHINING the love of Jesus for others to see! What a brilliant ripple effect!

The value you now embrace projects value on everyone else around you!

I love what believing how valuable we are can do... However, it seems like in order to get over the continual earthly amnesia we all seem to encounter, we must PURPOSEFULLY place a few powerful practices in our everyday lives to remind us. Here are a few thoughts:

Connect with your girlfriends!

If it weren’t for my girlfriends I would have a mountain of debt owed to counselors and probably be completely out of my mind. Getting together with a godly girl gang is paramount to your self worth! Your girlfriends will be a positive voice, standing with you in the tough times, AND cheering you on, reminding you how: lovely, wonderful, gorgeous, creative and fantastic you are! What might have happened that day in the garden if Eve had her girlfriends around her? Maybe they would have stood between her and the tree, and said things like, “Stay away from snakes, they’re no good! Don’t listen to his lies!” “Eve, that looks like a bad apple. Don’t eat it!” Who knows? Regardless, I can tell you from experience, because of the wise, love filled voices of my friends through the years, I have escaped many land mines meant for my destruction. Thank God for godly girlfriends who will stand with you in the fire and cheer with you in the fun! Then...

Saturate your mind with what God says about you!                                              

One of the most vital and life transforming practices I have engaged in my entire Christian journey, has been renewing my mind to God’s word, concerning who he says I am. The Bible is filled with verses about how valuable we are to him! One of my favorites is Psalm 139:14,  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” God wants you to know, heart and soul – FULL WELL – just how valuable you are to him! When you find scriptures that are meaningful to you - Memorize them! Speak them out loud! Tape them to your walls! Do whatever you need to do to get the truth of God’s word into your heart until you believe it! When you saturate your mind with what he says about you, it is one of the quickest ways to dispel the lies of the enemy.

One other quick thought I want to remind you of is to...

Believe how loved you are by God!

In all my years of walking with Jesus, the number one, fail proof way to embrace my true value has come from understanding how loved I am by God! For all you younger girls who are just starting this journey with Jesus... I want you to know it never stops. The battle for you to believe how worthy you are never ends. But even greater than the battle waging against you is the force of God’s love flooding your heart every single day! God is relentlessly pursuing you with his love. There is honestly no shortcut. You have to constantly stay under the waterfall of His love. When you receive God’s love it changes you. Don’t leave your quiet time until you’re convinced that YOU are his absolute favorite! You MUST remind yourself how loved you are by God EVERYDAY. When you forget, and inevitably start listening to the negative voices, cultural nonsense, & enemy’s lies... just stop and get back underneath the drenching cascade of God’s never ending, unconditional love for you!

This VALUE issue is a beast girls - it’s a lifelong journey – AND the stunning truth is – YOU are altogether lovely, your worth is far above jewels, God adores you, you’re gorgeous inside and out, you’re loved beyond measure, there is nothing in all of creation that compares to you – because God created YOU in his image, without equal, without rival... to uniquely express a very special part of who he is to this world who desperately needs JESUS.

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