An Unforgettable Church Experience

For the longest time, Christianity and my faith was just about going to church.  This was because church provided the “fun” social atmosphere I craved since I often wasn’t allowed to participate in other social activities.  I think back to growing up, and how much I looked forward to going to church – but for the wrong reasons!  I wasn’t going to learn about Jesus (although when I was a kid I did love to sing the songs and hear the stories), I was going to hang out with my best friends, “flirt” with the boys, and have fun passing notes in the back row while the preacher talked.

I laugh thinking about it now because my faith has come such a long way since then, but, funny enough, church is now my favorite place to be!  When I only had a surface level relationship with the Lord and I was afraid of Him, I really didn’t try to go deep because I didn’t want to know who He was, and in reality, who I was.  That changed in 2014 when a culmination of life events sent me into a whirlwind of depression.  I felt like I had no hope.  After trying other resources, I knew there was no one to turn to but Christ.  I started seeking after Him, crying out to Him in prayer, and studying the Word.  Little by little, my faith and perspective began changing.  I started to learn who my Savior is, how much He loves me, and who He created me to be.  I became aware of lies I believed and strongholds I had established.

As my journey has continued, my faith has only become stronger.  When I go to church, I am surrounded by the Spirit, I rejoice in freedom, feeling the peace of God cover me and fill me.  I was reminded just how powerful this is on a recent vacation I took to Mexico.  Needless to say, it wasn’t the haven of relaxation I had hoped for.  After switching hotel rooms for the 3rd time because I wasn’t getting any sleep, I was exhausted and frustrated.  I walked 30 minutes in the heat to return my key for one hotel, and started walking back to the next.  There was a loud street fair and I could feel my tension and anxiety increasing.  So much noise, chaos, and people!  I decided I would grab a smoothie to help cool off and made my way through the crowds.  As I walked, complaints built up in my head about how I was wasting my vacation time with this trip, how annoyed I was to be in this country, how hot I was, and how I was probably going to go home sick because of all of the sleep I wasn’t getting.  I definitely wasn’t smiling.  As I was getting closer to the smoothie shop, music caused me to turn my head to the left.  I blinked my eyes in disbelief.  Across the busy street was what looked like people congregating in worship!  I crossed the street, and walked toward the gathering.  The sign on top of the space the people were gathering in read “Iglesia El Remanante” or “The Remnant Church”.  At that moment I knew God was inviting me into His presence.  I walked in, and people welcomed me lovingly.  I joined the worshipers singing in Spanish and felt the most amazing sense of peace, joy, and excitement!

This is what Christ does, because He is love.  He rescues us, pulls us out of our disastrous thoughts, and reminds us that He is our Savior.  He fills us completely, reminding us that we are His children, not just pawns on a board game, or creations of science left to chance.

I know that churches do have problems – they are made of sinners.  But when you go into a church, you are going into the presence of God.  The Bible says “For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20).  The church is the body of Christ, there to help you when times get tough, to keep building you up wisely with the Word, as a place for you to worship and celebrate Jesus!

I will never forget my experience at that church in Mexico.  It was so strong and powerful, it was most definitely the best part of my trip.  I’m so grateful to God for blessing me with the church – when I was young and not so wise – and now, when I can’t wait to go every Sunday, to be filled with the presence of the Lord.

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Love,
Laura

 

 

 

Champion

In the past few months I’ve been working hard in my new role, and trying to figure out how to better myself.  I realized that I do that a lot – strive, work hard, try to become better.  Last weekend I went to this awesome conference called Powerful & Free (hosted by globalcelebration).  On Friday, someone gave me a powerful word that really opened my eyes.  They said “It’s not your fight”.

This person didn’t know me.  They didn’t realize how I’ve spent my life trying to better myself in every possible way – mentally, physically, emotionally, etc.  I not only try to better myself, but I also think about how I want to help better the world around me.  I hate discord.  I hate seeing people struggle.  There’s something inside of me that just wants to do whatever I can to help people be happy!

While I’m climbing the never ending hill to get to “better”, I end up fighting a war in my mind.  It starts out with wondering what I should do, how I should go about things, who I should talk to, what I should say, what I should NOT say, when is the right timing, and then before I know it I can’t sleep and I start feeling anxious, stressed, down, and exhausted!!

Did you know that thinking takes up energy?  Your brain fires electrical energy to create all of the thoughts that it does.  And when you are thinking too much, you get REALLY tired!  If you’re me, you get really annoyed at yourself too 😛

Of course God came through for me as He always does.  He gave me a verse to meditate on.  “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10)  Other translations say “Be still” instead of “Cease striving”; and both of these things are necessary for me.

As I sit and think about that verse my mind starts to think about God and who He is – the Creator of the world (Elohim), the Most High (El Elyon), the All-Sufficient One (El Shaddai).  Instead of wandering in circles, my mind starts to becomes calm and my heart is filled with joy and peace!

I remember that Jesus Christ’s love for me has not changed – no matter what I’m trying to accomplish, what thoughts are creeping up in my mind, how successful or unsuccessful I am, who I have helped, or who I have hurt, His love for me does not change.  It doesn’t even matter what translation of the Bible I read! (Hebrews 13:8)

The wallpaper on my phone says “You are a unique expression of God’s love”.  I’m glad I put that quote there to remind me of this truth, especially when I’m having one of those days where it feels like my head is on fire.  I stop being frustrated at myself, calm my thoughts, and start remembering who my Creator is and exactly who I am.  God created me in love and made me who I am because He loves me.

I used to think being unique was not so great, but, there really is only one “LG”, and since the hand of God made me, there is nobody else that I want to be.

I am done with fighting – I am already victorious because He set me free!  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

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Love,
Laura

Got Chaos?!

Does anyone else already feel like they need a vacation?!  2017 just started and yet January was a month filled with major change and drama, for me, my family and friends, and the entire country.

The year started with chaos as I came back to work scrambling to provide support on a project that was the opposite of fun – helping prepare severance packages for the lay-offs my company was about to do.  The hardest part of this project was not attending all of the meetings, going through countless business case analyses, or even trying to figure out how we would get everything together in time for the set date of notification delivery.  The most difficult thing was being “in the know” – having awareness that people were about to lose their jobs, yet had no idea this was about to happen to them, and I couldn’t say anything.  It was a sadness, a weight that I felt, and it became even stronger when I recognized the names of individuals who were being laid off.

Little did I know how much heavier that weight would be when the plan was put in action.  The hallways became emptier as people left, the places where their nameplates once hung now bare.  Even though my job remained intact it made me wonder – does my company really need my position?  Is what I’m doing even meaningful?  And then I got sick.  Yes, that dreaded bug that has been going on – it hit me with full force.

I spent the next week and a half (including President’s Day!) laying in bed and on my couch, my head foggy, feeling like my whole body was congested, watching random movies, sleeping, and of course, thinking.  My mind couldn’t let go of the thoughts that had been sparked by the lay-offs.  I started to wonder if I was really where I should be, living in the right place, working in the right field.  This wasn’t the first time I started to have the “what am I doing with my life” thoughts drifting around my head.  It is not fun.  Maybe I should go back to school; maybe I should do a YWAM program; maybe I should move to another country!  All of these thoughts made me feel frustrated, lost, and confused.

Toward the end of the week, on January 19th, I was about to watch another movie but I just couldn’t quite commit.  I went to my room and saw my “Jesus Calling” daily devotional book on my desk.  I thought, let’s see what Jesus has to say about this predicament!  I opened the book to January 19 and this is what I read:

Seek My Face, and you will find more than you ever dreamed possible. Let Me displace worry at the center of your being. I am like a supersaturated cloud, showering Peace into the pool of your mind. My Nature is to bless. Your nature is to receive with thanksgiving. This is a true fit, designed before the foundation of the world. Glorify Me by receiving My blessings gratefully.

I am the goal of all your searching. When you seek Me, you find Me and are satisfied. When lesser goals capture your attention, I fade into the background of your life. I am still there, watching and waiting, but you function as if you were alone. Actually, My Light shines on every situation you will ever face. Live radiantly by expanding your focus to include Me in all your moments. Let nothing dampen your search for Me.

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” —Psalm 27:8 nkjv

Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. —Philippians 4:7 the message

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” —Jeremiah 29:13

It is hard to describe how I felt after reading that – a sense of amazement and awe over who Jesus is, how He knows me, how He can comfort me through His Word.  It really put everything into perspective for me.  I don’t need to worry about my job, all of the troubles my friends and family are facing, and even the political mess that has erupted over the nation.  All I have to do is seek Christ’s face.  No matter what happens, His love won’t be removed from me and His promise of peace won’t be shaken (Isaiah 54:10).

Jan 19 was a day that changed my life.  Seek His face – He will change your life too!

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Love,
Laura

LG’s 2016 “Year-end” review

Wrapping up the year is not always easy.  For me, my job requires me to do a performance review which involves writing up what I did during the year and commenting on how I met, did not meet, or exceeded my goals.  I also have to write about how successfully I’m exhibiting seven competencies (behaviors) that my company defines as key to performance.  Every year I dread this task because it takes so long – and this year was no different!  The outcome of my efforts, however, turned out to be a nice summary of my accomplishments during the year.  Writing my review also got me to thinking about 2016 in general and I wanted to write this blog about it.

One major thing that I’ve been able to do over the past year is to step out in faith to face some of my fears.  In the past, I have been scared to try things that I thought seemed “weird”, do things that made me feel uncomfortable, or deliberately put myself in situations that I knew would be difficult.  This year, I trusted in the Lord with all my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6), truly leaning on Him, and believing He would help me overcome.

What I found out by facing these three fears this year is a whole new world!  Stepping out in faith led to key experiences that impacted me so much my life will never be the same.  This year has changed me, opened my eyes, and given me joy beyond my imagination.

The first key experience I had was going to a prayer meeting and asking for healing prayer.  Everything in that was nerve-wracking to me.  I had to go to a meeting full of a large group of people, of which I knew one, speak up (a huge fear), and ask for them to pray over me.  I also wasn’t so sure that healing was even possible.  But I did it.  And by God’s mercy, the disc protusions in my spine near the base of my neck were healed!!!  I never thought that freedom from chronic pain was possible – even a Cortizone injection did nothing for me – yet, it was.  I’m still amazed every single day when I can do things that I wasn’t able to do a year ago because of that injury.  Not only has this allowed me the ability to be free from pain and enjoy mobility I lost, but my faith in God and His love for me increased so much more.  It inspired me to dive deeper into pursuing God, and become more amazed by how much He truly loves me.  It also led me to another key experience…

The second key experience of my year was publishing this blog.  Prior to this year I was the kind of person that just shared a typical Facebook “Life’s great 😀” status about me.  I didn’t want people to know what I was really struggling with.  I decided I wanted to write about my struggles so others can know the truth – the truth is what sets us free!  With every single blog I post I feel some anxiety about what people are going to say or think, and, I have to admit I even have had trouble sleeping!  But, if even one person is inspired, feels comforted, or gets a smile out of this, to me that is worth all of the restless nights!

The last experience that was key to this year happened fairly recently.  This is hard to admit but I’m going to do it!  Before this year I never truly cooked; my version of cooking was making salads, eating prepared soups, and making sandwiches.  Sad, I know.  I always wanted to start cooking but every time I tried my hand at a meal the dishes wouldn’t turn out, I would end up hungry, frustrated, and feel like a failure.  I have cried in the kitchen countless times :/

About two months ago I was so tired of eating the way I was that I spent half a day in the bookstore to find a cookbook that I thought would work for me.  I finally found one that had meals that didn’t take an hour each to cook, were healthy, and promoted clean eating!  The cookbook had a 2 week meal plan in it too, so that made getting started even more simple for me.  I cleaned out my cabinets and refrigerator and never had so much fun going grocery shopping – except when it came time to pay.  When I started cooking, it was a shaky experience.  I burned the back cover of my cookbook, disabled my smoke detector because it went off too much, and even had to get stitches in my finger from a minor cut!

In spite of these incidents, I was  finally cooking, and each meal I made actually tasted good!  I felt so much better on the inside from what I was eating and proud because I made it.  Now, I’ve really started to enjoy cooking, and although I still have some issues, it is a fun learning experience.  My birthday and Christmas brought me some lovely new kitchen gadgets too which I’m super excited about and thankful for.

2016 was an awesome year for me, and I want to thank you for letting me tell you about it!  Most of all, I’m thankful to God for allowing these things to take place in my life.  As the Bible says in Ephesians 3:20-21Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

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Love,
Laura

 

 

The Social Media Cleanse

Two weeks ago I was looking at my phone, checking my Facebook.  Sighing with boredom – there was nothing new – I closed the app.  I was really annoyed.  Was it because my friends were not updating their statuses?  No.  I was frustrated because it wasn’t even noon and this was probably the tenth time I had checked Facebook.  It was at that moment that I knew I needed to go on a “Social Media Cleanse”.  In reality, how many more negative political rants did I want to read?  How many more times did I need to take a picture of myself with a Snapchat filter?

With a deep breath I deleted my apps and decided I would abstain from social media for two weeks.  I know that I love getting away from social media when I’m away on vacation, but I wanted to see what life is like in the real world without social media.  Would I go crazy not knowing people’s reactions on election day?  Would I miss out on someone’s birthday or life event?  Would I be even be able to make it for two weeks?  I decided to put myself to the test.

Luckily I did make it through the cleanse – and I want to tell you some of the things that came out of it:

1) I had more time in my day.   No joke, I didn’t realize how much time I had been wasting checking social media!  Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve found myself with enough time to cook, clean, exercise, chill out, and have fun with friends too!

2) I was able to live in the present.  By that I mean wherever I was or whatever I was doing, I was fully engaged.  I wasn’t thinking about checking my phone, or taking a picture to post it to Facebook later.  I paid better attention to my surroundings – nature is awesome by the way – and people.

3) I had meaningful conversations with people.  Instead of using messenger or posting on someone’s wall, I picked up the phone!  I took a walk with a friend and we chatted about what was going on in our lives, not the things celebrities were doing.  It makes such a difference to hear someone’s tone of voice and to see their facial expressions!

4) I relaxed.  I found myself less worried about what people were thinking about or doing; or needing to present myself to others.  I was able to really think about what I wanted and needed and be okay with just that.

Getting off of social media did not kill me, and in fact, it was actually quite rewarding!  So now what?  I still want to be apart of the social media circle, I just don’t want it to be a habit that preoccupies me.  So, I am going to keep those apps deleted from my phone, but not delete my Facebook account.  For now, I’m thinking I will check it once a week or so on my home computer.  I’ll see how that goes 🙂  With God, everything is possible! (Matt 19:26)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING – I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR YOU  ❤

Love,
Laura

 

Undefeated

If you know me, you know that I like to win.  When I was a growing up, my team was always the winning one.  Of course it helped that I was the oldest and got to choose the games we played, maybe even got to determine some of the rules too 😉  Those competitive genes are still there – last week I went to a children’s birthday party at a bounce house and when we started racing down the inflatable slides, Team Laura didn’t want to lose.

It is nice when you can use competition as a strength, you set goals, are disciplined, and don’t stop trying until victory is attained.  The fault of competition, however, is that it is rooted in comparison.  You are always aware of others’ performance and even if you attain a goal you were striving for, if someone else did it better than you, it doesn’t quite feel as good.

Last week was a great week – I volunteered at a food bank, got a few accolades at work, and was able to do this dance workout which was a lot of fun.  In the middle of the week I found myself bogged down and depressed.  Why is that you ask?  Well, to be honest, I started comparing myself to someone who has things I don’t, things that I want.  By focusing on her attainments, I felt like I wasn’t working hard enough, disappointed in myself, and started the “if only I had done this” thought trail.  I couldn’t stop being jealous about how she had gotten to her place in life while I was stuck in mine.  In my opinion, there was no way to compete – she had definitely won, and I felt like I just wanted to throw in my towel.

Luckily, I had also started reading a new book “Without Rival” by Lisa Bevere and when I picked it up to read it I found myself laughing that the chapter I was about to read was called “Don’t you Dare Compare!”.  Lisa explained that comparison pulls you away from your truest center and is the thief of joy (quoted by Theodore Roosevelt).  When you start comparing yourself to others, your thoughts are focused away from yourself and onto someone or something else.  You forget about who you really are, things that make you unique and special, and your purpose.

As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that winning is not everything – it is actually in losing that I’ve gained the most!  By losing relationships I valued, hobbies I loved, and physical abilities, I learned that having that “win or go home” attitude was actually costing me!  Humility and empathy replaced my “Must Win / Me First” mindset and I found that being a team player is much more fun and rewarding then competition.

Reading the chapter of that book and talking to a friend helped me refocus my thoughts and get out of the comparison war zone I was in.  Here are some words from that chapter that really stood out from me that I want to share.  “The brave do not dare to compare, even if that comparison sees them coming out on top.  They realize that there are many more steps yet before them.  They have glimpsed the eternal and realize that nothing earthbound can compare.”

Thinking about that was an eye-opener and made me realize how insignificant things of the earth really are compared to eternity.  I believe in eternal life through Jesus, which makes things of this earth temporary.  It also means I want to invest in relationships and helping people rather than serving myself and trying to win.

It is really difficult in the world we live in today not to get caught up in comparisons and competition.  Everyone is unique and has their own story – we need to embrace and celebrate that.  We can’t all be the best at everything, nor should we all be living life in the shadow of someone else.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “ I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].“(1:6)

How cool is that – we don’t even need to worry about comparisons and competition because God is working in each of us to finish the great work He started!  In my opinion, that means I am UNDEFEATED!  For more check out Psalm 139:14 and Romans 8:31-39.

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Love,
Laura

Be Kind to Yourself!

One of the best things I learned about myself while on vacation in Mexico is that I have a hard time being nice to myself.  It sounds silly, but when it was just me on a vacation, where I was supposed to be letting myself have fun and relax, I could really see who it was not letting me do what I wanted – ME!  After allowing some people to convince me to go on tours day 1 and day 2 of my trip (these are the best deals, you have to book them now!), I was feeling grumpy and annoyed on Sunday night.  I was tired from sitting in buses and hearing people tell what I should go see and when I had to be back.  I was in the most beautiful place, with the beach as my backyard, the dream vacation I wanted, yet I still wasn’t really relaxing.  The anxious thoughts I was thinking about what I should and needed to do in order to make the best use out of my own time was getting to me.  I was getting on my own nerves!

Being disciplined is a good quality, but not when you’re on vacation.  You really need to let yourself do what your heart desires, let go of what other people are doing or what other people think you should be doing.  I prayed Sunday night and asked Got to heal my thoughts – to help me not to be anxious or negative.

The next morning I allowed myself to sleep in as late as and then went down and talked to the concierge about something I have always wanted to do – get a massage at the Spa!  After having a leisure breakfast where I ate slowly and enjoyed the amazing juices, omelette, fruits, and of course coffee, I went up to the Heavenly Spa (yes that was the name of the hotels spa!).  I had never gotten a massage at a Spa before and this one was beautiful and truly lived up to its name.  Relaxing music, a special robe and flip flops, iced water with fruit in it, and lovely aromatherapy scents in the air.  I laid in the jacuzzi drinking the fruit water, sat in the sauna until I couldn’t take it, and spent some time in the steam room until I heard “Miss Laura” and a lady came to get me.

My masseuse Rafaella was the sweetest woman and seemed to know exactly the right pressure and how to rub out all of the kinks in my body for the next 80 minutes.  She even braided my hair in this way that made my face feel good!  I ended that massage feeling like a new woman.  This was the vacation I wanted!  I was allowing myself to have what I wanted and do what I wanted.  I was relaxing.  This was what I came to Mexico to do!  The rest of the day was beautiful.  I spent it lounging by the private beach behind my hotel, falling asleep, reading my book, taking walks, mini-swims and coming back to the chair with a grin on my face.  I had a delicious dinner on the beach that night of Mahi Mahi, steamed vegetables, and rice.  I felt amazing, refreshed, and so grateful.  The night couldn’t have ended any better but God blessed me with a gorgeous sunset too.

Sitting hear tonight I am again grateful because I’m remembering that day and how good it feels to be kind to myself!  It is so hard to just let go, accept yourself and the situation you are in, but when you do, you become truly free.

Well how does it end when the war that you’re in
Is just you against you against you
Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies too

-from Be Kind to Yourself by Andrew Peterson

I’m glad I’m learning how to love myself more and more and hope this inspires you to be kind to yourself too!

Love,
Laura

P.S. If you feel like you’re having trouble with anxious and/or negative thoughts, I feel your pain.  My mind can be my worst enemy sometimes.  Thankfully, I have a God who helps me and anyone who comes to Him and asks (John 14:13-14).  One of my favorite verses of all time is Philippians 4:6-7Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

 

Rest

Sleeping is something I’ve always had problems with.  I’m a light sleeper, and besides that, when my head hits the pillow at bedtime this does not mean an automatic entry into the dream-zone, it is more like a welcome mat to the thought-zone!  The funny thing about sleep is that the more you think about it and try to get it, the harder it is to obtain!  I’ve definitely had my fair of insomnia and it is not fun.  I could teach a class on how to get the best zzz’s and maintain “good sleep hygiene” but I don’t actually want to write about sleep today.  The thing that I want to share with you is related though, and something I’ve found to be super important to my life – REST!

What is rest? Google’s first answers to my search were all about a concept that is foreign to me – “In computing, representational state transfer (REST) is an architectural style used for web development.”  Luckily the Mirriam-Webster definition also appeared.  Some of the definitions I liked were “freedom from activity or labor”, “a place for resting or lodging”, “peace of mind or spirit”, and “something used for support”.

In the past, I used to live my life in a hurried mode, trying to get to the next level of achievement.  I did not really take time to enjoy what I was doing, or do things because I truly enjoyed them.  I just did things to be “the best”, which meant being at the top of everything I did.  I hate saying that, but it is the truth.  Whether it was school, sports, extra-curricular activities, and even relationships, I did whatever I could to be great at them.  And that meant there was no time for rest!

You really cannot be the best at everything – it is not fun, and it is exhausting.  Two years ago I found myself REALLY tired.  And really depressed.  I didn’t know who I was or what I truly loved doing.  I was just doing things to be successful, and that definition was something that I let others (and the world) define for me.

Thanks to God, the power of prayer, my family, and friends, I started on a new journey of discovering me.  Although I have been Christian since I was a child, the first step of this was finally understanding how much Jesus loves me.  Once you recognize that love, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks about you.

A song that really spoke to me is Francesca Batistelli’s He Knows My Name.

“He calls me chosen, free forgiven, wanted, child of the King,
His forever, held in treasure…
I am loved”

The awe that God knows my name has brought me to tears many times!  Psalm 139 also spoke to me, especially – v.14 “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well”.  Whenever I start to doubt, I just turn to that chapter and remind myself of the truth.

Living by myself was the next step of finding out who I really am.  This gave me a lot more time to discover who I am, what I like doing, and make choices for me, and plans to become more of the person I want to be.

In November 2015, I took a 12 day trip to Costa Rica, my first solo adventure.  This was one of the first trips where I made every decision myself based on what I wanted.  Yes it was scary, and there was actually a point where I thought I was going to die (maybe I’ll blog about that later!), but it was exciting, fun, and gave me a sense of empowerment and independence.  I lived out one of my favorite Bible verses – Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

On Thursday, I’m flying to Cancun to take my second solo vacation.  At first I was upset that nobody wanted to come with me, but now I’m pretty stoked that I get to do whatever I want and whatever is best for me! I know that I need some rest, and so I’m allowing myself to take it.  I need a break from my job, some time away from the daily grind, and some me time without the world’s distractions.  Rest is important for my restoration, and I am looking forward to coming back feeling refreshed.

I hope that whoever you are, and wherever you are in life that you are giving yourself rest.  Not only by relaxing and taking some time off, but also by giving yourself the benefit of doubt, cutting yourself some slack, and having grace on yourself. Show yourself some love – you deserve to rest. Today I can excitedly say that I love myself, and I am looking forward to another vacation with me!

Love,
Laura

Choosing Joy

In junior high the principal used to say “Make it a great day or not a great day, the choice is yours” at the end of every morning announcement.  I would repeat it with her in my head, but it didn’t really mean much.  A few weeks after my car accident in 2014 I had the privilege of going on a women’s retreat where I learned more about the gift of choosing joy that God has given me.

Joy is a choice – this was lesson one.  You have to choose joy and keep choosing it, and only you can make that decision.  No one else can make that choice for you.  That seemed simple but I know that in the past I definitely put my joy in others’ hands.  I thought that by pleasing others or doing things that I thought other people wanted, I would become more joyful.  Over time, I found out that I had to realize what made me joyful and say yes to those things rather than yes to what I thought everyone wanted.  Even as I learned that lesson, my circumstances didn’t always make me the most joyful.  I had to decide that I was going to choose joy, to say that no matter what was happening I could find things to be joyful about.

Joy is a gift – Did you know that you can learn joy?  It is true!  Here are some things that have helped me when I have been in down in the dumps and had a negative mindset.
– Being thankful – as soon as I start praying and thanking God for what He has given me, even the smallest of things, like the breath I breathe and the water I drink, I become more aware of how lucky I am, and my heart starts filling with joy.  It is amazing!  Soon I am just in awe of how much I have to be thankful of, and I even forget why I was feeling down.
– Laughter – I read in an article that by fake laughing it will help you to genuinely laugh.  So I tried it thinking that there was no way that could work.  But I was wrong!  I started cracking up!  And then I laughed at myself.  Learning to laugh at yourself is such a great thing.  Why feel bad about yourself and cry when you can laugh at yourself instead?  The article was promoting the health benefits of laughter too by the way, so more points for joy!
– Serving others – You know that old saying it is better to give then to receive?  It definitely puts a smile on my face when I can help someone in need.  Especially a child.
– Rejoicing in the Lord – Philippians is an amazing book of the Bible that I had the pleasure of studying last year.  The study title was “Philippians – How to Have Joy”.  Paul wrote from prison saying “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living plenty or in want.  I can do all things through him who gives me strength”(4:12-13).  Rejoice is a key word in that book.  No matter what, I can take joy and rejoice for what I have in Christ.  Salvation.  Unending love.  Freedom.  Grace.  Justification.  Eternal Life.  Hope.

There are so many things that we can complain about and be upset about.  But grumbling isn’t going to get us anywhere but a bad mood and poor attitude.  I say this to myself as much as I say it to you.  Choose joy!  It is an amazing gift!

Being silly counts is a way to choose joy too!

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Love,
Laura

 

 

 

Suffering

I used to think suffering was how it felt to be one of the last single females on the face of the planet.  Don’t freak out – I said felt – I know that wasn’t a fact!  I decided to take my singleness into my own hands and use it as empowerment.  Who cares if he doesn’t want to marry me – I’m going to look good!

I put every extra effort I had into getting fit.  At first it was fun, working out with my roommate with fun DVDs, going to classes at the gym, and even running my first half marathon at the request of a friend.  But all of those things soon turned into gods.  They all started to control me.  I needed to maintain a certain fitness level now.  It wasn’t just fun and games – I had to be at the front of the room for kickboxing class, and run my fastest time in every half marathon I entered.  Every workout I did I put my full effort into, knowing that if I didn’t then my body would change, and then what would I worship?  I loved going into Lululemon and seeing all of the cute exercise clothes, loved the new apps I could download to see my running times compared to others, loved fitness challenges at work where I could show up on top.  My hard work and striving paid off – people noticed what they saw.  Laura, you look great!  Laura, you lost so much weight!  Laura, you’re so skinny!  Music to my ears, but also, tunes that just added to the beat of my own striving.  My inner voice kept telling me you better keep this up – or else!

And so I did.  Until I couldn’t.  And then I found out what it truly is to suffer.  What it truly is to lose what you love.

I had gone on in my crazy exercise ways for 4 years and in 2014 my body said no more.  I thought it was a fluke when I woke up with shoulder pain, the result of yoga.  You see in Sep 2013, I ran my last half marathon, and then I had IT/hip/? injuries all through my right leg.  Yoga was the recommendation from my doctor, which I enjoyed, but noticed some weird shocking feeling in the beginning of 2014 in my neck.  When I woke up that cold February morning with that awful pain, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that it was more than just a rotator cuff injury.

Heat, ice, stretches, pain meds, nothing would relieve the pain.  I could no longer sleep on my side.  I cried getting dressed in the morning because even putting on clothes hurt.  Taking a shower and scrubbing was painful.  I didn’t know what to do.  To make matters worse I couldn’t exercise the way I used to, or barely at all.  No more classes at the gym.  I could do the elliptical machine but no arms.  That was it.

Months passed without improvement.  Everyone just told me I’m too young (I was 31) to have this happen.  I took a leave of absence from work and tried going to the pool.  This was where I hit the darkest wall.  I couldn’t swim.  I had grown up in the pool, loved the beach, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, and now I couldn’t swim because of this pain.

A Christian friend told me that things would get better, but I really couldn’t believe him.  I read Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  I cried and pleaded with God to restore me.  But nothing happened.

After an MRI, a spine doctor told me about the disk protrusions in my neck in C3 and C4.  He recommended a cortisone shot.  I went through with the scary procedure, and came out the same.  More and more suffering.  I wanted to die.  I didn’t think there was a reason for me to live.

In February 2015 I was driving my car at night onto the freeway.  The next thing I remember is a police man asking me questions.  He was asking,”How did you get here? How did your tire come off?”  I answered, confused, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  He asked if I knew my name.  I answered.  I looked around and saw that my car was facing traffic with the passenger side door next to the guard rail.  On the freeway.  One tire was missing.  I told the officer I really wasn’t sure how the tire came off, and then he made sure I wasn’t drunk!  Luckily he stopped questioning me and my car was towed home.

To this day I have no idea what happened that night.  But God gave me His first sign that He loves me and that He wants me to live.  He saved my life that night.  I got into a car accident and came out with no injuries.  I knew right then that my pain was minor compared to the love God had for me.  That God had plans for me, and that I needed to discover them.

If you are in a place where you don’t think God cares, please read this and know it is meant for you:

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

I’m so thankful that God is in control, that He holds the keys to my life and not me!  I’m so thankful He saved me that night and brought me home safely.  That he gave me “hope and a future”.  And I’m so thankful He’s given me the strength to share my story.

Love,

Laura

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