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The Art of Validation

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

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

Relationships.

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

Why is that?

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

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

In another word: VALIDATED.

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

What is validation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMAZING!

-Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where ya gunna go?

Today is our son Caleb’s 8 year anniversary of being in Heaven.

O how the pain is still so real. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, drive by the crash site, see his picture, or whisper a prayer of gratitude to God that Heaven is real and one day we will all get to be together again. In those moments, tears come easily and my heart aches for my boy.

When I’m overwhelmed on these or special days like his birthday or anniversary, family reunions, holidays... I often feel like running away from it all. Then I think, “Laura, where ya gunna go?”

Psalm 139:1-8 – You have searched me, Lord, and know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out, and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

God is all knowing, all powerful and everywhere. There is absolutely no escape mechanism or place we can go to get away from his constant pursuit of us!

So, the only logical, helpful, and joy filled place to run and hide is into the safe haven of God’s perfect comfort and love! And every time I do... it is well.

If for any reason at all you are in a tough spot and thinking you need to ‘get away from it all’ – may I gently ask you, ‘Where YOU gunna go?’ Instead may I boldly invite you to join me in running right smack dab into the center of the caring grace & presence of your heavenly Father!

WHATCHA GUNNA DO?

Grief is horrible on every level. However, one of the most life transforming and perspective changing things I’ve done since Caleb relocated to heaven, is to give my life away in service for others. DOing something for others, who are also walking through difficult life circumstances, always takes my focus off of my own pain and sorrow, and brings a ton of joy to my soul.

Over the past 7 years, as a family, we have participated in the CALEB Run, which is a Caleb Foundation 5K race we put together to galvanize our church family, to raise resources for at - risk youth in our community. It was a fabulous and rewarding 7 years.

This year, our family decided to shift the 5K run into a city - wide outreach week we’re calling Beyond The Shore. Our goal is to get outside the 4 walls of Shoreline and love Austin and the surrounding areas in ways they’ve never been loved before. The week kicked off with a golf tournament in which we raised over $22,000, for 6 charities, who care for under-resourced youth in our community and in Haiti, and victims of sex trafficking around the US. There are over 30 serving opportunities, ranging from stuffing 1100 backpacks with school supplies for a Title 1 middle school, to partnering with Habitat For Humanity, Central Texas Food Back, cleaning up parks in the city, Austin Life Care, Side By Side Kids and much more...

The response has been overwhelming! The number of people who signed up and showed up all week long is mind blowing! If you were to ask any one of them how they felt after they spent just a few hours caring for people, hammering some nails, smiling, buying someone’s coffee or groceries, opening someone’s door, mowing their lawn... on top of volunteering countless hours serving their fellow man in all the ways we reached out... you would hear comments like:

“So thankful to be a part of a church that has a heart for the middle school students. 1100 students will get backpacks FULL of supplies to start the new year! It was such a joy to serve today!”

“So as this guy started out thru the green light I saw his load start sliding off of his truck. I stopped, I honked and prayed everyone would stop behind me. They did right away. I had a choice to stop and block the lane for them or drive around them and get to my doctor’s appointment on time. I decided to stop and make a difference in a stranger’s life!”

“This is my first time ever doing anything outreach based and I thought to myself ok I am going to go do something for someone else and as I sat there writing a little love note to hurting people and I just thought this is going to go to someone and it is going to help them know that they are worthy and they are important. I am so thankful to have the chance to have my eyes open and a perspective change. I encourage everyone to go out and volunteer in some kind of way”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that giving your life away to serve and bless others is one of the quickest ways to fill your heart with joy and make a difference for good in the world.

Luke 6:38 MSG - Give away your life; you'll find your life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.

So, if you’re bumming out about something small, or truly grieving over a deeply painful loss of anything, let me ask you, “Whatcha gunna do?”

Live for a CAUSE bigger than you are – give your life away – DO something for someone else... and chase those blues away!

-Laura

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Let Freedom Ring!

I’m not sure how long you have been walking with the Lord but we’ve been besties for 40 years – and I am always astounded at his relentless pursuit, acceptance & love for his kids! At his constant desire to keep us walking forward to live FREE in every area and season of life.

I was chatting with one of my long-time friends a few months ago about how it seems we finally get free in one area and then God turns around and asks us to walk in freedom in another area - year after year – season after season – getting free of one darn idol or issue after the other...that we didn’t even know was a problem in our lives.

It’s like we just get free in one area and then ‘oh my gosh’, all of a sudden, our eyes are opened to another way we need to be free. We must be really messed up humans! I wish I could tell you that I wake up every morning with a smile radiating from my face, with faith filling my heart, that my mind thinks only thoughts that line up with God’s word, and my mouth says all the right things with just the right tones... but that’s not my reality.

I am in a constant battle in all these areas. In fact last summer on our way driving home from vacation, Rob and I were discussing some of our goals for this coming fall and year... and it was awesome!! We were connecting – it was beautiful… But then it was my turn to drive and he got irritated because I wanted to stop and get a Starbucks, so I wouldn’t fall asleep. Being a typical male, his irritation stemmed from the fact that he didn’t want to go ‘out of our way’ because he was on a mission to get home. But seriously, we were in no hurry at all, what’s an extra 15 min? Come on!! Anyhow, he did take me to Starbucks – but I could tell he was NOT happy.

So when I got out of the car to go in, I had a talk with myself that ‘no matter how much of a stinker he was acting like, or how irritated he still was when I got back in the car, I was going to be a kind human, a loving wife, just swallow my pride and deal with it.

As you probably have figured out – that DID NOT happen – I got in the drivers seat, looked over at him, and there he was in the passengers seat with his earphones on... basically pouting. So... I gently pulled one of the ear buds out of his ears and just went off. It was terrible. I said all kinds of stupid things I wish I didn’t say. But I just thought it was ridiculous how big of a deal he was making this! Normally, he likes to take a walk to get a hold of himself before he says too much - but this time – he was trapped – he couldn’t get away so he said stupid stuff back... at one point he asked to stop and let him out of the car and at another point, I asked to get out... it was a doozy. (Do you feel better about yourself now?)

Of course we apologized... and still love each other and it’s all good! But I told you that story to illustrate that we all need FREEDOM! LIVING A FREE LIFE is hard and it’s a journey we will be on the rest of our lives. We all need freedom in different areas, at different times. Sometimes we have to keep working on the same area over and over... ‘hello LAURA with your mouth!’ We all WANT to live free... but struggle to do so.

The great news is: Galatians 5:1 (msg) says, “Christ has set us free to live a free life!” Jesus died on the cross to set us free from sin and death, from sickness and lack, from every bondage, from anything that holds us back, so we can live free! 

Of course the million-dollar question is: ‘How do we really LIVE FREE?’ We’d need books and seminars and eons of time to adequately answer this question and dig into this subject, but just to whet your appetite.

I took a little survey from some of my closest friends asking what the top 3 things are that help them live free and here’s what they said:

  • Routine

    Stick with what you know works for you
  • Laugh

    Don’t take life or yourself too seriously
  • Exercise

    Get those toxins out
  • Nature 

    Get out and enjoy God’s creation                                    
  • Balance

    Of grace with yourself and asking God ‘to search me and see if there is any offensive way in me!’
  • Surrender

    Stay in a trusting - dependent – love filled – ‘have your way in my life’- relationship with God.
  • Perspective Shift

    Perspective is the only thing that changes results without changing the facts – "Be grateful for what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t have!"
  • Daily Quiet Time

    Worship, reading the Bible and speaking God’s promises, praying, journaling, gratitude, sharing your faith.
  • Relationships

    Accountability + increases the joys & reduces the burdens

ALL of these ideas are fantastic tools to help us LIVE FREE! My guess is that if we all participate in a few more of these practices... we will live with a whole lot more freedom! 

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4 Quick Tips for Sizzlin’ Summer Garb

Warm weather is here and there are lots of fun trends to enjoy! One of my favorite is rompers! (You only have to pick 1 piece to wear and they cover all the bases.) Of course the typical rule of thumb for the summer months is lighter and brighter. Less clingy clothes keep you cooler, and brighter colors mimic nature’s display of grandeur.

Here are a few quick tips that will add to your 2017 fair season duds.

  1. Shoulders – In almost every store there are off the shoulder - one shoulder – strappy shoulder items: tops, dresses, rompers, vest, jackets… O so sassy! Don’t be afraid to show some shoulder girls!
  2. Slides – They’re everywhere! Closed toe shoes or slip on sandals... this years trend creates ease for your feet. On and off again for effortless sashaying through your day and night.
  3. Sheer – I love the easy breezy look of these tops. Most of them don appliques or other cheery features that create a celebratory feel for the warmer months!! (Layering them over long slips/body cons and camis are the key to keeping it clean.)
  4. Simple – Less is more. When it comes to accessories - no need to layer lots of bracelets or wear chunky necklaces – allow the slower pace of summer to even seep into your wardrobe. A simple hoop, small necklace and one ring will do.

Praying you have a lovely – light hearted – wonder filled summer... all while looking really cute!

-Laura

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Addicted to Haiti

I have an addictive personality. In different seasons of my life this has been a disadvantage. Recently I found a new fix… one that has wiped me off my feet.

Hi my name is Danielle and I am addicted to Haiti.

For the last seven years our church has partnered with an organization in Ouanaminthe, Haiti called Danita’s Children. Their mission is to raise up orphaned children in the ways of the Lord and empower them to change their nation. Through the generosity of our church family, the Caleb Foundation has supplied them with buildings, where many young people are currently living. They have sincerely kept Caleb’s story and legacy alive.

Although there are some undeniable facts about the conditions of Haiti, it is absolutely a diamond in the rough. Every time I go there, I see less poverty and more diamond. Every nation has its own set of issues, but every nation also has things that make it beautiful. So let’s switch things up.

Today we are going to chat about what is right with Haiti.

One thing that Haiti does really well is community. I have learned how to love people better through watching how they love. As a youth leader I interact with students who often deal with depression and negative thoughts. Suicide is an epidemic in our nation. I was asking one of my Haitian friends if this is an issue they deal with and he said no. That sparked my interest. He began to explain that although high rates of sickness and disease lead to death in Haiti, suicide hardly exists because everyone feels like they belong. Community is a part of their culture. It is just simply how they do life…..

Community saves lives.  

My favorite thing to do there is to people watch. I sit back, relax and just observe. Haitians are a beautiful people. They are hard workers. They look after one another. It doesn’t matter if you are a stranger, you are family. You are accepted simply because you are breathing. Wouldn’t that be nice? To be known and loved just for being alive…. Like I said I have learned a lot. I am challenged to see things differently.

To fix my eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen.

I want to challenge you to look deeper. There is beauty in everything. Take your blinders off and take a look around. Don’t miss out on what is right in front of you.

The unseen always has a way of transforming what you actually see.

-Danielle Koke

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

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

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

2. That you take care of your physical body.

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

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

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

4. That you live a godly life.

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

5. That you are a learner.

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

6. That you live and lead by conviction. 

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

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

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

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

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

9. That you have an adventuresome spirit.

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

10. That you send me kind & romantic texts.

One of the most recent:

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

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

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

-Laura

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The Mirror That Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happiest Mother’s Day Ever!

-Laura

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Shame Off You

Sometimes you might look at your leaders and think we’re ‘perfect’, but that’s absolutely not true! The fact is, if you’re going through something difficult, or made some crazy poor decisions, the chances are pretty good that someone on our church staff has gone through or done it too. Even the Apostle Paul, who God used to write 2/3 of the New Testament said about himself in:

1 Corinthians 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles and don’t even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

This passage is a great reminder that we all have some rough parts of our story – things we’ve been through or done that have chipped away at our sense of VALUE – probably creating feelings of unworthiness… yet God still chooses to use us.

Wounds.

When I was 13 years old, I fell in love with Jesus! I asked him into my heart and began walking with him. And he has been the love of my life ever since! But shortly after he came into my heart, I reached out to a group of girls and invited them to my youth group... one of the girls, who was 18, began to take an interest in me as more than just a friend. That was back before anyone was talking about that kind of stuff. Anyhow, one night she spent the night and took advantage of/molested me sexually... awakening that part of my life way before it should have ever been awakened... Essentially my innocence was stolen. Over time she told me she was in love with me and that she was going to marry me one day... I was so young and scared to talk to my parents but it really messed with my mind and emotions. I didn’t really know what was going on. Finally, I met with one of the pastors at my church who validated me and said, with tears in his eyes, that this never should have happened to me, & that Jesus wanted to cleanse me and heal my broken heart. I remember this being an intense time of crying out to God – I desperately needed him to deliver me from this situation... eventually that girl moved out of town and I was free!... I thought.

However, I didn’t really do anything else about that wound except to continue going to church and my youth group ... and keep gaining an understanding of who I was in Christ. That wound was buried…

So a few years later when I was 15 – another situation happened. One night I had a slumber party, and there were lots of girls there from our youth group and school... that night another girl who was actually a year younger than me ended up sleeping next to me and somewhere in the night we kissed... that started a whole full blown relationship. We had a paper route together – I went to all of her volleyball and basketball games – we hung out all the time – her family became like family to me - it was unhealthy in so many ways. I still had no understanding of why this was taking place. In fact I had a boyfriend. I was not attracted to girls that way – but with this girl it was different – it was like a spell – a stronghold – she had so much control over me. My mom didn’t like me hanging around her, but I wouldn’t listen. It was as if that first situation had marked me somehow – the enemy knew I had been victimized once and I could be a victim again. This time I was even more devastated because I really was walking with Jesus. I knew it was wrong, and yet I felt so oppressed, even depressed at times, so much that I wanted to take my life, because I had no idea how to break free from this relationship, or my own flesh.

So again, I cried out to God to deliver me from this situation in my life, from myself… and God heard my cry. I somehow broke free and followed the guy I was dating to A&M. At A&M I had a dream about ORU, so I went... which is where I met my hubby Rob and have now been happily married for 31 years!!!

Shame.

The enemy will use anything he can to pull our attention and affection away from Jesus and his love for us, so that we feel devalued and worthless. He will heap so much shame on us that we hide. We simply never talk about the painful, imperfect: wounds/ addictions/ sins/ abuses/ dark places in our lives… we cover it all up. We feel so ashamed that we never get free. We stay wounded.

Brene’ Brown, a brilliant psychologist defines shame this way: “An intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive.”

Shame keeps us feeling devalued and unworthy and stops us from facing our issues. We see how when Adam and Eve felt ashamed in the garden they hid themselves, but God came to them and brought them garments of skins that he made, so their shame would be removed and they’d be properly clothed. In the same way, sometimes people don’t want to come to church because they think the church is going to condemn them, but we believe it’s the churches responsibility to be like God and protect people from shame. So if anyone in your life has said, “shame on you”, I say, SHAME OFF YOU!

Hebrews 12:2, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Romans 10:11, “For with the heart one believes and is justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

I read this little story in a devotional about a man who had some failures and sin in his life and knew he was going to stand before God one day so he was praying about it. Then, Satan appeared and mocked him saying, “There’s no use praying, my friend. I’ve created a photo album of over 100 of your worst sins to prove your guilt. God will never let you in.” The guy was pretty shook up, remembering the many times he had failed God, his wife and his family. That night he dreamed about the photo album and saw Satan making his case before the Lord. “Look at these pages of sin,” said the devil. “He’s guilty as charged.” But then the Righteous Judge said, “Hand me that album.” Thumbing through the pages, he replied, “These photos are indistinguishable to me. What is smeared across each photo? Oh! Wait! I recognize it now. That’s the blood of my son. Case dismissed. Not guilty!”

SHAME OFF YOU!

Redemption.

Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.

Jesus wants to take those fractured, wounded parts of your life and REDEEM them! There are many things God will use to redeem your wounds. A few are:

  1. His word.
  2. His presence.
  3. Counseling/ Recovery Programs.
  4. Godly friends.

Probably the biggest and sweetest redemptive tool God uses is godly relationships.

 Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9 -10, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach our and help.” 

I had several relationships that have really helped me get free and more fully embrace my true value and worth! My parents: my dad was constantly telling me how valuable, important, and smart I was; my mom who really didn’t want me hanging out with those girls, well I should have listened. When I finally told them what was going on, they loved me unconditionally... which is also what my youth pastors and church leaders did. By the time I got to ORU I was excited to move forward in my walk with God and my goal of becoming a doctor, but I was SUPER convinced I would never ever get close to girls again in my life. There at ORU, I heard and studied about unhealthy soul ties and familiar spirits and that God could set me free from all of that! Again this was a soul - searching time for me, where I did some hard work denouncing the enemy’s lies and receiving the cleansing, healing power of the Holy Spirit.

But perhaps most of my tangible healing came from a female relationship God brought to bring me wholeness. One day I was heading out to a movie when I ran into the one and only ...Rob Koke – he was big man on campus – everyone had told me about him – how much he loved God and was going to change the world. And he asked me what I was doing. When I told him I was going to the movies, he said, “Why don’t you come to the prayer gardens with me instead – because me and some friends are going to worship God together.” Well, I had heard about being invited to the prayer gardens. That really, it meant the guy wanted to smooch. But he looked innocent enough so I said yes – and that night I met a girl named Katie. The whole night she was staring at me and I thought, “O no, here we go again.” But there was something so pure and precious about her, so we became best of friends. Over time God showed her what I had walked through without me ever telling her, and she began to teach me what a healthy friendship looked like... that girls could appropriately hold hands and hug and kiss on the cheek... She actually made me do those things until I felt comfortable. It was beautiful.

From one woman’s hand I was abused and wounded, but from another woman’s hand I was healed!

God brought redemption from that heart wrenching mess I found myself in – through a godly friend!

And now I am honored to have the most amazing girlfriends all over the world to do life and ministry with; and have been entrusted with the privilege of leading a ministry called SISTERHOOD that fosters healthy relationships between women!!!

What a Redeeming God we serve!

Girls and guys - Your sin and imperfect experiences don’t define you – God does!

He wants to take every wound – remove all the shame from it - and redeem it to bring glory to his name... and then  - through your story - bring redemption to others going through the same thing!

I love you and am praying for you!

-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

Anointed

Essential oils are all the craze right now! And professionally speaking, I believe they are a fantastic tool to help alleviate pain and assist in the curative process of our bodies and emotions. In fact, if you’ve ever started a new workout regimen, your muscles are probably screaming for relief... Apply a little muscle soothing combination of essential oils (4 oz. carrier oil such as jojoba, almond, or sesame + 10 drops of each essential oils of: eucalyptus, cinnamon, peppermint, camphor, rosemary + 5 drops each of essential oils of: ginger, lavender and black pepper) and let the healing magic begin.

In Bible days, shepherds would rub oil into their sheep’s heads to mend the scrapes and bruises they accumulated from sharp brush and rocks.

What wouldn’t we pay for a miracle ointment that could empower and heal our broken hearts and lives? The beautiful news is – there is! Our generous heavenly Father has richly provided us with a heaven sent solution/ anointing that flows from his heart, ‘The Anointed One’ - to ours... and it doesn’t cost a thing - it’s pure gift!

Anointed: to be set apart or empowered for a task or a position by God.

When Jesus walked the earth, he started his ministry by proclaiming what scripture said about him from:

Luke 4:18–21- The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

In like manner – his anointing resides in us.

1 John 2:27 - But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you.

Simply put, the anointing is God’s Spirit – His Presence - living and flowing through us to accomplish every purpose for which we were created!

And boy do we need it!

When I was a mom of young kids, I was in a constant state of amazement because of their ability to stump me in my parenting skills. Seriously, why didn’t God send an instruction manual with each of them when they came into this world?! I remember the joy when it dawned on me that I didn’t need a manual or have to do this parenting thing alone! I had the God of the Universe living on the inside of me. He cared about my kids more than I did, and he wanted to anoint and lead me step by step, so I could teach and train them in the way they were individually bent!  

Regardless of what you need help with or healing for, you have the Anointed One living inside you, anointing you for the tasks at hand!

Lest we think it’s something good in us – remember: it’s ‘not by our might or by our power, but by the Spirit of the Lord’, that anything good is accomplished. (Zech. 4:6)  - it’s ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28) – ‘apart from him we can do nothing.’ (John 15:5) – ‘...but with him all things are possible.’ (Matthew 19:26) – AND His anointing breaks every yoke of bondage. (Is. 58:6, Is. 10:27)

Next time you think, “I can’t do this.” – picture the Anointed One flowing through you to fulfill everything he’s placed in your hand!

-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

Use What You Have

Everybody loves LOVE!

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

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

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

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

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

GOD WANTS TO USE YOU!

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

WHAT DO YOU HAVE?

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

USE WHAT YOU HAVE.

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

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

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

DON’T BE AFRAID TO LOVE BIG!

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

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

GOD WILL MULTIPLY YOUR LOVE TO RESCUE OTHERS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Laura

 

That's Sisterhood

 

I’ve recently had the privilege of being a part of a few events that felt like the truest definition of Sisterhood I’ve experienced in a long time.

In February, a team of 20 women from our church traveled to Ouanaminthe, Haiti to love on some orphaned kids and bless the beautiful women there with a conference. The girls raised money, took time off work, fasted and prayed for months, and once there, worked together tirelessly to make SHINE HAITI women’s conference as special as possible. That’s Sisterhood! As the women arrived on Friday night, we became aware of a few women who had walked four days just to get there... and tragically were robbed along the way.  They had no clothes to wear to the conference. Without hesitation, one of the girls on our team ran to her room and gathered several items of clothing to give to these dear, dear ladies. That’s Sisterhood!

The day after we returned from Haiti, we did a Sisterhood photo shoot. The goal of the day was to ‘capture’ what Sisterhood looks like. Throughout the day, these girls lived it out!! They were pouring life into each other, giving one another piggyback rides, sharing their life stories, cheering one another on. That’s Sisterhood! One beautiful woman, Sandy, came to serve with the details and that she did with excellence... but even more stunning was the fact that she ended up interpreting the conversations, in Spanish, to lovely Juanita. At the end of the day, I had a special moment of expressing to Juanita how valuable, gorgeous and delightful she is... Tears filled her eyes. Because Sandy was there to interpret, Juanita’s heart was filled with joy as she better understood her true worth. That’s Sisterhood! Later we found out that Juanita almost didn’t get to come because she normally cares for her granddaughter. No worries - in stepped Candy to the rescue. She rushed over to watch the baby and Juanita was able to attend. That’s Sisterhood!

Sisterhood is more than just a gathering of girls! It’s the spirit in which we nurture and care for one another, and those who need a little extra TLC. Almost daily, I receive a story of someone who has received love from her ‘sisters.’

In December of last year, Maria, who serves on the hospitality team, reached out for prayer for her daughter Ariel and her youngest grandson. Ariel was not able to work because her son was hospitalized with a rare blood disorder. Everyone prayed and collected money to purchase Christmas pressies for all three children and the mommy... plus HEB gift cards for groceries. As of today, the grandson is healed and Ariel attends Sisterhood. There’s simply nothing like a group of women who will rally around one another and do whatever it takes to make sure all the people in their world are well taken care of! That’s Sisterhood!

My heart is bursting with gratitude for all God has been doing in our hearts individually, and collectively – as a company of women! Together we are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. Together we are stronger and better equipped to live this Christian life in victory! Together we can join hearts and hands to make a difference in the lives of the world around us! That’s Sisterhood!

If you have never been a part of Sisterhood before, we have a place for you; a place to find friendship, acceptance, and belonging; a place to recognize how loved you are by God; a place to serve and make an impact.

Last week, I was talking to a precious woman after church. She shared how there had been a few ‘messy bits’ to her life for a while, but she was so grateful to be back at church. She continued, "I feel so lonely...all I want is to feel like I belong." Gosh! My heart went out to her. I hugged her tight and let her know, God loves her, we love her, and there is a Sisterhood of women who would be honored to do life together with her. That this is a place where she can belong!!

I don’t know what we would do without each other!

That’s Sisterhood!

Sisterhood  = A movement of everyday girls, connected heart and soul, who are passionate about bringing Heaven to Earth.

Belonging  = Acceptance as a natural member or part: a sense of belonging.

-Laura

Connect. Community. Cause.

Recently I had the honor of sharing with some college age students at Texas Bible Institute, in Columbus, Texas. I love this group of young people because I remember being in that stage of life, ready to launch into all God had prepared for me. Since then, my husband and I, and an incredible team of people have had the privilege of pastoring, leading and loving on countless thousands of people at Shoreline Church for the last 30 years.

If there were only 3 thoughts I could communicate to millennials or any age person, that will cause you to walk steady, strong, and full of joy, through the good & tough times... here’s what they would be.

The longer I live, the more I realize that pain and heartache come to all people. Every person’s pain is sacred, very real, and quite frequently all consuming. However, there is always HOPE regardless of what we are experiencing because our gracious Creator has given us some valuable gifts, in the form of choices, that will help us to keep moving forward.

Just over 7 years ago, we received a knock at the door, at 6 am, from a police officer telling us that our 17 – year - old son Caleb had been in a single person car accident. He fell asleep at the wheel, his car hit a tree and he was instantly relocated to Heaven. The devastation was overwhelming. From that moment on we have been walking out a grief so deep, yet are continuing to live joyful and purpose filled lives. I want to share about these 3 amazing gifts we choose to embrace on a continual basis that have helped us to do so. I believe these gifts can help you on your healing journey as well, no matter what you might be facing at this time.

Connect

Every single day I choose to connect with God! Even though we have questions about the ‘why’ behind the reality that Caleb is no longer on this earth… we know God loves us! Spending time soaking in His words of comfort and strength... allowing Him to love us... and spending time with Him, causes us to surrender, depend on, and trust Him more and more! We all need to connect with God daily, because honestly...

He is our only hope!

There is nothing else out there that can take the pain away – no drug, alcohol, or other escape mechanism, that can bring us the comfort, peace or healing we are desperate for. Our connection is necessary! I could have never walked through the loss of our precious son without God by my side! In Matthew 28:29, Jesus said - “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age…” God is and always will be about relationship – connecting with us, because we’re His kids! I personally believe that our awareness and belief of God’s presence ‘with us’ is the key/solution to every difficulty in life. Because when we know He’s with us – our trouble melts into peace. There’s nothing we can’t handle together! Also, when we connect with God – something amazing starts to happen. We begin to have a grateful heart! It’s another choice I make each day, because to be honest, I can start down the road of thinking about what I don’t have – my son, Caleb is not here… So, the first thing I do when I get out of bed is make a list of all the things I DO HAVE. I sincerely thank God for the many blessings in my life. Being grateful really helps me to keep perspective. Please stay connected with God – He is always there!

Community

The most profound way I’ve experienced God’s love through our loss has been through people loving us - through community! From that first moment until now – we have been surrounded by the most incredible group of people on the planet. Friends near and far, our personal families, our church family… all I can say is WOW!

I can never doubt that God cares because of how community has responded.

In fact, I simply don’t know how people who aren’t connected in community make it when trouble comes. Bottom line is - We need each other! That’s what the body of Christ is all about; we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are a family and it’s our delight to bear one another’s burdens; to lift and lend strength to one another. Jesus said in Hebrews 10:24-25 – (Amp)And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another...  I realize, it’s hard for some people to reach out & tell someone they need help and we all need to walk by and speak our faith... At the same time, when we’re vulnerable with one another, and we participate in all the ‘one another’s’ scripture tells us to, healing comes because we encourage, pray for, and help one another!! Let’s choose to stay in community! I need it – you need it – we all need community!

Cause

Another gift I’ve discovered that keeps me moving forward is living for a cause that’s bigger than me! I don’t know about you – but I know too much! I can’t just sit back and not reach out to others when I know I have the answer! I’ve got to tell them! I’m compelled! Something rises up on the inside of me when I hear of someone else’s loss, a health issue, a divorce, or someone in need of prayer or encouragement -

The ‘cause’ kicks in.

I do my best to respond in the way the Holy Spirit is leading. I’ll never forget one particular day I was really sad and struggling. Then, I got a call from a friend who told me she had a friend who just lost her daughter in a car accident. Even though I was having a tough day, barely had my own nose above water, and felt like I had absolutely nothing to give... I felt a powerful urgency to call and minister hope to her. I couldn’t stop myself. We talked, cried, and prayed together… The cause kicked in! Paul said, “I am compelled to preach.” Jesus said, “For this cause I came into the world…” You and me are all God has to be His touch, His tears and His voice of encouragement. He’s given us the awesome privilege of partnering with Him to tell others who need to know about His magnificent love and grace to help in their time of need. There is a CAUSE – a reason, we are here! God created each one of us, the whole package, unique character traits, the family we grew up in, where we live, the experiences we’ve had, the strengths and the weaknesses– the joys and pains!... to be a blessing to others. He crafted us for a purpose; He has a destiny for you and me to live out! He needs us to do our part! Let’s choose to live for a Cause greater than ourselves! We are the carriers of Heaven to earth – carriers of God’s love and grace – carriers of Jesus into this world.

Every day - we can choose to keep moving forward - to live with victory and joy in our lives. We’ve been given some wonderful gifts to help us in this process. The gifts of Connect – Community – Cause. I believe that if each of us will connect with God, stay in community with one another, and live for a cause greater than ourselves, we will find the healing we long for and the passion for life we so deeply desire.

-Laura

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