Three Women {three haunting beautiful faces}

Happy Tuesday dear friends! 

This week, I am so very happy to have my sweet friend Cyndi Word guest-posting on my blog! Cyndi is one of my all-time heroes. There are many reasons for that, but today you will see that she is a person who is fully committed to reaching the most desperately hurting around her. This sister is the real deal, ‘all in’ and is drawn to places where evil has had a serious foothold. Cyndi brings Jesus’ light and truth into the darkest of places and to the most hurting & broken people imaginable. When she shows up, she brings love, grace, and a hilarious sense of humor! I just love her and so will you. 

Everybody — meet Cyndi! 

 

Cyndi and a little in the Dominican Republic
Cyndi and a little in the Dominican Republic

 Three Women {three haunting beautiful faces}

I can call-up their faces in my memory so easily. Three different women living in three different places in absolute and abject need.

The first, I recall from my week on mission with our church in the DR. She must have been in her 60’s, or perhaps she was much younger and poverty had etched those lines deeply into her face.

She had some kind of deformity, the sides of her precious face didn’t quite match up and she was so obviously self-conscious about it. This woman came into the little church where we were doing vacation Bible school and made her own craft.

Tiny pieces of colorful tissue paper were glued onto a picture of a tree that was drawn on a paper plate, making her own version of the burning bush.

I came around with my camera and she excitedly held up her project, a huge smile on her face.

As I aimed the camera she slid her craft up to cover her deformity.

My heart shattered just a bit as the shutter of the camera clicked.

I longed to take that lovely, joy-filled face in my hands and tell her she was beautiful — that she had a Father that adored her.

That she never needed to hide her deformity because each and every one of us has them, seen or unseen.

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The second woman is a human trafficking victim, an addict and a sister in Christ.

I have had the honor of cracking open God’s word with her and celebrated when she accepted Jesus as her very own. Tears have fallen from my eyes as she lifted her amazing voice to sing of God’s grace and the freedom found in His redemption.

But…after a year and a half of safe-haven in a restoration home, Satan sent the demons so familiar to her and she returned to the streets.

I met up with her for lunch one day — or at least I had lunch while she sat shaking from the drugs coursing through her system.

I have no doubt of her salvation, but I fear her only peace will come when Christ calls her home. I ask God to help me understand, why isn’t intense love enough to draw her back to Him?

He reminds me that He feels the same way and has cried out the same question to every lost soul that has rejected His love.  

The third woman, I just recently met. Her face might be the one that is haunting me the most.

She lives just an hour away from our suburban paradise in an abandoned building on the west side of Baltimore. I had the opportunity to serve dinner to some of the people in that area, and she came to the gathering at the end of the night. She could have been my daughter — was just about my children’s age.

Despite her tiny frame, I learned she had just recently given birth to a baby which was whisked away from the choices this young woman was making.

She smiled as she was introduced to me and I saw that all of her front teeth were missing. Her voice was high and sweet as she thanked us for dinner and for some blankets we had brought along. I longed to put her in my car, to drive her away from whatever had led her to the dangerous streets of west Baltimore.

Three women, three beautifully haunting faces. I see their eyes as I close my own and I ask God — what do you want from me? The needs are huge; God-sized and I don’t know what to do.

So far, these are the answers He has given. I share them because I am sure you have beautiful faces that haunt you too.  

  • Love the one I put in front of you. You may not feel as if you are making a difference, but to that one you are
  • Take the opportunities I give you to serve. You only get one life, so put the first things first
  • Don’t feel guilty for your blessings, feel responsibility
  • Most importantly, tell the hurting about Me.Tell them I love them, tell them I see them, tell them about my Son

 

 

In His Love,

Cyndi 

{from Laura} Learn more about the Baltimore area ministries where Cyndi serves: The Samaritan Women  and Angels of Addiction

When You Lose The Horizon

Pain is a great teacher. It is not a journey any of us would volunteer for, but once there, it can reveal valuable truths that we cannot learn any other way.

When we go through a crisis, it is not at all unusual to feel disoriented. The world looks different after a layoff, diagnosis, death of a loved one, or when distressing news is dropped on our doorstep.

When my husband was a young man, he had his pilot’s license. He allowed it to lapse after we were married, but I know he dreams of flying again one day. Pat loves to tell me all kinds of stories about his flying days and often quizzes me on ‘how to fly’. It’s all in fun, and I always fail miserably! 

Because I give all of the wrong answers, I am pretty sure he thinks I don’t fully listen to those old flying stories, but I really do – sometimes.  I was thinking today about the lessons I’ve learned through difficult experiences, and I remembered one story he has told me over and over again.

Pilots flying in reduced visibility due to dense clouds, fog or storms, often encounter spatial disorientation. When this happens, the earth, the horizon, or external reference points in flight become lost.

In non-pilot language – he cannot see where he is going and can quickly become disoriented. The pilot is unable maintain a correct sense of up and down while flying. His perception of direction does not match reality and now he is in a very dangerous situation.

Flying airplane

The NTSB reports that 40% of fatal general aviation accidents are due to the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation. Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline and John F. Kennedy Jr. all died because a pilot lost their ability to navigate visually during bad weather.

And there is one common denominator in most all of these fatal crashes — the pilots were not trained to fly in ‘instrument conditions’.

When human senses are no longer reliable, the instruments are. The pilot who is instrument-rated knows that they alone tell the truth. He trusts the instruments, the training kicks in, and he makes it through the fog and storm.

Girls, when we are experiencing the grief, panic and upset from a storm on our own journey, we can lose sight of our horizon. 

Our perception may not match reality. Everything is upside down and our sense of direction is gone.

When we find ourselves disoriented and we cannot trust our instincts – what do we do?

How can we find the horizon again?

I’ve learned that when bad news has been dropped on my doorstep, my life is flipped over and my senses are no longer reliable, my training kicks in.

Understanding I can’t go with what I see and feel – I go with what I know.

  • I may feel alone — but I know I am not alone.
  • I may feel there is no end in sight — but I know there is
  • I may feel as though I cannot see where I am going — but I know I am still on the journey.
  • I may feel I will not make it — but I know I will

And how do I know? I am trained in the unchanging, storm proof, total-truth compass that is the Word of God.

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I turn over my trust to what I have been trained for and He shows me the way out of the storm.  

It’s not to say I don’t panic or have upset – I do. But I am learning, ever so imperfectly, to rely on what I have been trained to do — and make no mistake, the training is on-going!

Scripture tells us that the Word gives us endurance and hope!

For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope. — Romans 15:4

And the amazing thing? The fruit of trusting His Word during the stressful times of life is this: you and I are being watched.

The people around us will wonder how we are still ‘flying’ after all we have been through – and when they ask — we will tell them Who is really flying the plane! 

We not only find our horizon, but we help others find theirs too.

We say, “I have been in the fog just like you – let me show you the way out into the light.”

I love God – He is such a multiplier. He blesses us so we can bless others.

Our witness – imperfect as it is – is contagious!

“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many people will see this and worship Him. Then they will trust the Lord.” – Psalm 40:3

And He, of course, gets all the glory! 

Sister, if your life is upside down right now and you have lost the horizon, turn to what you know. His Word —  the unchanging, storm proof, total-truth compass, will set you straight again. It will lead you out of the darkness and into the light. 

Many Blessings,

laura

Giving Up The Right To Be Right

Last summer, my family and I took a trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It had been many years since we laid eyes upon the farm where my grandparents lived while I was growing up.

My brother and I have such wonderful memories of playing in the corn and soybean fields, as well as the wonderful meals my grandmother prepared in her farm kitchen. As children, we spent every Thanksgiving around her table and loved to visit each summer.

The farm was sold 30 years ago, after my grandfather died, and we don’t know the people who live there now. We drove by the house and noticed how much it has changed, but we didn’t go up to the door.

We decided to stop by the side of the road and take a few pictures.

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The farm across the street, which used to be owned by a distant cousin, had also been sold. We wanted to drive up the lane to look at the early 1800-era family cemetery located on the farm, but there were ‘no trespassing’ signs all over the place warning us away. We thought we had better not ignore those signs!

Instead, we visited the public cemetery where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried; we then drove through the little town of Goldsboro, past the church and other places that were part of our childhood. Once we had done all that, we had nothing else to do.

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About midway through the day, I realized that we had no one to visit.

There were no cousins or relatives to reminisce or catch up with. It hit me in kind of a strange way. My grandparents are both in heaven. My mother, their only child, has gone there, too.

Mom’s cousins and relatives may still live in the area, but I don’t know them. In fact, I’ve never even met them. I don’t know them at all.

I know that sounds odd. The fact is, my family farmed that land since before the Revolutionary War. The farm was acquired as a land-grant from the King of England. That’s how far back my family goes – but I do not know any of our relatives — my own generation — who live in the area now.

There are ways that families are broken that, in the moment, seem justifiable. There are hurts and disappointments that happen – and sometimes relationships are severed as a result. 

This was true in my family. The reason that I don’t know anyone on my mother’s side is that there was unforgiveness that went unresolved for decades. It was never made right and never gotten over.

Without going into a lot of detail, my grandfather ended his relationship with his two sisters — his only siblings — long before I was born. When this happened, my mother lost her two aunts and all of her cousins.

I only saw my great-aunts once. It was from a distance at a church supper. I was about six years old.

My mother pointed them out to me across the room and I remember thinking how much they looked like my grandfather. I also thought they looked like nice ladies, even though I figured they must’ve done something really bad if Granddaddy wasn’t speaking to them anymore. It was confusing to me, but I accepted it. I never saw them again.

My grandfather was a very good man, we loved him dearly and I do not plan on disparaging his memory in any way – but he was human. Something very hurtful happened to cause him to break off his relationship with both of his sisters.

I wonder why it was never resolved. Why didn’t they find their way back to each other?

The truth is, whether justified or not, my grandfather’s decision has affected our family for two generations. Right or wrong, it was a loss for the whole family. I didn’t fully realize it until we visited the farm.

Unforgiveness that is unresolved, never made right and never gotten over reaches far beyond the original offense.

To be clear, I am not speaking of a situation where something horrendous has happened. There are times when we must sever ties with people who have hurt us – even if they are family. Some people are not safe and there must be a break. Forgiveness, not necessarily reconciliation, is still the goal but, of course, it is a process. It can take a long time and we need God’s help to accomplish it.

This kind of deep, devastating hurt is not what I am writing about today.

I don’t know exactly what went on between my grandfather and his sisters. I do know that no one died, no one was physically hurt, and no one was unsafe. It was all a misunderstanding that snowballed and grew until it simply blew up.

Not always, but more often than not, unforgiveness is the result of pride, feeling justified and having to be right.

Many of us have trouble working through conflicts and problems.

When it gets hard, or we feel as though we might not win, we throw up our hands and say we are done. The other side feels the same. Lines are drawn and the relationship is broken. It remains unresolved because no one makes the first move or takes the first step. The stalemate can last a lifetime.

Here is a true and wise statement — I actually want to cross stitch it on a pillow, it’s that good. 🙂

“When in conflict with another person, the goal is not to be right – the goal is to be effective.”

Think about that for a moment. Isn’t that so true? What if we kept that in mind when navigating through any kind of problem-solving —  and not just in our family?

In my mind, ‘effective’ means that there is no winner – the issue gets resolved, the relationship is preserved and both parties are ok.

With this approach, we allow ourselves and the ones we are in conflict with the room to grow, learn and do better next time. Grace.

Scripture tells us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” – Romans 12:18

Since this is in the Word of God, we can’t pretend it isn’t there. Our response is our responsibility.

After my grandfather died, my grandmother lived another 15 years – she and I developed a close grown-up relationship. Many, many times she cautioned me about unforgiveness. She had deep regrets about the broken relationships within the family. In her generation, most women followed along with what her husband decided – even if she pleaded with him not to do it.

In her later years, she impressed upon me the importance of keeping the lines of communication open, to set boundaries if I must, but to forgive my loved ones.  She knew something that I am only now realizing – unforgiveness that is unresolved can break a family for generations.

Ephesians 4:32 says that we are to, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

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We are supposed to be different, those of us who follow Christ. We are to extend the olive branch, give up our ‘right to be right’ and, as far as it is up to us, live in harmony with everyone.

After all, how can we explain God’s free gift of forgiveness to those who do not know Him, if we are not extending it ourselves?

 Sending love to all,
laura

 

 

 

 

The Push/Pull {of letting go}

I made it!

If you read my post last week, you may remember that I was struggling a bit. We had a whole bunch of life events that were hitting at once and I was feeling very conflicted about all the changes. My emotions were all over the map and I was anticipating a very joyful, yet bittersweet, week ahead.

Well, I am very happy to report to you that I made it through all of the celebrations with my sanity intact! After graduation, I saw Grant off to Europe and Mathew off to California. Both sons have arrived safely and have begun their adventures far from home. I am so excited for both of them!

I also survived Patrick’s 30th birthday without feeling too ancient, although I still can’t believe I’m the mother of a 30-year-old! It’s still pretty shocking, but I’ll accept it – eventually. 🙂

To add insult to injury, Grant turns 27 today. I jokingly reminded him that in only three years he will be 30 – that’s when he reminded ME that I was 30 when I gave birth to him! In other words, in three years I will be…well, you do the math. The joke is on me.Talk about feeling conflicted about changes! Ugh!

So much of motherhood is experienced with some level of inner conflict. It’s just the way it is. Don’t you agree? It seems that there is an internal push/pull from the moment our children are born. When they grow past the baby stage, the push/pull includes questions like these:

When do I speak and when do I remain silent?

When do I parent and when do I coach?

When should I step in and when should I stay out?

When should I rescue and when do consequences need to be experienced?

When do I hold on and how on earth do I let go?

I could go on. Depending on our personalities and those of our children, some of these questions are harder to discern than others.

It isn’t easy navigating through all the changes as our children become adults.  It’s hard to know how much to pull back and give them the space to find their own way. It’s difficult to move to the side, when you have been responsible for them since day one.

But this is important — we don’t move away. We only move aside. We stand on the sidelines to cheer them on.

I have to admit that I don’t always do it well, but I am committed to giving them my blessing as they discover the life that God has for them – even if it conflicts with what I wish for.

Even when it seems it takes forever for them to find it.

And even when it takes them far from home.

At a certain point I’ve had to realize that I cannot control the path they take. To do so, might cause them to be more concerned with my will for their lives instead of focusing on God’s will.

Ultimately, I don’t want their eyes looking back at me. I want their eyes looking forward to Him.

Truth be told, sometimes I tend to get God’s plan mixed up with my plan. Sometimes I bite my tongue when I should have spoken and sometimes I’ve spoken when I should have bitten my tongue. I am still learning as I go along.

Thank God for forgiveness and grace. 

Another thing that I have learned is that, most of the time, my boys need to make their own mistakes and experience their own life lessons along the way. Kids rarely learn from our missteps – but they do learn from their own.

And when they take a wrong step, my first response should always be grace – before any truth is spoken.

I struggle with that too.

My mom was the first to admit she did not ‘let go’ well. I have often joked that I launched my own self! To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it and, neither would she. It was a hard road for both of us. So quite naturally, as a result of my own experience, these push/pull questions have been very important to me.

When I was in my 20’s I was completely paralyzed by the fear of failure. I held on to false beliefs about myself and my ability to make something out of my life. As a result, I would not and could not follow my dreams, let alone God’s plan. It wasn’t until years later that things changed for me.

Our God is truly a Redeemer of broken thinking, broken hearts, and broken dreams. Because of His mercy, we do not have to pass our failures on to our kids. Hallelujah!

Last Friday evening we attended Mathew’s Baccalaureate service – or, as we moms call it, ‘Cry Night’. It was a beautiful, moving, service full of praise, worship, and gratitude for the past four years. There were tears of joy and sadness all at the same time. At the end, we lit candles, and all 665 graduates were commissioned to live as servant leaders and take God’s light out into the world.

Photo credit: Marti Hwang
Photo credit: Marti Hwang

In the end, this is what moms who are followers of Jesus have been doing for generations. We wrestle with the push/pull questions. We seek His guidance as we let them go. We give our conflicted hearts to Him and pray that our children will do as they have been taught – to discover the path God has for them and, once on it, take His light out into the world.

Sending love,

laura

 

 

 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters {and mothers} , stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. — 1 Corinthians 15:58

 

Time Got Away From Me

I’ve got a lot going on. I don’t know how it all snuck up on me, but it has.

I lost a week at the end of April when my dad was in the hospital – maybe that’s how the time got away from me. All I know is, all of a sudden, it dawned on me that May is here and boy will it be an eventful month for our family!

This is going to be a crazy week. It’s all good stuff – but it’s all happening at once.

Here’s what is going on:

  • Our oldest son, Patrick, turns 30 years old on Friday
  • Our youngest son, Matt, is graduating from Messiah College on Saturday morning
  • Our middle son, Grant, is flying to Europe for a 10-day vacation on Saturday night
  • Matt will fly to LA, California, to begin a 10-week internship on Sunday morning
  • I will be in a heap on the floor on Sunday afternoon

I’m only kidding about the last bullet. But I will be tired!

Now when you look at the list, it all seems kind of normal – doesn’t it? Children having birthdays, graduations, vacations, internships – they’re all good things and are no big deal. Right?

Wrong.

For moms, these milestones are a very, very big deal. Each and every one has intense emotion wrapped all around it.

We can’t believe our children are old as they are. It starts when they are one year old and then 10, 20, and so on. Birthdays, graduations – they are all bittersweet occasions.

We miss what was, but are filled with joyful anticipation to see what God will do next.

Grief and joy often appear together in a mother’s heart. It seems to be a condition we must learn to live with.

And when they go? Well, that’s another bittersweet occasion.

We are happy and grateful that the fruit of all our work has led to the first steps of independence. We are thankful that our children have the courage to go new places and try new things – even if their adventures take them far from home.

But… we worry.

We fret.

We imagine all kinds of things. We keep one eye open at night just to be sure someone is thinking about them while they are far away.

And we pray – oh my goodness do we ever pray.

Grief and joy often appear together in a mother’s heart, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Both emotions connect us to dependence on God who watches over our children as they grow and go.

We give our conflicted hearts to Him.

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The time got away from me and suddenly May was here.

And it’s the same with my boys. The time got away from me and suddenly, it dawned on me that they are all grown up.

As I head into this week, I am intensely happy and sad all at the same time. Missing what was, but joyfully anticipating what comes next for each one.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Many Blessings,

laura

 

 

 

Are you celebrating a ‘milestone’ with your children? Will you please leave a comment? How I may pray for you and your dear mama’s heart? Love to all. xoxo

 

"The first time I heard Laura communicate, my exact response was 'Wow'! Laura's teaching style is passionate, relatable, and hope-filled. She radiates warmth, kindness and a genuine interest in those around her -- on and off the platform. Her amazing story of transformation, coupled with her solid biblical teaching, will leave you also saying "wow!" If you're looking for a dynamic communicator, Laura has my highest recommendation!"

- Cindy Bultema, International Speaker and author of Red Hot Faith: Lessons from a Lukewarm Church and Live Full, Walk Free: Set Apart in a Sin Soaked World