Maybe  It’s Time

Sometimes, you just need to go and have a little talk with yourself.

When I was young and would get all worked up about something, my mom would say to me,“Laura Anne, you need to go and have a little talk with yourself.”  

This meant that I needed to go to a quiet place to talk to myself, talk to God and get it together.

Sometimes, she would gently say this to me after a late night chat while she sat on the edge of my bed.

Other times, usually in the kitchen, she would turn around, give me that ‘look’ and point her finger at me; then she would ‘strongly suggest’ that I go and have that little talk – and the sooner the better!

It never mattered whether the advice was given gently or if it was a command – following it was almost always the cure for whatever anxiety was getting the best of me.

I can remember flopping down on my bed, looking up at the ceiling, and after talking to myself and to Him, feeling utterly understood and completely known – even when I was sure no one on the face of the earth understood me at all.

It was such a relief.

How amazing it is that something so simple can stop the ruminating – delivering such calm and peace.

Those moments alone with Him in my pink bedroom are precious memories of my childhood – and the habit instilled in me so long ago by my mother still serves me well today.

Throughout the past few weeks, as I’ve been thrust into this whirlwind of grief, I have had to have more than a few little talks with myself.

I have thought.

I have prayed.

I have cried.

I have listened.

And I have felt utterly understood and completely known by my Savior.

Greeting the blue

Sweet friend, do you have struggles that are causing anxiety to get the best of you?

Are you desperate for peace?

Are you misunderstood?

Do you feel invisible?

Maybe it’s time…

To have  peace — the kind that passes all understanding.

To be understood — even if no one on the face of the earth understands you.

To be known — by the One who created you.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.” Psalm 139:1-5

Sometimes, you just need to go and have a little talk with yourself.

laura

My Sisters

I don’t have any sisters.

On top of that, my mom and dad were only children — so I also do not have any aunts, uncles or first cousins.

My family was very small and the number of women was even smaller.

Throughout my growing up years, my mother, my two grandmothers and I were the only women in our immediate family – and now, with my mother’s passing, they are all gone.

Over the past few weeks, I have been surprised to find myself grieving for both of my grandmothers all over again. Not only do I miss my mother – I miss them too. 

Oh, how I miss the women.

There have been only a few times in my life when I wished that I had a sister –  at times of major milestones: my wedding, the birth of my children, and especially now at the loss of my mom.

But even so, God is so faithful.

I have no reason to have a pity party.

He has shifted my focus away from what I don’t have, and given me eyes to see what He has given.

Perspective is everything.

Although I have not been blessed with a sister of my own, I’ve been blessed in a different way—and in doing so, He has met and exceeded my every need.

The truth is, I should have started this post by stating “I do not have any biological sisters.” 

This is much more accurate because our Lord, in His goodness, has sent many, precious women who are truly my ‘sisters’.  

I honestly do not know how I would have survived this past month without them.

When my mom became ill, they never left me.

It began when we arrived at the emergency room. Upon hearing the news, my sisters dropped everything and came to the hospital waiting room to pray.

They stayed close by throughout the entire week, providing for all of us as we made the two hour round trip to the hospital each day.

 And, when my mom died, they moved in even closer.

They showed up.

They cried with me, loved on me and even one month later, their care continues.

My sisters have staying power — this is so important. They understand how it goes with grief.

They came and helped me with the sacred work that women do after a family member dies.

One helped me go through my mother’s belongings. Another is helping me clean and organize her kitchen to make it easier for my dad.

The offers of help have been overwhelming and beautiful.  

Do you know that when God meets our needs, He almost always does it through people? 

When we focus only on what we do not have, we risk missing how perfectly He is meeting that very need!

On the night before my mother died, we left the hospital believing that she had improved enough to be discharged from the ICU in a day or so. My husband spent that night with my father and I went home with our youngest son.

Very early the next morning, we received an urgent call from the hospital that my mother’s condition had taken a serious turn, and she was not expected to live.

They told us to come quickly.

I was alone in my bedroom when the call came — and I became completely undone. 

All I was able to do was drop to my knees and pray.

But I couldn’t pray.

There were no words – only panic. 

I realized the phone was still in my hand, so I called  my sister, Donna. When she answered, I blurted out what was going on. 

Her immediate question was “Where are you?”

Through tears, I told her I was on my knees in my bedroom and that I needed prayer.

Without missing a beat, she responded, “Wait – let me get on my knees, too.”

And so, in our own bedrooms, and on our knees together, Donna and I went before the Lord asking for His will to be done over my mother and for the courage for us to accept His plan.

My sister prayed when I could not.

I will never forget that tender moment as long as I live.

I may not have any biological sisters, but He has given me the most amazing friends and family to journey through this life with. I am forever grateful.

gradsisters (1)

We sang my mother’s favorite hymn at her funeral. The beautiful old English lyrics go like this:

The King of love my Shepherd is,

His goodness faileth never,

I nothing lack if I am His,

And He is mine forever.

I remember singing those words and thinking how true this has been for me.

His goodness never, ever fails and I lack nothing—absolutely nothing. 

laura

 

 

You Will Never Truly Understand {until it happens to you}

There are some things you just can’t know until you experience them. You think you know, but really you do not. Ultimately, you have to go through the journey yourself to truly understand.

Losing my mother has been this way for me.

I have walked alongside many friends who have lost their mothers. I thought I knew what it might feel like but, until my mom died suddenly only three weeks ago, I had no idea.

I wish I could describe my feelings to you — but, to be honest, I’m not there yet. I still cannot, for the life of me, believe she is gone. I mean, how do you wrap your head around the fact that your mother, the one who carried you and loved you before you were even born, is gone?

Our good God, in His extreme grace, allows us the time to let it all sink in. I am so grateful for His mercy and love. As the only daughter, I have had to immediately step into my mother’s shoes and take care of a great many things — most of all my sweet, brokenhearted dad.

As my eyes open every morning, I ask myself if I am dreaming. Has this really happened? Is she really gone?

My heart sinks when I realize that yes, it is really true.

But then, before my feet even hit the ground, something happens! Almost immediately, my mind is full of the promises from His Word. I am reminded of the fact that He is sovereign and that nothing is a surprise to Him. I recall His faithfulness not only in my own life, but my in mother’s life too.

So, the emotion that drives me is not sadness or even grief, although I am experiencing them both.

The emotion that is overriding all others is JOY.

My life changed in an instant. I have had the rug pulled out from under me. But yet, in spite of the bottom falling out of my life as I’ve known it, I find myself standing on the solid rock of my Savior. I can actually feel His firm ground beneath my feet.

It is hard to describe, but it is there.

My ‘trust muscle’, which I have exercised for a long time, is keeping me upright. The Scriptures I memorized long ago instantly come to my mind when I am fearful or overwhelmed. Paul explains this to us in Romans 15:

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures …we might have hope.” 

This truth has been ingrained in me since I was a young woman.  Thank you, God!

Please understand this — we can’t conjure up knowledge of God and His Word in the moment — we must know it and believe it ahead of time. I am so thankful He has prepared me “…for such a time as this…”

Sadness and joy can coexist, but joy will always win if we stay close to the joy-giver.

I have been given eyes to see God working throughout this entire ordeal. I praise Him for this perspective.

Even in the middle of the shock and disbelief of what was happening, I saw Him. He was there.

And not only was He there — He had been there.

He has met and continues to meet me at every moment. He has gone before me to prepare the way — and I am able to rest in His care.

Sisters, there is nothing that compares with discovering that your faith, though tested and refined by fire, is REAL.

That is where the joy comes from!

It comes when you fear you are falling and suddenly you feel that solid rock beneath your feet. It comes when you are afraid of your ‘new normal’, and He rescues you with the promises from His Word.

While I am not surprised, I am so grateful to understand, in a much deeper way, that all that I have learned and taught over the years is true!

How can I not be joyful? How can I not have peace?

Our God is real. He can be trusted. He is not someone we make up in order to cope!

Heaven is not just a nice thing to believe, but, in fact, a real place where my mother lives today.

Jesus really did die and then rise in order to save us.

It is true. 

Losing my mom is a temporary separation. Although my heart is broken and I cannot imagine my life without her, I have confidence that God’s promises for her have come to full fruition.

She has begun her real life in her real home. I will see her again — and that, my sisters, gives me true joy!

laura&marty

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world, you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33 (MSG)

laura

The Return Trip

[My friend, Donna Bowles, is guest blogging today. I’m so thankful she was willing to do this for me while I am with my mother in the hospital.]

One summer I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the Kemp’s Ridley turtle while camping in Virginia Beach at Naval Air Station Oceana. As it turns out, one of those turtles found her way to Virginia Beach in June and buried 73 eggs in the sand on the military beach. It is unusual for this turtle, which is the most endangered species of turtle, to lay her eggs so far north. A protective cage was immediately built around the eggs. Caution tape and signs that said, “Property of U.S. Navy. Do not disturb. Penalty of law,” surrounded the cage. At night, there were even some really dedicated people who spent the night on the beach making sure the babies were okay after they hatched and started moving. This was serious stuff!

As I stood and looked at the site one day, I was impressed to see the turtle watchers had dug a trench from the cage on the sand near the dune, to where they were sure the tide would come in. This was done so the turtles could make their way safely to the ocean. The passageway to the ocean was very narrow and the sides were high and angled for their protection. To veer out of that path would not have been safe for the babies. Some of the turtles moved up out of the sand at night, and the “watchers” used a small a red light to help them find their way down the narrow path. It is said that bright lights near the beach might have caused the turtles to become disoriented, and then they would have lost their way and been in danger.

turtles

Jesus says to us, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  John 14:6

He has prepared a safe and narrow path for us to His Father, and His Word is our light along the way. He asked the Father to give us the Holy Spirit to help us. He provides “watchers” to help us get back on the path when we are moving toward danger. He knows we are easily distracted by our own “bright lights,” and that they can sometimes be dangerous for us if we give in to their appeal.

How are you doing on your own journey? Have you found the way to be bumpy and full of potholes? Have you left the narrow path and found all roads lead to gridlock? Are you longing for directions for the return trip? The good news is you are not alone! Begin the move back to Him by spending some time in His Word, in prayer, and by being quiet, (put up the Do Not Disturb sign) and listening to the Holy Spirit. His Word says, “He listens to my prayers. He listens to me every time I call to Him.” Psalm 116:2. Close your eyes and imagine sitting across from Jesus as you talk to Him. Share your struggle with a trusted sister and ask her to pray with you and for you. Follow the Light!

“By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.”  Psalm 119:105

Donna Bowles

Save

A Word For My Older Sisters {and my younger sisters too}

I’ve been thinking a lot about how old I am. I assume it’s because, with all of the recent snow days, I realize how really quiet my house is. It is obvious that the days of teenaged boys and their friends laughing and carrying on throughout our home are behind me.

In spite of the fact that I can see it in the mirror, sometimes feel it in my bones, and keep getting AARP cards in the mail – it has taken me some time to accept the fact that I am an older woman. On some days this is great news, and on others – it makes me a little sad.

Just being honest.

All that being said, it’s a great season of life! It is a beautiful thing when you have lived a long time, experienced many things and, through those experiences, gained some wisdom. When you can look back over time and see the faithfulness of God – well, there is nothing more beautiful than that.

In a recent blog post, Liz Curtis Higgs wrote,

“When we’re young, we imagine life will be like a bell curve. We’ll climb upward, enjoy being on top of our game for a few years, then steadily decline until we quietly slip out of sight. That’s not at all what God has in mind. Our life in Christ and our service to Him is ever ascending, moving forward and upward, gaining strength and momentum.” [i]

This is entirely true. I’m grateful for Liz’s reminder. Our Lord is so darn counter-culture. I just love Him for that!

This brings me to what is on my heart today. The message is primarily for us older sisters but, younger women, will you also please lean in and listen? There’s something in this message for you, too.

In the middle of an immoral society in Crete, Paul’s plan to influence that society for Christ hinged on developing church leaders and teaching the older men, older women and younger men in the faith (Titus 2:1-10). The male elders were to be an example to them.

However, one important people group was conspicuously missing; the younger women were to be taught and coached not by the elders – but by older, Godly women.  

In Titus 2:3-5, we are given our marching orders:

“Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.”

Paul’s message could not be any clearer. Godly character, in a relationship between an older woman and a younger woman, is a critical aspect of our growth as believers – and sisters, our growth directly impacts our families and, in turn, our society.

I wish I could tell you that when I was young all of my encounters with older Christian women were positive; the truth is, there were several painful experiences that I remember to this day. This was particularly true when I was a young leader – I often left their presence feeling beat up and put in my place. Looking back, I realize that entitlement, control and fear were involved – I see it now, but I didn’t see it then.

While I don’t recall being taught any of the attributes listed in Titus 2, I did learn a valuable lesson just the same: I vowed then and there to strive to do better when I became an older woman.

We can ruminate over our negative experiences or we can use them as teachable moments to develop our own character.

To be honest, I’ve done both. The latter is the better way.

Thankfully, that isn’t all there is to my story. There have been many dear, Godly older women who encouraged me, carefully admonished me, and met me smack in the middle of my immaturity. They gracefully allowed me to be me—and what patience they displayed!  I was talked off the ledge a few times, straightened out, prayed for, understood, and even called “sweetie”. They led me not to themselves – but straight to the feet of Jesus Christ.

I’ve watched them age well, work through problems, deal with heartache, illness and loss – and still carry on with Christ. All of it done with love and all done in humility, seasoned with extreme grace.

Oh, how I needed these examples during the confusing years of raising my boys, figuring out my role as a wife, a leader, and a Christ follower!

Well… here I am and here you may be, too.  We’re the older women now.  We’ve been given our marching orders.  It’s now our turn to walk in their footsteps, emulate their character, and breathe life & love into the young women who are coming behind us.

I recently gave a survey to the women in my ministry. They responded to questions about leadership and their relationships with older women. The following are the top eight attributes they value in those who lead them AND in older women in general; the comments next to them are mine. (‘Non-Judgmental’ was overwhelmingly the attribute they valued most.)

• Non-Judgmental: She needs our empathy, flexibility, and help – not our judgment.

• Humility: There is no place for entitlement, control, or pride (see Jesus’ example for this).

• Transparency/Authenticity: She wants to be let in on our own struggles both past and present – this gives her hope. She isn’t looking for perfect role-models. She wants us to be our true selves.

• A Biblical Foundation: She wants to see us actively seeking the Word of God and applying it to our lives.

• Honesty: We need to accurately remember that it was hard for us, too. No need to tell her that life was different (better, worse, harder, etc.) when we were young women – that isn’t helpful to her today.

• Grace-Filled: She will do things differently, but she gets the space and grace to try them out, succeed, and even make mistakes!

• Accountability: We can be honest and hold a sister accountable – warn and admonish in extreme grace. She should feel loved after encountering us, not judged (again, see Jesus’ example).

• Generosity: There are times when we need to move aside and let her have her time, her moment. We have had ours.

Enlightening isn’t it? And right in line with Titus 2.

Now… in case you think I have these bullet points nailed down, you are mistaken! I am writing this as much for myself as I am for you.

May God help us all to be life-givers. To build up and not tear down – to take her hand and place it in the hand of Jesus.

caringhands

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” ~ Proverbs 31:26

I’m thinking I need to write a few thank you notes to the women who have lived out Titus 2 in front of me. How about you?

I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts.

laura

[i] http://www.incourage.me/2015/03/still-life.html

"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