The Key To Doing Life Well

Where did all the time go?

As February winds down and March appears on the horizon, I feel as if the months are just racing by. Everyone tells you that, as you grow older, the years go by with lightning speed – and, as far as I’m concerned, that is entirely true. March 22nd, which arrives in just a few weeks, will mark the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. That is incredible to me. So many changes, so many adjustments – and yet, it seems as if she left us only a short time ago.

Seasons change. We take on new roles. We joyfully welcome new souls into our families and we say heartbreaking goodbyes to precious loved ones.

It is how life goes – and it is how we go along with it that makes all the difference.

Changes and adjustments can make us fearful. They’re not all positive, but they are all part of a full and meaningful life.

Resilience is the key to doing life well, and it is found in knowing our identity in Christ.

In Proverbs 31:10-31, we find the infamous ‘virtuous woman’ that Bible study girls love to get stressed out over. The description of her superwoman ‘to do’ list, which apparently she executed very well, can be intimidating. We feel we can never measure up to all of her dazzling attributes.

This portion of Scripture has caused many a women’s Bible study circle to be filled with rolling eyes and a lot of heavy sighs. I speak from experience!

But let’s take a look at her again with fresh — not rolling — eyes, shall we?

When I quit comparing myself to her and view this sister from a different vantage point, I see a woman who lives fully present and alive in the season she is in. My goodness, this is one busy girl! We’ve been there, too – haven’t we?

The role she fills at this time of her life keeps her on her toes, but she is not described as frazzled, worn out, dragging around, or miserable. Even though she is clearly serving many people in her family and community, verse 25 says this:

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

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So…putting that head-spinning ‘to do’ list aside, what stands out to me is that she embraced the season she was in and did not fear what the next might bring to her.

Scripture doesn’t tell us about her losses, the people who lived with her, or the circumstances she was living under.  I wonder…

Was she caring for an aging parent?

Did she have a troubled child?

Had she hit a few rough patches in her marriage?

All of the above?

We do not know – but, since she was human, we can assume that any of these or other scenarios could have been part of her story. And yet, she moved through her life and met her challenges with strength and dignity.

God’s Word tells us that our strength comes from the Lord. She was strong in Him.

The word ‘dignity’ in the original Hebrew is the word ‘hadar’. A woman clothed with hadar is a woman in majesty, magnificence, worthiness, honor and beauty.

She is glorious — her life brings glory to the Father.

This is her identity.

She is a child of God and she knows it.

She knows who she is and Whose she is.

I love this because it clearly demonstrates that dignity is not pride. Sometimes we mix the two up, but they are not the same. Pride is self-satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements – but dignity comes from what He has done.

Her identity is the firm foundation she operates from.

She takes care of the things she has been given to do now and then, looking ahead to the next season, she does not fear.

This means that our virtuous woman doesn’t cling to the season that is ending. Instead, she accepts and even welcomes the new season that is to come.

There will be endings and there will be beginnings, but she stands firm in her identity as a strong, magnificent, glorious and beautiful Child of God.

Dear sister — as you travel through the seasons of your own life, do not fear.

This is your identity too, and it is the key to doing life well.

Love to all,

laura

Buried {under layers of snow}

We have been buried under 30 inches of snow! Our little town of Damascus was right in the bullseye of Snowzilla, Winter Storm Jonas, or whatever silly name the media bestowed upon it. All I know is that the snow went on and on for 36 hours – it covered everything in its path and shut down our entire area for four days. We were trapped!

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My sweet husband loves a decent snowstorm. The man cannot wait to get out in it. 

While I am happy to watch the snow pile up from inside, he is chomping at the bit to get out there. He usually waits until the snow is winding down and then he joins the other men in our neighborhood to begin digging us all out. For many years, our three sons helped – but we have an empty nest now, so Pat had to go it alone. Poor guy! Thankfully, we have a snow blower but, because there was so much of the white stuff, shoveling was going to be a big part of the dig out.

That’s when my anxiety started to rise.

I worry about him shoveling. The snow was so deep and heavy. We hear news reports during every snow storm that caution men who are over 50 to let someone else do the heavy lifting.

The stress of shoveling snow is not an aerobic exercise. It puts a sudden strain on the heart and an attack can happen out of the blue. That possibility, however unlikely, really concerned me.

As Pat was heading out the door, I asked him to stay away from shoveling and to please use the snow blower as much as possible. He told me not to worry because he had ‘a plan’.

His plan was to not dig deep down into the snow with the shovel – instead, he planned to shovel the snow in layers. He knew he could injure himself if he didn’t go about it that way. I think his main concern was his lower back, not his heart, but the plan was wise either way.

Pat knew if he wanted to avoid getting hurt, he needed to shovel a layer at a time. 

He assured me that if he did it that way, the snow wouldn’t be too heavy and he could work away at it without injury.

I liked the plan. He went out into the snow and I stayed in – but I kept watch over him from my little bedroom office window.

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As I watched him out there, digging us out layer by layer, I thought about times in my life when I have been ‘buried’.

Recently, I’ve been under a heavy blanket of grief over the deaths of my mother and my best friend, Mary Lou.There have been other times in my life when I’ve weathered different storms and felt buried under failure, disappointment, and broken dreams.

I imagine there have been times in your life when you have been buried, too.

But there is good news. Just like Pat, God already has a plan – and His plan deals with layers too.

The road to freedom – the path out of our trapped places — takes time. If we try to tackle the whole thing at once, it can quickly become too heavy for our hearts and we can get hurt.

Instead, our Lord, who has been called the ‘divine archaeologist’, carefully digs us out layer by layer – a little at a time – until we are free.

Our response needs to be to allow Him to excavate and then be patient with the plan.

Now, I will admit, I haven’t minded being trapped during the snow.

 I’ve enjoyed stepping out of the real world for a few days – all the while, however, I knew that life would resume and I would then have to get back in the game. A nice break is fine – but anything more than that could lead to isolation and that is not a good place to be.

So it is when we are emotionally buried. We may not mind it at all. In fact, it may be ok with us that we are not fully present in the real world and we simply allow ourselves to be taken out of the game. While a little ‘mental health break’ is fine, becoming isolated allows the layers to pile-up until we are trapped. 

God’s plan is always for our health and wholeness. It is never for our isolation.

Truth be told, I’ve submitted myself to the divine archaeologist many, many times. His careful excavation has always led me to freedom – a pathway out of the layers that once buried me. There were times when it seemed excruciatingly slow, but in hindsight, I understand now that it was to protect me from further injury. 

Are you weathering a storm that threatens to overwhelm you? Do you find yourself covered by deep grief, disappointment, depression, or something else?

Ask Him for a rescue – then be patient and allow Him to dig you out layer by layer. It will take time, but trust His wisdom – any other way could hurt your tender and vulnerable heart.

When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. – Psalm 61:2

Love to all,

laura

The 8th Day Of Christmas

Did you know that Christmas isn’t over yet? As I write this to you on New Year’s Day, 2016, it is only the 8th day of Christmas – and there are 12!

The 12 days of Christmas began on Christmas Day, December 25, and will end on January 5 – the eve of the traditional date of the Epiphany. Epiphany commemorates the night that the Magi visited the baby Jesus.

Our culture says that Christmas began around Halloween and ended a week ago – but don’t you believe it! Christmas tradition has it right!

The Christmas story itself doesn’t end on the day of Jesus’ birth, either. The book of Luke records that on the 8th day after His arrival, Jesus was named and circumcised. Then, His parents took Him to the temple. When they arrived, they met two remarkable people. We don’t hear their names sung in many Christmas carols, but their stories are very important just the same.

Simeon and Anna were devout, elderly Jews who had been waiting a very, very long time to see their Messiah.

As devout believers, this meant that they had prayed and fasted over decades for Israel’s salvation to come.

Here is how Scripture describes Simeon:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. — Luke 2:25

And Anna:

There was also a prophetess, Anna, She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. — Luke 2:36-38

These were two faithful people who were prayed-up and in the right position to see the answer to their prayers.

And that is exactly what happened.

As soon as Simeon and Anna laid their eyes on the infant, they recognized Him!

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No one knew the Messiah would come as a baby born to two teenagers from Nazareth, but that didn’t matter.Both Simeon and Anna had eyes to see the answer to their prayers – even when the answer came in a surprising way.

They knew Him when they saw Him.

Prayer and worship move us into the right position to see the blessing when it comes.

Anna was widowed at a young age – life certainly did not turn out the way she planned. She could have been bitter and remained focused on her loss, but Scripture says she spent her life praising God. 

How many times have I missed seeing the blessings or the answered prayer when it arrives because I am dwelling what I don’t have? 

Years ago I lived through a season of what I considered ‘unanswered prayer.’ I was so discouraged. It wasn’t until a wise, older woman brought to my attention that I needed to lift my focus off of what God wasn’t doing so that I could see what He was doing.

I was so hyper-focused on what I wanted to see happen that I had completely missed many blessings that were occurring all around me. He was answering my prayers, but not in the way I expected.

Girls, we need to lift our eyes to see the big picture.

God is working in our lives and He is answering our prayers, even if the answer doesn’t come as we thought it would.

Like Simeon and Anna, we need to be in the right position to see the blessing when it comes. Devout and faithful were not just who they were. Devotion and faithfulness are the disciplines they practiced for a very long time. 

 Here’s the thing – there is no shortcut to a relationship with God that can be described as devout and faithful. It takes investment, commitment, and a true desire to be a follower, not just an ‘admirer’ of Jesus Christ.

With a bright and shiny clean slate to begin the year, I pray that you will consider where your eyes have been focused. Is it time to lift your gaze to view where your prayers are being answered? Don’t miss it – they may arrive in a most unexpected way.

Much love and many prayers for a blessed new year,

laura

Christmas Joy

Merry Christmas dear friends!

I hope you are enjoying the days leading up to Christmas Eve!

No, you didn’t read that wrong – I did say enjoying. See the word JOY in there? It’s between the ‘en’ and the ‘ing’. Joy is easy to lose – even in the most joyful time of the year.

I don’t know about you, but I have had a few frantic moments over the past week or so. Honestly, I think I was trying too hard to make this Christmas extra-special since it is our first without my mom. Bad idea. What I thought would bring my family and I joy, ended up causing a good amount of stress for me.

I was anything but joyful.

Ask my friend Jeanne. She was with me in the car last Friday night when I was having a pre-Christmas meltdown! It wasn’t pretty. Jeanne’s a saint, by the way. She just let me vent. That’s what best girlfriends do.

Finally, by last Saturday morning I had to have a little talk with myself about calming down and letting a few things go – and, thankfully, I listened! As a result, this has been a much better week. I’m actually enjoying my preparations for Christmas!

I’m thinking my husband is, too. Poor man.

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Several years ago, I found this little article among my grandmother’s things. She always posted it on her refrigerator right after Thanksgiving to remind herself to keep things in perspective as she prepared for the holidays.

Now… it could be that I simply come from a long line of women who get frantic in December – or maybe, just maybe, you get a little crazy at Christmas, too. If so, I hope that Marjorie Holmes’ words will help you refocus and, if necessary, let a few things go.

This was written nearly 45 years ago. I find it comforting to know women have been struggling with Christmas stress long before we have. You will see that even though her words are a bit old fashioned, they are completely relevant today.

A Woman’s Conversation with God

Let me come eagerly to Christmas this year, Lord.  Let me come gaily, with a new delight in the countless things I must accomplish – the shopping, the wrapping and mailing, the addressing of mountains of cards.  Let me find new joy in the bazaars, the parties and programs, the baking and decorating…not to mention all the things I’ve promised to do for others.

Instead of my usual seasonal panic, fill me with a glowing sense of trust and peace.  Each day that I awake, let me rejoice in the fact that I’m well and able to do it – that I can get up and begin.

And though there never seems to be enough time (or money), let me remember that you’ve never let us down.  That, as with the loaves and the fishes, a miracle happens each year.  There is always plenty – more than plenty.  The house overflows with gifts and friends, the tree is bowed with its shining burden, the table groans with delicious things to eat.

Even time stretches out like a magic ribbon, somehow embracing all that must be done.  As for a woman’s strength – therein lies the greatest marvel of all. You give each of us extra portions for this season so that at the end, like children, we hug Christmas close to our hearts and don’t want it to be over.

Remind me of all this as I prepare for Christmas this year, Lord.  Let me come eagerly to the seemingly impossible, knowing that this holy, happy season is a time of miracles. — Marjorie Holmes

 

My grandmother’s original article, just the way she fashioned it with felt and yarn, now hangs in my kitchen.

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May our sweet Lord grant each of you extra portions of whatever you need over the next few days.

Grace? Comfort? Peace? He has an unlimited supply.

Belief? Hope? Sanity? Just ask.

And don’t forget…JOY!

He is the one and only place where you can find it!

Merry Christmas and lots of love,

 laura

P.S. The book of Luke records another woman who had a conversation with God. The Magnificat is a beautiful mosaic of dozens of Old Testament scriptures that young Mary sang in praise to God. This faithful woman knew the Word of God – and so should we!

For Christmas, I’ve posted a beautiful, printable of The Magnificat for you. It can be found under the ‘Freebies’ tab above. You will also find a recipe for Christmas Wassail, which is served in our home every Christmas Eve! ENJOY! xo

Practicing Peace {in a crazy world}

It’s been a tough week for this old planet.

We’ve received quite a bit of shocking and heartbreaking news over these past few days.

Suddenly, the world has become a very small place and frightening events appear to be at our doorstep. Pat and I live equal distance from Baltimore and Washington D.C., and I can tell you – people are on edge.

In times like these, it is easy to let worry and fear take over – especially when we feel utterly helpless and uncertain of what is going to happen next.

Our anxiety may produce a feeling of powerlessness but, the truth is, we are not powerless at all. Anxiety is such a liar.

A very familiar passage from Philippians 4:6-9 tells us exactly what to do with our anxiousness:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

So often, we stop right there at verse 8, but the next two sentences in verse 9  give us an action step that will ensure we receive God’s peace:

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

This isn’t something we don’t already know, but the truth is, so many of us don’t do it — at least not consistently.

Girls, many of you have spent years in Bible study. Like me, you have shared countless hours sitting around circles with women discussing God’s Word. We have all attended women’s conferences and sat under the teaching of powerful Christian speakers and teachers – but, with all due respect, it is not enough. We need to put it into practice.

We cannot just think about such things – we must do them. That is the step Paul is urging us to take.

When anxiety hits, it’s easy for me to forget this. You too?

I heard someone say recently that the enemy is not at all concerned when we read our Bibles — he is only concerned when we do what it says!

So here is the question…

 In these uncertain and worrisome times, are we going to live in a state of fretfulness, anxiety and panic – or will we walk in the truth we have been taught?

How can we be the light of the world during such darkness if we are unable to reflect God’s peace?

The threats and violence going on around us are real – but our Lord is not only real, He is in complete control. He may be asking us to walk a difficult road, but He lays out the steps we can take to walk it in peace.

We are to pray with thanksgiving in every situation and to keep our mind on all that is excellent and praiseworthy.

And then His perfect peace — such sweet relief — will come.

Notice that He tells us to express thankfulness in every situation – not just when things are going smoothly and all is well. Consistency is the key.

My friend Laurene is a wonderful example. She sees the ‘praise’ in every situation and I love her dearly. Last night at Bible study, she suggested that we not only pray over weekly prayer requests, but also pray in thankfulness over each other’s praises. What a perspective changer!

I would like to borrow Laurene’s idea and do the same with all of you. Let’s put this into practice together.

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Will you please leave a quick comment below, sharing something you are thankful for? To use the words from Philippians 4 — something true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable and anything that is excellent or praiseworthy.

I’d love to read your praises!

Then, we can join together in prayer, thanking God for what He has done in our lives. I promise to pray for each one of you. I’ll go first and leave a comment with my own praise.

Let’s remind the evil one, and all of his helpers here on earth, that in spite of their attempts to terrorize us, we remain faithful and thankful. 

I am grateful to be on the journey with you,

 laura

 PS. Just for fun and because I am so thankful for you, I’ve posted two FREE yummy Thanksgiving cookie recipes for you to download and enjoy! They are our family’s favorites and the printable recipes are pretty enough to frame! Simply click the ‘freebies’ tab above. I’ll have more free downloads posted once ADVENT begins, so stay tuned! I am truly thankful for your support and encouragement! HAPPY THANKSGIVING! xo

 

"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