Monthly Archives: April 2014

New Chapter, More Insanity

running for adoption

As some of you know, Jason and I are in the process of adding to our family through adoption. Our family of five will soon become a family of six (I can’t even stinkin’ believe it and sometimes most of the time, it leaves me feeling like we are totally insane).

I mean, really.

Landon is 4, Charlotte will be 3 next week and Aiden just turned 1.

 

Jason and I discussed adoption seriously when I was pregnant with Charlotte. With both agreed that it was something we absolutely wanted to do. We thought that meant we would start the adoption process after I gave birth to Charlotte.

God had other plans.

One day, I couldn’t shake this feeling that I needed to get pregnant again. At the time, Landon was nearly three and Charlotte just turned one. Jason and I talked it over, and we agreed.

Time to get to business. 

A month later we were pregnant with Aiden, and while all three of my pregnancies were actually quite wonderful (stop it with the ‘I’m-going-to-kill-you-glare’ women who had challenging pregnancies. I’m sorry! It’s just the way it all worked out 😉 ) I knew that it was the very last time I wanted to be pregnant.

I wanted my body back…err…some semblance of the former body I used to have….so we decided that we’d move forward with the adoption process like we had tried once before.

This time, I felt a huge peace. Even an urgency from The Lord.

This was it. This was His timing, not mine.

After having Charlotte, and moving to Northern MI, we started fundraising for an adoption. However, the entire time I felt this check in my spirit like “Laura, not now. This is good, just not now.”

Note to self: don’t ignore those little checks in your spirit again.

So, we pressed forward as we choleric’s tend to do, and a minimal amount of money came in.

Sometimes  Most often, it takes us firstborns awhile to concede to an idea other than our own.

For us, adoption is a beautiful picture of what God has done for those who believe  in the spiritual realms. 

God’s Word, the Bible, tells us that…

He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – Ephesians 1:5

 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15

We also know as Christ-followers that we are to follow James 1:27 which tells us: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Add that to the fact that there are approximately 147 million orphans worldwide –

Let that sink in. 147 million orphans.

147 million babies with no mama to kiss their boo-boo’s.

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147 million little ones with no daddy to cradle them in strong arms.

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147 million precious children with no one to tell them ‘I love you’, care for them.

– and Jason and I knew we needed to adopt.

We’re adopting from South Africa, as it has crazy-special place in our hearts, since we met there some 9 years ago.

So, that’s totally crazy.

But were doing something additionally crazy.

WE ARE FREAKING GOING TO RUN A HALF MARATHON FOR OUR SON.

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People.

Laura Loewen.

The girl who hasn’t been on one, no not one sports team in her entire life.

The girl who hasn’t given working out an honest effort in six months.

This girl (and her cute husband) are running a half marathon!!

September 6, 2014 on the shores of Holland, MI for the Holland Haven race, you will find us (inevitably toned, less fatty…) rockin’ and rollin’ after training for the spring and summer.

So will you join us?

Will you be a part of our story? Of our sons story?

We will be raising funds for our half marathon and every last penny will go toward funding our $40,000 adoption (yes, it’s true).

If you’re interested in blessing our family and changing a little boys’ life forever, you can go to:

http://www.abbafund.org/blog/the-loewens-family-adoption/family-adoption-fund/#/step1

Through Abba Fund, you can give via credit card, debit card, even cell phones and commodities!

Thanks for considering this – what a journey we’re on!

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

 

 

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Double Chocolate Cupcakes

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We were having some youth group students over this week, and I wanted to have a little treat on-hand for them.

So I thought: “What will everyone love and enjoy?”

Ahhh, yes. Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

This was my first time making this particular cupcake recipe, and I had discovered my deep affinity for this frosting a couple weeks ago.

Now, these little babies aren’t meant to win a cupcake decorating contest. I didn’t take hours frosting them with various frosting contraptions/cake-tip-thingies. 

{Cake-tip-thingies is a thing now, didn’t you hear?}

These are just meant to be yummy treats! Take your time frosting and forgo the elementary-looking sprinkles to make the more sophisticated to your liking.

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I love that these cupcakes can be make in one bowl, which make them that much simpler to whip up, especially on those days you don’t feel like washing 25 bowls and pans.

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Chocolate Cupcakes {makes about 36 cupcakes}

(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Easy One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes)

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups unbleached pastry flour (can sub all-purpose flour, this is just what I had on-hand)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in muffin tins. In a large bowl, mix sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk, vegetable oil, and 1 1/2 cups warm water; whisk to combine. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.

2. Scoop batter into muffin cups (fill each about 2/3 C. full) and bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes, then place cupcakes on racks to cool completely. Frost after cupcakes are cool to the touch.

PRO TIP: No buttermilk on-hand? No problem. I “make” my own all the the time! This is so convenient for making pancakes and certain types of breads or muffins!

Buttermilk Sub

  • Just less than 1 cup milk
  • Tablespoon lemon juice OR white vinegar

Place lemon juice OR white vinegar in 1 cup liquid measuring cup. Pour milk to 1 cup mark. Stir briefly to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes.

TA-DA! Buttermilk.

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Heavenly Chocolate Frosting {will frost 1-9 inch round cake or 24 cupcakes, so do x 1.5 for above amount of cupcakes}

(Adapted from Lauren’s Latest The Best & Easiest Chocolate Frosting)

NOTE: I very lightly frosted these cupcakes. The frosting you’ll yield will be enough to mound some frosting on…if you like that sort of thing.

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cocoa powder, sifted
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk

1. Cream butter and cocoa together until smooth in a large bowl. Add in vanilla and powdered sugar. Slowly pour milk into mix until frosting is a thick or thin as you desire. Scrape sides down and whip again until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes more.

Enjoy your new-found chocolate yumminess!

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

Our Story

young love

Every couple has a story. The details of how they met, what attracted them to one another, first date,

The fireworks. The realization the other was just a normal person like everyone else.

The excitement, the uniqueness that is them.

Warning: this is long-ish. This is real. Read on if you’d like.

I hope it encourages you, makes you laugh a little and maybe even helps you believe that honest love is out there.

This is my love story. Our love story.

Winter 2005. I’m a sophomore at Hope College in Holland, MI. Our liberal arts Christian school brings speaker + author Bruce Wilkenson (Prayer of Jabez) to speak at our Sunday night worship service, The Gathering.

God had been opening my eyes and exposing me to the world. As in, my 20 year-old mind could not begin to contain or fathom what was out there – the people, the stories, the suffering, the struggle.

Wilkenson talked about his new organization – Dream for Africa – that existed to irradiate HIV/AIDS in Africa through prevention education with a focus on orphan care.

He said he was asking us – the Hope student body – if we would join him for 4 weeks that summer in South Africa. Just months away.

My stomach churned in knots. My palms were sweaty.

This. This is what I had been waiting for. Longing for. 

I felt glued to my seat in fear.

Who was I to go to Africa? How would I raise the funds? What about working that summer?

I peeled myself off the wooden pew, threw off my fear and joined the swarm of fellow students far braver than I that had been kneeling on the stage as indicator that, yes, they were willing. They would go.

Wilkenson mentioned he was traveling to other Christian colleges, looking for students with a heart to serve. To join him in this mission.

Didn’t think any more of that. So we’ll have people from around the country joining us. Cool.

Let me let you in on a little window to the Laura of Spring 2005.

This Laura was longing to be married. With a string of failed relationships (not to mention a few failed promise of relationships…you know, you’re both immensely interested in each other. Flirting. Spend time together. But it just dies out? Nothing comes of it? Yeah. Had a few of those already in the bag at Hope.)

This Laura thought she was in love with a guy who was wonderful but things were not coming together. As in, most plans to spend time together didn’t work out. It was as if we both really wanted a relationship with each other, but it was a struggle. Not our personalities colliding, just tension. Like we were both trying hard to make it work but our efforts always left us at failed attempts. Like we were spinning our wheels and exerting tons of energy to somehow just see each other.

So Laura of Spring 2005 boarded a plane from Grand Rapids, MI with what felt like a million other Hope College students (in reality, there were about 50 of us. Including my dear, dear friend Leslie.) While waiting to check-in, I couldn’t help looking back a couple times at the airport bench. In between faces I recognized, was a cute guy that I was confused by, didn’t recognize. Hope was only 3,500 students. While I may not have known every person at Hope, I did know nearly every face.

“Hmm. He must just have an opposite schedule to me.” I thought.

Layover in Atlanta, GA. Cute guy I didn’t recognize approaches Leslie and I.

“Hi, I’m Jason. Can I sit by you guys?”

Why, yes. Yes. You. Can.

Jason and I figured out we both needed to exchange our currency. I guess we could go do that together.

Fast forward to the plane ride from Atlanta to Johannesburg. We were on a MASSIVE plane with what must have been a thousand seats. (P.S. I never exaggerate.)

I felt an ache in my heart as new cute boy Jason was like, 20 rows in front of me. To the left. But who really knows.

The plane ride was super special.

As in, apparently, it was that time of the month, my bowels decided to act up…oh! And I puked. So, there was that.

Feeling fresh-as-a-daisy, I stepped off the plane sporting track pants, a “Frankfort, MI” t-shirt and my glasses.

Good heavens, I was serious about my commitment to be there for the kids and “not to find a guy.”

Feeling the pangs of regret for not having a stitch of makeup on or putting my contacts in that day, we got on the bus that would take us to our destination city, Umtata.

We were told it would be a 13 hour bus ride from the Johannesburg airport to the rural town of Umtata.

I sat down next to Leslie in the aisle seat. Jason still hadn’t gotten on the charter bus.

Butterflies exploded in my stomach as I caught a glimpse of him stepping on.

“God,” I silently pleaded. PLEASE let him sit by me! I know this is the most frivilous prayer ever! But, please let him sit by me.”

Jason took the aisle seat an arms length away.

Pretty sure all breath left my body in that moment.

“Oh. My. Gosh. THANK YOU, JESUS! THANK YOU!”

That rumored 13 hour bus ride turned out to be a 16 hour bus ride, in which we sat next to each other and chatted for the majority of.

We discussed our relationships with the Lord. Our convictions on social/moral issues. How in love with God we were. What He was teaching us.

I could marry this man. He is exactly what I’m looking for in a husband.

It excited and scared the crap outta me all at the same time.

At our first worship service in Umtata. I thought I might just die with his arm around me.

At our first worship service in Umtata. I thought I might just die with his arm around me.

Those couple weeks in South Africa, we didn’t get a lot of opportunities to talk to each other. Our large group comprised of students from across the U.S. and others from Zambia and South Africa were split. Jason went to another town 2 hours away to serve while I stayed at the Umtata base (and no, we didn’t get to choose our teams. I would have given my right arm to be with Jason that week.)

There was a beautiful, serene tree that would often go to those weeks in Umtata to pray, journal and read the Word.

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Here, I poured out my heart to God time and time again.

Told Him things like “God, I just want to serve You with my life. I want to love You more. I want what You want for me.” 

I told my Savior what He already knew: “Lord, I want to get married. I long for that. Show me, God, what You want me to do. Lead me. Give me a husband who loves You!”

Within the last couple days of the trip, I sat and listened for the voice of God. I was desperate for Him to speak to me.

There, under that tree, I heard His still, small voice “Laura, when you get home, something so great is going to happen. It’s going to completely blow you away. Just wait for it.” 

I got excited. Really excited. I thought, okay. Things will finally work out with the boy I’m enamored with back at home.

See, although I knew Jason was exactly the type of person I wanted to marry, we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together. And while our conversations were good, while I was totally falling for him, he was nice to me like he was nice to everyone.

No special signals. No signs of a mutual attraction.

So nearing the end of the trip I told myself to just get over it. Jason and I were never going to happen.

God must have been talking about the guy back in Holland, MI.

Fast forward to July 2005. We had been back at home for a month. Me living at home with my parents for the summer and Jason back in the Chicago suburbs with his parents.

I thought about Jason often. How handsome he was. How grounded he was. His faith.

It got me teary-eyed. It honestly made me mad.

Why couldn’t he feel the same way I felt about him? 

I  knew I had a lot to offer. Was I not good enough for Jason?

Then, I felt this unshakable urge to email him.

“Really, God?” I silently whined. “I just want to be done with this. If he’s not interested by now, this is ridiculous. I. Don’t. Want. To.”

Still, the sense persisted. So I emailed Jason.

The email was something like “How are you doing? Yadda yadda. This is what God’s been teaching me….here are the Bible verses that have really spoken to me lately.”

(Sidenote: Jason tells me now that those verses were exactly what he needed and the encouragement he was yearning for. Cray.)

He emailed me back.

I responded.

Before we knew it, were were emailing nearly every other day.

I had made plans to visit my Hope friend Steph and Morgan in their hometown of Chicago for a weekend that month.

Again, the sense I needed to call Jason.

“Really God? Isn’t HE suppose to be the one pursuing ME?! Why do have to call??”

I called. Told him I didn’t know if he was busy this weekend, but that I was going to be in Chicago visiting some girlfriends. He sounded surprisingly excited. Turns out, that weekend was the the only weekend he’d be home the entire summer.

But, we didn’t make any plans.

That weekend, I was at dinner with Steph and Morgan at the Wheaton, IL Macaroni Grill.

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Flip phone rings. Jason.

“Hey, I’m suppose to be at a youth group event, but can’t find the place. What are you doing?”

“I’m at dinner in Wheaton with Steph and Morgan.”

“No way! I’m right here! Be in in a minute.”

Chances, people? Really? Really.

End of August 2005. Had just gotten settled into my apartment for my junior year at Hope. 

My phone rang.

I didn’t recognize the number. My heart sank. Could this be Jason?!

“Hey Laura, it’s Jason!”

Shut the freaking front door! We’ve upgraded to phone calls.

He proceed to ask what I was doing that weekend and if he could come visit me.

My thoughts? Why yes, Jason. Yes, you CAN come visit me.

We dated for 5 months. Three hours away from each other, we’d visit pretty much whenever we could.

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Both finishing college and working. We went through Bible studies together. We went through Christian books together.

We laughed.

We made a lot of mistakes.

We vowed to save the beautiful gift of intimacy with each other until we got married.

May 26, 2006. On bending knee on the shores of Lake Michigan in Holland, Jason asked if I would be his wife and spend forever with him.

I practically attacked him and screamed with excitement like a lunatic for 20 minutes and said YES!

We spent our engagement day boating with my family. Crazy-in-love and dreaming of our future together.

We spent our engagement day boating with my family. Crazy-in-love and dreaming of our future together.

We got married at Hope College’s Dimnet chapel on June 9, 2007 where I grew a lot spiritually those college years.

The same place I said “yes” to going on that trip to South Africa in the first place.

We began our happily ever after.

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Jason and I are two incredibly flawed, broken people.

We disagree. We annoy each other sometimes.

At the end of the day, he’s my love. My best friend.

I am beyond-words, crazy-thankful I get to do life with this man.

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Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

‘Bout To Call It

I’ve been thinking I wanted to write a post on social media. On what it’s doing to us as a culture. What is does to me.

How I think I might be addicted to it at times.

Wait. Did I actually say that out loud??

But, as I’ve been wrestling through this issue, this issue of checking and re-checking Facebook, Instagram or Twitter…it hit me.

It’s not really about social media.

It’s about me. It’s about my heart.

Picture I WANT y'all to see

Picture I WANT y’all to see

Far back as I can remember, I’ve longed for approval. Validation.

A snapshot I'd really rather you NOT see.

A snapshot I’d really rather you NOT see.

“Daddy do you like this?” I’d say holding up a picture.

In later years it was “Look at my report card!”

Coming down the stairs with a sheepish grin on my face because, dangit, I had a cute outfit on, my make-up was all in place and I just got my hair did.

Wasn’t anyone going to tell me how pretty I was?

So continued the cycle, from 3 until…well about now.

Striving, striving. Please love me. Please love me. 

More striving. Tell me I’m beautiful. I’m smart. I’m talented. 

Worthy of your time.

And don’t think I’m not aware of what my desperate state must have looked like between the ages of 14 and 17.

Oh, dear Lord….to those of you who knew me then. Sigh. I’m sorry.

I was not the person God wanted me to be. I did not live up to the higher standard He called me to.

Those that watched the Laura of said years must have been awfully confused.

Great Christian girl. Goes to church twice most weeks. Nice to everyone she knows. Wait. Is that Laura with another guy again?

Deep sigh. Yes, I know.

My longing for approval never steered far from the male species.

Sometimes they were awfully cute boys in high school (looking at you – several boys of the ’02-’03 Jenison High School football team).

Sometimes they were just boys that were breathing.

But they gave me attention. 

They validated me.

So whoever could do this the best or longest, I stuck around for. Oh, just having the many guy friends of high school flash through my mind makes me almost sick to my stomach.

How some of them were clearly interested in more than being my friend, and yet because I liked the way they looked at me, their focus on me, I kept going to them. Talking with them. Never mind that my feelings were anything but mutual. Oh, wretched girl.

And then there were the relationships where I was head-over-heels. Once my freshman year of high school and the other my senior year.

Those relationships couldn’t have been more polar opposite from each other. Their common thred?

Those guys were really good at making me feel special. Telling me I was beautiful, showing me they genuinely liked the person I was and that they enjoyed spending time with me.

In fact, I felt like my heart was ripped right out of my chest when freshman year boy called it quits and when I felt like needed to call it quits with senior year boy.

Oh, to be affirmed.

Have someone really care for you, about you, and for you.

I remember at 19 being layed-up on the couch post-reconstructive knee surgery, having just broke it off with the guy I was convinced I was going to marry. It was hard to breathe. My heart was so heavy.

Was anyone ever going to love me? Was anyone going to value and appreciate me again? Would I ever find someone?

I get a little weepy for Laura at 19. She didn’t know who she was.

She didn’t know, truly know, that she was created for more than a guy to validate her.

She was created to be wooed by her Creator, her Savior….but she was looking for approval in all the wrong places.

Laura at 19 didn’t fully believe Psalm 139 telling her she was fearfully and wonderfully made. Sure, she believed it for other people. But, her? Eeehh…not so much.

So, here it comes, full-circle.

No longer 19, and a whole decade has passed.

Shouldn’t my identity in Christ be cemented? Shouldn’t I be grounded more in Him?

I mean, for crying out loud! I’m a wife! A mom! Of three! 😉

But if you don’t have a solid foundation from which to grow upon, you’ll just keep building those bricks of sand.

That’s been my realization with social media.

Scrolling IG again? Does that mom have it more together than I do? Why does her house look perfect and I still have Minnie toys laying on the floor?

Posting once more on Facebook? Look world! I’m a great mom! I take a whole 10 minutes out of my day to do a craft with my kids in between crying and screaming. Wow. Someone get me my award, stat.

What is it with us women and our constant need to compete with each other? To win each other’s approval?

I’m ’bout to call it like they did in the “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” card game scene.

Done. Over. It.

God made me who I am for a reason. And love me, like me, or hate me…He made me.

He prepared me in advance to do good works {Ephesians 2:10}

His banner over me is love {Song of Songs 2:4}

He created me in His image {Genesis 1:27}

He loved me enough to die in my place {John 3:16}

He gives me abundant, fulfilling life {John 10:10}

So I’m entering into a new phase of life.

I’m declaring what He speaks over me, and being done with my insecurities and need for approval.

The only One’s approval that I need already demonstrated it by taking my place while I was still a sinner {Romans 5:8}.

I’m still gonna post on social media. But it’ll be much more carefully through a lens of these lessons.

I’m hoping the recipes I post will be out of a heart as of recent – a helpful heart, wanting to pass along yumminess and helpfulness, not being an annoying show off.

I’m hoping the pictures I post will be testimonies to God’s goodness and activities in my life, not another bragging display of a fake part of me.

Are you ready to lay down the approval game, the competition, and start living to be uniquely you?

I so hope you’ll join me. Would LOVE to hear your thoughts if you are.

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura