Monthly Archives: May 2014

On Getting Derailed, and How We Might Get Back On-Track

You know those times when you feel like a straight-up crazy person?

Raging lunatic?

Oh, yes. I am all too familiar with these emotions.

Namely, when there’s a bee in my house.

What the what? “A bee?” you say. Yes, a bee.

These guys.

These guys.

Those little insects which cause minor harm to the average Joe, could actually kill my husband.

Jason is deathly allergic to bees, to the degree that if he gets stung, he has been told he has 2 hours to live. 

Needless to say, I have a bit of contempt for these black and yellow creatures.

I mean, you even pose a minor threat to my family, and I will flat-out go crazy on yo’ *ahem* behind.

Every summer, bees inevitably find their way into our home and think they can make themselves cozy. Little-do-they-know they’re about to have the wrath of Laura come down on them. So I swat, and I aim to kill.

Else-wise, they’ll literally kill my sweet husband. And you know I’m not having that.

And while I’m totally pro-bees when it comes to them being outside, in their natural habitat and pollinating my garden, and everyone else’s garden, they pose a real threat to my dear family.

Bees have an incredibly important job to do. God created them well, and they are a vital part of our ecosystem.

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Annndd..I love honey. Oh-for-the-love, I love honey.

Isn’t it funny how something that is inherently good can cause so much destruction when it goes outside of it’s intended purpose?

When it gets derailed from it’s created purpose?

I’ve signed (and encouraged others) to sign petitions that our government would “save the bees” so-to-speak. We need them. And so while I am not anti-bee, I do recognize the intense and real threat they pose to my family.

When I get derailed from my created purpose, the consequences are many.

My life starts looking like:

  1. Striving
  2. Trying to be everything to everyone
  3. Burnout
  4. Fatigue
  5. Comparison-trap living
  6. Laziness

And on, and on.

I know Whose I am. I know that He created me to be in relationship with Him. To use the unique gifts He’s placed in me, for His glory and my fulfillment.

Because, what it boils down to is this: God created me to love Him and love others.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

When I am able to focus on these two things, this loving of God and loving of others, I am doing what I was created to do. 

Life, while not easy, goes better. Flows better.

I don’t need to feel crushed, worn-down or tired when I’m living into what He has for me.

I need to try to do a little more of that – by the power of His Spirit living inside of me.

Because I know that apart from God, I can’t do anything of value {John 15:5}.

But, in Him, through Him, He promises that I will bear much fruit.

And oh, don’t we need more fruit in this world? The fruits that are talked about in Galatians chapter 5?

I know I want more: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

In what ways do you need to stop buzzing around, trying to be something your not?

Maybe you could create some space today to let God know that you want to live into who He made you.

Maybe you could even ask His help in that – through prayer, journaling, etc.

Won’t you be who you were created to be?

We’ve got enough of everyone else. We need more of you.

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

 

 

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Quick + Easy Homemade Granola

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Here in the Loewen house we eat lunch between 11:30-12 most days.

Meals are super important because, well, we love to eat and we get hungry.

The other day it was about 11:20 and it was a special treat as the hubs was home on a lunch break with us.

I was so over PB + J for the kids and had made a ton of cheese quesadillas, so I needed something quick and easy.

Granola to the rescue!

We had a bunch of yogurt in the fridge because in addition to appreciate food in general, us Loewen’s love us some yogurt.

I’ve made several granola variations in the past – stove-top, roasted, granola bars, granola balls, etc.

I just wanted a simple, tasty granola to sprinkle on top of our yogurt that didn’t take an hour to make (as a lot of them do) and also wasn’t filled with a ton of sugar.

This was a nice treat, and the kids {and Jason} loved it!

The granola varieties in the store are crazy-expensive, and although tasty have a ton of sugar.

So, do yourself a favor: save a bunch of money, make a healthy option and try this granola out!

We have a big ol' container of rolled oats, so nice to have on-hand for baking!

We have a big ol’ container of rolled oats, so nice to have on-hand for baking!

Vanilla from Jason's Haiti trip, along with the coconut oil and sea salt I used

Vanilla from Jason’s Haiti trip, along with the coconut oil and sea salt I used

The pretties: chopped almond, dried cranberries, rolled oats and raw pumpkin seeds + a few raw sunflower seeds

The pretties: chopped almond, dried cranberries, rolled oats and raw pumpkin seeds + a few raw sunflower seeds

Upclose-and-personal with granola

Up-close-and-personal with granola

{If you do like super-sweet granola, feel free to ‘up’ the sweetness factor}

Recipe adapted from: Elizabeth Rider

This makes two baking sheets of granola, enough to last our family of 5 for a few days.

4 cups regular {not quick cooking} rolled oats

1 cup chopped nuts {I used almonds but feel free to use walnuts, pecans…whatever suits your fancy}

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds {can sub with raw sunflower seeds – we get ours from a local natural foods store}

4 Tbsp. maple syrup {or honey if you prefer – raw honey being the healthiest option for honey}

2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl with your hands {messy, yes…but it mixes everything together perfectly}. The coconut oil can be a soft solid or liquid depending on the temperature in your house. Mine was a soft solid. Really work in the coconut oil so that there aren’t any big chunks left.

Spread granola mix on 2 rimmed baking/cookie sheets, and bake for 10-20 minutes depending how toasted you prefer your granola. I did this batch for 10 minutes as we needed lunch in a snap, but next time I’ll probably bake it closer to 15-20 minutes.

Eat it warm or cool, but make sure it’s cooled down before you store it in an air-tight container.

Eat as a cereal with milk and try with a variety of yogurts! 

Yum, yum!

Use your imagination and try different varieties! You could add: 

-Cinnamon

-Almond extract vs. vanilla

-Dried raisins or cherries vs. cranberries

Whatever your heart desires!

Enjoy and leave me a comment on what way you’ll be making your granola. 

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

 

 

 

4 Books That Are Changing My Life

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I’m a self-proclaimed “book binger”. As in, I binge on books at various seasons of my life.

After undergrad and grad school, I needed a major break from reading.

During that season of being told what to read, my brain needed a break in the worst way.

So, I’ve slowly picked up reading again. {Slowly, as in…I have three small children, so any free time is a constant inner battle: cleaning, Netflix or reading? Ahh, the struggle!}

The following books are reads that have really made me think, given me hope and even challenged my beliefs.

It’s so healthy for us to read pieces that aren’t in the box we normally go to…on topics that push us; propel us to the next level.

While this is certainly not THEE list of “best books to ever read”, they have been crucial in my faith journey, in this current season of life.

There have been many other books that have strengthened and challenged me along the way, but these have spurred my heart to believe, trust and hope for the greater things right now.

The very things God is stirring in my heart and calling me to.

And, so, the list of books I’ve loved in this season of life…

1. Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning by Rebekah Lyons

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This book really challenged me to think about the person God created me to be. Not my friends, not my family, but me. Lil’ old Laura.

Rebekah does a great job of being effortless, relatable and brutally honest. I love the way she describes her journey and lays it out bare for the rest of us.

This book will especially resonate with anyone who’s ever struggled with anxiety or fear  {hi, like, all of us}.

Pick it up and expect to learn more about yourself, and to go deeper into what your calling might be…how you were created to be uniquely you.

2. Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith by Jen Hatmaker

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This book is for two very different types of folk.

This book is for the churchy. You know, the ones who grew up singin’ the hymns, were at church every single moment the doors were open. It’s for the ones who know all the “right” answers. The “good”, “clean” folk.

This book is equally for the people who are disgruntled with Church, Christianity and maybe even God all together.

It’s for the people who look around at the churchy folk and inwardly cry “hypocrite!”.

Yeah, it’s awesome.

Interrupted is a book I appreciate on so many levels. It’s refreshing, honest and raw.

Jen Hatmaker {one of my fave among favorite} authors, does a beautiful job of recounting her life story:  how everything was picture-perfect and comfy-as-could-be until God came and messed it all up.

Due to her authenticity, Jen reaches audiences wherever they’re at. She knows what it’s like to a “churched person”. She also knows what it’s like to look around and say…

Is this really all there is?

So, read Interrupted and be prepared to laugh, cry and have your world rocked. 😉

3. One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace For an Exhaustible World by Tullian Tchividjian

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Crazy last name, but this guy is actually Billy Graham’s grandson (now there’s some immediate credibility for ya!).

This book was recommended then kindly gifted by  someone who Jason and I greatly respect and would even call a friend – Greg Stier, President of Dare 2 Share Ministries {if you know teens, are a parent, a pastor or a youth leader, you need to get familiar with them! After 9 years in student ministry, I can confidentially say that Dare 2 Share is hands-down the most impactful, genuine, spot-on student ministry you’ll EVER see}.

This book is all about grace. God’s grace.

What it is, why we need it, and all the beautiful reasons we should extend this grace to others.

Tchividjian does an amazing job of gently explaining the difference between law and grace. He beautifully and practically paints pictures of what lives lived through both look like.

If you’re like me and struggle with “law living”, meaning, you air on the side of: “These are the rules” and are more justice focused, (perhaps, like me, speak a lot of truth but need to work on that whole truth in love thing) then this book is totally for you!

Reaching into your soul, and lovingly offering various ways of responding to difficult situations and even your view of yourself, One Way Love is a book you’ll want to soak in and truly get. 

4. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Claiborne

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This is one of those books that I wasn’t ready for until now.

You know how you can listen to a sermon, hear a piece of advice from a friend, etc. and know that you know that if it would’ve come any earlier you would’ve just brushed it off?

Yeah. That’s totally this book for me.

“Unconventional”, completely flipping-church-on-it’s-head, I love Claiborne’s humility and transparency throughout this book.

Premise? What if the Church today looked like the early Church (the one in the book of Acts)?

What if we all actually loved each other...and lived it out?

Claiborne spent some time in Calcutta learning from and being mentored by Mother Theresa right before she passed. For real, for real.

It appears as though Claiborne and I have the same major beliefs theologically. We both believe in the Trinity, that Christ came down as God with flesh on to take care of our biggest problem (sin) and then rose again three days later.

We also are fully in-line with the fact that God isn’t just about heaven, although heaven is going to be awesome and such a beautiful gift.

That God longs for us to have life to the full (John 10:10), or an ABUNDANT life here. and. now.

For me, this book isn’t something I fall in-line with theoretically point-for-point. However, I do believe there is a ton of merit in his message…

If we’re Christians, wouldn’t it be awesome if we acted like it?

If you’re like me, and aren’t familiar with communal living or a more “free/gypsy” lifestyle, then totally take this book with a grain of salt.

However, I will promise you that if you’re open to God doing a new work in your heart that He’ll most certainly speak to you through Irresistible Revolution.

Leave me a comment on what books are rocking your world right now!

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

Come Be a Fly on Our Wall.

Ever wish you could be a fly on the wall in someone’s house?

I do. I’m nosy like that.

Like, what do they really talk about? Who are these people when no one else is around?

Well, for your comedic relief and for my memory to retain this precious conversation, I’m giving you such an opportunity.

Come be a fly on our wall.

Scene: 10:30pm, snuggled in, ready for bed, Monday night.

Me: “So, you’re going into work tomorrow {morning}? Gonna go werk? You know, with an ‘E’.”

Silence. Half-smile from Jason.

Jason: “Um, yeah, I’m going into work tomorrow after breakfast…”

Me: “Wait, do you even know what werk means?”

Jason: “Work with an ‘E’? That makes no sense. I don’t even know what you’re talking about!”

Me: {laughing hysterically, nearly convulsing, snorting on occassion} “Oh, honey! Like, for real? You haven’t heard of ‘werk?’ You know…{insert super-sassy head roll and pouted duck-lips} ‘Boy, yo betta WERK!

Jason: {becoming slighly annoyed} “No, dear, I don’t know…”

Me: “As in…werk! Werk it out! As in…get it! As in…do. yo. thang.”

Blank stare.

Me: “You know? Ru Paul? {begins singing very animated} ‘Werk! Cover girl! Werk it, gurl. Do yo thang….on the runway…Shashay, Shantay!’

Jason: “You have to remember, I’m from the back woods of Canada. I’m not from Flint {MI, known as the ‘crime capital of America’}.I watched Sesame Street. You’re just too urban for me.”

Me: {losing it laughing again} “Oh. My. Gosh.”

End scene.

The pastor and his cray wife.

The pastor and his cray wife.

Let’s just say Jason and I grew up in entirely different environments. While he was memorizing Scripture through Awana’s at church, I prided myself in knowing all the lyrics to every Madonna and Michael Jackson song.

We both have amazing parents, we just lived in very different places with parents who had different approaches to life. Oh, the fun when all of it comes spilling out at 10:30 at night!

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

 

You Know You’re a Tired Mama When…

This may or may not be a reflection on the past couple of days in the Loewen house.

I will neither confirm or deny any such events and their accuracy.

You know you’re a tired mama when…

  • You can’t remember if you brushed your teeth.
  • You attempt putting pantry items in the fridge.
  • Are fuzzy on the year of your baby’s birth.
  • Slur your sentences like Uncle Eddie on too much eggnog.
  • While driving think: “So THIS is why you shouldn’t drive sleep deprived!”
  • People tell you that you look really tired.
  • After realizing you’re on day 2 of no shower, you shrug it off and hope for a moment to cleanse tomorrow.
  • Your beloved cup ‘o morning joe is put into question because maybe, just maybe, if you skip it, you’ll be able to nap today.
  • After wearing glasses for the entire day, while getting ready for bed, you add more contact solution to the contact case, go to take out said contacts only to reach up to your…glasses.
  • Phrases start spewing from your mouth to your kids that you made your husband promise not to use with them. Talking about “punishing them” and other gems such as “I don’t even care. You deal with it!” {directed at your 4-year-old}
  • You vaguely remember days of old when you felt like a normal person…an actual human – but those memories are quickly fading.
Cute teething baby boy.

Cute teething baby boy.

We’ve been on one wild ride with a teething baby this week {can ya tell?}! Through it all, God is good. Haven’t lost sight of that. Just wanted other mama’s to know you’re not alone. Maybe laughing at ourselves will help…a little. 🙂 

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

Inventory of Sorts

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A Noonday sister and lady after my own heart, Wynne Elder did a blog post titled ‘Taking Stock’. Just a little sneak-peak into what’s going on with her, and I loved it {if you haven’t already, seriously go check out her blog. She’s real, she has the cutest little twins and she’s just so endearing} and thought it was a fun idea, so I decided to copy it!

Inside Laura’s head {brace yourself}:

Making: a mess on my floor with pumpkin muffin crumbs.

Cooking: nothing, oddly enough…life has been a little cray-cray!

Reading: One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian. Changing my life.

Wanting: to sleep through the night.

Looking: for what God’s doing next.

Playing: sword fights with my Aiden boy.

Wasting: crusts of sandwiches. I’m just as bad as a kid!

Trusting: God knows what He’s doing.

Wishing: for more time with my girlfriends.

Enjoying: snuggles with my love at the end of each day.

Waiting: for USCIS approval for adoption so we can move forward.

Liking: Greek God’s salted honey greek yogurt. To. Die.

Wondering: when I’ll get to sleep soundly again.

Loving: snuggles with Landon during a movie when he’s not aware of what mama is up to!

Hoping: for temps above 55 to play outside with no coats

Marveling: at the Lord’s faithfulness to me.

Needing: to find a hobby.

Anticipating: running a half marathon with Jason. Eek!

Contemplating: living with more grace.

Smelling: sweet Aiden-boy hair.

Wearing: jeans and a hoodie.

Following: the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing: God has me where I’m at for a reason.

Thinking: there isn’t enough coffee in all the world.

Praying: to be poured out, filled with more love and grace.

Bookmarking: favorite recipes on the tablet. Recipes for dayz.

Opening: the pantry for the gazillionth time. Maybe I’ll find a new snack I didn’t buy and that will secretly take my breath away.

Giggling: at the girlie girl that is my Charlotte. She’ll be 3 tomorrow. How in the world did that happen??

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Feeling: completely exhausted. grateful. worn out. blessed.

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Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

Tchividj

Wreck Me, God.

God is wrecking me right now.

Utterly and completely.

He’s taking me to new heights of my relationship with Him – new, unknown, uncharted territories of grace to my heart.

One of my favorite authors/bloggers Jen Hatmaker said something I won’t soon forget.

In her book ‘Interrupted’, she says something along-the-lines-of: pray this prayer “God, wreck me”. But only if you mean it.

 

Because prayers are a big deal to God.

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He kind of takes us seriously.

So I’m grateful for God’s providence that I didn’t stumble upon ‘Interrupted’ until recently.

My heart simply wouldn’t have been able to handle the content, and certainly not that prayer.

So, I’ve been praying that…for the wrecking.

And boy, has He ever!

It’s not a shaming, not a wrecking in the sense the world might think, like a disgracing.

Rather, it’s a pruning, a chiseling, a growing-more-in-His-likeness.

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m not perfect.

People, I am SO far from it, it’s not even funny.

And yet, here I am. For some reason beyond my greatest comprehension, God wants to use me.

Huh.

Go figure.

Little ol’ me. The girl with a big mouth, lots of opinions and a way of telling the truth that has left many stung in the wake of brutality.

Not always pretty.

So this wrecking I’ve been praying (begging God for, really), is a acknowledgement that I don’t even know anything about anything.

That my heart needs to break for the things that break His.

And try as I might to appear as if I have it all together , I don’t.

He knows it. I know it.

Oh, what a Savior! That He would take me as I am. Quite literally trying to take His place by asserting myself to be more than I am.

Oh, that He loves me, broken and all kinds of messed-up.

Thank you, Jesus.

So, God’s been wrecking me.

Faithful to His character, as He cannot be anything but, God is doing the work of wrecking in this heart of mine.

It’s painful. It leaves me worn-down, tried and head spinnng most days (I know – where can you sign up, right?).

It’s so challenging to be wrecked.

And it’s the most beautiful thing all at the same time.

God is doing a spiritual heart surgery on me, in this state of wondering that I’m in.

He’s longing to do a new work in me, and I’m so thankful He is.

Oh, how I need for HIm to increase and me to decrease!

When God prunes (more on that later, but essentially the idea of the first portion of John 15), he throws off what isn’t beneficial to the believer.

So, whatever needs work, He gently removes. Cleans up with His pure and sinless hands and He does the work of making us more into the likeness of Himself.

More grace-filled.

More loving.

He then gives us opportunities (read: challenging circumstances) to grow in these areas.

For me this last month?

Pruning has looked like having opportunities to easily promote myself and letting God keep me quiet.

Pruning has looked like others getting credit for things I’ve done (again, hard for me).

Pruning has looked like a teething baby.

Puking children.

Martial tension.

Being misunderstood.

A flooded crawl space.

A broken dishwasher.

You get the picture.

And in all this, what I am not saying is that this is somehow unfair. Somehow cruel on God’s part.

What I am saying is that wrecking hurts. It tears you down.

But, oh! How I long for the refining, ever painful as it is.

Wreck me, God.

There is a song that is just SO my heart right now called “Relentless Pursuit” by Kim Walker. I hope you guys will take a minute to listen and let the lyrics wash over you.

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura