Category Archives: Foundational to My Walk

Making a Difference, Everyday.

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Most of us like to do things that make a difference, am I right?

We volunteer our time, give money to our favorite charities, bake for our neighbors, etc.

As a follower of Christ and an active member of my church, I serve in the youth ministry alongside my husband who is our youth pastor. I love being with the teens, helping them sort through drama, theology and the inevitable spats with parents.

I knew there was a piece missing to my service, my “activism” if you will, though.

Ever since the hubs and I met on a HIV/AIDS prevention trip to South Africa, my life was forever changed. Seeing the faces of poverty, disease and heartache up-close-and-personal is just something I will never be able to “shut off”. Nor would I want to.

Issues of social justice have been near-and-dear to my heart since that trip in 2005 and my passion for awareness and to help educate others on these issues has only grown since then. Orphan care, human trafficking, issues of poverty/hunger/lack of education and clean water have consistently moved and stirred my heart.

Fast-forward to 2013. My sweet friend Erin started posting on Facebook about how she was so excited to be an Ambassador for Noonday Collection, where she was selling beautiful, hand-crafted accessories on behalf of artisans world-wide, with the purpose of helping lift them out of poverty.

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And I saw the jewels.

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And I read more about the mission of Noonday.

And I was all: “Did someone seriously read. my. mind?! Like, for real, here. Someone actually combined the worlds of trendy accessories with social justice? No. Freaking, Way.”

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Noonday Collection is a company that provides a sustainable income for over 2,000 artisans in over 10 countries. Their goal is to empower the artisans through dignified work that will have a long-lasting impact on the artisans and their communities.

Through trunk shows, I get to set up a marketplace for our artisans. I display the gorgeous pieces, tell some amazing Noonday stories and women gather for food, laughter and playing dress up! I get to style women in the latest accessories, and meet some world-changing women that believe in using their purchasing power for good.

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Even Charlotte likes to get in on the action!

Even Charlotte likes to get in on the action!

My husband, Jason, will tell you I’m constantly saying “I’m SO glad I’m an Ambassador…for so many reasons!”

Noonday, is also helping us bring our son home from South Africa! We’re that crazy family with 3 biological children under the age of 5 who still has more love to give. Through my earnings with Noonday, we are putting it toward our adoption expenses and getting one step closer to fulfilling our dream.

I love that with Noonday, I can now rest assured that the artisans are receiving 2-4 times more than what they would in their local marketplace. I like to say it’s “more than fair trade”.

It’s beautiful. It’s life-changing.

For everyone.

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You can shop Noonday Collection for yourself or gifts for loved ones anytime at: www.lauraloewen.noondaycollection.com.

Maybe you’ve got a social-justice itch and/or love for on-trend jewelry like I do. Consider becoming an Ambassador and joining an amazing group of women with a heart like yours! 

We all like to make a difference. I hope you’ll join me in sharing these artisans stories, and changing their lives {and the lives in your community} forever by purchasing Noonday, hosting a trunk show or becoming an Ambassador.

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

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Utter-Failure Status.

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Ever have those days when you feel like an utter failure?

Join the club.

Pull up a spoon and let’s dig into this Ben + Jerry’s.

I felt like SUCH a failure this morning.

Three loads of laundry were bunched up in the laundry room. And although clean, they weren’t folded and their 5-day old creases seemed to be mocking me.

I felt like I earned a couple “good mom/wife” points as I completed another five loads.

But their folded status? Eh…it’s honestly all piled up on my bed like a huge mountain I don’t wanna climb.

(And no, Miley, I don’t feel like climbing today.)

Then the fun got kicked off when Charlotte bit Aiden. Let’s just say mama wasn’t havin’ it.

Although from recent car trip, similar emotions ensued.

Although from recent car trip, similar emotions ensued.

So, consequences were dealt out (You wanna whine and cry about what YOU did to your brother? Fine. Go sit on your bed. I’m not getting a headache due to your ridiculousness. Oh? What’s that Charlotte? Wanna continue the theatrics? Great. Then no ‘bear ribbons’. Important side note: ‘bear ribbons’ is our term-of-endearment for C’s blankie that she almost cannot go to bed without).

Per usual, mama wasn’t playin’.

At this point, Landon (4) had talked me into playing a game of trouble. Aiden (1) was an arms length away in his high-chair flailing his arms and squawking because I couldn’t deliver the vanilla yogurt to his little mouth fast enough. Repeatedly.

 

Meanwhile, Miss Charlotte (3) had gained her self-control and was busy coloring a Beauty + The Beast page while emphatically stating things every 2 seconds like: “Mama wook!” “Mama, I color Belle yew-oh!” “Mama! I make it wook supa pretty!”

I snapped.

I'm sure it looked something like this. Awesome.

I’m sure it looked something like this. Awesome.

It got ugly real quick. I started yelling. I would calm down, and then repeat like a complete psychopath.

Pretty, huh?

I told the kids I was wrong for yelling (amongst throwing a near 29-year-old-temper-tantrum) and asked for their forgiveness. Like the sweeties they are, they promptly forgave and hugs were given all around.

However, I couldn’t take back my words.

The nasty tone of my voice, the way my words spewed from gritted teeth. There would be no wiping this from their memories.

I tucked them all in for their afternoon naps, snuggles given, a calm, more relaxed, but remorseful mom who kissed her kiddies and told them she loved them.

“What a horrible mom” I thought as I left their rooms.

I just wanted to run away in seclusion. Feeling completed depressed and fully convinced I was a failure of a mom, I just sulked into the couch hoping my Instagram feed would distract me for a second.

Instagram failed me, so a threw my phone down on the couch, partially annoyed with it, mainly frustrated with myself.

Really Laura? Really?

I felt a little nudge. Maybe you should try reading the Word.

Whatever, God. I’m not in the mood. 

Nice. Good pastor’s wife, eh?

I got myself out stuff to make a breakfast burrito and switched on the Bible on audio.

As Romans chapters 1-3 played, my heart softened.

I felt God’s peace and presence wash over me. I was reminded of God’s goodness and how His love never fails.

Even for a sometimes-screw-up like me.

So. Much. Grace.

I am just so longing to be able to consistently extend that grace, especially to my kids.

I mean, as much fun as a crazy, yelling, psycho mom can be…I think I’d like to leave her at the curb and replace her with loving, fun mom.

We all feel like failures sometimes. And sometimes, we even play the part real well.

I hope I keep listening to that Voice of reason and love, wooing me to come to the Fountain of Life, for Water that will never leave me thirsty again (John 4:13-14).

I know that’s where I must go to be filled, and to be able to pour out anything of beauty.

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

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

 

 

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

Everyone’s Invited

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You know what I don’t like? Exclusion.

People being left out, being made to think they’re not good enough. Not pretty enough. Not (fill in the blank) enough. Not worthy.

You know who else doesn’t like that? God.

But, for real. See, we Christians tend to get our panties up in a bunch, thinking we’ve got it all together. We tend to view the world as “us” and “them”. We roll eyes, look down upon and degrade.

We believe the lie that we’re somehow better than those who don’t know Jesus…as if we deserve the very breath and life He’s so graciously given. As if we’ve done something to earn His salvation. His favor.

And this is just what Jesus hates. This exclusionary, pompous attitude. This entitled worldview that is utterly toxic and entirely unbiblical.

“…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” – 2 Peter 3:9b

Did you catch that? Everyone.

Wait, so like, the people that are basically good and maybe mess up occasionally?

Um, nope. Last I checked those people don’t exist (Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God).

God wants everyone.

The working mom.

The stay-at-home mom.

The homeschool kid.

The public school kid.

The right-to-life chick.

The gay pride guy.

The broken teen.

The unfaithful husband.

The bitter sister.

The awkward uncle.

God wants us all. Everyone single last one of us.

Doesn’t matter where we come from or where we are. He desires us, longs to be in relationship with us in. our. current. state.

But wait. What? ‘I’m a little messed up. If you only knew my past, if you only knew what I just watched, the things I just said…God doesn’t want me.’

Oh, but yes, yes He does. See, salvation (this acceptance of a free gift) is for everyone. God Himself says so.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Romans 3:23

For reals, guys. God says everyone who believes that Jesus is who He says He is (fully God, fully man, the second person of the holy trinity, the One who died and rose again for our greatest problem – sin – the one who has the victory) is saved.

In other words, do you believe Jesus is IT? Like, know that you know that you desperately need Him? Can’t do it without Him?

Salvation.

See, sometimes in the Church we get all nose-up-in-the-air thinking that we somehow have our stuff together.

Like our sin don’t stink. Like our flaws aren’t a complete disaster.

God desires us all. His Word is clear.

Maybe you’ve been on the camp for too long that looks down on those who don’t know, are struggling, hurting, wrestling with unbelief. Maybe you grew up in a tradition that said “Don’t associate with those people.”

The drunkards. The self-injurers. The divorcees. The homosexuals.

God is FOR those people. God gave His very life for them. May He grant you eyes to see them as He does – beautiful and beloved.

Or maybe you’ve been the one so hurt and abused by the Church, by Christians. Let me, from the bottom of my heart, say a collective “I am sorry”. So deeply sorry. Us Christians are so broken and in need of Savior. And there is no excuse for our pride and pomp. Please forgive us.

Maybe you’ve viewed yourself as less-than. Like, “I just need to stop cursing, stop using, stop (whatever). Then maybe God will love me. Then maybe He’ll accept me.”

The Bible tells us in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus died for you in your broken mess. In mine.

He doesn’t want you to have your life cleaned up, figured out and then come to Him. That’d be like asking someone to get clean before they take a shower. Doesn’t make sense.

God’s wants you to know that you are beloved. You were created in His image to have a relationship with Him.

May we all move forward through our hypocrisy, through our pride, our hurts, our unbelief. May we all cling to this Jesus who so embraced the world that He stretched out His arms in love and died for us nearly 2,000 years ago paying the ultimate price for. our. souls. that we could know Him.

Know His love.

May we experience a little more of that today. May we rest in that love today.

Through unspeakable joy,

Laura