Category Archives: Parenthood

7-Year {Anniversary} Reflections

7 years

Jason and I tied the knot at the tender age of 22. Freshly graduated from college, Jason from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and me from Hope College in Holland, MI. We thought we had it nearly all figured out. We were madly in love with each other, wanted to serve God together and thought we had an excellent 5, 10, and 20 year plan for our lives.

Even though we were in the thick of our pride, our sometimes enabling-each-other-because-we-were-always-SO-right mentalities, I am very glad we got married at the young age we did.

Freshly Mr. and Mrs.

Freshly Mr. and Mrs.

In fact, looking back, I wish we would’ve gotten married even sooner. I was convinced I would need an entire year to plan a wedding. Things couldn’t be farther from the truth for this Type-A, super planner. I mean, really. I knew the colors I wanted. The flowers. The flow of everything. Put into the mix that I was recovering from knee surgery in the middle of our engagement, and I had a TON of time on my hands to plan our wedding.

What two crazy-in-love dating 21-year-olds look like.

What two crazy-in-love dating 21-year-olds look like.

Hindsight is 20/20 they say. In this case, yes. Totally believe that to be true. I had graduated from college a semester early in December of 2006, so technically, we would have been poorer than all get-out, but we could have made it work. We wed on June 9, 2007.

We knew we were crazy about each other and man alive, keeping the beast tame that was our desire for each other during that year-long engagement is something I would not wish on anyone.

As stated previously, Jason and I, although trying to pursue the Lord, made a lot of mistakes.  We made a commitment to ourselves and the Lord that we would save the gift of sex for our wedding night, and I’m SO glad we did!

Growing up, it was never an “option” for me- both for my personal convictions and what my parents instilled in me – to give myself away in that manner to anyone but my husband.

On our honeymoon, 2007.

On our honeymoon, 2007.

So lesson #1? Christian men and women: if you know you want to get married, just do it. Exception? If one or both of you have deep-rooted issues that need to be addressed in individual counseling, then those things should be worked on before saying “I do”.

You’ll never “be ready” to be married. What the heck is “being ready” to be a husband or a wife anyway?

You’ll never have a “enough money”. Trust.

(And for real – an extra $100 or $10,000 isn’t gonna make you happier, or ensure a better marriage. Now, there IS something to be said for a crazy-hard work ethic and a commitment to provide and support each other. Different animals entirely.)

Lesson #2 over these past 7 years? Don’t hold your plans so tightly.

At my MSW graduation, 2008.

At my MSW graduation, 2008.

Case-in-point: this was my 10 year plan when we got married.

  1. Finish graduate school (Master’s in Clinical Social Work)
  2. Get a position as a high-paid therapist
  3. Continue impacting lives while being over-the-moon happy in love
  4. Buy a nearly-new house + car
  5. Have first child at age of 30
  6. Continue to do therapy full-time, having kid(s) in daycare and livin’ the American Dream

Man alive, do I shutter at my then-unspoken goal of living the American Dream.

God had SO. MUCH. more for me – thank you Jesus!

And how did my life actually go? Glad you asked.

A lil’ somethin’ like this:

Life as I hadn't planned. :)

Life as I hadn’t planned. 🙂

  1. Finished graduate school (Master’s in Clinical Social Work)
  2. Got a low-paying, super-stressful job in my field, but not as glamorous as I would have hoped
  3. Felt the “baby itch” every time we sashayed by the baby section in Target
  4. Gave birth to Landon at 24
  5. Began working part-time, then felt God’s call to be a stay-at-home mom
  6. Gave birth to Charlotte at 26
  7. Now at home, felt God’s nudge to both adopt AND have another child biologically
  8. Gave birth to Aiden at 28, to shortly start adoption process for our fourth

God’s plans are always best. How I wish I would have just said “Lord, my life is yours, do with it what you will” at the tender age of 22.

Instead, I spent my time pursuing what I thought was best, what my life plan was.

Lesson #3? Keep your marriage your priority relationship.

Most families put their kids above all else. And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my kiddos. I mean have you seen them?! Stinkin’ cute. Just thinking of them makes me smile.

But, one day, they’ll all grow up. Leave the nest. And Jason and I will be left.

My love. The bestest.

My love. The bestest.

Hopefully, to remain the best-of-friends, laughing, loving and still making out in the kitchen.(sorry for that visual but guys, we’re crazy about each other. Sue me.)

In our mid-forties when the kiddos are gone working, in school, being married, or where ever God leads them, I want Jason and I to enjoy each other.

And I honestly believe that because of date nights, taking the time for each other daily to check-in, being super affectionate with each other, that we will truly enjoy each other when my role is mama-no-more, but empty-nester-wife.

So thankful for the lessons God’s been teaching me since we’ve been married.

So thankful that Jason loves me, despite me being my full-out intense, goofy self.

May our marriage be one that points others to the beauty of the Cross, and the goodness of God all our days.

Through our imperfections and struggles, may our union remind people of the sacrifice that Christ made and the Love that is so real and calling us all to Himself.

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura

 

Utter-Failure Status.

utter fail

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

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

‘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

 

 

 

Lessons From the Midnight Hour

Just as I was falling into a deep sleep last night around 11:30pm, I heard the sound that gives me a pit in my stomach and fills me with anxiety and dread.

The shrill baby scream/cry that pierces through every door and wall of the house.

What’s going on? Is he okay? What time is it? {sigh}. 11:30? Really? Maybe he’ll just fall back asleep…oh, God, please! Let him fall back asleep.

My nearly-11-month-old, Aiden, fell back asleep but only to awake again an hour later. Jason, my husband, tried comforting him. Just more screaming.

12:45 am. “Honey, can you set up the pack ‘n play downstairs? I don’t want him to keep waking Landon up…”

Landon {4 years} and Aiden share a small room. All mom’s know the last thing anyone needs is additional family members entirely sleep deprived.

1:45 am. More protests through screams could then be heard from the pack ‘n play now set up in the kitchen.

For real? Maybe Jason will just deal with it. Maybe if I lay here long enough he’ll get up and take care of Aiden….Oh my gosh. Am I really that awful of a mother? Your poor son is screaming, needs you RIGHT NOW and you’re hoping someone else will take care of it?!

I threw on my robe, searched for my glasses the in dark and scooped up my baby boy. Doing the mommy-bounce and “ssshhh-ing”, I changed his diaper. Not the solution I was hoping for. Not what he needed.

I felt around in his little mouth.

Oh. That’s two huge craters. Both eye teeth popping in. Those are the worst. {sigh}. Poor baby boy, you just needed your Momma. You’re in so much pain.

In a moment, my entire outlook changed. I now felt desperate for him. Empathized with him. I know what horrible pain feel like. It totally sucks.

I administered some baby meds, gave him some teething tablets. Never mind I’m typically incredibly cautious about giving meds to my kids. My baby was in PAIN. I was gonna give him whatever I could to make it stop.

My Aiden boy

My Aiden boy

2:30 am. More laying down, more screaming.

Okay, he’s been up for three hours. This is my last-ditch effort. I’m nursing him.

As my sweet baby boy got his fill of milk, the glimmer of the moon shone on his baby-fine sandy blonde hair. My heart melted.

Jesus, thank You for my baby boy. Thank You that I get the joy and privilege of being his Mama. Thank You that he’s such a sweet boy. I pray that You would help his pain to subside. Be his comfort and his peace. May You surround him with Your love and may he experience Your presence right now, in Jesus’ Name.

Isn’t that where the perspective shift occurs? At the crossroads of helplessness and gratitude?

So often others issues are just that…others issues. Someone else’s problem.

What if we dared to enter in to the messiness of their problem?

What if made it ours, even a little bit?

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

What if you took a cue from my middle-of-the-night escapades and didn’t start with whining, complaining, grumbling?

What if we began with gratitude?

In the middle of the night? Yes.

When I’m so tired I can’t see straight? Yes.

When the house’s entire attitude tomorrow hinges on tonight’s rest? Yes.

When just flat-out don’t want to? Yes.

Here’s what I know. The Savior position is taken.

Like, for real. Jesus isn’t looking for a replacement. Pretty sure He’s got that one covered.

He tells me:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

God didn’t create me to carry others burdens on my own. Rather, He tells me in Matthew that I not only can, but am to give my burdens to Him. He can handle it. In fact, He handled it all on the cross.

I wonder what would happen if I entered in with people, starting with my own family more fully.

Their issues, their burdens.

I wonder what would happen if I carried their burdens, and then turned around and gave it back to the One who can and already has handled it.

May we enter in and start with gratitude a little more today.

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura