Tag Archives: Joy

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

 

‘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

 

 

 

Aren’t You Tired?

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Currently, my eyes are heavy. Like, squinty-heavy. Wishing, hoping for a nap but I honestly don’t think that’s in the cards for me today.

My cup of coffee is sitting here next to me, almost begrudgingly because, dangit! I wasn’t going to have coffee today. I was going to be awake. Strong. Show that coffee pot who’s boss…

I had to smile that recently I’ve gladly poured my International Delight into my morning cup. That vanilla creamer so sickeningly sweet, void of dairy. Yes. No milk to be found. Surely, this creamer is eating my insides and is not exactly the “natural” avenue I intended to go. Never-the-less, it makes my coffee sweet. Enjoyable. And, really? It’s cheaper.

With whiny children in the background and my coffee brewing in the chill of the morning air, I thought about you.

The mom doing the same thing I am today. Trying to get on top of the laundry pile, love and train your kids. Hopefully without killing anyone in the process.

The dad that never gets a mention because his wife is working, or maybe even left him, and he’s got the same chores and concerns that are on my heart today as well.

The college-age kid stressed to the max about upcoming tests and quizzes. Wondering if they’ll make it through to the end of the year.

The middle-aged woman uttering desperate prayers that her parents might make it through just a couple more nights. That the cancer wouldn’t take them so quickly.

So, I thought about you all, pouring my coffee. About your lives, how they look different from mine; how they look nearly identical.

Different faces, same emotions. In various cities, the same concerns.

Weariness.

Tired of it.

Just. Plain. Tired.

And I’m not even in the thick of a hardship right now. But just tired. And contemplative.

Dear sister, dear brother. I get you. I SO get you.

I see that fake smile you plaster on.

I see those puffy eyes, trying to mask your tears.

{sigh}

Oh, how I know. How I’ve been there. How I’ve tried desperately hide it all.

Maybe if I wear this super-cute outfit, curl my hair and respond “Great!” to everyone who asks how I’m doing, they’ll think I have it all together. Maybe they’ll think more highly of me. Think I’m better, more put-together than I actually am.

“…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7b

He knows you. In fact, He created you. God knows the hairs on your head (Matt. 10:30) – He wove you together like a masterpiece tapestry in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

Concealer {ah, yes, thank you Jesus for concealer!} can do a great job of covering up those dark circles under your eyes, but God knows why they are there!

But more than Him just knowing, He cares.

“Give all your worries to Him, because He cares for you” – 1 Peter 5:7

And even more than caring, God is an active God. Longing for you to come to Him with your mess. Your hot. blubbering. mess.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” – Matthew 11:28

I like the way The Message translation breaks it down as well:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

I see that puzzled face. Those questioning eyes.

How do we go about the work of coming to Jesus?

It’s rather simple. And so simple in fact, people and churches and religious folk have been getting it twisted for years.

It’s just an acknowledging. Acknowledging Jesus in whatever awkward, weird way you know how.

“Hey God…we haven’t talked in awhile. I just want You to know that I think You’re here. I hope You’re there. I want You to be here, to help me. I can’t do this alone.”

It’s a “Jesus, I’m so broken. Come to my rescue!”

Unlike what the Pharisees believed in Jesus’ day, God isn’t looking for one with eloquent speech. Someone who looks like they’ve got it all together. Attends the most Bible studies or understands the finer points of systematic theology.

Just the opposite.

God loves the broken, messy, crazy, chaotic people. {Raises hand. Yes. That’s me.}

Oh, how I’m so grateful He does!

So when Jesus talks about giving us rest in Matthew 11, He’s not just talking about an extra nap, however dreamy that may sound.

Jesus is speaking of a spiritual rest. A soul rest.

A rest that refreshes you, renews you and totally washes over you like nothing you’ve ever known before.

Even in the midst of teething babies. A marriage on the rocks. Cancer-ridden parents.

Yes, He can handle all this and even more. In fact, He handled it all, every burden, every worry, on the cross at Calvary when He poured out this love and His blood for you some 2,000 years ago.

He died so that you don’t have to carry it around. He died so that you could be set free. He longs for you to lay that worry at His feet.

Because, He never intended for you to carry it in the first place.

He loves you so much that He wants to be your place of rest.

Aren’t you tired?

Tired of doing it alone? Tired of anxiety? Tired of the weight?

Won’t you tell a friend that loves Jesus what you’re going through? Won’t you ask them to pray for you?

He’s calling.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” – Matthew 11:28

Through Unspeakable Joy,

Laura