What a beautiful week we’ve had here in North Carolina! The temperature at night has gotten down into the 40”s, while daytime temperatures are around 76. Springtime at its best!
I love exploring our beautiful country and it’s even more special when I discover something close to home. A new walking trail has been finished in Eden, just 15 minutes away. Nan and I walked on it Wednesday. It was so pretty, I brought Hart back that evening.
The trail is only one mile long, but it meanders along a creek, Matrimony Creek it’s called. Along the way we could hear roosters crowing and a peek through the bushes we could see sheep roaming in a pasture. On the other side of the trail were lots of beautiful mountain laurel. I’ve only seen mountain laurel in the mountains so it was a treat to discover it close to home.
As you get to the end of the trail the creek gets wider with small rapids and surprise! at the end is a waterfall. So pretty . And what a rare treat to find in the middle of the city.
The Psalmist said it well,
Let heaven celebrate! Let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it roar!
Let the countryside and everything in it celebrate!
Then all the trees of the forest too
will shout out joyfully. Psalm 96:11-12.
Isn’t God good to surround us with the beauty of the earth ? Look around you and enjoy whatever God has put near you, whether it’s in your backyard or on your drive to work. You don’t have to go far. There’s always something to shout joyfully about!
I have a tendency to look at life through how can this be improved lenses. Some people might call that having goals or always trying to improve. And my husband is the same driven type. So contentment isn’t our strong suit. I found myself being especially hard on my body.
Even at my skinniest I was always trying to loose weight. I had a scale in college with a goal weight written on it. I had a bodpod scan done a few years ago which tells your muscle mass, bone mass and fat percentage. With no fat or muscles, my bones and skin would weigh that exact “goal weight”. I’ve been skinny, weighed as much as my husband and somewhere in the middle. I’ve been my fittest self and my weakest self. And through all of that one thing never changed, I was never enough. Always trying to improve.
Genesis tell us that God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27
I am made in God’s image. Yet in my eyes I am
We know the Bible says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
I am wonderfully made but I’m not enough in my eyes?
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139:13-16
God made me and only me to be me. In the body I am in. With the scars, stretch marks and cellulite. But I am not enough in my eyes?
1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
I am chosen. By God. A part of His holy nation. But I am not enough in my eyes?
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. “- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
My body is a temple. But yet, somehow, still I am not enough in my eyes.
1 John 3:1 says “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. ”
We are loved, children of God. And yet…
I decided this year the and yet had to change. I had enough. A little therapy, a lot of prayer and really trying hard to stop the self criticism. Looking in the mirror and saying hey good looking! Nice butt. To say you are enough. You’ve been through a lot. You’ve kept me alive. Safe. You’ve given me two beautiful kids. It’s been cut open three times. And recovered. My body lets me jump on the trampoline with my kids, run with them and swim with them. It’s extra squishy so they can snuggle right in.
For me, this is a work in progress. I still easily fall back into old habits. Little things will set me back. But I’m trying to give myself grace. Work to slowly replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. Being gentle.
So I’m here today to tell you that you are enough. Today. Right where you are. Go find a mirror and tell yourself how beautiful you are. You are chosen. Loved. Made in the image of the Highest God. Who also created you and had a plan for you. And for your body. So get outside, soak up some sunshine and breath in that you are enough you beautiful person. -Lauren
It’s a few days before Easter.And as I reflect on the cross and the miracle of Jesus rising from death, I am awed once again.That the Son of God would die for me and you, is miraculous in itself.But it didn’t end there, he conquered death and our sin, so we can live victoriously now and forever!!This causes me to reflect on the miracles God has performed in my life .And really, there are many.Some are big and some are seemingly insignificant to anyone but me.I have a story that I want to tell that reminds me that to the God who overcame death, NOTHING is too small for him.I call this story The Miracle Mixer.It’s all because of God’s faithfulness that this story is possible.I love this scripture, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.Phillipians4:19.
This story begins in 2009, when I became reacquainted with a friend whom I had not seen in 17 years.Cathy had two little boys back then.I remember her boys being cute and well mannered and Cathy as a smart mama who sewed and made beautiful things.The last time I saw her, her oldest son, Witt was 10 and my second daughter, Claire was 5.I have a picture of our homeschool co-op group sitting on a wall dressed in Medieval costumes and Witt brandishing a sword and looking brave and Claire sitting with her sisters and friends, just past the toddler age herself.Fast forward 17 years, now Cathy and I each had two more daughters.My daughter, Nan, and Cathy’s daughter, Rose, becamefast friends in the Bible Study we attended that year.This was Cathy’s first and only year attending this particular Bible study. I had been going for years, but had decided not to attend this year because I had young teenagers that I washomeschooling and I felt I needed more time at home to accomplish that.But God impressed upon my heart that I should attend, so I signed up at the last minute.I’m so glad I did because we spent each Thursday after Bible study, together, eating lunch, becoming fast friends again.And as you might have guessed we re-introduced Witt and Claire and they fell in love and married a year later.We could not be more in love with this godly, caring and handsome man and we are so blessed to call him our son.Nan loves to take credit for bringing Witt into Claire’s life.
And now here is the mixer story. Thecircumstances and timing of these previous and next events, that I’m about to tell you, can only have come from our good Father, who sees all and knows all.I think of the story of Esther in the Bible.She saw God work on her and her people’s behalf through what seemed like random circumstances. God used her for big things, to save her people.We might never be called to do anything big like she did, but we are called to be faithful and to bring all our requests and needs before God.Have you ever seen God work on your behalf?What seems so random to us, is all a part of Gods plan for our lives.
I told you Claire and Witt fell in love and wanted to get married.Before this, Claire had been a nanny for a missionary family in Paris, France .While there she took French lessons and applied to culinary school, as her time as a nanny was drawing to a close for she loved Paris.And she already loved to cook.She was accepted to the school, but due to many reasons, some financial and some logistical , she disappointedly decided to come home, not sure what God was doing in her life.She finished up her college education at a local University, with a degree in creative writing.It was during this time she met Witt, fell in love and became engaged.
Weddings are exciting and this was our second one with three more weddings to plan one day.We had college educations to pay for, braces, contacts and just the general expense of a large family living on one income.Someone was giving Claire a kitchen shower and she had on her registry many wonderful things, but one thing she wanted more than anything was a Kitchen Aid Standup Mixer.The one she had chosen was cream colored, Almond they called it.It was out of my price range at that time in my life.I remember praying that God would show me what I should get Claire.I wanted to get a very special gift for her, one that would be useful but something she really wanted.
I remember going to lunch with my husband on a Tuesday , we usually went on Fridays .Hart worked from home then, so we had made this our special treat.But I grabbed him from his office on Tuesday and said let’s go get some thing to eat so we can talk.We went to our favorite, but inexpensive, hibachi restaurant in our small town.I remember telling Hart about the kitchenshower for Claire.He said he wished we could afford the mixer but it was not in our budget.After our Friday lunches we usually browse Goodwill where Hart likes to look at the books and I wander the store.So on this Tuesday he asks me if I stillwant to go to Goodwill. Sure, I said and headed over to the appliance section. And what did I see on the very bottom shelf, covered in dirt , but a Kitchen Aid Mixer!!Excidely I pulled it out and called to Hart, we plugged it in.It worked!I looked in the mixing bowl and there were all three accessories!We couldn’t believe it!We took it to checkout and paid 25.00 for it.I remember getting it home and washing it with just hot water and soap.How surprised and taken aback I was as I looked at it.This mixer was in perfect condition , not a scratch on it and it was the prized Almond color!!The only thing missing was the original box!How did I get Claire’s dream mixer for 25.00 when on theregistry it was listed for 399.00!All I could do was to exclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness .When I took my gift to the shower and told the story of God’s blessingand provision there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
I love the many stories of George Mueller, a man of God who prays about everything .He once said if you receive a parcel and it is tied up in string and you can’t open it because you don’t have a knife or scissors, pray about it and ask God to help you untie the knot.How I love that illustration about how nothing is too small or insignificant to God .God knew Claire would need to be in the US so she could meet the man we had been praying for since her birth, that both Cathy and I should attend the Bible study that year and that God would arrange it so I would be at that Goodwillstore, on that particular day, that someone had decided to get rid of a perfectally good mixer.It’s times like this, that I can always go back to when my days seem hard and I feel like can’t see what God is doing in my life right now.These memories strengthen my faith and I know that God cares about the seemingly insignificant things in my life.I can be sure he is working on my behalf, my family’s and yours as well.
What are some ways you’ve seen God working on your behalf or your family’s?I’d love to hear about them, for it gives God the glory and strengthens the faith of those reading it.
Have a very blessed and wonderful Easter!For Christ is Risen, Risen indeed!
Feeling a little vulnerable about posting this. But according to Brene Brown vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. So here I am. I hope you connect with this in some way.
I remember feeling this pull inside of me. I needed to meet with him. I was sitting on the pew in Chapel, at Aylen Lake, Canada. I was probably thirteen. This chapel is a wooden shelter sitting on top of a hill in the woods overlooking the beautiful lake. As I sat there not truly listening to the sermon, I felt a need to leave and meet with God. So I told my mom I had a stomach ache and I walked the pine needle covered path back to our cottage and down to the dock. It was a sunny day. The sun made the lake look like it was dancing with crystals on its surface. The world was silent. I remember talking to God and crying and understanding him so perfectly clear in that moment. He wanted freedom for me.
I remember when my family got back from the chapel and I told them I wasn’t really sick they were kind of upset with me for leaving the service. I immediately felt silly and too emotional and dramatic. And so I don’t think I ever left again. I think I’ve been sitting in the pews listening to the same sermon again and again everyday.
You see, I’ve always been too much. Too loud. Too crazy. Too emotional. Too eccentric. Too odd. Too intense.
This world conditions us to hide these traits. Because god forbid we sacrifice normality for freedom.
I have so many examples of this…
In middle school I carried my school books on my head during lunch making funny faces and laughing with my dorky friends only to find the cool kids that were in their usual circle staring and laughing. So I stifled my humor.
In elementary school I was listening to a song outside and I felt the urge to jump in the lake with my clothes on just to feel the cold cool water. I just wanted to feel freedom and happiness and being wild. But I got talked out of it by a friend and felt silly again. So I stifled my joy.
I got told skinny was beautiful so I stifled my hunger.
I got told guys like girls with tighter clothes and bleached hair so I stifled my dignity.
I got the vibe from others discomfort that going that deep into ones own soul was too much, so I stifled my heart.
But then one day I met God down at the dock of our old lake cottage. I was listening to a song in the cottage, crying over a breakup where I had spent the entirety of it stuffing my personality and wishes deeper inside of myself until I didn’t recognize what they were anymore. And he told me to dance. It was pouring rain. I had done my makeup nicely. Straightened my wavy hair perfectly. Was wearing nice, put together clothes. But all I could hear was “dance, Nan.” So this time I shut the door behind me and I danced in the pouring rain. I felt my mascara run down my face, I felt my straight hair curling again, I felt my chest rising and falling with every breath of life I sucked in like I hadn’t had air for the longest time and I saw her for the first time since meeting with God on that dock. It was Nan. And he was begging her into freedom again.
Since that day I have been trying more and more to walk out of the chapel. To find my place next to God and to find the place where I allow myself to be seen, to be vulnerable, to be known. And I have come to the realization…I am too much! And I am ok with that. Because God is ok with that. And when I’m with him…I’m just enough. So take off your shoes. Take your hair out of it’s perfect spiral curl that you perfected. Wipe that makeup off. Look God in the eyes and say, “I am here.” And let yourself fully be who you are. And don’t you dare let anyone stifle the spirit you have inside of you. Because we’re all too good at being perfect, so let’s be good at being free.
When mom asked me to write for the blog, I couldn’t think of anything to write about for the longest time. I thought about writing on fitness and the new 6am workout classes I have been killing myself with. Or nutrition and the 1,300 calories I consume daily in order to maintain my 175 lb body. But then it hit me… write about the one thing that’s had the biggest impact on my life…My divorce.
It’s a dirty word.
It’s a word happily married people shudder at and push out of their head, like
they can’t even fathom the idea. I know this, because I used to do it.
Here’s the thing about divorce… rarely does one get married
thinking it will end in divorce… its never a planned event that will happen in X
amount of years. Divorce sneaks up on you. Sometimes for years, sometimes it
only takes weeks. But let’s be honest, we never plan for divorce. That’s why
its so tragic. There’s no preparation. No time to figure everything out. It just
happens and you react.
[The following story is a one-sided journey. This is my story. My journey. My words. Its also only a very small portion of the full story.]
I got married when I was 23 years old. In my family, that
was pretty normal. My mom and dad got married young and have had a beautiful
marriage. All my sisters got married young and have also had successful
marriages. So, when 23-year-old me walked down the aisle to say “I do” to
forever… I didn’t think anything of it. But here’s the thing about being 23 and
in love. You are blind. You think you have it all figured out. Well you’re probably
wrong. So, there I was. A pretty idiot, standing in front of everyone I knew
and loved, committing to something I knew nothing about.
At 23 years old I did not know who I was. I was insecure,
afraid to be on my own and too scared to find the independence I yearned for. I
was a lost little seedling looking for guidance and I rooted myself into the
closest thing I could find to security. A man.
I threw myself into my marriage. I was determined to be a
perfect wife. Determined to have a home cooked meal on the table every night. A
clean house every day. Determined to keep my body tight and healthy so that my
husband found me attractive. Every breath I breathed was for the approval of
someone else. I lost myself completely. I lost my identity. At social
gatherings, I would stand in a room full of strangers, being introduced as his Wife. That was what I had become, his. Wife.
In same cases this works for couples, a woman can find total fulfillment in being a housewife. But it takes appreciation from the spouse to find that fulfillment.
So, there I was… 5 years into a marriage where I felt lost
and under- valued. I begged for attention, for praise, for my value to be seen.
But the truth was… I didn’t see my own value, how could I possibly expect
another human to see it? I was a shell of the woman that I had wanted to be.
Growing up, I envisioned myself as a CEO of a fashion label or a successful
marine biologist. I wanted to be powerful and strong and independent and a
boss. And here I was, a sad and lonely housewife working part time as a
personal trainer, married to a very successful and powerful man. I felt like
I will never forget the night when it all changed. It was the day after Valentines day (that we didn’t celebrate). We were sitting in his car, in the driveway of the beautiful home we had bought together. I turned to him and asked “Do you think your life is better because I am in it? Do you think I add value to your life?” He thought about it for a while… and then the earth-shattering answer that forged a will of iron in my heart… “No. Everything we have is because I have worked for it”.
I left the next day.
Walking away from my marriage is the best decision I have
ever made. It is my proudest moment. It is my greatest accomplishment.
I saved myself.
I took every ounce of courage I had, every ounce of faith I had, and I blindly stepped into a different life. A better life. The moment I walked away, it felt like the weight of mount Everest had been lifted from my chest. There has not been a single moment of regret. I have taken every single thing I learned from this experience and applied it to my life. I learned about myself, about other people, about how to love, about how to be a good person, friend and daughter. I have learned SO MUCH and therefor I simply cannot regret anything. That does not mean this has all been easy and great. There have been many, many, MANY nights crying and mourning for the life that I thought I was going to have. Many days where fear crept in and I didn’t know if I could do this on my own. To start over completely at almost 30 years old seemed like the scariest thing in the world. And it was. It hasn’t been easy. My road has been long and winding and full of drop offs and twists and hills. But it is MY journey. And the greatest thing to come out of this journey is my self-acceptance. My self-love. I know 100% without a shadow of a doubt, who I am. I am rooted in love for and by my family. I am a child of God. I am strong. I am a boss. I am beautiful. I am a feminist. I am fearless. I am a friend. I am kind. I am powerful. I am independent. I am tenacious. I am spiritual. I am forgiven. And I am loved. And because I know these things to be true in my heart, it allows me to be the best possible version of myself. And isn’t that what we all need? Just a little more love for ourselves?
I challenge you to take a bold step, to find your independence, your voice. I challenge you to stare at yourself in the mirror for 5 WHOLE MINUTES and say everything you love about yourself. I challenge you to affirm yourself sincerely. I challenge you to talk to someone about your pain, your frustrations, your fears. I challenge you to walk away from the toxic relationship that is hurting you. I challenge you to take at least 20 minutes out of your day for yourself. I challenge you to evaluate your life and make sure you are living as the best possible version of you… Why?? Because you. Are. So. Worth. It. And no one, can define your value except yourself.