My parents named me Laurel, after the mountain laurel flower, but I've always gone by Laurie. I feel like I've spent my whole life trying to be what other people would find acceptable, and it hasn't been until recent years that I've thought more about how GOD would like me to be. He wants my heart to be seeking after HIM and not the approval of man. So, this is where I will be working out my thoughts, removing the masks (even my nickname!), being real, and making a FREAK of myself! ha ha Any other Jesus Freaks or just freaks in general or even non-freaky people are welcome to read, discuss, encourage, or be encouraged. Welcome to my brain . . . and my heart. :)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fun Fridays: What's in my Purse?

I've decided this blog can use some light-heartedness once in awhile, so whenever I post on a Friday, it will be something random or fun or stupid or humorous or a combination of any of the above.  There's a "tag" I've seen the YouTube beauty gurus do (if you don't know what I'm talking about, see my post from last Friday) called the "What's in my Purse?" tag, where they. . . well, show what's in their purse!  I have no idea how much they stage those, but I assure you, I did not take stuff out of my purse or know what exactly would be in there, other than the stuff I use all the time.  LM helped me with it.  I used an old camera, and the color is a bit off, but everything else is genuine. lol  So, let's see what's in Laurel's purse . . . 

Now I tag whoever wants to do this! :)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dreaded Confrontation

All through my childhood, and right on into my early adult years, I thought confrontation was something to be avoided like the plague.  It was scarier to me than almost anything else.

I didn't confront people when needed.  I didn't know how.

I didn't take confrontation (loving or not) well.  I didn't know how.

I still don't know how, but I'm learning.

I don't recall witnessing much healthy confrontation in the world around me as I grew up.  I'm sure I did, but I don't remember it.  I probably wasn't paying attention.  I mostly picked up on the extremes of "confrontation," either ignoring it altogether or bulldozing.  Either extreme is self-centered.  I, in my silence, was just as self-preserving as any bulldozer-type.

When I finally realized I wasn't as noble as a peace-keeper, that I was, instead, a coward, I slowly faced the fact that I needed some courage and some insight into healthy confrontation.  Though I felt like the cowardly lion, I knew better than to go to Oz or anywhere other than to the Lord.  I now know He was awakening me to this major fault in myself and was preparing me for His loving instruction.

Because . . . well, if no one confronts anyone else, then a lot of bad things, which might have been prevented, will happen.  Or someone might not realize how much I love them, because I didn't care enough to try to help them see what they haven't seen themselves.  Or I have no hope of being like Jesus, because He confronted people all the time.  He knew how to do it, though.  Perfectly.

And if I take confrontation the wrong way, then things can get ugly . . . worse instead of better.  Who wants that?

The only two people I have felt complete freedom (from fear) to confront are my husband and son.  And, yeah, now that I think about it, I've been a bulldozer with them at times.  My husband puts his foot down before I can bulldoze right over him.  I still apologize because my attitude has been wrong.  And I owe my son an apology probably several times a week for the horrible confrontation skills I choose to use with him at times!

So, what I'm talking about in this post is confrontation with anyone but the people who live in my house, I guess. :) I mean, as far as being afraid to do it.

Here's what I've learned so far about confrontation (if you have anything to add, or if you think I'm off-base in anything I say here, please feel free to leave a comment below.  I love to learn from other people!):

About Being Confronted:
  • If someone is being purposely rude, name-calling, or using ad hominem tactics, it's okay to not take what the person says seriously or to heart--in fact, it's better not to.  But, if they want to discuss it calmly later, I should always be open to that kind of conversation.
  • I'm not right all the time.  There are things people need to confront me about.  It's a fact of life.
  • When someone takes the time to lovingly confront me about something, they should be appreciated.  I know how hard that can be!  I need to thank the Lord that they followed His leading instead of holding back like I always used to.
  • Being the one confronted takes some maturity and humility.  For instance, if someone tells me something I said or did came across in a way I didn't mean it (and that has happened more than once!!), where before I would have become angry with them for having "the nerve" to call me out, now my natural reaction is, "Oh, my gosh!  I had no idea that what I did or said made them feel bad!  I feel horrible that what I said/did caused them to feel that way!"  I'm better able now to think about the other person, rather than attacking or trying to make them feel wrong for their feelings. Thankfully, I have forgiving people in my life, and they aren't confronting me about it because they want me to feel horrible, but to clear the air and to help me know for the future how certain things come across, so I don't obliviously make the same mistake again and again.  What love!
  • I need to prayerfully consider what the person is saying before embracing or disregarding it, checking with Scripture to see how their words measure up.  If they are correct, I need to humbly take the next steps.
  • I need to guard against defensiveness.

About Being the Confront-er:
  • God calls us all to do this from time to time.
  • It's not comfortable, but it should not be ignored.  I need to allow God to strengthen my courage more than I nurture my fear!
  • Never confront a relational issue with the sole objective of receiving an apology.  This is my own policy--I'm not certain yet if it's right or wrong, but from my study of the Bible as a whole, I feel like it's right.  I don't really think "my feelings were hurt" is worth the efforts or possible negative results of a confrontation.  In my opinion, it should be a benefit to the other person as well (with the understanding that they may not receive it that way), in helping them to see something they didn't see so they don't inadvertently repeat an offensive behavior; restoring a relationship; helping them overcome a habitual sin, etc.  It should never just be about me and my feelings.  Anybody see this differently?
  • I need to be balanced.  I'm not even close to being too far in the other direction (bulldozer) at this point.  I've gone from letting everything go to confronting some things, but I probably still let some things go that should be confronted.  I never want to cross the line to the other side, either.  This is where my next point comes in.
  • I need to pray, pray, pray before confronting (or letting it go), to make sure the Lord really is laying it on my heart, to be certain my attitude is right, and to ask for the right words to say.  I also need to pray for the person who is to be confronted, that their hearts and minds will be open, instead of defensive.
  • I need to always be a student of the Bible, so I know right from wrong, what's important to God, and how Jesus handled things.
  • I also need to not cower to anyone/anything trying to change the definition of "love" that is found in the Bible.  Many will say that love does not confront, does not hold accountable, will never cause pain.  That's just not biblical!  Confrontation and accountability, with kindness and a spirit of restoration, are part of biblical love.  And sometimes people cry or feel anguish when they realize an error they've made.  That's not a bad thing!
  • I need to speak with humility.  I am utterly aware of my many imperfections (and that maybe I have more I'm not aware of yet!). I'm never someone who has "arrived" talking down to anyone else.
  • I need to trust God with the results.   The person may be receptive or not.  They may be defensive or not.  They  may be mature about it or not.  I'm not responsible for any of that.  I'm responsible to be obedient to my Lord.  I can't let the possibility of a hateful retort or the possible "turning the tables to get you back" keep me from obedience.
  • I need to allow myself to be human.  I can't get it right every time.  I'm typically decent with words, more so with the written word, except in situations of confrontation.  That's where my words get the most tangled up, and I feel like I say things I didn't mean to say, or don't say things I should have said, and usually feel like I've done a horrible job.  But I can honestly say I've always done the best I knew how right then.  Maybe I'll improve with time and as I seek and gain more wisdom from the Lord.  When I make mistakes, I need to learn from them and move on.
  • I need to keep it between me and them.  If I'm not willing to talk to them about it, I shouldn't be talking about it with anyone else, either.  It's not okay to cause humiliation or to taint others' view of anyone with gossip!

The issue of confrontation is just one of many areas the Lord is working on in me.  *Deep sigh.*  I'm so thankful for His patience with me! :)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The MIRACLE in Infertility . . . Yes! You read that correctly! :)

It was a nightmare!

Every Mother's Day.  In church.  A nightmare.  "All the moms, please stand up!"

And I would stay in my seat and try to swallow the sobs that wanted to escape.

It wasn't the standing up and being recognized in church I wanted.  It was the reason behind it that mattered to me.

I wanted to be a mom!

When we first got married, I wasn't even sure I wanted children.  I was on birth control pills, totally oblivious to their risks and not foreseeing the damage they would do to me personally.*  My mind was so me-centered at that time, having children was kind of off my radar.

But the time came when Kevin and I both wanted to be parents.  And we had to wait.  And wait.  And wait.

"You need to do [this, that, and the other thing--meds, procedures, fertility treatments, etc.] to increase your chances," well-meaning people would say.  There were those who didn't seem to understand that we knew our options, but did not feel peace from the Lord about most of them.  Not that they were wrong things to try in and of themselves, but they weren't what God was telling us to do. (If you love someone going through this, please don't tell them what they need to do, even if it's out of intense love and caring for the person.  "Have you heard about . . ." comes across so much better!)

HE was telling us to wait on Him.

My friends were having babies left and right, and I was SO genuinely happy for each new life, each precious baby I got to hold . . . and give back.  I was ok with that.  I never begrudged another mom her child, in thought or action.  As much as I wanted one of my own, I couldn't possibly be envious of such a gift bestowed on my friends.

But the ache of empty arms was still there.

In the meantime, I had learned I had a condition called PCOS, which makes it difficult or impossible to conceive, extremely easy to gain weight and difficult to lose it.

Fun stuff! 

Then, God put adoption on our hearts.

He caused the desire to adopt a child to grow until it enveloped our hearts, and we knew it was time to start the process.

Again, more waiting.  I may write separately about our adoption story sometime, but suffice it to say we waited, in all, almost fifteen years to become parents (well, from the time we were married).

I've said it a million times, and I'll say it a million more . . . our precious son was worth the wait!  If our dream had come true any sooner, it wouldn't have been him!  And that would never do!!

The miracle in my barrenness was even bigger than having my dream fulfilled.  The miracle was what took place in my heart while I was still waiting.  The miracle was the joy I was able to choose and the contentment I experienced even as my longing grew.  I still felt sorrow.  Many times.  But joy and contentment made the sorrow bearable.  I trusted my Lord.  I knew if He never gave us a child to raise for Him, I would be okay.  My life would still be meaningful in whatever ways He wanted it to be.

Dear reader, whoever you are, if your arms ache to hold a sweet child of your own, take heart!

The Bible tells us that children are a reward and blessing from the Lord.  But it does NOT say they are the only ways God blesses or rewards people, nor does it say that something is wrong with you if He doesn't choose to bless you in that way.  Don't let anyone, not even yourself, convince you of that!

I can't guarantee that God will give you a child to raise for Him, but I can tell you these two things:

If He does, the wait will be worth it.  You will understand just what I mean when the time comes.  You just will!

If He does not, you will have two choices:  bitterness or joyChoose joy!

If He does not, He has a good reason.  He will take care of you and fulfill you in other ways.

I have an understanding of how you feel.  E-mail me if you wish to talk about it or if you'd like me to pray for you (pink email button is over on the right side of this page).

*This is not a post for or against birth control.  Just my experience.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Where's the Joy?

I remember days, in my early twenties, when I woke up so very heavy-hearted, I could hardly drag myself out of bed.  The pain was so intense, it hovered over me all day and into the night, until a few hours of slumber brought escape.  On the nights my dreams chose to haunt me, there was no rest after all for my weary mind and soul.

Then, I would wake to this pain's smothering fingers once again.  Every day.  For a couple of years.

To this day, I don't know why I was so sad.  But I do know why I didn't have joy.

I didn't have joy because:
  • I equated joy with happiness. But joy is an attitude, while happiness is an emotion.
  • I wasn't praying or reading my Bible much.  At the time, I didn't see the point.
  • I was focusing on what I didn't have that I still wanted. 
  • I had a rebellious heart toward the Lord and toward authority.
  • I was giving in to depression.

I had almost everything I thought I wanted.  I was young, had a wonderful new husband, a good and fulfilling job, family, friends, always things to do.

But nothing is ever enough when you're trying to walk your own way, instead of in step with the Lord.  Nothing is ever enough to satisfy us fully.  Nothing is ever enough to keep sad times away.

No, no, no . . . the sad, unjust, terrifying, heart-wrenching times will find their way to every one of us.  And when you're suffering from depression, as I was, even little troubles can seem insurmountable.  My depression was not a medical problem, as it is for some.  Mine was a spiritual issue I needed to deal with.

And then I did.

I can't explain it in any other way, except the Lord's work in my heart, but, one morning, I woke up and knew what I needed to do.  I determined to FIGHT those waves of anguish, and cling with all my might to true joy.  I fought, and I fought, and I fought, until, on another distant morning, I woke and realized I didn't have to fight anymore.  Joy had become a habit!

Now I have joy almost all of the time because:
  • I understand it's an attitude, something I can nurture regardless of my feelings.
  • I'm reading God's Word daily, and studying it for concentrated periods of time regularly. I now understand it's my life, my breath, my nourishment--vital!! I turn to the Lord in prayer all the time, instead of trying to make it on my own.
  • I've learned gratitude.  I can't begin to explain the difference it has made to choose to be thankful for what I have, instead of focusing on what I think I want.
  • My rebellious heart has softened.  Most of the time. ;)
  • I CHOOSE it.  I choose joy.

Not perfectly.  None of the above have been mastered by me, no siree!  But day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, I'm trying.  As I'm learning and growing and loving my Savior more with each moment I spend with Him, I want to tell anyone who will listen about what I've learned about true joy.

He is worthy.  That's enough.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Beauty, YouTube, and Laurel (It's a bit embarrassing, but totally true) . . .

So, I don't spend all my time thinking deeply or doing things that matter.  I DO waste time sometimes, too!  Here's a perfect example.

Friday nights are often "Guys' Night" around here, where Kevin and LM spend time together doing guy stuff or watching a movie together or something.  Whatever they end up doing, it always includes food, laughter, and conversation.  I'm all for it.  They have a solid relationship, and that doesn't happen without time spent together.  (The good Lord knows LM spends plenty of time with ME during the week! lol)

If I have nothing worthwhile to do on those Friday nights, wanna know what I sometimes to do to try to balance out the hormone level in this house (even the dog's a male!)?

True Confessions:  You might find me on a Friday night . . . well, ummm. . . . okay . . . watching beauty gurus on YouTube!

Yes, it's true.  Try not to judge. ;)

I know, I know.  It's sooo shallow (not the ladies themselves, but the subject matter), but the truth is that I love makeup and all that girly stuff!  I don't have tons of time to devote to all that stuff, and I will never look like those young beauties, no matter how much makeup I might pile on, but they are FUN to watch!!

I'm laughing at myself right now.  I really am.  I'm too old to find pretty much anything on YouTube entertaining (other than 80s music videos), but I DO love to watch the beauty channels.

Maybe you would, too, if you had tiny eyelashes like mine and needed to know the best mascara to use. ;)

So, if you're a girlie-girl who has some free time sometime, and want to see what's going on in the beauty world, here are some of my favorites:

GlamLifeGuru (Tati) 

Nikki Phillipi (She is Donna Reed's great-niece! :))
BreeLovesBeauty (Cambria)

Don't worry. If you don't have time for such frivolity, you're ok without it. lol :D

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Invisible Me

I have no idea why, but I was thinking this morning about how invisible I probably am to people who don't know me.  Like, when I'm grocery shopping, I always see people I know and we stop to chat.  And it's fun.  But, to those who are strangers, I likely blend in with all of the other people in the store.  I'm nothing special.  I don't typically go out looking like a slob or someone who would show up on that People You See At Walmart website, thank goodness.  On the other hand, I don't have an air of importance or power, either.  I'm just pretty "normal."  Average.  Invisible.

[Tangent: Come to think of it, I also sometimes feel invisible in a crowd of familiar people. That's no one's fault.  It's just that, though I LOVE people and LOVE to interact with them, I'm an introvert by nature.  Crowds can sometimes overwhelm me. I used to hate that about myself.  Occasionally, I still do. End of tangent]

The full life I live hardly seems unimportant, though, as I go from one minute to the next, accomplishing what the Lord sets before me to do.  I'm in no way a prestigious person, just busily fulfilled.  I'm a wife, a mom, a homeschool teacher of one, a Sunday school teacher, a writer, an editor, a keeper of a church library (sort of), a daughter, a sister, a friend, an aunt, a neighbor, a loser of weight (I'm losing weight, that is! ha ha), a cancer survivor (not even a year yet), a worrier, a learner, a wisdom-seeker, a homemaker, a wanna-be author, and, most importantly of all . . . a child of the Most High God!

So, in other words, I guess appearances have nothing to do with importance.  I'm no more important than anyone else, but I'm no less, either. And if no one on earth were to ever notice me, I'd still have the complete attention of the only One whose attention I should be seeking!  I've heard this for many years, but it's taking awhile to know it.  To believe it.  To live it.

How many people in the store are invisible to me, as I search for the perfect pomegranate or compare cereal prices?  How many people walk by me who feel invisible?  They are just as real as I am, and likely have lives that are just as full as mine. At the end of the day, I know Who sees and loves me, but do they know how they are loved by Him?  Would "Invisible Me" ever dare to walk up to one of them and tell them?

Hmm . . .

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  Ephesians 2:4-9

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Who Am I?

[Tangent]:  My photo on the side over there ------> is kind of a quirky one.  I must have just come in from a windy outside with my bangs all wonky, my lips chapped, and a bit of shine on the nose.  But, you know, that's just how it can be on a typical day around here!  That was taken last year--my first selfie on my phone. lol  I had cancer that day and didn't know it.  Isn't that weird?  (I'm okay now).  [End of tangent]

Sometimes I have no idea who I really am.  I know my name, my birth date, my address, social security number, and occupation(s).  I know who my family and friends are.  All of these things help define me in some ways, but who am I really?

I know the sound of my laughter and the way I say things.  I know what I think I like and dislike.  But how much of these are really me, and how much is other people's influence on me? 

What would I be like if I grew up isolated, with no influence from other people?  What if it was just my parents and me, and they taught me everything I needed to know, but I had no other people's influence on me?  Would I like everything the two of them liked?  Laugh just like one of them?  Think only as they thought?

Speaking of laughing, let's use that as an example.  The way I laugh . . . did I hear it somewhere and adopt that kind of laugh as my own, or does everyone have their own original laugh?  Or did I once have my own original laugh and it has morphed into something I heard from someone else?  I don't know if my laugh sounds like anyone else's, but I don't know if it's my original laugh, either.  Just like almost every other aspect of myself.

If I'm a product of my influences, am I that any more so than anyone else?  Are we all a hodgepodge of characteristics we've admired in others (consciously or not) and taken on ourselves as our lives have transpired?

Maybe it doesn't matter as much who I am as it does WHOSE I am.  God knows my name.  He whispered it in my sleep one time.  At least I think it was Him.  Startling, but cool!  He knows I am His and He is glad I am His.  Me, too!  He knows the original Laurel and which parts are really meant to be "me" and which parts He's still helping me chisel away.  I'm content with that.

Most of the time.

Matthew 10:29-31 - Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.