Adulting: Not What I Expected

338820_3430631611636_1085936805_o

Adulthood is different than I thought it would be.

I don’t know where I got this idea, but I think I assumed for a long time that, the older you get, the less mistakes you make. The less awkward you are. The less times you need to apologize and make things right again. Less fighting. Less soul-searching. Less anxiety. Less, less, less.

I guess that kind of thinking would make sense to a kid: more years of experience should naturally lead to you becoming better at *fill in the blank* over time, right? And yet time and time again, I find myself in some of the same places I was as a teenager:

Overwhelmed.
Unsure.
Embarrassed.
Indecisive.
Emotional.
Self-conscious.
Making the same mistakes over and over.

I have a theory, though.

I’m discovering that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean making less mistakes or feeling confident all the time. Maybe genuine maturity is marked more by your reaction time to whatever is happening. And the proof is all over the place.

Example #1: Marriage will teach you really quickly how awful of a person you are and how much you have to learn about true reconciliation. In 6 years of married life, it’s not that we’ve gotten better at not sinning – we’re still really good at sinning. We’ve just gotten quicker at apologizing and forgiving.

Example #2: I used to sit and stew for hours (or even days) if I made an embarrassing public mistake or had one of those moments where you say something dumb and instantly regret it. But now, I give myself a few pity minutes, chalk it up to being an imperfect human and not a robot, apologize if necessary, and move on with my life.

Example #3: When I was in high school and even into my college years, I was the queen of self-condemnation when it came to my spiritual life. If I went a week without spending time in the Word, I felt like I had to read 7 times as much to “catch up” to where I was “supposed to be.” You know what’s great though? God just wants us to know Him. Yes, reading the Bible and talking with Him daily should be more than a goal; it’s essential. But He isn’t standing there with a clipboard giving us demerits for falling asleep in the middle of reading Proverbs. I’m learning not to beat myself over the head with guilt, because I know that God isn’t.

Maybe adulthood is just owning it. Owning all of it – the good and the bad decisions and outcomes. It means finally learning to truly like yourself. It means allowing yourself to feel a healthy sense of pride and joy in a big accomplishment, rather than being self-deprecating and minimizing your hard work. It means being content in your current season of life, rather than spending all your time wishing you were in another one. It means you stop always shifting blame to other people and playing the victim. It means you take responsibility when you are a terrible human being, admit it and confess it to the Lord, and move forward in His forgiveness. It means that when bad things happen to you, in or out of your control, you spend less time complaining and more time praying.

But mostly? I think adulthood means becoming okay with being imperfect.

You see, we know in our minds that we will never be perfect. We know that. We’ve heard it and said it a thousand times, to others and to ourselves. But deep down, we still expect to be. And we HATE being reminded that we aren’t. Every flaw, every slip-up, every lapse in judgement is followed by the snide, mocking voice of our enemy whispering “Failure” in our desperately weary ears.

Why are we so hard on ourselves?

BECAUSE BEING AN ADULT IS HARD.

Even if you’ve been one for decades and you’ve settled into a routine, that doesn’t make it any less hard. You’re just used to it being hard. But for newbies, it’s overwhelming.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to be/look/feel a certain way already, and then, on top of our own self-doubt and self-hate, we get 500 pounds of cultural expectations dumped on us too. You’re supposed to be able to cook, clean, deep condition your hair, keep plants alive, be a sexy beast but not act overly proud about it, budget, eat organic, go to doctor’s appointments, drink enough water, keep up with laundry, give to the needy, actually put dishes in the dishwasher instead of letting them “soak,” read for pleasure, vote, get rid of your cellulite, call your parents, spend time with Jesus, say no to french fries drugs, take care of your skin, keep track of all the chemicals in your house that are killing you, be a good friend, eat other veggies besides potatoes, remember birthdays and anniversaries, take your vitamins, shave your legs, figure out how to fold fitted sheets, and give 110% at work AND home AND church AND the gym AND your high school reunions. And that’s not even counting all the stuff you have to add when you have children. There are countless, constant reminders of how much we fall short.

But there’s some good news, friend.

As followers of Jesus, we are made NEW. Meaning, we will be aware that we fall short, but we don’t have to hold on to that fact. We can accept it and let it go. We weren’t made new so that we could turn around and keep beating ourselves up about our failures every day for the rest of our lives. Do you realize that every mistake you make is literally in the past the second it’s over? When we accept the Gospel’s glorious good news, we are washed clean! We don’t have to try to be perfect anymore and keep it all together. When we are saved by Jesus, we don’t have to try to be holy; we ARE holy. Spiritual maturity is peacefully and willingly accepting imperfection on Earth, knowing that Jesus was perfect for us.

It doesn’t happen overnight, of course. But the more you focus on what God has done for you and the less you focus on yourself and all the ways you aren’t measuring up, slowly but surely, you’ll see the scale start tipping away from anxious inadequacy and toward calm acceptance. You can feel alllllll of those awkward, insecure teenager feelings as an adult sometimes and still tip the scale. I am! I’m starting to feel more comfortable in this season of life and in my own skin than I ever have before. (Apparently that happens when you get closer to your 30’s?) I’m learning to make peace with myself the way I am and find the balance between self-condemnation and apathy. I genuinely like where I am right now, in marriage, at work, and in our church community. And that feels really, really good. ♥

10 Tips for Young Married Couples

564159_3570439506746_628082954_n

On this exact day in 2012, Daniel and I stood on a wooden stage in a circle of trees, surrounded by our families and friends, and vowed to each other and to God that we would honor, cherish, and encourage each other for the rest of our lives. As giddy as we were that evening, we didn’t really have a clue what we were saying. We weren’t prepared for how quickly we would be given opportunities to prove if we meant what we said. We have since had to make intentional choices to stick together and press in rather than fall apart during seasons of financial stress, sickness, family issues, spiritual apathy, infertility, the CPA, betrayal, busy work schedules, loss of friendships, bad health habits, and frustration over basic emotional/mental differences between men and women.

BUT GOD.

I’m convinced those two words make up one of the most beautiful phrases the Bible contains.

In the midst of ALL of those messy things, God has proved Himself to us over and over. We have experienced unbelievable peace, new friendships, expected and unexpected financial blessings, so much laughter, game nights, date nights, church growth, new homes, spiritual renewal, genuine community, forgiveness, and a deepening sense of safety, joy, and thankfulness for each other. I would gladly go through all of the lows again for the sake of all of those highs.

A marriage relationship is a picture of how God loves His people, and the longer I’m married, the more passionate I become about marriage ministry and making sure that the world is getting an accurate picture of that Great Love. I know quite a few couples who are newly married or about to get married, so in light of our anniversary, I wanted to share a few things we’ve learned over the last six years!

1. Become the world champion of reconciliation.
It’s important to remember that marriage is blending the lives of two sinners together. You are deeply flawed and selfish, and you are marrying a sinner who is also deeply flawed and selfish. You are going to disappoint each other. It’s inevitable. But it’s okay! Perfection is not required of us, thank God, because Jesus’s death on the cross already paid for our imperfection. Pray that God would make your heart more like His, and that you would be quick to apologize and forgive. Bitterness, anger, and a refusal to admit when you’re wrong will poison your relationship if you let them.

2. Always be your spouse’s #1 fan.
It’s amazing what a husband can accomplish when he knows his wife has his back, no matter what! Don’t underestimate the power of your encouraging words, and actively look for ways to praise him and cheer him on. Learn to “speak” his love language. Ask how you can pray for him, grab his hands, and pray over him out loud, right then and there. Be mindful of how you speak to him in front of others, or about him to others – public disrespect is a great way to instantly destroy someone’s trust.

3. Pick your battles.
People say this all the time, but good grief is it ever true. It’s hard to remember when you’re emotionally wrapped up in something, but some things just aren’t worth arguing about. Don’t go looking for reasons to be upset. Instead, think long-term and ask yourself, “Twenty years from now, will I be glad I fought for this? How important will it be that he did what I wanted, or that we didn’t agree about this?” At the end of your life together, you won’t remember that time he dumped hot chocolate in your newly cleaned sink or that she forgot to iron your dress shirt for work. Save your energy for the big things, and let the little things go.

4. Expectations affect literally everything.
Before you got married, you probably didn’t realize how many expectations you had – about food, housekeeping, kids, sex, money, time management, etc. But guess what? Your spouse grew up with his or her own expectations about the exact same things. We usually don’t find out what our expectations are until they are not met, and no matter how flexible you think you are, you’ll find out REALLY fast how ‘stuck in your ways’ both of you are. For every conscious or unconscious expectation you have for your spouse, he or she will have one for you too. It’s unrealistic to expect your spouse to do all the adjusting in your relationship. And it’s also unfair to ask your spouse to bend over backwards for you, while refusing to change or grow up a little yourself.

5. Don’t keep score.
You will absolutely, positively, unquestionably never be happy in your marriage if you do this. Score-keeping leads to comparison, selfishness, and bitterness. If your goal is for everything in your marriage to be equal at all times……I’m really sorry, but those moments, if they exist, will be rare. One person is almost always giving more, and that’s just how it is. Chores probably won’t be divided up 50/50. Neither will child-rearing. Neither will cooking or money-making or nurturing your relationship. And you know what? That’s okay. Marriages aren’t supposed to be each person giving 50/50. The best marriages come from couples who give 100/100. And although your spouse may be giving 45% on one particular day, you still need to give 100%. Why? Because that’s what you promised you would do on your wedding day. You can’t control what your spouse is doing, but you can control what you do. When you said your vows on your wedding day, I’m willing to bet that you didn’t say, “I vow to keep my vows, as long as you keep yours.”

6. Nail down financial habits early.
Did you know that finances rank in the top five things nearly all married couples argue about the most? Money affects every other piece of your lives together, and it’s incredibly important that you figure out what you’re doing in this area. You don’t need lots of money to be happy, but you do need to put good habits in place to prevent problems in the future. And don’t be afraid to ask for help! Pray that God would help you be a good steward of your money and give you wisdom, and find someone whose financial habits you respect and ask them for some advice. Then, sit down and decide together how much you want to spend, save, and give away. Regardless of who is better at budgeting, make sure you both have an active role as far as managing your money and making decisions. For example: Daniel is a financial analyst, so he’s obviously smarter as far as planning for our future and making sure we’re on the right track. However, I am the one who moves money to various places when we get paid – to a vacation fund, to emergency savings, paying extra toward a loan, etc. Long story short, both of you should know what your financial plans are. It’s not wise for one person to just kick back and say, “Ehh, you take care of it; just tell me how much I can spend on Amazon.”

7. Never substitute your spouse for God.
The truth is, no matter how great you are together, you will never completely fulfill each other. There will always be a huge, Grand Canyon-sized gap in your heart that no one but the Lord can fill, and it is fruitless for us to try to fill that gap with an imperfect person. Ruth Bell Graham said, “I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another. It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.” When you have a thriving relationship with Jesus, you will also be in the perfect position to have a thriving marriage.

8. Pray. All the time. For everything.
Pray so hard for your marriage. Never stop praying for each other and with each other. Pray as if your lives depend on it, because they do.

9. Protect your marriage with relentless vigilance.
There are so many things competing for your attention – romance novels, sex-saturated movies, pornography, flirtatious coworkers – and Satan will use as many as he can to steal your affection for your spouse. DON’T. LET. HIM. The most effective ways to safeguard yourselves are immersing yourself in God’s Word, praying, and allowing your Biblical community to hold you accountable and help keep a watchful eye out for any potential stumbling blocks. Maybe you set up accountability software on your computer. Maybe you decide that neither of you will be alone anywhere with another member of the opposite sex. Maybe you stop watching certain movies. I don’t know what your boundaries need to be, but quit messing around and put them in place. Other people might think you’re going overboard at times, and Satan might even try to keep you from setting boundaries by making YOU feel like you’re over-exaggerating. But at the end of the day, isn’t your marriage worth protecting at any cost?

10. Invest in your relationship.
Is your marriage really great right now? Keep it that way by making it a top priority. The best time to invest in your marriage is before you’re struggling. Read marriage books together, go to a conference, or plan a weekend getaway somewhere specifically to spend time reconnecting. If your instant reflex is “We just don’t have the time for that right now,” you need to make time. Your marriage has an impact on everything else you do in life, and if your marriage is shaky, everything else will be too. You will have to give up other things sometimes in order to put time and money toward strengthening your relationship, but it will absolutely be worth the investment.

Bonus: 11. Make some really good married friends.
It is so, so good for you to find other married couples that you can share your lives with transparently. A lot of couples go through the same things, especially in their first few years, and it helps so much to know that you aren’t alone in whatever you’re experiencing. Community is invaluable and beautiful, and your relationship will benefit from hanging out with other couples, as well as spending “just girls” and “just guys” time together.

This post is part of a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

He’s In the Waiting

“I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope.”
— Psalm 130:5 (AMP)

In 28 years, I haven’t met a single person who enjoys waiting. I am convinced that patience is one of the hardest fruits of the Holy Spirit to integrate into our lives. We live in a world full of microwaves, text messaging, and fast food, and I’ll admit that I have a difficult time sitting still and waiting for anything. We want things NOW. The God of the Bible, however, does not fit into the mold of NOW. To Him, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousands years are like one day. He is perfectly capable of giving us what we want when we want it, but just because He is capable doesn’t mean He will do it. And that doesn’t mean that He is not good or that He doesn’t love us. In fact, it means exactly the opposite.

God isn’t a vending machine. We can’t view our relationships with Him like a mathematic formula:

[Prayer + Bargaining + Crying + Impatience = whatever we want from God.]

There are several flaws in this train of thought. First of all, if that’s truly what God’s nature is *supposed* to be like, that’s a completely different god than the One I surrendered my life to. The God I follow is the one with the power in the relationship, not me. He doesn’t bend to my will; I bend to His. Second, if God really was like that, we wouldn’t have much need for Him, right? A relationship wouldn’t be necessary or possible, because the only time we would talk to Him would be if we wanted something. Third, consider parenthood. Is someone really a good parent if they just give their kids whatever they want all the time? The kid might think so! But I think most of us would agree that this is not a good parenting strategy. Kids don’t actually know what they want a lot of the time, or they don’t realize that what they want is dangerous or not good for them. In our relationships with the Lord, we are the kids who either don’t know what we really want OR want something that would be harmful for us, and God is the good Father who – in perfect love – does not always give us exactly what we ask for, but cares for us and provides everything we need.

When we pray, God answers our prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, and wait. Waiting forces us to slow down. It makes us think about what we’re asking for and whether or not we really want it. Waiting is also one way God draws us closer to Him when we choose to trust Him even though we aren’t sure what’s going to happen next. Learning to wait patiently is a sign of maturity – as I mentioned before, it’s one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and living proof that God is transforming our lives! It takes hard work to develop, but most valuable things do.

I want to leave you with one final thing to think about today, for wherever you are in your own wait. Have you ever thought about how many people in the Bible had to wait for something? Jacob waited for his wife for 14 years after he met her. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, and many others waited for a baby, and Sarah in particular turned 90 years old before God gave her Isaac. The Israelites waited for 40 years for God to lead them into the Promised Land. David waited to become king, spending at least 15 more years in the pasture as a shepherd after he was anointed by Samuel. There are countless other examples, but my point is that although many of those waits lasted for decades, God was never late, and every single one of His promises was fulfilled at exactly the right time in history. We can take encouragement from these true stories of God’s faithfulness and know that as He was faithful to those early believers, He will be just as faithful to us.

“Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting
Hold unto your hope, as your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing, He’s never failing”
— chorus from “Take Courage” by Bethel Music

“I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good.”
— Psalm 52:8-9 (ESV)

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

A photo by Matthew Wiebe. unsplash.com/photos/tBtuxtLvAZs

I’m convinced that once you graduate high school, your life afterward is just one big question mark after another. Do you go to college, or not? What kind of job should you look for? Do you stay close to home, or venture off somewhere new? How do you decide who to marry, when to have kids, when you’ve had enough kids, how long to stay in a particular job before moving on, how much to save for retirement, and where to grow old with your spouse? I struggle with remembering what day it is sometimes, and I’m expected to figure all of that stuff out?! Sheesh. I can’t believe I wanted to be an adult when I was little. I want to go back  to nap time and someone else cooking all my meals for me. Only half kidding. :) But seriously, adulthood is hard. There’s no manual for it. Everyone’s life path is unique, and all of us are faced with difficult choices from time to time. And your twenties are extra intimidating, because the choices you make during that season will literally direct the rest of your life.

So…what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Think about what you DO know.
There may be a lot of things up in the air, but I’m willing to bet there are still a few things that you’re sure of. No matter who you are, one thing will always be certain: You are seen, known, and adored by God. This knowledge alone should bring all kinds of motivation, joy, and obedience if you are a follower of Jesus. As believers, we know that regardless of our marital status, age, financial position, knowledge level, or career path, we are all called to do two things: (1) love God and (2) love people. Nine times out of ten, when I feel like I just keep running into a spiritual or mental wall, it’s because I’m not spending time with God and I’m not serving others with a kind heart. So if you’re in a rut, ask yourself – are you doing those two things? Are you genuinely growing in your love for the Lord? Are you actively looking for ways to love others around you?

Remember who is in control of your emotions.
Emotions were created by God, which makes them GOOD. It’s okay to feel, and to feel deeply! This is one of things that makes us human. God didn’t create us to be robotic, dragging dully through life with our eyes glazed over like zombies. On the other hand, however, emotions were not created to carry us away like a rushing current. I struggle with this a lot. It’s easy to be overtaken at times by sadness, anger, or fear, but in those overwhelming moments, you have to dial it back. Take a breath and ask God to give you a clear mind. YOU are in control of your emotions. They are not in control of you. Don’t give Satan a foothold.

Talk out loud to God.
Few things in my life have strengthened my relationship with God as much as this has. It might feel weird at first, especially if you’ve never done it before. But just try it! You might be surprised by what comes out of your mouth – or what doesn’t. I’ve been made aware of sin in my life because as I was talking to God in my car, He brought something to my mind and I didn’t want to talk about it out loud. Verbalizing your prayers is also a great way to keep yourself from getting distracted. I know I’m not the one who has done this: “God, thank you for your grace today…thank you for my husband…thank you for our home and our friends…oh crap, I forgot to text Ashley back…I need to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner tonight…”

Take some time for yourself.
Having “me time” or “alone time” is really hard for some people to do, especially if you’re an extrovert, a parent, or a people-pleaser. Sometimes, though, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to just take care of yourself. If you spend all your energy pouring out but never allow yourself to be poured into, you WILL wear out. If you’re tired, worried, or stretched too thin, set aside a day, an evening, or even just an hour to do something that’s just for you. Take a bath; watch something funny on Netflix; take your dog for a walk; do something crafty; bake your favorite dessert. And maybe try that talking out loud to God thing while you do it. Spending time with the Lord and doing something that brings you joy is an easy way to fill your empty cup back up.

Surround yourself with encouragers.
This is a big one. We were not created to go through life, including the hard parts, alone. We need each other, and God designed it that way on purpose! Whether you find it through family, friends, your church, or elsewhere, community is both healthy and necessary. Daniel and I have experienced some truly awful heartache in the last year, and I can confidently say that one of the biggest reasons we survived is because of our foundation group through our church. Having people around you who pray for you, grieve with you, and help meet your needs is life-giving. It is so much easier to carry a heavy burden when you have multiple pairs of hands (Galatians 6:2). If you don’t like to let people in, pray that God would give you courage and willingness to build relationships with solid people. If you aren’t plugged into a community, find one. If you don’t know where to find one, email me. :)

Learn to be okay with waiting.
Lately, I’ve been reading this fabulous book by Wendy Pope called Wait and See, and one of the things she talks about is learning how to be patient in your pasture, using David from the Bible as an example. He was just a young shepherd, tending sheep, and God sent Samuel directly to him to anoint him as king when he was only ten years old. But that didn’t mean it was time for David to take the throne immediately. God kept him in the pasture a little while longer, and while David was there, he learned how to truly, deeply love God and recognize His voice – two things that were absolutely vital for him to know to serve as king later on. Patience is not only a virtue; it is a skill, and one that can be learned. There is a purpose for every pause. As Wendy so beautifully put it, “The wait is more about experiencing God than enduring the delay.”

To my friends in a season of waiting and decision-making – I hope this encourages you. ♥

Married Monday: Purity

251801_3430598690813_1177235244_n

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)

For years, I, Laura the good little Christian girl, associated the word ‘purity’ with one thing: sex. Therefore, being ‘pure’ ultimately meant one thing: don’t have sex before you’re married.

I went through True Love Waits.
I wore a silver ring with a heart and cross on it.
And I didn’t have sex before I got married.

But did that mean I was really pure?

(I’ll give you a hint…the answer is “NO IT DID NOT.”)

The biggest problem with my teenage view of purity is pretty straightforward: it communicates that purity is just physical, and that once you’re married, you don’t really have to worry about being ‘pure’ anymore because you’re no longer a virgin. This assumption completely misses the point of why we are encouraged to keep ourselves ‘pure’ in the first place. “Purity” and “virginity” aren’t synonyms. Purity isn’t not having sex, or only having sex with the person you’re married to. Obviously, the details look different for singles and married folks, but there’s so much more to it than just the physical stuff. You might be a technical virgin or you might have only slept with your spouse, and you’re thinking, “I followed the rules! I’m good!” But if your mind is consumed with thoughts about making out with attractive guys, or your obsession with male celebrities’ bodies? Come on now. That’s not purity. Your thoughts are just as important as what you do with your body.

Paul went so far as to tell us in Philippians 4:8 that “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, is there is anything worthy of praise, THINK about these things” (ESV; emphasis mine). THINK about these things! Use this verse as your guide for purity, not what the world tells you is acceptable. Proverbs 16:25 says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (ESV). We are in major trouble if we start looking to pop culture for advice about purity. Culture would tell you, “Do what feels right! It’s okay to flirt with that guy you work with, even though you’re in a relationship – you know it’ll never go anywhere; it’s all in fun. And that daydream you had about kissing the guy from your gym? Don’t feel guilty, it’s no big deal. Everybody does it. Oh, and go ahead and watch that movie – those sex scenes aren’t really real, and who cares if they pop into your head later? Besides, *male actor* is SO. HOT.”

Am I stepping on any toes yet?

Let’s get real for a hot minute: guys are not the only ones who struggle with lust. Can I just squash that myth once and for all?? The verse that women love to quote to men about lust applies to us too:

“Everyone who looks at a [man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with [him] in [her] heart” (Matthew 5:28, ESV).

I don’t care if you are single or married: your mind soaks things up like a sponge. If you constantly fill it with graphic descriptions from books like 50 Shades of Grey, sex tips from magazines like Cosmo, and scenes from movies like The Notebook (even if they ‘don’t actually show anything,’ which is honestly a stupid thing to say), you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you’re honest, you know those things don’t lead to a clean thought life.

In the same way that I wish someone had told me why you wait until you’re married to have sex, I wish someone had explained genuine purity to me before I got married. I had no idea that I would still have to actively work on purity of heart and mind while being happily married at the same time. But I didn’t build protective habits into my thought life as a single girl, so why did I expect that things would magically fix themselves after I got married?? Silly Laura. Marriage does not fix you. Only God can fix you.

Ultimately, the reason we should desire to maintain a pure heart, mind, and body is because God asked for it and deserves it. Purity is required of all of us, whether you’re single or you’ve been married for 30 years. As followers of Jesus, we are set apart on purpose; we’re called to something higher, something better! We are supposed to think and act differently from people who don’t follow Jesus, not get swept up in the current of ever-changing cultural norms.

So what are some practical ways to make purity a priority?

If you’re single: Don’t read or watch trash! Fill your mind with good things, not things that make you wish you had someone to be with. And remember: it’s not enough to remove the damaging stuff from your life. You’ve got to replace it with Truth. Dig into the word, and pursue your Creator with no agenda. Don’t build a relationship with God assuming that He owes you a relationship because of your obedience to Him.

If you’re married: You’re not off the hook! Same advice goes for you; don’t read or watch trash. Your eyes should only be for your husband. He is your standard, not Channing Tatum. Watch your husband with intention, and point out the things you find attractive about him. If you just can’t find anything attractive, pray that God would soften your heart and remind you of why you picked him.

Both teams: Keep a vigilant watch over your heart, and take EVERY thought captive, like it says in the verse above. Just because a thought comes into your head and it “feels right” doesn’t mean it’s from God or acceptable to God. Test everything with the Word of God, and be obedient to Christ. Your heart and mind are too important for you to be lazy with them!

This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

Married Monday: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

12742168_10205554749815191_6368581734772382105_n

“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 (ESV)

“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV)

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)


The way we view men these days completely breaks my heart. Turn on almost any TV comedy and you’ll find a dumb, idiotic husband or dad parading around and looking completely foolish. Our culture’s treatment of men has drastically affected not only female attitudes about men, but men’s attitudes about themselves. Women have told too many jokes about men loading the dishwasher wrong, to the extent that they’ve actually started believing that their men aren’t as capable as they are. And sadly, many men have quietly stuffed down their embarrassment and gone along with it.

When did it become acceptable to treat men like dogs – something to be laughed at, shooed away, or punished when they ‘misbehave’?? Men aren’t stupid. They aren’t dumb, and they aren’t useless. As wives, we are commanded multiple times to respect our husbands, not love them. Why? Because loving comes naturally to us, just as giving respect comes naturally to men. Yes, women need respect and men need love. But God worded it the way He did for a reason. Men have an innate need for respect the same way that women innately need love. Unfortunately, many people have begun to view respect as something that is only doled out when it is deserved, and that, my friends, is a problem. God didn’t say, “Let the wife see that she respects her husband when she feels like it or when he deserves it.” The irony is that if men held the same view about loving their wives – only when they feel like it or we deserve it – wives everywhere would be outraged. They would riot in the streets! So…why is it okay for us to make light of our command to respect our husbands, while holding them to a higher standard and expecting them to love us no matter how horrible we are? It doesn’t add up.

Let me pause and say that I am not naïve. I snagged a great guy, but I know that some of you have irresponsible, lazy, rude husbands. And some of you may have it even worse than that. Please hear me: if you are being abused by your husband in any way, get out of that house and find some help. I am NOT telling you to just sit there and let him wound you verbally, emotionally, or physically. In any other case, however, although you can’t control his actions, you can control yours. This may not be a popular thing to say, but your husband’s rudeness is not an excuse for your disrespect. 1 Peter 3:1-2 even says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (ESV, emphasis mine). Pray that God will give you endurance and genuine love for your husband. Choosing to repay meanness with kindness speaks volumes more than returning meanness with disrespect.

This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

Come Do the Dishes With Me

capture

I didn’t want to go to church last week.

I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to fix my hair, I didn’t want to put on anything resembling pants, and I didn’t want to go through the whole stand-up-and-greet-everybody part where people awkwardly shake hands or clap each other on the shoulder, and ask “How are you?” in passing without always waiting to hear the answer. (And before you start wondering, yes, I am a socially adept person, but even I get weird during that part of a church service.) Mostly, I didn’t want to be convicted of anything else that Sunday, because I didn’t want to start my week with another thing to work on. I was already all too aware of my many shortcomings, especially because of all the New Year’s resolutions floating around, and I didn’t need anything else to add to the steadily-growing list. I didn’t want to go.

I didn’t want to go to church, and I think it’s because my enemy knew that if he could get me to stay home, he could prevent (or at least delay) me from hearing the powerful voice of God.


That morning, Daniel and I got to the church, put our stuff in our regular seats, and parted ways for a few minutes. I said some cheerful hellos to friends, made my way back to my seat, listened to announcements, and stood and read along as someone read the passage of scripture we would later hear preached. And embarrassing as it may be to admit, I wasn’t tuned in to any of it. All I kept thinking as I walked around, smiled, laughed, and even greeted new people I didn’t know was, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t deserve to be here. I’m so unbelievably fake – nobody would ever guess how insecure I really am.” I was relieved when the welcome was over because I didn’t have to pretend I was fine anymore; I could just sit in my seat and mentally check out for a minute. I was 100% on church autopilot all morning, until we bowed our heads before the first worship set and our worship leader spoke these words during his prayer for us:

“Lord, let us never grow tired of conviction.”

I twitched.

Um. Okay.

Cory finished praying and led into the first song. It was a hymn – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. As the lyrics flashed up on the screen, I couldn’t help but notice how appropriate they were:

‘O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be..”
“Bind my wandering heart to Thee.”

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, Lord.”

My throat tightened. I knew He was talking to me. God always seems to pick the times when I’m in the middle of a church worship service to speak the loudest, and I think it’s because I can’t run away. I can’t get distracted by Netflix or food or laundry; I have no choice but to listen.

I sat down and hugged one leg to my chest, pressing my forehead into my knee.

God.” It was all I could choke out at first. Words weren’t enough. I hadn’t talked to Him in so long; it felt awkward.

And then it all came out at once.

“God, I don’t like myself. I don’t like being the way I am. I’m tired of feeling so unsure of every decision I make. I wish I could just trust you instead of constantly doubting that You really are good, that Your plans really are better. Why can’t I just believe it?? I wish I was a better wife. I wish I was a better sister. I wish I knew what it was like to be a mom. I wish I was better at so many things – I don’t even know where to start. I just want to run away. I wish I could run away from my life for awhile and think about nothing. I don’t know how many more frustrating or bad things I can juggle without dropping them all. I wish I didn’t care what people think about me. I wish I wasn’t so wishy-washy, that I could just make a choice and be confident in it instead of overthinking everything. I wish I didn’t struggle with food. I wish I was more consistent. I wish I wasn’t so emotional all the time. I wish…”

I don’t remember how long I talked. It just kept pouring out of me, every drop of fear, anger, and insecurity that had been shoved down, and shoved down, and shoved down some more. It felt like a giant knot in my stomach was slowly unraveling, but not in a good way. This one-sided ‘conversation’ with the Lord was a culmination of years of negativity, self-doubt, and indecisiveness. I was tired of being me. Being me sucked. “Me” was a terrible wife, a terrible friend…basically just a terrible person.

I had no problem understanding that I was fallen and flawed, but I just couldn’t grasp the fact that God loved me anyway. IN SPITE of my mess. How could He?? Didn’t He know what kind of person I was? There’s no way I could ever deserve that kind of love, and I couldn’t get past the guilt and unworthiness.

Suddenly, before I was ready, Cory was praying again over the sermon, and worship was over. Our friend Ryan preached an incredible message about why God has called all of us to go to the nations with the truth of the Gospel and His plan of redemption, and why his family specifically has been called to go to Germany to serve long-term. It would be nice to say that listening to this moving sermon was what finally opened my heart to the Lord, and that I walked out of church that morning feeling much better about myself, but actually, the exact opposite thing happened. Yes, I was so excited for the work I knew God would accomplish through my friends, but guilt was gnawing away at me.

Something’s wrong with me.
Why don’t I have more of a desire to “go to the nations” with such great news??
I should want this more.
I feel like I don’t love Jesus as much as people who go overseas.
Are Daniel and I supposed to go live in another country someday?
I don’t really want to…I’ve never wanted to.
So does that make me selfish, or is that just not God’s plan for us?
But God calls us to different things in different seasons of life.
How are we supposed to know the difference between “No” and “Not yet”?
UGH.

We left the church to go eat lunch, and I couldn’t stop thinking about everything that had happened. I’d spent the entire morning waiting for someone, anyone, to say a special, *anointed* sentence that would open my eyes and quickly make sense of everything, but no one did. I kept to myself that afternoon, quietly avoiding the nagging feeling that God wasn’t done talking to me. It wasn’t until that evening that I stopped withdrawing.

It started innocently enough. I was home alone, wandering through the house and straightening up rooms. I walked into the kitchen and noticed dishes that needed to be done. The dishwasher was already running, and for a split second, I thought, “Nah…I’ll just wait and load them in the dishwasher later. But the exact moment I turned to walk out of the room, I heard Him.

Come do the dishes with Me.

 I hesitated.

Come do the dishes with Me.

*Sigh*…okay.

As I waited for the sink to fill with hot water, I searched for “In Over My Head” by Bethel Music on YouTube. This song was a special one for me for several reasons, and I sang mindlessly as I scrubbed dried food off of our dinner plates. YouTube’s Autoplay kicked in, and the next song, “You Don’t Miss a Thing,” started. [Guys. If you haven’t heard this song before, listen to it RIGHT NOW. I’m serious, I literally mean right now.] I had heard it before but never really paid any attention. I decided to let it play anyway because I wasn’t done with the dishes yet, and since I didn’t know the words, I just listened.

It was like every word was written for me.

“When You laugh, the storm around me ceases.”

I stopped scrubbing and leaned onto my forearms on the edge of the sink, daring to ask Him, “Do you see me? Do you remember me?”

“What a mystery, that you notice me / And in a crowd of ten thousand, you don’t miss a thing / ’cause you see everything.”

The soapy dishes in my hands became blurry.

His voice was like music.

Laura, I see you. I SEE you, and I KNOW you. In a crowd of ten thousand, I still see you. It doesn’t matter how many times you try to run away, or tell me that you’re not good enough for Me. You’ll never convince me to stop loving you. I’ll always love you.


I don’t know if I’ll ever view doing the dishes the same way again. That time with the Lord was so pure, and I’ll be honest with you – I still don’t have words to adequately describe what happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everything is completely fine now. But I took a giant step forward on that quiet Sunday night in my kitchen. The last thing I remember saying to the Lord was, “But WHY, God? Why do you love me??”

His answer was one word. “Because.

God’s love for us DOESN’T make sense. It doesn’t! But we were never expected to earn it, which is awesome news, because even the best things we’ve ever done are like dirty rags when compared with the things our God does, all of which are truly good. The truth of the matter is, regardless of whether I understand it or not, He loves me. He really does. And that’s enough.

Save

Guess Who’s a CPA??

me-and-you

Most of you probably already know from my social media posts, but for those of you who haven’t already heard – Daniel did it! He did it!!! He passed his final CPA exam, and now he can officially put letters at the end of his name. To say ‘I’m relieved’ is an understatement, as is saying ‘I’m proud of him.’ I’ve been mentally planning a party to celebrate his new title for months, and now I finally get to throw it!

 The last few years have been hard for both of us, and I’m really glad this season is over. The whole process was obviously much harder for Daniel than it was for me, but it was an intense learning experience for me too. More than anything else, I found out how much I rely on my emotions, and how much I let them control my decision-making and trust in God. For example, I remember having a ‘good’ feeling when Daniel took his first test, and he passed. And I had the same ‘good’ feeling when he took the second test, and he passed that one too! But when he took the third test, I had that ‘good’ feeling about it and he didn’t pass. I was baffled. I felt like God had tricked me. How could I have the same ‘feeling’ but not get the same result? Did I not pray enough about it? Where did things go wrong?

He took the third test a second time, and the week leading up to finding out his results was…yeah. We spent several days feeling nervous and acting like we weren’t. Scores are usually posted around midnight or 1:00 am the day they are released, but for whatever reason, these weren’t posted until 8:15 am the next morning. Hashtag worst night ever. I lost count of the number of times we woke up. Daniel would stir, reach over to check his phone, and then roll back over and stare at the ceiling. Multiple times, I thought, “Oh no…he didn’t pass and he doesn’t want to tell me.” Neither of us slept at all. Around 6:00 in the morning, I started to panic a little. My heart felt like it was about to beat out of my chest, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t coax my exhausted-yet-frantic brain into slowing down. I was paralyzed by the fear that he didn’t pass and would have to take this horrible, awful exam for a third. freaking. time.

As Daniel got ready for work, I buried myself under the covers and tried not to completely fall apart. He came over to kiss me goodbye, and as he walked down the stairs to leave, I pulled the blanket back over my head, feeling ridiculous for being more stressed out than he was. He’s the one that took the test!, I thought. Why am I the one who’s turning into a basket case?

I knew there was only one thing that would truly take my mind off of everything. I sat up, pulled my bible out from underneath the mess on my nightstand, and held it in my lap. Leaning back against the headboard, I closed my eyes and breathed out the only sentence my mind could form: “Lord…I need you.”

I couldn’t tell you what I read. I don’t remember what verses or even what book, but whatever it was, it made me cry. I kept reading, soaking up every word for the next five minutes until my phone rang.

It was Daniel.

My heart stopped. “…Hello?” Moment of truth.

As soon as I heard the words “Babe, I passed!!” come through the phone with more excitement than I’ve probably ever heard him use, all the air went out of me. I dissolved into instant, uncontrollable, relieved tears. We hung up and I put both hands over my face, thanking God over and over for such a well-timed blessing. It was as if two hundred pounds had been lifted off of my back.

That’s the closest encounter I’ve ever had with anxiety, and I have a feeling what I experienced was only a taste of the real thing. For those of you who struggle and live with it on a daily basis…SO much kudos to you. I can’t imagine how hard it is, and I have committed to pray more than ever for my friends who carry that constant burden.

You want to know the weirdest thing? After all of that, I wasn’t even the slightest bit panicked about his fourth and final exam. I was nervous for him, of course, but the anxiety and fear that had clouded my mind for months was gone. I knew he would pass. He had several months to do it, but I had complete faith that regardless of how long it took, he would do it. And he did it on the first try. I can’t even put into words the overwhelming relief and release we both felt when he got his final set of passing scores. ALL glory to the Lord for Daniel’s unwavering work ethic, for our marriage staying healthy, for my sanity still being intact. :)

I’ve said this several times before, but Daniel is incredibly diligent and the hardest worker, and he deserves this win. After filling every spare second of free time with studying and test prep, I can only imagine how happy he is compared with how happy I am. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who prayed for us, encouraged us, and cheered him on when he wanted to quit most, and praise God for this victory!

Do you know anyone studying for the CPA right now, or any other difficult exams? Email me their names and addresses – I’d love to send them (and their spouse, if applicable!) an encouraging letter. Send them to lahendricks12@gmail.com. Cheers!

Married Monday: The Perry Wedding

Earlier this month, we got the privilege of being guests at Dillon and Brianna’s wedding! Since her older sister is one of my best friends, Brianna has felt like a little sister to me for the last few years. I was honored to help with lots of wedding tasks too, like making the bouquets and helping with the decorating for the ceremony! I’ve helped with several weddings since I moved to Durant, and every single time, I’ve thought, MAN, this would be a fun job. Figuring out all the little details involved comes naturally, apparently! I genuinely enjoy the organizational process behind pulling off an awesome wedding or party; there’s few things I love more than seeing all the planning and decision-making come together. Who knows – maybe someday I’ll go pro…!

Bri and Dillon’s wedding day was covered with God’s fingerprints. I love that He is so personal and intentional with us, and even though their day had absolutely nothing to do with me, God gave me sweet little glimpses of Himself in a way that only He could pull off. The best, most God-infused moment for me (besides the ceremony itself) happened just hours before the wedding.

One of my jobs that morning was laying out the aisle runner. With the help of a few groomsmen, I unrolled it, positioned it in the middle of the aisle, and pulled every inch of it tight and flat. But when I stood back to admire my handiwork, my heart sank.

The aisle wasn’t centered with the cross on the stage.

My head swam with panic.

“You have GOT to be kidding me,” I thought. I couldn’t just leave it like that; the aisle would obviously be crooked in every picture and the whole setting would look weird. How could the wedding party have set up all of the chairs the night before and not noticed this??

I debated my options for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. If I moved just the runner, it wouldn’t be evenly positioned between the chairs. But if I moved the chairs, they wouldn’t be completely even with the stage. And I would have to move all of the wooden signs and flowers jars lining the aisle, which were already perfect. And moving that stupid runner was going to be a HUGE pain in the neck regardless, because it had already taken me forever to try to get it as straight as possible. I spent at least 30 seconds legitimately wishing I could clone myself.

For the briefest moment, I thought, “Maybe we could move the cross…?”

Something in my brain shifted, and I paused.

Right where I stood at the end of the aisle, I sat down, hugged my knees, and looked at the cross, letting out a quiet breath that came out more like a laugh. For a moment, I was struck with a tender image of God sitting next to me on the floor, cross-legged and leaning back on His palms, looking at the cross with me.

How often do we try to move the cross to fit everything else, rather than adjust everything else to fall in line with the cross?

I leaned back against the wall, lost in thought. God is so, so good to me. The fact that He would use a moment like that – at someone else’s wedding, no less! – to convict me and remind me that He is woven into every detail of our lives is proof of His kind, encouraging, sanctifying nature.

Long story short, I got up off the floor and moved the aisle runner, the wooden signs, the flowers, and every…single…chair. But it was worth it. :)

image

My silly forever wedding date. We had so much fun at the reception!

image

Seriously, how cute are they. ♥

image

And how gorgeously simple is this cake?? Props to Jessica Cox!

One of my favorite parts of the weekend was getting to hang out with two of my dear friends/favorite mamas! They are both having boys this fall, and I’m over the moon about it!

I’ve always loved weddings. As a kid, I was really only pumped about seeing what the bride looked like and eating a giant piece of cake. And although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still love those things, there’s a few other things I appreciate more now. I especially love getting to help bring a bride’s dreams to life, whether I’m part of the wedding party or just helping as a friend.

I also never really cared much about the vows when I was little, but now that’s what I listen to more carefully than anything else during the ceremony. Couples promise to cherish each other for better OR for worse, for richer OR for poorer, and in sickness AND health, but most of them probably aren’t considering worse, poorer, or sickness as a reality. I’m filled with emotion at every wedding, remembering the vows Daniel and I said to each other and how little I understood what I was really saying. “They have no clue what they are promising,” I think to myself, smiling knowingly and yet joyfully at each couple’s giddiness and praying that God would cover their first year with buckets full of grace when the newlywed high wears off.

The longer I’m married, the more I love the fact that God picked marriage to be His holy representation of His relationship with His people. He cherishes His children in whatever condition they come to him. He is the perfect embodiment of our wedding vows: we are sick and in need of healing, but He is strong enough to raise the dead. We are poor and have nothing of value to offer, but He is rich in love and grace, and endlessly generous. We are worse than we are willing to admit, but He is better than we could ever dream. He made vows to us that He will never, ever break. Aren’t we lucky to be His bride?

This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

Weep With Those Who Weep

image.jpeg

I’m at a loss today.

I’m honestly not really sure what to say, in light of the events of the last few days. My thoughts keep bumping into each other. First, I’m white and have no idea what it’s like to be black. Second, I have a brother-in-law and an uncle I love dearly who both serve and protect their cities as law enforcement officers. And third, I’m embarrassed that I waited until violence hit Dallas, my own backyard, before I said something. True, there is no easy answer here. I have no idea how to contribute something useful to this conversation, and I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said. But I do know one thing. Love heals. God’s love for us is extraordinary, and people who follow Him are ambassadors for this great love. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and so should we be.

I’ll never know what it’s like to be black, and I’ll never know what it’s like to be a police officer. But I know what it’s like to be scared. I have felt isolated, hurt, betrayed, unsafe, and have even feared for my life. Please don’t misunderstand – I am in no way equating my experiences with those of the last week. I’m saying that based on the knowledge and experiences I have had, I know how to pray.  I can pray earnestly for people who are afraid, because I have been afraid. I have understood those feelings in different contexts, yes, but I still understand them.

It’s appropriate that I’m going through a bible study in Exodus right now. Last week’s study covered the first two chapters, concluding with God hearing the cries of his suffering people and remembering His covenant with Abraham:

“During those days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel–and God knew.” (Exodus 2:23-25, ESV)

I don’t know what else to do right now besides pray and grieve. But both of those things are powerful. Romans 12:15 commands me to weep with those who weep, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. To quote my friend Ted Harrison, “To my black friends: I do not have the ability to stand in your shoes, but I have the ability to stand next to them.” With the heaviest heart, I’m praying for peace and a rescue from the Father who sees us and KNOWS.