April 29, 2014

Favorite Things

To quote a song from The Sound of Music, "These are a few of my favorite things ... "  :)

Chocolate: Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango Bar
This delicious, rich treat is currently my favorite chocolate bar.

TV show: Too Cute!
Fuzzy puppies. Adorable kittens. What's not to like???

Movie: The Young Victoria (2009)
I find this telling of Queen Victoria's story to be moving and extremely romantic ... and (bonus!) there are lots of beautiful, elaborate dresses. :) I highly recommend this movie!

Game: Boggle
Words, words, and more words. I'm a writer. What can I say?

Pen: Pilot G2 Ultra Fine Point
I've tried many pens over the years, but this one takes the cake! I love writing with these smooth and skip-free pens. I think they make my handwriting look better!

Bible verse: “Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” – Philippians 3:16
This is what I would call my "life verse." It briefly sums up how I want to live.

How about you? What are some of your favorites?

April 27, 2014

Purity Isn’t Popular (Episode 2)


I’m used to being ridiculed a bit for my “purity” standards.

I’ve also found that it’s not uncommon in completely Christian circles to be mocked—in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

And I made a decision that I knew people would find strange. And probably make me the recipient of even more comments like, “You’re too easily offended, Laurel.”

But I just had to do it. (See why in my previous post.)

After realizing I was guilty of claiming to want to be pure, but not being careful about what I watched on television, saw in movies, or listened to through music … I made some big changes. I’m really thankful that even though it seems a bit “extreme,” Dave is super supportive.

DISCLAIMER: I want to be clear that the following list is a result of how God is convicting me. This is by NO MEANS meant to be a slap of judgment on anyone who does these things. I just want to share this with you in the hopes to encourage every Christ-follower to be intentional about living lives of purity before God.

Changes in my life:

1. I listen exclusively to Christian and classical radio stations now. (Okay, and occasionally sports radio stations with Dave, who is big into hockey!)  :)  
Although I like a variety of music (country, pop, rock, etc.), I don’t want to hear the “bad” along with the “good” songs I actually enjoy. I was deeply convicted by Ephesians 5:1-4. I don’t want to expose myself to even a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking. And to avoid those things, I realized I would need to limit myself to Christian and classical radio.

2. I stopped watching a bunch of TV shows I liked.
I was a fan of Downton Abbey, The Big Bang Theory, Sherlock Holmes, The I.T. Crowd, White Collar, and a lot of others. Even though some of these are “relatively clean” compared to a lot of other stuff out there, I knew that in order to live according to Ephesians 5, I’d have to stop justifying my watching these shows … and just give them up. For good.

3. I’m watching more G and PG movies.
My rule of thumb now for movies (and TV shows, for that matter) is that it has to be either “neutral” or “good.” You know what I found out rather quickly? It’s actually really hard to find movies that fall into either of these categories if you measure the content against scripture. Bottom line? I’m watching a lot more G and PG movies. An acceptable PG-13 movie is rare.

I know, I know. Maybe you’re thinking, “Wow, a lot of that stuff isn't really that bad. You’re taking this too far.” But I keep going back to Ephesians 5. “Not a hint…”

What I’ve realized is that you have to say “no” to some things to say “yes” to something that is more important. And that more important thing is purity … holiness … living my life in a way that honors God.

And no, this is not an “experiment.” It’s not something I’m “trying out for a year.” It’s a lifestyle change. I know not everyone will understand/support this particular decision. And that’s okay. My hope is that this post serves as an encouragement to you if you’ve been feeling the pull in your heart to radical purity, too. Be encouraged: you’re not alone!

Read an update about how things are going in Purity Isn't Popular (Episode 3).

April 24, 2014

Purity Isn't Popular (Episode 1)



Purity.

In today’s society, it’s seen a childish. Old-fashioned.

I’ve discovered that even in the “Christian bubble,” a person won’t escape mockery for a commitment to being pure. One day, I was in a small group of four fellow Christian believers—ranging in age from about 30 to 50.

They were discussing a popular book called “Fifty Shades of Grey” and a new movie, “Magic Mike.” To give you some background in case you’ve never heard of these:

“Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James. This book is described as an "erotic romance novel."

“Magic Mike” (2012). This movie is rated R. A summary of this movie says, "A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money."

You can imagine my shock when I heard them widely approving of both. Then, when I commented that I didn’t intend to watch/read them because I didn’t think the content appropriate, these fellow Christ-followers mocked me. “Oh, Laurel, you’re so sheltered.” They rolled their eyes and laughed. “It’s no big deal. This kind of stuff is fun to watch and read. And besides, there’s plenty of worse stuff out there.”

Not one of the four other adults in the room with me agreed with my position—and each one was older than me and had been following Jesus for longer than I had. They continued to ridicule me for being young and na├»ve. I was very upset.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” - 1 Timothy 4:12

Purity seems to have been reduced something optional in the modern idea of Christianity. And that’s upsetting.

But do you know what I realized? I was guilty, too.

I “rationalized” the things I was watching, reading, and hearing … thinking they “weren’t that bad” compared to other stuff. God convicted my heart and kept bringing to mind the Bible passage below. I knew I needed to change.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” - Ephesians 5:1-4

“Not even a hint…” I wanted radical purity like that.

There were two things I knew:
1. That this was going to be a hard road.
2. That I wanted to walk it because I deeply desire to please my Savior.

So, I made a rather drastic change. I’ll tell you about it in my next blog post.

April 21, 2014

Dance break!

We interrupt our normally scheduled posts for a *dance break*!

I've been to a LOT of weddings over the past few years, and this is my favorite "group dance" song. Don't judge. And if you know it, dance along!

#HappyMonday


April 18, 2014

Funny Things Kids Say

I love how utterly honest kids are. Their observations and antics crack me up a lot!

Our neighborhood kids are hilarious. One day, as I was passing by on a walk, one of the kids (clearly desperate for attention) called out, "Hey!" When I looked his way, he quickly got down on all fours and said, "Look at me! I'm a cow!"

Haha...I couldn't help but smile!

Another day, I saw one of the smallest neighborhood boys walking around to the other kids in the driveway -- and he was systematically pointing at each one asking, "Are you an alien? Are you an alien? Are you an alien…" I guess you're never sure until you ask!

They're never shy about walking up to me and striking up a conversation, either. Soon after Dave and I married, a little girl stopped me and asked, "Are you and Dave married now?" When I said, "Yes, we are," she smiled and responded, "Oh, good! I used to look in the window and see him sitting all by himself -- he was lonely. Then you came, and he's happy! You two are really good together."

Dave's really popular with the boys and girls around here, and one of the little boys told me in all honesty: "Dave is so nice! I like to go to his home because he always buys my (fundraiser) candy. He's won me a lot of prizes!"  :)

Having been a camp counselor as well as a Sunday school teacher, I've had a lot of opportunities to hear kids' unique observations. These are a couple of my favorites:

7-year-old camper: "Your hair looks like bacon."
Me: "Really? How does it look like bacon?"
7-year-old camper: "Well..." *squinting* "It's got waves in it and it's got two colors."
(Makes sense! I did have highlights at the time.)

I had a helper one day at my Sunday school class who told the story to the 3-year-olds that day. It was the story that starts with Joseph getting thrown by his brothers into a pit.
Helper: "Would you be scared if you were in a deep, dark pit?"
3-year-old boy immediately answered: "Not if my mommy was there!"
(Awwwwwww.)

April 15, 2014

Insects & Rodents. Ugh!

I consider most insects and rodents my mortal enemies. At least indoors.

Outdoors in nature, I tend to admire them ...


... but they don't belong in my home!

I confess: I'm that girl who usually yells for her husband whenever there's a spider ... or moth ... or fly ... or ant ...  or other live critter on the loose in our house. But on occasion, my superhero husband is not around ... and I have to take matters into my own hands!

One of those days came last summer.

I had just arrived home from work, and I felt my heart jump when I saw not just one or two ... but a whole long line of ants marching up and down the table in our living room, gathering crumbs from a leftover pot pie. Ewwwww!

I knew it would be a while before Dave got home. So, I armed myself for battle. My weapon of choice? A glass cup.

It was a strenuous battle filled with screams (my own!). Total dead ant count? 103.

So many casualties. But a worthy cause.

And our house was critter-free ... for a little while, at least. And then, this winter, there was The Great Mouse Invasion of 2014.

Dave calmly observed the mouse and told me he'd seen one. (I reacted less calmly.)

Then, a few days later, I saw it myself! A little gray, squeaking fuzzball scurried across the floor in our living room. I squealed and pulled my legs up on the couch. We tried to catch the little bugger time and again (because I'd rather have just let it outside than kill it), but it was too quick! We kept seeing it -- in the kitchen, in our bedroom (ugh!), and in our living room. I was surprised by the gutsy moves of this mouse; he always appeared in daylight!

Finally, we resorted to mouse traps. It took a long time, but the mouse was finally caught. Thankfully, Dave was the first to see it. He shielded me from seeing it ... and he disposed of the body. (Once again, Dave came to my rescue! He's my hero!)

Summer is coming. I wonder what insect and rodent invasions lie ahead yet this year? *shudder*

April 13, 2014

Three Favorite Lamps!

As I mentioned in our engagement story, I really like lamps.

I enjoy perusing shelves of lamps in stores, looking for what I would call "classic with a unique twist." For our home, I found some really great lamps. Here are three of my favorites!

Lamp #1

This lamp glows in our bedroom. I LOVED this lamp as soon as I saw it because of its lantern-like appearance. And I confess: I bought two!  :)


 Here's another angle of the same lamp:



Lamp #2

Don't be deceived by the pink-looking shade ... this lamp is actually my favorite color: red! I'm not sure why the lampshade is so pink-looking in the photos. It's actually a really lovely deep shade of red. (The same red as the round globe you see on the lamp's base.) Deep red and navy is a color theme that carries through several of our rooms, including our living room, where this lamp and its twin are placed!


Another view. I really like the fact that the shade is longer than a traditional lampshade:



Lamp #3

This is the most recent addition to our lamp collection. Dave and I discovered it together at a new local store that just opened up! I really like the twisty-looking design on all four of the sides. Although it's hard to capture in a picture, this lamp lets off a lovely soft glow.


And from a slightly higher angle:


I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our home ... and thanks for reading this post, humoring my (slightly odd) interest in lamps.  ;)

April 10, 2014

The Joy of Singing

Singing.

I've always loved to do that.

My parents joke that I was singing before I could talk. Well, I vocalized anyway along with my mom and dad when they were singing.  ;)  My mom and dad made music a big part of my childhood, and I'm so thankful for that.

I have fond memories of taking road trips, and we'd have hours of entertainment just from singing songs -- everything from worship songs to silly songs. My mom has a lovely soprano voice, and my dad is a deep bass. As I grew older, my three siblings and I split into singing parts, which was really fun. I remember one time when we were camping (yes, real camping ... the kind in a tent!) that others overheard us singing in harmony around our campfire and joked that we were "The Von Trapp Family Singers" (from The Sound of Music).

I've been involved in many choirs over the years and even a musical (which just so happened to be The Sound of Music ... lol), but lately things have been so hectic with settling into newly married life that I put my pursuit of singing temporarily on hold.

That is, until last night. I finally feel ready to get back into singing in a choir.

I joined my church's choir rehearsal last night, and, boy, did it feel great to sing again! I'm a soprano like my mom, but I was definitely feeling the 2-year hiatus I took from singing in groups!!! I'm going to have to build up my voice's strength and range again. All I had been doing singing-wise for the past couple of years was mostly just sing along with the radio.

The strain on my voice after the two-hour rehearsal was evident ... but I felt so personally joyful and energized. Singing always brings joy out of me, especially when I get the chance to glorify my Savior in song with others. There's something so special about that.

April 7, 2014

Do you know someone who is suffering?

"One day it will be over, but it's not about how long I have left, it's about how I spend the time I do have.” – Ed Dobson

I love this quote. Pastor Ed is a remarkable man with an incredible story to share.

Do you know someone going through a time of intense suffering? Maybe you yourself are going through a difficult time right now.

Let me encourage you that there is still hope, and that it's not over yet!

Pastor Ed was diagnosed with ALS. There is no known cure. Doctors told him they didn't expect him to live more than a few years -- and it would be a progressive, painful, and difficult process.

Pastor Ed is bravely (and humbly) sharing his story, and I just came across a website devoted to telling his story.

I was really encouraged just by watching Pastor Ed's video, "It Ain't Over," which I've linked to below. You'll discover what Ed's learned through this journey about suffering. And hope.

I hope you'll take 10 minutes to see it. It's well worth the watch!



April 5, 2014

A 7-year-old's journal

I began making entries in my first journal when I was 7 years old. My parents took my siblings and me on a trip out on the West coast of America.

It is fascinating to me what a 7-year-old notices. For example, when I wrote about what our hotel room was like, I mentioned that there was a toilet. I guess that’s an important detail to note…GASP...imagine if there were no toilet!!?

Initially, I wrote a lot about what I ate -- one morning, I had booggoos (bagels) and ongoos (orange juice). I was a great phonetic speller. LOL.

Oh, and check out the fantastic imagery in this short story: “When we went swimming…Todd (my older brother) dunked me under water. I came up crying. I coughed. Gunk came out. Yuck! I was wet. We went inside then.” I can see the inner writer in me emerging at this young age. ;)

But probably the most significant event of the trip was this: “We went to Mexico. Some children were begging us to buy some gum. I was sad. I wanted to help them! I left my money in the car, though.”

I still clearly remember the experience to this day. For the first time, I realized that not all children were like me. Some of them had to sell gum in the streets of Mexico to help provide for themselves and their families. And God began to develop in me a compassion for these children.

That small spark has grown over the years. Injustice in the world -- especially as it relates to children -- disturbs me to the very marrow of my bones. To me, that's a good thing. I hope I never stop being bothered by the effects of sin in this world or doing my best to combat the injustices I see.

Lately, I have been thinking about the two-fold importance of both my relationship with God and what I do in this world. Faith and works. The Bible says, "Faith without works is dead," and God has been laying on my heart lately how I can take more action with my faith...to push a bit further outside that ever-present "Christian bubble"...and my "comfort zone." I'm excited to see what's next.

One thing's for sure: following Jesus is an incredible adventure. :)

April 3, 2014

The Winter of 1993

It happened in the winter of 1993.

A huge storm rolled through Iowa, coating everything in sight with a thick layer of ice—roads, tree branches, cars, street signs, and homes. The storm lasted for several days, continuing to layer sheets of ice on everything.

I was in kindergarten.

At that time, my elementary school was just a block away from home. So, I walked to school with my big brother, Todd.

It was the first day of the storm. My mom stayed indoors all day long—she was busy with two little ones still at home. She heard the storm, but had no idea how icy everything outside had become.

Suddenly, Todd slammed open the front door.

“Mom! Mom! Help!” he yelled, with an edge of desperation. Mom came rushing to him. “What’s the matter?” she asked, looking him over with concern. Todd was out of breath from running.

“It’s Laurel,” he said, panting. “She can’t walk home from school. She’s afraid of the ice. She’s standing on the road crying!”

Mom didn’t wait to hear any more. She scrambled to grab her boots and winter coat. “Go back to Laurel to keep her company,” she said. “Tell her I’ll be there in just a few minutes.” Meanwhile, my little brother, Ryan—hearing all the commotion—got into his little boots and jacket and scooted out the door.

Less than a minute later, Mom had her boots and coat on and walked out through the door. She was—to her great surprise—greeted by both Ryan and Todd. “Laurel’s coming!” they told her.

Looking down the street, Mom saw me moving calmly and steadily towards home.

Mom walked quickly across the slippery ice to my side. As she approached, she was startled to see a look of pure serenity on my face. She knelt by my side, noting a remnant of the tears that had streamed down my cheeks earlier.

“Honey, are you okay?” Mom asked me.

“I prayed to Jesus, Mom,” I said, smiling peacefully. “And Jesus’ angels helped me get across the ice, so I wasn’t afraid anymore.”

My mom never forgot this incident and still recalls it vividly to this day.

Thinking back on this story recently, I was struck by what a great picture it is of my relationship with God. Life seems to be a lot of slippery ice … and sometimes the uncertainty of it scares the crap out of me. I wonder how I am ever going to make it through—and the truth is, I can’t. Not on my own. I am completely dependent on Jesus.

I feel like kids have a much greater understanding of what it means to really depend on God. After all, they depend on their parents to clothe, feed, and provide for them. Dependence is ingrained into their daily existence. But something about adulthood makes us feel like it’s all up to us. We have to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and carry on. We have to walk the ice alone.

But I’m so glad that that’s not true.

I’m so thankful to have a relationship with God—the God who walks with me during trying and scary times. The God who walks across the ice with me.