December 30, 2011

2011 Year In Review

As I reflect upon 2011 I am reminded how quickly life can change. It can throw some curve balls at us leaving us in a place we never would have imagined otherwise. Through the many changes, even just a year can bring, we can either become complacent or we can choose to grow. We can learn from our mistakes and even the mistakes of others or we can remain stagnant. In this post I am going to write some of the things I have learned this year. Come 2012, I will expand on each one, one post at a time. 

Some Things I Have Learned or That Have Been Echoed Again in 2011
In no particular order... Nor will I necessarily post about them in this exact order

-Do what is right even when you don't feel like it 

-Stay true to God, your family, & yourself

-God is just & fair

-Priorities: ALWAYS- God first, Spouse second, Kids third... then comes ministry

-Allow yourself time to heal

-Perseverance is painfully necessary

-God is beyond good & faithful NO MATTER WHAT

-Kids spell love: T-I-M-E

-It's through times of tragedy or triumph that our true friends shine

-I really, really, really love my husband and my kids

-To Forgive is to Be Free, but it's a Struggle too

December 21, 2011


I recently spent a very short amount of time with someone who I would consider a little annoying. I was kind to this person, but in my heart could not help but laugh at some of the goofiness. Even on the exterior I found it hard to hide my inner feelings and thoughts. This person is kind, never did anything to me, but is just quirky as we all are at times. I felt myself not being able to wait until our time near one another was over. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but I felt terrible for how I felt. No one deserves that. Everyone deserves a chance.

My mom has always, always encouraged us to be kind to EVERYONE. And in general, in the grand scope of life, I would say yes, I am and have been a very kind person. With the exception of a handful of times. It's those times that haunt my thoughts the most though. The guilt I feel is terrible. Because I am a loyal & trustworthy friend. I am a good listener. I'm a good confidant.

Since I am really not a mean person at the core, the times I have been seem to plague my mind like no other, as guilt takes over me.

As I think back to being a kid and the times I wasn't so nice I feel such annoyance with myself.

I find myself in these moments making excuses to justify my behavior. Or when that doesn't work, I try to minimize my actions as I attempt to make them out to not be a big deal. Or I use the excuse "it's not like I'm going to hell if I did that"... Anything to minimize the guilt.

"It's not like I'm going to hell"... Have you ever used or thought that line? We downplay our sin, we justify our less than mediocre behavior and actions, all for the sake of being able to minimize our guilty consciences. In justifying we tend to measure our sin up & down.

Picture holding a yard stick vertically...

We like to place our sin on levels or rate sin from 1-10. And since we rate sin in our own lives so we can justify our actions, we end up using it as a tool to judge the way others live their lives as well.

We might put Murder at the top as worst sin ever. Then we'll say cheating on a spouse is a little below that, it's bad but hey it's not murder. Well it murders marriage & a spouse's esteem, but they are still alive.    Where murder, I mean, murder, now that's just bad. Maybe breaking the law, like burglary, maybe that's a little above adultery. Then based on our morals & values we'll have a couple things in between that as well. And the sin that is at the bottom of our measuring stick is the sin we tend to say "It's not like I'm going to hell because of that" to justify the "little sins". Maybe like lying, gossiping, or having a cold heart like I did with the person I wrote about above.

Big Sin
Bad, but not terrible sin
Little sins

If we measure sin the way God does, we will all be on the same page. 

We are all equal. We are all just as messed up as the next person. 



Man rates sin, God hates sin. Man justifies sin, Jesus exemplifies forgiveness for our sin.

Lying & Murder: God hates both. Pride & Arrogance: we might as well rob a bank. Gossip? God detests as much as adultery. Our sin is all the same in God's eyes. 

"We all fall short of the glory of God" shouldn't be an excuse for us to blatantly sin, knowing "this is wrong", I should not do this and then do it anyway. God being a loving & forgiving God isn't an excuse to go ahead & continue sinning knowing we can just ask for forgiveness later. 

Live & Learn, but don't justify. Don't make excuses so you can minimize the guilt. 

Unless we are sociopaths, most of us experience feelings of guilt at the thought of our sin/wrongdoings. Our nature as humans is that of flawed beings. So when we strive for perfection but fail to reach it, that's a product of our human nature. Accept your shortcomings, but don't let them be a continuous excuse.

Accept that you are not perfect so you don't dwell and dwell over your every wrongdoing, but don't let our imperfection as human beings give you a license to live like the devil either.

We will sin. Daily. We will fall short. Continuously. But that cannot be an excuse to continue down a path of destruction. It cannot allow us to continue justifying our sin in an attempt to minimize our guilt. Justifying sin can result in us doing more of the same. Continuing down a path of "never learning from our mistakes" will keep us in a pattern of sin, guilt, sin, guilt, sin, guilt.
There is NO condemnation in Christ. So we can stop the pattern of sin & guilt! God is SO loving & so forgiving! So whatever you have done, if there is something you have done and you continue to beat yourself up over and over and over, Stop it. Ask for forgiveness, leave it in God's hands, and don't take it back. Remember "I, even, I am He who not only forgives & blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, but also forgets"-Isaiah 43:25. This is one of my favorite verses of all time! It shows the love & nature of God so well!

I love the story of the woman who was caught in adultery & about to be stoned, because I think anyone with any kind of "past" can  relate in more ways than we can count to what she must have felt when Jesus showed His love, mercy, grace & forgiveness! It summarizes God's love for us, God's lack of condemnation, the fact that we all sin & fall short.  I've done some stupid things in my life. I've knowingly entered into sin & continued down paths of unrighteousness knowing full well what I was doing was wrong. I've reaped consequences for my actions. I've done terrible things that have caused me to feel such feelings of unworthiness, hatred towards myself, frustration, regret and lack of forgiveness.

John 8:1-11 Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. Sometimes I want to shout at the people from this story, "You freaken hypocrites! Seriously?!?!". Some of the men accusing her were most likely the ones she slept with!
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. Oh Jesus, what were you writing in that sand??? Was it the sin of everyone there? Was it the names of men she slept with right there? IN that powerful moment of Jesus' simple, but profound action His silence spoke louder than words. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. I picture Jesus having a field day with these hypocrites. I imagine Him moving over so they could see what He was writing. In that moment they saw the writing in the sand combined with the truth that we are all sinners, they left. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, Interesting the older ones left first, maybe because the older we are the more sin we'll have committed. until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin." I think she is the same woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair. An act of total servanthood & declaration of I'm yours! After experiencing God's grace & mercy you cannot help but not want to continue down the old path. I know that firsthand!

Forgiving ourselves can be one of the hardest tasks. Forgiveness & Justification are 2 different things! To justify is to excuse. Forgiveness is a commitment to pursue change. Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion as we ourselves are forgiven and understand what that feels like. Forgiveness doesn't minimize or justify wrongs. We can forgive ourselves & others without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that justification will never bring. When we are forgiven we are allowed the chance to change. We are able to learn from our mistakes. Without forgiveness we are just holding grudges against others or ourselves and beating our minds with constant negativity

December 14, 2011

Worship Wednesday (Christmas edition)

It's Worship Wednesday!!! I love music and love sharing songs that so bless my heart with you! Here is my favorite Christmas song in one of the best versions ever, if not THE best!

O Holy Night

Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child -This song gets me up to dance!

December 10, 2011

The Past & it's Broken Pieces

Don't let your failures define who you are. Learn from them & leave them in the past. God is greater than our mistakes. He is full of mercy & grace. Learn lessons & move on. Draw near to God. He is waiting with arms wide open. YOU are so loved! Don't live a life of regrets. Don't beat yourself up over yesterday's failures. 

Come as you are, with all your broken pieces & all your shameful scars. Bring all of the pain you hold in your heart to Jesus! Listen to this song & let the words bless your heart. Receive God's forgiveness and don't continue beating yourself up over the past that cannot be changed.

Louder than the voice that whispers you're unworthy, hear the sound of love that tells a different story! Shattering your darkness & pushing through the lies. How tenderly he calls us! His arms are open wide!

You may have messed up in your life and feel so ashamed of your past, but God forgives us, loves us and will never be ashamed of us when we give it all to Him!

I, even I, am He who not only forgives your sin, but also forgets! -Isaiah 43:25

December 9, 2011

Man Up

My mom & younger sister cannot swallow pills. My mom & sis have to crush, break, put in applesauce or pudding. So another one of my sisters was telling my mom that any thing she does other than swallow is going to be disgusting. My younger sis and mom are conversing back and forth over different ways to get the pills from mouth down the esophagus.

I said "Man up & swallow the pill". Easy advice. Easy advice that reminds me of another "man up" time.

I was scheduled for an MRI of my head back in 2008 because of my TMJ. They offered the sedation/valium which I opted out of only because I wanted to get in before the New Year and it was easier to have Jeremy stay with the kids rather than he drive me and then getting the kids a sitter and all that jazz. 

I am VERY claustrophobic. It's gotten worse over the years. If you are not claustrophobic in any way shape or form then don't judge.

So I prayed and had others pray for me for that day, I thought mind over matter. I will face this fear and conquer it HEAD on! 

I tried to make the most of it and thought it could be good to relax and have some peace, I had no fear whatsoever going in to it. I was actually excited to "chill" and sit still for 45 minutes without people around.

(Try 1)-SO they lay me down explain things to me, proceed to put on these huge 1980 headphones over my ears-I chose Christmas music, then she puts this thing OVER MY WHOLE FACE! It looked like this cage for my head. 
And so it hits. My fear overwhelms me and totally takes over, I panicked & freaked out, in an anxiety-ridden, hyped up voice said "Can you please quick take this thing off of me for a second?!?!". I sit up, take a deep breath as if I am in labor. Hooo Hooo, deep breath in, deep breathe out, Then I said in a high pitched voice "Whew!"...a couple of more deep breaths..."I'm okay..I'm okay" "I can do this"...The lady said "are you sure, it's okay. Just be happy you can lay still and relax". Oh she was so gracious and so patient with me!

(Try 2)...Everything back on, and we try an eye mask too. Then I REALLY freak out. "Oh my gosh, I can't do this" "I can't", "I'm sorry!"..."I. Am. Freaking. Out. I'm trying not to but I am". "Ohhhh I'm sorry, I guess I didn't realize I was this bad, I really thought I could do mind over matter". So she takes the stuff off again, and I inquire about the sedation and all that. She tries talking me into staying and giving it a try since I was already there. I just rambled on and on and on and on and over-explained myself and apologized for my freakish ways.

I said at one point "I hope you never have another patient like me. Oh my goodness, I feel so sorry for you".

Contemplating try 3, I ask, "do you have christian music?"

She said "Ohhh yes, oh yes, we have all kinds"...

me- "okay, ahhhhhhhh (sigh & deep labor breaths again)I'll do christian music & just pray" Lay down again for (Try 3)...

(Try 3) me- "maybe this blind fold isn't helping". "What do most claustrophobic people do?" *huge dramatic sigh* "oh I don't know, I am literally freaking out inside".
You see that little guy in that little "patient" part...S.C.A.R.Y
Look at that thing! It's like a tunnel of heck! A tunnel of death and pure scary-ness! The tunnel of doom & gloom.

I sit up again. (before she ever had time to put the helmet/head cage thing on)
"Um...(awkward pause, deep breaths, tears in eyes, heart palpitations) Can I call my husband?"

lady-"you want husband?"

me- "yea, he's good at mind over matter things and I want him to pray for me"

lady -"okay...sure."

me- "Oh thank you for being so patient with me, I am so sorry for freaking out, I'm trying really hard here". My voice is still quivering.

So I go to call Jeremy...

Jeremy- "Hello?"

me-crying, no, bawling & sniff sniff " freaking out"

Jeremy- "Come on Laura, MAN up, It's not so bad" -"I had to have one of my shoulder and head, it's fine"

me-"did they put the thing over your face like a football helmet?"


Me -"well you're not claustrophobic"..."I can't do this"..."I need a valium"

Jeremy-"Laura, you have to do this. Come on"

me-"just pray for me, i am seriously freaking out I've tried 3 times and I haven't even gone in the machine"

Jeremy-"Seriously Laura, you'll be fine"

me- "I am SERIOUSLY FREAKING out, just pray for me" 

I go back to the table of doom & gloom, horror & mayhem...ask if I have to have those headphones on (thinking the less stuff confining my head, body & causing restraint, the better), she gave me little ear plugs. I gave her back her blind fold too. "I won't be needing this Ma'am" She puts me in the "tunnel of doom" without the "helmet/head restraint" to test it out-then back out again. Okay, I feel better. I can do this. Then put on the helmet and put me in and back out again. Baby steps...

"Okay, I can do this" I said

"Okay" she said, "you're going to do great."

And...I DID IT! MIND OVER MATTER! I manned up! Sat still for 45 minutes, tried to relax and calm my nerves by talking to myself in my head as I focused on being fine over the tight little space I was enclosed in and almost lost my life to (or so it felt like I might).

So whatever our situations, fears, worries, anxieties, we need to MAN UP and face it head on. Don't skirt issues. Do it afraid. We cannot let fear stop us or enslave is from doing what's gotta be done!

December 7, 2011

Worship Wednesday (Born is the King)

Lift up your voice and sing out His praise, it's Christmas!

Worship Wednesday (Be Born in Me)

I will hold you in the beginning
You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle
Make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me -Mary

December 5, 2011

Wandering Aimlessly Through the Duh's of Life

Tonight for dinner I plan to a make an artichoke chicken bake and I needed artichokes since they are not something I generally stock up on and have readily available. I swear I searched that stinking grocery store HIGH and low looking for artichokes. I am telling you E.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e! Up, down, all around! In Laura-like typical fashion I, of course, don't ask anyone for help, and I wander aimlessly around the store searching for canned artichokes. 2 arguing 4 year olds in the cart & one snot nosed 22 month old...Aimlessly wandering. Grabbing other things I need, still looking for the artichokes, semi-cussing in my head because I cannot find the stinkin things. "Appear already you stupid little things!"...I almost lost all of my sanity over stupid artichokes. I even debated in my head which aisle would be best to stock cans of artichokes. Because clearly they weren't near the vegetables for some reason, even though they were! Maybe they are a fruit for some strange reason? Maybe a legume? I don't know, cause I sure as heck ain't seeing them by the vegetables.

BUT, alas, to what should my wandering eye appear after my 8th walk down the canned veggies aisle???? But cans of artichokes out of no where suddenly right where I first-started-looking. To think, I almost changed dinner plans and artichokes ARE really a vegetable.

I don't know why I don't ask people/workers for help when I need it. I don't know why I'd rather wander aimlessly and change an entire menu when I could have been out of the store, ingredient in hand 30 minutes prior had I just asked.

How often do we do this in life? Look for answers that have been in front of us the whole time? Wander aimlessly through life trying to do it all on our own? Wandering through life's moments searching for the ingredients needed for each day in all of the stockpiles of crap we've carried on our own through the years?

Looking for love? Looking for a friend? Looking for guidance? Looking for answers? Look up & look in front of you. Chances are you have been staring at it square in the eye the whole time.

Let's stop searching for answers in the wrong places. Let's stop trying to do life all on our own and accept help from those around us.

God has a purpose for us. He knows the destination and He has placed people all around us that can help.

Life is WAY too short to merely exist. It's way too short to dream away.

Don't waste your life wandering aimlessly...

December 3, 2011

Forever in Our Hearts

On this day, the 2 year anniversary of my brother's tragic car accident that killed 3 of his best friends, he writes:

Everyday I wish that any of you would have survived along with me, but I understand that it's my burden to carry. I'm not alone, I have some of the greatest friends and support I could ask for. I love you so much, and I wish this had never happened to begin with. I will keep you three in my heart with every ounce of consciousness. The earth is just that much worse of a place to live without you three in it. SLS -Andy

If that's not beautifully said I don't know what is.

This video was taken right before the accident. The last moments of their lives.

God bless all who have lost 3 beautiful lives on this day Dec 3, 2009. 
God bless my brother who must live with this burden

December 3, 2009- Forever in Our hearts
I Love You Andy!

December 1, 2011

What's for Dinner?? (Lasagna Soup)

I made this for dinner tonight and it was absolutely DELICIOUS! Like always I did some improvising and a little of my own thing. No measuring as usual which drives people nuts when it comes to trying to share the recipe.

Original: Lasagna Soup

1 ground sweet italian sausage (browned)
3 cloves garlic, minced (I used garlic powder)
1 onion, chopped 
1 (32-ounce) container chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce (I used a ginormous bulk size Contadina brand sauce Probably around 64 oz or more)
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes (I didn't use, but did do a TON of sauce ^^)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used seasoned salt)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper & I added Penzey's smoked paprika also (BEST spice ever!)
4 ounces broken whole-wheat lasagna noodles (about 4 noodles) (I used macaroni noodles because it's what I had)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (No fresh basil anymore on hand at my house so I used a garlic powder/basil mix by McCormick)
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (You gotta do the fresh stuff & grate it yourself & come on, only 3 tablespoons? No way. Don't ever go easy on the cheese)

I added half & half too, just cause I felt like it!
Shredded mozz for the top
I also added brown sugar to the idea how much
And then I did some little sliced french baguettes in the oven with butter & garlic...Mmmmmm