Eighteen – My Mid-Term Reflections

Eighteen – My Mid-Term Reflections

I’ve hit the half-way mark in my eighteenth year.

Did it meet my expectations?

Uh, no. Big no. My little-kid self assumed that when one turns eighteen, one magically becomes an adult, assumes adult responsibilities with ease, has everything figured out in life, and does big things.

Maybe that happens to everyone else… but it sure didn’t happen to me.

Looking back, I see that much of this slice of life was spent just trying to get the hang of life as a graduated adult with work instead of school, and a whole lot of things to figure out. I did a lot of journaling. And crying. And laughing. And praying. And thinking. And writing. And smiling. And farming. Lots of little things filled my life – and joy – to overflowing.

I had big plans to write my novel, take writing classes, and probably stop mixing feed for the cows on the family farm. (No offense, cows…) I wanted an orderly lifestyle with few or no complications. Ha.

Instead, I grew to love the crazy diversity that defines this season of my life. I fell mostly in love with my job on the farm and decided to keep it. I got to take on some babysitting. I didn’t take many writing classes. I didn’t make as much progress on my novel as I had naively planned. I got shoved into situations that stretched me…

But am I happy with how the last six months have panned out?

Absolutely.

They most certainly did not go according to my tidy, boring little plans. Oh, no. Instead, they gave me the opportunity to experience a huge, crazy mash-up of joy, pain, humor, irony, sacrifice, stumbling, disappointment, failure…

And fulfilment beyond my wildest dreams.

When God starts to change my plans, my first response is to wail, No, God. You don’t understand. This is how it’s supposed to go. Really.

To which He gently, but firmly, responds, Ah, but this is how it must go. Just wait and see… and soon you’ll know why.

I’m not at the end of my story, but I can already see some of the blessings that have come because God turned my plans upside down. I’m not holding so tightly to the security offered by things, plans, circumstances, or even people anymore. I’m not as scared of trying new things. I want Him more.

And I’m actually excited to hand Him the pen for these next six months – for the rest of my life – and to watch in breathless anticipation as He continues to write my story for me.

What are some things that you learned in your eighteenth year of life? Or are learning? Or wish to learn?

Photo credit: Jonna @thru.t.h.e.lens

Year-End Reflections

Year-End Reflections

I can hardly believe it’s nearly Christmas… and nearly the end of this epic year. The end of any year always has me a bit contemplative – I remember December 31, 2009, when I was sadly pondering the fact that a decade was about to end… and we would never have it back. A pretty heavy thought for a seven-year-old.:)

Reveling in the memories of the past year and looking forward to the future is something I deeply enjoy at the end of each year. Join me, if you wish!

Looking back…

I see one of the most amazing years of my life, honestly. I almost feel badly saying that, because I know this has been a terrible year for so many. But seriously, God has blessed me so much in spite of the trials. New friends, new experiences, new responsibilities, new opportunities… it’s all one big crazy mess of blessings.

It certainly wasn’t without it’s trials, though. At all. This has also been one of the hardest years I’ve had so far. But I know that the most amazing times of growth in my life come through and after the trials, and this year was one huge growing party! I’m still so far from where I want to be… but here are some of the things God’s taught me/reminded me of this year:

  • I am not in control of my life. God is.
  • God’s plan for me is perfect, and He has me in just the right place at just the right time… always.
  • With great privileges come great responsibilities.
  • Time is short, and I can’t afford to waste it.
  • People are more important than the things I often prioritize before them.
  • God’s word is vital in my life.
  • God needs to come first in my life, no matter what.

Looking forward…

As always, I’m so excited to see what this coming year will hold. I know it will hold challenges… but it will hold so many joys, as well – I’m sure of that! And growth. Lots of growth.:)

Setting goals for the coming year is also something I love to do at this time. Not just the practical goals, like cleaning my room/keeping it that way (which has seriously been on my list of goals for the new year for as long as I can remember), but also goals that will help me develop as a person and disciple of Christ. Goals that will draw me nearer to Him and make me a stronger and better representative of Him.

What are your thoughts on this past year? The coming year? Do you enjoy setting goals? As always, I would love to hear from you!

Take My Life, God… Really?

Take My Life, God… Really?

It’s a song I love. It’s a song I love to sing. But it’s a song that’s really hard for me to live.

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

There are days when I don’t really want to live this. Instead, I end up living an oxymoron. In the morning, I come to God and re-surrender my life to Him. Here, God, it’s Yours. I live for You.

Fast-forward a few minutes to where He’s taking me up on my offer. I’m suddenly snatching my life back and clenching it in my fists.

God, You know that conversation is going to get really stretched out, and I don’t want to give that much of my time…

You want me to love them??? Didn’t You see how they hurt me???

God, it was a long day and I’m exhausted… I don’t want to go on a walk with her.

But anyway… take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.

I’ll sing it, God… but I won’t live it.

You are near in their mouth but far from their mind. – Jeremiah 12:2b

It breaks my heart when I find myself living this awful oxymoron. How can I claim to love God, yet trample over His desires for me in pursuit of my own? Christianity can’t work this way. It doesn’t work this way.

Surrender is surrender. No bones about it. When we surrender ourselves to God, we give Him everything. Literally everything.

We give Him our time and the way we spend it. We give Him our family and friends and our interactions with them. We give Him all of our possessions and what we do with them. We give Him our talents and the way we use them. We give Him our longings, our passions, our hopes, our dreams…

We give Him everything.

And we don’t take it back.

That’s what it means to be an all-out disciple of Christ.

I don’t wanna spend my life stuck in a pattern
And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters
And so I’m giving up everything because

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different in me

-from Different by Kyle Lee and Micah Tyler Begnaud

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

A Month in Review – November 2020 Edition

A Month in Review – November 2020 Edition

It’s crazy to think it’s already time for this again!

Highlights of the month

  • voting for the very first time
  • writing (of course)
  • making an audio drama with cousins
  • a sibling sleepover
  • wearing cozy sweaters
  • sight-reading piano duets with a brother
  • building relationships with people in my writing community
  • cleaning my room
  • making mashed potatoes in a ginormous bowl
  • hanging white lights in my bedroom
  • accidentally winning this giveaway (!!!)

Books I’ve been reading this month

Last month I didn’t read very much. This month I read much more. Thankfully. And each book was in a different genre! Bonus points.

Prophet

I’ve not finished this one yet, but I’ve enjoyed it so far! I’m a huge fan of allegories, and Ela’s conversations with the Infinite help me understand and appreciate the Lord more. Oh, I love the power of fiction.:)

Great Expectations

I mentioned this one last month, but it’s worth mentioning again.:) I love reading this aloud to some of my siblings.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor

I’m reading this one with some family members, and so far it’s been very enjoyable… despite the fact that it’s a romance.:) The plot is so complex, and I love how some of the characters are based off of characters in Dickens’ Bleak House.

I’ve also been able to venture into the dystopian genre while reading/editing a friend’s incredibly amazing novel-in-progress!!!

Journal Snippets from this month

“I have been careless of my ways – letting life fly by while I grasp at bits of it for myself. God, I want to live whole-heartedly for You – nothing held back. God, let me seek You passionately and purposefully. I want to use this season to learn how to be a doormat for humanity. (reference to an Oswald Chambers quote)”

“God’s salvation and righteousness are enough to make me greatly rejoice… and He provides them even on my worst days. I have a reason to worship. Thank You, Jesus.”

“Oh, God… let me choose You and Your ways… first and always. Be the deepest desire of my heart and the love of my life. Be the reason I live and breathe.”

“Oh, God, guidance. Let me listen to Your gentle whisper rather than the wild throbs of my heart.”

And that’s a wrap! How was your month? Did you do/read/write anything you care to share?:)

I’m Thankful for 2020

I’m Thankful for 2020

My writing community is doing a Thanksgiving Shower today – any members of the community who would like to participate are posting about one thing they’re thankful for.

I was thinking about what I wanted to share…

And I decided that I’m thankful for 2020.

2020 has been one of the craziest years of my life. In 2020 I’ve gone through valleys I never saw coming. I’ve growled and made faces at current events. I’ve come sobbing to God with the weight of… life. I’ve faced the raw, unfiltered depths of my heart and winced at what I’ve found.

But I’m thankful for 2020.

Consistent with what I’ve found before, God has used the hardest times of my life to draw me closer to Him. To show me that I am truly nothing, and that He is truly everything.

I’ve learned that my life is not mine. It’s His.

I’ve learned that my future is not in my hands. It’s in His.

I’ve learned that I don’t know it all. He does.

I’ve learned that I’m not at all worthy of praise. He is.

Sometimes I’ve doubted my purpose. I’ve wondered how God could use someone so seriously flawed as myself for His glory. And He’s showed me that He can – that He’ll use even my brokenness for His glory.

What I’ve written so far makes it seem like 2020 has been a miserable year for me. Quite the contrary! God simply flooded my life with amazingness this year… I don’t even know where to start.

I’ve had the opportunity to build so many new and incredible relationships. And develop and further build old ones.

I’ve been able to move on from home education and push myself into taking my writing seriously.

I’ve journaled like crazy.

I’ve gained many new experiences (and therefore tons of new story material).

I’ve grown closer to God, worked through the rubble of my heart, and been able to keep coming back to focus on Him.

2020 has been amazing.

I’m so grateful God’s given me 2020.

Some Honest Ponderings + A Poll

Some Honest Ponderings + A Poll

Hey, friends!

I don’t have a lot for you today… just a smattering of thoughts and a poll for you to answer. If you don’t want to hear from me today, please at least zip to the end of the post and answer the poll for me… it won’t take more than 17 seconds! I’d love to hear from you so I can have a better idea of how I can serve you here.:)

But in case you do want to stick around and listen to me…

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about discipline, self control, prioritizing… all that good stuff.

And I feel like I’ve really lost it in these areas lately.

I don’t like it.

I used to be the girl who was so motivated and diligent with many things in her life. I had goals, and I fought for them. I knew where I was going. I was focused and fierce in pursuing what I knew God wanted me to do.

But then this summer I started spiraling out of control. So many things happened and changed, and I lost my foothold. I flew out away from the firm ground of order and left myself dangling on the end of a rope I couldn’t seem to climb – perpetually swinging in the winds of life.

I told myself, This is life now. Embrace the crazy.

But this doesn’t have to be life. I don’t have to be disorganized and scrambling. Of course, there will be plot twists that pop up throughout my days, weeks, and months, but what would happen if I tackle them with a disciplined mindset?

How much of the craziness in my life is self-inflicted?

I want to stop being all willy-nilly in the way I approach my life. Yes, I need to be flexible, but I don’t need to be floppy. God is a God of order, and I’m not convinced that I’m being the best image-bearer I can be when I’m not living my life in an order of some sort. I want to reflect God’s character as best I can.

So in conclusion…

I want to work on being disciplined and focused this month. I want to be seeking God whole-heartedly, and I want my life and habits to reflect it.

That’s all.:)

Have a lovely evening, friends.

-Laurel

Singin’ in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain

Happy Thursday, friends!

I have to admit… this morning didn’t feel so happy.

In case you don’t know, I get to feed the cows on my family’s farm. Sometimes I just show up and plow through the feeding routine as planned… but today there was a little hiccup.

The tractor I use for feeding had a flat tire.

I didn’t have to change it – my awesome brothers took care of that – but that incident set the feeding schedule back a bit.

Oh, and it was raining.

And cold.

And I was getting soggy and chilled and frustrated and “oh, poor me”ish.

Wimp.

As I roared around in the skid loader and a dampened mood, I asked meself – whoa, okay, fingers, I guess we’re going with an accent today, – really, what do I have to complain about? Sure, the morning didn’t go as planned, but what do I have to smile about?

Umm… basically everything.

I’ve got an amazing job… even if it is a bit damp and dirty at times. The damp and dirty days make me appreciate the nice days all the more!

I have warm clothes that help ward off the cold and the rain.

I have a lot of thinking time while I’m feeding.:)

See, the way we look at our lives makes all the difference. If we’re hunting down things to be angry/frustrated/sad about, trust me, we’ll find them.

But if we’re hunting down things to be joyful/contented/happy about, trust me, we’ll find them.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

God has so richly blessed us… on our best days, and on our worst days. He always, always, always gives us something for which we can thank Him.

What’s that “something” for you today?

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Generations – A Poem

Generations – A Poem

My latest poem… tell me what you think of it!

A torrent of green

They burst on the scene-

Ready to take on the world.

Confident – oh, so

Confident

They

Could change the world with

Their song.

So they did.

What once was a forest of

Bleak

Monochrome

Soon became an explosion of

Verdure.

They gladdened the hearts of

The weak and the strong

The fearful and brave

The old and the young.

As the days turned to

Weeks

And the weeks turned to

Months

Their glory was ripening to

Rust

And they knew that their

Sweet days were

Short.

Yet they glowed

And they sang

In the grasp of the wind

That was stealing them

Far, far away on its

Breath

And they fell to their

Death

At the foot of the trees

That were helpless

To bring them to life.

A waste of a season?

They knew that they’d

Lived

The fullness of days

Appointed

To them.

So they sank into time –

Having burst upon

Us

For a moment –

And broke into

Sod

For successors.

Photo by John Silliman on Unsplash

No Condemnation

No Condemnation

To be honest…

Some days I get so frustrated with myself for not being the person I want to be. Being me, I mess up, then start throwing accusing questions at myself.

Why can’t I get my life figured out?

Why did I do such an awful job at work today?

Why can’t I live up to everyone’s expectations?

Why can’t I live up to my own expectations?

I can so relate to the Apostle Paul when he writes in Romans 7:15, “…what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”

Cue the sickening feelings of guilt, insufficiency, and sinfulness. Right?

Wrong.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” – Romans 8:1

This is one of my favorite Bible verses ever. Are you serious? No condemnation???

I’m floored by the fact that the God who looks into my heart and knows my sins even better than I do is the One who loves me with such passion and faithfulness. This incredible love compelled Him to take on Himself the full punishment for my sins. He received all of my condemnation on the cross.

God isn’t calling me to beat myself up over my failures… He’s already been beaten for me.

I can’t let my shortcomings define me. Christ defines me. Yes, I will sin… but I’ll take that sin to God, repent, and walk away from it, travelling on in the amazing grace He gives.

Praise God, I can walk in freedom!

Will you do the same?

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

First Things First… And Writing Isn’t One of Them

First Things First… And Writing Isn’t One of Them

And you thought you knew me. 🙂

Don’t get me wrong; I love writing. As a kid, I liked nothing better than curling up with a notebook and pen, crafting stories and poetry. My addiction to scribbling words and trying to encapsulate my crazy thoughts in semi-understandable sentences has only grown over time. My obsession with words was always just one of my weird little quirks. End of story.

But recently it came to a horrifying climax. It seemed like so much of my mental energy was going into writing and my future as an author… trying to figure out what it would look like, and how I would get to where I wanted to be in the writing world. I was so enjoying what writing involved that I was letting it become my life.

I was pouring into my stories instead of my siblings. I was investing in my writing courses instead of my friends. I was focusing on myself and my dreams instead of on my Savior and His dreams for me.

What started as a harmless little hobby began to devour every aspect my life.

The thing is, I’m not just a writer. I’m also a daughter, a sister, and a friend. Most importantly, I’m a child of God, a member of the body of Christ, and a representative of Him.

These other roles and responsibilities are even more important than writing. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to pursue a career in something I so enjoy, but I need to remember that there are so many other aspects to my life than writing.

I need to remember my identity in Christ, and let my priorities flow from that.

My relationship with God comes first. Next, my family relationships. Next, all other relationships.

Last, writing.

I’m not saying that it’s evil to work diligently at your job and seek to be good at it. Not at all. Actually, I’m really focusing in on that this week. But note the key word, job.

My job should not become a synonym for my life.

Balance, folks. Balance is key.

Let’s set our priorities in the right place and live them out.