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

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets, + Highlights of December 2020

Recent Reads, Journal Snippets,  + Highlights of December 2020

The last day of December. The last day of 2020. Whoa. I’m going to fully enjoy the final hours of this historic year.:)

Highlights of the Month

  • Reading!!!
  • Christmas shopping as a family… or shopping with various fragments of family, climbing in and out of different vehicles and trying to hide certain things from certain people because, you know, Christmas secrets.
  • Walks – alone or with crazy sisters
  • Sneaking peeks and too many pics of gorgeous sunrises
  • Chatting with friends
  • Decorating my bullet journal
  • Writing about a spunky new character in my fantasy novel
  • Making crash potatoes
  • Christmas cookie creation time
  • Playing Balderdash with creative siblings
  • A journal-reading session with my brother

What I’ve Been Reading

Devotedly: the Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot – Valerie Elliot Shepard

Okay, I am loving this one! I’ve always appreciated the story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot’s relationship, so it’s been amazing to read more about it in this book. Also, it is crammed full of journals and letters – something that makes my heart happy.:)

Shadow of the Almighty – Elisabeth Elliot

Best. Biography. Ever. The end.

June Bug – Chris Fabry

It’s been awhile since a book kept me turning page after page way too late into the night (or early morning) but this book is doing that to me. It’s written so well… but due to certain things mentioned/implied in the book, I don’t recommend it for younger readers.

The Prodigal’s Sister – John Piper

This twist on the parable of the prodigal son is beautiful, poetic, and delightful to read.

Journal Snippets

Oh, God, put Your love in my heart. For my family. For my friends. For those I don’t want to call friends. For Your body. For the down-trodden. For those with whom I disagree. For You.

Oh, Lord, may I ever hear Your words, forsake the counsel of my own heart, and turn my eyes from idols, looking only to You. I don’t want to be “profitable for nothing”. (Jeremiah 13)

When I make my goals, Lord, let them not be according to the dictates of my own evil heart [Jeremiah reference], but according to Your pure plan.

I feel battered but sure of God’s goodness and hold on my life. I hurt. I don’t understand… but I trust. And that is enough. God leads me on day by day, faithfully.

Remember… life is not about you.

The biggest thing I see standing in my way is… a disenchantment with the Lover of my soul. Soul, love Him! Desire Him! Stir yourself up to answer His call. Break up your fallow ground – seek and serve Him in the mundane. Though mists of uncertainty veil the way, do something. Stay in shape so that when God throws you into a crisis, you will be fit for the task. Don’t waste a moment.

And there it is… the last post of 2020. What will this coming year bring?

I want to thank you for sticking with me and reading what’s on my heart… I am so blessed to have such amazing support. I hope that this year is simply wonderful for you… that God would bless you through the trials, be your joy in the mundane, and draw you ever closer to Himself in the coming year and each year to come.

-Laurel

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase something through one of the links I share in this post, I receive a small commission… at no extra cost to you.:)

The Liebster Award!!!

The Liebster Award!!!

I was recently nominated for The Liebster Award by Grace over at Don’t You Know I’m Singing! Thank you so much, Grace… I’m super excited about this one.

First of all, here are the rules:

  1. First, thank the person who nominated you, include a link to their blog, and add the Liebster Award badge to your blog and/or post.
  2. Next answer the eleven questions from the person who nominated you.
  3. Give eleven random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5-11 fellow bloggers with less than 200 followers.
  5. Notify your nominees that you nominated them for the Liebster Award.
  6. Last, but certainly not least, ask your nominees eleven questions.

Okay… here we go! Here are my answers to Grace’s questions (which, by the way, were extremely thought-provoking!).

What is one line/verse from one song that you really love, and why?

You can’t know how torturous it is to have to pick only one… but here it is:

“I don’t need to recognize the man in the mirror – and I don’t wanna trade Your plan for something familiar – I can’t waste a day, I can’t stay the same, I wanna be different.” – from Different by Micah Tyler Begnaud and Kyle Lee

This line is from one of my current favorite songs… and it really reminds me of the importance of following and pursuing God when it means going beyond the status quo – or even standing out and looking weird or ridiculous to those around me. Ultimately, God’s opinion is the only one that matters.

What is a song you absolutely hate, and why?

Is this even possible? Haha… I don’t know if I absolutely hate any song… I’m not really familiar with any I strongly dislike.

What are your thoughts on politics, and a Christian’s role in that realm?

Ooh… do you have time for a three-hour discussion???

In a nutshell, I’m very passionate about politics. I am definitely in the conservative category, although I don’t tie myself down too much to specific parties or ideologies. My goal is to weigh each political issue against what I find in the Scriptures, and firmly take my stand based on that.

I believe that Christians are indeed headed to a heavenly country… but that in no way negates the reality and importance of our participation in the government of our earthly country! God desires that His people do justly (Micah 6:8), and I see involvement in politics and government as one way of living that out.

Who, aside from your parents, siblings, and relatives, has been a role model in your life, and how/why did they become a role model to you?

Jim Elliot is one of my role models… I received Shadow of the Almighty, his biography, for my sixteenth birthday, and I’ve been learning from him ever since. I love his fiery passion for the Lord, his honesty, and his complete surrender of his life to God. I don’t agree with the stance he took on everything, but I have learned so much from his legacy. His journals also inspired me to journal more frequently and passionately. I am definitely looking forward to meeting him one day!

Do you celebrate Christmas in your family? Why or why not?

Yes! We have always celebrated Christmas… so partially because of tradition. But I really love all the little things in celebrating the Christmas season that point me to God, His love for me, and the incredible story He has written. And the extra time with family is amazing.:)

What’s your favorite aspect of creation?

Another hard one… can I say every aspect??? To narrow it down, though, the complexity of the human body puts me in complete awe of God… and I really love a good sunrise.:)

If there was one talent you could magically have, what would it be?

Being able to clear up misunderstandings between people every single time. Life would be so much simpler if miscommunications were eliminated!

Do you have any allergies/dietary restrictions? And what are they?

To my knowledge, none whatsoever… I count myself blessed!

If you could time travel into the future or the past, which way would you go? Forwards or backwards?

Backwards, backwards… I’m a history buff.

What movie/book character have you read/watched whose personality seemed to be exactly the same as yours, and who was the opposite?

Hmm… this is another hard one. I feel like I can identify with basically any character in one way or another, but I’ve always sympathized with Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – although now I’m more like her personality after she passed the tomboy stage.:) We both love writing, words, acting, and debates, have strong opinions (although she was much more vocal about them than I am) and love our families like crazy.

I can’t think of any characters who seem to be the opposite of me… I guess I never really thought about that!

What are your personal boundaries on what you can/shouldn’t watch or listen to in the area of entertainment as a Christian?

The apostle Paul’s words “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” comes to mind when I think about this topic. I don’t necessarily have a list of “dos and don’ts” when it comes to entertainment. My desire is to glorify God with the way that I live, and to have my focus on Him and His will for me. So if something I’m reading/watching/listening to is pulling me away from Him or blurring my vision, that’s a good sign that I shouldn’t keep reading/watching/listening, even if the entertainment itself isn’t inherently sinful. If the entertainment is inherently sinful, then that’s a definite no for me.

11 random facts about myself

  1. I love strong coffee.
  2. I passed out for the first and only time after watching the 2020 VP debate. (No, the two events were unrelated… but wouldn’t that have been exciting?)
  3. I am a firstborn and love it. POWER!!! Haha… that’s not the only reason I love it.:)
  4. I’ve never gotten stitches.
  5. I’m not a big fan of animals… but I do like worms. Go figure.
  6. I’ve only finished writing one long-ish story – a six chapter historical fiction piece. I wrote it as a tween, and it was awful.
  7. I love Romans 12:1-2.
  8. My favorite short story is “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. One of the sweetest Christmas stories ever!
  9. I used to be terrified of operating any piece of equipment larger than a dishwasher. Now I drive tractors and skid loaders for my job!
  10. I love fairy lights.
  11. Dickens is one of my favorite authors.

And I am going to nominate…

Brianna Harpel

JadeSky

Thomas

Abigail Rehmert

Makayla

And my questions for my nominees:

  1. How did you choose the name for your blog?
  2. If you could work any job for one week, what job would it be, and why?
  3. What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from blogging?
  4. What does your ideal weekend look like?
  5. Do you set goals for the New Year?
  6. What is the best book (aside from the Bible) that you’ve read, and why do you think so?
  7. What was the best thing that happened to you in 2020?
  8. Which historical figure do you most admire, and why?
  9. Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years?
  10. If you knew that today was your last day on earth, how would you spend it?
  11. What is your favorite Bible verse, and why?

If you made it this far, good job and thank you.:) Would you like to answer any of these questions? Please do so in the comments!

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!

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.

10 Songs You Need in Your Life

10 Songs You Need in Your Life

Happy Thursday, friends!

Today I’m sharing 10 of my top 100 favorite songs with you all.:) They’re a blessing to both the ears and the soul. Enjoy!

This is What We Live For – Big Daddy Weave

I love this song! It’s just so packed with truth… I really appreciate being reminded of my true purpose and motivation when I listen to this song.

Amen – I Am They

This one is a good reminder to me to surrender everything to God and trust Him… even when I’m hurting and exhausted and confused about what’s going on. He’s got a perfect plan!

Be Thou My Vision

A beautiful old hymn that helps me to refocus on God. This is probably my all-time favorite song.

First – Lauren Daigle

Are we truly seeking God first?

Scars – I Am They

God uses our pain to draw us near to Him… He knows what He’s doing!

He Knows My Name – Francesca Battistelli

I’m living for Jesus and His praise. That fact is so freeing!

Keep Making Me – Sidewalk Prophets

I love this one so much I learned it on the guitar. I want this song to be the cry of my heart… always.

Love God Love People – Danny Gokey

Honestly, it really is this simple! This song is a great reminder when we’re feeling overwhelmed by our expectations of ourselves.

I Know – Big Daddy Weave

This one is just so good.

Make a Way – I Am They

God has been faithful… He is faithful… He always will be faithful. We can trust Him with our lives.

What are some of your favorite songs?

Photo by Yarenci Hdz on Unsplash

Why I Read God’s Word on a Daily Basis

Why I Read God’s Word on a Daily Basis

I’ve been in the habit of reading the Bible daily for years… and thought I’d share with you all just why I do this.

I don’t do it because it’s expected of me by my family, church, and youth group.

I don’t do it because I want to look like a better Christian than everyone else.

I don’t do it to earn “points” with God.

I don’t do it with a legalistic mindset.

I read the Bible daily because it is my lifeblood.

I read it because it’s like a breath of fresh air. When I slam the door of social media, snap off the disturbing news the radio is feeding me, and take time to just soak in the truth of God’s word, I am refreshed. I am reminded that there is still beauty and purpose in the world.

And I am enabled to head back into the wilds of the world and fight for it.

For Scripture is not just my refuge. It is my weapon.

“…take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:17

We live in turbulent times – times in which evil is trying to prevail. Times that demand courage. Surrounding myself with God’s word is the best way I can arm myself with truth and courage.

When I read about flawed men and women – like my own flawed little self – who gave themselves to God and did incredibly brave things for Him, I am inspired to do the same. When I read God’s promises to be faithful and work all things together for good for me, I am encouraged to trust Him more.

Not only is Scripture my refuge and weapon; it also draws me closer to God.

When I read God’s word, I see more of Who He is. I see more of who I am… and more of who I ought to be. I see the way I need to live, the things I need to do, the habits I need to change.

I see that God is weaving together the threads of history in a beautiful and intricate way – a way that I could not see if I looked simply at the world around me.

So that, my friends, is why Scripture is on my daily to-do list.:)

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

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

Thousands of Words – Life of Late in Photos

Thousands of Words – Life of Late in Photos

Happy Monday, all!

Quite honestly… I’m doing a photo post today because my brain feels completely shot at present and I don’t have much to give you guys… unless you want to hear me ramble incoherently about a zillion things all jumbled together into one big mess that just happens to be my train of thought.

Oof.

I doubt you want to hear that, so…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are a few thousand words in the form of pics.:)

Ooh, yes… do let us begin with a lovely sunrise.:)

One of my favorite reads lately!

Coffee helps with… life.:)

We got a nice snow cover last month… thankfully it’s melted away now, but it sure made for a lovely walk. I love the stillness of snowy rambles.

I love C.S. Lewis quotes.

I snuck off to the pasture last weekend for a little undistracted planning time… in one of my scrappy and beloved sweatshirts, of course.:) Being purposed and intentional about the way that I live is something I want to get better about, and here I listed out some goals for a few different areas of my life… writing included.

Along the lines of intentional living, I ran across this song recently. Do check it out if you don’t already know it! It’s been a wonderful reminder to me… I truly want to live my life to hear Him say, “Well done.”

Am I living like that?

Are you?

Let’s.:)

❤ Laurel