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

What I’ve Been Reading (+ Journal Snippets!)… October 2020 Edition

What I’ve Been Reading (+ Journal Snippets!)… October 2020 Edition

Good morning, all! Unbelievably, October is nearly over… which means it’s time for a review of my literary diet this month.

Quite honestly, I’m not very proud of the amount of reading I did this month. For writers, reading is like fueling up… so I guess I’ve been running close to empty for basically the whole month. Ah, well. Next month is fresh… with no mistakes in it! Yet.:)

Anyway… without further ado, here are my October reads!

Desiree’s Baby

Oh, man… if you want to read something short and extremely moving, here you go. This story is heartbreaking.

The Romance of a Busy Broker

Since O. Henry wrote The Gift of the Magi – one of my very favorite stories ever – I jumped at the chance to read another one of his works. The way this short story ended cracked me up!

Great Expectations

After hearing one of my brothers raving to me about it night and day, and even after being utterly traumatized and confused by the BBC film adaptation, I decided to give this book a try… and, oh, am I glad I did!

Dickens’ descriptions are incredible, and inspire me to be more creative in the way that I write my own descriptions. And his plots – oh, his plots!!! I don’t think I will ever be able to plot so masterfully as Dickens did.

Footprints of a Pilgrim: the Life and Loves of Ruth Bell Graham

My mother gave me this book a few years ago when I was researching Ruth Bell Graham for a school project, and I dug it out again recently after one of my sisters gave me one of Ruth Bell Graham’s poems.

This book is so beautiful… a fun mashup of an autobiography and anecdotes. I think what I loved the most, though, is the poetry scattered throughout. Her poetry is just so lovely and effortless… and it has inspired and influenced my own way of writing poetry.

Journal Snippets

I thought it might be fun to include some glimpses into my October 2020 journaling here…

“Seeking You (God) is all that will truly satisfy… all that will truly last.”

“Oh, God! I want You to be far more dear to me than that which I stubbornly clench in my fist. In all my desires… all my hopes… all my ambitions… may YOU – only You – be the One I seek.”

“Acts 20 – Paul may have been seen as something of a babbler… keeping back ‘nothing that was helpful’. But he served the Lord ‘with all humility’… and that makes all the difference.”

More journal snippets… yea or nay? Let me know in the comments below.:)

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.😊

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

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.

The Unexpected Journey of a Letter

The Unexpected Journey of a Letter

Over a year ago I wrote my brother a letter. For awhile we were on a letter-writing spree, and this letter was simply a response to one of his. Nothing too out of the ordinary…

Yet something felt different about this one. I don’t usually save copies of the letters I write, but for some reason I wanted to save a copy of that one. I really felt like I had expressed my heart well in that letter, and I wanted to share it with others. But I felt like God was telling me that wasn’t a good idea. This letter was for my brother, not the world. Right?

So I took a picture of the letter, slipped the letter into an envelope, stuck the envelope in my brother’s Bible, and didn’t think too much more about it. Life went on.

Then, a couple of months ago, this same brother got up to speak at my graduation ceremony. As he was talking, I saw him pull a familiar red envelope out of his pocket, and instantly I knew what he was about to do. Oh, my gracious.

I think I bawled through the whole thing.

It was incredible to see how God had taken a simple letter, said no to my first impulse to share it, and then a year later brought it before many dear people. It was a huge blessing to me and a reminder of God’s beautiful, beautiful timing. I was thrilled.

But God wasn’t done yet.

One of my aunts asked for a copy of the letter, and my uncle shared it in a sermon. Then the sermon got circulated by family members. My letter was reaching people I had never seen.

Do not underestimate God.

He will take the simplest thing and use it in the most unimaginable way.

I wanted to share this letter with you today, because I keep coming back to it and being convicted. As the author, I feel a responsibility to be living out and exemplifying the principles I’ve laid out here… and I constantly need to be reminded of them.

This letter is reminding me to bring my focus back to the right place – and I hope it does the same for you.

The excellency of the power is certainly of God, not us. The more I live, the more I realize how desperately sinful I am. Any good that comes of anything touching my life is certainly of God. He is so, SO worthy of our praise! He has loved me with a love that I simply cannot fathom. He truly must increase as I myself decrease.

More and more God shows me that He wants my priority to be my relationship with Him – not even evangelism, relationships with others, or any other sort of good works. Those will flow from my relationship with Him. He looks at the heart, and if all my feeble attempts to serve Him don’t come from an earnest desire for Him, they are filthy rags to Him.

It is so, SO important to guard our relationship with Him from all that threatens to destroy – even if it means we are called radicals. This love is more than deserving of radical defense. It demands our souls, our lives, our ALL. It calls for action.

Are we acting?

What I’ve Been Reading – September 2020 Edition

What I’ve Been Reading – September 2020 Edition

Hey, guys!

I just wanted to pop in today to share with you a taste of what I got to read this September.

Please note: I did NOT read all of these books cover to cover… I’m just saying I got to spend some glorious time in them last month. 🙂

Enjoy!

Books

The Bible

Absolutely… it’s my favorite. Specifically I enjoyed spending time in Proverbs and Habakkuk this September. I’m so grateful for God’s Word. It truly is a light to my path!

Animal Farm

I haven’t gotten very far in this yet, but it’s okay so far. Quite honestly, it didn’t grab me and pull me in right away, but I’ll keep reading to see how it turns out. 🙂

The Door Within

I sped-read this when I was thirteen and loved it. Since I’m writing my own allegorical fantasy right now, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and reread this book. It’s been fun! I love all the parallels it draws to the the life and mission of the Christian.

Beholding and Becoming

This one is so, so good. It’s been such a beautiful reminder to me to stay focused on the Lord in the middle of an exciting life.

Also, the pages are bursting with beautiful word art and paintings… ahhh! So lovely.

Winnie-the-Pooh

This is one of my favorites. I so enjoy the way A.A. Milne captures the beautiful nonsense that is so logical to a child’s mind.

In the Presence of Mine Enemies

I picked this up the other night and stayed up too late, reading in fascination. I didn’t start at the beginning or read completely through every word (welcome to my reading life), but this was incredible. It’s the true story of an American soldier who was a POW for seven years in Vietnam.

This book is heartbreaking and inspiring. I am so grateful for the men and women who gave – and still give – so much so we can live in freedom and safety. We spoiled Americans need to be reminded of how much freedom costs, and this book will do just that.

Radical

I’d been hearing about this book for years… and wanting to read it but never getting around to it. Finally I grabbed a copy at my nearest and dearest bookstore – Goodwill 🙂 – and started reading. Wow. Talk about a wake-up call. I’m hoping to finish it this month.

Blog Posts

The Life of William Wilberforce

A few years ago I got hooked on the story of William Wilberforce via an incredible audio drama… so of course I jumped at this article! I really appreciate how some lessons to be learned from his life are pointed out at the end.

Things Christians Don’t Talk About: Money

This one is a quick read – and a powerful one. Please read it if you can spare a minute or two.

What have you been reading lately?

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. 🙂

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Less Than Two Months In… Three Things I’ve Learned While Pursuing My Writing Seriously

Less Than Two Months In… Three Things I’ve Learned While Pursuing My Writing Seriously

Way-way-wait what??? Less than two months in???

Wow.

Let’s just say that these have been two of the fullest months of my life. So far. 🙂 I look back and wonder how so much could be crammed into a mere sixty days. But it happened, folks. It happened. And it’s still happening.

About two months ago I graduated from high school and jumped into pursuing my future as an author seriously. Here are three things I’ve learned about the writing life in this time.

#1. I will not always feel inspired when it’s time to write… and that’s okay.

I was working on the second chapter of my current project the other day. I was at rock bottom. It was bad, guys. All I could force myself to type was he said this, she said that, he did this, she did that…

I wanted to bawl, Where is my creativity? My brilliant descriptions? My adjectives? Everything? Here go my writing dreams – right down the drain.

The fact is, I’m going to have these days… and that’s perfectly normal and fine. Because some days I feel like I’m churning out great ideas and brilliant descriptions and witty dialogue like crazy. These two extremes balance each other out.

It’s super important for me to just plug away at writing, even if I feel like what I’m writing is trash. If I write only when I feel like it, I’m not a writer at all – I’m just someone who writes for fun. I wouldn’t be a farmer if I only worked on the farm when I felt like it, either. Part of doing something professionally is doing your best even when your best seems awful.

In short, I’m learning that writing isn’t all fun and games… like any other occupation, it comes with its hard days. But I’m fine with that! There’s still enough awesome about it to keep me wanting to be a professional writer someday.

#2. Lists make life better.

I used to laugh at my mom and her lists… but I guess she converted me.

Nearly every day when I sit down to write, I make a list of what I want to accomplish that day. I try to get as specific as possible so I have more to cross off. It makes me feel more productive. 🙂 Also, just having a tangible list of what I want to accomplish is so much easier and productive than having a dozen plans ricocheting around in my brain.

#3. It’s a challenge for me to keep “writing stuff” in writing hours.

I’ve been setting a certain amount of hours each week day to work on my writing projects and other writing-related things. I’m not going to lie; it’s been a struggle to keep my writing restricted to those hours. It’s all too easy to let it seep into all the other areas of my life and suck my focus away from relationships and home responsibilities… and most importantly, my responsibilities as a daughter of God and ambassador for Christ.

God and people need to have first dibs on my attention. Writing can’t.

This has probably been my biggest struggle – even bigger than staying motivated and sticking with my writing projects. Hopefully the next two months will find me a little more on top of these priorities than I am at present. 🙂

But God’s grace is enormous. I daily encounter my faults, my failings, my weaknesses… and He daily reminds me that He is sufficient, and that He’ll use each one of my problems to bring Him glory.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

How great He is!

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

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash