Eternity – A Guest Post by Last Year’s Self

Eternity – A Guest Post by Last Year’s Self

Happiest of Mondays, all!

Last week I was working to eliminate the unnecessary blog post drafts I had on my computer (think around 70!?!) and stumbled upon this piece I wrote last May. I published it on my other blog last year, but thought that – with an edit or two – it could stand to make an appearance here, as well.

Here it is.:)

Something I’ve been pondering lately is the reality of eternity, and how that reality needs to be shaping the way that I think and live. Here’s a question for all of us today:

How is the way we are living today impacting eternity?

It is so easy to get caught up in the lies the world feeds us: we deserve happiness and gratification now. We can do whatever we want with our minds, bodies, and lives and it doesn’t matter.

I’m telling you – and most of all, myself – that the way we live totally matters.

Totally.

It’s easy for me as a young person to think that I have a lot of time left to impact this world. This is possibly another lie. As I look at the lives of some of the people who have impacted me in the way that they lived or through the words that they spoke, sang, or wrote, I realize that these people were not given many years on this earth.

Jim Elliot was killed by men he was trying to save… at age 28.

Oswald Chambers died unexpectedly… at age 43.

Keith Green died in a plane crash… at age 28.

Rachel Scott was murdered at Columbine High School… at age 17.

Jesus Christ was crucified… at age 33. (He rose from the dead, by the way!!!)

Most of these people died unexpectedly, and the world would say tragically. But all of these people strove to use their time wisely and changed lives for the better. Is that a tragedy? I’ll tell you what is certainly a tragedy.

The death of someone who has failed to live with eternity in mind is undeniably a tragedy.

Will my death be a tragedy? Will yours?

Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last. – C.T. Studd

Intentionality.

Intentionality.

It’s a word that popped into my mind when I wanted to choose a few theme words for this year, and it’s a word that’s continued to force itself upon my consciousness throughout these months.

Intentionality.

I want it in my life as a Christian. I want it in my life as a daughter. I want it in my life as a sister. I want it in my life as a friend. I want it in my life as an employee, a writer, a student…

I want it to define my life, because my days are short and few. A moment slips by without notice or effort, and then it’s gone forever.

So I want to be intentional.

To intentionally put God first in my heart, my mind, and my days.

To intentionally battle procrastination so I don’t have to push people away when I’m scrambling for a deadline.

To intentionally do my best work on the smallest of tasks, whether at the farm, at the keyboard, or in the home.

To intentionally send a text or letter just to let someone know they matter.

To intentionally put down my phone or close my laptop or book to be all there when someone calls my name.

To intentionally drink in the beauty of life.

To intentionally battle introverted tendencies and strike up conversations with people I don’t know well.

To intentionally be transparent, tearing down any false fronts I’ve set up in my life.

To intentionally thirst for wisdom… and then intentionally seek it.

To intentionally take up my cross and follow Jesus, every single day.

To intentionally live for God.

Thinking in the Tractor

Thinking in the Tractor

Each week I’m blessed to have several hours of time alone on the farm while I’m mixing feed. Most of that time I spend creating stories I’ll never finish, giving inspirational speeches, or belting musical numbers at the top of my lungs.

But sometimes I just think, and in the tractor today, a flood of thoughts started pouring in…

You need to stop looking forward all the time. You need to stop living for the future. In your relentless pursuit of what lies ahead, you’re going to plow through all of the opportunities, blessings, and joys that are crowding your life right now. You think that if you can only get to the end of this project, the start of the next season, the end of this trial, you’ll be on top of things, have your life all together, and truly be able to start pouring yourself out for God.

You’re wrong.

At the end of this project lies the beginning of a new one. With the start of the next season come new complications and the end of several things you love about this season. At the end of this trial awaits the arrival of a new one. It’s a vicious cycle you won’t escape… and if you keep living for tomorrow, you’ll someday reach a point where all your tomorrows are spent… and you’ll be left with a string of half-lived yesterdays.

So will you stop living in the shadows of your shredded plans and start living for God’s ultimate plan? Will you stop making your choices based on what you think is best and start making your choices based on what God says is best? Will you stop frittering away your precious days and start investing them in eternity?

You have this moment for just that – a moment.

Make it count.

Happy Seahorses – Flash Fiction

Happy Seahorses – Flash Fiction

Hello, peoples!

I have another flash fiction here today… but I’ll warn you, it’s another sad one. My sisters have been after me to write some cheerier pieces… and I intend to! But this isn’t one of those happier stories. Something about the prompts I received (seahorses, void, and cold) suggested something sad and reflective…

So here ’tis, in all it’s sad and reflective glory.:)

The air coming from the vents is blowing too hard and too cold. It always does when Mom drives, but she’s scared, and I don’t want to bother her.

Callie’s sleeping next to me, her thumb sliding out of her mouth. Her head is falling to the side, and it lands on my shoulder. She’s out. Completely out. Maybe she won’t notice if I borrow her blanket.

She doesn’t move as I slowly inch it off of her lap and onto mine. I grab big fistfuls of the fabric and pull it to my chin, looking down at the bright, happy-colored seahorses that dance on the blanket. Callie loves seahorses. She says she wants to be one when she grows up. I know that’s silly, but I don’t tell her. I’m old enough to know that you don’t tell anyone their dreams are silly.

I’m also old enough to know more than Mom thinks I know. I can see her eyes now in the rearview mirror. The white parts of her eyes are kind of pink, and shiny. Her eyelids are puffy, too, and there are little dents above her eyebrows. I know that means she’s worried, ’cause that’s what her eyebrows do when Daddy’s late for supper.

Today supper got cold while we waited for him. He never came… the hospital called instead.

Mom says everything will be okay… but I know better.

My finger traces the happy seahorses, and I’m trying not to shiver.

Photo by Sinitta Leunen on Unsplash

The Valentine’s Day Post

The Valentine’s Day Post

Happy Thursday, people! Happy almost-Valentine’s Day, as well.:)

Yesterday morning, as I finished reading the book of Jeremiah, some of the very last verses caught my eye, stopped me, and made me think. My train of thought led me to ponder what love really is and does, so I decided to share the whole works with you today and dub it a rather unconventional Valentine’s themed post.:)

So here are the verses that started it all…

“Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. So Jehoiachin changed from his prison garments.” – Jeremiah 52:31b and 32a

This in itself is just a fragment of a historical account. Nothing outstanding. But a parallel jumped out at me here, and I remembered…

I’m no longer in the prison of sin. Jesus freed me from that. So I need to leave my prison garments behind, and Colossians 3 says they are…

“… anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”

And what does the clothing of this “new man” look like?

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

“But above all these things…

“put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

We’re not talking about the frail manifestation of dutiful affection that seems to abound at this time of year. We’re talking about the real deal.

Honest-to-goodness true love.

The stuff that remains when all the beauty and romance of life is gone. When there are no happy emotions. When sin has left deep, open wounds on the heart and there seems to be nothing left but hurt. When everything that’s in you screams to leave it all and run…

Love is what picks up the pieces and painfully carries on when the road is so broken, life seems to have no direction or meaning anymore.

Love suffers long, and it’s kind.

Love doesn’t envy.

Love doesn’t parade itself… it’s not puffed up.

Love doesn’t behave rudely.

Love doesn’t seek its own.

Love is not provoked.

Love thinks no evil.

Love doesn’t rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.

Love bears all things.

Believes all things.

Hopes all things.

Endures all things.

Love never fails.

So let’s celebrate it. Celebrate true love this season. It’s tempting to glaze over all the flaws and rough spots in our relationships with glitter and flowers and such…

But how about making this Valentine’s Day different from the rest?

How about digging deep into our hearts right now, crying out to God, and asking Him to root out everything in us that isn’t born of Him… that isn’t born of love? We may not have much left when we’re through… but it’ll be pure. It’ll hurt… but it’ll be worth it.

I’m not an expert on relationships of any sort… and maybe that’s why I’m writing this. Because I know I can’t be a good friend, daughter, sister, you name it, without God. Without the deep, unshakable love that He alone offers me. And I can’t offer it to others unless I have received it from Him.

Two things, people. Love God, love people.

Happy Valentine’s Day. ❤

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

My 2020 Playlist (+ some backstory on why I chose these songs)

My 2020 Playlist (+ some backstory on why I chose these songs)

Happy Thursday, all! I’m here to flood your day with good music.:)

I love the music that comes in and offers just the encouragement, conviction, or wisdom I need to hear at just the perfect time. Today I’d like to share with you some of the songs that blessed me in 2020… mostly ordered chronologically.:) I’ve linked each of the song titles to a YouTube video so you can go listen right away!

Living Hope – Phil Wickham

Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope

Broken every chain… such a beautiful reminder! One of my favorite things about this song is the reminder that I don’t have to fear death, or be chained by sin or my past… Jesus has paid it all and made me free to serve Him.

This is What We Live For – Big Daddy Weave

Chasing Your heart
And all that You are
We surrender
Surrender all

It’s so easy for my perspective to get clouded by all the activity and things that are swirling around me… even by the good things like family, youth group, and writing. Ultimately, I’m involved in all of those things for God and His glory, and I love how this song reminds me of that.

Love God, Love People – Danny Gokey

Gotta keep it real simple, keep it real simple
Bring everything right back to ground zero
‘Cause it all comes down to this
Love God and love people

This came on the radio shortly before graduation… aka one of the most stressful seasons of my life thus far.:) The reminder that Christianity really is this simple was a breath of fresh air that I so desperately needed.

You Already Know – JJ Heller

I can’t seem to find the easy answers
Someday I hope the suffering makes sense
I just need to know that You are with me
Even if You keep me in suspense
We talk so much these days
Because I have so much to say
You stay and listen to me closely even though

You already know

This song jumped into my life at one of the most turbulent points of 2020 for me. I remember sitting there in the car after hearing it on the radio, wondering how this song, written by someone who didn’t even know me, could so perfectly describe my emotions in that moment. Not only are the words so solid, but JJ Heller’s voice and this arrangement are so lovely.

Desert Song – Hillsong Worship

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

That snippet of the song says it all.:)

Be Thou My Vision

Thou and Thou only be first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art

I’ve basically taken this one as the theme song for my life.:) The lyrics are so solid and beautiful, and the reminder that God has to be first in my heart is one I need each and every day.

Different – Micah Tyler

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

After graduating from high school last summer, I took off down a rather unconventional path… and quite honestly, that’s been hard. Even though I love where I am, it can be difficult to have to do a lot of explaining when people ask what I’m up to.:) This song reminds me that if I’m different because I’m pursuing the Lord, it’s totally okay to be different.

Amen – I Am They

Amen, let Your kingdom come
Amen, let Your will be done
And through the rise and fall
You’re God above it all

I don’t think I need to explain to anyone how life felt like it was spiraling out of control in 2020.:) It was spiraling out of my control… but certainly not God’s. This song is a beautiful reminder of that.

Were there any songs that spoke to your heart in 2020?

I Hit 25,000 Words!!!

I Hit 25,000 Words!!!

Yes, yes, yes! My novel-in-progress is fleshing out… and it now weighs in at over 25,000 words/17+ chapters!!!

I can hardly believe it…

I should be bouncing off the walls, right? Yet somehow my brain remains in a state of dazed paralysis. Yes, I have written over 25,000 words… but I have at least another 25,000 to go. And then the editing stage. Oh, help. My little girl idea of “Yes, I’ll be a writer because I love to write and I see so many benefits to the writing life” has had a rather rude awakening. Actually forcing yourself to write when you don’t feel like it is part of this deal?

Haha… you dear ignorant little girl.:)

So… you might be wondering about this novel-in-progress. What it’s about, why I haven’t talked about it very much…

The reason I’ve kept (mostly) quiet about it recently is because I don’t plan to publish it in the near future. I want to write a novel or two and get some experience with the whole novel-writing process before I attempt to publish one. I don’t want to be talking about my novel all the time on here, making you think that I’m prepping for publication, only to remain unpublished for years.

But…

If you would like, I can share a little bit about this project… with the understanding that it definitely won’t be hitting the bookshelves anytime soon.:) If you’re interested in hearing about what’s been going on with my novel-in-progress, let me know… and I would love to share some juicy tidbits with you.:)

-Laurel

God and Current Events – My Thoughts

God and Current Events – My Thoughts

If my emotions depended just on the news…

You probably don’t want to know.:)

But honestly… I think that no matter where a person stands on politics, coronavirus-related policies, etc., every single one of us has a fairly legitimate reason for being sickened/depressed/frustrated by the news. America just left an epic year of division and unrest in the dust… and by the looks of it, 2021 isn’t looking promising, either.

Honestly, I’m pretty frustrated.

I want my nation to be indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Most of all, I want America to be one nation under God… but she’s not. She’s broken and hurting and sinful, spitting in the face of the One who has been so patient with her.

This wasn’t my plan, God.

In the past year, the one truth keeping me at peace with what’s going on in our nation is this:

God retains complete control over everything.

When I find myself getting worked up about what’s happening, I come back to this and calm down. There is nothing else that brings me more peace than this fact – that the One who loves me more than I can fathom is the One with whom nothing is impossible. The One who has all of what I see as a mess ordered in His perfect will.

I wanted to remind you of this today… just in case life has you in the dumps. Come on out of there, friend. God’s got this. He’s working all things out for His glory and the good of those who love Him. Rest in Him. ❤

-Laurel

Christmas Reflections… Am I Playing Herod?

Christmas Reflections… Am I Playing Herod?

A few days ago I was reading the Christmas story to my littlest sister… a story I’ve heard a thousand times over. Sadly, being so familiar with it sometimes hardens my perception of its wonder. But a new thought hit me as I read to her the part about Herod.

Am I being Herod?

You’re probably thinking, What an terrible thing to say. But hear me out. Herod was the king of Judea… and very comfortable in his position of authority. Even though Jesus was a baby, and destined to save His people in a far different way than anyone imagined, Herod saw Him as a serious threat to his authority.

When Jesus comes into our lives, He poses a very serious threat to our position of authority. It’s His nature ’cause He’s, well, God. Completely deserving of all authority.

So how do we respond to this? Do we accept His rule in our lives? Or do we follow Herod’s example and try to retain our own authority?

Obviously, our desperation to remain king of our own lives is manifested in a far different way than Herod’s was. We fight for our rights in tiny, subtle ways… and therein lies the danger.

Choice by choice, thought by thought, little deed by little deed, we cling to our authority in rebellion. Somehow we think that we’re wiser than God. That His ways are not the best ways… ours are.

We’re wrong, of course. But still we fight Him.

How foolish.

First of all, as Christians, we have been bought at a price. We belong to the Lord – we’ve given our lives to Him, and we have no right to take them back.

Second of all, it’s unreasonable. Romans 11:36 and 12:1 state, … of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Surrendering all that we are to God’s all-deserving authority is the only reasonable thing to do. Think about it – why wouldn’t we surrender our lives to the all-knowing, perfect God of love?

How can we look at history and see the way God has beautifully woven it together and not trust Him with the story of our own lives? How can we look at Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection – the ultimate proof of God’s love – and not trust that God will rule our lives in the most loving and perfect way possible?

Seriously… how?

Let’s not be fools. Let’s not be like Herod and resist the authority of the Lord. Let’s surrender everything we are to God this Christmas season… and every day until eternity.

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

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What an Apple-Murderer Taught Me About God

What an Apple-Murderer Taught Me About God

Sometime this past summer, my youngest sister brought me an apple she had pulled from one of our trees. A tiny, misshapen, worm-eaten thing. She held it like a treasure.

“Can you get me some water so I can put this in it, so it can grow?”

Oh, girl.

In trying to help the apple, the well-meaning squirt had killed it. She didn’t realize that removing it from the tree would destroy all its hopes of further growth. Now it was destined to be nothing more than what it was – a less-than-appetizing apple.

This made me think…

Am I tearing myself from my source of life?

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

I look in the mirror and see a mess. And I’m not talking about the chronically crazy hair or the breakouts on my face. It’s a mess that’s deep inside, rooted, and complicated. I look in the mirror and see a weary, misshapen, sin-eaten soul.

But God sees me as a treasure.

If I abide in Him, He will give me the grace to keep growing in Him. If I stay close to Him, He will nourish me, develop me, make me more like Him, and give me the ability to bear fruit for Him.

But that won’t happen unless I’m connected to Him.

Unlike my sister’s poor little victim, I can choose to stay connected to my source of life… but it won’t be easy. The world is against me, trying to pull me away from Christ, because it knows that my life and strength come only through Him.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” – Ephesians 6:10

We can fight – and win – this battle against sin only if we abide in Christ.

Are we doing that?

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

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash