Friday, December 30, 2011

Year-End Ponderings of Faith and Faltering

As 2011 rolls around to its final days, I find myself thinking back on all of the wonder and awe that God has brought about in my life. I think of the many ways He has provided for me and my loved ones; the magnificent times of worship with other believers and how He met us in those places; the hardships I have  had to endure to help me learn to give thanks in all things; and the real and profound voice of God that can be heard by His children when we fervently seek after His face.

Our God is an amazing and mighty Warrior. He is the Prince of Peace. He is a gentle Lover of our souls. He is the Rescuer. He is the Gardener of us, the branches. He is the Giver of Life. He is the Bridegroom. He is our Help in troubled times. He speaks, and His children know His voice. He is the Great Shepherd.

With a God so multi-faceted and prominent in this world of trial and tribulation, how can I wander so far off the beaten path of His ways? How is it, that I look back over the last year of my life and see the tracks of a life that has veered off course so many times? I can honestly say that each and every one of us, whether we have come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ or not, have been tainted with something far worse than "wrong directions" for the course of our lives; we all have been stained with sin. And this thing called sin is most-often overlooked and called by many different names–especially in our "politically correct" society.

Independence. Aggressiveness. Deserving. Concern.

These things all seem to be good things, but looking at the deeper meaning and how they relate to a life of faith will show us just how faded our vision has become over time.

When Adam and Eve first walked in their own way, eating the "forbidden fruit," they were exercising their independence from their Creator, making a bold statement that they felt they knew what was better for their lives over God's supreme rule.

When we are working to make our way in the world, we sometimes learn that to make it to the top, we need to be aggressive in order to beat the crowds. But in doing so, we forget to wait patiently on the Lord; we decide that He must not know what we need or what is best for us, so we forage ahead, usually making the journey a lot more troublesome and difficult than it needs to be.

A major thing that we, as Americans, have bought into lock, stock, and barrel, is the idea that we deserve certain things. We decide–many times with the help of cunning marketing campaigns–that we have worked hard or gone through a particularly tough ordeal, and therefore we deserve certain luxuries like dream vacations or a great big box of chocolates, etc., etc. Sometimes these things aren't so bad, but the level of self-treating in the name of "I deserve it" has reached an all-time high. People are putting major dents into credit cards that they will never be able to pay off, writing checks that their accounts can't cash, and serving up seriously health-debilitating dishes that stress their bodies out, encouraging illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease... All in the name of "I deserve it."

Last, but certainly not least, we spend many of our days worrying about the future, our friends or family members, our health, money, and so much more. We play the "concerned card," making ourselves feel okay about the fact that we are fretting unnecessarily. The number one most spoken command in the Bible is to have no fear. Jesus tells us not to worry. He commands us not to fear. He speaks words of faith and trust to His disciples over and over again, admonishing us to believe in the Word of God, to trust in the provision of the Almighty, to know that our God will supply all our needs, according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

This new year, let us turn our ways to trusting in God's perfect timing. Let us all decide to live our lives to the fullest–lives full of faith in our Heavenly Father.

The prophet Jeremiah says it best:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

May this new year be one of living life to the fullest with faith and trust in God our Father... in our helper, the Holy Spirit... and in Jesus Christ, who is our life.

And Merry Christmas from all of us...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grace Undeserved

Grace Undeserved
By Lauren Lamoreaux
Christmas to me means a lot more than just celebrating Jesus' birth. I'm going to tell a story here that I haven't told or even thought of in years...
The fall that I was 15, I had quite the wake-up call. My friend, we will call her Sophie, introduced me to the world of shoplifting. We started small, swiping candy and cigarettes, and gradually moved up to bigger things like CDs (when they came packaged in those long rectangular white plastic anti-theft cases) and clothing.
It was November, and Sophie’s brother’s birthday was rapidly approaching. Now, we had the money, but it was always such a rush to “lift” things from stores. I still can’t believe I lived like this... So on we went, through this store, lifting things, including her brother’s gifts: fishing lures. Seriously. Fishing lures. We were about to leave the store, having purchased the legitimate things we decided were too big to smuggle and, checking that our newfound booty was securely in place under our jackets and in our pockets, stepped lightly out the door. “Excuse me girls! You don’t have any un-purchased merchandise, do you?” came the hail. We immediately stopped, cheeks flush with the hues of guilt, and turned to face something we had never known to exist: the plainclothes security officer. Our breath became shallow, as our throats swelled to an almost unbearable tiny passage.
The plainclothes officer hauled us into the manager’s office and called the police. We were arrested and taken to the big house. Well, okay, maybe not THE big house, but it was big enough to scare every unholy place right out of me. Our parents were called, and I distinctly remember my dad’s reaction. He was so incredibly angry at my actions. After all, this type of thing goes into the newspaper! And, being from a more prolific business-owning family in our area, well, he was outraged. “What will people say when they read that a Hentschel was arrested for shoplifting?” I was tried as a minor and not only had to pay the store back, but also received 20 hours of community service and probation.
Christmas that year, I was told, would be nothing more than maybe a token gift, and certainly nothing of value, because they used up so much money paying back the store and in court fees. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was one of the Detroit Red Wings’ dearest fans, watching every hockey game I could, rooting from my northern Michigan hometown with as much fervor as someone sitting right in Joe Louis Arena.
In my family, we take turns opening gifts, one by one, until everyone has had a turn, then go around again. I don’t remember how many gifts I actually had that year, but I do remember it was my turn, and I opened up this gift, in a typical shirt box from any Joe Schmo department store, and there, in my hands, was this lovely and perfect Red Wings jersey. I remember looking up to the sounds of my mother sobbing which I then, of course, found myself adding a harmony to her melody. It was one of total repentance mixed with total forgiveness. It was grace.
Today, I am reminded that we all – in some form or another – are like me. Not only have we fallen into sin and selfish living, but we have also tarnished the Family name. And no matter what place we are in life, whether we’ve never known our Father, or maybe we have actually walked with Him and have since turned a blind eye or a deaf ear to His direction, we all have that precious package neatly wrapped with a bow sitting under our heart’s tree. It’s something we don’t deserve, but in the same space, something that our Father so lovingly desires to lavish upon us: His GRACE. It goes a long, long way, my friends. It’s always the right size; able to cover a multitude of sins. It’s always the right color; complementing the natural beauty He has given to us. It’s always the right accessory for any event, any season, any thing at all.
God’s grace came down to this earth in a tiny baby named Jesus. He lived a guiltless life, blessing those who everyone else had cursed, calling the wise men of the world fools (and proving it), and reaching his hand out to the unlovely. And after all that, he went to a place no one else would ever go for me: a torturous death of beating, whipping, bruising, and finally, crucifixion... all to give me the chance to be welcomed into the Family which I rightly belonged before I stained myself with sin.
Yes, this Christmas I will remember that Red Wings jersey as the symbol it really is: grace undeserved. And I do believe I have consequently picked out my Christmas day attire.
May the joy of Jesus Christ invade your hearts in a new and amazing way this Christmas. Peace, love, and most of all... grace to you all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Childhood Christmas Ponderings

When I was a little girl, we would go to Grandma and Grandpa Hentschel’s house for the big family Christmas celebration every Christmas Eve. The night was magical in every way: boxing up the presents to take along to the party; watching our breath escape from our mouths in the cold, dark, winter air; and all of us piling into the car with hats, snow-covered boots, mittens and scarves filling in all of the gaps between us kids.

When we arrived at their house, Grandpa, or "Bumpa" as he was affectionately known as by his grandkids, would greet us with the biggest hugs and kisses, and Grandma would soon follow with her greetings and love too. Then we would find our aunts, uncles, and cousins all throughout the house, talking, playing, and munching on various foods. Somehow, we kids always found the mixed nuts that were still in their shells and had to be cracked open to eat. It was always a fun game to see who could get them opened first! Of course, we also had plenty of cookies and candy canes to go around as well.

All of the grandkids would talk together in hushed tones, every one of us mesmerized by the sparkling tree, covered with colored ornaments and practically smothered – and I mean nearly literally suffocated – in tinsel. We knew there were presents under that tree for all of us, but also knew that getting close enough to see the names on the tags would certainly get a reprimand from one of the grown-ups. So we would sit... and wait... and talk about... the magical time for presents to be passed around and opened.

When every last gift was opened and all the words had been spoken, Mom and Dad would bundle us kids up and take us home to our beds where we would lie awake, unable to fall asleep because we knew in a few short hours, Santa would be coming to bring us each a very special gift that we would discover under our tree come Christmas morning. 

Isaiah 9:6-7
Peace, Love, & Cider Mugs...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Counting to One-Thousand

“Uno... dose... tres... cuatro...” I hear my 4-year-old counting away in the other room. With two older sisters in elementary school in Racine, she learns much from them, including how to count in Spanish. It blesses my heart to hear her expanding her mind, including multi-culturalism; not that she understands what is really taking place, of course.

I recently embarked on a new reading adventure. “One Thousand Gifts” is a new book by Ann Voskamp. Through each chapter–through each page–Voskamp takes poetic liberties that whisk me away into a hazy, almost slow-motion land of breezes blowing and soap bubbles reflecting God’s everyday goodness. I cry every few pages. Maybe not every reader reacts like this, but I am reading this at a similar time in my life that Voskamp was in when she wrote the book.
All of these things, in light of the season that we are coming into, have led me to ask this: how many things can you count as blessings not simply every year or season, but each and every day?

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

If the Bible commands us to do this, it shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well... maybe not so much; at least not without certain revelation from the Holy Spirit.

Many people go through bumpy patches in life ranging from a blemish on picture day all the way to a horrific tragedy like the senseless death of a loved one. So how do we obey this passage of Scripture from within the shadow of certain travesties? I think the answer is found in one Man: the person of Jesus Christ.

In Voskamp’s book, she recalls that Jesus gave thanks in all circumstances. “And [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it...” (Luke 22:19) This happened the night he was to be betrayed and arrested. Jesus did understand what was going to transpire. He knew his divine purpose, and even though he was God-man, we must remember that he was still man. Jesus wept in the garden of Gethsemane, asking God the Father to take his cup from him, because Jesus knew it would be the hardest thing anyone would ever have to endure on this planet. And even so, he declared, “yet not my will, but Yours be done,” (Luke 22:42)

Jesus gave thanks in all things. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do the same as well. God’s plans are more intricate than we imagine. Remember in Isaiah 55:9 the Lord speaks these familiar words to all generations: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s plan will always be better than ours, no matter how highly we think of ourselves.

Sometimes it is not for us to understand the “why” of a situation, but it is always for us to give thanks in every situation. Yes, this can be a difficult thing to accomplish. I do understand the gaping hole that is left in the place of a loved one who was taken too soon. I do comprehend the grieving that takes place when little babies are seriously injured, requiring several days spent in a children’s hospital. I do recognize what sorrow in the face of financial ruin looks like.

And yet...

In spite of every evil thing in this world, God is still good. He is love. Therefore, He is patient, kind, never boastful or rude... (I Corinthians 13) The list of God’s lovingkindness goes on. And no matter what darkness, evil, or hatred can be manifested on this earth, God will always be good. For this I am ever-thankful.

Ann Voskamp, in light of her own personal battles, was challenged to count one-thousand things in life that she could be thankful for. Not only was she successful, but she learned many, many things along the way. I won’t ruin the outcome of the book for you–it’s certainly one that I encourage everyone to read–but I will say this: I have learned that through the whole of every day that I am on this earth, there is much to be thankful for. It just takes the proper frame of mind and the resolution to be present for each moment of my life.

Regardless of how many battles you are walking through today, look deep into the core and find the nugget to be thankful for. When you do, hold it close to your heart and then... give thanks.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Do you ever wonder why things happen the way they happen?

Do you ever stop and think... now, if I'd just turned right, instead of going straight, x, y, or z could've happened, but it didn't... Q happened instead.

I want to say that in life, there are no random happenings. I want to propose to you that there is no luck, no fate, and certainly no coincidence.

God has numbered the hairs upon our heads. He has also paved our own individually unique pathways for each of us. Whether they be paved with brick, concrete, or mossy-covered sharp stones and slippery pond scum here and there between the grassy knolls, God has directed each path, for a purpose.

It is here, in the path that He has chosen for us, that we can see miracles open up like the petals on a unique and glorious flower. Take a look around. Who is next to you? Who do you have a conversation with on the phone?

Are you simply canceling a doctor's appointment, or are you meant to speak and connect with that receptionist? Is there something in her life that you can nourish; provide sustenance? Have you ever stopped to think about it?

Taking our eyes off of ourselves, our agendas, our human goals... we see... them. All the people that God has singlehandedly placed in our midst. To share life with. To grow with. To encounter.

Whom have you encountered today? Last week? Month? Have you taken your eyes off of your iPhone long enough to see the hurting world? The questions in their eyes? The need for compassion? The urgency for love? The plea for something... Something more than this world has to offer?

Enjoying the beauty of God's miraculous flowers unfurling, before our very eyes, to soak up the warmth of His son... those brilliant rays of truth, those healing bands of Light... it is but a tiny miracle for us to marvel at.

So go ahead. Open up. Look around. Who do you see? What do you hear? Where will you turn? When will you begin?

Moment by moment... little by little... we endure each awkward pause, each tiny baby step into the unknown, each breath and creaky vocal strain of our infantile gestures to reach out to an unending field of unopened flower buds, just waiting, waiting, to burst forth. To share their own uniqueness with another, and to see the beauty again and again with each revealed treasure.

Always a purpose.

Always a plan.

If we simply stop to look around,

Hear the whisper on the wind.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Gift of Trust in Troubled Times

Earlier this month I had been struggling with some pretty major decisions that would ultimately affect not only me, but my husband and kids as well. In fact, these were decisions that could affect my relationships with extended family and friends, too.

I began to worry about the future. I began to worry about how we would afford certain things, and how we would do the things that were being asked of us. Life was completely “up in the air” for us, and we weren’t sure of much at all, to be honest.

To top things off, some of my dearest friends had been struggling with various afflictions or predicaments, and were calling on me for wisdom, advice, or just for an attentive and compassionate ear. I am not the type of person to turn away from friends, no matter what my life situation is. I truly believe that we were put here, in our own unique places, to serve one another. God’s greatest gift that we can give to each other is LOVE.

Well, the day came when I finally stopped worrying about how, why, where, when, etc., etc., and I prayed. (You would think I would have started there, right? Let’s face it: many of us, no matter where you are in your walk with God, fall into worry. It’s living proof that God’s not finished with us yet.)

The next thing that happened was nothing short of miraculous. I jumped to attention, and got busy making phone calls – the kind no one wants to make – the kind that could bring devastation or despair. I couldn’t have been more relieved and grateful after a few of these calls were finished. In a way that I think most of us rarely experience, I saw first-hand how God had actually made my path straight and provided not just “a” way, but “THE” way for us. He had already taken care of each situation before I started anything!

I must say that no matter what we choose in life, when we rely on God and His ultimate plan, protection, and provision, we see beauty, care, and love in a way that is more than enough, more than what we could have “wished” for, and certainly much more than anything this world could try to offer but never delivers.

Throughout my struggles, God also provided wisdom that I was able to share with my friends in the midst of their own life situations.

God has chosen us to be His children, and has chosen a purpose for us in this life. What’s more, He has provided His guidance throughout each and every “thing” we encounter. And the most amazing part of it all: He provides things for His children that no one could ever imagine.

The most important provision, of course, was offering His Son as the way to cancel our debt of sin so that we could experience His love and intimacy. There will never be anything more wonderful and loving than what Jesus did for us at the cross.

But I want to express how much God loves us – from the mundane, everyday tasks to the biggest decisions you’ll ever have to make. Simply walking daily with Him as our Lord and Savior is a miracle, but to talk with Him and see guidance and provision is nothing short of the greatest daily experience I could ask for.

Recently, God has shown me clear, direct answers to many issues, simply from my open and honest prayer. This rarely happens how we expect; sometimes we don’t hear answers for a longer time than we had hoped. When God doesn’t answer right away, it is always for the best.

I have a mind that likes to be in control – always. I am still learning to give this over to God daily. But through His gentle leading and merciful patience, I am learning this lesson. Allowing God to decide not only what I should do, but also when I should do it is a lesson that we all struggle with.

I am here to encourage you today, that no matter what it is you are struggling with, pray. (If you’ve read my last two entries, you will remember how prayer is simply talking to God and then allowing Him to speak to you.) Ask God for His path to be made clear to you. Ask Him also for the patience to wait if that is what He has planned for you in this situation.

Don’t take your worries back; let Him carry your burdens. Once you have given your struggles over to Him, open your newly-emptied hands to receive His blessing and provision. He will never leave us nor forsake us. That is His promise.

Peace, love, and cider mugs...

Monday, September 5, 2011

An Attitude of Prayer (Part 2 of "This Thing Called Prayer")

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

Last time we took a journey into prayer, and what it really means. Today, I am continuing our journey into this place that certainly mystifies so many people in modern America and beyond. So fasten your seat belts! We are off!

The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5, to pray without ceasing. How is this even possible? What does unceasing prayer look like, and how is it attained? Well, to be perfectly frank, for many years, I did not understand this verse at all. It wasn’t until I studied at the collegiate level that I began to understand a bit more of unceasing prayer.

First of all, let’s remember that prayer is simply dialoging with God. It requires no formal guidelines, no “Thee”s or “Thou”s, and certainly isn’t some religious act that makes one better than everyone else. Prayer does, however, give a strong advantage to those who choose to open up: with each prayer uttered, a person has the opportunity to gain revelation and direction from the One who knows it all, provides all, and sustains all. So let’s take a closer look at what unceasing prayer looks like.

In college, my advisor was a quiet man who considered all things with God, as he walked through each of his days. I never understood what he was doing until my last year there. He would typically have a pause before answering, or continuing in conversation, and he never looked uncertain, confused, or like he was losing concentration. On the contrary! He always looked more intently focused on the situation at hand as he progressed through each one.

In retrospect, I understand that he was considering things with God, to know better how to proceed. It makes so much sense.

In today’s world of electronics, one way to think of prayer would be like our wonderful cell phones. For me, when I wake up in the morning, I begin a conversation with my husband. And throughout his workday and my day at home, grocery shopping, playing with our kids, fixing dinner, and so on, I text him: to keep him informed, ask for clarification, or gain a better understanding for a situation that he has more insight into. We never really “hang up.”

In much of the teaching and examples we have of prayer, there is a “dialing,” (Dear Lord), a “greeting,” (It’s me, Lauren), the “conversation,” (typically the list of wants and “please be with” situations, etc.), and then the “hang up,” (In Your name I pray, Amen).

The truth of the matter is that we never have to announce ourselves to God. We are individually known and cared for by our Heavenly Father more than we can understand in this lifetime. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and can certainly figure out who is “calling.” The next truth is that He already knows what we need. He simply desires relationship with us. When we come to God in prayer, we are offering ourselves as being open to communication with our Father. And it never should be one-sided.

One of the worst discrepancies in modern “prayer” is that we verbally spill everything we have on our agenda without bothering to take the time to listen to what He has to say to us. And no, I’ve never heard an audible James Earl Jones-esque voice booming back at me. What is most normal, for me, is the sense of peace or calm that can arise when I look down one path versus another. Sometimes the Holy Spirit can impress something upon your heart so clearly, there is no true explanation how you know it, you “just know it.” And that is okay. Whatever your situation, take the time to listen to what God has to say to you during your times of prayer.

Lastly, consider not “hanging up” next time you open up. Truth be told, “Amen” is a term that means “so be it,” and is traditionally used corporately when one person prays out loud and a group of people agrees with his/her prayer. It does not mean “I am finished,” or “goodbye.” So next time you talk with God, think about not using the term “amen” unless you are agreeing with others.

Prayer is such an amazing gift for those who are believers in Jesus Christ. Open communication with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is not only where you’ll find the best peace of mind, but also where you will find the best secrets kept just for you.

peace, love and cider mugs...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

This Thing Called Prayer

Prayer. It means different things to different people. Depending on where you grew up, or what religion had the largest impact on you, prayer could look very different. Throughout my childhood, my family went to church: twice on Sundays and once on Wednesdays. I remember my sister and I being the only children in our church choir, as we came with our mother to rehearsals. It was the whole experience... On the outside. The one thing I lacked was inward revelation. I spent many years, knowing that I was “saved,” but not really knowing what that meant; besides the part where I wouldn’t spend eternity in a very hot and horrible place.

All those years I floated through my days on a cloud of ignorance. What I didn’t have, I didn’t know about, so I never set out to look for it. What I didn’t have was something called revelation. No, I’m not talking about the last book of the Bible. What I am talking about is when God reveals His ways to His people, in real, tangible, and meaningful ways.

Prayer, just like everything else in the realm of a Christian’s life, is meant to be powerful and poignant, not passive and pathetic. Feeble attempts to show oneself to be more devout than he really is does nothing for the Kingdom of God, nothing for man’s eternal spirit. Often times we think of prayer as a magic genie wish list, especially when life gets frighteningly tough. But in all things, we are to acknowledge Him – even in the good.

So how does this look to an average person in today’s incredibly busy society? I believe that in all things, we are to look to God for direction. Again, how does this look? Well, to be perfectly honest, prayer is simply the act of talking with God, and listening. You can be anywhere. You can be doing anything. You can speak out loud, sing, whisper, or do it silently. He is so much bigger than we can ever dare to imagine; He knows our thoughts – don’t ask me how, I’m not Him – but He does.

The second part is often forgotten about: listening. How do we hear the voice of God? Well, waiting is a vital part of this communication process. After we speak our mind to Him, we must wait on Him. Sit, stand, lie down, whatever you need to be doing, and wait patiently for His guiding wisdom. Oftentimes this comes from a “sense” of what to do, that we know in our heart of hearts. Other times, we are led to a scripture passage or even a sermon or teaching, to uncover truths within the mystery of our current situations. And still in other instances, we find that God’s words come from another believer in the form of advice, or a prophetic word (which is basically direction from God, being spoken through one of His children). How do we know it’s “His” advice and not “his” advice? Many times we just know, and other times we must seek more, and wait for a confirmation. God has equipped each of His believers – His children – with the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is our helper, our advocate; and will guide us in these things.

The most important thing though, is to actually make a habit of daily, even hourly prayer. Remember that prayer doesn’t have to follow a formula, or be a certain amount of time to “count.” Just as you would speak with anyone in your life, this is how you could speak with God. Just remember that God is a mighty God that deserves nothing less than our ultimate respect and gratitude. In all things, consider your actions, and remember to consider them with your heavenly Father.

This is my prayer – my true prayer – this night: that we, as believers, will come to know a prayer life that is alive and acceptable in the eyes of Almighty God. When God’s people pray, things happen. When God’s people pray, lives change. When God’s people pray, the enemy has no option but to flee. And God’s people grow stronger, bolder, and braver in today’s uncertainties, when they simply pray.

Peace, love, and cider mugs...

Sunday, July 10, 2011


So I sit here, typing away, and feel utterly bummed. There have been so many moments that have come and gone, since June 2nd, where a seemingly amazing idea has graced my little brain and I have not acted upon it. How many truths could I have expounded upon, pondered, discovered? How many ponderings may have enlisted you, the reader, to do some truly amazing discovering? How many personal discoveries could there have been, that would have incited much pondering out here in cyber-world?

It just so happens that I have an iPhone. And with that comes (standard) a wonderful app called "Notes." I could easily tap away on the touchscreen, at least until my idea is fleshed out enough that I would be able to pick it up later and write. I typically have paper and a pen at all times. Again, why the non-compliance with one of the top rules that any writer should live by?

I'm lazy. That's it. No excuse. No "reason." I don't have a dog. My homework wasn't eaten, it was never completed. I suffer from massive procrastinator syndrome, or MPS for short. I only tend to do these things when it involves personal things, or things that would seriously be for the betterment of my life. When I have a deadline for my writing jobs–my column, an interview for a feature article, writing said feature–I rise to the occasion and have never once missed a deadline.

So why the self-defeatist attitude? I don't know either. But this is today's pondering. This is, afterall, Ponderings and Discoveries. (Not like a friend of mine read it: Pondering Sand Discoveries. But I could do that as well some day... you just wait.) Today's writing is a pondering. With no answers. Yet. I'll get back with you all when I make a discovery...

Of course you could comment and let me know what YOU think. Or do you suffer from MPS as well? Tell me about it. That is, if you get around to it... Maybe tomorrow I will be Dear Lauren and answer all of the world's woes...

By the way, have you all made the little "discovery" in my banner? Just checking... That picture is from my front yard, actually. Have you discovered the little bonus?

Peace, Love, and Cider Mugs...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Brute Strength Behind Gentleness

I was brushing my daughter’s hair this morning, having a few more troubles with tangles than normal. She’s a redhead, and feels pain more vividly than others. With each little whimper, I tried to reassure her that I was being as gentle as I could, and I realized that in order to be gentle to her scalp, I had to be pretty severe in my grip on her hair, so that the pulling would not make its way to her delicate skin.

When we strive for gentleness in one area, there is a reality in the fact that we must overcompensate in another way for the gentleness to be effective. I actually thought about God, in His infinite wisdom and compassion for the lost – His estranged children. In order for His wrath to be turned away, and His gentle grace to encompass each of us, something brutal and terrible had to be redirected. And so, Jesus stepped into position, fully ready, while not at all guilty, and allowed death and utter destruction to come upon Him, as punishment for our sins – every time we messed up, allowed hatred to enter our hearts, reacted with vengeance, or allowed anything to take first place in our lives besides God Almighty.

It is good to remember that every time we are touched with gentleness, which is actually grace, something else had to receive the redirected wrath. Should this evoke guilt within us? No. Instead, my prayer is that it brings about a heart of thankfulness and a desire to become even closer to the One who made that sacrifice for us – the One who took our punishment so that we would not be crushed by the ultimate blow of the true consequences for our poor choices.

I am thankful that God weaves into each situation throughout our lives, beautiful yet simple lessons for us to learn... If we only have open eyes, ears, and hearts to receive them.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Back to the Basics

I was reading an article the other day about a new machine that actually scans your body and tells you what size clothing you would wear at many participating retailers, such as Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, and Talbots. It seems (as we all probably know) that the clothing industry has many issues when it comes to maintaining a standard of sizing.

Well, as I read, I began thinking of just how complex life has become. In fact, within this article, I read something that made me mourn the loss of a simpler time. An Eddie Bauer store manager was stating how accurate this machine was, and how "’s really good for the customer who’s time-starved, which we all are." 

How did we get to this place? How is it that technology–advances that were supposed to make things run more efficiently–have made our lives so stressful and nearly impossible to execute every task on our to-do lists?

I love to watch movies set in the "prairie days." Watching a horse-drawn wagon, with women in hand-made dresses and little girls in their bonnets, men with leather work boots that actually had "boot straps," and decent, sturdy hats that doubled as an umbrella when the rains came–leaves me with a sense of longing for a simpler time.

Of course, it is that time again, when I have my mini-greenhouse set up in my dining room, filled with my little seedlings, who are all striving to grow and mature. And the best part about it is that it takes time for these things to happen; as it should be. I am not the person who is just brimming with patience, believe me, but I recognize that some things need to take time.

We can't expect to mature overnight, just as my seedlings can't grow into a fully-grown and producing vegetable plant in a day. In our spiritual lives, it is the same way. We cannot expect to grow in a few hours, after hearing a couple of good sermons, or feeling a warm and tingly moment in the Holy Spirit. This takes time, and I think that God has meant for it to be that way.

Louie Giglio once said, "in God's economy, waiting is a very vital part of the process." I couldn't agree more. I believe this is a lesson for all of us to learn, and maybe, just maybe, we will take a good inventory of our lives and scale back on the "things" that suck our time away. In everything we do, we do it for the glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

So if you find that you have just too many commitments, I encourage you to scale back a bit, and remember that you only have to do what God has called you to do.

Another trap many Christians fall into is that of "doing for the Kingdom." Many people take on too many projects in the name of ministry. And while this in and of itself is not bad–believe me, we ALL need to serve–sometimes we can get swept up in the "doing" instead of the "abiding." God will not love us more if we serve on one more committee. He will not love us less if we step back from leading that small group.

His goal for us is to abide in Him, grow in relationship, and from the overflow of the love He pours into us while we are spending that amazing time with our Father, to serve. It all comes from Him, not us. Serving in our own strength is just as effective as working for our salvation. It cannot be done. 

So take some time, evaluate what it is in your life that is sucking away at your sanity, and do a little spring cleaning. Simplify. De-clutter. Fall back in love with the One who first loved you, while you were still a sinner. Have a peaceful morning with a cup of coffee or tea, and open up that Bible. Read; let Him pour His love into you.

Peace and love to you all.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Majesty of a Tropical Spring Day... But Still...

So, it's been a long time between posts... which I tend to do once in a while. I hate that I do it, but then I think about how far-from-perfect we all are and I cut myself some slack. Onto today...

Today is one of those gifts from above, like where you step out to your porch in the morning and go, "Wow. This is the day the Lord has made!" Amidst the mundane moments of March, and the apathetic April that we had begun, God decided to remind us of what He truly loves to do for His children. So He swooped down this morning to touch our faces with the light and warmth of the sun. 

Our temperatures here in America's Dairyland (Wisconsin, for the dairy-free crowd) rose to more than 80˚ F. Yes they did. 

Currently, the sun is shining, and there are, really, no clouds in the sky. It is a picture-perfect reminder of the perfection that our Lord truly is. And today, I sit in the coffee shop, typing away, sipping on an extraordinary iced drink, and think to myself... "why in the name of Mike am I indoors?"

This is what I am looking at right now. 
Well, something I ponder today is commitment. I meet each week with some dazzling ladies, to grow together while honing our sharp-shooting skills as writers. And today is our day. Rain or... shine. So many people might say, "Well, yeah, but for the next ten or so days it will be back down in the 50s again. Go out and enjoy this day!"

And while I understand that mentality, today's pondering has brought me to an entirely different place. I am glad that God, in His infinite and perfect, unending love and patience, did not skip out on me because I lacked... something. Because truly, He has everything He needs.

God has all of the angels in the heavenly realms to worship Him, and if there is something down on this green (and getting greener!) earth to be done, He has ultimate power to do anything on His own. If perfection is what He's after, well... Enter Jesus. 

So why is it that He still holds my hand, keeping me from falling, (Psalm 37:23-24) and loving me each step of the way in this journey called life? Because I am something--someone--that He loves to pour Himself into. I am His beloved and He is mine. He is committed to me in each step I take.

So while today is a beautiful day, and I have been glancing outward every few moments... I will continue to make good on my commitments... Even if something "better" comes along. Because His love has stayed by my side every day, never faltering, never swaying. Like the warm, heady breeze that beckons me... Haha, maybe we'll have writers' group outside today. ;-)

Enjoy whatever day He has given you today! For each day you wake up and you're still here is because He still has a purpose for you. 

(In case you're wondering... Psalm 37:23-24 says this: The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in His way; though he fall, he shall not be cast head-long, for the Lord upholds his hand.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011


While watching some video footage of the Tsunami in Japan, I began thinking a lot about the powerful forces of nature. I also thought about how absolutely tranquil the ocean looked as it advanced over the earth, claiming new territory for itself; if only for a moment of time. The ocean is something that I don't really think of often, in terms of a militant force to be reckoned with, but it is. The sheer force and energy that is encapsulated within the borders of its shorelines is something that cannot be contained at all times. There is something so miraculous about this vast ocean of power that makes me shrink back into my seat and marvel at its magnitude.
This got me to thinking about God's all-powerful strength, creative ability, and love. Obviously, God's love is even bigger than the ocean and His strength is, well, it's more extreme than anything I've ever encountered... personally or from film. 

The thing is, when the ocean's wave came marching up onto the shore, it was not a respecter of people, vehicles, boats, even homes. What I saw was a solid wave, claiming territory, without straying from its intended path. What I saw was not an inch of hesitancy or delay. It was obedient to its mission.
But what was even more interesting and provoking was how it looked. Complete peace. Lucidity. Tranquility. I keep replaying it in my mind's eye, hoping to see some effort of aggression, some glance from side to side, and there's nothing; just the sheer will and peaceful onslaught of destruction.

I believe that there are some extremely important lessons for us to learn from the ocean. The first is this: when we are given a directive to move, we need to move--no hesitancy, but also not racing ahead of the command, filled with the aggressive attitude of immaturity.
Second, power does not equal chaos. When watching the wave stroll across the land, taking along with it the minuscule things such as van, boats, houses and trains, I was mesmerized by its lucidity. How is it that this force could be so tranquil when wreaking havoc and destruction upon the people of the land?

Jesus came to usher in peace. But that didn't mean everyone would automatically be toting peace signs and kissing one another in the name of brotherhood. Jesus brought along with his message an uprising--a war--between relationship and religion. This was his plan. And there's something so awe-inspiring about watching someone walk peacefully into the Plan for his life, just as the ocean's tide calmly marched in and took what it was told to take.

I know this is but the tip of the iceberg for the lessons and dynamic parallels held within this mighty force. But for now... keep pondering. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do. Afterall, He is the creator of these oceans, and He is the author and perfecter of our faith.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Great Snow-Throw

I saw this old man with a small snowblower the other day, slowly making his way along his snow-covered driveway. The odd thing was that his machine was pitifully spitting out the snow, right into the path he was trying to clear, just a few inches in front of the whole operation. He basically was throwing the same snow, over and over, as he trudged through the winter white landscape. I thought about this for a moment, and heard a message that was bold, yet comforting at the same time.

God equips us with tools to remove the obstacles in our lives. And while we are the ones meant to do the work, the Holy Spirit is the One who gives us the power to do such things. I thought of my own life, represented by this frail man, so eager to be done with the problem of a snowy driveway. I want so badly to be rid of the negative in my life that I sometimes jump the gun and muster all the strength I can from within, resulting in a poorly-powered snowblower, like our elderly friend mentioned earlier. Waiting on the Holy Spirit, for guidance and help in every situation, is of utmost importance. We were not meant to go this alone. God has given me many tools to help me along my way, but these tools are merely powerless knick-knacks without the supreme power of the Holy Spirit. 

To rely on the Power from above is of first importance in this life. To rid ourselves of our own strength, which really is not strength at all, is not only what we should be striving for, but also one of the hardest lessons in life. We have always been taught to rely on self-strength, self-empowerment, and the like. I believe it is God’s desire to see us shed this fictitious exterior as quickly as possible, and rely completely upon Him and His Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we are simply throwing regurgitated snow. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What is Love?

Yesterday, a very dear and beloved friend to me and my family was taken from this life. He had battled with Leukemia for several years, and later developed Diabetes. But the illness that won the battle over his life was Pneumonia. 

Pneumonia. It still boggles my mind that people die from this respiratory illness, but amazingly enough, many--especially the elderly--do. Ivan, also more fondly known as "Ike," was a major help in me landing my job as a Park Ranger and the Traverse City State Park Campground when I was around 20. It was a beautiful place, with good enough pay and great hours. Ike was my boss there. He was also very involved in Boy Scouts, along with my family.

Ike always had a tremendous heart for everyone. Each time I saw him, he wore compassion on his face and love in his every word. As time went on, I saw Ike less and less, as I moved away for different colleges, and then to begin my new married life. And every single time I went back home and had the pleasure of running into him somewhere, it was always full of warm family embraces and meaningful words. 

As I have been thinking about this, and feeling sad, of course, I have also been thinking about how tomorrow is Valentine's Day. The day of love; the day Ivan's wife will not have her valentine to snuggle up with. And while it will be a very hard day for her, I know she will see him again, as will I, and any other person who belongs in the Kingdom of Heaven. Ike was born again, and this is the best news. He is without Leukemia, without Diabetes, without Pneumonia, without pain. And the best part is Who he is with: Jesus.

So I thought about Valentine's Day, and love, and the loss of my friend, and these things blended together took me to a place that makes me understand just a bit more of this thing called life. Jesus showed the ultimate display of love: He died a horrific death for each one of us, because He loved us. Because God loved us, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die this death. They knew what had to happen. And all for a bunch of unworthy sinners. That is love.

I've also been listening to a podcast by Louie Giglio (tremendous anointing, you should check him out), from December 2010. In this particular teaching, Louie said something that changed me. "In God's economy, waiting is a very vital part of the process." And knowing that I have had some very dear loved ones pass along within the last five years, this gives me hope. Not only do I have hope that I will see these people again, but I have an even greater hope that through this waiting process, I am being shaped to be more like Jesus. 

In everything I have seen and heard, it seems to me that God is patiently awaiting my maturity. And He is so gracious. Each moment in my life is a lesson. And thinking about love, thinking about Jesus, thinking about Valentine's Day, and thinking about Ivan, I know that many of us who are in mourning are in waiting. There is a secret training happening inside of our hearts right now, that is carving away the ugly, misformed parts--the parts ill-affected by sin--and uncovering the beauty that God has truly planted inside each of us.

So today, I honor you Ike, for the friend you were to me. And I thank You Father God, that You have rescued your son from his afflictions. My heart is currently split between the loss and the gain, but will soon resolve to be all for the gain. With love, your friend...  Lauren

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Life. And One "Who Must Be Admired."

This past week has been a whirlwind of emotion, grief, tears, praise, and thanksgiving. February 5, 2011, a tragic accident happened, which took the life of a beautiful woman and soon-to-be mother. She was taken so early from this earth, never knowing the reality of motherhood. She had waited 15 years to even become pregnant and then, just two weeks before experiencing the birth of her child, she was taken from this life. I did not personally know Sara, but I know her brother-in-law and her in-laws. It was close enough to home for me to weep each day for this family.

Nearly an hour after the accident, her baby was delivered via C-section, with no pulse, no brain activity. Miracle one: They got her heart beating again. Miracle two: Her daddy was able to see and know his daughter. For three days, the family was able to meet their newest addition to their family, Miranda Evangelene. 
Such a beautiful girl.

The doctors were unable to detect brain activity after three days, and therefore, Daddy made the decision to take her off of life support. And while this is sad, it was the right thing to do. Miracle three: The family was able to hold her, love her, and greet her before she made the journey Home. 

Now I would like to talk about Miracle four. One thing this world needs is a unified body of Christ. Through this horrible accident, Miranda, or "She Who Must Be Admired," was the focus of more than 38,000 people on Facebook, joining in prayer for her and this family. I can't even imagine how many other thousands of people throughout churches and families were also united for this family.

I will forever remember Miranda and surely will admire her life of three days on this earth. She, without lifting a finger, inspired tens of thousands of people to pray. She, without uttering a single word, united many around the globe. And most of all, she allowed her daddy to love her in the here and now, and give him hope for the future; when he will see his daughter and wife again in Heaven.

Continue to pray for the Cole family. And continue to look for the beauty in all things. For even in the grimmest of situations, God is at work. He's already laid the path before you, and knows each step. Miracles don't always look the way we think they should... And why should they? We are not the ones who create them, God is.

As Isaiah 55:8-9 reads:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Thank You, God, for having higher ways, and for giving us the faith to believe in these, Your ways.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bountiful, Beautiful Blessings...

*This is the first of my "list" of things I love about snow.*

A while back, a friend of mine had reminded me that God sent manna from the heavens to feed the Israelites while they sojourned in the desert. It was good to remember that. I thought about how God had supplied their every need, and that He has promised to do just that for each of His children even today. 
Paul wrote to the Philippians (in 4:19), “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” This is true. Yet we tend to be a generation of doubters. In these “get it now,” and “buy now, pay later” times, it’s no wonder that we are an impatient people. 
When we simply rest in God’s goodness and faithfulness, we allow our true provider to shine. Even Jesus taught us to pray, by asking God to “give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt 6:11) This of course is reminiscent to the days of manna consumption, but speaks of so much more. Manna really symbolizes our every need, whether edible, monetary, emotional, etc. God is Jehovah Jireh, which means “God provides.” Who are we to limit what He provides, the timing, or even quantity?
Rewind a few days to this year’s Groundhog's Day, and to the 5th worst storm recorded in Wisconsin’s history. At my house, there are snowdrifts that reach to the top of our 6-foot fence. Our garage door was nearly hidden by the bounty of white splendor, and our driveway became nonexistent, as a five-foot-high by six-foot-wide drift swallowed it whole like a ravenous whale. It took two neighbors with their snowblowers about 45 minutes to carve out a path large enough for a car to fit through. 

So, what does this have to do with God providing? Well, some may take the path of God providing friendly neighbors to help us in our time of need. Sure, that is more than right, and we truly appreciated every minute of exertion they spent on us. But there is something else here that stirs my faith and excitement.

As I was driving through our city, now fortified with bulwarks of a northern winter’s bounty, God spoke to me very clearly. He reminded me of the manna that was always enough, never sparse. He also reminded me that He promises to bless us richly. 
So what is our part in this? First we need to trust God with our all. That is key. Our faith in Him should always be our number one priority, for it is through faith that we expand into all other aspects of Christian life. Second, we need to trust God enough to give Him what He asks for. Know this: God doesn’t need anything of ours. But he loves our contributions just as a parent loves the offerings sincerely brought to them by their three-year-old. It’s not a patronizing event, either; it’s one that tells of adoration and care. 
So we, as little children, offer everything in our lives to God. In return, He pours out His blessings upon us in a dance of life, love, and passion. If you’re in a climate that can support this... Next time you look out at the high walls of snow, guarding your every step along the carved-out paths, think of God and His abundance. He doesn’t look to blanket our meager surroundings with His blessings. No, I believe He longs to completely cover and engulf our lives so that the only thing people see when they look in our direction is His bounty.
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.” 
--Malachi 3:10-12

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Did It!

"What's that," you say? Well, I will tell you. I have finally decided that I am going to LIKE snow and winter again. Crazy? Out of my mind? Well, let me tell you why...

I was born and raised right around the 45th parallel, in the great state of Michigan. (That is almost exactly 1/2 half-way between the North Pole and the Equator.) That's right. And here's a question for all of you readers: What lies just WEST of the great state of Michigan? Any takers? Well, I will tell you: Lake Michigan. Which means that in the wintertime, we would get completely pummeled with snow. 
The 45th Parallel. C-O-L-D. A. Lot.

I always tell people a little-known fact about my childhood, when explaining my relationship with snow. It goes a little something like this: "I grew up trick-or-treating some years in my snow suit. I also grew up some years hunting for Easter Eggs in the snow. You don't have to color Easter Eggs half the time when you live where I grew up... It would make the eggs EASIER to find."

People would laugh, but I was 100% honest. I can remember only ONE Christmas where there was no snow, truthfully. It was 1982. The only way I remember is because my mom has a picture of me, outside, in our driveway, in my spring jacket, jeans, and cowboy boots (that's right!), and riding my Big Wheel. I was holding one of my Christmas presents: "Dr. Phineas Frog." (NO! It is not some ridiculous Phineas and Ferb thing. My poor Phineas was ROBBED.)
Dr. Phineas today. Yes, I still have him!
Anyway, as I grew up, not being people that had money to ski or anything like that, we did the free stuff. We would go to our aunt's house and sled down their "big" hill in the back yard, or if we were feeling brave, take the toboggan out for an "all pile on and see who lives" experiment. But typically, plastic sleds were the means we had, and most every year, they would come up with little "innovative" ways to make the sleds go faster, turn easier, etc. But they never really delivered.

Fast-forward about 8 years: me, working at our family's hardware store/gas station. This was the old-fashioned kind. Not only did we sell leaded, and unleaded gas, but we also sold kerosene, diesel, and fuel oil. I bet a lot of younger people don't even know what fuel oil is anymore. Our tanks for these fuels were above-ground tanks, and we had to keep a lock on them so people wouldn't fill up their containers and drive away. Which meant we, the workers, had to go out, unlock, fill the containers, and then lock back up. 

I remember going out in -20º F. With wind chills at around -35º F.  And did you know that once the weather goes below (I believe it is) -10º F, you can't feel any difference if it gets any colder? That's right. (If that's not the right temp., please know that it is close to that. My brain cells have been frozen too many times, possibly.)

So this is pretty much why I made the decision, as a more refined and respectable "adult," that I was done with Winter. I liked snow for Christmas, and that was about it. Well folks, times, they are a-changing.

I have decided that I will love each season equally. (Well, at least Winter, Spring, and Summer will get equal billing... Fall is just WAY too high up there on my "Things to Adore" list.) There is always something to love about each and every situation. 

As Rafiki tells Simba in The Lion King, sometimes we just have to "look haaaarder," before we can see the good in something, be it a season, situation, or certain someone. So my challenge, if you are up for it, is to look at each "thing" in your life. If you can't find something to love about the subject at hand, then "look haaarder."

"Loook . . . Haaahdah."

Next post: My list of what I love about Winter.

Peace, love, and cider mugs!