I must have been about 9 years old, sitting in the wild alfalfa and sweet clover that thrives around Pagosa Springs, Colorado, when one of my cousins asked me about my obsession with writing poems and songs and sketching. I remember the moment. It was one of those moments that imprints upon your soul in a way that only God can brand you with. My cousin, a touch older than me, must have been feeling philosophical that day. She sat down in the grass and flowers next to me and asked, "Lora, why do you do all that writing and drawing? Do you think you want to be an artist some day? What do you really want to do?"
I felt the answer rush into my heart the way the New Mexico wind gusted when a storm was coming. "I just want everyone to know how beautiful everything God makes is." As I said the words my face filled with heat, not from embarrassment, but from a deep conviction I rarely felt being of such a quiet and passive nature.
Today, I finished cleaning up the kitchen and started up my computer to work on some things for my classroom. I sighed a world-weary sigh and felt paralyzed by the long list of things that needed to be done. I just couldn't do it. It was all so important, but, I wanted to feel my soul sing. God never forsakes me. I feel His presence closer than ever these days as I navigate the new terrains of teaching and cheering Jovani on as he does the grueling work of a university student in veterinarian medicine. The devil likes to sneak up behind my tired shoulders and whisper lies about how my own dreams are being left behind in the dust of service to my family.
That moment, decades ago, when I sat in the sun as a child, God placed an anchor of truth deep in my soul. Today I went back and asked myself, "Lora, why do you do all these things? The dishes and feeding baby and administering of G-tube feeds (Micaela's special needs) and wipe noses? What do you really want to do?" I felt tears of relief and gratitude fill my eyes because it IS what I want to do.
I'm doing it. I am showing the world how beautiful are the things that God makes.
He makes mothers and wives that can shoulder grief and loss.
He makes wives that can weather storms and stand by their men with strength and passion.
He makes mothers that can sit beside their children on the third hour of homework and gently encourage their struggles.
He makes women who can spot out the lies of this world and fight for their families.
He makes women who, though exhausted and often fearful, can find the love and joy to smile for and hug their friends.
He makes us stand firm on the last watches of the night when our strength is failing us and our children are sick.
He makes us forgiving, understanding, hopeful, and full of laughter.
He makes us BEAUTIFUL, ladies.
Right where we are.
We don't need a stage or a platform. We've got our daughters eyes and our husbands arms and a world that expected us to break down a long time ago.
But we just glow with that deep seated joy and peace, mortal vessels of God's miraculous spirit.
Oh, so, beautiful.
Do you see the beauty in your life today?
Micaela's sleep study on Thursday was very rough. I wish I could describe it differently, but it was awful. All of her teachers, therapists, and I were wondering how this would go. Micaela is currently at that independent, self-preservation phase. She doesn't like for anyone to help her or even touch her without her permission. She fights hard whenever she feels like she is being controlled. So, as you can imagine, when the sleep technician began to get her set up, our little girl went berserk.
Our technician was amazing. She is the same lady who took care of us for our last sleep study and she remembered Micaela. Throughout the tedious process of getting Micaela connected to monitors for her brain, chin, jaws, breathing, chest, stomach, oxygen, and carbon dioxide levels, this remarkable woman never raised her voice. She was calm and encouraging and understanding.
For Micaela, the situation worsened. Some of the equipment was faulty and it took three and a half hours to complete the set up. By the time we got the thumbs up to fall into a deep sleep, Micaela's eyes were nearly swollen shut from crying and there was so much snot coming out of her nose that the nasal canula was useless. However, as we settled in to sleep for the night, I was full of peace. I know we had countless family and friends praying for us and I marveled at how it permeated the room and rested on our technician.
She had such a gentle spirit. Her back was aching by the time she had leaned over Micaela's struggling body for over three hours. However, she was remarkably tender and understanding with my obstinate child. Micaela even gave her multiple hugs before we left the following morning.
Then, when I came home to fires and precious friends evacuating from their homes to mine, I remembered her gentle spirit. I served them as best I could for the frantic hours that we watched and hoped and prayed. I was humbled to get to serve them with some of that spirit of love that had been shown to us the night before. It was as if her patience and love strengthened me for my own trials ahead. Honestly, I would have otherwise been an angry exhausted mess.
What a precious and unexpected gift. I've never thought about how our actions can give others the strength, patience, and peace to handle difficult situations completely unconnected to them. Our technician has no idea that her gentle spirit ended up affecting my whole day as a encountered a terrifying situation.
God, let Your gentle spirit in me be a source of love and strength for others. Thank You, for watching over us, keeping my friends and neighbors safe, and most of all, letting Your peace reign.
Has the peace, patience, and gentle spirit of another person every blessed you in an unexpected way?
I think every sweet or salty treat has been calling my name these days, especially this past week. Trying to eat healthy and be “good” just added to my exhaustion as I tried to make it through the busy days and meet the demands of my full life. Finally, sitting at my desk at school, I decided to stop and figure it out. Why I was struggling?
The room was quiet. It was my prep hour. Outside I could hear the occasional bang of a locker being closed and a distance chuckle down the school hall.
So, I pulled open a new screen and did what any normal human being would do…I googled my problem. And, guess what? The internet happily complied and gave me more articles on “What to do when you’re stressed” than I could read in a thousand prep periods. However, one that concentrated on the Enneagram personality types caught my eye. I opened it up and sought to discover what I could do to get out of my current funk.
Want to hear the coolest advice I found? Think about what you used to do as a child for fun and find a way to include that in how you take care of yourself. Immediately I smiled. I remembered the hours I spent writing, drawing, coloring, building with Legos, and reading novels that took me to different worlds. Inspired, I printed off a few adult coloring sheets and spent some precious moments filing in color between the lines.
My shoulders dropped. I smile filled me from deep within.
I realized that I was being completely unproductive, but those minutes filled me with peace and a sense that life is ok.
We all do this. We put so much pressure on ourselves to get it all done. We want to push through the pain. We want to accomplish every chore and rise to every responsibility. But it is like filling our dryer with so many wet towels and jeans that the weight refuses to allow the drum to turn. We have to lift the weight off so that we can operate with efficiency, getting the job done without tearing ourselves apart.
So many of the women I coach struggle with this. Often they are the ones who find that they are seeking food or alcohol after work or after the kids go to bed. The weight on their shoulders presses down and our human nature craves an escape hatch that will allow us to feel free for a few short hours. In the process of turning to sweets or wine to free us, we instead find ourselves enslaved to habits that weigh our hearts down even more.
Oh, my love, God never told us we were to live this way. That’s why He gave a world where the sun goes down so we can rest and a seventh day to sabbath from our toil. From the moment of creation He built natural rhythms into our reality to protect His children.
I want to challenge you to find the courage to place true natural fun in your life. Maybe it is music, or dance, or art, or crafts, or time in nature. Think back to what put a smile on your face as a child. Embrace the sweet uniqueness of how God made your soul and treasure it.
Rest, my dears. Rest from the toil. Rest from the burden.
I felt so weary. The road stretched out under the headlights as the windshield wipers rubbed and swished the slushy mixture off the windshield. In the back seat, the girls had refused to fall asleep and were restlessly playing games in the dark.
My heart seemed to pulse in my ears. I gripped the steering wheel and kept vigil on the road, determined to get us home, safe and sound, in one piece, and in time for Micaela to get her medicine without having a reaction.
I look back on those hours now, and I still hurt. Did you know, I couldn't even pray? Thankfully, I had friends and family covering us with prayer as we traveled, but I was so upset with myself that I couldn't even ask God for more than protection and forgiveness for my mistakes. I felt like the road and the weariness were mine to accept, to bear, to wear.
I was still hurting hours after we got home and the girls fell asleep. Micaela, blessedly, did not have any seizures even though she received her medicine so late. I sat in a chair in the living room and rocked, refusing to go to sleep, keeping vigil on the baby monitor as she slept. It was, after all, completely my fault that the medicine had been forgotten at home and that we had canceled her sleep study when we couldn't have it filled or compounded at a single pharmacy in Albuquerque.
These days, I make it a point not to wallow in my mistakes, but to pull myself up and learn and move forward. However, my friend, this one was harder for me. Probably because I have all the systems in place to prevent this mistake. Honestly, I still can't figure out how this slip-up happened except that I am human...oh, so, human. And, that realization, that mistakes happen even when we feel completely squared away, is humbling.
A few of my friends pointed out that God will have His plans for Micaela and all of us, and the mistake was no doubt part of His plans. Perhaps it wasn't the right time for her sleep-study. Perhaps there was a different technician that needed to work with her. Or another reason we have to go back to Albuquerque. I don't know.
But, I had a choice. I could either continue to shame myself and drown in all the things I should have done, or I could simply remember that I have given my life to God.
I really can't be my own shepherd. I still need God. I need Him to guide me, to protect me. I need to take refuge in Him, not just from the world, but also for comfort as I grow. I need to trust Him with the way the road turns in my life, and not shoulder the burden of it all.
I grin as I admit that I am just a simple sheep, prone to wander in stubborn belief that I know where all the green pastures lie. However, really, God knows exactly what we will need before we even ask. He takes His shepherd's crook, and redirects my steps because I have surrendered.
Once you were like sheep
What Leads Me to the Pantry (or the Refrigerator)
I have a “witching hour”, a time of day where I become angry and restless. My feet lead me to the pantry where I stare at the contents and finger bags of things that my stomach doesn’t want but my mind craves. Do you know what leads me there? One. Simple. Thing. My task list.
Now, I need for you to hear me. I love time management strategies, organization techniques, and planning tactics. I love a beautifully orchestrated to-do list paired with a gorgeous schedule. However, 19 out of 20 times, all that planning leads me to the pantry at the end of the day.
Why? Because all the planning in the world will never compensate for the unexpected. There is the phone call from a hospital or a request from a family member or simply a complication to a task I thought would be easy. Then, at the end of the day, I look at my plan and completely trash myself. I expected more. What I got done wasn’t enough.
I am my own worst task-master.
Right now my church is doing a Bible Study by Louie Giglio called “Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table”. As I work through the book I am forced to face the fact that I try so hard to be my own Shepard. It isn’t because I don’t trust God, it is more a lie that the enemy fed me that I should know how to do this without God. As if God needed me to be self-sufficient in order to be less of a bother to Him.
Have you ever stopped and really thought about your opinion of God? Several Christian ministry leaders have made the connection of us viewing God, our Heavenly Father, the same way we view our Earthly father. For me, this is spot-on. I have an amazing Earthly father. He has always served his family well. He is a hard worker, giving everything to his children and even caring for my mother as she passed away from multiple sclerosis. However, I always felt deeply that I added to my father’s burdens. I strived to work hard and be helpful and “good” so his life wouldn’t be so difficult. It is an attitude that carries over into my relationship with God.
It is both ironic and sad, because the God that created the universe does not need me to be perfect. He is not given to exhaustion or resentment because of any of my faults. He is the perfect Father. He has asked to give everything to me--guidance, protection, provision, and love--and it is His good pleasure to do this for His children.
This lent, I have been asked to give God my task list. It is a symbol of my belief that I could ever hurt or disappoint my God by my imperfections. He can have my to-do list while I truly rest and trust His love for me no matter what did or did not get done that day.
So, tell me this, what is leading you to the pantry these days?
If emotional eating is something you would like some help working on, consider signing up for my free weight loss class. I would be honored to coach you. https://mailchi.mp/88cc1c3e9b98/weight-loss-from-the-soul
A couple weeks ago we went over to a neighbor's house. Micaela was terrible. She was into everything and screaming, "No!" to everyone about anything. It was awful. I winced as her behavior escalated and what should have been a pleasant visit morphed into a frustrating experience for everyone.
I left the home of my sweet friend determined to never, and I mean NEVER, take her out in public again. At home she was back to her sweet happy little soul. She played with her baby doll and gave hugs likes she hadn't just impersonated a Tasmanian devil half-an-hour before.
I know it is silly and even unreasonable, but I was so mad at her. Why couldn't she just behave? Why couldn't I count on one hour of my life in public that wasn't a disaster with her?
The thoughts in my head were headed to a dark place.
I've went there before.
It is too easy to fall into a place of hopelessness and anger and fear. Thankfully, I have a plan in place for these moments. I grabbed my Bible and my journal and headed to the bedroom for some breathing room.
After some time alone and a lot of prayer, I realized that the predominate thought was one of wanting to give up. I wanted to be done trying. It just seemed impossible. This stems from the years I've spend working on goals with Micaela that take other children months, weeks, or even days. Some of these goals, like behaving well outside of the home and potty-training, we are still working on.
God whispered into my soul, "My plans will not fail. But they will happen in MY time."
Change takes time, one of the most precious commodities of all. But God's plans will not fail. And, if I trust that, suddenly it doesn't hurt so much for change to take so long.
All of my frustration and fear stemmed from the idea that change wouldn't happen at all. I had taken my eyes off of God's power and goodness and focused instead on what I am able to do without Him.
Strength and peace flowed back into me. I left the bedroom and gave Micaela one of the soul-deep hugs that she has been blessing me with for years. I felt her little body relax and hug back, as if she had been missing the mamma that could love her in the moment.
Such a crazy lesson to have to learn so many times. Change takes times, but if we let go of fear and trust God's plans and goodness, we will have the strength to keep going.
I know you are there too, my friend, there is something that hurts. Something you want so badly to change, but it is a long time coming. When you consider giving up, are you afraid of something? Afraid you are wasting time? Wasting hope? But, is this change worth fighting for?
It was like the OMNICROM variant of attitudes. I'm serious. Don't think that I'm trying to be flippant about COVID when I say this. Adela's attitude was contagious and deadly.
It was a school morning. I had let the girls sleep to the last possible second, but I had to get them up and ready for school. I turned on the hall lights so that illumination could enter their sleepy cave without assaulting their eyes. Adela rolled over in her bed and grabbed a pillow to slam over her head.
Then the onslaught began.
Adela groaned, "Why do I have to go to school? I just want school to be over. I wish it was the weekend. I don't want to get up. I'm tired. Why can't I just stay home?" With every word she spoke I felt my own attitude slipping. My pleasant demeaner and smile were a flimsy façade growing more delicate be the second.
By day two, Micaela had caught "it", too. "No!" she yelled when I approached her bed. "I want to stay in bed. I want to sleep."
By day three, my alarm went off and I laid in bed, staring at the ceiling.
The next week followed the same cycle. Then, Thursday rolled around and as Adela spewed words of dismay and anger, I realized what was going on.
I gasped and told her, "Stop. Adela. I know that you don't want to go to school. That is your choice to feel that way, but I want you to stop talking about it. It isn't helping anybody else."
Adela stared at me. I had broken one of our home's cardinal rules. I have always said that we are allowed to express our thoughts and feelings as long as we are kind and respectful to others. But, then I realized that she was breaking the rules, too.
I took a deep breath, "Adela, everything you are saying is making it hard for Micaela and I to have good thoughts about school. It is your choice to think that way and let yourself feel that way. But it is unkind to spread it to us."
Thoughts are contagious. She blinked and the lightbulb came on for both of us.
Thoughts. They are a two-way contamination system. I can spread attitudes to others and I can catch them from others, too. I can work very hard on using good thought-hygiene but if I'm constantly exposing myself to harmful attitudes, eventually, something is going to take-root in me.
That day I learned a powerful lesson. My own determination to think good thoughts and believe admirable truths, needs to be coupled with taking action to limit my exposure to harmful attitudes when I am able. Maybe that is only chatting to certain friends on days I'm feeling weaker, or, in this case, honestly telling my little love that I was being harmed by her onslaught of negativity.
I would like to be stronger than this. I would like to be spiritually mature enough to stand in any storm with my mind and heart unharmed. But, this day I know my limitations are real and that is okay. God is still growing me. My mind needs protection and safeguarding, too.
The prudent see danger and take refuge,
What role are you playing in the thought contamination process? What attitudes do you find yourself spreading? What beliefs do you regularly expose yourself to?
When I was going to college, my older brother and I shared an apartment. He still likes to put a big 'ole grin on his handsome face and tell his friends, "If I came home and my sister was cleaning, I went and hid in my room. It always meant she'd had a bad day. It wasn't safe to come out until she had finished."
I never put too much thought into this tendency of mine. I just brushed it off that things felt better when they were clean and organized. However, the other day I was scrolling Pinterest (because that is important ;) ) and I found this:
Okay, if you haven't read The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, you need to buy, borrow, listen to it now. I'm not kidding. It is written by a Christian family counselor and it has helped me so much to love others better. You can also take the quiz here: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language and that will get you started.
However, I had never considered that those love languages could help me love myself better, too. And, wow, the "Acts of Service" section of the self-love image hit the nail on the head. I love planning, organizing, cleaning, etc. When I do those things, I feel relaxed and fulfilled. I didn't realize that it was self-love mostly because often if I tell people that those things are fun for me, they just think I'm a little loopy.
I had to blog about this. I do believe we are supposed to be intentional about caring for ourselves. Goodness, even Jesus did things to refill such as eating with friends, going away to quiet places and praying, and spending time with children. What blew my mind, however, was that we are unique creatures and what is self-love for one person is simply a chore for someone else.
So, go through this image and be intentional about loving yourself. What I love, is that so many of the things on this list are kind and healthy things to do PERIOD.
Oh, God, please bless the kind person who created this and posted it on Pinterest. I think we are often unaware of the lives we touch with our commitment to share love and truth to others.
What feels like self-love to you?
I got off that coaching call and clutched my hand to my chest. I was smiling from the inside out and marveling at how I could pour so much out on another soul and feel so alive and full of God's Spirit.
The best way I could describe it, is that my soul was singing.
This is the sweetest thing about coaching: I get to sit with one of my sisters in Christ, listen to her story and then help her find the next steps for her life. I love it. Not only do I have the privilege to watch these sweet women grow and learn, I get to learn too. Every problem followed with God's solutions teaches me.
There are other things that make my soul sing. I feel this way when I lay my expectations for my children down and simply enjoy their presence. I feel this way when I write these blogs. I feel this way when I serve my husband. I feel this way when I join the worship team at church.
I have noticed that many women whom I coach haven't found what makes their souls sing. I understand this. Our culture has not encouraged the process it takes to find this depth. It takes practice and courage and consistency. It takes staying with and serving our church instead of "jumping ship" the moment we are unsatisfied. It means staying in relationships. It means developing skills. It mean having the courage to put ourselves at risk of failure or embarrassment. All the things I listed that make my soul sing, are all things that I've had to stick with and allow to mature and grow within me.
I have a cousin in Arizona with a gift for photography. She has a natural love and knack for this activity, but I have noticed that what used to be simply a fun thing to do, has turned into art. She connects with families, captures moments, and leaves her customers with a gift they can treasure for decades to come. When I listen to her talk about her little side business, I can hear her soul sing. It gives me goosebumps and makes tears come to my eyes. I breathe a thankful sigh that someone I love so much found what connects her to God's plan and purpose for her life.
She didn't' reach this point by simply having a talent, either. She has practiced. She has acquired skills. She has poured hours into developing techniques, taking chances, and learning from setbacks.
You, whoever you are reading this, my love, are precious. There is something beautiful inside you that God created you for. Probably more than one thing. It could be teaching, listening, healing, creating, organizing, hugging...goodness this list just goes on. I don't want you to give up on whatever it is because it gets hard or costs time and effort and courage. Don't "jump ship" on those around you. Give your soul a chance to sing as we worship Him with our unique gifts.
Have you found what makes your soul sing?
I hugged Adela and said, "It just isn't fair, is it?" Adela's breakfast was on hold as I called doctors. I could tell she was holding back her frustration. By the window, Micaela played in slow-motion, once in a while she lifted a hand and scratched at the full-body rash. Unfortunately, she had reacted to the new seizure medication.
This is not the life I imagined. Sometimes, I take a step back and look at my life from an outside perspective. I see all the uncertainty, the stress, the pain that comes with parenting a child with multiple disabilities and medical issues. It takes my breath away. Typically, I keep my head down and put one foot in front of the other, but this morning I lifted my head. My life flew into review like a recap session of a TV show, flitting in front of me the important highlights.
Once upon a time, this life was my worst nightmare. I'm not kidding either. I once told God to please protect me from my two greatest fears: losing a child and having a special needs child. He allowed both of them to become a part of my reality. Tears came to my eyes and I felt His love surround me. God has always known more about me than I do. He knows what I am capable of. He knows my strength and faith. He knows what I will do when push comes to shove.
This morning I felt so vulnerable, so broken. I wanted to hit the reset button on life and reconstruct a reality that was easier and less messy.
For whatever reason, Micaela has started to have multiple tiny seizures a day. Gone are the awful, long, body wracking seizures that used to last on average 40 minutes to an hour (thank You, God) but these new seizures wear on my mind. We are scrambling to try new medications and look into possible causes.
As I talked to the doctor, I watched Adela walk over to her sister and hug her hard. This life is messy for both of them too. I smiled and let out a deep breath. God knows more about them than I do, too. They are also stronger than I can imagine. Whatever life God gives us, I can trust Him with it. I will stand firm in my faith and to the promise that He has given us a life in which we will flourish.
This morning I want you to know this, too, my friend. God knows more about you than you do.
Take a moment and remember a time that felt impossible. Marvel that God got you through because there was more about you, your faith, and God's love than you ever realized.
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