Fighting for Life: In response to all the posts going around about New York

The last few days have been very painful for me. Many times I have been able to hold back tears, but other moments I feel a gut wrenching pain and I can’t help but sob. I honestly never thought this is something I would write about until I actually sat down to write it. While I have always cared about life, I’m not one to engage with politics on social media or argue with others about their opinions. And this is NOT a political post, my pain is for the abortion situation in general-But in light of New York’s recent decision, abortion and the sanctity of life have been on my heart more than ever and now I feel obligated to share my heart.
 
I spend a lot of my time working with children and babies. So as my thoughts are overcome with the decision in New York and the many other abortions happening in the country; my head is filled with images of wiggling baby toes, chubby little fingers as they learn to wave, clap, and blow kisses, and the laughter and joy of an infant as he/she discovers the world around them. I think of what the children I have cared for are growing up to be and the impact they have on the world. And my heart is completely in a devastated state for the millions of lives that will never be. The lives that ended before they even got a chance to LIVE.
 
Before I continue, if you are someone who has ever had an abortion, considered an abortion, or know someone who has; I am not here to judge or condemn and I am definitely not angry with you. I know people in my life who have made that decision at some point. My heart actually really hurts for you, dear one, that you were in that position at all. That you even felt the need to make such a difficult decision and that you didn’t have the the support system and situation that would have been necessary for raising a child. I love you and I feel for you. And God loves you, your decision did not change that.
 
I know that I am not the only one pained about New York’s bill and the overall abortion crisis in America. I have seen and heard many sad responses in the last few days. Maybe you are one of those people who voted pro-life or participated in the walk for life. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this. However, we are at a point where the church as a WHOLE needs to embrace that fact that being pro-life does not begin and end at birth. Abortion itself is not the root of the issue, if we can stand together and tackle the root. Then we may truly begin to see a shift in the staggering abortion statistics.
 
Voting and marching are good beginner steps, but if we are truly pro-life it cannot end there. Part of the agony I feel, is also that I know that we can be doing more and sometimes we miss the mark by just focusing on politics. Being pro-life is also about supporting crisis pregnancy centers (volunteering or financially), it’s about reaching out to the single mom and her kids in your neighborhood, or as a church supporting organizations or starting programs that support single mothers. It’s about mentoring and loving on teenagers, both girls and boys and making sure they are educated both traditionally and spiritually. It’s about making foster care and adoption a priority in the church rather than a last resort (abortions decreasing inevitably mean an increase of children needing both short term and permanent homes). It’s about the church standing together and showing that we are pro-life the whole way through.
 
My in-laws are friends with a family where the husband was a Flight Nurse and he came in contact with a young woman who was planning on aborting her child. After speaking with his wife and clocking out, he approached the girl and asked if she would reconsider abortion if he and his wife adopted her baby. She agreed and the man and his wife now are raising a beautiful toddler whose life almost ended before birth. This family did not just say abortion was wrong, they did not just berate her for her decision; but they offered her a tangible alternative. Imagine what this would look like if the WHOLE church stood together and did this!
 
It is no secret that we live in a broken and hurting world. Abortion is one result of that brokenness. It is okay to be angered and hurting by the current situation, but let us not just sit in that pain. Yes there are unborn babies that need us, but there are also pregnant moms, single moms, low-income families, and hurting teenagers that need us. So if you feel agony over New York’s bill and other recent bills…you are not alone. Keep voting and keep marching…but will you stand with me and do more? Church…will we step up and WITH LOVE, show our communities, our states, and our country that ALL life matters?
 
Psalm 139:13-14 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
 
James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” 

 

In 7 months of marriage…

The last seven months have completely flown by. It feels like only a few days ago that I said “I do” to my best friend. In that short time we have both switched careers, I worked with refugees in Greece, we’ve moved, and we’ve started getting more involved with ministry. It has been hectic to say the least. At this point some people are still in the honeymoon stage, and some days we are…but other days we aren’t. We’ve definitely had some big challenges to handle since getting married.
 
And I have learned so so much in these first seven months. I know by now some of you are rolling your eyes, thinking “talk to me in 5 years…or 30 years”. I’m not completely naive…I know there is so much we haven’t had to deal with and I know there will be times where giving up would be an easy option. However, I know that Phil is the ONE for me…because I chose to marry him and we made that commitment before God. I also know that our marriage has already lasted longer than some people I know, and that truly breaks my heart.
 
A Christian girl I knew said, after her marriage lasted less than a year, “that she just wasn’t happy”. Other common reasons are that “I was just no longer in love” or “The person I married changed” or “They just weren’t the one”. All of this pains me deeply, because that’s not what marriage is about. I do understand that there are some situations in which separation is necessary, but our culture (even Christian culture) has allowed divorce to become an easy out. Not only that…but our view of love and what marriages is has become so marred and distorted.
 
We think it should be an easy fairytale…all fun and no hardships. We act like there is only “one” person in the entire world that is right for us. We kid ourselves that love is always about the FEELING and WHAT we will get out of it. But the truth is, loving someone is a choice (even when the feeling isn’t there). A wonderful book I recently read (Love that Lasts) states it so well…
 
“How do I know my wife is the one? Because I married her. She become “the one” the minute I committed my life to her. I know it’s really unromantic, but Alyssa and I agree that we both could’ve married someone else and probably been totally happy and had a great life. 
 
It’s not about finding the mythical magical unicorn but about finding someone who will be a great partner for life. And frankly, “the one” doesn’t really make sense from a logical standpoint. All it would take is for one guy fifteen hundred years ago to marry the wrong person (not the one for him), and he would create an endless cycle all the way down to you and me, since he married someone else’s “the one” and so on and so on…..
 
In God’s providence, there is a certain level of weaving and moving and bringing two people together. If you’re not already married, it’s possible God has someone for you who you might not even know yet. So we have to be careful. Alyssa and I have seen people justify divorce because, well, their spouse just wasn’t the one. For Alyssa and me, it was incredibly freeing when we realized that there were plenty of people we could have married, but we chose each other. That’s what matters…
 
True love is doing the laundry when you usually don’t because your spouse needs a break. True love is choosing to love even when you don’t feel like it. Every single day.True love is saying sorry for the one-millionth time. True love is always searching for ways to serve the other….”
 
So yes, Phil and I have only been married 7 months. And some days we don’t like each other very much. However, we always choose to love each other. We are learning that it’s okay to not always agree, that couples who’ve been married 30 or 40 years sometimes fight, and that sometimes we will annoy each other. Marriage isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s about having a partner to fight through the tough stuff (even when the ‘tough stuff’ might be each other). It’s about honoring the commitment you made before God. It’s about self-sacrificial love and serving each other and God together.
 
One of our mentors told us, that the biggest thing we can do for the church is to FIGHT for our marriage. Because Satan wants to destroy the church and us from the inside out. Satan doesn’t want couples putting aside selfish desires and serving each other. What is stronger than an individual serving the kingdom of God? A couple- a team (a family) serving the kingdom of God. God has so much more than “happiness” for us and for others who choose to fight for their marriages.
 
I’m sorry this post has gotten longer than I originally meant it to, but the last 7 months have made me passionate about my marriage and fighting for marriage. So if you’ve stuck it out so far, I appreciate it. Not only do I care about Phil and my relationship and serving God with our lives (together as a team), but I care about more deeply for the sanctity of marriage in general. I am SOO excited for what God has for us in the upcoming months, as well as the opportunities we will have to grow together and continue serving God through our marriage.
 
Love Always,
Lauren
ac8ecd5d-d234-4bf9-9ef8-6b0ea68e6708
If you are in a dating relationship, engaged, or married, or even just desire to be married some day, I HIGHLY recommend Love that Lasts by Jeff and Alyssa Bethke. It’s an easy and fun read…as well as encouraging, helpful, and challenging!
 637678b8-3f80-4300-a951-adfa35bcded6

What is your word for 2019?

67376b9c-0b95-4880-9455-28701f41430a
As we came to the end of the of 2018, I found myself reflecting on the last year. There were so many joys and fun memories, as well as challenges and struggles. Moving into 2019, I have many dreams, hopes, and desires. Quite a few people around me, were talking about the word that God gave them for 2019…so I started praying to see what God wanted for me this upcoming year.
 
I have dreams for a home (more on that later), paying off loans, working in ministry, traveling, and growing even more in my relationship with my husband (Phil). But it’s easy to get carried away and forget to ask God what He wants. So as I was praying I kept hearing one word, “MORE”. Specifically “More of Him”. God has wonderful plans for me and I have so many desires to serve him in my life. But more than anything, God wants to give me HIMSELF.
 
There is nothing wrong with having plans, and wanting to do things to help others and serve the Lord…but more than anything I (we) need HIM. So even if I don’t get the home I’m dreaming of, even if finances don’t start looking up, even if ministry and traveling seem on hold, even if I have difficulties in my marriage, I have God. And that is more than I even deserve.
 

So what about you? We all have dreams and desires…you may have specific anticipations for what the new year will hold for you. But what is God speaking to you, What word does he have for you this year? What does he want you to strive for this year? Maybe it is healing, maybe it is renewal, maybe it is adventure. Whatever it is, God wants to give you MORE of himself throughout the journey.

 
“Slowly, I was beginning to understand that it wasn’t my productivity that God desired; it was my heart. It wasn’t my ministry God loved; it was me. God was glorified, is glorified, when we give him our hearts, give him ourselves, and faithfully do the thing right in front of us, no matter how small or trivial.” -Katie Davis Majors (from Daring to Hope).

 

Clean Slates

F034E2F5-31E5-4F23-A4E4-BF851B6E5E25Do you ever say something and immediately wish you could take it back? Or are in the middle of a situation that is going wrong and realize it started off with some little mistakes a few months back? I think that many of us have moments that we wish we could take back or start over. For many people, thoughts of fresh starts are especially on our minds as the new year starts. We have New Year resolutations, want to make new habits, and might even find ourselves wishing for a clean slate. 
 
The idea of a clean slate is actually pretty interesting. Imagine a blackboard that was covered in all colors of chalk from white to green to red. It has been written and drawn on over and over for months or even years, and even when you erase it there are still shadows or bits of smeared dust, left as evidence of what has been on it before. No matter how much you try to erase the slate there will still be evidence of previous use. To truly be clean and look like new, someone needs to use a sponge and clean water to clean the entire blackboard. 
 
There are times that I just wish I could have a clean slate with somebody, or even with my life in general. I have seen people agree to a “start fresh” with a “clean slate” with somebody in their lives, and I know that I have done this before as well. But it is so much easier said than done. We are humans. No matter how close we are with God we are still broken. I think of the saying “to forgive and forget”, in reality it is more like forgive and let go. 
 
Because no matter how much we try to forget, even if we have forgiven, things that happened in the past still affect our responses and how we see certain situations. I often get irritated when someone responds a certain way because of something I’ve done in the past, and I think “Can’t you just forget it? Can’t you give me the chance to change?”, but then time goes by and I find myself guilty of the same thing. 
 
This is discouraging because it makes it much harder to change when you or other people cannot let go of the past. And it often makes it hard to have healthy relationships. I look around and realize that there is no human that can give me a completely clean slate. But there is God. Our amazing Creator who made and CHOSE each and everyone of us. I am so undeserving of His love. 
 
The choices I have made have hurt Him even more than they have hurt myself or anybody else. But He, our omnipotent, perfect God, has the ability to completely forget our sins. His son took the burden of all of our sins upon himself, yet can also give us a clean slate and wipe away all reminance of our pasts? I am in awe just thinking about this. So yeah, I will never find a person in my life who I completely have a clean slate with, but I do have God. And despite everything I’ve done, He forgives me and hands me a clean slate with no evidence of my mistakes from the past. With Him, we can always start fresh. 
 
Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more.”

A Journal Entry: Christmas Reflections

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset
I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have ideals for what I pictured for this Christmas. Going out to a tree farm to pick the perfect tree, together. Celebrating our first Christmas as married couple, in our own cozy little apartment. Decorating our tree with twinkling white lights, popcorn garland, and handmade ornaments. Wrapping colorful packages to place under our tree. Wearing cute matching pjs on Christmas Eve. You name it. I’m all about the traditions. 
 
I’ll stop myself there…because I know that’s not what Christmas is about. But I couldn’t help it, I wanted the family Christmas traditions that I’ve longed for to start this year. However, that’s just not where we are. For the most part I was trying to have a good attitude, but was still in denial about the state of my heart. Until Saturday morning. We were sitting in a church auditorium, beautifully decorated for Christmas with many people that we didn’t know. All of us were there to mourn (AND) celebrate the loss and life of our friend, Bryant. A man that Phil and I only knew briefly through our church…but he had an immediate impact on us. 
 
And we weren’t the only ones. There were hundreds of others that had been impacted by this dear man (there weren’t even enough seats for everyone). To many people in the world the atmosphere full of both grief and loss, but also joy and hope at a funeral would be quite foreign. As we stood to sing and worship God I was struck by the lyrics of a song, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…look full in his wonderful face. And all the things of this earth will grow strangely dim. In the light of His glory and grace.” I felt my heart drop a bit, and I knew it was time to examine my heart. 
 
Even though I desire to follow Jesus closely and be all about him, I can still easily get caught up in the ways of the world. And none of the holiday traditions that I had in mind were wrong in themselves, but I had let these desires get in the way of what really mattered. As we finished up the song, with tears running down my face, I confessed and apologized to the Lord for my attitude. With as disappointed as I had felt about not having my dream Christmas, I cannot imagine the disappointment and pain that God was feeling to see his beloved daughter take her eyes off Him and allow the things of the world to be her focus. 
 
During the remainder of the service I continued to hear more lyrics, stories, and a message that point towards Jesus as the center of everything. You only had to know Bryant for a few minutes to see that he was all about Jesus. From his marriage, to his zest for life, to his laugh; Bryant examplified how the broken and imperfect can be made beautiful and redemptive through Christ. That is what Christmas is really about. Jesus who sacrificed his perfect life, to enter into the pain and hardship of the realities of this world. Not for himself, but for you and for me and even for those who choose to ignore the depth of his love. 
 
 Through both tears and laughter, I left the memorial service with a refreshed perspective. I found joy in our little plastic tree, ice skating with friends, painting, playing games, and time with my wonderful hubby. We have the rest of our lives to develop traditions; we also have the rest of our lives to grow in our marriage and lives, exemplifying the love of Christ for each of us and choosing to “Keep our eyes upon Jesus”. I have often heard people say “that Jesus is the reason for the season”, and this Christmas season I needed the reminder that Jesus is the reason for THIS season that we are currently in, and every season. 
 
“Oh soul are you weary and trouble? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior and life more abundant and free” 
 

Sight & Sound

Another year of marriage is definitely a reason for celebration (especially in our culture). So this year for my in-laws 28th anniversary, all of us kids pulled together to get them Sight & Sound tickets. Last week my in-laws flew in and my husband and I took them to see Sight & Sound‘s current performance, “Jesus” on Friday. Sight & Sound is a theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (there is also one located in Branson, Missouri).

I grew up in Lancaster County so I saw numerous shows including Noah, Jonah, and the Miracle of Christmas. Jesus is a new show that they put on for the first time this year, and it was by far the most spectacular and my favorite show that I have seen. If you have never been to Sight & Sound it is definitely worth adding to your bucket list. The prices can be a little steep, but you won’t regret saving up for it. I’ve heard multiple people say that the performances rival those on broadway.

DD06D632-73C4-4C3A-96BD-C70BE01AFC36

The large theatre accommodates 2,000 guests; however once the show begins you will feel like you are part of the story. From wind throughout the theatre, to a rain curtain, from live animals in the isles and\ to angels flying in from above you; the performance is like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere. You will be in awe of the beautifully handcrafted scenery and the movement of the different sets on stage. And I haven’t even mentioned the performance of the talented actors and actresses; They will captivate you from their first words, bring you to tears with their singing, and give you goosebumps with the beautiful harmonies.

For those of you who enjoy singing and acting, Sight&Sound also presents another opportunity. They offer a postsecondary conservatory program, where students take part in classroom instruction and gain professional experience. Learn more here —> My in-laws were beyond impressed with the show and hope to take the whole family at some point. Not only are the shows incomparable, but they share a clear gospel message and use their production as a way to share God with all who enter through the doors. Sight & Sound is a definite must see for whole family-the young and the old!

557F903C-CE05-45A8-B210-8FE6BA640248

Gifts that Give Back

As Christmas Day approaches, many of us are overwhelmed with all of the shopping and detail prep that goes into the Holidays. There are a few days left where you can still order gifts online that will arrive in time for Christmas. Why not purchase gifts that will give back, while you finish shopping? All of these business give back in various ways. Such a fun way to show people you love them, while also helping to make a difference! (Note: Individual businesses have different dates you need to order by to recieve them in time, most found on their website).
Accessories:
5569499C-017F-4865-90EB-A0D15F1F18ACMudlove
These clay creations help to spread hope and love. Every product sold by Mudlove provides one week of clean water (through Water for Good). They have a variety of products including bracelets, necklaces, pottery, and other fun extras like apparel and stickers!
4D2D5644-AA15-49C9-B1D4-0E905D09F675Binding Love
These upcycled, one of a kind scarves are helping to fight against trafficking. Half ($10) of every scarf purchased goes to provide aid, healing, and hope for girls rescued out of slavery in Thailand. Their new winter collection has arrived on the website and is going quickly!
6A642F9E-76D1-4422-927B-2A13AC9F64DCHouse of Light Goods
This non-profit business sells beautiful blankets, scarves, headbands, and pillow covers. 100% of proceeds are use to provide empowered employment to single mothers in Primo Tapia, Mexico helping to bring positive change to vulnerable families and children.
Household Decorations:
B9C0200E-D4E0-4E4A-8988-D77FE7AAA47A
Tiny and Twitch
This company crafts charming signs and handmade pieces designed to brighten up any home. Plus 50% of their profits from their tabletop collection go to IU13, a program that works with refugees in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Clothing:
D0D06C74-5B9A-49BD-B48D-6DAB0C94B0D5My joy tribe
Choose from different merchandise including sweatshirts, shirts, hats, and mugs. Joy Tribe’s mission is to spread joy and cultivate a brave, loving, and joyful community. Also, 10% of every purchase goes to one of the  listed charities on the website and YOU choose which one charity to support!
415FE7D9-EACD-41A0-8C77-7B09B2D407B6The Happy Givers
100% of the profit from The Happy Givers goes to help relief work in Puerto Rico, Peru, and Ethiopia. They share positive messages of hope and love through men, women, and children’s apparel, as well as extras like hats, stickers, and mugs.
For babies:
6A4B2BBA-DB8D-4E78-BC73-432B3729A7DDMatimati Baby
A family-owned business that sells baby bandana bibs, burp clothes, 5-in-1 covers, and bamboo towels. A percentage of every Matimati bandana bib sold is given to Chain Reaction, an organization that fights against human trafficking and proactively rescues, feeds, and give children hope for a future.
Variety:
52C284E7-CC32-474F-B47F-F069AC6FC0CFTen Thousand Villages
This company is a maker to market movement. Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade company that sells a large variety of items from all over the world. Their intricately handcrafted items are something to cherish. Shop from jewelry and accessories, to home and holiday decor, dishes games, candles, and more.
Other gifts:
Compassion International and World Vision
For those people who just seem to have it all, consider giving a donation in their name. Both Compassion International and World Vision are organizations that are helping to change third world countries through child sponsorship. They both have gift catelogs where you can purchase things like chickens, mosquito nets, educational classes, clean water systems and more for families around the world.
Child Sponsorship: Speaking of Sponsorship, this is an amazing gift to give a child. Getting them a sponsored child for a gift gives teaches them responsibility, love for others, and about the world outside of their own backyard.
B50C1CC0-D9E3-4CF3-8611-F38074A9E589Amazon Smile
For purchases on Amazon…make sure to use Amazon smile! By typing smile.amazon.com into your browser, you can select the charity of your choice (you still can use prime from logging in). Amazon will donate .5% of all eligible purchases to your chosen charity!! (As of October 2018, $105, 515, 619.04 had been given to charities through Amazon smile!).
These are many organizations and small businesses that have amazing ways to give back; these are just a few. Consider checking out these as part of your Christmas gift shopping this year. And please share with other people-many people can be impacted through your shopping this Christmas Season!