Do Miracles Still Happen?

Do you believe in miracles? I mean, really?…Most people don’t nowadays. I struggle to believe in them too.

But this one really happened.

My mother-in-law has a terminal illness. It’s so bad that she has not walked or eaten or even changed the tv channel by herself for years. And she’s in her 70’s. Not someone you want to get the Coronavirus.

But she got it. And we all prepared for the worst.

She was sent to the hospital a week ago, and—no surprise—no one could visit her. It broke my heart that she was there, possibly dying, all alone.

I started to pray for her. I had a crazy idea and prayed that God would send her an angel—or even Jesus himself—to visit her and comfort her in the hospital. I know, it sounded kinda like a ridiculously big request to me too. I prayed it a couple times over the course of the day and then forgot about it for awhile.

Well, this is where it gets interesting. The next day I asked my husband how she was doing and if he had heard anything that day. He said the nurse had actually helped her call him on the phone. He said she mumbled a few things (normal for her condition) and told him she loved him and wants him to visit. Then he said something interesting…he shook his head and said, “She kept saying something about Jesus being there…seeing him in her hospital room…”

My heart stopped beating for a minute. I had never told anyone about my prayer. Yet his mother specifically said she was being visited by her Savior.

Could this be some kind of hallucination or silly gibberish from a sick woman? I might think so if I had not just prayed that prayer and specifically asked for what she reported.

The truth is this: God is still at work. Miracles still happen. Keep your prayers big and your eyes open.

Dont stop believing,

Lauren

P.S…My terminally ill mother-in-law, who’s in her 70’s, is going home from the hospital tomorrow. Not for hospice. No, she is better. She has survived Covid.

As CS Lewis wrote: “Aslan is on the move.” Take heart!

The Picket Fence Lie

I used to think that the goal of living was to someday end up in this “happily ever after” life in a beautiful house with a white picket fence.

I guess I just always assumed I’d get there and THEN I’d be happy.

Well, my life fell apart once again last month. Once again my dreams were shattered. Once again I had my heart broken. My picket fence seems farther and farther away.

I found myself looking wistfully at a cute little house with a picket fence the other day. That’s when I realized: It’s a lie! I’ve been believing a lie!

I don’t have to wait until I have the perfect life or the cutest house to be happy. I can choose to be happy now! In fact that’s the only way “happy” works: in the right now. I have to choose to be grateful and content where I am right now. Not when _____ happens or when I finally get to do ______ or buy _______. I have to make up my mind to choose happy every moment.

“I have learned the secret to be content with whatever I have….I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:11, 13

Choose happy today! 😊

Thank you, Loneliness

Dear Loneliness,

I have to thank you. You have done something great for me. Something that Happiness couldn’t do. Neither could Popularity. Not even Fun.

Loneliness, you brought me something I never expected: Joy.

You see, I used to be afraid of you. I thought you would ruin my life. I thought you would stick around forever.

But, I was wrong. You were actually the best thing for me. You are what made me see how much I need Jesus. Your pain made me run into His arms. The best place I could be.

Loneliness, because of you I now stand on the rock of Christ and I rest in the comfort of the Psalms.

Thank you, Loneliness. I’m so grateful for the person I’ve become from all the pain you put me through. I now have Joy, which is better than Fun and deeper than Happiness.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭50:20‬ ‭

Sincerely,

Lauren

P.S. I’m fine if you don’t ever wanna come for another visit…but I’m sure I’ll see you again.

Throw it Off

Ok, picture this: A bride all dressed and ready to walk down the aisle. She pauses outside in front of the country church for one last photo. Her hair is perfect. Her makeup is perfect. Her dress is perfect…or is it? When she turns around to let the photographer capture the decor on the back of her dress, everyone freezes. As she looks curiously at all the pale faces and big eyes of her bridesmaids, she realizes something is wrong. “Don’t move!” is all she hears. Her brother comes up and carefully reaches behind her, picking something off her back. To her horror, her brother is holding a HUGE, pregnant spider by the leg as the other seven legs wiggle in the air! The bride screams and runs into the church, throwing off her bouquet, her veil, and her shoes in her fright!

This memorable wedding day happened to my coworker’s daughter, and I’m pretty sure I would have run just as fast! (I probably would have run to the bathroom and tore that dress off of me!)

That scene is what I picture every time I read Hebrews 12:1.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We are supposed to “throw off” everything that could hinder us (meaning anything that could hold us back) or any sin that we easily fall into.

We’re not supposed to just slowly walk away from these things. We’re not supposed to hang out there a little while. We are supposed to run like a bride from a spider! Throw those things off!

God knows how damaging sin is to us. It corrodes our lives. We tend to think it’s no big deal sometimes. (“Oh, I’ll just do it this once!”) But it is like that pregnant spider; if you let it hang around it will birth hundreds of tiny baby spiders all over you! (Ok, not spiders, but bad stuff for sure.)

Jesus said, “The thief (the devil) comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

So, I struggle with sin as much as anyone. But I just wanted to give you a picture of how destructive it can be in our lives. Next time we’re tempted, let’s throw off that temptation like a huge, pregnant spider! 🕸

Take courage

Fear is a choice.

This is something I’ve learned recently. In this crazy spring. (2020 we will not forget you.)

Fear is everywhere in America. Fear of a virus. Fear of being alone. Fear of not having enough food. Fear of losing a job. Fear of being judged. Fear of being shot. Fear of those people. Fear of that group. Fear of those who should protect us. Fear of people who look different from us. Fear of riots. Fear of economic depression. Fear of a growing divide in our country. Fear of rejection for who we are. Fear of government control. And the list goes on and on…

Fear is everywhere right now.

But, ya know what? We don’t have to give in to it. We don’t.

Fear is a choice. And we don’t have to choose it.

You see, fear is Satan’s trademark. It is his operating system. He wants it to be like the WiFi in your house: everywhere…you can’t see it, but any moment you can hook right up to it.

For most of my life, fear was like oxygen. I just breathed it in and out constantly. It was always with me, even when I wasn’t aware of it. Sometimes I would forget and feel happy, but wait a minute or two and that fog of fear would be around me again.

Reading my Bible and singing praise songs have the best affect on making that fog leave. However, two things that have really made a difference lately have been a book I read and a comment my pastor said.

The book is Fear is a Liar by Daniel B Lancaster. In his book, Lancaster refers to the verse “Perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18) He says that believers in Jesus can claim this verse , knowing that God is Love. We can either choose to walk in the path of love or the path of fear. Love is right there to keep us safe and free, but we so often ignore it and choose to walk in fear. From that moment on, I chose to walk on the path of love.

The comment that impacted me was when my pastor pointed out the other day that Jesus often said, “Take courage!” (Matthew 14:27, Mark 6:50, and so many more times.) My pastor, Steve Gaines, emphasized that we have to take courage. He said, “Take it! Pick it up! It’s right there for you to take!” It’s a choice.

Both of these instances made me realize I don’t have to sit there, overwhelmed in fear! I’m not a victim. I am a victor! I can choose the path of love! I can choose to “take courage” and trust the Lord! After all, He is faithful. He is sovereign. I have nothing to fear. My Father rules the universe!

Fear is a choice. Choose courage. Choose faith. Choose love.

This is the Day Challenge

I was flipping through my coloring Bible today and I came across the page where I had colored in a drawing of Psalms 118:24.

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm118:24

We used to have to sing this song every week at the little Christian school I went to for grades 1-5. We got so tired of singing it over and over, and it seemed to mean nothing.

But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that this verse is not just a comforting truth (that God designed this day); it’s also a challenge.

It’s a challenge to us to see every day—with its good and bad parts—as a blessing appointed by God. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a blessing—some days seem full of curses–but many bad times are blessings in disguise. God promises us that he works out all things for our good (see Romans 8:28); therefore, all our days are blessed days, whether or not we can see the blessing in it yet.

Would you join me in this?

The This is the Day Challenge!

I challenge you to post this verse somewhere you can see it each day and to either write down or post a picture of something you found to be a blessing that day! Something you found that was rejoicable! (Is that a word?)

Let’s see if we can make a difference in this broken world. Or at least in our attitudes.

Go out and have a blessed day!

5 Life-Changing Truths I Learned From My Mother

“Write an essay about the person in history that has most greatly influenced your life.” The teacher stated the prompt as she wrote it on the board. It was tenth grade, and I was quickly searching my brain’s data base for the subject of my essay. Although I wanted to sound intellectual and impress the teacher, I could not deny the fact that the person who had impacted my life the most was not a president or a Civil Rights activist. It was my mother.

Nothing has changed since then. My mom is still the person that has most greatly impacted me. You see, I was blessed to get the best. I know everyone says that, but mine really is the best. Although she raised four children and worked off and on during my childhood, she still found time to help anyone who needed it and to be very involved in our church. When her mother became elderly, my mom jumped right in and took care of her–despite their strained relationship. My mother gives until she has no more to give. She is one of the most selfless, humble, and compassionate people I know. She’s now retired, but she continues to volunteer at the church, go on mission projects overseas, teach ESL to immigrant women, and take care of grandchildren. She gets paid for none of it. And to top it off, she’s wise–really wise. I once told a therapist something that my mom had told me all the time growing up, and the therapist said in a matter-of-fact way, “I didn’t know your mom was a therapist!” My mother’s wisdom got me through so many trials in my life, and if she didn’t have the right words to say she pointed me to the Book that did.

So, now that Mother’s Day is approaching yet again, I wanted to share with you the blog post I started last May but couldn’t finish. These are five of the many things I learned from my wise and loving mother. I hope they bless you as much as they have me.

1. People Matter More Than Things

Throughout my childhood whenever things would break, my mom would recite, “Well, people matter more than things!” And that was that. Even if it was something of hers, or the new lamp in the living room. No matter what. People are more important. Relationships are more important. Things will come and go, relationships are what last. She is like a saint, but, no, she wasn’t just born this unattached to material things. She got this philosophy from Jesus. It’s how he lived and loved. And he is the love of her life (no offense, Dad, she still loves you!), and she imitates Jesus. He taught that “Heaven and Earth will pass away…” and that knowing God and loving others is all that lasts for eternity. And if we believe something, we live it. Even if it’s hard. Even if means we choose time with an elderly relative over going shopping or that we don’t scream at our kid when they break something. Relationships before stuff. Before comfort. Before me, me, me. I’m so thankful to have learned this truth, and it has been a huge blessing in all of my relationships.

2. It’s Not All About Me

My poor mother was a full-time mom, teacher, and shoulder to cry on for most of my childhood. My adolescence was plagued with social anxiety, so Mom became my resident counselor almost nightly. I often followed her around lamenting my lack of social status at the well-to-do Christian school that my parents scrimped and saved for us to go to. (Yes, we were those “poor” kids at the private school that had five rotating outfits and never went to Disney World over spring break.) I cried to her over and over again that “I have no friends!” And she patiently listened and asked, “Have you been a friend?” To which I would roll my eyes and whine, “Mahhh-ahm!” You see, my mom taught me to put others before myself. She told me to think about them instead of about me. She often said, “When you walk into a room, instead of wondering what they think of you, find someone who needs a friend and ask them about themselves.” Mom believes that if you focus on the other person–listening to them, encouraging them, asking them about their life–you will forget about you and your insecurities. And it worked. Focusing on others brought a confidence and freedom, and I gained a lot of new friends! (Nowadays, you might say it worked too well…I never meet a stranger and I love to talk! Ask my poor husband!)

3. God Comes First

My mama loves the Lord Jesus, and it shows. I often saw her with her Bible open in front of her, and it affected all parts of her life. She lives her faith. For real. And she taught us that God is number one. He is the Creator of the world, the Lover of our souls, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings, the Counselor, Confidant, and Friend. We went to church every week, and to Christian school, but it wasn’t just “religion” to my family. My parents took time to read us God’s Word (and maybe also a Chronicles of Narnia book) as a family almost every night. We actually talked about God’s Word and how it affects our lives. Even when each of us hit our rebellious teen years, we had been taught enough about the awesomeness of God and His Word that we did not stray far from the fold.

4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

One of my favorite parts of the Bible is 2 Corinthians. It seems like Paul, the author, writes over and over about how we humans mess up. We are weak. Or forgetful. Or selfish. Or disorganized. Or rude. Or we ignore that person we knew in middle school when we see them at Walmart, because they were once that “nerd” that everyone made fun of. (Ugh, yes, I did that once. Not proud.) Paul writes, “We are like treasures in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7). And in chapter 12, verse 9, God says to us, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This is one of the big life lessons Mom taught, and still lives out: Don’t worry about your failures or your imperfections. God is bigger than that. It doesn’t matter to him. That stuff is “small stuff.” Now, we can learn from our failures and do better next time. But my mother taught us not to dwell on them. What seems like “big stuff” to the rest of the world, really isn’t that important. Material success or fame or the approval of other people don’t matter. “Don’t worry about that, Lauren,” she still tells me. “God will handle it.” All problems are “small stuff” to our God, who cares about each detail but never worries. He’s got it all under control.

5. This Too Shall Pass

Finally, the phrase I have heard numerous times–especially when I had a newborn at home–is “This too shall pass.” I don’t know who originally coined that phrase, but my mom has stolen from them pretty often. But I’m glad. Because it’s true. And this truth has helped me get through some really tough times. Break-ups. Labor. Divorce. My first baby’s bout of colic. Migraines. Working two jobs as a single mom of three. Depression…Mom has always been there to remind me lovingly that this trial is temporary. And one day we’ll be in Heaven, and all of these hard times will be blurry memories. Keep perspective. It’s gonna get better. And then life will be hard again. And then it will get better. Rinse and repeat. But we know where our future is and the Creator of the universe has us in his hands. We don’t have to worry. The story ends well for those who follow Jesus.

As I finish this tribute to my heroine, I want to say that if you don’t have a Mama like mine: I’m sorry. If you met mine, she would give you a big hug and make you feel like one of the family. However, Jesus, the source of her joy, is there for you. He is a “father to the fatherless” and a comforter to the lonely. He will listen to your problems, and his Word (the Bible) will speak back to you words of hope. If you have any questions or would like to know this Prince of peace, please fell free to contact me at lnewsom77@protonmail.com. The Bible says, “He puts the lonely in families…” (Psalms 68:6).

God bless you and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

love,
Lauren
Me and Mom

Is Your House Safe?

As I sit in my new office—er, living room—reading about the effects of covid-19, I see something happening. Americans have had a big wake up call. Our comfy lifestyles have been uprooted. The busy-equals-important mindset is being tested. Americans are having to face themselves. We are having to be still, stay home, and breathe.

This sudden pause in “life as we know it” is hard, but it may actually be good for us. Suddenly, we are having to cut out what isn’t important. Instead of running to the store to pick up something on a whim, we’re having to stop and think about if we really need it or not. Instead of staying on the run, barely spending time at home, we are having to stay home with the people who really are the most important to us anyway. Up until now we have been so comfortable–we think we shouldn’t have to do anything unless it’s easy and shouldn’t have to wait for anything for more than a few minutes.

Life has changed. It may go back to “normal” soon, but it may not. Economists are predicting this temporary halt to life will bring a huge financial crisis. Life in the Western Hemisphere may not return to it’s easy state for a long time.

This catastrophe has forced us to look at our lives. What are we missing? Which parts of our former lives do we miss the most? Are we distraught without all of our social functions and our indulgent pleasures?

What our our lives built on?

This reminds me of a story about two houses on an island. One house was built on a cliff of rock. The house was traditional and plain, but the foundation was strong and secure. The second house had been built on the beach. The view was amazing, and the house drew lots of attention. The owner had tons of parties and everyone envied his lifestyle.

Well, a huge storm came to the island–bigger than any storm anyone on the island had ever witnessed. The wind and the rain beat on those houses with such force that the walls shook. The house on the cliff stood strong in the storm. However, the beautiful house on the beach was overcome by the rising tide, and eventually it crumbled into the sea.

This story comes from a story Jesus told in the Bible. In the book of Matthew, chapter 7 he said,

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

The covid-19 crisis is causing us to realize what our lives are built on. Our lives are being shaken up like a storm. We are finally having to look at ourselves. What is most important to us? What is it about my life that I’ve had the hardest time giving up? What have I been the most anxious about during this time?

Our values are revealed by what we fear. It is normal to have some fear and anxiety, but if you are overwhelmingly afraid about not having money or about losing your fancy possessions or not getting to buy the next new smartphone, something is off.

Is the house of your life safe? Where have you built your foundation? Have you built your house on the rock? Or have you built your house on the sand? It’s easier to numb our problems with drinking, a new relationship, Netflix, etc., but the problems are still there. The crash is inevitable.

In chapter 71 of the book of Psalms it says, “for you {God} are my rock and my fortress…O Lord, you alone are my hope.” (verses 3 and 5) He is the only one who is true and dependable and loves us with an unending love. God is our Rock.

God’s got you. Pick up your shattered hopes and discard your fears. Start today and rebuild on the only real foundation. He will hold you up. He will get us through this storm.

If you have further questions about knowing God and finding your Rock, feel free to email me at lnewsom77@protonmail.com

love, Lauren

Once Upon a…Now?

Have you ever felt like there is more? Like this world is lacking something? Like that beautiful sunset has something amazing behind it or that love really was meant to last forever?

I think we are supposed to feel this way. We’re supposed to feel like something is off. Like this world is not really our home. Because it’s not. If you are a follower of Jesus, then this is not your home. Not really.

You may have seen glimpses of it in fairy tales or movies like The Matrix. These stories get us thinking. We step back and think, “Is life really what it seems?” I love the Disney series “Once Upon a Time.” The first season opens with the heroine (who thinks she’s a regular person) getting dragged to a town called Storybrook by a boy who claims he’s her son. As the season unfolds, she and other characters start to “wake up” and realize that they are really characters from fairy tales (Snow White, Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.) who have been trapped in this town in Maine because a witch cast an evil curse. Everyone in the town is a character in a story, but they have been living this boring little life in this small town for years, thinking they are just “regular people.” The characters speak about “magic” and its effects, and good and bad struggle openly in each episode.

“Once Upon a Time” and other stories like this always leave me with a wistfulness similar to nostalgia. Almost like these stories are talking about me.

Actually, don’t think I’m crazy, but…I believe they are. Fairy tales and other world adventures are more than mere reflections of reality. They are pointing to the real story.

Recently I stumbled across a verse in Philippians that made me catch my breath. In chapter one, verse 27 it says, “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven…”

Citizens of Heaven. That’s it.

We are also characters from an amazing story, stuck temporarily in a place that is not our home. We are “citizens of heaven” living here in this decaying, evil world. This is not the end of the story. We are more important and more eternal than we realize. We are stuff of story books. We are princes and queens and heroes. We just live in a place where our identities get confused and our powers are not apparent.

So, how do I live now that I realize my citizenship is really there? I’m just passing through this place. These heartaches and temptations and disappointments and migraines are not the real story. There is more. There is an adventure grander than any I could imagine. It is coming after this life is over. It will make all the pain and loneliness here worth it. It will complete all the hopes and dreams that started in my little girl brain years ago.

So,…dream…gaze at the sunset…love with your whole heart. It will all be resolved. It will all be healed. And the ending is happier than you could ever imagine.

Love, Lauren

Of Husbands and Kings

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you’d be willing to put up with anything if you could have it?

I have. And apparently some people in the Bible have too. It didn’t go well for either of us.

I recently read a story in the book of 1 Samuel that the original Jews of Israel (“God’s chosen people”) were tired of just following God and some old prophet. They wanted a king for their people. Apparently all the other countries around them had kings. It was the trendy thing to have, I guess.

Well God said no. Then the people asked again. And then begged. Then pleaded. Finally, after many warnings about the problems and the bondage a king would cause them, God gave in. He gave them a king—they asked for this supposedly tall and super handsome guy named Saul—and…guess what? God was right. It was misery. The king took stuff from them, made their children work for him for little pay, and just generally made them feel not-free.

I can’t roll my eyes at these ancient people’s stupidity in this story. I’m just like them. I have so often forfeited God’s best for me so that I could get what I wanted. It has never worked out well. Probably the worst impatient mistakes I’ve made have had to do with men and relationships.

As I read about the people begging for a king the other day, I realized that had been me. Years ago I asked God for a husband. He didn’t deliver in my desired timing, so I begged and manipulated until I got what I thought I wanted. Within a couple months I realized I had gotten what I thought I wanted, but it was not what I had hoped for. It turned out my husband was an alcoholic and drug addict who had a love of going out with the guys and chatting up women who were not his wife.

I ended up in misery and captivity like the people of Israel. I spent several years trying to make it work, but the drugs and lies tore down any chance for fixing the marriage.

We tend to think we know what’s best for us. Sometimes we’d “sell our souls” to get it. But God knows best. His will is the best plan. Every time.

Psalm 84:10-12 tells how God’s plan for us is better than anything else. Verse 10 says being in God’s presence is better than anywhere else. In verse 12 it says God never holds back good things from those who truly follow him.

Psalm 84:10-12

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!…For the Lord is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right…What joy for those who trust in You!”

God knows what I need, and every time I stray from his way I regret it. (For examples read my earliest blog posts that tell about my marriage mistakes.) I will leave you with a song that my dear Irish friend used to sing with her flute and her lovely accent:

Jesus, all for Jesus;

All I am and have and ever hope to be;

Jesus, all for Jesus;

All I am and have and ever hope to be.

For it’s only in your will that I am free;

For it’s only in your will that I am free…”

(Author unknown)