Grit, Grace, + Tattoos: How God Can Create A Miracle Through The Little Things

A tattoo. Yep, just another out-of-box experience for me since turning 35.

I wanted to take a risk. I wanted out of my comfort zone. I wanted to do something a little unpredictable. My best friend and I both happened to be off on a random Tuesday and we decided to be spontaneous and go for it. I knew the placement of the tattoo on my left forearm. I knew it was going to SAY something. And I knew it was going to STAND for something. But honestly, it wasn’t until that Tuesday morning that God spoke clearly to me.

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“She laughs.”

Yessss!  It became clear.  That was it.  I felt peace and a smile was plastered on my face as Erin and I rushed to the tattoo studio, late, stuck in traffic.  (Yeah, yeah…I know, I’m always late!  I swear, I’m working on it!)

You might be asking, why “She laughs”? 

If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know the past several years have been…well, to be perfectly frank, pretty dang hellish.  I’d like to refer to it as a VERY long season of pruning.  I was stripped at every level.  Health, heartbreak, career, finances, and it felt like with each passing day, it was more loss and disappointment.  My faith was tested.  I was exhausted.  I grew discouraged.  But while I would allow the space for tears, I kept meditating on Proverbs 31:25.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, she laughs at the days to come.” 

I would keep moving forward.  Even with the faith of a mustard seed.  I made the decision to live from a posture of joy, hope, love, and faith.  I promised myself that I would laugh and smile my way through this life, trusting God’s faithfulness.  That He has me in the palm of His hand.  That He loves me so much as His beloved daughter that He has only the best planned for me in my life.  The best job for me and my skills and experiences.  A healed body.  A loving, trusting relationship with a strong man of character.  Joy and abundance.  Opportunity.  When all is stripped, there is no other way than to rebuild.  And rebuild is what I have done.  With each passing loss, I have gained.  And I will continue to gain.  No matter how badly it hurts.  And no matter how many times I get pinned down.  I will get up with style and grace.  I will smile.  And I will laugh. 

So let’s talk miracles.  I believe in miracles both big and small.  I believe they surround us everywhere; we encounter them everyday.  And even when we don’t notice them, they’re there.  Waiting for us. 

I noticed an old co-worker following the tattoo studio I went to on Instagram.  And so for whatever reason, I decided to reach out to her.  And through our conversation about tattoos, we began to catch up on life.  And she shared with me a job opening at work.  A job that sounded like a perfect fit for me.  A job that would use the education, skills, and experiences I’ve acquired over the years.  A job that would provide more stability.  A job that would allow for growth and opportunity.  And job that would provide me benefits (after having NONE for the past two years...ick). 

I applied.  I interviewed.  I got the job.  And I start on Monday.

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I reconnected with an old co-worker.  Learned about an opportunity.  Took advantage of the opportunity by acting on it.  And accepted a job offer that will redirect my path in a very positive way and help me continue the rebuilding process.  All from the crazy decision to get a tattoo on a random Tuesday. 

And I laughed. 

Alas, my big miracle!  Thank you, Jesus!  But if I’m being totally truthful, God was with me all along.  In the midst of the little things.  Preparing + refining me.  Teaching me a valuable lesson about grace.  Strengthening me.  Perfecting me.  These too, miracles within. 

Listen closely…He is with us in the ashes.  He seeks us out of hiding.  He carries us.  And He rejoices with us.  If you are in your own season of pruning right now - know that I feel for you.  My life is not perfect.  It has been messy.  I have not always made the best decisions. I have had moments when I have grown angry with God.  I have yearned for the desires of my heart.  And I have been disappointed and heartbroken.  But here I am, a warrior, here to tell you that you are too!  Look for the glimmers of beauty.  The rays of hope.  The windows of opportunity.  Miracles are here.  Waiting for you.  For the perfect time.  To change everything.  All because of Him.

Grit, grace, + tattoos, oh how I thank thee.  You’ve allowed me to witness God, the Miracle Maker in action…in the little things.  After pruning comes a great harvest.  Get ready for a season of abundance, because it’s ready for you + me.  Laughing.

xx.

 "The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.  The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." (Psalm 145:13‭-‬16)

 

Running: A Metaphor

I had a Facebook memory pop up in my feed yesterday that reminded me that it was 4 years ago that I had my 2nd knee surgery in a period of 4 months.  It was a long road to recovery,  so I celebrated my working legs by intentionally leaving work a little earlier to go on a prayer run.

I'm not a strong runner yet; I have about 3 straight miles in me for now, but I will get better. And those 3 miles are invaluable to me.  They are my outlet. They clear my head. They push me and challenge me - physically, mentally, and spiritually. They are painful and they hurt. Sometimes I gasp for more air in my lungs. They beg for me to slow down and give up. And in those moments when I don't think I can do any more, I keep calling out to Jesus for help.  I pray for Him to provide me the endurance and the strength for one more step, one more step, one more step... and He does, if I just focus on that one step right ahead of me. And then, I notice a shift, and the pain begins to melt away as I get into a rhythm. The run that was fatiguing me starts to energize me. I start to feel strong and my body tight. I have a natural high.  I feel accomplished.  Peace and joy overtake me. All that begins to matter is this time that I have, just me and God, being completely reliant upon him.

Last night I realized why I have grown to love running; it's a metaphor for life.   It takes me through a series of feelings, both in body and in mind.  I get to a point where I have to make a decision, to give up or push through.  And so I push through, one small step at a time.   If I focus on what more I have ahead, I get overwhelmed.  But if I just focus on what's right in front of me, God gives me strength.  And I realized how blessed I am.  How much I love to feel.  How little I am and how big God is.  How much I need Him in every moment of every day.  How He supplies for my every need.  How He is with me always, never leaving my side.  And all the chaos that surrounds me, it begins to lose its significance as I focus on The Great One. 

Blessed.  Blessed I am.  Blessed we are.

God's Hand is at work in our intricate lives; His love runs deep.  He is molding and refining us.  No matter what we are up against, He loves us and He Has already fought the battle for us.  And He won.

So today, like the full range of emotions experienced on my prayer run, let's embrace life to its fullest.  The joys, the heartbreaks, the unknowns.

God is with us.  He loves us.  He sustains us.  He provides for us.  He fights for us.  He stills waters for us. 

One small step at a time.

xx

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

When We Grow Weary...

Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary; and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary; and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Hi, Doll.

I don't know about you, but growing up I was never a roller coaster lover - the anxious butterflies while waiting in line in anticipation of the ups, downs, twists, turns, and loops that lie ahead.  As a child, I would avoid them.  As an adult, I would look at kids half my size shrieking with excitement and think, "Seriously, if they can do it, I can too."  So, I would muster up enough courage trying not to show any ounce of fear to my friends.  A rush of adrenaline would overcome me, my stomach in knots, and while I would want to run away, I would commit myself to fighting through the fear of what lie ahead.  The ride would only last about a minute and a half, and once I felt it halt to a stop, I would unclench my eyes and a whimsical high would overcome me knowing that I had survived and conquered.  What a perfect illustration of life:  a continuous roller coaster ride of peaks and valleys demanding constant perseverance. 

I'm not going to tip toe around it, I had a rough week.  I had a flare up of symptoms and felt my body growing tired and my mind discouraged.   I then found myself mourning the absence of a child in my life.  I am a faithful person.  I do trust that every aspect of my life is perfectly woven for God's greater glory, even when it doesn't make sense.  But, I still fall.  And I still have days that I struggle.  We ALL have a giant, scary monster in our lives whether it be illness, loss of a loved one, infertility, a miscarriage, loss of a job, financial instability, a betrayal, a divorce, depression, anxiety, loneliness...

And just like me this past week, maybe you are growing weary too...

So what do we do when we find ourselves in that valley of despair? 

1.  As for God, his way is perfect:  The LORD's word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.  (Psalm 18:30)

First and foremost, go to Him.  Over the past few years, as I set out on my own self-healing journey, I committed myself to growing my faith.  This year in particular, I joined a Christ-centered business coaching group with about 24 others entrepreneurs from across the country.  Our focus has been putting more of God into our businesses, and less of us.  I joined a church after years of church hopping.  I joined a Discipleship Bible study with three of my friends.  And I also joined Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) where I will be studying The Book of Revelation over the course of the next year.  Through it all, I have learned that the answers to any and all of my life questions, are found in The Bible.  And let me tell you, His Word is alive - there is so much power radiating from those pages!  Read His Word.  Meditate on it.  Pray the Scriptures.  Let it speak to you.  Let it restore you.  Let it transform your heart. 

2.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Call it tough love, but I am going to call you out.  (Don't worry, I gave myself a dose of my own medicine earlier this week.)  When we grow weary, we are not fully exhibiting trust in God.  I recall hanging my head in shame at the thought of me questioning His faithfulness.  But then, I remembered.  God loved us so much, that He brought us His Son to us in human form.  He loved us so much that He wanted to have a better understanding of our human nature.  He loved us so much that He allowed His Perfect Son to be beaten, spit upon, bloodied, crucified, and sacrificed so that each of us could be freed from our sin in a broken world.  In Matthew 26:36-46, Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and made His own humanness known. He told his disciples "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death."  He asked them to keep watch over Him while He prayed and he even warned them to not fall into temptation as "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  As He brings His prayer to a close, Jesus cries out, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."  Jesus walks among us.   He knows our circumstances, He knows our temptations, He knows our hearts, and He knows how weak we are in the flesh.  But trust is spread all throughout the Bible, over and over again.  Knowing our human weaknesses, God is constantly commanding us to trust Him, just as Jesus did.  You see, we don't have to understand our circumstances.  God is faithful to those who submit to Him.  When we seek Him, He promises to make our paths straight.  So, no matter what storms you endure, you have a choice to trust Him, to let His will be done. 

3.  Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the LORD. (Acts 3:19)

When gripped by doubt, fear, overwhelm, or depression, we tend to shrink.  We become small.  We isolate.  And we are held captive.  Know that it comes from one source only - an enemy of lies that "seeks to steal, kill, and destroy you."  God is love, and anything that repels love is not God.  When I felt doubt creep in this past week, I knew I had let the enemy take refuge in my life.  It was time for me to say "PEACE OUT!" to the destroyer.  And it was time for me to go to My Father to repent.  I confessed my sins, asked for His forgiveness, and asked Him to help my unbelief.  To humble ourselves in His presence in a time of repentance allows God to wipe us clean and restore us.  

4.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3)

Author Margaret Feinberg spoke at my church this weekend.  After studying joy in the Scriptures, Margaret wrote a book - but just as she was about to publish it, she was diagnosed with cancer.   She decided that joy would be her secret weapon to fight back, and she rewrote her book, Fight Back with Joy, from this new perspective.    As a joy seeker in my own life, I needed a reminder that my joy was in my control.  Margaret spoke of joy as God's complete love encompassing us.  When we fall into weariness, it's important to sit quietly in God's big, unfailing love.  Let it fill you.  Dance with His love.  Let it romance you.  Let it empower you.  Let it cast away all fear.  Surround yourself with His love reminders.  And know that God is refining and perfecting you with each perfectly orchestrated life moment.  Margaret looks back now and sees that unknowingly, her journey to write about joy had prepared her for what lie ahead in her cancer journey.  Then, she utilized what God taught her for His greater glory as she helps others fight back with joy.    So, I ask you, how can you use your story for good?  (I highly recommend Margaret's newly released book, Fight Back with Joy.)

In closing, go to His Word, trust Him, repent, and use joy as your secret weapon.  Enjoy the roller coaster ride of life and persevere!  May these tips encourage and restore your soul today.  And always, always know that you are deeply loved. 

xx,
Laur

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