Laurel Thomas

love Archive

Thursday

20

July 2017

0

COMMENTS

A Child’s Voice in the River

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A speech impediment plagued my five-year old self. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pronounce my name. The letter “l” was impossible, the “r” tricky. My name, Laurel, required mastery of one or the other. The sound that tumbled out of my mouth in an untidy heap was not my name.

Awkward, mumbling “Ohwell” confused anyone who asked, “What’s your name, little girl?”

How could six letters arranged to identify me be so hard to get out of my mouth? It was embarrassing, even for a little kid who shouldn’t have cared much. After all, I was loved by the people who mattered. No big deal.

Except it was a big deal. But for reasons I didn’t understand at the time.

Later, when I experienced God, I realized why. Because me with Him was the point. The whole point. Me living this life, with Him, as only I could.

It took me awhile to figure that out. And to understood I needed to be grateful for all the parts of my life. In my worst moments, I’d made flawed decisions, opted for easy instead of difficult, and stayed passive when a mess required a response.

But those parts could be summed up in a sentence or two. Unlike the incredible joy of seeing my babies for the first time. When my husband and I locked eyes and knew we were part of a miracle – together.

Or the journey of recognizing my mom’s courage. Loving and appreciating with adult eyes how she responded to dashed dreams as a good mom – loving her kids and making the hard choice to protect us.

And accepting the wonder of a dad who chose me. Actually, he chose my mom first. But by choosing her, he embraced me. On purpose. He loved that way when I recognized it and when I didn’t.

I’d had great people who helped me along the way. Most of all, my husband. But, also leaders and bosses who taught me to be wise and work hard. Even the ones who blew it showed me that my decisions for integrity, or not, were me writing my own story. The one I’d be able to share with my kids in the years to come. Or not.

Colossians 1:28 has been talking to me all summer. Talking to me? Well, it’s a big subject. Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Confidence in God showing up as God in me? What does that look like?

I struggled a long time with the largeness of that thought. I’d focus on how many ways I’d missed it. And why. Until I decided to go another direction. It started with a simple prayer.

Lord, help me see You in me. Help me identify and treasure Your uniqueness in me.

Then, help me steward Your expression in me well.

A steward doesn’t just keep order and make sure life colors within the lines. A steward administrates what doesn’t belong to her. The assignment and it’s design are unveiled as I keep moving and trusting.

Finally, help me share it in love. Because love rests over my imperfections and somehow makes my offering lovely.

This summer, in time for my birthday, I’m discovering the one thing that evaded me as a child.

I’m learning to pronounce my name.

Wednesday

7

June 2017

0

COMMENTS

Heavy Machinery in the River

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I love order. Like when my house is clean, the laundry is done, and the garden has flowers, not weeds. And I’ve gotten my word count in for the day. You know, design that colors within the lines.

In my life, this happens only on occasion. Except for the writing, which I’ve made as non-optional as possible. Most of the time I’m okay with order that only visits.

Control freak, you say? Well, maybe. It took a long time to learn that it wasn’t order I longed for as much as it was design. I needed to know where things fit and why – especially in the middle of a mess.

Like last week when my husband and I pulled up to our family farm in Missouri. You might remember my story as a newly-wed living on this same property. Cows (as in a herd) chased me when I was on an evening run. Carnivorous Malice

Country girl, I was not. Nor had I morphed into one in the last thirty-eight years.

In case you’re imagining nostalgia when we pulled up as new owners of the property last week, hold that thought. Weeds in the front yard were taller than me. Boxes in the bedroom were filled with sixty-year old treasures wrapped in vintage newsprint and sprinkled with rodent droppings.

We sighed a little, then got to work. Our first job was to mow. That meant we had to get into the barn, which hadn’t been opened for said thirty-eight years. How hard could it be?

Two hours later the door opened, thanks to a trench we’d shoveled around it. I peered inside the barn before entering. A fully-preserved possum skeleton lay near a big groundhog hole. Mud-dabber nests decorated ancient farm equipment like spidery chandeliers that hung from the ceiling.

Once inside, all we had to do was un-attach the very old mower from the very old tractor, then reattach it to the new tractor. Another couple of hours and several cans of spray lubricant later, we were unattached.

Okay, so maybe we’d moved from unattached to broken. This was not progress at its finest. It was more like demolition derby.

It wasn’t that we were unfamiliar with demolition. My husband and I’ve lived in a variety of places along the way. Some needed fix-up. And there were the early years of marriage when we yelled and threw things. We’d carried some baggage into our new life that had to go. That took time and hard work.

But now? In our sixties? Heavy labor wasn’t in my plan. I fired up a quick prayer. Lord, is there any design in this? If so, I need to see it.

The next day the answer came with Jimmy, who’s farmed the family land for many years. Instead of riding in on a white horse, he barreled up the lane in a John Deere front-loader. Within a few hours he’d fixed the tractor issue, pulled up a crumpled chain link fence, along with posts set in concrete, and cleared a colony of dead trees and brush.

Blazing a trail can be hard. Beginning a new career or starting over in whatever way life demands, strains our emotional muscles. We ache and look around, peering at the tangle of weeds and brush that cover up the potential of our new beginning.

The mess can blind us to the goodness that beckons beyond it. But now isn’t the time to get blinded or quit. Because help is on the way. In the form of heavy equipment.

God doesn’t just cheer us on. He comes on the scene with help. The kind that clears debris of past generations and prepares the ground for a new start.

Even though we look around at uncharted territory in our lives with more than a little dismay, we can know something is underneath all that disorder, pregnant with God’s design.

A design bigger than we’ve seen, crafted by a God who can get the job done.

Tuesday

21

June 2016

0

COMMENTS

Storehouse in the River

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I noticed.

Sometimes the Lord answers my questions before I ask them.
He didn’t need an essay, a paragraph, or even a fancy sentence. Two words were enough.

I didn’t know I needed to know He noticed. Then again…

I thought about Joseph in the book of Genesis.
Joseph started out with two prophetic dreams. Little did he know those sweet dreams of divine promise would land him in an Egyptian dungeon, far from home and family.

Not the plan he had in mind.

My agenda hasn’t always lined up with God’s. I’ve made giant skid marks onto a path I hadn’t planned, too.
When I was muttering, What the heck, God was up to something. Actually, He was building something. In me.

His plan was a storehouse. And I was the storehouse.

I saw it in Joseph first. Then made the leap to me. Obeying God when it was hard formed a foundation. Giving when it didn’t look like it mattered laid a framework. Loving, even when it came out all wrong, was part of the process.

Joseph was brought against his will to an unexpected future. That future wasn’t one he’d had in mind. But it was one God needed. It positioned him in a nation that faced a huge crisis. One that needed the wealth he carried inside.

What kind of storehouse will I look like? How about you? Where will He take us to feed the hungry?

I’m not sure yet. I do know our obedience, our giving, and our love matter. And that somehow they’re part of God’s building plan. One that will feed and protect others.

For just the right time and right place. Proving that He’s good, He’s faithful and He’ll never come up short.

Saturday

2

January 2016

0

COMMENTS

What’s New in the River

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It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for. Those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him… John 4:24 (The Message)

It wasn’t the word I had in mind for 2016. Still, I heard it repeated over and over throughout the holidays.

Honesty?

Really, Lord. Don’t You remember my epic fails?  Like the times my words tossed gasoline on a smoldering fire? My eyebrows are still singed.

Correction. That was honesty with knee-jerk mad. Kind of like adding a little arsenic to pure water. Not a good way to get or give a dose of truth.

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.   (Mother Teresa)

It’s the transparency part that makes me nervous. Every rejection, every misunderstanding and every offense whisper, settle. Settle for political correctness in the name of all that is sweetness and nice.

When I struggle on the dark side, I ask the Lord to uncover the lie that’s keeping me there. He removes the gilded exterior to expose it for what it is. A malignancy wrapped around my soul.

So, I could call my decision not to choose honesty by another name. Like timidity. Sounds low on the sin scale, right?  Until I notice the opportunities its stolen, the relationships it caused me to bypass and the God-connections I refused because of is deception. Timidity is not nice. And it’s rooted in dishonesty.

My Yes to honesty can’t be a whisper no one can hear or hold me accountable for. I lift my hand to the Heavenly Teacher and speak loud and clear, Count me in.

I choose the truth even when it comes out wrong and makes a mess. After all, a mess needs truth to untangle it. And a mangled statement of truth is always better than a well-crafted lie.

Like a quote I read this morning – Being honest may not get me a lot of friends, but it’ll always get me the right ones.

I’ll put the weight of all my imperfections and fears straight on the back of truth. It’ll hold. It’ll do what only truth can do. After all, truth is rooted in love. The only love that really heals. The only love that really sets us free.

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

 

 

 

Wednesday

4

November 2015

0

COMMENTS

Invitation in the River

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Invitations come in lots of ways. They can be online, free, custom-designed, or personalized. There are invitations to birthday parties, to graduations, weddings – all special events to be shared. They may not come engraved on fine linen paper. An impromptu phone call or text works, too, like “Hey, how about lunch?”

Some invitations offer such promise or limited access they require careful honor. I watched a You-tube video of a Maori tribal welcome, complete with warrior’s spears and elaborate chants. Protocol surrounded the whole process. It wasn’t offered or received with a casual, “Sure, whatever,” but with intentional honor.

I’m invited to new territories all the time. I’ve been a wife, mom and now grandmother. They all offered an invitation to open my heart in a new way. Today it’s writing that whispers my name.

I’ve pounded on many doors in my lifetime. After all, maybe trying harder was the only way in. Like the years when I glared at the door of love and yelled, “Let me in!”

But what did I have to offer? Would I honor love when it welcomed me in? Or would I drink it dry, wipe my mouth, then turn away?

Invitation is often about acknowledging gifts right on my doorstep. I don’t need to leave town or place my order on Amazon. It won’t break my bank account, but does require my investment.

This investment is an unlikely one and certainly imperfect. Ready? It’s one that honors the invitation with my past.

Yikes! Aren’t I supposed to forget the past to move forward?

In God’s economy, my past matters. The tests I survived, even the mistakes I made all count. I didn’t learn about Him in only sunshine and roses. There were stinky days when my own heart betrayed me.

I’ve found that like God, the invitation isn’t a legalist. The journey of walking with my Redeemer counted. All of it.

Heaven extends its invitation in my present with future promise. Promise that my world needs. The fact that my smallest obedience didn’t escape His notice not only comforts me. It helps me see what His hand extends today and shout Yes! to the future it holds.

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

Tuesday

29

September 2015

8

COMMENTS

A Big Place In the River

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In narrowness You broadened a space for me. (Psalm 4:1)

The phrase, In the beginning, is an invitation. It reminds us that new beginnings show up all through life’s journey. And that the Creator of the universe is willing to take the helm in each of them.

The birth of our first-born marked a new era in our lives 34 years ago. I read every parenting manual I could find and still wondered, “Me, a mom?” Now, our youngest is off to college and I wander around my quiet house, muttering, What the heck?

In Genesis, a new beginning went bad. People’s imaginations and thoughts somehow got twisted. Those thoughts were seeds that grew up and bred violence, maiming and molesting at will. Women and children were ravaged. The spirit behind ISIS, the Nazi regime and every structure that rips and tears with willful abandon was unchecked.

Immeasurable sadness filled God’s heart. He commanded Noah to build a place of refuge for His remnant. Noah obeyed and built a structure according to God’s specifications. It took 75 years. And because he followed every detail, the ark held as flood waters gushed up from the belly of the earth and poured from open heavens.

The flood extended 22 ½ feet above the highest mountain. That was 22 ½ feet above Mount Everest’s height of 29,035 feet. All of earth became a watery abyss with a tiny speck of gopher wood, tossed in enormous swells.

It took over a year for the waters to recede. Noah sent a dove out three times. The second time, it returned carrying an olive branch. It was earth extending an invitation. Come back. Dwell and occupy this new place.

The ark was a confined space, not meant to be a permanent home. But everything familiar was gone and all that stretched before them was uncharted territory. Imagine the wonder of those first footsteps and their eyes wide, taking in a land that stretched far beyond what they could see.

The time comes for us, too, when we’re invited to leave a narrow place and move into one He’s broadened for us. Not that we know what it looks like. There are many uncertainties, but much adventure ahead.

Sometimes life shouts, “You’re small! You’ll never be anything but insignificant!” That may be our biggest clue we aren’t. After all, this is a faith thing. We’re connected to the One who created the universe and just happens to love us.

So, every morning I say Yes to His new beginning. Even though I don’t know what it holds or exactly what it looks like. I want its largeness to push out everything that would keep me small.

I’m not responsible for creating the broad place. I wouldn’t have known it was there if He hadn’t told me. These days are full of mystery. But like the new earth that called Noah and his family, there’s a new place waiting for us to inhabit. Let me know when you catch your first glimpse!

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

 

Thursday

6

August 2015

2

COMMENTS

The Love that Counts

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I buried my face in the blooms of snow-white peonies. Soft petals tickled my tender four-year old face. Their fragrance filled my senses. I picked the biggest blossom and separated each petal one by one, plucking, pulling and tossing into the wind.

They scattered like water lilies on the spring grass. I chose one more, then another and another. Sweet breezes warmed my face and blew white ribbons like confetti far into the neighboring yards.

Immersed in my work, it surprised me to look up and see my grandmother. Petals littered the grass around an almost stripped bush. Remaining blossoms looked like survivors of a hail storm.

She was the official family gardener and the reason our backyard looked like the Garden of Eden. My four-year old self hadn’t meant to take Eve’s place, with a stripped peony stalk instead of gnawed apple in hand.

Shreds of isolated blossoms stared up at me with an accusing glare. My grandmother’s eyes darkened and her face flushed a deep purple. At that moment, it was me or the prize peony bush. Which would she choose?

I don’t remember the punishment, although I’d built a good case for at least a pop on the behind. Maybe, after a few minutes to breathe, she remembered I was four. And that I was worth more than her beloved peonies. Or at least I hoped.

My mom was going through the fight of her life. There were three of us children, all under the age of seven. Our grandparents stepped in as a refuge, opening their home and their hearts.  They embraced a hurting daughter without shame and enfolded three little kids from the crushing blows of collateral damage.

I was accident-prone, so that meant a few trips to the emergency room. My grandfather took me to school and taught me to tell time while I sat on his lap and fingered the smooth crystal of his pocket watch. My grandmother issued out hugs with liquid doses of B vitamins. I still remember that taste.

Most of all, they loved. Like the loving-kindness of the Lord that goes far beyond what is required. We shared cookies and milk with cousins around the bay kitchen window. Grandpa cooled watermelon beside the old wringer washing machine in the basement.

Since that time, I’ve learned about two kinds of love. The first is love based on contract. I do something for you, you do something for me and we’re good. Until that equation falls apart.

What I’ve been learning for the past 38 years is covenant love. Covenant love is based on a promise. I’ll love you through thick and thin, when I feel like it and when I don’t. Because I’ve committed my life to you.

The contractual kind of love is based in poverty. I don’t have enough to give when it gets hard. I’ve run out of the love that makes sense. Worst of all, as I measure out my limited portion, I offer it only to the deserving.

It’s taken me awhile to learn the largeness of God’s love. It stretches beyond my abilities, yet propels me into a freedom I didn’t think was possible.

As children, we were loved when we couldn’t give much in return. What we had to offer was lots of messes and noise. And a little shed blood from time to time.

But what an investment our grandparents made in us. It wasn’t a contractual deal. It was covenant love. A love that didn’t measure what it gave with careful precision, making sure nothing extra leaked out.

And it paid off in ways they never saw on earth. They didn’t see the reward in our children, their great-grandchildren. They didn’t know that their sacrificial love opened a door to embrace the love of our Savior.

So here’s to the journey. Love’s harvest is sweet. We look forward to its strength to mold and make us, our generations and the world we inhabit.

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas

 

 

Tuesday

21

July 2015

4

COMMENTS

Refreshing in the River

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July 20th heat shifted to rainy refreshment in one day. Yesterday, temperatures soared to the upper nineties. It was hot with a wet blanket of humidity on top.  Not this morning, though. The rain was more than a sprinkle. It was a thorough soaking that broke stifling heat in a matter of hours, not days.

All summer I’ve heard my grandson’s voice repeated in my spirit. He’d just celebrated his fifth birthday. Right before he hurtled from the high dive of a small town public pool, he told his mama,

“I can do this. I’m big now.”

“You can do this. You’re big now,” awakens me at every opportunity to quit or back down. It speaks to me when old fears whisper, “Are you sure? What if it hurts? Is it worth the risk?

It beckons me like cool waters, beyond a cautionary life I’ve settled for. It says,

“Jump, like Tyler, into the deep. Fear is a like a barking dog. I hold it at bay, but you must silence it.

I’m with you in the leap, in the decision of your heart that nothing and no one can steal My delight and desire in you.

Put a demand on the strength of those desires. They are mightier than the lies you’ve let overpower them. I built muscle in them to overpower every obstacle.

Your dreams are designed by Me to swim. They don’t require a life jacket. They plunge and come up refreshed, even though heat surrounds them. Your dreams love My depths. They aren’t intimidated by mystery. They embrace the unknown and take joy in expressions beyond what they’ve imagined.

The impossible situations you see as a prison are only an opportunity to leap. Leap with your dream. Watch it break through impossibilities with a sudden, not gradual liberation.”

For I know the thoughts and plans I have for you. Thoughts and plans for welfare and for peace, not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Shalom in the river,

Laurel Thomas

 

Thursday

14

May 2015

3

COMMENTS

Rain and the Hidden Seed

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Here’s today’s answer to my What’s next, Abba?

I’ve watered your land and broken an assignment of drought. Even as I pour out My goodness on the earth, know that I am breaking drought over you, beloved.

My rain of life and light comes to refresh and fulfill the next measure of your destiny. There’s a new place in My plan, not just for you, but for My people and those you’ve prayed for.

Rain washes an accumulation of pain and difficulty. It nourishes hidden seed, the seed you planted years ago by receiving My Word. You forgot your obedience because it looked so insignificant. But I didn’t forget.

It is imperishable seed, which though hidden, waits for the rain of My Spirit. It is a promise you thought life left behind, that will sprout before your eyes in the days to come.

Rain seems inconvenient. Muddy feet track into your clean house. You put off morning walks in hope of sunshine tomorrow. But rain is My answer to the cry of your heart. Don’t miss seeing My voice speak in its downpour.

The skies rain hope and expectation, targeting the hidden and releasing it from ground packed hard by dry seasons and hard times.

So look forward to seeing the life of those seeds you’ve forgotten. Their harvest will surprise you. After all, does a stalk of corn look like its seed? Does a ripe, yummy tomato look like what you stuffed in the dirt?

I’m a good Abba and I love to amaze you with My sweetness. The harvest will be rich and satisfying, designed by My hands, just for you.

Enjoy these soggy days. I’m speaking!

Shalom,

Laurel Thomas

Monday

6

April 2015

2

COMMENTS

Prepared to Cross Over

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She was a sinner. It was no secret. Simon, the host, was a prominent Pharisee. He saw her when she walked in the door. But her eyes focused on One. She moved through a crowd of observers who hadn’t been invited to dinner, but were welcome to watch.  (Luke 7:36-50)

In those days, social protocol allowed people to watch a party of this importance from a distance. Maybe a large crowd gathered around the perimeter of the table. After all, Jesus was there.

With no “pardon me,” the woman made her way through them, crossing the threshold of protocol to kneel at His feet. Tears dripped from her chin and cheeks, drenching His feet. As she wept, she poured out rare perfume. Fragrance and tears mingled in an outpouring of uncontained love.

Simon was appalled. And he thinks he’s a prophet…

Jesus, very much prophet, yet much more, knew his thoughts. He understood and honored her exchange. Extravagant love given, unbounded thanks received.

But that night thanks didn’t come from the host, one who should have recognized Him. Instead, it came from a despised and rejected one. Her outpouring defied convention and poured out unashamed. It was an offering that anointed the Savior.

Our tears and gifts mingle in imperfect humanity. We may get caught up in appearances. But He doesn’t. Somehow in a beautiful exchange, the offering of our hearts is received by a perfect God.

Does our gift wash away the dust of heartache from a world blind to Him? Or worse, the betrayal of those who’ve invited Him to the table, but refuse to give Him the honor He deserves?

This Passover season, may our love for Him cross over into a fragrant offering that anoints and invites with the sweetness of its fragrance. It might be a stench to some, but to Him, it is a preparation. One that we’re a part of.

Shalom in the River,

Laurel Thomas