This Wonderfully Messy World

Friends! I am really excited to bring you these words from my friend, Laurie Coombs. Laurie and I have known each other for gosh, about five years now. We’ve encouraged each other in our writing journeys and I am thrilled that Laurie’s new book has released. I had the privilege of getting my hands on an early copy of the book Letters From My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness.  I am not exaggerating when I say that I could NOT put this book down and I read it straight through while traveling back in February. It is a captivating true story of redemption. Here is what I wrote in the fancy schmancy endorsement:

In Letters From My Father’s Murderer, Laurie Coombs weaves an intriguing true story; one that captivated me from page one. This story of forgiveness, redemption, restoration, repentance is full of real and raw emotion that brings the reader to a place where they feel as if parts of their own life–their own need for forgiveness or need to extend forgiveness–is uncovered and exposed. Though not all of us have experienced the horror of losing a loved one to murder, we all deal with our own dark corners of our hearts. Laurie’s motives to extend forgiveness and look through the “lens of the Gospel” will echo in my heart for many moments to come.

I can’t wait for you to hear from Laurie herself…

Laurie Coombs

 

I had always thought the world was a wonderful place, full of beauty and love and light. Growing up, the life I imagined for myself looked more like a fairytale than I care to admit. I had plans for my life, big plans. But just as I was coming into my own, just as I was about to seize all life has to offer, my world unraveled when confronted by an evil I never imagined possible. My dad, who I love more than I can ever say, was murdered, and with that loss, all the lofty notions I held about life shattered.

Things like this dont happen to people like me, I thought. I grew up in a nice, quiet small town. I came from a good, loving family. How could my dad have been murdered? I wondered.

I found myself sitting at a park after the funeral questioning just about everything I thought I knew to be true. Something my mom always said came to mind. “Everything happens for a reason,” she used to say. I pondered this familiar adage for some time, wrestling with my new reality, before crying out, “How could there be a reason for this?” through my anger and tears.

This was not my plan. This was not the path I thought my life would take. And I was angry. Mostly at Anthony, the man who murdered my dad, but it was more than that. I was angry at the lack of sensitivity I saw in the media. I was angry at the indifference of others watching the news coverage. I was angry at our society and its unhealthy fascination with murder. But I was also angry that my life was not turning out the way I thought it should. 

It just didn’t seem fair. All those big plans I had for my life were upended by my new awareness of evil. Nothing good can come out of this, I thought. Nothing.

But I was wrong. 

The years that followed were characterized more by trying to be okay than actually being okay. Shortly after the murder, I put on my happy mask and decided it was time to move on, and so I did. I buried my pain and went on with my life, hoping my past would stay in the past. But it doesn’t take much to know that unresolved pain rises to the surface at one point or another, regardless of how deep its buried. 

It took nine years for my pain to resurface, and when it did, I was absolutely stunned by it. My pain showed up in the form of anxiety and depression, something I had never dealt with before. I didn’t know what to do when this monster reared its ugly head. And for the first time in my life, I was presented with something I could not fix. I was able to work through every other struggle in my life prior to this, but this time was different.

I tried everything the world tells you to do in a situation like this. I tried eating better and exercising more. I tried meditation. I tried taking a stress management class. I tried yoga. I tried self-help books. And I even tried taking medication, but it only worsened my condition. Nothing worked. And so with all other options exhausted, it seemed God was my last and only hope. 

But I was not a believer. In fact, I was a skeptic. I was one of those people who thought faith was something weak-minded people relied on to get through life. All that stuff in the Bible seemed like a fairytale concocted to tickle ears and make people feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But at this point, I had come to the end of myself and saw no other option out of the mess. And so with a fearful heart and an analytical mind, I attended church, fully expecting the God-thing to be yet another rabbit trail that would lead absolutely nowhere. But it wasn’t. 

As I listened to the pastor speak, my mind only semi-present due to the anxiety, God did something I never imagined possible. He showed up. He continued to do so time and time again until there was absolutely no denying it was Him, and I received faith.

But I don’t believe I would have ever gotten to that point apart from my dad’s murder, and so the very thing intended to destroy my life would be the thing that would save it. Apart from this terrible tragedy, I would have never experienced true life. God had a better plan than the one I had planned for myself. A messy plan. A plan that included tragedy and loss. A plan that included pain-filled searching. But also included in that plan was my salvation and the call to love and forgive my enemy which ultimately resulted in the beautiful message of hope and redemption that I have been called to share with this world.

Yes. We live in a broken world. A world that involves evil and loss and pain. But apart from the darkness, we would never fully know the light. Only in the darkest of dark does light shine the brightest. Only in a broken world can we see healing and redemption. Love is shown greater in the face of hate. Beauty is all the more beautiful in the face of the ugly.  

And what beauty there is to behold in this wonderfully messy world.

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Be sure to click HERE to find out how to get your hands on Letters From My Father’s Murderer

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More About My friend Laurie:

Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Fathers Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, and she is a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve and Crosswalk. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery. Be sure to visit LaurieCoombs.org or connect with Laurie on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

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What beauty are you finding in your messy world today? I would love to hear from you…leave a comment…let’s chat!

How To NOT Be Awkward

Did that title catch your attention? Well, I just have to say I’m being snarky. I actually don’t know how to NOT be awkward but I’m starting to learn how to well…cope…with the awkward. More on that in a bit.

{So many of you have been super kind and encouraging in my prelude to the big move from North Carolina to Texas. I wanted to take a post to give an update on what’s transpired and what I’ve learned so far.}

Monday morning. A day to prep and pack for a month of living in temporary housing. A day to get my thoughts together, pack and then pair down again everything we need for a month’s worth of doing life in a new town. Not much would fit in our car. Yes…I know…#firstworldproblems here. I get that.

The door bell rings and on our porch stands a small army of sweet women ready to pack our house. Top to bottom. A day early. Unexpected. Unplanned for. I panic as my mind rushes to the hopeful showing on our house to sell IN AN HOUR.  In a matter of minutes, my show-ready house (spic and span I tell you) turned upside down with boxes, paper, tape and one wild women (me!) rushing to gather said things for the next month for fear they would end up in boxes in a matter of minutes.

Things settle down and the Lord blessed us with a smooth packing/movers experience. Our little family squeezed tight into the SUV. We made sure to pack our bathing suits (moving to Texas means tons of pool time) and you better believe that ALL my most treasured art supplies found a special spot in the car. Maybe at the expense of some toys for my 7 year old? Don’t judge. He’s fine. :) The trek across country proved smooth and uneventful which is a good thing for sure.

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We made it to Aggieland in three days. This is the town that stole my heart more than 15 years ago. It’s the town I studied (just a bit), played hard, found “myself”, cheered at football games, played hard (not gonna lie), graduated from, and most importantly…met the love of my life. It is good to be back here. It makes my heart smile to share memories with my son from the glory days. He thinks college sounds fun because you can eat lunch whenever you like and eat whatever you like. I had to smirk a little and refrained from explaining to him the Freshman 15 Phenomenon. The things that stick out in the mind of a 7 year old… We can’t wait for all the students to come back and for Aggie football to commence.

I wrote HERE about the identity crisis and my fears of being the new girl again. I haven’t been the new girl in years. The thought made me shudder. I’m usually one for the adventure of newness, but this did me in. God is so good. So good. Honestly, I felt funny taking such an insecure prayer to Him about friendships. But, as I type this, I’m reassured once again that we can be confident to take anything and everything––even prayers of awkwardness––to the Throne. Hebrews 4:16 is the truth I stand on in this moment.

Through connecting with old friends and meeting new friends from the churches we’ve been visiting, God has whispered to my heart that prayers were heard and held in His hands with care. Our hearts are in His hands. He delicately showers with grace from friends that want my son to come to playdates. Yes, the prayers of friendship are for the entire family and He has come through. Yes, we are still meeting and exploring and getting to know. In the meantime, our sweet family has cherished the welcome to Texas so freely poured upon us.

So here’s my advice on how to NOT be awkward. It stems from several new friend introductions where I babbled and stumbled my words and said dumb things in a moment of insecurity. You know those moments where you feel all gangling and unsure like the middle school years? That was me. Tongue tied and just weird. You know, those moments where you replay conversations back in your head like an old cassette tape? Maybe I’m the only one that does that…that tortures myself like that.

As I sat with the Lord and chatted about these moments of awkward, He sweetly spoke to my heart that it is ok to be awkward. And I’m going to hang on to this. Because here’s the deal, other people feel awkward, too. Usually we are so focused on our own weirdness and insecurity we can hardly notice others and their own. Right? So I find solace in that fact: we all have our own issues with what other’s may or may not think of us. And maybe, just maybe, our awkward might disarm someone else and allow for freedom to just be. Just be and just say and just smile and just get to know someone with out expectations of perfection. There’s ministry in that I’m sure of it.

So that’s where I am right this moment. I will write more on the friendship thing soon. In the meantime check out my friend Lara Casey’s amazing summer series called Fruitful Summer. It’s all about cultivating intentional relationships.

Lara Casey Fruitful Summer

 

I hope your summer is going well! Keep approaching the throne of Grace with Your Jesus. He is WORTHY. He IS GOOD. He is full of Grace and Mercy and it is there for the taking. (Hebrews 4:16)

How To Survive Bathing Suit Season

So here’s the deal. I’ve memorized all the Scriptures that tell us we are beautifully and wonderfully made. (God’s Truth is legit, yes!) I’ve agonized with God over body insecurities. I’ve done the whole 30-days-to-a-beach-body routine and failed. This year something. must. change.

Something.

The best conclusion I’ve come up with on how to survive the bathing suit season is this:

Change the atmosphere. Create a culture that celebrates God’s creation. Draw confidence from His beauty rather than our preconceived, unattainable notions of what beauty is or should be. Steer the attention away from insecurities and point it back to Jesus.

Let’s not miss it. Let’s not leave memories on the table because we were too bound up by our body junk to enjoy, really delight in the dog days of summer. Create a culture that celebrates God’s creation. Change the atmosphere.

Bathing suit season

You see, we have the opportunity to bring to the pool, beach, lake, river, park…the representation of God Himself. The Spirit in us is bigger than the bumps of cellulite or the extra 10 pounds in which winter left in it’s wake. Summer is here and His beauty abounds. We were created to enjoy and delight NOT cower and hide away.

The waves call our name.

The sun sparkles.

The lightning bugs chirp.

The juicy watermelon overflows.

All to HIS glory.

So why should we slap our Lord in the face by trashing His creation with ugly thoughts and words about our body–HIS CREATION?

I propose that we bless others by creating a culture of celebration as we gather ’round the pool or layout at the beach. Don’t you know the gal right next to you has her own issues? Don’t you know that Jesus speaks through YOU straight to her heart when we cultivate an atmosphere of lifting up? For when we redirect the conversation, insert Truth in our pool side convos, encourage and affirm, HE IS GLORIFIED.

The practicalities of surviving the bathing suit season:

Cover yourself in prayer. Simply put. Ask God to push out your grumblings of body fat or imperfections with revelations of His grandeur. His grandeur fills the atmosphere. Pray, pray and pray some more, friends.

When we dwell on Him more than ourselves we see ourselves in a new light–His glorious light. Let God speak to those places in your heart that struggle and agonize. He takes great care in showing how He loves and adores us. The evidence is all around when we lived entangled in His presence, beauty, love rather than self focus.

So let’s not just survive the bathing suit season.

Let’s live a summer season of delight.

Leave a comment…let’s chat and lift each other up.