Turn off your phone.
What is God telling you today? You'll never know unless you take time to be still.
Where is your favorite place to listen to Him?
Be still? I've got to be kidding. Right? You are winding down the school year and all of the projects and games and recitals and concerts and awards ceremonies that go with it. You have places to go and people to say and quotes to tweet and pictures to post. You have books to read and miles to run. I know, believe me. But listen for just a minute.
I just got back from a trip to the coast of California. Every year, my husband and I turn off our phones, go somewhere beautiful, and concentrate on our marriage and turn our focus towards God. It's amazing what a little silence will do for the soul. Pretty incredible how clearly I can hear God's voice when I turn off all of the noise of daily life. You don't have to go to California to hear Him, just someplace lovely, someplace quiet, someplace where you can find peace.
He has so much to say, that God of ours. Messages for me and for you. Reminders of how much He loves us, that He's always right by our side, that He will never leave us, will always cheer for us and has created the most perfect plans just for us. Can you hear Him?
Find somewhere peaceful. I know it's hard, but do it.
Turn off your phone.
What is God telling you today? You'll never know unless you take time to be still.
Where is your favorite place to listen to Him?
I’m on spring break in the mountains of North Carolina, and it’s gorgeous. Well, the mountains are spectacular. The weather? Not so much. Forty-four degrees and cloudy isn’t ideal for hiking and cookouts, but our family certainly isn’t going to let a few clouds stop us. So, today, we’re at the indoor pool, swimming and splashing while it rains outside.
At the edge of the indoor pool sits a hot tub, so close to the edge of the pool you can reach out and touch it. Directly above the hot tub is a sign that reads MUST BE 16 OR OLDER TO ENTER HOT TUB.
There are three children, clearly under sixteen, I’m pretty sure under the age of six, whose bodies are in the pool, but they’re dangling their arms into the warm, bubbly cauldron of the hot tub. It’s so tempting. I’m sure their bodies are chilled from the damp week, and how can a warm bubble bath possibly harm them?
I know these are just kids in swimsuits, hair slicked back from the water, but I see Eve staring at that shiny, juicy apple hanging from the limb of a tree.
I know. I know. You’re a great swimmer. You take really hot baths at home. You’ll just be in for a minute. Other kids are in there. You saw them. You eat fruit all the time. You’re allowed to eat every other fruit in the entire garden. What could it hurt? This once? You might really learn something, gain something from it. The pretty serpent said so.
Hot tubs lower your blood pressure, and when you’re under sixteen that can equate to throbbing headaches, dizziness, nausea, even passing out. Passing out in water equals bad. And, we all know what happened to Eve when she ate that ripe piece of fruit.
I’ve experienced Spring Break temptations shouting out from every poolside, restaurant, bar, cute boy, beach, street and hotel first hand. And you don’t have to be on spring break to be surrounded by temptations. They’re everywhere. So wherever you’re headed for spring break, or if you’re on a staycation, or if you’re just in your normal daily routine, you will have opportunities today and tomorrow and the day after that to make good and bad choices. They’ll look fun, interesting, safe enough, potentially exhilarating, dare I say tempting, and like they couldn’t possibly hurt you.
But as someone who’s regretfully eaten a couple of pieces of forbidden fruit in my past, I want to let you know, there isn’t a single dangling apple I’ve ever tasted that didn’t give me a terrible “stomachache” not to mention remorse. Rules exist for reasons. We’re not ready to drive until we’re 16 or drink alcohol until we’re 21. There are speed limits and number of people in a room limits and city limits all for good reasons, even when we can’t see what they are.
God is strong and He wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use, so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. Eph 6: 10-11
Look for the signs that say, “warning,” “attention,” “caution”. They aren’t always in print or mounted on walls, but they’re usually pretty visible. Listen to God’s voice. Do your temptations contradict His word, what He’s called you to do? If so, you might want to think twice before you dive in or reach up.
Where are you headed for Spring Break? Do you think you’ll run into any temptations?
Wise men. Kings. Magi. The story of these men amazes me. But as with anyone, what truly blows me away is not what they did, but what God did through them.
What do we know about these majestic gift bearers? We refer to them as kings. They were revered like kings and wealthy like kings. They dressed and traveled like kings, but truthfully, they were of the scholarly order of Magi. This means they were highly educated men in the field of astrology, revered in their towns. When they came and spoke, large crowds gathered. Their nuggets of wisdom would have been tweeted and retweeted and posted and pinned.
We depict them as a trio. But the Bible only states three gifts; it doesn’t mention how many people brought them. Who’s to say a few of them didn’t go in on the gold? It was pretty pricey, after all. We’ve even assigned names to them; Gaspar, Balthazar, and Melchior, which if your going to give great men names, why not give them great names?
These magi left their families and friends and the communities that looked up to them to travel for what scholars say took up to two years. They invested riches to hire the caravan necessary to tend to their animals, prepare their meals and travel with them. They didn’t have a map. They didn’t even have Siri to tell them to turn left at the third sand dune. That’s one heck of a road trip. All to see a new king, they’d never even met.
Their faith is awe-inspiring.
But as I said, it’s not what the magi did that blows me away, but what God did through them.
1000 years before they tied their saddlebags on their camels, the Psalmist in Psalm 72:10 -11 wrote: May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!
And 700 years before they gift-wrapped the frankincense with the perfect bow, the prophet Isaiah wrote in 60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.
That means God had it all planned out. Down to the most intricate detail. He knew where the wise men needed to come from, where they would be going, what they would need to pack and how they would get there. All they had to do was follow the star.
This is so mind boggling; because it means God does the same thing for you and for me. Centuries before we were born He had created plans for us. Not just any plans, but plans to prosper. Like the prophet Jeremiah says.
What lies ahead for you in 2014? What uncertainties lay in your heart? Are you freaking out about how you did on exams? Trying to decide what to major in? Wondering if you’ll start in your next game? Are you in a relationship and wondering if it’s time to take it to a higher level, or maybe to end it all together? Are you not in a relationship and wondering if you’ll ever find a soul mate? Maybe you’re moving and frightened of the unknown? Or panicked about an internship or job search?
No worries. God’s got this. All of it.
And not just the big picture stuff, but all of the intricate details.
He’s had it all planned out for hundreds of years. He knows where you’re coming from, where you’re going, what you need to bring with you and how you’ll get there. He’ll even give you all of the resources you need to make the journey.
All you have to do is follow the star.
The star that is Christ Jesus.
SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER, for Palmer, Claire, Kat and Hannah at Clarkston University, the fictitious setting for my Status Updates series. To celebrate, the four college roommates in the books are offering you their first book, It's Complicated, for only 99 cents!
For less than a song on iTunes, less than a pack of Claire's bobby pins, less than a slice of pizza at Clarkston's Ragazza, less than even a small cup of coffee from Corner Cup, you can get an entire novel! Just click on this link and download: http://www.amazon.com/Complicated-Status-Updates-Series-ebook/dp/B00C2BXK6Q/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
(if you don't own a Kindle, no worries, the App is free on the Amazon site for most phones, tablets and laptops)
OR if you don't have access to a Kindle or Free Kindle App, visit Smashwords and enter promo code WK68Z prior to checkout. Offer expires May 16, 2013.
"I absolutely love love love this book!!!
Here are 3 reasons why...
#1 FAB FRIENDS- these characters are unique, fun, funny, and wonderful! It's hard to pick my fave! There's super-athletic KAT, fashion-forward PALMER, boy-crazy HANNAH, and the serious quiet type CLAIRE. I love them all!!
#2 ISSUES & DRAMA- author Laura L. Smith doesn't shy away from issues that real teens are dealing with today, and when you put four friends together you know there's gonna be some drama!!
#3 IT'S A SERIES!!! I soooo can't wait to read more about these girls. It's Complicated is a totally awesome start to what promises to be one of my fave series ever!!!" JoJo's Corner
Slide on your flip flops and shades, grab a Tazo or an iced latte and enjoy a summer read that will take you to the beach, the soccer fields and Paris before it's time to dive back into next school year. All for less than a dollar.
Tingling all over with the announcement of the second book in my Status Updates series, It's Over, releasing April 19!
HOW CAN YOU MOVE ON WHEN IT'S OVER?
When four college roommates lose pieces of their lives, the pain isolates and the tension rises. Emotions are hard to hide and even harder to tackle. How can the girls move forward, when there is so much pain in letting go? Together, Claire, Kat, Palmer and Hannah learn to lean on God and each other, and through it all they learn loss is a part of life.
"In It's Over, Laura L. Smith confirms the truth we've been told that we are never alone in the midst of heartache and struggle. In fact, she takes us to a place where we not only get to see, but feel deeply the truth of the fact that every single one of us has a story. Every single one of has experienced pain. But more importantly, that every single one of us has great hope. Laura L. Smith's writing strikes a deep chord in my heart. It makes sense. It's real--and in my opinion, that transparency makes all the difference." ~Holly Starr, Christian recording artist
"Laura Smith speaks for the broken. With a voice that’s warm and true, Laura gives words to those rendered speechless by issues that high school and college girls should never have to deal with—but so many of them do. In writing that’s raw, relevant, and real, Smith goes where few authors dare to go: straight into the heart of today’s young woman."
~Amy Parker, bestselling author of Courageous Teens
"YA author, Laura L. Smith crafts another story that will appeal to all girls, because no one is untouched by heartache in all its forms. The grace Smith extends the four girls in It's Over will touch readers in deep ways, as they follow these characters through some of the worst parts of life. Best of all, they'll cheer when the girls lean on one another and find ways to be thankful in everything. This is a fantastic read, one that will resonate with teens, college girls and their mothers."
~Laura Kurk, author of Glass Girl
“I can begin again.” New Year’s Day by U2
I spent New Year’s Day 2013 soaking in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Barely visible amidst Elvis’ outlandish purple Cadillac with “EP” blazed on every seat cushion, tire and door (no lie), John Lennon’s neon green silk Sergeant Pepper’s uniform and Katy Perry’s memorable peppermint dress were my two favorite artifacts in the multi level, glass pyramid of a museum (a copy of the Louvre in Paris).
My favorites weren’t bright or shiny or glitzy or even psychedelic, like all the items I believe rock stars own and save and cherish. They were small and flat and plain. They were rejection letters.
As a writer I get my share of rejection letters. You might think looking at others’ rejections would be torture. But, actually it’s the opposite. You see, these weren’t random rejection letters written to bands you’ve never heard of like Carl and the Crazies or the Keyboard Lizards, these were rejection letters written to U2.
In 1979 RSO sent a letter to P. Hewson, Bono’s real name, stating the demo tape he mailed “titled U2 is not suitable for us at present". The letter was written on Bono’s 19th birthday. I hope he got a decent cake.
Around the same time Arista Records sent U2 a form rejection letter, the kind they sent to hundreds of bands with just a preprinted signature, and without details of why the band was being turned down.
But those rejections did not make U2 quit. It gave them fodder to begin again. To make another tape, to send it to another label, to try again.
One year later, Island Records signed U2. They went on to become one of the biggest selling bands in the world. Over 7.2 million fans attended U2’s 360 Tour, more than any other fans attending any other tour - ever. U2 has won more Grammy awards than any other band, ever. 22.
But what if Bono and the boys had listened to RSO or Arista? What if they took those rejections as signs they didn’t have what it takes? That they weren’t good enough? That their sound wouldn’t resonate? That they should give up?
What hill are you climbing today? Who’s told you “no” recently? What roadblocks are you encountering?
What if instead of listening to the negativity, you tried one more time – took the SAT or LSAT one more time to improve your score, auditioned for one more play, ran one more race, applied to one more internship or job, sent one more song to a record label?
Hills are rarely easy to climb. Sometimes they reveal themselves as careening mountains.
But the view from the top of the mountain is glorious.
I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He lift me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay
I will sing, sing a new song
Psalm 40 by King David and revamped by U2 in their song “40”
What new song can you sing today? Where can you begin again?
There’s a scene in the movie, The Dead Poet’s Society, where the English teacher at an all boys’ high school asks his students to stand on top of their desks. Some boys pounce toR the flat surface, eager to do something quasi against the rules. Others hesitate. Why? Because they aren’t used to standing on their desks.
Have you ever stood on the top of your desk?
The purpose of the exercise is to get his students to look at things in a new way, to gain a different perspective.
This week of Thanksgiving, I’m doing just that, gaining a different perspective.
I’m on top of Rumbling Bald Mountain in North Carolina. My Internet service is spotty, there isn’t a Starbucks within an hours drive and I have a cold. Nothing serious, but the kind where it feels like my head is stuffed with cotton balls. Everything sounds muffled, tastes a bit bland, smells slightly metallic and my energy is low. But, I’m thankful, well except for the Starbucks part.
I’m out of my routine – off track – on top of my desk.
So, I’m sitting more. Gazing at the sky, listening to the laugher of my family and drinking home brewed coffee.
Since I’ve been on my trip I’ve stared at a rainbow, bright and daring, as if God grabbed a handful of Crayola markers and sliced right through the sky with a burst of color. I’ve gazed at zillions of stars, dazzling bright and white through the vast blackness of night. I’ve watched the sunset, which is more like a swirl of colorful clouds dancing around the mountain peeks. As I write this as 2:33 in the afternoon, I see the moon peeking out early. I’m up so high; I feel like if I stretched just a little further, I could grab it.
“If we want to stay on the road to faith, we have to hit the brakes, pull over to a rest area and stop.” Michael Yaconelli
In my typical day, my busy schedule I am productive and healthy and happy, but if I do the same thing everyday, all the time, I miss out on some of God’s beauty, His gifts. And in the midst of missing His creation, I also miss the chance to say, ‘thanks’.
This year I am thankful for a cold, and a view not from the top of the desk, but from the top of a mountain. Because I have no emails or tweets or Facebook to distract me, because my cold forces me to take things slowly, because I’m up where things look different, I’m gaining a different, deeper perspective. And I am thankful.
How about you? What are you thankful for this year?
What’s in your fall wardrobe? Have you picked up any cool pieces that will give you an updated look? Soft suede boots? Warm tunics? A cool tote? A military jacket? A bottle of Essie polish in warm fall hues? How about in the back – are there some outdated styles, something that never quite fit right?
Ever since I first read C.S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles when I was about nine, I’ve been banging on the back of wardrobes, just in case. Just in case, I slip into someplace magical, just in case an adventure awaits me inside, just in case I could meet Aslan face to face. I’m currently reading The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe for maybe the twentieth time. I’m simultaneously reading Everything by Mary De Muth. Fate would have it as I reached page 100 on Everything, DeMuth begins talking about “the wardrobe”.
“Once they’ve (the Pevensie children) committed to Narnia, they embark on an entirely new journey that will change them from the inside out and readjust the way they look at the outside world. God-initiated healing is that way. He brings us, if we dare, to a new place, but it’s not a familiar place. And in that outside-of-our-comfort-zone spot, He woos our attention, shows us our past in light of His viewpoint, and sets us back on our feet again to have new adventures.” Everything by Mary DeMuth
What’s inside your wardrobe this fall? How about in the closet of your heart? Reach back far. What is smushed on bent hangers between the clothes you rarely wear? A broken friendship you were never able to heal? A conflict you’re avoiding? Regret? Self doubt? A decision you’d rather not make? Something you need to fess up about? Something you need to let go of?
What’s waiting in there that you need to face? Take it off the hanger and put in the donation pile. Hand it over to God. You do not need to wear it anymore. It doesn’t fit the you God created you to be, and it doesn’t flatter you.
Let it go.
Open the door to God’s magical wardrobe and give him all the outdated, misfit garments of your soul. It’s necessary to clear them out to find the warm coat He has waiting just for you on the back peg. Now that there’s room, take a few more steps; breathe in the crisp smell of freshly fallen snow. Dare to trust a robin or a faun or anyone offering you genuine love and company and wisdom. Avoid those who seem too good to be true, who offer you power, status and all you can eat Turkish Delight. Instead journey further up and further in until you meet God right where He loves you the most. Ditch the things of the past that were never made for you, and enjoy the warm folds of his embrace. Come back recharged, realigned, ready to move forward in your real life, a little less concerned about this world, and feeling a little more self-stylish.
“Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it.” Ephesians 2:7-10 MSG
Trust in him. Open the door. Let go of the hurt. Let the healing begin. Your adventure awaits you.
What are you having a hard time donating to God?
I’m a planner, an organizer, and a calendar maker extraordinaire. I have four kids, which means a fun-filled crazy, busy life. If I don’t stay on top of all the practices, assignments, to-dos and errands they crawl on top of me, and smother me.
However, despite all of my color-coding and lists, I have to remember that I am not the one in control.
On a family trip to Italy we needed to check out of our apartment in Florence prior to the proprietor’s arrival to make our train to Venice on time. We dutifully took out our trash, stripped our sheets and dropped our keys in the drop box.
We rolled our suitcases thumpety-thump down the cobblestone streets to the metro, took the metro to the train station and boarded our train, surprised to see an entire class of Italian school children filling our car and our seats. I spoke with a lovely teacher whose English was even worse than my Italian. We exchanged tickets, but couldn’t figure out how we all had the same seat assignments. Together we searched for a conductor, who just as the train began its departure told us to sit tight. We’d sort it all out en route.
We situated ourselves in corners and nooks, plugged in our ear buds and flipped through books until about an hour into the ride when the conductor came to punch the tickets I’d ordered months ago on the Eurorail website.
“Ecco.” Here you go. I presented ours to him, proud of my Italian expression.
He shook his head with a sneer. “These are for tomorrow.”
“Today is Wednesday. These are for Thursday.” He said briskly, not feeling my panic, my pain, and my well-executed plans in a tangle.
“How- how could that be?” The words tumbled from my mouth. My brain churned. He pointed to the date on the tickets, which were indeed for the next day. I grabbed my travel file and frantically flipped through the itineraries. I turned to my hubby and gasped in a stressed whisper, “How did this happen? I don’t understand? Where will we stay in Venice tonight? We’ll be a day early.”
“You cannot continue to Venice.” The conductor’s voice was freakishly flat for an Italian.
Silently he pulled out his calculator and typed in seemingly hundreds of numbers. Eventually he turned the display to me. “This is your fine for riding the train without a proper ticket. You must depart at the next stop - Bologna. You may use your ticket tomorrow to get you from Bologna to Venice.”
A lengthy list of questions from me to the train worker didn’t clear up any of my concerns. The fine was enormous. We knew no one in Bologna and had no hotel booked for our four children, my mom and ourselves. We’d forfeited a prepaid night in Florence. Not to mention the blow to my ego that I’d majorly botched our travel plans and let my family down!
My stomach was like a pulverized pizza. My face hotter than the Tuscan sun. My hands shook like our train car on rickety tracks.
We paid our fine, gathered our group and got off the train in Bologna, the beautiful city of Bologna, home of robust spaghetti alla Bolognese, one of the oldest Universities in Europe, an active political community and ancient basilicas.
In Bologna we stayed in the nicest hotel of our trip, complete with luxury air conditioning and an all you could eat breakfast buffet piled high with Italian pastries and made to order cappuccino. We witnessed a heated protest by impassioned university students, noshed on zesty pizza margarita (for a fraction of a price of what we paid for it in Florence) strolled through the historic university and visited the crowning jewel, San Luca.
San Luca, named for Saint Luke, as in the gospel writer, sits at the top of approximately 300 steps covered by romantic porticoes supported by 666 arches and overlooks the lush city of Bologna from its hilltop perch.
On a 70 degree, sunny day breathing in the architecture, gazing at the sapphire blue sky, marveling at history dating back to the gospels, intoxicated by a strong spiritual presence and surrounded by the people I love most in the world, I couldn’t imagine anything lovelier. Then, two young boys pulled out their violins and played an impromptu hauntingly beautiful concert in the grassy area outside the church, providing the soundtrack for my moment.
My planner said I should be in Florence that day. I thought I was supposed to be in Venice that day. But God knew, there was no place on earth better for me on that day than in Bologna.
I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
Tell me below - where are you planning to go this week? Where will you let God take you if only you let Him?
Where did you go today? What did you wear? What did you take with you?
I started the day with yoga. Wearing my comfy gray yoga pants and stretchy gray and black tank, I grabbed my mat, my rec center ID, my hot pink water bottle and slid on my flip-flops.
After a trip home for a quickie shower and a wardrobe change into a black sundress and a zillion bracelets, my next stop was a writing session at my local coffee shop, Kofenya. I packed my MacBook, extension cord, cell phone, wallet and of course my coffee cup for the excursion.
This afternoon I’ll head to the pool. I’ll need to slip on a bikini, pack my sunscreen (both spray and Neutrogena face formula), a towel, my Kindle, my U2 cap (to prevent sun damage), my straw cup full of H20 and a snack.
We, as a society, carry around so much stuff. And it’s even more fun when we get to carry it around in cute bags!
But Jesus challenges us to do something different. He sent the disciples out on their life’s work with a walking stick and the clothes and shoes they already had on.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Mark 6: 8-9 NIV
I’ve changed shoes three times today! IS His call to all of us exactly the same?
Not exactly, but kind of.
He might call you to teach or nurture or share a smile. You might be called to sing or paint or score or hug or listen or lead or follow.
He has a plan for you.
But do we need all this baggage we carry around to live out this plan?
Jesus still calls us to spread His word – every day, everywhere we go – whether that’s shopping or hanging out with friends or going to class or working out with our team or working or spending time with family. He calls us to be His light. So what do we need to bring?
That’s the easy one.
If I forget my sunscreen, I can sit under the shelter when I’m not in the pool. If I wear a normal t-shirt to yoga I’ll still be able to do my best downward dog. If I forget my travel cup at the coffee shop, they have mugs.
So where are you going today? Where has Jesus called you to go?
I’d love to hear about it. And don’t forget to pack the most important thing – Jesus.