While grabbing an apple in the kitchen to fight off a mid-day stomach growl, I heard an erratic banging from the dining room. I peeked around the corner to spy a large black bird flapping his wings and flying straight toward one of the windows--crash—hitting it so hard, he fell back to the ground in a feathered heap. Was he dead? How long had he been down here? How in the world did a bird get in our house?
The bird quickly answered my first question—he was not dead—by rearranging his body, raising his wings and aiming straight toward another window, only to repeat the whole crashing and crumpling scene. A close-up wild bird is very different than gazing at one flittering through the trees. He appeared so much gawkier, louder, and infinitely crazier. My instinct was to get him OUT! But he was like a lunatic, also probably severely concussed, so I avoided his hysterical flapping (I did not want him plummeting into me) by ducking through the hallway to open the front door. I swung the wooden door in and the storm door out, sliding the catch so it would stay open, all while talking to the bird as if it were a toddler, “Come on bird. Here’s the door. You can go outside now. Here you go.” But where did he go? He was nowhere in sight.
I followed my ears to the clatter of colliding and flapping in the living room. He must have snuck in this room, like one of those secret passageways in Clue—where you can go straight from the Conservatory to the Lounge even though they’re on opposite ends of the game board. He had tricks up his feathered sleeves, and he was now head-banging against the window in his new room. When he fell to the floor. Again. I rushed past him to open the back door leading to our screened-in porch “Alright, bird. Come on out to the porch. I’ll get this door open for you too, or the front door’s still an option. Either one works for me.”
I got the screen door open and finally remembered to breathe as he soared onto the porch. Brilliant. Until he crashed straight into one of the screens. I now know the origin of the word “birdbrain”. I closed off the porch, so he couldn’t get back in the house, and kept talking to him while shooing him time after time in the direction of the exit. After several crash and burns, he flew outside. I slammed and latched the door behind him.
Finally free of the problem of having a large bird flopping around my home, I pondered how he ever got so misplaced that he ended up here, that he thought he wanted to be in our house instead of out in the open where he belonged? How did he get so confused, distracted that he couldn’t distinguish glass or screens from air, from wide-open spaces? I considered how the more exhausted and anxious he got, the more he seemed to spin out of control.
But I do it too. Do you? Do you ever run into the same wall time and time again? Trying to do it all by yourself, ignoring the voice coaching you out to freedom
Instead of embracing the trees and sky where God has placed you, do you ever seek something you’re not suited for, somewhere unbecoming of the beautiful being God created you to be? Have you ever banged your head on the glass thinking it might be a way out, crashed into a screen when you’ve flown a little too high or too low?
Like that bird, we all get off track sometimes, misplaced, confused about where we want to be, where we should be, what is truly important. We find ourselves someplace we never imagined, and we can get trapped there. Appearances, brands, numbers on the scale, on test results, on the scoreboard, or in our checkbooks distract us. We get tired and stressed, which confuses us and we start making bad, frantic decisions. But how do we get back on track, back to our true selves, our true reflections?
It’s easy, if we’re willing to take a deep breath, get our bearings and listen. God is opening doors and windows giving us fresh opportunities and new chances, shooing us to the openings, to the ways out of bad situations and into wide-open spaces. He’s talking to us saying, “Look over here!” We just need to listen.
And when we pull ourselves out of our heaps and fly to the beautiful places He’s providing for us, we can stop feeling scared, lost, overwhelmed, or incapable, and spread our beautiful wings and soar as He designed us to do.
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. Galatians 5:1
Are you hearing things clearly?
Are you hearing God clearly?
Earwax is a normal, healthy self-cleaning agent to actually protect our ear canals, except when there’s too much, except when it clogs our ear canals, because then we can experience hearing loss.
Is anything clogging your ears today?
Q-tips, not something we talk about everyday, but we all use them, right? The Q-tip website touts their many uses; lovely lips, flawless nails, crafts, pet care (that one had me stumped), but we all know why they were invented (even though doctors say we’re not supposed to use them for this purpose any more)—to remove ear wax.
Most of the time I feel I’m pretty in tune with God. We talk every day.
But there are other days, bad days, when I allow the world to clog my ears. When I let the world’s measures and expectations take that earwax that was meant to protect me and cram it in my ear canal until I can no longer hear God’s beautiful promises.
It’s difficult to hear through the earwax of the world.
And so, enter Q-tips. I know, I’ll repeat myself; we’re not supposed to use them anymore, but how about spiritual Q-tips? What do you use to clean out the gunk and the lies of this world, to hear God better?
Some spiritual Q-tips:
· Open the Bible and read. Let God’s promises and truths sink in.
· Find a quiet place and ask for God’s peace, His direction. Then wait to actually sense a response, or at least to feel and acknowledge His presence
· On the go? Tune your radio or earbuds to Christian music or a podcast or a sermon, something that inspires you, fills you with Biblical truths and centers you back with Jesus
· Hang out with or reach out to Godly friends. You’ll be amazed by the light they can cast on something you’re struggling with
What matters most is that Jesus loves us! We need to be reminded of that. We need to clean out our ears, so we can hear it loud and clear!
Apparently, the Q in Q-tip stands for quality. My friend, Amy Parker, once said in referring to God’s truths, “Quality truth is powerful.”
Clean out your ears and let the powerful quality truth that you are God's beloved pour in like a symphony today.
What ways do you use to spiritually clean out your ears?
One of the bonuses of living in a college town is “free week”. The first week of each semester, all of the fitness classes at the University Recreational Center are free. You can try everything from Zumba to Kick Boxing. You can take five or six classes a day for free, if you’re body is up for it. There’s a ton to learn. There’s no limit.
Me? I already take yoga classes, so when I attend the first week of a semester, I’m not getting a sneak peek at what the class is like. I’m getting something even richer. I’m getting back to basics.
There is an underlying current in the yoga room during free week. There are twice as many bodies. Barely any of the polished wooden floor peeks out from the kaleidoscope of yoga mats. Regulars shift, make room, adjust, give up their familiar spots for class. Which is a good thing. It gives us a new perspective. New faces pepper the room along with a rainbow of workout clothes reflected in the back mirrors.
Our instructor, Holly, is especially brilliant during free week. She takes us back to basics. As the digital clock ticks 8:00 her voice begins, reminding us how to sit. Instructing us how to breathe. Reinforcing that our breath is the most important part of our practice. Breathing? Isn’t that so obvious? But don’t I forget? We spend an hour going back to the core elements of yoga. And it is beautiful. And it is extremely difficult. I discover there are multiple poses I thought I’d figured out that I haven’t. I realize there are certain times my hips are out of line or that I forget to breathe altogether. I’ve been so focused on transitions and balance and strength, I forgot to focus on the basics. Transitions, balance, and strength are all important. They all help me get more out of the class. And it’s not that I’ve never heard the basics, never been taught how to breathe. It’s just that I lose sight of them, in the midst of everything else.
My faith is like this too. It is critical for me to continuously go back to basics, to relearn how to breathe in God’s grace, to reteach myself the Gospel. God is always teaching me new things. And there are always things He helps me discover I can be working on in my life. If I flip through my most recent blog posts I get a clear picture of the recent issues on my heart—friendships in faith, following God’s plans instead of mine, turning over my fears to Jesus, slowing down. And these are all great things, things God really wants me to be working on. But want to know what He most wants me to be aware of? He wants me to breathe in the Gospel.
What is the gospel? Pretty simple, yet so complex:
1. I will never measure up. Sound harsh. Not really. I’m not perfect. I fall down. I screw up. Every. Single. Day. I yell at one of my kids. Fall. It’s fine to discipline them, have certain expectations of them, but yell? Nope. I judge somebody, based on what they say or how they look or how they’re different than me. I wish I never ever did. But I do. Fall again. You get the idea.
2. Jesus died for my sins, so I don’t have to measure up. He was “all that” and then some. He is perfect. His blood covers all of my ugliness, mistrust, pride, jealousy, and insecurities. All of them. All of the time. Time and time again. I don’t have to be perfect. Ahhh. I am loved. Double ahhhh.
Because God loves me, I strive to be the best version of myself – all those things on my heart—the slowing down and trusting. Yet knowing I’ll never be able to master them is a good place to start, because it reminds me of God’s grace. And how beautiful and loving and overwhelmingly amazing it is. And when I inhale the fact that He loved me enough to die for me and exhale all of my darkest moments, because He loves me even in the midst of them, it helps me with all of those other things I’m working on.
I don’t know what’s on your heart today, where God is working on you, but I can promise if you remind yourself of the Gospel, of what He’s already done for you, of how immense His love is for you, you’ll be off to a good start. Breathe in. Breathe out.
I am so excited to share with you my latest release, It's Addicting. It's Addicting releases July 14 in both print and e-book formats from Playlist Fiction.
This third installment of the Status Updates series finds four college sophomore roommates finally getting comfy with the routines of dorm life. But Kat, Claire, Palmer, and Hannah soon begin to feel the nagging ache of innocent addictions pulling them away from their true selves. Still, obsessing over perfection, exercise, or a super-cute boyfriend could never be a bad thing—could it? Hang out with these four roomies to see if they can—or even want to—ditch these sneaky little hang-ups before they take over their lives.
'I'm so glad to see Laura L. Smith writing about such serious and important issues. Kudos to her for being brave enough to write the truth. ~ New York Times Best Selling Author, Tosca Lee
It's Addicting tackles real-life issues with raw honesty. This book is something every high-school and college-aged girl should read.
~ Nicole O'Dell, author, speaker, and founder of Choose NOW Ministries
Laura L. Smith writes with precision and honesty in the third book of her popular Status Update series. It’s Addicting asks readers to consider their own lives and the blinders we all wear. The college roommates in this book struggle with the most authentic of issues—the sometimes subtle but often overwhelming addictions we all cling to. In the end, the answers aren’t easy or pretty, but Smith, with characteristic gentleness, pushes readers to see that clarity and hope come from one place—a God who seeks us as fiercely as we seek Him. ~Laura Anderson Kurk, author of Glass Girl and Perfect Glass
Have you ever had a hard week?
I am extremely blessed in so many ways, and honestly can’t praise God enough for all He does for me and my family, but as I write this, I’m in a rough week. This week has been rough with a capital R.
A fifteen-year old girl in our community lost her life, a family who has been a stronghold in our faith has been called to move to another state, a dear friend has been diagnosed with cancer. I’m okay. But I have to admit; I’m sad, reflective, and a bit weepy.
I know the teen is dancing with Jesus, the family has an amazing opportunity awaiting them and God will hold our sick friend in His comforting arms.
But I’m a still a bit weepy.
I was running with my daughter today, trying to process everything going on when a bluebird fluttered past us and landed in a tree directly above our heads. We stopped and watched his vibrant blue wings, so unnaturally bright against the bare branch. “The bluebird of happiness,” I said.
“Have you ever seen one before?” my daughter asked.
“A few times,” I answered. “But not many.
Bluebirds have been considered the harbinger of happiness for thousands of years by numerous cultures ranging from pre-modern China’s Shang Dynasty to the Beatles in their movie, Yellow Submarine.
Bluebirds act as God’s promise of happiness, like the rainbow to Noah. And if that wasn’t enough, we crossed the bridge, ran down the lane and came upon this.
I may not be able to make sense of some of the darker moments of the last week, or of life, but I don’t have to. God is with me every step of the way. He always is. Always has been. And just in case I forgot, even for a moment, He reminded me. Of His beauty. Of His love. Of His faithfulness.
“Never once did I ever walk alone. Never once did you leave us on our own. You are faithful, God, You are faithful.” Matt Redman
I hope you’re not in a dark place today, but if you are, hold on. Just a moment longer. Because around the bend or over the bridge or down the lane or tomorrow or next week your bluebird awaits you. God has it all set up – a moment of pure beauty and vibrancy and promise. You’re not walking this alone.
God is faithful.
On today's blog I feature up and coming young author, Devin Berglund. Devin calls herself a writer, dreamer, wanderer and all-time enjoyer of life. She loves crafting stories that change lives. Her short story, Hope For Another Day, releases on Halloween.
One autumn morning, I was walking to my college class. Leaves floated around the blue sky and rustled on the sidewalk. It was the perfect day. Once I got to class, I sat down next to my friend. Class hadn't started yet, but my cell phone vibrated in my pocket. I looked at the name - Dad.
"Are you sitting down." I looked around at my friends in class, then got up and walked into the hallway to sit at a bench. I remember the sunlight shining through the window. It was the perfect day, but not for this kind of conversation.
"Uh... Yeah? I am now. What's wrong?" A pause came from my dad's side. I remember turning through the book of all the faces I knew and loved dearly.
"Grandpa Dennis passed away, this morning."
I don't think I said anything other than breaking into tears. I couldn't stop crying.
That week was one of my toughest in my college career. My family went down to Crystal, North Dakota. I had to finish out the week of classes, before I could join them.
It's been six years, since my Grandpa went to be with the Lord. It was tough and it took a long time to heal for all of our family. And we still haven't completely gotten over the loss.
One of my favorite Bible verses that got me through many tough experiences was Jeremiah 29:11-14
When we go through troubles, God will pick us up again and set us on our feet again.
But after that is when the work begins. We have to strive to live good and happy lives filled with HOPE. In my Urban Fantasy short story, Hope For Another Day, I wrote about a character named Silvia. She is a young woman who lost her husband and also a young infant. In my writing, I want to share with the world that there is always something great to hope for. A beautiful sunset in every day.
After losing her husband to a car accident, Silvia yearns for the normal life she once had and the love she lost. One night, while walking through the forest, her life is turned upside down when she discovers a mysterious secret in the forest.
This is a twist on the fairytales we were told while we were young. It’s a story about fate, loss, and giving life a second chance.
Just as my Grandpa's life was cut so short, we can't take life or the days we are given for granted. We should push onward without worry and fear. We should push onward with hope in our hearts.
Be still. The words had not been shouted to the furious wind or issued to the sky, but spoken as though directly to my heart.
This line from the book Iscariot by Tosca Lee keeps repeating in my heart like a track on a scratched CD.
Have you ever been caught in a storm? Maybe not with actual raindrops falling from the sky, but with life blowing past you so fast you can feel it? With concerns and worries like thunder pounding through your heart and flashes of fear or sorrow like lightening sparking when you least expect or want them?
When the disciples were caught in a squall they felt helpless, hopeless. Jesus lay asleep while their boat pitched and flooded in the dark, turbulent sea.
But Jesus awoke and with composure said, “Be still.” The waves calmed and the clouds parted. What if He wasn’t just telling the waters and the heavens to chill? What if Jesus was telling the disciples, and in turn, us, to relax and find peace in Him?
I just went through a personal stormy season. Someone I loved died. And although I know he is now at peace and in heaven, it was an exhausting, disorienting and sorrowful journey. I had sleepless nights and anxious moments and heartbreaking sobs. Yet, as my family and I returned home from a week of ICU and Hospice and Visitation and Funeral, Jesus kept telling me, “Be still.”
I went on an early morning run hoping to clear some of the cobwebs crowding my brain. But as I turned a corner, I saw I wasn’t the only one in the neighborhood up before dawn. A mama fox with her two babies sat in the grass, enjoying daybreak and each other’s company. I stopped mid-step, pausing my run, surprised by their presence, their grace. We watched each other as the grayness of morning accepted the golden mist of an awakening sun. Be still.
Rushing out the house to get one of my four kiddos to their soccer practice, clicking off a checklist out loud, “Do you have your cleats? Water bottle? Shin guards?” a perfume halted my mouth and my feet. Sweet and ethereal I stopped and inhaled. The vase of lilies on the counter was sending off its fragrance as a reminder of all that is pure and honest and pretty. It was the opposite of hurrying, the antithesis of juggling and remembering. It was God’s creation—perfect exactly how it was made. Be still.
Clearing dishes off our porch on a steamy summer evening, the wind rattled through the branches in the woods behind our house. The predicted downpour crashed against the roof and leaked through the screens, and yet, at the same time sun gleamed on the wet leaves. How was this possible? I put down my stack of plates and forks and dashed out the front door, letting the rain pelt against my bare arms while the sun shone on my face. I searched the sky for a rainbow, turning in circles in our front yard. I never caught glimpse of the arch of colors I knew must be somewhere close, but the miracle of simultaneous rain and sun was enough to get me to cease my business and indulge my senses. Be still.
There is awe in tranquility, and yet we so often flounder, letting life’s concerns and to do’s swirl around us, sometimes developing into uncontrollable storms. Sometimes we hide from the thunder, cover our eyes from the lightening, or just put our wipers on full blast and try to plow through the rain. How beautiful that Jesus is always there, no matter what, no matter where, no matter how, reminding us to, “Be still.”
How about you? How is God telling you to be still?
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 have recently staked out a spot in our house, complete with windows and bookshelves, to be my very own writing nook. I L-O-V-E it! I’ve placed a handful of photos of my favorite places and people on the corner of my desk. I painted the walls a lovely smoky, pale lilac and one square with white board paint, so I can dry erase writing ideas at will. I’ve set my cool pottery coaster in place, so my coffee cup always has a home.
But in order to claim this space, I had to clean.
I had to dig through existing cupboards and go through baskets and file organizers in my previous writing space, a.k.a. the corner of our living room. I found everything from paper clips to business cards of people I don’t remember meeting, from an array of neon sticky notes and magazine images to old plaques and certificates. It was simple to put binder clips in the little organizer on my desk and to recycle hand scribbled notes for articles, blogs and books I’ve already written. But there was this stack of awards from my past that perplexed me. How long had I kept them? Better yet, why?
As I lugged the load of metal and wood and paper to the garbage can, I laughed. There was something extremely freeing about no longer being tied by measurements of how many dollars of clothes I sold (my short career as a manager at the Limited) or how many square feet I’d leased (my longer career in shopping mall development). There was a time when those stats, and the status that went with them, were extremely important to me. But those things are irrelevant now, so I pitched them with a hearty heave.
And the next day, I stumbled across this passage:
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. ~Philippians 3:7-9 MSG
And yes, I giggled at the mention of dog dung in the Bible, then marveled, how liberating it felt to let go of past credentials. But my trip to the garbage was easy. I’m no longer trying to sell the most wool coats or trying to convince J. Crew to come into all of the malls I lease. I’m happy I can let go of the past, but it’s a piece of cake, since those things aren’t relevant to me anymore.
What’s harder is the here and now.
I have two new novels releasing next month. Will I be able to consider my rank on Amazon insignificant? Will I be able to let less than glowing reviews (everybody gets some) slide off my back? I hope so. I’m praying I won’t get tied up in those numbers or any other worldly measures, for that matter. But it isn’t always easy. Today, I’m mentally throwing away earthly labels claiming how good I was or wasn’t. And I’m praying I can keep carrying more bags of garbage out to the curb.
How about you? What’s the craziest old trophy you have sitting around?
I heard author, Bill Myers, speak at a Christian writer's conference in California. His voice mesmerized me. His message captivated me. At the end of the conference I purchased his book, Eli, for my husband and had Bill sign it for him, secretly knowing I would also benefit from this "gift". I let it sit on my hubby's shelf with his other "to be read" books. I plowed through my pile of "to be read" books, until December, a month off book club, fewer school days, fewer activities, more nights by the fire.
I pulled Eli off my husband's shelf and dove in.
Eli is the retelling of the gospel (in novel form), like you've never heard it before. It's twisted out of its familiar settings and verses into today's terms. I take such comfort in my tried and true Bible, but I must admit, I sometimes take for granted or skim over the deep lying messages within. What if Christ had been born in Santa Monica in the early 70's and a bunch of hippies were told by some glowing dudes they would find a new king, someone to change the world, in the laundry room of a motel, wrapped in motel towels? Bill Myers describes down to the beads and scent of smoke what it would be like. If I were in that motel, would I believe?
The nativity presented in this manner drew me in as I gazed at the stockings hanging by our fireplace. As I read on, Eli helped me reposition front and center in my mind what Christmas is all about.
Follow Eli Shepherd as he heals the lame, feeds the hungry, gives sight to the blind and raises the dead - all with twentieth century paparazzi, politics and media.
Read this book.
Hear his message of love.
Ponder if you would follow him.
Laura L. Smith