Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shout for Joy!

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. 
It is he who made us, and we are his; 
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise; 
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; 
his faithfulness continues through all generations. 

Psalm 100 

Extra. Extra. Read all about it!!  I want to  scream from the roof tops, but I can't do that, so I have to "yell" from my blog.

The Lord was faithful, just as he promised!!  He answered my prayers!!  Not the way I wanted I thought it should be, or the way I thought my life was planned out.  But in HIS PERFECT WAY!  And I am thankful for that!

So, let me pass on my good news to my faithful readers:

The Lord blessed me with a J.O.B.  

I will share some more details as they get ironed out, but today I just want to focus on praising the Lord for this incredible gift.  Sometimes, we only turn to the Lord during our times of trials and sufferings because we NEED him during that particular time.  We are dependent on him.  We are at a loss and don't know how else to get through the day, week, month, or longer.  But then things start going back on the "right" track, and it's easy to forget who got us through that rough patch--Jesus.  We must not forget to thank the ONE who is responsible for the joy in our lives and give him the praise he deserves.  

We were created to praise the Lord!  It is our purpose for being on this earth.  Let's not forget to Praise our faithful KING!

I will exalt you, my God the King; 
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
and extol your name for ever and ever 
Psalm 145:1-2

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Big Tres-Tres!

Today, March 28th, is Dave's 33rd Birthday!  What I like to call the "tres-tres"!  For those of you that don't speak Spanish, that is "three-three" ... and for those of you that do speak Spanish, it is grammatically incorrect Spanish.  We had such a wonderful weekend celebrating the birth of this wonderful husband of mine!  I am truly blessed to have him in my life!!   

We started off the weekend with a date night at the Dallas Petroleum Club overlooking the city of Dallas at sunset ... one of my favorite views!!  I forgot the candles I was going to secretly give to the waiter (of course), but thankfully they were prepared.  Jose saved the day!!  The pianist even played "Happy Birthday" on the piano and sang to Dave.  I think I enjoyed it more than he did!  

We spent Saturday cooking and finishing up some last minute cleaning to get ready for our families to come over to our apartment for some laid-back birthday fun.  I love entertaining, but we are on a budget, so here are some little decorations I made for the party.  


Thanks to my mom for helping me with the brisket recipe (I think I only called her like 5 times) ... we had a wonderful dinner!!  Of course, no birthday party is complete with out a cake.  I am still singing the song in my head!  "Ice cream and cake ... Do the ice cream and cake!"  And yes, we did do the ice cream and cake ... a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake!  Yummy!!


Let me tell you about some of my favorite things about my husband, Dave!  These are often things that I take for granted all too often.  He is a Christian man that follows after the Lord and strives to provide for our family.  I can't tell you how thankful I am to have a husband that will take aside a Wednesday night to join me at ReEngage to strengthen our marriage.  A husband who wakes up (and wakes me up) every morning to pray with me.  A man that started saving and investing money for our future, future children, and retirement before he even met me!  AMAZING!!


And then there is Dave's sense of humor.  I know I have mentioned this before, and it probably sounds insignificant.  For us, we can just connect through being ourselves and acting silly together.  

For example this week, we had a "Candy Connection."  We spent three evenings in a row talking about our favorite and least favorite candies/candy bars.  We had to rate our Top Five and Bottom Five.  We laid in bed and tried to name all of the candies we could come up with.  You wouldn't believe how many types of candy there are in world!!  No wonder we have an obesity problem!  Another night we did an internet search together!  We were shocked with what some of these searches came up with ... they don't know what they are talking about!  Have they even tasted these candies??  For the whole week, I kept thinking about Dave every time I passed a candy aisle or when I would checkout at the store.  I was trying to think of more candy to continue our conversation!  Silly, I know, but somehow it drew us together!  We just had fun with it!

What is your "Candy Connection" with your spouse?

Jesus Take the Wheel

"The secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered I was not God."
Oliver Wendell Holmes

WHAT?  I'm not God?  NEWSFLASH LAUREN!!!  You are NOT in control of your life or the people around you!  Again, what??  Okay, had to get that out of my system!  Over the last year (and probably throughout my whole life; it just depends on when I was listening), the Lord has been stripping away control from my life--bit by bit.  It started with dealing with a difficult boss, conflict with coworkers, feeling disrespected at work, then a leadership position in my community group at church, not having help with various projects.  Then there were issues with my husband and my marriage ... and then the big one ... losing my job!  Talk about a humbling experience!   "Okay, Lord," I prayed!  "What are you trying to teach me?"  I am learning many things, but one of them is that I am not in control of my circumstances!  I must surrender to the Lord and trust in HIS ways!  He is saying, "Trust in me, Lauren--not in yourself!" 

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? 
Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 
You want something but don't get it. 
You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want
You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God. 
you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures...
But he gives us more grace.  That is why the Scriptures says:
'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" 
James 4: 1-3, 6 

I know I already discussed this book, but there are just so many good points from it, so I had to bring it up again.  In the book, Keeping Your Cool ... When Your Anger Is Hot!, June Hunt has three points concerning control.  If you are like me, this may be a very practical lesson for you too! 

1.  Control is impossible.

We cannot control anything around us: nature, friends, husbands, children, even our own feelings and emotions at times.  Hunt says, "When we approach life as the absolute sole masters of fate and controllers of destiny, we are doomed already to failure, frustration, and anger."  Anyone else been there?  I have ... I am one of the people she would describe as a "control freak" ... perhaps a recovering control freak with the help of the Lord. 

2.  Control is a heavy and unnecessary burden.

Hunt uses the Mary and Martha example from the Bible to illustrate this point.  Martha is trying to control Mary in this story, and asks Jesus to help her with her plight.  Again, haven't we all been there?  We get frustrated because our husband, friend, or children aren't doing what they are "supposed" to be doing.  Jesus gives a shocking response to Martha.  He first shows concern, saying that Martha is worried and upset about many things, but then says that Mary has chosen what is better.  I think I could learn a lesson from this story.  Instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing and getting them to do what I think they should be doing, just focus on siting at the Lord's feet and listening to what He has to teach me.  This takes trusting the Lord and following Him! 

3.  Control is God's business, and not having this heavy responsibility is His gift to us. 

I realize that the concept of handing over the reigns of control is much easier said than done.  Believe me, I struggled with it even today!  But, this can be such a huge weight lifted off of our shoulders!  We can find such freedom in letting go letting "Jesus take the wheel" of our lives!  "God's authority and sovereignty are intended for our protection and well-being," says Hunt.  Many people feel that the Bible is full of too many "rules" and feel that Jesus is trying to steal all of their fun.  In reality, these instructions are meant to save us from lives of pain and self-destruction. 

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the Lord.
"As the heavens higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

I know that I don't have it all figured out, so why not trust in the Lord who know a LOT more than I do!  Why not follow a God that has promised to look out for our well-being?  Our pastor once said throughout his life, he had been disappointed and hurt by decisions he had made by following his own desires, but he has never been disappointed when he had made decisions following Christ.  We can find comfort in knowing that the Lord's way is better than our own way.  Even when we don't understand it, we can trust that he is GOOD!   

Although I think this is kind of a cheesy song, or perhaps I have just heard it too many times, I love Carrie Underwood's message in the chorus of her song, Jesus Take the Wheel:

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't

I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Today (March, 20th) is Rambo's adoption birthday!  We are celebrating 7 years together as dog-mommy and son.  I can't believe how the years have flown by.  You will probably laugh at this, but I guess Rambo actually has 2 adoption birthdays, because he was also officially adopted by Dave.  Yes, at our rehearsal dinner, I presented Dave with OFFICIAL adoption papers for Rambo.  After all, Rambo had to become a "McDonough."

So, to honor Rambo's 7 years with me, here are 7 reasons why I love this doggie!

1.  Rambo protects our family.


2.  Rambo obeys the law!


3.  Rambo loves the U.S.A!


4.  Rambo does tricks.


5.  Rambo loves to watch football!  


6.  Rambo is a family man/dog ... always wanting to contribute!


7.  Rambo knows when it is time to rest.  He loves to take naps & snuggle!


Rambo is also very insightful (oh no, that's 8 reasons ... really, I could go on-and-on).  He wanted me to leave you with his favorite Bible verse: 

"As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly." 
Proverbs 26:11

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Keeping Your Cool ...

One of my hobbies is reading.  Actually, both Dave and I love to just sit down with a good book.  Doesn't this make us sound like a really boring couple?  On our honeymoon, I actually got so absorbed into a novel, that I said, "Just a minute, babe.  Let me finish this chapter!"  How wrong is that??  

I just finished a challenging, but insightful book called: 

Keeping Your Cool ... When Your ANGER is HOT 
by June Hunt 

Ouch!  This one burned!  The Lord has taught me a lot through reading this book and I definitely recommend it!  I think we all struggle with anger, it just looks different in the way we express it.  

This is how Hunt describes anger.  She says, "Anger is a strong emotion of irritation, agitation, or hostility that occurs when a need or expectation is not met.  Actually, anger is a secondary response to something else--it's an upsetting emotional reaction to an assumed "right that ahas been violated or not fulfilled." 

She describes the different types of anger, and how anger can be used in a very destructive way, but also in a positive way.  Positive?  Anger can teach us to address our past, address the present, address our relationships, and address our spiritual life.  It is a real emotion, that the Lord gave us, that cannot be ignored.  Hunt reminds us that "The Bible never says anger, in and of itself, is bad.  Anger is not a sin.  What we do with our anger determines if it becomes a sin."  But, there are many scriptures that warn us about anger because it is such a strong emotion, and it is easy to let it get out of control.   

"Be angry, and do not sin." 
Ephesians 4:26

Here are a couple of my take-aways: 

Determining the source of my anger: frustration.  I have expectations that life should be a certain way.  People should act a certain way: others should treat me kindly, act with common courtesy, my boss should affirm me for my hard work, my coworkers should do their fair share of the work, people should follow the "rules," my husband should do his share of the chores, the list could go on and on.  Basically, I have an expectation of how things "should be."  I believe this corresponds with my issues of control.  I have no control over how other people choose to act ... and it drives me CRAZY!!  The conclusion here is that, I have to turn over these circumstances to the Lord ... he is in control of each circumstance and has a perfect plan.  If I don't give him the reigns, my anger is going to continue to burn!  

How I deal with anger: I am a "Fire-Eater." First, I am a "Stuffer."  I have trouble communicating my feelings and emotions effectively.  Why?  Because I am afraid of how this will be received.  I am afraid of a big fight.  I am afraid of being hurt.  But, I can only hold it in for so long ... then, I explode!!  And, believe me, it's not pretty!!  I have said some pretty nasty things!  I am learning how to express my feelings in a healthy way.  Stuffing my feelings only builds up feelings of bitterness and resentment, especially toward my husband.  Second, I am also a "self-blamer" ... thinking that everything that happens to me is my fault.  I consider myself worthless, unloveable, and never good enough.  I make myself the victim.  In the past, I used to say I hated myself.  I have worked through some of these emotions, but it still rears its ugly head.  Usually this happens during an argument or confrontation, when I hear negative things about myself or if someone tells me that I am wrong (I hate that).  I already tend to put so much pressure on myself, that it is twofold when it comes from someone else.  I am having to learn to put my defenses down during these times.  

So do not fear, for I am with you; 

do not be dismayed, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you and help you; 

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

These are just two things that I learned from this book.  Believe me, I could go on and on!  Remember that if you want to change the way you deal with anger, it is possible!!  You don't have to stay the same!  The Lord is here to help you heal and conform your heart to be more like His! 

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; 
he delivers them from all their troubles. 
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted 
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:17-18

Monday, March 14, 2011

A New Way to Pray

Being in a season where I have no idea what my future holds, brings about feelings of disappointment, anxiety, and fear.  Prayer is one of my greatest assets to relieve stress and regain sanity in my life.     

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, 
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." 
Philippians 4:6

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
Romans 12:12 

Many of us know we are supposed to pray or want to pray, but we don't really know how.   How do we talk to a perfect God ... a God that we can't even see or touch?  

Perhaps you wonder if you are praying for the "right" things?  Or maybe you are just giving God a laundry list of wants?  How you do you know you are praying for the Lord's plan and not just your plans?  I have certainly wondered all of these things.  

I was at a Careers In Motion meeting, and a wise pastor I know stated, "We know we are praying the right things when we are praying scripture."  

How simple, yet so profound.  

This changed the way I was praying for my plans for the future.  I was praying that the Lord would show me what I needed to do with my life, for clarity for my future, or that I would be able to find a new job.   These prayers were not necessarily wrong, but I wasn't sure if I was praying for things that the Lord wanted for my life.  During this journey, I have felt a need to use my life in a way that would serve the Lord.  So ... instead, I started praying that I trusted that the Lord had a plan for my life; a plan to give me hope and a future.  I prayed that whatever happened, that I my life would be used to serve Him.  I started to find peace in the unknowns of this life, by knowing that the Lord knows!  

"For I know the plans I have for you," 
declares the Lord, 
"plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Unfailing Love

This afternoon, I was jamming out in the car.  No, not to Justin or Miley ... that was last night!  Today, I was singing one of my favorite worship songs on the radio.  I know what you are thinking ... really?  But, I just had this overwhelming sense of peace that had washed over me after a stressful meeting.  The Lord was so faithful in pulling me through, that I just wanted to express my thankfulness!  

This evening, I was thinking about some of my favorite songs that describe the Lord's perfect love and faithfulness, and I remembered the song my husband and I danced to on our wedding day.  The words mirror my blog post from the other day, describing God's unconditional love.  This may not be the right song to "jam out" to, but it certainly reminds us that there is a reason to be joyous and to praise the Lord!   

Chris Tomlin 

You have my heart
And I am Yours forever
You are my strength
God of grace and power

And everything You hold in Your hand
Still You make time for me
I can't understand
Praise You God of Earth and sky
How beautiful is Your unfailing love
Unfailing love

And You never change God You remain
The Holy One
My unfailing love
Unfailing love

You are my rock
The one I hold on to
You are my song
And I sing for You

And everything You hold in Your hand
Still You make time for me
I can't understand
Praise You God of Earth and sky
How beautiful is Your unfailing love
Unfailing love

And You never change God You remain
The Holy One
My Unfailing love
Unfailing love

And everything You hold in Your hand
Still you make time for me
I can't understand
Praise You God of Earth and sky
How beautiful is Your unfailing love
Unfailing love

And You never change God You remain
The Holy One
My Unfailing love
Unfailing love

I will praise You
Praise you God of earth and sky
How beautiful is your unfailing love
Unfailing love

And You never change God You remain
The Holy One
My Unfailing love

Unfailing love

Monday, March 7, 2011

True Love

My husband and I recently started this program called ReEngage at our church.  We aren't headed for divorce or anything, but we definitely see some patterns in our marriage that aren't healthy.  We both desire to have a marriage that mirrors what Christ has designed for us and want to move toward this "oneness."  We just aren't sure how to do that.  We know we need to peel back the layers of the "baggage" we have brought into the relationship and learn healthy ways to communicate.  We want to build a stronger foundation before we bring innocent little ones into the picture.   

ReEngage @ Watermark Community Church
The first lesson has already convicted me, as we are learning the difference between human love and God's unconditional love.  The Lord loves unconditionally, which is so hard to even fathom!  His love is perfect, full of grace and mercy, forgiving, trustworthy, and without fear.  Once we are children of God, there is NOTHING that can separate us from his love.  

"God is love.  
Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  
In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have 
confidence on the day of judgement, because in this world we are like him.  
There is no fear in love.  
But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  
The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  
We love because he first loved us."  
1 John 4:16-19

This kind of love is so different from "human love."  How quickly does our love turn conditional if our spouse or friend not live up to our expectations?  We hold back or build up a wall because we don't want to get hurt again.  

If we claim to be a follower of Jesus, we should be living out our faith according to his example, especially to our spouses.  It doesn't matter if we "feel" like doing it or if they are reciprocating, we are called to love out of obedience!  

"This is how God showed his love among us: 
not that we loved God, but that he loved us 
and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  
Dear friends, since God so loved us, 
we also ought to love one another."  
1 John 4:10-11

I fail over and over again in this area of unconditional love.  How often have I kept a mental list of list of past hurts from my husband, in case I need to use it again.  Is that true forgiveness?  Or I have kept a mental score card of the household chores that HE can never keep up with (sound familiar ladies?).  I have kept this internal arsenal, just in case I need to "protect" myself in the midst of an argument.  I hold back expressing my love to my spouse because my feelings are hurt.  This all boils down to one thing--selfishness.  That ugly word that we don't like to admit, but that's the truth, and Christ's love definitely doesn't work this way! 

The following passage, comes from the "Love Chapter" of 1 Corinthians 13.  It is one of the most famous verses read at marriage ceremonies.  I believe we often look past the beautiful words and forget about living this out with our spouses.  How different would our marriages look, if we took these words to heart?  

"Love is patient, love is kind. 
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, 
it keeps no record of wrongs.  
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  
It always protects, always trusts, 
always hopes, always perseveres.  
Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Jesus came to this earth to love others and to be a servant; he expected nothing in return.  This is the same view we should have in our marriages.  I know this is hard, but as we live out what the Lord calls us, we are going to see changes in our marriages.  Remember, you can only change one person in the relationship--yourself!  See what amazing things can happen if you start to love your spouse like Jesus loves you!

From my Dave! Yes, I save them ALL!  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Hold

I must confess that I have been struggling with my joy this week.  

I was simply trying to tie up some loose ends with my benefits at my old job ... the one I lost in January.  In my case, I was trying to get reimbursed $70 from my Flexible Spending Account.  Seventy dollars is a lot of money to me...hard-earned money that was taken out of my paycheck and that I was not given an opportunity to use.  

One one of my least favorite tasks is calling companies to deal problems of these sorts.  I am sure you have all been there: you dial the phone number, you use the number key pad to type in your information, and you wait on hold...and wait.   Sometimes, you actually get to speak to a human on the phone.  Sometimes, I try pushing various buttons to try to get to a person as fast as possible ... but don't tell anyone my secret!  If you are lucky enough to get to a "customer service" representative, you go through all of your information AGAIN, just to find out they can't help you, so you get transferred to someone else, and then another...of course you are on hold in between each transfer...listening to the same music that you have memorized by this point.  After an hour or two of your precious time, there is no resolution to your plight.  In my case, I am told I have to call my HR department at my previous place of employment.  I went back and forth several times between the two places, with no resolution.  I feel that I have been unjustly stripped from my $70 with no way to retrieve it!  How can they do this?  Isn't this stealing?  Where does this money go?  I held it in while I was on the phone.  But inside, my stomach is churning.  I am frustrated.  Angry.  I want to scream and cry.  Honestly, I did cry!  

Perhaps this story seems ridiculous to you, but for me, this situation brought back a flood of emotions from losing my job.  My job loss, or termination, was a wrongful termination.  Did I do everything perfectly?  No.  But, ultimately ... it was unjust.  This was a hard thing for me to swallow.  There were/are so many questions.  Why did this happen to me?  What is wrong with me?  Why would someone treat me this way?  How will I get through this?  I have been searching and praying the last two months to use this time to fulfill the Lord's plan for my life, but it isn't easy.  The Lord gives and takes away.  He has a plan that is higher than ours; that we do not understand.  We aren't required to understand the "whats" and "why," we just have to trust in the Lord.  The Bible tells us that the Lord is faithful and just ... He will take care of everything in the end.  

Even David struggled with this concept.  This is refreshing to know that David, a man after God's own heart, also wondered and questioned why the things seem unfair on this earth.  Ultimately, he reminds us to follow the Lord and find our joy in Him.  My dad pointed me to this psalm the week I lost my job, and I am thankful that I am reminded of it this week. 

Do not fret because of those who are evil 

   or be envious of those who do wrong; 
for like the grass they will soon wither, 
   like green plants they will soon die away.

 Trust in the LORD and do good; 

   dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 
Take delight in the LORD, 
   and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 Commit your way to the LORD; 

   trust in him and he will do this: 
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, 
   your vindication like the noonday sun.

Psalm 37:1-6

Two months ago, I lost my job.  This week I lost $70.  It's not like the money is mine anyway ... it all belongs to the Lord.  He will provide.  Each day, I am continuing to be shaped and molded by the Lord through.  I am not in control.  What can I do by worrying about these things or by trying to hang on to them?  Nothing.  

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, 
what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your 
heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Matthew 6:25-27