Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I've moved!

Hello friends,

I've moved to LauraDiLeonardi.com with a new vision and focus of sharing God's Word with women. I hope you'll head over there and subscribe!

Coming soon- a study of Galatians! Here's a preview of what will be doing at lauradileonard.com

rootedinchristOur identity sprouts fruit all the time, the question is, where are our roots? Finding my identity in the cross and resurrection of Christ has been something God has been teaching me about a ton as I've poured over His Word. I'm excited to be blogging through Galatians in a series on identity, called Rooted in Christ.
Jesus + anything = NOT the Gospel!
In Christ we have freedom from:
•Trying harder
•Struggling alone with our sin
•Obeying rules made up by legalistic people
•Fixing ourselves without God's power
•Needing people's approval over Christ's
•Striving to earn God's love
I struggle to have freedom in so many of these areas, and the only remedy to being a people pleaser, having a chronic problem with trying to become a better person, and putting my hope in things that aren't Jesus, is a daily encounter with the Gospel!  I can't wait to dig into this soon. I am currently writing the series, but I just had to share this little teaser. Join me by subscribing to the email list on my new blog, I would love to hear your thoughts along the way as well!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

the Gospel changes everything

What is the Gospel and what happens to our lives when we are interacting with the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ every day?
It changes everything. 
Our minds, hearts, attitudes, and actions shift from self, sin and religion, to God, freedom and mission. And this only begins on the day we surrender our lives to Christ.
I once thought the Gospel was just the starting place for a Christian, and churches that focused too much on it were not spurring us on to maturity in Christ. I couldn't have been more wrong and immature. As I grew in my faith, and God was transforming me, it felt great to ditch the effects of sin and see my life transformed, but it wasn't me doing it. Oh how easily we exchange the chains of our sin for the chains of religion.
And as I pursued growth in Christ, my good motivation was mixed with a dangerous, hard to detect disease that's in all human DNA- religious pride. The same legalism that appealed to the Pharisees, the one Jesus lived to defy and died to defeat, was still living in me. Is still living in me. And there is only one remedy- the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I come to grips with how frequently I need to drop to my knees at the foot of the cross, and then stand up in the power of The Holy Spirit- the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. The Holy Spirit is the only power that enables us to live a life that glorifies God and the only way our lives will amount to anything that pleases God or bears any real fruit.
Apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Those who walk acoording to the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:8)
 Our works will be tested someday, and if they are not born of God, we will not receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
 If the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)
 Are you so foolish after beginning with the Spirit are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:3)
We feel the tension that our human DNA being mixed with our new spiritual DNA causes, the flesh and the Spirit are always at war within us, but it's tragic that so many Christians try to fight their sinful flesh with their religious flesh, instead of admitting "I can't do it, I need you every moment, Lord!"
Even with the best intentions as Christians, we can get puffed up with knowledge, experience, power and pride, or pushed down with fear, shame, insecurity and doubt, and when those take root in our hearts, the Gospel is snuffed out like a candle in the ocean. It has no chance to shine. darkwaters
In order to shine brightly for Jesus, we need to raise high our white flags once we've been swept out again into the deep waves by the strong undercurrent of self, and let Him again rescue us and air lift us to dry land, where our candles can again unite and burn brightly for His glory.candlesuniteOn this City on a Hill, we light the way from the dark waters for the sick and sinners to come meet us up on the Hill, where they'll meet Jesus and find hope. We carry on Jesus' legacy when we continue in The Way that He modeled on earth- uniting over our common poverty apart from Christ, and mission to the lost.candlesunitedEveryone, whether rich, middle-class, homeless, liberal, conservative, male, or female, we all desperately, daily need Jesus Christ to rescue us from ourselves. It's religion that tells us we can fix ourselves and our problems when we try harder, use better strategies, read catchier 7 step books and build shinier buildings, all in Jesus' name of course.
Jesus' way is revolutionary. Every time I read through one of the Gospels, and I just finished Matthew, I'm shocked by the number of times my mouth falls open, my heart is stung with conviction by His teaching, but how my soul swells even more with the hope of Christ.
The contrast of Jesus's Way and the World's way is playing out just as clearly today as it did then, but the Church isn't exempt. We don't automatically get it all right just because God saved us and we read from the ESV (the most literal Bible translation), we still need Him to maintain our spiritual lives everyday, or we run the risk of finding ourselves sitting in a religious club that is about Jesus, rather than operating with Jesus as the Body of Christ, and with Jesus as the Head. Jesus actually gave us pretty clear examples of how we should live and what we should be about as His church.
Jesus hung out with sinners and outcasts, and the religious elite judged him for it.
 He washed his disciples feet, modeling servant leadership in the face of hierarchical power structures of the time. 
 He told us we have to have the faith and humility of a child to enter the Kingdom of God, not hard-earned religious status that was exclusive. 
 He said the last would be first and the first last- His kingdom operates in the complete opposite way of the world. 
 Jesus said in order to follow Him, we have to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow him, and whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for His sake will find it- really following Him can be summed up in ditching ourselves. 
 He said whatever we do for the least of these, we do for him. 
Jesus embodied God's heart, first told by Prophets, to love justice, do mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), which is restated in James 1:27- true religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted from the world. 
This is the Way Jesus lived and it must be central in our hearts, our lives and our churches. We have to ask ourselves honestly, questions like: Do my passions mirror God's passions, and His ultimate heart to draw the lost to Himself? Does my desire to grow spiritually produce fruit that extends beyond personal growth, into serving others, both inside and outside the church? Does the mission of my local church share Christ's heart for the lost and the least of these beyond words, and with action? While worship, teaching and bible studies are present in most churches, the result of worshiping and walking with God must be stepping out in mission to our neighbors; next door, in the next biggest city, in our state, country and to the ends of the earth. The 'Body' is meant to move on mission for God, and that mission is to bring more people into the family of God.
In America, we need to especially guard ourselves against religious pride because of the lack of persecution we face and the general idea that this is a Christian nation. That creates a breeding ground for religion. We take so much for granted- Christian book stores, Christian radio, Christian schools, Churches galore, and getting upset when we aren't wished a Merry Christmas from the cashier. And history repeats itself; just like in Genesis, we try to build the highest tower up to God, and we gravitate towards celebrity Pastors, just like the early church clung to different apostles.
But it's not America's fault, human DNA has religion wired in because when we do religion well, we don't think we need God to get to heaven or find meaning in life. Being religious means we've earned a 'claim' on God, a sense of 'control' and 'peace' in life- but these won't last because they're rooted in our effort rather than the cross and resurrection of Christ.
This is what separates Christianity from all other religions, the absence of self and human effort- salvation is by grace and faith alone in Jesus Christ! What a freeing yet humbling thing; we are in fact, incredibly more sinful than we ever dare admit, yet at the same time, wildly more loved and accepted than we ever dare imagine. (Paraphrase of Timothy Keller) And when this truth is meditated on, wrestled with and applied to our lives every day, it changes everything about us.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of God's glory being manifest on earth. The Gospel is the climax of humanity's story, and it's the thread that weaves together the fabric of the Bible; it remedied the fall, restores perfect relationship with God in Eden, and invites us to partner with God in ushering in this already here, not yet Kingdom of God. I invite you to drop to your knees, and stand up in the power of the Spirit more often, to evaluate Jesus' life and what He taught along with me, a little more everyday, and discover how it might change how you view yourself, what you're passionate about, who you spend time with, and how you will choose to use the time God has given you on this earth. The Gospel truly changes everything.
Today as everyone has taken to social media with a red X on their hand for the end it movement, I'm moved to take action locally, as God has been stirring in my heart over the human trafficking epidemic for years, especially with having two amazing ministries in my backyard to partner with. While my husband's work schedule, the age of my kids, and other commitments have been good reason that I haven't been able to jump in beyond the training, I want to change that. I want to be obedient to the conviction of God's Spirit in my life. We can't do it all, but we're all created and gifted uniquely to give God glory with our lives. As the Gospel is fleshed out in our lives, and we get to take part in the specific things God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), I can't help but get super fired up about walking those things out, prayerfully, grounded in the Word, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Imagine what our neighborhoods, churches and the dark corners of this world would look like if more of us allowed the Gospel to penetrate our hearts more each day.
Sidetone: I kid you not, this was take 2 of this picture. I love how emo my little hommies are. haha.

Monday, November 16, 2015

whoever loses her life for my sake will find it

Being a mom means giving of myself every minute of every day, and it isn't easy, and rarely glamorous. But it's worth it. Not because being a mom is amazing in itself, but because God takes any service we do when done for Him and makes it Kingdom work. The seeds we sow, the small deaths we die to self, He causes to grow up into works for His glory. This is motherhood in a nutshell to me. 

On days I dream of the next phase, when I'll get to more fully pursue passions He's written on my heart, He loves to gently remind me of the simple call to follow Him today, without trying to tell God how I think my life would best be used for Him. The more I try to preserve my life, the more I'll loose it. The more I give it away, the more I'll find life in Him. 

With all the fear raging in our world today, my heart is aching to love more boldly, even in the face of danger, because His perfect love casts out fear. Instead of being crippled by fear and hate, I want to rejoice over new opportunities to share Jesus with people who have never heard. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matt 16:24-26

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

when our identity is in Christ alone {we champion each other}

You know that feeling that creeps up after you talk with someone who loves to do something that you dread doing? You see the joy in their eyes, and when they just can’t stop talking about it, or posting about it online, this difference becomes solidified in your mind. And what do we do with that feeling right there? We have options: We can be jealous. We can shame ourselves for not being gifted at it. We can be indifferent. We can champion them. It is difficult to watch someone do something well that we’re not wired to do, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
God has had me on a journey about learning to embrace the gifts and traits that he has instilled in me for a purpose, and it’s led me to be able to truly celebrate the differences I have with others. It is such a beautifully, freeing place to be, and it is 100% rooted in having my identity in Christ, but I didn’t get here overnight, and I’m still not 'there' yet, but I am working to internalize it more every day. At first it takes courage to step out of the boat, away from the confines of comparison and who you perceive others want you to be, and instead walk out who God has made you to be, but once you start on this God-led path, it’s nearly impossible to turn back.
I sat with a beautiful soul the other day and listened to her pour out her passion for teaching preschool aged children. She couldn’t stop talking about it, and I truly enjoyed soaking in her life and learning from her. Teaching preschool aged kids could not be farther from my passion in life, and while I am intentional about teaching my kids at home, every single day I feel inadequate and automatically drained when faced with the task. And you know what was interesting as our time went on? She started to share about what makes her feel drained and inadequate, and she was describing things very close to my strengths and passions. At the end of our time, I was so blessed, and was truly inspired by her to try some new approaches in teaching my Littles. I also mentioned to her how beautiful the body of Christ is because her and I could be used in such different ways for God’s kingdom. However, there would have been a time in my life that I left that meeting feeling like I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t measure up to this friend, but instead I championed my sister in my heart, and also with my words.   
There is a huge difference between feeling a pressure to fit into a mold that you know deep down you cannot squeeze into, and feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit over a sin area in your life. With that distinction clear and moving beyond sin issues, it is crucial to pay attention when you feel like you don’t fit into a certain role because these realizations about yourself help you learn more about exactly who God has made you to be. Sometimes our failures can tell us more about ourselves than our accomplishments. I’m afraid if we never explore our shortcomings as well as our strengths, we may spend our lives trying to fit our square shaped pegs into round, triangle, and diamond shaped holes, and the world will never get to fully know the people God crafted and purposed us to be.
I know intelligent and passionate stay-at-home moms
I know hardworking, inspiring, away-from-home working moms who kill it at work and at home.
I know selfless and very present moms who balance various roles of staying home, ministry, work, hobbies, activities and more.
There is much diversity even between these groupings. Not everyone works outside the home for the same reason, some choose to, some have to. Not everyone stays home with the kids for the same reason, some do out of intentionality, some may out of convenience. So, we can't so easily stereotype these groups, can we?
I also know women with varying passions and roles:
I know women who are incredibly gifted with hospitality; it is such a clear extension of their relationship with God.
I know women who love people well, and are keen on perceiving others feelings and meeting their needs.
I know women who love administration, spreadsheets and the like, and who do it all excellently for the Lord.
I know women who homeschool their children and do it with such passion for Jesus.
I know women who work in the corporate world and are intentional about making that their mission field.
I know women who are stay-at-home moms who pour every bit of their heart into loving and discipling young hearts.
I know women who are constantly creating something with their hands, and their craft is used to bless others in meaningful ways.
I know women who are equipped and gifted by the Holy Spirit to teach the Word of God and lives are impacted because of it.
I know women who are extremely organized and who keep families and ministries afloat because of their dilligence.
Can you imagine the pain and frustration one of these above women would experience trying to be more like another woman on this list? And yet we do this to each other all the time, and we do it to ourselves. I believe our problem with comparison is so much deeper than feelings of jealousy, or not being content with yourself or your circumstances, it has so much more to do with who and what our identity is rooted in.
When our identity is firmed rooted in Jesus, we know that sin was our biggest problem, and that there was no amount of good things we could have done to cancel it out.
When our identity is deeply established in Christ, we know well the havoc sin reeks in our life apart from Jesus, and we cling to Him now. 
When our identity is in Christ alone, we marvel at how we never could have earned a direct relationship with God or the undeserved gifts that He decided to give us.
When the Gospel-truth infuses our souls, it is life altering, and when it takes root and grows, it produces a love for others that is extravagant because we are fully aware that they need their identities rooted in Jesus too. There is nothing else this world, no other “bigger purpose outside of the home” that could ever, ever satisfy the deepest longings of our souls apart from loving God and loving others. When we've got our deepest problem remedied, we have no business bickering over surface differences. As women, we need to be in the business of championing each other back towards Jesus. As the days and years churn on, it’s always got be about the same thing. Jesus. 
There's a big difference between:
wanting to seek out a "bigger purpose" in the world out of discontentment and lack of relationship with Jesus.
 reading God's word, understanding His design and call to be the church, and then feeling a burden to go live that out, with your identity firmly rooted in Christ.
We also need to stop trying to nail down the 'best way' for a woman or mom to live out her faith because that just doesn’t line up with the beautifully diverse list of spiritual gifts, or the metaphor scripture gives us of the Body of Christ. When the 'feet' are rallying against the 'eyes' trying to make them feel like God is calling them to be more like feet and to "grow a pinky toe already" while citing Bible verses out of context, this is only making one part of the body feel better, while putting down the other, and hurting the entire Church body as a whole. Thank God we aren't all the same, how boring would that be, and how could we ever accomplish anything worthwhile if we were a big old ball of feet?
Let us champion each others' differences; instead of trying to prescribe the exact calling of every woman, let’s describe Christ’s call of every believer to serve God within their own unique mix of spiritual gifts, personality, passion, and coupled with varying seasons of life. It’s going to look different for everyone and that’s going to be awesome!
This is not a post that is meant to join a side of any debate or soapbox (stay at home mom vs working mom vs. homeschooling mom vs. social justice mom vs. pinterest mom vs. natural mom vs. hipster mom vs. Disney mom) this is one calling us to look at the bigger picture of the church, your role in it, and your brothers and sisters roles, which all vary. Can we please step outside of the unmet expectations in our lives and our insecurities and see something bigger, something beautiful, which is The Church, and that wasn’t a person's invention by the way, but God’s design.
The church is our eternal family. When we become followers of Christ, our spiritual family, the church and our allegiance to Christ becomes more important than our worldly allegiances. It is natural to prioritize family above other relationships on earth, but the gospel of Christ unites us with people of the church in an eternal way. 
Jesus directly touches on how our worldly allegiances must shift to Jesus-centered allegiance when he laid out the cost of following him- he does not permit our hearts to love anything as much as him. This is summed up in the first commandment and you see it in his interactions in the Gospels; people wanted to follow him, but when confronted with their idols of wealth, obligations and even family, Jesus uses some pretty strong language, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) Now of course Jesus isn't contradicting his command to love people here, but he's making a pretty clear distinction about how our love should be ordered.
Discipleship of our family and of our children is certainly commanded and prioritized in Scripture. Should our jobs at church or the work place take precedence over our kids? Absolutely not. However, it is very easy to make our families and our children idols, and even use scripture to help defend this idea. Ministry to our children cannot be a reason to excuse ourselves from being the church by building up the local body. Would Jesus really have us focus so much on His calling to disciple our kids that we neglect the role he’s also called us to in the church? He would never have us neglect our children for the "sake of the church" either. But this dual call is really up to us to balance, and it’s not easy, which is why Paul said that it is better not to marry because our energy would be divided. I think the simple thing that many are missing here in this polarizing discussion is that we are in fact called to do both; we’re called to disciple our children and serve at home, and we’re called to disciple and serve in the local church.

When we become women who pursue the heart of God, and as His Word transforms the longings of our hearts into His desires - we find a confidence that no person can shake, a calling that is God-breathed into our souls, and a passion fueled by the Holy Spirit to live it out, no matter the circumstance or ever changing season. Let us be women who champion each other along the way.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dear Mom friends on a Friday night,

{this post via my instagram @lc.dileonardi}

Dear mom friends on a Friday night, after a long day, I'm sitting here tallying the wins and losses. You know those days? Many days. Where there are plenty of insta-worthy moments, sandwiched between the...well, others. This pic is after Jackson "did his hair with juice" on the way home from lunch, while I sat contemplating the unlikely transfer of napping Selah. I'm not sure if it was a win or loss that I couldn't stop laughing at my juice drenched son, who I had a silly face war with while trying to reprimand him.

I was reminded so much today that I need Jesus every hour. Just as much in the hour that I feel 100% put together and in control, as in the next hour when both children have injured themselves and are screaming bloody murder for me to hold them after bedtime is already in downward spiral mode. I need Thee every hour, because no matter what I do, the only thing that matters is that it is done out of the power of God and not my own effort. (Galatians 3:3.) Thankful that I was able to end on a teaching/prayer note with my son with a Gospel message via a stuffed animal role play, which was probably more for myself. I really don't know how I would size up my days without the saving grace of Jesus, without His work in my heart and life, I'd come up so unbelievably short.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ezer Kenegdo

{this post via my instagram @lc.dileonardi}

I am so glad that I decided to finally get this tattoo on our trip!  Here's an explanation in case you're interested. It comes from Genesis 2:18, "Then the LORD God said, it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a "helper suitable" (the original Hebrew word is "ezer kenegdo") for him."

The Hebrew word "ezer" in English has the complex meanings of strength, power, to help, and to rescue in battle. It's used all over the OT to describe God as our helper, saving His people from desperate circumstances and battles. This brings a much fuller meaning to Eve being called Adam's "helper" and the identity God instills in all women when He creates us. We are strong ezers, and our debut on the scene of humanity via Eve was rescuing Adam out of his aloneness, the only thing by the way, that God called "not good" before the fall. 

The Hebrew word "kenegdo" also has a complex meaning in its English translation. Literally: "As in front of him," also; perfect match, corresponding to, equal to,  embodying the concept of ying and yang in the complimenting and at times opposing differences of men and women. They're the perfect pair, who together, within their unique gender differences, share the burden of life and ministry. God called both Adam and Eve to co-rule over the earth, ideally as they walked with God in the garden. 

"Ezer Kenegdo" is God's Word and heart for womens' identities, which has been life changing for me. It describes the beautiful way that men and women together bear the image of God, especially before sin ravaged our relationships on earth. I placed it on my foot to remind me that I am walking it out with Jesus, partnering with Him in the gospel's continual work of redemption, and ultimate restoration of all things as they were in Eden. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Discipling young hearts

(This post via my Instagram @lodileo)
Parents: highly recommend this quick read. Simple truth that was equally convicting and inspiring. Needed it this morning! It's a great reminder that our primary job as parents is to disciple our kids, shaping their hearts (not do's and don't behaviors) to love God. It gave some great ideas, based on Deut 6:7 "talk about (the commandments of God) when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." So, utilizing transition times and waking/bedtime to have quick spiritual touch points with your kids is a practical way we can do this in any season. I love the idea of speaking blessings over them and the importance of family worship too.

Family has such a profound, long term impact on young hearts, and it is our God given responsibility to disciple our kids first, before ministry/work outside the home. Raising kids whose hearts are bent on loving Jesus is our greatest success, not raising the future most financially, socially, or athletically successful adult, (or focusing our adult life more on those things ourselves) although they are important too. Definitely made me rethink our daily schedule/priorities/goals.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Getting Back In The Saddle

No, I don't have twins! On another note, it's easier to post about victories, like my marathon training progress last fall, but tonight it's just me "getting back in the saddle." It's so discouraging to have been running so much, more than halfway through a marathon training program, and now find myself at what I'd consider to be square one. My run was pretty rough tonight, but I did it, pushing all 80ish pounds and all.

The verse, "forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead" (Philippians 3:13) kept coming to mind as I ran- it's not just the bad things we should leave behind, but even the great things we've done in order to think clearly about our present state. Wish I could ride my training victories forever, setting new PR's on a 5k, half marathon, and farthest distance ever run, but I can't stay there. Have I mentioned how much I learn from running?

Getting back in the saddle has mixed emotions. It feels great to pick up something we love again, but when's it's been awhile, we are keenly aware of the contrast between our formerly perfected craft, and the gap between where we are now and where we used to be. While life is about priorities and keeping things in balance, I think we have to be continually and prayerfully readjusting. More family time, or maybe less, more focus on ministry, or maybe less, it's a constant balancing act, grounded in relationship with God. I think learning from our failures is key to keeping the pendulum from swinging too far back in the other direction; it's not always touting about the experience of summiting a mountain, but what happened in us when we didn't.

I don't believe in coincidence, I think God is far more intentional than we realize when He strings together the details of our lives, including me falling off the "running saddle." I sure got a lesson in humility when my knee injury benched me from marathon training. And just when I was starting to feel better, and run a bit, I got in a car accident that was minor, but still put me in a lot of back and neck pain. I was in pain just laying down or reading a text for a few weeks, so no running for me. But, the accident led me to discovering from my new chiropractor that I have a more serious, (unrelated to the accident) back problem that I now can be proactive about correcting. So even though my accident has kept me from getting back out on the pavement sooner, this little detour has continued to teach me about patience, humility, and has given me a huge heads up for my future health, and success in running.

Starting at square one is never fun after you have come so far in the past, but I'm trying to be aware of what I'm learning in the proces. It's part of the dance we do in this life, fall down, get up, learn, change, repeat. Here goes repeat.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Faith Like a Child

I love experiencing the world through their eyes- mouths wide open, hands held, hearts on their sleeves, and fully alive. Being a kid is such a beautifully, undignified thing… most of the time. ;)

As I was posting this on my Instagram this morning, God started to bring to mind something I haven't thought of in awhile, having faith like a child. I realized their childlike-inhibition, their lack of cynism and being jaded, even their sweet naive nature is actually a good thing in God's eyes, and such a contrast to being an adult. I mean, could you even imagine running through your favorite store like my kids, slack-jawed, giggling and not even considering what others thought of you?

It's good to sit on the thought of childlike faith for just a minute and simply unpack it, just like I did with my Instagram post above. It's easy to notice how starkly contrasted adults and children are; with age we have gained necessary wisdom along with the pressure to protect ourselves, our pride. While growing into wisdom and maturity is God's intention for us, He doesn't want us to lose the inhibition of a child as we approach Him in relationship. That's what's so counter-intuitive and perplexing to me- He wants us to have both maturity and childlike-faith at the same time.

As we grow up into Him, we are to pursue humility, not self-preservation, and to trust Him fully, not only after we feel in control enough to do so. Holding tight to our "healthy adult pride" is not having the faith of a young heart who sometimes knows things she can't express with words- like the gift of faith, of love, of comfort, strength and courage that God Himself plants in our hearts by The Holy Spirit.

I also thought of King David, dancing before the LORD in the most undignified way, as Michal looked on in embarrassment and contemp, as any adult would. (2 Samuel 6) And then there was God, looking on David's worship, and His heart was pleased because of his humility and passion to worship, laying pride aside. I'm sure God must have smiled too. I'm challenged by that today. Sometimes we get so caught up in our Biblical wisdom and "hard earned" maturity that we forget the very demeanor that God wants us to approach Him with is the faith and humility of a child. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

God Gave Me a Time-Out

I'm one of those people who can't wait to give the gift I've bought and cannot stand the anticipation of the phrase "I've got to tell you something later!" Oh my gosh, just tell me now, and how do you not want your birthday present a week early? "What's wrong with you?" I used to think, but overtime I had to realize the problem wasn't them, it was me. This year, I tried to surprise Matt with tickets to one of his favorite bands, but I was so excited about getting the tickets, that I ended up spilling the surprise before the day was over, a few days before his actual birthday, and I felt horrible about it, even though we laughed at how typical of me this was. BUT, I had already planned a surprise birthday party for him that weekend and was determined to actually surprise him, and I did! See, there is hope for me after all. 

Us on the way to the Guster concert! 

Marrying an extremely patient man and his daily modeling of patience has greatly helped reshape this part of me overtime. It's so neat to look back and see how we have helped each other grow tremendously in almost 6 years of marriage. 

While I'm better than I used to be, the benchmark is not comparing myself to the old Laura, but to Christ's standard for me, which is to be like Him. Lately, God has been lazer-specific in highlighting my impatience and how it's negatively effecting my kids and our day as a whole. I love how this illustrates God's intention for our holiness and sanctification is not just for His glory, but for our good and those nearest to us. Settling for being better than who I was 6 years ago is not cutting it for who I am today as a mom in the area of patience. My standard for myself has to match God's standard, and thankfully God has not finished perfecting this work in me yet!

Just last week, God flipped a switch in my heart to focus on loving my kids well, first and foremost as a stay-at-home mom. I know that sounds overly simple, but life can be chaotic with my 16 month old, independent little lady, my almost 3 year old, mischievous little man, and oh yeah, we just got a puppy. I'm not complaining, just stating that the other side to the coin of a beautiful life is equal madness, especially when we are busy with activities, relationships and commitments. 

I was in a minor car accident two weeks ago, we were rear-ended, and even though they weren't going very fast, it has caused me to be in a ridiculous amount of pain. This is very annoying for an impatient person like myself, I mean, nobody likes having an injury slow them down, but especially me. I knew God was putting His finger right on my patience button. Last week, I had to cancel my plans every day and stay around home, and I also took up a new hobby of going to the chiropractor every day. I don't believe God caused my accident, but I do believe He's using it for His purposes in my life by giving me a "time-out" and making me sit out for a week. I would have preferred a shorter "time-out" and the pain is still lingering, but I digress...

I discovered that when we weren't so busy and tired from running around, I was able to be more patient and mindful of my attitude. When I set the tone of love and patience by not rushing them out the door and taking those extra moments to look them in the eye, I saw such a difference in my kids. This made me rethink how I spend my time, but mostly to just be more mindful of my heart attitude, because even little people can see through some right words or actions and pick up on my actual heart. 

My prayer for myself, and other mommas in the trenches, is that we would strive to be connected to The Vine, whether we are running from one thing to the next, or in a "time out." As we stay connected to the Vine, the Source of patience, the life of the Vine overflows into us the branches, and His life pours out of our lives. Besides, what's more important, being on time, or being the tangible example and fragrance of Christ to the little hearts that God has entrusted to us as moms?

Jesus says in John 15:1-8:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Restoration Art {His love perfected in us}


 noun \ˌres-tə-ˈrā-shən\
: the act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc.
: the act of bringing back something that existed before
: the act of returning something that was stolen or taken

God is in the business of restoration, of making broken things new again, and when I say restoration, I don't mean on a gorgeous historical home, I mean He does this with us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

God is in the business of restoration, of making broken things new again, and when I say restoration, I don't mean on a gorgeous historical home, I mean He does this with us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
Renovation projects have become quite the trend in recent years, from fixing up old furniture to entire homes, our culture has caught on to the beauty of redemption. I love doing projects like these, but I'm such an amateur compared to people who actually know about the history of pieces and the stories that they'd tell if they could talk. If I were a vintage piece needing my coat of lead paint removed, while still maintaining the integrity of my past, I definitely wouldn't choose someone like myself to do the work, I'd want an expert in the craft.
It's no wonder that Jesus is the master of mind-body-soul-restoration because He was the original creator of all things, He sustains all things and holds all things together by the word of His power. I don't think "expert" even comes close to the depth to which He knows us, and yet still loves us. If we were to choose anyone to fix our tangled messes, heal the depth of our heartaches, and meet us in the midst of our brokenness, it would absolutely have to be Jesus.
Yet, we are reluctant to come in for a makeover. We hold too tightly to the lead paint, the toxic substance that is chipping away from our once promising appearance, and while we know there are better, shinier coats waiting to make us whole again, we'd rather hang on to the slivers of control that we still think we have.
When we finally welcome Him into our lives, arms wide open, full of hope, we let Him into the layers He already sees, and in total surrender, put Him on the throne of our hearts. When God takes His rightful place in our lives, then He can finally begin the restorative process that we've already made huge amateur messes of trying to fix by ourselves. Talk about a total DIY fail. As He chips away the old, familiar, toxic paint, things begin to change, we begin to blossom into new creations and this sends a ripple effect into our lives, and unavoidably into our relationships. It's usually pretty messy, a beautiful collision of the Gospel with our sinfulness, along with the messes of others', but thankfully He is committed to completing His masterful works of restoration art in each of us.
I've been reading in 1 John for a few weeks now, and God is doing that thing He does where He pieces together truth in His own sovereign timing to heal, to restore and to instruct me in how I should live. It is such a basic message, to love one another, but it's this central call of our faith that we too often distort, add to, and take away from. We make exceptions. We get hurt. We pull away. We let our fear and insecurity trump love. And most of all, we miss out on the greatest intention of God for His children; that we would love one another, His love be perfected in us, and through it all, show the world that we are His.
There is so much I could share from 1 John, but I think chapter 4:15-21 really hones in two central truths that have radically altered my relationships lately, that 1.) God's love is perfected in us when we love one another, and 2.) that His perfect love casts out our fear. These things stuck out to me beyond the more obvious reading and theme of 1 John, which is that we should love God and others because He first loved us, and that if we don't love others, we may not know God. It makes sense to me- when we allow God's perfect love to reign in our hearts and lives, it eradicates the fear that stems from our sin, and then we are able to truly love others. However, loving others is definitely no easy task, it's absolutely a supernatural one, meaning we need God to do it through us.  Look with me at this passage for a second with fresh eyes:
"Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother." 1 John 4:15-21
I can see so clearly from the text that if we hate someone, the love of God cannot be in us because the result of abiding in Christ and experiencing His forgiveness is an overflow of God's love being poured out onto others. Realizing that God's love being perfected in me cannot just stay between me and God, it has to be flushed-out among others, really struck a chord with me. When you break it down, I can see why; forgiving others continually drives us back to God, revealing our sin and need for Jesus, magnifying His love in our hearts, and as we experience His love and freedom from our sin, His perfect love casts out our fear of judgment, freeing up our ability to love others well. How can this reality-alterning, continual revelation of God's love and grace NOT result in extravagant love towards others? And love without restraint? No wonder Jesus said that to love God and others sums up all of the law and commandments.
So these truths have been at work in my life and I think that is so important that I share about it because there's no doubt that we all struggle in the area of love, believe it or not. When you really think about the fact that love originates from God only, and then you size up how much you've allowed God's love to penetrate your heart today or in a certain relationship, its no wonder that we get ourselves into the situations and heart-attitudes that we do.
Just this month, God chose to put a few of my relationships on the path of redemptive, restorative work, involving some honest, brave conversations. However, while each situation was different, interestingly they all happened while I've been in 1 John. God has done such a beautiful work in each of our lives, our vulnerability has launched us into new, deeper seasons of friendship. It was refreshing to clear the air, there were tears, honesty, confessing of sin, asking for forgiveness, forgiving, being vulnerable, being heard, being truly loved, accepted, known, and realizing our common struggle of INSECURITY that was the root of many of our offensive and defensive behaviors. I later made the connection of how insecurity is just another form of fear stemming from not allowing God's perfect love to penetrate our hearts, preventing us from truly love others well.
Could it really be that simple? 
Yes. I think that love really is that simple, especially since Jesus made it so clear Himself. Unfortunately, I don't always take God's Word at face value. I make excuses to limit my outpouring of love, for example: they don't reciprocate, I'm responding to cues that they don't like me, they hurt my feelings, they trigger my insecurity, I feel uncomfortable putting myself out there, that would be weird for me to do/say (insert loving gesture), and so I don't fully love  because I have not interacted enough with my own personal need for God's forgiveness and love today, and when I neglect that, I don't give God the opportunity to melt away my fear by immersing myself in His love. 
God's Word is so rich, His commandments so pure and His providence in giving us Himself to carry it all out is so astounding. There aren't words to adequately describe the God we get to actually know, serve and love. What a privilege it is that He makes beautiful works of restoration-art out of our messy lives, and that He lets us in on the artistry by enlisting us in the project- as we love others, His love is perfected in us.
So take the plunge with me, be reckless in your love for others, don't squelch it or limit it, this is how God's love is perfected in us! No one will ever receive the gift of love negatively because true love can only be found in God. (So we gotta ditch that self-sourced love and get it from the source, God!) God has also taught me so much about forgiveness and that it is a gift that He enables me to give to others. When we allow God into our mess, He is able to heal wounds much faster than our self-initiated, DIY efforts, resulting in real forgiveness that puts those relationships right into God's skilled hands. I'd rather hand over all my projects to Him, wouldn't you? All He wants us to focus on is the loving part, and He will take care of the finished product of restoration art in all of us.newcreation

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Leaning In For The New Year

[this post via my instagram @lodileo]

Afternoon well spent. Compiling verses, quotes and reflecting on the things Gods been writing on my heart lately. This stuff is always bouncing around in my head but it feels really good to get it out on paper. #newyear #2015

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Keeping Christ at The Center of Christmas

[this post via my instagram @lodileo]

This was our first year doing a #jessetree (or Jesus tree) and we LOVED it, couldn't recommend it more if you're looking for a simple and meaningful way to keep Christ in the center of Christmas. Tracing how Jesus was woven throughout the Old Testament and learning about those who were in his birth line was not only great for my kids, but for preparing our hearts too. And we loved the ornaments your family makes @sstainbrook, every day they were so excited to see which one went with the story and hang it on the tree, and your family's shorter devo was much easier to read to the ages of my kids, although I enjoyed #unwrappingthegreatestgift and can't wait for them to grow into it! #newtradition

We also kept the family tradition going of making a birthday cake for Jesus. I think this is such a simple and tangible way for kids to get the real reason that we're celebrating. Jackson was over the moon.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

More About the Journey

[this post via my instagram @lodileo]

I think my knee is officially benching me from marathon training. After running with a limp through my entire 5 mile run today, and taking lots of days off, I'm not sure I can catch up at this point without injuring myself more. I absolutely hate quitting things, and it's killing me to even post this, but this is life, isn't it? I don't want to get so caught up in my ultimate goal that I miss all the beauty of the process. Maybe my knee will miraculously come through, but regardless, I don't want to consider this a waste because I have loved every minute of my training- the alone time, the worship time, the challenges, as well as getting back into shape have all been life giving to me this fall. I'm not there yet, but I know God is (still) trying to teach me that running (and life) is more about the journey vs. achieving/failing at a goal. I love/hate all the parallels of life that there are in running. #marathontrainingjourney

Monday, November 24, 2014

People Before Things

It's one of those days where I'm reminding myself that people come before things. My grandma, Lolo always used to say that, and she was right. 💓 #ineedtoclean #thislittleoneneedstobeheld

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Half-marathon #4

[this post via my Instagram @lodileo]
My cheerleading squad. When you're training for a full marathon, running 13.1 means you're only half way there. #herewego #halfmarathon #thankfultomakeitthisfar #marathontrainingjourney

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Beauty in Pain

[this post via my instagram @lodileo]

I can't believe I ran 12 miles this morning. (?!) Every weekend when my long run increases a mile or two, I'm never sure I can do it, but it's amazing what our bodies can do when we train them. While running today and my feet were hurting, I kept thinking about how so much of life is spent trying to avoid discomfort, but I was simultaneously loving my run and the benefits I reap from it. Too often the best things in life come out of pain (natural childbirth, working out, striving towards a goal, working on a relationship) and learning to surrender to God and lean into the pain instead of fight alone has become one of the central themes in my life. If we try to barricade ourselves with comfort and happiness, we'll never attain that, so we'll never feel content, and we'll also manage to rob ourselves of some pretty awesome, yet challenging experiences. Feeling so thankful that I finished strong today and for how much God teaches me through running! #marathontrainingjourney

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wilderness Recharge

[this post via my instagram @lodileo]
#nofilter needed on my 7 mile run tonight. #marathontrainingjourney 

God is always pursuing our wandering hearts because He wants an intimately close relationship with us, not because He is demanding an obligatory, "religious" relationship with us. He doesn't need our talents or skills either, He just wants our hearts. 

God was overwhelming me with this truth tonight from Hosea 2 with this love song for His people. "I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope... And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ [my master] For I will remove the names of the Baals [other lovers/gods] from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more." 

The book of Hosea is all about how God asked Hosea to marry a harlot who was continually unfaithful to him to show how God loves His people despite our tendency to wander from Him, our first love. Super powerful stuff if you can imagine this in your own marriage... and then how we do this to God when we love other things more than Him. 

I am loving these long runs where I have time away in the "wilderness" to recharge with God. I think I might just keep training for marathons forever. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

You'll never have this day with your children again

[this post via my Instagram @lodileo]
"You'll never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow they'll be a little older than they are today. This day is a gift. Just breathe, notice, study their faces and little feet. Pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today. It will be over before you know it."

My husband is the sweetest. I ADORE my birthday gift. I've been eyeing this for months! Thank you, thank you @mattdileonardi! Mommy ministry is near and dear to God's heart, and it breaks my heart how sometimes children are not prioritized and looked at as an annoyance in our culture. They are our future. They are our first priority for discipleship. They were welcomed into Jesus' arms and we are called to have faith like a child. Days can be hard and exhausting as a SAHM, but I wouldn't trade it. Most worthwhile things require spending ourselves on them. This is my third piece from Rustic Pine Designs on Etsy, love them! #rusticpinedesigns #iamturning29 🙈😱 #mommyministry

Monday, June 2, 2014

Everyone Is Fighting a Battle {You Can't See}

What if we all operated out of the reality that everyone is fighting a battle, and most likely one we will never see? 

Maybe the person who just cut you off just lost a loved one. 

Maybe the rude sales person is barely making enough money to survive. 

Maybe the coldness of a friend is masking her insecurity.  

Maybe the addict has never felt real love. 

Maybe the "perfect" people who seem to have it all are only dressing up a deeper sadness that you can't see.

Over the course of life we will be dealt cards that seem to mess up our hand, events that will rattle us to the core, and people who will be in our lives one minute, and gone the next. But if we are able to maintain perspective, we will see the blessings are only sweeter when contrasted against the bitter things in life, and while no one is dealt the same hand, we all have our burdens to bear. 

What if we no matter who we encountered, we remembered that everyone is fighting a battle that we can't see? 

Jesus was on to something when He commanded us to love everyone, even our enemies, and I'm sure He knew it wouldn't be easy. I can imagine what a difference it would make if we really did choose to love everyone, especially those who are hard to love, because despite their (annoying, hurtful, too perfect) appearance, there is always a story behind the face. 

God doesn't just "doom" us to loving the unlovely, although we will find ourselves becoming more lovely in that process, but He lets us in on a special privilege too; partnering with Him in His work of restoration. He's in the business of making all things new, especially His own people who He bought with a great price to be redeemed and beautifully set free from sin and the weights of this world. 

When we are let in on the inner-narratives of people's lives, we are honored to enter into the unseen work of God's redemptive work in the hearts of His sons and daughters. We are gifted with the ministry of extending grace to the offender, speaking truth to a heart pursued by lies, being present without words in someone's pain, and the hands and feet of love.

Whether we are invited to enter into the story behind the face or not, we can all be part of God's restorative work in the hearts of our brothers and sisters when we choose to love, especially when it's not easy, or when it takes years of patience. I cannot think of a better way to mirror the sort of love that God shows us everyday than to love this way. 

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers." 1 John 3:16

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort..." 2 Corinthians 1:3-6