Bunk Beds

A week ago my life was turned upside down. In an instant everything I knew was over. Everything was different. It knocked me down and I struggled to pull myself back up. 

Is it weird I am thankful it happened? I’m not ready to talk about the details. There is still a lot of healing that needs to take place, but what I am ready to share with you, is how good God is. 

Y’all, He is so good.

This past week was probably the hardest week of my life. I have been faced with my wishes, my fears, my mistakes, my triumphs, my weaknesses. Everything. I have been right in the middle of God and the enemy. I have been fighting a war. 

You see, I have spent so much time praying for everyone else. Praying that these people get ‘fixed’, but I never spent any time asking God to fix me. And through all of this. Through betrayal and trust and faith and sadness, I’ve learned so much more about myself and my relationship with God. 

I have faced my fear head on this past week. I have always feared looking weak, appearing inferior. I would hide my sadness. I wouldn’t allow myself to love to my full potential all because I was afraid that I wouldn’t look strong. 

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I have never felt so weak before, but at the same time I’ve never been as strong either. 

Again, not giving all of the detail, I have been asked to forgive an unforgivable. My deal breaker. In the moment I was faced with my unforgivable I knew that it wasn’t impossible because I had God. In a sense, I wasn’t giving myself credit enough for being strong because to the world I know I look weak, but as a good friend reminded me this week, ‘we are not of this world.’ 

I have decided to forgive. It’s ironic because I have prayed and wished and hoped for such a situation, and He has given me more than I need to destroy lives. I don’t exaggerate. I could destroy people right now. And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. I have. A lot. But it was like God gave it to me and then also put it on my heart to do what I had been asking for for a long time. 

I have been desperate to build a deeper relationship with God. I have asked for Him to help me learn to trust and put Him first. It may sound easy, but I think it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do. It goes against everything we’ve been taught. It goes against everything we know. But I wanted it. Deep down I knew/know that if I put God first then everything else would fall perfectly into place. 

Easier said than done. 

But here it was. In my weakest moment, in the moment where everything that I knew, changed, here it was. He was answering so many of my prayers. I had everything that I wanted to destroy people. People that had made me so mad. People that had hurt me. It would be easy to hurt them back. And the thing is, I would be completely justified in doing so. You would tell me that they deserved it, but what I realized most in that moment was that more then I wanted to destroy someone, I wanted that relationship with God. 

And at that moment, when I decided that I wanted God instead of anything else, the craziest things happened. I forgave my enemies. I wasn’t mad anymore. I know that I’m still hurt, but I don’t feel hurt. I feel loved. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, the enemy is still trying to get me to change my mind. I have never actually experienced anything like this before. You all know what I’m talking about. I’ve got the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other and I am in constant battle. All the enemy has to do is make me doubt myself, my God. That’s it. He doesn’t actually have to put any effort into it. 

This is how God shows me just how strong I am, how strong WE are. Because while the enemy doesn’t have to really lift a finger, I have to constantly fight. I have to choose the hard choice. I have to believe in faith and I have to trust God.

People will say ‘well how do you even know He’s there?’ Well, I guess I don’t really know. I mean, I’ve not had any concrete evidence that says He’s here, but I can say that when you stop fighting and you stop being tricked by the enemy, you know He’s there. 

This past week God has answered so many prayers for me. Prayers that have been years old. Prayers that I have forgotten I asked. Sometimes it takes me a minute to realize that He just answered a prayer. Other times it’s right in my face. All of the time it leaves me in complete awe. 

He has always blessed me, but the blessings He has given me over this past week, once I forgave my enemies and I gave it to Him, it’s been unbelievable. 

I have been cosleeping with Jaxsyn since he was about 2 1/2 years old. It’s what we know. Justin has been sleeping on the couch most of the time. It worked well for awhile because Justin would get up early for work, the bed was cramped with all 3 of us, and, well, Jaxsyn had no intention to ever go back in his room. And honestly, I wasn’t trying as hard as I could to get him to go back in his room. 

Well, God placed it on my heart that I would need to get Jaxsyn back into his room, in his own bed. And so I asked Jaxsyn ‘Jax, when are you going to sleep in  your room like a big boy?’ He thought about it and said ‘I don’t want to, I want to sleep with you.’ I told him that eventually he would need to go back in his room because mommy and daddy need to sleep together. He looked at me, thought about it for a second and said ‘if I had bunk beds, I’d go into my room and sleep.’ 

I laughed. Of course it would be something that we couldn’t provide now. We don’t have the money for bunk beds. But I tried something different. God had placed it on my heart to talk to Jaxsyn and to try and get Jaxsyn back in his room and so I talked to God. 

‘God, he wants bunk beds. Lord, could you bless my business this month so I could look into saving money to get some bunk beds for him.’ It was simple. I didn’t really know what to say. And I always feel silly asking God for things, but remember, He told me to put Him first and everything else will fall into place. 

3 days later, I see a picture of bunk beds on my friend’s Facebook. She was sharing the picture on behalf of another friend of ours who needed to sell these bunk beds because she was moving and they had no where to put them. 

I asked her how much she was selling them for. $650. Well, I didn’t have $650. She then told me that she would go down on the price just for me. I told her that I would have to talk to Justin. 

Here’s another lesson. I usually make the decisions in this family. God has also placed it on my heart to let my husband do his job as a husband. And so I asked Justin if we could get these bunk beds. My friend had agreed to let us pay half now, half later. He said no. He said that he wanted to make sure that we had enough money, since he’s been on a training salary for 6 weeks now. And he didn’t want to spend any money until he knew for sure what our finances would look like. 

Not the answer I wanted and before I would have protested and I would have said ‘I’m the one who budgets, blah blah blah.’ But I let it go and I did what I, as a wife, was supposed to do. 

I told my friend that Justin had said no, not right now. And I thought that was that. 

She messaged me back and said that she would be willing to work anything out for us. She had no where to keep these bunk beds and she trusted me. So I could pay what I could when I could until I paid off. 

Yep, this is where your jaw can drop wide open. 

I prayed for bunk beds and now we’re getting bunk beds. Today. Just like that. Just like that He provided. 

I still get goosebumps. 

But there’s more. I know, right? You see that same friend mailed me a book to borrow. I opened the book and inside found a note and a check. It wasn’t a lot, but God had placed it on her heart to bless me and my family. It was probably the nicest thing anyone has done for me. She apologized for not being able to do more, and then the bunk beds happened. 

God is so awesome and so amazing that He was able to take this moment and show Himself to both of us. 

I know most of you wouldn’t understand what I’m going to say next, but I am so grateful for everything that happened this past week, because if it hadn’t, well, I had every intention of leaving my husband. I was figuring out how to go home, how to run away. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t just allow my business to explode so I could pay for the plane tickets I needed to leave. I was done. My marriage was over. And I had no more fight in me, but now, today, this week, my marriage is stronger than it has EVER been. I am more in love with my husband today than I have EVER been. I don’t want to run away. I don’t want to give up on this. I now realize just how much this marriage is worth fighting for. I am finally happy, really, really happy.

And just like He promised, everything is falling into place just as it should. 

 

Rockbottom.

Well, that was weird.

Yesterday turned out to be one of the worst days of my life. Stop. Don’t feel bad just yet. At the same time, it was one of my best. I told you it was weird. 

I still can’t wrap my mind around what has happened. 

I’m not going to get into all the details. I’m doing my best to rid my mind. But it was bad. I mean really, really bad. 

I hate forgiving. I know, I know. In order to be forgiven we must forgive. Yeah. I got it. 

I’ve written on the subject before with claims that I had forgiven my husband and others. I’m sorry to let you know, but I lied. I never actually forgave them.

I’ve also been questioning the power and presence of God. So much has been going on in my life. Things that I believe are unfair and undeserving. I have felt betrayed by God, but after a lot of reflection, turns out, I was the betrayer, not Him. 

I cannot even begin to explain to you what it feels like to think God’s not there. To question everything you’ve ever believed. I ran out of tears. I still felt like crying, sobbing, weeping, but I just dried up. That’s when you know you’re at your weakest point. Rockbottom. You just don’t have any fight left.

For so long I have felt sorry for myself. And It’s obvious why. If I shared every detail with you, any of you, you would of course stand in my corner and tell me that I deserved better. That I should just leave. You would be my number one fans. But what I learned last night is that there was so much more to the picture. And I wasn’t as innocent as I once thought.

Last night during a time of conviction of someone else, I was the one feeling convicted. As I tried to call out the faults and blame as to why we were where we were, I was saying one thing and thinking a completely different thing. 

I have never had so many thoughts running through my mind at once.

I hated, yet loved.

I wanted to run away, but stay forever.

I wanted to cry, but laugh.

I wanted to be right and I wanted to forgive. 

I would laugh and then cry and then laugh and then cry. For hours. 

I wanted to tell everyone, but no one at the same time. 

Never had so many thoughts running through my mind at once.

I didn’t even know what this forgiveness would look like. As familiar as this situation was, I was lost. I couldn’t figure out what to do. I knew I didn’t have it in me to forgive. I know I don’t have it in me to do a whole lot. Not on my own, anyways. 

No, I’m saying I’m weak. I know I’m not. I’m probably one of the strongest women you will ever meet. I don’t mean to ‘toot’ my own horn, but it’s true. Also, I’m really stubborn. I believe one is helped by the other. 

But at that moment yesterday, at the moment that I’m pretty sure is going to change everything, at that moment I knew I couldn’t do it alone. 

I was so angry. 

But then it just went away. Just like that. JUST. LIKE. THAT.

At a moment where I felt so alone and so betrayed, I also felt safe. It was the weirdest thing I have ever experienced. Ever. 

All of the stress. All of the tears. All of the anger. All of the heart ache. It all went away.

Seconds before I had no idea how I was ever going to be able to forgive, to trust, to love again. No clue. And in an instant, I got it and it wasn’t daunting or overwhelming. It was simple. I would just forgive. 

Before I wanted someone to hurt as much as I did. I wanted revenge. But in that moment I didn’t want those things anymore. I just wanted to forgive. I just forgave. 

Y’all. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. It all makes sense. In a time in my life where nothing made sense, here it is. Here’s the answer. It’s all so simple, but I never saw it coming. 

Something that could have been the worst thing to happen to me was also, in many ways, answers to my prayers. He had a purpose the whole time. Even when I didn’t think He was anywhere near me. He was. And He was working to make everything better, not just everyone else, but me too, mainly me. He was fixing me. Just like I asked. Just like I prayed for. 

You see I knew something would have to happen. I knew that it would have to be drastic. But I didn’t know it would be me. I was too busy looking and pointing at everyone else. Praying for them to be better for me, when really all I needed to do was pray for myself to be better for Him. 

Too often, we try to mold life, others, ourselves to look how we see fit, but He knows what He’s doing and He made us just the way we are supposed to be. He has made us perfectly for where we are, for what we are going through, and if we just make the decision to focus on Him and not everything else, then it won’t be as bad as we make it out to be. He doesn’t cause the struggle in our life, we do. 

And rockbottom isn’t a pretty place to be. It hurts. I cannot tell you how much it hurts. But the thing about rockbottom is that you’re done falling. Everything stops. You can catch your breath. You can regain your footing. And the greatest thing about rockbottom is that you finally get to look up. 

 

 

 

 

 

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He is Enough.

Today I yelled at God. Today I woke up angry. I mean ANGRY. I stopped being angry at everything else and I focused my anger towards Him.

I have felt alone and defeated all week long. And I’ve looked and I couldn’t find Him anywhere. I prayed for Him to remind me that He was here with me. But nothing. I read the bible over and over hoping that He would talk to me. Nothing. I listened to sermons that I had missed since Justin started his new job, thinking that maybe I would find Him there. Nothing. Still nothing.

I yelled at Him today. I was fed up and I had had it. I yelled at Him and told Him I knew why people left the faith. I got it. There is nothing worse then feeling alone and defeated.

I purposefully didn’t pick up my bible today. I turned off the praise music. When I got more bad news today I took matters into my own hands. If He wasn’t going to do anything then I would.

I stopped crying. I wasn’t going to shed another tear for Him.

And then I checked my email.

I am responsible for the communications ‘department’ for the women’s ministry at church, therefore, I am responsible for the monthly newsletter. Most of the time I just picked something that I had written before and plugged it in to the newsletter, but lately, I’ve been wanting to feature other people and their stories. It was beginning to frustrate me that it was all my stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love the attention. I mean, I’m a writer, of course I want people to read what I write, but I’m also just a girl who likes to read and hear stories that aren’t mine.

I expressed my interest in featuring other women from our church to write for our newsletter and I was put into contact someone I have never met, but was told that she was an amazing writer with an amazing testimony and story to share.

I reached out to her. She said she would think about. She got back to me and asked me what exactly I was looking for. Bad timing for her because the last thing I wanted to think about this month was church or a newsletter or a testimony, remember, I’m angry.

I emailed her back explaining that there was no real formula to follow. Just to send me something that she wanted to share. I was short and to the point.

As the fighting continued between me and Justin last night my phone notified me of an email. I saw that it was from her and I just couldn’t open it. I wasn’t in the mood. And so I left it there, sitting in my inbox, untouched.

So back to today. I woke up angry. Another text from Chase bank explaining to me that our account was over drafted again. There’s been no money in our bank account since Monday, last week. The fees and charges took my entire Beautycounter paycheck and still left us with nothing.

And the thing is regardless of how much we don’t have, we still need things. We need food. Milk. Gas. Bills still need to get paid. Life goes on.

Because I am selfish at first I let it go. There was nothing that I could do until I got paid, but when that happened and we were still in a bad place, that’s when I got angry. You see, I gave it to God, but it was still on my terms and conditions.

I should also point out that things had been going really well for awhile now. No fighting. No money problems. But I was starting to feel distant from God. I could tell that I wasn’t making time for Him like I had been. I wasn’t reading my bible. I wasn’t praying. And if you guys can remember the last time I became distracted from Him, He moved me 1100 miles away from my distractions. He knows how to get my attention. And sure enough, when things started going south, I reached out to Him, and sure enough, when He didn’t answer me the way I wanted, I got angry. You would think that I would learn by now.

Back to today, I have my favorite radio station playing. I’m sitting at my desk when I remember that I need to check my emails. I was sitting here reminiscing about my childhood. My teenage years. How simple everything was. I attempted to do some writing, but I couldn’t. As a favorite song of mine came on the speakers it reminded me how I used to write as a young teenage girl. I always wrote best when I was struggling. When I didn’t get the guy. When life wasn’t what I had expected.

Then I checked my email. And there was Melissa’s email. I checked it only to check it off of my to-do list.

Hi Lauren,

I just finished writing this – let me know if it’s what you have in mind.

Melissa

I downloaded the attachment and I began to read.

The Narrow Gate

In September of 1998 my husband and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to begin a new life. We bought a home and business in the downtown area, joined a church and thoroughly enjoyed a more relaxed lifestyle. Living downtown was a dream come true for big city dwellers grown weary of the Southern California freeway system. We could walk everywhere we needed to go and began to think a car trip across town was inconvenient. Our brilliant plan included running the business for ten years, selling it at a good profit, and retiring. Up until that point we had enjoyed a very comfortable life style, but God was about to lead us along a new path: He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths. Isaiah 2:3.

When the US economy collapsed in 2008 so did our retirement plans. Over the next few years we lost our business, our savings, and our home was about to be claimed by the bank. It was time to get out of town! In 2013 we moved to the Woodlands to live with family until we could find jobs and move into a rented house; it seemed a reasonable plan at the time. As we drove out of Santa Fe on a dark and cold September night an unexpected thunder storm swept our car towards the Texas border. Before we had crossed into Texas my husband became violently ill and nearly two years later has not fully recovered. In time he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and spent four months at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. Every month we go back to the Center for Advanced Heart Failure for a checkup.

Yesterday, as we were driving to our appointment, I bravely decided to take the HOV. I always take I-45 because it’s the only way I know, but yesterday I was feeling particularly adventurous! I was somewhat apprehensive because I wasn’t sure if I could find the hospital once we left the HOV. I tried to overcome my anxiety by comparing the HOV to the Christian life. This all started when I noticed how alike the gate of the HOV and the narrow gate in Matthew 7 are. 

Here is how it unfolded. 

As we headed south on I45 we moved from the multi-lane freeway into the HOV with cement barricades hugging the car’s sides. We had moved from the broad road through the small gate and onto the narrow road. Matthew 7:13- 14 speaks of that: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life… As new believers we enter from the broad path of unbelief and rebellion to a path that becomes increasingly narrow as we mature. This maturing process, also called sanctification, is painful but necessary if we are to grow into the likeness of Christ. James 1:2-4 tells us to Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

My husband and I have endured many trials in the last few years and they were miserable. There were many times that we didn’t think we could endure one more day. We have never pretended that these experiences were anything less than horrific, but we have been transformed, and today I can say that we are grateful for each and every trial. Our faith has deepened and our compassion and love for others has increased. We are more mature and complete.

On the HOV there are several exits that lead back to the freeway. If one isn’t paying attention to the landscape or perhaps texting a co-worker he might end up at the wrong address – it happens. It would be inconvenient but not impossible to get back on the lane. We Christians can also get off the path God has set for us because He has given us the freedom to choose. Sometimes it is a deliberate departure and sometimes it is accidental. The Psalmist describes this tendency to get off the path: I have strayed like a lost sheep, seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. Psalm 119:167. We who are Spirit-filled will sometimes get off at the wrong exit, but the Holy Spirit will show us the way back.

In the HOV there are signs along the way – the same in the Christian life. If we listen we will hear His voice: Isaiah 30:21 says Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’. It is up to us to watch and listen for the Spirit’s promptings. In Exodus 13:21 we are told that we can count on God’s presence in our lives : By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. And in Deuteronomy 31:8 God says The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

And finally, when cars are spit out of the HOV onto a broader road, we need to guide them to the final destination. In my case I needed to find the way from Milam to Fannin which was simple with God’s help. But, I could only find the way because there were street signs posted at every intersection. Once again, decisions must be made- left or right; straight or U-turn? It’s that way for Christians too – there are road signs everywhere if we look for them. God’s Word says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Yesterday when we exited the HOV I wasn’t sure how I would find the hospital, but I did know from past experience that God would get me there. It was the same when we left all we knew and loved in Santa Fe. We didn’t know how we could start a new life in Texas but we still had enough faith to believe God would see us through… and He has.

And there it was. There was the answer that I had been looking for. There was the conversation that I had been begging for. And it came from someone I had never met, from a task that I didn’t want to do.

I don’t know why I’m living in Houston. I don’t know why I don’t have friends or a car or money. I don’t know why I had to leave all of that behind (besides the money part). I don’t have an answer for any of it, but I just have to trust in God that He loves me enough, more than enough, that He’s got this. This is all for something. On the days that I feel helpless and forgotten I need to remember that that’s not the case because I have Him and He is enough.

Faith isn’t easy. And to be honest, it’s a lot easier to not have faith. But clearly He has plans for me because He wasn’t going to let me go.

Our bank account is still in the negative. Payday is still days away. The fridge is still bare. But I’m okay with it. Because He is enough. And as long as I have Him, then I’m fine. I’m more than fine, I’m great. And He never leaves us to do this on our own. It may not be done how we would do it, but thank God for that because I know that I am not capable of doing it the way He does.

And for those of you who don’t believe in the power of prayer, I sent a message last night to my Bishop and Deacon asking for prayers:

I need prayers for God to let me know exactly what He wants me to do. I feel so lost and alone right now. I know what I want to do. I know what other people think I should do, but I need to know what God wants me to do. I’ve been reading my bible. I’ve been listing to sermons. I’ve been praying. But I still got nothing. Feeling pretty defeated and very vulnerable to the enemy right now.

He really does listen to us. I can’t say it enough. He really is all we need. He is enough.