Five Things I’ve Learned From my Daughter

God has put all kinds of teachers in our path  They’re disguised as bosses and baristas, friends and foes, artists and authors.  And daughters.

Monday was our daughter, Katy’s 28th birthday.  She celebrated with friends in D.C. where she lives.  As a mom, celebrating her from afar, I started to think of some of the things she’s taught me in the past 28 years.  Here are just a few: Continue reading

What I Learned About Being “Fearless” in 2013

The week between Christmas and New Year has always been a good time for reflection. So I’ve been thinking about my “One Word” for 2013 – Fearless.

Not that I saw myself as fearless, but I believed God wanted to grow me in that direction.  It didn’t feel like it was “mine”.  It was an aspirational word.  Kind of like “thin” will be an aspirational word my whole life.

There was the acknowledgement that “Fear not.” is the most common command in the Bible and that other command, “Follow me.” which usually involves risk and the F word, at least in my life.

Living with this “One Word” in 2013 helped me to pay attention.  Henry James, a novelist, writes “Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost.” This was my goal.

Not that it’s been a smooth ride.  I had a panic attack for the first time in my life.  And that’s not “me”.  At least that’s how my pride responds.

But I also took risks, and went public with a big goal that I felt was beyond my ability.

I think the biggest “fearless” lesson I learned came while I was running. And running.  And, you know… trying not to die. Continue reading

How You are Part of Her Story

Last night we arrived at our destination on the Zambezi river in Zambia in time to see this sunset while zebras grazed behind us.


This afternoon as I write this I am sitting under an umbrella on the same deck, looking at a herd (a pod? a bunch? John and I can’t decide and we don’t have internet access to Google it) of Hippos in the water about a hundred yards out.  Every once in awhile (of course never when my camera is trained on them) one will lift his head high, open his mouth and roar.  How crazy is that??!!

Quite a contrast to our day yesterday when we bumped and lurched for hours in a Land Rover over narrow dusty paths through the bush in an area called Moyo.  Over tracks not made for vehicles, but worn through the grass instead by the toughened bare feet of our sponsored children, cared for by World Vision.  We had the privilege of visiting all three of our precious kids for the second time in two and a half years yesterday. Continue reading

Why are You Doing the Hard Thing?

33 days from today is the Half-Marathon.  13.1 miles.  It’s hard thing.  But everyone reading this is doing a hard thing.  Or a lot of hard things.

This was the text I sent to Katy and Maggie the other day after I ran.  It is similar to many other texts I’ve sent over the past six months.


I questioned myself once again, “WHY the heck am I doing this?”

Just like you may ask yourself,

“Why did I commit to lead this small group?

Why do I keep tutoring this under-resourced kid who doesn’t seem to care?

Why should I stay in this hard marriage?

Why did I move here?

Why am I serving on this board?

Why did I start this business?…”

“Why did I choose to do this hard thing?” Continue reading

Maybe We Can

I imagine that each of you reading this post today has a story to tell of something you’re doing (or enduring) that’s A HARD THING.

Really hard.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually…

It may be a challenge to get out of bed in the morning, knowing the REALLY HARD THING will still be there, lurking like a terrorist, or enveloping you like humidity.

A friend of mine wrote a song with the lyrics: “Somedays faith means just tying your shoes.”

Ahhh, yeah.

This is a guy I see every day when I run a certain route.


I’m out of breath and I’m sweating like a horse and my feet and hips ache and I want sooo bad to stop.  I keep trying to keep in mind WHY I’m doing this HARD THING. (cleanwaterforAfricacleanwaterforAfricacleanwaterforAfrica…)

Then I see this guy who must be so much more determined and braver than I am.

Continue reading

Fear, Small Things, and a Big God

One of the ways God reassures me is to say “do not despise the day of small things.”*  He uses the ordinary, and the overlooked, and the seemingly inconsequential.  And even the things He does with these can go overlooked.  Unnoticed.

I used to think that if it was “of God” it had to be big and bold and dramatic and flashy.  Like a super hero.  But then I learned that if he can use flour and oil, and widows, and dropouts, there’s hope for me.  I’m thankful for that, because my life is mostly a life of “small things”.

But lately I’ve been convicted that I’ve gone too far.  I’m settling for too little. I’m settling for a small god, instead of the real thing.   It’s not me who’s flashy and dramatic, but I can trust in God to do amazing things through me, beyond my ability.

Sometimes He wants to do big things.

Continue reading

Cheering it Forward

I’ve been really surprised at how nice people are to me when I run.  Maybe it’s just because I have such a tragic, painful, “I-want-to-die” expression on my face that they can’t help but feel sorry and offer encouragement.

Often it’s as I slog to the top of a hill that a stranger on bike will yell “Way to go!”, or someone walking a dog will clap or give a thumbs up.  It always takes me off-guard.  It honestly gives me a tiny kick of extra energy.  Like “Oh!  Maybe I really can keep going.”

But this morning was different.  As I ran past a woman who looked a little familiar, she clearly recognized me and knew my story.  She knew my half-marathon goal that’s way too big for me.  She gave me a huge smile and a big thumbs up and yelled “You can do it, Laura!”

I was grateful and encouraged, but I was also moved to tears.

Because it hit me like Roadrunner


(not the fast part, the stopping part).

Continue reading

What I’m Learning as I Scuffle Along

It’s Fearless Friday!  A few weeks ago I shared that, in spite of my fears, I had been convinced (tricked?  shamed?  hornswaggled?) into running a half marathon in Minneapolis with Team World Vision to raise money for clean water for Africa.

It’s on October 26th and is called the Monster Dash.  “Dash”??  Really?  How can a half marathon be called a “dash”?  For me it may be a shuffle or a trudge or a slog, but I will definitely not be dashing!

No, I’m not a “runner”.  I do more of a scuffle that’s so slow 80 year old men in wheelchairs could pass me.  Before a few weeks ago, I don’t think I had run more than 3 miles in my whole life.

And, yes, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m 55 years old and have rods and screws in my back.  So, if I can give this a go, anyone can.  Today I want to encourage you to sign up to run with me, and to give you a little update.


Continue reading

When God Invites You to do a Big Thing and Fear says You Can’t

I had a lunch meeting a few weeks ago.  The purpose was for me to help a World Vision guy do some brainstorming and networking.  At least that’s what I thought.

I’m pretty creative.  I’m good at ideas.  I’m good at making work for other people.  It’s a gift.  My family likes to say “God loves you and Laura has a wonderful plan for your life.”  So I was feeling good about meeting with Bradley (the guy) and giving him some ideas.  That is until he finished telling his story, turned to me and said, “I want you to run a half-marathon with Team World Vision to raise money for clean water in Zambia.”

What the what?!  Not much surprises me.  Even less than that leaves me speechless. This did.

I don’t run.  Unless I’m running from a bear.

I’ve tried running.  I hate it.  Truly hate it.  Bike, walk, play tennis, golf?  Absolutely!  Run? Ugh, please no!

As I reflected on the possibility, Fear whispered in my ear:

  • What if you really can’t do it?  What if you don’t finish?
  • What if you let people down?
  • What if you don’t raise any money?
  • What if you don’t motivate others to run?
  • What if you hurt yourself and it compromises your ability to enjoy other things?

Honestly, one of the loudest whispers was:  This will be a painful, grueling boatload of work and you don’t want to do it.

But Bradley said three things in that meeting that made me think maybe his idea was so crazy that God might actually be in it and I needed to pay attention.

1. He said this run is for clean water, something I’m passionate about.  Dirty water is the leading killer of kids under 5 in the world.

IMG_1977In Zambia two years ago I danced with women as a well was dug and fresh water gushed out.  They sang “Come and see what God has done.”  The old woman next to me spoke in wonder “He saw us. He answered our prayers.”  Wouldn’t be incredible to part of an answer to someone’s prayers?


2.  80% of the people who run on Team World Vision are not runners (as in, never done it).  And that’s both scary and inspiring.  When Bradley speaks to churches his theme is fear not.  My one word for this year is Fearless, the word I’m trying to live into.  As he spoke I sensed a little nudge.  Perhaps this is a tailor made (albeit crazy) invitation to step into something scary that God desires to use.


3.  My first response was unequivocal.  There is no way I can do this.  (Did I mention I. Don’t. Run. Ever.?).  But maybe that’s an additional reason why this might be of God.  Perhaps, besides providing water, there is something He wants to show me of Himself in this hard thing.  His power perfected in my weakness.

There are many days of “small things”, but sometimes God invites us into something big and hard and seemingly impossible.

I think, in this case, God’s answer to Fear is “What if I run with you and do something bigger in and through you for others than you think is possible?”

So, although I have visions of my daughter (who may be running with me), dragging my lifeless body across the finish line, October 26th (Lord willing) I will be running (or shuffling) the Twin Cities Monster Dash half-marathon.  You can join me running here! They have a great training program – starting from zero.

You can donate here.

How to Run with the Unforced Rhythm of Grace

When I started this blog we instituted “Spirit Stretch Fridays” (thanks to daughter Maggie) with the idea that the post on Fridays would be about potential spiritual practices.  Thinking outside the box a bit.  I usually imagine most people are way down the road on this, but last fall I helped facilitate an online class for people in ministry called Soul Care.  At the end we took a poll and asked, “Before this class, did you regularly incorporate spiritual practices into your everyday life?”  Only 20% responded “Yes”.  And that was people in the ministry!  All that to say that recently I was asked to write an article on this topic for our church magazine and thought maybe it was worth posting here too. Sorry it’s a bit longer than usual.  

Our daughter Katy has been training to run a half-marathon.  This should really be illegal in our family because although we’re athletic, we don’t run.  It’s kind of been a rule of family solidarity.  She’s totally breaking it.

The biggest part of me is feeling proud and impressed, but a small corner of me also feels more inadequate than ever.  This is something I just don’t think I can do.  I’m not a RUNNER.  Or even a runner.

But Katy wasn’t either.  Til one day she tied up her shoes and put one foot in front of the other.  For two blocks.  And then a mile.  And then three….and then 13.1 miles.

And in the process she’s learned that to be a runner, you have to run.  You have to make it a part of your everyday life.

She learned that there are benefits to running by yourself, but it’s also helpful to have the company and accountability of others, so a couple of days a week she runs with a group of friends who are training for the same race and they tell each other their goals, and their successes and complain about sore muscles.  And that helps.

She’s found routes she really liked to run, and times of the day that were better than others.  And that helps too.

If, five months ago, someone had shown up on Katy’s doorstep and told her they had signed her up to run a marathon, she would have said “You’re crazy.”  She couldn’t achieve that by just trying.  She had to go into training.  No one drifts into becoming a marathoner.

And no one just drifts into spiritual maturity.  Enter the integrated life of training with Jesus.  Enter spiritual practices.

Twenty years ago I was a Christian.  I had a “quiet time” set aside during the day to pray and read my Bible, but that was about it.  Nice and neat and compartmentalized.         Boom. Done.

But then I read John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted and a whole new way of viewing my relationship with Jesus opened up to me.  Like someone discovering a runner’s high, I found that as I thought outside the box and integrated training practices into my everyday life, my relationship with Jesus deepened.

And everything “counted”.  Even little things made a difference.  Not just the dramatic “burning bush” experiences, and not just the half hour set aside for devotions, and not just the times I seemed to get it “right” for a second or two.  Every moment of the day became a chance to live more of the “with Jesus” life.

An ongoing conversation with God, or praying for strangers I encounter through the day seems to grow compassion a smidge in my selfish soul and make me aware of grace.

Journaling or looking back over my day, noticing the times when I turned towards and when I turned away from God is a spiritual habit that’s like looking in a mirror and noticing my hair needs combing or I have a smudge of mascara that needs a little cleanup.

And purposely getting in the longest line or slowest lane is a spiritual practice that I’m still hoping is forming patience in my hurried heart.

I pray that engaging in secret acts of service helps me let go of my need for approval from anyone other than God.

Celebration.  Rest.  Silence.  A life lived more like Jesus.  Step by tiny step.  I stumble a lot.

I am not a  natural runner.  And I’m not setting any speed records.  And my gait is a little awkward.  There are “ugly run” days.  But the race of faith is a marathon and I want to cross the finish line finally with the “unforced rhythm of grace.”  And that’s only going to happen if I tie my shoes and put one foot in front of the other today.

What’s your training experience been like?