Motherhood isn’t everything. 

It was a bad week. We were having another argument. One where we both thought, “Is this what our relationship is now? What happened to us?” 

The only thing people say is “having a baby is hard.” But what I wasn’t prepared for was how it was hard. There’s nothing hard about putting a diaper on Levi or feeding him or even soothing him when he’s crying. What’s hard is entering into a role that you’ve never tried before, never had any training in, all within one life-changing moment. 

“The truth is, Markus, I am always mom. When do I get to be Laura? A friend? An employee? A coworker? My roles were stripped from me. All except one: mom.” 

Tears streamed down my face as I continued. 

“I miss you! I miss being your wife! I miss feeling like myself. Because right now, I live and breathe motherhood. I can’t do this.”

And the truth is, we weren’t meant to. Let me explain. 

Let’s go back to my beginning: March 5, 1991, at 7:53 pm. Laura May Imler entered the world. My first role in my life was a daughter and sister. I graduated into the role as friend, then girlfriend, student, employee, coworker, and eventually a wife. 

When I gave birth to Levi, my whole world as an individual changed. A role was assigned to me that I had no experience in. A role that I would have for my entire life. So, my priorities shifted, as they should. But what I didn’t realize was how easily motherhood would engulf me. 

Imagine a waterfall. Not a trickling, couple drops here and there, waterfall. A waterfall where the water crashes down on the rocks underneath with a roar. I felt like the rock. In the same moment, I felt crushed while gazing up at the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. 

When I feel the weight of the waterfall, I pick up the phone to call my mom, my best friend in Virginia, my friend from church, anybody … somebody. But before I ever press “call” I put down the phone like I’ve done 100 times before. I desperately want to hear it’s going to be fine. And, at the same time, that’s the last thing I want to hear. 

How do I explain to my closest friends how I feel? It doesn’t even make sense to me. How do I explain that at the same exact moment I can feel so much joy and so much emptiness? I see my son and my heart bursts with love. But I also have moments when I see him or change his diaper or feed him and I think, “This is my entire life now.” And, I have a feeling of discontent. 

If I never voice my discontent, if I keep a smile on my face at all times, how could I ever find freedom from this crushing feeling? In tears, I finally told Markus what I needed and it has changed everything for the better. 

“Markus, I need to do things that make me feel human. I need a few hours a week to be Laura. Not mom, not wife, not friend. Just me.” 

Every day, Markus finds a way to give me time by myself. He takes Levi and tells me to go take a hot shower alone, run an errand and blast my country music, step outside and talk on the phone, anything to give me time out of my day for myself. 

This is why it’s so important. I beg you to hear me. 

I cannot be the best mom to Levi if I set aside “Laura,” the girl who ran off to Hawaii, jumped off cliffs into the Pacific Ocean, explored India, visited her boyfriend in Denmark, and had many more adventures. So, I find a few minutes every day to do something for myself or by myself. 

I cannot be the best mom to Levi if I am not the best wife to Markus. Without my marriage to Markus, Levi wouldn’t be here. It is crippling to Levi if I put him before Markus. I would be showing him that he comes before my husband. So, we drop our two month son off at grandmas house and have a date alone. 

I cannot be the best mom to Levi if I hold myself to the culture’s expectations of motherhood. I will not look like a supermodel, send Levi to Ivy League daycare centers, feed him organic baby food, or other crushing expectations society has placed on us. So, I purposefully avoid magazines and tv shows that are feeding me lies of what kind of mom I have to be. 

Motherhood isn’t everything. And thank God it’s not. Because so much would be lost if that were the case. I’m a mom but also a friend, a sister, a daughter, a wife. And I’ll argue that the hardest part of motherhood is figuring out the balance between those beautiful roles. 

So the next time you see a mama with a little one in a car seat, look her in the eyes and ask her how she’s doing as a human being. Not as a mom but as a fellow human. She will so appreciate it. 

– LMN

The Secret to a Healthy Marriage: Get a Divorce 

Markus and I laughed on the phone like little school kids the other night thinking about the day we ran off to the courthouse to get hitched. In 4 minutes and 55 seconds, we were husband and wife. Legally bound to each other for life, y’all. IN 4 MINUTES AND 55 SECONDS. That’s insanity. 

In less than five minutes, our world as we knew it completely changed. The sun didn’t shine brighter. There wasn’t an earthquake that shook the building. But, from that day forward, we would have to choose. We would have to choose each other when our bank accounts were full or depleted, choose to sleep in the same bed after a nasty fight, choose our battles, choose to let things go, choose to honor each other when it was hard… I could go on. 

One thing I didn’t expect to have to choose was to get a divorce. A divorce from myself, from my pride, and from my stubborn way of doing things. For years, my pride ran the show. If it wasn’t my way, it was the highway. As Markus struggled in his role that God always intended him to have (the leader of the relationship), I held onto the reigns of our marriage with a firm grip. 

It wasn’t until I got pregnant did I finally see what my pride was doing – which was dishonoring my husband and single handedly contributing to my husband’s insecurity as a man. When I got pregnant, Markus went into go mode. He wouldn’t let me carry up grocery bags, do physical work, or do other things that I was used to doing. My prideful self said, “I can do this! I don’t need help. Markus, you’re overreacting.” But, Holy Spirit said, “Hush child. Let him take care of you as he was made to do.” 

Little by little, I gave him the respect and honor he deserved. I obeyed his requests not to lift heavy things. Oh yikes! I just used the word “obey.” Yes, I did! And it’s a beautiful word that has been transformed into this ugly form of submission. But, when I obey him, what I’m actually doing is showing him trust, respect, honor, love, adoration, and much more. So, yes. I’ll obey and obey again. Because you know what? My husband is so much more important than my pride. The confidence he’s gained and the amount our marriage has flourished is worth me laying down my pride everyday. 

It’s not easy but it’s worth it. Divorces are ugly and hard. Consider the synonyms of the word: separate, disconnect, disassociate, isolate, and detach. When you divorce a character trait within yourself, you are choosing to mold yourself into someone new which is extremely hard! We as humans don’t want to change. We don’t want to do the hard things in life. But, if marriage didn’t require hard work, it wouldn’t have such incredible rewards. 

The best aspect of divorcing yourself is the aftermath… what is put in its place. You see, when I chose to divorce the ugly pride within myself, there was a void inside. And, with that void, there was space for something new. (Everything you take OUT will always be filled up again with something else. What takes its place is YOUR choice). When I kissed my pride goodbye, a new level of love took its place. I saw Markus in a new light (because I stepped out of the way)! 

It’s not an easy thing to do. Honestly, I still have to work at it everyday. Everyday I choose to apologize or listen to his requests. And the beautiful thing is he does the same! We are both competing to out-serve each other and out-love each other. Why? Because marriage, the most insane and beautiful aspect of life, is absolutely worth it. 

-LMN

Little Levi’s Debut into the World 

My sweet son,

I found out I was pregnant with you on October 2, 2016. I called your daddy into the bathroom of our one bedroom apartment in Macon and I told him that “we were having a baby!” We laughed, cried, and prayed together. With Google’s help, we figured out your due date … June 2, 2017. We found out not to take your due date seriously since only 5% of women actually deliver their baby on the due date. Oh and for me being a first time mommy I’ll definitely be a week or two over. But wow were we wrong! 

Your daddy and I joked that you would come to meet us on May 26, 2017 – exactly one week before you were due and on our three year wedding anniversary. But no, that day was not your arrival day. 

On June 1, 2017, I was working from home with M&R Marketing Group and your daddy was working a long day at Johnnys Pizza. At 3:00pm, I started having contractions exactly 30 minutes apart. Your dad kept telling me that we would be going to the hospital that night. He just *knew it.* I wasn’t so sure. I thought that I’d be that first time mom that went to the hospital multiple times just for them to send me back home. 

Around 7:00pm, my contractions were coming 10-15 minutes apart consistently. I called my midwife and she told me to wait another hour before coming in to make sure they don’t stall out. After 30 minutes, we couldn’t wait any longer! Your daddy repacked our hospital bags and we got in the car at 9:30pm. We got to North Fulton Hospital at 10:05pm and my contractions were 2-4 minutes apart! When we got there, I met Miss Vick who soon became our favorite nurse. She hooked me up to the monitor to monitor both my heart rate and your heart rate. 

My contractions hurt so bad! I would cry and shake my way through them. I had no idea what to expect but I definitely wasn’t realistic about the pain. Miss Vick checked me and I was only 3.7cm. She told me the pain I was feeling was only “a drop in the bucket” compared to what I would be feeling! You see, I wanted to do a natural water birth which wouldn’t allow me to have any medication. But, that wasn’t going to be possible. You see, for over an hour, your heart rate was in the 170s and 180s (not good). Miss Vick came in and told us that because your heart rate was so high and wouldn’t settle down, a water birth was out of the question and she recommended I get an epidural for my pain. I reluctantly agreed but I’m glad I did. 

By 1:30am on June 2, I received my epidural and I could no longer feel my painful contractions. Finally, relief! The nurses were so glad to see that your heart rate was in the 130s, a very normal place to be. However, about an hour later, your heart rate dropped rapidly (to the 60s). Then, your heart monitor couldn’t pick up your heart beat at all. 

Nurses ran into the room like a movie and told daddy to step out of the way. They put me on my side and put oxygen over my face and tried to find your heart beat. Those seconds felt like hours when they couldn’t hear your heart beat. They expertly inserted a shot to stop my contractions and give you a break. 

Those few minutes were so scary. Daddy was praying and crying that you would be okay and I laid there feeling helpless. I thought, “this is not my story! I’m not losing my child!” All I could do was pray and obey the nurses when they asked me to do something. Those few minutes felt like an out of body experience. When it was over and your heart rate returned to normal, your daddy and I thanked God for you. 

The nurses determined that the epidural medicine caused my contractions to ease so much that my body was no longer struggling. My body quickly got ready for you to come… too quickly that you couldn’t keep up! In 4 hours, I went from 3.7cm to 8cm. Within 6 hours of arriving at the hospital, I was at 10cm. 

When your heart rate finally returned to normal, the nurses told me to rest. By then, your Grandmama, Grandpapa, Papa Steve, and Tana had made it to the hospital (at 3:30am). By 8:00am, I was really feeling the pressure of you “dropping” into position. I was ready to push. I pushed the nurse button and told them I needed to push you out! 

At 8:20am, I started pushing. It took a solid 17-18 minutes to get your head out. The other 2-3 minutes, I went into go mode because I knew you were almost here! I pushed the rest of your body out. It was such an incredible, empowering experience knowing I delivered life from my body! 

You were born on June 2, 2017 (your due date!), weighing 7lb 13oz, 20″ long, at 8:40am. The nurses told me that if labor could be likened to cars, most first time moms labor like a Honda Fit and I labored like a Lotus! 

They put you up on my belly/chest and asked, “daddy, what’s the gender?!” He lifted up your leg and said “it’s a boy!” Both your daddy and I cried happy tears! I wasn’t surprised you were a boy because I had three dreams about you throughout my pregnancy and in each dream, you were a boy. I even saw your handsome face in one of them. 

The nurse asked if your daddy wanted to cut your umbilical cord. He seemed super nervous but he did it! We couldn’t keep our eyes off you. 

I was in the hospital from Thursday night June 1 to Sunday afternoon June 4. You were born on the release date of Wonder Woman, the day President Trump upset the world by pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, and National Doughnut Day (welcome to America). 

Your first few days in this new world have been amazing and hard! You have met your grandparents (x2), Aunt Renee, Uncle Brandon, Destinee, Tracy & Cindy, Gwen & Nicole, Katie, Lucille, and others. You’ve been to the pediatrician (you were perfect!), Chick-fil-a, the chiropractor, and to The Factory. 

You cry when your hungry or have a dirty diaper. Other than that, you sleep and cuddle. Anytime we try to get you to sleep, all we have to do is lay you on our chest and you are out. You love to cuddle!

Right now, you’re sleeping on my chest and daddy is asleep next to us. (Everyone says you look just like daddy which is perfectly okay with me). You’re an answered prayer my little Levi. Your daddy and I love you more than words can express. 

-LMN

For the Love of Money, Put Your Wallet Away

I was 12-years-old when I asked my mom for $7 to go to the movies on the upcoming Friday night with my friends. I don’t remember what the movie was … I wish I did. What I do remember was her response, “If you want to go to the movies on Friday, you can get a babysitting job and buy your own movie ticket.”

I remember being annoyed at her answer but I complied (to be honest, I didn’t have a choice). I didn’t go to the movies that Friday. My mom never gave in and handed me the money. The reality was, she didn’t have the money. She was a single mom working 40-hour work weeks while having cleaning jobs on the side to make ends meet. Why should she give her 12-year-old daughter a couple bucks to go to the movies? All she is required to do as my mom is put a roof over my head, feed me, and give me a whole bunch of love (which she did over abundantly).

Sure enough, I booked myself a babysitting job. My mom drove me to the house and the lady I was babysitting for drove me home. Unbeknownst to me, this was another step in my journey learning about finances. I knew from a young age that we didn’t have a lot of money growing up. My mom would take my sister and I to the thrift store the week before every school year and we got to pick out as much clothes as we wanted.

I remember asking my mom once during a shopping spree at the thrift store, as I watched the total cost of the clothes hit $100, “Mom, are you sure we can afford this?” She responded, “Yes, I’m glad that y’all are okay with shopping at the thrift store. These same outfits at the mall would cost me five times as much.”

I didn’t care that I shopped at thrift stores growing up. I didn’t care that my weekends were booked with babysitting jobs that my mom drove me to. What she was doing was teaching me that if I wanted something, hard work and sacrifice is how you got it. She practiced what she preached. Rarely did I ever see my mom splurge on herself. She is the hardest working woman I’ve ever met and walked the talk as much as she talked it.

My 13th summer I decided I wanted a new bed (I had “outgrown” my twin size, not). I asked my mom if I could have a bigger bed. She said, “If you want a bigger bed, save up your own money and buy it yourself.” Sure enough, I saved up a few hundred dollars over the course of several months and bought my own queen size bed. The lady at the mattress store was so impressed that I (a 13-year-old) had saved up my own money, she gave us the box spring for free!

I can tell you more stories like this just change the product … a video camera, plane tickets, a car (yes, I bought my first car – my parents didn’t buy me that), and more.

When I was 18-years-old and a high school graduate, my mom told me it was time to move out (GASP). When I tell people this, they think this is cruel and unusual punishment. I beg to ask you, WHY? Why is this strange of her to ask her children to move out once they turn 18? At the legal age of becoming an adult? I didn’t wake up the day of my 18th birthday and fear my life now because I was an adult. She expected her children to move out because she prepared them for this moment their entire teenage lives. (By the way, I’m the baby of three kids and both my siblings are successful, have college educations, and jobs).

I’ve lived in apartment complexes, rented from people’s basements and upstairs rooms, heck I’ve even rented an entire house and lived in it by myself. She was never hands-off. Anytime I needed help finding a place to live, she was the first to send a mass email to her friends asking them to spread the word.

It wasn’t only about moving out, she wanted me to thrive. My entire teenage years, it was understood that I was to go to college. I never heard her ask me, “Are you going to college?” It was, “Where are you going to college?” or “Have you applied yet to colleges?”

This will shock some people. On top of expecting me to go to college she told me I was paying for it (again, GASP). Once again, my mom didn’t have the money to send me to college. During my freshman year of high school, she told me, “You better get good grades because you’ll need HOPE scholarship to help you pay for college.”

Every semester, I received HOPE. Every semester (after HOPE’s help), I still paid $1,000 tuition. I never took out a student loan. I graduated summa cum laude, 3.89 GPA, 39 As, 3 Bs (darn you math, economy, and sociology) with no student debt to pay back.

How did I go through college without taking out student loans? (Remember, my mom taught me to save and pay for what I want since I was 12-years-old). Aside from my mom’s preparation, I worked my way through college. I worked as a server at Johnny’s Pizza and Chili’s. Every semester, I was a full-time student paying my way through college by working 30 hours a week on top of paying all of life’s bills.

Did I mention that, with a year and a half left of college, I got married?

I’m writing this to you, not to brag, but to tell you it’s possible! You don’t have to baby your adult children. You are not doing them a favor; you are actually doing them, and the rest of the world, a disservice.

I appreciate my mom for expecting things of me because that gave me a goal to work toward. That lit the fire under my butt to work extremely hard and be the person she knew I could be. This is not to say that it was always easy. There were days that I would call her crying, not knowing how to proceed or what to do. Sure enough, she’d listen and help me find the answer.

My mom expects me to be financially smart because that’s how she raised me. However, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t help. My mom and step-dad are two of the most selfless people I know. The 2015 tax season hit Markus and I hard. With me working as a server, I didn’t pay enough taxes throughout the year and we got hit with a $2,000 bill to send to the government by such and such deadline.

My mom immediately offered me the money and told me to pay her back, interest free, monthly.

Recently, mama asked if Markus and I could use a special something for our future. By her wording in the text (and the financial state she knows we’re in), I knew she was offering this as a gift. I loved what she asked me about, and after a little haggling, she bought it for $400.

I thanked her profusely but still asked her if she wanted me to pay her back for what she just bought. She said no, that it was a gift. Why did I ask her even though I was pretty sure it was a gift? Because I never want my mom to believe that I don’t appreciate her spending her hard-earned money on me. I asked her because I didn’t want to assume anything.

So, to my mom, thank you for saying no to me 13 years ago when I asked for $7 to go to the movies. Thank you for raising me with a respect for hard work and sacrifice. Thank you for expecting me to do and be someone who I didn’t even know I could be.

To other parents, before getting out your wallet and buying whatever your child wants, consider having them earn it. If they’re of age, help them find a job. You’ll be creating a driven, financially-smart leader that this world desperately needs.

-LMN

graduation

The Movies Lied: “Happily Ever After” Doesn’t Exist

We’ve been lied to since Cinderella and Snow White. Every fairy tale ends with “they got married and lived happily ever after.” It’s not true! Living happily ever after is for the books. When you get married, there’s so much more work. So, roll up your sleeves and fall to your knees because marriage takes hard work and even more prayer.

Marriage doesn’t make sense. Two complete strangers choosing to live together in harmony for the rest of their lives…even though they are completely different people! Yet promising to love, cherish, honor, and take care of each other until death.

You know what I wish the magistrate judge had asked me to repeat when Markus and I got hitched in 2014? “I’m gonna fight with you. We are gonna make up. I’m gonna yell at you. I’ll say I’m sorry. I’m gonna drive you crazy with my pet peeves. You will survive.”

I don’t know how people get through marriage without God. I would have thrown in the towel by now without God’s grace. You know what’s beautiful about this whole story? In my marriage to the Lord, he would be the perfect one and I would be the messed up sinner.  But never will he divorce me and send me packing. He is the person I want to exemplify the most. And right now, I’m failing at that miserably.

I sat in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot and balled my eyes out.

I sobbed on the phone to my sister* about the most recent fight Markus and I had. It was a stupid fight. Not even worth ink on the page to tell you about it. After the fight, I thought he was so selfish, rude, and didn’t care about what I wanted.  I’m sure he thought the same of me. I didn’t want to be in the same room as him so I took the car and ran errands. I stopped in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot and cried. My sister asked me if I knew why we were fighting. Of course I did! Or, so I thought. But, she said,

“No, that’s not why you’re fighting. You guys are fighting because both of you are sinful. Because we’re sinners, we are always going to fail. We are going to be selfish and not want to be selfless. Don’t give into the lies that you married the wrong man because that’s what Satan wants you to think. The enemy wants you to believe that another guy would be perfect for you…that another guy wouldn’t fight with you. But in reality, because we’re sinners – we are going to fight with each other. Marriage isn’t meant to keep us happy. It’s meant to make us holy. And holy is just a fancy word of meaning to be more like Christ. This is in an unending battle. You’re going to fight probably until the day you guys die and you never will be completely like Christ.”

So why is it worth it? Why should anyone get married? It’s worth it because Jesus sees us as worth it. It says in Romans 5:8 that when we were still sinners he died for us. Christ did not wait for us to be perfect! We cannot wait for our significant others to be perfect because that’s not realistic. And quite honestly it’s hypocritical. I’m not perfect. How can I expect Markus to be perfect?

When I think thoughts during an argument or fight, I have to ask myself, who would want me to think this way? The enemy or God? If it’s not a thought God would want me to think of my husband, I need to destroy it. I need to fight that lie with truth. For example, if I start believing the lie that I married the wrong person, I need to fight it by saying out loud I married the man that God intended me to marry.

It didn’t take God by surprise that I married Markus. He didn’t look down at the courthouse after we said “I do” and had our first kiss as husband-and-wife and thought ‘well that was a bad idea! Good luck guys!’ He doesn’t work that way. He is an all-loving God who has good plans in store for us (Romans 8:28).

Marriage is hard. Honestly, our first year of marriage was a “walk on roses,” as Markus would say. Our second year sucked.  If we weren’t dealing with Markus’ anxiety, we were fighting with each other. If you’re in your second year of marriage and you still haven’t fought with each other, check to make sure that the other person is still breathing. It’s part of life; it’s part of being a sinner.

That doesn’t mean that we have to settle to be in a sinning lifestyle. Will we ever be perfect? Nope. But, good thing God doesn’t expect for us to be perfect. Perfection allows no room for failure. He strives for us to be excellent. Excellence means that we can mess up. Excellence means that we’re going to get back up after we fall.

I don’t have this down pat. Markus and I still fight. We still apologize to each other and try again. Many times, it’s the reaction to the action that counts. It takes two to tango and two to argue. It’s not fun. Actually, it sucks. But, I’m not going to give up on this marriage.

I encourage you to pray for your spouse, for your marriage, for your life with Christ. Because, although the enemy is already defeated (Colossians 2:14-15), he wants to take you down with him. He wants to take me, Markus, and our marriage down! Why does he want this? Because we are a force to reckon with when we fight side by side. When we, as a married couple, fight the enemy we have double the strength, double the willpower, and double the threat.

You will not fail.

-LMN

*Note to the reader: If you are fighting with your spouse and the person on the other end of the phone is leading you towards Christ and towards your husband or wife to reconcile, THAT is an accountability partner.

If the person on the other end of the phone is feeding your frustration and anger towards your husband, she or he is not a healthy addition to your life. At the end of the day, choose. Choose your significant other over sister girl or home boy. Shout out to my sweet sister to leading me back with humility and sternness.

M and L Reception Day

How to take your ex out of sex.

This post is the sequel to my first blog about sex: “How to have your best sex, ever.” Enjoy!

June 25, 2011. It was five days before our six year anniversary. My  boyfriend and I sat on my bed in the apartment we shared and called our relationship quits.

I cried, he didn’t. He left, I stayed.

It was the first night in years that I slept alone. When he walked out of my room and shut the door, he took a part of me with him. My whole world went into a downward spiral. My body craved the sex that I had allowed it to have. Food tasted like dirt in my mouth.  I lost weight and cried, everyday. I knew I had made a mistake.

The mistake wasn’t him walking out of my bedroom door. That was the ending to a chapter of my life that should have ended much earlier. The mistake happened in April of 2010 when I gave him the most precious gift two people can give to each other: their bodies.

Most often, sin doesn’t present itself as a monster barging through your front door demanding attention. Sin comes wrapped in a small present with a bow and pretty wrapping. For me, it started with holding hands and making out … going on vacations together and spending the night at his house … doodling his last name after my first. It took five years for us to give in to the “monster” wrapped in a present and it happened in an instant.

I had no regrets. Why would I? I just had sex with the man I planned on marrying. But, what I didn’t realize was one thing that would change everything. The man I was supposed to marry was halfway across the world. Not the man laying naked beside me to whom I had just given my body.

I had “awakened love before its time” (Song of Songs 2:7) and I had to deal with the consequences of my actions. I had to give back my “life pen” to God and allow Him to re-write the story that I had royally screwed up.  I came to him with ashes and tears and he turned them into a love story that I never could have imagined.

But, before that story could be written, I had to allow God to heal me from the choices I had made which he promises to do so in His word. Ephesians 1:7 says, “Because of the blood of Christ, we are bought and made free from the punishment of sin. Because of His blood, our sins are forgiven. His loving-favor to us is so rich.”

This passage doesn’t mean that because I am a Christian, I get a “free pass” to do whatever I want. It means that, when I do sin, Jesus’ blood will wash me white as snow when I repent. Sin will have no hold on me. God will throw my sin into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19)! Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, my decision to have sex before marriage would be redeemed through Him. There is nothing I could do to “make right” my sin. It is only through Jesus, that my blemished self is washed white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

God redeemed and restored my spirit the moment I cried out to him to wash me clean. However, the washing of my mind, body, and emotions took years.

Picture a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Before it was a sandwich, it was two very distinct, separate things. There was peanut butter on one piece of bread and jelly on the other. It’s not until you put them together that it becomes a PB&J. Lets pretend you taste the PB&J and you don’t like it. You want to have only a peanut butter sandwich. If you pull a part the sandwich, there will be jelly stuck to the peanut butter side and vice versa. It can never be two distinct items, again.

The same concept can be said about sex with another person … however, on a magnified scale. When two people have sex, every part of them collides with full force: their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual beings. They become intertwined with each other in a beautiful, magnificent way that only God could have created. Pulling that twine a part will undoubtedly be messy and it’s going to be painful.

I didn’t understand this twine until I tried to separate myself from my partner.

As He always does, God healed me and renewed my spirit through time. During that time, I waited. I waited for my future husband that God had hand-chosen for me to marry. We waited to have sex until we were wed. Every time my husband and I have sex, the remembrances of my ex become a distant memory because I am having sex during the time God intended and with the man he chose for me.

“But, Laura. Would you buy a car without test-driving it? What if the sex sucks and we’re already married?” I hear this a lot. If you are currently thinking this, I want you to walk to your bathroom, stick your head in the toilet and push down the flusher. Afterwards, drive as fast as you can to your girlfriend or boyfriend’s house and break up with him or her. Because you are NOT the best person for them and you do NOT need to continue with this relationship.

If I sound harsh, good. That’s my intention.  If sex sucks or is awkward and uncomfortable with that person, guess what? You learn and grow together as a married couple. Marriage was intended by God to be a beautiful safety net where you can be vulnerable with your spouse and grow together spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally in the bedroom. Sex is not supposed to be something shameful but something to celebrate with your spouse. 

“To have sex” is the first commandment given by God! Genesis 1:28a says “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” So, why would God tell us to have sex (enough sex to fill the earth!) then slap rules around it and limit our enjoyment? Those “rules” (have sex within marriage) and “limitations” (have sex only with your spouse) is to enhance our sexual pleasure. WHAT.

God knew that if we shared our bodies with multiple people, our very beings would be calloused to the sanctity of the act. Sex would become commonplace instead of a holy union between two people. But, when we exercise sex the way God intended, our marriages are strengthened and we are a spiritual force against Satan.

Satan hates you. Satan hates your marriage. Satan wants you to look elsewhere for sex. He knows that when we as Christians have sex with our spouse and don’t give in to the temptations of this world, we are exemplifying Christ and the church.

I digress.

The fact that Satan hates your marriage and what to do about that is a topic for another blog. For now, I want to offer you advice that took a broken-hearted girl out of a state of misery and into a state of joy and freedom.

If you want to take your ex out of sex, cry out to the Lord in prayer and meditate on the Book of Life (the Bible). Do not give in to Satan’s condemning lies that you will never be redeemed and pure. Lastly, wait to have sex until you are married. Wait for your future spouse; pray for him or her. If you’ve already had sex before marriage, do not feel unworthy! You have not and will never mess up so much that God cannot redeem you. And, oh, what a beautiful redemption He offers.

-LMN

Markus & Laura Nielsen

Markus & Laura Nielsen

The Factory Church Makes Impact During Holidays

Local church ushers in the holiday season with a fun-filled night of candy and games, a Thanksgiving dinner for the church and community, a trip to Africa to provide drinkable water, and a New Year’s Eve baptism bash.

By: LAURA NIELSEN

WOODSTOCK, Ga.—The Factory will influence the community and the world through the upcoming holiday season.

December Festivities

Christmas trees with twinkling lights, angel trees to provide gifts for those in need, Christmas parties, and Christmas Eve services are all very common among churches in the United States. These occur once Thanksgiving has passed, to welcome in the Christmas season. However, The Factory church does not want to limit their reach to only the members of the church and the community around them, but to the people of the world.

Pastor Keith Norman and church members Chuck Ingram, Sandy Ingram, and Tom Hill will be traveling to Tanzania Dec. 1-9, for the opening of the second Factory well to provide clean water. It is Norman’s dream to fund a well every year in Tanzania to provide drinkable water to thousands of people who do not have access. This symbolizes the ultimate gift that the church wants to give to the people of Atlanta, all the way to Africa: the Living Water.

“People literally die,” said Norman. “Malaria, dirty water… they might have water but it’s dirty, so they literally die. When God put it in my spirit to build wells, [I knew it was] because it will draw people and we needed to have the Gospel preached at the wells. So, people get liquid water and Living Water.”

Pastor Keith Norman of The Factory Church
Pastor Keith Norman of The Factory Church

December will end as busily as it began. Instead of a typical party and countdown to midnight on Dec. 31, the church will be holding a service and baptizing those who have given their life to Christ afterwards.

“On Dec. 31, we are having church here,” said Shelley Davis, administrator of The Factory. “We are having a New Year’s Eve service that starts at 10 p.m. and we are doing baptisms. We will ring in the New Year baptizing people. I already have one person signed up!”

November Festivities

The Factory holds a monthly meeting called Inspire, where people of the community and of the church eat, pray, fellowship, and worship together. For the Inspire that is being held in November, a Thanksgiving twist will be added.

“Previous Inspire meetings that we’ve done are really for our church family to get to know each other better,” said Terri Hill, a leader of the compassion team at The Factory. “But, the November Inspire… we are opening up Inspire to both our church members and to those less fortunate to give them a full Thanksgiving dinner. We don’t want to only give them a meal, but welcome them into our family.”

Turkey, stuffing, green beans, and dressing is expected when it comes to Thanksgiving. However, the church has invited the residents of the Extended Stay to Inspire. Their mission is to serve them and also provide them with a friendship.

“We’ve done several outreaches to the Extended Stay motels that are in our general area,” said Hill. “So, when we think of people in our community, we immediately think of the residents of the Extended Stay. We have RSVPs from approximately 30-40 people, probably about 20 of them signed up and said they needed a ride. So, our church members will pick them up and bring them home. We didn’t want anyone to not be able to come because of transportation issues.”

October Festivities

The Factory ushered in the holiday season with Harvest Night in the parking lot of their church, Oct. 31. The event included games for the children such as bounce houses, an “eye ball” toss, basketball throw contest, and alternative bowling. Each child won candy for each game played and had a plethora of candy to take home. If candy was not enough, the children were offered cotton candy to increase their sugar high.

The adults enjoyed the opportunity to win homemade cakes or pies by participating in the cake walk. Each cake walk ticket was sold for $1 and the cake walk participants had a one in six chance in winning a homemade cake. If the cake walkers did not want to take the chance of losing, they could buy six tickets for $6 and automatically win a cake or pie of their choice.

Pranks were also involved during the duration of Harvest Night. For $5, attendees could secretly sign up someone to throw them in “jail” for ten minutes. The jail was made out of orange plastic, wooden poles, and four plastic chairs. A jail keeper stood outside the gate to make sure the prisoners could not escape. Many wives threw their husbands in jail and vice versa, parents put their kids in jail, and all proceeds went to benefit the church’s upcoming mission trip to Tanzania.

Two grills were cooking at a rapid pace, producing hamburgers and hot dogs for the attendees of Harvest Night. Drinks and chips were available to accompany the meat and tables were set up near the food distribution table for a place to sit.

“We had roughly 300-400 people roll through,” said Davis. “The biggest thing was the families that came back on Sunday because they had gotten candy here on Halloween and one of them got saved.”

Markus and Laura Nielsen at Harvest Night, Oct. 31.

Markus and Laura Nielsen at Harvest Night, Oct. 31.

The Factory’s Motto

The Holiday season offers an excess of opportunities for churches all over the country to reach out to those in need. However, The Factory takes its giving one step further. The church’s motto is “The Other Six Days.” This motto drives the leaders and members of the church to help those in need, not only on Sunday morning, but during the other six days of the week.

The Factory takes the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:19-20, very seriously. The verses state: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

To the members and leaders of the church, every day of the week is an opportunity to share Christ with the people around them, serve them the way Jesus served when He was on earth, and further the heavenly kingdom.

The Factory Church in Woodstock, Ga.

The Factory Church in Woodstock, Ga.

-Laura May Nielsen