eighty-eight percent.

This is real life.

“Man, I’m hungry. Oo, a commercial for Taco Bell on Pandora! No, no, that’s not a good idea. My stomach and my husband will hate me later. But I want it. I want its greasy 88% real meat, 12% ‘signature recipe’ to fill my belly!”

Fumbles for car keys, gathers belongings, and rushes out the door. Fast forward to a drive-thru window.

“Umm, yeah. Could I have that 9 x 3 plastic bowl full of carbohydrates, fat, cheese, tomatoes (veggie point of the day!), and the substitute you call ‘meat’ in there? Oh, and a large diet coke (that should cancel it out)? Thanks.”

Commence eating devouring a delicious Nachos Bell Grande. Soda in hand, though barely drank, serves as momentary pauses in the cave man-esque eating process. Fingers are drenched in processed cheese, sour cream, and..um…beef? I think?

“Shew. What time is it? Oh, it’s only been 10 minutes? Well, um, my food’s all gone. And I still have 30 minutes before my next class comes in…I wonder if I still have any candy in my purse.”

I like to call that “The Lunch of Poor Decisions and Regret”. It happened today, actually. We all have those meals. And, if you have as little self control as I do when it comes to delectable treats, maybe it happens about 16 of your weekly 21 meals.

16 of 21. 88%.

That about describes my efforts in eating healthy and the amount of ‘healthy’ lacking  in my diet…88%. Like Taco Bell’s meat. An 88% effort toward real, hearty meat. Which means I am literally living out the phrase “You are what you eat” with my 88% meat, my 88% healthy-eating effort, and my 88% amount of ridiculously fatty, high-fructose corn syrup foods that make up my diet.

And those foods are 100% delicious. Take that, 88%.

Inserts cinnamon twist in mouth.

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redemption.

I hope no one ever describes me as dramatic. And friends, if I am, slap my face silly. Last thing I want is to be one cat fight shy of starring on Real World: Upland…Umm, I just found the next greatest MTV show.

But I admit I need a hefty cry fairly often. The kind that makes you feel weak, tired, and like you want to put baggy sweatpants and an ugly shirt on and call it a day. Who cares if it’s 9 in the morning? You feeling me, ladies? And gents, I suppose. Ain’t no shame in bein’ the sensitive type. This week, I’ve had my fair share of those. Some sob fests were less pleasant and healing than others, but all necessary.

I.e. this morning. I have been unbelievably blessed by truth spoken over me since my last post. Between receiving a loving message from my grandma and hearing from a woman I haven’t seen in almost 3 years about God’s amazing work in her life through similar struggles, I’ve been overwhelmed with reminders of Christ’s acceptance of me and constant presence. I am truly learning that what is hidden in darkness will be revealed in the light; and when it emerges from the shadows, the enemy’s grip weakens to hardly nothing.

An incredibly beautiful friend shared the book Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning with me a few days ago; I am psyched and, admittedly, terrified to open its binding. A book that may expose even more layers of unhealed wounds and insecurities?

Tissues will be in arm’s reach. Always.

With it, she also gave me 4 pages (homegirl is awesome) of poignant Bible verses and quotes from Manning’s book to encourage this process of identity formation and being comfortable with having an intimate, exposed relationship with God. Hence, this morning’s mini-sob fest. I’d like to leave you with one of Manning’s quotes.

“While the imposter draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness.  We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary mystical experiences but in our scruple presence in life.”

I am so grateful for this girl’s friendship and others like her who walk with me and approach the throne with me during times of great insecurity and anxiety.

My heart is heavy but our God is redeeming it daily in small yet refreshing experiences. I pray he does the same for you.

identity crisis.

Hi, my name is Laura Armstrong and I am in the midst of a quarter-life identity crisis.

“Hi, Laura” says the ICVA (Identity Crises Victims Anonymous) crowd.

Could it be because I’m currently working a part-time job that has nothing to do with my field of study, making me feel completely incapable of achieving what I hope to do with my life? Is it the fact that I had to give up a last name that became an identification marker for years and the basis of a lot of fun nicknames? Maybe it’s that I’m a newly married, young woman who is trying to find her bearings as a new wife. Or could it be that I desperately miss and crave the community that is no longer down the road or in the same house as me?

I’ll take “All of the above” for 400, please, Alex.

Even worse, I don’t know how to make it go away. I find my interactions with others seeping with insecurity. Am I upsetting them? Did I do something to make them not want to be around me anymore? Have I lost my extroverted side?

The volume of questions that circle in my mind is deafening.

I gotta be real. I struggle with blog posts like this. The ones that are honest and vulnerable. Mainly because I think, “Save it for your journal, honey. You’re making other people uncomfortable and like they have to do something about your problems.”

This is mean and not right, I know. And for those who I know who blog like this, keep it up. I’m just jealous I can’t be that transparent. It stems from a deep cynicism which has actually improved over the years. So thank you, Jesus, for that.

And thank you, Jesus, for  shaping my identity. For telling me that regardless of where I am, my job (ESPECIALLY my job), friendships, my appearance, etc. that you are the basis of my identity. When I was in junior high, my youth leader imparted great wisdom to the gangly and awkward:

“Find your identity in what does not change. Find it in Jesus Christ”

12 years later, that phrase still pierces my heart. I am so quick to find who I am in the affirmation of my friends, the love of my husband, or an image I can portray to others. But in fact, friends and husbands make mistakes, and I do not have the strength to wear the mask of confidence and security 24/7.

So why talk about this? Why not save it for my journal where the Lord and I can duke it out. Because I need help with this. I need my friends to point me toward Christ before they point me toward their love for me. I need truth spoken to me that reminds me that whatever anxiety and insecurity I feel is but a grain of sand as compared to the vast ocean of God’s acceptance and identity of me as his daughter. I need the bind of the enemy’s hand to shrivel in the light of what God says is true.

I’m currently in the middle of a high school hallway writing this, listening to a Taylor grad teacher in the other room talk about how a kid tried to share a joint with him while he lived on campus. That’s weird. But what’s weirder is that I’m about one hug away from tears in the middle of a day of substituting. I feel a great sense of sadness underpinned with an overwhelming calm–like when I cry uncontrollably in the arms of my husband, feeling every emotion x100 but knowing that I’m safe within his grasp. In this way, he is such a physical representation of God’s embrace. I love him for that.

And today, I’m going to trust the voice of one who says this,

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” – John 1:12

I am shamelessly a work in progress. I am wrecklessly loved by my Creator. I am eternally identified by Jesus Christ.

there’s scuff marks on the ceiling.

While I wish I could say we accomplished every goal we set out for ourselves in Vegas, the value of my dignity and smart money habits took precedence. Nevertheless, it was an awesome experience.

Now before you get your panties in a bunch because I don’t have pictures of us gambling, me dancing with Elvis (which COULD happen. He IS alive.), or señor dressed as a showgirl with Barry Manilow, I should warn you this was a very tame Vegas trip. No drag, no throwing money away, no sinful hip-swinging.

But there was rugby.

Rugby Sevens to be exact. Traditional rugby has 15-minute halves but Rugby Sevens has 7-minute halves. So we sat and watched about 60 games from 9 am – 9 pm Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm on Sunday. I was a dedicated fan. And HOLY CANOLI it is so intense! I can’t even begin to describe it. Luckily, I have picture documentation of the carnage–and what HAD to be going through the players’ minds at the time.

i hate the shirt you’re wearing

and i have somewhere to be.

baby, please don't gooooooooo.

goodbye, children.

goodbye, sternum.

his nighttime dance passion came out a little early in the rugby game. so embarrassing.

can you guess what team they're rooting for? my favorite fans.

'at least i have my kangaroo to comfort me after this loss' says the Aussie

Out of the 200 some-odd pictures that I took of the event, nothing really captured how incredibly barbaric and awesome this sport is. Real men play rugby. Just sayin’.

In addition to the sights and sounds of rugby, we also did some touristy-things including The Lion King on stage (naaaaa see waaaaynyaaaa), staying at the Bellagio Hotel (totes saw Terry Benedict and Danny Ocean…twice), and exploring Las Vegas Boulevard.

That last picture pretty much sums up Vegas. Sin City, you get an A+. Even with the scuff marks we found on our hotel room ceiling. Weird.

what happens in vegas.

Is gettin’ posted on the internet!

In precisely 4 days, señor and I are headed to the Las Vegas with my fam. I was inspired by this creative lady to write about our upcoming Sin City trip!

Let’s start with our goals:

  1. Win thousands of $$ to pay off our student loans. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
  2. Shout ‘All I do is win, win, win’ every time I walk the strip…with my hands up. And they’ll stay there.
  3. Use my new camera lens often. Legit photographer style.
  4. Go see the Blue Man Group. The real ones–not the TU wannabes from 2008. Although they were great! Rhyming!
  5. Win a car. Or 3.
  6. Get me some dam bait!
  7. Relive moments from Vegas Vacation as often as possible.
  8. …And scenes from Ocean’s 11. Minus the money-stealing. Maybe.

Señor is also compiling a music playlist. If you know him at all, you know it includes lots of classical music, soothing jazz, and Michael W. Smith (at least 4 songs).

I lie.

Try Jay-Z, Rihanna, Lil’ Weezy, Biggie Smalls and other people with names they were not given at birth. Our plane ride should be quite the party. Hope passengers don’t mind if I play our classy taste in music out loud on my iPad. Pre-Vegas plane party!

Did I mention we’ll be there over Valentine’s Day? We’re really hoping the genuine love and strive for committed relationships that seems to permeate in this town will really make our love overflow for each other. I mean, do you have any idea how many chapels there are in Vegas?! THEY LOVE MARRIAGE. Goodness, we are lucky.

Vegas, baby. VEGAS.