Laura Story: When Normal Blows Up in Your Face
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What happens when you kiss normal goodbye? On FamilyLife Today, Dave & Ann Wilson host singer-songwriter Laura Story, who talks about life upended — a God who is enough to be our fortress and resting place.
Laura Story: When Normal Blows Up in Your Face
FamilyLife Today® National Radio Version (time edited) Transcript
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When Normal Blows Up in Your Face
Guest: Laura Story
From the series: Laura Story: So Long, Normal (Day 1 of 2)
Air date: April 4, 2022
Laura: We've had to begin to embrace that this is part of our lives. And it's not that God couldn't completely heal my husband; I know that God can. But for whatever reason, He hasn't chosen to do it in the timeframe that I expected/hasn't chosen to do it in the way that I would have wished. I really/I have a choice—I can either trust that His plan is best; I can either trust that His character is good—or I can't call him Lord anymore.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
So what's one thing that we did before the pandemic that you hope we never ever go back to?
Dave: I don't know; do you have an answer? I have an answer.
Dave: I mean, I immediately think we were crazy—I’m going to say I was crazy—traveling the country; doing marriage conferences; saying, “Yes,” to almost every ministry opportunity—so we're on planes; we're in hotels; we’re in churches, speaking—doing great things—but it was/we were fried.
Ann: I'm shocked that you're saying this. [Laughter] You thrive on this schedule.
Dave: You’re so/she’s so happy right now.
Ann: I’m so like, “Thank you, Jesus.”
Dave: She was telling me over and over: “We’ve got to slow down,” “We’ve got to slow down,” like—
Ann: I thought you loved it though.
Dave: I know, and what did I say every time? “Oh, we're just in a season. It'll end quickly”; and the season kept going. I kept saying, “Yes.” I'm/I'm blaming me.
Ann: And I wanted everything back to the way it used to be.
Dave: Yes; normal.
Ann: Yes. [Laughter]
Dave: I'm hoping we never go back to that. And the reason we're talking about this, is what?
Ann: We have Laura Story with us today in the studio. Laura, welcome.
Laura: Yay! Thanks so much for having me.
Dave: You’re sitting over here, like trying to jump in, as we’re having this little conversation.
Laura: No, no; I'm just listening and learning. Whenever I'm with you two, I just listen [Laughter]; and I just soak it all in.
Ann: Because you're thinking—
Dave: —just like our kids—our kids never said that to us/they never said, “We're learning from Mom and Dad.” [Laughter]
Ann: Because you should be thinking, “What not to do.”
Laura: Oh, come on.
Ann: “Oh, we just got it.”
Your book is So Long, Normal: Living and Loving the Freefall of Faith.
Ann: What a great title and subtitle that we can dig into a little bit.
Dave: Well, I mean, obviously, it sounds like you’re saying the same thing: So Long, Normal.
Dave: Does that mean: “We don't want to go back to normal?”
Laura: Well, I think a lot of it is the past couple of years have shown us how kind of fixated we can be on things getting back to normal—how much we can place our hope in—“Oh, if things could just be normal, and sturdy, and reliable, and things not get cancelled every/every time I turn around.” [Laughter] But I think what it's kind of opened our eyes to is we're looking to this world for a sturdy foundation that we should have never expected in the first place. And as believers, the Scriptures speak very clearly that there’s only one sure and steady thing; and that’s God.
So if nothing else, we've really learned to—no longer allow our hope to be set on the things of this world/on the normal of this world—but to set it upon our God.
Dave: And how did that work for you?—because you're a songwriter, singer, traveling artist.
Laura: Oh, gracious.
Ann: This is your third book.
Dave: I mean, you’ve got kids.
Laura: Yes. The best two years; interesting.
Ann: You’re married.
Dave: Your whole life had to be shut down as well; right?
Laura: Yes; and so me writing this—you know, there have been books before that I've written—like I've been kind of thinking about or studying something for a couple of years; and then, “Oh, I'm going to write a book about it.” This was very much what I was learning in real time, and that was a little bit scary. So even, you know, if you pick up the book, you may go, “Oh, it sounds like she's very much in process.” [Laughter]
I was kind of responding the same way that everyone else was those very early quarantine days of: “Everything’s being cancelled.” So for me, I’m completely off the road, just like overnight. Yes, the same thing you were talking about: where I probably had 40 to 50 trips; 2 to 3 of them being international trips.
Dave: Basically, everything was canceled.
Laura: Yes; so there's this anxiety of this thing that's my job. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, exactly.
Ann: And you are the provider in many ways.
Laura: Yes; I'll tell you the funniest thing—and moms can relate to this, especially working moms—I went from, you know, my Friday nights being spent on stage, where people are like clapping for songs I’ve just sung—to fixing dinner every/fixing three meals a day for all of these people; and them kind of turning their noses, “Oh, this?” [Laughter]
Dave: A little different reality; huh?
Ann: “People actually clap for me, you guys”; come on!
Laura: I know; I know. It was very, very jarring, but it really made me look at myself and go like, “Who am I apart from this thing that I do?”
Ann: Well, Laura, just give us a snapshot of your past—
Ann: —of what's happened.
Laura: Yes; so a big part of our story—which I think is what you're referring to is—so my husband, Martin, and I have been married for 18 years. They—
Laura: Yes; they've been wonderful years and hard years. Anyone [who’s] been married more than like 18 minutes knows that it’s going to be wonderful and hard at the same time. [Laughter]
Dave: It took us about eight.
Laura: Yes, yes; y'all are quick learners. But for us, it got hard pretty quick when Martin was diagnosed with a brain tumor within our first two years of marriage.
Dave: I mean, he fell asleep driving; right?
Laura: Yes; it was about a year of them trying to figure out what the problem was. When he was finally/when we finally got the news that it was a brain tumor, we scheduled the surgery. We were planning on going in and having the tumor removed; and then, maybe be in the hospital about a week. But it ended up, we were there for about three months; he endured a lot of complications.
And when we finally left/finally left that hospital, three months later, we were so excited about leaving; but it was clear to us, pretty quickly, that our life that we had known before, we couldn't necessarily return to it. Martin had a pretty substantial brain injury due to the surgery and the complications; and so that, really for us, was the beginning of embracing a new normal.
Ann: I was going to say you would never return to that normal that you used to have.
Laura: Yes, and it’s such a confusing thing also—not just as young/you know, newlyweds—but as believers. I think that we had this picture of what our marriage was going to look like, and even on some level, the picture of God's good plan for our lives. Even though the Bible doesn't teach this, I had somehow come to believe: “If I can just pray enough, be good enough, then God eventually will work things out the way that I think that He should for my circumstances.”
Laura: And so the past—I guess 16 years—has been a lot of us, obviously, growing in our faith. But more than that, I feel like so often I'm praying that prayer that Jesus did in the garden right before He faced the cross, where He says, “I wish things were different, but not My will but Yours be done.”
Dave: Now, was that a journey or did that come quickly? [Laughter] I mean, I'm thinking it was a journey. For me, it would be a—
Laura: Did you ask, “Was it a journey?” It is a journey. Man, if you came and saw us/if you watched us, day in and day out, you may wonder why we're not further along in it/in the journey than we are.
But it really is/it's something, where we've had to begin to embrace that: “This is part of our lives. It's not a season that we walk through.” That's/that's tough, too, because—as a minister/as a songwriter—I grew up in church, hearing people give testimonies about God's goodness. It always went something like this bad thing happened: “I surrendered it all and then, all of a sudden,—
Dave: —“I’m good.”
Laura: —“God fixed everything.” Yes; it took me a few years to realize it's just not going to be our story. And it's not that God couldn't completely heal my husband; I know that God can. But for whatever reason, He hasn't chosen to do it in the time frame that I expected; He hasn't chosen to do it in the way that I would have wished. I really/I have a choice—I can either trust that His plan is best; I can either trust that His character is good—or I can't call him Lord anymore.
Ann: Wow. You’re saying that—I think we/a lot of us say that, especially with what we've gone through these last few years, is like, “We just want to return to normal,”—and you're saying, “Is that a worthy enough goal?”
Laura: Yes. [Laughter] And you know God: God never speaks in Scriptures about normal being the goal.
Laura: One of the neatest things, as I was writing the book, it wasn't—I think I started off, thinking: “I just want to encourage people that just to not place their hope in normal,” and “Hey, we're going to make it through this,” and “It was going to be okay; God is with us.”
But the more I begin to look at the Scriptures—actually, it was pretty exciting—because what I began to see: it's not just that God is with us in our shakiness and in the chaos. What I saw was, story after story, of God doing incredible works through individuals, that every single one of those began with Him calling them away from that which was familiar and that which was comfortable.
Ann: Oh, give us an example.
Laura: You think about Mary. You think about the normal first years of marriage that she was expecting. And then, all of a sudden, she finds out that she's pregnant, before the wedding, with the Son of God. [Laughter]
Ann: How about that?
Ann: Seriously; it shifted everything in her life.
Laura: It truly did. But the neatest thing is to see that Mary's response was she simply says, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to Your word,”—and just this posture of—“Okay, this is not what I saw coming.”
Ann: I guess I'm not like Mary; like, “What? Wait, what are you doing, Lord?!”
Laura: “What? I need some more details, angel,”/“Angel that just showed up in my bedroom, I need some more details about this.” [Laughter] But rather, Mary just says, “I'm Your servant; let Your will be done.”
Dave: Although, I’ve just got to mention—I'm sure you feel this—sometimes, that's so hard.
Laura: Oh! All the time, that’s so hard.
Dave: Even when I read the title of your book, So Long, Normal, I'm like, “No! I don't want to say, ‘So long,’ to normal.” There's a part of me that's like, “I like the familiar. I like knowing what today is going to carry into tomorrow.” And when that doesn't happen, there's this disappointment that grips us; at times, we’re like, “Oh, I'm disappointed. I like normal, but…” Answer that.
Laura: One of the things that I even talk about in the book is that we don't need to beat ourselves up about desiring normal;—
Dave: Yes; yes.
Laura: —because in a lot of ways, we were created for that. We were created for the stability and the protection of the garden. We were created to live in such sweet community with our Father that it kind of makes sense why. Because a lot of what we want from normal—when you think about like, “What am I looking for in just hoping things will get back to normal?”—well, we don't want our hearts to be broken; we don't want our expectations to be dashed; we're looking for predictability and protection, because we were created for that.
One of the stories that I talk about a little bit was looking at the Israelites that are/they've left Egypt. They've left the yoke of slavery in Egypt, and they're headed to the Promised Land. They get in such a weary state—I don't know if this sounds familiar at all—[Laughter]—they get to such a weary state that they begin to think about: “Oh, wasn't it so great?—all we had in Egypt.”
Laura: “No, no; you were slaves.” But they began to think/think back to it and just kind of painting pictures way better than they had it. But the thing—I think it's Psalm 90, where the psalmist talks about the Lord being their dwelling place from generation to generation—it's not going back to the old way of stability, and it's not even placing our hope upon a stability in the future that may or may not come. It's believing our stability, now, is found in a person: the Lord is our dwelling place, and we can rest in Him.
Ann: I have a good friend: her son was diagnosed with cancer when he was ten.
Laura: Oh, gracious!
Ann: The family was rocked and devastated. It was stage four, and so they really thought that this son would not make it. And she said, every single day, she was like: “I just want my life back to what it was. I just want to get back to normal.” And so every single night, she said, “I could not get through an hour without God,” and “I was on my knees, begging God, ‘I pray, God, that You would let him live.’” And she said, “I have never ever felt the closeness of God the way I did.” She said “I felt His presence in a way that I felt Him next to me; I had His peace.” She said it was supernatural.
Miraculously, he was healed. He went through treatment; he's now close to 30,—
Ann: —and he's becoming a doctor. But she just told me the other day/she said, “This is going to sound crazy—because I was begging God to get back to normal—and now that I'm back to normal, I'm petrified because I miss the days—
Ann: —“that I needed Jesus so desperately. Because now, I can get through a day without Him; and that scares me to death.”
Laura: Wow! Even how we do ministry and how we reflect God to others—you know, when things are normal—we have a way of coming across as very independent and self-sufficient.
Laura: But the Scriptures teach us so clearly that God is most glorified in our dependence and when our need for Him is showcased. When our weakness is seen, His strength is seen all the more through us.
I can definitely say that what we’ve walked through, as a family—and not walked through, but what we currently walk through—it puts us in a place of dependence, both on God and on others; it puts us in a place of utter neediness. Like I/I can't even begin to tell you how not put together we are. [Laughter] If you were to come to my house, you'd be like, “Whoa!” You might call like some government services or something. But the truth is: we/our neediness for God is seen very clearly. I used to think that was a bad thing.
Laura: But now, I know that His strength is seen through my weakness—and I know that, not just in an: “Oh, I know that verse,”—but I know that in a very real and tangible way.
Dave: Yes; it's interesting, even listening to you just make those remarks, you’ve got a smile on your face; you're laughing. It isn't just, you know, “He's my source of strength.” It's actually—you tell me if I'm reading it wrong—but He's even your source of joy—
Laura: Yes, absolutely.
Dave: —in the middle of the valley.
Laura: There's a verse in Proverbs 31. It’s funny when women talk about [Laughter] Proverbs 31.
Laura: You're like, “Uh, there's not a whole lot that I could relate to there.” [Laughter] But it talks about how this woman says she clothes herself in fine linens, and she laughs at the days to come. I've always looked at that verse and thought, “If someone was describing me, it would probably be something like, ‘She clothes herself in free women’s event T-shirts; [Laughter] and she lies awake at night, wringing her hands at the days to come.’” I'd say—
Ann: Oh, I think a lot of us do that, as women.
Laura: Yes; I'd say that that is who I've been for a long time. But a few years ago, I just came to a point, where I said, “If I believe God to be who He says He is, then I cannot live that way any longer.”
Ann: What happened that took you there?
Laura: Well, I turned 40. [Laughter] I turned 40 and had one of those, like: “When I grow up, I'm going to be more spiritual,” “When I grow up, I'm going to be this”; “…I'm going to be that.” But realizing—I don't really know what it was—something about—
Ann: You realize, “I am grown up.”
Laura: Well, the other thing is—not to go too deep on this—but when you have children, you begin to see things about your life that you didn't see before.
Dave: Oh, let's talk.
Ann: They're like a mirror.
Dave: What did you see?
Laura: [Laughter] Things like—so one of my twins—so we have a 9-year-old named Josie; twin boys, Ben and Griffin; and then our little Timothy, who's 3. One day—this was/this was just a few months ago—Benjamin/I'm doing bedtime with him; and he says to me, “Mom, I want to have a day that's so stressed out.” [Laughter]
Laura: I said, “What?!”; and he goes, “Just where, like you pick us up; and we're going so fast—we're running to this and that—and we're just so stressed out. We just do so many things so fast; we're so stressed out.” [Laughter] I’m thinking, “Oh, my gracious; this is what I'm teaching my children.” [Laughter]
But back to kind of the Proverbs 31 picture, I truly want to be that person that—when my kids look at my God through me/when they begin to learn about who God is—do they really believe, not just through my words, but through my life that He is provider? If I tell them: “He is our provider,” “He is enough; we can depend on Him”; but I'm going to come up with Plan A, B, C, D, and E,—
Ann: Oh yes.
Laura: —just in case. Or do they see me trusting God so much that I truly can be that woman that laughs at the days to come?
Dave: How do we do So Long, Normal. How do we do it? It's so easy to hold onto it [normal], and to almost grasp it; it's almost like our security. And you're saying, “No, it's time to say goodbye to normal.” How do we say, “Goodbye”?
Laura: Well, I think there's some people that are being called to say, “Goodbye to normal”; and whether that's just a new chapter that they're just not quite ready to leave that old chapter. For some people, normal is a goodbye to them—whether that's the end of a marriage or whether that's just the next season of life—that's/you know, a new job/just something that's happened to make them need to embrace it.
I think, more than anything, it's acknowledging that—and I just said this earlier—but acknowledging that the stability and security that we're looking for in our circumstances—circumstances will let us down—that we can only find that temporarily. But the fact that we have someone/the person of God—that His character is sturdy; the fact that He/His nature is unchanging: the same yesterday, today and forever; and His promises are rock solid—that that's the sturdiness; and that's all the sturdiness we could ever need is found in Him. I know that that's a hard thing, especially when people are going through such tough chapters.
I think the bigger thing that God has been showing me, regarding that is, that sometimes, He allows those faulty, less secure normal. Sometimes, He actually sovereignly allows those things to come out from under us; because of His love and mercy.
Shelby: When I was a kid, I was raised as a military brat—meaning my dad was in the Air Force, and we traveled all the time—so normal, for me, was constant change. I remember going through that, and just despising the fact that it was constantly shaking up my life—the moves every year or two—constantly shaking things up and making me feel like I longed for a different life.
But looking back on that now, as an adult, the change is what made me who I am today. So my normal, even though it didn't feel like normal, was actually something that God was using and weaving all through my childhood to prepare me for the ministry that I'm in today. And now, I'm grateful.
Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking today with Laura Story to help us understand that “normal” can be thrown out of whack in our lives. And it's often what God uses to shape and form us more into the image of His Son Jesus. And that's always/always a good thing.
She has written a book called So Long, Normal: Living and Loving the Freefall of Faith. We believe in this book; and when you head over to FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation of any amount, we want to send you a copy of Laura Story’s book, So Long, Normal. This book will help you process the trauma of loss of your normal in the past—learn to rest in God's plan for you—instead of constantly trying to control your circumstances and so much more. When you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a donation, you can request your copy there. We'll send you one as a thank-you gift. Or you could call us at 1-800-358-6329; that's 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”
Often, when we think about normal, we want things to be just easy. And so many times in marriage, when we're examining both us and our spouse, things are not normal. Things feel very out of whack, in fact; and that's one of the reasons why we, at FamilyLife, have created the Weekend to Remember® event. Today is the last day that you could sign up and get 43 percent off, as a couple, when you register at FamilyLifeToday.com.
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Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking, again, with Laura Story about the fact that, sometimes, God changes our normal for a very specific purpose. That's coming up tomorrow. We hope you can join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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