Single, Party of One: Peace, Purpose, + Clarity in the Solitude

3 months ago I deleted my online dating apps. I haven’t looked back since.

Full disclosure. I’ve been hesitant to write about this topic, but God has a funny way about Him. I have a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I was married. Later divorced. And then back into the throes of dating in my mid-thirties. It’s been on my heart to start sharing, but I wanted to be careful about my approach. I didn’t want to come off bitter, hurt, broken, or a “man hater” because I’m not. Actually, I’m the complete opposite. I love men. Like, really love them. And if anything, I’ve grown grateful for them. Recently, I’ve actually had a few people (both men and women!) request that I start sharing more about dating and relationships; the confirmation needed for me to start authentically sharing about recent life. While it hasn’t always fun, maybe God has been lining everything up for a bigger purpose? Maybe His hand has been writing every detail of my story to get me right here, exactly where I’m meant to be? I believe it has.

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Grit, Grace, + Tattoos: How God Can Create A Miracle Through The Little Things

A tattoo. Yep, just another out-of-box experience for me since turning 35.

I wanted to take a risk. I wanted out of my comfort zone. I wanted to do something a little unpredictable. My best friend and I both happened to be off on a random Tuesday and we decided to be spontaneous and go for it. I knew the placement of the tattoo on my left forearm. I knew it was going to SAY something. And I knew it was going to STAND for something. But honestly, it wasn’t until that Tuesday morning that God spoke clearly to me.

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“She laughs.”

Yessss!  It became clear.  That was it.  I felt peace and a smile was plastered on my face as Erin and I rushed to the tattoo studio, late, stuck in traffic.  (Yeah, yeah…I know, I’m always late!  I swear, I’m working on it!)

You might be asking, why “She laughs”? 

If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know the past several years have been…well, to be perfectly frank, pretty dang hellish.  I’d like to refer to it as a VERY long season of pruning.  I was stripped at every level.  Health, heartbreak, career, finances, and it felt like with each passing day, it was more loss and disappointment.  My faith was tested.  I was exhausted.  I grew discouraged.  But while I would allow the space for tears, I kept meditating on Proverbs 31:25.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, she laughs at the days to come.” 

I would keep moving forward.  Even with the faith of a mustard seed.  I made the decision to live from a posture of joy, hope, love, and faith.  I promised myself that I would laugh and smile my way through this life, trusting God’s faithfulness.  That He has me in the palm of His hand.  That He loves me so much as His beloved daughter that He has only the best planned for me in my life.  The best job for me and my skills and experiences.  A healed body.  A loving, trusting relationship with a strong man of character.  Joy and abundance.  Opportunity.  When all is stripped, there is no other way than to rebuild.  And rebuild is what I have done.  With each passing loss, I have gained.  And I will continue to gain.  No matter how badly it hurts.  And no matter how many times I get pinned down.  I will get up with style and grace.  I will smile.  And I will laugh. 

So let’s talk miracles.  I believe in miracles both big and small.  I believe they surround us everywhere; we encounter them everyday.  And even when we don’t notice them, they’re there.  Waiting for us. 

I noticed an old co-worker following the tattoo studio I went to on Instagram.  And so for whatever reason, I decided to reach out to her.  And through our conversation about tattoos, we began to catch up on life.  And she shared with me a job opening at work.  A job that sounded like a perfect fit for me.  A job that would use the education, skills, and experiences I’ve acquired over the years.  A job that would provide more stability.  A job that would allow for growth and opportunity.  And job that would provide me benefits (after having NONE for the past two years...ick). 

I applied.  I interviewed.  I got the job.  And I start on Monday.

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I reconnected with an old co-worker.  Learned about an opportunity.  Took advantage of the opportunity by acting on it.  And accepted a job offer that will redirect my path in a very positive way and help me continue the rebuilding process.  All from the crazy decision to get a tattoo on a random Tuesday. 

And I laughed. 

Alas, my big miracle!  Thank you, Jesus!  But if I’m being totally truthful, God was with me all along.  In the midst of the little things.  Preparing + refining me.  Teaching me a valuable lesson about grace.  Strengthening me.  Perfecting me.  These too, miracles within. 

Listen closely…He is with us in the ashes.  He seeks us out of hiding.  He carries us.  And He rejoices with us.  If you are in your own season of pruning right now - know that I feel for you.  My life is not perfect.  It has been messy.  I have not always made the best decisions. I have had moments when I have grown angry with God.  I have yearned for the desires of my heart.  And I have been disappointed and heartbroken.  But here I am, a warrior, here to tell you that you are too!  Look for the glimmers of beauty.  The rays of hope.  The windows of opportunity.  Miracles are here.  Waiting for you.  For the perfect time.  To change everything.  All because of Him.

Grit, grace, + tattoos, oh how I thank thee.  You’ve allowed me to witness God, the Miracle Maker in action…in the little things.  After pruning comes a great harvest.  Get ready for a season of abundance, because it’s ready for you + me.  Laughing.

xx.

 "The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.  The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." (Psalm 145:13‭-‬16)

 

Why I Toss Protocol in the Trash

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I got beef.  With the wellness industry.  With diets.  With fads.  With super foods.  With protocol. Call me crazy.  And maybe you will (and that's okay).  But here's why.

If you know my story, you know I wasn't physically well.  I struggled with various health challenges since I was 16 years old. I had severe digestive issues that spiraled out of control which led to anxiety and depression.  I had irregular menstrual cycles, prolonged bleeding (sometimes lasting 45 days), hormonal imbalances.  Nausea.  Skin rashes and breakouts.  Weight gain and rapid weight loss.  Difficulty putting sentences together.  Worsening food allergies.  Bone and joint pain.  Excessive fatigue.  When I was married, I was told my body was unable to sustain a healthy pregnancy.  And at my worst, trembling in my hands.  I was terrified.  I didn't know what was happening to me.  Nobody did.  Not even the doctors that were supposed to have all of the answers.  

Years of questioning and frustration led me on a path to become my own healthcare advocate.  Instead of wallowing.  Instead of being paralyzed by fear.  Instead of giving up.  I took matters into my own hands.  I researched.  I talked to wellness experts.  I enrolled in an integrative nutrition program.  And I set out on a journey to make changes in my life.  Healthy changes.  I was paving my own way towards healing.  

Gluten free.  Grain free.  Soy free.  Egg free.  Dairy Free.  Hemp.  Turmeric.  Lots and lots of kale.  Raw juices.  Detox programs.  Wheatgrass shots.  Supplements.  Fermented foods.  You name it.  

Yeah, I lost weight.  Rapidly.  But I got worse.  My symptoms intensified.  How?  Why?  I was doing everything right!  I was living a healthy lifestyle!  I fell to my knees, crying out to God for help.   

What I learned is that I had a genetic mutation that was working against me.  My body wasn't able to eliminate toxins like a "normal" person without the mutation.  Our fat cells store toxins.  And as I would lose weight, those toxins were released into my body, circulating throughout my bloodstream without an exit strategy.  What resulted was underlying inflammation which led to some pretty serious health challenges.  As I got an understanding for my body, I was able to make appropriate changes that were safe for me and my body's needs.  But those changes did not include fad foods or specific trending protocols.  It included an intuitiveness and the knowing of my own body with the help of a humble practitioner I found who did things the old school way (no receptionist, no computer, not even an answering machine - say whaaat?!).  He wasn't in it for the money, for the fame, for the sale of his product.  He was in it to peel back the layers of the one + only me.  And guess who was in the driver's seat?  God + me.  

Here's a dose of truth.  Dr. So and So's general protocol wasn't going to help me.  They didn't know my body like me.  They didn't know my underlying genetics.  And the fact is, our bodies are living and dynamic, ever changing.  What I need today may not be what I need tomorrow.  And so forth.  Two people can be diagnosed with the same exact condition, but they may require two very different forms of treatment based on their unique body's needs.  It's called Bioindividuality.  And we need to keep it in mind on the healing journey.  

Here's what else I want to tell you.  Sometimes when our health spirals out of control and we are looking for answers, [x] diagnosis becomes something we identify with.  And on our quest for answers, our practitioners or certain products and/or supplements easily become our lifeline, our God.  The end all be all.  The source of our healing.  The answer we seek.  

Now, please know that I am not bashing practitioners.  They have been blessed with a set of gifts in order to diagnose and bring treatment options to the table for those suffering with health conditions.  But I don't want us to get lost and lose our focus on two important facts.  

1.  You are not your diagnosis.  

2.  God is ultimate Healer.

Be firm in who God says you are.  I have seen far too many chronic illness "online chatrooms" that only confuse, overwhelm, and scare its members.  Many, many members then allow fear to consume them and rule their lives, filling them with lies of who they are.  They live labeled by their diagnosis.  Not all, but I do believe many practitioners prey on these fears.  I fell for it too.  And that's why I do things differently in my practice.   

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Your Creator never called you by your diagnosis.  He called you, Beloved.   And He wants you to experience an abundant life, regardless of your circumstances.  Receive it!  Sometimes this abundance takes form of healing miracles.  Sometimes spiritual growth.  Sometimes beauty in the midst of chaos.  Sometimes bringing hope and inspiration to others facing similar trials.  But you were saved by blood shed so that you could experience abundance.  Live it.  Feel it.  Believe it.

So, I'm here to say, rise above protocol.  Get to know your body.  Take a stand for it.  Love it + nourish it with God's Truth and the food and movement that only your body knows it needs.  Open yourself to healing and grace.  Turn to the only One.  Let go of labels.  And allow Him to lead you on your path towards wellness.  

Peace, Love, + Healing!

xx

[If interested in learning more, head on over to "Contact" and send me over a quick message!  I'd love to hear from you!]

 

Dear Captor of my Heart

Dear Captor of my Heart:

Whoever you are, I'm not sure we've met yet...but I know you're out there somewhere.  I feel you.  It's almost as if time and space have been obliterated and somehow we are connected.  And I hope that you are okay.  I pray you feel peace.  I pray that you are full of joy.  I pray you are overwhelmed with love.  

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Today I am single and I celebrate Valentine's Day without you.  I bought myself roses and little cheesecakes shaped in hearts; I treated myself.  No, I'm not throwing myself a pity party and it's certainly not because I feel sad.  It's because I am whole.  And with or without you, my heart is content.  I have walked into my worthiness as a woman.  I now carry myself as a daughter of the Highest King.  I know who I am.  I know what I stand for.  I know what I won't settle for.  And I know what I'm waiting for, with you.  

I want you to know something.  I need you to be strong.  I need you to know that as God's son, you are called to lead me.  To carry me.  To be of wisdom.  To cherish me.  To honor me.  To love me deeply, passionately, and sacrificially.  

Don't get me wrong; I too am strong.  I am a resilient warrior, an overcomer, a victor because of Christ.  But while my feet are firmly planted in The Word and I wear the armor of God each and every day...sometimes I stumble.  I have moments of despair.  I have times when I need you to hold me.  To come alongside me.  To challenge me.  To encourage me.  To push me. To point me to Truth. To love me. To be my other half.

Know that you are worthy of my love just as you are worthy of God's.  You are His handiwork.  You are a leader.  You have His muscle; His power is within you.  And so I pray you walk with confidence.  No, not arrogance, my love.  But quiet confidence, knowing that you have God and me right alongside you.  When we look at you, we can't help but smile at the man you have become.  I know your life hasn't always been easy.  I know you have been through the trenches.  I know you have suffered loss and heartbreak.  And I know you feel broken at times.  Lost.  Lonely. Even afraid.  But I want you to know, my sweet, you were never abandoned.  God has been right there beside you, pouring out His compassion and extending His grace for all that guilt and shame you carry.  You are released from that bondage.  You have been set free.  And He will guide you.  He will love you.  No matter what. 

I know you feel pain, Handsome.  Maybe even insecurity at times.  But I want you to know that your life is a beautiful story.  All of the wounds.  All of the pain.  The darkness I know you want to forget.  But all along, there has been a glimmer of beauty, of light.  All of it has been equipping you for this very moment.  Preparing you.  Refining you.  Readying your feet to lead others, to inspire, to provide hope.  Your story, my courageous man, is meant to leave a major impact in this world.  It is meant to glorify God.  It is integral in the telling of His story.  And it is meant to bring others to our Father's amazing love.  His miracle-working power.  

Just as I need you, you need my love too.  God has meant for us to come together as one.  We are stronger together.  We have better return for our labor.  When one of us falls, we can help each other up.  We can keep each other warm.  We can defend each other.  And our love, together with God at the center, will not be a cord easily broken (Ecc 4:9-12).  

I love you.  I look at you with adoration.  I honor you.  I respect you.  Thank you for all that you are.  Thank you for finding me.  Thank you for showing me the love of a man that I have missed for so long.  Thank you for cherishing all that I am.  Even my own broken pieces.  

I can't wait for our life together.  The memories.  The wild goose chase.  The highs, the lows, the falls, and the triumphs.  For our precious children; our little blessings from God.  I can't wait to see you in their faces.  I can't wait for your little quirks to shine through in their personalities.  I can't wait to watch them grow.  To equip them for this fallen world together. With God as our guidepost.  

We will have moments that we can't keep our hands off of each other walking through the grocery store.  Or even at the movie theater.  Moments when we are in alignment, connected, and passionate.  But we will fight.  We will have times of disconnect.  And yet we always find our way back to one another.  And somehow we come back stronger than ever.  That's because we choose to relentlessly love one another.  We won't let the evil one destroy that which is good.  Our enemy wants us to destruct.  Our light of love shines so brightly that he will want to come between us.  But we are wiser than that.  And we fight our battles through prayer and Truth.  He has nothing on us.  He will fall at our feet.  And we will stand unshaken.  

Until then, I am praying for you.  Please know that I am okay.  I am full of God's love and I feel such joy and peace, like never before.  In the meantime, I am continuing on with my own mission.  And he is preparing me for you.  And you for me.  For when that precious day comes.  

So this Valentine's Day, I celebrate.  I celebrate the love I have within.  The amazing love of my Holy Creator.  The Author of my life.  The one who will bring me you.  

With love, my darling, Happy Valentine's Day.  

xx, Lauren

 

 

2017: The Year I Found My Muscle

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A new year is always a time of reflection; a summing up of the year past, and the start of a new chapter. 

I could call 2017 a lot of things.  The Year of the Rollercoaster.  The Year I Got The Wind Knocked Out of Me. The Year of Multiple Heartbreaks.  Or maybe The Year I found My Muscle.  Whatever it was, it was another year of refinement.  And here's what God taught me along the way:

1.   Never Settle

A finalized divorce.  A job I felt loyal to, yet consumed me.  A single income that wasn't always pretty.  Opening my heart again to dating in my 30s which proved to be much more difficult than I ever imagined.  Disappointment.  Hurt.  And with my life not looking anything like I wanted it to, a yearning for more. 

What I knew was that none of these things defined me.  My relationship status.  My job.  My income.  None of it was my identity.  God reminded me to keep my eyes fixed on Him.  On being a daughter to The Most High King.  It was He who taught me my value.  He who taught me my worth.    And He taught me to never let the aforementioned things above to strip me or deplete me.  He was my answer to being whole; He alone carved my identity.  With him, I was unshakeable.  And so I put my confident trust in Him, even through the momentary pain.  And I decided that I will never settle for less than ever again. 

2.  Relentless Love Regardless...

"You have heard it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also...And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matthew 5:38-41)

Let me be perfectly honest here.  Last year I had moments of weakness.  Moments of despair. I tripped up.  And it wasn't always a perfect walk.  There were times when I had to turn my other cheek. And there were moments that I had keep my head held high and walk away.  But through it all, God taught me to love.  Only by Him.  While the former me would have been defensive, angry, tit for tat - I wasn't.  Yes, I had times when I wanted to shut down, when I wanted to build a wall up around my heart - but I didn't.  Transformed, He taught me to be secure in Him.  And as a result,  I was able to radiate love through all circumstances.  And I will continue to keep my heart open.  I will continue to love relentlessly.  All because He first relentlessly loved me. 

3.  Grace, Grace, + More Grace

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"Grace, Lauren.  Grace.  Be a woman of grace."  His whisper followed me to be strong and courageous.  To be a warrior.  To clothe myself in strength and dignity.  To know and stand for what is right and wrong.  To  love valiantly, yet to forgive.  To extend the grace that is extended to me every single day.  To stand up for myself, yet be merciful.  To carry myself in a way that honors God and honors myself.  And so I did just that.  With no regrets.  None.

4.  Leaps of Faith

Sometimes God calls you to make a bold move.  Sometimes you just need a shake-up.  Sometimes you just have to say yes to the adventure.  And so I did.  Dare I say that I quit my full-time job in marketing to pursue my own business?  All because I wanted to live authentically.  A life of balance.  A life that I preached.  And dare I say that I am now working at a high-end restaurant as a server for the first time in my life to help make some extra income?  Yep, it's true.  And I have no shame.  God has called me into unchartered waters for this season for a reason.  And I am going along for the adventure, trusting His provision.  Full of hope. 

I leave 2017 better than when it started.  Grateful for it all - the good and the bad - all of it beautiful because of who I became. 

Never settle.  Love relentlessly regardless.  Be of grace and extend grace.  Take leaps of faith.  And believe in the Goodness of God.

2018 already feels promising.  I will live with fire in my heart.  I will seek only a relationship where I am loved and cherished.   I will live a life led by my values.  I will live passionately.  I will follow my dreams.  I will live with love.  I won't back down.  I will never give up.  I will follow my God with intentional obedience.   And I will move forward with anticipation.  Trusting.  With belief. 

2018:  The Year of The Comeback. 

xx, Lauren

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get Ready...

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Jesus.

I’ve uttered His name on my lips more times than I can count over the past few years as I’ve walked through dark valleys and stood high on mountaintops.  I feel a great warmth cover my body and tears flood my eyes at the power of His Great Name.  Even a whisper, “Jesus”, and everything changes. 

My prayer list is growing.  I keep adding to the list family members, friends, acquaintances, people and situations that don’t even know I exist.  I don’t mention this to boast of my prayer life, but because the apparent brokenness in this world is becoming more and more evident as I talk with people new and old and begin to ask questions.  Or when I see the divisiveness, tragedy, loss, and suffering that permeates the news outlets.  Or when I see behind the smiling faces on social media the perfectionism, insecurity, call for attention, materialism and anxiety that consumes so many.  Or the struggling relationships and broken marriages.  Or the need to cover deep wounds with a Band-Aid of alcohol, drugs, and sex. 

Before I truly came to know Jesus, I remember a constant yearning for something more.  I was a perfectionist rattled with worry.  A wallflower hoping no one would notice me.  Insecure and scared to show my true self.  Afraid of judgement.  And health problems began to mount up as the conflict inside me grew and grew.  And that constant yearning for more in this life -- I’ve found that it is a common thread that we all share, whether we realize it or not.  That yearning exists because we are separate from our Father, our Creator, our Forever Home.  But today there is Good News.  Because of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we have a free gift and invitation to close that gap and yearn no more.  The Author of all creation lives amongst us, in Spirit form, and wants to fill us with His love, hope, joy, and peace.  He wants to erase your blemished past by extending His mercy and grace to forgive you.  He wants to give you new life – an eternal life.  He wants you.  You.

Jesus doesn’t mean an easy life; we were never promised a life of ease.  We are told that we will encounter challenges in many forms.  But now we don’t have to go through them alone.  God is the Author of every circumstance, and He is growing and maturing us, preparing us for the next great chapter in His Book.   

As a coming clean, I have written before of some of the challenges I’ve faced in years prior – health challenges, financial fears after I was laid off, infertility concerns.  But what I haven’t mentioned over the past year (if you’ve noticed I’ve been pretty quiet) is my pending divorce, adjusting to life on my own, working long and often draining hours, and having to heal some of the brokenness in my soul as a result.   Heartbreak was there.  Stress was there. Fear was there.  Fatigue was there.  But yet, somehow, through it all, I have not crumbled.  I’ve stood strong and firm.  I have put my trust in Jesus, held His Hand, and allowed Him to continue transforming me from the inside-out.  I am forgiven.  I am healed.  I am confident.  I am bold.  I am courageous.  I am tough as nails.  I am resilient.  I am true to my God.  I am loved.  I am worthy.  I am valuable.  I am beautiful.  I am smart.  I am sexy.  I am better, wiser, and more mature than ever before because I have walked through valleys to now stand high on the peaks of mountaintops.

I never realized how capable I was.  But it hasn't been out of my own accord; it’s through the strength and supernatural power that only God can provide.  My feet are firmly planted in His Word.  I am equipped with the armor of God so that no fiery dart can pierce me.  I have His love as glue to piece me back together when I feel myself breaking apart.  I have His grace when I make a mistake or fall victim to sin.  And I have Jesus; my Rescuer, my Redeemer, my Healer, my Lover, my Restorer, my Wisdom, my Father. 

And so, Jesus is on my lips...

To break every chain.                                                                                                                                                  To change everything.                                                                                                                                           To silence the waves.                                                                                                                                                  Jesus. Jesus.                                                                                                                                                    

And I am holding steady.                                                                                                                                                And I am ready.                                                                                                                                                  Because He's about to what I am not expecting...

...And I look forward with anticipation; with joy and with peace.  For He is ALWAYS good.  And His plans, ALWAYS perfect. 

If you feel lost, I want you to know that He knows exactly where to find you.  You can’t run from Him, and you cannot hide.  He is constantly seeking you. 

So he told them this parable:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost’.  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:3-7)

Wherever you are today, no matter your past, He knows you, He loves you, and He wants to rejoice over you.  He's ready to carry you on His shoulders to bring you Home.  So I pose you this same question from John 11:25-26...Do you believe this?  Then let today be the day.  Open your heart.  Let the power of Jesus fill you.  Put His name on your lips. Come home and be set free. 

May His love shine upon you this Easter Sunday.         

xx.                                                                        

Set Free on Good Friday

I haven’t posted on the blog for a while, so I can’t think of a better day than Good Friday to share the message of being set free! 

It is so easy for us to carry on with our everyday lives today, just like every other day.  TGIF, right?  So, I find it incredibly important for all of us to slow down and reflect on what is so good about Good Friday, when an innocent man was arrested, tortured, and died on the cross.  And maybe that’s why I’m writing this, to spend my own time in meditation processing the meaning behind this very day. 

I find it amazing that Jesus, a man of the flesh, stands quiet when Pilate asks “Do you not hear how many things they have testified against you?” (Matthew 27:13-14).  How many of us when we come under attack immediately jump to defend ourselves?  We feel hurt, betrayed, and we seek justice!  And yet, Jesus…he just stands there quietly.  We know that Jesus was scared, because when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was in such agony that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44), a condition known as hematidrosis which is a very rare condition when the tiny capillaries in the sweat glands burst from significant emotional stress.  And yet, He still accepts this fate from his Father.  He puts his trust in Him, and Him alone.  He isn’t looking for acceptance from the world.  He knows that the only acceptance He needs, is from God.   

Think about that.  What an example of faith knowing the amount of suffering he is about to face.  Wow.

This morning I stumbled upon a Facebook video talking about Barabbas.  The video sent chills throughout my body.  Pilate asks the crowd “Whom do you want me to release for you:  Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:17).  Barabbas was a bad man – selfish, a thief, a criminal, and a murderer.  And, Jesus…well, he was a healer!  And yet, this crowd chooses to accept the murderer over an unblemished man!  And when Barabbas is unchained, with no gratitude for Jesus, the one that truly sets him free, he walks away without hesitation as the crowd continues to mock Jesus and call for his death.  Barabbas and the crowd are symbolic here, don’t we see it?  They represent me.  And they represent YOU. 

We can be so ignorant of our sin.  “I’m a good person.”  “I haven’t killed anyone.”  But you see, sin goes much deeper than that.  Do we deny Jesus such as Peter?  Are we quick to judge others, yet reluctant to admit our own failures?  Are we boastful and full of pride?  Do we have a sharp tongue?  Do we chase after the things of this world such as sex, money, fame, and power?  Maybe we look at others with envy?  We live selfishly?  Or maybe we even put spending time with God last a long list of things to do.  Let me tell you, I am just as guilty as Barabbas.  And I fail – Every.  Single.  Day. 

But Jesus, knowing he himself is innocent, and knowing just how guilty Barabbas is, let him walk free.  Because he loves him.  And he loves US! 

My heart breaks for Jesus.  When I reflect on The Passion, I weep knowing just how guilty I am.  And I know in my heart just how much I don’t deserve the free gift Jesus is extending to me.  But the last words he utters before giving up His spirit are “It is finished.”  My favorite words ever spoken.  As my pastor recently addressed – sin, suffering, satan, and salvation – all of them are finished forever and for always, because Jesus has already won.  He has conquered it all, for us.  And so, as I sit here writing and reflecting, I accept this gift of salvation out of love and gratitude for The One that gave up his life so that I could live. 

The chains are broken, and I am set free.  Without ever looking back at the person I was, I am forever transformed. 

If you have not yet accepted Jesus, all you have to do is open your heart, put your faith in Him, and ask Him for forgiveness.  He will wash you clean, and you will be made anew. 

If I can help you, or pray for you, please don’t hesitate to email me at lauren@laurentarr.com. 

May His peace be with you. 

xx 

 

Happy New You! Today, and Every Day.

A sparkly ball dropping.  A midnight’s kiss.  Streamers.  Noisemakers.  The singing of Auld Lang Syne.  Reflection. Goal-setting.  Planners.  Resolutions.  New beginnings.  A new you.

All of these mark the end of a year past and the coming of a new.  Not surprising, I find myself emotional as I look back at 2015.  It was a challenging year by many accounts, but somehow through it all, there was always a glimmer of beauty, hope, healing, and love.  Lots and lots of love.

New Year’s resolutions have never been my thing.  (I mean, let’s be real, how many of us have forgotten about our resolutions after a few days, weeks, or months into the new year anyway?)  Instead, I have come to know each moment as an ever changing opportunity for growth in my life.  And you know what?  Jesus, not once, tells us that we require a new year for a fresh start!

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

As His creations, we are made anew each day!  Thank God for that! 

Through the atonement of Christ, we can be freed from the sins of yesterday.  We have been extended the amazing gift of God’s loving grace and forgiveness.  And as we reconnect with our Father, our Creator, our God…our hearts become whole again and we are made one, with Him.

So while our New Year’s resolutions may absolutely be positive changes in our lives (and I by no means want to put the kibosh on them!), I pose this question:  Where are your motivations stemming from? 

Your ego?  The desires of your heart?  Your idea of the world's standards?  Or...from your unique love walk with The Lord?

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 14:21)

As I personally reflect on the past year, I see 2015 as a turning point in my life.  After living many years in captivity, I finally surrendered and released the grip that the enemy had on my life.  So long, insecurity!  Farewell, my fears!  Au revoir, self-centeredness!  Adios, perfection!  None of you have been missed…not even a tiny bit! You see, God was with me all along, revealing Himself.  But 2015 was the year that my vision was restored.  No longer was I blind; I could see Him shining brightly before me.  My guiding light. 

He taught me that I am perfectly woven as His beautiful creation. 

“For you formed my I inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139: 13-14, NIV)

He taught me that I have purpose.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

He taught me to fear not.

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9, NIV) 

He taught me to stop pleasing the world. 

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19, NIV)

He taught me to be bold.

“On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” (Psalm 138:3, NIV)

And he taught me to lay down my life.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39, NIV)

Yeah, Yeah, I know I’ve said it before and probably sound like a broken record by now, but through it all, I’ve learned that my life has absolutely NOTHING to do with ME, and absolutely EVERYTHING to do with HIM!  While we are just specks of dust, our small stories play a valuable role in the big story of God’s creation. And all of it matters.   

So bring it on 2016.  I look forward to more of my story unfolding as I put my focus on obeying God, without hesitation. I will humbly submit to My Awesome Creator and follow Him, because ultimately, He has control of the paintbrush.  It is His right as Lord.  No, it won't always be easy.  Sometimes the actions He tells us to take might be small.  But, other times they will be big!  And sometimes they will be downright scary when we don’t know where He's taking us, or how we'll get there!  And that, my friend, is where our faith is tested. 

He is Almighty.  He is Compassion.  He is Creator.  He is Deliverer.  He is Eternal.  He is Faithful.  He is Forgiveness.  He is Grace.  He is Great.  He is Father.  He is Friend.  He is Kind.  He is King.  He is Holy.  He is Healer.  He is Joy.  He is Just.  He is The Lamb of God.  He is Light.  He is Love.  He is Mercy.  He is Patient.  He is Power.  He is Present.  He is Peace.  He is Protector.  He is Provider.  He is Redeemer.  He is Righteous.  He is Savior.  He is The Rock.  He is Sovereign. He is Shepherd.  He is Truth.  He is Victorious.  He is Wisdom. 

This is the never changing character of our God.  How awesome is He!

And while we enjoy our little black dresses, fun celebrations, and midnight kisses, let’s remember to make Him the focus of our 2016.   So, get out that popcorn and watch on as He reveals His beautiful story in your life, and mine!

Happy New You!  Today, and every day.

xx.

Merry Christmas, From a Jesus Freak

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

The other night, I lay awake in bed praying.  In that moment, I wasn’t asking anything of God.  I was acknowledging Him.  I was thanking Him.  My eyes flooded with tears.  A continuous stream flowed down my neck and along the outside of my shoulders.  It wasn’t that I was sad.  I was in awe.  I was in love.

Over the course of this past year, I was stripped bare.  A job lost.  Strained finances.  Bubbling health issues coming to a head.  A new diagnosis.  Continued longing for a child.  Challenges in my marriage from it all.  And lots and lots of questions.  I was being hit on all sides.  And I crumbled to my knees more times than I count.

Funny thing is, it took all of those things happening to me in order to get me to that place—on my knees, completely surrendered. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. 

I grew up in the church…

…and I fell away from the church.

In my early twenties, I found Jesus again.  And while I believed in Him, I didn’t really know Him.  If I’m being totally transparent, it was more of a one-sided love relationship.  I still had my guard up.  And I still wanted to do things my way.  Except, I found myself falling into a spiral of overwhelm, panic, and deep pain.

There I was, trying to control every aspect of my life, all while feeling completely out of control. 

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

So, on my knees I fell.  Stripped bare.  Seeking a Savior.  Pouring out my heart.  Hoping He would hear my cries.  And as I bowed down, I noticed my tears of agony turned to tears of gratitude, my cold, selfish heart turned soft, and my fears turned to overflowing love.  I was restored.  And I began to trust my journey in that moment as I surrendered control to The Creator of all things.

Yep, this year I was hit on every side.  And at times, it was really, really freaking hard. But somehow through it all, I also made a new church my home, renewed my faith, laid down my life, found my purpose, joined a Christ-centered business coaching group, learned how to love myself, and love others, forgave people who wronged me, found healing, matured, became an entrepreneur, made new life-long friendships, wrote a book, and in the sadness, I found joy. 

This Christmas takes on a new meaning for me.  Today it isn’t about giving and receiving gifts of monetary value.  It isn’t about a vacation day from work.  It isn’t about the food.  And while I cherish moments with my family, it isn’t even about them.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s about a precious gift of life that is freely being handed to us.  It’s about a choice we all have to make between the sins of this world, or the love, grace, and mercy being extended to us from Our Father. 

These days, I am a new creation.  I am wiped clean.  My heart is changed.  And I am full of love.  I pray in acknowledgment and thanksgiving.  And I cry not from sadness, but because I am blessed beyond measure.  Even in the sorrow, I somehow experience peace and joy. 

Some might wonder what happened to me.  People from my past might see that I am no longer in bondage.  Maybe they see a transformation.  Perhaps they witness that while I had the hardest year of my life, I was given the strength to take action and accomplish things only God could have done through me.  Others might roll their eyes at this Jesus Freak.  And that’s okay too.  Because what matters today, is not me.  It’s Him.  It’s Jesus.  My Savior.  The Prince of Peace.  Our gift.  The best gift of all. 

Merry Christmas to you and yours. 

With Love,

From a Jesus Freak

 

 

 

Love Hard, Hold on Loosely...

 
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This past weekend my husband and I felt a call to attend the annual Orphancare Expo at my church.  As many of you may already know, we have been yearning for a child, but a mixture of life circumstances and complications from my MTHFR gene mutation have made having a biological child a difficult feat.  Regardless, I feel God telling me that I'm meant to mother in some shape or form.  The expo addressed three parts - ministry/outreach, adoption/foster care, and child trafficking.  

Side note:  Do you know that child trafficking is a silent epidemic?  Most of us don't even realize it is happening right underneath our very own noses in THIS country!  Here are some stats:

  • An estimated 21 million people are trafficked around the world (Unicef)
  • An estimated $32 billion is generated by trafficking globally (Unicef)
  • An estimated 100,000-300,000 children are at risk for entering the U.S. commercial sex trade (U.S. Department of Justice Report)
  • The average age of entry into the sex trade is 12-14 yrs old (The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking:  America's Prostituted Children, Shared Hope International, May 2009)

Most of my time at the event was spent trying to fight back a constant stream of tears...and of course, we all know that fighting back tears just doesn't work!  It was a losing battle...so I succumbed.  There were two guest speakers before we split up into different breakout sessions.  These individuals addressed their childhood traumas, experiences in foster-care, and eventual adoptions.  They spoke about the "snapshots" they kept tucked away with each moment they witnessed a demonstration of love - a girlfriend's father lifting his hands in prayer at the dinner table, a father's kiss on his son's forehead, and eight years of consistent "I love you's" before finally being able to say it back.  

I met one woman who had 10 children.  I believe she said 4 of those children were biological, the other 6 had been adopted from China.  She sat there with one of her daughters who was missing both of her hands.  This young girl had written a book and was autographing them by holding a pen between her elbows.  Her handwriting was better than most people blessed with two hands!  Another couple told us they were in their 60's and retired.  After seven or eight foster children coming in and out of their home, they recently felt God's call to adopt a 17 yr old girl.  One couple, both at 35 yrs of age, had adopted seven of their foster children - their most recent being a 27 yr old man they had fostered ten years earlier!  He wanted to be adopted as an adult so that he had a family he could go home to and celebrate the holidays with.  This couple spoke about the difficulties and blessings of being foster-care and adoptive parents.  They said something that hit me - Love hard and hold on loosely.

It made me think...as Christians, isn't that what we are all called to do, to love selflessly?  God loves us regardless of how we love Him back.  But how many times do we reject His authority in our lives taking matter into our own hands? How frequently do we ignore His commands, or disobey Him when He disciplines us?  No matter how many times we turn the other way, God's character never changes...he pursues us with His love while giving us the space for our own free will.  Yet, in our own relationships, it is so easy to get caught up wanting a return investment. 

Why won't he say he loves me back?  Why isn't she holding my hand?  Why didn't he buy me flowers?  Why won't she help me with the dishes?  Why won't he go to church with me?

But God has this to say about love:

Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

Ephesians 4:2 "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love."

1 Peter 1:22 "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart."

1 John 4:7 "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God."

1 John 4:19-21 "We love because he first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.  For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And he has given us this command:  Anyone who loves God must also love their brother or sister."

Oh how I love the richness of God's Word.  <3

First and foremost, He teaches us that there is no self in loving others.  It is always important to love the person God created you to be -- but in how we love, it is about demonstrating God's love for us.  It's about humility, sacrifice, and connectedness. The result -- true, unconditional, unwavering love.  Imagine the world if we all poured out this kind of love?  Happier marriages, more intimate friendships, more involvement in ministry and charity, less orphans, and more peace spread throughout the world.

We also need to remember that God is The Creator of all things, The Alpha and The Omega.  He breathes life into our lungs, and He also takes it away. Sometimes we unknowingly begin to idolize our loved ones.  The adoptive parents were referencing "loving loosely" because oftentimes orphans have been abused, they are angry, traumatized, and they run away from intimacy.  Sometimes they rebel and leave the home altogether.  I've witnessed this firsthand while working with these children in the mental health field.  But how many of us hold on to our loved ones so tightly because we are afraid of losing them, or we quiver at the thought of tragedy striking?   I think many, if not all of us, are guilty of this.  We must remember that above all else, we are children of God.  He is our first Father and He perfectly created us before we were even a thought in our mothers' wombs.  And it is He that we are all meant to return to.  We must trust His provision in our lives, knowing that with each breath there is a beautiful story being played out.  It is when that story comes full circle for His greater purpose (sometimes beyond our own understanding) that we are each called Home.  And what a gift that we have the opportunity to be reunited with our Creator and our loved ones for eternity in Heaven.

Here is my takeaway from the weekend.  My heart has been forever touched.  Not only was I challenged to reflect on the ways in which I love, but I also realized the responsibility that we all share to care for orphans that deserve love and a sense of family.  Whether it be through mentoring youth, donating or volunteering in ministries such as human trafficking, or becoming a family that is open to foster-care or adoption, I need to step up.  We as a people need to step up.  I will be sharing with you my journey as The Spirit guides me, so stay tuned.  

 May we all love hard and hold on loosely knowing that, in the end, it was worth it.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)

 

 

 

 

When We Grow Weary...

Have you not heard?&nbsp; The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.&nbsp; He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.&nbsp; He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.&nbsp; Even youths grow tired and weary; and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.&nbsp; They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.&nbsp; (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary; and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Hi, Doll.

I don't know about you, but growing up I was never a roller coaster lover - the anxious butterflies while waiting in line in anticipation of the ups, downs, twists, turns, and loops that lie ahead.  As a child, I would avoid them.  As an adult, I would look at kids half my size shrieking with excitement and think, "Seriously, if they can do it, I can too."  So, I would muster up enough courage trying not to show any ounce of fear to my friends.  A rush of adrenaline would overcome me, my stomach in knots, and while I would want to run away, I would commit myself to fighting through the fear of what lie ahead.  The ride would only last about a minute and a half, and once I felt it halt to a stop, I would unclench my eyes and a whimsical high would overcome me knowing that I had survived and conquered.  What a perfect illustration of life:  a continuous roller coaster ride of peaks and valleys demanding constant perseverance. 

I'm not going to tip toe around it, I had a rough week.  I had a flare up of symptoms and felt my body growing tired and my mind discouraged.   I then found myself mourning the absence of a child in my life.  I am a faithful person.  I do trust that every aspect of my life is perfectly woven for God's greater glory, even when it doesn't make sense.  But, I still fall.  And I still have days that I struggle.  We ALL have a giant, scary monster in our lives whether it be illness, loss of a loved one, infertility, a miscarriage, loss of a job, financial instability, a betrayal, a divorce, depression, anxiety, loneliness...

And just like me this past week, maybe you are growing weary too...

So what do we do when we find ourselves in that valley of despair? 

1.  As for God, his way is perfect:  The LORD's word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.  (Psalm 18:30)

First and foremost, go to Him.  Over the past few years, as I set out on my own self-healing journey, I committed myself to growing my faith.  This year in particular, I joined a Christ-centered business coaching group with about 24 others entrepreneurs from across the country.  Our focus has been putting more of God into our businesses, and less of us.  I joined a church after years of church hopping.  I joined a Discipleship Bible study with three of my friends.  And I also joined Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) where I will be studying The Book of Revelation over the course of the next year.  Through it all, I have learned that the answers to any and all of my life questions, are found in The Bible.  And let me tell you, His Word is alive - there is so much power radiating from those pages!  Read His Word.  Meditate on it.  Pray the Scriptures.  Let it speak to you.  Let it restore you.  Let it transform your heart. 

2.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Call it tough love, but I am going to call you out.  (Don't worry, I gave myself a dose of my own medicine earlier this week.)  When we grow weary, we are not fully exhibiting trust in God.  I recall hanging my head in shame at the thought of me questioning His faithfulness.  But then, I remembered.  God loved us so much, that He brought us His Son to us in human form.  He loved us so much that He wanted to have a better understanding of our human nature.  He loved us so much that He allowed His Perfect Son to be beaten, spit upon, bloodied, crucified, and sacrificed so that each of us could be freed from our sin in a broken world.  In Matthew 26:36-46, Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and made His own humanness known. He told his disciples "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death."  He asked them to keep watch over Him while He prayed and he even warned them to not fall into temptation as "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  As He brings His prayer to a close, Jesus cries out, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."  Jesus walks among us.   He knows our circumstances, He knows our temptations, He knows our hearts, and He knows how weak we are in the flesh.  But trust is spread all throughout the Bible, over and over again.  Knowing our human weaknesses, God is constantly commanding us to trust Him, just as Jesus did.  You see, we don't have to understand our circumstances.  God is faithful to those who submit to Him.  When we seek Him, He promises to make our paths straight.  So, no matter what storms you endure, you have a choice to trust Him, to let His will be done. 

3.  Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the LORD. (Acts 3:19)

When gripped by doubt, fear, overwhelm, or depression, we tend to shrink.  We become small.  We isolate.  And we are held captive.  Know that it comes from one source only - an enemy of lies that "seeks to steal, kill, and destroy you."  God is love, and anything that repels love is not God.  When I felt doubt creep in this past week, I knew I had let the enemy take refuge in my life.  It was time for me to say "PEACE OUT!" to the destroyer.  And it was time for me to go to My Father to repent.  I confessed my sins, asked for His forgiveness, and asked Him to help my unbelief.  To humble ourselves in His presence in a time of repentance allows God to wipe us clean and restore us.  

4.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3)

Author Margaret Feinberg spoke at my church this weekend.  After studying joy in the Scriptures, Margaret wrote a book - but just as she was about to publish it, she was diagnosed with cancer.   She decided that joy would be her secret weapon to fight back, and she rewrote her book, Fight Back with Joy, from this new perspective.    As a joy seeker in my own life, I needed a reminder that my joy was in my control.  Margaret spoke of joy as God's complete love encompassing us.  When we fall into weariness, it's important to sit quietly in God's big, unfailing love.  Let it fill you.  Dance with His love.  Let it romance you.  Let it empower you.  Let it cast away all fear.  Surround yourself with His love reminders.  And know that God is refining and perfecting you with each perfectly orchestrated life moment.  Margaret looks back now and sees that unknowingly, her journey to write about joy had prepared her for what lie ahead in her cancer journey.  Then, she utilized what God taught her for His greater glory as she helps others fight back with joy.    So, I ask you, how can you use your story for good?  (I highly recommend Margaret's newly released book, Fight Back with Joy.)

In closing, go to His Word, trust Him, repent, and use joy as your secret weapon.  Enjoy the roller coaster ride of life and persevere!  May these tips encourage and restore your soul today.  And always, always know that you are deeply loved. 

xx,
Laur

It would be my honor to pray for you.  Please go to my Contact page to put in your name, email, and prayer request.  <3