The Passion-Filled Life: Cheers to 2019!

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The past few weeks I’ve been a bit of a hermit.  On purpose.  I took some time to be still and reflect on the highs + lows of 2018.  My missteps.  My shortcomings.  My victories.  My growth.  And where I want my focus in 2019.  My hopes.  The areas of my life where I still see God challenging me.  The accomplishments I hope to achieve.  And the person I continue to hope I become.   

Each year I choose a word.  A word that has significance in my life.  In 2018 that word was BELIEVE.  Guys + gals, I love life - everything about it.   But as I’ve mentioned before, the past few years have been a real bitch to say the least!  To be completely authentic with you, I hit some real low points over the past year.  I knew coming into 2018 that I was going to have to believe in God’s faithfulness more than ever, because honestly, I hadn’t yet seen him deliver in my life the ways I felt I needed Him most.  It’s those critical moments when we feel completely stripped that our faith is put to the test.  How are we going to respond?  Do we give up, wallow, or persevere like the warriors we were created to be?  I will always choose to be a warrior.  That’s what my parents taught me.  And coming off of Christmas, that’s exactly why God sent us His Son in Jesus Christ.  So that He could bare our sins and shortcomings so that we could have life.  He has already fought all of our battles so that we can be victorious.  And so, I will continue choosing to BELIEVE.  That I am free.  That He has my hand.  That He has a beautiful story laid out for me as the Author of my life.  And at the end of my story, which is ultimately His, I win.  All to glorify Him - my loving and faithful Father.  And guess what? He has continued to refine me over the past year (that's a beautiful thing!) and there were also many high notes! I'm grateful for it all; He is oh so good. All the time.

So as we close 2018, here’s 3 ways God delivered:

  1. I learned to embrace + accept my solitude and singleness by choosing Jesus first.  Not gonna lie, it’s hard to be 35 + single when all of your friends are married and/or with children.  My life looks completely different; it’s not my ideal.  And being totally raw with you, I struggled with it at times over this past year.  There were moments when the silence in my life was deafening, and so I turned to the dating scene which ultimately proved to be disappointing.  But through some missteps of opening myself up to a few relationships which weren’t up to par or worthy of my attention…I found myself back with God.  And I realized that I am perfectly content with this season of my life. I’ve enjoyed the rest and the tranquility. So for now, I’m grateful for Jesus as my true Romancer, teaching me my worth and preparing me for the time that He unveils the righteous + worthy man for me.  And I refuse to settle for less than.

  2. I turned 35 and God showed me the art of living.  By having a voice.  By standing up for what He wants for me as His beloved daughter.  By going against the grain at times.  By being bold and unpredictable.  By having fun.  And by freaking laughing at the humor of it all.  So as Proverbs 31:25 was etched in my heart over the past year, so it was etched on my forearm with my first (and last according to my dad) tattoo:  “She laughs.” 

  3. Prayer after prayer for a new opportunity in my career, and God delivered.  I rekindled a friendship with an old co-worker all because of my tattoo - and through her, I received a great job opportunity that uses my education and experiences, provides me health benefits (after two years of having none), monthly bonus opportunities, and the chance to finally work my way to get ahead instead of in a hole.  Praise Jesus!

So here we are, about to embark on a new journey in 2019, and I have a new word to live by:  PASSION.  I saw a great definition of what this word means - “a willingness to suffer for what you love.”  The best example of this being the passion of Jesus Christ.  And with that being said, not settling for a life that is mediocre.  I want all the feels this life has to offer.  I want pursuit.  I want love.  I want goosebumps.  I want greatness.  I want PASSION!  And that’s what I choose in the coming 12 months.  With fire in my heart and sacrifice, I will live passionately in my faith, in my work, in my relationships, in my health, and in my creativity. 

And here are a few of my passion goals:

  1. Pay off my debts and be a better steward of God’s resources. 

  2. Recommit to my wellness ways - clean up my eating, exercise (even if a little) daily, and maybe lose a few healthy pounds. 

  3. Continue to choose God first and follow with intentional obedience.  Be open to His new opportunities.

  4. Live boldly + creatively.   I’ll be writing more + more. Providing more content. Picking back up on a creative project that requires me to learn a new skill.  And after a few gray hairs surfaced this past week (eek!), I’m thinking of a big change-up.  I’m thinking a blonde version of me in 2019!?!? Yay/Nay?

  5. Read more.  Learn more.  Grow more.

  6. Take faith-calculated risks. 

  7. Love with my whole heart.  And be loved by a whole heart.

  8. Be in the Bible daily.  The Word is alive!

  9. Get involved with a charity or volunteer organization.

  10. Remember this: more of Him, less of me. Period.

So what do you think?  Do you want to join me by living a passion-filled 2019?   

Cheers to a great year ahead!

xx

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul.  It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows.  The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.” (Audrey Hepburn)

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” (Maya Angelou)



 

Happy 35: A Life Crisis or An Awakening?

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This past weekend I did yoga with goats, smoked a cigar at a cigar bar, drank beer (maybe two), and ate all kinds of glutenous things (and enjoyed it!).  Those who know me might ask what the freak is going on with me!?  And some might even call me a hypocrite after all my healthy, wellness ways.  

Today I'm 35.  For the past few months I've dreaded this birthday.  Somehow 35 seemed catastrophic.  And maybe you can understand why...

35 and divorced.  35 with no kids.  35 with a genetic mutation that makes childbearing difficult and already risky.  35 and still chasing my dreams.  35 and still struggling to stand on my feet as a single woman.  35 and not where I had hoped to be at this age.  My life looks NOTHING like I thought it would.  Not. At. All.  Do ya get me?

34 was rough + tough.  To be brutally honest, the past several years have been.  I was hit at every angle.  You name it, I've probably endured it.  And while I tried to model grace, it wasn't pretty every day.  Some days I would come home fatigued and allow myself to crumble at the foot of God.  I would cry, I would feel weak, I would feel discouraged, angry, and maybe even question Him.  Lord, what the heck are you doing???  Why do I feel like I am being stripped?

 But you know what?   Those raw moments of vulnerability--I wouldn't take them back.  The past few years have tested me, yet somehow my faith has remained, and I have smiled the whole way through it.  Because those were the very precise precious moments when I felt God draw so near.  And as He peeled back layer after layer of my being, I felt more "me" than ever before.  Stronger knowing His power reigns within me.  More confident in my walk with Him.  Peace even when life felt unsteady.  Joy even in the moments of despair.  Hope in the goodness I know life has yet to bring.  And all of it - ALL OF IT - absolute beauty.  I credit my faith in God for giving me my warrior spirit - He who loves me so purely and tenderly even in my weaknesses + imperfections, and even when I stumble and lose sight of Him.

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 I have learned so much.  I have grown so much.  And because of it...because of all that I have lost...I can now regain and fully experience life.  Each cherished moment of it.  As I dreadfully approached 35, I realized that I was allowing an age to label me.  I was permitting a # to define my life.  And then it hit me how silly I was being.  Because through all the ups + downs, I am so appreciative of WHO God has made me.  And how even though my life looks differently than I had envisioned, I love my life!  I love the journey.  I love the people.  I love God.  And I love ME!

So, if you’re feeling a little down and you aren’t quite where you wish to be, I want to share 10 quick tips that I’ve acquired to help embrace this thing called life.

1.         Remember to breathe.  Close your eyes.  Drop your shoulders away from your ears.  Open your chest and inhale deeply into your belly through your nose. Feel your rib cage expand with air.  Hold your breath for a moment.  And exhale completely.  Wow, does that feel good or what!?  I remember when I first started to practice Pilates, the teacher would have to remind me repeatedly – drop your shoulders, drop your shoulders, drop your shoulders.  Remember to breathe, remember to breathe, remember to breathe.  Those are the same shoulders that carried my daily stress.  And I began to realize that when I hiked my shoulders up to my ears and forgot to breathe, I wasn’t allowing space for oxygen-rich nutrients to enter my cells.  I literally had to practice the act of breathing.  And with time, and focus, and maybe a little Pilates, I began to breathe with more ease.  My shoulders felt lighter.  I gained strength in my core.  My mind and body felt more relaxed.  And I began to carry myself with more confidence.  Remember to breathe deep, cleansing breaths!  It calms the central nervous system, lowers blood pressure, decreases the effects of stress, and aids in better sleep!  Drop your shoulders.  Remember to breathe. 

2.        Remind yourself to be present.  Stop worrying about yesterday.  Stop worrying about tomorrow.  And as you remember to breathe (see above), take in this exact moment.  Because this, this right here, is all that you are guaranteed.   Fully experience the now.  Who are you with?  What do you see?  What do you smell?  What do you feel?  Be mindful to breathe it all in.  Press the pause button and sit in this very moment for a little while.  Appreciate it.  Love it.  Be thankful for it. 

3.        Allow yourself to be vulnerable.  This is hard.  As a recovering perfectionist, I always say that I used to have my life in a box wrapped in pretty, sparkly wrapping paper with the most perfect bow on top.  That was the image I put before the world.  I have all my sh$t together.  My life is perfect.  I am perfect.  And it was exhausting and couldn’t be further from the truth.  When I began to deepen my love relationship with God, He helped me to see with His eyes that my imperfections were beautiful.  They gave me character.  They made me human.  And that by being open and honest, sharing my story with others was darn liberating.  And now I can walk in confidence accepting myself as perfectly imperfect.  Allow yourself to be vulnerable – your life is a magnificent story to be told.  And you’ll see that people appreciate your vulnerabilities and love you just the same.

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4.       Ask for help when you need it.  Be open with the people that love you.  Talk to them.  Cry with them.  Allow them to help you.  As a therapist and wellness coach, I’ve always struggled to admit when I need encouragement, confrontation, and help myself!  But my life circumstances have humbled me so much.  And if I am asking for people to let me help them daily, I too must be open to letting others help me.  I began to see just how deeply I am loved by my family and friends.  They believed in me.  They pushed me.  And my heart was so moved by their love for me.  Let others help you when you need it.  And may your heart be touched like mine.  For those who have helped me, in whatever capacity, you know who you are.  Thank you. 

5.        You can reframe any situation.  A shift in perspective; it’s all you need.  I swear.  Try it.  Label yourself a victim.  Then label yourself a victor.  Label yourself as alone, lost, and abandoned.  Then label yourself as loved, found, and never alone.  Remind yourself of the truth of God.  It will never fail you.  And it will give you life. 

6.       Have fun.  Get out and do something new.  I don’t care what it is.  I am not an opera fan, but it’s not about the opera.  It’s about the experience.  Go with someone you love and care about, have fun, and enjoy the EXPERIENCE.  Make memories.  Now that’s what I call living. 

7.       Look for the glimmers of beauty.  I know, sometimes we fall into moments of hopelessness.  When finding “the good” seems like a feat.  But I promise, glimmers of beauty lie underneath.  Look for them.  A smile.  An encounter.  A conversation.  People that care.  The breath of life in your lungs at this very moment.  Trust me, beauty is always here in the midst.  Open your eyes.  Open your ears.  Open your heart.

8.       Laugh.  Laughing heals.  Stop taking everything so seriously.  Be silly.  Loosen up.  Find the humor even in the serious things of life.  Roll around.  Dance around.  Joke around.  Just freaking laugh!

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9.       Believe.  Trust that your Creator has a plan for you.  A plan to prosper you and not harm you.  A plan to give you hope and a future.  Set your intention on that which is good.  And believe.  Believe in abundance.  Believe in opportunity.  Believe in greatness.  Believe in love.  When you believe, you open yourself up to receiving.  Be ready for it. 

10.    Show yourself love + grace.  You are an exquisite masterpiece.  You are worthy and valuable.  God loves you.  God forgives you.  God sets your free.  So how about you stop all forms of self-sabotage and show yourself some love and compassion.  Honor your body.  Rest.  Pamper yourself.  Surround yourself with good people.  Pray.  And pleeeeaaaasssseee show yourself some love and grace.

So yeah, what the freak is going on with me!?  An awakening. that's what!  I want to squeeze every drop outta this life.  And maybe living well is about balance and actually LIVING!  So if I want to get dirty in the field with some goats, so be it.  If I want to have a cigar every once in a great while, I will.  If I want to celebrate with a rare beer, cheers!  If I want to indulge in gluten today...maybe I will deal with some consequences, but for today, it tasted good.  I am all about healthy living; with my occasional autoimmune challenges, I most definitely have to be.  But my birthday is about my gratitude for life.  And boy am I grateful for it all.  My life might not look like I wanted it to today, but I am joyful and hopeful for the greatness yet to come.  And here I wait with anticipation and open arms.  Happy 35.  

xx.

 

 

 

Running: A Metaphor

I had a Facebook memory pop up in my feed yesterday that reminded me that it was 4 years ago that I had my 2nd knee surgery in a period of 4 months.  It was a long road to recovery,  so I celebrated my working legs by intentionally leaving work a little earlier to go on a prayer run.

I'm not a strong runner yet; I have about 3 straight miles in me for now, but I will get better. And those 3 miles are invaluable to me.  They are my outlet. They clear my head. They push me and challenge me - physically, mentally, and spiritually. They are painful and they hurt. Sometimes I gasp for more air in my lungs. They beg for me to slow down and give up. And in those moments when I don't think I can do any more, I keep calling out to Jesus for help.  I pray for Him to provide me the endurance and the strength for one more step, one more step, one more step... and He does, if I just focus on that one step right ahead of me. And then, I notice a shift, and the pain begins to melt away as I get into a rhythm. The run that was fatiguing me starts to energize me. I start to feel strong and my body tight. I have a natural high.  I feel accomplished.  Peace and joy overtake me. All that begins to matter is this time that I have, just me and God, being completely reliant upon him.

Last night I realized why I have grown to love running; it's a metaphor for life.   It takes me through a series of feelings, both in body and in mind.  I get to a point where I have to make a decision, to give up or push through.  And so I push through, one small step at a time.   If I focus on what more I have ahead, I get overwhelmed.  But if I just focus on what's right in front of me, God gives me strength.  And I realized how blessed I am.  How much I love to feel.  How little I am and how big God is.  How much I need Him in every moment of every day.  How He supplies for my every need.  How He is with me always, never leaving my side.  And all the chaos that surrounds me, it begins to lose its significance as I focus on The Great One. 

Blessed.  Blessed I am.  Blessed we are.

God's Hand is at work in our intricate lives; His love runs deep.  He is molding and refining us.  No matter what we are up against, He loves us and He Has already fought the battle for us.  And He won.

So today, like the full range of emotions experienced on my prayer run, let's embrace life to its fullest.  The joys, the heartbreaks, the unknowns.

God is with us.  He loves us.  He sustains us.  He provides for us.  He fights for us.  He stills waters for us. 

One small step at a time.

xx

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. (Psalm 23:1-3)

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