A Simple Question.


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“Miss Lauren, do you love yourself?” Such a simple question from my lead teacher Cori as we taught our four-year olds the different parts of their bodies that make them unique.  Somewhere amidst the discussion of blonde hair and brown eyes and knees and elbows came this simple yet earth-shattering question.

“Hector, do you love yourself?”

“Yes!”

“Lowell, do you love yourself?”

“YES!”

“Emma, do you love yourself?”

“Yes!” she shouted, throwing her arms around her body in a huge hug.

Round the circle we went, each child eagerly proclaiming their self-love like it was the easiest question in the world to answer.  I was struck…and secretly hoping this would be one of the times Cori skipped over using me as an example for the class…

“Miss Lauren, do you love yourself?”

Shoot.
“Yes!” I exclaimed with my big assistant teacher smile and energy for my kiddos.  Meanwhile, my insides were screaming, “No! I don’t! I am too broken and feel so unlovable that I don’t even want to love myself!”  If it weren’t for holding it together for my kids and controlling the squirming acrobatics Hector was attempting in my lap, I would’ve had a breakdown right then and there in the middle of circle time.
The faith and wisdom of children astounds me.  Not only do they know how loved they are, but they proclaim it with full lungs at unthinkable decibels in the middle of the classroom with no shame.  How I want to protect their precious hearts from the day someone breaks them and they get hurt in a way that makes them not love themselves.
Lord, help me to love myself the way these children do.  Show me what it means to be Your beautiful daughter.  Tonight, I invite Your healing love into my wounds.  Amen.
You are loved.  Believe it.  ♡

An Empty Glass.

Dear Jesus,

It’s so hard to hold on in the darkest of days.  I need to remember to be like Mary Magdalene, waiting at the tomb when all seems lost.  Like Our Lady in Luke 1:45, I must trust that what You have revealed for me is true.  And You have revealed nothing but hope.  But light.  But joy.  But peace.  You don’t set up disaster for me, or anyone.  You want to protect me.  You want to love me.  You want me to be happy.  You want to heal me and You want me to be healed and whole.  There is victory in You.  All I have to do is say yes.  And today, with a shaken and trepidatious breath, I. Say. Yes.  Here I am, Lord.  I am Yours.  I am no one else’s but Yours.  I come to do Your will.  I come to beg Your forgiveness and let You love me.  I come to accept Your healing in Your way that I have been fighting for so long.  I come to say yes.  You are here.  You are here with me and here to stay.  And this time, I’m not going to leave, either.  Take me, Lord.  Take all that I am.  Take all my messes.  Get rid of all the heinous lies.  Clean up my fresh wounds, and tend to my long-lost scars that are taking forever to fade.  Empty this dirty, muddy, awful water glass of mine that had been collecting dust, rocks, and sharp stones of hurts and pains from the sins of others, my failings, and the lies on my heart for far too long.  It’s Yours, Lord.  Take it.  Today, I am okay with being emptied out and empty, because I have You.  And drop by drop, You are going to fill me up with new life and the best water imaginable that makes me healthy, healed, and whole again–walking each step with You.  I am safe with You, with this beautiful reality of safety, light, protection, and peace.  With You, I won’t get hurt so deeply again, and I trust in that.  You will make this messy, crooked spiral of a path I’ve been going on straight.  Thank. You.  All my love, joy, peace, gratitude, and life to you.  I live, love , and serve for You.

With Eternal Love,

Your daughter

So…it’s been awhile.  Graduation happened.  Moving to New York happened.  And somewhere amidst the sentimental and tough goodbyes, compassionate hellos, the jungle of concrete, minor existential crises, NQR train delays, and endless job hunting, the most painful, confusing, shattering, shocking, hellish storm of my life hit.  One of those things that “blindsides you at 4pm on an idle Tuesday,” as the poet Mary Schmich said (or as Baz Luhrmann so sweetly proclaims in my earbuds whenever I need a pep talk).  I felt like the rug of my whole life was pulled out from under me.  Or better yet, it was like a guy who tries to be smooth and do the whole I’m-going-to-pull-the-tablecloth-off-the-table-leaving-the-dishes-still-perfectly-intact-trick* but fails miserably and all the dishes and glasses break and shatter to the ground.  And I was/am the dishes and glasses: a broken mess.  (*Note: I’ve always wanted to learn how to do this and have joked around with my brother at many a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal about trying it.  If anyone knows how, do tell haha.)

Anyway, all similes and half-hearted attempts at humor aside, what I’m really getting at is SUFFERING.  Seriously though, why do we have to suffer?  Growth.  Getting closer to God.  Those are the go-to answers I used to spill at people.  But weathering this insane storm has forced me to come to terms with this.  I spent lots of angry time in prayer, asking God why.  Thinking He did this to me somehow or that I was messed up, crazy, or that the sins that were inflicted on me by another were somehow my fault.  Then one day in spiritual direction, this amazing priest laid all the cards on the table and dropped the mic.  He said that God loves the free will He gave us when we use it as we are supposed to in choosing to love Him and serve others.  God hates free will when we use it to hurt other people.

Then my spiritual director looked me dead in the eye and said, “You may not like looking on the bright side now (and I was thinking, “Yep, here we go, another chorus of ‘better to have found out now than later,’ or ‘good riddance!'” that never actually help but instead make my stomach turn), but have you ever thought that Jesus lets people use their free will to an extent, but at the same time He is all-powerful and knows how much His daughter can handle?”  I sat there with tears in my eyes and in awe as the priest continued to tell me that God protected me from getting more hurt.  That in this pain He was crying with me, hurting with me, hurting for me just like He did on the Cross.  And all that time I had thought that God did this to me, and that He wanted me to go through this pain to learn some sort of lesson.  But all along, God was hurting, too.  On the nights when I can’t sleep and am crying at 4am, God is crying with me and whispering a lullaby of love into my ear to gently rock me back to sleep.  That on the mornings when I wake up sick to my stomach and shaking with anxiety, God is holding me tightly and still.  That He’s hugging me on the subway on my way to work, protecting me and saying, “You can do this!  We’re going to have a great day!”  God didn’t do this to me–He stepped in and rescued me at just the right time from the wounds inflicted upon me by another before I got hurt much, much worse.  You see, suffering happens because we live in a disordered imperfect world that is not our home.  And bad things happen as a result of the disorder.  God hurts with us and wants us to draw close to one another and to Him amidst the chaos.  Because He’s there.  He’s not only wiping away our tears but crying with us.  He’s on the Cross for us every time we get hurt.  Dear friends, God doesn’t want us to be hurt.  God wants us to be happy.  He wants us to be healed.  So today, let us empty the murky water glasses of our lives and let Him love us.

Blessings and Peace,

L ♥

God is Closer than our Fears…WHAT?!

“You are closer, closer. You are closer, closer, closer than our fears.”

The message of this song by Tenth Avenue North is one that has been playing over and over in my mind as I finish my last semester of college.  God is closer than our fears.  God is closer than our fears.  God is closer to me than all my fears that sometimes take over and consume my mind and heart, making me weary to the bone.  It’s a mystery of His love that I don’t think we’ll ever fully be able to comprehend.  But what a beautiful mystery to behold!

I thought at this point in my life I would be contemplating how God is closer than my fears of moving to New York, finding a job, and getting married in six months.  Oddly enough, I’m able to trust Him in all those moments, despite stress and worries that do arise.  However, where these thoughts speak to me are in my darkest fears.  The kind that I hide, the kind that keep me up at night–the scary and humbling moments where I become acutely aware of my own humanity and how much I need God.  I’ve had to pray with these lyrics over and over in the past few months as I’ve faced some of my toughest moments and conversations.  I am a perfectionist and a people-pleaser, which is not a good combination when it comes to admitting my weaknesses, being honest with others about the deepest parts of myself, uncovering past hurts, and letting God in.  Sometimes I am so scared of who I am that I have trouble pouring my heart out to God and saying, “Hey, I am really struggling right now. I need You.”  And some days I think, “How can God be closer than this??”  Well, the good news is that He always is.  As said so beautifully in Psalm 139, He knows our every thought and action, and He knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs.  God knew His plan for us before we even existed.  And God is love.  He sacrificed so much for us–the ultimate Mystery of Love to behold.  I know this is said so often that it seems cliché, but it is said so often because it is true: God takes care of the tiniest details of our lives so well.  All He asks is that we say yes.  His will is so much better than our own.  Is it scary?  Yes, absolutely.  How difficult it is to live the radical life of living in the world but not of the world.  God often asks us to do crazy things.  Look at His Son and the Apostles.  “Drop your nets and follow Me!”  This meant leaving their jobs, their families, their wants and desires, hopes and dreams behind.  But the Apostles did.  There was just something about Jesus that they couldn’t quite put their finger on but knew they had to follow Him.  And what a journey He took them on!  I pray that all of us can say that kind of yes to God, bit by bit, day by day, whatever it takes.  And He will lead us on the most beautiful journey that exceeds our wildest dreams.  A journey of being a light for the world.  A journey of love.  And a journey of true peace and joy that only He can give.  God is closer than our fears.  And how He rejoices when we surrender our fears, our joys, and our entire beings to Him!

Source: The Rend Collective Experiment

Source: The Rend Collective Experiment

God is with you always. ♥

Black Coffee & Weak People

ASHLIN HORNE

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“I’ll take a coffee.”

He begins slowly pouring it into the white paper cup. “Room for cream and sugar?”

I shake my head, “No.”

He looks slightly surprised, but says nothing as he pops the plastic top onto the cup.

If you’re going to love something, learn to love it exactly the way it is.

This is my thought about coffee, about life, about people.

We’re always trying to add things, change things, make them sweeter and easier to swallow.

I don’t want to expect anything different than what I’m being handed. This is it. This cup of coffee, this moment, this human being. This is what’s in front of me and that has to be enough, it should be enough.

I want to be enough as I am.

I realized that when I was working in the living room in my pajamas the other morning. Our house is consistently knocked…

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God. Is. Love. Is. Mercy.

Some beautiful food for thought. We all know God loves us, but do we actually let Him love us? What do we let get in the way of God’s love? The mystery of God’s love is truly amazing. A few weeks ago, I was reflecting on what God’s love really means. I thought about all the people in my life that love me and care about me–my parents, family, friends, co-workers, professors, etc., and it dawned on me that God’s love is greater than all those people’s love combined and then some. God’s love for us is infinite; it’s so big that we can’t comprehend it. How lucky and blessed are we: with this knowledge, it really hits home that we are never truly alone.

5 Important Life Lessons from Junior Year in College

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As Dumbledore would say, “Another year–gone.”  Yep, I’ve been back home for about a week now, and suddenly I’m faced with unpacking, the increasingly difficult realization that my friends aren’t a walk across campus away, a normal sleep schedule, and a whole lot of free time to think and reflect. What a year. Junior year was by far the most challenging and best year yet at college. It was an extremely difficult year with lots of personal, academic, and spiritual challenges. Overall, though, it was the year of a lot of personal growth that I am so incredibly grateful for. 🙂 I’ve learned a lot–a lot of things the hard way, and others a bit more gracefully.

So with that, here are five life lessons I’ve learned from this school year that I want to share with you:

1.  Take care of yourself.  Truly. It’s very important. Eat healthily, don’t skip meals, exercise, and yes, sometimes all-nighters are necessary, but sleep well as much as you can. More importantly, sometimes with all the pressures of college, people can entirely neglect their emotional and spiritual health, too. If you’re having problems, it’s okay to seek out counseling, spiritual direction, or call a friend at midnight needing to talk. Don’t be afraid to ask people to pray for you. Also, don’t be afraid to let go of toxic friendships.  This is also a two-way street: don’t take care of others so much that you neglect to take care of yourself. Balance is key.

2.  Remember that most of the time, everyone is just doing the best they can–including YOU.  Be patient with people.  Be quick to love and forgive.  Be slow to judge.  Give people second chances (wisely, of course).  Actually ask how people are doing, and if they respond with some litany of “busy, tired, stressed,” (or the even funnier what they are doing answer: “I have a seven-page paper due at midnight,”), ask them again. Listen. Smile. And love.  And the same goes for you: if you are too tired or emotionally drained to finish your Anthropology reading, the world won’t end.  Not every paper can be your best paper.  Your GPA doesn’t define you.  Sometimes things going on in your personal life need to take precedence over your school work.  Just keep chugging through.  And don’t be afraid.  You’ve got this–more than you know. 🙂

3.  Sometimes, that two-hour life chat with your friend at Starbucks is more important than your homework.  It’s true.  Yes, you may lose a little extra sleep, but people are more important sometimes.  Be there for people, and be present with the people that you are with, rather than half-listening while texting your boyfriend and mentally making a to-do list of what you’re going to do after the conversation with your friend.  Social media can wait.  Live in the moment, and cherish your friendships, because they are so precious in college.  And have the important conversations, the conversations that matter–don’t play the Who’s Busier/More Sleep-Deprived/More Stressed Out Game.  Which leads to…

4.  Don’t stress: everything happens for a reason.  Yes, it’s the cliché of all clichés that people don’t want to hear when things are seemingly crashing and burning.  But it’s true.  Everything indeed has a way of working itself out.  And yes, one day you will look back and see that things all made sense.  But sometimes, you need a healthy dose of perspective.  Life is incredibly hard in today’s world.  But things will get better–they always do.  When you feel stressed, remember to breathe, count your blessings, laugh, and focus on the bigger picture.  Which finally brings me to…

5.  Trust in God.  Bring everything to Him.  I made a new rule for myself this semester that I wouldn’t tell my family or friends more about what was going on in my life than what I was telling God about my life.  It’s incredibly difficult to trust in God and actually trust in Him rather than thinking you are when you are simultaneously trying to control every aspect of your life (yep, learned that one the hard way).  Take time to pray or meditate or have alone time every day.  God has beautiful plans for us.  Put your life–every project, exam, friendship trouble, walk to class, relationship issue, award you win, happy times with friends–in His hands and allow Him to love you–because you are so worthy of His love.  He carries you through difficulties and walks by your side holding your hand always.  When you truly trust Him, your life will shift: everything becomes a little clearer, and peace and true joy can overflow your heart.

God Bless and Sweet Dreams,

Lauren ♥