Thursday, September 30, 2010

+ fix your eyes. +

Mmmmm. Blog time. Let's see what's been going on in my head lately.

Joy is what's been going on. Let's talk about joy!

What is joy?

The dictionary says, "the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated."

What does the Bible have to say about joy?

It says a lot. A whole lot.

- - -

"He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God's face and shouts for joy;
he is restored by God to his righteous state." Job 33:26

"You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound."
Psalm 4:7

"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song." Psalm 28:7

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." Psalm 126:5

Nehemiah said, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
Nehemiah 8:10

- - -

Joy. We all want it. We all wish for it. We all remember the times we had it. Mostly as kids, when we were carefree, or for a brief period when life was overwhelmingly good.

Unfortunately, the majority of us don't have hearts filled and overflowing with joy. We aren'treaping with songs of joy. We are grieving. Because life is HARD. And painful.

It's difficult to have a heart overflowing with joy when we wake up to texts from people we don't want in our lives, when our bodies are shaking with sickness, when we remember what happened yesterday. Joy evades us when the majority of people we talk to in a day drain it from us, when we hate our jobs, when we don't have a job, when we realize how old we are and how far we are from where we thought we would be. With no ability, still, to get there.

I am going to tell you how to have joy. Instantly.

Are you ready?

Here it is.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." - 2 Corinthians 2:18

Perception. Vision. The Unseen.

Where are your eyes FIXED? Notice it doesn't say glance. Or look. It says fixed. We fix our eyes on what is unseen. Daily.

Go back and read the joy verses. And the things I listed that suck the joy out of our hearts. Do you see it? Do you see the sharp contrast?

"The joy of the Lord is your strength." The joy OF the Lord. His joy. It comes from him. He is our unseen. He is what we fix our eyes upon. "YOU have filled my heart with joy." When we see God's face, our hearts are filled with joy. Joy comes from Him.

What grieves us? People. Things. Our lives. Our struggles. Disappointments. Hurts. Abandonment. Failures. Worthlessness. Loss.

"But I have Jesus, and I still don't have joy." I've been there. Do you know what's wrong? My eyes were not FIXED on Jesus. Fixation says the eternal is our focus, what we keep in front of us at all times. All times. Locked on the unseen. We lose our joy when we slip from this.

Grief is temporary. Joy is eternal.

When we learn that eternity started before we were born, and not after we die, we will realize that there is an unseen world that exists within our reach. This is the world in which we will find joy.

Fix your eyes on it. Fix your eyes on Jesus. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, our perception changes. We find what we have, not what we do not have. We find what we've been given, not what's been taken away. We find who we are, not who we aren't. We find love, not abandonment. We find that we revolve around our Maker, and not he around us. We find that pain positions us for purpose, and purpose gives birth to joy. The joy that was sown in tears. But we reap only when we learn to fix our eyes on the unseen.

Before I end this, let me remind us of what joy is: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated.

Our Jesus is exceptionally good. Exceptionally satisfying. He is the source of keen delight. He is who we should greatly value and appreciate.

When we fix our eyes on this, we experience the emotion.

Fix your eyes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

+ learning, growing, healing, joy, engagement photos. +

what i learned this weekend:

- vintage schwinn bikes have incredibly small posts
- routine relieves stress
- god takes $80 expenses down to $5 when you ask
- god hasn't forgotten what happened to you when you were 8 years old
- i'm way more of a southern belle than i thought
- the holy spirit moves when we do
- there is ALWAYS someone going thru what we are, & god brings them to us when we ask
- there is power quite literally in the name of jesus. speak it more.
- god can use death cab to remind us of his presence in the present AND the past
- i am crazy different, and that's okay.
- when you are real, you are present. learn to be real. (thank you, christen)
- we don't always have to understand our brokenness before god can heal it
- joy is a shield.
- wherever it is that you are, god brought you there. not yourself or someone else.

i took photos for stiffler and caitlyn's engagement yesterday, and they are adorable. sneak peeeeek. Also, if you live in Columbus, I am hosting a $15-20 Portrait Day In The Park at Goodale! Invite your friends, and come if you'd like!

"You did not choose me,
but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit —
fruit that will last.
Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
This is my command: Love each other."
John 15:16-17

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

+ college. oh, college. +

Hi lovelies. I really wanted to write a nice long post thanking Nate (and all of you) for his generosity in making my fundraiser to stay in college the ISWU mission for this week, and explain that I just found out this morning I might be able to stay in college (and consequently found classes and showed up to my first one tonight) so I'm going to pray for the best and trust it works out, even though I'm still working 9-5 at the moment...I also wanted to elaborate on the lessons I learned last year from being in school, and how much I cried today, and how much I appreciate all of you.

But. It's 8:17pm and I have class at 7:30am, and I have to finish editing a photoshoot that is due tomorrow and take a shower and figure out where my class is and what I need between now and then, and put together tomorrow's Love Bomb mission, and I got 4 hours of sleep last night.

So. No pretty post from me. :( Just my simple, honest telling of my attempt to raise $4000 so I can stay in college. And you can help me, if you feel led. Either way, I covet your prayers. I needed them desperately today, and so many of you prayed, and God moved.

Thank you, I love you dearly.

You can go here to view the whole thing, or if you'd just like to help me a bit, you can do it through this widget below.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

+ so overwhelmed. and photos of aubrie. +

Oh. My. Gosh. I do not know what happened this week. I guess all of this was just building and finally exploded today. Way short on money and I'm pretty sure half the people I know are irritated with me being MIA. I really don't understand how the rest of you all keep up. How do you keep all your bills paid? How do you remember to take your vitamins? How do you answer the emails you get and follow through with every person you tell you'll hang out with them? How do you organize the massive piles of mail that come in, and figure out what bills take priority? Etc etc etc.

All I know right now is that I suddenly need exponentially more time, and more money. Just to figure out the nightmare that is my bank account. Bank accounts. Bleh.

Time to work more, and book more shoots. Speaking of, any of you all want some pictures taken? Doing them cheap! Requirement: Be in Columbus. Hah.

I took Aubrie's senior photos this past weekend. I really love how they turned out. It obviously helps that she's adorable and has a beautiful smile and incredible blue eyes.

So yeah. How do you guys do it? How do you stay organized? What do you do when people flip out because you don't have enough time to do everything? Help.

You told me that I wouldn’t find a home
Beneath the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal
And all the while my character it steals

And you, you’ve gone too far this time
You have neither reason nor rhyme
With which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine

- - -

PS. I am trying to raise money to stay in school! Does anyone have $10 or $50 or $howevermuch they can donate? It would mean the world to me. Help Me Stay In College

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pain: What I Learned From Depression, Grief & Brokenness.

It is just outrageous how much I've been growing. You know the first day you feel better after being horribly sick for awhile? You wake up and think, "MAN. I feel so GOOD." It's like that. I am in absolute awe of how good life is lately, and so grateful that God follows through on every single promise. My circumstances have not changed - but my heart has. I am proof that with God, all things are possible. Proof that faith reaps a great harvest beyond what we can expect or comprehend. Proof that healing is real, not just a code word for acceptance of your shit situation.

One of the things that has been breaking my heart lately is watching so many friends and beautiful people go through devastating loss, heartbreak, pain, confusion, betrayal, self-hatred and various struggles - and to offer no greater help than to say, "Go to God. He loves you more than you can ever grasp, and will heal every hurt and answer every question." Because I know that it is one of the hardest things in the world to decide to believe in the midst of all this that God will heal. God will comfort. That one day, we will get to the point where we are on the other side, and become grateful for the pain we went through. Yes, grateful.

Note: I say pain a lot in this post. What I am talking about is the heartwrenching, deepest ache, numbing, debilitating, lonely, hopeless, rock-bottom, can't move, can't function, have-no-one-to-go-to, can't breathe because your lungs are being crushed, utter desperation and despair type of pain. If you've been here, I am talking to you. I know pain.

We talk a lot about healing, about moving on. Growing up, 'getting over it.' By the time all of us go through about 20 years of life, let alone 30 or 40, we're like children that have been hit by trucks on the highway - broken bones, internal bleeding, psychological damage, permanent handicaps, lost limbs. We cannot help but talk about healing, and we operate through our injuries.

We learn to forgive the truck drivers, over and over and over. As we should. But healing? For this we must submit ourselves to the surgeon. We MUST put our bodies, minds and hearts under the lights on the operating table and say, "Fix me. Please, fix me. I cannot."

The last time I checked, surgery was never enjoyable. Stitches aren't fun. Having chunks of debris being picked out of your flesh is excruciating. Having bones re-set is pain upon pain.

But tell me this: Why do you not submit yourself to the one who can heal you?

I didn't, because I was terrified of learning to walk without my crutches. We grow to love what slows us down. I didn't, because I didn't trust a surgeon I couldn't see. I didn't, because it meant that I would have to lie still, and trust hands that I didn't understand. I didn't, because I thought I would get a cookie-cutter Christian treatment that didn't fit me and my unique pain. I didn't, because I thought I would die if I experienced more pain. I didn't, because I thought healing meant, "God will use this for good if you learn to live with this hurt." I didn't, because I didn't think God offered healing as the dictionary defines it: to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health; free from ailment.

I didn't, because I didn't want to be healed; without wounds. Because I wanted everyone to see what the truck had done to me. To remain injured and in pain meant that everyone would know - and when we are broken, we have a desperate need for others to know. To be validated in our pain. Because usually, those that hurt us are those we love, and consequently, those that hurt us are the ones that do not validate our pain - so we become living, walking messes of cognitive dissonance, silently begging for comfort from those who tell us that we either are not in pain or deserve to be in it. In my experience, I would accurately describe this as hell on earth.

I remember at a low point telling my friend Kelly, "I don't even want to be happy."

I have found that the greatest obstacle between us and God is pain.

Why? Because we are STILL like children in hospital. Crying, shaking, sobbing, and hiding...begging the nurse to not take us to the doctor, because he has needles, knives and scary looking tools. Operating rooms are terrifying.

An interesting thing about humans is that we never change from child into adult. It's not linear. We simply add to and expand ourselves, until one day the calendar says we are an adult. The core of us is still a child. In order to get ourselves to that operating table, we must either choose to believe (faith) the adult that tells us it is for our benefit, or be sedated and held down. Faith is being a child, and choosing to believe something that scares us because we do not know it.

Last night over dinner with Julie, we were talking about my family, and I explained how grateful I was for all the pain I'd been through. Why? Because I have learned to trust the surgeon. I have experienced some of the most difficult pain, and come out alive. I have a compassion and empathy and love for others in pain that will never leave, that has been anchored in the depths of my heart by pain. [ You know we rarely remember exactly what was said or done, but we always remember how it made us feel? Emotions carry a greater weight than specific words and actions. ] I am grateful for pain.

The greatest lesson I have learned through pain is the character of the surgeon.

I have learned that it is his nature to HEAL. His heart to LOVE. His way to COMFORT. His purpose to make us WHOLE.

The second greatest lesson I have learned through pain is to trust what He says over what I feel or know.

He WILL restore; nothing is beyond recovery or worthwhile purpose. He is not harsh, he is not rough, he is not a punishing or angry healer. He will never send you away because the pain is 'your fault.' The pain WILL lessen, and it lessens through patient, steady, often stupid-looking faith. It takes time, but we must hold out, and believe. It will come. It's a promise.

It is easier to trust a doctor with our bodies than with our hearts and minds, but I beg you to trust him.

But trust him wholly. His medicine, his procedures, his love, his way. We cannot half-ass healing, lest we end up worse than where we started. Always go back to him. When it starts to hurt, go to him. Again. And again. And again. When it doesn't make sense, go back to him. When you freak out again, go back to him. When the result doesn't look how you thought it would, go back to him. Always go back to him.

And there is no guilt or shame in asking him for painkillers along the way. But his painkillers, not ours.

I have glimpsed the other side, and it is good.

- - -

"This is what the Lord says:

Your wound is incurable; your injury beyond healing. There is no one to plead your case, no remedy for your wounds, no healing for you. All your allies have forgotten you; they care nothing for you. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord. Because you are called an outcast for whom no one cares. I will restore life to you and have compassion on you, a city will be rebuilt on your ruins,and the palace will stand in it's proper place." Jeremiah 30

It was I who taught her to walk, taking her by the arms; but she did not realize it was I who healed her. I led her with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from her neck and bent down to feed her. - Hosea 11:3-4

I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten. - Joel 2:25

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:13

Sunday, September 12, 2010

+ redemption, walks, nature and women +

I sabotage myself daily, but I am told I have one who fights in my behalf.

I flail desperately for something I can lean my weight against, but I am told I have a rock and foundation.

I suffer a debilitating identity crisis, but I am told my name is engraved on his palms for eternity.

I have run and found no escape, but I am told he hides me in the shadow of his wing.

I have set the world on my back and destroyed myself with its weight, but I am told there is one who carries it for me.

I have failed in everything, but I am told I have a redeemer.

I am blind, but I have been told to set my sights on the unseen.

I am covered in bruises like a woman stumbling alone in the dark, but I am told I have a healer whose name is a light to my path.

I am, but I am told He Is.

- - -

I took a walk. The world is beautiful, is it not?

[ full set is here. ]

- - -

what revives
like the natural green
or stills
like running water
what promises
like the oak
or silences
like wind
what glistens
like the flare
and renews
like distance
what commands
like a quiet woman
and what laughs
like her red dress

- - -

Katy Perry has a surprise song on her album. I posted it here so you can all listen to it without downloading. You should. It's well worth the 4 minutes and 9 seconds.

BIG NOTE: I am now selling clothing. Hooray! More will be added soon. Feel free to spread the word since I need/want to get rid of this stuff: :

Thursday, September 9, 2010

+ living & pretty things +

An excerpt from my journal, back in March 2010:

"I think my missing secret may be to perceive life holistically, and not to compartmentalize. I need to stop limiting, dividing, standardizing, closing, expecting, sectioning and drawing lines. My life is whole, not in days or years or places. I live in the center of a sphere that becomes more fully developed, not a dot moving forwards along a linear path.

When God created us in His image, he meant, "in his image." When He says "I Am," we have an element of his Being. Active being. Time, place and other restrictions on us are illusions to keep us bound and blinded with a focus only on moving forward, and to keep us from experiencing that we are, and we are whole in our existence. "

- - -

Darling Katie mailed me this adorable...well, I certainly can't call it a letter or a card because it is neither. It made me cry. I think I'm going to start documenting my mail, because I believe I get the best in the world. I am so blessed.

Tom lent me an amazing movie which you should all see, called Frida. I'm warning you, it's beyond depressing. But one of those movies that "everyone should watch." I can't help but make little pretty things all the time, so I taped this on the DVD when I returned it:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

+ lessons from my mini sabbatical +

[ credit : parker fitzgerald ]

This won't flow. It is all blips and pieces of fragmented thoughts that came to me over the 72 hours I spent without a phone or computer. Some are more developed than others. The photos above were to prepare you for the words below. Enjoy.

.:. we have trained ourselves to look for beauty in other lives, not our own.

.:. we create relationships for ourselves. they are never forced upon us.

.:. the majority of conversations should take place in person, not via text.

.:. the moment technology stops being a resource and becomes a liability, it needs to be re-evaluated. immediately.

.:. social networking should be re-named theworldinyourbedroom.

.:. i have a new ability to see through an online presence and measure the true life content of a person.

.:. we are so dependant on our gps and maps because we live in a constant time crunch. i didn't use my gps this weekend. result: i had to turn around multiple times, and took several 'scenic routes.' i also saw many parts of my city for the first time, and had a few 'well let's see where this road goes' followed with 'oh my gosh here i am!' i put the puzzle pieces together. i feel rebuked for my desire to travel when i haven't taken the time to see my own city.

.:. the majority of my stress is a result of mis-managed relationships and poorly chosen staples of my daily life.

.:. my brain has invented some type of obligation to "finish" everything. pursue things forever. never drop something i began. if i follow a blog, i feel obligated to read every post, eternally. i've placed my interests first, and myself second. how ridiculous.

.:. our thought processes become influenced by the words and images that float around us, even if we do not consciously accept them. saturating ourselves in high-speed communication and heavy content input environments will launch us into a collective lifestyle that no individual could or should live in or up to. hello, stress.

.:. we don't write nearly enough.

.:. if you "don't write", then let me clarify: we don't reflect nearly enough.

- - -

Thoughts on social networking: (you knew it was coming)
We value communication over content. Let me break this down a bit more. We value the relationship over the person. And a bit further...

Social networking is a tool; nothing more, nothing less. It betters a good purpose and exacerbates a poor one. And like any tool, it is only healthy in moderation, and when the master controls it to fulfill the purpose. There is an inherent flaw in humanity that twists everything to be self-seeking unless we acknowledge it and choose to live differently. This manifests itself primarily in our relationships. It is so easy to "have" relationships for the sake of having a relationship with that person. We become tempted to "own" relationships for self-seeking purposes, even if they are as innocent as to fill our universal need for acknowledgement, validation, and worth. Our value has come to sit not on the actual person, but on the connection we have with that person. I even drew a picture to explain.

This is what I mean when I say that social networking either betters or exacerbates. If our value is misplaced, it magnifies our weighty mistake (and selfishness) to a point that we are beyond excuse, and it is recognizable to the naked human eye.

I will say it again: value first the person, not the relationship.

Social networking should exist to plant, nurture and grow our relationships with people (and content, too) that we value. Maybe it would help if we referred to other humans not as people but as lives. NOT to enable us to feed a self-focused desire to multiply all sorts of various fragile and thin "barely-there" relationships with people and content that we only want to care about. Our time is truly limited. Deal it out wisely. Brushing fingertips is not a handshake.

- - -

Hard questions:

.:. If you didn't blog or tweet for a week, who would notice or care? This is not rhetorical. Go name them.

.:. When was the last time you stepped outside of the internet to interact with that person(s)?

.:. How few texts could you get by sending each day?

.:. If you use Google reader, and had a folder for "friends" - what would your ratio of friends to various blogs be?

.:. What do you obligate yourself to that is an illusion?

.:. What have you wanted to do or not do that has been sacrificed for the draw of spiderweb-thin relationships?

.:. Do you seek to document beauty in your own life, or are you guilty of simply coveting beauty in others? (There is a secret hidden here: It exists everywhere, and is found only when documented.)

- - -

the world is too big to be your own.

so find your corner.

water it and make it grow.

and occasionally, take extravagant field trips

- - -

My final thought: I need more than 3 days of living like this.

- - -

P.S. I got glasses. Seeing is awesome.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

+ mis·cel·la·ny /ˈmisəˌlānē/ +

1. I loved this post about the world being God's art gallery with free admission. I will be visiting it frequently this weekend.

2. I have an eye doctor appointment today at 1:45pm and am terrified of eye drops, so. Not looking forward to that too much.

3. We are dropping a Love Bomb on the entire Chicago Fire Department! Go do it!

4. Yesterday, I got a package full of presents from Jamie. I got a sweet note, an adorable pin cushion & pin cushion ring, a notepad, and a vintage pack of needles (two, actually). I adore little presents - they mean the world to me and keep me going. Jamie, you're amazing and I love you!

5. I have a new set of photos up from the skatepark in Ashville, Ohio. I've gone the last 2 weeks to hang out with everyone and pray with them, and I absolutely loved snapping some photos of the kids that showed up.

6. I keep forgetting I have a shop. I should add more photos/drawings/paintings and take it more seriously.

7. I wish I was more faithful with art journaling, like Michelle, and these two moleskine tumblrs.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

+ growing up, shedding skin. +

I'm shedding some skin.

Through an intricate and elaborate merging of personality, childhood, life circumstance, and necessity, I have slowly become a woman of Everything.

Like anything else, this possesses some weighty pros and cons.

This past week I have come to three difficult realizations of Self:

.+. I am an ADD perfectionist

.+. I am a highly introspective extrovert

.+. I am a dreamer with a heavy dose of Fear [ realistic idealist? ]

All three of these have set me up to succeed, and succeed well, while also to fail, and fail hard.

And I haven't even mentioned that I seem to be equally left and right brained. Which complicates all decision making, and how exactly this skin-shedding will go about.

So, this weekend appropriately being Labor Day weekend, I am taking a mini-life vacation.

Saturday, Sunday & Monday: No phone, no computer, no work.

I have made it a point to have no expectations, eliminate the desire to accomplish anything, and plan nothing - save an 80 minute massage therapy appointment on Saturday morning - oh hallelujah.

If you are someone that usually contacts me personally, I will check my phone once a day for emergencies, as well as my email. If you don't have *urgent* or *emergency* or something similar in the subject/intro, it won't be read until Tuesday morning.

I. Am. Excited.

That being said, I am open to suggestions for beautiful places in Ohio to go see, great relaxation advice, and gifts. Haha! Leave them in my comments, or email me before Saturday: laurennicolelove[at]

But seriously, for you crazy girls that send amazing letters and postcards like it's your job: If you'd like to send me one for this weekend, that'd be sweet. [ I realize this looks like a ridiculous request to those of you who don't partake in this creative penpal movement, but really, we love it. ] If I get one from you this weekend, I will mail you a letter back - because I will have TIME! You can email me for my snail mail address if you don't already have it.

Love you all.

P.S. Ohmygosh. Can I have all of it?
P.P.S. Adorable September calendar for your desktop from Oh, Hello Friend.
P.P.P.S. Great truth from this man.
P.P.P.P.S. I want this jacket.