Tuesday, December 28, 2010

+ Losing Everything. +

Nine years old. I handed my mom a couple of my dad's dress socks I'd found and she tossed them into a laundry basket in the back of the big, yellow U-Haul. I stared at my big playhouse in the backyard with my quiet blue eyes and wondered what would be at the next house. Ohio. What would that state be like? My strawberry patch, my rose garden, my green bean plants, my greenhouse. Time to leave, again. Why, I didn't know, but it was time.

Thirteen years old. Brushing pieces of fiberglass insulation out of my face, I tried to process what had just happened. The silence was surreal after the deafening sound of the entire house being ripped apart by a tornado. I didn't know if my youngest brother was still alive, and my body was frozen with the shock of seeing the open sky where walls and a roof should have been. Nothing of mine was saved; all I had were the clothes I was wearing and a pair of my mom's old shoes that I'd found in the dark.

Eighteen years old. I left my parents' house, completely unplanned, and never came back. My sister smuggled a bit of clothing to me over the next week or two, but the majority of everything I owned was left behind. I realized much later that my parents found the notes from my boyfriend that I'd hidden at the bottom of my sock drawer. What I wouldn't give to have those back.

Nineteen years old. I stared at the stack of red luggage in front of me in the parking lot and thought of the condo I'd just furnished the month before and boxes upon boxes of beloved memories left in a near-stranger's garage. Moving across the country by myself for the second time, again unplanned until two days prior, and all I could take was what I could fit on the plane. Again. The numbing emptiness didn't hit me until I was in Memphis on a layover and I thought of how much of my life I'd left scattered across the country. And wondered if I would ever get any of it back. My chest ached.

Twenty years old. Staring at the shattered glass all over the pavement and the seat of my car, I could barely breathe. I had left my car for five minutes, just long enough for my Macbook Pro to be stolen from under the backseat. Everything I'd ever written. Every picture I'd ever taken. Every project I'd ever done for any client. A year's worth of letters I'd written to my sister while she was kept in a "boarding school" of sorts, with a strict no-correspondence rule. I wrote every day and planned to give them to her whenever my parents let her out, or when she turned 18. The two books I was in the middle of writing. That laptop contained the only remnants of previous lives I'd lived; all of it gone. I'd come to terms with losing all my physical things over and over again in the past years, and I had held onto pictures and written memories to keep me sane. Now these were gone too. I felt like my life had just been erased.

I could go on, but it's hard. There are more stories, but I've made my point.

I am familiar with loss.

I know what it's like to stand alone in an airport and wonder what happened to your life.

I have fought through the long minutes in the shower, feeling the hot water burn the back of your neck and not wanting to ever climb out and stare at the reflection of your empty hands in the mirror.

I have cried over the loss of a ragged pink blanket given to me the day I was born, that made it through more than 20 moves - but not the 21st.

Loss is something I fear possibly more than anything else. It induces panic. It reminds me that I am helpless. But there are few times I have ever felt more alive.

I can only assume that God made it a priority to teach me this lesson: I can take nothing with me.

It is true that we do not know what we have until it's gone.

It is also true that we do not know how worthless those things were until we learn to live without them.

What would you still have if you woke up tomorrow morning with all your possessions gone? What would you do if you were given one suitcase to fill in 10 minutes before you moved 3000 miles away? How would you deal with the material faux-foundation being stripped out from under your feet?

I have learned to let go. To hold my hand open. We control nothing. Ultimately, God calls the shots. The shots that leave you sitting in the middle of a cul-de-sac in the middle of the night, in a city you don't know, rain soaking you while you sob. The shots that show you the immeasurable gap between your soul and what you think you own.

I ask you to let go. To live with less. To open your hands. To be thankful for extreme loss. To leave things in order to find life.

This week, get rid of things that you'd rather keep. Create a void. Shake your security. Force yourself to miss something. Bleed it out. And then, seek God.

You'll hear things you've never heard, and you'll breathe in a way you never have.


Monday, December 20, 2010

+ The Heart Leads & The Mind Protects: The Men to Love & The Men to Leave. +

Follow your heart! He broke my heart.

Do what you love most! I'm addicted to ______.

Listen to your gut! I don't trust myself anymore.

How many of these phrases have you uttered? I've said all of them. Countless times. And I've listened to you say them, countless times.

This generation has been the first to shamelessly break traditions, expectations, safe decisions - to pursue passions, listen to today over yesterday and sacrifice everything for what makes your heart race.

I love it, and I hate it.

It's reaping great rewards, and great costs.

Do you see the cost, on the flipside of every push to put your heart first?

In our haste, I believe we have spit out the meat and not just the bones.

This applies to a handful of topics, but I want to talk about relationships. And women, I'm looking at you.

Stand up for yourself.

Put your heart on hold for three minutes, and decide right now to bring your mind back into your relationships.

I don't mean this in an insulting way. I'm not calling you stupid.

I'm calling you to use everything you've been given for the purpose it was intended.

I'm not telling you to be heartless, and to pursue relationships that feel wrong.

I'm calling you to be wise, and to surround yourself with men you respect, not men who just make your heart feel something.

Mind and heart.

It's not one or the other, it's both, together.

I'm pulling all of my past mistakes into the present to tell you that I've been there, and I've learned the lessons the painful way. And to tell you that chances are, you don't understand how valuable you are.

I'm going to make some very blunt, specific statements. Take them to heart.

Do not stay with a man who doesn't hug and kiss you.

Do not stay with a man who doesn't love your friends.

Do not stay with a man who turns you against friends or family.

Do not stay with a man who gives you better sex than friendship.

Do not stay with a man who tells you that love is all you need to make life work.

Do not stay with a man who belittles you, especially through sarcasm.

Do not stay with a man who treats you like a casual acquaintance in public.

Do not stay with a man who regularly talks about how hot other women are.

Do not stay with a man who talks shit about his ex's.

Do not stay with a man who has no expectations for his life.

Do not stay with a man who does not care about his family.

Do not stay with a man who talks badly about his mother.

Do not stay with a man who calls you whore, cunt, slut or bitch.

Do not stay with a man who is quick to accuse you.

Do not stay with a man who halves you, instead of doubles you.

Do not stay with a man where it is never his fault or it is always his fault.

Do not stay with a man who asks but does not give (in and out of the bedroom).

Do not stay with a man who gets angry with you daily or weekly.

Do not stay with a man you do not admire.

Do not stay with a man if you are ever afraid of him.

Do not stay with a man who considers you a liability and not an asset.

Do not stay with a man who won't tell you The Number.

Do not stay with a man who compares you to other women.

Do not stay with a man who does not believe in & live for something greater than himself.

Do not stay with a man who lies to you.

Do not stay with a man who does not regularly encourage you.

Do not stay with a man who never offers to pay.

Do not stay with a man you love when you're with him but that hate when you're not.

Do not stay with a man who would read this list and laugh.

I could go on, and on.

But every single type of man listed here, I have made the decision to stay with, "because of my heart." I tell you this for this purpose only: To beg you to follow your heart, WITH your mind.

You KNOW you deserve better. You KNOW the type of man you want. You KNOW you want to feel like a better woman around your man. You KNOW sleeping around isn't worth it. You KNOW you won't find the right man until you let go of the wrong one. You KNOW waiting will be hard but the sacrifice will be worth it. You KNOW your tendency to pardon things you shouldn't. You KNOW you want to be a good woman.

Use your mind. It was given to you so that you could guard your heart above all else, for it is the wellspring of life.

Love passionately, and choose intelligently.

Let me put it this way.

If you cannot respect a man, you cannot love him to the best of your ability.

You can only love him mindlessly.

The women who love mindlessly and marry men they cannot respect, are the women who endure pain, loneliness, divorce, infidelity, regret, bitterness, abuse, and a lifetime of heartache.


Because they did not protect their hearts with their minds.

Note to men: I just set the bar pretty high for you. Good. You have a world of beautiful, sexy women behind you who want to believe in you, stand beside you, and make your world a thousand times better than it already is. Step it up. Be the man that we respect. We're not asking for perfect men, we're asking for good men. We are ready for you. Be the good man that you are, and win over a woman who wants you like crazy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

+ today. +

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

+ rest +

I'm terrible at resting. I'm terrible at knowing why I'm terrible at resting.

Have you heard that most weaknesses are just strengths taken too far? My strength is diving headfirst into things that wrap their fingers around my heart, and working hard to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. I'm not passive. And I take it too far. I'm proud of the strength, and ashamed of the weakness. I'm ashamed of the cost.

I'm still learning the cost of the weakness. And let me tell you, there is a great cost.

What has it cost me? Health. Peace. Relationships. Friendships. Seeing truth. Hearing God. Seeing God. My memory. Quality of work. Love. Joy. Wisdom. Invaluable experiences. Emotional stability. And on, and on, and on.

I recently watched a documentary called, "Stress: Portrait of A Killer." It's on Netflix, and you should watch it.

I wish I could say seeing the science behind stress and the destruction of brain cells was my breaking point, but I'm a little more selfish than that.

On December 1st, I woke up at 3:30am and realized I didn't have any interest in getting out of bed that day, which would arrive in a couple of hours. Everything on my plate were things I had chosen: A good job (not involving physical discomfort and more than paying my bills), school (which I love) and a major I'm interested in, editing photos that I took because I adore photography, writing the mission for Love Bomb, and a handful of trite activities. None of these were miserable tasks that I'd been forced to complete, none of them were long-hated obligations that I'd been silently swearing against for years.

So why was I dreading the morning?

For the past two weeks, I've been searching for this answer. And I found it. It is because I do not rest.

Skipping a class and sleeping in an extra 2 hours because your entire body aches is not rest. Taking a day off work to catch up on overdue commitments is not rest. Splurging on more coffee at 10pm is not rest. Fighting against the guilt of being a month behind on housework and triumphantly choosing not to do them just yet is not rest.

If you are working relentlessly out of guilt or self-inflicted obligation, stop immediately.

If you think maybe you're working relentlessly because of guilt or self-inflicted obligation but aren't quite sure, stop immediately.

The actions that fill your days should come out of health, joy, love, peace, and heart.

If you've lost your passion, drop everything, and for the love of God: Go find it.

If you are trying to play savior to others, or to yourself, you don't know Jesus as well as you thought you did.

Rest is physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. The cost of not resting affects all three of those areas as well.

I am the poster child for anti-rest. I have taken it upon myself to destroy that quality in me. This past week, I have let go of the majority of my obligations, much to the dismay of the world I decided that I could save. Yesterday, the moment I was off work, I came home and crawled into bed. Yes, at 2:30pm. I slept for four hours. I woke up, read some, wrote a letter, talked to a friend, half-watched a documentary, and went to bed early. I overslept this morning. My entire past 2 weeks has looked like this. Lazy? No. I am resting. I am catching up on 8 years of rest that I never had. I am cooking real food and lounging on the sofa for an hour while I watch trash TV and eat my dinner. Lazy? No. I am resting.

Three days ago, a marvelous thing happened. I woke up from a nap, sat up, and said to myself, "I miss my friends!" I went downstairs, turned on a documentary, sat down at the table, and wrote a handful of letters. While I had my envelopes and stamps out, I wrote a letter to the girl I sponsor in Zimbabwe, and paid some bills. IT WAS FUN. I loved it. These were all things that normally are on my to-do list; things that drip with guilt. And in this moment, I realized why they drip with guilt: Not because I don't want to, but because I am too tired.

My body, mind, and heart have been screaming at me for years, and I just now heard them.

I will throw a brick at the next person who says to me, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," and consider it a service to humanity. I realize this is extremely hypocritical of me, but we preach best what we need to hear most.

I understand that it's hard. I understand that some of you are soldiers on multiple battlefields. I understand that for some of you, being "sister, mother, daughter, wife and friend" is not just some cute little description of you that hangs on a plaque in your bathroom. I understand that some of you are paying for others' mistakes. I have a word for you from God, the one who created you: "Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest." (Exodus 34:21)

I beg of you to rest.

If you cannot yet rest physically, rest spiritually. Know that, “my Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (Exodus 33:14)

If you cannot yet rest physically, rest emotionally. Know that, "the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders." (Deuteronomy 33:12)

If you cannot yet rest physically, rest mentally. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)

And if you cannot rest physically, ask yourself the hard questions. Why have you committed to certain people? Why are you consumed with X, Y & Z? Why do you chase after the things you chase after? What are you doing that is your security blanket? What will you lose if you work less? Why will you miss what is gone?

The cost of not resting is great. If you don't believe me, do a word search for "rest" in the Bible. Or go watch "Ink" on Netflix.

Give yourself grace. And rest.

- - -

"Very well then,
with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people,
to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen.
So then, the word of the LORD to them will become:
Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that;
a little here, a little there—
so that as they go they will fall backward;
they will be injured and snared and captured."
Isaiah 28.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

+ 2011 +

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

+ december & pornography +

Part One: It's December 1st, and you know what that means. Time for Lauren's annual crisis.

For some reason, right around Thanksgiving, I question everything I'm doing and everything I am.

It's like climbing a mountain ever year, and as soon as the snow hits, I slide right back to the bottom of it.

I'm learning that the valley is a good place. I make the closest friends here.

It slows me down, and it forces me to face my imperfections. I become real - something I have a gift for escaping, and have had ever since I was twelve years old, sitting in the car asking my dad, "what is 'me?'"

I woke up in the middle of the night last night, sprawled between my bare mattress and my comforter (I was too exhausted to get my sheets out of the dryer last night when I got home), staring at the ceiling. I felt like I was seven. 23 year old women should have sheets on their beds. Time had stopped, and I gave myself five minutes to hate everything.

To hate that I'm 23 and in an inconvenient limbo between child and adult.

To hate that I'm selling myself short in school. That I'm still in school.

To hate that I'm a workaholic and have missed out on a lot of life.

To hate that I'm not half as good at anything as I want to be.

To hate the way people perceive me, and my inability to communicate who I am.

To hate that I had no interest in getting out of bed in three hours for anything.

To hate that I come to this place, over and over and over.

I'm 23, and still asking what is Me.

In the shower this morning, the shampoo bottle was a million miles away from me. There was a gap between my finger tips and the tile that was making my head spin. Some part of me was infinitely objective, distanced from everything I was in physical contact with. Hello, preposition.

When I find myself here, it is easy to believe that I am the only one. To believe that no one else feels this distance, and that everyone else is in tune with life, except for me.

But it's not true. We all experience this. And we all hate these same things.

I have no guarantee that quitting my job is the best decision or that taking anti-depressants during the winter is a good idea.

When you don't know anything, you fight to find what you do know.

And this is what I knew, at 3:30am. God has never failed me, not one single time. I am loved and protected and he will be my dad. He is worth trusting. I will never be homeless. Joy does not come from things. He knows me better than I know myself. He has given me a compassion that fights to get out of my chest and he will do so, in his way and in his timing. Every time I've worked towards something, I've obtained it. Worrying is pointless. I am blessed. I know that I desperately love people. Every struggle I've been through has always paid off. I've always come out better on the other side. Always. I know that as hard as things are, I love my life.

Desperation and insecurities are gifts. I am thankful for them.

Here's to December and finding out what kind of lessons are learned through meltdowns, failure, freaking out and persistent joy.

- - -

Part Two:

I'm going to make this incredibly brief. There are few men I respect, few men whose writing gets my complete attention, and few men who are still fighting.

Go add this man to your blogroll, rss, google reader, bookmarks - whatever it is you do.


Max Dubinsky's mind is something worth keeping tabs on weekly. He has invaluable perspective.

We do a lot of talking about fairly weightless things. MakeItMad isn't one of them. Make it your job to talk about Max. I want to see his name everywhere.