Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Confession: I've Changed.

Have you changed lately? Are you a different person than you were a year ago? Three? Five?

If you ran into a long lost friend, or fell out of touch with someone for a few months - would they notice that you are different?

I would hope so.

Some of us fear change simply because of the uncertain. Some of us fear change in others because it leaves our relationship undefined. And we all fear change because it reminds us that we are not in control.

I've been accused of changing a lot in my life. This past year included. Guilty as charged.

5 years ago, I would have called myself a sinner.*

2 years ago, my views on sex would not have let me be close friends with the woman I am today.

A year ago, I was scrambling to understand who I was, for the second time.**

And even in the last 6 months, I have become radically different.

Yes. I have changed.

Do you know what I love about Jesus? This. "Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon, the son of John. You will be called Peter.' " (John 1:42)

In one fell swoop, Jesus looks at a man, acknowledges his father, his family, his past - and says, "I know who you are. I KNOW. And I will call you otherwise."

Not, "you have some problems, let's talk about them." Not, "follow me, and eventually you'll be further away from your past." Not, "tell me about yourself." And not, "let's get rid of the bad and keep what looks good."

Jesus says, "I know you. I know everything. I know where you come from, and who you are. None of it matters to me. THIS is who you were created to be, and THIS is what you will be called in the new family that I am creating."

Done, and done.

When you decide to follow Jesus, you are faced with a very inconvenient truth. That you are brand new, and that your reality will never again be the same.

That everything you thought you knew must now be re-filtered through God's perception, not yours.

It is a loaded truth. It is a truth that implies your sins, your faults, your past are dead and gone. A truth that says this world matters no longer, and that our eyes are "to be focused not on the seen but on the unseen." It is a truth that implies the old is DEAD and the new is NOW. It is a truth that forces you over and over again to decide which is more important to you: the kingdom you've lived in your entire life, or the kingdom of heaven.

It is an active truth. It requires fighting. It requires ripping open the scarred flesh so that the surgeon can remove the debris.

Becoming a new creation in Christ is not a fancy way of saying that the sins in your pretty little heart are now invisible to God because you said The Prayer. Becoming a new creation in Christ means that Jesus knew who you were, and has said No. This stops here. You are mine, this is your name, and this is how you fit perfectly into a family that you can't even see yet.

Being given a new name in Christ does not mean that when you get to heaven you will be assigned a bedroom with Mildred Winnie Anne on the plaque above your vanity. (Although this could be true, God does have a sense of humor.) It means that every morning you wake up you must re-commit to accepting the name that Jesus has given you, and refuse the depression, the pain, the accusations, the never-enough, the selfishness, the materialism, the loneliness, the addiction, the sadness, and the failure that every other broken person has sold to you.

I have a hard time with this.

Just as Paul had a thorn in his flesh, I have mine, and you have yours. Or we have a few of them.

Many days, I want to be the Lauren who can't quite hear God clearly. I want to be the Lauren that's depressed because her biological family isn't coming to her wedding on Saturday. I want to be the girl that's really shy that grew up without any friends and struggles to relate to women. I want to be the girl that makes everyone around her happy and at peace. I want to be the Lauren who goes back to re-read Systematic Theology every 5 years so that I can have a tiny chance of winning over my dad with my flawless hermeneutics.

But that is not the name that Jesus has given me.

Jesus has told me that just as a sheep knows the voice of his shepherd, I DO know the voice of my Father. (John 10:2) I have been given family all across the world who actively loves & encourages me daily, because "whoever does My will is my mother, and brother, and sisters." (Matt 12:50) I have been called Bold and Victorious One, because Jesus has promised to carry out to completion the good work that was begun in me. (Phil 1:6) In my mission to preach the scandalous life that Jesus offers, I bear the same sword that He does. (Matthew 10:34) Jesus has called me Simple, because "you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." (Matt 11:25)

Jesus was not a watered-down sort of man. Never did he come to make you better, he came to make you brand new. Never did he show up with painkillers, he came to heal.

You are not somewhere between dead and alive. You are alive.

"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him, all are alive." (Luke 20:38)

Change does not come easily. Life does not come easily.

The people in your life that identify only with your old self will be confused, unsettled, offended or no longer know how to relate to you. But the people who have a glimpse of the self Jesus created you to be will cheer you on, be excited with you, and encourage you in your race to change and be changed.

And that last group of people? THAT is family. The family that will be ever growing - as you continue to seek them out and as God continues to bring them to you exactly when you need them. And when they need you.

You will change.

It's okay to change. It's okay to become more like Jesus and less like you.

It's okay to stand up for your change. Losing things is okay.

I will celebrate your change with you.

I will celebrate the new name Jesus has given you.

How have you changed? Tell me.

Our new names are glorious things.

_ _ _ _

* Recovering legalist, folks. Infinitely envious of what other women possessed but terrified to seek it out, and utterly convinced I would never emanate or live out freedom. Jesus gave it to me.

**Finally addressing a lifelong identity crisis & inferiority complex with being a woman. Coming to terms with Jesus creating me as a woman for a purpose & finally understanding that I have great value (not less) because of my gender.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Reminder For When We Forget.

This is a reminder that God does see you.

And He does love you.

And He does know that you are trying, and trying hard.

This is a reminder that the fight is worth it, particularly when it's painful.

And that the women you admire are worth admiring because of their scars.

And that Jesus sees your scars before anyone else does. While they're still raw wounds.

This is a reminder that tomorrow comes.

That you are beautiful.

That everyone feels alone; it isn't just you.

This is a reminder that Jesus is closer than blood. That "healing" isn't a church-word. That when He feels absent, compassionless, and silent, He is still the great I AM.

This is a reminder that you have been saved.

That you have been re-made.

That you have been re-named.

That when God reached down from heaven and wiped the mud and dirt and sin and sludge off of your heart and soul, he made a commitment to see you as innocent as the day you were born - for eternity.

This is a reminder that you were created to be desperate for His love.

So act like you're desperate for it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Biggest Life Update Post Ever.


I love these blog posts. Sometimes its nice to just talk to all of you about life. Right now. What this week looks like. So, I want to catch everyone up to speed and give a big, huge wave to everyone on the Internet that I love!

1. I've been traveling all around the country for the last 5 months with Max. I've gotten to meet lots of you, see some of you dear friends again, and go on crazy adventures. It will take me years to unpacked everything I've learned, seen, and loved. God has done amazing things with my heart: pulling me out of my past, making me new, and teaching me to live with nothing.

2. I'm currently apartment hunting in PORTLAND. Yes, I'm moving across the country! We are staying with my dear friend @haleykristine and spending awesome amounts of time with @emelina and @allyspotts and @oldetime and soon to be more of you. Because there are just so many people in PDX that rock.

3. I got ENGAGED in Dallas and getting MARRIED in...two weeks I think? In Denver, on September 3rd, on a cliff - small, simple, entirely budgetless and so beautiful. I am so unbelievably excited to be marrying a man who is my best friend, my greatest cheerleader, and who makes me better in every single way. Our WEDDING site is pretty awesome and it tells our ridiculous and crazy love story: makeitmadlove.com

4. In this search for a new HOME that I am so beyond excited for - I've been reminded of just how much money it takes to get settled. (I might get a garden!!!!! And won't live out of a duffel bag anymore!!!!!) So, I am offering ADVERTISING space on my blog & booking BLOG DESIGN projects for October. And if you'd like to give me & my sweet man a wedding gift...well, that'd be a wildly appreciated gift. I am also selling pretty photographs on my SHOP, but they will not be shipped until September, for obvious reasons. :)

5. Max & I just found out we cannot eat dairy, eggs, or gluten - so have any awesome recipes or resources? Comment them, please!!

6. A personal favor? Could you tell your friends and Facebook/Twitter networks about my blog design services & advertising/sponsorship spots? It would mean the world! <3

7. If you're in Portland, tell me!

Until next time, lovely people - I'll be seeing you on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Los Angeles-Induced Identity Crisis

I've spent the last two years of my life re-building my identity, so after 10 minutes on the phone with one of my mentors/close friends yesterday, I was a little confused and almost offended when she told me I was in the middle of an identity crisis. A word of advice? Look up definitions before you get offended.

What is Identity?

1. The individual characteristics by which a person is recognized.

2. The condition of being oneself and not another.

3. The state of remaining the same, as under varying aspects or conditions.

So there you have it. Your identity must know WHO it is, that it is YOU and not another, and must remain itself in any situation.

Adapt: Make something suitable to requirements or conditions; adjust or modify fittingly.

I, by nature, am an adapter. To some extent, all of us are born with the ability to adapt. In nature, it's necessary for survival - and in our social environments, it's necessary for peace. If we're in a healthy environment, adaptation isn't that harmful. But some of us have childhoods that force us to take on the nature of an extreme adapter in order to avoid conflict. And all of us are living in a world that wants to force us to adapt to it, and ultimately, to re-define our identity.

When we don't know our God-given identity in the first place, identity changes go unnoticed, or just seem reasonable.

And when YOU don't know who God made YOU to look like, to be, and to act, you'll chase alternate identities for the sake of being at peace & avoiding conflict with the world around you.

Identity Crisis: Confusion of goals and priorities. Personal internal conflict that involves confusion about one's role & a sense of loss of continuity to one's personality.

The last four days I've been in Los Angeles. Prior to that, I've been traveling the country in a car, living out of a duffle bag for 4 months, wearing the same pair of shoes every single day, and barely doing my hair and makeup. I've been staying with simple people, learning to live on a non-existant budget, and I've gone shopping twice in 6 months.

Recently, my life has been flooded with girls and women who don't know who they are anymore, who have been destroyed by our sex-saturated culture, whose boyfriends are addicted to porn, and who are stuck in jobs, relationships, and emotional messes that they hate.

96 hours in LA, and my heart ACHED. The city you live in and the television you watch are selling you sex, money & a lifestyle you won't ever get. I'm used to that. But here in LA, it's on steroids. Even billboards for bail bonds are dripping in sex and half dressed women with bodies I'll never have. I didn't realize what I'd become numb to until I saw it in its extreme.

Every billboard seemed to scream at me, "You will never be sexy enough, you will never attractive enough, you will never have enough money - I will sell you this lifestyle if it's the last thing I do." It's convincing, but what Hollywood doesn't know is that I'm driving home to my inbox full of women who have been destroyed by the lifestyle that those billboards and reality TV shows have been selling.

And I cannot bear it's weight.

I'm not buying into it, but my heart is pulled to the very thing that threatens its life.

So I called Christen almost in tears, and asked her to help me sort out my heart.

"It's conviction. You see the lie, and your heart is sensitive to it. You've always been sensitive to this. Pay attention to it. Don't ever cope with conviction. Don't ever quiet it. Don't ever tell yourself to learn to deal with it because the entire city is, or your friends are. Don't judge those who have bought into it, but don't adapt to them either."

What is coping? What is acting on conviction? How do you stay and keep your heart from hurting?

"Everywhere you go, you MUST acknowledge what is there. And then you ask yourself, 'Who is Lauren, and who is she here?' "

Identity crisis. The Lauren that LA is trying to sell me is one who should have miraculously found a way to hit the gym every day while traveling across the country, and who should have put more money for clothes into her budget. The Lauren that LA is trying to sell me is one that makes her work to death for the money. It tells me that no matter what my identity is in Christ, all men will always choose a sexy woman's body over my heart. The world tells me that my character and love and intelligence and sweetness and heart will never match up to the larger than life woman who drips sex 24/7, a hundred feet above traffic.

Traffic composed of men and women who have traded their God-given identities for the sake of avoiding conflict with the world around them.

Traffic composed of women so distracted by who they aren't, that they don't know who they are.

Traffic composed of girls who wake up hating their skin, their faces, their hair, their stomach, and their legs - and go to bed every night thinking about it.

I know, because I've been there. And these last 5 months have been some of the only months of my life that I haven't found disappointment in the mirror every single morning. But it came back this week. And to cope, I want new makeup, better fitting jeans, some heels that show off my legs, and have had no problem skipping meals.

96 hours of competition, and it's more than my heart can bear. Partially because I cannot win on those terms, but primarily because it's too painful for my heart to let go of who God has told me I am. I can feel something grasping and grabbing wildly for my heart. And I don't want to give it over.

I want to do something we women never do, and brag on myself: I LOVE WHO GOD MADE ME.

I LOVE my identity. The one God gave me.

I love that I always want to stand up for the defenseless.
I love that I see beautiful things in everything.
I love that I have flaws, because it makes me love the man who loves me in spite of them EVEN MORE.
I love that I get more excited over reading the book of Luke than any pop culture magazine.
I love that I want to hug everyone.
I love that I am beautiful to God.
I love that I see my friends as family.
I love that my heart rips open when I see girls in pain.
I love that all my mistakes are paid for by Grace.
I love that some days I know exactly what I'm doing & other days I haven't a clue.
I love that I am sensitive & affected by Los Angeles.
I love so many things about myself.

I adore the Name that God has given me.

And when the world asks me to adapt - to change, modify, or take on other versions of myself in order to avoid conflict or to be accepted, I will now always ask myself:

Who is Lauren? And who does SHE want to be HERE?

Isaiah 43:1-7 might be the greatest part of the Bible when it comes to your identity: "Do not fear, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through rivers, you will not drown. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned. For I am the Lord your God - your Savior; I give all of creation for your ransom."

The word for "name" is not talking about your first, middle & last name. It's the word for your core. Your heart. Your soul. The deepest part of you that makes you unique. What makes up you. He has called you by THAT. And when you, the you that God created you as, walk through life - you will be untouchable. Because he has handed over the entire world for the sake of ransoming and redeeming the real you, for Himself. And he will fight for that you.

Put Isaiah 43:1-7 in your bathroom. And make a list of everything you love about yourself. Put into words who God says you are.

Please. The real you is too valuable to lose.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Found A Lie Inside