Wednesday, December 21, 2011

One Of My Greatest Fears

I get scared, talking about my life sometimes. I get scared that people see a shadow of the truth in what I've done, in how I've chosen to live, and say, "I want exactly that."

I am scared that people will hear I've sold everything I owned this year to travel the country in a little car with a man - and decide that THAT is the best way to live.

I am terrified that girls hear the story of how I met my husband on Twitter - and start scouring the Internet for the perfect man who blogs, is wickedly clever, and wants to talk to them too, a pretty girl online.

I worry about sharing how I decided to drop out of college (temporarily) for a second time, and chose to leave my 9-5 job - not wanting for a moment for any woman to trample the sparks of opportunity she's been blessed to receive.

Yes, I have been inspired, moved, pushed, refined and bettered by listening closely to other women's stories; by observing other women's lives. Life gives birth to life. Fullness swells to create new fullness. Iron sharpens, truth speaks, love heals.

But please. Do not be tricked into attempting to replicate life in order to escape death. You are not a clone.

God is too creative with his daughters. The heavens plan and whisper and lay foundation for you, your life, your story.

My life has become more beautiful, my awe of God's work has increased beyond measure - as I hear story, after story, after story of women who live utterly opposite lives as that of mine. What a God we serve. No one could weave a story like Him.

Rarity increases value.

There is not a woman walking this earth who has an existence identical to yours.

And there is not a woman in the world who can fulfill the Creator's intricate, intentional plan for you.

By plan, I do not mean a clearly marked path in which you choose to walk daily until the day you die, with a pre-determined life-story utterly outside of your control.

By plan, I mean your birth, your childhood, your brokenness, your character, your personality, your hopes, your passions, your gifts [ trust me, they are there, whether you see them or not yet ], your body, your mind, your spirit - - - all of these things fall perfectly into place to make possible a life that could never be lived by another human being.

We do not serve a God who wastes resources.

You are not wasted.

We are beloved children of a God who treasures and counts carefully - who rejoices in indescribable pride - over the value of his sons and daughters.

And all these little things? Every detail, every heartbreak, every rush of joy, every word He has whispered to you in the dark places - they make you a resource that would break His heart to waste.

You are rare.

You are of value.

Where we see our worthlessness, He sees an entire life composed of endless spaces to fill with his overflowing Love.

"You were bought at a price. Do not become slaves of human beings." (I Corinthians 7:23)

Do not become the slave of another human being's life. Of another human being's story. Of their success, of their failure, of their talent, of their beauty, of their skill.

You were bought at a price.

"Live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to you, just as God has called you." (I Corinthians 7:17)

I am a believer. A believer in a furious love, a scandalous grace, and a God I do not understand.

I am a believer. A believer in a Savior who walks with me daily, who leads my feet to places only mine can go, and who holds your hand through a life that I could never live.

We are beautiful. Bought at a price. Claimed for freedom.

And asked to live as believers in the places that our Father has powerfully created for us.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why You Shouldn't Read My Blog Unless You're Friends With Me

Okay, well. I didn't really mean that. I adore that people come to this little space and listen to my rants, my confessions, and my lessons. It is nothing short of a gift to me, and truly - I covet your time here. So thank you.

But, I had an epiphany today, and I want to share it with you.

I've been struggling this month, kind of a lot. Yep. Because saying Yes to God this year for me meant marrying an amazing new man in my life, leaving everything behind to travel the country, and starting Good Women Project.

Oh, I know how blessed I am. My life sounds perfect in that pretty sentence. And my life is incredible, because grace makes it so, even when I can't see it that way. Because Jesus daily gives me the life that is everlasting. The life that I cannot find in the gaps of an imperfect marriage, an imperfect life plan, and my imperfect leadership skills.

And so, I am so grateful. I am.

But it's still really, really hard. Did you know that? I want to talk about it.

Did you know that no matter how amazing something seems from the outside, it gets pretty un-amazing really fast when you take responsibility for things that are God's?

The potential of my life is infinite with God, but it has been dying quickly with a lie that I've bought into.

A little lie that says "this depends on you."

I fell back into that lie's little sister that says, "you delivered something people love, now it's your job to deliver it every single day."

But it doesn't depend on me. It depends on God, because He is the one who promised to carry out on to completion the good work that HE began in me. (Philippians 1:6) And when we focus on the "me," everyone and everything else fades out from our periphery. When we focus on the "me," we begin to isolate ourselves, and the expectation falls on ourself alone.

I accidentally put the burden back on my shoulders, for the hundredth time in my life.

I forgot that there is a world of Life behind the dullness of the digital to come alongside me and shout out that they've found the same Source of all this Life.

I've used the I-Can't-Be-Your-Friend-Because-I'm-In-A-New-City-Every-Week excuse for not investing in the unbelievable women I've brushed fingers with in my life. And the We-Can't-Talk-Because-I-Have-Too-Many-Emails thing, too.

I've had the joy seared out of me with the disagreements, fights, hate, differences, conflict, misunderstandings and crap that comes so easily from people that we've never known personally.

And man. I'm exhausted. My heart is pretty worn out. You guys, it took me three hours to get out of bed this morning. Two more hours to get off the sofa. I don't want to write today. I don't want to edit posts, and I don't want to design, and I don't want to answer people's questions, and I don't want to sift through the bottomless pit of the Internet that daily reminds me I haven't learned even 0.0001% of what I wish I knew.

I don't mean to complain, but today is the day that I have found no life in anything I am doing.

And there we have it.

There is no life in anything I do.

There is only life in what God does through us.

There is no life in what we do alone.

There is only life in what we do with others.

My heart needs a witness to all its good and all its bad, just to be alive. Can I get an amen?

So, I chose to accomplish nothing today.

Instead, I unloaded my problems and my complaints on Haley and Kelly. I sat at the table with my husband and we dug and scraped pieces of debris out of one another's hearts as best we knew how. I picked up my phone and called - YES CALLED - sweet Amber to ask her advice on an issue with Good Women Project because I can't do this alone. And I emailed back and forth with Lore about the busy-ness of life and the beauty in resting, while I struggled to silence the voice in my head that was wrangling me back into believing I had too many other emails to reply to.

And in that, I found SO MUCH LIFE that I had to write, and tell someone out there about it.

Somewhere in the midst of my mistakes and mis-prioritizing, God has given me the grace of women (and an incredible husband) who have made their hearts and love and support available to me, even when I don't return it well. Even when I've put so much weight on my own shoulders that I've had no more joy left to give. Even when the dread of unwelcome comments has kept me from writing what has been trying to push its way out of my heart.

So really, what I said about not reading this blog unless you're my friend? I just meant that friends you can unload on are necessary to survival. That asking for advice is exponentially better than making a decision on your own. That talking to someone - real, human connection - is much more beautiful and life-giving than we give it credit for. I meant that no amount of reading other's stories of healing can come close to the rawness of sitting in someone's presence and putting your own heart on the table. I meant that your friends' opinions of you mean infinitely more than an anonymous commenter.

I meant that I've been reading and doing more than I've been being and loving - and if you're overwhelmed and feel alone, if you feel that the online world has sand-papered your heart - maybe you have too?

- - -

They asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered them, "the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." John 6:28-29

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An Apology For My Christianese, And Other Things.

Have you ever stood behind a couple in the check out line and been so disgusted with their indecipherable love-speak that you wanted to smack them back into the harsh reality you and everyone else is living in?

I have. Hundreds of times. And now I'm that girl on a daily basis with a man I'm crazy in love with.

He's the person that knows all my secrets, and somehow still thinks I'm sexy even though the first thing I want to do upon waking up in bed is try to teach him the lyrics to "Zippity Doo Dah" and "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers." He's the one that knows I'm raging inside when no one else can tell the difference, and genuinely thinks I'm beautiful when I've refused to get out of bed to shower because my cramps are so bad. He's the one that's promised to never leave me - so he gets to see all sides. My girls-just-wanna-have-fun side, my business woman, my sexy in bed, my quiet introvert, my little girl, my intelligence, my stupidity, my confidence and my insecurity. All of it.

This kind of intimacy breeds a language that baffles everyone else.

Sometimes, those of us who have experienced it think it's adorable, but most of us can't wait to get away from people who just can't use their words normally.

And so, I want to apologize not for my embarrassing behavior in the Starbucks line, but for my Christianese.

I'm not going to apologize for my love babble, because you're not really invited into my marriage, so it's pretty great that you don't understand me and him.

But I do want to apologize for my Christianese, because you ARE invited into a bigger Love. And I never meant to turn you off. I never meant to pick up that weird language that makes grace-filled kids a strange variety of humans. I always swore to be first a human, then a woman, then a-Christian-who-didn't-act-like-a-perfect-one.

But you know what? Jesus knows all my secrets, all my sides, and I get more love from Him than from anyone else. And I've fallen into a language that I know seems way too church-ish. I can't help it. It happened on accident, even though I promised myself to not be that girl.

A lot of days I hate it because I can just feel people staring at me through the Internet, reading what I write here and on Good Women Project and saying, "Dude. That's not me. Life is rough and dirty and I can't just transform a hymn into a paragraph and have all my problems solved by Waiting Upon The Lord For He Is Good." I mean really, when was the last time we waited upon someone, besides our part time serving job last weekend?

So what I want to say is this: I am first a human, and my life is just as great and just as terrible as yours. I've tried to be better and I've tried to be worse. I've barricaded my heart with self-help books and New Year's resolutions. I've dated shitty guys, I've had my heart broken, I have parent-problems, I cuss and offend people, I feel 1/10th as talented as everyone else I meet, and I need triple-strength Midol.

I'm not a better Christian than you. I don't visually see God actually walking hand in hand with me every single day. I don't treat everyone with love and grace and forgiveness as my new default personality in Christ. I have a handful of verses memorized, but that doesn't make me more impressive than you being able to recite lines from Harry Potter because you've seen it 8 times. I don't miraculously know what to say when I pray out loud in a group of people. I get uncomfortable and self-conscious when I visit a new church. I read the Bible and get confused. Starting a Beth Moore or Kay Arthur or Mary Kay - whatever - Bible study program with women I don't know sounds terrifying, and I'm putting it off for as long as possible.

I get so angry at Christians and I get so angry at myself, and I hold the whole planet to standards that are outrageous.

But. I've fallen in love with Jesus because He loves me.

And I'm sorry for accidentally speaking in vague sentences about blood of lambs, power of crosses, and lights in the darkness. Particularly when I'm just trying to tell you how much I love him, and you want to squirm because of my Holier Art Thou vocabulary.

I'm sorry for telling you simply that "I trust in God" when really I should tell you I freak out every single day, but I read a verse in the Bible that tells me to "Trust In The Lord For He Is Good", so I tell myself every day that God is good and if I keep believing that, I'll see it soon.

My love affair with Jesus is simple. And I don't want my embarrassing words and actions to get in the way of you having the same love affair.

Trying to get to know Jesus better doesn't require you to add 18th century words to your sentences. I promise. The way I see it, I read the Bible when I can. I pray and ask for him to forgive me when I realize I've messed up. I read about other women's lives and try to replicate the grace and love that I see them living out. To hear what my same Jesus is speaking to them, because we need to interact daily with other people who have found hope in Someone bigger than ourselves.

I choose to believe that His words written in the Bible, and whispered to me in my heart, can and do slowly transform me into a version of myself that is better. More like the Person I'm in love with.

But mostly, I've decided to love and chase after a man who died a very painful death to prove how much He loved me, and to make it possible for God to see me as a beautiful daughter. Permanently. No matter what.

I love Jesus. And I want you to love Jesus.

And I'm sorry for everything else that's gotten in the way.

- - -

PS. My husband Max writes fiction, and he just published a book of short stories called "We Can't Go Home Again." It's only 99 cents, and it would mean the world to me if you went and got it! You can download it to iTunes/iBooks (if you have an iPad or iPhone) or from Amazon/Kindle (if you have a Kindle, or want to download the free Kindle app onto your computer). It's really, really, really good. Click HERE for iBooks and HERE for Amazon.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why & How To Self-Host Your Blog + 50% off!

Happy Cyber Monday, everyone!

Over at HostGator (my favorite hosting company), they're offering 50% off all hosting plans, TODAY ONLY. This means instead of paying $10 a month, or $80 for a year up front, you can get the entire year up front for $40.

Some of you already have self-hosted blogs, but a lot of you keep hearing about them, and are wondering if you should be on Blogger or Wordpress, and why anyone would bother paying for Wordpress when you could just use it for free.

I decided to bunker down at Starbucks before leaving Portland this morning to give you access to my "Understanding Domains, Hosting & The Internet" PDF I give to my blog design clients. This PDF* will help you understand what a self-hosted blog is and does, and how to set one up. And to tell you that if you've been putting off self-hosting your blog or portfolio website, today is the time to do it. Please use my affililate link so I can get commission! ♥

If you are on Wordpress, click here for the Understanding Domains, Hosting & The Internet PDF.

If you are on Blogger, click here for the PDF, which includes an explanation of some of the difference between the two blog platforms.

If you'd like step-by-step instructions for purchasing your blog hosting plan, click here.

Also, I'm currently booked through the holidays for blog design, but if you'd like to go ahead and reserve time in January (new year, new blog!!) I would love to hear from you. Shoot me an email at laurennicolelove[at] There is more information on my blog design here. I'm also available to design banners, buttons, Twitter page backgrounds, Facebook landing pages, etc.


*Note on PDFs: These were written & designed for active clients, so please pardon any instructions that do not apply to you. Also, you do not need to use the 25% off coupon that is listed in the PDF. Use the CYBERMONDAY11 coupon that defaults into the code section today to receive 50%. Feel free to use the 25% off coupon at a later date though! :) Thank you!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

7 months traveling across the country: for your eyes and ears.

I've been traveling this massive country since April with Max. Tomorrow morning we leave Portland to head down to Los Angeles, stopping in Salem, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz along the way. I'm excited.

Max put together a slideshow of some of the photos so far, both prior to meeting me in Ohio a month into his trip - - and including our wedding on the top of a cliff in Colorado. Seeing these cities and these people has changed my perspective on what matters. Enjoy. ♥

MAD Across America: The Trip In Photos from Max Dubinsky on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the art of change.

to fight the stagnant.

there is an art to change.

and the secret is not in the pursuit of it. or in it's accomplishment.

but rather in the art of perceiving it.

* * *

you have moved. you have grown. you have changed.

you have improved. you have become strengthened. you have learned.

you have seen. you have been. you have said.

you have created. you have chosen life. you have ended death.

you have become more beautiful. you have grown into yourself. you are more.

there is an art to observing the change you have made.

there is an art to knowing your growth, and ending the lie in your bones that says you are right where you always have been.

it is worth your time to document your movement forward. it is worth the hour of your day to know what you have done with your time.

sometimes we must move into our past, in order to accurately see our present.

create a place on the page, in the journal, on the blog, in the portfolio, on the table, in your soul. create a place to document your change.

* * *

look at your first month of blog entries.

look at your journal from three years ago.

look at your first photos.

do you see the movement?

write down the lies you used to believe.

write down the truth you know now.

write down the part of your heart you hadn't met 5 years ago.

do you see the growth?

find your first pieces of art.

find your first songs.

find your first designs.

do you see your progress?

think about the mistakes you've made that will not be made again.

think about the depth of character that was lacking 10 years ago.

think about the hidden places of the old depression.

do you see the new life?

sift through your albums, your archives, your chapters.

sift through your resumes, your childhood, your classes.

sift through your failures, your accomplishes, your proofs of action.

know the growth reflected in the dissonance between the past and present - know that your present will always be your past, and soon.

* * *

he says he is faithful. to move, to carry, to nurture, to redeem, to assign purpose. he is faithful to carry onto completion the good work he began in you.

you cannot help but grow. he has not forsaken us. like a tree beside still waters, you could not cease to grow even if you so desired.

because he is the great i am.

and in him we live, we move, we have our being.

* * *

refuse the lie of stagnancy. refuse the lie of stillness. refuse the lie of hopelessness.

document your change. be encouraged. and continue to move.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Life In Pictures + I Answer Your Questions On Sex, Dating, & Masturbation.

I feel like I owe someone (or many someones) out there an apology for not posting as much. I want to blame myself, but I'm going to blame Instagram, my new iPhone, and a new side-project for my brief absence. Oh, and just getting married. Turns out you don't get as much alone time (I'm not even talking physically - I'm talking about mentally, haha) in your first couple months of marriage. BUT IT'S AWESOME. Most of the time. :)

Instagram can do a much better job telling you about my life for the last couple weeks, so I'm going to let it do the talking:

I've been trying oh-so-very hard to answer anonymous questions on AskLauren in a way that reflects not the rules and black and whites that we fall prey to, but rather the heart and character of God. If you'd like to read any of my answers to the latest questions, I'm glad to share them:

1. What does "submit" mean in marriage? Are men responsible for their wife's sin like my college ministry leader said?

2. Is the birth control pill a form of abortion? What's the best method of family planning?

3. Why do we get to control when we have kids instead of leaving it up to God?

4. Is it wrong for a Christian woman to masturbate?

5. Is it okay for Christian married couples to have anal sex?

6. What are good books of the Bible to read that deal with loneliness?

7. Where do we draw the line between expecting and praising men for their good behavior?

8. What are good books to read that deal with your value and worth as a woman? I keep comparing myself to other women and it's so destructive.

9. How do I turn down a guy, tell him to leave me alone, or tell him I'm not comfortable with his sexual flirting without hurting his feelings?

10. I'm stuck in a very strict church and I struggle to decide if I want to spend the rest of my life this way in church. I feel like I have the life I'm supposed to live, and the life I want to live. What should I do?

11. I want to date this guy exclusively, but he doesn't want to commit to be my boyfriend. He wants to still see other women without feeling like he's cheating. Advice?

- - -

Massive exhale. So there you have it. If you're on Instagram, please follow me!! I'm laurennicolelove. Max and I are leaving Portland right after Thanksgiving to drive down the west coast and spend a little bit more time in Los Angeles before heading back to Ohio to spend Christmas & New Years with his family (!!!). I'm so excited to be traveling again, and to be heading back to the hot hot heat. Also, the pictures on Instagram will be awesommmee.

Oh and one more thing. It's been an intense month leading up the Good Women Project. We've been sharing stories on pornography and our experience with it as women: our own addictions, our significant other's, and how it's affecting our lives. Please come join us.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What I Wish I'd Known Before Watching Porn

In addition to this little blog here, I run Good Women Project. I don't normally post much there and am primarily the editor, since I have been blessed with countless women who have incredible stories of their own to share. This month, however, we are talking about pornography. So, I decided to begin with a little bit of my own history with porn. To read the full post, click here. We will be talking about pornography from a women's perspective for the rest of November. Join us.

- - -

"Pornography is a charged subject, and it’s a word that rarely crosses the lips of most women. Yes, there are now breeds of the modern woman who watch, talk and joke about it regularly, but most of us still stay further away from speaking the word than we actually stay away from it.

When I was in high school, pornography was on the long list of “bad things” that I didn’t know much about – and unfortunately also on the list of things I had participated in. Nevermind why I was watching it, the how is the same for all of us: we stumbled upon it because of someone else. And none of us knew what to expect, or how to handle it.

Later in life, I caught myself remembering how I used to watch it for a few minutes here or there, and wondered strictly out of boredom if it would fill the big, empty space of loneliness in my late nights. There were no parents around to hide from anymore, and no one checking my Internet history. Pornography was easy, and I never exactly knew why it was bad, particularly since I wasn’t actually having sex. To me, it was just something dirty that you probably shouldn’t have anything to do with. But “probably shouldn’t” never stands up against loneliness and boredom.

I am not one with an addictive personality. Meaning, I binge, and then drop things quickly. I knew this about myself, and so I used this as an excuse for watching pornography. I’d watch it every night for a couple weeks, then not at all for a few weeks. Always off and on. Clearly I wasn’t addicted. Just like I smoked, and never became addicted to nicotine, and drank, but never became an alcoholic. I was just watching it, and could stop anytime I wanted. No damage done, because I was still in control.

Wrong. Nicotine still seared my lungs, and alcohol still did some decent damage to my liver and personal life. Just because we aren’t addicted, doesn’t mean it does no harm. Even while I wasn’t “addicted” to watching pornography, I always wanted more. It existed as a guaranteed time-filler and pleasure-bringer, and when you get an hour to yourself – that’s an easy default. An easy default activity that establishes a heavy precedence in what you do with your next bad night.

I wish that 10 years ago someone had educated me on pornography. What it is, what it does, and what it reaches in and destroys in the hearts, minds and bodies of men and women.

I wish that someone would have told me that researchers have proven it sabotages your sex life.

I wish someone would have explained how dopamine, the chemical that is released every time you experience pleasure, drives you to return to what provided that feeling before.

I wish someone would have told me that the kind of pornography you’re most turned on by is usually linked to a corresponding hurtful event in your life, further injuring your brokenness."

To read the rest, please visit Good Women Project. > > >

If you aren't already following GWP, please follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook to stay in touch!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What Makes A Woman Good?

I wanted to introduce a little mini-blog I've started over on Tumblr. It's not meant to be a secondary blog of mine, but rather a hub for the gems the pass in and out of my life.

Between running Good Women Project and writing here on my blog, I get to share and hear so many stories. Sometimes women ask questions, and sometimes I have the answers. And sometimes I just need to bookmark incredible things that I want to be shared with everyone.

And with that introduction, I'd love for you to bookmark or follow me if you're on Tumblr.

Today I answered an anonymous question that I wanted to post here:

"Lauren - - I love reading the posts on your blog as well as The Good Women Project. I was wondering if you could touch on this term "good" in a little more detail. What does "good" mean for women who see themselves outside the landscape of purity? I've read some comments recently on posts that seem to see this word as isolating and judgmental - - for example, that somehow if they have had premarital sex they must not be "good women." Any thoughts?"

Answer: Ooo my heart. A year and a half ago I was out behind a post-hardcore/metal venue with a dozen sweaty musicians praying over me as I stood in shock while my world imploded on me. It was one of those moments where time stops and you try to figure out how you ended up here. Needing this. In that moment, I realized that I no longer had any hope for being good. I no longer saw myself as good. And no one else did either. I had finally achieved what a sick part of me had always wanted - to be just like everyone else.

And I had lost all respect for myself.

I grew up as “the good girl.” And yes, you are right. The traditional definition of ‘good girl’ as defined by the church alludes primarily to her purity. Which I no longer had. When I lost ‘my purity’ (I’d argue can happen without physically having sex - but in a mental/emotional capacity), I still wanted to be the good girl, but I lost a lot of respect for myself. I also was having an inner battle: The kind of good that I had grown up being was not the kind of good I wanted to be. The old kind of good came from following the rules, and I failed. I needed a kind of good that came from love, that gave life and not death.

I was somewhere between a girl and a woman, and I knew for a fact I was no longer a girl, but I could in no way call myself a good woman. And I had no idea what even defined a good woman. I just knew I wasn’t it. But it’s interesting that even Jesus stood up against a man who asked Him how to be good. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good?! No one is good, only God alone.” (Luke 18:19)

“Good” is not a condition that is defined or un-defined by your past, your history, your church attendance, your appearance, or even your current sex life. I have learned that “good” is the position of your heart towards Jesus and your future, and in turn is the actual condition of your heart. We can live life with or without Jesus, and apart from him, we have no hope of ever being good - because He himself is our Righteousness. (II Corinthians 5:21)

”Good” is a woman who admits that she cannot be good on her own, so she pursues Jesus, because through him her life is redeemed and she finds life and love. ”Good” is choosing to believe you have value because Jesus said you do. “Good” is having hope in your future again because God makes all things new, and gives every minute, intricate detail of your past a purpose again. “Good” is learning to start over again and hold God’s hand while you walk and strive to understand the purpose of his commands while you obey them with his help.

In that moment behind the venue, I desperately wanted to be a good woman.

And in all humility, a year and a half later, I can say that I am. Not because I no longer make mistakes, but because I’ve given the whole of my heart and life over to Jesus again. Not because I am the poster child for a Perfect Woman or Perfect Wife, but because I have dug my heels in and allowed God to define my value, my worth and my future. And I’ve fought to keep the position of my heart turned towards Jesus and my future.

I am good again because I’ve started trying again, and trying with the right Person.

- - -

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Monday, October 24, 2011

I Don't Have To Be A Slut To Be Sexually Confident

I have a little confession to make. While I've been submersed in the topic of sex and dating over at Good Woman Project and here on my blog, I've forgotten the world of sex as I knew it a year ago.

I understand that this month I've spent most of my time discussing sex with:

1) my husband, who used to be addicted to porn, and now talks on how damaging porn is;
2) Ally Spotts and her fiance Darrell, two awesomely attractive and super cool Jesus-lovers who write about sex and dating;
3) my 20-something friend Haley who is outrageously gifted in the relationship-advice/purpose-of-sex department;
4) young Christian girls in bible studies; and
4) sifting through countless stories from women on how casual sex broke them.

I am blessed to be a part of a movement of men and women who are willing and excited to talk openly on sex the right way. A movement that is unafraid to say, "the traditional church hasn't handled it as well as it should," and also "the world hasn't handled it well at all."

But this week, I've read some articles that have shocked me out of my sexy-just-married-lingerie and honestly, made me a little bit angry that I'd forgotten WHY I started talking about sex in the first place.

Women are giving up on being the good woman they've been striving towards, because they've stopped believing the good men are out there.

Translated: Women are embracing sex before marriage because they've stopped believing there are men who will wait for them.

No, seriously. It's true. It's why I gave in to sex, and it's why I slept with men I didn't even pretend to love. I developed an, "I deserve this, because everyone else is doing it" attitude. The men that cheated on me, left me for other women, left pornography open on their laptops, or simply dated women that slept around angered me into my own "I don't care" behavior. Men were proving to me that sex was the most important part of life, and I should be living that way too. Sex first, questions after. I stopped believing I could find a man who could prove that he meant it when he said I was beautiful and would stick around forever. If men were going to have sex any way they wanted it, when they wanted it, I was going to have it too, damn it.

Sex has become a selfish thing, and the current "me" has become more important than the future "we." This is why sex outside of marriage is self destructive.

And what I've been reading this week is re-confirming that this is why women are still embracing and manifesting their sexuality in all the wrong ways.

AskMen and So Feminine did polls this year on promiscuity. The AskMen survey that revealed 70% of men find women promiscuous between 5 and 10 partners, while the So Feminine survey reveals 55% of women find men promiscuous somewhere between their 20th and 50th partner. Only 15% of women find men with 10 sexual partners promiscuous.

Marrie Lobel "sort of" reviewed these polls in her "Promiscuous Women" post in a rant about her self-admitted out of control yet perfectly acceptable sex life, and said: "It's this perception of what makes a 'good' woman that keeps women from being equal to men. It's in women's nature to want to be accepted and thought of as worthy and good. This survey, I'm afraid, will not only set a precedent for what men think a good woman should be, but box women into living life according to what others dictate as appropriate. Well, fuck society. If I am considered a wanton woman because I have slept around with more men than another man is comfortable with, then it is his loss."

Classy, Marrie. However, you do present a problem that demands at least a hypothetical solution.

Apparently, women still aren't equal in your eyes. Not because of our civil rights or because we now make up 52% of the workforce, but because we are attempting to have as much sex as we want outside of marriage and men are thinking less of us for it.

Hypothetical solution? Women need to be averaging as many sexual partners as men, and men need to GTF over it.

The problem with this solution is actually hinted at in your own words: "Men express their desire to be with a sexually confident woman, but find her promiscuous at 5 partners."

Marrie, I'm going to tell you a little secret.

"Sexually confident" stems from one of two things. Either from a woman who is insecure in her identity and therefore overcompensates in her sexuality to find confidence somewhere, OR is confident in her identity, in which case it carries over into her sexuality. And men know this.

Men are attracted to confident women. Men are attracted to a woman's sexuality. But good men are not looking for insecure women who find their identity in their sexuality.

Marrie, I'm going to give you some words of advice, woman to woman:

Don't read the polls to determine how you should be finding your identity and living out your sex life.

Don't decide whether or not you'll find a good man based on a statistical study.

Don't make sex about yourself just because you haven't found a man who makes it about your loving commitment to one another.

Don't get angry that men still desire women who are confident enough to share her sexuality with one man that deserves it.

Don't play the numbers game with your heart just because a poll shows you the world is playing a numbers game with their body.

Don't stop believing that there is a man out there who will protect your identity before he participates in your sexuality.

And please, for the sake of all relationships everywhere, please don't believe the lie that you must be sexually promiscuous in order to be sexually confident.

I'd like to end with words from an anonymous good man who commented on Marrie's post:

"To me, anyone that has had many casual sexual encounters has a high likelyhood of having damaged their ability to respect sex as part of a committed relationship. I very deeply tie sex and love together, and frankly I don’t believe someone that has used sex for casual pleasure can feel the same as I do on the subject. I would gladly give up “wild, kinky, crazy” sex to be with someone that feels as I do. Unfortunately, there just aren’t many women left that haven’t ridden the merry-go-round of casual sex, which means I either suck it up and settle for less than I want, or go without a committed relationship."

PS. Can I just re-phrase "sex out of marriage" as "sex without committed, unconditional love" once and for all, please? Maybe then we'd realize that we're not breaking a rule someone else set, we're actually harming ourselves.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Supplemental Saviors, And My Disappointment In Myself.

I am disappointed with myself.

I am disappointed that I have tried to find supplemental saviors.

People ask how I did it. Did what? I want to ask.

How you overcame your past. What was done to you, and what you did to others; to yourself. The grief that you were dealt, and the grief you caused.

I listen to their perception, and begin to think I am an exception.

I listen to them search for an answer more tangible, more attainable, more controllable than Jesus.

And I begin to comb through my healing, dig through my heart, sift through the hard find things easier than Jesus.

Some days I find nothing. Some days, empty things that bear partial witness to a whole truth.

The empty things, the whispers-of-truth things, the supplemental saviors...they taunt me with their checks in boxes and say, "See? We have made you whole. We have filled you. We helped you overcome."

But still, their mercies begin and end with the front and back of their covers. Their mercies fill and are contained by the box for the checkmark.

And I am a living, dying creature. I need mercies every morning. New ones. For the new death, the new hurt, the new sin.

So I rally my books, my counselors, my friends, my pastors, my families, my communities, my epiphanies, my curriculum, my antidepressants, my better diets, my therapists, my mentors, my time that passes, my supplemental saviors, and I cry out: "APART FROM HIM WE CAN DO NOTHING."

Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing.

I have done nothing. I have overcome nothing. I have healed nothing. I have won nothing. Rather, I have come to the end of myself, and found a Savior who needs no supplement. A Savior who has done and is doing and will do it all.

For he has sworn it across the heavens, "It is FINISHED."

We have not believed.

Death wrecked my heart, my family, my hope. Jesus killed it off before it killed me utterly, and gave me a new life.

There is no healing or comfort that can be attained by your adding. Only by emptying everything you are, and filling it with everything He is.

I am not the exception. You are not the exception. We have inside us the hope of all eternity, a seal upon our hearts, because He was the exception in our behalf.

Lord, help us with our unbelief.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Resources For The Recovering Legalist (Or Homeschooled Kid.)

After I wrote A Letter To My 18 Year Old Self and shared a little of my ultra-sheltered, conservative upbringing, I've received a lot of emails asking what books I recommend reading.

So, I'm working on putting together a little resource list for each of you dear hearts. It's by no means complete, but a core selection of reading material that helped me move out of one world into another. If you have something to add to this list, PLEASE do! Leave it in the comments.

Please, please do not let money come in between you and these books. Rent them at the library, or find them through Or carve out time in your week to go sit at Barnes & Noble and read them on the floor. That's how I read most of them.

Waking The Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive - John Eldredge :::::: "The story of your life is the story of a long and brutal assault on your heart, by the one who knows what you could be, and fears it." Enough said. Read it.

Sex God - by Rob Bell :::::: We never talked about sex. Ever. It was dirty, sinful, wrong. I recommend this book to every person regardless of their past or present.

Captivating - Staci Eldredge :::::: READ. I was the ugly duckling growing up. On top of wearing "homeschooler clothes," I was gripped with devastating insecurity through middle school and high school. I read this when I was 18, and thank God I did. Girls, you are beautiful. And you were meant to be beautiful. It's OKAY to be beautiful.

Sex & The Soul Of A Woman - Paula Rinehart :::::: Girls, this is a must-read. Even if you haven't had sex. You are an absolute gift to man. Paula writes about sex and heart-stuff in a way that only a woman can.

Ragamuffin Gospel - Brennan Manning :::::: The gospel is simple. The church has complicated it. Get it un-complicated.

Think Differently, Live Differently - Bob Hamp :::::: This book will change the way you view absolutely everything. It's no longer about doing more right, more good. It's about knowing that "more right, more good" won't get you any closer to the life Jesus created for you. It's about living from the Tree of Life, not from the branch of Good on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

What's So Amazing About Grace - Phillip Yancey :::::: Get this, or at least get the Visual Edition for starters. Weeks after I ran out and away from my family, I probably wouldn't have read anything other than the super-awesome visual edition. This book showed me, for the first time, that Jesus loved me. No matter what. And that all of us were sinners, and equally dirty. No matter what.

Longing For Daddy: Healing From The Pain Of An Absent or Emotionally Distant Father - Monique Robinson :::::: I had a close relationship with my dad the majority of my life, but not so much in high school. And I haven't had an eye-to-eye conversation with him in six years. No matter where you are in your relationship with your dad, this book helps you look at fathers (and your heart) the way God does.

Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No - Cloud & Townsend :::::: This book is important for every single person, and absolutely necessary for someone who grew up in an controlling or manipulative environment. I am a people pleaser, I can't say no, I over-commit, & I get irrationally emotionally involved. For the first time in my life, I know it's okay to do what I want with my life.

The Hidden Heart* - Bob Hamp :::::: The idea that "the heart is deceitful above all else" and must be ignored and smothered, is something that has been grossly mis-interpreted in a lot of conservative Christian circles. I was racked with guilt and ended up severely depressed because of it. Read Bob's brief *blog post on how you are SUPPOSED to treat your heart.

Radical - David Platt :::::: The gospel in its simplest form. Learn to live how Jesus lived.

Homeschool Blindspots* - Reb Bradley :::::: If you are planning on homeschooling, or are homeschooling, read this *blog post. Also, if you were homeschooled, this might set you free a bit from your parents mistakes, and help you measure out grace where it is needed.

Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics - Alisa Harris :::::: If you were raised in a very political-oriented family like I was, read this.

A Tale Of Three Kings: A Study In Brokenness - Gene Edwards :::::: Very, very short book. If you've lost family members, moved away, or gone through any sort of grief - read it.

Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers :::::: This is a pretty hefty novel (yes! novel!) about a prostitute. This book I hid in my room when I was 17, and it pulled at my heart strings just enough to give me the courage to leave home and seek out a God who was this loving, this forgiving, of a woman He dearly treasured.

Blog Posts I've written on my experiences:

A New Definition Of Love
How To Deal With Pain
Letter To The Girl Without A Father
Grief, Lightning Storms, & A Broken Spirit
Jesus Will Change You
When Christianity Says You Aren't Enough
Love Was The Plan

Very important note:

At the end of the day, no book or author is going to heal your heart. If you're human, chances are you've undergone heartbreak, heartache, or trauma. On top of being born broken. There are no words better than God's, no love closer than Jesus's, and no friendship closer than the men and women who are called your brothers and sisters in Christ. If you're a recovering legalist, or don't know much about God, take a little break from the rest of the Bible and spend significant time reading just Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Get to know Jesus first. We come to God through him, and we begin to live our new created lives through him.

If you're having trouble reconciling the love of Jesus to the harshness of God that you used to know, read Hosea, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. Learn that He has written His words on your heart, and will never forsake you or be angry with you again. Hear that He has forgotten your mistakes completely. He has bound you up your wounds in loving kindness. God has fought in your defense since the day He created you. You are safe, and He is NOT disappointed.

- - -

Were you raised in a too-conservative home? Homeschooled? Dealt with severe loss or grief? Have a past you've needed recovery from? Broken relationships with family?

What books do you recommend? PLEASE share them in the comments.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

October Advertising Spots!

It's almost October, everybody! This means advertising spots are opening back up! I'll be taking this post down in a few days, but I wanted to give all of you the opportunity to advertise if you haven't seen the tweets & Facebook shout-outs about it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Your Homosexuality vs. My Pornography

I slouched in my booth, staring at the last few crumbs on my plate, trying to stifle the suffocating internal heat. He ignored my silence and volleyed his question right back over the table top for the third time. "But it's a SIN. Why won't you admit to me that it's a SIN."

"Because I don't understand why it's so important that I say that." I mumbled, as I moved the crumbs into a little circle with my straw.

"Because it's SIN. Sin is important, Lauren."

The bitter edge in his voice snapped something inside of me and I slammed my hands down on the table in Panera. "I don't CARE if it's sin or if it's not! It doesn't MATTER to me. And I'm not going to say that it is or isn't because I'M NOT GOD. Even if I think it's sinful, it changes NOTHING. It makes it worse. And I can't STAND the hate in your voice."

And so ended one more stupid conversation over homosexuality. A waste of words. One more place that sin was granted more power than it ever should have been given. One more relationship strained because a well-seated self-righteousness was given more weight than grace.

Yesterday, I read Emily's words, "I cry for fear of Christians finding me and learning I had a homosexual friend who was the most Christ-like person I've ever known."

Yesterday, I tweeted "Tired of the gay community being the Christian's advanced challenge for grace & acceptance. Man looks at appearance, God looks at the heart." And was barraged by people who replied, "I don't understand" and "It's not our place to fix their problem, it's God's."

This morning I woke up to an email from a 16 year old girl who just met Jesus - and got into a fight with her Atheist parents over homosexuality at the breakfast table. She was searching for someone else to defend her desire to love unconditionally and without question.

Today I sit in front of Jesus and hand him a list of every man's name that I've slept with and kissed - and a face sketched for the names I don't remember. Today I sit at Jesus' feet with an entire book filled with every lie I've ever told and every hateful comment I've ever made.

Today I sit next to Jesus and hide my face while he watches my life play back on the screen - every night I've draped myself over men at the bar and mixed profane lips with a half-dressed body, every minute I've spent watching pornography, and every coffee date I've gossiped about other women behind their backs.

Today I hand Jesus a lifetime of bank statements with every outrageous, self-satisfying expense highlighted - and I watch Him add up my selfishness that I "deserved" as He pulls a small, motherless and homeless child closer to Him in his lap.

Today I sit in the dirt, unable to see Jesus' ripped flesh on the cross through my tears. Knowing that it is for MY sins that He has endured Hell.

As I sob, I am approached by a stranger to grace who points at another man and says, "Tell me that it is sin. Tell me that his sexuality is a sin."

And I feel my soul stretch to it's breaking point.

I struggle to stand to my feet, with emotions I cannot distinguish raging through my veins. A jumble of fiery words tumble over one another in my mind. I want to scream, "HOW DARE YOU" to the accuser.

Instead, I stumble and fall in the arms of the other man - and cling to him for comfort. He is a man who knows what brokenness feels like. He is a man who has been trying since the day he was born. He is a man with his own pain-filled list of lovers. We are men and women who have become brand new and beloved, at the foot of the cross.

I call him brother. Because he is.

And together we are a broken generation of children who stand in the face of the accuser, so desperately needing a Father who refuses to look at our physical bodies and looks only at our hearts.

A Father who views us as wholly pure - who no longer names any of our sins because he has removed it from us as far as the East as the West, and does not remember it.

Believe me when I say that we are all born diseased, and Jesus has healed all of His children of every piece of brokenness.

- - - - -

"When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that you faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power." II Corinthians 2:1-4

"I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that there be no divisions among you but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought." I Corinthians 1:10

"God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak things to shame the strong. God chose the lowly and despised things - so that no one may boast before him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us our righteousness, our holiness, and our redemption." I Corinthians 1:28-30

"You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat." Romans 14:10

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Letter To My 18 Year Old Self - And My Story.

Some of you know pieces of "my story," others none at all. One day, I'll have more of it written out - and it is a gift to me that this blog is the slow uncovering of my never-ending wrestling match with it. Thank you for listening, and for loving me through it. It has meant the world to me.

I'll be honest, I try to not speak of it much here. I was born in the South, homeschooled, and raised in an ultra conservative home under a definition of sheltered that most people aren't familiar with. The oldest child of 4, we were to be "set apart" - never coming into contact with the sinful world. I lived in a bubble, with restrictions like no television, no movies, no public schooled friends, and no books unless dad read them first. All letters I wrote and received had to be read by a parent before they entered or exited the home, and every church sermon was picked apart at the Sunday dinner table, truth re-stated and lies cast out, until my heart was bloody. I didn't have friends at church; youth group wasn't allowed, and I dressed funny, so the other girls in Sunday school class didn't talk to me. I never went on a date or kissed a boy before I was 18, and I went through my teenage years with no make-up, no nail polish, and no girls nights allowed. My teenage years were instead full of politics, speech and debate, and discussing the perversion that is American society.

To this day, I haven't seen The Little Mermaid, and if you joke about an actor, TV show, or musician between 1987 and 2003, I will look at you with same expression I give astrophysicists when joking about microquasars. This morning in bed, my husband asked me if I knew what Seinfeld was and I replied happily, "Yes, it's a cartoon!"

Somewhere between age 16 and 18, I began questioning things. I was introverted, and miserable. There were too many secrets I couldn't share, too many things I couldn't do, and too many books I couldn't read. And I was desperate to have fun, and to stop thinking. Weeks after turning 18, I walked out of my home. I went to the only safe place I knew, and stayed there. 6 months later I moved for the 10th time in my life to Phoenix, Arizona to go to college. Since then, I have moved 22 times, not including the last 7 months of living in a car while I travel the US.

My life has never been the same. I lost my family, my friends, and I have spent every day of the last 6 years learning who I am, who God is, and how the world functions.

Much of it was a clean break, and much of it was a slow, brutal tearing apart.

I sat down last night with a heavy heart to write a letter to my 18 year old self. So many women have asked me to share my story. One day, it will be a book, but for today, it is in the form of a letter I wish someone had written me 6 years ago.

- God is not who you think He is. He is bound by nothing and no one. Don't be afraid to question what you know of Him. Don't be afraid to question the rules as laid out for you. God is big enough to handle it, and crossing the lines of religion, denomination, subcultures & belief systems will not break your God, or revoke your salvation.

- God will fight in your defense. Even when you are suffocating and drowning in confusion, when the ground underneath you seems unsteady and faulty, He will always know your heart and will never condemn you for your lack of understanding. He is the God of wisdom and of truth. If you seek it from Him, He may re-write what you know, and that is okay.

- It will be harder than you think. This isn't teenage rebellion, and it isn't the miscommunication of the generation gap. You will not wake up one day and have parents again, and your decision to walk out on your own means God will reassign new family members to you. Permanently. It will be painful, especially on holidays and birthdays, but in the end, you will find out that biological family is given to us to represent spiritual family - and you are simply learning it the hard way.

- Your heart is not evil, nor is it deceitful. Do not be afraid of yourself; God created you and set those desires in your heart for good. Submit yourself to Him, and you have nothing to fear. Dig deep into what makes you happiest, what triggers emotional responses, and what you are drawn to. It isn't you being worldly or sinful, and you will not be punished by God for them. Live life fully, and don't be afraid to breathe. Your mistakes are already paid for, and fear does nothing to stop death - only to stop life.

- It will get better. Those girls you envy, that are confident and beautiful? Those girls that have friends to laugh with and cry with? Those girls who have good men in their lives and a future they look forward to? Those girls who aren't plagued by confusion, depression, and loneliness? Those girls who can have fun? In six years that will be you. And those years will go by fast. Take it one day at a time, and don't try to become someone else. Become what you love, and a miracle will happen: You will become that girl.

- Read, a lot. You have years and years of truth and love to re-write into your heart. You were born broken, just like the rest, but in your own unique way, too. It takes reading about others' childhoods, brokenness, and fears to see what Jesus can do to a woman's soul. Acknowledge that you're just trying to figure things out - and read everything that gets put in front of you that has to do with healing. It will slowly permeate your mind and heart, and truth will soothe the ache.

- The numbness will go away, at the cost of your innocence. You'll slowly learn how to be human, and you'll slowly begin to feel normal. I know that in a desperate attempt to be 'just like everyone else' you'll get drunk at the frat house, you'll kiss boys whose names you don't know, and you'll watch pornography. I know you'll sleep with a guy you don't even like in a self-loathing attempt to destroy the Holier Than Thou reputation you've grown up with your entire life. It will wreck you, instead of heal you - but it will bring you to a new understanding of Grace that God needed you to experience. It will be part of your story.

- Read the four gospels. Every single day. Take a break from theology, and let go of what is right and what is wrong. At the end of the day, your salvation rests on Jesus alone, and he cares only for your heart, not for how much you know. Pay attention to what he talked about most: Compassion, healing, taking care of the widows and orphans, dealing out grace and mercy, overlooking tradition for the sake of love, and making people new. Our first command is to love one another, and you will not be able to do that with judgement and bitterness in the way.

- Be the little girl that you are. God knows you're scared of growing up, and he knows that right now, you despise men. He sees you as pure and innocent, and when you can't explain yourself, he already knows your heart. God desperately wants to be your Father, not your life coach, your teacher, your business consultant, or your boss. He just wants to be your Father, and sitting in His lap sobbing, "I don't know, I don't know" is okay - just as a little girl falls, gets hurt, and buries her face in her fathers lap to cry and beg him to fix it. God will always defend your innocence; Jesus loves the little children.

- Choose to always believe that God is good. You'll always believe that God loves you, but you'll stop believing that He is good. Like dark-chocolate-and-a-big-hug kind of good. Your life is in shambles, and He knows it. You'll be a mess for awhile, but He has a plan. You'll hate it, you'll get sick of it, it won't make sense, and you'll cry yourself to sleep a lot - but He will always be good, and you must always believe it. The moment you stop believing it, your heart will break all over again, and you'll start sabotaging yourself. Dig your heels in and believe that God is good.

- Being a girl is okay. All the things you weren't allowed to do in high school, go do them! No matter how silly, how impractical, and how pink they are. Buy the colored eyeliner, get a brazilian wax, color your hair, paint your nails black, spend too much money on shampoo, go see outrageous chick flicks, buy that sequined little black dress, buy the scandalous lingerie and enjoy laughing at trash reality TV. Not everything has to be practical, and you don't have to think in black and white. Find yourself somewhere in there, and learn to enjoy being a woman.

- Your parents' definition of sin may not be God's definition of sin. Sin is missing the mark, choosing to live a life apart from God's way, and letting self-centeredness grip your heart. Just as one culture believes a woman without a headcovering is sin while another believes that voting Democrat is a sin, neither of these hold any weight over anyone's salvation. Don't give sin power where it doesn't deserve to have any. Choose instead to see people how Jesus saw them: all in universal need of His love to fill their empty hearts.

- It isn't your job to find a man to love you. One day, after you've made way too many mistakes and gotten your heart broken, you'll decide to revert to what you believed when you were a little girl: You'll get married, and it will be amazing. I don't mean this in a naive, Cinderella sort of way - I mean that the man you're going to marry is already born, and when he meets you, you won't have to fight to get his love or attention. God made it that way, and it's okay to believe it stubbornly like a little girl. And it is true what they say: When you know, you will know.

- It's your life. I know you don't believe me, but really, it is. You were created to live a life no one else can live. If you live a life dictated by someone else, then you were not necessary. And God does not create unnecessary things. There will be things only you feel, things only you experience, and at the end of the day, you need to be the one who loves what she is doing with her life. People will be unhappy with you, and family and friends will disagree with you. God has a story for everyone's life, and you will not live that story if you're letting others write it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yesterday Is Dead & Tomorrow Is Not Yet Born

Sometimes, few words are best. I've been noticing that Jesus tells very short stories. I've been in a season of wanting to talk less, to listen more. It's a little bit of being tired, a little bit of burn out, and a lot of knowing that at the end of the day, you are just like me: A girl with a lot of problems, a lot of questions, and only one Savior.

I was going to write a long post about how I've been cutting things out of my life. How I left most of my artwork, clothes, and letters I've held onto for years back in Ohio last month. How I stood over a small fire in my back alley, watching years of court documents and condemning letters burn into ash before my eyes. I wanted to write about coming to terms with missing relationships in my life; ones I desperately want, but cannot have. About the pain that comes with little deaths, and the joy that stubbornly arrives the morning after. About the silly things: unfollowing, unsubscribing, and hemming in my heart in a way I never have. And to write about how I've learned to instantly toss out anything that reminds me of a past life; a woman who I used to be, but am no longer.

I wanted to tell you all to jealously protect the life you want to create; to share how I've chosen to let go of things, people, and memories. And how I wish someone had given me the strength to do it years ago.

But all I can write is that I now know the difference between yesterday and tomorrow. That I will never live in either of them. But that my place will forever stand right here, in the middle, called "Today."

Today, I have to decide if Jesus is enough for me. Today, I will learn to wrestle with the hope of heaven. Today, I will be content in not knowing the answers - and no longer being concerned that I do not know. Today, I will sit and hear stories of girls with broken pasts and broken hearts, desperate for love, and say, "I have found no answer other than Jesus."

Today I will choose to act on the truth I know, even when I do not understand it.

Today I will choose to trust in love that was proven by death on a cross, even when I don't feel it.

Today I will choose to believe that I was made beautiful, even when I cannot see it.

My yesterday is dead, and my tomorrow has not yet been born.

Today is the only day that is alive. And for the very first time, I am going to live it.

I am out of words, so I made this pretty little thing to remind us all that it's hard to slough off the past, but so worth it. Feel free to Pin it, tweet it, blog it, put it on your bathroom mirror, anything. Also, I just finished re-designing my new sister-in-law's blog, so you should take a peek & say hello to her.

What have you cut out of your life recently? What do you need to let go of? Do you need prayer for the courage to do so? I want to hear. Leave it in the comments.

Friday, September 9, 2011


So, I got married on Saturday!! It was the best day of my life, followed by the best extended weekend on my life. Denver is the most beautiful place on earth, and I'm forever glad that I was so adamant about getting married on a mountain at sunset.

I am so blessed that my heart hurts.

I have promised the world a post on how to keep a wedding under a thousand dollars*, but for now, I'm just going to show off a couple of my favorite photos so far, and answer the questions everyone's dying to know:

No, I don't really feel "married," just like you didn't really feel "18" or "21." Yes, I was way more nervous on my wedding day than I expected to be. Yes, we're still in Denver. And yes, the sex is great! (We both blog about sex and porn, so yes, I know that's your only real question.)

1. How To Plan A Wedding For Under $1000
2. What Makes Sex Great, And What Doesn't
3. What I Didn't Expect About Marriage
4. 10 Things He Did Right (& What Makes Men So Valuable)
5. You Decide! (Ask a question/suggest a topic in the comments!)

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.