+ 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.

 .

+ 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.

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..

+ today. +






.

+ 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.
.

+ 2011 +

.

+ 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.

www.makeitmad.com

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.

.

+ baby. +

My sister recently posted these of us. Oh, little babies. I didn’t realize how much of the same girl I am. I miss the south, and I miss the simplicity of quietness and observing the world move. I wish I was still three years old, and could get away with speaking barely at all and listening to everything. I have little to say, and I feel consistently forced to say more than what I have in my mind and my mouth.

Love simply, speak softly, believe passionately, give sacrificially, move slowly, watch constantly.

Childhood, you were an invaluable gift to me..

+ there’s a mess inside my head +

I haven’t been writing much, lately. All that is about to change, starting with this.

.

+ It’s my birthday! +

It’s my birthday!

I have so many thoughts and I’m high as a potato on caffeine so this is going to be difficult to bring down to the ground.

First off – infinite thanks, gratitude, appreciation and crazy love for all the incredible people in my life that have been just catapulting their excitement and love to me since before I even woke up today. I literally do not have half the words to communicate how much all of you mean to me and how beyond blessed I am. I have been given more encouragement and more community than I could have ever dreamed of. God is so good. I wish I could give everyone a supermassive hug and take everyone out to dinner, just for being my friend. I hesitate to mention certain people for fear of leaving others out on accident – but there are so many of you who have gotten me through this past year, sharpened me, taught me, motivated me, inspired me, loved me, cried with me, dreamed with me, explored with me, and prayed with me. I am obligated to thank as many of you personally and publically for enriching my life & making it into something SO full I can barely keep up. Here goes!

I’m going to start with Jamie because she just tweeted at me- hah! Jamie, you are one of the most joyful women I know – you work hard, you just ooze out love and care, and your packages and letters have always come to me at the perfect time. You’ve made my days so much better and I look up to you and hope that I will accomplish just as much as you do & give as generously as you do when I am a wife and mother. Oh, and your emails lighten my heart. Love.

Kelly M., I consider you a sister. I don’t know how or why we’ve stayed as close and I pray every day that I am as good of a friend to you as you are to me. I love you and can’t wait to come see you again in Charlotte. You have been a saving grace to me in ways you probably don’t know. God used you to bring me back to him and remind me of the type of girl I want to be, right when I needed it. I love watching you fight to love Jesus more and love those around you and your constant desire to do and be better. You are beautiful.

Katie H. – Oh man, I have so many sisters! God gave you to me as a big sister just when I needed one, and your creativity and enthusiasm puts sparkles into all my days! Hahaha. Thank you for being around constantly and letting me pour out my heart to you at any moment. You are insanely talented & your heart is so real. I love it.

Paige – I’m knocking out all the sisters. You are my baby sister and one of the most special people in my life. You already know that you are one of the funniest people alive and your heart is exponentially bigger than your body will ever be. I cannot wait to see what happens with your life. You inspire me with your strength, your love for God, and your wisdom. I wish I could give you the world. You are one of the most beautiful people God has ever made.

Nate – Living life has changed drastically since you entering it and I’m so grateful for it. Thank you for being a good man and working your ass off and bringing me alongside you. Talking with you every day is a gift in and of itself. I believe we have created more jokes than any two people in the history of the world. Blah blah blah. 🙂

Josh H – Yo Digeratii! Birthday twin! You rock my world by making me laugh uncontrollably nearly every day and I’m stoked to get to know you more over the next year. Happy birthday to you too, today!

Craig – I count you as my brother and one of my closest friends. I love our freak outs, our bff talks, your crazy motivation for life in general and how faithful you are to be there for me and listen to my rants. I am so glad you re-appeared in my life after years of us both getting our crap together (more or less) and I know that somewhere in the next couple years, a mindblowingly awesome trip will happen together. And I am not talking about drugs, I’m talking about Australia or something. Hahaha. Never doubt your worth, how much you are loved, or how much much better you make my life just by being in it. I love you.

Jesse K – Jesse, I love you. I am so thankful that you’ve been in my life since I was 10 or 11 years old. No matter what city each of us is in at the time, you remind me of all the good parts of home and none of the bad. I admire your mind. I admire your talents. I would do anything for you and I hope you know that, always. A part of my heart is yours and always will be. I miss our Milo adventures and your hugs. Love you forever.

Lauren S – Did you know that you are the picture of unconditional love? You have been an incredible friend for me and stuck it out when I go MIA for weeks at a time. The mail you send me is incredible and I save every single bit of it. I love you so much & hope we get closer this year. There have been two letters sitting on my desk for a month, waiting for the post office hours to align with my not-at-work hours. I love you.

Cheryl – You kick ass. You’ve added so many laughs to all my days and let me tell you probably the most absurd and unsharable parts of my life. I’m so glad that you exist and that we are on the same level with our craziness. You just make me so happy. And thank you for introducing me to Jen. Hahahaha

J Money & Josh – I AM SO EXCITED FOR 2011. I already have a solid love for both of you and I’m so stoked to see all the awesome things that come from working with you guys. Thank you both for being phenomenal people. Hugs hugs hugs.

Kansas – I feel like I’m a broken record because I just told you this, but you’re so solid and I’m so thankful for it. Thanks for being around for me and being a voice uninfluenced by hormones, hahaha. I appreciate every single time you offer to help me or listen to me. I don’t take it for granted.

David – I’m sad you’re on tour and I don’t get to see you for awhile. 🙁 Big hang outs when you get back. Thank you for fighting in my behalf, loving on me, praying for and with me, inspiring me to be the woman I need to be, and cutting through all the bullshit to help me find who God is and what he wants for me. You are blessed, and I’m blessed through you.

To all the Crimson boys: I love and miss you. Saud, you inject so much joy into my life and I’m down with you being my little brother forever. Josh, I admire your heart. Yates, Nick, Dan – hugs to all of you. Come back alive, please. ♥

Christen – GOOD GRIEF I am so glad I met you. You are an incredible woman and I swear everytime I see you, you just soak me in Jesus & super joy. Thank you for your hugs, your hospitality, and your crazy gifts through the Spirit. You’ve helped heal me from so much and I cannot express how thankful I am for you. Thank you for welcoming me into your life so quickly and so warmly. Love love and more love.

Patrick – Man, I just love how consistently you cheer me up via Twitter and how encouraging you’ve been to me throughout the last year. You have such a great heart and you’ve stuck around and made some of my really awful days way better and my good days even greater. Thank you.

Johnny – I’ve thanked you a hundred times for your encouraging texts that I get all hours of the day and night. You’ve kept my chin up during some pretty bad days. Thank you for caring so much and for keeping tabs on me.

Kelly Tonsetic – Thank you for having a relationship with me where half the time I’ve been bawling my eyes out. I know God better because I know you, and your love is contagious. Everytime I see you I am surprised by how beautiful you are & how joy and a clean love just radiates from you. You should be proud of the woman that you are. The man who gets you will not deserve you.

Sandy S. – Woman, I love you. Your hugs make my weeks bearable and you are so faithful to be a crazy caring friend. Thank you for confiding in me, and letting me confide in you. Your on-a-whim prayers rock my world. I love you.

Inky – Crazy girl, you’ve saved my ass so many times and made my life so much more fun. I wish I was close to you so I could be a better friend – but I’m coming to Nashville in January! And oh, that will be too much fun. Your texts make my day happier & I am so jealous of your energy and love for life. I admire you for how much you’ve been through. You’re resilient, I hope you know that.

Jessica T. – There aren’t words to communicate what I want. I have more love and empathy for you than you will ever know. My heart has broken with yours over this past year and I am going to tell you again how proud I am of you for remaining the woman that you are despite everything else life has handed to you. You are selfless; know that, believe that. I have been blessed by you so much and hope to never, ever lose touch. I love you.

Krista L – Ooo I love you. I know I just told you this, but you are transparent in your love and so genuine in everything you say. You are a beautiful woman & God dropping you into my life was a gift. You are so talented and I am so proud of how hard you work. You inspire me. Your entire life is just pretty and sweet. I look up to you. I am excited to see you tonight.

Bria S. & Laura L: I don’t know why I just grouped you two together in my head but it’s probably because you both have equal amounts of love, talent and joy. You both know what you’ve been through and I count myself blessed to have seen the insides of your lives, if only for a bit. You are both proof that women are beautiful in their strength and have a capacity for expressing care & support for others even when you are struggling yourselves. I cannot wait to get to know you both better. Thank you for being friends to me. Dammit, words aren’t good enough – hugs to both of you and I wish I could take you both out for dessert.

Tyler – I am so proud of you. You have one of the sweetest hearts in the world and it just makes me beyond happy to see how hard you strive to love everyone around you and love God. You’re a good son, a good brother and a good friend.

Phil & Julie Shomo – Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being faithful to do what God has called you to do. Your faithfulness helped bring me out of one of the worst seasons of my life, and you saved me from a lot of pain and bitterness. Julie, I cannot thank you enough for the hours you’ve spent talking with and praying for me. Your wisdom and your love is invaluable and I will never forget you pulling me aside to tell me that you believe in me. You have helped lay a foundation in my heart that I cannot put a price on. Thank you.

To my lovely girls: Jessica, Lydia & Bahareh. Life is a rollercoaster and thank you, thank you, thank you for staying on board through thick and thin. You are some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever come across in my life and I am so glad I can call you mine and be included in a group of so much heart, passion, talent & beauty. I cannot even imagine what our lives will look like when we are 25, 30, and so on – I am SO excited. I love you.

To my real sister, Courtney, and my real brother, Kevin: We’ve been through a lot, yeah? Thank you both for being proof that there is love that supercedes all the fights, pain, struggles, disagreements and hardships of life. I love you both more than anyone else on this earth. I don’t know how to put this into words too well, but when we are together and laughing over years’ worth of inside jokes, I am the happiest woman. I get to see sides of you that no one else sees and I LOVE YOU for that. I love that I can see the heart of both of you apart from all else. Both of you are incredible people. I cannot WAIT to see where all of us go with our lives and I will be here for both of you, no matter what. I’m sorry for all the times I haven’t been the sister I should have, and I’m thankful for the unconditional love you’ve shown me. You guys keep me on my toes. 🙂 I love you. P.S. You guys are both super-pros at giving hugs & expressing insane amounts of joy. You rock. 😛

– – –

I will be adding to this throughout the day, but back to work I go!

My life changed last night at midnight because of this, and I can’t wait to share with all of you what it means and how this affects me. I have so much to say, but it will have to come later. Love times a thousand..

+ giving, minimalism, & perspective +

It’s Friday! I’m ecstatic! It’s been such a glorious week. November is coming through on it’s promise to be great! This is going to be such an organizational nightmare of a post, I’m sorry.

I have had an unbelievable amount of energy for no understandable reason – I’m attributing it to the fact that whenever I bike or walk anywhere I sing, “the joy of the Lord is my strength” like a crazy person. Been singing that song since I was a baby and there’s no reason to stop now!

I’m crazy looking forward to doing a Love Bomb video update this weekend. Exciting stuff is coming up! I’ll also be blogging more for the ItStartsWith.Us blog so you’ll see me around over there, too.

ALSO. I’m doing a Minimalism + Giving Project for all you bloggers! I already have several bloggers committed & I’m really excited for this!

If you want to participate, make sure you say so in the comments!

By November 20th, we will all be donating 10+ items of clothing to Goodwill or a local charity of your choice. I’ve been really convicted by the outrageous amount of clothing I don’t wear anymore, and all the excess materialism in my life – and I’d love to do this alongside all of you.

Email me a photo of you + your clothes you’re donating by November 20th, and I’ll blog you as part of the project!

AND. I just spoke with Goodwill International & was showed their little donate calculator, which is sweet. So if you’re donating to Goodwill, list out everything you’re donating so I can get a grand total from this whole project to share with them!

I have a tiny little post script about minimalism. I’m getting hooked on it, but I’m not sure it’s wise. I want stability, I want permanence, & I’m the woman that makes a house a home. All these being the polar opposite of minimalism. (Unless I’m wrong. Do you disagree? Tell me.) However, none of those things are here and now. So I’m leaning towards minimalism for the next couple years. Is it wise? Do you think it will have long-term consequences? Is it regrettable in anyway? To see how intense I’m talking, read Living With 75 Things and Quitting Your Day Job — Should I just develop a Lauren-version of minimalism, and tackle it for 2011, including my finances too?

If you have 10 minutes, read this post by Max Dubinsky, called “Welcome To The Human Race, It’s Very Uncomfortable Here.” Get some perspective. I cried..