the home: my indoor plants

left to right: orchid, scindapsus pictus argyraeus, dracaena fragrans (corn plant), senecio radicans (string of bananas)

living room plants

the three hanging plants in my living room are my very favorite! the succulent closest to the window (senecio radicans) has his position because he requires medium-to-full sun. i water him lightly once a week, and he grows rapidly. the middle plant hanging from the beam (scindapsus pictus argyraeus) is another low maintenance plant, and i have a second one in my office. they love bright light but have to be kept out of direct sunlight, and he’s due for a trim!

the largest one (cordatum philodendron), potted in the coconut fiber planter, is my newest. his original hanger wasn’t long enough for the beam, and couldn’t be hidden by some clever jute/hemp design, so i created a 12-knot jute hanger for him! i have two other cordatums (in my kitchen), and am working on some cuttings from them. there are hundreds of types of these, and this particular strain i believe is ‘brazil,’ identified by the yellow streaks or splotches in some of the leaves. cordatums have been my most successful houseplant to date — they grow rapidly, need watered once every 7-10 days, and grow in partial shade.

below are two cuttings from the cordatum that i started a few weeks ago — they’ve grown roots so much more quickly than the cuttings i placed straight into dirt, so i’m planning on planting them this week and hoping they survive!


more cordatum on the hutch, as well as asparagus densiflorus cv sprengeri on the top left of the hutch. and of course, pixel checkin’ out the new babies. asparagus densiflorus also goes by asparagus fern, lace fern, plumosa fern….it has a lot of names. it’s pretty delicate and they are quick to dry out — you have to keep a close eye on their dirt and keep them damp (but not soaked). 24 hours dry and they die pretty quickly. they also need fairly bright light, and i’d consider them one of the hardest houseplants i’ve kept — but they’re worth it because of their delicate airy-ness!

kitchen, continued

below is my kitchen table as i was getting ready to built a jute hanger, and figure out which new houseplants would be best for the office + kitchen windows!

the itty bitty guys are hyposteses ‘white’ (keep moist + bright light) and a korean rack fern (keep moist, but low to medium light). the mossy looking plant is another one of my all-time favorites: selaginella kraussiana or “krauss’ spikemoss” or “gold club moss.” it’s sooooo beautiful for houseplant arrangements, both hanging or not. out in ‘real life’ it is a ground covering. it does best in shade (with minimal sun) and weekly light waterings, so i decided to hang it at the very top of a window in order to give it filtered light.

lastly, the button fern. excuse me while i shout that FERNS ARE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING EVER MADE. button ferns are a bit more adaptable to apartment life than some of the other delicate ones (maidenhair ferns, asparagus ferns) so this one is great to start with if you want something a little more unique than your standard boston fern. i decided hang him from the curtain rod in my kitchen, since it’s bright light, but not direct. remember that ferns enjoy the sun, but ALWAYS through a filter (forest plants!), and never directly. or they’ll just….toast.

the office

here is the little gold club moss, in the double-pot jute hanger! below you will see that i originally was playing with putting a jade plant at the top, but i’m keeping him outside for now, as my indoor jade plants have all died from lack of heat/sun/whatever it is that succulents just really want to be experiencing in their life.

below you will also see the asparagus fern at the top of the bookshelf, and the scindapsus pictus argyraeus on the middle shelf — as well as the cordatum cuttings. i haven’t decided what will sit in the bottom pot of the plant hanger yet.

smaller version of the scindapsus pictus argyraeus

this is a virginia blue fern, and they do well in low-light, so i have him in the middle of the living room

bedroom + kitchen

above are two succulents in my bedroom. i don’t actually know the name of the top succulent, as it’s very rare and i just got him from the succulent cafe in oceanside, california last weekend! i’ll edit this post when i find out.

the second succulent is the common sedum morganianum (or donkey’s tail, or burro’s tail), who will grow up to look like this. i have one of these on my patio as well, and so far, they’re suuuuch sloooow growers.

to end the post, i though i’d leave you with petunia and the button fern. she is the Arch Enemy of all my houseplants, and it’s been quite the feat to keep as many plants alive as we have. approximately 50 valiant plants have died in the pixel & petunia war against plants. you can see more of them both at <3

next, i’ll be blogging all my vegetables and herbs that i’m growing from the patio of my los angeles apartment, and sharing how i’ve arranged, seeded, and cared for them in the extremely non-garden friendly environment — hehe.

until next time!! xoxo

the only two beauty secrets you need to know.

Just kidding. There are way more than two. Or you could be a totally beautiful person and never know these two secrets. Anyway, these are two very important things to me at this particular point in my life, and I’ve gotten a lot of requests to explain how and why I use them the way I do!

1. Rosehip Seed Oil

Purpose: I use rosehip seed oil as my moisturizer, scar remover/healer, acne prevention + treatment, ph balancer, anti-aging, pretty-much-everything product. I’ve stopped using facial cleansers because I noticed they were stripping my skin, and I was really only using them to prevent breakouts – which rosehip seed oil does. It’s the only skincare product I use, and I no longer need foundation/concealer. I do use Mac Face & Body Foundation for special occasions, important meetings, nights out. It’s lighter than their other foundations, and lets my skin breathe.

How often to use: I should probably apply it every morning and evening, but it’s really either/or. I recommend using it faithfully for 2-3 weeks if you’re trying to correct a dry skin issue or breakouts. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW you’ve been told your whole life that oil = breakouts, but that’s not true! : )

How to use: Rinse your face with lukewarm water. Pat dry. Squirt 2-5 drops in your hand and use your fingertips to rub it into your face and neck. It’s SO light (not heavy, like coconut oil) that you can use a lot and your skin will absorb it all. If applying foundation/concealer after, I recommend waiting 5-10 minutes, but I’ve put it only directly afterwards when I’m in a rush. If you’re all like but oh mah gawd I need to exfoliate and how will my skin be clean without my bottle that says Cleanser on it, just rub your skin gently with a washrag or shower brush while you’re in the shower a couple times a week and you’ll honestly be fine. It’s water and rubbing that carries away dirt + bacteria, not chemicals.

What brand to get: I’ve used AuraCacia and Simplers Botanicals. So long as the bottle you find IS NOT FOR AROMATHERAPY, or mixed with other products, it should be fine.

What the heck are rosehips: Rose plants make fruit! I know right? I had no idea. They look like this and are the little fruit/seed pods of roses. They are packed full of Vitamin C, lycopene (anti-oxidant), Vitamin A, essential fatty acids, and other things that work as anti-inflammatories.

Where to purchase: Your local health food store, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or online. Here’s some on Amazon that’s only $11 and it’s what I currently use!

But I have sensitive skin: Yes, exactly. That’s why you should be using a single, pure ingredient – and not a mixture of synthetic things.

2. Suave Dry Shampoo

Purpose: Add volume and texture. Enables you to stop washing your hair every single day (bad for it) but not look gross. I have a lot of other tips for hair (particularly long, thick hair) over here on this other post too!

How often to use: Wheneverrrrrrr

How to use: Only use on dry hair. Hold the nozzle about 1-3 inches from your hair and practice spraying in short, sweeping bursts along your roots. After spraying, rub it in with the palm of your hand. I usually work my way around the crown of my head just so I get good lift and volume (and soak up all the oil) from all directions. Some people wait to put this in until Day 2 or Day 3 (whenever their hair gets oily) but I do it on Day 1 frequently to help add volume immediately.

What brand to get: I’ve tried a lot of $30-$40 bottles of dry shampoo and Suave’s $3 dry shampoo really, truly is the best I’ve found.

Where to purchase: CVS, Target, Walgreens, Amazon.

But not showering is gross: Okay you can SHOWER, you just don’t have to wash your hair every single time. <3

using this uncomfortable picture of myself to show the glow + health of my skin after switching to rosehip seed oil. do not be a creep and use this as the photo with which you pin this blog post thank you lulz

desire map: week three, and the soul-awakenings.

it is so tempting to sit down and write all the things i’ve accomplished,
or the progress i’ve made — but ultimately, all i can tell you is how different it feels.
what the expanding of my soul looks like.
how beauty has not simply been created, but existing beauty has been revealed.

the truth of art + their tools first serving us so that we may serve ourselves + those around us is taking hold.

i know now that resolutions last for a week, and that’s okay — it’s preferred — they bend and sway with our souls as they should.

self-guilt has dissolved, the striving is ending, the proving is over, and i am seeing-breathing-feeling-giving something greater than “freedom.” the grip of obligation and “do it now or do it never, you’re wasting time” is loosening.

the chasm between my mind and my heart is closing in – as i practice building the roadways between them in my small experiments in the specificity of gratitude. in the excavating the gems of Self buried in childhood. in allowing my wants and desires and aches to be sacred, and listening to them respectfully for the first time in my life.

small, deliberate actions inspired by your true desires create a life you love.
– danielle laporte, desire map

More about The Desire Map: I am blogging my way through my experience leading a Desire Map book club. The first post, Learning How To Desire, is here. You can get the book, ‘The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals With Soul,’ here. If you’d like to join the next book club I host in Los Angeles or join the upcoming virtual book club, email me at laurennicolelove[at] to join the waiting list. You can explore the visual exploration of my core desired feelings on Pinterest, or follow me on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. xo

wild: a trip to death valley.

all photos taken by myself, lauren dubinsky. please credit if shared or re-posted. thank you

More about The Desire Map: I am blogging my way through my experience leading a Desire Map book club. “Wild” is one of my core desired feelings. See my Wild board here. The first post, Learning How To Desire, is here. You can get the book here. If you’d like to join the next book club I host in Los Angeles, email me at laurennicolelove[at] to join the waiting list. You can also follow me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. xo

desire map: week one and two. introducing desire + the magnetics of feelings.

photos from the first night of the desire map book club.

beside time or money, what else do i want more of?
what do i do most naturally? i stop being generous when ________. i’m dead set against ________. what is the difference between emotions and feelings? wants and desire?

questions you’ve probably never asked yourself. start asking.

part 1. stunted vocabulary. i have spent a lot of time this month lamenting my extremely poor vocabulary when it comes to desire, emotions, feelings. digging in and discussing with myself ‘what are my preferred states of being?” is one thing, but finding the words to communicate the swelling of my soul and the expansiveness of my nerves is entirely another.

thesaurus explorations have been the most enlightening. i can usually sit and close my eyes and experience a feeling/aura that i crave….and from there, i quickly write as many words as i can that surround that idea. then i go on a deep dive, and write out every synonym. it doesn’t matter if the word doesn’t fully encompass the whole feeling – it just has to be part of it. here are some examples:

generative, natural, outdoors, green, woodsy, elemental, wood nymph, wet, damp, rich, dirt, earthy, tactile, palpable, dirty, sensory, lush

centered + light, anchored, deep, unmoved, calm, quiet, shakti, transcendent, seraphic, astral, chimerical, celestial

dark, aphotic, reflective, observant, separate, sombre, shadowy, swelling, flowing, ebbing, fluidic, airy, surreal, untouched, dreamlike, amaranthine, weaving, unaffected, surreal, ethereal, fairy

observance: the english language is extremely stunted when it comes to some types of desire. surprisingly, sexy/sensual is one of these desires. go ahead — see if you can find synonyms other than raw, animalistic, lustful, arousing.

part 2. desires vs wants.
a reoccurring theme in our book club is shaking ex-religions or just religious baggage from ourselves. our group is a merging of catholic, christian and jewish upbringings, and it’s almost comforting to see that the christian guilt associated with creating time to discover and pursue MY desires is not limited to traditional protestant christians. identifying the difference between a core desired feeling [preferred state of being] and a want has been immensely helpful.

want: to have sex
desire: sensuality and/or wild and/or connection and/or comfort

want: to sleep in late
desire: calm, relaxed, healthy

want: to eat cake
desire: joy and/or pleasure and/or satisfaction

comparing wants with desires in this way illuminates how rarely we are conscious of TRUE desires. our daily life rarely gets past the fleeting wants. you could be a selfish-to-the-point-of-hurting-others person, always choosing your ‘wants’ — but never operating out of your desires. or you could be the most generous-alive-radiant person, rarely choosing your ‘wants’ but always operating out of your desires. ideally, we all land somewhere in a very healthy middle, because wants and desires are not always mutually exclusive (and wants are not bad things) but this juxtaposition reveals what a mistake it is to equate wants with desires.

observance: ‘selfish’ means lacking consideration for others. you can give attention and priority to Self, without lacking consideration for others.

part 3a. gratitude. i am bad at gratitude. i am good at being grateful, but i am bad at the practice of gratitude. sitting down and writing out the ‘why am i grateful for ____’ was like taking a little road trip through my soul and ooo-ing and ahhh-ing over all these different pieces of me that i’ve never seen before.

i am grateful for my home – because it makes me feel anchored, gives space for expression
i am grateful for my kitties – because they make me feel joyful, generous, loving, playful
i am grateful for my friend ____ – because she lets me both give and receive, knows my flaws & understands them, helps me be honest
i am grateful for photography – makes me feel generative and perceptive
i am grateful i stopped attending church – i’ve become more simplified, certain + accepting, less bitter and conditional

it is so revealing to look at the whys, in all five areas of our life: livelihood & lifestyle, body & wellness, creativity & learning, relationships & society. essence & spirituality. i’ve started asking myself daily what i’m grateful for in this moment, only so i can play around with the new discovers of the WHY and what it reveals.


okay. this is the fastest way to turn your world upside down and crush dissatisfaction under the heel of your new boots. i started pinning everything i had: my favorite cosmetics, my clothing, my lingerie, my furniture, my plants, my dishes, my bedding, my pets…and i still am not done pinning. tip: don’t limit it to material things. i’m an aestetics/fashion/decor person, so much of my life is directed towards materials – but pin your love notes, your art, the people in your life, your anything and everything. 

most of us have acted upon our tastes and ‘dream homes’ or ‘dream closets’ and do own a handful of things we really love. but they are quickly forgotten. pinning everything to a board forces you to look at your property objectively, through the same lens we scroll through pinterest/instagram/blogs with. it creates a rush of ‘MY LIFE IS WAY MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN I THOUGHT.” don’t you miss that rush?

resist the urge to compare your board to mine. we look and say, ‘oh she has cooler stuff than me.’ cooler = the word we use for novelty. this exercise is for you to re-create novelty in your own life. it works. i’m obsessed.

More about The Desire Map: I am blogging my way through my experience leading a Desire Map book club. The first post, Learning How To Desire, is here. You can get the book here. If you’d like to join the next book club I host in Los Angeles, email me at laurennicolelove[at] to join the waiting list. You can also follow my Pinterest board here.

learning how to desire

lately i have become very overwhelmed with the notion of blogging and sharing my inner world for all to see. when i first began blogging ten years ago, it was simply a nice little way to publish my poetry and small creations, and i miss that.

i have always loved the beginning of things: the idea, birthing the visible, injecting It (whatever it was) with some living, breathing personality and becoming fascinated with its new existence. i realized quickly that the internet was perfect for this. it became a wildly satisfying way for me to feed my craving of creation: designing, writing, curating, building — all delivered to me through the delightful medium of blogs and tumblrs.

then, over more years, it evolved into sharing pieces of my story, and so many lovely people asking to hear more; so many people eager to connect, to be encouraged, to share experiences and valiantly attempt to learn from one another’s mistakes. i adored it sometimes and hated it other times, and adored it some more, hated it more, and became altogether intensely fatigued.

and so – since summer, really – i have grown inwards in my little world and stopped producing, sharing, opinion-ating, expounding, advice-giving, and pouring out. i have learned to be a mother to myself and to my inner child, and i have learned to be content with creating very little. it is always during these times that new, tiny seedlings come bursting through the soil – now that the old flowers and weeds have been cleared and a re-energized space has been made for them.

the most beautiful seedling that has emerged is Desire. or maybe i should call her Awareness.

perhaps the most difficult thing i’ve had to face in my adulthood is realizing how suffocated my natural desires were throughout my childhood. there are various aspects of and causes for this suffocation but i think it is something we all experience to some degree.

growing up, the word ‘happiness’ was not allowed in my family’s home. it was a shallow, self-centered word. we must use ‘joy’ – something that is god-centered and is present even in pain. ‘passion’ was another word not allowed; ‘the heart is deceitful above all else’ meant that to pursue passions was sinful and of our fallen nature. ‘desire’ was always pre-fixed with the word ‘fleshly,’ and i was taught this always meant sexual immorality, greed, or rebellion.

i learned thoroughly and effectively that i was a dangerous creature, and my thoughts and feelings and physical responses were what would betray me before the heavens. the more rapidly i could transform into something other than myself (a quiet, selfless, godly woman was the particular goal), the more righteous and holy and pleasing and blessed i would be. i owed it to my parents, to god. (not surprisingly, this became a chronic beast of anxiety and depression lasting for many years.)

adulthood, even in environments absent of martyrous religious strains, frequently pushes Self down, down, down into the mud of standardized testing, resumes, dress codes, office politics, single-faceted careers, capitalism, and the harsh binary language of all things digital. it reinforces the mind above the soul, the end goal above the desire. compounded with these types of childhoods, it can be crippling and destiny-stealing.

i have worked ceaselessly for the past eight years to unravel these falsehoods in my mind, and replace them with better ways and truer things. but the soul? the soul is an intricate and delicate thing, and she is slow to blossom until she is sure she is not only welcome but desired. she is resilient but intelligent and so she will hide unless she is treasured.

and so, rather than letting the seedling of Desire slip up through the dirt and find her small place among the rest, i am giving her the first of my attentions and the first of my care. she must speak, and i must hear.

[ katerina sokova | credit: unknown | credit: dennis auburn]

beginning on february 2nd, i am leading a book club at my home for danielle laporte‘s book, desire map. every spare minute of my day for the past two weeks has been spent tilling and inspecting and watering and watching this thing called Desire, to learn it and know it and grow it. i have been reading and listening to danielle’s magnificent work, and working through my new desire map day planner. i feel like i have been wandering in the desert and finally found an oasis crafted solely with me in mind.

my husband has remarked every day this week that i am radiant, and i have been eager to get out of bed every morning for the first time in months.

i have been shocked and deeply saddened with my discovery that i’ve paid so little attention to myself and how i truly, deeply desire to be. i feel robbed for being partially blind to myself until now, but i know that we humans are A Great Process and everything is perfect in its time. i am combusting with excitement that now i know and now it is changing and i am already morphing into More Of Myself.

if you want to read desire map, do it. if you want to get the day planner (it’s only S12.50 right now!), do that too.

over the next few months, i will be writing here what i learn while leading our little book club (something that my introvert self is somewhat terrified of doing), tips for being more aware of ‘all that stuff’ deep down in your heart and soul, and magical beautiful things that i come across along the way. i will document what i do in seeking to become more ethereal, wild, generous, earthy, sensual, and generative – my core desired feelings.

this is my way to be generous and generative — my way to give back, in gratefulness.


ivy and cordatum in the new home

i feel like i’m climbing out of bed for the first time in five months and sheepishly brushing hair out of my eyes as i squint to see everyone again. hello, good morning, hello. can you believe that’s how long it’s been? five months.

i’ve been resting, focusing on work, healing, and – i’m thrilled about this part – moving into a new apartment! i live for new spaces and new home projects. after a year and a half of a “let’s save rent!” apartment, we just moved into a precious little 2 bedroom full of perfect natural light that i am reveling in. max and i have spent the last couple of weeks making it into our little sanctuary. and i’ll continue to do so for awhile. i’m so excited to slowly make my way back into sharing my little living spaces with you all. thank you for always listening.

this sentence deserves it’s own paragraph: i finally have an office!!

my plant addiction is thriving. this week’s babies have just found their new places. cordatum in the kitchen, and ivy in the office.

ps. i can’t stop listening to daughter. they’re stunning.

* cordatum: $8, local grocery store
**wicker & cast iron hutch: $70, garage sale
*** frames: $5 ea, melrose trading post
**** butterflies: $3, goodwill
***** glass jars/pots: $0.50-$2 ea, goodwill
****** candle: gift, anthropologie
* ivy: $8, local grocery store
** cast iron & metal bookshelf: $60, melrose trading post
*** lightbulbs threaded w/wire: gift

7 Things To Remember When Talking About Modesty & How People Dress.

This weekend I read another delightful article from a well-meaning man, talking about how if you dress modestly, you’ll attract a man for who you are, and if you wear revealing clothes, you’ll only attract men who are interested in your body.

After being calmed from my hysterics by my dear husband and his friend, and talking it all out, I decided to pen a few words that I believe all of us girls should remember when reading or listening to other people talk about how we should dress and what our clothes say about us as a person.

1a. How People Work. Yes, your clothes have the ability to say things about you. But one thing we leave out of this conversation is the nuts + bolts part of how communication works. What we say isn’t always what people hear. People hear and read (make discernments and assumptions) based on their worldview, and that is utterly uncontrollable. If you wear something to express beauty and someone else “hears” that you’re an immoral or too-sexually available woman, that’s not your fault or responsibility.

1b. Clothes and Assumptions. We all use clothing as a form of expression. Sometimes they express styles and color palettes we love, and sometimes they express that we are confident in ourselves, or that we aren’t. [On late Sunday nights, my sweatpants express that I'm exhausted and comfort trumps anything anyone thinks about me, hah.] What they can’t do is express the position of someone else’s heart or what kind of value they have as a person, or what they believe spiritually or religiously. Never let someone tell you that your sexy self on a Friday night out reflects the fact that you have Daddy issues or low self-esteem or don’t have a close relationship with Jesus. Just because a person exudes confidence or appreciation in their body doesn’t mean they are shallow. Study up on the logical fallacies, darlings.

EXTREMELY IMPORTANT NOTE TO MY GIRLFRIENDS: Making assumptions about a girl’s character or priorities based on how she dresses SLAUGHTERS our ability as women to befriend other women. It’s not a competition or a Holiness Assessment Game unless you decide it is, and that will keep you from making friendships with incredible girls.

2. Individuals Don’t Speak for Everyone. No man can speak for all men, and no woman can speak for all women. A lot of us girls like to hear men’s opinions on things, AS WE SHOULD. It’s awesome when genders interact. However, we often make the mistake that one man giving his personal opinion about how he perceives women when they dress a certain way is what ALL men perceive. That “awesome man” writing that “awesome article” about sexiness or modesty in women? Remember that he had parents, was raised a certain way, had certain life experiences, went to certain churches, lives in a certain city, had men and women in his life tell him certain things – - and that’s how all of our beliefs get molded and defined, and in the end, they are individual opinions and views. “He” doesn’t necessarily think like all other potentially dateable men, all other good men, or your husband.

3. Cultural context. Clothing is cultural, and I don’t mean just international. There are plenty of outfits in my wardrobe as a 25 year old woman in Los Angeles that I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing in Alabama or Ohio or even the Carolinas. And that’s not because I’m suddenly more convicted when I’m on the East coast, or because men there are more susceptible to lust. It’s because cultural dress is very different in Los Angeles, and what would be shocking to a midwestern small town is “totes adorb” and quite normal here in Hollywood. I dress to be comfortable, attractive, and sometimes sexy if I feel like it that day – but I personally don’t go for the gawked-at outfits. (If you do, MORE POWER TO YA, WOMAN.) The Internet is awesome, but it often means we’re living in one place listening to another person speak about how what’s culturally acceptable in their city or country, not ours.

4. Fear Of Beauty and Sexuality. Don’t be modesty-ed into being terrified of being noticed or being attractive. Often when we say things like “the good men will notice you if you’re modest!” and, “selfish men will just want your body if your shirt is revealing!” we come, naturally, to the conclusion that to be noticed for our beauty, sexiness, or good looks will be terrifying and even dangerous. Not only is this conclusion harmful to both us and men, it’s simply not true. All men (and women) notice attractive people, and that’s totally okay. We all notice how people look before anything else. That isn’t shallow; it’s how our eyeballs work. It used to be that if a guy openly noticed me for my looks or complimented me, I felt like my boundaries had been plowed down and that he’d thought I was an easy girl who would say yes to going home with him. In the real world, he was just complimenting me. But in my terror-by-way-of-modesty-brain, I assumed he was making judgements about my character or revealing his own.  And HOLY CRAP that makes normal conversations with strangers and friends nearly impossible. It also can force us into choose each mornings whether or not we’re going to “be good and not feel attractive” or if we’re going to say, “to hell with it, I just want to look awesome today.” 

5. If You Want Guidance On How To Dress. If you’re set on dressing in a way to please or attract good men, remember that good men (and nearly all men) are attracted to confident women, and they can determine that based on your posture and whether or not you “hide” [physically and emotionally] in your clothes. I put this pretty brutally because it’s a painful war I’ve been fighting since I got married to The Best Husband Ever. I feel the sting myself as I say it, and I write it to hopefully nudge a few of you girls into learning to be confident in your body. My husband can tell when I’m hiding my body either in fear or because I’m ashamed of it, and he tries to help remind me that I’m a beautiful woman and can be confident in that. He loves when I wear things that fit well, that show off my figure, and give off the comfortable-in-my-sexiness vibe. Not because he’s just looking to see a little more boob, but because he wants me to embrace the woman that I am.

6. Lust vs Attraction. Hey dudes – Just want to make sure you know that noticing how sexy or attractive a woman is ISN’T lust. This is probably really relieving to some of you. You don’t have to guilt trip yourself for your sin every time you notice a pretty girl or a hot girl. Also, if you try to assess which girls are morally sound, are emotionally healthy, and love Jesus, DON’T SKIP OVER THE SEXY ONES. She didn’t choose that body just for you, God gave it to her. That body doesn’t define what kind of person she is. And she isn’t necessarily whoring out her cleavage, she just feels confident and beautiful in how God made her. I’ll say it again: observing isn’t lust.

7. You have the right to be you, whoever that is. How you dress is up to you, it’s no one’s place to assume things about your moral caliber by it. If you choose to dress more on the covered side, there is NOTHING wrong with that! For those of you new to “the modesty debate,” I’m sure you’re relieved to hear someone say it’s okay to show a little more leg. But for those of you familiar with the modesty culture discussions, I know you can feel judged for wanting to show less than others. At the end of the day, remember that how you choose to dress is none of my business. And I will never assume something about you because of how much you reveal, or how little you do. Make your what-do-I-show and what-do-I not decisions on what is appropriate for where you’ll be today, and what will make you comfortable and confident. Don’t make those decisions to protect men from their ‘uncontrollable thoughts’ or because it will take a hit on your morality or value as a person.

END THOUGHT: As Christians, we should view everyone as a person with immeasurable value who was created by God and who is our equal in all things, and letting someone’s clothing choices alter that view should have no place in our life. End of story.

FOR DISCUSSION: A lot of us have been pulled aside or confronted by people in our church to be rebuked for how we dress. How have you handled it? What words did you use to explain yourself? A lot of us simply don’t know what to do or what to say in this moment. What’s a good way to stand up for yourself graciously and respectfully?

Comments arguing for modesty absolutism or our responsibility to keep men from lust will be moderated. Thank you in advance for understanding the intended nature of this post. 

Book Giveaway: Life After Art by Matt Appling

Matt Appling has graciously allowed me to give away two copies of his new book to my readers. As someone who always wants to create, but doesn’t feel ‘good enough’; as someone who has been stuck in the mire of depression, and still struggles sometimes; as someone who strives to be childlike, but wrestles with the grownup world – this book was like a great, warm blanket wrapped around me.

There are so many secrets to be learned within the world of creativity, and Matt helps us understand that creativity is not limited to the traditional definition of art. (Which, as you know by this post of mine, For People Who Feel They Fail At Creativity, is a epiphany near to my heart.) I recommend this book particularly to anyone struggling with depression, stagnancy, or hopelessness. I wish I’d read it years ago, and I look forward to reading it at the beginning of every new season of my life. If you’d like to go ahead and purchase Life After Art, you can do so here. It’s on sale!

Safety is not something we often find in art as adults, and Matt helps us find it again. Thank you, Matt.

PS: Would you mind Liking this post too? I want as many people to see this book as possible, because I think it’s so important and so encouraging! Thank you! xoxo

To the girl who feels guilty for sleeping with someone.

Preface: I am writing this because during my years as an unmarried woman having sex, I felt that everything written, spoken, or preached to me was solely to persuade me to stop having sex. I desperately wished someone would have abandoned the topic in order to speak to me where I was at, without their desperate attempts to end sex in my life. Even when most had good motives, I needed someone to write a letter to me, Lauren, and not to The Not-A-Virgin-Anymore. This evening, I rallied my past and my present, and wrote the words I craved for years and years.

Hello, lovely.

Before we begin, would you get a little piece of paper? Please?

Write out your full name.

You are this particular woman. You cannot escape it. Do you know this?

You will never be another. You cannot escape it. Do you know this?

Tomorrow, the day after, and all the days: You are this woman.

And thank goodness, because you are the only person who deserves to make the most of everything you have experienced this far. 

And thank goodness, because you have within you a capacity for Love that you would not believe even if you were told.*

* * *

I want to say that I see you. I am you. I was you, a long time ago. I will be you. We are.

Love sees you. Love knows you. Love adores you.

Goodness, hate, closeness, abandonment, purity, brokenness, wholeness, confusion, clarity, trying so hard, and given up. He looks at you and sees nothing but the infant girl that was born into this magnificent world, this middle ground, this holding place. This universe in which we only see in part.

You are three years old. You are five. You are seven. You are standing in the grass, in the backyard, by the impatiens, by the trees. You laugh at the wind, you smile for a camera, because It Is. Because You Are. You know nothing, except how to Be.

Joy, infinite, as it was created to be. Innocence, eternal. Embedded permanently into every cell of your being as your shoulders caved and your back broke as you wept that you needed Something, Someone – and Love promised to be there. Innocence, eternal.

Do you know that this is what you are? Do you know that this is who you are? Do you know that you are white as snow, pure as gold, spotless as your baby teeth in the family videos splashed across your mother’s TV that you will never again sit in front of because she no longer sees you the way that Love does?

Do you know that condemnation, loneliness, hatred, failure, and Innocence Lost are only lies you have thrust upon yourself**, and words that Friends and Church and Family have pelted at the sky in a way that has fractured your heart as they have rained upon you and everyone around you?

Do you know that you are still Joy, infinite; Innocence, eternal; The Name Of Your Heart, written upon His hand?

These are things I forgot. These are things that broke over me in the shower, in my bed, in his bed, in our bed, on my walks, in my mirror, in my pages, in their pews, in my home, in my breathing and numbness and depression and even in my laughter, my happiness, my beauty.

These are things that I put aside as I sang that Love is here and Love still remains, that He is my Father and I am His daughter. These are things that I left at the church door, and clothed myself with again as soon as I left How Great Thou Art. These are things that I remembered and remembered well but only so long as I did not, could not face that which we have named That One Thing.

And so I fall into a thousand pieces alone, and with you, Girl who feels guilty and confused and angry at the hypocrisy and the expectation and the Great Ache.

And so I remember the nights I felt it was wrong, the mornings I felt it was nothing at all; always backwards for me and never anyone else. But grief, it comes with the night, and joy, it comes in the morning. Maybe this is a great truth that the Lover has given us in all things, not just his own.

* * *

I write to you, past-present-and-future Self, and to you, girl-I-do-not-know-by-name-but-can-see-from-here: I write to you because I wish that someone had written to me. 

I wish that someone had just stop, stop, STOPPED for one moment and seen me as a person with a heart, a mind, with intelligence, with thoughts and feelings and with damned good reasons – and not as the statistical young white Evangelical female who was raised right and fell out of virginity, left to sit silent in her bracket until she picked up the Purity Ring once again and joined the ranks of Did It Wrong But Am Back To Right Again.

I wish that someone had let up on me for just once, because I know all of these things they tell me. I fear everything they scare me with. I think about all the revelations-that-keep-you-from-sexual immorality before you preach them to me. I know what you believe, what I believe, but I am Woman and so help me God I am not A Belief.

Maybe we chose It because We Are Now and we are scared that later may never come. Maybe we chose It because we knew the risks and we rolled the dice in favor of passion, love, comfort, and warmth. Maybe we chose It because we were terrified of the dark nights and even darker mornings. Maybe we chose It because They told us not to. Maybe we chose It because It knocked on our door and embraced us and promised to never let us go and It arrived in feelings and waves, and not in conscious decisions like we always thought It would. Maybe we chose It because It was and is everything we want, and do you know, it will be okay even then – even then when we are in that place? Maybe we chose It because we felt there was no better option. Maybe we did not choose It at all; some of us do not have the luxury of choice in a world where Men can thrust our decisions upon us as they pin our hands behind the arch of our back and repeat the words we’d heard from another man so very long ago.

Maybe we still do not know, and now we see the ghosted image of who we were, reflected back at us as we sit in ice cream parlor window seats and write in hopes of finally understanding.

Maybe the mothers and fathers and preachers and friends and everyone around us want to love us, protect us, but their words sound like things much more dangerous than the hand on your leg and the kiss on your chest. Darling, I know. I know.

* * *

I write the words I wish had appeared long ago, on a piece of paper on my kitchen table:

You are still you. I swear to you, you are.

Your future has not been ruined.

Your value remains.

Opportunity has not been lost.

These things sink deeper than your skin, yes, but God has sealed your heart in His Name and the great mystery is that we are made Untouchable by Grace.

You are not damaged.

Your wholeness comes not in Right-ness but in Love given to you by your Maker, and learning how to see yourself as He does.

You are capable of making any decision you wish to make today, or tomorrow.

It is okay if you cannot make the change you wish you could today.

It is okay to not be strong.

It is okay that you are confused.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ***, and this more than includes That One Thing.

You will give birth to a resiliency that shines brighter than the sun.

The heart is a muscle and it operates like one; these things strengthen you. You have not given your heart away and lost your ability to take it back. Women have survived and risen up despite brutality, gang rape, famines, the Holocaust, assault, torture, barrenness, and divorce: You will not be destroyed or permanently handicapped by a severed romance or loss of virginity.

You will marry a man that turns your past into a shadow, and your old self into a whisper that sings praises of redemption. Your bad decisions, your good-decisions-gone-wrong, your I’m-not-sure decisions will all swell into a wave of Peace as you realize that the man who truly Loves you has just taken an oath before God to see you as a new creation and he rejoices in the strength you have derived from Every Day You Have Ever Lived.

You are still you. Put it on a post-it and stare it down daily.

Forgiveness and understanding do not come only after you gather the healing and courage and strength to leave; they arrived and attached themselves to you the day you first asked them to. And they will stay with you every waking moment. You will find more strength in that fact alone than you ever will find within yourself.

God has not forsaken you and refused to return until you forsake That One Thing.**** It is in the deepest moments of questioning that you will hear Him, again and again, and get to know Him more than any other time in your life. Do not miss out on them simply because you think He has nothing to say until you can Heal Yourself or Change Your Ways. It is in our weakness that his strength is perfected.

* * *

And so, here is everything I wish had been said to me. Here we are. With our decisions to sleep with him, or to not sleep with him. With our desires to change, or our desires to stay the same.

For me, I wanted both.

But I only had the strength for him. For them. The one who asked nothing from me or of me, and who gave love and comfort and pleasure and rest. The one who held me when I cried and kept my body alive when I could not do it myself. The one who did not ask me to change, to become someone I was not, nor to face my weakness.

I understand. I believe that for some of us, this is necessary to our story. Sometimes it feels as though others chose the things that have become our story, and that is okay. Weakness, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental – it is something to be taken seriously, and speaks of our Great Need for one another.

I will tell you that one day, in a moment of extreme pain, I heard a whisper that flamed into a burning sensation in my chest. I heard it say, “I require nothing but weakness. We are still here, and we are still here together. I have written your name on the palm of my hand and I have called you in the darkness so that you would know it was I.”

I gave my weakness a chance. I gave his strength a chance. I fell, and fell often, as we all do. It was new for me, and I found a new Love.

I pray for you, as I do for myself, that we would continue to learn how to allow ourselves to be weak in order that we may find a Love that transcends everything we do know and everything we don’t.

But remember: no matter your weakness, or your strength, you are alive. And you are Joy, infinite; Innocence, eternal.

Do not leave their sides. They have not left yours.

* Look and watch– and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. Habakkuk 1:5
** I will remember their sins no more. Hebrews 8:12
*** Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:12
**** Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5

- Comments addressing or attempting to derive my position on “is sex a sin or not” will be moderated. Thank you for understanding. -