Last night, I shoved my feet into the boots I was married in. I don’t notice anymore that my socks don’t match. When you dig them out of a duffle bag for the 428th time, socks are socks and the color of the toe doesn’t matter much. I did notice that my socks were too thick for these boots, and I cursed them for it.
It’s been 10 days off the road, 10 days in Hollywood, and 10 days in our first apartment. 133 days of being married.
My socks should match now, but in furnishing an empty apartment with our income, new socks are not on my priority list.
So, I fought about how much we should spend on a new dresser with my husband, standing in my wedding boots, on the corner of Sunset and Vine.
Just like we’d fought about everything else this week. Food, groceries, carpet cleaner, sex, the color of our clothes hangers, the brand of garlic salt, bath mats, cash vs credit, and parking.
We were late for church. We’d spent too much money. We told the girl with the dresser “maybe,” and then my phone died.
I told Max where to park. I picked where we sat. I mentally bitched at the announcement-giver and churches everywhere who ask you to “squish” down to seat people that walk in late. Our collective “squishing” just opened 247 seats for 4 people.
I recited all the lines in every song, thinking only about the days when single-me attended a church with enough room down front to go sing my heart out to songs I knew and loved. Thinking about how I used to go to church alone, sing alone, and disappear alone. I met God, and I met God every single Sunday. I loved it. I missed when my life was just me and God. My life. I could do what I wanted. I could make it an entire 24 hours without speaking to a soul.
And then I looked at the entire row of single girls in front of me.
I imagined what they were feeling when they sang. Praying to be able to pay their bills. Praying for boyfriends. Praying for husbands. Praying to not be alone. Waiting on God. Because that’s what we do when we’re single. We wait upon God. When we’re single, heartbreak is ever present, and that’s okay. Present in our past break-up, present in our single-ness, present in what we dread in the future. And we find God there, with us. It’s rich.
I wanted to join them.
I wanted to shout that I was confused. That being married isn’t a solution to The Great Ache. That love is beautiful but so broken, too. That broken and alone was easier than broken with another broken person.
But then God whispered: “Lauren, when you’re lonely, it has nothing to do with other people. It has to do with you and Me.“
Lauren, when you’re lonely, it has to do with you and Me.
Lauren, when you’re angry, it has to do with you and Me.
Lauren, when you’re selfish, it has to do with you and Me.
Lauren, when you’re worried, it has to do with you and Me.
Lauren, when you’re bitter, it has to do with you and Me.
Lauren, when you’re jealous, it has to do with you and Me.
It has nothing to do with other people. It has only to do with our heart and His.
I slowly stood and followed my husband up to communion. I stood behind him in single file line, in the dark, like I was just another girl at church. Not his wife. I felt like he didn’t want to be there with me. I hoped he felt that. Because I was feeling it. And then he reached out his hand behind him and took mine, and my heart broke.
I wanted this. I asked for this. I prayed for this. I begged God for this. I am blessed. I am fed, clothed and sheltered. I am loved. I am recipient of the greatest gift in the universe. I have everything. I know this. What is wrong with me?
And so, I went to where the prayer team was, sat in a corner, and cried. Until someone offered to pray for me. If you have never poured out your hurt to someone you’ve never met, and had them pray with you – for you – over you – with you, you have missed out on what it means to have brothers and sisters in Christ. You have missed out on bearing one another’s burdens. Overcome your fear next Sunday and just do it.
“I have never left you. I have never forsaken you. I am not a God who punishes his children without reason. I am not a God who turns his back on you. I am not angry with you. I am not disappointed with you. I know where you are.”
I sobbed and asked God if I’d done the right thing. If everything was going to be okay. If I would feel Him again like I used to. If I would learn to be close to Him all over again, now that I’m married. If our bills would be paid. If this was Right. If this would be too hard for me, for us.
“Seriously, Lauren? I have stripped depression away from you. I have removed you from the place you didn’t want to be. I gave you a man that you love, who loves you. I gave you passion again. I gave you Good Women Project. I gave you a Story. I gave you new friends who know my Love. I let you travel across the country. I did miracles in front of you. I gave you the awe-commanding sunset behind your wedding on a cliff. I gave you Family. I gave you a new home. And tonight, I brought you to be with children who love me – and sat you at the feet of a woman who would pray over you until you Felt me again. – - – And you ask where I’ve been? If this is right? If I still love you?”
I saw Him again. I heard Him, where I should have heard him a dozen times before. We forget what he has done when we do not intentionally sit at his feet in our mess. We are blind, until we ask Him to let us see. I re-learned unconditional love.
We went home silently, and I held onto his hand for dear life. Remember your first love. I kissed him and I apologized. I made dinner, and I apologized more. I refused to let him help clean up. I sent him to bed to watch what he wanted to watch and found joy in doing the work so that he could play. Love. Not-about-me love. This is what happens when we see God. It is necessary to see Love in order to give love.
I could write a book on last night, and the perspective that God righted in my heart. On marriage and learning to confess everything. On knowing that really, really hard doesn’t mean really, really bad. On how it is not human nature to believe that someone is going to love you unconditionally, and that it isn’t human nature to love them back unconditionally.
But instead, I share my little story of Sunday. A reminder of the blessing we have in one another. Of seeking God until we find out He’s been there the whole time. And of being thankful for what we have, because it’s so much better than we know.
And to say thank you to my husband for letting me pick out the bath mat. That we still don’t have, because I’m unforgivably picky.
I love you. And I love that we are re-learning to love Him together.
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?
A little lie that says “this depends on you.”
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’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. ♥
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 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?
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.
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.
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.)
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!)
“Life” overwhelms me. Not every morning I wake up – - just the word itself.
It’s something that’s so broad it can’t be defined. And when we try, we do a pretty bad job of it – probably because the majority of us live in nice little organized bubbles filled with people that are either in the same grade, the same field, the same stage of life, or the same lifestyle. Just lots of You’s, and all right now. Too few differences, and we only see what we know.
And not once has Death dealt its blow in the same room I was in, forcing me to grasp the brevity of my body’s ability to keep functioning.
After 23 probably-a-bit-stranger-than-yours years, and the past 47 days sleeping in strangers’ houses, my mental projection of future-Life is fuzzier than the antique radio you just picked up at Goodwill.
The primary lesson I’ve learned is that there is no normal. Every single person (and family) is a wildly unique, intricate mess – and there are no two alike. When you start crossing state lines, belief systems, extreme family histories, and life stages, most of them are so different you experience a mild level of culture shock. (47 consecutive days and nights of baby culture shocks translates to permanent jet-lag, in case you were wondering.)
I’m not faced with the widow’s regret. I haven’t experienced 50 years of working a “good” job, waking up to realize that my priorities were all out of line. I can’t chase Corporate America for 40 years to see if I can break six figures, and then go back to try chasing radical relationships and spur of the moment adventure for 40 more to see if I feel more fulfilled that way.
We don’t get do-overs in life. We get to choose one way of living, and that’s all we’ve got.
So what is at our core, that we can truly cling to and live by?
Do you have a life mission? A goal? Something bigger than you that you’re working for? Something worth making sacrifices over?
If someone gave you an index card and asked you to write down the purpose of your life, could you?
I’m not bringing anything new to the table today. We’ve been told our whole lives that money can’t buy happiness, that love makes the world go round, and now in this generation that quitting your 9-5 job is going to catapult you into a kickass life worth blogging about.
But catchphrases aren’t enough. Quitting your job doesn’t guarantee you a purpose if you didn’t have one already. It just guarantees less money, and a schedule so flexible it’s almost panic-attack inducing. Quitting your job is only worth it if it’s a sacrifice you’re making for a very specific life God has called you to.
Because it’s not what you’re doing, it’s how you’re doing it.
When my road splits, I have to have some sort of foundation to make decisions by. I need to have pre-determined truths and priorities that I know I will fight to keep present in my daily life.
I know that 4 years ago I wrote on an index card, “that she would show love, grace and compassion to everyone she met, regardless of what was shown to her.” That’s what I want people to say of me when I die. Because I don’t know if I’ll die at the hands of a crazy tribe warrior, or silently in my own million dollar home. But I’ve decided that either way, I’ll die happy if people know me by that.
I know what I’ll make sacrifices for: love, grace and compassion.
I want to keep those three things alive in everything I do. For the rest of my life. Whatever it looks like.
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“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” I Peter 3:7-9
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12
Note: This post was triggered by an incredibly awesome late-night table discussion with some good people I’ve been hanging out with this week in Savannah, GA. Josh Lind runs The Fusionist, and we ended up all making a list of 10 things that make our life worth really living. You know, the things that you remember experiencing, and you know in your heart of hearts that life is truly good? My list is over at The Fusionist. Please take a moment to read my guest post there, and leave your 10 things!
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Are you following me on Twitter? Do it here: @laurenlankford
Be a fan on Facebook. It’s the best way to keep up. Do that here.
I realize that less than 2 weeks ago I posted a Life Update post…however it is time for another one! Because SO MUCH IS HAPPENING.
1. I quit my 9-5 job! Yep. Last week. I am now freelancing full-time. I’m SO excited to start selling prints, art, & jewelry again. And to be able to really invest in photography, as well as design & writing. And all the other incredible things God has up his sleeve! I hope to be putting my shop back online in about a month…which brings me to point #2 (and all the rest, really)!
2. Boyfriend! In case you haven’t picked it up from our painfully obvious tweets yet, @maxdubinsky is my man. He’s the one I wrote A Good Woman’s Guide to the 21st Century with a bit ago. If you follow his blog you know that he’s roadtripping indefinitely across the country. I’ve joined him for the moment, and am writing this to you from Chicago! God is already doing amazing things. I love Him. And Max. And I KNOW you girls all want pictures so here he is. Go ahead, tell me how good looking he is.
3. Adjustments. Being not-at-my-house, quitting a job, doing some major personal upheaval, & dating a homeless writer has thrown my normal routine into somewhat of a haphazard mess. Hence the spotty tweets, blogs, writing, slowing down a lot on photography and the Good Women Project over the last 2 weeks. Please consider this my apology and a request for some grace in my adjusting to the new lifestyle & getting all of my crazy ducks in a row.
4. Blog Design. Yep I’m officially doing it. And here’s the deal. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be rolling out a standard set of pricing packages for blog design. BUT until then, you can name your own price! Yep that’s right. I can do Blogger & WordPress. Want me to re-design your blog? Do this: Send an email to laurennicolelove[at]gmail.com and include 1) a link to your blog 2) what you’re willing to pay and 3) a set of photos/things that you love, so I can get a feel for what you want your blog to reflect. That’s it! We’ll negotiate and we will make it happen. (Note: If you have already emailed me, please email me AGAIN with your quote/inspiration folder. Sorry, and thank you so much!)
5. Your New Pornography. Max is launching a fiction project today! I designed the site (if you want proof that I can actually do what I’m selling – ha) and you should go poke around a little bit and read some awesomeness.
6. On the road. Max and I are in Chicago right now, and headed to the East Coast. Are you there? Leave me a comment or send me an email if you want to grab coffee, book a photography session, or want to invite us to your church! We also love to crash on sofas. And beds. Max has been speaking at colleges and churches along the way and it’s amazing, so if you want him to speak for your group/org/church….let us know. We want to meet you. If you want to support the trip (gas money and food YAY), or read about it some more, you can check it out at MADAcrossAmerica.com. ♥
7. This is unimportant and silly, but I’ve been sick for over a month now and have been to the doctor three times for this never ending cold/sinus infection/bronchitis/everything else – and it’s getting really tiring, so if anyone would like to pray for my health, that would mean the world to me.
I honestly could write a massive blog post on all of these bullet points, but I desperately need to sleep. I love you all. Thank you for reading, listening, speaking, loving, everything.
But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 1.