+ 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.


/ / / / leave love

  1. Anonymous says:

    I know you, and much of who you are and what you're capable of, and the amazing person you've become through everything, and yet my heart still aches for you. I know you don't need it to, but it does all the same.

    And I wish I could wrap you up in a gigantic hug and make it so that God and eternity and spirit aren't the only things that are good, but this life as well. I wish I could do that for both of us. But I can't.

    Know that I love you, though. And that's something you can't lose in a move.

  2. Anonymous says:
  3. Susanne says:

    stay strong!

  4. Paige says:

    This is a good thing for me to read right now… our family is contemplating leaving our comfortable town home, to move to a 90-acre plot of land/farm, to learn about living simply and farming so that we can create a place for addicts to heal. It will be a huge change for me and it will be hard. But totally worth it in every way that matters, and a great adventure. I really appreciate your writing.

  5. Michelle (michabella) says:

    Oh my heart aches for the loss you have had. But God has strengthened you through thiss. I get so caught up on all my material things. I needed to read this. Thanks for sharing! Love ya, sister! <333

  6. Anonymous says:
  7. Cara says:

    Oh what a challenge this is, and such perfect timing: the timing of our Lord! He has been revealing to me lately of how much STUFF I have, and so I will be taking you up on your charge to get rid of things this week that I would rather keep. Thank you.

    I love your blog.

  8. Anonymous says:

    surrender is the most painful healing. every morning i wake up in wonder at being completely powerless and infinitely loved.


  9. Little Tree Vintage says:

    you are such a strong and sweet person, I can tell just by reading your blog. Your writing is absolutely beautiful and touches my heart, seriously. Not trying to be corny, but I read this early when I woke up, and it was a crazy way to start the morning because it reminded me how much material things take over our lives and consume us, when in reality they could all be gone so very quickly. You are beautiful and strong, remember that.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Great and sad post Lauren! Ultimately life is about relationships and not possessions. It is unfortunate when we lose things we are fond of, but the ability to communicate with others, and know we are loved is key. Look up and know you are loved, look around and know you are loved, and finally reach out and love someone who needs your love.

  11. Closet Confections says:

    This is a great post and exactly what I needed to hear right now. You've obviously been through a lot, and so I really admire you taking the time out to share pieces of your story. Your words truly inspire, and that's a great gift to have.

  12. frankenstein says:

    love you so much, beautiful writing. so thankful to have you in my life.

  13. justine. says:

    Lauren– you are an incredible writer. And these past few months I have been diving into God's word and his calling and this post really inspired me. I do need to realize I can't take anything with me.

    I know he is calling me to get rid of something really important, and I hope this week i find the courage to do it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    wow, lauren. i knew you were special, but i see it even more now. you've been through a lot and it's evident that God's hand is in your life.
    thanks for this post.

  15. Chantelle says:

    NO! Don't take it personally! I totally forgot 5 + people on my fave blog list because I was writing it off the top of my head. I lost more than 30 links because of the new layout. I'M SO SORRY! You are back up! And thanks for reminding me! You are one of my favourite writers in the blogosphere!

  16. Baily Jones says:

    Oh my gosh. Me and you are the SAME! On April 13th this year, a normal Tuesday night, I lost EVERYTHING I own in a fire. I found God, though. I ache every single day at the things I lost. But I live free-spiritedly, I find God more real when I have nothing – literally – to distract me. I'm distraught, but I've fought harder this year than I thought I could ever fight. It is truly enlightening to simply – lose everything and have nothing.

  17. Baily Jones says:

    (..oops! it cut off the rest of my comment)

    I literally have tears in my eyes after reading this. I needed to read this today to leave it all in 2010 and look forward to new strengths in 2011. Thank you!
    Praying for you!


  18. Tom says:

    Heartbreaking, healing, and inspiring.

  19. Anna says:

    thankyou for letting me get to know you through your writing. unfathomable, gut-wrenching, powerful. But hopeful. Thankyou for reminding me of that hope.

/ / / / / leave love . . .