SHOW (the frick) UP

I feel like recently God’s been slamming me in the face with this idea of showing up.

Ok, sorry God, maybe I should be a little nicer about how I word this. He’s presented me with ample opportunities in which I have needed to show up. Through my (many) failures, and (few) successes, he’s been reworking what showing up is supposed to look like, as compared to how I’ve previously understood it. Regardless, this process has definitely felt more like a slap in the face than a gentle prodding 😉

I feel like I should clarify here. I’m NOT talking about a quiet or blasé here-I-am-I-entered-the-building-now-what-should-I-do kind of showing up. This is NOT a going through the motions kind of showing up. And in NO WAY is the “showing up” I’m talking about a passive act.

This is a LOUD, fiery, bold and, most importantly, a courageous, kind of showing up.

Sometimes, I’ve come to learn, showing up loudly can be done through seemingly quiet acts of kindness and intentionality: a shoulder to cry on…a text/handwritten note…a phone call….a truly genuine “How are you, really?”

Showing up looks different every day. It’s definitely a situational thing. Trust me when I say that some days will be harder than others. There will be days when you will be able to show up loudly. There will be others that you barely get through the day, dragging yourself out of bed. But only you will know if you’ve truly shown up to your fullest capability.

A few weeks ago, I met a couple at church who showed up absolutely brilliantly. Through casual conversation, I found out they had recently lost a son…rather suddenly… to drowning….

I was floored. I had no freaking clue what to say. Obviously.

After some time, I realized that I was awestruck by their decision to come to church. I was overwhelmed by their faith. To show up. Despite their situation and what they might be feeling, they were here. Praising God. DESPITE all the heartbreak and remorse and struggling and pain and sadness…they chose to believe that their God is still good.

And in their quiet resilience, I saw what true faith looked like. The way that they showed up might have seemed small (most people at church probably didn’t even know their story), but it spoke volumes to me.

——-

Showing up, I’ve also learned, does not mean you have to know the exact right thing to say all the time. It simply means being present. That’s what Jesus did for us, and what God promises he will always do for us. For a long time now, I’ve taken way too much pride my ability to say and do the right things for the people I love. But I’m realizing now that there will be times where words won’t be sufficient. We don’t have to heal people’s wounds, we don’t have to solve their problems, we don’t have to have the “solution” to show that we care.

I/We just have to be p r e s e n t.

I/We need to willingly step into people’s pain and struggles and worries and imperfections.

I/We must constantly sacrifice our own personal agenda, our own comfortability, to show up and engage in people’s lives.

———–

I love writers who approach difficult topics. But I respect those who offer up tangible ways to put into practice the subjects they bring up. I’m working on becoming one of those writers.

So this is me, showing up for you, whoever may be reading this blog. There are parts of myself that are telling me not to write this blog post, that I have nothing original to say, that more eloquent, more qualified writers have already covered this topic. But there is also another, thankfully much louder, part of me that is demanding that I write this. And so I here is am, writing about what I am learning, what I find important.

As for you, reader, I’m giving you a tangible challenge to show up. Today. In whatever way you can. And to

KEEP

SHOWING

UP

Because it’s all we can do, really.

 

 

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Stopping

Make complete stops.

I never completely stop at stop signs. I’m the queen of “California rolls” if you will. I’m also the queen of staying busy. Unbearably so. Exhaustingly so. I’m addicted to what my friend Shauna Nequist calls “fake rest.” And you know what? I’m sick of it. I looked back on my journal this past week and found an angsty prayer about how tired I was. And it was dated January 21. I’ve been tired for a while now. So, much like my horrible driving habits, I have to relearn how to truly stop my life.

How to rest amidst the chaos.

That doesn’t look like better time management. That doesn’t mean becoming a recluse.

It looks like healthy no’s, better, more thoughtful decisions and

seeking

silence.

 

Take a step

Take a step.

Just one step. One small step forward.

This, I’ve learned, will get you far. Further than you can imagine. It’ll take you to places that will make you wonder why, when, how did I get here?

But you have to be courageous enough, daring enough, stupidly faithful even, to take that one step into the unknown. Let me emphasize the unknown one more time. We don’t always know where we’re going, or what’s going to happen. Because yeah, we might not be certain of the direction we’re going, but if we don’t take that step, we’ll never know where we could end up.

Here are some steps I’ve taken in my life, knowingly or not:

  • One step to a small Christian liberal arts college
  • One step towards falling in love for the first time
  • One step away from that love when it turned out to be toxic and broken
  • Continuous steps towards daily conversations that matter
  • One step on a plane bound for Uganda, Africa
  • One shaky, very uncertain, step into a life with Christ
  • One step towards writing as a passion
  • One step by praying, every day, that God would use me. Somehow.
  • One step back to Santa Barbara to start pursing my current passion to be a coach.
  • Stepping, not-so-confidently, into three new jobs.
  • Daily steps towards figuring my shit out, no matter how imperfect that looks.

Recently, these steps have landed me at a spiritual women’s retreat in Big Bear, where I found myself awestruck at the places life has taken me. I was in a log cabin with some of the coolest women I’ve ever met. Women who I look up to. Who I want to BE when I’m older. Not necessarily because of what they do, which is pretty damn impressive. But because of who they are, as people. Broken and imperfect, yet confident, and the absolute best examples of what it means to live a life for others. They are women who completely crushed the professional world, cultivated closely-knit families, and faithfully followed Christ through the highest highs and lowest lows.

But had I not taken these steps, every single one of them, I never would have gotten here.

It looks simple when written on paper. But living it out – therein lies the challenge. Maybe you’re just graduating college, or transitioning between jobs, or getting out of a relationship, or just in a season where the next step is so uncertain. I’m telling you. Lean into that uncertainty. Embrace it. If it feels right to you (and scares the living hell out of you), you’re probably right where you should be. Even if you don’t know where it will take you.

So take that step. And walk in it.

We are all starving.

We feed ourselves lies

But we’re starving for truth

 

We crave the loudness of life

But we’re starving for inner silence

 

We desire sex, passion, romance

But we’re starving to be understood

 

We long to be like everyone else

But we’re starving to be accepted for our differences

 

We cry out for justice

But we’re starving for peace

 

We thirst for simple answers

But we’re starving for complex wisdom

 

We are all starving.

We fill ourselves with what is easy

When what we really want

Often requires work

Vulnerability

Authenticity

Sacrifice

Courage

And because we are content with the shallow

We can never be truly full

We are all starving….

we are all starving….

What do you hope for?

It’s been a while friends. Life can so easily become a whirlwind; so, amongst the craziness, it feels good for me to write again. It feels like home.

———

Over the years, one of my friends has kindly berated me with the question: “What do you hope for?”

I was an atheist the first time she asked me this, and I couldn’t find an adequate answer. Nor did I really want to. I was completely perplexed (not that I ever let her know that), and didn’t even know where to begin. At the time, I truly felt that what I hoped for didn’t affect how I would carry out my daily life. I would still be the same Lauren. I didn’t need to have hope for anything because I was here, on this Earth, for whatever reason, and I could choose to make the best out of it. That was my abstract, completely-avoiding-the-question, answer I had for her then.

You would think my answer would change after becoming a Christian. Not so much. Ironically enough, even as a Christian, I have been just as at a loss for words on how to answer this question.

Sure, I could give you the quintessential Christianese answer. “As a Christian,” I should hope for a better future. I should hope for a heaven that is devoid of pain, suffering and lying. I should hope for something beyond our current circumstances. Period.

But I don’t. Because for me, that answer doesn’t stick. Right now, that answer simply isn’t enough.

When asked what I hope for now, the only thing I can think of is all the times hope has failed me.

Everything I have truly hoped for… my grandpa to survive cancer…for that one boy in middle school to ask me out…to get into my dream school, UCLA…for my best friend to stay at Westmont…for reconciliation…for every single person I meet to hurt a little less…none of these things have happened. All these things are out of my control, so the only option I had was to hope that they would get better, that they would change.

And when they didn’t, well, I lost hope in hope.

So, until recently, hope has equated to helplessness in my mind, because it means I have no control. Things are out of my hands. And as a doer and an achiever and a very stubborn “I-get-sh*t-done” kind of person, the idea that something is beyond repair, beyond my ability to fix it, has always been unacceptable.

Until recently.

As I was talking on the phone with my friend who originally posed this question to me, I had an epiphany. (Finally). There IS something I hope for now – and it has forever changed how I go about living life. It gives me freedom and consolation and the ability to love others better than I ever had before. It allows me to relinquish the control that I used to so desperately value. It means I can screw up on a daily, minute to minute, basis, and STILL be loved. I can fail at loving people because something bigger than myself has already loved them first. It means I can completely fall apart and acknowledge my brokenness because my identity will not change despite my faults.

This is what I hope for ladies and gentlemen: I hope that God is in control. Because I can’t be. This adult world that I’ve somewhat begrudgingly inhabited the past 11 months is too much to freakin’ handle sometimes.

And I fail. A lot. I lose control. A lot. And when I do, I tend to throw all the yuck in God’s face. Here God, take this. I don’t want it. That’s often my mantra these days. But if I can hope that GOD has control, over my life and everyone I love, then things become easier. A little more manageable, and a little more beautiful. I can see through the yuck.

I used to have this notion that hope was a passive, underlying emotion. But I have grown to learn that in my hope in God, it’s actually a brilliant, burning, ROARING emotion. Just like God. Like I hope to be.

Two months of grappling with a foreign and unknown concept – it finally feels good to be able to say something worthy about it. Thanks for reading, everyone.

 

Things you can learn from 18+ year-olds

Our freshman class this year has caught me by surprise. These three girls have polar opposite personalities, and yet I somehow see so much of myself in each of them. It’s like looking through some crazy weird time-warp version of 18-year-old me. I have literally been in their shoes, had their same thoughts, felt the same things, just four years ago. I get so excited whenever I talk to any of them because I know what’s ahead of them – sure, there will be a lot of struggle, ups and downs, and shedding of unnecessary skin, BUT there will be EVEN MORE transformative experiences, life-long relationships made and crazy cool basketball memories.

I never even expected these three young-ins to be in my life – and yet, they have been a complete LIGHT this year to me. Above all, they are always always always making me laugh. As someone who is more on the serious side of things, I love that on any given day, I know I have some sort of belly-laugh waiting for me whenever I see them. Surprisingly, and thankfully, there are so many things I have learned from each of these girls. So Ellie, Maud and Joy, here is your appreciation post! (In the words of Joy, get ready to feel “squishy.”)

Ellie: is the definition of thoughtful. She thinks things through, almost painstakingly so. You can literally see the wheels turning in her brain whenever you ask her a question. And consequently, she asks THE best questions that absolutely fire me UP. She reminds me a lot of myself in that she isn’t easily persuaded by facts presented to her. She is a natural doubter (which is a good thing!) and isn’t afraid to confront the hard stuff or be the voice that speaks up amongst the crowd. She’s a quirky perfectionist who is authentically her own person. This girl has had a hard year (to say the least) but chooses to face every day with courage and conviction – and I don’t think I’ve given her enough credit for that.

Maud: finds joy in the little things. She really knows how to celebrate life – seriously guys, she gets excited over breakfast. She also enjoys videos of cats, makes me turn up the radio for her “favorite parts” of songs, and legit knows every lyric to every Eminem song ever. Anything and everything can make Maud’s day. She is also extremely intentional and considerate. She can tell instantly if I’m having an off day AND will make a point to ask me about it, even if it means that I might be annoyed with her. Who does that?! She remembers everything you tell her, and loves to engage in serious conversations. I love her tendency to be super serious one minute and super silly the next. She too has faced some pretty tough things in life, and YET she chooses to have a beautiful perspective on life. She could so easily play the victim, but instead I have seen nothing but resilience in the face of adversity, compassion for others, and an amazing self-awareness that I am completely envious of.

Joy: she cares. Like no one else I have ever met in my life. She genuinely puts others’ happiness before her own, and I can’t say that about many people. On any given day, you can find her laughing and making other people laugh around her. Goofball doesn’t even begin to cover it. I don’t think I’ve seen our head coach laugh as much as I have this year – and that’s all because of this girl. She is one of those people who light up a room with her energy. On a more serious note, even though very rarely is she ever serious, Joy has taught me how to love radically and unconditionally, never expecting anything in return. This is something I have always struggled with, and still do. She has gifted me with car rides, late night study sessions and coffee dates where she has been vulnerable with her struggles. I’ve seen moments of insane maturity from her, and each time I am floored. In an effort to spare her more squishiness that she hates, I simply want to say that I am the epitome of excited for this girl’s future.

So you three, I want to leave you with two things.

First, a big THANK YOU. Through our crazy late night antics in the gym, you’ve reminded me of my love for the game of basketball. In actuality, I never realized that I had lost it. I loved being a part of a team and working towards a goal that was bigger than ourselves, but basketball had become a job: one that I was good at, but that was devoid of real joy. This year alone, I’ve spent more nights just playing basketball (for the heck of it) than I ever did my entire college career – and I’ve loved every second of it! The gym has become a safe haven for me again because of you.

Second, I want to remind you that these next 3 years you have ahead of you will be HARD. But they will be SO worth it. I want to remind you to persevere even if everything is telling you to stop. I want to remind you that you will always have people in your corner that love you.

I’m looking forward to seeing how each of you grow! Love you ALL.

Fighting Fear

I’ve noticed there has been a lot fear-based talk circulating recently.

Fear grips this country. It has a vice like hold on our nation and on every human being that resides here. Due to recent political strife, people are more apprehensive, more divided and more hopeless than ever. Faced with this (very real) fear, we’ve become callous, hateful and spiteful.

Fear is evident, but rarely talked about, amongst 22+ year-old postgraduates. We are fighting, whether consciously or not, a society that tells us we need to have it all together and have a definitive plan for our future. We are afraid that we won’t measure up.

I am fearful as a new Christian about defending my faith and successfully navigating this tumultuous time with grace and empathy and passion. I fear inauthenticity and have a desperate need to be “different from the rest.”

But my very deepest, most hidden fear is this: I am not enough. That I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, intentional, empathetic, hard working, vulnerable, funny, tough, loving enough. I don’t do enough for my team, my family, my friends, at my work, in my writing, in reading the Bible, etc etc etc. The mental rant goes on and on.

To my concerned audience members, yes, I know this is a BIG. FAT. LIE. And if any of my friends came to me with these insecurities, I would be able to tick off no less than 1,000 reasons why they are, in fact, enough.

But in my lowest of days, I have an uncanny ability to convince myself of my insufficiencies. I dwell in my failures. I think all of us are capable of creating beautifully seductive lies to tell ourselves. And we do so on a daily basis.

My fear of not being enough became glaringly evident this summer, when I was at home, unable to fill up my days with my typical business, and thus forced to deal with my many doubts and uncertainties. Left to my own devices, I starting believing the little devils in my head. Eventually I realized that my biggest fear bled into another– that I will end up alone. Not necessarily in a romantic sense (although if we are being embarrassingly honest, this is a very real, and very annoying, fear that I hate to admit) but in an overall relational way. If I am not enough for people, if I don’t measure up to their standards, whatever they may be…then… perhaps… I will end up alone. And with that comes yet another realization: My fear of being alone feeds my need for validation.

I look for validation everywhere: in my relationships, on social media, in the way I look, through my picture taking and my blog writing – no matter how much I try to avoid it. For a while this summer my self-esteem actually hinged on something as utterly ridiculous as how many likes I got on Instagram. Seriously people.

So, to simplify things…

I am not enough (Lie #1) + the potential of being alone (Lie #2) = my need for validation (disastrous outcome)

Thankfully, I have very recently come to recognize that I, ironically, am NOT alone in these fears.

It happened during worship chapel this past Friday. The worship band chose to play the song “I Am Not Alone,” and as I looked around the gymnasium, almost everyone had their eyes closed, completely lost in the lyrics. They actually had to speak these words into existence in order to counteract their fear. It was heartbreaking. We’re talking about Christians here people –the ones who are “supposed” to be equipped with the knowledge that some omnipresent-something has our back and is always in our corner. We can never truly be alone because we have God. Supposedly.

And yet, because of the expectations that we as a Christian community impose on one another, we actually often feel isolated. Alone. Fearful. Like every other human on this planet, we are not authentic with our screw-ups or honest with our struggles. We convince each other that if we don’t measure up (whether that be to God’s, society’s or our own expectations), that somehow, we are not worthy. We become “not enough.”

And so the cycle perpetuates itself.

Our natural reaction to fear is to ignore it. Push it aside. Bury it deep within us. On most days, I’m not even aware that I’m operating out of fear. It’s just too easy to pretend that everything is A-OK. And most of the time, things are pretty great. But when confronted with doubts and uncertainties, our fears appear way too big to handle. Our thoughts, feelings and experiences begin to seem too far off base for anyone to understand. Things spiral out of control…and we tuck deeper into ourselves. Push the fears further down. Refuse to acknowledge the hard stuff that is brewing just underneath the surface.

Amidst all this, I can tell you one thing for certain. The absolute ONLY way to combat our fears is to talk about them. Shame is a dear friend to our anxiety, but giving voice to our darkest fears casts them out into the light. But if we can pluck up the courage to talk about them, we find others that struggle with the same things we do. Experiences build community and connection. Those we love can speak truth and light into those lies we tell ourselves. I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had this year that end in this way: I thought I was so alone in that. I thought I was the only one. I’m so glad I chose to confide in you, no matter how much it sucked.  

I encourage you to be daringly bold in identifying your fears today. And I encourage you even more to be extravagantly courageous to speak those fears into the light.