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Work in Progress

From the moment we are born until the moment we take our last breath, we are a work in progress. Our lives, our personalities, our relationships, our interests, all change throughout our lives. Just like a work of art starts off as a blank canvas and undergoes a colorful transformation – our lives undergo an inextricably similar process.

So to not have your entire life planned out in your mid twenties is totally fine! Shoot – I’m a 90’s kid turning thirty this year and I’m JUST NOW starting to figure out the definitive direction I’d like my life to go in. But there’s beauty in that! There’s a process that each one of us goes through. To discover who we are. To discover what we love. To discover what part of our world we want to convey to the world.

Our lives are a work of art, our voices are music that fills time, and the things we do with our lives are the color palette that changes as we go along. Along the way, there will be things that get in our way, hold us back, or deter us from our “main objective”. But just because you’ve shed light on them doesn’t mean they’re going to scatter away.

As most of you know, I deal with multiple chronic illnesses. Growing up, they definitely held me back. They were all consuming and took up a lot of my time and energy. Then came the years that I prayed God would heal me and take them away. Now let me be absolutely clear about something. God heals to. this. day. God has healed me of a couple medical issues and I LOVE to tell those stories. But there’s something that isn’t popular to talk about in most Christian circles. What happens when God doesn’t heal something? Sometimes God will move in a “yes” or “no” scenario. But sometimes God speaks into the “not yet”.

When you get a “not yet” from God, it’s not from a lack of faith. For the longest time, I got so frustrated and honestly sad when I didn’t get healing for something. But the more I’ve walked with God, the more He’s shown me the power of a “not yet”. Walking with God through a health issue creates a relationship and a dependency on God that is so pure, so strong, and so authentic. There aren’t words deep enough to describe it. Do I believe God can heal me? Beyond the shadow of a doubt I do! But until that day, I will use my life, my testimony, and my pain to encourage, uplift, and raise awareness.

I have BIG dreams in store for my future. Right now, in the season I’m in, I’m excited and hopeful for the future ahead of me. I’m not sure how I’m going to get there. I have no idea what the timeline or road ahead looks like. I’m probably going to fail and stumble a lot along the way. But every time I fail, I’m gonna learn something – either about myself or the journey I’m on.

From the moment we are born until the moment we take our last breath, we are a work in progress. There’s so much beauty in that. There’s so much grace in that. There’s a release of pressure in that. Where ever you find yourself today, take the time to acknowledge where you are in life. I promise you, you’ll be able to find something wonderful. Take the pressure off of yourself and rest in the moment you’re currently in. As a dear friend once told me, just take life “one stinkin’ little step at a time”.

I am cheering you on every step of the way.

With so much love,

Lauren K. ❤

A Mask I Can’t Hide Behind…

This blog post is not an easy one to write… Mostly because it shows a side of me that I don’t share unless you’re close to me. But the awareness that I hope it will bring is more important than my image of coming off healthier than I really am. So let’s do this thing..

When you see me, I guarantee you don’t see the health battles I face daily… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, most of the time, I love that fact. Well, I used to love that fact.

Growing up, I could hide my back braces under my clothes. I could hide my surgical scars. I could hide my pain. I learned to hide a lot because it made things easier. But fast forward to 2020-2021 and being able to hide what I’m going through is suddenly make things a whole lot harder than they need to be.

There’s a list of medical issues on my chart: Scoliosis, Kyphosis, Syringomyelia, Spondyloarthritis, and those are just the musculo-skeletal issues. I also have nerve damage and hyper sensitive nerves. I know which veins to show my lab technicians when I get bloodwork because some veins look easily accessible, but once they get the needle in, the vein is inaccessible. Sneaky little guys – I know. If I’m lucky, I get the same lab technician every time I go! Other times, I get like three people and then they call in an IV Team because they just can’t get access to a good vein.

Also, when they can’t find a vein, 99% of the time, they say “oh I bet you haven’t had enough water today”. Like, I haven’t had hundreds of tests before this one knowing that exact piece of information. Then, when I proceed to tell them that I’ve had four back surgeries and more hospital visits/tests/etc. than someone my age (or their age), their tone changes. Let me also state that I don’t crap on everybody’s parade. Like I give everyone so much grace when they’re working with me because most of the time, it’s the first time they’ve met me and they don’t know my medical chart is bigger than some of their medical textbooks. So when they try to get a good vein and make a comment that would make sense to most people, I just laugh and try to lighten the mood while I tell them why they can’t get my veins. Those little guys have been poked and prodded so many times that they’ve all gone into hiding and built walls of scar tissue so people can’t find them.

I could go on and on with more stories, but for now I’ll save you the medical pity party that you probably would like to throw at this point. Been there. Done that. Really don’t want another one. But, I say all of that because there is a medication I’m currently on that makes my immune system become compromised. It’s a lifesaver for my pain levels, but for some reason, makes me susceptible to lung infections.

Before I had this medication, there were days when I physically could not get out of bed. It’s like my body hit this pain threshold and just completely shut down to protect itself {I’m not coming from a medical standpoint on that one, it’s just what it felt like}. So while I wanted to go to work/school/out with friends, my body wouldn’t function. So, I rested. In hindsight, I knew it’s what my body needed. But, when you’ve dealt most of your life with a chronic illness, the last thing you want to do is give it an upper hand – at least that’s how it felt. Talking with my rheumatologist, we decided to try Enbrel and to this day, it’s kept those intense pain flares at bay! Sure, I still have some bad days, but nothing like that. Only down side? This medication compromises my immune system.

So when things like a global pandemic break out, you might as well put a giant blinking arrow above my head for all the germs! “Pick her! She’s weaker than the others!” A year ago, when this pandemic first started, I was not okay… and I realized why soon after. When the news came out with who this virus severely impacted, it was older people and those with pre-existing conditions. So….. me.

But like I said before, I got really good at hiding the chronically ill side of me. If I was having a bad pain day, I brush it off by telling people that I was sick. When you tell people that you’re in so much pain that you can’t get out of bed, they’re going to do one of two things {MOST of the time}. They’ll think you’re over-reacting, or they’ll flip to the other extreme and want to call an ambulance. When you have a chronic illness, you don’t need to call an ambulance every time you have a bad pain day. You know when you need to go to the hospital – trust me. So it’s easier to tell people you’re sick than to open up the floor for a longer, more complex, and for me exhausting conversation.

To give you a quick example, my back surgeon wrote me a note for school, work, etc. that stated if I needed to take a day off, I was MEDICALLY CLEARED to do so. He knew my story inside and out and knew that while I didn’t need to go to the hospital every time something happened, I needed to be aware of my limitations and know when to rest. But guess how far that note actually goes in the real world?? You would think I handed people a handmade sticky note to get out of something. *Insert facepalm here*

I could go on, but let’s get back to the main point. This pandemic stopped me in my tracks and when it did, everyone thought I was overreacting… and it took me a while to see why. The people who thought I was overreacting, don’t know the extent of my medical history – because I got really good at hiding it and not sharing about it. But I realize now that the wall I built has done more damage than I thought. While I thought it was protecting me from the eyes of judgement in others, it’s actually created a hurdle that something like a pandemic shines a freaking spotlight on.

Now, my chronic illness/disabilities are not disabling. Like I don’t technically qualify for disability. I have very high functioning and controlled chronic illnesses. While I’m thankful and grateful for that fact, it’s also extremely frustrating. While I need to be vigilant and know my limitations, to the outside world, I look like a healthy young adult.

So, I’m no longer hiding. In a way, this is a step out of my comfort zone that is terrifying, but I also know that a lot of good will come from this. Not only will I be more open with my life {the good and the bad} but I’ll also be more free to share life from my perspective – which is filled with beauty and joy! Trust me, it’s not going to be doom and gloom. If you know me, you know I don’t dwell on that kinda stuff. I don’t give a voice to negativity. What I want to do is bring light and awareness to my struggles. We all have a voice and this one is mine. I’m not going to silence my voice for fear of what others will think of me. Someone out there needs the story God is writing through my life.

In a time where we’re all required to wear masks to protect ourselves and those around us, there’s a mask I’ve been wearing for far too long that I can no longer hide behind.

So here I am. Sharing my story and encouraging you in yours. I hope you’ll stick around. I’m cheering you on every step of the way.

With so much love,

Lauren K. ❤

Photo by Justice Amoh on Unsplash

Forging A New Path

Our lives are a collection of moments and experiences. As kids in elementary school, the biggest question we get asked is “what do you want to be when you get older?” If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think we ever stop being asked that question… it just gets asked in different formats. We grow up, graduate high school with the feeling like the entire world is at our fingertips, and then it’s up to us what we do with it. Some of us get married and have kids. Some of us get a job and find ourselves in a successful career path. Some of us go on to continue our education. There’s no “set path” to go down when we graduate high school and that can be a really good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

When I graduated high school back in 2010, I wanted to go to school for theater. I went to Fitchburg State, found a degree program in theater, and went for it. A couple semesters in, I had a change of plans. Instead of pursuing a degree in theater, I wanted to pursue medical degree and become an orthopedic surgeon {Like the doctor who operated on me}. A semester into that, I decided I didn’t want to be in school for that long and I decided to just get all of my gen eds out of the way until I found something I wanted to pursue a degree in. It wasn’t until 2014 that I found Northpoint and decided to get my bachelors in Theological Studies with a focus in youth ministry. When I graduated in 2018, I took on a full time job at the school. While I’m grateful for the time I spent at that school, I knew my time there had come to an end in 2020.

This past year has given me a lot of time to think, to learn, and to grow. The person I am today would make Lauren a year ago proud. While most of us could write off 2020 as a mess, a lot happened beneath the surface that was actually pretty amazing. When I look back on 2020, sure there will be the initial shiver, but when push comes to shove, 2020 was a landmark year for me. 2020 set the tone {in a good way} for the next few years – maybe longer. There were lessons I learned in 2020 that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. But with the beginning of 2021, I find myself in a new, uncharted place.

The best way I can describe it in a way that would make sense is this – I feel like an elephant who grew up in captivity who was just set free from it’s chains. Now I know this may sound weird, but I’m asking you to trust me and track with me. When an elephant grows up in captivity or held back with a chain, it grows up not knowing it’s own strength. The elephant won’t break free from it’s chains because it’s been raised held back.

Growing up, I had an amazing childhood. When I got to my teenage years {those crucial, formidable years}, I spent my summers recovering from back surgery. Each surgery was like a reset button. Resting for 1-2 months, taking it easy for what felt like an eternity, no sports or active events for at least a year, the list goes on and on. I think I loved school because it got me out of the house and around people {who weren’t doctors or medical professionals}. So in a way, I grew up with a specific mindset. I watched my friends having fun, memorable summers. I watched my friends create memories that I couldn’t be a part of. Life was tough, but I always had the mindset that I was tougher.

Let’s fast forward. The year is 2019. I was at a Lowell Spinners baseball game with my family rooting for the home team. I had the opportunity to take part in a game with like 50 other fans on the field once the game ended. I woke up the next day thinking I had sprained my ankle on the field the night before. What I didn’t know at the time, was that I had a genetic form of arthritis. I saw new doctors, had more tests and bloodwork than you can imagine, and after a mountain of hospital bills later, found my diagnosis: HLA-B27 positive arthropathy. I can remember crying on the way home because I felt like I finally had an answer after months of rabbit trails and tests.

Since the age of nine, my life has revolved around doctors. Different doctors for different diagnoses, but I’ve seen more doctors than most people will see in a lifetime. The fun part of adulting for me {*insert sarcasm here*} has always been finding a steady insurance – not only to keep seeing my doctors but in case something were to go wrong. For the longest time, I’ve lived with the mentality of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In the last month, I’ve had a deep and progressive revelation. As of right now, every medical condition I have is either treated or managed.. there currently is no other shoe that could drop. I’m waiting for something that most likely isn’t going to happen simply because of the pattern I’ve seen in my past.

So this year, I’m setting out to forge a new path. The first few steps may not be easy, but I’ve got my whole life ahead of me and I can’t afford to limit myself based on my past medical history. But let’s go back to my elephant metaphor. If you free an elephant who has lived its entire life in captivity, it’s not just going to run free and live a successful life in the wild. In fact, it won’t leave… simply because the life it lives is all that it knows.

But I refuse to live a life of complacency for fear that I can’t accomplish the enormous dreams I have for my life. I’m going to focus on people and circumstances that will help me grow and get out of my comfort zone. By no means will this be easy, but my medical conditions don’t have the final say. Sure I have to be careful and cautious, but I’m free to live the life I was meant to live. I know it’s far greater than what I can dream or imagine, but even the biggest dreams start off as a single step forward.

So here I am. Stepping forward. Stepping out of this safe environment that’s been protecting me through most of my life. It’s new, it’s uncharted, and I would be lying if I said I knew what I was doing. But last month, I knew God was calling me to jump. To step out from where I was and trust Him with what’s next. This new chapter and season is already more than I imagined and we’re just getting started.

So whatever limiting belief you’ve held onto, I’m standing in the gap to tell you there’s life outside of it. We need each other to not only combat the lies we tell ourselves, but to reach back to those behind us and help them take steps. Together we can live out our wildest, God-given dreams. We don’t have to live our entire lives in captivity. We are free to dream, free to explore, and free to live. We don’t have to live and die in the captivity of our own mindsets. As Hannah Brencher said best in her new book Fighting Forward:

“Don’t shy away from what the blacksmith wants to do, how he wants to shape you and prep you and ultimately fit you for a new purpose. Don’t be scared off from going back to the foundation and painstakingly laying down new bricks. Each brick will hold meaning. Each brick will hold weight. And layer by layer, you’ll become unshakeable.”

Brencher, Hannah. Fighting Forward. pg 49

I am cheering you on every step of the way.

With so much love,

Lauren K. ❤

When a Chapter Ends.

The end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 brought some major life moves. Other than family and some close friends, a lot of people didn’t know about the ending of a chapter that even I didn’t see coming so soon. But when you’re reading a book, sometimes a chapter comes to a full stop or a cliff-hanger leaving you ready to turn the page and start the next chapter. Other times, the chapter wraps itself up nicely when coming to the end. But, no matter how it ends, theres always a finality to it. It leaves the reader in a whirlwind of emotions, with no inkling of what the next chapter has in store.

In the space between chapters theres an interesting give-and-take that takes place. The story will go on and continue to build with the next chapter, but the contents of the previous chapter are wrapped in the limits of a page range. Time passes, the characters move on, and new opportunities present themselves.

When a new chapter begins, there’s a breath of fresh air – a sense of “newness” {it’s a word, I looked it up..}. With a new chapter comes so many new possibilities. There’s quiet as you build the setting for this chapter. There’s peace for a moment. Also, there’s grace.. an unspoken, quiet grace. A new chapter may have a totally different tone than the previous chapter. But there’s always space to pause, refocus, and continue on.

I say all of that to say this – the end of 2020 came with a leap of faith for me. I left my job, moved back to my hometown, and said goodbye to a place I called home for about 6 years. I knew it was the right move to make, but in the moment, that knowledge didn’t make it any easier to make the jump. The end of that chapter was messy, emotional, and at times, plain crazy. But when all was said and done, and the dust settled, there was peace.

So now I’m in the middle of the beginning of a new chapter. What this chapter has in store for me, I have no idea. I just trust the One who is holding the pen. But there’s an unspoken, quiet grace here in this moment. A grace to know it’s okay to not know what lays ahead. There’s so many things I want to do with my life. There’s things I want to create, people I want to meet, things I want to accomplish. But right now – today – there’s a stillness and a peace to be here and rest in this moment. This present moment is giving time to reflect, but also there’s an expectancy in the air. Something new, something fresh, and when the time comes, I’ll know what it is.

So whatever the beginning of 2021 has looked like for you, I hope you’ve taken time to pause and take a deep breath. I don’t know where in your current chapter you are, but I hope you take a moment and reflect on it. Find the beauty and grace in this moment for you. Our lives are a work of art, and the older we get, the more detail and color we see.

So keep creating, keep dreaming, and keep your head up. It’s together that we’re going to get through this.

Lauren out. ❤

A Million Little Things to be Thankful For

2020 was been a healing year for me, but it’s also been quite the triggering year for me.

Often times, when something is triggered within me, it reveals an area of my life I haven’t addressed or don’t want to. But tonight is so, so different.

Tonight I watched the season premiere of one of my favorite TV shows, A Million Little Things. One of the main characters is in a car accident and is left paralyzed from the waist down. They don’t know if he’ll get it back or the timeline in which he could get it back, but it doesn’t look good.

10 years ago, in 2010, a few days after I graduated high school, I had one of worst moments of my life. My third back surgery was hell for everyone involved. My surgeon spent thirteen and a half hours trying to straighten my spine for the second time. My parents were confronted with making health decisions they never should have had to make. My family went through emotions I hope they never have to experience again. And I woke up paralyzed from the waist down.

I remember that hospital stay like it was yesterday. I remember waking up to a nurse asking me if I could my toes. For someone who just woke up from back surgery, I thought that was a very odd question to ask. What happened next is something I still can’t explain. In my head, my toes were moving. In my head, everything was fine. But in reality, everything was not fine. My toes were not moving. There was a moment of deafening silence. That’s when I learned that during the procedure, they got my spine almost completely straight. The blood flow throughout the length of my spine was being stretched. I had what you medically define as a spinal stroke… and went completely numb from the waist down. While I don’t remember it, my surgeon woke me up on the table to see if I could move my legs or toes. He then had to report back to my parents and ask them what they thought should be done next. They all decided it best to loosen the rods enough to restore blood flow on the table. But the big question remained… When, if ever, was I going to regain feeling?

Recovering from back surgeries was becoming something I knew how to do. But not being able to move my legs was extremely difficult to comprehend. My physical therapist had to bring in a second person to help lift me off my bed onto a chair. Physical movement was gone, but I also had no feeling. The nerves in my legs were shot. I couldn’t feel hot and cold and I couldn’t feel sharp and dull objects. My medical mystery of a chart gained another chapter.

But I was determined to walk again. They couldn’t be certain that I would regain feeling, but I was not going to settle for that. A couple days into recovery, after my physical therapist had left for the weekend, I looked at my parents and I told them, in all confidence, that I was going to walk again.

Three days later, I was walking again. With help obviously. But I have a phenomenal support system that I am blessed to call my family. Over time, I had to re-learn how to run. I know that sounds crazy, but my legs couldn’t keep up with my brain. I would trip over my feet because in my head, I was running faster than I actually was. I still had severe nerve damage. I used to love the days I had an appointment with my neurologist. He always looked like a crazy scientist, but he was a genius. He would run every test in the book to track my progress and every time I saw him he made me feel like a rockstar. {Rest in peace Dr. Marshall ❤ You will never be forgotten} He helped to make sense of everything and would always give me hope.

Ten years later, I can walk and run without having to worry about my legs “catching up” with my head. It took a while to get to this point, but there are parts of my story that are considered a medical miracle, and this is one of them. I still have severe nerve damage. I still can’t feel hot and cold or sharp and dull on most of my legs.

Tonight, seeing that character in a back brace like I used to wear, confined to a wheelchair, it hit me that my story could have been different. What if I never regained feeling in my legs? What if the damage was permanent? I don’t ask these things to dwell on the negative. Watching this show and watching this character, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and peace. I am so beyond grateful for the ability to walk and run and swim again. I am beyond grateful to be able to run around and play with my almost three year old niece. I am beyond grateful to live an independent life, not confined to a chair. I am beyond grateful to know that my story is not over. My scars, my medical chart, and my body are proof that I’ve literally fought for my life. It hasn’t been easy, in fact there are days where I’m thankful I’m still here to share my story.

This thanksgiving, I am grateful for my body’s strength and perseverance. I’m thankful for my faith and my resilience. I’m thankful for everyone in my life who’s supported me, helped me, and been there for me. I’m thankful to God, who has been so evident throughout my entire life.

I am a chronic illness warrior… and I say that with pride. I am not ashamed of my medical chart. I’m not ashamed of my pain. It is in my weaknesses that God has proven Himself strong. I can boast in my story, because He has been there EVERY step of the way.

So I’m not grateful for just one thing…. I’m grateful for a million little things.

Lauren out ❤

Your Life Matters

Our lives are defined by a series of moments..

Growing up I always knew I wanted to make a difference, but I never knew exactly how. I had so many ideas and so many avenues I could potentially travel down, but I could never pick just one to venture down. What if I was choosing the wrong one? What if I was supposed to be doing something else? I’m not going to say those years were wasted, because I believe everything happens for a reason. But what I’ve come to learn is that we just need to start taking steps in one direction and if it doesn’t work out, we take the next available path. If we don’t start walking, we lose sight of the finish line.

Then came my next obstacle… what other people thought of me. I’m not sure when this one came into my life, but I do know it effected my significantly…. for years. I love serving people, I love being there for people, but somewhere along the line, I got that mixed up with wanting to please everyone, and that my friends, is NOT the same thing. You’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.. and you know what? That’s perfectly fine! We’re not meant to be!

I’ve never been a fan of small talk. I love deep conversations, meaningful conversations, conversations that create vulnerability and trust. I feel deeply, I laugh constantly, I cry more often than I’d like to, and my heart feels what other people are going through. But the older I get, the more I realize how much of a gift that is.

For the longest time, my life never really made sense to me. When I was a kid, I was super athletic. I played basketball, I did gymnastics, I loved to run, and you know what? I was good. Then at the age of 9, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis, was given a back brace to wear most of the day, and I was constantly being benched in gym class for my safety (I didn’t see it that way). At thirteen came my first back surgery.. and with every surgery came the statement that I couldn’t play sports for a year. Talk about an athletic death sentence!

While recovering from my first surgery, my uncle Jerry gave me my first electric guitar. He owned a second hand goods store and, since I couldn’t do anything athletic for a year, he gifted me a guitar to learn so that I would have something to occupy my time. I loved it!! With that, my love for music and the arts grew. Growing up, during basketball’s off season, I was part of a community theater group. So, knowing now that sports was not in my future, I got into acting more.

All of my back surgeries were during the summer so, when I got back to school, I was free to jump into the world of theater! I loved every second of it… Everything from behind the scenes to front and center. Our little black box theater became a second home to me. Learning and becoming another character became an escape for me. But one day in college, it hit me. I loved accepting roles and learning the character because it took my focus off of my own story for a moment in time. I was frustrated and I didn’t understand why my life was like this.

To be honest, I think we all hit that point in our lives. We all have obstacles in our lives and we all wonder “why me?” We all have that one thing that can either slowly destroy us, or become building blocks for who we become… and that goes for ANY stage in life. For me, it was {and still is} my health journey.

Growing up, I was so frustrated and confused with God. I prayed and I prayed for God to heal me. I didn’t understand why my faith and my relationship with Him wasn’t moving the mountains I was asking Him to move. Sometimes, I still question it. But when I look to the Bible, I find I’m not alone. There are stories of people who suffered and were healed, there were people who wrested with God and were healed, and there were some who were never healed, but never lost their faith.

Whatever my future looks like, one thing is certain… I will never lose my faith. There have been moments where it’s been small, but the Bible says that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.

My health is still not where I’d like it to be. While I’m not having back surgeries anymore, I face other health issues. Can God still heal me? Of course! The way I see it is this: I know God still performs miracles to this day. I know in the blink of an eye everything can change. But until that moment comes, my life is still just as impactful and meaningful. God can use my pain just as much as He can use my miracle. If my story in this present moment can help someone else find purpose in theirs, why wouldn’t I share it? Sharing my pain isn’t saying that I don’t believe in the healing power of God or that I don’t have enough faith. In fact, I think it’s the complete opposite. I have faith to know that God is going to bring me through this. My life may not look how I imagined it, but the story that is unfolding throughout my life is one I couldn’t have imagined without going through what I’ve gone through.

Every now and then, I still pick up a basketball…. and this year, I had the opportunity to get back into acting. This time around, I found a whole new passion and love for the stage. Wanna know why? Because this year, I found the value and worth in my story. I found the power behind my voice and a self love that I’ve been missing for a very long time. So when this opportunity to be in a play came around, I wasn’t hiding in a character’s story. I was finding the power behind her voice and giving it to her. This time around, something shifted and you best believe that won’t be the last time I act.

I say all of that to say, I still feel like I’ve got too many avenues to go down and I want to make the right choice. But now that I know the finish line, I know that as long as I’m taking steps in that direction, everything will work out the way it’s meant to. I’ve got a lot of life to live and a lot of art to create. There may be obstacles, but I know as long as I’ve got my faith in God, it’s gonna be okay.

So whatever you’re facing today, know that God is with you. It may be more than you can handle, believe me.. I’ve been there, but it’s never too much for God to handle. Your life matters. Your story matters. It doesn’t have to be perfect and glamorous. Every piece doesn’t need to be in order before you start making moves. Just know the direction you’re going in and start taking steps.

I’m cheering you on every step of the way,

Lauren K. ❤

Perspectives

We all come to the table with our own biases. The way life looks like through our experiences and interactions. We form our beliefs from the environment we were raised in and whether or not we want to continue down that path or forge a new one. Every person has their own story. Every soul has their own perspective. Every heart beats for different things.

But at the core, we are all the same. We are all human. We are all flesh and bones. We were born into this world and we will someday pass on. We are imperfect beings. When we start to look into our hearts, thoughts, and emotions, things start to become more complex. All of a sudden we look different than the person next to us because of the way life has shaped us.

We were made to be in communion with one another. We were created to work together. We were designed to create art within the walls of life with the color pallets each of us were given. But as we get older, life shapes us. Our reactions to our surrounding environment determines how thin or thick our skin is. Circumstances in life either soften or harden our hearts. Sometimes even the most promising looking seeds sown into our lives eventually produces weeds if we’re not vigilant.

I join the masses of voices when I say this year hasn’t been the best. It’s been a trying year. It’s been seemingly one battle after another. It’s been tough, and it’s forced our hand one too many times.

There’s a song that’s become my anthem for the last few months of 2020. It’s called “Another in the Fire”. The first few lines go like this:

“There’s a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in
And when I look at the space between
Where I used to be and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I’ve been set free
There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me
There is another in the fire”

I don’t know about you, but this year has felt like a refining fire. Like the type of refining fire that diamonds go through. It’s shown our true colors, it’s brought out raw and honest emotions from most of us. It’s caused more hurt than good. It’s brought more division than unity. When the world went into quarantine, it was like I went into a sort of “energy-saving mode”. As time passes, the lack of relief is like a lack of water. As the year goes on, the fire continues to rage. More things are being added, the fire is being prodded. Sparks fly… brush fires start… there’s no water to douse the flames… we blink and everything around us is worse.

There are three men in the Bible who come to mind as a parallel. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel Chapter 3 were thrown into a blazing furnace at the command of king Nebuchadnezzar. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not bow down to the king and therefore denounce their faith in God. They had faith that if they were thrown into the furnace, that God would protect them. Daniel chapter 3, verses 16-18 reads like this:

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Did you catch the power behind what they just said? They had faith that God would deliver them from the punishment of being thrown into the furnace. But if He didn’t? THEY STILL BELIEVED IN THE GOODNESS AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD.

Let that really sink in for a moment….

In a year where we are in what seems like a never ending battle, let us not lose the connection and the relationships we have with one another. Let us not allow the bridges that are built between us get burned up in this fire. Let us not allow the sparks to harm those around us.

There is Another in the fire… Standing next to us.
There is Another in the fire… Holding back the seas.
And should we ever need reminding of how we’ve been set free.
There is a cross that bears the burden, where another died for us.

No matter what this year looks like for you, God is with you. If He was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fire, be sure that He is with you during these times. There is a level of grace that is attainable even when the world around us seems to be caving in. There is a level of peace that can be found among all of the uncertainty this year has brought. There is a level of love that can be extended to those around you – relief from the heat of the fire.

This year, we have such a unique and tangible way to be the hands and feet of Jesus. There is so much pain, uncertainty, and division around us, that the Light we carry is more visible than ever. The Living Water brings relief in such a tangible way. The very presence of God is so evident – when we’re being intentional.

Nebuchadnezzar was so divisive and so set in his own ways.. and yet, he was the one who pointed out the fourth Man in the fire.

Be encouraged today to continue to stand firm in the love of God. Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. Don’t lose sight of the finish line.

If you’re consumed by the fire that is this year, I encourage you to find a quiet place where you can be still. Invite the Lord to be there with you. Just rest in His love and peace. Allow the Lord to speak to you. Allow Him to comfort you. Rest in His arms. Find comfort in knowing He’s never left you. Allow Him to fight for you. When you leave that space, invite Him to walk with you.

If you need someone to pray with you, reach out to a pastor or a trusted friend. If you don’t have anyone you can go to, you can come to me. We’re in this together. We’re all imperfect humans walking through life. Let us walk together and fight together. Let us support each other through the good and the bad.

There’s still a few months left of this year. We can choose to continue down this path of destruction and division, or we can choose to change our perspective. We can choose to meet in the middle and see each other for who we are. We can acknowledge that there’s another One with us in the fire and trust in Him.

This year is going to end on a good note. Are you with me?

Peace and Love,
Lauren K. ❤

Self-Care is not Self-Centered

For the LONGEST time, I struggled with the concept that self-care is not self-centered {Sometimes I still do}.

I love helping out other people, encouraging them and helping them to succeed. But I always got to a point where I burned myself out, felt left out, or felt like I wasn’t as effective as I could be. But, I always saw self care as stepping back and counting myself out of the game for a period of time. I was never in a state of mind where that was a peaceful idea for me. I felt like by stepping back, I was {in a sense} quitting. With all of my hospital visits, doctors, and surgeries, I already saw myself as behind in the game. So to consciously take myself out of the game would be like hitting the brakes and watching everyone speed past me to the finish line.

A tree can’t produce good fruit if it’s not well taken care of. An individual may love the apples from an apple tree. But, if the tree is not taken care of or planted in the proper environment, come harvest time, those apples won’t taste very good. In fact, it could make someone sick. A plant needs a delicate balance of sunlight, nutrients, water, and time to be able to thrive.  So why do we think we’re any different?

It wasn’t until recently that I fully comprehended the fact that your pace to grow doesn’t equate to your place in the race.

Loving people and taking care of people is our Heavenly Father’s greatest Commandment to us. What are our actions without love for one another? But take it a step further… How can we fully comprehend what it means to love those around us if we don’t first love and take care of ourselves? How can our words and actions be sweet to someone in need if we aren’t planted in the proper environment before the harvest season?

We’ve all heard the phrase “practice what you preach”, right? Well why do we think that doesn’t include caring for ourselves? Why is self-care seen as something that’s looked down on or selfish?

If you’re into the enneagram, I’m a solid 2w3. Like no matter how many times I take the test, or which test I take, I get that result loud and clear – I’m not even close to any other number. A 2w3 is known as the hostess. Someone who will go above and beyond to serve and help everyone around them. Often times, that leaves them in the dust. Imagine helping everyone build their dream car out of parts that you have, only to realize when everyone’s driven away that you have nothing left for yourself. If you’re like me, that can happen without even realizing it if we’re not careful!

But when you aren’t taking care of yourself, you lose yourself. You get so wrapped up helping others that that becomes who you are. You are just as deserving of love and care as the people around you.

So if you’re feeling burnt out, stressed out, or even overstretched, I challenge you to take a step back, unplug, and take a deep breath. I promise you its okay to take a break and focus on yourself for a season. The world will still be there when you’re ready.

Self care is not self centered. It’s time we change the narrative and treat ourselves. Not only will we be in a better place, but our service to others will be so much richer. You’re beautiful, you’re loved, and you deserve some much needed rest.

Much love,

Lauren K. ❤

Hope is on the Horizon

These last few weeks have been anything but easy…. or normal.

For the most part, everything has come to a standstill. People have been asked to shelter in their homes. Businesses, churches and schools have shut down with the exception of essential businesses. Everywhere you look, people are wearing masks and gloves. Safety looks a lot different these days. 

As the days go on, it can seem like there is no upper hand to getting ahead of what is going on. Unemployment is at an all time high, people are losing their jobs and their main source of income for their families, hospitals are reaching or passed their capacity, the necessary equipment for hospitals are stretched thin, and sadly, people are losing their lives. 

Government and health officials are saying this week and next are going to be the worst in terms of the surge. In order to get on the other side of this curve, we all have a significant role to play (even if that means staying home). 

But this week is Holy Week and today is Good Friday. On the day in which this day of remembrance originated, things were anything but good. Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and sentenced to an excruciating death on a cross. The Son of God was laid to rest in a tomb. It seemed like evil had won the battle. I can’t imagine how those close to Jesus must have felt.. Hurt? Devastated? Confused? Hopeless? 

They had no idea what would happen three days later… 

This Good Friday, we find ourselves in a similar situation. But, while the darkness may seem to be winning, it doesn’t have the final say. It never has. There are brighter days ahead of us.. It may not be the exact timeline, but we can rest assured that it’s coming. 

Who knows what will come out of this situation when all of this is over. But, in the midst of the storm, we already see a renewed sense of hope, togetherness, and strength. Families are reconnecting, doctors are reminded of why they wanted to study medicine, and people are reaching out in new ways to show that we’re truly all in this together. 

I’m not sure what you’re going through today, how you’re feeling, or what life looks like for you, but I can tell you one thing – Don’t give up. Hope is on the horizon. Things may seem dark, daunting and sometimes hopeless at the moment, but this is not the end. 

So many years ago, Jesus died on a cross to bear the sins of the world in order that we would be able to have a relationship with God. He knew what needed to be done, even if it cost him everything. Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, lived a sinless and self-less life and made the ultimate sacrifice. He knew the end goal and He knew what it was going to take.

May we as children of God in these days, during this Holy week and beyond, look to the act of love displayed on our behalf so many years ago. The Great Commission tells us to go into all the world and to make disciples, knowing that He will be with us all the days of our lives. In these moments when we find the doors of our physical churches closed, let us not forget that we are the Church. We are messengers and carries of the Holy Spirit and the Good News of the Gospel. We were created for such a time as this. 

So do your part. If that means staying home to flatten the curve, stay at home. If that means going to work so that others can have the things they need (Healthcare, gas, groceries, etc.) then I pray that the Lord would keep you safe and healthy during this time. No matter where you find yourself, remember to take a deep breath. We’re all going through this pandemic in different ways. Be gentle with others and with yourself. Lastly, trust that everything is going to be okay in the end.

I’m praying for all of you. Stay safe and don’t lose hope. 

Love,

Lauren K. ❤

 

Hebrews 12:1-2 states “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Faithful You Are

When we look at the world around us, at face value, everything is beautiful (especially this time of year). The leaves are various different colors, the sun rises and sets in a multitude of colors, and the wind leads the leaves in a beautiful song and dance. The sun shines, but the warmth comes from a comfy sweatshirt and cup of hot cocoa is the frosting on top of your favorite cupcake. Families and friends gather together to bake their favorite apple dessert and share stories of times passed. The smiles and joy filling the air is as sweet as freshly made maple sugar candies.

But if you stop and really take it all in, the reality of beauty is more than surface level. The chill in the air is the subtle reminder that while a sweatshirt might do today, snow and ice isn’t too far around the corner. The colors of fall might be a beautiful sight, but the strong winds remind us that the leaves are dying and leaving the trees to fend for themselves. While some people enjoy the comforts of fall, others only see it as a cold, dying season with winter around the corner.

While snowflakes begin to soften the sounds of everyday life, and nature goes into a hibernation, the gray clouds come to stay while the blue skies only come out every once and a while to remind us they haven’t gone too far. Some find the snow as a beautiful, welcoming invitation to trek to the mountains, but leads others indoors to follow in the theme of hibernation. The sun leaves us in the midst of the afternoon, and the darkness is accompanied by the chill that only the winter air can bring.

For a few months, everything just freezes. Time slows down and cold dark nights are found where long, summer nights were not too long ago. It’s no surprise that with the changing of the season, we find ourselves changing with it.

That my friends, is a metaphor for our lives.

Seasons of our lives come and go just like we see in nature. Sometimes they sneak up on us like changing leaves on a summer night, and other times their long and drawn out like a New England winter that just. won’t. go. away.

Not everything in our lives is meant to stick around forever and we aren’t meant to stay in the same place forever. Just as a baby grows up into a toddler, a toddler to a child, a child to a teenager, and so on… we too change in the seasons that weave throughout our lives. Some are easier to go through than others, but in every season there’s a lesson to be learned. There’s victories to be celebrated on the mountain tops, and there’s joy and endurance to be developed in the depths of the valleys.

How can James in the first chapter of his book state to consider it PURE JOY when you face trials and tribulations of many kinds? Because he knows the fruit that comes from the testing of our faith. Just as there is the promise of new growth on the trees after a cold, harsh winter, there is also the promise of new growth on the other side of a hurtful season or circumstance in our life. It’s in the testing of our faith that we develop perseverance and endurance to run the race set before us. It’s when everything around us is in it’s own state of chaos, nothing makes sense, and no one truly understands what we’re going through that creates a make or break moment in our lives. There’s pressure, there’s hurt, there’s confusion, and (maybe the worst) there’s silence.

But that’s where you find yourself and God. Alone. Together.

It may not be pretty, but it’s all God needs. You. Your heart. Your mess.

My friends, faith is messy. It’s not some pretty little gift-wrapped present that’s neat and presentable. I didn’t understand what true faith looked like until I went through some of the hardest seasons of my life. But, you know what you also find in that place? Joy. Pure joy.

Psalm 91 starts off by saying “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” When life is dark and uncertain, enter into rest. Find the grace to take it easy on yourself and quiet the noises of everyday life to tune in to His still, small voice. Seasons of life may leave us broken and bruised, but in the shelter of God’s shadow, there is healing and peace. It’s where your faith starts to be defined and finds it’s strength. It’s where you find joy when joy is hard to come by. 

So, whatever season you may find yourself today, take time to reflect. Trust the changing of the seasons. If God has allowed you to come to it, know that He will be faithful to bring you through it. You’re stronger than you know because of the One who created you. Just as the blue skies and warmer nights return with winter fading into spring, so to will restoration be brought to you in whatever season you find yourself in. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy is promised to come in the morning.

There’s beauty and joy in every season we go through. There’s victories and lessons on the mountain tops, and there are victories and lesson in the valleys and deserts. But through it all, God is faithful. I pray you always take the time to notice it.

Love and blessings,

Lauren K. ❤