Sunday, July 10, 2016


God's using the Cold Springs Fire to shape a lot of my heart in ways I didn't necessarily anticipate and to teach me more than I could expect. 

He's using it as a reminder that I have no idea what all is going on in anyone's heart-- when I sit here, feeling like my heart is slowly dying a little, others might be feeling similar things for other reasons. And when my situation shifts, and I no longer feel this weight, I still will encounter people who are carrying unseen troubles. One of my favorite quotes says, "be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle." This reminds me of that. How many times I treat people like they're not fighting anything, and how that absolutely breaks me when people do it to me right now. A reminder to be gracious always. 

He's teaching me that it's alright to have emotional reactions and that it's okay to lean on community when that happens. (I never do seem to learn this lesson.) what a gift to have Sonlight staff as my community during this chaos. 

He's also teaching me to focus on him and his abundant joy and protection. It's sometimes tough to see, but God is always good (the best, in fact), and my situations are the things that change and shift. When I focus on the fire and the potential and actual losses, I panic. But when I focus on his joy and his face, I'm stabilized. Not that feeling negative emotions is a bad thing, but rather they are something to weather with his help. He provides peace in this storm, to use some Christianese. 

God's teaching me a thing or two about myself too. He's using this pain to point out the ways that I run away to corners by myself to sit with my wounds and bottle my feelings, and he's using it to point out the ways that community will have my back if I let them. That's a scary lesson for me. 

He's reminding me of his goodness too--how I only want his presence right now! It's so good and so much more peace-giving than anything else, be that sleep or running or food or reading. As Psalm 16 says, I have no good apart from him. 

I thank God that he's so good and big. That this is temporary-- "this too shall pass." Sometimes that's all I can cling to, and that's okay for now. 

A perspective on tragedy

Today, July 9th, at approximately 1:30 pm, forest caught fire close to my house--about a mile away. In the early afternoon, it was about 100 acres, and as I'm falling asleep, it has grown to 226 acres. Last I knew, it was 0% contained and a mile from my house, though things easily could have changed. 

I've had about 18 reactions to the news today-- fear and worry, gratitude for fire fighter parents who taught me to understand what the news tells me and who can take care of the house and cat adequately, frustration with my inability to do anything except pray, frustration with my lack of words--what even CAN I pray?-- and anger at flippant Instagram posts, to name a few. I've started to try to process the idea of what losing my house would be like, what it would be like to return to ravaged, blackened tree stumps and bricks instead of my childhood home. That's a painful process. 

Here's what I want you to know in this: as long as the fire burns, it will be somewhere on my mind. Perhaps buried deep in the back and perhaps at the forefront, but it will be somewhere on my mind, whether it burns for just another day or three months. And while right now, this is perhaps very shocking news for you, and it's definitely on your mind, I don't expect it to stay on your mind. I know you have lots of pain and joy and fear and adventure tugging at your own heart, and that's beautiful. My experience with one fire is just a sliver of your existence, of the collective human experience. This is true of any tragedy or trauma, I believe. We cannot all feel the pain on the deepest levels; that is saved for those most directly affected. 

I cannot, will not ask you to feel the weight of this fire for as long as it burns. You are welcome to, if it burdens you too, but please do not force yourself to feel some obligatory pain just because I'm nervous for the firefighters on the line and for those who have lost and will lose property. There is always plenty of pain in the world, as a result of our broken humankind situation. 

Be a joyful light, if you have it in you. You have a joy given to you by a beautiful and all-powerful Creator. My request of you is that you let your joy shine, if you are in a place to do so. If not, be real and raw with yourself and those around you (that's a challenge I'm issuing to myself as well). But if you have light, by all means, share it. In the words of Passenger, "if we all light up, we can scare away the dark." I have a second half to my request though: know that some of us will continue to have heaviness as long as the fire burns and some even after the fire is long out. I think of the many fires we have seen around Colorado and the world recently, and the pain and cost implicit to rebuilding a life and a house after it burns down. I think about the ways that people are still struggling with damage from Boulder's big flood several years ago-- these are weights that carry on long after the news is breaking or juicy. These are the heaviest and loneliest weights. 

So please, shine your light and be joyful, but remember that some among you will always be carrying pain, so they may need a little extra help to smile, or they may choose not to smile at all. And when it's your turn, because we all take a turn with bearing trauma or tragedy, know that others will perhaps start singing soon before you remember how to smile. And that's okay too. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Homeward Bound

I'm not quite sure where two years have gone, but apparently I only have a day left of my academic career as a college sophomore. All that stands between me and summer are an essay and a test, so naturally I'm putting both off to write this.

I pretty much always knew that I wanted to go far away from home for college. My mom's said that I've been ready to move out since eighth grade, which is probably true. Except for a short stint of wanting to stay in Boulder because it's a fantastic city, I've always wanted to get up and move and get out. Iowa made a lot of sense for that reason. I said I wasn't looking back (much) and figured I wouldn't miss home for a long time.

I wasn't totally wrong, but I definitely was not 100% right.

Turns out, I miss home. A little. Not in an I'm-discontent-here way by any means, but I'm really excited to be around my family (I've come to realize that they get me like no one else) in Colorado (where it's not so overcast all the time). That came as a surprise this year. Last year, going home wasn't all that important to me (don't take it personally, parents). This year though, I'm excited about the prospect of home. Of seeing my brothers. Of hanging out with my parents (the middle schooler of my past is gasping). Of hanging up a hammock in the tree in front of my house. Sounds peaceful.

If I were to give past Lauren (or current younger brother) unsolicited advice, it might be that you should let yourself be surprised by and okay with these feelings. Don't swear that you'll never miss home, because home might surprise you once you're away for long enough. And don't feel weak for finally wanting to be home if and when you get there, even if it takes you two years.

I'm sure I'll be full of more thoughts as it gets closer, but my flight's still a week and two days away. See ya soon, CO.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Musings from a (sort of) bald head

It's been a week and two days since I shaved my head for St. Baldrick's. I highly encourage it.

One of the things I anticipated and have quickly confirmed is that people enjoy petting recently-shaved heads. I think it has to do with the texture. I used to love when people played with my hair (when it was long), and I definitely enjoy people petting the little bit of hair I do have now. Some of my friends joke that I was/am a dog-- I want to be fed and pet and taken for walks all the time.

One of the things I didn't expect was how much I would appreciate the question, "may I pet your head?" I'm not going to say no, so it's not a question that I have to actively consider. But I definitely appreciate people asking, at least the first time. It's a way of them showing that they understand that I may not want that physical contact.

That can be extrapolated-- ask permission. Get consent. It's important. It gives people their autonomy and the power to make choices about their own bodies and their own well being. And then respect their choices.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why Bald?

If you haven't heard yet, children's cancer research is super underfunded. It has a lot of separate considerations from adult cancer research, and as such, it is funded separately. Adult cancer research has awesome campaigns and is getting more attention these days, which is a great thing, but kids' cancer research isn't as well-funded.

So, if you haven't heard this one yet either, I'm shaving my head in 8 days to raise money for and awareness about this fact.

If you want to watch it happen, show up in Upper Gage/Phifer Commons (at Coe) between 6-9 pm. I don't have an exact time for my specific scalp, but you can contact me closer to the day of the event, and I'll let you know.

If you want to donate, click this cool link. I also can take cash and checks! All of the money raised goes to St. Baldrick's, which distributes the money to responsible research organizations.

Go wander through and read the stories of kids on St. Baldrick's page. I'm honoring a few of them specifically with my donations, but there are countless stories that'll break your heart and wreck you a little bit emotionally. Do it for them.

When I was in middle school, my family knew a family who knew a family from Mexico, and that family had a daughter who was basically my age. They came to my hometown because the hospitals in Mexico said, "give up." The hospitals here said, "we'll give it a shot."

One afternoon, I remember my family sitting the two of us down, hoping that we would keep each other company. I wasn't sure what to say. We didn't have much in the way of common language grounds, and we were both incredibly shy to start with. We looked at each other for a while, smiled timidly. I think we tried to talk a little but didn't get far.

I wish I could tell some heart-wrenching story about us becoming good friends. Instead I can tell you that I got scared because I didn't know what to say, and to this day all I can think about is how incredibly lonely it must have been to live in her body for those last few years of her life. She died when I was still in middle school. I'm shaving my head in memory of Andrea.

If I'm honest with you, it's a little bit scary. I don't know what it'll be like. But I cannot imagine how scary it would be to be told as a kid that I had cancer, and I can imagine that it would be many times scarier than this. So I'm shaving my head for every kid who is braver than me and to raise funds so that there will hopefully come a day in the foreseeable future when we can tell a kid that what she has is curable or a day when we don't have to tell anyone that they have cancer.

Support these kids by donating, by getting educated about cancer, by reaching out to kids, by shaving your head. If you're interested in shaving your head with me, get in contact with me.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Not a lost sheep

Tonight has been an incredibly average night overall. I'm on duty, which means not leaving the building. All of my core groups of people had plans elsewhere on or off campus tonight, meaning that I had a night with just me (and the occasional conversation with a resident). Whether it's a result of that fact or simply bad timing I don't know, but I've felt lonely all night. I wanted to be around a person or two who knew my heart well so badly, but I couldn't come up with anyone.

It hit me about three minutes ago, sometime just before 2 a.m., that God still hasn't lost track of me. Even in this deep loneliness, which feels like it's surfaced more often than usual this winter, He knows where I am and who I am. He knows my heart. He's holding me in the palm of his hand. That's really comforting.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!You know when I sit down and when I rise up;you discern my thoughts from afar.You search out my path and my lying downand are acquainted with all my ways.Even before a word is on my tongue,behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.You hem me in, behind and before,and lay your hand upon me.Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;it is high; I cannot attain it.Psalm 139:1-6
I can't help but think of the parable of the lost sheep-- the shepherd went after that missing sheep and brought it back. Jesus went after me when I wandered and doesn't lose sight of me now. Even in these moments that it feels like I'm so alone, Jesus is right here with me. How cool is that.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

One Knight Stand

This is (part of) my team. They are quirky, fierce, often inappropriate, and always dear to my heart. They love playing cards, driving too fast with music that's too loud, eating all the time, and occasionally playing ultimate (when they have to). 

This picture was taken sometime between 1 and 3 am last night...I can't remember when exactly. It's all such a blur, like all-night tournaments always are. I don't know if other sports love all-nighters as much as ultimate players, but I know that it's somethingthing I absolutely love about my sport. 

We lost all of our games at Wartburg this year. The closest game was 11-13, the most painful loss was 0-13 (yes, we got bageled). But honestly, the scores don't matter too much to me. We improved from our first to our second game, which was huge. I watched each of my teammates grow over the course of the night: improved field vision, getting comfortable with the rally scoring format, playing zone more aggressively, learning how to support one another as a sideline, learning to lead. 

If there's one thing I want to say, it's that I am so proud of my teammates. We faced some tough opponents, and while we didn't always do the right thing or treat one another well, I did watch everyone grow and learn and put their all out on the field, and I am proud of them for that. It makes the exhaustion the day after well worth it.

A team, a passion for ultimate, and a body that can (generally) play hard and rowdy are three huge blessings from Daddy in my life. I love the community, the friends you make on the sideline, and the feeling of lacing up before a game. I'm so grateful. It's so exciting to me that Daddy built us all differently and that he gave me the passion for ultimate and a team that supports me. I'm so darn blessed.