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. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

A post with no proper attribution for the additional content

I stole this image (meme? JPEG of words?) off of Facebook. 

My edit to this would be "if Jesus can (and did) calm the ocean, he can also calm you." 

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. 
And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 
He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 
And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35-41

Just be held

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

I spend so much time trying to be so many things for so many people. A sister, a committee chair, a friend, an RA, a leader, a servant, a teammate, a captain... it lands me here, when I try to do it by my own strength. There are so many things I'm trying to do, plan, think about, research... so many things I love yet can't give my heart to entirely because it's spread other places already.

I spend so much time keeping a checklist, doing things on it, crossing things off, working to get to the elusive end of it. But the illusion of a checklist is the idea that you could ever reach the end of it. There will always be more tasks to do, meetings to plan, and problems to solve.

And when you're tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There's freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

I spend so much time trying to control what I can't (everything), and that's exhausting. And then I break, which frustrates me because then I've lost control of myself, which feels like the thing I should definitely be able to control.

So when you're on your knees and answers seem so far away
You're not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I'm on the throne, stop holding on and just be held

It's really incredibly difficult for me to break down. I don't cry often, I rarely cry hard, and I struggle to sit with negative feelings and be okay with just feeling for the moment. I try to rationalize sad and stressed feelings away or ignore them entirely. That's a strategy that has worked decently...until recently. Good friends have slowly but surely worn down the lies and are starting to finally break into my stubborn mind, slowly reassuring me that it's okay to have rough days, to have dislikes, to not feel 100% awesome or even look the part, to cry. It's okay. It's integral to the human experience.

My dear cat, dog, and grandma dying in the past 9 months have shown me so much about grief and processing that in more healthy ways. Through the insanity of my schedule in the past year and a half, I am slowly but surely starting to understand how God can be a rock in the everyday. It's a slow refining process.

If your eyes are on the storm
You'll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You'll know I always have and I always will
Just Be Held, Casting Crowns.

It's true that this is a matter of perspective. The more I focus on the problems in my life, even if I am saying, "Daddy, look at these problems, fix them!", the more my problems become the center of my life. But when I spend my time looking to Him first, saying, "Daddy, you are awesome, and I know you won't let go of me, and I trust that you love me best",  the more I understand that it's gonna be alright. Maybe not my ideal version of "alright," but His, which is better anyways.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
Psalm 63:3

He's so good. Love better than life? That's a tough thing to fathom, really. Just sit with that for a while. Sit with the one who can put a leash on the Leviathan and play with it as a pet (Job 41:1) for a while.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's hard to contain my excitement (I jumped up and down)

Lord willing, I'll be in Germany in a year and a few months. First of all, that's super exciting. Studying in Germany has honestly been a dream of mine since probably eighth grade, which is when I first realized that it was an option.

I'm applying for supplemental funding, because plane tickets aren't cheap, etc., etc. One of the scholarships asked me to cook up a research project to do while in Germany. It's a lot to explain, but mine has to do with German environmental preservation efforts and their roots in German history, simply put. As such I'm doing some research about German preservation efforts and change over time to write my proposal...

...and I am so excited. So, so, so excited. Molly made a fun of me a little for how much I jumped up and down when I found an article that helped me move forward. This is so exciting. What started out as a requirement is turning into a project that I want to research whether or not I get the scholarship.

And this is how I've reached the conclusion that for right now, I am exactly where I need to be. Not that I didn't think that before, but it's yet another awesome reinforcement of how Daddy loves to bless in surprising ways (research isn't something we all get excited about, I guess) and how right he was about bringing me to Iowa of all places on the planet...and sending me (hopefully) to Germany. Finding pieces of what I am passionate about is encouraging and such a blessing.

Ahhhh. I love this. Thank you, Daddy.

Friday, January 22, 2016

In-between space

I'm really grateful for the people who support me. For the professors who understand that I cannot find the motivation to do my work today, for the friends who take me book shopping and give me hugs, for the friends who text me to check in from hundreds of miles away, for my brothers for sharing sad space with me and laughing at videos of monkeys in the snow.

It's a strange in-between space today. Some of it has to do with being so tired from staying up last night to get work done, I'm sure. Some of it is just residual sad from Max dying. I'm starting to understand why so many people write about grief-- it changes in ways I don't expect it to and is different every time. What a beast of a thing. 

In my essay class last year, which focused primarily on creative nonfiction, one of the guys wrote a brilliant and moving piece about grief. It was a braided essay (you can look that up if you want to know more. It's a cool form), and one of the strands was a story about how he had a summer job in a department store. Every day that he went to work, he passed a perfume booth lady who always offered him samples. One day, he decided, spurred by a video of a similar situation online, to yell "NO" loudly at the lady when she offered. He was sure that he had finally solved the problem. But the next day, she still offered. 

He closed his essay with a beautiful paragraph about how grief is like the people at the mall kiosks offering you samples. No matter how many times you walk past, no matter how many times you say, "no," no matter how loudly you say, "no," they are always there and will always offer. Grief is the same, he says. No matter what you tell it, how you try to avoid it, what you think about it, it will still linger. 

Analogies aren't perfect, but this one helps me understand where I am.

In this in-between space, I am caught between immediate sadness and inevitable healing and numbing with time. I am caught between being "allowed" to spin my wheels for a while and being asked to move on with my life. I am also caught between feeling loss and knowing that Daddy has bigger hands than I do, for which I am grateful.

My dog, grandma, cat, friends...they all might slip through my hands, but Daddy still holds them dearly. He happens to have this whole running-the-universe thing down pretty well. I love that even now, even as I struggle to convince myself to do my work, even as I keep encountering random sad patches, He is sovereign, good, and worth praising always. What a wonderful God. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

This isn't a very upbeat post

So, long story short, my family put my dog down today. My mom called me right before I went to conditioning practice (all of the big phone calls seem to come right before ultimate practices/games).

I was okay, at first. It kinda felt sad. But an expected sad. He was, after all, 15 years and 9 months and 5 days old, which is quite old for a Golden Retriever. Goldens, according to Google, have a life expectancy of 10-12 years. Well, ya blew that one out of the water, Max. You always blew everything out of the water though-- you were a great dog like that.

My younger brother took that picture of Max this summer. You can't even tell that really, Max's just a giant, lumpy conglomeration of tumors. He couldn't stand then and wore a diaper at night (a thing he'd be shocked to read on the internet, if he could read; he was a proud dog).

I have a strange relationship with grief and my emotions in general. If you know me, there's a good chance you know that already. The past year feels like it's been full of lessons about grief and being okay with how I feel.

Before my grandma died, we joked about if she would outlive Max, or if Max would outlive her. After she died in March, I struggled to feel like I was allowed to feel sad but also struggled to feel like I was "sad enough." It felt like my sad wasn't enough to express how grateful I was for everything she did for me, but it also felt like my little piece of sad took up an awful lot of space in any room and that people just wanted me to send it away. I grieved very quietly as a result-- only a few people watched that process. (Thank you for supporting me.)

In July, we watched as my aunt and uncle's dear dog, Benji, battled the pains of getting older, and finally he too moved along from this life. That one didn't hurt so immediately, but as I look back through the pictures right now, I'm choking up.

In December, just a week before I went home, my family endured a painful week during which our beloved Spare Cat had all but five teeth pulled, was de-wormed, and then stopped eating. It was sudden, it was the first close-to-home pet death in my cognizant lifetime. I cried a lot more than I expected for a full day (which means I cried at all). It was sad, and it was hard to shake. A professor sent me a beautiful obituary he had written for his cat. I sobbed the whole way through.

Spare Cat's life and death taught me a little more about being okay with being sad. People, for maybe the first time in my life that I noticed, told me it was okay to be sad. They offered to listen to me tell stories about her and let me cry. It was beautiful and heartbreaking. (Thank you for supporting me.)

With Max, death was inevitable. When I was home for Christmas break, I helped stand him up every time he barked to go outside and every time he barked to come inside. My best friend helped him stand up when he fell over in a snowbank when we were sledding. My parents diligently and lovingly moved the food and water to him when he just couldn't stand any longer. We joked about him being all cancer and no longer dog, but really, we didn't want him to go. The daily questions were, "how will we know it's time?" "What do you think, are you going to live another day, buddy?"

It wasn't out of the blue. When I saw the voicemail from my house phone, I figured it was probably because Max was gone. My mom left the voicemail. It was all crackly because she held back tears for most of it. He had fallen over and couldn't get up, or something like that. She took him in to the vet, and the vet tech said, "Hon, it's time." I think that sounds like one of the hardest sentences to hear.

I got quiet when I first heard the message. I got a little quieter, put down my phone, and warmed up with my team. I don't think they even knew that anything was up. My mom asked me to call her back, so I did as I walked from conditioning to where I needed to be next. I didn't know what to say to her, so I let her talk as much as I could. It still didn't really hurt, and that fact almost bothered me. I wanted it to hurt. I wanted to feel like I had lost him. It didn't feel like a loss...more like a drifting away.

At Salt Company tonight (it's a sweet college ministry--check it out sometime), something hit me during one of the songs in the final set.

Your love is enduring through the winter rain and beyond the horizon with mercy for today. -Bethel Music
Daddy and I walked through all sorts of memories of Max and me. It was beautiful. It was heart-wrenching. I cried just a little, and I started to feel the hurt hiding in my heart. In the end, I felt so much gratitude for how many good memories I had with Max and for how sweet it was for Daddy to place him in my life.

I was also struggling with wanting to just let my sad be sad for a while though. One of the songs talked about rejoicing in everything. And that's awesome. God is always good, and he is always worthy of praise. But there's also something to be said for being okay with being sad. That's what I'm learning. I can feel sad and sit with my sad and cry and be okay with that and acknowledge that God is good, sovereign, and in the business of giving excellent gifts.

I got back to my dorm room and cried a lot more than I anticipated (read: I sobbed a few times, didn't for half an hour. Teared up a lot, didn't for another fifteen minutes. Repeat process several times). Reading my brother's tribute post on Facebook made me cry. Reading my aunt's text letting me know that they'll miss Max too made me cry. Texting my brother made me cry. My best friend saying he's supporting me through this made me cry. Finding old pictures of my dog made me cry. I use "cry" here to mean a big range of things, but the bottom line is that I don't ever cry really, so this was a new world for me. And I'm okay with it. I've gotten better about just letting myself cry, rather than trying to stop it, especially when I'm by myself.

When my residents stopped by, I still told them I was "pretty good, thanks." Which, in many ways, is true. To quote the song, it is well with my soul. But loss is still tough. I don't know what it looks like to be real with people without unloading everything onto everyone. But I know it's okay to be sad, and I know it's okay to also praise Daddy for how good he is while I'm grieving. And I am slowly learning that grief looks different every time and needs to be played out in the time it takes to work through it. There's no rush. I'm learning. Thank you Daddy, for teaching me.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. -Ecclesiastes 3 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Adventure is out there

I had a moment just now. A moment when, as I was reading an email from a professor here in Iowa setting me up with potential advisor in Germany, I realized It's happening- I actually can go to Germany (Lord willing).  That's mind-blowing and terrifying and wonderful and so, so many things.

Ahhhh. That's an exhilarating thought, and please, please, please, sweet Father, let that happen.

I'm excited. You'll certainly hear from me more if/when I do venture to Deutschland. Oh to be able to study and learn and research in Germany!

Back to study abroad scholarship applications and writing an email to this potential advisor (eeeek).

Happy Thursday, friends!