Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Advent

I feel as though I’ve lived my life like I live my holiday season, in preparation of what’s to come. We spend from Black Friday to Christmas Eve buying presents, decorating, singing songs, etc all in preparation for Christmas. So much work is done to get ready for this joyous occasion. In the same way, everything in my life has been in preparation for the next step. There was always an end goal, and a plan, and steps along the way. I prepared myself in every way I knew for the “real world” that would come after graduation, but as I sit in front of Advent devotionals, I’m reminded of what Advent is really about, waiting.

I hate waiting.

I’m an instant gratification, give me now, let’s get this over with kinda girl, and the whole “waiting” thing has never sat well for me. I’ve never been able to be still, sit, and just wait. I get anxious or bored or upset that things are taking so long. I busy myself with preparations so that the waiting won’t seem as long.

As I go into this Advent season, I realize that for the past year I’ve been in my own Advent season, my own seasoning of waiting. There are no preparations to be done, nothing to busy myself with while I anxiously wait for my next step. This is so hard for me. I think about what the wise men must have felt like, following a star. I mean, it’s star in the sky, there are thousands of them, how long did they wait and follow that start just hoping that it was the right one?

With so many paths to take, I’m clinging to the hope that there is another side of this waiting period, that my star is taking me somewhere. And with so many stars out there, so many paths to take in the waiting, how do I know that I’m on the right one?


Finding the patience is aggravating. I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable with the concept, but that’s where I am. Maybe Advent can be my comfort. The wait until Christmas is inevitable, but every year, at the end of our waiting, after all the anticipation, comes Christmas. It never fails. The joy will always be at the end of the waiting.

Since this post is WAY overdue, I guess I should update my faithful followers (assuming you’ve been more patient with me that I would have been) on what I’m doing with my time of Advent.

Currently, I am still living in New Orleans, in half of a double shotgun house (click here for a concept picture) with two girls from Washington state. My new address is:

514 N Rendon St

New Orleans, LA 70119 (I still love getting mail)

And I’m working full-time at Southern Candymakers, a local candy company located in the French Quarter! They make the best pralines in the city, and I get to eat as much as I want! (I have also started biking to work because they let me eat as much as I want)

That’s the basics of my current life, I’d love to go further if you’re interested, but I think that’s all I have for the blogosphere!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Do you Agape me?

A long and overdue post inspired by SHYC 2011:

I have been meaning to write this post for some time now and haven’t been able to put the full time into it. So today, instead of cleaning my room, I’m finally sitting down to flush out some scripture.

Key Terms for this blog post:

Phileo: Greek word, means to have affection (sentiment, passion or feeling) for. A fondness based in the heart. What the Greeks meant by Phileo love is what we normally think of the words "brotherly love" meaning today.

Agape: Greek word, means the highest form of love. Most closely related to unconditional love. It loves when all other types of love quit, and cares when there is no apparent reason to care.

John 21: 15-17

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep."

We know this passage come after Peter’s betrayal of Jesus that led to His death, and Jesus has come back to restore Peter. What our English translation does not tell us is that the first two times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, He is asking about agape love. Jesus is yearning for Peter to give Him the full, overpowering, and unconditional agape that Jesus has already given him. Each of these times, Peter answers Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I you.” Peter cannot give Jesus the agape love He is asking for, but offers Him a phileo love.

This made me think about my current faith. I’ve have been struggling with how tragedy deals with faith. I can’t say that I’ve lost my faith, it is very much there and still a part of who I am and how I live my life, but my personal connection with God seems to have reached a roadblock. You could say that I just don’t know what to say to God right now. It is something that shakes me to my core. I have never been in a place where I couldn’t even talk to God about what was going on in my life. Even when I felt completely lost, I’ve always been able to pray with my whole heart. I can really relate to Peter on this one. I feel like God is tugging at me for my agape, but right now, all I can give is phileo.

When Jesus asks Peter the 3rd time, “Do you love me?” He sees the desire in Peter’s eyes to be able to say yes to Jesus’ love, but Jesus also sees his brokenness and that phileo is all that he can give, so when Jesus asks Peter the third time, He asks, “ Do you phileo me?”

This hit me. Jesus will always be asking, “Do you agape me?” He will constantly be striving for our full and unconditional love, but Jesus also knows our minds and our hearts inside and out. He knows when we are not capable of giving it all, so He asks Peter to give all that He is able.

The Bible says Peter is hurt by this, and when looking at the Greek, I see that it is for a different reason than I had previously thought. Peter is not upset because Jesus continues to ask him the same question, but that Jesus has searched his heart and knows what Peter is capable of.

I feel frustrated like Peter. I imagine he is stuck in the same boat. He has his faith, he believes Jesus is Lord and all of the things he has seen over his journey with Christ, but something about the recent events of his life have put up a roadblock between him and God. I know what God is asking of me, to love with my whole heart, unconditionally and without reservation, but, like Peter, all I can give right now is phileo. It is comforting to know that Jesus will always be pursuing that agape love from me, but knows my heart and understands what I am truly able to give.

Last weekend, the YAVs went on a retreat to Poplarville, MS (it’s as small as it sounds). We are currently spending some time on discernment, something that has been very hard for me to put my heart into these past couple of months. I have been really struggling with my motivation and find myself getting frustrated with why I can’t seem to throw myself into the discernment process. It has made me feel like I’m letting down my community or somehow not contributing as much as the others who are really getting something out of this process, but through a conversation with Janet, our discernment/spiritual advisor for the weekend, I was reminded of the lesson I learned back in January about Peter.

I need to be okay with giving what I can.

I will always be frustrated when I don’t live up to the expectations I set for myself, but I am comforted to know that God will not ask me to give more than I have.

And now for some pictures:

The whole group at our retreat! I forgot what our motivation for this picture was.

Janet, Katie, and I during a photo shoot!

Our beautiful retreat site!

Credits for this post go to: Dr. Cynthia Rigby, SHYC 2011 Keynote speaker, and www.blueletterbible.com (thanks for always having a great concordance!)

Monday, January 17, 2011

At It Again

After a 2 1/2 hiatus, I have decided to give this running thing another shot. I still don't actually like exercising, but it does come with two major benefits (1) I don't feel quite as lazy (2) I can eat whatever I want because I'm always craving food!

This time I decided that a normal 5k was SO last year, so I have signed up to compete in the Louisiana Warrior Dash on March 5. Two potential hiccups in this race (1) It's the Saturday before Mardi Gras, but hopefully our early wave time of 9 am will get us back in time for the parades of the day (2) It's the freakin Warrior Dash.

For those of you who have not heard about this race, it is a 5k that includes 13 obstacles of different ridiculousness, ranging from Jungle Running (a traditional summer camp activity) to crawling through a mud pit and jumping over fire. Find out more by visiting their website.

"But Lauren," you might say, "Why in the world are you doing this?" You ask a very fantastic question. I'm really into lists today, so (1) It kinda sounds fun to get ridunkulously messy (2) To challenge myself in a new way.

The training for this race will consist of the running I did for my previous race with some cross training to strengthen my arms and core for the other obstacles involved in the race. I have officially done 2 of these workouts, and I feel like I might die. I'm so sore from core exercises that it hurts to laugh, and I had trouble folding my laundry because my arms were tired. Also, I have absolutely no idea how to cross train, so if anyone has any advice I could really use your help!

Improvements in training from the last race: (1) I don't start work until 2pm, so I don't have to get up SUPER early to run (2) It is no longer 78256 degrees in New Orleans, so I still don't have to wake up SUPER early to run!

Some pictures I found when I googled 'Warrior Dash'

Crawling through a mud pit

Apparently the water 'isn't that deep' meaning 3-4 ft deep. I'm 5'1.

Jumping over fire to the finish line.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Difference. It is what makes us a creation. God's breath in each of us makes us different. In Henri Nowen's view, it's what makes us the beloved, so why is it that difference is the source of tension among children of God? I ask this question after 3 months in a city full of difference, a house full of uniqueness, and a job where each week I am presented with a new set of volunteers who come with a new set of preconceived notions about what their week will entail.
Our house is currently reading 'The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace.' I find some of the stories interesting, but one thing really stuck out to me recently. Scott Peck writes about the difference in a community he was a part of, saying "I had not known before that it was possible for a group of people to acknowledge their differences, set them aside, and still love each other." I couldn't help but to stop and reflect on this. What does it mean for a community to set aside their differences? What would that look like? I have to disagree with Peck on this because I feel that the differences are not what stops a community from loving but should be what motivates it. Difference should not be something that needs to be set aside and ignored for the purpose of the greater whole. I argue that difference should be embraced and held close. Our differences should be what motivated us to love one another. My closest friends are the ones who recognize the ways we are different and incorporate that into our relationship. I am not loved in spite of my differences, I am loved because of them. That is what makes my community whole.
I'm not saying this is easy in any way. I am constantly frustrated with the ways I am different from others and how that affects our relationship. In times of frustration, I try to remind myself that the things I love most about myself may frustrate other people, but also that those things I find frustrating about other people might be the one thing thaey cherish about themselves. This is a hard realization to come to and even harder to live out.
Community in its deepest sense is love others for the way in which God has made them special which can only happen once you love yourself for the differences God has given you. Cut what's the point? Why does real community even matter? Peck writes "Simply seek happiness, and you are not likely to find it. Seek to create and love without regard to your happiness, and you will likely be happy much of the time. Seeking joy in and of itself will not bring it to you. Do the work of creating community, and you will obtain it- although never exactly according to your schedule. Joy is an uncaptured yet utterly predictable side effect of genuine community."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sitting in the Driver's Seat... My First 5k!

After 8 long weeks of waking up 3 times a week to exercise, the day has finally come for my first 5K!

The week started off normal, I planned out my running schedule for the week and made sure that I only drank water and didn’t pig out on bad food for me.

On Thursday morning, I got up to go running, feeling a little off, but went anyway. After only half of what I wanted to run that morning, I had to stop. I just wasn’t feeling up to it, and I was so disappointed in myself for not being finishing my goal on the run before the actual race. A few hours after my run, I got really sick, and wasn’t able to hold down any food the whole day. It was so miserable! I was convinced that I wouldn’t complete my goal. I woke up Friday morning feeling no nausea, but completely empty because I had not eaten food in so long. So I started the process of replenishing my fluids and eating solid foods. I was still convinced that I wouldn’t be able to finish my race, but that I would get as far as I could.

I had trouble falling asleep on Friday 1) because the Ranger game wasn’t over yet and I wanted to see if they won (p.s WORLD SERIES!!!!! HOORAY!!!!!) and 2) because I was anxious about my race. I woke up a full hour before my alarm, but decided to just get up and get ready and take more time to stretch ad watch an episode of Gilmore Girls (the Dance Marathon episode that marks the beginning of Rory and Jess aka my favorite episode ever!) and after it ended I headed over to the race.

It was mass chaos when I got there! There were so many people and so many booths, and I finally got to the registration, grabbed my number, and found the starting line. It seemed like the entire city was there to run in a small street. There was no way I would have any room to move, let alone run. As they blew to horn to begin the mass of people began to run. People were passing other people in the tight clump, but eventually I was free to run at my own pace. I will admit that I was expecting to be motivated by race day, but in all actuality there were way too many people to feel comfortable running at my own pace. I have spent the last 8 weeks running in solitude with my IPod and that’s it, and all of a sudden there other people were interrupting my thoughts and running pace. It was a hot morning and about 2 hours later than I am used to running, but I kept going. About half way through the race, I was beginning to get really hot and tired mentally but noticed that my legs were doing just fine at the pace I was going. I made a mental note that if I could do the first half, I could certainly do the second.

As I crossed the finish line and saw my time (33:33!!) I was so excited!! I was shooting for somewhere between 30 and 45, so I was so excited to see it so close to 30!! I was so proud of my accomplishment and what I had done, and then I found out that I finished in the first 1,000 people and I GOT A MEDAL!!!! For those of you who know my history with anything athletic, you know that I have never really been very good at it. I have earned a total of 2 trophies in my life. The first was for a pinewood derby competition, and it was for the “Frilliest Car” because mine was pink sparkly with a Babie on it, and the second was the “Good Sportsmanship” trophy for my 3rd grade basketball team (we never won a single game). So basically, I have never actually earned an award for my outstanding athletic accomplishments. For other people, this may not be that big of a thing, but I now have a physical representation of what my dedication can accomplish. I didn’t just finish the 5k, I earned a medal!

This whole experience has taught me so much about myself and what I can do. People will disappoint you, the world will throw things at you, and things will always go wrong, but I know that I can set a goal for myself and accomplish it. I was the one getting myself out of bed to run in the morning, I was the one who pushed myself to accomplish something. As my life tumbles in different directions, and outside influences continue to throw me curve balls, it is good to know that I am still in the driver’s seat, and the goals I set for myself can be accomplished.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Familiar

As I sit here in Tulsa, OK I am flooded with 4 years of memories. Yesterday, I spent the day in Dallas. It was weird to think that I've been away for 2 months and been able to put away the thoughts of my empty house, and the memories that lie within it. 15 years of my life have been lived in that house with my family. I've spent so much of the last two months trying to force thoughts of my house, my home, away. I've been focusing on my new house and the responsibilities I have in my new life.

As the plane came into Dallas, I saw the familiar cityscape that I love so much. The Dallas skyline will always have that affect on me, but as I started thinking about all of the other times I've flown home and seen the light bouncing off of those buildings, I remembered that this one would be different. My home is different. After a wonderful day with my aunt and brother, I was reminded again of why my home is so important. People have this obsession with not holding on to material possessions, but as I walk through the empty rooms of my home, those possessions are what give me peace. They inspire my memories and connect me with a time that is no longer here. Being at home reminded me of all the people that I am serving this year and that some of this lost every material possession they had, and they have learned to live their memories through another avenue. I, on the other hand, have only these possession to unlock the memories of my life.
At the end of the day in Dallas, I headed to the airport and began the second phase of my journey back to the familiar. As my plane came into Tulsa I was hit with a different kind of excitement. The excitement of seeing my friends in Tulsa and the familiar campus where I did so much growing up throughout my 4 years here. I think back to my first day on campus and how I felt, how excited I was to finally be in college, and how adult I felt about living on my own so far from home.

This morning I got up to run and about 5 minutes in, I stopped and began to walk and look around the campus that I called home for 4 years. So many things have been built since I began my time here, but so many other things remain the same. The familiar buildings and trees brought my mind to all of the things I've done here, the people I've met, the events in my life that led me to who I am today. As I continue my journey through the unknown in New Orleans, I am comforted by the thought of my freshman year at Tulsa. Everything was so unfamiliar, I missed home, and I missed the things that kept me grounded. I missed the familiar. Those feeling of my freshman self were, over the course of 4 years, changed into the beautiful memories of my college experience. So, when I feel as though I will never belong in New Orleans, that people will never fully accept my sometimes-hard-to-handle personality, I am reminded that this is not the first time I've started over.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Working with my Own Two Hands

***So I originally wrote this blog post a week ago, and intended to take pictures off of my camera to add to this post. Alas, life is life, so that didn't happen, so I'll add what is necessary and promise a picture post sometime soon!

I have officially had my first week of volunteers!! It was so wonderful to finally get started on when I’m here for. Before the week began I was tired and frustrated with the lack of work I had been able to do and the frustrations that come with being an organization in transition. Basically, I am learning the ropes of the village for the next couple of weeks under the direction of two PDA volunteers until November when Project Homecoming (whom my position is with) will fully take over. This basically means that all of the things that I’m excited to get started on won’t really kick off until November, so I’ll be waiting just a little longer to fully jump in.

That aside, I still had a GREAT week! We had two groups from North Carolina (Charlotte and Carry) and one group from Frankford, KY. I got to visit all but one group (they went on a recovery tour when I went by) at their work sites, and even got o participate in the work on the house! I am going to keep up with how many different activities involved with construction I learn over the next year, so here begins my list (I've also included the name of the street of the house I was working on):

Tuesday, October 5 (Rampart)

Scraped paint

Washed windows

Crawled under a house with a 6x6 beam

Wednesday, October 6 (Clouet)

Laid tile

Made Thin Set

Thursday, October 7 (Clouet)

Measured and cut tile for a bathroom

I hope this list will continue to grow as I will really be working toward visiting all of the volunteers throughout the week!

I also went to my very first home dedication! It was so great to hear her story of how she was able to come back to her home, and it was so beautiful! Below are some pictures of the week!


Monday, October 11 (Spain and Cartier)

Removed a square out of the back of a cabinet so we could pull it out from the wall without disturbing the plumbing. Used a power drill with a paddle drill bit and a jigsaw (not the puzzle kind)

Wall-tiled a little (really, only one tile, but I'm learning!)

Tuesday, October 12 (Cartier and Gallier)

Wood putty-ed

Primed a window sill

Wednesday, October 13 (Clouet)

Learned how to grout a tiled floor

Ran buckets of water for the volunteers tiling

Thursday, October 14 (Rampart)

Sanded down wood putty

Touched up primer on top of the woodputty

I have to say that this house is kinda my favorite. The house was donated to Project Homecoming as a blighted house (abandoned, unlivable, an eye sore, etc). So, instead of having a home owner from the beginning, we have the opportunity to fix up this old house and sell it to a new homeowner that would not have otherwise been able to afford a home of their own. My favorite part of this house is the history that is locked deep in the walls that used to stand in this house. I do have a couple of picture of this house form a previous outing to show you what I mean.

Every time I come to this house, I begin to daydream about the family that lived here. I imagine children playing throughout the house and outside in the neighborhood.

I imagine birthday parties, holidays, and all the celebrations that this city's culture values. I love the interactions that I have with the homeowners of the other houses, but something about this house is different. This house represents a brand new chapter and a brand new home for someone with new sites and neighbors and memories. I can relate to that.