Houston: Week 1

*I originally wrote this as a letter to a friend and mentor, but it felt like a good update and post, so I'm adding it here. 

I have officially been employed for one whole week. :)

The office staff is small, five employees, but we have a staff of over 20 coaches and reach over 4000 kids. My job is primarily customer service, but will grow to cover all communication that leaves the office, from monthly email updates to newsletters. When my boss was hiring me, he said that he really liked that I was an English major. Take that disapproving English major parents. (Not mine, of course) 

I am so incredibly thankful to be employed, but I am mostly just homesick. It is such a strange feeling, so emotional and physical all at the same time. A pressure in my chest. 

I know it will pass, it always does, but it is hard while it lasts. I keep thinking about Brooklyn, and Eilis, and being thankful that my parents are just a short drive away. I'll see them next month, not next year. 

But it also has me thinking how special LCU is, and how rare. I had the privilege to not only work with people I admired and was encouraged by, but also to spend time with co-workers who morphed into life-long friends. Those type of friendships don't come along very often. 

Tyler is busy, working 15 hour days, so I am keeping as busy as I can. Taking walks at the lakes near our apartment, going to fitness classes at our gym, and watching Jane the Virgin on Netflix. I'm completely sucked in. Mostly I'm just focused on surviving, the day-in and day-out of it. 

But I have brunch with a friend this weekend, and we've found a church we absolutely love. One week at a time. 

An Update

In March, I stepped back from writing.

It was subconscious at first, weeks that passed without notice.

I have this tendency to ignore incomplete things, like emails unanswered or projects unfinished. It's like responding or finishing draws attention to the fact that I failed, that I didn't finish in a responsible or timely manner. So I ignore it.

That's what I did here. I didn't want to draw attention to the fact that I didn't reach my lofty 52 essays goal, so I ignored it. When people asked, I mumbled something about "the busyness of the season" or "work is just so crazy right now."

The truth is, something big and overwhelming happened in my life. Something personal and private, and it consumed me. I didn't have the emotional stamina to write my feelings or thoughts, because those thoughts had become a slave to something bigger.

In January, I started meeting weekly with a physical therapist to address an issue that has bothered me for the past three years. It took me a whole year just to admit I had a problem.

There is something so frustrating about a body that won't work the way it should, the way you think it should. I spent a lot of time angry at God, feeling like I had been dealt an unfair hand.

"I did everything right!" I said.

So I continued my weekly therapy visits, worked my home therapy every night. And I stewed in it.
I stewed in the unfairness of it, the time it was costing me, the financial expense, all of it.

And then one night, I was standing in the shower, lamenting my normal lament, and I felt God say to me, "Lauren. It was never about you. It was always about me."

. . .

Once I realized my error, I become so aware of what was happening: a raise to cover the extra medical costs, a physical therapist who is a leading expert in the field - but also an amazing Christian mentor who looked at me and said, "Me too," and emotional turmoil that God slowly began to churn into spiritual maturity.

It was never about me, but I had let this problem define me. It rocked me to the core. I let it become the thing I was most ashamed about, instead of something that pointed directly to grace.

. . .

I read a wonderful post this week by Nancy Ray - words of encouragement on not meeting your goals. I have this tendency to look back on my past and see big marks of failure - not finishing my 52 essays goal, needing therapy, etc.

And I know that pattern of behavior is wrong. I'm working on this.

So I'm back today because I'm ready to address this. I miss writing. I'm ready to draw attention to the fact that I didn't finish something, as uncomfortable as it feels.

I don't have a plan. I don't have a bold statement. But I am ready to write again.

Essay 13 of 52: Talent

So this was pretty cool.

I keep clicking on that link - like it might have gone away over night. Seeing my own work on someone else's site is totally surreal.

My mom asked me a few months ago if writing was hard. It is. I think anyone who dabbles with writing, any type of writing, will say that it takes real effort. It takes action and dedication. If anything else - it means saying no to a million other choices and saying yes to writing.

But if writing is hard, the self-promotion is excruciating. I know this isn't the case for everyone. But it is so the case for me. I've been writing in journals and turning in essays for years. But never inviting anyone to read it. Always for pleasure or grades.

I have a co-worker that is an excellent cook. She makes the most delicious cookies, green chile wontons, and cheesecake. Whenever she brings treats to the office, we are thrilled. We gather around the conference table like hyenas at a carcass. I can see the pride and pleasure on her face. She made something for us to enjoy and I love it when she shares her talents with us.

Shouldn't it be that way with all the talents?

Elise Cripe talks a LOT about creative work, but has mentioned over and over again in her podcast the importance of self promotion. If no one knows about it, how will anyone know about it? I LOVE it when my favorite creatives clue me in on what they've been working on. I love peeks into others work spaces, new blog posts and Instagram photos. But each time I go to promote my own work - I feel so inadequate.


Because instead of being proud of my own work, I'm just comparing it to everything in sight, like trying to match swatches at a fabric store. I've lost the focus of what I'm doing and moved towards how it stacks up with what everyone else is doing. Sharing work is vulnerable and I so desperately want to be good. For someone else to think what I do, what I make, and what I write -- is good.

Another one of my favorite bloggers, Hannah, recently wrote a post that ties quite nicely with these thoughts on inadequacy. She said, "Shouldn’t we be a society that tries to be aware of what beauty is, and how to recognize and cultivate it? I’ve been thinking about those questions lately, and I decided to take stock of what actually makes me feel beautiful."

I want to start taking stock of what makes me feel talented. And fulfilled. And here's the most important part - not dependent of other people's thoughts of my work.

I feel fulfilled when I hit publish on a post. When the words mean something to me. When they aren't the easiest to write, but sound so real when I'm done.

But mostly, I fill fulfilled when I work. When I do something hard, nose to the grind. When I write because I need to, not because I want to. When I look up and see a finished product, or an item crossed off the list, even though I wanted to blow two hours on Netflix instead.

That's what this project, this 52 Essays was all about - writing when I didn't want to and getting somewhere I want to be.  Not comparing or contrasting my tiny body of work to someone else.

So this is me, fingers on the keyboard, pumping out another week.

Essay 12 of 52: Rest

It's a snow day today.

Classes are cancelled. Work is cancelled. Practice is cancelled and all I can see is white. Snow is such a balm to this mountain girl's heart. I grew up in the woods of New Mexico. I grew up with no backyard boundaries and pine trees and snow on Easter Sunday. And there is nothing more comforting, more peaceful, more home, than snow.

I love snow days because they feel more like a pause than anything else. I might play catch up a bit, but more than likely, I am completely lazy. Staying in bed until noon, making pancakes, watching movies and baking cookies. The world stops for a moment and there is no guilt. That's the golden part - no guilt.

I pride myself on being someone who says "No" really well. For the most part, I don't over-commit myself. I'm social, but I have a very close circle of friends, most of whom live far away. My days are quiet and habitual. But am I allowing myself to fully rest?

A few weeks ago, I read something by Jess Connolly that really stuck with me. She said, "Rest means we stop trying to make ourselves well and let Him make us well."

It stuck with me.

For a long time I thought an empty calendar equaled a restful life. That is not the case.  Resting doesn't always mean being still and being still doesn't always mean resting. What are my thoughts? What am I focusing on?

And this is where my One Little Word comes into play again - Release.

Releasing, for me, is true rest. It is releasing myself from the guilt of a quiet afternoon when chores could be done. When dishes sit in the sink, crusty and old from last night. When I actively choose to share my heart with the Lord, instead of mentally redecorating my house. When I release myself into Him, I find real rest. The moment is actually physical. I feel myself literally loosen - like I've been holding my breath, holding my burden.

This weather, this calm, is such a good reminder to let myself rest. True rest. Not just binging on Netflix for hours, but connecting myself to truth. To release.

You know what's funny? This post was supposed to be about work. How writing is work and you have to push through and work when you don't feel like it and how work is ..... you know. But as I waited for my computer to load, I looked out the window. At snow. And I remembered how the working comes easily to me. But the resting? That is my true work.

Essay 11 of 52: teaching, but not a teacher

Yesterday, a few of us at work were sitting around chatting. I love that kind of stuff. I was talking to one of our newer co-workers who I don't know very well. I find her fascinating because I can tell she has LIVED. You know what I mean? She's taken chances and moved across the country and seen things and had important jobs. She seems like she has so much hiding under the surface and -- I respect her.

So we're talking back and forth and in the middle of our chat, she looks at me and says, "Have you ever thought about teaching? I think you would be a great teacher."

My initial reaction was delight. I love compliments. Verbal affirmation all the way.

My second reaction was disappointment.

I don't want to be a teacher. I tried subbing and I hated it. (Yes, I realize that subbing isn't actually teaching, but I still got a pretty good grasp on the life of a teacher.) My sister's a teacher and I see how tired she is, how the bad attitudes and the constant struggle of discipline weigh on her.

What a bummer to be good at something I don't really want to do.

A few hours later I'm at home, curling my hair for date night, when it hits me: I'm already a teacher. Since when was the classroom the only place teaching occurs? I love teaching, I'm good at it, and I'm already doing it.

I've taught Zumba, an experience that I loved. But I hope that when I was showing dance moves, that I was also teaching girls how to be sexy - no matter their size. I hope I was teaching confidence and security. I hope I was teaching that exercising is fun and doesn't always start with running five laps on a track.

I've been a camp counselor for fourth graders all the way to teenagers. I played volleyball and tether ball and four-square. I made countless friendship bracelets and listened to Taylor Swift for hours on end. But I hope that when I was with my sweet campers, I was teaching them too - how to be happy with their body, how to talk to peers, how to dance with abandon. I hope they listened when I shared my past hurts, struggles, and victories.

I was a youth intern too, the last two summers of my college years. I took girls to breakfast and played Catch Phrase and went repelling. We went to midnight premiers and on mission trips and hiked 14ers. But I was teaching them too. I hope I taught them the importance of prayer, of faith, of a personal relationship with Christ. I hope I taught them to laugh and cry and that as women, they are enough. Not too much, enough

But there is so much I still want to teach.

I want to teach my children. I want to show them how to be thoughtful, imaginative, and faithful. I want to encourage my babies to be thankful, be thinkers, and most importantly - to be themselves while allowing God to slowly refine them into the people He wants them to be. I know I will be teaching them regardless, but I want my example to be a good one.

I want to teach Sunday-school. I want to meet those middle-school girls right where they are and be honest. I want to watch movies with them and go running and be silly. I want them to know that middle school is survivable. I did it! I made it through. I want to teach toddlers and third-graders. I want to build on the foundation their parents have forged.

I want to teach young wives how to cook. How to prepare healthy foods for their family and husband. I was blessed to have a mom that taught me, but I know that's not always the case. I want to welcome them into my home and my marriage and let them see reality, but also see grace.

I want to teach women about Jesus, about being sinners and needing grace. I want to model encouragement and I want to really listen when they speak. I want to help women learn more about the Bible, how to study and what to read and how to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying. I want to teach by writing, but I also want to teach by doing and being - there in the moment. 

But mostly, I want to teach these things because I want to be these things.
Who said a true vocation requires a paycheck?

Essay 10 of 52: Ugly

Can I be honest?

Sometimes marriage brings out the worst in me. Sometimes I am selfish and bitter and fickle.
And I hate that.

Typically, when I'm writing my weekly essay, the subject comes easy. I write about thoughts I've had, conversations that have taken place, what God has been teaching me. It is comforting to take the running ticker-tape in my head and let it move through my fingers - recording that week. That moment.

But this week, as I sat down to write, all I could see in myself was the ugly.
It had been a rough week.

Writing about the ugly and the everyday is very hard. It's hard to admit to yourself who you really are - how low you can stoop, how loud you can get in an argument. Every time I thought about sitting down to write, I didn't want to sit face-to-face with my demons.

Tyler and I were talking at dinner the other night about Jesus. I've been reading through the book of Mark this month and I confessed to Tyler how much I struggle with reading through the Gospels. I know that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are filled with incredible stories of Jesus, fulfillment of old prophecy, and the ultimate love story. But sometimes, all I see is how far behind I am. How much I am lacking. I see my own failure.

And that's not very much fun to read, is it? I do so much better with Psalms. David gets me, y'all. But Jesus? I can never add up. Ever.

But it isn't until I'm immersed in my own failure that I can really see grace. How desperately I need it. How hopeless I am without it.

Yes, marriage brings out the my worst, but our marriage is also refining me. Scrapping away the yuck to reveal something Holy. Something beautiful. So I'm praying that I keep seeing the ugly. But that beyond that, I see what covers me. I see Jesus.

Essay 9 of 52: Sleeping Arrangements

Tyler is back in the thick of school and that means something significant - We don't go to bed at the same time anymore.

You might be single, or an "old" married couple and think this is no big deal.
But it is to me. 

Last night as Tyler and I were brushing our teeth, it struck me how much these small moments mean to me. The standing side-by-side as we take out our contacts. Walking through the house, turning off lamps and putting up shoes. Pulling back the covers and turning on the ceiling fan. All these seemingly insignificant moments have grown into something habitual and sacred. So when Tyler is up studying for a test and I'm standing in front of the bathroom mirror alone, it is one of the loneliest feelings.

There's something about pillow talk, isn't there? Just like gathering around the table for dinner, I never know if our bedtime conversation is going to be a quick set of back and forth comments, slowing moving into grunts, or if forty-five minutes later I'll be exclaiming at the time. There is a bit of magic in the surprise of it, the closeness of it. Out of all the countless things Tyler and I do together, getting into bed at the same time has to be at the top of my favorites list.

In July, Tyler will be leaving for an 8-week internship in the Washington D.C. area. My mind is over the moon about this opportunity. This is a highly competitive spot and I am bursting with pride and excitement about what this job will do for our future, for the doors that God has been opening and reaffirming. But my heart is aching.

The loneliness I feel now, when Tyler is studying two rooms over, will be nothing compared to this summer. I know that those eight weeks will be some of the hardest and longest weeks in our marriage. But I also know that we've survived worse. We've been separated by an ocean, a fifteen hour time difference, and months and months of time. And we made it. We're here.

So I will keep relishing these small moments, the quiet day-in-and-day-out of our routines. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one and tonight will be blessedly homework free.