The “UNPACKING” Series – Video Finale

Check out the video summation of The “UNPACKING” Series now!

Lauren

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When You’re Given Directives…[[The “Unpacking” Series – Part 3 

One of the clear ways that God speaks to me is thru writing. So He often leads me back to past journal entries and blog posts so I can re-read.
I was rereading part 2 of this series and God pointed out a piece of it to me:


“…often times my ideas of how things should happen, overrides His simple directives.”
But what is a “directive” exactly?

Let’s break it down…
So I took a little stroll over to my handy dandy dictionary app and the 2nd definition really hit me. Like, REALLY hit me – jumped off the screen and smacked me in the face -hit me. It said:

I interpreted this as, God acts as our psychologist. When things get bad enough, we humble ourselves to talk (or pray) to Him for help. We tell Him what we know and we wait for His advice back – like a counselor.

But what this definition pointed out to me, is that the counselor doesn’t just listen and take the information I’ve been able to relay, but the counselor actively offers advice outside of the details and info I give!

I want y’all to understand why this was such a juicy find for me – I can cry and whine to The Father with the details of my situation, yet God gives me answers NOT confined to the knowledge that I know.

Not only does this blow my mind but it also makes me marvel at how omniscient He is!

Despite how serious and how overwhelming a situation may feel, God supplies the right answer to ALL the things we bring before Him. He is not limited by the amount of information we give on a situation to tell us what The real and right answer is right NOW in our lives!

Listen to His D I R E C T I V E S !!!

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So The Lord and I have been talking about my need to NOT override his simple directives (commands) with what I think things should be. So this verse literally tells me not only to submit to His right answer, but also to commit and follow His commands by reminding myself of them everywhere I go so I don’t forget!
And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” -‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭6:6-7‬

So what commands or directives did The Lord speak over my life?

Well, I got the following:

POUR OUT

Stop withholding doing and saying that which needs to be said & done because I’m unsure of the answer The Lord has given me. Just let it out and submit and commit to The Lord’s answer to my life.
SUBMIT & COMMIT TO HIS ANSWERS

Often times how I think things should go causes me to put my hopes on what I’ve imagined. It’s ok to imagine, but when God has given me His answer, I need to flee from my own way of thinking and align myself with His thoughts and be flexible in that way.
EXAMINE MY OWN ACTIONS

Many times I find myself so worried about the next person, that I fail to seek guidance on what Lauren is doing and should be doing. I must examine my own actions and do what I’m prompted to do instead of critiquing my neighbors.

These are now the screensaver for my phone because I need to remind myself constantly of what it is I need to do! Because you know how it is…sometimes we forget things that we’re just taught…

When I want to hold back, I’m reminded I need to simply let things flow out as God needs me to without holding back!
When I’m stuck in the midst of my plans and how I want things to go, I’m reminded to RELINQUISH what I think, and submit to God’s right answer for me [[“We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer.” -‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:1‬]]

When I’m bothered by others actions and planning and agonizing on what I think they should do, I’m reminded to look in the mirror and assess what it is I’M doing and ask God what it is He needs me to to do right then.

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My prayer during this UNPACKING series has been for God to literally wreck me from the inside out. So much of growing into yourself is not only opening boxes and learning all the contents of those boxes, but it’s also getting rid of, cleaning out and adjusting all the contents too.

Let’s keep unpacking yall! ❤

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Should Unpacking Get Messy?? [The “Unpacking” Series – Part 2]

I am so tickled right now.

When God gives you opportunities to laugh with Him, please DO IT!

This deep belly laugh growing in my spirit is nearly bringing me to tears.

They say “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans” – I have my issues with that saying, but in my situation today, it really is proving true.

Like, have you ever just laughed at how ridiculous someone is?

Well…today’s knee-slapper is my own ridiculousness.

I’m over here shifting and planning and moving and shaking and holding up progress because I’m convinced this particular “thing” has to happen in a certain way, but God just stops me and is like “Really…Really Lauren…this is what we’re doing now??” (and He said it in his Kevin Hart voice lol jk 😂

Like seriously, we can be given the simplest of instructions, but yet we still make them complicated.

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I know I find ways to make things complex, all the time and I’ve been doing the same with this “UNPACKING” thing. I still hold this deep underlying need to plan everything out. So for instance, before I unpack these boxes, I have to have a plan for where everything goes. So I’ve been browsing other people’s lives like Pinterest boards – trying to see what to re-pin, like and recreate. But can I tell you a secret?

“If you’ve been given a simple directive, JUST DO THAT!”

Because of my struggles with perfectionism and my want to plan, I feel this need to “prepare” before I do all this unpacking of Lauren. The funny thing is, I have no idea what I’m going to find out about myself as I unpack, yet I’m looking for how to organize it. Does that make any sense to you? Yeah, me neither! That’s why I’m not going to do that anymore!

Life isn’t as simple as a thumb-swipe, a like and a re-pin. We don’t just incessantly scroll thru pictures and ideas and plan our lives. There’s nothing wrong with admiring other peoples’ great ideas/gifts/talents/etc., but there is certainly a time and a place for it. And my ability to look into others “lives” to help plan mine, is not helpful. In fact, it’s quite misplaced.

Additionally, there’s nothing wrong with planning. But again, there’s a time and a place for it  and in my case, I’m just stalling because I’m afraid of what all I’m going to find out. 😔

If I’ve yet to unpack my own boxes and understand what all Lauren is made of, why would I be trying to decorate her like someone else’s place when she is her OWN place?!?

(I’ll wait…)

The idea of dressing Lauren up as someone else is ludicrous, right?

God never told me I needed to go on “Pinterest” and make these excessive boards full of ideas. He simply told me to UNPACK, but often times my ideas of how things should happen, overrides His simple directives.

My need to control situations does not change the fact that God still holds my life in His hands. So whether I delay it by putting my own thoughts and ideas on a matter or not, God still waits for us to position ourselves how He told us to.

So…

I began unpacking one of my first boxes over the last week…

And there’s so much freedom and joy in my spirit because of it! No, I don’t have any extravagant plans of where I’m going to put what I’ve unpacked, but just having them out in the open is freeing enough (who would’ve thunk it?)!!

Despite popular belief, UNPACKING doesn’t have to be this super organized and detailed process. In fact, it is likely to get a little messy.

But can I help free you?

LIFE IS MESSY – it’s full and its lively!

When we allow God to “organize” the mess that the contents of all our boxes create, we open ourselves up to divine plans that only He can set for us.

I’ll admit – saying that is one thing, but actually allowing God to do that, is another. I’m still in the “understanding” portion of all that, but I believe…YES (day by day, it is a task), but I believe.

It’s time to get messy.

-Lauren Still Relinquishing ❤

*Read Part 1 in The “Unpacking” Series here!

Where are you looking during the race?

“…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I feel like God keeps reminding me to RUN THE RACE WITH ENDURANCE yet I keep stopping and complaining that I can’t for one reason or another…

Yet in reading this, not only are we given a task to run the race, but we’re given instruction on how to do so! It says “DO THIS BY KEEPING YOUR EYES ON JESUS” – like hello! Instruction is right there! Why do you continue to whine and groan and wallow in YOUR mess while you continue to not focus on Jesus? It says very clearly that when our eyes are not on ourselves, but on Jesus- the perfecter of our faith, that we will indeed endure our “race”.

So I don’t know about you, but today, I’m making a SERIOUS effort to look toward Jesus and not focus on myself as I get through this test. And I have to be super intentional in my efforts so that not only is mine made up, but my attitude and behavior match!

So no matter what your “race” is, stay faithful with your eyes on Jesus today. He will help you endure and make it through. Keep pushing!

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:12-13‬

-Lauren ❤


Ps: When I read this verse this morning, God was like “how many verses are you going to read and NOT take the advice?” (Ouch). It’s one thing to read. It’s another things to listen and do what it says.

Be Committed or Just Forget It

Be Committed Or Forget It

Sooooooo…I got called out last night.

God pointed out very clearly that I haven’t been serious about several things in my life.

To be honest, it kind of hurt. I was convinced that I had been, but after several back and forth “No, don’t you remember when I did this…” I realized my arguing with God wasn’t going to get me anywhere. After all, He does know all…

One area He pointed out to me was my fitness goals. I started this 30 day diet/fast on June 18 – I needed some discipline in my life and I was TOO ready to shed a few pounds so I was feeling pretty good going into it – no beef, no pork, no fried foods, no desserts (my ice cream intake was ridiculous – borderline embarrassing so I’ll withhold those details for now lol). I wouldn’t say this diet has been crazy hard, maybe a few moments of frustration since it is cookout/bbq season and I can’t eat everything I want, but all in all, it hasn’t been too bad. I know very well that the weight loss battle is won in the kitchen. Many studies, blogs, fitness gurus and  fanatics have harped that weight loss is 80% diet and 20% workout. So I felt like I had the diet portion down, but I’ve seen little headway. I blame it mostly on my lack of motivation for that 20% part.

I actually enjoy working out, but your girl has been pretty lazy lately.  I shoot for 3-4 workouts a week and I’ve barely completed one a week!  For some reason my energy has been lower than usual so I tend to not take that extra effort to make it out on a jog around the neighborhood or park. To sum it up, I’d say that there are a lot of holes and flaws in my plan:

I have a serious goal, but no serious behavior to achieve that goal.

God made it very clear that although I’ve made up my mind that “this” is what I want to do, I haven’t also changed attitudes and behaviors to match the goal.

Not only have I lacked a matching behavior and attitude in my fitness goal, but also in some other personal goals like marriage. I’m totally serious about wanting to be married someday, but I haven’t been completely serious in all of the preparation period. Things get challenging and I tend to lose some steam at times and thus my motivation train moves a little slower (or not at all). However, marriage is serious and requires some serious commitment; therefore, I shouldn’t take the goal lightly, right?

 I think we all know the answer to that question. But my question now is – do we take bad habits used when trying to achieve “smaller” goals into our actions when trying to achieve “bigger” goals?

I ask because I’ve noticed a pattern in my own life. I would say my fitness goal is serious; however, I would probably put it on a lower level than my marriage goal. That’s not to say it’s less important, but my overall goal is to be healthy (no diabetes, no high cholesterol, no heart problems – those run in my family), but right now I’m trying get a clean 6 pack, toned arms and that super cool thigh muscle that sticks out lol – those are more for my own personal bragging rights. Yet I’ve noticed that the same way I seem to be unable to lose these extra pounds and make headway in my weight loss goal is the same way that I’ve made very little headway in my maturity and readiness for marriage.

I’ve made up my mind that I definitely want them, but my actions, behavior and attitudes are not on the same page as my mind.

So first things first – I need to revisit the goal; determine it is still a goal and put parameters in place so that my mind, heart and actions are on the same page –  I need every part of myself to be committed to seeing that goal come to fruition.

I’m learning that not only is being committed to a goal making up your mind daily and hourly for the mission at hand, but it is also doing the necessary things to reach that goal, which includes a lot of sacrificing.

I had to ask myself last night –

At what point are your actions actually going to match your words?

It’s not enough to simply profess your goal out loud or on paper (although that step is very important), you have to put the action behind those goals to bring them to life and thus fruition.

So now, I’m done with the games. I’m telling myself –

Either be committed or just forget it!

If you want it bad enough, you’ll put in all the work required to get it.

What point are you at?


Fun Note: This is totally a confession, but I wrote the blog post before this one, with someone else in mind. I got kind of motivated to write it while hearing them making excuses. It’s funny that I was so busy judging them in that instance that I didn’t realize those words of advice were really for me. Oh the irony…

Check out the last blog post here!

Reaching Out in #LOVE

We may live in a fallen world and there may be a lot of fallen people around me, but my heart longs to help pick others up.

#LOVE

It hurts and sucks to be down and out and know that there is something more. It’s the worst feeling ever to run around chasing things that are fleeting only to end up on the ground wishing you weren’t still empty.

I can identify with all these things because I’ve been there. I’m no better than the next person and I’m so thankful that The Lord came for the lame. His love, His mercy and grace is so powerful and undeniably needed.

I’m grateful that others helped pick me up; That seeds were planted by their examples alone.

And having once been down and now up, I understand that He’s the only one who brings me peace. I want others to experience peace too

If there’s any way I can help, whether it be a listening ear, a warm embrace, a helping hand, etc., please let me know how I can help.

Love you.

Yes….YOU! ❤

Photos from Mission Trip to Cape Town South Africa!

Here’s a summary of my mission trip to Cape Town South Africa!

We stayed in Orchard Africa’s house during the mission. It was SO nice! I expected our accommodations to not be so nice, but they far exceeded my expectations. Not only that, but the food was plentiful! The food was good and the portions were so big! We were blessed to have a wonderful woman by the name of Michelle as our head caterer and she was wonderful in spirit and in that kitchen! lol

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Khayelitsha

We served in one of Cape Town’s largest slums called Khayelitsha which translates to “new home.” About 1.4 million black South African’s call it home. There you will find thousands of makeshift homes built right on top of each other and even a few brick and mortar homes. Shipping containers are used for businesses such as hair salons and bike repair. You’ll also see small stands with vendors selling food, used mattresses, and other miscellaneous items. You’ll see bus stops, braai (pronounce “brye”) stands (similar to barbecuing) and  porta potties shared by several families.You’ll see schools, churches, clinics, even a community building. Men, women, children young and old all call Khayelitsha home.

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Vacation Bible School

Orchard Africa partners with local churches and organizations in Khayelitsha and we did a Vacation Bible School at one of those churches. The building was not big enough to fit all of us in there so some kids play outside with our volunteers and some of us stay inside with the kids. That week we taught them about praying and talking to God whenever they need Him. Outside they did a variety of different activities like soccer (their favorite sport), face painting, jump rope, and even taught them tether ball!

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Abundya a.ka. Wiz (pronounced “weez”) after his favorite rapper Wiz Khalifa lol

Gardening

We had the opportunity to visit Masikhanye Food Garden! We came to help plant spinach & cabbage, little did I know it would be such a humbling experience. The garden didn’t host any brown soil to plant, only sand filled with years of garbage, broken concrete slabs & rocks. I couldn’t understand how anything grew in that ground, but as I looked around & we heard from the garden’s leader who everyone calls “Daddy,” I came to the conclusion that God, determination and faith yielded crops in that garden. Despite the circumstances, people like “Daddy” & others had faith that they could grow their own food and were determined to do so because people have to eat even when the money is lacking. And God blessed that land (that would otherwise be barren), to yield food for His people.

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Computer and Business Training

My team and I created a curriculum to teach adults computer and business knowledge. Many students had never used a computer before and did not know how to use a mouse. We were able educate them on basic computer knowledge, get them personal emails, show them how to use the internet to search for jobs and apply for jobs online. Other students were able to get valuable small business training so that they could create their own business in a place where there aren’t enough jobs. Many were already doing some aspect of small business but we were able to help them with marketing, business plans and one even left with business cards

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Orchard Africa Partnering Organization

We partnered with a phenomenal ministry called Orchard Africa. I was so inspired by their character and ministry. I’m not sure I knew humility until I met the couple who started this organization. Pastor Mike and Michelle simply want to do the work of The Lord and receive no praise for it – they just want those they serve to know that God loves and cares for them. Their ministry emphasizes the importance of developmental help and not just sending relief, which is often short term. They believe in empowering the community to see and make the changes needed by providing resources, training, awareness and ideas. All of the staff were great – wish I had pictures of everyone, but below are a few. I highly recommend those interested in taking a mission trip and/or donating, to check out Orchard Africa (http://new.orchardafrica.org/).

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Founders of Orchard Africa – Pastor Mike and Michelle
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Orchard Africa Pastor – Patrick Mokgosi
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Paul – Orchard Africa Staff Member

Mission Trip Crew & Cape Town

I went on the mission with a local church in the area. I didn’t know anyone except my friend Quiera and was a little nervous about traveling with 23 new people that I didn’t know. However, the way my God works…let’s just say He knows what He is doing! He is so amazing the way He linked and put all 25 of us together for this mission. I was so grateful to meet and get to know each and every person and I’m blessed to have some new friends and role models! 

Couldn’t be more grateful for the beautiful people I served, worked and traveled with and to top it all off, we got to do so in such a beautiful country! It was so amazingly beautiful and it was refreshing to breathe air and admire the sky in a different part of the world (I miss it).

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*Shout out to the professional photos taken by the one and only @NickSmith_poop (Instagram)*

Pick up the spork or starve. 

One of the awesome things about God is that He gives His children free will.

I just so happen to be at the point where that’s nice to know in theory, but I’m not sure how to act that out in reality.

Things were so simple when I first started allowing God to intervene in my life. I mean, I did make the choice to give my life to Him (which was pretty scary), but things were kind of black and white for me then. You know…real “yes” and “no” with little gray area.

But this afternoon, it became more clear than ever, that God is no longer babying me. Sure, I’m still His baby/His child, but I’m maturing and growing and that requires a shift – a change in my attitude and behavior.

He’s weened me off of bottles and is beginning to give me table food, but like a shrieking lil baby, I’m still crying for the nipple.

But there are no more bottles to be had. He wants me to pick up my own fork (or spork) and chew the big people food.

I mean, it’s only right…I am growing after all. It’s time for me to make my moves and trust that I’ll be guided by Him on how to stay fed.

A baby is fed bottles and the sort because they are not strong enough nor big enough to feed themselves. Therefore their caregiver does everything for them.

Similarly, I’ve looked to The Lord to keep making my decisions for me. He’s bigger, wiser, been doing it longer (ya know?), so I just keep looking to Him to continue feeding me my next moves.

But He’s like: “Lauren, you’re older now. It’s time for you to try and do it yourself.”

Me: “But why Lord? You’re so awesome at it; My life has never been better, I want you to do it.

God: “I’m not leaving you Lauren, I just want you to exercise your right – and do it yourself. I’ll still be here to oversee and provide guidance.”

Then like a toddler, I crossed my arms and attempted to go on strike until The Lord started making my decisions again.

Needless to say that didn’t last too long because the toddler in me realized God isn’t playing. I’ll starve if I never attempt to pick up the fork. But even worse, I’ll remain a scared little girl if I never attempt to make my own decisions.

No one can make it for me, God really does bless us with free will and we have to learn to exercise it. We can’t remain trapped to the baby-life where the bottle is simply given every time we cry and poot.

I’m daring to be daring today; To pick up the spork; To make my own decisions and trust that God is there with me and within me to guide me.

If I don’t pick up the spork to feed myself, I’ll starve from my inability to make a decision.

Ask! 

A big mistake I make is not actually asking. Im often not daring enough…Not daring enough to ask that God use me in a radical way. And I often forget and think about what I can do in my own might. I’m quick to call on God’s awesome power, but I’m not as quick to ask that He use me in a mighty way.

As I listened to Francis Chan tell some of the stories of how God has used Him in mighty ways, I couldn’t help but be in awe at the simplicity of his prayers and actions. And the one consistent theme is he knew he wasn’t big enough to do it alone, so he called on God who can, will and does. And not only that, but he dared to ask…(Watch video here: http://youtu.be/u_UKOn24gc8
What would happen if I dared to be the solution? How would I ever know unless I ask? A closed mouth doesn’t get fed and God has an amazing way of shedding light on situations to bring us clarity and peace, but we have to open ourselves to receive those opportunities. And we do that by asking…
I know I often think things in my head, but don’t share them out loud nor on paper because it makes them so concrete. So today I’m vowing to ASK. To ask that God use me in a mighty way in the areas He’s recently placed on my heart. To ask that He lead me in opportunities where I can be a light to others. I’m asking that He show me who/what to pray for and what to do. 
I dare you to do the same. 

ASK!
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“…You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)
You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. (‭John‬ ‭15‬:‭16‬ NLT)
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭13‬ NLT)

sometimes I get a little anxious about “it”

Last week I found myself a bit anxious about marriage. By all means I’m content in my single season (took a second to get here, but God showed me He is all I truly need)!

Yet sometimes, I find myself increasingly aware of my want to be married someday, and I can get a bit excited about all the details, you know…the “Who, what, when, why, how, where, etc..”

But rather than write a huge spiel, figured I’d tell yall!!  –> watch Anxious about marriage…