Opening up to others.

Talking is really therapeutic.

(Trying not to laugh or scoff  at myself for stating the seemingly obvious, because obviously that wasn’t too obvious for me! And honestly, it may not truly be to you either.)

I like to stay true to what I preach, but I realize more often than not, I’m quick to listen and encourage others to speak up about what’s going on, but I’m not nearly as forthcoming. I’m a private person who has tons of conversations in my head so I feel like I’m addressing issues, and sometimes it is more appropriate to have those self reflection times. But in these last few days, I’ve had some people check on me and open their hearts and ears for me and I’ve said some things out loud and (OH MY GOODNESS) there have been some revelations on things I’ve been conversing with myself about in my head for weeks…months…years…

Just like that, saying some things out loud to other people has created a different type of atmosphere and freedom around me. Things have been revealed. Sound counsel has been delivered. Prayers have been answered. Doors have been opened and closed. Truths have been illuminated. 

I don’t know your “thing,” but for me, I think it’s almost always been the way that I share and let people in – I struggle with that. Since I can remember, I’ve been more of a private person…not exactly sure why that is, however my momma raised me to be independent, but i think in some ways I’d internalized that to mean I have to work out almost everything for myself…then in the last couple of years, I’ve relinquished a bit more and it became what God and I work out together and now I feel like more than ever I’m being forced to see the beauty and power in relationships with others. Because quite frankly, I don’t think this season can be faced without me acknowledging my need for others and then actually opening up to others.

With work, I gotta accept that I don’t know what I don’t know and lean on the wisdom and guidance of others to help me.

With my relationship with my man, I/we have to seek sound counsel that can help us walk our journey.

With my business plan, I have to allow others to share with me what they have so I can learn and even have a chance at success.

I could go on and on with the list, but at the end of the day none of this can happen if I just continue to have conversations in my head with myself. I have to branch out. I have to get outside my comfort zone. This season calls for new things…sometimes I wonder if I’m ready for them, but honestly, I don’t have to be ready or super knowledgeable, I just have to be willing to try…one day at a time.

So hold me accountable y’all! Future posts should show results of me reaching out and conversing openly with others…

-Lauren

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GUEST POST: “Return.” By Anonymous

 

Luke 8:39 – “Return home and tell how much God has done for you”


I’m not a great story teller. I’m not exactly sure how to introduce my experience, so bear with me as I jump right into it…

The abuse started around year 1. Well, the physical abuse. There were always elements of mental and emotional abuse from day one, but I rationalized with myself and deemed it to be acceptable because his jealous and controlling ways meant “he cared about me” and his hurtful words meant he just “kept it real.” Little did I know those were warning signs to a much larger battle that I’d be fighting – literally.

The first big episode that occurred was the day before Valentine’s Day in 2013. I remember because he got me the cutest stuffed monkey and a pink card that read “I’m sorry for the bruises. I love you.” My bruised arms and ribs needed some TLC so I ran a bath and sat in the tub for hours. In that exact moment is when the thought of leaving him first came to mind. I had no idea how I was going to do it. I hadn’t told anyone about what was going on. I knew as soon as I told someone, I’d be held accountable to get out of the relationship and as crazy as it sounds, I don’t know if I was ready to leave yet. It wasn’t because I was dependent on him. Thankfully I was blessed with a great job and a high degree of self-sufficiency. And it wasn’t because I necessarily still loved and wanted to be with him (which was true in a sense)…but it was more so because of the threats. When someone constantly threatens you, tells you they’ll kill you if you ever try to walk out, you believe them. I believed him and I was afraid. I thought it’d be safer to stay and just pray that God changes him, versus me testing him and risking my life. Leaving didn’t sound safe to me. It sounded scarier than just continuing to be with him, so that’s exactly what I decided to do…continue to be with him.

As time progressed, so did the abuse. I’ll spare the details and stories of how and when each blow happened, but I do want to tell you how my spirit was being changed. See, I had always been my own version of a ‘Christian’. What I mean by that is, I went to church (when I wasn’t hungover from the night before), tithed (occasionally), and told people “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” I was that girl. I never had a relationship with God, just a legalistic list of do’s and don’ts that I followed when I felt like it. But about 2.5 years into this relationship, something within me was changing. My heart, mind, and soul was yearning for Christ in a way that I’ve never experienced before. And at this point during our entire relationship we NEVER attended church together. Never. When I approached my then boyfriend about going to church, he was completely against it. In fact, just hearing anything that had to do with God or church sent him into a state of INTENSE anger. I prayed for him – but the more I prayed it seemed like the angrier he got. He didn’t want me to go to church, read the Bible, etc. He hated anything that had to do with my faith. Very quickly I realized the battle that I was fighting was no longer just physical, but a spiritual one as well.

Fast forward to our 3 year anniversary: Right after we exchanged our ‘Happy Anniversaries’ we got into an argument and I told him I was done and I was leaving. Which was something I’d wanted to do for the past year and a half and I finally gained enough strength and courage to get up and go, permanently. I remember praying beforehand and saying, “Lord, if you get me out of this, I promise you’ll get the glory and I’ll never look back.” Through some struggle I made it down the steps to the front door, but I was knocked down. The man that I called mine for the past several years straddled over top of me and placed his hands around my neck for the very last time. I remember laying there thinking, “Ok, this is it. This is the moment I’m losing my life.” So I decided to not fight back anymore. I knew this was a physical battle I was sure to lose, so I just laid there and accepted it. As soon as I stopped fighting, my abuser looked at me, quickly released his grip around my neck, and backed away from me with his hands in the air. The look he gave me was one that I’ll never forget. It was like he just saw a ghost or something. Not only did he stop harming me, but this same man helped me get my things together so I could leave!

I witnessed God move in my situation within seconds. It was a complete supernatural experience. And I also realized I wasn’t just fighting my abuser. I’m not taking away responsibility for his actions, but unfortunately he was just a willing vessel to carry out the harm, and the real battle that I was fighting was with the enemy. The devil doesn’t fight you when you’re compliant with his agenda. The opposition worsened while I was getting my breakthrough.

—-

Some of you are in the same position I was, maybe just in a different scenario. You’re on the ground, lifeless, the enemy has his hands around your neck and you have no more fight left in you. But let me tell you that sometimes that’s the best position that we can be in, because all we can do while we’re laying down on our backs is look up and focus on Him. That’s when God can get our attention the most. I tried to run before, but I would go back to my abuser. I was persuaded and convinced back into the hands of a toxic spirit…and that’s something the devil is good at as well. He’ll tell you to stay in a harmful situation and reason with you to do so. I was there, and that’s a dangerous place to be – where your place of comfort is a place of destruction.

“You’re on the ground, lifeless, the enemy has his hands around your neck and you have no more fight left in you. But let me tell you that sometimes that’s the best position that we can be in, because all we can do while we’re laying down on our backs is look up and focus on Him.”

At one point I questioned if God even existed. Logically, God didn’t make sense – that’s what I would hear often. But logically, I’m not supposed to be here today. Logically, my abuser would have choked me to death that night. Logically, through all the abuse, I shouldn’t have a sound mind and sleep well at night. But…my God surpasses all logic and I know, that I know, that I KNOW!

I’ve already talked way too long, but someone needed to hear this. I’m not sure who it is or where you are, but YOU need to hear that God can and will get you out of your trouble…you just have to let Him. The battle is not yours, it never was. It’s God’s. Give Him your battle and you’ll come out with the victory EVERY TIME.

If you or someone you know is battling domestic violence please tell someone while considering yours and their safety. You can call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and they will give you resources or next steps in trying to figure out what to do. If you’re in a very dangerous situation, I would suggest and encourage you to visit your local domestic violence division and report the incidents.

Thank you for reading and letting me tell you what God has done for me…He deserves all the glory and honor! God bless you all!

Signed,

A Woman Renewed

*This post was written by a woman who wanted to share her story anonymously with YOU. Should you need prayer or have questions, please email LaurenRelinquished@GMail.com or leave comments below.*

Unwrap The Gift! [[The “UNPACKING” Series – Part 4]]

I feel closest to God not just when I’m praying, but when I’m doing what He’s instructed me to do and I’m praying along the way.

When I’m doing what He’s told me to do, there’s this type of connection and dependency I have on The Father; A fine mingling between our spirits because we’re communicating on the same wave length.

I pray. He leads. I do it and I pray for next steps. I’m moving with God, not in opposition to Him.

Did you catch that?

I said: I AM MOVING WITH GOD.

Many times we pray out of habit (not a bad thing), but we directly neglect what He told us to do in the first place. It’s more of a series like this: We pray. He leads. We ignore and pray some more about the same things.

So in other words, we don’t do what He told us. ⬅️ This fact has been super amplified in my life especially after a friend’s recent introduction of a book called Wasted Prayer by Greg Darley (I definitely recommend this one).

I think over the last couple months, this is something God has really been trying to teach me. Not only has He placed people, things and messages all around me, but he’s been so faithful and generous with His blessings these last couple months as I’ve begun to start d o i n g.

As my Pastor Dr. Mike Scruggs said in church Sunday – “God rewards consistency.”  But consistency requires some type of action to be repeated over and over again. Notice I said: A C T I O N.

But yet so often, the action steps never happen for me because I’m so fearful of what it really means to take that step. To r e l i q u i s h control and really let God lead me to those necessary action steps.

It’s like I’d become such a scaredy cat (notice how I wrote that in past tense because I’m leaving that mess in the past), but I’d become such a scaredy cat that I wouldn’t allow myself to just reach into the box and pull stuff out because I wasn’t sure what I’d get or even if I’d like it.

If I think of these boxes God has given me to UNPACK as simple gifts, why would I be willing to rip off the gift wrap, tear open the box but still too scared to fully uncover what’s in the box??

My boxes are gifts. Therefore the contents of my boxes are presents specifically picked out for me (My what a blessing that is)! So let me fully UNWRAP and UNPACK the gift and see it out in the open – not confined to a box or any other type of wrapping. Taking it out the box actually F R E E S the gift and thus liberates me.

In that same way, praying frees the pray-er of stress and worry and allows God to present a set of instructions as a gift. The pray-er then should accept the gift of instructions and fully unwrap it and do as God has instructed! 

Therefore, the unwrapping is the action step in which we actually begin to UNPACK and live out our blessings bit by bit, one step at a time. 

So are we unwrapping the gifts of instructions God is giving us or simply pushing and praying away wrapped gifts with our names on them too afraid to actually unpack them??

#QTNA (Questions That Need Answers)

———-

UNPACK & UNWRAP!

Lord, thank you first and foremost for continually blessing me with gifts. Thank you for showing me all these gift around me that I have yet to open. I’m
So grateful that you still provide gifts even when I’ve ignored the ones you’ve already given. Please forgive me and all my ignorance, Lord. Help me to no longer discard nor toss your gifts to the side. Help me to be thankful for your gifts/answers and to UNWRAP and DO those gifts and blessings you give.

Amen.

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!

Moving In [The “Unpacking” Series – Part 1]

You’ve found the PERFECT house/apartment and you’re super excited about moving in! 😃🎉

Limitless possibilities await as you brainstorm decorations, furniture placement, social events you’ll hold, meals you’ll prepare and more! It’s going to be so awesome!!!

–> But do we just stop at the potential of awesomeness or actually create and live in that awesomeness??

I find myself standing… Standing in this awesome new place and I’m not kidding y’all, it is all kinds of UH-MAY-ZING!
I’ve pictured so many times the things I’ll do, what it will feel like…simply just what it will be like!

And you know what? I finally made the decision to move all my furniture and boxes in! But if any of yall have moved before, you understand what a huge undertaking it is and how much it takes out of you. So out of sheer fatigue, I plopped down on one of the boxes in my new place and took a small break to settle down and just admire the new place some more.

As the days passed and life continued to move on, I found it hard to find the time to unpack all the boxes so I unpacked the essential everyday type stuff and left everything else for the next day. The problem is, I left it for the next day, but the next day came and I still couldn’t find the time to unpack the rest! So I put it off again…and again…oh and again 😕

Now, here I am, it’s been months and I still haven’t unpacked ALL the boxes!! That’s so embarrassing to admit *covers face* I really do love my new place, but I seem to be having a hard time “LOVING ON IT.”

Loving on it takes far more work, so I’ve stuck to simply visualizing it and all its potential for greatness. Sometimes I even sit around and just stare at what the walls & windows will look like when they’re decorated, what the rooms will smell like when I have people over for dinner, etc.

Dreaming about this awesome place was cool at first, but now it just irks me. The dreams of how things could be are now nothing short of menacing. I come home and immediately want to go elsewhere because the blank walls mock me and the boxes are such a sight for sore eyes -piled left and right and begging me to unpack them.

Today, that’s exactly what my spirit screamed at me:

“UNPACK THE BOXES, LAUREN!”

The Spirit begged to know what excuse I had for not listening to the instruction given. These are the questions asked:

-How much longer can you keep it only as a vision?

-When are you going to pick up a box and make your perfect place, a home?

Well Spirit…good questions! There are no excuses. Why haven’t I moved in to this super, awesome place? It serves me no good to be in a place that’s perfect, yet never actually move into it and experience it’s perfection.

So as God led me thru this, I began to see how necessary it is for me to unpack RIGHT NOW.

Metaphorically, I’ve moved into a new space, but my lack of ability to unpack my boxes and make this new place a home serves as a huge hindrance to my growth, healing, love and sanity because this new place is called “Lauren.”

Identity has been a struggle for years and now I’ve had the pleasure to meet Lauren and actually move into her! It’s great, honestly, but I’ve yet to really unpack all her knick knacks and delicate furnishings.

A home is not a home until you actually move into it!

Does that make sense? Im not talking about you just use it for your basic necessities, but I mean REALLY move into it as a space that you’ve made and can call your very own.

In my case, if I’m accepting Lauren as my home, then I have to not only see her potential, but make her homey and livable by loving each and every wall, window, room, nook, cranny and more. I have to begin to explore by taking the time to unpack the boxes and learn what needs to be hung up, set in its place and also what needs to be thrown out -I know I’ve accumulated junk over the years.

Moving is hard; It is exhausting; It is laborious and yet it must be done.

The task given –> UNPACK.
That is what I must do. That is what I will do.

*Stay tuned as I share more of my “Unpacking” stories!*

-Lauren “Still Learning How to Relinquish” Williams ❤

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.

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)*

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…