It’s been a goal of mine for a long time to go vegan. I’m opting for the slow change route instead of quitting cold turkey—hopefully this method makes the changes stick! For now I’m done with pork and beef, and I’m only having chicken or fish about once a week. I’ve given up dairy except for eggs and I’ve reduced the amount of milk that I drink to about 4 glasses a week (I’m a 2-3 glasses per day milk drinker, so this is a big deal for me!).
Combined with a better sleep schedule, this has had a huge impact on my energy levels. I feel less groggy during the day and I haven’t had as many dizzy spells (I get them frequently when the warm weather hits). I’ve been able to push harder in my workouts too; this actually has more to do with the fact that my bad knee has gotten a lot stronger from working with a trainer on a regular basis. I have my drive back, which means that pretty soon I’ll be needing a sport to outlet my energy (MMA, anyone?).
Besides reducing my meat intake, I’ve cut out most processed foods from my diet. This means a lot of cooking and preparing fresh foods. It’s more work, but WORTH it. In honor of my new diet changes, I created a spicy black bean burger recipe, which will be up soon at The You Are Project. I’ve also been drinking a lot more water (ironically, I’ve been using a Coke glass to drink it).
Eating fresh and forming consistent sleep and work habits have really helped me to balance my moods, stay focused, and draw a line between work time and time spent with friends. What habits have helped you to lead a healthier life?No Comments
I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated! I’ve been really focused on The You Are Project lately, so my blog has gotten moved to the backburner of my mind. I’m finally back on—here’s what I’ve been up to during my hiatus!
1. Designing photoshoot props (aka, those banners hanging on the curtain rod over my bed)
2. Finding cute boxes to store my excessive amounts of paperwork
3. Changed my bed canopy to a curtain for my window
I’ve been pretty busy, but I will be updating my blog this week, so stay tuned!No Comments
I’m excited to announce that we finally opened our Etsy store for The You Are Project! We’re starting out with a line of YOU ARE stationery, but we’ve got plenty more product ideas that we hope to introduce later this year. All of the proceeds from sales will help us with the printing costs for You Are REAL, our magazine for women.
Please consider making a purchase and supporting us! The last issue of our magazine was a hit, but we’re short on funds for printing this next issue. Your purchase will help make our summer issue a reality!
Thanks for your help!
As members of the Church, we’ve all been exposed to various levels of teachings on prosperity and blessings. Honestly, all of the talk gets kind of confusing after a while. There are extremes on both sides—from those who believe that God wants to make us materially wealthy and that suffering means you aren’t right with God, to those who believe that material wealth is evil and we are only guaranteed trials this side of eternity.
What’s tricky is that everyone seems to have a verse to back up their beliefs. So what is the truth? If the Bible says, “We rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3),” and also, “Test me in this … and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it (Malachi 3:10),” then what can we really expect in this lifetime in regard to prosperity and wealth?
Here are three points that have helped me find greater clarity when it comes to the the complicated relationship between money and faith…No Comments
Growing up in church, I’ve experienced beliefs about God and the Bible that range from all ends of the spectrum. It’s kind of crazy how “Christ’s body on earth” can have so many arguments and disagreements over Bible interpretations, Jesus true personality, and just how much of our job it is to correct the wrong beliefs of others.
When Christians start to argue, even using Biblical truth, our conversation takes on a spiritual dimension that we are unaware of. Often we get so fixated on the science and logic of our “truth” that we neglect the spirit of truth, which finds us unknowingly displaying lies.
Truth is not solely about “getting it right” in the realm of logic. It’s also about having the right spirit in communicating that truth. If we are doctrinally right but speak with hatred and pride rather than love, we aren’t being truthful about who God is.
When Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted, Satan used truth from the Bible in an attempt to sway Jesus from the Father’s perfect will. The reason that the statements he made were lies and not truth was because they were out of context and twisted ever-so-slightly. We often say that half truths are full lies. So if we speak from scripture using words that are true but mix it with a spirit of condemnation, hatred, pride, or arrogance, our message becomes a half-truth.
I have been crucified with Christ ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
- Galatians 2:20 NAS
Paul made it very clear that Christians are to display the Spirit of Christ to others. In other places in the NT, it says that we are ambassadors, or representatives, of Christ, as if he were making his appeal through us. If it is true that Christ lives in us, then when we convey truth in any manner other than the way that Christ did and claim that we are Christians we are lying to the world about who Jesus really is.
In Ephesians, we are told to speak the truth in love. It can be easy, when we feel that our anger is righteous, to forget about love and focus soley on communicating our point. But I would challenge you to remember this the next time you want to lash out against someone you feel needs correction. There is indeed ONE God and ONE truth. But devoid of love, our truth becomes a half-truth, and thus, worthless.
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
- 1 John 3:18 NAS
Jesus is perhaps the most misunderstood and polarizing figure in history. He evoked strong feelings in everyone around him—feelings of hatred or feelings of love. He was impossible to ignore—he forced those around him to make a decision about him without riding on the fence. But he didn’t do this in an angry, loud, or vengeful way. His simple love and declaration of God’s desire for reconciliation was enough to drive people to one end of the spectrum or the other. He didn’t try to make people hate him, but his actions naturally resulted in the acceptance or rejection of the God he represented.
To know the Jesus that we read about in Scripture, we must experience the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Without the Spirit, the Bible is simply a book of history. It can be methodically sorted through and deconstructed. We can indeed create a list of the traits the Jesus possessed and create a two-dimensional outline of who he was. It might be accurate, but it would be lacking.
I can tell you all about my friend Natalia. She is passionate, loving, and does not seek to draw attention to herself. She is bold when she needs to be, and she is one of the strongest people I know, willing to sacrifice her life for the work of the Lord. You could learn even more by reading about her. I might be able to write about some of the conversations we’ve had, and you’d start to see more of who she is. Or she could write you a letter to tell you about herself. But how much would you really know her? No matter how much you know about Natalia based on her own words or the writings of others, you won’t really know her until you meet her and experience the untangible facets of her personality for yourself.
This is how Jesus is. It’s important to study what the Bible says about him, absolutely. But this can only take you so far. Until the Spirit has infiltrated your thinking, you will only know Jesus by studying ancient texts through a lense and worldview that already predetermines much of your thinking and taints your understanding in one way or another. To know him—to deeply know the intricate facets of his personality, his demeanor, and his love for people—you need to encounter his Spirit.
“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” – John 14: 15-20 NIV
This journey of getting to know the Holy Spirit has changed many things in me, but the most precious thing I’ve gleaned from this is the ability to understand more deeply the Jesus that I’ve read about all these years. The Spirit gives us the ability to know him, to display him to others, and to recognize him in others. This gift is of more value than anything that this world could ever offer.
For so long, I’ve tried to defend my newfound knowledge of the Spirit. I’ve tried to argue with logic or find ways to prove his work in me. But after all of this, I find that what I really need is to declare what the formerly blind man did when the Pharisees were questioning him and trying to “prove” whether or not Jesus’ miracles came from God:
“Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind, but now I see!”
It’s so hard to get started writing when I have something weighing heavily on my heart. I think it’s because I know that no matter what I say, my words will not do justice to what I’m learning or to what I’m perceiving now that I could not see before. I try over and over again to write, in some desparate attempt to find words that adequately express the beauty, the pain, and the redemption. I think writers operate under this hidden hope that someday one of the things we write will actually get to the root of our deep inner desires. But words can only go so far, and that’s a painful and humbling realization.
When I started this journey, I was full of confidence. Yes, some bad and unexpected things had happened in my life. It wasn’t perfect, but I had an idealistic hope in God because I knew that He was in control of everything. I knew He had a plan, and I knew He had called me to great things. The journey I was on would strengthen my faith and prepare me for the road ahead. It would be hard, but it would be worth it. And in the end, my faith would grow and people would say that I was a woman of God.
Fast forward to today, one year and two months later, and everything that I believe in has been shaken and ravaged. It’s still true that God is in control. It’s still true that God has great plans for me. It’s still true that this journey was to strengthen my faith. But I didn’t account for something. I didn’t realize what this journey was going to reveal to me about myself.
When you find yourself screaming to God, “Why are you making me do this? Why did you have to pick me?” to the great plan that you once felt proud to be apart of, it changes the way you see yourself. Once full of confidence, I now see who I really am. I’m a human being, and I fall short. In one version of this story, I turn my back on God, throw away the beautiful gifts that He entrusts me with as though they are garbage, and I run away to do my own thing. I do this knowing that God’s plan is better. I do this with full knowledge of what He’s promised for the future and of how wonderful it will be. I do this simply because I am rebellious and impatient. I want it now, or I don’t want it at all. I don’t want to submit to the plan that God has, and I certainly don’t want to submit to His timing. Never mind that it will be worth it. I want to be in control.
I failed. I stopped trusting and I stopped believing. I gave up. But in those impossible moments, God renewed my strength in ways that I cannot explain or articulate.
What I couldn’t see when I started out was the moment I would contemplate doing something awful, wicked, and manipulative to self-medicate rather than turn to God for comfort. I couldn’t see the moment that I would try with everything in me to stop believing the words God spoke to me. I didn’t see the times that people would judge me for believing God and I would allow their words to sink in because it’s easier than holding God’s hand.
I don’t mean to be negative or self-deprecating. But I do want to reveal the truth about who I am, so that God can receive all the glory. In case anyone thinks later that I have great faith or patience, let them know that I did not. I failed. I stopped trusting and I stopped believing. I gave up. But in those impossible moments, God renewed my strength in ways that I cannot explain or articulate. It’s hard to understand why I’m still standing right now, but it has very little to do with the strength in my legs.
This world is falling apart, and wickedness is rampant. But after viewing the wickedness hidden in my own heart, I find sympathy for the people who have worked so hard to inflict pain on others. The structures of this world are being shaken, but God doesn’t throw the pieces away. He wants us to be a part of the new thing that He is creating. I’ll never know why, but God chooses find His building materials in the ruins of this world and transform them to His likeness rather than just starting from scratch. He places such a high value on us, even when we fall short. Even when we spit on Him and tell Him that He isn’t worth our suffering. Even when we reject Him and act like He hasn’t been enough for us all of those years that He carried us. His love is not bestowed upon the righteous and worthy, but upon the wicked, the vile, and the murderers.
Our purpose is to love God and to love the unloveable. You can search and strive, but you won’t find any calling higher than that.
When we are under the impression that we aren’t that bad, it’s easy to look at others who are “worse” than us and cast judgment. But once we’ve had an honest look at the depths of our hearts, we will be compelled to love the least of these, because they will remind us of ourselves.
I don’t have a tidy way to wrap this all up, except to say that in the end, everything good that we do is because of Christ in us. Strength comes from recognizing our weakness and letting God work through us without attempting to seek glory for ourselves. And our purpose is to love God and to love the unloveable. You can search and strive, but you won’t find any calling higher than that.
We have an innate desire to feel as though we are valued by others. If you say it isn’t so, you aren’t being honest! Some of us may appear less affected by peer approval, while others wear their insecurity on their sleeve, but we are all affected by the fear of being overlooked.
Social media doesn’t always help. For some, it just provides another outlet through which we feel rejected by others. Facebook sometimes seems like a competition between thousands of photos, status updates, and links that all scream, “Look at me! I have something to say! Please pay attention to me!” I know I’m not the only one who gets frustrated from time to time when nobody likes my witty remarks or newest glamor shots.No Comments
I’m not quite sure how to start this post. To be honest, I typed out and deleted my first sentence about 8 times, and every time felt like it just didn’t sound right. Not honest enough. Not raw enough. Not good enough. And that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve been feeling like I’m not good enough.
Before I started this journey of pursuing God’s calling, I thought I had it all together. I was confident, happy, and I enjoyed my life. I had outgrown my high school self-esteem problems and was just discovering how much more to God there was than I originally thought. I had plenty of friends, I was relatively popular in the groups I was in.
Now, everything feels different. My life isn’t all figured out—in fact, everything is more up-in-the-air and uncertain than it was when I started. I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what step to take next or where I’m going. Some of the people who I thought were my closest friends didn’t seem to care so much when things stopped going my way. I’d be lying if I said that this didn’t hurt me and take a toll on my perception of my friendships.
I know that God has promised great things, but I have no idea when they are going to fall into place. And now as I sit here and go through the same old drag that has been happening for months on end, I’m realizing that I don’t know how to stay motivated for a promise that feels so far away. Nothing changes. Every day is the same. I don’t know what’s next, and I don’t have a backup plan. This is my worst fear, the place I hate more than anything else. My life is static, and I hate that everytime my friends (the real ones) ask with eager anticipation if God has moved yet, I have to answer that right now, everything’s still the same.
This is the longest, most exhausting span of time I’ve ever experienced. And now that there’s not drama and fear and panic, I’m met with the gnawing, deadening silence of nothingness and prolonged waiting.
While I’m waiting, the more subtle enemy of insecurity suddenly whispers in my ear, “You know, nobody really cares what you’re doing. Here you are, waiting all alone. Here you are, working behind the scenes and hoping that what you do will matter. It doesn’t matter. You aren’t good enough. All of your striving will amount to nothing.”
With nothing visible on the horizon, how can I ignore the words of this liar? When I’m alone in the dirt, performing these simple, routine tasks that I’ve grown so accustomed to that I can barely recognize their value anymore, how can I muster up the motivation to stay here? To keep working? I want to run away. But I’m supposed to stay here. I’m standing here alone, waiting for a vehicle to arrive and take me to the next part of this plan. What if it got stuck in traffic? What if there was an accident? What if there’s something I could be doing to make this work out better?
As I work today, feeling rather inadequate and unworthy, I finally hear God’s whisper. “Lauren, if there were someone else who could perform this task better than you, I would have given it to them. I’ve prepared you—only you—with the tools for this calling and this place. Wait for Me.”
If I were waiting on man, it would be prudent to give up. But God is always on time.No Comments
I’ve been dying to get back in NYC, and I finally did this weekend! I met up with a friend for coffee and then met up with Debi and stayed overnight. I feel refreshed from spending time in my favorite place. Here are some snapshots from my walk through Soho!