Tuesday, August 8, 2017

// do you like you?

"How can we draw close to God when we are far from our own selves?" Saint Augustine

The last few weeks I've been thinking a lot about knowing who you are. (These are my honest unfiltered thoughts. I've spent hours on this post, wanting to fully convey my heart on this subject. Its a little everywhere, but hopefully for someone out there, this encourages you.)


I was recently asked by someone what God was teaching me.
I've never really loved that question, especially when you're not on cloud nine. Always seemed like sitting on the couch with a pint of ice cream and someone coming up and asking how your fitness journey is going. Um, not now, guys. Haha.
I blanked. What was I gonna say? Rummage into the past and pick out the last thing I'd heard? Avoid the question entirely? I don't believe in being a faker, or giving answers that aren't genuine, so I was kinda stumped.
A few days past where some hard stuff happened, and the answer to that question hit me. POW.
No, I hadn't come emerging from the dessert season.
No, I didn't have a vision while doing devotions.
But an answer came, sure and confident.
I knew it wouldn't sound conventional, or even like I was really answering the question asked, but it was my response.

God's been teaching me about myself.

In this season, I haven't had my weekends booked solid with events and friends, I can't remember the last time someone looked me deep in the eyes and wanted to invest in my heart...but that doesn't mean my heart isn't being tended to, looked after, or worked on. I'm just doing it with God. GASP. Am I losing it? Am I still with it? Have I forgotten the dangers of being without community? Am I shutting the world out? Nah. I want friends. I want fulfillment in my WHOLE life.
But this time has been dang productive. My heart has grown like a beautiful garden because I spend time tending to it. I see me, oh so clearly. And that feels really good.
I've had lots of time with myself. Lots of time. And so I thought I'd share some thoughts I've come to in the last few months that have played different parts in getting to this point...

Everybody's so afraid of being alone. So afraid of what could become of them if they don't have people surrounding them, even if not the ideal choice, at least there's people. Its almost as if you can't grow, make good decisions, or be steady without others. And don't get me wrong, community is something God designed for us to be in! But that doesn't mean we don't walk through seasons without it. (John the Baptist, David, Job, to name a few.)
I look at all the people who have hurt and abused me in my life, whether from ignorance or intentionality, and it all comes down to them not seeing enough value in getting to know themselves, or to dig deep and see who lives there. Is it a monster? Ready to lash when under pressure? Ready to run when threatened? I want to know who I am. I want to know what I do when stressed. I want to stay and commit, not run. I want to be responsible for my choices. I want to care about how I treat people. I want to care about how I impact those who see me. Most don't take time to work on themselves. They get too busy to investigate who they are. Afraid they'll find something lacking, they don't even go looking. Neglecting the most important thing to set straight - that being themselves.
(YOU are not a lesser task in the kingdom. We cannot fix others if we ourselves are not fixed.)

"When you're all alone, by yourself, do you like you? Do you like you?"

See, no matter what life season you're in, whether be it be brutal or beautiful, you get to work on yourself. You get to shape yourself into the person you WANT to become, even if surroundings aren't ideal. I think in general, we have forgotten that.
No matter if you're in Africa or America, no matter if you're rich or poor, no matter if you're on top of the mountain or in the valley, YOU are something that is always available to refine. You don't need people or money or fancy titles or to be the perfect age, to "get it good" inwardly. 
Life doesn't have to be lining up for you, for you to do something about your heart, your maturity, your response to life, and the way you treat people.

Things change when you're approach to things changes from "how can I go around this or under it or above it" to I'M GONNA GO THROUGH IT.
You can't cut corners and go the easy way around everything. I mean, you can, but not much growth or strength is gonna be developed.
How many of you know that if you want an answer, you want to get to know something about/from someone, you have to investigate? You can't give up if they give a vague veiled answer. If you want it, dodging and skirting around it isn't gonna produce you results. You have to be persistent, constant.
The same goes with yourself. You learn (I'd say almost everything) about yourself from addressing things in life head on. When you commit to going through the pain, unknown, awkwardness and growing pains when they come, instead of dodging and going around, YOU become clearer. 
You become something you're willing to put in the work to get to know. 

We're not supposed to have skeletons in our closets. That's not just a normal thing everybody has. We're not meant to have hidden behaviours, different masks we put on and off for people, fake qualities we promised the world we possessed. We're supposed to be steady and trustworthy. We're supposed to be brave individuals who face conflict and trouble and uncertainty with confidence, knowing (because we did the work with ourselves) that we aren't cowards. We don't lash out in fear, we don't hide our heads and look the other way when there's injustice, we don't blame others for our shortcomings, and we take responsibility of ourselves, because that matters first. It's not a question of if we will make mistakes, but how will we deal with those mistakes. Will we be responsible, honourable, kind, and mature? That's what matters.
"More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren't so busy denying them." BOOM.

_______________________________

I remember years ago when I had something I can only describe as a vision, and in it, Jesus and I were sitting across from each other on my bed, so close our knees were touching and our hands were encircled around each other's. I remember looking in his eyes and they were so clear, so blue. He was beaming. Looking so youthful and happy. 
Jonathan Helser wrote in Cageless Birds magazine 'Cultivate' about a moment when him and his wife were falling madly in love with each other. 
They were on a date, and they'd stopped eating and just began to gaze into each other's eyes, despite how silly it must have looked, they didn't care. That's what being in love is like.
At one point he noticed he could see his reflection in her eyes. In the eyes of the one he loved, he could see himself.
You're probably getting this now, huh?

That's kinda what this season has been like. No, haha, no candlelit dinner over glasses of red wine and steak where the love is freely swirling around. But I have gotten to a stage of complete vulnerability and rawness with God, allowing it to be what it is. I feel seen and understood by Him. I feel close, like in discovering all that He's not, I've been able to put together what He is. I see myself in Him. I see our similarities, I see the things I've got a fire for being things He's been fired up about with me.

When we take time to get to know ourselves, unhindered by religion, shame, or time limits, we get to know God. As Amanda Cook said, "Getting to know ourselves isn't anti getting to know God."


You know, its funny, you look in the bible at some of the most influential leaders whom God loved, and in almost every situation, you will notice they went through a quiet period, a period where they seemed to be invisible to the world, unknown to community.
Its hard to explain those situations away with something rational and easy to grasp, because supernatural seasons are not like normal ones. The circumstances are hardly earthly. (Think Job.) If you've been in a supernatural season, you know what its like to be questioned and doubted continuously, because people can't rationalize anything that's happening.
I think of David, who hid, to save his own life. He was in agony over the betrayal of his friends, the deep loneliness of that cutting deep. It was just him and God, for a long time. David cultivated something so beautiful in that time. How he shared his heart with the Lord is the kind of transparency I want to walk in.
Anyway, getting sidetracked here. What I'm trying to say is, If God isn't limited, and him working in our lives isn't dependant on anything, than why do we assume going through a season of isolation can't be used by God to produce something fruitful? Why do we assume its dangerous to be left alone, just us and God, for longer than 40 minute devotions? Perhaps its because we don't trust ourselves? And maybe that's why we're in that season. Because we're supposed to learn trust.
That we can trust God to work outside of the box we've put him in, and that we can, in fact, learn how to trust ourselves. I believe God wants us to know ourselves with the kind of clarity he knows us with. 
You become like the person you spend the most time with. Why do you think David emerged from that season of isolation being called a man after God's own heart? Because he'd become like the person he hung around with the most. His vision matched heaven's. His heart beat in sync with God. Without shame, without restraint, David poured his heart out, and became one with God. 
Do you think God was concerned about David's lack of community? Do you think God believed it dangerous, that it was just the two of them all that time? I don't think so. I think something heavenly developed during that time, and I honestly think that's a life-changing concept.
Everybody's so terrified of those kind of circumstances/seasons, warning "you will lose your faith!"
I think more accurately, the thing you will lose will be your religion.

God isn't someone you need to keep a stiff upper lip for. He isn't that friend who gets uncomfortable when depth comes into play. He isn't offended by bad words or ugly feelings. If he isn't missing anything we do, say, think or believe, why do we try to cover up our real feelings, like they disappoint him?

I think He wants us to be healthy believers, not just believers.
You can spread the gospel till you're red in the face, but honestly, I think something that's been entirely overlooked in the church is the project of ourselves. I can't push this enough: you can't offer something you don't have. Christians are running around proclaiming ALL, professing so much, but not having the maturity, the wisdom, or the resources to fulfill their promises.
"Metaphorically speaking, it is vital that you are not "writing checks" physically, emotionally and spiritually without the money in the bank to cash them." -Kris Vallotton
Just because you prayed the prayer of salvation doesn't mean you have it together. Doesn't mean you're healthy. Doesn't mean you know who you are. Doesn't mean you like who you are. Doesn't mean you all of a sudden are a big teddy bear of love for the lost people of the world. What if you are still lost? Being a Christian doesn't mean you're capacity for growth and transformation is done. You're not "complete" because you're saved. You still need to invest in you. You still need to get to know yourself. You still need to grow.
Most Christians are going around trying to show everyone the solution to growing beautiful grass and having a healthy lawn, meanwhile, they're not watering their own. The grass is greenest where you water it, guys. Don't let your own property burn out and die.

I like me. I like that I've taken time to invest in who I am. I like that even though this season has been completely brutal, I'm not lost at sea, unable to remember my identity. Knowing yourself is a powerful powerful weapon. I'm not intimidated by my season. Just because this has been a dangerous environment doesn't mean its a bad one.
What has God been teaching me?
He's been teaching me about myself.

Monday, July 10, 2017

People of Empathy

"Nothing is more important than empathy for another human beings suffering.
Not a career.
Not wealth.
Not intelligence.
Certainly not status.
We have to feel for one another if we're going to survive with dignity."
-Audrey Hepburn


Empathy.
The meaning, the concept, of that word has been pounding against my heart for weeks before I put the feeling to a word.
Empathy.
I've found people don't really practice empathy, and its something that's even more so lacking in the church, among those who should be the most encouraging empathetic hearts of all. I'm not writing this to bring anybody down, but because I really feel like this is an area that needs some discussion time, as so many need this more than ever.

Let's jet to the book of John for a second, to the part when Mary & Martha are deeply suffering from the death of their brother.

"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. Jesus wept." (John 11:33-35)

I love that so much because it showcases perfectly Jesus' compassion and empathy, even though he knew he had a solution coming, and he knew this grief would not be lasting.
He still felt moved for them. He still wept with them over their loss, and the confusion and hurt they were experiencing, even though he KNEW it was gonna be fixed. 
He didn't depreciate them by making light of the real pain they were experiencing just because he knew they wouldn't be weeping for much longer.
Instead he engaged in it. He ached with empathy for them, knowing the importance of mourning. If he didn't think so, he would have told them right then and there the whole picture.
He was being PRESENT in their moment.
Oh he's a real gem, dontcha think?

- Such a big part of choosing + practicing empathy has to do with being present.
Sure, maybe this pain isn't gonna last forever. Maybe there's a solution right around the corner. But it hurts right now. Empathy is valuing what the process looks/feels like right now. Its not about fixing it all up with a nice pretty bow, giving the world's greatest advice or telling them it's God's plan. Its about honoring where they're at, and grieving with them, so when they do move on to the next step, they've healed from the last.
It means committing, even for just 2 minutes, on being intentional to hear, to offer a look that says more than words.

You are equipped to extend compassion. People need real, people need to feel seen, not just observed and calculated. Put down the distractions and say no to connections you don't want to make, and focus that eagle eye on someone who matters to you, and listen like you wish to be heard. Weep with them. Be angered over the injustice. Have their back. Squeeze their hand and look deeply into their eyes for a sec. Don't rush em' or ask when they'll be over it. Be PRESENT.
YOU wish to be seen, extend that gift to someone who needs it.

We need more people who are willing to show the world with their actions what the holy spirit is like.

We rarely need a sweet piece of advice. But we do need intentional hearts, people brave enough to step into someone else's hurt and minister to them. Be a friend who sees and acts. Break the mould, pursue more than the simple fake answers. Care about the behind the scenes.
It sets you apart.
And we need that kind of different.

-Lauricia

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Nourishment for the Soul | Having a Healthy Mindset About Food

I'm happy to be talking about food today.
I've grown up in a home where everybody learned how to cook and be great at it.
My dad didn't know how to boil an egg when he got married, and now I like to say he has a food anointing. Everything he makes tastes like it has an extra spice, an extra flavour, a sprinkling of magic. Whenever he makes a recipe, we're all eager to try it.
My mom excels at making something out of nothing. Like, how she does it I don't know. She sees a half empty fridge of a bunch of nothings and makes something delicious. Always from scratch. Recipes in her head. Its beautiful.
I'm still getting there. Haha.

I love food. I firmly believe that it feeds the soul if not more than it does your stomach. 


I had two very drastically different grandma's.
One was always counting calories, not eating healthy by far, but always talking about desserts &  anything hearty and how it would add inches to your waistline. "Should you really be eating that ice cream? Its gonna go straight to your stomach." I always felt like I was being watched and calculated when I ate around her. Wasn't a fun time. When I'd make a beautiful time consuming dessert, she'd take a crumb off the plate and say she couldn't possibly have a piece because it would make her fat. Hmm...Yeah, well, okay. Thanks a lot, Grandma.
On the other side, I had a beautiful bubbly grandma who definitely had lumps and roles, didn't eat as healthy as she should've, but she loved food. She incorporated it into all celebrations. Sleepovers were filled with whip cream sundays and hot chocolate. Bagels with cream cheese & tomatoes after lake swimming and ice cream later. She loved food and taught me subconsciously not to be afraid of it. She was so much fun. Later, because of health reasons, she had to watch what she ate more closely, but she never removed herself from the celebration of a good treat, even if she only had a piece and smiled while I had the rest.
They were polar opposites.
I constantly felt ugly and fat around my one grandma, versus beautiful and attractive when around the other. Their love for themselves came out in how they talked and did life around food. {How you view food is POWERFUL and affects those around you.}

I've heard so many people say,
"Learn to reward yourself with something other than food."
Hmm. I get the point they're trying to make with that. Don't pig out on fast food just because you worked out. Makes sense. Your body IS your temple, so take care of it. Don't feed it absolute garbage every time you do something good or healthy.
But...
Food is this glorious thing God created our bodies to NEED, desire, and want. He's creatively given us sooo many options because He wants us to enjoy it. He wants us to be fulfilled and satisfied. Food is an emotional thing. Its connected not only to our stomach, but our hearts.
Have you ever gotten home from a hard day and sat down with a bowl of your favourite meal and felt even a little bit better? Felt warm, taken care of, like goodness was still a thing? I'm not embarrassed to admit I certainly have felt that way. Its not unhealthy to admit food ministers to you. Its one of the many ways God encourages and nourishes our soul.

I was looking for a good food quote this morning for a picture of this delicious cheesecake that I'd made on the weekend, and I came away with this crooked look on my face and a mutter of disgust. Most of the quotes all ended with something about getting fat because of food, or how you should work your butt off after having a steak dinner, and I was like....WUT.
First things first: Stop eating out of fear.
Decisions made out of fear are the worst. You don't end up enjoying anything, and to top it off, worry ain't good for you. Worry's worse for your body than eating a whole pint of Haagen Dazs by yourself. So stop being afraid of what the food is gonna do to you. Stop being afraid of it giving you love handles. One unhealthy meal doesn't make you fat, just like one salad doesn't give you a six pack, got it? Balance. Eat healthy, eat quality food. Go on walks cuz they're good for you and they reset your hormones. Laughing works your stomach muscles, so do that a lot too. It makes you healthy I'm sure of it.
Celebrate full out. When you need extra soul food, do it. Go for it. Don't punish yourself for having carbs. Carbs are not the devil.
Eating is supposed to be enjoyable and fun, not stressful.

People sit down at the table to be fed. Emotionally, physically, spiritually.
To feel seen, cared for. To laugh, to enjoy community. Food brings flavour and contentment to any occasion. It soothes, it comforts. It brings back memories & creates new ones. It brings joy and feelings of happiness. Food is life. Food is not a curse, its a gift, and one God wants us to enjoy and be refreshed with.
Love your body and love the things you put into it. Enjoy the food you eat, don't eat it in fear. Don't starve yourself. Cook with butter. Use cream. Red meat is good for you, unlike what they all say. Gluten should probably be avoided, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it sometimes. Eat ice cream, but get the good kind. Be free. I like to say the food will go exactly where I want it to go. Are you in charge or is the fear? Have fun. Above all, LOVE YOURSELF. Every decision made out of love is gonna feel good, and be good for you.

Love, the girl who just made her first cheesecake in years and looooved it,
Lauricia

p.s. The media lies about fat. Not body fat but fat in foods. They're messed up. Healthy fats AIN'T bad for you, so eat up. You need them. The end. Lauricia out.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Women At Rest + Feminism

Happy Monday, ladies!
This weekend I got thinking about different women I've known + observed over the miles.
So much diversity, so much beauty and so many different strengths. The stories are countless. Some heroic, some settled, some bitter, some radiant.

Women have been a big topic as of late. (I mean, we always are, buuuut..... ;)
With a new president, whom is not female, though it could've been, plus the women's march, plus the feminism topic rising in popularity, there's been a lot of focus on women, equal rights, our worthiness, our strength, etc.
I wanted to talk with y'all about rest, and feminism, and standing for things. These are just some of my thoughts on the matter. We all have different perspectives to offer to the table, and this is mine...
Let'z chat it up, gurlz.

First I feel its important to address where I stand on women, so nobody's confused.We rock.
I stand for women. I stand for men. We are equal. We are both needed and immensely important.
Women should be able to have a voice just as men do.
Women are not beneath men, neither is it the other way around.
Women are not less.
As for women in the church, "where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom."
There should not be limits in what is acceptable for a women in the church simply because she is female.
Women preach. Women teach. Women minister. Women lead. AMEN.

Alright, now that that's been settled...

I've been thinking about women at rest.
Honestly, you don't see it too much when you look around, but when you do see it, you really see it.

If you're still with me, don't fall off your horse just yet, we're gonna talk about an underwear model as an example ;)
Her name is Ashley Graham.
When I first stumbled across an interview with her, I was blown away.
Not only did she not possess that popular hollow vacancy most models seem to have, but she truly shone. She was radiant. And what really got me, was that it was true, without a doubt, that she adored who she was. She'd been labelled a plus size model, that she was "pretty for a big girl" and hated on for leading a bad example by being so "big." But there she sat. She knew who she was and every last inch of her, cellulite, bumps lumps and curves, she really loved.
And I felt beautiful just looking at her. Because she was at REST. And it was spilling out on everybody who looked on.

You'll find women at rest don't have to try to push a point. People often start following along simply because it felt so freeing to live life thinking & doing like that rested woman did.
I've watched this happen to others and to myself.

I follow a truly amazing woman on Instagram called Terrica. She has completely transformed my mindset about rest, and I've found myself getting lost in her writings, not because she stands at the pulpit and preaches her guts out, commanding everybody feel as she does, but because she just is, and to witness that is peaceful. So I continue on following her because her peace is addictive.
Like I said, proving a point isn't necessary to changing the world to think like you. People are attracted to someone confident enough in their beliefs that they rest in them.
*Being at rest is not the same as being passive. Let them not be confused as the same thing.

Maybe you're asking, what about standing for things? Speaking up?
Being at rest doesn't mean you don't speak, it means you speak from a different position.
Women like Lisa Bevere, Christa Black (!!!!) and Abi Stumvoll are some great examples of fiery women who PREACH IT with zest and passion. They are raw. They are honest. But it doesn't feel harsh, and it doesn't feel like a rally to "join their opinion." It feels like peace. It feels empowering. It feels like love wrapping around you for the first time. It feels like the true strength & beauty of women finally being revealed in all its glory. Its not sparkles and rainbows, but it is beautiful.

Right now a lot of women are angry. And for many reasons, I'm sure for a lot of them they have valid reasons. The frustration of not being valued equally because you are female, is positively infuriating.
And its not wrong to be upset about that. Its not wrong to be upset about wrongdoing. In-fact, its healthy.

A lot of us are wound up and ready to blow over the constant pressure to prove ourselves and be heard, that having a voice about problems can become harsh and "believe what I believe or else" with the world at gunpoint.
And before you know it you've got an army of angry women ready to level anything and anyone that remotely sounds like its against and or different, than their way of thinking.

Hear me out, its not wrong to be angry. As you might remember, the bible talked about righteous anger, and if anyone understands being angry, I really do.
There's just three important things to remember when you're madder than a hornet & ready to flatten:
1. Not every battle is meant to be won on social media.
Its not an issue of tip-toeing around subjects or people, its just basic wisdom.
2. If its a public issue, political or otherwise, make sure the information you're being fed is truthful. Snapchat articles don't count. The belief that a popular celebrity has about it shouldn't be your confirmation that the information is credible. Facebook's trending section shouldn't solidify your suspicions. Would you trust this source to talk honestly about you? No? Than don't allow their "fake news" to be the truth you base your beliefs upon.
3. Not much can go wrong when 1, you speak with honor, and 2, you stick to what you say you stand for. If you believe women need to come together and be strong, stop bringing down your fellow woman and speaking smack. WALK the TALK. Being the "voice for women" comes with great responsibility. With class, ladies, with class.

...................................................................

God is so into powerful women. He's so into us being leaders and teachers and world changers. He wants our voices to be heard because he knows we have something so important to offer the world. So shine on. The permission you need has been given from the moment He breathed life into you. Rest easy. You don't need to wrestle your way in to be seen as important and equal. You already are. Be kind. Lead with class. You don't have to do it like a dude, ladies. Be at rest with yourself and your worth, and what you say and do will leave the world speechless.

-Lauricia
// photo via Vero Photoart