Category Archives: THINGS I LOVE

#TSHIRTPROJECT

I’m awkward. And lot of what I’ve been studying in the gospels is how important it is for us as believers to disciple to others. But how do you do that? How in the world are we supposed to show Christ to complete strangers when you may only have a minute in line at the coffee shop with them? I’m not going to be THAT girl obnoxiously bringing up my faith right off the bat because that’s just not me, and God knows that — He made me. Plus, we’ve talked about it.

So what then? Do I pull out my WWJD bracelets from 1999 and wear them everywhere? Carry my Bible from place to place and hope that a) someone sees it and b) asks me about it? I could always invest in some chacos? They’re pretty stereotypical if you’re going for the Young Life vibe, but that still isn’t enough!

Then, I suddenly felt the inspiration. I knew how to make this work and not look like a total dork! It’s funny the way God reaches you. For me, the more I spend time in His word, the more clear His word becomes. What used to come across as just any ole idea is now what I recognize as Him telling me to do something. Well, one day God spoke to me, and He said, “Make shirts.” I said, “Ok, what kind of shirts?” And He said, “Cool ones.” And I said, “Let’s get to Target then.”

So off to Target we go. I had been on Pinterest a ton, so I had some fun ideas of how I was going to make these shirts look. I got a few plain black and white tees, then headed to Michaels for the iron-on letters. Once the shopping was complete, I went home to find some verses for the shirts.

Now I knew that I wanted my message to be subtle — I wanted people to ask me what my shirt meant. So I found a few of my favorite passages and ironed on some words from those passages without including the actual verse. That way, when someone read ‘More Than Conquerors’ for example, they would have to ask me what it meant and TADA!! It was them approaching me instead of me approaching them! Once they became interested in what my shirt meant, I was able to share with them.

This tactic is great for a few reasons:

1 – I don’t look like a total dweeb trying to start an awkward conversation about Jesus with someone I don’t know.

2 – I’m challenged to actually memorize the full verse that my shirt represents and know what it is I’m going to share about that part of the Bible.

3 – I get a super cheap, super cute new wardrobe that has a cool meaning to it!

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I’m so excited about this new project and would be thrilled for all of YOU to play a part in it. I think this is a great opportunity to show our love for Christ in a way that is approachable and catchy. So I encourage all of you to find a cool verse, make your own shirts, add some fun jewelry/accessories, and go disciple to the world!

If you decide to take part in this fun movement, make sure to share your shirts with everyone! Upload your images + use the hashtag #tshirtproject. We want to see your works of art!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

#thingsadored

#TSHIRTPROJECT

Photography by the lovely Southern Fried Photography 


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Shirt | Target

Letters | Michaels

Also have: iron/ironing board

NOT FORGOTTEN

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land” Deuteronomy 15:11.

God has been tugging at my heartstrings when it comes to the homeless lately. It literally pains me to pass by someone in need and not have anything to give. And if I’m being completely honest, sometimes it even pains me to give. With a man on every corner, my wallet doesn’t stand a chance. So what else can we do?

The Lord tells us to provide for the needy. We must help them with their physical health, but we can’t ignore their spiritual health either. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will fall and give up. But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:29-31). So what good does it do to hand a guy a few bucks and then keep walking? Yes, you just provided him with a means for food, but anyone can do that. We as Christians are called to give more.

What do they need Lord? Besides money, how can I make their day better and invite them to find You?

God has blessed me enough that I’ve never experienced life without a home or food, but I imagine it can be pretty lonely and extremely hopeless. So, I decided to find ways to help by making bags for them. I went to Target and bought sandwich bags, peanut butter crackers, Starburst, raisins, mints, and notecards. I separated the food, put them in bags, and wrote notes on the cards that said:

GOD KNOWS YOU AND HE LOVES YOU

What else do they need to know? Though they live a life that reflects hopelessness and abandonment, God shows us that even with nothing, we have value. Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; You are Mine (Isaiah 43:1is what He tells us. He knows each of our names and loves us. This message is the most powerful thing you can tell someone who has nothing. God knows who each one of us is. You aren’t forgotten or alone. You are loved by Love.

I encourage each of you to give what you can. If it’s money, do it. If it’s food, do it. If all you can do is ask them their name and pray for them, do it. We are all children of God struggling in this world. But how much better would if be if we were all in it together? Go out there and make someone smile. Make someone who has nothing feel like they’re everything, even if it lasts for just one day. Find little ways to show someone they matter. Show them God.

#thingsadored

#notforgotten

THE START

I’m now on my third week in LA. It’s been so incredible. Not only is the weather ridiculously amazing, but I feel like I’ve already experienced so many amazing things that I was not expecting.

My time here started off slow and damp. When I realized I couldn’t fit everything into my suitcase, the rain boots were the first to go. But of course, the day I arrive in sunny California, it’s rainy and filled with the notorious LA smog. I guess that’s what I get for assuming.. Ha. To put a positive twist on that, it was an awesome reminder not to expect everything to go my way here. Assumption is a crutch, and one that I best learn not to lean on.

I spent my first week reconnecting with some pretty amazing friends, exploring new areas and hiking trails. Although I’m still waiting on some meetings to happen before I get the auditions rolling, I was able to start a few acting class, and what I got out of it was both inspiring and intimidating.

In one class, each student took a turn getting on the small stage to work on their scene. Before they began their lines, each person would go through what they called the ‘How do I feel’ exercise. In this exercise, you state out loud what is going on at the time. For example, “How do I feel? I feel nervous. This is my first class, and I’m not sure how I’ll do. I feel intimidated that all of you are staring at me and probably judging me. I feel hungry, I forgot to eat before I came. How do I feel? I feel irritated at how rude the guy bagging my groceries was to me earlier. I have no clue what I did to this jerk, and I wish I could go back and punch him in the face. I feel lonely. My husband is on the other side of the country, and I hate going home alone every night. I’m frustrated because I want to blame my loneliness on someone, but I know it’s neither of our faults that he can’t be here. And now I feel embarrassed that I’ve told you all of this…” Once the teacher felt you had reached a specific emotional state, he would say ACTION, and on the same beat, you’d start your scene.

Something I learned from this is that actors are very dark, complex people. I mean, we’ve all got our issues, but it is highly unlikely that they are spoken of, especially to a class full of strangers. It’s both scary and exhilarating at the same time. Although you may not be comfortable being completely honest with them or with yourself about your emotions, it felt really good to hear those feelings being spoken. There’s a level of trust and vulnerability it takes to even be an actor, and surrounding yourself with people that open and honest is freeing. I’ve always thought that it was a burden to unload all your inner feelings to the people around me, but in this industry, you get to use those as ammunition for your work. It’s really satisfying and brings this level of release that other jobs don’t offer.

I feel very blessed to be here. I’m blessed to be doing what I love. Since I can remember, I’ve wanted to work in this industry, and it’s mind-blowing that I’m actually in Hollywood trying to make that happen. Gahh someone pinch me! There’s no way this can be real..

#thingsadored

MY WILDERNESS

Solitude. I feel like I am in complete solitude. There are friends I can turn to and a city full of other people to be around, but I feel like all the times I really don’t want to be alone are the times no one is available. In the moment, it is depressing and lonely, but I’ve started praying about what it’s all for. Lord, are You doing this on purpose? How can I best use this time? What are You trying to reveal to me?

Growing up in the Bible Belt, knowledge of God was passed around like any other text book. You went to church because your family and friends did. You went on youth trips because it was fun and the boys were cute. You prayed before you ate and went to bed, and you would occasionally bow your head when you needed something. This wasn’t what we were taught by our pastors and youth leaders, but you tend to miss the message by playing tic-tac-toe in the pews; the blame is completely on us.

Before Christ pulled me back out of Laurenland, there were times I genuinely felt a strong relationship between Him and I; however, my life reflected none of the sort.

Being in California has opened my eyes to many things, but one thing that’s both inspiring and refreshing is that the believers here are stronger than the ones who have lived their entire lives going to church. Here, following Christ is a choice. You don’t go because your parents made you, and you don’t learn about the Bible because it’s forced. It is a personal decision each person has made. Some of the people I’ve met aren’t supported by their parents. Some have lost everything to follow the path Christ has given them. They are more in tune with what God has for them, and the strength of their faith far surpasses any other I’ve seen. Not a conversation with them goes by that doesn’t involve the Lord. I think back to all the times I spent with my friends growing up, and we didn’t talk like that with each other. Yes, we were ‘Christians’, but it was uncomfortable to bring it up in conversation. Instead of saying, “I feel like God has lead me here” or “Jesus has really made it clear that this is where I should be,” I would say, “Everything happens for a reason” or “I think it’s working itself out.” It was almost as if we were embarrassed to utter words concerning Someone we had apparently known all our lives. It makes me so sad to think of all the time I wasted and all the people I could have influenced if I had just stopped worrying what they would think of me if I said ‘GOD’. Why do we do that??

I’m halfway through a book called Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr. I would not recommend this book because his teachings are deceptive and molded to fit the New Age way of things. But he does, however, make a few points that at least got me thinking. He claims that we don’t allow ourselves to live past our shallow surface for fear of rejection and misperception. We are constantly creating rules and restraints for our relationships with others that are binding and unnecessary.

Those who rush to artificially manufacture their own identity often end up with hardened and overly defended edges. They are easily offended and are always ready to create a new identity when the current one lets them down. They might become racists or control freaks, people who are always afraid of the “other.” Often they become codependent or counter-dependent, in either case, only living in reaction to someone or something else. To them, negative identity is created quickly and feels sort of like life. Thus many people, even religious folks, settle for lives of “holier than thou” or lives consumed of hatred by their enemies. Being over and against is a lot easier than being in love.

This was me.  I was stuck in a surface life and letting every opinion around me decide how to live. I shut people out and passed too many by because I was afraid of everyone else’s reaction. My first response to anyone calling me to truth, greatness, goodness, or morality was overwhelming anxiety. Instead of recognizing the beauty in pushing myself to love, I put up a wall and reacted in terror because I was ‘too afraid to go there.’ Rohr points out that at the edges of medieval maps were frequently penciled in the warning: “Here be dragons.” We confront these dragons when we reach the edge of our comfort zone. If we aren’t trained in how to overcome these fears, we will just continue to feed them.

In the Bible, prophets like John the Baptist would live for years in the solitude of the wilderness in order to escape conformation of exactly what Rohr is talking about. By secluding themselves, they were able to remain at the simple core of life without exposing themselves to whatever might harden their surface. That way, their foundation was strong enough that it wasn’t influenced by what closes all of us up. They could resist the ‘boundaries’ we tend create, therefore, keeping their sight and mind clean. They could see things just as they are without all the rules and regulations hindering their organic perception. They hadn’t been given a chance to form this ego-agenda we all have, so they could see things as they are.

Oh.. It hit me like a blow to the head. My solitude isn’t punishment; it’s a gift. In this busy, self-worshipping world, it is actually a gift to be alone. How can we hear the Word of God when everything else is screaming for our attention? Phones, TV, kids, spouses, music, movies, magazines, vacations, nightlife, friends, enemies, money, clothes, cars, homes, family, etc, etc, etc. Everything wants us to stop and pay attention. It’s nonstop, but we don’t even realize it. I sure didn’t until I came to LA and had nothing to keep my mind busy. Yes, I’m staying active and have things to get done, but I come home to nothing. I come home to my books and my Bible and my scripts and my thoughts on what I’m learning from the people in this whole new world I’ve found. I think about both believers and nonbelievers. I see myself in the people lost without Christ because I’ve been there. And I see hope in the believers here because I know that’s the direction I want to go in. I pray for daily reminders of what my life without Christ was like, but I also pray that my thirst and hunger for Jesus is never filled. I want to always desire Him. I hope that after I leave LA, I still find alone time, and I hope it still causes me pain. We need pain. I want to be poor in spirit because if I’m not, and if I find satisfaction in the things distracting me from my faith, then I’m failing. Lord, keep me humble. Keep me searching for more. Don’t let me pull the thorn from my side, for it’s a constant reminder that only You can fix me. Only You can heal me. Only You can comfort me. And Only You can give me joy in times of sorrow.

This is my wilderness.

#thingsadored

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SNOW

This week, we woke up to a thick blanket of snow on the ground. I was glad to get one more good snowfall before I hop on the plane Saturday. Won’t be getting any of this in LA!

The snow made me kind of sad to leave — not because I’ll miss the cold, but because I had Morgan and Crosby to share it with. Watching our sweet pup run and get snow all over his face brought us so much enjoyment. I’m really going to miss those two. Living by myself in a new city for 3 months, when I’ve never lived by myself at all before, isn’t going to be easy. Not one bit.

But I’m blessed to have been given this opportunity, and I know it’s where I’m supposed to be. Too many ‘coincidences’ would have had to happen for this not to have been planned out by something More. And I know that. I guess I’ll try keep the sadness as minimal as possible for now and just play in the snow :)

Chin up, Lauren!

#thingsadored

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Jacket | H&M

Boots | Dirty Laundry

CROSBY

I love my dog more than you love your dog. I know that’s quite a statement to make. But it’s true.

One of the top discussions my husband and I had after marriage was not ‘when are we having kids’. It was ‘when are we getting a dog’. He grew up with labs, and I grew up with dachshunds — big vs. small. As a child, I was terrified of large dogs. They were big, smelly, mean & knocked me over as they attempted to place their brutish paws on my upper body. So naturally, I favored lap dogs. So, not only did we disagree on the size, but we also disagreed on when. I was a big fan of having kids first so that the pets weren’t a headache when the cooking, cleaning & raising them overtook my life. He wanted them before…

Well, I thought + thought + thought about it and one day decided, eh why not? I work from home, he travels, I talk to myself too much; it might be fun to have a little pooch running around. So, not only did I give in to the ‘when’, but I also gave into the size.. For Morgan’s 26th birthday, I surprised him with the most precious black lab puppy you’ve ever seen.

Fast forward two years to now, and I can’t imagine what it would be like without him! I take him on runs, he helps me cook, we sing to each other all day long — ok fine, I sing + he hides — he watches TV with me & he greets me every morning with even more excitement than the day before. Our usual routine is:

  • he wakes me up with at least 2 toys in his mouth, causing him to snort very loudly
  • we walk downstairs and I say “Are you hungry?” — causing him to convulse out of control
  • after he eats, I ask him if he would like to go for a run… he takes a few laps around the living room before I even have time to get myself ready
  • after the run, we’ll come in and rest/ shower/ work on things until it’s selfie + snapchat time
  • later, dad (Morgan) will come home — he will again grab at least 2 toys and greet him at the door, snorts and all

This little guy holds my heart + I’m so thankful that I’ve got him in my life. He’s one of the funniest, weirdest animals I’ve ever known, but I think that’s why we love each other so much. Here’s to you, Crosby! xoxo

#thingsadored

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EXPLORE BALTIMORE – FELLS POINT

This marks my fourth year in Baltimore. I can’t believe I’ve been out of the South for that long! But, now that I’m almost a vet at finding the best hidden restaurants + mastering the terrible highways, I’ve spent time venturing downtown into what they call Fells Point.

Fells is a precious little cobblestone street neighborhood that’s got lots of secret beauty to it. Anywhere you look there’s architecture with charm & character that’s well deserving of applause. You get the feel that it’s been around a while, but it is still clean and inviting. One thing you MUST do down there is eat. Maryland is known for it’s awesome seafood.

Crab cakes and football. That’s what Maryland does.

The food is incredible. You can stop in a little hole in the wall wine cafe or Irish pub just about anywhere. They line the streets of downtown like they’re guarding them from any other distractions that might come along.

To start, order a drink (Natty Boh is their famous local beer) and some sort of crab dip appetizer, whether it be with bread, veggies, or pretzel — you’ll faint before you can even put in your meal order. Next, you’re going to want to try a soup concoction that’s out of this world. So they’ll have Maryland crab soup as one option, which is crab and vegetables; they’ll also list cream of crab, which is self explanatory. What you do is order a ‘half-and-half’, which is one half of each. It’s not too creamy because you’ve got the veggies in there, but it’s also not too light because of the thickness of the cream of crab. Heaven. Then, you finish off the meal with an outrageous entree and possibly dessert if there’s still room.

After that heart attack of a meal, take a walk around the harbor. You could wander for hours and still never see all the sights, but the buildings are beautiful and all on the water’s edge. The shopping is great so make sure you stop in a few clothing stores as well as the random, quirky shops. You’ll find lots of treasures in there for yourself and your loved ones.

And let me know when you make plans! I’ll be there xoxo

#thingsadored

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– W H E R E – T O – E A T –

Kooper’s Tavern

Riptide by the Bay

Waterfront Hotel

Bertha’s Mussels

Tapas Adela

V-NO Wine Bar

MY PLACE

Someone once told me to find a place, a small corner of the earth, where you don’t mind being alone. Actually, it’s better that you prefer to be there alone. It should be an escape, a breath of fresh air when the world is crashing down, and you just need to get lost. I found my place.

Back home in Tennessee, just behind the last row of fences in my neighborhood, lies one of the most beautiful places you’ll come across in the South. I first discovered it as a freshman in high school. It was where all the kids would park their cars at night and stand around until curfew because, let’s be real, what else do you do in a little country town east of the Mississippi?

Once I got older, I started going there on my own. Half of the park’s trail is a wooden walkway leading back to a river, and the other half is just dirt pathways winding all throughout the woods. If you get there early enough in the morning, just as the sun is coming up to start the day fresh and new, you’ll find all kinds of animals rustling about — from deer to rabbits to tiny little lizards & even an old owl headed in for the day. Everywhere you look, there’s magic — water making music with the rocks it gushes over, leaves shaking hands as they’re blown into each other, spider webs doing a dance in the early morning light.

I swear, if fairies are real, this is where you’ll find them.

But it’s different in the morning. The woods don’t seem bothered by your presence. It’s almost as if you’re part of it, no different than the animals watching you pass by. You just sort of blend in, and it feels good. Innocent. That’s why I like it in the morning.

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This park, apart from it’s physical beauty, has an even deeper beauty to it. It’s got a way of pulling things out of you. I’ve discovered a lot about myself over the years just by spending my mornings running up and down the trails. Silence and solitude is good. Good for the mind + good for the soul. It gives you a chance to shut everything out and listen to what you’re heart is screaming at you while you’re too busy being… well, busy. Mornings there are also good for prayer. The words I present to God while I’m at this park are sincere + honest. I lose my selfishness for a time and am able to see everything more clearly.

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Do you have a place like this? If you do, spend time there. Learn what it is you love about it. Discover why it is you hope you can find just 15 minutes to spare. Then go.

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#thingsadored

CHRISTMAS IN TENNESSEE

This Christmas was special because for the first time since Morgan and I have been together, we got to go home and celebrate with family as a couple. Usually it’s just me sneaking off by myself for a long weekend because he has to work, but this year I didn’t go alone. Unfortunately, the reason behind it was his injury from back in October, but the good Lord showed us this season that you can grow flowers from where dirt used to be, and we took advantage of his time off!

We had originally had plans to watch our town’s Christmas parade with my family, but sadly it was rained out. We did, however, get to laugh over past Christmas parades we had taken part in. One of my favorite (and funniest) memories was as a Girl Scout when I was younger. Our troop dressed up as presents, and being the tiny nugget that I was at the time, the ‘box’ was a little overwhelming. I can remember walking down the street behind the Civil War reenactment, when all of a sudden, I tripped and couldn’t get back up because the box was too big for my hands or feet to grip the ground… Not my brightest moment.

We continued our weekend home by celebrating my sister-in-law’s engagement, as well as attending the Cox family Christmas gathering {pictured above}. My in-laws just moved into a new home back in the spring, so we helped them break in their first Christmas there. The house is beautifully located in Collierville’s historic district. It was decorated from head to foot; I was not ready to leave by the end of the night.

It’s funny. I’m one of those people that wakes up Christmas morning already mourning the loss of the season. I wish it wasn’t that way. Every year it seems, I think to myself “last parade until next year” or “last gift until next year” or “last song until next year”. I’ve actually turned into quite the Scrooge when the morning of the 25th rolls around. But I guess it’s because I’m also one of those people that sets my expectations too high. I plan to get the decorations out super early, next come the cards, then watch movies until my eyes bleed, and forget it if I don’t have at least three events to get all dressed up for. But grumpy, controlling antics aside, I really did enjoy getting to be home together with both our families. I know one day we’ll be back for good, but I’m glad that this year was set aside for us to get a peak of what our future Ho-Ho-Ho-‘s will be like. It was fun :)

#thingsadored

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