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Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Year of Rebuilding

I’ve been struggling with how to put into words how it feels to be rebuilt by God’s love and grace. Then it hit while I was sitting in at Richmond Starbucks this past week. For a moment I let myself exhale, and out of my lips came, “Thank you Father. Thank you.” 

My mind reflected to the brokenness I felt at this very same moment this time last year.

I recalled all the months with no place to stay, the weeks of feeling abandoned, the days and minutes of feeling I could never be made whole. Sitting there in that coffee shop with a place to return home to, a job I take pride in, and a hope for the future I never thought possible, the beauty of God’s grace washed over me. The feeling was so strong I broke down in tears just thanking God for His provision.

There were so many times I did not feel I deserved love from anyone. I felt because of my mistakes, missteps with love and sex, the shame I’ve brought my family, the dreams I let fall to waste side that I deserved my hard life.  Thankfully during the hardest moments of last year I’ve grew closer to my heaven Father by reading His word, and singing His praises. I feel transformed and rebuilt by His love. 

I am forever changed because of God’s love, and the sacrifice Jesus made that allows me to live a redeemed life.

It's like the scripture Jeremiah 31:4 that reads like this, “I will rebuild you, and you will dance again.” 

In the book of Jeremiah,God’s people have disobeyed Him. He voices his displeasure in the book, and lays out the punishment for their disobedience. But, Jeremiah 31:4 proves that no matter how far we stray from God’s obedience He gives us another chance to be rebuilt in His image and experience joy or dancing as it says in this scripture.

These past few months I can see how God has picked up the broken pieces of my life and rebuilt them into something new. He picked up the pieces of homelessness and turned into a new secure home of my own. He picked up the pieces of unemployment and
Me and one of my best friends Miss Sunshine
provided me with a job that allows me to help people. 
He picked up the pieces of my loneliness and blessed me with friends who have loved me in my valley. Now I am surrendering my shame, my guilt, and my own personal disappointment at the altar for Him to renew also. With every broken piece that God replaces in me I am being set free.What’s even more exciting is that I know this is only the beginning. I have not even began to dance as it says in the book of Jeremiah, and when I do it is going to glorify God is a major way.

Thank you Father for leaving the flock for this one sheep. Thank you for making me new.

February 18th I will be baptized again, a public display of an internal work in me. It is a re-dedication to you, a new beginning, a declaration of where my heart and soul stands. I am finally ready.



Sunday, February 4, 2018

An Evening w/ Officer Tommy Norman

Early one December morning while scrolling through Facebook I came across a event with Officer Tommy Norman. If you do not know who Officer Norman is, a quick Google search will yield thousands of posts about this small town officer who has captured the hearts of millions with his community policing. When the officer involved shootings where a common headline, Officer Norman was interviewed countless times. Many people wanted to understand how Officer Norman was able to connect so powerfully with not only the white community but the black community.
When I saw he was coming to Portsmouth, Virginia I knew I had to go to hear his story.







This past Friday, I sat front row as Officer Tommy Norman shared his story of how he’s become an

internet sensation. Officer Norman's dream to help others started when he was only 13. He saw a ‘Feed the Children’ commercial and donated all his hard earned grass cutting money to help a child thousands of miles away. His mother noted that he was helping a stranger, someone he would never see or interact with. But, Officer Norman said he did not care. He just wanted to help someone in need.

“I don’t know much, but I’ve always known how to love people,” Norman said.

Love, simple yet so powerful is what motivated Officer Norman to do what he does. His shows his love with compassionate policing. He shows his love by visiting disabled residents in his beat and spending time with them. He shows his love by giving thank you cards to people in his every day life. He shows his love by buying coffee for elderly people. It is simple. It is patient. It is kind. It is Christ like. The way I want to love anyone who invests in me personally or professionally.

Officer Norman’s story made me realize that no matter what our profession is we can all show love to people in our work. As an aspiring author, motivational speaker, and mental health advocate Officer Norman inspires me to show love not just in my passions but also in my work.

Officer Norman chronicles his community policing on Facebook. And people all over the world have come to know and love many of the people he features on his Facebook page. It is through those stories that people see his love for people personally. This simple act is inspiring so many people in so many powerful ways.

A woman in the audience shared that during chemotherapy for cancer Officer Norman’s Facebook lives is the only thing that makes her laugh when she is in the throws of fear, and pain. Tears welled up in my eyes when I heard that. I thought to myself, " This is the power of love."

Here is a snippet of the talk he gave in Portsmouth. I wanted to record the whole thing, but I was so captivated by his story I wanted to experience it fully.



I had an opportunity to take a picture with Officer Norman and meet him personally afterwards. I was struck by his humility. He thanked me for coming, and gave a me genuine hug.



Such an inspiration! 



Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Bravery of Telling Your Own Story : (This is My Brave & Fireflies Unite)

Breaking My Silence

Living in silence about my mental illness was second nature to me for a very long time. It was just one of those things you were told not to talk about. Looking back even in my serious relationships I can only remember talking to one of my boyfriends about my anxiety attacks and depression. One! He was a hot Navy Corpman named Javi who tried with all his might to love me through my depressive states, anxiety attacks, and my desire to withdrawal. I recall one night when I when started to hyperventilate over a tense conversation we had, he laid with me on the couch, and soothed me to sleep. I will always love him for that. But over time he saw my depression as laziness, and anxiety as weakness and he eventually left me. Like so many others did. 

After that for nearly two years I wallowed, and almost killed myself in the roughest depressive episode I've ever experienced. Silence was all I knew then. I remember days at a time when I wouldn't speak to anyone except my mother. I thought no one could possibly understand the roller coaster of numbness, sadness, self doubt, hatred, and loathing I experienced on a daily basis. Thankfully, the fog of depression did start to lift after months of therapy, anti-depressants, and reconnecting with my faith. It was a spiritual calling that prompted me to start blogging about surviving suicide, trying to live with depression, and how I was trying to live in recovery. One January morning while I was watching a Joyce Meyers program I heard Joyce speak about depression and mental illness. The more I listened the more I felt something began to break inside of me. The shame, and guilt I felt of my depression was falling away. And, I felt God say to me, " Lauren you need to share your story, because when you do it will set you free and so many of my children free also." Joyce quoted this scripture in 1 Peter 5:8 

"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, and stand firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." - 1 Peter 5:8

The last part of the scripture stuck with me , "the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings." It made my heart ache for all the people around the world suffering in silence, held in bondage of their mental illness, and I wanted to be a source for change. A means of expanding the conversation about mental health and showing people there is no shame in living with a mental illness. This is why I am so vocal and open about my mental health journey; the good, bad, and the ugly parts. I am currently writing my memoir about the fall out of my mental illness and the hard road to my recovery. Meanwhile, I'd had two amazing opportunities to share my story with two mental health organizations I highly respect.

This is My Brave

This is me wearing a 'This is My Brave' amazing shirts
This is My Brave is an amazing non-profit that highlights the story of people living with mental illness. Their philosophy is storytelling saves lives. They have a show that tours the country where people share their experience through song, essays, arts, or performances. It's incredible and I hope to go to a show one day. This past month they featured me on one of their blogs. I shared my experience of learning acceptance. Follow this link to read it. 'Road to Acceptance' 


Fireflies Unite
Fireflies Unite is an amazing, new podcast dedicated to expanding the conversation about mental health in the black community. The founder Kea is a suicide attempt survivor like myself and is doing incredible interviews highlighting the truth about mental health in the black community. Kea came across my story on Twitter and invited me to do an interview with her last year. I shared my story of one of the hardest parts about my mental health journey, homelessness. You can listen to my interview at the FireFliesUnite Website.

I am pursuing some other places to feature my story and I'll keep you posted on those. I am most excited about the prospect of my memoir being published this year and diligently working to make that a reality.

As always you can support this dream with a donation to my Go Fund Me Page


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Last Week of My Daniel Fast: When It's Time To Let Go

The Art Of Letting Go

The dictionary defines purge as:
  1. 1.
    rid (someone) of an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition, typically giving a sense of cathartic release.
    free someone from (an unwanted feeling, memory, or condition).
    • remove (a group of people considered undesirable) from an organization or place in an abrupt or violent manner.
    • remove a group of undesirable people from (an organization or place) in an abrupt or violent way.
      atone for or wipe out (contempt of court).
    • physically remove (something) completely.
noun
noun: purge; plural noun: purges
  1. 1.
    an abrupt or violent removal of a group of people from an organization or place.
    "a purge of the ruling class is absolutely necessary"
    synonyms:removal, expulsion, ejection, exclusion, eviction, dismissal, sacking, ousting, eradication
    "the purge of dissidents"
In my last blog I noted how God brought to the surface so many broken, hurtful, painful moments in my life. It's like He went under the rug where I kept all my sins, mistakes, all my hardships, and drug them out. I felt myself surrounded in the smoke of my abandonment, rejection, homelessness, despair, and dashed dreams. I cried. I tossed and turned in my bed with dreams of the life I was once knew. I prayed, and pleaded for God to release me, to move to a place of acceptance, and peace. While I am not completely there with God's amazing grace and love I am getting there everyday. I can feel it in the moments I don't speak ill of people who hurt me. I can see when I am able to turn the other cheek. I can sense it when I can exhale in the midst of my emotional triggers. God is changing me, breaking me free of the past that hurt so bad to live in a life of glory like I never thought possible. In therapy I am voicing the things I've kept secret for too long and purging them from my heart. I finally feel ready to part with some of the physical reminders of my past. 

I am one of those kind of people that attaches a memory to almost anything. I first realized this after a major depressive episode in my twenties. When my family came to my small one bedroom apartment, they saw my house was a mess full of unnecessary items and trash. When they tried to help me give away some of the clothes that were blocking entry to my bed or objects I no longer used; I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Every item of clothing held some memory to me. Now years later I still have articles of clothing that take me back to a former life. When I was a television reporter I lived in New York & Company clothes. I was proud that I could afford them, and that I could fit them in the single digit sizes. I have lugged those clothes around with me from storage unit to storage unit while I was homeless last year. I no longer had a job that required me to wear the nice business attire and I certainly didn't have the frame. But those clothes symbolized my success in so many ways. It signified the time I could afford a mortgage, trips, nice makeup, and haircuts. They also hold the memory of dozens of live shots, crime scenes and moments as a general assignment reporter. A career I worked hard for and took great pride in. I can tell you the stories I covered in certain pieces of clothing. 

During the last part of my fast, I kept being confronted by a verse I have come to love.  

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here?-2 Corinthians 5:17

I was determined to get to a weight where I could wear my old T.V. clothes again. But then I felt God say, "Why? Why do you want something that was?" 

I had no answer to that question. I guess apart of me wanted to feel the way I used to feel in those clothes. As much as God is restoring me I often long for what my life used to be; prosperous, exciting, financially secure, loved. But, every time I heard or read the verse in 2 Corinthians I felt God saying, "Lauren, your walk with me is making you new. If you truly want to experience the new season, the new joy, the renewal  I have for you; I need you to let go of the old."  I pondered on that for a few days then remembered this scripture from the book of Matthew.

"Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."- Matthew 9:17

 In an essence God was saying how can I bring you something new if you're still holding onto the old. You can't pour new wine in old wine skins. It can't hold it. The same goes for life. God can't fill you with the new if you're still holding onto the old. So last week I gathered a box full of my old t.v. clothes and I am going to donate them to the clothing closet my employer is creating to help people in need. It is not easy, but I am ready to purge. I am ready to let go and be made new. This Daniel Fast has been so incredibly restorative and challenging. If you considered a Daniel Fast, I encourage you to give your body rest, make time for God's presence in your life, and be ready to go where He takes you.

I am down 10 lbs after my Daniel Fast

 I have so enjoyed this blog series. Next blog I will be blogging about what restoration and rebirth means to me. I will also be blogging on my mental health advocacy and plans to continue sharing my story to a larger audience. 












Joined Weight Watchers after the fast.
Help me reach my dream of taking my book and story national. Donate to my Memoir Fund!You will reap the reward of knowing you a sowing a seed in a woman God is rebuilding for a larger purpose. You can donate at www.gofundme.com/teamgoodgirl 
 






Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Daniel Fast: An Emotional Purge




The Daniel Fast is based off the story of Daniel in the Bible. In captivity under the king, Daniel refused to
eat the King’s food. The king's food that had been submitted to false gods. Instead Daniel, ate from
pulse meaning things that originated from seeds; fruits and vegetables. After 10 days Daniel, and his 
friends who followed the fast were the strongest warriors of all the men the king had captivity.
Later in the story of Daniel God gives him the power to interpret dreams. It is this gift that gives Daniel 
favor with the king. (Check out Daniel 1:2 for this story)

I find it interesting that after a week into my Daniel Fast I found myself in the clutches of intense dreams.
Some were nightmares others were magical, pleasant dreams. After, discussing the dreams with my 
therapist it became clear the nightmares were my minds way of dealing with family trauma, hurt, and 
abandonment. I had tucked away these feelings under my emotional rug so to speak. And, with good 
reason. There is no way I could have survived being homeless, being depressed, feeling alone, and 
fighting to live a life of normalcy if I had confronted these feelings then. During my fast I have not only 
removed certain foods from my life, I have removed certain distractions. Instead of going to Facebook
first thing in the morning I spend time with the Lord; writing my feelings, calling His name in prayer,
and listening to a sermon on YouTube to focus on thinking. 

Without all these distractions I’ve had time to really deal with the demons of my past. And, let me tell
you it has not been easy. There have been nights of crying, pleading with God for release from the pain
of the past, and silence.

I wonder if this is common during a fasting time. In the Bible several prophets and figures in the word 
fast before big decisions. I think of the story of Esther. How her friend asked her to go before
the king and make a request. She was afraid and uncertain. But, she took some time of fasting before
she made her decision. Ultimately she goes to the King, and has favor. My fast has shown me more 
than anything that I need to focus on my own walk more, and in order to truly be set free I have to let 
go of the pain of the past.
This is my first grocery trip on the Daniel Fast


THE FOOD - I also wanted to share some pictures from the food I've been eating during my Daniel Fast. I am in love with smoothies which consists of almond milk, strawberries, flax seed, and bananas. I am also learning to snack better on apples, bananas, and watermelon. These are good healthy habits I plan to keep after the Daniel fast. I am so proud of the discipline I've been able to have concerning food. I am down seven pounds and learning to face my feelings instead of eating them.

Oats, cinnamon, and apples