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Thursday, March 15, 2018

#VLOG: Life After Grace, The Journey Out of Homelessness


I want to thank each and everyone of you who sends comments, emails, and messages of support. It has been a very tough road back to stability. And, your support keeps me picks me up on the tough days and reminds me to keep fighting.

I haven’t done a VLOG on YOUTUBE in a while so click the video below to hear about my journey out of homelessness and what I am up to these days.




Love You, Love God More



Sunday, February 25, 2018

MakeupMonday: When A MUA Slays Your Face

My Mini MakeOver

 I am working on a new website for my speaking business, and I wanted new pictures for the site. I am OK doing my own makeup, but I wanted a professional to give me natural glow for my new head shots. I didn't have to look far. An old high school friend of mine is a self taught make-up artist who does amazing work. I have watched her YouTube Channel, and seen beautiful pictures of her work. She did an amazing job! Here are the before and after pictures. 
I felt like a star getting my makeup done. I can't tell you how many people stopped me that day to compliment me. The make up artist, Martinique and I have known each other since we were kids. As she skillfully worked on my face we talked about our childhoods, our dreams, and goals. It was such a great time of fellowship. I was so stoked about my look I found places to go to show off.

 

If you are in Hampton Roads and would like to experience a Martinique makeover email her at Martinique757@gmail.com

 Also check out her YouTube page. 

 Stay tuned for my new speaking website : www.laurenhopespeaks.com

Thursday, February 22, 2018

#MentalHealthMonday: The Power of Advocacy

My First Advocacy Efforts

I don’t think the average Joe realizes how accessible their local legislators actually are. I know I sure didn’t. When I was a television reporter I expected for local delegates and senators to make time for my interviews. But, did you know they are even more accountable to you, the voting public? This month I had two incredible opportunities to meet with local legislators to advocate for more mental health services in Virginia and I was in awe of how easy it was to connect with legislators.

My first opportunity came through the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI. NAMI is a one of the largest mental health non-profits in the country. One of their many duties is encouraging legislators to create better laws and services for people with mental illness. Me and about a dozen other NAMI members traveled to Richmond to meet with legislators on Mental Health Advocacy Day. In groups of 5 to 10 we met with legislators and discussed current bills NAMI is passionate about. Many NAMI members shared their personal stories about the need for more supportive housing, and Medicaid expansion. I never imagined advocating would make an impact, but every person we met with seemed genuinely interested in hearing about our stories and how current legislation would effect us. AND —>I was super fortunate to Richmond television station CSB 6 there to chronicle my journey. They profiled my journey for Depression Awareness Month last year. This follow up also shed a light on mental health advocacy which is a topic that doesn’t always get television coverage.


I also received a scholarship to attend an advocacy retreat with Mental Health America of Virginia this month. For two days, I learned effective ways to communicate with legislators and the power of advocacy. The retreat was located at a lovely former monastery in Richmond called the Roslyn Center. It is tucked away off Richmond Road in the West End. It was a nice, getaway from the hustle and bustle of life.
Picture of all the NAMI advocates at the Captiol

On the third day of the retreat, we traveled to the Capitol to meet with legislators. The highlight of my visit was meeting Senator Creigh Deeds. I have wanted to meet Creigh Deeds since I heard about his son’s tragic suicide years ago. Since then Senator Deeds has become a vocal, and passionate champion of mental health policy. I didn’t expect that I would get to meet Senator Deeds directly since the General Assembly is currently in session and legislators are busy. But, to my surprise Senator Deeds was in and gave me his undivided attention. I shared a bit of my story with him about surviving suicide, the lack of services when I was homeless, and how difficult life is with limited insurance. He listened, and offered me hope. Senator Deeds says he confident Medicaid expansion will happen soon and discussed the efforts many legislators are making to improve the quality of life for people with mental illness. I legitimately felt heard and understood. 
Senator Creigh Deed introducing NAMI
The experience was so rewarding I plan to participate in advocacy again next year. Maybe one day I’ll make my way to D.C. and speak to congress about the important of mental health services like a role model of mine Demi Lovato. Here’s hoping. 
Another cool thing I bumped into a famous actor. What is so funny is that I saw him sit down and I thought to myself, "That guy looks like a famous actor I've seen in movies." So I went over to him an said, "You must get this a lot but you look a lot like this famous actor." He replied, "Well I wouldn't say I'm that famous." Thanks for being ind Beau Bridges and letting me snap this photo.






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!