MEET LAUREN

Lauren grew up in Gig Harbor, WA and graduated from the University of Washington in 2018 with a business degree in Finance and Marketing. After graduating college, she spent a year working as a Youth Ministry Intern at University Place Presbyterian Church and partnered with Young Life College to start a new club at the University of Washington Tacoma. In September 2019, she moved down to Newport Beach, CA for another ten month internship at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. Lauren still lives in Southern California and is about to start a new job working for Young Life as a Wyldlife Staff Associate at Ensign Middle School in Newport Beach.

Lauren came to know Jesus through Young Life when she was in middle school, and has dedicated her life to serving in a variety of ministry contexts since then. She loves Jesus and kids, and can’t wait for the opportunity to give back to a ministry that has done so much for her.

PURPOSE AND PAIN

A REFLECTION

I grew up in Gig Harbor, WA which I often think of as a little bubble. I never knew or had to experience real hardship. I never had to worry about things like money, having a roof over my head, food to eat, or a family that loved me. I always felt safe and secure.

Up until I left for college, my life was pretty much smooth sailing. After my freshman year of college, I felt like my life flipped upside down.

I had just gotten home from Summer Staff, which for those of you who don’t know, is where college kids go volunteer and serve at a Young Life camp for a month over the summer. I had the best time serving kids, building relationships, and focusing on my relationship with Jesus. One morning, a few days after I got home, I woke up to a lot of yelling and screaming and didn’t know what was going on. I remember laying in bed feeling so afraid, alone, and confused. Later that day, I watched my dad pack a suitcase and move out. This was the start of a four year roller coaster that eventually resulted in my parents getting divorced. I was completely devastated, shocked, and heartbroken.

I want to preface this story by saying that I have two incredible parents who I love deeply. They have done so much for me, and I am so thankful for the way that they raised me and continue to show me love and support to this day. I would be lying if I said that their divorce hasn’t caused me a tremendous amount of pain, fear, loss and grief. Growing up, faith was never a big part of my family. I came to know the Lord through Young Life when I was in eighth grade, and my journey of coming to know Jesus was independent of my family. For years I have prayed that my parents would come to know, love, trust and follow Jesus.

During my senior year of college, I desperately wanted to leave Washington. After growing up in Gig Harbor and then attending the University of Washington, I was ready for a change of scenery. Towards the end of my senior year, I got a job offer to be a Youth Intern at University Place Presbyterian Church and work with Young Life College at the University of Washington Tacoma, which is even closer to Gig Harbor than Seattle. Since I didn’t have any other real options lined up, I decided to take it.

Throughout college, whenever I was home on the weekends I would invite my mom to come to church with me. She almost always said yes, but usually only went if I was there too. When I first started working at UPPC, my mom came a few times. When I asked her what she thought, she would say, “I liked it” or, ”it was fine”, but never much more than that. One day, in the middle of that year, my mom came into the kitchen and asked me out of the blue, “How do I become closer to God?.” I couldn’t believe it.

Me and my mom

At the time my mom asked me this, I knew she was deeply hurting and searching. Through the power of prayer and a simple invitation, God used me to draw my mom closer to Jesus.

She began coming to church every week and sitting in the front row. She got to know the pastors and staff members, started reading devotionals, asking me questions, and pursuing Jesus wholeheartedly. At that moment, it became so clear to me why God wanted me to stay in Washington an extra year after graduating, despite how badly I wanted to leave.

There are so many things that the Lord has taught me through my parents’ divorce and what has happened as a result of it. Romans 8:28 tells us, “for we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love Him.” Even in the most painful, messy, and difficult situations, God works all things together for good. My mom’s pursuit of Jesus was an answer to a prayer that I had been praying for years, and God answered it in the midst of one of the most difficult seasons in both of our lives. Sometimes it’s in our most raw, vulnerable, and darkest places that God shows up the most.

I’ve also been reminded to never doubt that there is purpose in the specific place and season God has you in. I once heard someone say, “hold your dreams tight but your plans loosely.” Whenever I think I have an idea of how my life is going to go, almost always God’s plans end up being different than mine. I didn’t want to stay in Washington when I graduated, but God had a very specific purpose and plan for me there. He was even gracious enough to be faithful in giving me an opportunity to move to Southern California after my internship ended, which is where I still live now.

I once heard someone say, "hold your dreams tight but your plans loosely."

For anyone who is struggling, lost, confused, or wondering what God has for them in this season, know that God works all things together for good and there is purpose in this season and where God has you.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

Written by Lauren Harrison for The Anchor Journal

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