A month ago, I returned to Los Angeles after spending half a year traipsing across Germany, Jordan, Israel, Qatar, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, the UK, and the East Coast. Wow, that was a way longer sentence than I expected to write.
Anyway, I'm moving back into my old perfect little bungalow with a handful of unbelievably heart-ful girls. I got back just as the girls were entering the most stressful weeks of the semester, so I decided to wait until they were finished with finals before uprooting anyone and creating move-in chaos (you'd think it wouldn't be that bad but you haven't tried to move my solid wood bed 5 inches).
And so, for all of December, Lauren Leatherberry and Taylor Begert welcomed into their own perfect home in Brentwood. Having a peaceful place to transition, a roof over my head, and a bed to sleep on would have already been an incredible gift, but if you know Lauren and Taylor, then you already know that this month has been so much more. And if you don't know Lauren and Taylor, otherwise known as some of the best people in the world, let me brag a little bit about them.
Lauren has worn five hundred hats in my life. In chronological order: boss, friend, mentor, sister, roommate (mom?). She's the one who taught me how to advocate for myself. Two years ago she hired me to work for her in Pepperdine's Office of the Chaplain. 1.5 years ago she let me drive her car on the freeway for the second time ever on my way to my driving test (which I promptly failed). One year ago she saw me at my worst and asked all the right questions. Two days ago, she brought me hot chicken noodle soup and made me eat a zinc tablet and chug Emergen-C. Life is weird.
Taylor is her partner in crime. And by crime I mean light-bearing life, marriage, adventure, WEIRDNESS (duh), sickness, and health. Taylor is a stupidly talented musical artist and worship leader. Last spring I got to take photos for him, and if there's one thing that makes me an ENFP, it's the love I have for watching people completely in their own element, doing what they love to do. And that's exactly what happened.
Together, they've taught me a lot more than they probably realize this past month. Lauren and Taylor, SORRY FOR PUBLICLY EMBARRASSING YOU. But thank you for shedding some light on some really important lessons about love as a discipline.
1. Be a steward of your roses.
"You're a good steward of your roses. You always take care of your roses whenever I buy them for you."
Taylor said that to Lauren a few days ago (after getting her roses just because). I melted, and I'm not really one to melt over verbal sweetness. It was my favorite thing I've ever heard him say because BASICALLY what he said was, "I appreciate that you appreciate how I appreciate you."
A lesson in not taking expressions of love for granted, check. I just wish they knew how many times they gush about how great each other is when they're not even around to hear it. Taylor, in case you didn't know, Lauren loves her roses and still talks about her high school crush on you. Lauren, in case you didn't know, Taylor really wanted to make sure you got the perfectly colored wallet and takes stock of all the little ways you take care of him when we're all flu-ey and bedridden.
2. No one wins the blame game.
But everybody wins the laugh at life game. Especially when life = dead Christmas tree.
Christmas can truly be full of family disasters. I know, I'm so full of Christmas spirit. But honestly, between gifting stress, flu season, in-laws, and just the fact that life keeps moving no matter what, I would IMAGINE that Christmas as a married couple would be hard. In the Begert household, when the Christmas tree dies, there is no existential crisis. In fact, now it's so much clearer that the tradition of chopping down a Christmas tree, putting it in your living room, and hanging things on it is just SO WEIRD. How is it not supposed to die? Hello, we're in a California drought and we're putting hundreds of tiny lightbulbs on a tree inside? Fire hazard, anybody?
3. Just do life.
Stop spending all your mental energy trying to figure out who you're supposed to be. It's futile.
This was a primarily Lauren lesson. Lauren's seen me through it all. She reads me frustratingly well. I'd been stuck in this mish-mosh of whats-my-calling-is-it-non-profit-or-agency-freelance-or-corporate-but-am-I-doing-enough-to-serve-the-world-but-how-do-I-stay-true-to-myself, and she gave it to me straight: "I don't know where everyone got this idea that they have to figure themselves out before they start life. I'm 28 and I still don't completely know what I want to be when I grow up. I don't know if you ever do know who you really are, because you're always changing. Just do life." Meaning is drawn from doing. It's born from experiences. I'm honestly probably never going to have it all figured out, whatever that means. But as long as it's an upward progression in doing good and doing well, I reckon I'll be alright.
4. Intentionality is, indeed, a discipline.
"Intention" is a big faith word that gets thrown around, especially when we're talking about relationships. We all want someone intentional, but what does that even mean??! No one's born intentional– there's no romance gene for that. It's a practice. Much like faith, it's a practice of habituating actions that might at times feel unnatural, knowing that those actions will trace you back to love, strengthened. We take time out of our busy lives (or in my case, time I'd sometimes rather spend rollerblading down Venice) to read scripture because it draws us back to the root of what we honor. It reminds us of why it's even worth taking that time to practice faith as a discipline. By the same token, we listen intentionally, even when it's hard, because listening to the person we love draws us closer to understanding why we love them. And that lets us figure out how to love them better.
Lauren and Taylor are amongst the most intentional duos I know, and it's not just because they were born good, honest human beings. They're imperfect, which is GREAT for people like me because I don't get to just write their relationship off as something unrealistic. Thanks for all the high standards, you guys. But really, Lauren and Taylor are one of those couples that you can see falls in love with each other more and more every day because they haven't stopped trying to learn about each other. They actually work REALLY hard at it and sometimes mess up which is confusing for admiring onlookers like me. And they've been together for, like, ever. No apathy here.
Love being a decision is one of my biggest life themes, so this one has been really important to witness. Falling in love is easy. I probably do it 50 times a week. Loving, and loving well, is hard work. It's a lot of little decisions that becomes big decisions that become truths written on your heart. One of my favorite book lessons is that all love starts free, but the goal of love is to become unfree. To love someone so consistently, so intentionally, until it is no longer your conscious decision to love them, I think is what true love is. I'm trying to not get too meta, but these two exemplify that.
5. Beauty is a phenomenon of imperfection.
If Lauren and Taylor were truly perfect, I could not write this post.
So much of why I love them and can look up to them is because they have woven themselves together so lovingly that the loose threads, the mismatched colors, and the smudges are all part of this incredible identity that is uniquely true to them. They are the handiwork of an artist. Why do you think the artisan piece is always attributed more value than the factory-sealed version, despite technical imperfections? Or have I been spending too much time on Etsy and in Santa Monica's antique shops? The truth with a capital T is that they are the real darn thing– late gifts, dead Christmas tree, general quirkiness and all.
Other equally important lessons:
- Future home must have space helmet fireplace
- Weirdness does not fade with age
- LA street parking is the true ideology threatening the American rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness
- When it comes to these streets, whoever has the nicer car also has the right of way
- You are never too mature for a pooping reindeer candy dispenser
- There is a such thing as too much hot chocolate