You Are Welcome Here

My name is Lauren Eugenia – and I’m the girl behind the words.

I’ve been writing since I found myself in the back of an ambulance nearly two decades ago and realized that words were a part of my path way to freedom. Ever since I’ve been finding ways to help others be set free through finding their own.

These days I find myself wearing many hats- mom, wife, friend, writer, teacher and advocate. A retired middle school Bible and English teacher, I’m spending these days soaking up my children and serving from my home outward. My other passions include social justice, fresh air and nearly any drink you can serve steaming hot.

Of my greatest passions is fighting human trafficking and abuse, which has been knit into the fibers of my story from before my story began- one may say. I stepped into this advocacy role a decade ago, and came to found my bilingual creative writing program for survivors of trafficking and exploitation years later as I completed my doctoral program. Now back in the states, I serve on the board of a non-profit anti-trafficking organization, where we’re working on further mentorship programs and educational resources for the community.

I live in a small farm town with my beautiful family. Often when I look at them throughout these days, I’m reminded that they are each a lavishing of God’s mercy in life. My husband and I have two incredible daughters, and are searching for our son through adoption now. While our family story is a bit outside of the box, it only makes us all the more certain that God alone could’ve wrote it. And I can’t think of a better way for a family to be pulled together than by the hands of the Father who made us one.

My greatest passion in this life is Jesus, and bringing others towards Him. I often relate to the women in Luke who had the greatest debt, and see myself in her. It’s easy for me to surrender because I am so very much aware of all that has been done on my behalf. He has given all for my freedom when I owed all. And I get this one life and this one voice to respond now.

These days I find myself juggling diapers with homeschooling and advocating for others with writing my first book as this family of ours makes one big huge move. It often feels like I began chasing after God and He already had the train moving just waiting for me to jump aboard. My husband I have said since we first met in the red light district of Costa Rica that life with God is one surprising adventure. Being a part of it is the best adventure we could ever imagine – and I have a feeling that He’s just getting started.

As this adventure unfolds, I want to invite you along on it to learn with me and see all that He’s doing. I’ll be sharing thoughts on all the things that tug at my heart most and make me who I am: motherhood, advocacy for freedom, adoption, calling, writing for change, marriage, healing from trauma, sisterhood, fighting for faith and more!

Feel free to follow along on my Instagram for shorter thoughts & here for the bigger ones. And keep your ears pealed for my non-fiction book as it heads towards publishing in the months to come. I love to hear from you as God speaks to you, and as we do this thing together.

My name is Lauren Eugenia- and you are welcome here.

The Lens of Love: Seeing in a Pass by World

            It was dark in the downtown streets of San Jose the night we found her . Yellow circles illuminated avenues lined with brothels, shadows, and ambulance lights. She was walking along a curve, waving her hands like kites above her head when our van pulled up.

            I had traveled to Costa Rica on mission that fall. I went to teach a writing program to survivors of human trafficking and exploitation. This particular night, we had set out to locate a student missing from class and bring snacks to others along the way. We had coffee and cookies–a local favorite. , an unknown woman happened to be along our way .

            “Should we stop for her?” Carlos* called from the front of the van.

A unanimous mumble of yes echoed from the ministry workers. The van pulled parallel to the curbside, and as for far ahead as I could see, the sidewalks scattered with women – young and old.

            “Does anyone know her?” he questioned again.

            “No”, Silva* said. “But I feel like we need to stop for her”.

            Two of the women from our group walked  out to greet her and quickly received a yes to a warm cup of coffee. Often during rainy season the nights can be temperate, long and drawn–though a purple reflection of sunset and store lights shines over the city every night as an ache of hope calling out to deep.

            I shuffled through the leather bag of sugars, cream and wafer cookies as I decoded in Spanish that her name was Pris* and she likes three sugars. With a warm cup of coffee we paused under the brothel- illuminated curbside. She told us about her love for warm coffee and the length of the night, wishing it would soon end. Looking out the open van door, I could see her arms begin to fall to her sides and her eyes transition from scanning the passing taxis to scanning us. She’d looked jaded when the van first approached,  but Pris now stood soft and seemingly fragile from a lack of food or exhaustion. The lines on her face softened and it was clear that she was much younger than I had first imagined.

            “Many people have stopped on this street corner before,” Pris started to say. “Some want to help. They have Bibles and food. But not like you.”  She pulled the warm cup of coffee to her mouth again, and let out a deep sigh that made the steam dance. Her eyes began to pool with tears.

            “They see me living this bad life—confused about who I am and hungry—and they want to change me. But you—you listened to me.” Pris tilted her chin upward towards one of the streetlights overhead, tipping the tears back so they would stay in place.

            “You came here and asked me how I feel. You just came here and loved me.” She turned her face to look into Silva’s own.

            “Nobody comes to this corner just to care for me. Nobody  but you. So even though I may not know who I am tonight,” Pris said, “I know who you are.”


            The longest recorded conversation Jesus ever had was beside a well with a Samaritan woman who had been rejected by her society. She was, according the what the eyes could see, the last person Jesus should have stopped to talk to. She was Samaritan—one of the pronounced enemy people of the Gentiles and Jews. They would not pass through one another’s towns, much less share a drink. Yet Jesus did. She was a woman, a gender uncounted in census and thought in her day. Yet Jesus counted her important. She was dismissed by many husbands for reasons unknown though scholars suggest she may have been widowed or suffering the aching pain of being barren. Yet Jesus did not dismiss her.

            Jesus pursued her and counted her worth His time. He sat beside her, sharing water, and meeting her in the humanity of thirst. He listened to her, He saw her, and He ministered to her in the way that she could receive. Jesus saw the outcast that others would have walked by, and He stopped for her. He saw her with the lens of the Father, the lens of love.

            Numerous times throughout his life Jesus modeled this love. He regularly sought out one amidst pressing crowds and multitudes, and almost always they were the least of these. Christ seeks the lost. This is His heart, and if we desire for our hearts to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, His heart must become ours.

            While we find comfort surrounded by those we feel are like us, our great commission is not to create a Christian sub-culture. We are not to become of this world, but we are to go into the world with all the love we can carry. Each of us, having been first called to Christ, are then called to go and tell—a command that requires us to move beyond the walls of our comfort even if where He calls us in this season is in within the walls of our own home. God chooses the places He calls us to and the people He puts in our path. We chose if we will obey.

            With immense clarity,  Christ shows us the lens of love time and time again in His word. So then, what keeps us from seeing those Christ has placed along our path?

            In Latin, the word clarity was defined as something that was clear, easy to see or hear. As the root carried over into Middle English, it became defined as glory or divine splendor.  In His meeting with the woman at the well and all throughout His ministry, Jesus embodied this clear, divine love that led people to see the glory of God. As carriers of His love now, it is our high calling to share the gospel as Christ first did—through a lens of love that sees the unseen and stays beside them faithfully until they can also see.

            Mother Teresa once said that her greatest desire was that others would not see her, but that through her they would see the face of Christ. On the brothel-lit streets of San Jose, this is the way that Pris came to see the face of Christ. Not by coffee or cookies, but through the lens of God’s love and grace extended to us so that we could also see.

            Most days my schedule runs full from the glow of sunrise to well past the steady settling of sunset. My days are full of laundry, dishes, cooking, and bathing children and floors. Full of work. Holy work, as it may be, can quickly become our distraction from loving well. Service without love is a resounding gong, but with the lens of love, service  has the power to shift eyes and lives to God.

            Perhaps the person Christ has called you to pursue is right in your own home. The harvest is growing from the dining room table you set. If so, continue the good work with which you have been entrusted, remembering that the way in which you tend the smallest acts of service is the way those watching in your own four walls will grow to see the Gospel.

            Perhaps the one Christ has called you to is beyond your walls, a step past where you imagined and a step farther than you feel you know. Perhaps your harvest is during mid-day heat with a woman whose circumstances you’ve prejudged as unrelatable to your own. Then, sister, remember that Christ made much of the least of us. In all His splendor, He sought out the most broken and He shared in the humanity of their thirst.

            Perhaps each of us is called to both. We live in a broken world, amongst broken people whom God made the most of in. Let us never make less of what God has made much of, and let us earnestly seek to find the one He has called us to minister to with the lens of His perfect love within which there is no fear. So, who is waiting at the well for you to see?

            Love is not ours for selection. When we seek to understand whom the Lord loves, we find whispered all throughout His word the answer: all. Those who are like-minded to us. Those who are different. Those who are found in Him and in our homes. Those who are lost, wandering on corners, hungry for food, love, and a Savior. When our heart prayer is to be more like our Savior, He teaches our hearts how to love all people through His eyes.

It is hard and often inconvenient to love as Christ did. After a full day of work, tired and thirsty, He regularly saw the person along His way who needed the love of God, and He responded.

            My prayer for us as daughters of the one true King is that we will come to respond as we have been taught by the Word of God. I pray that we would become so radically changed by the love that Jesus showed us and freely given us and that it would transform our very eyes, as Paul’s were. Regardless and in spite of our own opinions, schedules, and presumptions, I pray that we would see the one in the crowd, at the market, at the corner, at the table, and that we would be moved to love them with the relentless pursuit of a loving God who gave all for them.

On our own, we will fall short, but God’s love and lens is eternal and beyond our limitations. Let us, then, be His vessels. Let us not miss them in the business of even our God-honoring tasks. Let us remember that loving and seeing the least of these is the greatest task of our lives. It is through our love that they will first come to see a reflection of God, and then through God’s love that they will be given the chance to become who they were made to be – just as we once were. Just as Pris was.

*All names have been changed for the protection of the individuals involved.

Published in Daughter’s of Promise Magazine, Issue 29: Clarity

From the Start: The Birth of our Adoption Dream

In July of 2008, I found myself standing on frosted clay at sunrise in Alabanza. The air was crisp and we were more than two thirds way to the kingdom of Swaziland. Perhaps it was the look on our faces, or perhaps years of wisdom that made our housekeepers next words a speech to remember. Whichever it was is rather irrelevant, but his words were not.

“People think they are coming to Africa to save it. But look” he said, pointing to the open landscape before us. “Look at the beauty here. Africa does not need you to save it” he said. “But Africa just might save you”.

The weeks that followed our dusty ride into the kingdom of Swaziland are their own story, but in the words of our housekeeper we echo now we know that Africa changed us forever. While there are countless moments that led up to the birth of the dream in my heart – from heart pullings since childhood to planning to stepping on a plane alone at seventeen to cross the globe- there is a moment that sears my mind to this day as the pinnacle.

It was late morning and late July. We had stopped at the city orphanage for our final goodbyes where smiles, plastic ice cream bags and children spanned the play grounds. It was sunny that day as that shutter of a dear friend clicked to remember the things we were too afraid to forget. Remember them, I continued to hush to myself. Remember.

Dolly appeared from the far home alone that day, and took a seat in the umber dust as she leaned against a concrete slab. I had been looking for her. Much like myself, she was a watcher, often on the periphery and always alone. Perhaps thats why I connected with her despite our language barrier. I sat beside her that day, and that was that. We sat and watched together as the world in front us spun with laughter. It was a holy hour that I can not describe with words other than this: to share life itself beside another is a holy occasion.
It dawned on me as I saw the sun get lower that my moments left with her were few. I began to try to tell her I was leaving, but words fell like clunky sounds the same as any others. I can’t just disappear on her. I can not be another person that disappears without telling her. I searched the crowd for a translator with no avail, and looked down at my sneakers now nervously pushing dirt from the earth as it dawned on me: we share sight.

With my right index finger I began pulling hard lines in the dust before us. A figure of me. A figure of her. Then an airplane. She lifted her hand to wave, and I nodded. She signaled an arrow back from the plane, and forward. Of to the right, I drew my house. In the blank space between, she patted her hands in the dust.

“Mountains”. I said, drawing three peaks. “Many mountains”. Then I pointed to my heart and to her; to my heart, and to her as tears began to fill my eyes. ” I will remember you” I said. “I will remember”.

Some say we write our own dreams as our life unfolds, but this one I believe was born in me. And I was lucky enough to meet Dolly, who woke the dream in me up beneath the Mbabane sun. It’s hard to say at exactly what moment I knew that adopting was a part of my life calling. It may have started during the summer days I got to swim with a neighbor’s foster children in my grandmothers pool, or when my parents began their own foster journey. It may have started when I pulled two young children – Knobele and Piwee – from an abandoned truck off the side of a road, or when I held Luke – a one pound baby found in a nearby trash can- in the boiler room of the children’s ward. What I know for sure is that as I drew those mountains in the dust that day beside Dolly, a longing carved in my heart that I could never forget. A longing for a homecoming that wasn’t just my own.

Five years later Georgia began to tell stories of adopting siblings and opening a home with never less than a hundred children. Two years after that Gabriel found himself in a similar moment in Kenya as the dream of adoption wrote itself into his heart. And two more years after that we found ourselves riding a bus into the rainforest region on Costa Rica and discussing how many children we’d like. Adoption was a non-negotiable for us both, and the birth of the homecoming story had been woven.

Gabriel and I went on to marry in the fall of 2018, but our hearts were set on adoption long before they were ever set on each other. As we tied together a cord of three strands that day before God and witnesses and became a family of three, these words sang over us in the background:

“Old things have passed away, your love has stayed the same. Your constant grace remains the cornerstone. The hopeless have found their hope; the orphans now have a home. All that was lost has found its place in you. You lift our weary heads; you make us strong instead. You took these rags and made us beautiful. For all that you’ve done we will pour out our love, this will be our anthem song. Jesus we love you.”

Let this be our anthem song:
Jesus saved us. Love changed us. Adoption made us one.

We are ready to cross many mountains again to bring home our son the way we each have been brought home to one another. As we set out we will remember what changed us. We will remember who brought us here. We will remember the birth of our dream.