Lauren Hawley loves her church. Her big brown eyes light up and dance when she talks about Woodmen and her church family. And she loves to serve. No, really. During a typical week, you might find Lauren serving at summer day camp or whatever the current need is with Woodmen Kids, leading seventh-grade girls in studying the Bible and teaching a Healing Journey class to women of all ages through Congregational Care.

Lauren’s passion for Jesus is contagious. Her group of middle- schoolers started out with nine girls and has grown to 20! She knows firsthand how choices made at a young age can change the course of lives.

Her own journey was impacted when a pastor visited her middle school campus during lunch hour. It was the first time Lauren had heard about God. Before understanding what it meant to be a Christian, she prayed to relatives who had passed away to watch over her. The pastor invited her and her fellow students to hang out with the church’s youth group after school. Lauren’s own home was anything but safe, with an alcoholic and abusive father, so she was happy to spend after-school hours in the welcoming environment of the youth group.

Lauren recognized at that time that “falling in love with God will shape your future. He’s the One who can truly restore broken lives.”

Lauren grew up in Amarillo, TX, but she moved away to attend Oklahoma Christian University. In 2006, at the university, she met her future husband Seth Hawley. Seth, who was raised in Wichita, Kansas, soon decided that college was not for him. So he left the university to join the army. Seth and Lauren were married in 2008. Seth’s first deployment was to Afghanistan. Lauren was pregnant with their first child, Noah, when Seth said goodbye.

During that deployment Seth suffered a traumatic brain injury and consequently post-traumatic stress disorder. Lauren had dreamt of her husband’s return from Afghanistan, but Seth came back a very different man than the one who left.

They struggled through years of marital diffiulties fueled in part by Seth’s trauma and Lauren’s past abuse, and she found herself asking God, “Why?”

Their marriage was on the rocks when Lauren heard about the Healing Journey group at Woodmen. When she joined the group, Lauren was asked to write down what she hoped to get out of it and to this day she has kept that piece of paper. She wrote that she hoped her husband would change. But through years of self- discovery and the leading of the Holy Spirit, Lauren realized she had much changing, growing and healing to do as well. 

“I thought I could use God as a tool to fix other people. I had to come to understand that He doesn’t work that way. As soon as I learned to step back and give God space to step into Seth’s life, things began to change,” Lauren recalls. As Seth fully surrendered control of his life to God, he became a spiritual leader in their marriage. Eventually Seth joined Lauren in serving with Woodmen middle school students.

Lauren credits Healing Journey for changing her life. It gave her a deeper understanding of God’s love and helped her heal from her abusive past. Lauren has attended three years of Healing Journey and this year she’s leading a group!

Seth’s career in the army has seen several moves: Alaska, Texas and Colorado (Colorado Springs is Lauren’s favorite). Along the way they were blessed with another child, a daughter, Adalyn. Seth is currently on his fourth deployment and is expected to return this fall. During his absence Lauren is a full-time mom to four-year old Adalyn and seven-year-old Noah. Deployment is hard on any family but it’s especially hard on Noah who is in the autism spectrum. Noah describes his younger sister as a “diva,” while Lauren, through a big smile, says she can be “emotional.” 

Through Woodmen Students, Lauren was recently introduced to a 16-year-old girl who is going through a tough season in life and struggling to make good choices. With the consent of the teen’s parents, she’s currently living with Lauren and her two children. Lauren says there are days when she wonders if she has what it takes to parent a teenager. Lauren is only 29 herself, but through her time at Woodmen she’s realized that she doesn’t need to be in control, because God is! Her part is more about surrendering and trusting God with the outcome.

Lauren sees her vulnerability and transparency about her own journey helping to build trust between her and this young lady. Instantly adding a new teenager to their home is fraught with challenges. But Lauren continues to lean into the role and the story that God has called her to in this season — humbly letting her passion for serving and her relationship with Christ be evident in the ways she cares for others. In the simple words of a child, perhaps Noah says it best: “I like that we can show her love and give her a family.”