Lessons from Laurel

Mothering Is the Hard Part

Mothering Is the Hard Part

For most women it’s not hard to become a mom. Of course, that does not discount those who have been unsuccessful in their attempts to conceive. Still, for the majority of people, getting pregnant is easy. And it’s certainly common. Then comes 40 weeks, give or take. Weeks and months of nausea, heartburn, cravings, insomnia, and a swelling body that grows, nourishes, and protects a baby. Mama waiting for the day that little one can be held outside her body. Sometimes patiently, and sometimes impatiently, planning and preparing and praying.

 

As tough as it can be, it’s temporary. And in the grand scheme of parenting, that’s not the hard part either.

 

No – I say the hard part is mothering.

 

Nursing or making bottles. Changing diapers and rocking baby in the middle of the night. Kissing boo-boos and putting the band aid on just right, even if it isn’t really needed. Driving the car pool, going on field trips, teaching the Sunday school. Helping with homework and cooking dinner. Grocery shopping and doling out lots (and lots) of snacks. Taking loads of pictures (and never being on the other end of the camera). Planning birthday parties and (spoiler alert) playing Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Cheering at the football game or dance recital…or soccer or piano or whatever. Buying clothes, school supplies, and the latest gadgets (hello fidget spinner). From teaching them to ride a bike to teaching them to drive a car. Staying up until they’re home and tucked in bed. Late night chats and countless lessons. Listening and loving no matter what. This and so. much. more. That’s the hard part.

 

Whether or not the child came from your womb. Whether or not you are legally “mom”. It’s the mothering that makes you a mom. And mothering is the hard part. So, on this Mother’s Day, I want to wish all you “motherers” a Happy Day. A pat on the back. A whisper in the ear – Good job, mother. You’re doing the hard part, and you’re doing it well.

 

Happy Mothering Day!Mothering

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On Changing Seasons (and Not the Ones that Trigger Allergies)

On Changing Seasons (and Not the Ones that Trigger Allergies)

  Over the last couple of weeks, my allergies have been worse than I can remember. I have tried everything short of acupuncture. Natural cures? Check. Over the counter meds? Check. Prescriptions? Check. Nothing seems to work. But all this focus on the season change that has triggered my allergies got my thinking about another kind of season change. These changes don’t trigger congestion and coughing, but they can trigger other problems: questioning, discontentment, stress, even anxiety. You see – the seasons of our lives change (sometimes frequently), and if we’re not prepared, these changes can bring about upsetting or conflicting thoughts and feelings.

 

We’ve all heard the expression “this is just for a season.” Whether it’s related to raising kids (oh the many seasons of that!), going through school, being a caregiver for an elderly parent…these, and more, are all simply seasons of life. But sometimes accepting a particular season of life is hard. It may be that you do not want the season to end. For example, maybe you’re struggling with your kids growing up. Or, it could be that you are so ready for the leaf that is this season to turn over. Maybe you just want to do it all, and wrestle with the fact that it’s humanly impossible to do so.

 

Can you relate? If so, I want to offer three tips for accepting the season you’re in… accepting the season when it changes…and being prepared for both.

 

  • Repeat after me: I cannot do it all. Then, prioritize. We have to let go of the external pressure to do it all (and do it well). Instead, we have to be willing to internalize the reality that we simply cannot do it all. You may want to volunteer for every worthy cause, work multiple jobs, wear multiple hats at church, be an amazing spouse, be the best parent a child has ever had, and more…but you can’t do it all at once. You have to prioritize what is most important to you in this season of life. The next step will help you do just that.
  • Keep a list of the things you are currently doing, what you may need to set aside, and what you are interested in picking up in the future. Write down every thing you are currently doing, and make a decision about what you can reasonably do in this season of life. This doesn’t mean you have to give up all of your interests for all time, but you may need to set something aside for right now. It may be the case that you have something burning inside of you, but fully recognize you don’t have time to do it well. Keep track of your ideas and journal about how God may build that for you in the future. If you are struggling with moving on to another season of life, writing your interests out will give you some ideas as to what to do next. It may be that you are not ready for your current season to end, but God is saying it’s time to move. Friend, it’s time to obey.
  • Be obedient to what God wants you to do now…and let tomorrow worry about itself. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Instead, focus on today. If we get so caught up in the future (whether it’s wanting the future to arrive now or whether it’s wanting the future to come at a snail’s pace), we will miss the beauty of the present. While certainly God will use our todays to prepare us for our tomorrows, we can trust Him in the process instead of focusing on it. Simply be obedient to where and what God wants you to do in this season of life.

 

I know it’s not always easy to accept a current season of life or a change in seasons, but it sure is more peaceful than the alternative. Being prepared can help you stay satisfied in your current season of life, and help you move on to the next one when it’s time. No medications required.

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Struggling with Insecurity? Learn to Silence It – Part II.

Struggling with Insecurity? Learn to Silence It – Part II.

Insecurity. Clearly, this resonates with many of us. Whether it’s striving to be accepted or difficulty with knowing our true identity, it can be a real struggle. Yet, we can learn to silence it. Or, at least, turn the volume down on the voices (perceived and real) that whisper (or shout) that we aren’t good enough.

Friend, let me tell you, after a good number of years of bumps, scrapes, false starts, and restarts, I finally know within the fibers of my being that we are not merely defined by who others say or thinks we are. We aren’t merely a product of our parents, and we’re not even who we have worked so hard to be or believe we are.

We are simply who God says we are.

Let’s take a look at a few scriptures that reveal this truth in more detail:

Ephesians 1:4 says God chose us.

Ephesians 1:7 tells us we are forgiven.

Ephesians 2:10 states we are His workmanship (not our own).

We learn in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that we are God’s temple, in John 1:12 that we are God’s children, and in John 15:15 that we are friends of Jesus.

We cannot allow the world or even well-meaning friends and family to wrongly define and label us. When you start to hear that lying voice in your head saying you are not good enough, attractive enough,  smart enough, or simply enough, stop right there and tell yourself (yell it out loud if you have to):

“No, I am not stupid. I am God’s workmanship!”

“No, I am not unloved or unwanted. I am a friend of Jesus!”

“No, I do not deserve to be abused. I am a temple of God!”

Allow the voice of the Savior to be heard above every other voice…including your own. That is the only way to silence insecurity.

Want to read more on this topic? It can be found in chapter 12 of my upcoming book “Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events” to be released on June 1, 2017. Pre-order TODAY

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Struggling with insecurity? Learn to silence it – Part I

Struggling with insecurity? Learn to silence it – Part I

A number of years ago, I caught sight of a book on a friend’s coffee table. It was called So long insecurity: You’ve been a bad friend to us (Moore, 2010). It had just been released, and my friend who had long struggled with low self-worth and feelings of inadequacy had read it right away. I casually asked about, mentioning maybe I should read it too.

 

 

Oh, I don’t struggle with insecurity, but some of my clients do. Do you mind if I borrow it?

 

I wasn’t intentionally being deceptive…I just didn’t realize at the time the role insecurity played in my life. I’ve always tried to put on a tough exterior, never wanting anyone to see my weaknesses or vulnerabilities. In particular after becoming a “psychotherapist”…

 

How can a counselor have struggles?

 

<Note to Self: You are human.>

 

Maybe you’re struggling with insecurity yourself. Finding yourself feeling like you’re not worthy of something– of love, of attention, of time together, of forgiveness. Don’t feel wanted? Good enough? Smart enough? Attractive enough? Yep, that’s insecurity. Perhaps there’s a negative voice from your past that you keep hearing in your mind, like a song on repeat. Maybe the voice is your own. There might even be someone presently in your life triggering self-defeating thoughts and feelings through their words or actions. It could be they don’t even know. In fact, they may be insecure too.

 

The reality is this: Everyone is insecure about something. (As hard as it is to admit, “everyone” includes me.)

 

The good news is this: You can silence the insecurity. It may not work 100% of the time because we so often get in our own way, but we can definitely get a better handle on what’s been ailing us. It’s time to evict the critics that have lived far too long in our own minds. Those shaming, negative voices that weigh us down leaving us distracted from what really matters. You – WE – can break the chains of insecurity and be set free from this burden. It’s a process that takes time and effort, but it’s oh. so. worth. it.

 

But, I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

 

Stayed tuned for Part II of “Struggling with Insecurity? Learn to Silence It”. In the meantime, the comments are open and I invite you to share your struggles with insecurity, and any effective techniques you have found to help silence the critics in your own mind. I’ll share some of those along with my own ideas in my next post! Be bold and join with other voices willing to speak up about insecurity as we learn to conquer it together! I want to see you be brave. 

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On Apologies, Forgiveness, and What Really Matters: A Valentine’s Day Message

On Apologies, Forgiveness, and What Really Matters: A Valentine’s Day Message

The year was 2004, and my husband and I were spending our first Valentine’s Day together as a married couple. Being completely unaware about these types of things, we neglected to make reservations for one of the restaurant industry’s busiest nights of the year. As we drove around town seeing packed parking lots and learning wait times were far too long, my husband became increasingly hungry and angry – yep, hangry. In a moment of complete exasperation my usually calm, patient, and accommodating husband declared: “If we don’t find someplace to eat NOW, we are going to Wendy’s!” Well, of course, that was not going to do for this young bride of 6 months. Thankfully, the Lord intervened and landed us at a mom and pop Italian restaurant tucked away in a strip mall that wasn’t busy at all. We enjoyed a lovely meal, apologized and forgave one another for the spat that took place during our dinner search, and visited what became “our place” many times until we moved out of that state. While that hidden gem has long since gone out of business, my husband and I have enjoyed many more Valentine’s Days together. Not all of them have been as picture perfect as a Hallmark greeting card, but they are all treasured memories because of the love that we have shared in good times and in bad. A big part of our relationship has been learning to say “I’m sorry” – a lot. And forgiving one another even more. The forgiveness and grace we are able to offer each other does not come from our own strength. If that’s what I relied on, I might still be upset that my new husband wanted to take me to a fast food restaurant for our first Valentine’s Day! No, instead, our strength to apologize and forgive comes from the Lord. I love the way Daniel 9:9 tells us that “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” (NIV). And because of the forgiveness that I’m offered even when I oppose God, I am able to forgive my husband when we are in opposition, and he so graciously forgives me as well. The most famous line from Erich Segal’s novel Love Story, and the movie of the same name, is “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” I completely disagree. If we love someone, we should be willing to ask for forgiveness when we’ve done something wrong. And we should be willing to forgive as Colossians 3:13 says that we should …forgive as the Lord forgave us. Forgiveness, both giving and receiving, is so important in a relationship. As the years pass by, I realize more and more what really matters in marriage. Love. Perhaps next Valentine’s Day my husband and I will forgo the dress up and fancy dinner for a take out meal together at home, prayerfully with a little one seated in a highchair between us. There’s a Wendy’s right around the corner.

 

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The plight of those in need, our inconsistent policies, and a proposal to move forward

The plight of those in need, our inconsistent policies, and a proposal to move forward

When I first learned about the serious refugee crisis in countries like Syria and Iraq, I immediately made a financial contribution to a non-profit organization working to help those impacted, and looked into adopting an orphan from one of these war torn countries. What I found led to this blog post: Don’t Try To Adopt a Refugee 

Since that time, I have kept up with the problems and proposals related to refugees. I have made additional donations, and encouraged others to do the same, due to the increasing needs. I’ve been relieved to see one organization, Samaritan’s Purse, providing an extensive amount of aid to this region, including building a field hospital in Iraq.

Earlier this month, Mr. Trump became President Trump and a temporary ban was implemented, which halts refugees from coming into America for 120 days while the vetting process is reviewed. It also stops those with visas from entering in (or back in) to America for 90 days.

If there wasn’t a firestorm before this executive order, there is now. And that leads me to this meandering blog on the topic.

I have heard and understand both sides of the argument about refugees. My stance has been that America should do more to rid the Middle East of the threats that lead to people fleeing their homelands, help these countries become stable and safe so that displaced people can return home, and, yes, bring refugees to America after vetting them to ensure they are not going to be a threat to America. I’ve also encouraged others to pray and personally donate to organizations working with refugees.

While I understand America’s desire to take a step back and evaluate the vetting process before resuming refugee resettlement, I am also concerned about the temporary halting of this process. I’m concerned that some people do not have this amount of time to wait. These people didn’t. (And I hope we’ve learned a thing or two since then.) I pray those in life and death situations will get to safe zones or other countries that will accept them. I also believe exceptions should be made with regards to letting those with visas back into America (not just those with green cards) . While it’s important not to overgeneralize, there are already examples of people who have lived and worked in America who are not allowed to return to America due to being out of the country when this executive order was signed. It’s also concerning that the ban on refugees from Syria currently has no end date, and that many countries from whom terrorists have come are not on the list. (But note where the list of countries came from.)

Yet, I’m also concerned about our inconsistent advocacy for people around the world in need. Yes, people from the Middle East need refuge, including the Jewish people who, in the midst of the Middle East, are under constant threat. Visitors to Israel don’t even get their passports stamped because a stamp may put you at risk. Looking into Africa, we come to the second most impoverished country in the world: The Democratic Republic of Congo. Where was the outcry during Africa’s first world war which killed 5 million people? What about the Rwandan genocide which led to the death of up to 1 million people? How about Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, where the need to flee to safer lands is paramount? Read THIS  article on world hunger, and then tell me where the protests and marches are on behalf of the 800 million people in our world who don’t get enough to eat? (Which actually can be fixed since there is plenty of food in the world to go around). And what about the plight of those in need in our own country – for example, the over half a million Americans that are homeless?

I am left wondering: Why is this particular refugee crisis garnering so much more attention than other crises? Don’t get me wrong: they should all get attention. While good people disagree on how to help others, we don’t disagree that they need help. So, how do we, as a country, decide who to respond to? Whose needs are more important? More pressing? Is it worse to be killed because of hunger? Because of race? Because of religion? Because of war? And how do we decide what to do. America has certainly been generous – In 2014, we gave $35 BILLION dollars to 140 countries. To be clear, that’s over 75% of all countries in the world. While America cannot be the Savior of the world (and it’s certainly unbiblical to pretend we are), it would be difficult to argue that we haven’t done a tremendous amount to help many people around the world. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the countless non-profit organizations that do incredible work in our country and beyond.

It seems to me that some issues become political. Instead of really caring about the people involved, we get caught up in left versus right, liberal versus conservative, democrat versus republican. We ignore the wrong those who hold similar views to ours are doing while (often times literally) making a federal case out of what we perceive the other side is doing wrong. This reminds me of the Bible verse that tells us to pull out the plank of wood in our own eye before we point out the speck in another’s. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that we will see more clearly without the logs interfering with our view.

Isn’t it peculiar that a 2011 six-month ban on refugees coming from Iraq imposed by the Obama administration didn’t get people riled up the way this 2017 four-month ban on refugees imposed by the Trump administration is? And what about Christian refugees from Syria being by and large ignored in 2015? Where was the outcry then? (And, for the record, I understand that the context and details of each administration’s policies are somewhat different, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s really about the human beings involved, at least some of the reaction we are seeing now should have taken place then. By the way, the richest middle eastern countries won’t take Syrian refugees either…despite sharing a region of the world, similar languages, and a predominant religion. Where are these refugees to go?)

Probably what is most ironic to me is that many of the same people who fight oppression in American are opposed to an executive order that includes the following language:

The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

I don’t see the problem with this, and I can’t help but wonder if this issue has become a political football with both sides scrambling to win the game, even when most people don’t understand the rules (or, in this case, the history or context of the game). And, no, I am not saying that people don’t really care about the plight of refugees because clearly many people do. Rather, I ‘m talking about the rhetoric espoused by leaders of the opposing party and the mainstream that is intended to get people fired up, instilling fears that America is becoming fascist (which is undoubtedly false).  And, yes, there is rhetoric on the other side too, driving some to promote and support unnecessary restrictions, and people who have hate in their hearts using this as fuel. On both sides, the truth – the facts – must prevail in order for us to become more unified on this (and other) issues.

So, while I do have concerns about a temporary ban to refugees, while I do believe there should be exceptions to people with visas from the 7 concerning countries being allowed to enter America, while I do think we should do more to help with the plight of refugees (and, make no mistake, there are many different ways to help), many people  have an unrealistic expectation about what we can or should do…as if we could or should completely resolve the problem,  or all the problems, when that will never be possible. It doesn’t mean we stop being the most generous country in the world. It doesn’t mean we stop trying to help those in need. It doesn’t mean we stop fighting for refugees, including those from the middle east – whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, any other religion or no religion at all. But, perhaps, in the midst of our efforts, we should stop trying to make people whose passions lie in other, and equally as important, causes feel guilty if they disagree or are not as invested in this particular issue.

I know this post is mostly wandering and wondering…likely leading to more questions than answers. Conservatives may say I’m not concerned enough about America’s safety while liberals may say I’m not being compassionate enough or, worse, endorsing discrimination, but neither are true. I’m not accusing one side or the other of being completely right or completely wrong (as you’ve read, my position lies somewhere in the middle on this issue). Rather, I’m simply attempting to briefly note the plight of those in need, our inconsistent policies, and our need to move forward – together.

I want to see America help as many people as possible, those in our country and those outside our country (and, yes, the federal government should put American citizens first – we cannot confuse the role of government with the call of Christians), while letting go of the expectation that our government or our citizens can do everything to help everyone. While we certainly should, as individuals and as a country,  be compassionate and do whatever we can to help, we can’t forget that our debt is in the trillions and we will never have enough resources to solve the problems of everyone in the world.  In fact, I would love to see us help more countries become democracies or democratic republics in their own right (a la Ronald Reagan) so that there is more freedom around the world and less dependence on America. (Similar to the old adage – giving a man a fish to feed him for a day  versus teaching a man to fish so he’ll eat for a lifetime.)  Until then, we have to keep doing what we can, recognizing our limitations, and trusting God.

As I wrap up this blog, I want to relay the recently shared words of our fairly elected and newly installed President, Donald J. Trump:

“America is a proud nation of immigrants and we will continue to show compassion to those fleeing oppression, but we will do so while protecting our own citizens and border. America has always been the land of the free and home of the brave.

We will keep it free and keep it safe, as the media knows, but refuses to say. My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. The seven countries named in the Executive Order are the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as sources of terror. To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting.

This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order. We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days.

I have tremendous feeling for the people involved in this horrific humanitarian crisis in Syria. My first priority will always be to protect and serve our country, but as President I will find ways to help all those who are suffering.”

And may we always be that shining city on a hill, abiding by the words engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty as written by a Jewish woman named Emma Lazarus (think about that symbolism for a moment):

Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

 Author’s Note:  I reserve the right to amend or addend this blog post and my own opinion based on enhanced understanding of the subject matter, updates to federal policies, and/or the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

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