Lessons from Laurel

Struggling with insecurity? Learn to silence it.

Struggling with insecurity? Learn to silence it.

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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Loving Human Praise More than God’s Praise

Loving Human Praise More than God’s Praise

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12:42-43)

Jesus has entered into Jerusalem through crowds of people shouting “Hosanna!”, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”, “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus had even predicted His death, and while many Jesus still did not believe, John 12:42 says that many did believe. Sadly, because of their fear, they chose not to acknowledge their faith. The scriptures could not be more clear: These men loved human praise more than praise from God. They were so concerned about what other people would think about them – and what other people would do to them – that they chose man over God. It may be hard to wrap our minds around the fact that they saw Jesus face to face. They saw the miracles. They heard His words. They believed. Yet, they still would not confess (to use the term from KJV) Him.

And while the Pharisees generally deserve the bad rap they get, I can’t help but think I am too often no worse than they. You too? It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to fit in…not wanting to be too different or stand out too much. To do what others desire rather than what God demands. To be concerned about careers, friendships, anything more than God (and, FYI, that’s what’s called an idol). It’s important to think through our own reasons for not openly acknowledging our faith in Jesus. Why we care more about what other humans think than what God thinks. Why we would want their praise over the praise of the Creator of the universe. I don’t want to be like one of those Pharisees. Instead, I want to be in the business of pleasing God…and I want to always acknowledge my faith, regardless of the circumstance.

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I’m for Women, But I’m Not a Feminist

I’m for Women, But I’m Not a Feminist

I don’t identify as a feminist. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in rights for women. I thank God for the right to education, the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to drive, the right to dress how I choose, the right to leave my house on my own, and the right to work (among other rights). Of course, women should have these rights! And, yet, there are women around the world who don’t have many basic rights. Here are a few examples:

 

In Saudia Arabia, women can’t drive OR vote.

 

Women in Yemen can’t leave their homes without a man.

 

Then there’s this, from the Middle East Quarterly:

 

“It is clear that Muslim girls and women are murdered for honor in both the West and the East when they refuse to wear the   hijab or choose to wear it improperly. In addition, they are killed for behaving in accepted Western or modern ways when they express a desire to attend college, have careers, live independent lives, have non-Muslim friends…choose their own husbands, refuse to marry their first cousins, or want to leave an abusive husband.”

 

And in 28 African counties, millions of women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (You’ll have to look that one up for yourself. Warning: graphic and disturbing content will be found).

 

And it’s not just other countries. While American women have a tremendous amount of freedoms (as we should), there are problems here too. I’m from South Carolina, the state that has the ominous record of having the highest domestic violence homicide rates of women. This rate is far below what is seen in other countries, but that doesn’t mean we should stop working towards total eradication. We should fight against domestic violence, including homicides, through education, safe shelters, tougher prosecution, and more. We should continue to fight against sexual assault and rape. We should raise our girls (whether they are our children, our students, or our neighbors) to be capable, strong, and independent. And we should support bringing democracy and freedom to other countries so that women around the world can enjoy the same rights we have.

 

But I’m still not a feminist. I reject the label because it’s a loaded term. A term that is misunderstood and overused. A term that doesn’t bear much weight, in particular when action is not behind it. I reject it because it’s become a rallying cry for abortion rights, and not really for women’s rights. Because feminists dismiss women who are pro-life or who choose to stay home with their children. Because it’s often about rejecting masculinity and femininity, and claims equality while putting men down. I reject the feminist label because my identity is not actually as a woman, but as a Christian. Oh, I’m definitely for women, but I am not a feminist. By the way, I’m for men too.
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Why I’m letting go of goals & resolutions…and only committing to ONE thing in 2017

Why I’m letting go of goals & resolutions…and only committing to ONE thing in 2017

Another year passed and I didn’t become a mother.

Another year passed and I didn’t lose those 10(+) pounds.

Another year passed and I didn’t grow my “platform” (i.e. social media stats) as much as I wanted to.

But…

Another year passed and I still have my family (and I settled back down in my hometown near them).

Another year passed and I still have good health and all of my needs met…every. single. day.

Another year passed and I still have a job I love (that even sent me to ISRAEL) with several professional accomplishments to boot.

Like every year, there were pros and cons in 2016, with the pros greatly outweighing the cons. But the year wasn’t good because of goals and resolutions I set 12 months ago. Rather, it was good because of God’s goodness. Regardless of what happens in any given year, it can only be good for that reason alone. So, I’ve decided to drop goals and resolutions for 2017. You see, friends, I will never fulfill all of my goals and resolutions. And it’s not so much that they are unrealistic or that they’re not from God…it’s more that I have spent too much time trying to force things in my own timing instead of His. I’ve focused more on what I don’t have or haven’t accomplished instead of what I do have and how God has blessed me. As I sat down and wrote out my list of goals and resolutions for 2017, it hit me that I don’t need to set goals and resolutions that I can’t control or may not fulfill. So, I deleted them. I decided to give them up. I will not end 2017 feeling like I failed. So, no, I will not have goals or resolutions in 2017. Instead…

I will keep praying for our adoption, for our adoption agencies, for the expectant mothers who place their children for adoption, and for adoptive families.

I will try my best to eat healthy and exercise (and am running a 5K in February so there’s some motivation) and will be grateful that I have more than enough food to eat.

I will keep writing and speaking as God calls me, but will not obsess over likes, shares, or retweets. (This is BIG since my first book comes out in 2017.)

Most importantly, I will continue to learn as much as possible about God and His word. I will spend more time with Him and less time with my own wandering (and not always helpful) thoughts. I will strive to stay focused on God’s plan for my life, and less tuned in to what I want for myself. So, for 2017, I’m letting go of goals and resolutions; instead, I simply have a renewed commitment to the words of John 3:30, “He must become greater, I must become less.” That’s it. That’s all I’m going to plan for 2017…and I would love to have some company if anyone wants to join me.

Until next year (I love that joke!), HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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