How to believe in yourself

As a child (and young adult), I was a quitter. I was the biggest damn quitter you ever did see. In 6th grade, I thought playing the violin looked cool. I quit after a year. Then I tried the cello. Quit. Girl Scouts. Spanish. Quit. It was too hard, I wasn’t smart enough. I simply assumed I wasn’t good enough to accomplish the things my peers could. I was the last or second to last in all the Gym athletic tests. I couldn’t do a push up, a pull up, or a sit up (still can’t, let’s be honest), climbing the rope? fogettaboutit. “I’m just not competitive,” I said. (If you’ve played Catch Phrase with me you know that’s a dirty lie). I told myself that it didn’t matter to make myself believe I didn’t really care. Y’all, I’ve had about 30 jobs. Retail, waitressing (all of the restaurants), bartending (beer and wine only, back in the dark ages when Dahlonega didn’t have liquor), Mary-Kay Consultant, Nanny, receptionist…I honestly don’t even remember all the jobs I’ve had. I have no trophies, no awards, no relics from my childhood to prove my exceptional abilities at anything. Nothing. Nada. Except for quitting, of course. I was a champion quitter.

I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to believe in myself. How to trust myself. How to believe I was capable of doing things I never thought I could do. How to believe I am strong.

The answer is probably so simple for many of you. In fact, you may be on the other end of the spectrum. Overcommitted, afraid to quit anything. You hear your parent’s voices in your head, “We finish what we start!” and the like about family pride. I’m not knocking quitting. There are times when quitting is the absolute best and right thing to do.

I’m simply knocking not trying. Giving up. Believing you can’t.

A pivotal and corrective experience for me was discovering my intelligence. This happened in high school. My dear friend, Bridget became my first cheerleader. “You can make an A in math!” “Did you do your homework?” “Let’s study!” She’s my hero, that girl. And she was right, she usually is.

“I am smart”.

In college, I busted my ass to make a B in Neuroscience. Never been so proud of a B in my life. I failed the first 2 exams and I didn’t give up. I kept working. I didn’t quit.

“I am not a quitter.”

In grad school, I went on a month long mission trip to a city in Costa Rica by myself. I flew to another country by myself. I do not speak Spanish (due to my quitting habits, of course), I stayed with a family whom did not speak English. I worked with traumatized, addicted women who did not speak English. Yet, I didn’t need to speak Spanish to love them. I danced, cried, and laughed with them. For a month, I did this. I navigated this city mostly on my own. All things I never thought I was strong enough, or brave enough to do. I was scared, but I did it. (Plus, it did amazing things for my relationship with God, I’ll tell you that).

“I am brave.”

I birthed 2 babies. From my body. Me. I always wondered if I would be capable of it, and I did.

“I am powerful.”

And now, (seriously, I still can’t even believe this myself) now I’m running. Like, 3-5x a week. For longer periods than I ever have in my life. I am on my 7th week, and i have no intention of quitting. I won’t as long as it’s healthy for me to continue. I am challenging myself physically harder than I ever have, EVER. Every day I go out to run I keep going even after it gets hard. And every day I do this, I get to add more strength. More truth.

“I am strong.” “I am capable.” “I am athletic.” ” I CAN.”  “I DID IT.”

What about you? What have you always longed to do, but never thought you could? Today is a good day to prove yourself wrong. Join me, friends!

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a letter to my future children

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To my boys,

As I write this letter, you are 1 and 3 years old. You are often difficult, moody, picky, stubborn, and self-centered. You are also very sweet, and cuddly. Watching you discover this world, staring at your beautiful faces…I could do it forever. Your little voices are second sweetest sound in the world, the first being your laughter and giggles, of course. Kissing and squeezing and watching you guys is what sustains me, it genuinely feels like a need, like air. I’m not exactly sure about how I’ll do when you’re too old for those cuddles and kisses and when you think it’s weird when I stare. And yet…I really look forward to the future with you, too. I’m excited about it.

I just saw a picture of a mom with her boys, marching the streets with signs about ending human trafficking. My throat closed up and I felt like crying at imagining the intense joy it would give me to see you both feel passionately about people or causes outside yourselves. And if I could help instill that passion, that compassion… ALL. The. Better.

One day, I hope you will get to know me. Not just the mom, me. The whole me. And I hope that in knowing me, you’ll see how much I care about you and about other people. How much I try. How much I feel. That I have talents and skills and gifts outside of what I do and who I am as your mom.

I hope you’ll respect me. I will do all I can to earn it. Caleb, you recently said: “You’re just a Mommy, Daddy will fix it.” I want you to see the power women have. I want you to see the beauty and strength in women, in me. The things we can do, the special qualities that are unique to women. The beauty in the complexity. The whole woman, and not just her role as mom or her body parts.

You see, this mom thing. It’s not what I’m best at. At least not while you’re so young and needy. Too often, I do not pause long enough to respond and instead, react. I react to the chaos, the whining, the demands, and the tantrums WAY more often than I’d like. And while I’m willing to admit this weakness, I also promise that I will never stop trying to get better at that: to pause long enough to respond and not just react. (The good news is, you are super awesome at apologizing because you’ve seen me do it so much).

Even though I had fears, I still thought that mothering would come naturally to me. That I’d be so good at it. And in some ways, it does. I’ve always been good with kids, but they’ve also always exhausted me. I suppose I assumed that my own children wouldn’t tire me. I see now what a silly and ridiculous assumption that was.

Being tired makes it hard to respond with my best self all the time. And I’m prideful enough to tell you that when I’m running on all cylinders: I AM SUPER freakin’ WOMAN. Patient, kind, loving, wise, fun…all the things I thought I’d be all the time as a mom. I’m learning how to give myself grace for being that much less than I’d hoped, but I am also going to do something about it.

Here’s what I’m doing:

I’m making room in our lives, in my life, to not be so maxed out all the time. For me, this means I spend a little less time with you. It means I’m going to the doctor about my insomnia, my anxiety. It means I’m finding more ways to be alone with your daddy. More ways to be alone with myself, and with God. It means I’m putting my phone down and not picking it back up for longer periods of time. It means I’m exploring my hobbies again. I’m decorating, cooking, working, reading, exercising more. It means I’m appreciating experiences, moments, and activities with you. I’m appreciating the sacredness of even the everyday things more. It means I’m giving myself the margin to pause and respond with kindness, patience, and love much, much more often.

 As guilty as I feel for having a little less time with you, I’m prioritizing quality over quantity.

Because you see, it terrifies me that you won’t remember all the good, loving, life-giving moments between us. That instead, you’ll remember the times I yelled, threw you in time out, spanked you, or asked you to go away. The times I acted like you were a nuisance to me. The times you felt me pull away.

Instead, I want you to remember when I…

Told you about your worth, a lot.

Asked you questions and listened to your answers with interest.

Showed up to your school event, sports event, and all the events I was able to.

Kissed you, hugged you, held your hand.

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 I want you to remember me swinging you around, making you laugh, the many times we were being silly.

I want you to remember me smiling at you, laughing with you.

I want you to remember me playing that game, building that tower, and putting together that puzzle.

I want you to remember my encouraging you to keep trying, to not give up, saying, “you can do it!”

I want you to remember lying in bed with me singing and praying before bedtime.

I want you to remember me teaching you how to treat people, how to love, how to be kind and polite.

I want you to remember the birthday parties, and how much we wanted you to feel special.

I want you to remember when I wiped away your tears and let you be sad or hurt or scared. And how I reminded you I’ll always be for you.

I want you to remember our family vacations, family dinners, going to church, Christmas time and holidays and all the extended family gatherings.

My sweet boys, I love you so much. I love you much more than I love myself. However, being a good mom to you means remembering that I am not only a Mommy, I am also a wife, a counselor, friend, sister, daughter, a woman, a person.

All people are different. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. It’s important not to expect to have the same strengths as everyone else. It’s important to appreciate your uniqueness, and to admit your weakness, and when possible…to do something about it.

I love you to the moon and back, always and forever. I am proud to be your Mommy.

Love,

Me

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what breaks my heart

Andy Stanley recently did a sermon series in which he encouraged his listeners to ask themselves the question, “What breaks my heart?” He challenged that instead of complaining, blaming, and finger pointing, to actually do something about it.

Surprisingly, this question stumped me for a while. EVERYTHING breaks my heart, for God’s sake! Murder, violence, cancer, infertility, infidelity, abuse, neglect, addiction, ISIS, persecution, rape, hate, poverty, homelessness…You get the picture. I grieve it ALL regularly. I have to be very careful of my news intake and certain TV shows and movies because I’m so damn sensitive. The horrors of this world send me into a depressive hole that I have to use a bunch of energy to climb out of. I try to save myself for my clients, but I don’t want to be ignorant of world events, either. It’s a daily struggle for balance. Some days are better than others.

I watch an ABC family show called, “Switched at Birth.” It’s good, and I’ve learned a lot about deaf culture from it. There’s drama obviously, but a strong family dynamic and some healthy relationships, too! Anyhow, the last several episodes have been about consent.

I wept through almost the entire episode. When she woke up next to him, not remembering a thing—but feeling that it was very wrong. Trying to figure out what was going on. Word getting out and people calling her a “slut, whore, bitch…” Her friend saying, she was sorry it happened, but “she shouldn’t have put herself in that situation.” I even cried for the guy character, a good guy, who made a stupid choice.

I cried for myself. The shame. The confusion. Knowing that even if I had reported him, I would’ve been condemned and further humiliated, just as she was in this show. Feeling as though no one would believe me anyhow, since I’d willingly gone to his apartment to “watch a movie.”

What breaks my heart wide open is how much we’ve messed up sex. Pornography, 50 Shades, sex slavery, rape culture, DENIAL about our rape culture, how women treat other women, how much we have been objectified that most of us don’t even blink an eye when we are (more on this in a minute). How we trade sex for affection, acceptance, attention, touch, love… How we devalue our own bodies and the bodies of others. How we distort our healthy, God-given needs to be chosen, worthy, touched, wanted, and loved in for cheap imitations. And we wonder why we are never satisfied.

In college and after, it was normal for me to be grabbed, groped, and harassed. I was a server, so I was asking for it, right? When I worked at a bar, I was told that I was hired because of how I looked and only as long as I would put up with sexual harassment. And because I made myself believe none of it mattered, what I was actually believing is that I didn’t matter—therefore perpetuating my tendency to “put myself in situations” that I shouldn’t have.

This is what breaks my heart, y’all. Ok, Andy Stanley, here it is: I’m not just complaining anymore. This is my attempt at doing something. Friends, I’d love to hear any personal insights you’d like to add. I’d love to hear if you are on a journey to wholeness and health. Please share your stories so we can start cheering each other on.

Girlfriends: let’s stick together. Let’s build each other up, instead of tear each other down. We can start with eliminating the words, “slut”, “whore”, “bitch”, and others from our vocabulary. Friend, please start paying attention to the people you surround yourself with and those you call friends. Do they want what’s best for you?

Guy friends: YES MEANS YES. Make sure you have consent and that she is in a state of mind to give it. If you are unsure, DON’T. Treat every woman you come in contact with the way you would want a man to treat your mother or future daughters. You want to be valued as more than the way you look, right? You want to be seen as more than the size of your parts? Perhaps women want that, too. (Or if she’s coming on to you, try to see the insecurity and loneliness behind her promiscuity, and don’t exploit it).

Everyone, let’s seek to understand the deeper, God-given desires and needs we ALL have and find healthy ways to meet them. Ask for help, if needed. Or talk to someone safe. Let’s stop settling for cheap imitations that only leave us hungry for more.

With love and respect,

Lauren

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mom

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After finding out my mother died when I was 1 year old, I once had a well-meaning friend say, “well, at least you didn’t know her so you can’t miss her.” I don’t remember how I responded, but despite knowing she didn’t mean anything harmful by it, it felt like a giant slap in the face. You see, what she said was what I used to believe, and I paid good money in therapy to conclude I was allowed to miss her, the absence of her.

It’s messed up how we can’t just let things suck for other people. When you try to fix someone else’s pain, it only comes across like you’re saying it isn’t ok for it to hurt in the first place. Like it’s wrong to still feel sad about it, because after all: “it could’ve been worse!” Listen, I’ve done it too, it’s hard not to sometimes. Sitting in someone else’s pain can certainly be uncomfortable, but I promise you this: it’s the most loving and healing thing you can offer.

Not only was she minimizing my loss, but she also couldn’t have been more wrong. It is awful that I can’t miss HER. That I don’t have any memories of the woman she was. And even bigger for me, that I do not know what a mother’s love feels like. And that’s not a silver lining for me, not at all. I did have other folks to love me well, and I am eternally grateful for them, but it just isn’t the same thing.

I am most acutely aware of her absence now that I am a mother myself. I didn’t have the ability (or give myself permission) to grieve her as a child, but I grieve her now. I grieve not having her there during my pregnancies, labor, and most importantly to love on my boys. I grieve not having a mom to call who will offer me wisdom or help. I grieve missing out on a friendship with her in adulthood. And another layer of grief: I grieve for the child and teenager I was, so confused, lonely, awkward, desperate for love (cue music: “in all the wrong places”) and attention (not saying that her absense was the only cause of those things, of course).

I understand the holes in my soul better now. And, while I feel more whole than I ever have, I also acknowledge that there are some holes that can never be filled here on earth. I have learned to accept that (most days anyhow).

Grief happens in layers and it looks different for everyone. We don’t just grieve the people we lost, but we also need to grieve the people or relationships we never had. We are all allowed to go through our grief (sometimes looks like: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance) in whatever way we need to. Just don’t numb it. Allow it. Feelings mean you are still alive.

For now, I live mostly in acceptance, but I visit depression and it’s cousins. I don’t stay for too long, and to me, that’s the healthiest thing I can hope for. It’s not reasonable to expect that I won’t feel sad or jealous or sorry for myself sometimes. When that happens, I try to say something like, “Oh hello bad feelings. There you are. I know why you’re here, but you aren’t the boss of me.” In other words, I live with the understanding that my feelings are not my reality. They are real, but they aren’t always TRUE. For example, feeling lonely doesn’t mean I’m alone, feeling depressed doesn’t mean I AM depressed (as in, that is not my identity), and so on.

Then, while being very kind and patient with myself (ok, I mostly am not patient with myself AT ALL, but I want to be. I’m working on it) I put on my big girl panties. I redirect my focus to what’s in front of me. The things I DO have, instead of the things I don’t. The ridiculous abundance of warm shelter, clean water, of food, of clothing, of love. I cultivate a culture of appreciation and gratitude and forgiveness and love and all the beauty that makes meaning in all the messes. Then I forget, so I do it again. And again. Rinse and repeat.

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Showing up

I am an amazing writer in my head. I sometimes lie awake at night composing literary masterpieces with just the right amount of wit, wisdom, and inspiration sure to make any audience gasp in awe. I am certain this dilemma is part of my insomnia issues. It seems these masterpieces are to only be enjoyed by my imaginary audience, God, and myself. Trying to recall my insomniac/narcissistic brilliance is like realizing that your pet unicorn is actually a pony. A really old, fat pony.

What I mean is: in the rare moments I sit down to the blank screen, the words are gone. And since I can’t even use the bathroom in private, you can guess how much quiet time I have to write. Yet despite my challenges in getting this done, it needs to be done. The words have to be released, somehow, since they are keeping me up at night.

As my favorite writer, Glennon Doyle Melton said the other night, following your dream isn’t glamorous at first. At first it’s just a lot of hard work. She inspired me to finally admit that this is my dream now and not just later. I’ve always said one of my lifetime goals was writing a book, but I’ve continually ignored my urges to write. That is for later, when I can think straight. Or for late at night when my imagination makes me believe I am Donald Miller or well… Glennon, of course.

In addition to making the time and space for writing, I am challenged by what to share. I want to be REAL. I want my vulnerability and authenticity to inspire others to do the same, just like my BFF, Glennon. (I promise I am only a normal amount of stalker). That’s how intimacy and love happen, after all. When we drop the pretense that we have our shit together, and allow ourselves to be known.

This vulnerability thing though, it’s not always simple. I still feel fear. I fear sharing too much. I fear I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. But, more importantly, I fear my clients may read it and I don’t want them to realize that I’m not a unicorn (or whatever they want to believe about me). Some clients enjoy knowing I’m a real person, but others don’t (and I’m not saying that’s wrong). I genuinely don’t want to mess that up for them. Or, even worse, I don’t want my clients to be distracted by my story in their sessions. I really love my clients, y’all. Oh yes, and I fear that you won’t like it, or me.

Life is balance and I’m all about trying to find it. It is a journey, friends. Figuring out how and what to write will be my new journey. I am just finally ready to SHOW UP.

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my Sister Jenn, Glennon(!!!), and I

I walked away from this night meeting Glennon with my heart trying to bust out of my chest. There wasn’t a way to put any of it into words yet, no way to describe the joy and happiness I felt. So, I did the only reasonable thing: I cried! Crying, after all, expresses what words cannot.