bad habits

It’s far too easy for me to fall back into bad habits. I can excuse them as being busy or tired, or stressed…but the truth is something a little closer to laziness and an unwillingness to make my health a priority consistently. I am well aware I need to reduce my sugar intake and keep on exercising regularly. I’m sure many of you can relate to this battle, right?

But what about our relational bad habits? Unfortunately, I think most folks are TOTALLY UNAWARE of these in the first place. It’s time we took it back to the basics regarding a few things, my friends. Full disclosure: I have no place to judge: the relational skills I’m about to share are ones that I learned as AN ADULT. Like, mid-twenties, adult, y’all. I did not learn these basic relational skills (for the most part) until then. It’s a crying shame, really. Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you never learned, or maybe you’ve just gotten relationally lazy and fallen into bad habits. Either way, let’s do this! Your people need you to.

Lesson #1: Expressing your feelings with actions.

It is not enough to feel something (aka: gratitude or love); you must express it with your words and actions so the other person feels it, too.

Gratitude:

For Thanksgiving, Andy Stanley preached about gratitude and posited a simple truth: it is not enough to feel gratitude, you have to express it. He goes on to say that failing to express gratitude in a meaningful way (a heartfelt card or phone call) creates a divide in the relationship. He said that there is then something missing, something incomplete. It creates a relational divide and often feels like rejection.

Who do you owe a debt of gratitude to?

Have you expressed your gratitude in a meaningful way?

Love:

Do your people feel loved by you?

It is not enough to say it. Love is a feeling and an action. How do you show love to your people in a way that makes them feel loved? It is possible to KNOW someone loves you and not FEEL loved. This also creates a divide, a disconnect in the relationship. Intimacy suffers.

Lesson #2: Conversation.

If someone asks you a question, answer it and then ASK THEM A QUESTION. It is amazing how many people do not do this. It is awkward and exhausting, people. If nobody wants to talk to you, this may be why. Ask questions! (Listen; sometimes I’m awkward too. It can’t be helped. Especially if I’m caught off guard, like running into someone in the store). But if you’re over at someone’s house, at dinner, or having coffee: have your conversation hat on. Pay attention. Ask questions.

If possible, let the questions be thoughtful. Follow up on what you spoke about the last time you talked. Check in. Show that you listen, are interested,  and that you care. It is amazing how much you can make someone feel cared for by asking a simple follow up question. Also, please do yourself and your people a favor and check out this life-changing blog post for more ideas about question asking!

Best wishes to you as you cultivate good relational habits, my friends.

 

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sex talk, part 2

Ladies, here are some of my practical solutions. I think you are going to hate them, because do you really have time for more things?!?! I hope you’ll try some of it anyhow. I know it’s not easy, but we can do hard things!

1. Time to have sex: Ask yourself, when is the ideal time for your mind and body to be open to sex? Ladies, when you are dog tired, your body will not respond the way you want it to. Sex can become uncomfortable or even hurt in this state. Or it can feel like you are being used, or like a very unpleasant chore. I don’t recommend pushing through these things and having sex like this (unless you are trying to conceive, in which case you may have less choices about timing–do the best you can with what you have, friends). So, make sure you have made space in your life during the times you are more rested.

2. Well rested, relaxed: Not getting enough sleep? When possible make appropriate changes to get to bed earlier, take turns with your husband on night or morning duty, get out of the house with friends or alone. Skip the 2nd or 3rd glass of wine. It’ll just make your sleep less restorative and your mornings harder. Ask for help from your parents, friends, neighbors. Give your kids to someone trustworthy for the day or evening. It takes a village, folks.

 3. Feeling appreciated, valued, loved: You could try something a little like this (whisper this seductively so he knows you’re being silly, even though YOU  TOTALLY AREN’T JOKING AT ALL): “Baby, you know what really turns me on? Clean dishes. Oh yeeeeeaah. Or dinner made, kids bathed. A note or text during the day. A ‘thank you’ or a ‘what would I do without you?’ A, ‘isn’t mommy so beautiful?’ to the kids. I especially get aroused when you offer to do something I normally do, or when you put me first. Or when you genuinely want to know how I am, or remember about that meeting or the doctor appointment I was nervous about and ask me about it. When you listen to my feelings. mmmm…yes.”

4. Connected to husband: But for real though, what makes women want to have sex is emotional connection. We have to teach our husbands how to connect with us, and how to love us so we feel loved. We are simply more complicated. And he feels loved when you have sex with him…so this is a win/win for everyone. Husbands love for you to say EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT/NEED. They can’t always read between the lines and he sure can’t read your mind. Be specific, be honest, be real, and be vulnerable with him. Also, check out this blog if you need help explaining to him what a day is like with the kids or ideas regarding talking about your day. Being known is what intimacy is all about.

5. Feeling sexy or attractive: For me, the goal was all about getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight and all my old clothing. Once I got within a few pounds of that goal I realized that there was no way some my old stuff would fit even if I lost all the weight. My body was just different (this was especially true after my 2nd). I decided I needed a different attitude and some new clothing (and some alterations) and not a different body. Also, check out this and this for help with your perspective. It is vital for the health of your marriage that you find a way to accept yourself EXACTLY the way you are. It’s great to want to be healthy, exercise, and eat well…but love yourself WHILE you do those things. Don’t wait to be kind to yourself until x, y, or z thing happens. Feeling awful about myself just made me feel depressed and made it even harder to get motivated.

6. Sleeping kids: When this is happening make sure you and your husband are in the same vicinity the number of times you decide is your normal. More on frequency in the next post.

7. Clean house: a clean house totally turns me on. But, I am learning to live with the mess. I just try to see it all as our abundance and feel gratitude instead of anxiety. It’s a journey, friends. But if you wait for a clean house and a checked off to-do list you will NEVER HAVE SEX AGAIN. And that’s no good. We have to learn to focus and say to ourselves, “this man right here. He is the most important thing to-do right now.” Besides you can get back to your list when you’re done. A good friend, life coach, or counselor can help you prioritize, let go of what you need to let go of, and learn how to manage your anxiety or racing thoughts if it feels too big to tackle on your own.

*PSA: It is impossible to write a comprehensive blog about sex. It’s too complicated and big. I would love to have written so much more, but the kids only nap for so long. If you need more ideas, check out “A Celebration of Sex” or “When Two Become One.” Please let me know if you’ve found a book that was really helpful to you. I need more sex books!

**PSA #2: If you try these things and find yourself thinking: “NONE OF THAT HELPED, thanks for nothing Lauren!” You could be struggling with negative feelings toward your husband, resentment, post partum depression, depression, anxiety, pain due to changes in your body from birth, difficulty figuring out how to be a mom and a wife and acknowledge your body as more than a vessel for babies to grow and feed and use and empty until you have nothing left, nothing at all for anybody else, especially not the jerk who did this to you. Kidding. But seriously though, email me and I will help you or find someone who can help you. Your family needs you to be healthy and whole and to know that YOU ARE ENOUGH. And, at the risk of sounding cliché, please know that, no matter what your road(ahem…sex)block is, there are answers, there is help, and you aren’t alone.

sex talk, part 1

A few weeks ago, I was called by a MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group to come and speak at one of their meetings about intimacy and sex next month. I was excited about this call because MOPS are MY PEOPLE. And helping busy mothers reconnect with both their own bodies and husbands is one of my passions. I am genuinely looking forward to sharing some of my knowledge, but I’m finding it difficult to narrow down WHAT to share and where in the heck to start.

After all, could the subject of sex be any more complicated? NOPE, no. No it could not. And so…I’m just going to start AT THE BEGINNING: finding the time, space, and energy to actually have sex in the first place. So, I’m making the huge stretch in imagining that I am a MOP (totally am) and thinking of my friend and client MOPS, I started with a list because lists are awesome.

Here’s what I came up with so far.

Turn OFFs:

  1. Exhaustion/no energy
  2. Busy schedule, lack of time alone with hubs
  3. Feeling unattractive, not sexy, not liking body
  4. Disconnected from body, sense of self outside of “mommy”
  5. Not feeling emotionally connected to husband
  6. Negative feelings toward husband
  7. Messy house/overwhelming to-do list
  8. Haven’t shaved or showered

Next, we need a pro-sex list. I’m all about balance and fixing the fixable/practical stuff first.

Turn ONs:

  1. Time to have sex
  2. Well rested, relaxed
  3. Feeling appreciated, valued, loved
  4. Connected to husband
  5. Feeling sexy or attractive
  6. Sleeping kids
  7. Clean house
  8. Showered and shaved

Ok, we have our lists. There are practical solutions for many of the items. And clearly, some are a little more complicated. I’m going to address practical solutions, the complicated stuff, and frequency in my next 2 sex talk posts! Stay tuned and I’d love your feedback on your solutions, lessons learned, or challenges!

resolution disillusion

Resolutions are for idealists who live in la-la-land, right? More and more I’m hearing this: “I don’t make resolutions because I never keep them.” I completely understand. It’s difficult to continually be confronted and disappointed by our own inability to live the life we think we “should” be living. Most of us know we “should” work out more, eat better, drink less, sleep more, spend more time with family and friends…you get the idea.

May I suggest some resolutions for our resolution disillusion?

  1. Start small. For instance, if you do not currently exercise, it is unrealistic to think you’ll be working out every day. Make a goal to exercise more and build on that.
  2. Know yourself. If you hate going to the gym and walking/running on the treadmill feels like a slow, painful death, do not join a gym! If you enjoy dancing, yoga, biking, etc. find a way to do what you love. You’re more likely to keep your goals if you make them for yourself and not for someone else. You do not need to fit anyone else’s definition for success.
  3. Simply strive to be better than you are. You define that. Not the folks around you. Stop comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. Believe me, NO ONE has a perfect life no matter how much it may look that way. Live life according to your values, not your to-do list.
  4. Practice gratitude. This alone will motivate you to be more kind, more patient, more loving, and more joyful. It will be easier to keep your goals because you feel better in general. Nothing kills motivation quite like feeling sorry for yourself or being depressed. Continually remind yourself to focus on what you have rather than what you don’t.
  5. Soak in moments. Learn to recognize and then pause to appreciate a scent, taste, feeling, or sight… Give yourself permission to soak it in and appreciate the little gifts we get every day.
  6. Begin verbalizing the positive things you think about others and yourself. It’s amazing what making someone smile can do for your own self-esteem and joy.
  7. Ask for help. If you believe the past, depression, anxiety, relationships, addiction, or something else is hindering you from achieving your goals; I hope you’ll consider counseling a viable option to help you get past those barriers. You do not have to do it alone.

Good luck and Happy New Year, friends!

18 life lessons I learned from my Daddy

My dad will be the first one to tell you he isn’t perfect. He’ll tell you he’s made a lot of mistakes. Big ones even. As a child, I thought my dad could do no wrong. He was my superhero. As an adult, I see him as a human and a man; one I still deeply admire and respect. I learned some incredibly valuable life lessons from him. Lessons I have already been passing on.

 I’d like to share them with you, too:

  1. Generosity doesn’t have to be complicated. Just give. No strings attached.
  2. Never, ever call yourself stupid.
  3. Take joy in the little things in life. Yell.  Jump up and down and holler. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks while you do so. Never be afraid to look silly.
  4. Stuff is just stuff. Money is just money. These things are not the important parts of life. They are replaceable.
  5. Work hard. Do your very best.
  6. Smile and look people in the eye.
  7. Don’t ever judge someone else’s music. Keep an open mind.
  8. Every person has value and worth. Do not judge and never think you’re better than someone else.
  9. Apologize and mean it when you’re wrong.
  10. Notice, appreciate, and enjoy the beauty in nature and animals.
  11. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
  12. Treat yourself sometimes. Save some money for a trip and then spend it. Do not worry about money while you do so.
  13. Always make sure that your family knows how much you love them.
  14. Give hugs and high fives. Celebrate other people’s success with them.  Jealousy is a useless emotion.
  15. Worry is a useless emotion.
  16. Play board games as often as you can.
  17. If you’re sick keep your germs away from other people as best you can.
  18. If you fart and it stinks, warn the people around you so they can leave if necessary.

Daddy and I

5 tips for dealing with stress

Stress. It’s a word we hear and think all too often in our busy world.

“I’m so stressed out!”

“Work is so stressful right now.”

“You are stressing me out!”

I know you can relate. It’s hard to juggle all our responsibilities and commitments and still find time for family, friends,  relaxation or fun.  Managing your stress requires a daily commitment to do and think differently. I understand that circumstances prevent us from living a stress free life, but here are a few tips for what you can do to manage stress:

    1. Make a list. List out all the things that cause you stress.  This can be beneficial in couple ways:
      1. See if there are any commitments/activities that are doing more harm than good and consider letting them go. Consider sharing the list with a trusted friend or family member to aid your perspective.
      2. Cross out the things on the list that you can do absolutely nothing about except pray (aka, the stuff outside your control). Remind yourself that the stuff outside your control is simply that, grieve if needed and work on accepting those things. Look at what’s left and make some plans to deal with them. Ask for advice, if needed, on how to do that efficiently.
    2. Talk to a trusted friend.  Sometimes just hearing the words, “me too” can work wonders!
    3. Do something you love. Do something for yourself. For instance, I always have a lot of nonfiction reading I should be doing for work. I incorporate that reading into my day when possible, but at night before bed I read fiction that serves no other purpose than to entertain me. It’s something I look forward to every day!
    4. Turn off the radio, TV, computer, and put away your phone.  We have enough noise in our lives without adding to it unnecessarily.  I suggest technology free times. I highly suggest this in the car, but at home sometimes too. Putting aside these distractions can free us to absorb and appreciate moments with our loved ones and help us focus on what really matters. Today! Be present!
    5. Ask for help. Sometimes, we turn to busyness and stress as a way of avoiding life, marriages, kids, grief, etc. We seek to distract ourselves from the truth/reality. If you’d like some professional help sorting this out, it is available when you’re ready.  While life will always have ups and downs, counseling can offer you perspective and tools for enjoying life more and living it with joy and purpose.

And as always…I wish you blessings on your journey, friend.

self-loathing

It’s something I see and hear all too often in sessions. It doesn’t matter if you are a teenager or a grown adult, self-hatred can be very dangerous. I’m not just talking about physically dangerous (aka self harm or suicide) either, although that is a very real problem too.

But today, I’m focusing the non-physical damage self-loathing does. It prevents forgiveness, it worsens depression, and it hinders intimacy. It leads to a lowered self-worth, which can lead to risky and promiscuous behaviors, substance abuse, and destructive relationships. It can cause you to NOT believe you are who God says you are. Or in God at all. A person who struggles with self-hatred may believe they are not worthy of good, healthy, loving relationships. They may believe are not lovable at all. Many don’t believe that they deserve forgiveness, redemption, or salvation.

I can relate. I just hope you’ll begin to understand that withholding forgiveness from yourself is just as much of a sin as withholding it from others. Forgiveness is the cancelation of debt. If this is a struggle for you, I ask that you please stop punishing yourself and begin the process of acceptance and forgiveness.

Some comfort and wisdom from the May 9th entry in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. I can bring good even out of your mistakes. Your finite mind tends to look backwards, longing to undo decisions you have come to regret. This is a waste of time and energy, leading only to frustration. Instead of floundering in the past, release your mistakes to Me. Look to Me in trust, anticipating that My infinite creativity can weave both good choices and bad into a lovely design. Because you are human, you will continue to make mistakes. Thinking that you should live an error-free life is symptomatic of pride. Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses (AMEN.) Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on Me (amen again!). I am able to bring beauty out of the morass of your mistakes (amen x3!). Trust Me, and watch to see what I can do.”

And, last but certainly not least: please read this beautiful love letter. It was written for you.

depression 101

Chances are that you or someone you know has struggled with depression.

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Here’s my “quick and dirty” fact sheet regarding this ugly beast:

  1. The longer depression remains untreated, the harder it is to treat. It is treatable though, and there is hope and you are worth it.
  2. The symptoms of depression make depression worse. (i.e.: when you’re depressed you most likely have low self-esteem, want to isolate from people, and have difficulty completing everyday tasks. The aforementioned stuff, plus the rest of depression’s symptoms will make you feel worse).
  3. Another way of saying #2 is that depression will lie to you. It will tell you that you aren’t worth it, you will never amount to anything, and also that you are ugly and stupid and nobody likes you. Lies. All lies.
  4. Depression makes the simplest of activities feel monumentally more difficult. (i.e.: getting out of bed, taking a shower…)
  5. Women are more likely to suffer from depression.
  6. The combination of good psychotherapy and proper medication has been proven to be the most effective treatment of depression.
  7. However, not everyone with depression necessarily needs to be medicated. It depends on the severity and length of time depressed, as well as other factors.
  8. Regular exercise has been proven to effectively elevate mood, energy, and self-esteem.
  9. Mind, body, and spirit are all connected. Folks with physical problems, illnesses, women who have just given birth, people struggling with addiction, childhood trauma, etc. are more likely to suffer from depression.
  10. You are more “at risk” for depression if it runs in your family. Awareness of this can help you take preventative measures and notice “warning signs” in yourself.
  11.  You are more likely to experience depression again if you have had depression in the past. Refer to my comment about awareness from #10.
  12. Clinical depression is diagnosed using the following criteria: http://www.mental-health-today.com/dep/dsm.htm
  13. I’m going to repeat #1: If you suspect you are depressed or are becoming depressed, get help as soon as you can. The longer you wait the more difficult it becomes to treat. I highly recommend first seeking a skilled professional counselor who can help you sort out whether or not medication is necessary or appropriate. He or she should be trained to offer depression-helping proven therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

You are worth it and you do not have to go through this alone.

Fear

It serves a good purpose in the right context. Fear of being flattened by a semi prevents me from texting while driving.  I consider this fear to be healthy.

And yet, I am aware of the destruction unhealthy fear can wreak on a life.

Fear is the root of anxiety, worry, stress, and busyness.  The blocker of vulnerability, honesty, humility, and ultimately: intimacy.

Fear. The absence of trust.

What do you fear? Do you fear not mattering? Falling behind? Failing? Being alone? Rejection? Being hurt again? I see folks who fear crying because they may not be able to stop. We fear losing control. We fear our own emotions and other people’s, too! We fear sharing who we really are. We fear other people’s opinion of us.

I urge you to try and understand your fears, because only then will you be able to talk to yourself  (and others) with more with love and logic. After all, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, right? (thanks, FDR!)

Some tips for discovering your fear:

–       Write down how you spend your time

–       Write down who and what matter most

–       Does your time and energy accurately reflect what you value most?

  • If it does, awesome–keep up the good work! Balance is a continual journey.
  • If not, why not? Is there a fear that holds you back? I understand bills must still be paid, but is there anything you can change or do to have your life reflect your values more?

We are not guaranteed tomorrow. And so I ask you, what would you do differently if you weren’t afraid? Who or what would you stop wasting your energy on? Who would you apologize to, forgive, or make time for? Who would you call? Hug? Thank? Share your feelings with?

Check out this amazing article written by a nurse about the top 5 regrets of the dying.

If it doesn’t change your life, read it again.

Victory!

Victory!

Love,

Lauren

peace

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I’ve recently been turned on to a new blog called, “Hands Free Mama.”  The creator, Rachel realized it was time to go “hands free” because her addiction to her phone/email/to-do lists/overcommitted life was robbing her of experiencing life.

She describes her mission better than I can: “I’m going Hands Free. I want to make memories, not to-do-lists. I want to feel the squeeze of my daughter’s arms, not the pressure of over-commitment. I want to get lost in conversation with my spouse, not consumed by a sea of unimportant emails. I want to be overwhelmed by sunsets that give me hope, not by extracurricular commitments that steal my joy. I want the noise of my life to be a mixture of laughter and gratitude, not the intrusive buzz of cell phones and text messages. I am letting go of distraction, disconnection, and perfection to live a life that simply, so very simply, consists of what really matters. I’m going Hands Free. And if this sounds like a life you want to start living, come along. A Hands Free revolution starts here! I hope you will join me!”

Sounds good to me! I’ve had similar worries and thoughts, so I gladly signed up to receive an email when she posts something new. Usually her posts are tearjerkers, but always an important reminder to focus on what really matters. And so… in honor of the Christmas season, I charge you, dear reader, to let of go your phone, step away from your computers and make memories. I know you can’t walk away completely, but I hope you’ll at least set up a “no technology time/zone.” Let’s learn to embrace imperfection, enjoy our friends and family, and allow ourselves the time to enjoy a good book or conversation. To really watch our children, to enter their worlds, to see life the way they do…taking joy in the little things, in moments. To listen, laugh, and play knowing that this is time we will never get back. Let’s not waste it anymore. Start today.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful and lovely Christmas season,

Lauren