Plaid and the power of words

Above are my awkward attempts at taking a selfie, ha.

On my first day of highschool I wore plaid.

It seems like an odd thing to remember, right? I couldn’t tell you what I wore on the first day of any other school year. But because of what happened to me—or more specifically what was said to me—I remember my outfit from that day all this time later.

During lunchtime an upper class-man made a mean comment about my plaid shirt and my appearance. Silly really. What did it matter what this girl thought about my clothes or how I looked? But my 13 year-old self went home crushed from her unkind words and paranoid about my appearance.

Obviously I recovered from this little incident. I still wear plaid, as documented above ;). And over time, I’ve learned to feel comfortable in my own skin—regardless of what others think of me. But, I think this plaid incident illustrates well the power words have. For crying out loud, I still remember those silly words from twenty-two years ago today!

What we say to people matters a lot. It matters more than we probably realize. And I am not just talking about the negative. In fact, I am sure we can all recount a time someone used their words to build us up. Encouraging words have the potential to build up and encourage long after they are spoken!!

And yet so many words spill out of our mouths every day and just how careful are we to guard them—to make sure we use them only for good. Oh, man. I can recount more than one time I said something I later regretted or had to seek forgiveness for.

Anyway, I just want to remind myself and my dear readers that we have an amazing tool we can use to encourage and build others up in ways they may never forget. And it doesn’t cost a penny!

Ways to use your words for good…

-Compliment others for positive qualities you see in them. Aim for more than just physical appearance. (As a bonus, this really kicks jealousy in the teeth. It’s hard to be envious of others when you build  them up. Give it a try!)

-Send cards or notes to encourage people who are sick or “shut-in”. If you can’t think of anyone, perhaps you could do this for a local nursing home.

-Speak only positively of others. In other words, as your mama used to say, “if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all”. (This one eliminates gossip.)

-In conversation, ask others about themselves and then really listen to what they have to say. Respond with encouraging, helpful words and resist the urge to make the conversation about you.

-Pray for other people, not just for yourself. Ask others how you can be praying for them. And then really do pray.

I hope, like me, you feel encouraged to use your words for good.

With love,

Lauren

What words have you carried with you over time? Or, what ideas do you have for using your words for good?

Contentment: The key to a happy life

Photo by the lovely Anabell Jimenez

I’m giddy to be writing this post, so I found a giddy picture to go with it, ha.

I am so excited to be sharing this with you because, you guys, it applies to us ALL regardless of age, race, sex, education, nationality, status etc. And it hits close to home for me!

You see, this is something that turned my life right-side-up, after years and years of just barely getting by. Like totally transformed my way of thinking and as a result the way I experience life for the better. And, ohhhhh wow, I am so grateful.

I spent too many years looking to my circumstances and/or other people for happiness. Which, frankly, is a terrible way to live. Because how often do our circumstances or other people let us down? Pretty much on a daily basis. Right?!

During those years I allowed my circumstances and the behavior of others to rob me of joy. Which was bound to happen. Because you can’t look to those things for happiness! They will let you down every time.

The crazy thing was, as a Christian, I should have known better. But this behavior is subtle (often we don’t see it in ourselves) and common (I am convinced most people live this way—out of AND in the Church).

What it boils down to is…CONTENTMENT. We aren’t content, so we look to our circumstances and other people to make us happy—to fill us up.

Chances are, if we feel unhappy at any given moment in life, it can be traced back to a contentment issue.

Now, I am not talking about grief that results from major loss or tragedy here. Nobody should feel happy when they’ve lost a loved one or their house has burned down to the ground. I should also add here that depression is something different.

But rather, the frequently recurring and sometimes constant sense of disappointment, or frustration, or flat-out unhappiness in life that plagues SO many people. Even those of us who call ourselves Christian.

Most often, this unhappiness is connected to wanting certain circumstances in our life to change or improve somehow. Right? And falsely believing we will finally be happy when they do.

I would be happier if or when ______________ happened.”

I’ve been there. Oh man have I been there, waiting for happiness to show up when my circumstances change. Like I mentioned earlier, that is how I lived most of my 20’s. But do you know what? It never does because there is always some new set of circumstances or sticky relational issue to deal with in life.

It wasn’t until I STOPPED looking to my circumstances and other people for happiness and really, truly learned to be content—regardless of my circumstances (in spite of them, even)—that I finally experienced happiness. It required that I be thankful for where I was in life at THAT EXACT moment. To be joyful in the journey, rather than constantly looking for joy in some destination. To let people off the hook when it came to my happiness.

You see, when I learned that if I couldn’t be happy smack-dab in the middle of the circumstances God had placed me (whatever they were), I would never be happy—things finally turned around for me. I finally experienced peace and joy right where I was (and often in less than ideal circumstances to boot—a chronic illness diagnosis, failure, job stress, disappointment, friend issues,  etc. !!)

I am far from amazing. If I can do this, any one can!!

Love,
Lauren

How are you?

How are you doing and feeling? I mean REALLY doing and feeling?

If you asked me this question 14 or 15 years ago , and I was honest, I would have had to say I was not doing well AT ALL.

I was just barely getting by. I was in a real bad place in every way—physically, mentally, and emotionally. I felt like I was hanging on by a thread.

And there was no way I was going to breathe a word of this to anyone. Too humiliating—I thought. I have a wonderful family and I didn’t even say anything to them.

And no one asked. You see, on the outside I was putting on a dang good show. I was excelling in my college classes and working part-time to boot. I had good friends, took trips, and dated. I was very involved in my church and faithfully practiced the Christian disciplines . But on the inside I was FALLING APART. Absolutely, totally, completely falling apart.

I am living proof that there is a way out of a pit—even when it feels impossible. If you had told me at the time that I would feel as good as I do today, I’m not sure I would have believed you.

If you’re merely hanging on by a thread, know that I am here rooting for you. We all are. Please don’t hesitate to message me. Sometimes it’s easier sharing with a friend far away, than one right by.

The first step to climbing out of that pit, to really healing, is to admit that everything is not okay.

With love,

Lauren

5 things to do in the wake of an offense

Pray for the offender.

In scripture we are told to pray for our enemies and to do good to those who hurt us. On the surface, it seems like an impossible pill to swallow. But, what I have found is that by behaving in this way, God is helping set us free from the shackles of unforgiveness and bitterness that bind us in the wake of an offense. And, our honorable behavior speaks volumes of nature of the forgiving and gracious God we serve. I believe having this prayerful, kind attitude toward our offenders is the only real way to heal from offense and to move forward in a healthy way.

Get some perspective.

I find in situations where I have been offended (especially repeatedly and by someone who you expect more from), it really helps to take a step back from the situation. To even attempt to view the situation as an outsider. In the history of Continue reading

Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse

We had the loveliest time at the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse in Maine over the weekend.

It was one of the less iconic lighthouses we’ve visited since moving to New England. As the lighthouse is on the top of the house and barely visible. But it made it no less special to visit–as I am sure you can tell from the pictures we took. The views all around were breathtaking. And the actual building was beautiful as well.

Continue reading

For the guys…

Hey, guys! Want to make your woman feel like a million bucks? Want things to improve in the bedroom?

Don’t look at other naked women.

It takes a lot of intentionality and work and LOVE in our overly sensualized culture to do this. Cause, well, naked people are everywhere—from the internet to popular shows and movies.

Porn isn’t just in certain magazines or behind the curtain anymore. It’s EVERYWHERE. And it’s becoming a problem even for very young unsupervised kids.

I know what I am saying will be viewed as prudish by some. And you know what? That’s okay!

My hubby has made the commitment to not look at anything that even remotely resembles porn and works dang hard to keep his promise (with internet filters on the computer and phone, reading reviews on tv shows and movies before watching, etc). And I’m telling you there is nothing more ATTRACTIVE and liberating than this…

To be a woman who doesn’t wonder who you’re being measured up against in your most vulnerable moments. To feel totally cherished and worth the effort. Yeah, it’s amazing. (And as a bonus it really works wonders in the bedroom.;)

It’s never too late to return to this way of cherishing and respecting women either. Even if you’ve messed up in a big kind of way in the past. And if you aren’t married yet, becoming a stand-up kind of guy on this issue will make you attractive to the right kind of girls. Trust me.

I dare you to give this a try!

Let’s Talk: Dates!

I may have had my favorite date night ever last night. And it was so simple!

Brance and I started out the date by walking to a coffee shop near our home and chatting over iced drinks. We have had a heat wave lately, for Boston, so it felt pretty amazing to sit in some central air, too :). Plus there is nothing quite like sitting across from your man with no distractions. It’s the best, right!?

Next we wandered over to a favorite restraurant and ordered our meals to go. We grabbed our car and camp chairs and headed to a beloved park. The park is large (for the city) and gorgeous and so few people hang there (I think because most people in the neighborhood prefer to be on the beach). It has big, old trees and lovely bay views where you can see sail boats. And there are large colorful Victorian homes, with widow watches, facing one side. It felt wonderful to sit there and soak up summer with Brance. As the sun set, we ended our time there with a stroll around the park near the water and talked about life.

And then like the parents we are, we ran to the store ALONE to pick up some things we needed before heading home.You see. It was nothing special, but it felt nice to be alone together talking and laughing and relaxing. Even shopping.

Back when Brance and I were dating and engaged we spent many date nights cooking together. We had a lot of fun looking for recipes and shopping for the ingredients. We would turn music up while we cooked and would dance whenever the recipe allowed. We still love cooking together.

What are you favorite kinds of dates? Is there a certain place you eat out or do you prefer to cook at home? Do you like to do something adventurous? Do dates involve the movies or a concert or shopping?  Maybe you love doing something outside. Let’s talk!!

Let’s Talk

I am not much of an orator.

In fact, I often stumble over my words or get things mixed up in translation. (Just ask someone who knows me in real life). Perhaps that is one of the reasons I enjoy writing.

There is no one actively engaged and waiting for my immediate response. So, no reason to feel shy or nervous.

Writing seems to flow better for me, because it’s slower and my brain is able to keep up.

I can easily edit—adjust or move thoughts around. I can delete them entirely.

It’s not that I don’t want to become a better speaker: as an orator and in general conversation. I really do. But writing and I are a comfortable pair. I can express my thoughts and feelings, imperfect as they are (both my thoughts and the expression), easier.

After experiencing a huge transformation in my wellness (physically, mentally, and emotionally), I wanted to share that with as many people as possible. In case it might help them too. Writing seemed a natural way for me to do that and that is how this blog was born.

Perhaps one day I will feel comfortable sharing all of this in other ways. For now, though, I keep writing!

Which is easier for you? Talking to other people about your thoughts and ideas in person or writing them down? Let’s “talk”. I’d love to know!!

Boundaries

I’ll never forget the time a friend of mine waltzed into my bedroom after dinner and pulled everything out of my closet. To my further shock and dismay, while our husbands continued to talk in the other room, she proceeded to sort my clothes into piles and tell me what I should and shouldn’t wear! To look more fashionable, I suppose.

I wasn’t a teenager or in college. I was married with two kids. Oh my! The experience was totally uncomfortable and embarrassing. It felt rude and invasive. Yet, because I didn’t know how to set healthy boundaries then, there I was being told which skirt and shirt I should pair and to “never, ever wear those pants”. Yikes.

I can only imagine how this person would have reacted if the situation was reversed! Thankfully, she has since ended our friendship. Even though it was super painful, I was going through a rough season, I now see it was for the best—providence at work.

Just today, I received a manipulative message. It was from someone trying to persuade me to join their team for some business (I won’t say which one). I only say manipulative because this person doesn’t know me in the least—we have one mutual friend on social media—yet they called me friendly and outgoing in the note. I am actually rather shy. They said I was “totally gorgeous” (uhm…) and immediately followed it with a “by-the-way” pitch for a great business opportunity. I am not against an online business approach, but I am against being manipulated.

Thankfully between the clothing incident and the pushy “business opportunity” I have learned to set boundaries. I have learned say “no thanks”—NO explanation and NO excuses necessary. And if my polite “no” isn’t accepted or respected, then a firmer, more blunt “no” is given. Sometimes, like with the manipulative message I received today, I simply hit delete.

(Although, I am the world’s worst when it comes to email. So forgive me, if I have failed to respond to a message!  Please feel free to send a reminder message or reach out in the comments.)

I have discovered that if you are not intentional about setting boundaries, these kinds of events become the norm. And we find ourselves over-committed and doing things we would rather not do.

Thankfully, most incidents are not as bizarre as my clothing incident. But, certain people will—well-meaning or not—inevitably pull you in directions you aren’t comfortable or meant to go. They will make decisions for you that you should make for yourself. They may even take you for granted. Or even worse, take advantage of or mistreat you.

Do you set healthy boundaries? Or, do you let others walk all over you, manipulate you, and pull you in directions you would rather not go? Perhaps you find yourself hiding from or lying to certain people? Let’s talk!!

P.S. I don’t claim to do this perfectly. I am learning too! In fact, I can think of a time or two where I set a boundary and later regretted it. And there certainly still are times where I feel a desire to unnecessarily explain myself or hide from certain people.

Having kids helped me to learn to set boundaries. I’ll have to share my scary airport story sometime, because it all started there!

The life-rule that makes all the difference

We can all think of a person/or people in our life who are just plain difficult. They might include a neighbor or a co-worker or an acquaintance or even a family member.

They may be self-absorbed or thoughtless or just flat-out mean. They’re real stinkers and more often than not they don’t even know it. (My experience has been that these people often think quite highly of themselves—ironically considering themselves the most wonderful person around! It’s so odd.)

And, frankly, our natural inclination is to run and hide or become confrontational when dealing with them. Or, at the least, secretly hope they pay for their selfish misdeeds with a life that falls apart or gossip about them with our friends.

But what if there was another way of dealing with these kinds of people? One that would free us and potentially repair the broken relationship? One that would stop poison from being injected into our OWN hearts and the hearts of others.

What if, instead of allowing the actions of these people push all of our buttons and drain us emotionally, we responded in a healthier way— with LOVE?

What if we decided to treat other people the way we want to be treated—regardless? Stinkers included.

Regardless of how they treat us.
Regardless of how they respond to us.
Regardless, regardless, regardless.

It is called the Golden Rule by some and has been around for centuries (check out Matthew 7:12).

It is one of the most important rules I was taught as a child by my parents who have modeled it beautifully for me through the years. And while I don’t practice it perfectly, the times I do it has literally transformed my heart and life.

There really is nothing quite so freeing as truly believing, embracing, and practicing the Golden Rule. Where we release those expectations of others and focus solely on your own actions— choosing love by treating others the want we want to be treated.

And regardless of how others receive or respond to that love, in the end, you win. Because embracing this rule really does set YOUR heart free!!

With love for you all (stinkers included ;),
Lauren