Nurturing, nourishing and flourishing are best friends.
As women, we tend to loose ourselves in the nurturing and nourishing of the loves around us - but we NEED to make a point of not forgetting to pour some of that nurture and nourishment into ourselves too.
We are the carers, the nurturers of others - we pour into our littles and our sisters and our loves and we want only for them to flourish.
I’ve been thinking of those acts, feminine & maternal inclinations and I wonder sometimes why we have such a hard time accepting those gifts for ourselves, why it’s so difficult to turn some of that mothering inward. .
My developing and growing understanding of self-care is best described as self- mothering. The best Mamas make you eat your veg, go to bed on time and take a nap. They also give you ice cream for dessert, give you hugs when you fail, cheer when you succeed and always, always love you just as you are while being able to see what you are going to become.
My goal with self care is mothering. It’s to Instill rhythms of nourishment and nurture. Nurtured and Nourished Women are Flourishing Women. Flourishing women, nurture and nourish others.
Friends, sisters, mamas, daughters: as you nurture and nourish the loves around you. Don’t forget to pour some of that into yourself. 🌼🌸🌼
One of my favorite self-mothering tools/practices is the establishment & maintenance of healthy boundaries.
When you are watering & weeding everyone else's gardens - your own flourishing suffers and you'll have nothing to sustain and nourish you in the harvest season.
That is exactly why I put together my book - "The Heart-Centered Woman's Guide to Healthy Boundaries" - you can hop on to the waitlist here - you'll get an email with the prologue and the introduction in it (yes, your very own sneak peak) and an email letting you know how and where to grab it if thats what you want to do!
One of the most valuable lessons growing plants has taught me is that growth truly is a mysterious and miraculous force, it is also a pretty straightforward process. .
To flourish plants need sunlight, water and good soil. Yes, each plant needs them in different ratios but if you give them what they need, growth will do the rest. .
I think humans are the same. I see it in myself, my children and my people - we need the right nourishment, and we grow. Sometimes we put waaaaay too much energy trying to “Will” growth into being, we should focus our energy on figuring out what they are and then making sure the right conditions are met. This is true with basic human needs, it’s also true of our higher aspirations. .
I know my body needs nourishing food, enough sunlight, movement, connection with other humans, connection with God and a healthy dose of solitude to flourish. .
Yet, sometimes I am forgetful about this very basic fact of life and I tear out ahead of myself and I for example, don't eat for 6 hours, sleep for only 5 and barely drink enough water to fill two glasses... oh and don't forget how I wash it down with copious amounts of caffeine - thats a recipe for winning right there (JK).
I found myself alone in the park on a sunny spring afternoon this past Sunday. As I spread myself out on the handmade family quilt and looked up at the foliage above and all around me, I noticed how all the trees had suffered considerable losses after the arctic storm that just 6 weeks ago, brought all of Texas to a screeching halt. Usually by this time of the year, our spring is in full force but the delayed onset of our usual beautiful greenery was especially noticeable.
I noticed the buds and imagined how in just a couple of weeks all will be as it should. The leaves matter - but these older trees (way older than me even) had root systems way deeper than the freeze line, and so despite loosing some of their beauty, maintained all of their strength - and so their beauty would return - all I needed to be, was patient.
I wondered about how much of my energy over the past few weeks had been channeled towards my own "greenery" - fragile beauty for the world to see and enjoy, but so very fickle in the face of bad weather.
I thought about how, were I to channel that same efforts into the soil around my root systems, how much stronger, resilient and ultimately fruitful my life's garden would become.
I have a giggle at my priorities sometimes, but the truth is that I can examine them and figure out what I TRULY prioritize.
My afternoon in the park by myself was in of itself a last resort to nurture my roots for the sake of my foliage as a weekend of to few hours asleep and a generous helping of toddler vomit wore at my margins and I felt myself fraying at the edges.
My own commitment right now has returned to my roots.
The roots that will sustain me through the winter, the roots that will anchor me in the wind. No-one sees the work or into the world of the soil, but we notice which trees didn't survive the ice storm.
I wrote this after my afternoon in the park, I hope it nourishes & encourages your heart as it did mine:
Sometimes when the wind rises up against you and you feel it in your branches... they sway, it plays through your leaves, and together with your dead and decaying limbs, some fall to the ground.
Don’t mistake the movement for trepidation. Your trunk holds you firm, your deepest roots sleep soundly through the rustle.
The pruning is no cause for alarm when your roots are deep, and at rest. The loss you feel is not loss, but clearing and then gain.
Buried & unseen roots are what makes you strong and will keep you standing in the wind, not the celebrated foliage.
You’re beautiful in the winter. Naked, but still there.
You’re beautiful in the summer. Lush, winter’s faithfulness bearing its fruit.
Onlookers relish only in what they can see, and use, and enjoy.
What will you relish in? What will you tend to? Where will you throw your nurturing?
Towards the sky, where winds blow at your work?
Toward the earth? Where only you and the One who sees into the darkness can go?
Whose gaze are you tending to?
Leaves scatter in the wind. Deeply rooted, you’ll weather the seasons.
If you would like to dig deeper into designing, building and then protecting a life that feels like flourishing to you, why don't you head on over to a Facebook Group that I have created and moderate called: Healthy Boundaries for Heart-Centered Women - there are a ton of incredible free trainings like "Whose Life Is It Anyway? Getting Clear On Your Priorities" and "31 Things I've Learnt About Boundaries from the Bible" as well as weekly live trainings and Q&A sessions!
It's happened at least twice in less than a week...
I woke up today feeling the same, except this time, rather than my own voice ringing it my ears - it was the chorus of the folks in the cheap seats or the background of my life, the people I barely (if ever) interact with, but whose opinion always seems to float to the very top of my awareness... mostly at those high stakes "crunch-time" moments.
I spent a good part of my morning rage cleaning at the frustration I felt within myself. Almost like I was trapped inside my own head, pleading my case against the verdicts handed down, lording over me.
I literally watched (or heard?) myself going back and forth with them - minutes (nearly an hour) passing as I contended for myself against an imaginary crew of faces and voices all accusing me of realizing some of my deepest, worst fears.
Then suddenly, a beautiful moment of clarity...
The rational part of me must have come back online, and after watching the mental ping-pong finally spoke up...
"hey Lauren - I am pretty sure you're asking the wrong questions, and focusing your energy on the wrong problem..."
***Insert hard blinking here***
"Who cares what they think? Is that even your responsibility to manage?
"No its not ..."
"All you can manage, the only thing you have complete control over, is whether or not you're in agreement with them, with those voices... the rest is completely out of your hands... and not even worth your time or energy."
First of all - welcome to my inner monologue. ( I feel like we know each other really well now).
Second of all... that little exchange that happened earlier is a variation of what I realized last week too.
"You're a failure"
They produce an intense emotional reaction which in me is usually ANGER - but beneath that are usually more vulnerable emotions like sadness, grief and fear.. anger just feels more powerful...
Which is interesting because what I need in that moment - is to reclaim responsibility for and power over my thoughts and the judgements I am making or agreeing with.
I think one of the most powerful boundaries we can draw is the one around ourself. The one where we limit the access the voices, opinions and judgements of others have to our thoughts.
When we draw strong boundaries around ourselves - we can create mechanisms by which we regulate or control who is allowed in, and who is allowed to take up space in our thoughts and our emotions.
This isn't the same as avoiding or suppressing them - thats not healthy or helpful.
Its actually the opposite. When we take full responsible for how we think and feel - rather than sit in blame or judgement over others for what we are experiencing - there is a much greater and more powerful incentive to steward them healthily and responsibly - because we know that the buck stops with us - we might as well get on with it and get the job done properly.
The past week has brought into sharp focus how my mental boundaries need an upgrade - I am letting too much in, I am allowing too much to stay, play and mess up what is mine to nurture and lovingly care for.
Some questions I have found are helpful in this process are:
- Who is making this judgement about me? Why do they have this kind of access to my thoughts? Are they worthy of the space they take up here?
- What is a more helpful/realistic/healthy and TRUE assessment/reflection of who I am?
- How am I pretending that what I think/feel isn't my responsibility to manage?
- If I could do one responsible/loving/healthy thing for my thought or emotional life right now, what would that be?
How about you? What are some helpful ways you clean up your mental messes?
If you're curious about what your boundaries style is, I have created a quick and easy quiz for you to take... find that right here:
Life together is messy.
This here, is the aftermath of life in community. Of a meal together. Of children playing loudly in the same room where adults sit and chat. .
Housekeeping and I were never really best friends. And if I’m being totally honest, there is a part of me that likes the fullness of being with others in my home to spill over into the following day, so I sometimes like to relish in the mess for a couple of extra hours because it reminds me of the time we enjoyed the night before.
It also reminds me to be patient with my own family. My kids. I want the fullness of a life together with them but I don’t want ANY mess. I get a moment today to recognize that very very very rarely does togetherness leave me, and my space in the same state as it found me- and that’s something I should embrace.
I believe these are some of the inconvenient truths about forging, and enjoying the kind of community that saves & heals you - it changes you, it's hard work, it interrupts and rearranges your life.
There is absolutely nothing sterile and controlled about it.
If we want real and transformative, then we need to accept messy & disruptive is just going to be a part of the deal.
Donald Miller encourages us to prioritize our conflict navigation skills. He writes:
“All human progress happens by passing through conflict. You cannot climb a mountain, build a bridge, create a community or grow a business without engaging in and navigating conflict.”
I have noticed that many of us avoid withdraw from, ignore or turn away from the mess. We don’t allow ourselves to be drawn in deep enough, and when we are and it gets messy we pull away. We shut it down. We shut them out. We start again. With new, and hopefully less messy humans. Our lives and relationships stay shallow, and we are lonelier than ever.
I wonder if sometimes the reason why we are so stuck as a society, is if on a personal as well as on a macro-level, we are all just really, really shitty at conflict. We don’t actually resolve anything when we pull away. We don’t actually get through to the other side when we cancel and mute and block.
In this way I see how boundaries are misused. They become a means of terminating relationships, rather than navigating them. They are the tools we use to build giant, impenetrable barriers, rather than bridges. We are stuck, and alone inside our safe, sterile lives. Our ‘boundaries’ are suffocating us to death.
As Brene Brown likes to say, we can only really connect with others when we’re willing to risk the vulnerability.
And as my pastor likes to say, community isn’t found, it's forged.
I believe that in the aftermath of 2020 we may be more disconnected and alone than ever. I know that for many of us, our circles are small… may I encourage you to allow them (no matter how small) to be messy.
Make room for real.
Leave space and grace for mistakes, pain and misunderstanding.
In a time where we are tired, scared and angry - Lean towards one another, not away from them.
Errrrrrg. In the meantime, dishes do need to be cleared and washed and forts need to be packed a way so that we can do it all again tomorrow. And the day after that.
Here’s to making room for others, and their mess... but also our own 🤗 .
It happens every single day. I don’t think any of us can remember the last time we went 24 hours without being exposed to polarizing news or opinions on our social media feeds or in our real-life relationships.
When we encounter “difference” in another, particularly politically, we feel may feel confused, angry, self-righteous, judgemental, frustrated, disappointed, hopeless and sad. We feel all the things. At that point we may try and engage - we try and get them to see it from our perspective, to study the ‘science’ or to consume the ‘right’ news outlets. It feels like noone is listening, everyone is shouting, we feel scared and overwhelmed and so in an effort to protect our peace we shut down and we shut them out. We retreat towards the comfort of our position, and the people who share it.
We’re fertilizing the division that is shaking our world to its bones.
I know that there are things we may or will struggle to reconcile in our differences, but if you are feeling exhausted, scared, confused and isolated from people. If you are watching your relationships with your friends, parents, siblings and brothers and sisters in faith crumble under the weight of difference… then here are some thoughts I would invite you to consider.
Warning: Our cultural disposition is one where we are asked to always pick a side. There is always a winner or a loser, an ultimate victor and the failures left in the dust. Our culture would have us believe there is zero gray space. That life is all or nothing.
I do not subscribe to this way of thinking about the human experience. I believe it is suffocating and destructive. You’ll struggle with the rest of this post if you want to hold on to the safety of “black and white, right and wrong”... If you want to venture out into grayspace, if you are willing to at least try to hold tension, to get curious about the world around you and the people in it, if you desire connection and courage, then this is a way forward for you.
Acknowledge, get curious about, understand and engage the emotions around an issue.
A strong sentiment in our culture is that feelings are either truth or they are lies. I would invite you to consider them, ‘data’ - information. I would also ask that you consider them to be an invitation to connect with another, to see them, and to help them feel safe and understood.
Our emotional responses to life tell us about our beliefs, about the experiences we have had in life and about what matters to us. They are also a platform for connection. When you allow yourself to get curious about the experience of another person, especially when the think differently to you - emotions will provide you with common ground. We all feel scared, helpless, angry, worried. We all have concerns about the world our children will grow up in and we all know what it's feels like to worry about death. Even if those aren’t present concerns for us, we probably have experienced them before and can empathize with how or what people are experiencing about the world.
I believe that one of the reasons so many of us refuse to venture into the ‘enemy territory’ of our ‘opponents’ experiences is that we are threatened by the truth of their experience. We are probably worried that, if we are confronted by the reality of their lives we will be forced to reconsider our own. We are so committed to being right, or believing we are right, that we lose all ability to “get it right” for ourselves and for others.
This requires a posture that assumes we don’t know everything, that we cannot possibly even if we try. It requires humility. The willingness to admit that we may be getting it wrong, that we may have some learning or growing to do. That despite our best efforts or intentions, we are hurting others through our choices.
I would like to invite you to consider that you can see, experience and empathise deeply with someone, and still not agree with them. That you can see their fear, their anger, their anxiety and grief, and instead of judging it as right or wrong, extend love and acceptance to the person on the other side of an issue as you.
The thing is, we all want people to do this for us, but we are unwilling to take the step and do it for another.
It's VULNERABLE to enter into the world of another and be willing to see things from their perspective.
It's VULNERABLE to admit that you also know what it's like to feel scared, angry, anxious or sad.
It's VULNERABLE to be gracious with these emotions and these experiences of another, especially if you have a very hard time being gracious with yourself when you have them too.
I have had moments when my willingness to see things from the perspective of another has changed my mind about something. It was hard and uncomfortable and I HATED having to say to myself and to my people - I was wrong about that… I am going to make a different choice now, and I may need to admit that further down the road, I will still not have it 100% right. Can I hang in there with myself, and give myself permission to figure it out as I go? Can I hang in there with others as they do the same?
I have had moments where I have sat and listened to and understood completely why someone made a choice that I absolutely disagreed with. I have maintained my commitments in those moments, but I released the other to maintain theirs. I can do so in complete love and respect for them. I can stay turned toward them even when we disagree. I can stay connected even when it's hard.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 & 3, for now - How can you lean into and try your utmost to understand the experience or perspective of another? How can you turn toward them and communicate your understanding, love and respect for them, even in disagreement?
I have hosted a training called “How to say no without ruining your relationships” … click the link to join if you need to figure out how to do that.