Everything is a Journey


Coastland Center Mall Book Signing

I had my first book selling event this week.

It came about unexpectedly and plunged me into the next step on my writing journey. A step I’ve longed for, thought about and feared for years. Now, in hindsight, it seems foolish to have dreaded (with excited anticipation) my first book event.

I’m not one of those people who hate talking in front of others. Book selling and signing goes with the territory. I want more people to know about me as an author. So what was I (a little) freaked out about?

The logistics.

I’m not even sure why. I’m asking for divine help in answering that question. But I realize it happens almost every time I find myself in a new, unfamiliar setting or situation. I’m far better now, but it still unsettles me.

Can anyone relate?

Spending hours preparing  by packing up, checking directions (a few times), re-reading instructions, listing needed items and imagining the trip or event several different ways. When I’m supposed to be getting much needed before-the-event sleep. Naturally.

Here’s the deal…

Even though I woke up with a migraine starting that morning, I quieted my heart in prayer and set about getting ready and to my destination. As I drove, I remembered that I had worked at a tuxedo shop a couple of decades ago so I attended numerous and regular wedding events. I also worked book tables for other authors.

I had experience after all. Go figure.

A nice man held the door for me as I lugged my box of books and such into the mall. Then it all came back to me once I started setting up. Arranging my books, cards and flyers was fun. I didn’t know what to expect, so I expected to wait and see what would transpire during the day.

Being at a mall, most of the sparse crowd came for specific purposes. Few stopped to browse. But both of my vendor neighbors were lovely ladies selling beautiful jewelry and handmade tote bags respectively.

We enjoyed some interesting and engaging conversation.

Later on, a couple of friends showed up to support me. I love connecting my friends who don’t know each other, but love me. Overall, I sold a few books, met some very nice people and ended up having a great experience.

All part of the journey.

It was a good day. Even the part when I drove out of the mall the wrong way and ended up circling a number of very long blocks to end up back where I started fifteen minutes later. Making mistakes is a part of learning.

I learned that everything is a journey.

We can keep moving ahead in spite of our fears or questions, or we can hold back and never start. Every new experience is just that–new. Which means we won’t know what to expect or what it will hold for us until we are participating in it.

But if we never take that first step into the unknown, we’ll never know. I’m so grateful for the experience. Every part of it (except that headache) ended up blessing me. And now I’ll be more confident the next time. I also want to keep pressing into what’s next.

Like a radio interview coming up this week.

I’m pretty excited in a nervous am-I-ready-for-this kind of way. I don’t feel ready, but I believe God opens doors at the right time. And sometimes he gives us a little nudge to walk through.

What step do you need to take today?

 

 

The Effects of Addiction Trauma


IMG_3527I’m not a trained or licensed counselor.

That’s my disclaimer. But I have read dozens of books, spent hundreds of hours in counseling and led groups dealing with addictions. Most importantly, I’ve experienced addiction in some way for the majority of my life. Either being addicted or living with one.

Here’s the simple truth.

Whether we live in addiction or live with an addict (usually it’s both), the trauma of that lifestyle imprints our being with carved patterns of unhealthy thinking and behavior. It warps our perspective so that our reality is skewed.

We cannot tell what is true.

Lest we think that by addiction I mean alcohol or drugs only, let’s be clear about the addiction to which I refer. We can become chemically addicted to drugs or alcohol, yes. And while those substances garner most attention, we can also be addicted to sex, gambling, shopping, food, control, cleanliness, fears, social media, television, reading, new ideas, extreme sports…basically anything that has mastery over us.

Whatever triggers the pleasure center of our brain and causes a rush of adrenaline or dopamine can become an addiction. In themselves, those hormones and chemicals are beneficial and help us in life, but when we’re hurting, either physically or emotionally, we can seek the release to ease our pain.

Too much of a good thing, as they say.

The downside is trauma induced by the repetition of addictive behavior. Without the hours of training or a state generated license, here’s part 1 of what this layperson has learned about the effects of addiction trauma.

*We don’t know what loving someone really means – Life becomes a struggle to keep others happy while trying to make them love us. This is not what love is all about. We shouldn’t have to make anyone love us. Covering for their indiscretions or making excuses for them (or them for us), taking the responsibility for their actions, carrying the weight of the relationship is not loving, it is enabling. Not meeting their all their needs, demands (or desires), does not make us unloving or cold. Love never demands, it gives. God loves us unconditionally. He loved us first. Healthy people can give and receive love without conditions.

*Lack of trust – Relying on people feels like a dangerous proposition usually because our experience with unhealthy people says they think about what pleases them at the moment, not what is wisest for them or others. Their choices that show lack of consideration for others are hurtful and sometimes cruel. Whether we are the addict or we live with one, constant betrayal leads to suspicion. It becomes difficult to trust, not only those we live with, but anyone.

*Desire for vs. fear of intimacy – Being intimate requires vulnerability. We long to be known and close to others, but we fear them knowing us. Since it’s impossible to be intimate with someone we don’t trust or be vulnerable when we fear disclosure, we can run in and out of relationships. In a healthy relationship, we accept and are accepted without conditions, but addicts hide to alleviate feelings of shame. We leave people guessing about who we really are. Or, we wonder why we can’t seem to get close to the other person. We may try to detach ourselves emotionally from others to feel safe, but that isn’t healthy. Or we may need to detach from someone who is cruel or abusive. Unfortunately, they may then accuse us of being cold or distant. Either way, intimacy eludes or strangles us.

*Seeking fulfillment in other areas – When one area of addiction isn’t enough anymore to keep us numb, our children may become our emotional stability or our work, hobbies, friends, food, shopping; we may even turn to alcohol, drugs, or adulterous relationships to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Unfortunately, the feeling of fulfillment is temporary and we end up setting or continuing patterns that will eventually destroy us and others we love.

When addiction of any type becomes consistent, it grooves patterns in our soul and in our brain. But addiction is only a symptom of a deeper issue. Once we take time to heal the hurts of our life, and make a conscious effort to create new patterns, we find we no longer need the thing we were addicted to. However, depending on each individual situation, some addictions can take days, months or years to overcome.

There is no quick fix for an unhealthy lifestyle and it’s damage.

But there is hope. The Bible said that it’s for our freedom that Jesus Christ came. God loves us and longs for our lives to be abundant and prospering (I’m not talking just about money here). He hurts when we hurt and wants to heal our pain. When we let him REVEAL what’s underneath the issues, and we choose to DEAL with the problems, he can HEAL us so we won’t need something else.

It’s a journey. Join me?

 

Journey Into Darkness


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Sometimes in order to find light, we must journey into darkness.

I stumbled upon this great video of Kristene DiMarco, worship leader at Bethel Church in Redding, California, who tells the story of her time spent in San Francisco when she found herself in the middle of an overwhelming, dark place. God used that season of her life to speak to her about him, about her and about the world around her.

Her profound thoughts describing her journey direct us in ways that will take us forward into more of what God has for us.

I can’t add to what she’s shared.

But I guarantee if you watch only a part of this video, you will be opening a place of light in your life, especially if you find yourself in a dark, confusing or questioning place.

Thank you, Kristene, for sharing from your heart, the heart of God for all of us.

What’s God’s Vision for You?


20160309_102709Sometimes you see more with a camera and sometimes you see less.

The other day I went walking through a nearby park where I’ve taken some wonderful pictures of birds, alligators and flowers. But this time I opted to leave the camera behind. As I strolled along, I took in the expanse of scenery. The panoramic view, if you will.

Stunning blue skies, a few wispy white, feather clouds and new blossoms in rainbow variety painted a pastoral landscape. I took it in while the sun warmed my back and the wind teased my hair around my face.

I found a new little alcove hiding a covered bench that overlooked a portion of the lake. The path was new to me, and a smile rushed out of me at the treasure I’d discovered.

Peering over the railing, I rested in the shade and a small movement caught my attention. An orange and green shelled turtle, skirted its way around some cow lily leaves. The surrounding leaves and yellow flowers camouflaged the tiny swimmer.

It was in that moment that I realized sometimes I see more with my camera and 20170816_200512sometimes less. It all depends on what I’m looking for or at. My camera allows me to zoom in from far off and look at things more closely, but I then miss everything in the peripheral.

Had I been looking through the camera lens, I may have missed the tiny turtle hidden among the leaves. I was glad to have been taking in the scene without it.

Later, I spied a white headed bird perched on a tree in the distance.

I live in one of the areas fortunate enough to house bald eagles. We see them more than occasionally. They are a wonder to watch and for a moment, I wished I had my camera so I could zoom in across the lake and see if the bird in question was indeed one the those magnificent creatures. (Eventually, I discovered it wasn’t.)

It all depends on what you’re looking for.

Sometimes I take my camera to my kids’ sports games. I love catching them in action and having a snapshot memory of the event. But when I’m focused on them, I miss the game. Most days, I’d rather see the DSC_0263entire picture than simply one specific scene.

I believe life with God is like that.

I’ve written about looking ahead to the vision, but keeping our eyes on today so we don’t get overwhelmed by the longevity of the road ahead.

But I also see how sometimes we can get so focused in on something that we miss what’s going on around us. Our journey may be centered on a particular path, but there is an entire landscape surrounding us on that journey.

Both are valuable.

Each day, I ask God

“What do you want me to see today?”

“What is your vision for me?”

“What is your plan?”

He may want me to embrace the bigger picture of my life and all that’s happening.20170720_195840 He may want me to see something closer – a trait he’s working on in me, or a way I handled something well, or a hurting neighbor.

God’s vision encompasses past, present and future so he sees far beyond anything I can imagine. With him, I can take in the entirety of a day, a week, a year or a life purpose. If I tune into him, he can point my vision in the best directions. And like a camera zoomingDSC_0141 in to see beauty up close, God also directs me to see things I may miss.

What’s God’s vision for you today?

“He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord God Almighty is his name.” Amos 4:13

A Sneak Peak


A Journey of Broken FaithRachel's Son Book Cover (2)

I’m all about taking our lives forward into more abundance. When we deal with our past, God can heal us, offer us hope and redeem the broken places in our heart. That’s why I’m so excited about my new book, Rachel’s Son. Rachel’s heart has been broken by the murder of her son, and that’s not the only challenge she faces.

As a result, she’s shattered and lost, not understanding God or his purposes. She can’t get past the pain to find freedom, love and life again.

Ever felt that way?

Yeah, I have too. But what I’ve learned is that by pushing through the pain, not hiding it, ignoring it, denying it or burying it, we will step into an abundance of joy. But it’s not easy. It’s scary. And it hurts. It may even feel as if we won’t survive.

It may take us months, or years or decades, but when we finally decide to step through, like pushing through the wardrobe or sea in Naria, we will learn to live again.

“The deeper my past sorrow, the greater my present joy.”  Simeon, Rachel’s Son

Rachel’s journey is a grueling one, maybe like yours and mine have been. But with God there is hope, healing and redemption.

Rachel’s Son releases on March 20th. I thought you might like a sneak peak 😉

“‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’”          Matthew 2:18

Chapter 1

Rachel pulled a loaf of crusty bread from the fire as the ground began to quake. Terrifying reverberations shattered the morning peace. Thundering hooves. Neighing horses. The roar of an approaching army.

Micah!

She dropped the bread and lurched for the front door.

Within seconds an army flooded the village. Soldiers on horseback pounded through the street, weapons ready. Children scattered, mothers screaming their names. A two-year-old lay trampled in the dirt. Another ran, wailing. A soldier speared him through the back. A man jumped off his steed and forced his way into the home next door. Rachel’s neighbor shrieked, “My baby, my baby!”

The soldier reappeared, blood covering his hands.

Rachel froze, her knees buckled beneath her.

“Micaaaah!” She stumbled into the road, darting between horses, “Micah!” A roughened hoof clipped her hip. She fell to her knees and crawled out of its path. Dust caked her face, the stench of blood suffocating her.

Her closest friend, Elisabeth, staggered from her house, the battered body of her baby son in her arms. Her keening tore through Rachel’s heart.

“Stop!” Rachel forced herself to her feet. “Stop!”

A grim soldier scooped up a toddler and dashed his brown, curly head against the stone wall of his home. A woman laid crumpled outside her door, a swaddled baby in her arms. Their blood pooled together in the dirt.

Bile rose in Rachel’s throat. Chest heaving, her muddled thoughts rushed over each other in a torrent. The only clarity in the chaos was the certainty that Micah was dead.

She dodged around the corner of their house. Her worst fear materialized. His chubby little hand still clutched a stone he had been playing with. A shriek pushed out of her.

“Nooo!”

“Oh, dear Jehovah, please no.” A bleak whisper tumbled from her lips as she stumbled to his body now crumbled in a tiny crimson heap. She fell on her knees in the wet dirt where earlier he had played, stacking rocks and chattering to himself.

“Miicaaah!” The scream burst from her lips as she scooped him up, hugging him to her chest.

“Oh, Micah.” She wailed, rocking his bloody body back and forth.

Her only son. Her miracle from Jehovah.

Why? Why? Her heart screamed. What kind of war was waged against helpless, innocent children?

Look for Rachel’s Son on Amazon March 20th. The digital version will be FREE for a limited time.

For updates as well as behind the scenes information and extra material not found on the blog, sign up for my email list here.

 

How to Keep on Track


DSC_0012Biking to work this week revealed more insights for moving ahead.

My path to our new work office stretches over a variety of sections of roadway. I travel through a quiet residential area to a busy road, a roundabout, another street without a bike lane, a private, peaceful gravel road and finally a long highway with a wide biking path.

It was on that last stretch that I had an “ah-ha” moment.

At every quarter mile, written in spray paint on the asphalt path, were fractions marking off the measurements. I assume the mile markers were created by a surveyor.

And was I ever grateful.

Because when I rode over the first one, I felt a glimmer or hope. I had ridden a quarter of a mile on that long stretch of highway. I looked up, but the scenery held only trees–no hint of the buildings that would promise my destination.

But before I knew it, I’d passed the next marker.

Half a mile, then three quarters of a mile and finally a mile and a quarter. I kept my focus on the road just ahead and with each marker, encouragement grew in me and so did a sense of accomplishment.

The next time I looked up, I saw my office building in the distance.

It amazed me how much shorter that ride seemed when I looked at small increments of progress rather than keeping my focus in the distance hoping for a glimpse of my future goal.

Isn’t life like that?

I believe God gives us a vision for what he has planned for us. I believe he has good things he created for us and created us for. And he gives us a sense of what those plans are. Maybe a desire in our heart or a passion for a vocation, helping a group of people or creating a solution to a problem.

But in my experience, those plans rarely happen within my time frame.

More often, I end up in what seems like a detour in my life. Writing books has taken years. Speaking to groups has been sporadic. My financial business is on hold. I was forty-seven when I finally met my husband, the man my heart adores. And now it is taking far longer than I ever imagined to work out some issues in our marriage.

Taking my life forward has starts, stops and twisting roads.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve heard God clearly. Or maybe I made a wrong turn and it’s taking longer because God is trying to get me back to where I took a path I thought was the only way to go.

Or maybe he’s developing me for the plans he has.

But what this week taught me, is that while it’s good to keep looking up and making sure I’m heading in the right direction to the vision or goal, I’ll make better progress if I’m focusing on what is right in front of me. One step at a time, one day at a time, one quarter of a mile at a time.

It’s the eating an elephant thing.

Tackling a five mile ride (okay, so I’m a little wimpy you pro-cyclists) happens each day in sections. When I get through one, I can focus on the next one. As I pass each marker, I’m that much closer to my destination.

Life is a journey.

Each plan or vision God has for us is tackled daily or sometimes hourly. Whether it’s a career choice, a relationship, or overcoming an addiction, each small step adds up to making it to our goal. And along the way, we’re being equipped to handle the challenges of that future vision.

Just like my wimpy muscles are getting stronger each day. Eventually five miles will seem like a ride around the block.

At least I hope so!

What’s a vision, goal or destination you feel is taking longer than you hoped? What can you focus on that will make the journey more hopeful and enjoyable? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or email me at laurabennet14@gmail.com

 

How to Move Forward by Turning Around


DSC_0247

The other day on my way to an appointment, I completely missed the street I was supposed to turn on. I had been looking for it, but as I chatted with my passenger, I became distracted and drove right past my turn off.

A couple of miles down the road, an uneasiness rumbled in my stomach.

Could I have not seen the street?

I mentioned to my friend my confusion and the street I had been looking for. “Oh, it’s back there. Right after the bridge.”

No way.

How did I get so mixed up that I missed it?

Naturally, I turned around as soon as possible and went back to the place I made my mistake. Within minutes, I was heading the right direction, anxiety gone. From that point, my friend and I navigated to our destination.

The incident reminded me of repentance.

It’s a word most of us don’t like. We cringe and pull away from the idea of it maybe recalling a man yelling on a street corner about us going somewhere awful.

But the word actually means to turn back or turn around.

We can think of it as changing our mind. Not continuing to think the way we’ve been thinking.

Changing our direction.

Like in my story, a few things can get us headed in the wrong direction:

  • We may be easily distracted and get off track.
  • We may make a mistake in ignorance and miss the mark.
  • We may believe that our way is right or best even though we are wrong.

The good news is that God is faithful to help us discover our blunder by:

  • That uneasy feeling in our heart or mind – it alerts us to stop and check things.
  • Someone points out our mistake.
  • We end up stuck at a dead end or lost and confused.

When we see our dilemma, God offers help and relief not judgment. The quicker we are to acknowledge our mistake, and turn around, the sooner we will find peace. The correct road opens up, and we are moving forward in life again.

Here are some indications we are repentant people:

  • If we’re willing to say “I was wrong.”
  • If we’re willing to be corrected.
  • If we are horrified by what we have done – acknowledging the damage or potential hurt to God, ourselves and others who may be affected by our choice.
  • If we don’t get stuck in beating ourselves up. True repentance removes our sin and the guilt.
  • If we are willing to let go of our wrong conclusion and embrace truth in its place.
  • If we don’t presume that we’re simply misunderstood and can make others believe our misconception if we just keep telling them enough times.
  • If we are willing to accept consequences of our wrong choices.

God encourages us to make a U-turn.

He wants us to have a good journey and end up in good places. So much so that if we keep on the wrong path, he will allow the pressure of consequences to turn us away from something that will end up hurting us worse than the pain of the situation.

At one point in my life, I hated the idea of repentance.

Being wrong about anything brought shame, condemnation and meant awful things would happen to me so I determined at a young age that I simply couldn’t ever be wrong. Obviously that didn’t work out very well. All of us make mistakes for any number of reasons and denying that we do drags us into stuck dead-end roads in life. I confess it’s not always easy to change our mind and go a different way. But if we want to move forward in life, it’s a choice we must make.Fruitful-Repentance-500x500-B

This resource, Fruitful Repentance by Daniel Brown, is what helped change my thinking.

I guess that means it helped me repent.

 

Are You Stuck?


117Sometimes in our journey, we feel stuck.

Maybe we are facing a unscalable wall of circumstantial impossibility. Or we feel like we are dragging a wagon full of stuff through the sand at the beach, inching along as sweat drips down our face. The ocean looks so far away. Will we ever get there?

Slow going at best. Immovable at its worst.

Circumstances can mire us into that sense of wandering lost and confused through wilderness. Sometimes obstacles in front of us seem insurmountable. Remember Jericho? But I heard a message recently that breathed life into that desert place and gave me hope for moving my life forward into promise in spite of obstacles.

Well worth the watch. Hope you find it as helpful as I did.

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below. What’s your Jericho?

Enjoying the Journey


Taking our lives forward is a great thing.DSC_0128

But sometimes if we are too focused on the future we can lose sight of the present.

Nearly every day I walk along a canal by my home. My path leads me to marvelous sights. Turtles, alligators, otters, snakes, blossoming trees, butterflies…the list seems endless. And can I mention the sun rising with rays beaming from out behind thunderclouds? Anddsc_0020 the days when wispy, white brush strokes paint the sky or the water reflects the brilliant scene above it while fish flip to catch a neon dragon fly?

But once in a while, I miss one of those treasures.

On a recent jaunt, two cyclists on the path ahead of me coming my way caught my attention. For a couple of minutes, until our paths crossed, I was focused on what was up ahead. I heard a splash and missed whatever creature moved in the water.

Disappointment tore my gaze away from the oncoming bikers and taught me a lesson.

God has great things for us in the future when we break free of our past and move ahead. But he also has greatness for us right here today as well.

We say “stop and smell the roses,” but we can miss seeing the roses if we move atdsc_0068 too quick a pace or don’t take in our surroundings in the moment.

What little observations have gone undetected?

Did we overlook something wonderful about a person that we can be grateful for? Was there evidence of God’s majesty in nature?  What gesture of love or appreciation went unnoticed by us?

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Do you notice the two marvels in this picture?

While we are on our journey, moving ahead into the new and great freedom and healing God has for us, let’s look around and see the beauty in the present moment too.

Let’s enjoy the journey.

What are some things you’ve noticed while on your journey? What are some things you may have missed?