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A few weeks ago, we took our youngest child to college. I confess I started counting down the weeks to that moment even as the summer days appeared endless.

This transitional season brought with it plenty of questions and grief for me. While I knew my son’s new place of residence was where God wanted him, I wasn’t ready to let him go. It meant recognizing the end of a parenting season, a change in our relationship, and a noticeable absence in our home. However, I clung to my long-held faith that he is God’s child first. Releasing him for God’s purposes is part of parenting.

So on move-in day, we drove those three and a half hours to a city with which our family is not familiar. It is nowhere near either my husband’s or my hometown. No relatives live there. It is a small town and agricultural and we are used to the city and suburbia. Three and a half hours felt like a way longer trip into foreign territory.

After moving him into his huge dorm in the middle of unfamiliar land and saying our goodbyes, we made the trek back home. Understandably, the sobbing commenced as I made a beeline for the car. The ride home felt just as long as the ride there.

As the flood of both emotions and tears continued, I wondered. Why did this trip feel so long when my own hometown is about the same distance? My oldest son goes to school there but it does not feel so far. How does releasing your child in an unfamiliar place equally far away feel so different?

I think of all the parents around the world releasing their kids at various times for God’s purposes. Some of those places are way farther than three and a half hours. I remember the mothers in scripture who did so not knowing how deep in their souls that separation would later feel. Their narratives have been lifted up by me as inspirational. But now I sit with them. I feel their conflicting emotions more than I could have expected.

Leaving our kids in a foreign place feels counter instinctual.

Our whole lives we sought to straddle the line of protection and empowerment. Of course, we know that it will all come to fruition at that moment far down on the horizon. And then we realize it has arrived. All that we believe about God, provision, protection, and purposes looms in front of us.

Those goodbye hugs symbolize all that we have known all along. There is a time to hold tightly and a time to let go. Releasing from the embrace, I watch him walk towards his home. And my husband and I go towards ours. In all of it, I know that it’s where we are all supposed to be.

*Photo courtesy of Canva

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“I want you to listen, really listen to me.”I want to be heard.

“You shouldn’t feel that way.”I want to be validated.

“You never support me in front of your friends”I want to be protected.

One of the most common messages we receive at I Do Part Two is the desire to feel validated. If you have ever felt this way, you are not alone. Validation is one of the most important tools of communication in marriage. It allows you to support your spouse, even when you disagree. 

A good example of validating your spouse’s feelings would be to put away your device when they’re talking—listen to understand what they are saying from their point-of-view.

A friend was sharing with her husband about a disagreement she had with a co-worker and he replied, “What did you do to set her off?” This would be an example of not validating your partner’s feelings.

Our feelings are like a personal alert system—they aren’t right or wrong. They reflect our thoughts, experiences, and perceptions. They help us to understand how we are feeling about a conversation or an interaction with our partner. The Gottman Institute, a highly regarded licensed counseling group, points out that when our partner ignores or dismisses our feelings, “it is a form of relational trauma which, over time, harms the brain and nervous system.”

Where does this lack of empathy come from? For many of us, it’s just not in our natural wiring. And it may go way back—possible before our earliest tangible memory. As children, we may have also learned to not “talk back” to our elders, not to make too much noise, or not to bother anyone while they’re reading, cooking, or working on a project. 

Maybe you watched as one parent berated the other parent or an older sibling, and the message formed loud and clear in your growing brain, “Don’t speak up, stay small, and by all means—don’t share your feelings.”

How would you know how to show empathy and validate others’ feelings if it was never modeled for you?

Awareness: Simply recognizing that this is an issue for you and acknowledging your willingness to work on it is the first step. Experts recommend individual and couples counseling, reading books on the topic, and working on listening to understand from your partner’s perspective. Also, I would add, let them know you love and care about them, and you do not want them to feel invalidated anymore.

The Gottman Institute recommends three steps toward healing: (but friends, this will take some time.)

  1. Atone: Apologizing and asking for forgiveness is crucial; it is a practice that heals ourselves and others—again and again.
  2. Attune: This means listening, perhaps for the very first time and seeing the situation “through their eyes.” When we are really listening for understanding, we’re able to share someone else’s story from their perspective. 
  3. Attachment: If your partner is there for you and has your back, you will feel secure in your attachment to them. The closeness creates a deeper bond where trust and commitment can flourish. 

The Gottman Institute (and I paraphrase), recommends committing to repeatedly working to Atone, Attune and Attach on an ongoing basis. In other words:

  • Apologize when you are in the wrong
  • Listen to your partner and understand from their point-of-view
  • Validate your partner’s concerns, they will feel more secure.

If this story resonated with you, it’s either because you have felt “unheard” or realize you have some work to do. Friends, it’s never too late to work on your relationship skills and say you are sorry. Learning how to empathize and validate another’s feelings is probably one of the most powerful relationship skills most of us were never taught. By Lisa Reinhart-Speers

*Please note: Where a licensed expert is not credited, I share from my own experience gained from 28 years of marriage, reading loads of marriage articles and books, and working with numerous licensed marriage counselors myself over the years—much of which was sought pro-actively with my husband, so we could learn new skills as we hit road bumps or new phases in life, like empty-nesting. It is a never-ending process but well worth it—By Lisa Reinhart-Speers @I Do Part Two

Sydnei Kaplan, author /Photo by Nina Uhlíková from Pexels

As a mom of two college kids, I have a birds-eye view of this blessed journey we call Motherhood. It touches each mom in unique ways. 

Some may feel profoundly altered as if they were shaken up and settling back into place in a brand new way. Others have described this transition as a rebirth. Many have been stunned by the complete shift in focus from self-to-others. 

The possibilities are endless, but none of us emerge unaffected, and the changes continue throughout this incredible journey. 

Motherhood’s effect on me was and still is, very powerful. It has been life-changing in the best ways. 

From my vantage point, with many years and priceless memories tucked in my heart, I know with a comforting certainty that Motherhood is forever – it doesn’t stop at a certain age or stage. 

It evolves and grows with us. 

Facing the “growing up” of my children forced me to look deep within myself. To explore the next steps on my path.

We had waited some years after we were married to become parents. Those years were filled with work, friends, travel, and lots of “just us” time (which I loved). This was joyful, and it was comfortable. I also thought I loved my job, but in hindsight, I realize I mostly loved the people. It was comfortable. I liked my work (marketing and writing) but never fully felt it was my calling. 

Sydnei and family

Even though I had beautiful friendships and a loving marriage, there was a sense of insecurity deep within me that had followed me from my teen years. I’m guessing some of you know what I mean. You can be a happy, confident person but still have doubts within you that affect how you live your life.

Motherhood changed that for me. It was, and continues to be, healing in the most perfect of ways. It didn’t happen in any particular moment, like when I first held Mia or when Ben made me the mom of two. There wasn’t a specific accomplishment that made me say “aha” – like when I traveled home on a plane from our first family vacation, without my husband, and with 3-year-old Mia and not-yet-1 Ben. 

This healing – finding myself – has been a journey. It’s been a compilation of the many moments of being a mama. 

Sydnei enjoying life as it comes

More importantly, I began seeing myself in a refreshing new light. Really it was more of a subtle feeling—yet so empowering. I noticed myself feeling less dependent on others to feel happy, capable, or complete.

Through my children, I began sensing not only what I had to offer but who I truly was. 

Some steps were effortless, like starting to work in a preschool—nurturing and supporting the blossoming of little ones had always come naturally to me. 

Other pursuits, like venturing into the world of Motherhood writing, took a little more nudging. My family participated in this “nudging” in various ways — offering encouragement, sharing other’s blogs as examples to inspire me, and just continuing to be who they are and reminding me of the exquisite blessing that Motherhood is. 

So here I am, always a work in progress—feeling a renewed sense of excitement and purpose. Not only from writing, but also from the exceptional people who have come into my life because of it. 

It’s never too late to discover YOUR other passions. You will always be Mom, but there’s a world of possibility waiting for you to shine your own special light. 

Photo by Judit Peter from Pexels

“The job did come with a strange disclaimer which escaped my notice at the time.” -Alison Swan

The interview for my dream job couldn’t have gone better! I was a young 25 years old and had envisioned this moment a dozen times. It was the position of a lifetime. I knew as soon as the offer came, I had been entrusted with a tremendous responsibility. 

In some cases, I would be expected to use personal funds for travel and other work-related necessities. The firm couldn’t provide training, but I was welcome to seek assistance from more seasoned partners. 

The hours would be long, the starting pay minimal, and the schedule demanding. Yet I recognized the experience’s value would far exceed the firm’s ability to compensate. 

The job did come with a strange disclaimer that escaped my notice at the time: “Other industries may fail to recognize the transferability of your acquired skills.” 

These minor detractions did nothing to diminish my interest in the position, and I immediately accepted the job. After which, I was forced to endure a 9-month probationary period of waiting. During this period, I was permitted to decorate my office and wait. To this day, I am perplexed by the waiting. 

After the waiting period was complete, I was immediately thrown into the most demanding sector of the position. 

For the first three months, I was allowed less than 3-4 hours of sleep per night. Arriving each morning extremely exhausted had me wondering if my blurry-eyed negligence might result in a co-worker’s fatality. Thankfully there were no deaths to report.

You would think I might have quit from the stress of it all, but actually, I became quite good at juggling the requirements. Soon, what had been stressful became an enjoyable conglomerate of challenges to overcome. 

The best part of the juggling act was that no two days were the same. On a Monday, efficiency might be the best plan to achieve desired results. On a Wednesday, deep wells of patience might be needed. 

Those early years flew by—I was promoted and admired. (Well, not usually admired outwardly, but I understood, my co-workers were quite young.) The 22-year mark passed, and it felt good to know I had tenure—nothing to worry about when it came to job security with this position in the bag. 

What I am about to share next will come as a great surprise, as it did me…

I still have difficulty wrapping my mind around how it all unraveled. I was called into the head office one afternoon and told my expertise would no longer be needed. My position was being outsourced. 

I was welcome to retain my title, but every project I had worked on would be dismantled. My responsibilities outsourced to large academic institutions, and my office cleaned out. 

Years have passed since the day my position was eliminated. On most days, I hold such gratitude for the opportunity to have been offered the career of a lifetime. 

Once in a while, the memory of a position I loved so deeply leaves me wishing for what once was. In all honesty, my title became a significant part of my identity. 

It was a full and purposeful career to have raised our three beautiful and deserving children, now 25, 22, and 20. The role I accepted as a naive 25-year-old rookie resulted in greater fulfillment than I could have imagined and a lifetime of friendships with our young adults.

All grown!

An Afterword: In recent weeks, the firm asked me to return for minimal hours as a consultant—I was thrilled to be asked. Although the hours of work are greatly diminished and usually remote, it continues to be my greatest passion.

If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand, and have no fear cause I will be here.”-Steven Curtis Chapman

When we stood at the altar over 27 years ago and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later.  I didn’t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and that’s so far…who knows how many more we have in us).Read more of Esther’s story that inspired our interview: The Tale of Our Three Marriages

All About Esther—

Esther is a wife to one and a mom to four grown children (ages 20-28).  She was born a missionary kid in war-torn Ethiopia, but has become a potato chip-eating, football-loving American, Christian wife and mom who has a fierce passion for marriage and family. She’s a little snarky, a little sappy, a little strong and hopefully more than a little Spirit-led.  She’s been driven to her knees in prayer and to raise her hands in praise.  She’s speaks words of hope and wisdom where the heart meets the home and faith touches the family. You can read more of Esther’s beautiful writings at the following: The Dolly Mama Blog, Instagram: Moms of Bigs, Instagram: The Dolly Mama, Facebook: Moms of Bigs, Facebook: The Dolly Mama

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Photo credit Anna Shvets via Pexels

𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗺𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝘂𝘀 𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘄𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗮𝘀𝗸𝘀 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗯𝗲𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗺𝗶𝗰? The ‘Perfect Mom’ mask, the ‘Successful Business Person’ mask, or the ‘I Got It All Together’ masks…Almost everyone wears some sort of mask.

One woman shares her story

It’s Time To Take Off The Mask by Faith in the Mess – Melissa Neeb, Writer

I wear a cloth mask everywhere now. It doesn’t really bother me.

What did bother me was the metaphorical one I wore for years. I wore a smile but it was a lie.

No one knew the pain I was in. It was difficult to even admit it to myself. I stuffed it down. Locked it up tight in my heart.

It was my box of darkness. Only mine.

So in the world, I pretended. I faked it. I told everyone I was fine. I was ok. I was good.

Those masks, layers of them, kept my secrets and tears hidden.  I hated who I had become but I didn’t know who to be anymore.

I came to the end of myself, the edge of the proverbial cliff. Dangling. Desperate. Alone.

Then I walked into a room and sat down with a bunch of strangers who could see the face behind the mask because they recognized the pain. They had worn it themselves. They had put it down and left it behind.

So slowly, my masks came off. One by one. Ever so carefully.

I didn’t have to be afraid of my reflection anymore. I could change. Grow. Transform into something I never imagined.

I could learn to love myself again.

And so, my smile turned real.

I was accepted. I was welcome here.

And so my masks stayed off.

And I never want to wear them again.

Well, let’s find out together as Christopher D. Connors, an expert on Emotional Intelligence, sits down for a conversation with I Do Part Two to discuss what an emotionally intelligent marriage looks like in 2020.

Christopher D. Connors is the bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader and The Value of You. He is a keynote speaker, executive coach and business consultant that works with leaders at Fortune 500 companies, sports organizations, schools and universities. His writing has appeared in CNBC, Quartz, World Economic Forum, Virgin Media, Thrive Global and Medium. Christopher is happily married to his beautiful wife and is the proud father of three amazing, rambunctious baseball-loving boys. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Visit him: http://chrisdconnors.com

Mr. Connors references a talk that Brené Brown presented on “empathy.” Brené Brown, Ph. D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is known world-wide for her work on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She is also a gifted story-teller. There are numerous versions of her talk on empathy available online and due to copyright laws, I Do Part Two encourages you to search for them on Youtube or on Brené Brown‘s website.

I so hope you enjoy I Do Part Two’s conversation with Christopher D. Connors,

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