A Chat With Holly
“Tell us more about yourself, Holly. What is a regular day like for you?”
Well, there is no such thing as a typical day for me. I am truly blessed to have the life that I do. I grew up in Two Rivers, Wisconsin to a low income Christian family. I was the second oldest of 4 natural children, with my youngest sister having autism. When I was 11 years old, my parents decided to be certified treatment foster parents and we had many special needs children come and go through our home for the next 20 years. Eventually my parents chose to adopt three of the children they fostered for several years. I wouldn’t say that I had the typical life of a child. It was very chaotic, quite challenging emotionally, and very different than the life I created with my husband years later. My experiences in my childhood are likely the primary reason that I was led to being a clinical social worker. Our family struggled financially, soon becoming familiar with issues of severe child abuse, mental health disorders, insecure emotional attachments, chronic illness, and transitional behavioral problems with children who returned from birth parents visits. After awhile, I felt comfortable around emotional pain and trauma, able to see how changes in parenting and perspective could lead to a happier, healthier life. On the other side…I learned parenting skills as a young person, knew the value of helping others, and was never afraid of a challenge!
On a more personal side, I am married to my high school sweetheart and have a busy life of juggling work and motherhood to three active teen aged daughters. I never dreamed that I would get so much enjoyment out of being a mother.
Time seems to go pretty fast and I often wish I had more hours in my day so that I could keep my house clean, keep up with contact from many people in our life, and offer more time to serve God through my church congregation. Maybe that will happen with my empty nest some day.
I feel that I have been carried a little bit through life. Despite my career success, I tend to live my life “a day late and a dollar short”. I know a few “superhero” women who seem to be on top of everything. They don’t miss birthdays, sent thoughtful gifts to others for every occasion, have impeccably decorated homes, and do not miss e-mails or notes from school that require deadlines and quick responses. This is not my life. I have learned that the standard that we as women strive to reach is unrealistic and unachievable. I am so grateful for my amazing friends who take care of me emotionally and my family, who will never let me forget my many quirks and humbling personal characteristics.
I think having more challenging experiences as a child has allowed me to appreciate every moment of the family and life I was blessed to create.
Today I spend a majority of my days practicing as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with a specialty in Christian Counseling and working with children, families, couples, and adults struggling with mental health issues and problematic relationships. Here I have seen how God has led me from childhood chaos to a healthy and secure existence that is surrounded by God’s grace and love.
"How would you describe your unique role as a woman?"
I think that I do have unique experiences as a woman. I have been blessed in so many ways. I love my role as a wife and mother. I love my friendships to many amazing Christian women in my life. I love being a therapist to many girls and women, struggling to make sense of their lives. I know women. I was raised with 6 sisters; I am raising three amazing and unique daughters; and I have worked with young girls and women for many years in clinical settings. Developing identity and understanding/embracing self is not an easy journey for any woman.
There are common struggles that we can all relate to in life that become universal obstacles to secure emotional and spiritual health. Loving your body. Learning not to compare yourself to others. Not being afraid of conflict (asserting needs). Nurturing relationships in a healthy way (paying attention to the right things). Accepting and working through feelings. Feeling secure and content with yourself/your life, regardless of negativity from others. Just to name a few.
I love creating pathways for women to look at problems from a helpful perspective. I am energized when an individual who has struggled with anxiety or depression learn emotional regulation tools that changes how they respond to negative circumstances. And most importantly, I love the constant opportunities to teach others how to align their choices with the most important compass given to us, God’s Word.
“Who is your strongest Christian mentor?"
I have been fortunate to have had many spiritual mentors. My mother, despite not being adequately nurtured by her own mother or educated in Christian education, was a very strong and faithful Christian woman.
She began each day reading her Bible, which was where I found her when I would get up in the morning as a child. My mother was an emotionally insecure woman in her earthly relationships, who had a secure relationship with her Lord. The message I heard repeatedly was stay close to your Lord, no matter what. This was comforting and valuable to me.
My older sister, a Christian day school teacher, has also been a spiritual mentor for me. She did an amazing job of raising me throughout my childhood and adulthood. She took care of me emotionally as a child and I will never be able to repay that kindness. I respect her for her strong commitment to her Lord. She has endured great struggles both in her childhood and marriage and remained a faithful steward, despite those challenges.
Finally, I have had a close friend, who lost an infant daughter a few years ago. Despite this very tragic and overwhelming emotional pain, she has continued to share God’s Word, remain faithful through her grief and loss, and be a role model for emotional strength, endurance, and consistent faithfulness to God. I think it is easy to be faithful when things are going well. Try applying what you know when you are facing the most tragic event that a mother can endure. That is what faithfulness looks like. And…our heavenly Father endured that as he sacrificed his one and only, perfect Son.
"Anything specific from Titus 2:3-5, our blog's mission, that you'd like to comment on?”
Whatever you pay attention to…grows. To be a good role model is to know Christ and focus on what he has done for us, not on what we have done. When we are focused on Christ, we live lives that are based in peace, conscious awareness of our Christian values, and in step with His Word. In peace, we don’t need judgment, just discernment. We don’t need anger or bitterness, when we have gratitude, forgiveness, thankfulness. We live in a world where self control is not viewed on television or in the social media. We have instant messaging, fast food, and instant gratification. It is an expectation that we have answers immediately and get our needs met instantaneously. To be patient and wait on our Lord for answers does not feel good, but produces good fruits of faith—patience, trust, acceptance, tolerance, and endurance. How can we feel positive about who we are as children of God if we are not able to “be still and know that I am God”.
Women need other women. We mentor each other, challenge each other, relate to each other, and pray for each other. If women focus on Christ’s love, they judge less, support more, and model Christ’s love for each other.
“What do you feel is a threat to a woman's faithfulness in her home?”
I think the need or desire to seek approval of others is a major threat to women. We live in a world where the approval of others can become an addiction. We have the opportunity at all times through social media to be reinforced constantly. We “like” a status, comment on the living of others, influence others politically through what we post, and feel the need to tell details about all parts of our lives. In a world that breeds insecurity, it is easy to fall into the trap of seeking approval and validation from others. The real place that we need to be seeking attention is that of God’s Word, not in the world of others. I love that we have venues to connect with others, but we face a fine line between seeking attention and receiving support, between co-dependence and healthy boundaries.
“When was a moment that you saw God's hand so clearly guiding you?”
Yes. The day God brought my husband into my life. I was just 14 years old at the time. He was a sophomore and I was a freshman at our high school. We became instant friends. He was a funny, interesting, and all around “good kid” that knew his values and followed his Christian compass. I was an insecure young woman, looking for someone to take care of me. He was an excellent example of standing up for your faith and being an optimist no matter what! He has encouraged me throughout our life together to be myself and to live securely in this wonderful life God has given me.
To this very day I can see how God hand selected him for me. He has created emotional security in my life and I like to believe that I have brought color and spice to his life in return. In our marriage, he has taught me to be more secure with who I am and to not worry about the things outside of my control. This makes me a happier woman, confident mother, and growing professional in a field that helped me heal! TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
"What advice do you have for us to encourage our husbands in their faith and roles?"
Of course I do. That’s a silly question for me because anyone who knows me, knows that I ALWAYS have advice to give…even if it isn’t wanted! I spend my work day giving advice to many husbands that need encouragement in their faith and relationships. Men as a group tend to be more left brain than women. They often will focus on task and logic, rather than on emotional reasoning or relationship. When they learn this skill in emotional intimacy, I have been told repeatedly how helpful it is to them as a father, husband, and person. Experiences and how emotions have been modeled or taught in their family of origin, shapes how men behave in relationships. When in therapy, I teach the use of emotional tools that help to identify and understand emotion, learn ways to communicate emotion effectively, and create a language to help get needs met in a healthier way.
One of the techniques that I recommend is the LUV communication tool.
It stands for LISTEN thoroughly to what is being said,
use UNDERSTANDING language when responding,
and VALIDATE how your partner is feelings.
It is not until then, that you need to give your opinion or new perspective and/or create solutions. Women like to be heard first, not fixed. Releasing feelings is a natural process of their problem solving and decision making. When a husband learns this and changes the HOW part of communication, new intimacy is created.
Can you share an event in your life that was difficult that God strengthened you through?”
I have had some interesting experiences in life. I had back to back losses in friendship from family divorces. In both situations, I attempted to share God’s Word in effort to stand up for what is right. As a result of confronting these situations, I lost two very close friendships that I thought would be part of my permanent “inner circle of support”. In both cases, I attempted to “speak the truth in love” and in both cases, the friendships were damaged. It would have been easier to look the other way and stay silent. Standing up for one’s faith does not end up with a fairy tale ending. Despite the hurts, I have no regrets. These experiences resulted in amazing teachable moments with my children and a closer relationship with my husband.
“What bible passage is your favorite?"
My favorite passage is 2Peter 1:5-9,
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self control, and to self control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
This is a passage that encapsulates characteristics of Christian living that creates purposeful living measures. At the same time, it points to God’s grace through forgiveness, for which our desire to serve God is based on. For our healthy choices come from our love for Him who did it all for us!
"Oh Holly, please write a book, blog or share more of your awesomeness with this world! I am so excited that we were able to share your interview at the start of 2014.
I feel richer just reading the small bits of your wisdom. Thank you for sharing your life and faith with us. Keep shining, Lamp on a stand!"
What words spoke the most to you today from Holly's interview?