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Look for Beauty in Seasons of Death

Look for Beauty in Seasons of Death

We are in the dead of winter here in the Northeast. It’s cold, and the skies are gray most days, and there is not much joy in being outside UNLESS you look closely. When you search for beauty in the barren landscape, you can usually find it, but it doesn’t necessarily catch your attention as it does in the spring or summer when the colors are eye-catching.In spring and summer, beauty is natural to find with the vibrant colors tied to those seasons. On a recent winter walk on a wetlands trail, I saw myself prompted by God to look for beauty instead of looking at everything that was dead. When I forced myself to look for beauty in the winter landscape, I found it in the shapes of intricate weeds, winter berries, rocks, streams and a myriad of tree shapes. This is a perfect analogy of what is happening during dark seasons of your life. You can choose to look at the death of the season and/or you can also choose to look for beauty. I am not suggesting that we operate in fantasy regarding our reality ( which is another blog); however, I am suggesting that when you look for beauty, you tend to have a greater awareness of the creator. All of us have the need to have a greater knowledge of the creator’s presence when we go through dark phases of life otherwise we will feel more hopeless and powerless. Our challenge as we move through the dark season is to look for beauty. We need to look for points of light because even when a room is entirely dark a single flame of a candle can change your perspective of the darkness and give you the vision to move through the night. It’s cold and dark out there. Choose to look for beauty and light.

 

Healthy Sexuality in Marriage

Healthy Sexuality in Marriage

By Cait Beiler

“Because sex isn’t properly introduced to us as a gift from God, an act of worship, and a holy binding act that should be celebrated in the right context, we know sex as something as scandalous and devious and guilt-carrying to desire.” – Moh Iso

Yup, that’s right you read the title correctly. This blog post and podcast is all about sex. If you are someone who instantly felt negative feelings surrounding this topic, this blog post and podcast are precisely for you. We currently live in a constant sexually stimulated culture. The problem is as a society we have done a collectively poor job of talking about sex in the ways it needs to be addressed. This taboo mentality we have over sex has especially affected Christian culture. Not talking about such an important topic promotes negative feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment around sexuality. Lack of knowledge and discussion around the subject of sex lead us into an empty, unfulfilling sex life. We believe that God made sex to be a gift, but somewhere along the line between shame around the topic and religious distortion, we have forgotten the beautiful gift that sex is. Sex was never meant to be about control or power, but rather a means to experience intimacy on a multifaceted level, and Holy Spirit filled. This intimacy is intended to be healthy and fulfilling for each partner in the relationship. Common myths need to be dispelled in the fantastical world of pornography and sex. Researchers and professionals around the world are beginning to report the detrimental effects that pornography has an over-sexualized society leads to for people. Make your sex life healthy again, start by talking to someone about it, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for some help!

In this podcast, Cait Beiler and Sharon Wegman discuss the aspects of unhealthy sexuality in the marriage and how to correct this for a better connection.

Coping with The Holiday Blues – Part Two

Coping with The Holiday Blues – Part Two

In the last months, I have been impressed with God’s sunset shows.  I am not sure if it was that I was driving that direction at the time of the sunset or if it was because we had such a deary summer with lots of rain and clouds that I was aware of the sunsets, but none the less, I was mindful of the beauty.  The artist in me wanted to chase the photography shot, but with each turn to try and capture the beauty, I found myself losing the vision as the sun was setting. I was chasing sunsets only to discover that they could not be caught. I felt like God said to me, “ Stop chasing sunsets.  They are a gift for the moment, not for you to capture.” That started me thinking how sometimes in our effort to chase happiness, we miss the gifts of the day that are right under our noses. Are you aware of the sunset on your drive and are you grateful for the beauty? To maintain a positive outlook through whatever hard season you are going through, you are going to need to choose to recognize the beautiful moments in each day.  I encourage people to look for the beautiful moments in each day by journaling what they are grateful for, and yet I understand the pain of being heartsick when month after month, year after year nothing changed in my health or another situation. Those heartsick moments are the moments when we start to lose hope hence our power. Each of us has troubles, and God says to stay in the moment of each day as opposed to worrying about the next day.  

The Message translation of the Bible says it well;  Matthew 6:34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  Pay attention to the sunset, the baby smiling at you, the gift sitting on your desk from a friend, the tree outside of your window or whatever catches your eye, because it’s catching your eye because God is pointing it out to you for you to focus on to enable you to stay present at the moment.  My drives home from work in the dark of night are much more enjoyable this time of year because people are putting up Christmas lights that bring beauty to my night drives. The holidays are a stressful time of the year and many times we need to look for beauty to stay present in our day instead of worrying about the things that are yet to be done.  Let beauty drive your holidays, not stress and worry. In our new podcast, Sharon and Cait discuss emotional and spiritual strategies for Coping with The Holiday Blues in part two of our two-part series.

Coping with Holiday Blues- Part One

Coping with Holiday Blues- Part One

The holiday blues are authentic for many people. When people sing the phrase, “ it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” for many people the words could be changed to “it’s the most triggering time of year,” or “it’s the most depressing time of the year.”  In climates where the weather becomes cold, and the sky is more overcast, depression symptoms increase because of the lack of sunlight and less time outdoors. November is typically the month I begin to see more cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.); which is depression symptoms tied to less sunlight exposure in our part of the United States. In some parts of the world, overexposure to sunlight can also result in the same symptomology. In addition to an increase in seasonal depression, many people are triggered by losses that surface during the holidays. When we do not have loving family members with which to spend the holidays or have abusive family members, family conflicts, the death of a loved one, divorce, separation, addiction, infertility, or unhappy feelings about any of our current life situations, depression can arise. The holidays stir things up because of the expectations and images we have been told represent what an ideal holiday looks like. Thank you Hallmark Channel! So how does one deal with all the losses and depression stirred to the surface at once? Many people push it all down during the holidays because they feel too busy to process their emotions, but this creates issues for the physical body which experiences sleep disturbances, increased anxiety, lowered immunity, and a plethora of other physical issues. In this podcast, counselors Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler begin to discuss “Coping with the Holiday Blues” with strategies for dealing with the stress the holiday blues create for your body. This podcast is part one in the “Coping with the Holiday Blues” series.

Characteristics of Successful Parents

Characteristics of Successful Parents

Characteristics of Successful Parents

Parenting is the toughest job out there.  It triggers more emotional reactions than we could ever imagine before walking out the journey of parenting.  Each phase of the child’s development triggers different responses from us, but the underlying theme is powerlessness.  Am I doing this right? Am I messing up my child with my dysfunction? How can I parent well in the midst of a busy schedule?  All these questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parenting while feeling powerless. In the first of a two-part podcast, Sharon Wegman, LPC, and Cait Beiler discuss ten characteristics of successful parents from a counseling point of view.  

Included in their discussion are the following 10 Characteristics of Successful Parents;

  1.  Confident in parenting without being severe or authoritarian as the means of asserting their authority.
  2.  Clear and consistent with expectations.
  3.  Treat their children with respect despite how angry and frustrated they are feeling.
  4.  Remain verbally and physically affectionate throughout the teen years.
  5.  Are emotionally accessible to their children.
  6.  Good sense of humor and can laugh at themselves.
  7.  Never punish unfairly and never demean their children by treating them as inferiors.
  8.  Stand their ground on points that matter.
  9.  Seek help from others when they don’t know what to do.
  10.  Seek God for answers, wisdom, and strength for their parenting problems.

 

 

A Dozen Ways You Can Help a Person Who is Struggling

A Dozen Ways You Can Help a Person Who is Struggling

From the dawn of time, we have documented stories from the Bible in which people did not know how to help others who were grieving and in emotional and physical pain.  There are so many reasons that people are not skilled in helping those in distress. Those reasons can range from their own childhood trauma, lack of seeing it modeled and a plethora of other reasons.  However, we are called to be a people who comfort those who mourn and many times our western culture does not know how to do that when pain lasts for longer than a couple of weeks. While the culture of the west is more educated in psychological distress such as depression and anxiety, we are less skilled in grieving with those that are mourning and long-term support of someone struggling for an extended period of time.  In this podcast, Sharon Wegman, LPC and Cait Beiler of Wellsprings Solutions, LLC discuss a dozen ways that you can help those that are struggling.

Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships

Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships

I had a funny dream the other night. In the dream, I was at a hair salon getting a service done to my hair and the price quoted to me kept changing until the time of payment. The price quoted went from $30 to $300, $30,000, and finally $300,000!  Obviously, the whole dream was ridiculous, but when I woke myself up from the dream, I thought about our current podcast on Emotionally Healthy Dating Relationships and how small choices can cost us much more than we could ever have imagined.

If you have ever been in an emotionally unhealthy dating relationship or marriage, you understand there are emotional, social, physical, financial and spiritual costs to unhealthy relationships that we never could have comprehended at the time that we agreed to the start relationship.  The problem is that we can only know what we have been taught or have seen modeled. Most of the time, we don’t really know our issues or the issues of others until we are fully invested in an intimate relationship with that person. Intimacy with someone seems to pull out the unresolved issues of our childhood. Did we have controlling or abusive parents?  Were your parents co-dependent with others? Did our parents give us a voice to say what we thought, felt, or wanted to choose? Were we modeled healthy conflict resolution in our childhood home? Your attachment pattern was established in the first three years of your life and your worldview was formed in the first twelve years of your life. Consequently, we really need to resolve and receiving healing from the wounds of our childhood before we enter into a relationship with someone so they do not affect others. There is hope! You can be restored! You can be healed! Your relationships can be repaired! However, this will involve the uncomfortable process of ripping off the band-aid that covers these childhood wounds and allowing yourself to receive healing and learning new skills and ways of doing things.

Do not be deceived, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you according to Philippians 4:13. In the attached podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss eleven different elements that make a relationship emotionally healthy.

Manipulation in Relationships

Manipulation in Relationships

Manipulation in relationships is pervasive in all relationships in life.  Be it our relationships with our significant other, our child or with a friend, most people resort to some form of manipulation in the course of their life to get what they want without having to be vulnerable and state exact needs.  We fear vulnerability because of the fear of rejection and abandonment; denial of our needs feels much more hurtful than that of getting our needs met through manipulation. When one person wants another person to do something, our human nature can readily resort to some type of manipulative words or behaviors to get what we desire in the situation.  Transversely, when someone is trying to get us to do something that we do not want to do, our human nature can quickly resort to passive manipulation as our way of maintaining power and saying no without being rejected. Think of the child who is told no to a request for a piece of candy. The child does not yet have control of their impulses, and so they may start whining for the candy or throw a fit of rage to try to manipulate the adult to give them what they request.  If the child is given the candy as a result of their manipulation, they are likely to quickly learn at an early age that they can manipulate people to get what they what they want. We learn manipulative tactics at an early age from observing the ways of our parents, and we slowly start incorporating manipulative ways into how we live. Some of the manipulation tactics are very visible, and some are more covert in their expression, but none of the tactics builds safety in relationships. Children will not feel safe and secure with parents who manipulate them, our significant relationships will not grow where manipulation is present, and our friendships will be stunted in growth under the absence of vulnerability and the presence of manipulation.  Manipulation twists relationships into something that cannot thrive because of the poisons of hurtful words of behaviors can stunt the growth of a relationship, cause abnormalities to develop and in some cases cause the relationship to die. If we want our relationships to thrive, we are going to need to work hard at not only eliminating manipulative behaviors and words and become more vulnerable in our expression of our needs and feelings. In the attached podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss the continuum of manipulative words and actions including; Isolating, withholding, minimizing, accusation, deceit, coercion, demeaning, criticism, rage, and threatening amongst other behaviors.

Thou Shalt Not Steal From Others

“Thou shalt not steal from others” means much more than just not stealing physical property. I came to this realization when I read a portion of “The Practical Bible” by Dennis Prager. People typically speak about the 8th commandment “Do not steal.” strictly from the viewpoint of physical theft. Yet, in the Hebrew translations of the word, stealing is used in a much broader context where it refers to the of stealing of another person’s mind. In my counseling practice, I see and hear the effects of robbery related to the soul and spirit. Some people have been robbed of trust. Others were manipulated into believing a lie about another person or idea. In addition, many people have had their dignity stolen by another person through humiliating emotional, verbal or physical abuse. If we think of stealing using this broader definition, we see that many people are struggling with crippling issues because their personal dignity has been stolen.

If we think about how to prevent the robbery of physical property, it will give us clues about how to prevent the robbery of our soul and spirit. So how does one prevent the robbery in a home? Many people do not know how to protect themselves physically or emotionally because of what they were forced to endure in their childhood. Consequently, they do not know how to protect themselves emotionally as an adult. The following is a short list of theft protection methods for our soul and emotions:

1. Be careful who you invite into your home. We don’t allow strangers into our home without knowing who they are and whether they are safe. Hence, we do not allow strangers to know the more intimate details of our life until they have earned our trust. Vulnerability and intimacy are earned. It is not a right of those who try to enter our lives. If you grew up in a home where your parents demanded things of you that were inappropriate, you might not know how to set boundaries with new people or demanding people.

2. We look for evidence of actions that proves a person is who they say they are to us. What is their identifying information? Are their words and actions in agreement? Anybody can spin words to create the right impression but their actions reveal who they really are regardless of the spin. If we grew up in homes where parents said all the right things but acted hypocritically, we might be easily confused because we were forced to trust hypocritical parents.

3. We let safe people in our lives know when we will be away so that they can watch for things that might be out of the ordinary. We need the people around us to be part of our safety net so they can report suspicious behavior to us or to the proper authorities. We need to lean into the protection of a caring community that can see past our blind spots. Sometimes we grew up in isolated families where this was absent. Therefore, it feels uncomfortable to allow others into our lives. However, the truth is that the safest place to be is with safe people.

4. We invite our beloved guard dog friend to take a position of protection in our lives and to alert us when something concerning is happening. Sure, they might alert bark at a lot of things, but in the end, they will alert us when something is off. Who is that nurturing person who protects you? We may need to invite them to be more of a protector to us than we are currently allowing them to be in our life.

5. We have fences, locks, and security systems that keep our property from being vandalized and we keep them in proper working order. If there is a door that doesn’t lock, we figure out how to repair that lock or replace that lock. Are there things or issues in your life that keep allowing destructive influences into your life? If so, you need to address these issues differently so that you can live in a safe environment.

God does not want you to be a victim of theft any more than you do. The reality is that He created the ten commandments for his people to live by so they would be safe and protected. He clearly stated this commandment as the only open-ended commandment by which we were to live by. Therefore, do not steal. Do not steal dignity. Do not steal trust. Do not steal joy. Do not steal freedom. Do not steal a reputation. Do not steal property. Do not steal.

Mental Health and The Church

Mental Health and The Church

There is a different kind of math that we as therapists use when we meet people. I refer to it as therapy math. It is different because we are assessing people based on their family mental health history, traumas, life experiences, childhood communication patterns, and a number of other assessment tools. These different factors help create a detailed picture of the person sitting across from us in the therapy room. Rarely is there a simple reason that explains why the person makes the choices they do. Most of the time, the emotional math equation that defines the person is more involved than a simple equation such as 1 + 1 = 2. In most situations, we are trying to discover the algebraic equation that brought us to our present day sum and identifying the unknown factors can sometimes be confusing.

Our western culture tends to process information from surface observations and then constructs a scientific math equation. However, there can be other unknown factors in the equation that are not easy to identify that also play a role. For example, we might look at a person who is overweight and perceive them to be lazy. However, we haven’t taken the time to discover the reasons a person struggles with their weight.  It could be a thyroid or other hormonal imbalance problem that continues to fluctuate, verbal abuse a person endured as a child over their weight, poverty that prevents them from buying healthy food, or sexual or physical abuse in their youth that makes them want to hide their body or a myriad of other reasons. There is a multitude of factors that can cause a problem and part of the healing process is uncovering the root that keeps the person stuck in the behavior they find to be uncomfortable, whatever that may be.

Our western rational thinking has also invaded how the American Christian church interacts with mental health issues. As a therapist, I hear people repeatedly misapply biblical principles to mental health issues that need other solutions to find freedom. For example, I might have a very depressed or anxious individual come into my office who is living in an abusive environment. They might think they need to pray harder or work harder at submitting to their spouse or must read their Bible more. In actuality, they need to start using some personal boundaries to restrict the evil behavior being perpetrated against them so they feel less depression and anxiety.  It is essential the western church start understanding that psychotherapy can help and empower people to live more free and full lives. Understanding the therapeutic math equation that keeps people from moving forward with others (and even with God) is the first step to gaining freedom. In the attached podcast Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss this topic of mental health and the church. Expand your therapeutic math skills to understand people in more profound and compassionate ways.