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Light in the Darkness: From Hiding to Healing

Light in the Darkness: From Hiding to Healing

Growing up in the church, one of the scariest passages of the Bible always was, “everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken,” (Matthew 12:36). Shoooooot. Pack it up now! This verse gets me every time.

Another verse that has brought me pause over the years, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open,” (Luke 8:17).

If you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, this verse can be very unsettling. If something was done against you, this verse might bring a little hope- justice is coming, sooner or later.

I heard a friend of mine preach once on the above passage from Luke. He encouraged us to bring our own “stuff” to the light, because it’s less painful than someone else unexpectedly shining a light on your poor decisions. But either way, by virtue of being caught or by means of confession, the light comes to expose the darkness in our lives.

When things get exposed, it’s a deeply painful time…for a lot of people. For the doer of deeds (who often feel powerless, vulnerable and angry), for victims/anyone directly involved, for people who know them, for those similarly wounded, for on-lookers about town. Even though flipping the lights on in the darkness is much needed and right, exposure of wrong brings a heavy weight.

But, in the kingdom of God, the exposure of wrong brings opportunity for redemption. It means healing is now possible, where only sickness reigned before.

“Everything exposed by the light becomes visible — and everything that is illuminated becomes a light,” (Ephesians 5:13).

Everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 

Think of it this way: (Fill in the blank) happened. And rather than it be a constant marker of shame and contempt in my life, it is now its own light in the darkness. It now illuminates the path to healing, redemption and restoration. 

The same friend of mine who preached the sermon on how everything hidden will be exposed later had his own hidden deeds brought into the light. He’s still my friend. And I’m thankful to be standing in the light with him again. Since his darkness was brought into the light, and he agreed to stay in the light, he opened himself to healing and restoration. 

What was once darkness has become illuminated and now lights the way for other people in darkness to find hope.

If you have been wronged, there is hope for you. If you have been caught in the act of doing wrong, there is hope for you, too. 

No one needs to stay where they are– in the darkness. A better outcome awaits, even though the light can be scary and hard to adjust to at first.

God is there. And you’ll find more friendly faces than you’d expect, each holding their own light.

Click here for more info about how therapy can help you find the light, in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge.

From Gold Digger to Streets of Gold

From Gold Digger to Streets of Gold: Why Kanye’s redemption story should give you hope.

The world is talking about the fate of Kanye West’s soul. (As if the world has any say-so.) His recently released album is number one on iTunes: Jesus is King. Yes indeed.

Until recently, Kanye’s life has been a picture of hedonism; following his own pleasure at break-neck speed. He’s excelled at fame, at music, at creating a fashion brand, at attracting a beautiful wife. He has been out-spoken about his views of sexuality (even hosting a porn award show), how he felt larger than God. All of that was really working for him. Until it wasn’t. 

Reportedly, Mr. West turned to gospel music after he felt like God spoke to him that his mental illness would be healed through gospel music, and his conversion came as a result of investing his time and talents into Jesus-exalting gospel music. Kanye has spoken out about his bipolar diagnosis and what it’s like to live with the disease in an interview that can be seen here. He’s also been very candid about his addiction to pornography, and early exposure at age 5.

Why should this give us all hope?

Basically every aspect of it.

  • Currently, he couldn’t be any more outspoken that the lifestyle he pursued before he gave his life to Christ was instead running and ruining his life, but now he is choosing another Person to be in charge. No matter what you have done or how far you’ve gone, forgiveness in available. Kanye reminds us that it’s never too late to change your life.
  • Kanye is not the first surprising conversion that people doubted. The Apostle Paul was also met with a lot of distrust initially after he encountered Jesus on his way to persecute Christians (see Acts 9 and beyond). God has been in the business of jaw-dropping life change for quite some time. Kanye reminds us that God will scandalously hand out grace where you least expect it.
  • Kanye’s bipolar diagnosis is all-too relatable for a lot of us. If not bipolar, most of us are someone or personally know someone who struggles with a mental disorder. Yet, Kanye is not letting his diagnosis be the defining factor in his life. Christ is bigger. This doesn’t mean his struggle is any less real. (Though I am not here to argue the merits or likelihood of his healing, if that is what he believes has happened). But he is choosing, and we can choose, to not let our days be anxiety-centric, depression-centric, bipolar-centric, etc. Kanye reminds us that there are better measures of our days than just how big of a factor our mental health has been in our waking hours.
  • Pornography addiction is real and destructive, and Kanye has moved from championing its use to pursuing freedom and championing a healthier view of sexuality. It is not an easy habit or addiction to break, however, a new way of life is available for those who desire to be free. (For what it’s worth, I’m really loving the deep, narrative-based work of Andrew Bauman on this particular topic.) Kanye reminds us that long-held sin patterns don’t have to define our lives.

The bottom line in this moment of culture is this: no one is too far gone for life changing redemption. God’s grace can find you…no matter what. 

If you struggle with a mental health diagnosis or an addiction, counseling can be a great step in pursuing a better life for yourself. If you want to know more about God’s grace, find a local church to go to on Sunday.

Today is a great day to write a new redemption story. 

Step-Parent Like a Pro: Grow your skillset

Step-Parent Like a Pro: Grow your skillset

Ask most any step-parent and they’ll tell you, “parenting my step-kids is harder than parenting my own kids.” What’s the reason for that? Well, in my opinion there are several variations of that answer but it all seems to come back to one thing: Fear.

Fear about judgement or criticism from the other birth parent. Fear about damaging the relationship with your step-child or with your significant other. Basically, fear about doing something wrong or rocking the boat in some way. (This idea of fear comes up a LOT with coparenting as well, which we will eventually get to in this series.)

Combining our awareness of how being a step-parent challenges us emotionally with the idea that households operate the best when they look as much like gracious families as possible, we will be able to unpack some concepts of how to handle step-parenting in a way that promotes a culture of grace and love in the house.

Last time, we examined the role of step-parent and why it’s such an awesome and unique role. This week, we’ll look at how to skillfully proceed in your role as step-parent. How do you not just survive the job but knock it out of the park? We’ll look at hot to skillfully proceed in your role as step-parent and I’ll share some easy tips you can start today.

Considerations of Age

If you are a step-parent to older kids (I’ll call this 9th grade and above), your lane is to basically be the auxiliary adult. You just need to back up your spouse, and basically add peace, joy and stability to the household. You need to be WD-40! The fun uncle. If you have a different perspective on rules, routines, structure, you should absolutely express that…in private with your significant other. Your biggest opportunity for blessing is to encourage, support, champion, and provide positive stability. This is not the opportunity to strut your stuff and completely re-invent the rules.

If you’re a step-parent to younger kids, you will be a more integral part of developing the child’s story arc. Step-parents of younger kids intrinsically feel this weight. It shouldn’t be surprising if the child takes their (pre-verbal) angst out on the step-parent, as the symbol of all that is new and different in the family unit. A wise step-parent will understand that this is not personal, and use this as an opportunity to connect rather than recoil.

Considerations in Training

As a birth parent, it may be difficult to not get territorial, possessive or defensive about your kids and your parenting decisions. Feelings can easily get hurt in this context. Counseling support can absolutely be helpful if you’re in this predicament. The solution to this is often structural, and a trained eye can reshape and rebalance the household dynamic like only a non-emotionally invested outsider can.

As a step-parent, it may be confusing as to what your defined role is in terms of promoting a healthy family life and encouraging the kids to be his/her best “self” possible. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Be the type of partner who would never make your significant other feel like they have to make a lose/lose choice of partner vs. kids.
    • Cut down on the fear of there not being “enough” to go around.
    • There is plenty of room for both/and solutions in step-parenting. There is enough time in the day. There is enough love to go around. Open wide your heart and engage in your creative problem solving skills. Setting up the family for success in this way is a MAJOR win, and you can excel in this area by going out of your way to be the furthest thing from petty, needy and territorial. Be generous. Be patient. Just be cool! If you’re open handed, it’ll come back to you ten-fold.
  • Stay in your lane.
    • Clarity in the bounds of your role reduces fear of overstepping.
    • Don’t over-estimate your skill set in bringing peace and civility to a situation. Whatever the current dynamic of the family is when you arrive on scene, there are a lot of factors and causes for it. You’re not the chaos whisperer. You’re not Mary Poppins. You are not bringing healing to decades-long conflicts with your banana nut muffins!
    • Know your role. Observe. Keep your thoughts to yourself unless you’re asked. You’re here to make things easier in real, tangible ways.
  • You didn’t start the fire, but you can pick up a fire extinguisher.
    • You didn’t create these kids. You can’t re-create these kids. Put simply: Your step-kids are not your kinfolk. They have different aptitudes and attributes than your kinfolk have. You don’t need to walk around with the pressure that you have something to prove to the world through them.
    • Get to know their strengths and weaknesses, their potential and what really motivates them.
    • Work within the framework that has already been established before you arrived on scene.
    • Surely, you can teach helpful lessons and model positive character attributes. But you’re not going to remake your step-kids in your own image just because they’re at your house 50% of the time. Accept this and have reasonable expectations that everyone can agree to.
    • They are who they are. They will be who they will be. You can expect things from them like a respectful attitude, chores, honesty, etc. But you can’t expect straight A’s in math just because you were on math team.

Well…there you go! Step-parenting is the easiest job on the planet, eh? 😉 I sincerely hope you have found a tool or two to add to your toolbox of step-parenting skills! It’s a tricky role but you’ve got what it takes. I believe in you!

If you’d like to set up a time and work together to come up with a more specific plan for your household, just let me know! I have offices in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge.

Next we’ll look at achieving equality among step-siblings without the pitfall of comparison.

Be Kind to Your Hurt Places

Be Kind to Your Hurt Places

I don’t know about you, but I have several situations, both in my personal life and my professional life, that are simply in the midst of hard times. They are situations that are not “good” yet. Healing hasn’t fully occurred (or even begun in some situations). The pain is still ongoing. Confusion is still abundant. People are still in the thick of it.

Part of my own work is to learn to be kind to my hurt places. It’s so tempting to want to rush to the resolution; to find the silver lining; to white knuckle ourselves into being on the other side of the pain.

The problem with that is, it’s not very honoring to our wounds when we suppress the negative emotions just to feel better. And what is more, I think we kid ourselves if we think our suppression of these emotions won’t crop up in some other unhealthy or maladaptive way in our life. Suppression always has a hidden cost.

Sometimes though, things are so bad that it’s not even possible to minimize the hurt.

For times like these, we need to sit in our hurt and honor the brokenness that is there. It takes a lot of courage and it can be very scary to feel that. But it’s the only way to true wholeness. While we don’t need to let emotions be our master, we have to listen to them for guidance. I’m not even sure that there are “negative” emotions as much as they are all just created equally, and we need to feel all of them in order to be whole. There are some emotions that are easier to feel that others, but all emotions were created by God, so they are all important for us to acknowledge and experience. We need to be ok with our humanity and part of that is learning how to accept being in process; not rushing past the “negative” to find the resolution.

I can’t get these two bible verses out of my mind. Part A (in bold below) of the verse is just as true and scriptural as Part B. While the whole verse represents the entirety of the truth that the author is trying to convey, it’s helpful to just pause before rushing to the end.

Psalm 34:19

A righteous man may have many troubles (but the Lord delivers him from them all).

Psalm 71:20

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter (you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up).

If you don’t take a pause to feel the weight of Part A, Part B just feels cheap, powerless and almost like a taunt to our pain. Part A can bring up more questions than answers and that makes it uncomfortable. But there is goodness in feeling what we perceive to be negative emotions. And taking the time to truly feel them is the pathway to healing.

A song called New Wine by Hillsong Worship feels like it’s ministering to my deep places today. I’m not even sure exactly how it dovetails, but it goes together in my soul with what I’m feeling. Maybe it’ll feel that way for you, too.

Make me a vessel.

Make me an offering.

Make me whatever you want me to be.

I came here with nothing, but all you have given me.

Jesus, bring new wine out of me.

If you are wrestling with your hurt places today, know I am there with you! And if you’d ever like to set up a time to come process what you’re going through, I can be contacted here.

At the Intersection of Faith and Pain

At the Intersection of Faith and Pain

Wrestling with our Christian faith in the midst of chronic pain.

Most of my clients wouldn’t know this but I struggle with chronic pain several days of the month. I won’t get into the cause on this post but it’s been going on for about two years now. I wouldn’t classify it as “continuous” pain but it is regular and fairly predictable.

Perhaps you know this struggle as well.

I do everything I can to keep it from putting a damper on my personal life as well as my professional life but I am not always victorious. At its worst, I have to miss things: cancel sessions, get someone to watch our son if my husband is at work, miss church or social events, etc. Don’t worry… if you see me, I’m feeling fine enough. When it’s at its worst, I’m in bed.

We have tried several things to help reduce the pain level, most of which have not helped much. If this is beginning to sound depressing, it definitely is sometimes! But it is really important to me that I fight a good fight and not let my pain be the dominant characteristic in my life. My husband Chad and I have both had to do our own work of trying to reconcile my chronic pain with our faith in a healing God. And, just as importantly, our goal is not to just survive with pain, but to wrangle up some joy on the daily!

Maybe you know the struggle of chronic pain as well. But maybe you are more familiar with emotional pain of chronic anxiety, depression or loneliness? Maybe you (like Chad) have to watch someone you love struggle and there’s not much you can do about it? For someone with a Christian faith, this struggle can be made all the more complicated when you factor in knowledge of God’s ability to heal. Those waters can tend to get very murky, very quickly. And I think that’s ok. It’s just about what we do with that tension.

Whatever “brand” of struggle yours may be, here are some places I’ve landed in trying to grapple with my pain and my faith.

  1. Chronic pain is a fact about me (currently). It does not get to define my life. I have chronic pain. I also am married. I am a female. I am caucasian. I think I’m pretty funny. I like to cook. I don’t like cleaning my floors. Each of those facts mean something about me and set some perimeters in my life but they don’t give a full snap-shot of who I am. Losing sight of this central truth makes me chronic-pain “centric.” And there are so many better things to be at the center of my life than chronic-pain.
  2. My pain level is not the measure of my day. Have you ever thought, “I felt good today so it was a good day”? We have to fight against this because it’s a very easy trap to fall into. But the truth is that there are so many other choices to be the gauge of how each day is measured: obedience, provision, laughter, faithfulness, puppy snuggles, a very funny tv show that distracts you for a while. We have to be diligent to not be so reductionistic to say, “my pain was really low so it was a good day.” If we let it be as simple as “low pain = good day; high pain = bad day” then our eyes are fixed on ourselves alone. As Christians, we know there’s a better choice for us to fix our eyes on.
  3. How God answers your prayers for healing does not say anything about you. Or at least it doesn’t say what you think it says. I firmly believe that chronic pain is more of a result of the Fall than it is a result human choices. Sure…maybe your hard labor caused some degenerative disc issues. But still..that is rooted in the fall because hard work is not sinful, but deterioration of our bodies is the result of the Fall. Your issue may actually be the result of your choices (lifestyle issues, positive or negative…doesn’t matter really), but the toll it has taken on your body is largely a result of the Fall. What I mean by that is that when sin entered the world through Adam, destruction of our bodies came, too (and this has physical, emotional, mental implications). Before then, there was no deterioration. This is a MUCH bigger issue than your sin or your choices and this issue manifests itself in a myriad of different ways. I throw disease and illness in this same category (and flooding and hurricanes, if anybody is wondering). The world is broken by sin, so bad things happen. And they don’t really mean anything about us. So the same is true for our rescue from the physical manifestations of the Fall. If it didn’t mean anything about us that we received this illness, then it doesn’t mean anything about us if the healing comes. It would be awesome if healing comes. But it isn’t personal if it doesn’t. And it’s not personal if it does. It wouldn’t be about your good deeds or track record if you get healed; how much potential you have or how much God likes you.
    It just means something about God. It’s God’s choice how he wants your healing story to go. And he alone gets to make that call of when your healing is manifested. It’s not personal. It’s just the Fall.

I don’t know the rules about who gets ailments or who gets healed. Honestly, it looks pretty haphazard to me. There is no magic formula that I’ve ever been able to pick out. But I’ll tell you this: at our house, we ask for healing anyway.

What’s true is that our struggles aren’t meant to define us or take the central seat in our life. And God’s (apparent) response to our struggles isn’t a good indicator of his awareness of our pain.

I love this poem by Walt Whitman which ends with this thoughtful line:

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

I, for one, don’t want my “verse” to be, “Pain overtook my life.” But rather, “I found joy and meaning and purpose in the midst of the lot that I was given.”

If you or someone you love struggles with a chronic issue, you can contact me here to set up a time to come in and talk about it.

Counseling offices in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Photo credit goes to Brigitte Tohm.