By: Jennifer McClellan, MA, NCC, APC
On a recent short trip to the beach with family, we rushed out to the beach each evening to catch the sunset. It’s always a brilliant pink even after the sun comes down behind the trees. We stay til every bit of sunlight is gone. If a boat had been readily available – being on the water chasing the sunset each night would have been on the agenda. Settling on the beach view, I watched people set up small campfires, take family photos, create social media posts. You know what seemed missing? Folks enjoying the actual sunset.
Don’t get me wrong, our family took photos and enjoyed being silly. But then we sat down in the cool sand, toes and all. We enjoyed God’s display of nature, listened to the waves hit the shore, and enjoyed the hoodie worthy ocean breeze. Savoring some silence at that point, I reflected on the day and planned on some downtime for the next couple of days instead of doing “all the things” expected on vacations.
So now I’m wondering if we are enjoying our vacations, birthdays, graduations, weddings, holidays or are we checking off more to do lists?
I encourage us all to spend some time reflecting…
What needs to change, stay the same, or can we look at a situation from a different point of view. Instead of looking for perfection, enjoy the moment the way it is – Just Be. Be in the moment, chasing the sunset, enjoying the view.
“When the sun goes down you shall surely return the pledge to him, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it will be righteousness for you before the Lord your God.”
BY Chip Carter, MA, LPC
Last October, my wife and I were on a hike in the Shenandoah Valley. It was cool. All the fall colors that people hope and wait to see were on full display. We were trekking up a sharp incline, and the higher we climbed the views just got better and better. Each step taken had more to see, more beauty to be in awe of, and more to be grateful for.
But I wasn’t feeling any of those emotions. I wasn’t in awe. I sure wasn’t in a grateful mood. The best word to describe that mood at the time was ticked.
Leave it to me to have some of my most frustrating moments at ten thousand feet with God’s majesty in all directions. To the North – annoyance. To the South – anger. East – outrage. And west – righteous indignation.
I started sharing with Amanda (that’s my wife) about what was on my heart, including a good bit of anger towards someone who I felt had both hurt me and left a void since. This wasn’t the first time she had listened to my frustrations regarding this same person. Nor the second. Nor the third.
Amanda’s words that came next are something I hope I don’t ever forget. She compassionately and directly said – “You’ve got to stop doing this to yourself - torturing yourself. You can either go and tell them what they did that has you so upset, or you can (with God’s help) make peace with them in your heart, forgive them and move on. But what you’re doing to yourself right now isn’t good…”
That wasn’t the mountain top experience I thought I would have that day, but time and time again I have thought about her words and their implications. Here’s how I’ve summarized it in my head:
The middle is often a comfortable place to be. If you’re the middle child, you have someone older to protect you and someone younger to look out for. If you’re middle class, you typically have a roof over your head and enough food to eat. Middle America is a desired place to live for a lot of folks who want a simple and less hassled way of life.
But this ‘middle’ was different, and definitely not comfortable. It was more akin to being in the middle seat of a cross county plane ride and on both sides of you are two WWE wrestlers who take up all the air and hog the armrests. Cozy and comfortable – uh, no. Claustrophobic and miserable – yes and amen.
We can’t avoid or navigate around pain and hurt in our lives. We’re all prone to hurt others and be hurt as well. But I believe God has given us a clear plan on how to reconcile our hurts and frustrations with each other. It can be hard and take a lot of sacrifice…
But it sure beats being stuck in the middle seat…
BY: Tray Tankersley, APC, NCC, ThM
Years ago, the medical field coined a phrase to describe symptoms pediatric nurses and doctors sadly encountered with their young patients. The medical workers noted weight or rate of weight gain that was significantly below that of children of the same age and sex. These observations were summarized in the phrase, failure to thrive.
Often the cause of failure to thrive is organic, tied to not taking in enough calories because of poor nutrition. However, the medical field also discovered non-organic (unrelated to nutrition) causes of failure to thrive. Research showed that even when children’s basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, diaper changes, baths) are met, if the child does not have an emotional connection (an attachment or bond) with another human being, the child will not thrive and sometimes, the child will not survive.
Think about that!
A child needs an emotional connection just as much as she needs food, shelter and clothing! What is connection?
Think of connection as an emotional bonding that keeps loved ones close so that they will “be there” for us, emotionally, when we are in need. Sue Johnson (creator of Emotion Focused Therapy) writes, “In order to fully thrive, we all need someone to depend on, a loved one who can offer reliable emotional connection and comfort.”
To develop cognitively, emotionally and physically, children need a strong, predictable, stable emotional connection. He needs this as much as he needs food, shelter and clothing.
Adults also need emotional connection! We NEVER grow out of our need for connection. We do not become adults and then all of a sudden don’t need to feel safe, loved and bonded to another. We are hardwired for connection…and this hardwiring and need never goes away, no matter how old we are!
Obviously, as adults, we do not need to fed with bottles and we no longer need diapers.
But the need to feel close to, connected with, bonded to, attached to another person…that need never goes away, no matter your age.
Every conflict in a marriage relationship is really about ONE thing…
Conflicts about dishes, parenting differences, sex, sharing details of life are really about being seen, being heard, being taken seriously, being considered. All of us want to know the same things about our spouse: does he care about me, does she appreciate how stressed I feel, does he really know how I am doing and how deeply this (behavior) affects me, does she listen to my concerns.
Conflicts are cries for connection! And we all NEED connection!
BY: M. Diane Pearce, Ph.D., Marriage & Family Therapist
Do you like a good mystery? I always have enjoyed a good novel with twists and turns that are suspenseful, unpredictable and keep you on the edge of your seat till the final page! Figuring out the outcome before it is revealed is good entertainment to me! The more intrigue, the better the novel!
However, when it comes to real life, I am the opposite! I like to be prepared for what is next, I prefer no surprises, I want to be ready for the ‘what if’s’ in life and I admit that I tend to pride myself on being responsible (yes, just a touch of neurotic thinking)! On the surface this may appear to be good. But it is not realistic, and it sabotages my faith and trust in the one who knows the outcome better than us all.
Healthy rhythms in our daily lives are important. My mentor has reminded me of this truth many times over. We all have rhythms, some healthy & some not so much! As I attempt to follow my mentor’s advice, these rhythms, habits, and expectations in life need to be re-assessed and adjusted to fit what is new. In my quest to adjust, questions need to be asked. So, when faced with what is new, I wonder, “Am I asking the right questions?”.
My old questions sound something like this:
When we come upon a twist that is unexpected, we can complain, whine, try to understand why, pity ourselves & begin to strategize. Or we can begin to ask questions that will deepen our trust and anchor our souls in the one who knows the end of the story and the mystery of life itself!
My new questions sound something like this:
Rhythms of Rest comes in knowing that I no longer am on a quest to understand life’s mysteries and that I can Trust in the one who knows, understands, and works all for my good and His glory. He will do this through what is painful and disappointing and heartbreaking. He is my Hope and my Stronghold.
I resolve myself to rest in trusting the one who knows the end of the story and all the twists and turns along the way. He is my strength, and my mind is steadfast because of how powerful & all-knowing my God is. As our new year begins, won’t you join me in renewing your rhythms of rest and trust? Instead of embarking on a daily quest to figure it all out, we remember to rest in Him and to thank Him for every twist and turn because He is our ever-present help in times of trouble. His ways are better than my own.
By: Amanda Carter, MA, LPC
Four hundred years…the time between the Old Testament and the tangible presence of Jesus in the New Testament. It is reasonable to assume at that point, people had forgotten about a promised Messiah. And to be fair, 400 years is a really long time to wait! Just think of the past 2 years of living in a pandemic and how you have felt with all the unanswered questions and seemingly endless waiting it has brought. I would encourage you during this season of Advent to carve out time for both reflection and anticipation. Reflect on how you are feeling. Is there anything you have been waiting for and perhaps even given up on ever coming to fruition? Has this led to disappointment, discouragement, or even bitterness? Bring all of this reflection to the One who willingly came to earth to bring hope. Then, anticipate. As we age, we often give up dreaming, particularly big dreams. But Jesus’ birth shows us that he likes to bring light into darkness and awaken our dreams again. I personally enjoy going through this practice as I look at Christmas lights. Have you noticed that people seem to want to put up their trees and decorations earlier the past two years? I think in part, it is because we are desperate for beauty and joy, and something about those lights reminds us of the Light of the World. The lyrics of Matt Redman’s song, “These Christmas Lights” comes to mind-
“Sing again, the sacred song of
How that star lit up the sky
And how the world, lost in the darkness
Felt the hope of, Heaven’s light
Open my eyes; O heart believe
The wonder of, that Christmas night
Be born in me”
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Legacy strategy Blog
Legacy Strategy, Inc. is a private counseling practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.