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!
By: Jennifer McClellan, MA, NCC, APC, Therapist
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of a small Christian group. Our group met once a month for weekend trainings for nearly a year. Sunday mornings we worshiped together before the training began. We ended our worship by giving our instructor a number from 1-10. (10 being the highest and 1 being lowest). I loved this activity because we repeated it at the end of the day. Our numbers had increased by the late afternoon even if we were tired, hungry, and had long travel times back home to our families to start the new week.
During our time together the group went through many events such as weddings, deaths, marital separations, engagements, moving, job changes, college workloads, travel, and much more. One Sunday morning, one of the members stated she was a 10! One who had just experienced a great loss unexpectedly while going through another difficult life event. We all inquired about her number – and she simply stated it was because of US – she was GRATEFUL to spend one weekend a month with a group that was using gratitude to change difficult situations into opportunities to build better attitudes!
A moment of realization for us all – even during tough or sad times, we can shift our perspectives.
I ask…what are You GRATEFUL for each day? Not just here in the Fall when the weather cools and we begin planning our holiday meals, travel plans, and shopping lists – but this season of life for you.
I am sure you have heard, “Start each day with a grateful heart.”
Give it some thought and ask yourself:
Beautiful things happen when you can let go of the negative and allow gratefulness and gratitude to take hold.
“As we express gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John F. Kennedy
A prayer for you from a member of my group:
Lord we are so very thankful that you are full of mercy and grace.
Help us to see and understand the depth of your love for us.
May this knowledge spark gratefulness in our hearts and fullness in our lives. ~ A.C.
By: M. Diane Pearce, LMFT, Founder/Consultant Legacy Strategy, Inc
While attending a recent funeral of a lady who left us far earlier than anyone expected, I was reminded of what a mentor said to me once, “You cannot lead others where you will not go”. My friend was a woman of extreme grace & loving grit. She was a leader of those who knew her. Every one of us leads someone by example of behavior (more than words).
Since we all lead someone, the question is, how do we lead others? I have learned much about how not to lead, so as I write this, I am keenly aware of the fact that my most potent lessons in leadership have come when I am faced with the truth of my own weakness. The beauty and dilemma of weakness is that it reminds us of how utterly in need we are of the strength that comes from desperate dependence on God. Leading with grit & grace requires truth about self & others.
Grit is forged when we face the thorns that are within. We all have at least one thorn. Though I have pleaded that God remove mine, I thank God for my thorns because they are what makes me most useable. Don’t get me wrong, thorns hurt! They do not make me happy, but they do bring me joy. They are persistently painful & can distract me from His purpose. Pain is never allowed without God having a way to use it for good. Joy comes when pain is used for good.
Divinely appointed thorns are those items that never seem to leave us & facing our thorns enables us to get out of the way so that God may accomplish all the good that He has planned. Through His words He teaches & molds us when we face & surrender our thorns to His purposes.
It is when we are in pain that we are most likely to set aside our self-reliance, accomplishments, successes, and our superior attitude. Only in surrender can we have the peace that comes from truth that heals us. Facing our thorns forges our grit and not facing them forges our denial of truth.
Grace is forged when we embrace His grace & extend His grace. We cannot give what has not yet been received. Grace is needed when we face our thorns and adjust our control. Adjusting for the sake of God’s purpose, as opposed to my own purpose requires a change in control. We are creatures of comfort and we do not like change. We like what we already know.
When we face our true selves in change, we are faced with the reality of either resisting with our will or embracing His will. Letting go of what is comfortable & works like a well-oiled machine can be scary! Yet, because of His grace, we can let go of the comfortable and walk in faith as we re-assess our priorities. Peace does not come from keeping everything the same, but from walking in faith & staying focused on the truth that God shows us as we spend time in His word. Grace frees us of holding on for too long to people, circumstances, my rights, my things, my shame, failures or successes. These only lead to being stuck in the past without personal growth. Grace that is not yet received cannot be given to others.
Leading will always prompt responses that are distracting. We may be elevated and praised for how we lead, but do not get distracted my friend! The praise of an audience is a fickle friend that will quickly turn to scrutiny when truth becomes uncomfortable. Do as Paul exemplified in the Bible. When the audience was listening, he spoke truth without fear & when they elevated him he reminded them of his humanness and pointed them to his source of truth and strength.
Stick to the truth that God has shown you in the time you have spent in His word. Extend grace without watering down the truth and exercise grit without fear! He has you in His Hands! Stand for what is right and true and He will take care of the rest!
(Further study: Genesis 50:20, Psalms 49:1-3, Psalms 51, Acts 14:14-15, 2 Cor. 12:7.)
BY: Tray Tankersley, LAPC
My wife and I fight ALL THE TIME…perpetually (meaning this NEVER gets resolved)…
…about the air-conditioning system in her car…more specifically, about when to turn on and when to turn off the air. When I was younger, I read that starting your car while the air-condition was on put additional strain, wear and tear on the engine. So, for many, many years now, before I turn-off a vehicle, I turn-off
My wife HATES this! She wants to IMMEDIATELY feel the air blowing on her the instant the car is cranked. She yells. She complains. She asks why (over and over even though I have shared my reasoning dozens upon dozens of times). She huffs and puffs…and yet I still persist.
Am I just mean? Uncaring? Deaf? Stubborn? Yes. I am all these things.
And, at some deep level (maybe even a “core belief” level), I firmly believe that I am being a good steward of one our most important and expensive possessions.
So, my wife and I keep fighting…
Relationship guru John Gottman has researched love, relationships, marriage, conflicts for decades. His research tells him that 69% of relational conflict is about perpetual problems. 69%!!!!
Think about that - almost 7 out of every 10 conflicts you have with your spouse are about perpetual (read, UNSOLVABLE) issues! Lasting differences in personalities and needs contribute to perpetual problems.
So, when you think to yourself or say out loud, “We are never going to see this the same way” or “We are never going to be able to resolve this” you may be right!
With perpetual problems, the goal is not to get your partner to agree with you. The goal with perpetual problems is not to solve them, not get on the same page with your spouse or have him or her get on your page. The goal is affect (emotion) oriented.
The goal is to establish a dialogue about the problem that communicates acceptance of your spouse and to actively cope with the unresolvable problem, rather than allowing it to fall into the condition of gridlock - painful communication and exchanges marked by criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
…back to the air-conditioning
It’s one of those unbearably hot, humid Georgia summer days. Alicia and I are dripping in sweat. We get into our hot car and I crank it.
No air comes on (because, of course, I had turned the air-conditioning off when we last parked). Alicia complains verbally. She protests. She tells me I am “so weird” and OCD (she’s right). She (or I by now) have pressed the power button on the air-conditioning and we are experiencing warm air blowing on our faces while the compressor begins its work of cooling the air.
And we leave the parking lot AS FRIENDS because I know she is for me and for us. And she knows I am for her and for us. She does not make me compromise who I am and one of my core beliefs and I don’t make her compromise hers. We both possess a “positive sentiment” about our relationship, which makes this kind of communication possible…what about relationships in Negative Sentiment Override? That’s
a topic for another day and another blog!
By: Jennifer McClellan, MA, NCC, APC
You’ve made it through the school year during a global pandemic! Kudos to you – Be PROUD of yourself! Regardless of the platform you utilized during the school year – you did it – you are here at the heart of a new beginning – SUMMER!
Instead of focusing on what you gave up in 2020 (and some of 2021) – Ask yourself – WHAT DID I GAIN? Do I want to return to something I miss? What am I ‘ok’ leaving out?
Try reflecting on your EXPERIENCES this past year…
REFLECTION is a great way to learn something about yourself…
You might find you have gained resiliency, patience, or how you adapted to stay connected to what matters most to your heart…whatever it is what did you LEARN about yourself?
Notice what feelings came up and what was difficult, what was easy? Want to change something? Maybe you want to try something different…
Here’s what I noticed – it was difficult to stay on a schedule – adapting to changes I was not ready for – some unsavory habits were created (and some good ones I will keep).
Now try reflecting on what you want to see different – where can I create new and more fulfilling habits?
Here’s some fun and simple ways to CREATE your summer and stay connected to what matters most to your heart:
Look at summer as relaxation, renewal, rest, and maybe a RESET to CREATE what sings to your heart.
What are YOU looking forward to this SUMMER?
Proverbs 27:19 NIV, As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.
Legacy strategy Blog
Legacy Strategy, Inc. is a private counseling practice in Kennesaw, Georgia.