Getting Honest about Mental Health and Wellness

As I move forward in going out on my own as an independent counselor and coach, I believe that being real and honest are super important as I put myself out there and try to convey to my readers and future potential clients what they need to know about mental health and wellness.

The first thing that I believe every person should ask themselves is “am I ready for change”.  While a counselor or life coach can help you come to that conclusion, it is best if you are ready for change as you come into the counseling relationship. I personally don’t believe in multiple sessions “exploring” what your issue may be. I am much more interested in knowing what you want to change and why you want to change it.  Then we can get to work. I realize that there are times that we don’t know why we should change, however, successful therapy and coaching start with a motivated client that is ready to roll their sleeves up and go to work.

The other thing that I want to get honest about is that I will not label you with a mental health diagnosis unless absolutely necessary.  I believe most people go through adjustments and situations in which they need guidance, insight and perspective on.  Most of us experience anxiety or depression in our lives. The reason people have gotten used to labels is because insurance companies want us to give a diagnosis to validate the transaction. (this is why I am not fond of insurance companies).  And lets be honest, so many people have been taught that the label that they receive is their whole identity. Nothing could be further from the truth! God has given each of us a purpose in this life and to label ourselves in this way is damaging to the spiritual core of our being. I prefer to call it “adapting to changes and situations”. Granted, there are those that suffer with true mental disorders that need long-term care, however the majority have situational issues that are resolved when we learn how to give those things over to God and change our perspectives.

Lastly, I don’t own a magic wand, nor would you want me to.  Sometimes it takes hard work to change. Sometimes it takes a while and it is very uncomfortable. However, there is beauty in struggle. God molds us in our struggles and teaches us valuable lessons in these situations.  So don’t wish away your problems. Embrace each one as a lesson that will teach you to totally depend on God and that will encourage you to do the work that needs to be done for you to be whole, healthy and at peace.

I believe that each person has the capability to overcome any situation. The process is different for everyone, however, the process brings forth change, hope and turning away from old things and moving forward into the life God has for you. Don’t allow labels, magical thinking and unwillingness to want to change to get in the way of that beautiful journey God has for you!

Coming soon! Summer Art Classes with a Purpose…

After reassessing my business, I realized that Sanctuary Studio is more than just a place to take art classes. It is a place of tremendous healing spiritually. Myself and many others that have come through the doors of the studio experience the power of God at work whether it be through the joy of the children’s classes or through teaching women to let go of that inner critic and begin to experience the joy of art.  So this summer’s classes will be geared toward continuing with that vision.

These are just a few teasers for the classes and times and dates will be announced soon so please check back to my website regularly!

 

Children’s Art and Therapeutic Classes

Anger, Sadness and Joy…  learning to deal with unwanted emotions by painting the inside out characters while learning what the Bible says about how to deal with these emotions.

Women’s Expressive Art Classes

Using the book Create Your Life Book, we will be exploring several projects over the summer!

Letting go and Surrendering to God’s will for your life!

In this class we will create a beautiful butterfly and discuss what it means to be transformed in your thoughts and behaviors to surrender your life to God in order to be free from the burdens we carry such as anxiety, fear and depression

Reframing Your Story

In this class we will create a self portrait but in a new way. God wants us to not live in the lies of our past but wants us to reframe our stories to reflect the good that He has done in us!

Gratitude for all we have!

This class will help us to understand the concept of “Give Thanks to God for all He has done”. Gratitude changes everything and in this class we will crate little gratitude lists and create this cute little project to remind you to always be grateful!

Poured Art!

This class is just fun! Poured out is a new method that is fun and gets you thinking outside the box! Each person will create this beautiful gem colors in their own one of a kind poured art project!!

 

Stay tuned for dates and times on all of the classes and be sure to register to save the seats as they will be limited!!

Looking so forward to seeing old and new friends at Sanctuary Studio for the summer!!

 

What you should expect from a counselor…

I have been a counselor for many years. In my experience over those years, I hear many of my clients, particularly new clients, talk about their reasons for not going to therapy initially. Many of the reasons range from fear of judgment, time, money and lastly, they had been to counseling before and they did not believe that it helped.  I want to address to my clients and future clients what you should expect from your counselor, and also where you should be in your mindset for counseling to be effective for you.

  •  A good counselor will not judge you.

A counselors job is not to judge you based on behaviors, choices etc.  A counselors job is to identify a problem that is causing pain in your life.  If a counselor discovers a problem that is causing pain, that is not judgment, that is discernment and assessment. The counselor does not add their own feelings, opinions or emotions into the problem.  If someone went to the doctor and said ” I have a stomach ache” and the doctor identified the problem as drinking too many sodas, that is not a judgment, but an assessment based on information. If the doctor told you you were a bad person because you drank too much soda, that would be a judgment, which is unethical.

  • A counselor will work with you where you are and then may challenge you to move out of your comfort zone.

When coming to counseling, you may not be able to recognize all the issues that are causing your trouble. This is either because one is either unaware of all the compounding issues or because they are not ready to delve into many painful issues. The counselors job is to assess and help with the problem that the client identifies. Once the client identifies the issue, the job of the counselor is to guide them into their own understanding of the problem and then to create solutions to that problem.  As a Christian counselor, I use scripture and prayer to help individuals come to many conclusions about things they struggle with and then we work together about what the Bible says about that issue.  This at times can be challenging and painful, but a good counselor wants to get you well and moving into a new life, not keeping you coming back for years on end of endless talking that goes no where.

  • A good counselor will assess whether or not you are ready for change.

Many individuals suffer with many different issues, Anxiety, depression, grief, addictions etc.  However, if a client comes to counseling and they are not ready to move forward and have the mindset that they are not ready for change, the counselor’s role is to help that person recognize the problems that this issue is causing in their life.  If the client is still not ready for change, the counselor will determine if it is the right time for counseling or if some other higher level of care is needed.  It is important that you should expect your counselor to help you and set goals for wellness, however, if there is no motivation toward change on the part of the patient, goals cannot be set.

 

What stands in the way of moving forward in the life that God has for you? True change can and will happen when we are really willing to move forward. And moving forward with a good counselor, one who is not your judge but your champion to help push you and move you toward your best self is the best kind of help.  Allowing time, money or fear keep you from the life you deserve is just another way the enemy wants you to stay where you are. Jesus wants us to pick up our mats and walk and walk in the freedom He died to give us!

 

Let’s Stop Demonizing Everything

I really didn’t know how else to title this blog other than this.    There is a tendency among religious people to demonize every….little… thing. What I mean by this is that many Christian’s will tell others that they are not to associate themselves with anything that is not of God. I have had people tell me I shouldn’t have acupuncture (which helped me significantly) because there could be demons attached to it. In reality it is Chinese medicine.  I have heard people say that you should only listen to Christian music, watch Christian movies and on and on.  I have even had people tell me that because my ancestors were involved in pagan customs that I needed to pray for them for forgiveness and that is why I was having problems in my life. These people had me feeling so much anxiety that I was afraid to associate with anyone. But after much prayer and God’s wisdom, I see how wrong that teaching is and how ineffective it is for the great commission that Jesus gave us to go out and make disciples.

We Can’t Make Disciples if We Don’t meet Them Where They Are..No Matter How Scary It May Look

The problem with this “demonizing everything” ideology is that it is ineffective for the Kingdom of God.  If we look at Paul’s interactions with the Greek Philosophers on Mars Hill it is clear that he is using their pagan God’s to point them to Christ.

Acts 17:22-31

Sermon on Mars Hill

22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

Paul did not chastise them or ask them to give up these statues, but asked them to change their perspective and focus and think on the original giver of life who is not made by human hands.  We could even say this to be true for the modern church today. How many worship the building more than they worship the true God? And if that is the case how are we any different then pagans?

St. Patrick was able to effectively evangelize to the pagan Celts by helping them to understand that in their worshipping trees, they needed to turn their worship toward the Creator of the trees and know that a sacrifice through Christ was done and no longer was it necessary for them to participate in their own ritualistic sacrifices. The Celtic cross symbolizes the unity between Christ and creation. Culture was not lost with belief in Jesus.

I am a huge fan of the Vikings television show.  Maybe perhaps because I do have roots from Scandinavia.  My favorite part of the show is the interaction between Althestan and Ragnar. Althestan is a priest from a monastery in Lindasfarne. He is taken as a slave during a raid by Ragnar, a Viking warrior.   Ragnar keeps him in his home and becomes fond of the monk. As they story progresses, we see Ragnar trusting Althestan not because the monk is forcing his relics, religious icons and rituals on Ragnar, but because he built a relationship with him. The monk made himself a part of the culture and earned the trust of Ragnar and even struggled with his own faith at times (which in my opinion is human nature). Throughout the show you can see Ragnar being open to the idea of Christ because the monk was truly being Christ to him. The relationship is real, trusting and honest and this is how we need to interact with the world around us, not by demonizing what they do, not by not associating with the culture but being a light in that culture.

We make things so complicated. We put a label on everything as good or bad.  But if we are mature Christians, strong in our faith then there is no fear of exposing ourselves to cultures or groups of people who are lost. They are lost, not demon possessed, not evil, just lost.  Evil exists when we give attention to it and when we fear it.  Jesus died for more than that. Let’s try to be the kind of Christians that don’t ask others to give up certain aspects of their culture.  Let us encourage them to change their perspective, put Christ above all and all of those other things will work themselves out as the Holy Spirit works in them and we stand beside them as their friend.

Carving from a Stave Church 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This detail from the left side of the door is the most iconographic element of the exterior, defining the distinctive Urnes style (which is equally influenced by Viking art and The Book of Kells). There are two interpretations of the image, the most popular of which is that the bottom figure is a lion, symbolizing Christ, fighting the evil serpent, which represents Satan. But some believe the original church was actually torn down because it featured scenes from Norse mythology. The 2003 book A World History of Architecture suggested that, “The intertwined snakes and dragons represent the end of the world according to the Norse legend of Ragnarök.”

Drown Out the Noise

My husband and I went to a Kenny Chesney concert in July. The concert was full of energy, lights and excitement and was really great fun. One of the newest songs by Kenny that he sang was called “Noise”. The lyrics painted a picture of the constant bombardment of technology, phones, computers, traffic, people, music, television and busyness. The video that played as he sang was directed in such a way that one felt completely overwhelmed in the midst of all the noise.

 This planet’s population of people continues to increase. The population increase in just the last 50 years has gone from 2.5 billion to approximately 6.5 billion and that statistic is from 2005.  There are a lot of people in the world with lots of ideas, lots of things to say and lots of opinions to share. Facebook is a prime example of this. With the constant chatter of people it becomes difficult for people to form their own opinions, think for themselves and creates a false sense of self-esteem due to constant competing and comparing of our lives with others.

 This is why downing out the noise is so important more than ever.

 Practicing Silence and Solitude to Drown Out the Noise of Others and reconnect with the Creator  

One of the best things we can do to drown out the noise around us is spending time in silence and solitude. Silence allows us to listen and be mindful. I prefer to spend time in silence outdoors. When I look around and see what God has created and focus on the natural order of things, it puts things in perspective for me. It is a prayer, a meditation without words. Prayer is wonderful but there are times that our soul longs for a deep interior silence. Solitude, on the other hand is a practice that helps us to go away from others, away from their opinions, their words and lives to focus just on ourselves and our relationship with God.  I have come to crave my times of silence and solitude and when I don’t have those times, I become agitated, easily frustrated with others and depressed. It is wonderful to go to church services and be in community with other Christians, however, these practices are just as important and Jesus did them often. He went away from the disciples several times in the New Testament to hear from God and refresh.

How to Incorporate Silence and Solitude into Your Life

There are ways to make silence and solitude a part of your life. These practices will help you to become less stressed, more balanced and more aware of God’s presence. In turn it will help you to drown out all the noise around you and focus on what is important and necessary.

  1. Make it a priority.  Schedule either short daily times of solitude and silence or longer weekly times when you can get away longer.  Practicing the Sabbath and not doing work and spending time away and quiet can be a great way to do this. Perhaps get up a few minutes early each day to center yourself and be renewed for the day.

  2. Find a place where you will not be disturbed and that is away from others. For me this is outside on my deck. In the colder months you may want to designate a place in your home that is quiet and free from distractions.

  3.  Keep a journal. Keeping a journal as you begin to practice this new discipline can help you reflect on what you heard from God in the silence and can also help you to look back and see how much you are getting out of the practice.

  4. Don’t be all religious! God only wants us. There is no need to make a big deal about it and put undue pressure on ourselves. God wants us to come to His well and be quenched!

My hope is that more people will practice these things and make them a daily part of their lives. It has changed mine tremendously and I crave this time daily and weekly!! Take some time and put these into your walk and you will be blessed!

Disengage the World…Engage Peace

The word peace seems to be thrown around very loosely these days.  During the Vietnam era, the word and symbol were synonymous with bringing an end to a war. Our country was in turmoil then, and it is in turmoil now. We shout from the mountain tops that we want peace, but each person has their own idea or agenda about how they think that should happen. 

 Sadly, most of us believe that we need to do something to have peace. But this is contrary to what scripture teaches. And even if you aren’t a Bible reader, there is much to be learned from this lesson.  So check out what Jesus says here in John 14:27

 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

 Did you hear that? Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid?  

 But we do. We allow our hearts to be troubled. We allow the world, the media and others opinions and rants to rob the exact thing that Jesus spoke of here. 

 You see, God never promised things in the world would be easy. As a matter of fact, Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). If you’re not familiar with the Bible, Jesus died so that we can have peace that no matter how crappy things get in this world, that, at some point, in Gods time, He will make things right. When we let that sink in and believe it; that is engaging in peace. Sadly, most Christians don’t get this and are constantly worrying about what is going to happen. We should know better if we profess we believe, like really believe, not just with our words but with our entire being. 

 Disengage to Engage Peace 

 So how do we do this?

We are busy with our lives, the constant bad news around us and morality continues to decline. How can we engage in the peace of God when He has been removed from I have simple answer.

  Turn off the news, unfollow the negative people on Facebook, and for goodness sakes, get yourself surrounded by people who will build you up and encourage you. Some Bible studies and churches I have been to have turned into complaining sessions instead of praising what God has already done.  We need to engage in peace by DISENGAGING in negativity.  No, we can’t ignore what is going on and that evil exists and there are powers that want to destroy us, however, the peace and promise of Jesus should override all of that in your mindset. Once you are able to do that, peace will permeate through you like a cool breeze.  It takes some practice and discipline to turn down the volume on all that is around us, but if you desire the presence of God bad enough and want to feel His peace above all else, you will make a conscious effort to disengage. 

 The question is how much do we desire peace? Do we want it bad enough to disengage with negativity and strife? Something to think about.

Not All Superheros Wear Capes….How Art Saved my life

 I am pretty transparent about my life. I feel that in order to help people really change, we must share our own personal journeys to help facilitate that change.  I am willing to share of myself if I know that it will inspire others to take a chance and do something different.  This is why I want you to meet my art teacher Susan Shaffer of Joyful Arts Studio in Greencastle, PA.

You see, I first met this beautiful soul a few years back when I was going through something extremely difficult, yet very profound.  I didn’t realize at the time that God was doing something in me, preparing me for where I am now and what He has for me in the future.

 I have always been a lover of art. I wanted to be an artist when I was a little girl. But as I grew into an adult, those dreams became shattered by the logical voices around me telling me that it wasn’t realistic.  So I never pursued it. I took some lessons here and there when I lived in Kentucky and loved it but my life was a mess and out of control with a difficult marriage, feelings of low self-worth and a bleak future.  I stopped doing art and did life.

 Many years later when the rubble was trying to settle after my life fell apart, I suffered from extreme anxiety and PTSD. I had been divorced, had to help my children through the loss of their father as teens and a year later had a horrific motorcycle accident.  On top of all of this, I was trying to adjust to a new life and working as a counselor helping other people.  Problem was, I was not getting help myself. I saw a counselor but did not connect and gave up.  After a stay in the hospital for extreme stress, I decided it was time to take care of me. I decided I needed art back in my life again.

 I called Susan at Joyful arts and had the most pleasant conversation. Her voice put me at ease and she encouraged me and told me that anyone can have talent but it takes true desire to be an artist.  I had the desire and I needed this.  Soon I was taking weekly classes with her and for the first time in a long time, I was finding me again.  My art sessions were like therapy sessions.  Susan is not only a fantastic teacher, her spirit is what truly sets her apart from the rest.  She encouraged me to try and not to paint my pictures like others and to paint what came naturally to me.  This was hard for me as I had always lived my life to please others and being me was hard because I didn’t know me. Susan helped me through her gentle and kind spirit and always bringing me back to myself.

 You see, we can go to counselors, psychiatrist and doctors and never get better.  This is not to say these people don’t help because they do. But sometimes, God wants us to look outside the box and find someone who has a spirit that attracts us to them. These are the super heroes for us. The ones that don’t even recognize their power in the world. This is my friend Susan Shaffer. And I am personally grateful that she is in my life and I can’t thank her enough.

 This painting is one that I finished when I was coming to end of my healing journey. I had no idea how powerful it was until Susan pointed out the emotion it contained.  She encouraged me to place a small flower among the dark forest. This painting is titled Glimmer of Hope. Folks, no matter how bad things get, God is there and there is hope. There are angels like Susan who are waiting to bring you back.  Seek those that you are attracted to naturally. You don’t always have to have a person with a counseling degree to help you. Sometimes it’s a simple as rediscovering your passion and finding someone that shares that passion.

 I am now sharing my passion of art with others. I teach women’s healing art workshops and mentor children’s art classes. I so enjoy helping others see the value in the process of creating and not just focusing on the end result.  That has been a huge life lesson from me personally that we do not always have to know where we are going but we can learn to enjoy the journey along the way and be grateful for the people that God puts on our path.  I am grateful for this friend and hope I can be alight to others as she has been to me.

 

Who and What Really Defines Success?

This blog post for me is more therapy or a journal this week.  I am almost into my second month of leaving a career as a counselor to pursue ministry (unpaid).  I have a few little gigs such as my art classes or a coaching session that get me by but if it weren’t for my husband, in a few months I would probably be homeless.  Of course getting used to this lifestyle of being totally dependent on God and on others is teaching me something and I am doing a lot of soul searching in this process of letting go and living more simply so that I can serve God more.

 King Solomon’s Revelation 

 In my feeling sorry for myself I was reminded of King Solomon. According to society, he had it all. All the riches a person could ask for. All the prestige, popularity and splendor of a King.  Not only was his bank account full, so was his ego I am sure.  But in his life he came to this revelation:

 Ecclesiastes 1:14

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind….

 In this one sentence, he sums it up. But seriously, you have to read the rest of the book to really get it. Solomon talks about all the fine things he has built, all the wisdom he has acquired, all the wealth he has accumulated, all the experiences that he has had and in this one powerful little  sentence, it is merely a chasing after the wind… yeah..it really is.

 I Get Restless

 I don’t know about you, but I get restless and bored. Which is probably why getting used to this new life outside the office is hard.  So then I’m off to find the next big adventure, whether it is a business adventure, new challenge I have for myself or something else that I am trying to use to medicate the restlessness. But it NEVER works. I never feel completely content. I am not saying I am not content but our spirits cry out for something that this life cannot give us. Then I remember Jeremiah’s story..

 Being in ministry is not glamorous, especially if you are sharing truth…

 So I think about Jeremiah and about how unpopular he was and how people hated the truth he was sharing and how he was not the most popular, rich or sought after person in Jerusalem. He was the bearer of bad news, which ultimately turned to hope. Even at the end, Jeremiah was offered all the splendor, protection and riches by the King of Babylon but he refused, and he went back to the simple life with his people and did his ministry. He knew that all of that would never really mean anything and that the most important thing in his life was to follow God and be obedient to the calling on his life.  Yeah, I can relate and the adjustment is hard. 

 You see, true success is not how much stuff you have, how important your career is or how popular you are. I bet Solomon wished he would have lived more like Jeremiah.  I need not crave the type of success of Solomon but redefine what success is for me. That success may not look like success at all to anyone else, even in Christian circles, but when I meet God I will know that what I did was more important then fame or glory. My little mark on this world is God’s success and to Him all the credit goes.

Start Living

Have you ever wanted to travel the world? Go to strange new lands? Hike the Appalachian trail or maybe even go rock climbing? Yeah, me too but unfortunately most of us either lack the funds or the time to do these things. However, I believe we can make the time and live simply in order to pursue these passions, thats actually the easy part.  However the real issue that holds us back from seeking adventure is fear and the courage to move forward to accomplish these dreams. By incorporating these three habits into your life regularly, you will whet your appetite for adventure and expose yourself to fears to help you overcome them and live life to the fullest!

 Go somewhere new once a week– Most people do the same things every weekend. They clean their house, mow the lawn and go out to dinner. But what if each week you committed to going somewhere different? Perhaps a partial day hike or a kayaking trip? Maybe you could drive to a different state for the weekend and see something new. The main thing is to get out of your comfort zone to enjoy something new. Once you make this a habit you will crave more and more adventure and feel exhilarated!

Try something you have never done before  once a month. Have you ever wanted to go horseback riding? How about take an art or pottery class? Or perhaps you want to do something a little more daring like jump out of an airplane or rock climbing. We all have those “things” we say we want to do but never get around to trying them. Trying something new can test the waters to see where a passion might be hidden and a new adventure might be waiting. 

Break your own rules! So often we live our lives by a schedule and habit. When we become so inflexible and things are so routine, depression can take its toll on our minds and bodies. Breaking your own rules might be taking a day to not look at the clock, to not have a to do list and to just live in such a way that is spontaneous. Give yourself permission to live beyond your own rules and do something different for a day. This might look different for each person, however the idea is to learn how to live more spontaneously and in the moment.  

I would love for you to share how you have used these tips in your lives and how they are making a difference! Please share in the comments section below! Go be adventurous today and start really living and experiencing all life has to offer! 

 

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Permission to Start Living….

Today I want to tell you what a lot of people may not say that you need to hear…

It’s time to give yourself permission to start living. You have been through a divorce, an illness, a financial crisis, the loss of a loved one or any other hardship and it’s time to start living.

 What are your dreams? Have you lost sight of them since you lost hope?  It’s time to give yourself permission to hope again, to dream again, to plan your life again.

 God wants you to let go of the fears of the past to live fully present and alive in the present. He wants you to love life and live it abundantly. Not strapped to a computer screen, your bed or your couch.  He wants you to climb mountains, travel the world, take up that hobby find a new love and create meaningful experiences and relationships.

  It’s time to give yourself permission to live again.  What’s done is done. Make peace with the past and move on toward your future. The devil wants you to stop dreaming so you lose hope.  God wants to give you life and give it to the fullest. Grab hold of it and don’t let go. This life is a ride and a never ending journey of discovery of new places and new people.  And it is time you gave yourself permission to go on the journey.

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