Last week I had the amazing privilege to go with my sister and brother-in-law to take my niece (and only girl niece I have…) to college at Liberty University. I LOVE Liberty! Yes, I am biased because I teach there but I also went there for my graduate degrees. It is a very special place. While, I was walking around campus last week, I felt the excitement of the young people and the next generation of leaders and world-changers all around.
Arguably, one could feel this on any college campus this fall, especially as in-person learning resumes! It also made me wonder what happens to adults causing them to lose the love of learning, exploring, making a difference in the world, meeting new people, trying new things, moving away for a bit or embracing any type of change.
There are many factors that can come into play in losing some of the joys experienced on a college campus, but we don’t have to lose our joy in the possibilities of the future. We can work to maintain a spirit of faith and belief in something greater.
My belief in God is what gives me joy in the possibility of greatness, change, goodness, possibility, and faith. Jesus came to make all things new by taking on the sin of the world. We often forget that Jesus is making all things new in the midst of so much pain and evil in the world, but I challenge you today to walk onto a college campus or at least shut your eyes and imagine doing so and take a deep breath and dream. But don’t stop with a dream, think of all the possibilities and opportunities God can give you to do good in this crazy world today.
Never stop believing that you can make a difference, that you are called for a great purpose to love others as Christ did. Pray for those who are hurting such as those in Afghanistan or Haiti or down the street. Pray for the educators beginning classes this time of year and for the students. Pray for a new generation to rise up and seek to obey God and overcome evil with good.
Listen, learn, and share this episode with everyone you know! There is a message in it for everyone regarding human trafficking. It is not scary, but encourages us all to make positive steps to make a difference in our communities.
As I reflect back on 2020, and more people seemingly needed counseling than ever before in my entire career, I thought it may be useful for you to know some of the techniques given most often in 2020.
1-Turn off the news. The main goal of the modern day news is ultimately to obtain viewers. Journalism today often uses sensationalism, defined as the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement. Therefore, it is not helpful. If you want to be informed as I do, try something such as a positive news podcast I found a year or so ago called, The World and Everything in it. Or try getting headlines only sent to your email once a day. Do not endlessly watch Fox News, CNN, etc. Try turning it off for a week, and let me know how you feel…
2-Focus on what you can control. 2020 tried to teach us that we are not in control, however, most people in living this out tried even harder to control which frequently resulted in more stress and anxiety. You can’t always control getting a virus (masks, gloves, hazmats, etc included). However, you can be intentional with your family and friends (i.e. play games together, call one another, send care packages, etc). You can help others (volunteer for a local food bank, organize a food drive). You can try to be healthy by eating healthy and exercising. You can turn off the news. You can seek God by reading his word daily and spending time with him, the one who actually is in control….
3-Practice deep breathing. Take many deep breaths daily. Use breathing apps or exercises if needed. Just try not to breath in the Covid…
4-When you feel in a panic, slow down your racing thoughts by focusing on your five senses. What do you see right now? What do you smell? feel? taste? hear? Don’t call the person who will get you even more hyped up than you are….
5-When changes happen in our world, find a new routine to help you find order in the chaos. If you work from home now, create a schedule for your work day that includes a lunch break, stretch breaks, and a stop time.
6-Don’t judge others who aren’t reacting the way you are to the changes. Be respectful and kind and follow your convictions without judging others. Judging is God’s job and when we try to do it we feel horrible. So stop.
7-Be social however you can be during a pandemic. If you feel comfortable being with family and friends, spend time in person with them. If you can’t, drive by their homes and spend time 6 feet apart, have zoom or FaceTime parties, etc. We need people no matter how much they get on our nerves at times.
8-Realize grow happens out of your comfort zone and practice doing things that are always comfortable. Try a new hobby. Talk to that neighbor you’ve never met. Pray for your enemy. Exercise. Become friends with someone who doesn’t look like you. Stop making excuses for why you can’t or won’t do something.
9-Make the best of all situations by fostering an attitude of gratitude. List five things you are grateful for each day. Consider the benefits of online learning. Remember the times you wished you worked from home. When you go back to the office, be thankful that you don’t also have to do laundry during your lunch break!
10-Pray, in all things at all times. Make prayer a part of your daily routine, not just once a day or at meals. Talk to God about everything. Ask him what you should be learning during this time. Inquire about why you were created to live during this specific time in history.
Praying you use the hindsight 20/20 view of 2020 for good this year. Make it a happy new year!
PS.. I’m praying you all cultivate God’s earth with love and grace as you realize you are made in his image to reflect his goodness! Genesis 1…
According to the American press institute, “A good story is about something the audience decides is interesting or important. ” As an avid reader, I love a good story. One I read recently was The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, who tells the love story of two Holocaust survivors. I highly recommend reading it! As the reader, I felt it was a good story because it was based on true events and real people. Hearing amazing stories of survival and hope are arguably why I love my job as a counselor. Not only do I get to hear amazing stories, but I somewhat get to be a small part of the resolve of tension for those who trust me with their stories or at least I am privileged to be one whom individuals seek to help process their stories.
Some suggest a good story contains elements such as conflict, tension, surprise, love, mystery, interesting characters, noble behaviors, evil behaviors, suspense, laughter, frustration, and the list goes on. It is much easier to read a story that has all of these elements, but as we live out our individual stories, the elements of a good story are much harder to experience personally. We don’t love experiencing conflict. Tension cause headaches among many other things. Surprise can be fun, but can also be scary. Love, well….that word is loaded with all types of emotions and meanings. People love seeing good overcome evil in stories, yet the rarely want to be the ones in real life who have the enormous task of overcoming evil.
How interesting is your life? How good is your story? Have you allowed conflict, surprise, tension, love, evil, suspense, laughter, frustration, and noble behavior help God to create a strikingly interesting story of your life? Or have you settled for a boring, complacent, comfortable, and uninteresting story? Further, have you hidden your magnificent story below your hurt and pain in an attempt to mask your pain? (If so, seek a good counselor who can help your process the pain).
Personally, I believe every person’s life at some level is an amazing story or has the potential to be one. Even greater I believe every person has the opportunity to be a part the greatest story ever, HIStory! God’s story! He created us. He gave us free will to make choices that bring about all the elements of a good story as mentioned earlier. Most importantly, God has and is redeeming all of the stories for those who choose Him. Have you allowed God to redeem your story? Are you allowing him to use you to help others in their stories? Finally, don’t avoid the wonderful elements that God is using in your story to bring about good. Embrace conflict, frustrations, setbacks. Fight evil, seek laughter, and choose to have noble behavior. As you do, sit back and enjoy the journey of being a part of an amazing story!
Here is a very simple example of how God used the craziness of the COVID-19 in my story this year. He encouraged me to volunteer with Meals on Wheels and I truly love it. Once a week, I take time out of my busy schedule to deliver food and enjoy the smiles of some precious people no doubt with amazing stories!
The question of course is more rhetorical, but as 2020 has created a situation in which many people in the world are using technology more than ever before to connect with one another, work, be educated, vent frustrations, be entertained, etc, I’m afraid we aren’t getting better at truly listening during these times. Many are simply putting their opinions out there (because it is easy to post opinions) and not listening to others. As I sit in my office and do Telehealth or in-person sessions and listen to people discuss the stress of the times, I’ve learned we simply don’t value the opportunity to listen as much as we should. Honestly, it is probably the most important skill in the field of counseling. It is arguably one of the most important skills in life.
Are you good at it? What do others think about your listening skills? Are you listening to understand or simply to reply? Do you want people to hear your point of view more than you want to listen to and understand theirs?
People have been asking a lot of questions lately such as:
-Does it truly help to wear a mask?
-Why are we still dealing with racism?
-Why are some police officers allowed to get away with crimes?
-What can we do to reform police departments, government, etc?
-What is the point of the protest?
-Are we going have to homeschool or virtual school our kids next year?
-Why can’t gyms open?
-Why are some churches comfortable opening and others aren’t?
-Why do teens love Tik Tok?
As I consider some of these questions, I can hear my own answers to them almost automatically in my head…(which are based on my own experiences, beliefs, values, etc.) As a therapist, I have to listen to and help others who often don’t believe what I believe spiritually, politically, economically, etc. and I have to be objective because it is my job. It is not easy and requires me to do a lot of reflection and at times has required my own counseling with another therapist, but the things I’ve learned from listening to those who are different from me are priceless. As a trained therapist, I do much more than listen, but listening is invaluable in my field.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a trained therapist to be a good listener.
The challenge I present you with today is to try and listen and not quickly go to the response in your own head. Really seek to hear someone today. Seek to understand the other person’s point of view, position, experience, etc. Ask someone, maybe who you don’t like, or who you know has a different political view than yours, someone of another race, etc. something today. However, don’t respond, just listen and try to understand. Practice helps in the area of listen. Trust me, I’m still working on this too!
Want to make a difference in the world today? Try listening to others more than you speak, and see what happens…
Show you care for others by listening this week and be blessed,
Here is some biblical encouragement for listening…
James 1:19 “..Be slow to speak and quick to listen.”
Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 2:2 “Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.”
Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Matthew 11:14, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
As I mentioned in my post last week, many people are freaking out and are feeling very unsure about a lot of things in our world at this time. Here are some ideas/activities to help you shift your focus.
1-Go visit your elderly neighbors. Take some groceries, fresh baked goods, and toilet paper (since this has been a hoarding nightmare).
2-Go for a walk, run, etc. and thank God that you woke up today, be thankful that the sun came up, etc. Be thankful intentionally for at least 10 minutes a day. You’ll be amazed how this will shift your focus.
3-Be creative, think of new things you can do to make an impact in your home, neighborhood or community. Have your kids create a list of things they can do to be more helpful around your home.
4-Take this time to learn something new such as sewing, cooking a new recipe, etc.
5-Turn off the news, and sit for with your family, pet, finish reading a few books, or just enjoy the quiet.
6-Consider how connected we all are in the world and be amazed for a moment. One virus thousands of miles away has impacted the world. What one thing can you do that will impact the world for good? It could be simply offering to pray for others.
7-Donate to a local food bank/pantry. Call churches, shelters, etc and see what you can do to help aid effects of relief, etc.
8-Contact local schools and see if you can help deliver meals to hungry children.
9-Be wise with your money! If you aren’t, sit down and develop a budget.
10-Sit and talk to others (at least 6 ft apart :)). Don’t just sit and scroll on social media.
11-Make someone laugh today.
12-Ask God what you can learn from your circumstances.
13-Consider a positive perspective and solution to problems around you.
14-Call friends who are healthcare workers or send them cards and let them know you are praying for them.
15-Watch educational documentaries with your kids. Talk to them about history. Tell them about your history. Recount God’s faithfulness in your life with them.
16-Take this time to teach your kids life lessons or common sense lessons. For example, how to pump gas, how to manage money, how to wash clothes, how to take the trash out, how to make friends. how to choose a career, how to study the Bible.
17-Go explore the outdoors. Go hiking, etc.
18-Support local small businesses which can be hit hard during these times.
19-Ask someone you love for forgiveness. Reconnect with an old friend. Offer forgiveness to someone who has hurt you. Life is too short. (My older sister and I prayed this morning for this very thing and as we did, I was reminded of the time she threatened someone with a lipstick…well in my mind it was lipstick…If you knew her, you’d know she couldn’t even hurt someone with lipstick).
20-Make up your own tip!
This challenge in our world is a great OPPORTUNITY! Seize the day!
You’ll be amazing once you start doing some of these things how your anxiety will decrease and how you will not have time to be fearful.
Overcome evil with good today!
Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Have you ever had one of those “stick your foot in your mouth” moments. Well, I’ve had plenty….Recently, while on a trip to Chicago with my famous DJ friend, Candice and other friends, we were able to meet some of the actors and actresses from the Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago PD TV shows (which was pretty cool so I had to mention). We also met a real life Chicago fireman (a real hero is really cool though) at one of the events.
While one of my friends and I were discussing life with the nice fireman, I joked about my son entering the teen years and being fearful of the images girls may try to send him or vice versa on a phone (which he doesn’t have yet). My joke was, “If Chloe the Ho-y” tries to send an in appropriate picture of her body to my son, I may flip out. As I said this, the kind fireman turned to me and said, ….”My daughter’s name is Chloe.” Of course, I was mortified that I had unintentionally used his daughter’s name in my silly comment, and I wanted to put my foot in my mouth at the time. Eventually, I apologized and donated to the charity he was promoting for the Chicago Fire department to show my gratitude.
On a serious note, around this same time back home in the South, one of my best friends was going through a terrible time of grief from losing a baby. We went from preparing showers and picking out pink hair bows for a precious little girl to preparing meals for two grieving parents and picking out thinking of you gifts. As I called, sat with, and walked with my friend trying to listen to her and just be there, I was reminded of the things people say trying to help during difficult times, that actually do the opposite of help. Therefore, I thought I’d encourage you as you read this blog for “What not to say” during difficult times.
1-Time heals all wounds.
Death isn’t something we were ever created to handle. God created us to live forever with him in the garden, but sin screwed this up and the world we live in is now broken and death is a part of the brokenness. Although, it doesn’t have to for those who believe in Jesus paying their penalty for sin and dying in their place :). This is the good news/gospel!
2-When can you move on or you need to move on?
Some people can’t move on, they just have to go on. The good news is that God won’t waste their pain. He can make beautiful things from ashes.
3-Everything happens for a reason (as if it was a good reason).
Again, this isn’t helpful and sometimes the reasoning stinks. The main reason bad things happen is because we live in a broken world…
4-At least you…fill in the blank.
This doesn’t make anyone feel better during a tough time.
Sometimes people can’t be during a tough time and someone telling them to be thankful makes it worse.
6-I know how you feel.
No two people are alike, no two people experience things exactly alike. So no, you really don’t know…
7-What can I do for you?
Be more specific. Ask, “Can I bring you dinner on Monday?
8-Call me if you need me.
They won’t call, call them just to check in.
9-God needed her more than you did or God needed another angel.
This is not biblical. God doesn’t need us, he chooses to partner with us in this world to do His work. God doesn’t need babies in heaven either. Also, people don’t become angels. People who are grieving aren’t helped by a statement like this and it’s also not true. Again, the loss of a loved one is a result of a broken world. (period)
Acknowledge that a loss happened, and say something encouraging… See suggestions below.
Bonus: “Whatcha got in there?” Recently, at a family funeral, an old lady from a past church, came up and patted one of my family members on the stomach and asked, “Whatcha got in there?”, to which my family member replied in a very sweet voice, “fat”. Little did the old lady know, this person has had a very difficult few years resulting in a few extra lbs. I told this family member, an appropriate response would have been to pat the old lady on her chest and say, “Whatcha got in there? Probably not a heart!” Actually, I know vengeance is not ours, but God’s…PS. Just because you are an old lady doesn’t give you the right to be rude.
Here are some things to consider saying:
I’m so sorry.
I’m praying for you. However, don’t just say it, do it!
No one should have to go through this.
My favorite memory of your loved one is when…
I’d love to hear about your loved one.
I think about you and your loved one often.
Your loved one will be missed.
I’m sure you miss him/her so much.
Every life matters no matter how short or how long. This life mattered to me and I know to you as well.
Finally, Job’s friends in the Old Testament often get a bad rap for saying all the wrong things when he lost everything-which they did. However, did you know that at first they sat with him in silence for seven days?! Job 2:13, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Sometimes, we just need to go and sit with those who are grieving.
Be blessed this week and let’s all think and pray before we speak to those who are hurting,
Donating to a charity or cause is another way to show someone you care about them as they are grieving and to assure them that every life matters. My personal favorite is to donate Gideon bibles (www.gideons.org). This way, life can be made possible for others by sharing the gospel.