Doing Life Together

sad-864399_1920“It’s hopeless! Nothing will change and I just feel so discouraged.” Depression has a voice that comes from our thoughts. The voice of depression is hopeless, anxious and negative—all counter to the Word of God.

When you listen to the voice of depression, you give the enemy a stronghold, an area of your life in which to defeat you. So we fight those negative thoughts, behave positively and renew our mind through the promises of God. Here is how to do this:

  • Acknowledge the depression (Proverbs 12:25)
  • Trust in God to help you (Ps. 46:1)
  • Praise Him despite the circumstances (Ps 34:1)
  • Speak hope to into the situation (Ps. 39:7)
  • Renew your negative thoughts through the positive Word of God   (Phil. 4:8)
  • Take steps to correct your behavior. Take care of your body and get active. Make yourself do Don’t wait to feel better. Act your way into feeling better.
  • Address the causes of the depression that deal with your thinking and relationships -e.g., deal with anger, settle family conflicts, resolve inappropriate guilt, forgive those who hurt you, etc.

Nothing is hopeless or impossible with God. Be encouraged. God’s Word gives us several examples of people struggling in the depths of despair -Moses, Job, Peter, the Israelites, Naomi, the prophet Jeremiah, David and even Elijah when he fled to the hills to escape Jezebel.

The most powerful example is Jesus: The night He grieved in the garden over His impending death, “…He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed” (Matt. 26:37). Jesus, confronted with despair and all alone, responded by praying even more earnestly. He submitted to the will of the Father. As He was nailed to the cross, He thought of others. Facing death He was concerned that we be forgiven, that His mother was cared for, that the thief next to Him enter glory. What a model for us: Confront our darkest times, submit to the will of the Father, turn our attention to the needs of others, and praise God for the victory of the cross.

ballet-1971600_1920Affirmation is powerful!

Katie walked off the ballet stage. Having danced her heart out, she came flying into my arms. Beaming like only a mother can, I reached down, kissed her and said, “You were beautiful, wonderful and of course, the best dancer on the stage. I am so proud to be your mom, not because your performance was terrific, which by the way it was, but because you were expressing the gift God gave you. He too is pleased. And using dance to express worship to God gives Him joy.”

As the words left my mouth, I was more than “just mom”. I was a woman of influence, shaping my daughter’s thoughts about herself.

As a therapist, I know how important it is for all of us to be affirmed. I know the power of parental words in a child’s life. We don’t “spoil” our children by praising them. We acknowledge the unique talents and gifts that God has given them and then encourage them to use those gifts for His glory. Parents are always positioned to be chief influencers of their children. When we misuse that influence, problems can erupt.

I’ve counseled many people who long for parental affirmations but never received them. Instead they were pushed to perfection, verbally assaulted, emotionally neglected, or privately shamed, resulting in years of insecurity, low self-esteem or struggles with addiction and eating disorders. They move from relationship to relationship, trying to recreate the “good mom or good dad” they desperately desired. Looking for external validation, they seek and occasionally find. But what is found is never enough because the need to please and be affirmed runs deep.

So how can you, a mom or dad, aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather, or professional person become someone of positive influence in a child’s life? Praise often. You can’t spoil a child when praise is honest and genuine. Children do not get big headed or become prideful because of praise, an argument I commonly hear in the church. But rather than only praising performance or success, learn this important principle described by author and apologist, Os Guinness, in his book, The Call. “The greatest deeds are done before an Audience of One, and that is enough.” Ultimately, the only important appraiser of our efforts is God.

If you had parents in your life who affirmed you, be thankful. If you are now in a position to be an affirmer, do so. But if you are one who still feels the sting of childhood hurt, there is hope. Someone wants to affirm you. He sees incredible potential and purpose in you. And His influence supercedes failed parenting. He is God and is calling you to Him. As you learn to please only Him, He will affirm and delight in you.

So when my daughter seeks my affirmation, I freely give it but my response is more than praise for a job well done. I am influencing her to think about who she is and who she will become. My heart is for her to know that she not only dances for me, but for that Audience of One. And if I fail a time or two in my affirmation, she will remain confident because she knows that her primary audience, that Audience of One, never fails to give her what she needs.

texting-1999275_1920Divorce. Remarriage. Lots of change is involved and kids feel it!

Jason stared at the floor, angry and frustrated. Sitting in my therapy office, a new hurdle confronts this shy fourteen year-old. His mom is about to remarry.

Two years ago dad walked out. No phone calls, visits or contact. Dad moved out of state with his newly found love. The hurt runs deep.

Now, Jason faces another change. A “new dad” is moving in after the wedding. Jason, like so many children, has no interest in becoming a binuclear family. Let’s face it; terms like “stepchild”, “step mom” or “stepfather” don’t exactly conjure up positive images.

Sometimes it is hard to understand that a parent’s desire to remarry may not be warmly received by his or her children. Why? Jason’s family was torn apart, destined now to be replaced with another. He had no say over either event. And he’s still working on forgiving his father and releasing his anger. These negative feelings might be displaced on the new dad.

And what does he call this new guy anyway — dad, stepfather, mom’s husband, Steve? Oddly, he feels loyal to his biological dad, even though dad doesn’t deserve such loyalty. The incoming step dad feels like “an invader from outer space”.

Jason senses that his world is about to turn upside down. Shortly, a stranger will be munching Cheerios across the breakfast table. Mom’s attention and energy will be diverted. He’ll have a 15-year old stepsister with whom he must share a bathroom. Holiday traditions will change. New relatives will make comments about his looks and mannerisms. It all feels overwhelming.

Many newly blended families hope for instant acceptance and intimacy when in reality, it takes three to five years for most family members to feel a sense of belonging–even longer for adolescents.

Remember, your decision to remarry is based on your love for a new person. The children may not share that love and will face major adjustments and more upheaval. Be realistic about the blending process. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Formulating a stepfamily can be difficult. Patience is needed. Be sensitive to what your children are experiencing. After all, while they will most likely adjust over time, this remarriage wasn’t their idea!


accuracy-1869485_1920“I can’t stand it when I make a mistake.”

Ahhh…the words of a perfectionist. How do you know if you are one? Well, check yourself against this list.

  1. If you believe there is no room for mistakes, time to check that thinking and stop worrying about failure. In fact, purposely make a mistake and allow yourself to sit with it. See if you can tolerate that feeling. If not, you are probably a perfectionist.
  2. You think there is only one way to do something. So when others don’t approach things the same way, you easily become frustrated. Relax, or people won’t want to work with you. Let others do it their way. See if you can learn from them rather than focusing on your way!
  3. You think in all or nothing terms. There are no in-betweens, yet this is not real life. Better to lose the all or nothing approach to life and start seeing the gray in all your black and white thinking. Otherwise, you become rigid and inflexible- a mark of perfectionists.
  4. You beat yourself up when you don’t perform exactly the way you think you should have…well, time to be nicer to yourself and learn to walk in grace. We can’t be perfect all the time. Let’s leave that record to Jesus! This is a set up to feel depressed and discouraged.
  5. When you don’t meet your goals, you get depressed. Part of the problem is that you set your goals too high. Perfectionists have to be the best, do the excellent work and have trouble tolerating mediocre. Now, don’t settle because you don’t try, but set realistic goals.
  6. Even when you accomplish something, you think, “There is always more I could do.” Contentment is hard to find if you constantly push to do more. Yes, you could always do more but at what cost to your rest and peace? Learn to enjoy the moment.
  7. If you don’t think your results will be excellent, you procrastinate. “Ready” may never come because you try to anticipate the exact right moment to do something. Just start and see where it goes. There is never a perfect time to being that project. Don’t procrastinate because of uncertainty.