Sunday, January 7, 2018

On Grief And Loss

“We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend.”  ~ Brene Brown, Rising Strong

As a licensed mental health counselor, I am no stranger to grief and loss.  I confront it every day that I sit with my clients, holding their hearts as they process their pain.  Over the last six years that I’ve sat with people, I’ve discovered that the grief process is exponentially greater during the holidays.  The holidays have a way of showing us what we’ve lost – what we have and don’t have, and both can be equally painful.  When the holidays end, it can be easy to believe that the loss fades more to the background…maybe it’s not quite as stark, maybe there are not quite as many in your face reminders.  But does loss ever leave us?

In just about one week, on January 14th, I will be reminded that it would have been my 12th wedding anniversary this year.  I was only married for a year, and it was for the most part the worst year of my life.  I don’t miss the man; I have no desire to go back and be married to him.  And yet, I still remember the date.  I think I always will.  Some moments in our lives will never be forgotten.  And while the year that followed was hell, I actually truly loved my wedding day.  I remember vividly what it was like to be the bride – to enter into that holy and sacred space of promising forever.

In what is too long a story to share here, my marriage abruptly ended when my husband walked out the door a year after we were married.  Both leading up to his departure and the year prior leading up to our wedding were filled with drama and pain and fear and sorrow.  Needless to say, the holidays have not been my favorite time of the year since, as they often trigger memories and tough feelings.

In spite of not knowing a lot, I intuitively recognized when my husband left that I would have to fight for me.  I would have to figure out who I was and what I wanted and how I wanted life to look.  I’m a bit stubborn, and I refused to allow him to ruin a time of year I have always loved.  To that end, to this day I generally put up my Christmas decorations super early – sometime around Halloween.  I watch my favorite Christmas movies.  I try to do fun activities during the holidays.  I fight to make the time special for me.

But in the late night or early morning hours, it’s still really hard.  It’s still super lonely.  It sucks to wake up alone on Christmas morning.  Even knowing I am welcome in multiple places with multiple people and am blessed with loving friends and family, my little “family unit” is just me.  And that is really really hard.

For the last 13 ½ years, my family unit has also included my cat Ellie.  I rescued her as a kitten, and we had a glorious adventure together.  She was there for the hard parts, the dark nights, and she was there for amazing and fun times.  She was my family, and she was always there on the Christmas mornings when I woke up alone.

On December 15th, she left this world for heaven, and the process was and is one of the hardest things I have ever been through.  Her death made all the lonely feel that much lonelier.  I loved her greatly – she filled more holes than I knew until she was gone – and I grieve her greatly as well.  She was seriously one of the best cats I have ever known and I will miss her always.

Coupled with the triggers and pain the holidays already contained, losing my cat ten days before Christmas made everything worse.  I knew she was special to me, but I had no idea how horribly empty and lonely my apartment and my heart would feel without her around.  Not having a living creature with me in my apartment was just really not okay with me and so despite thinking I’d need a super long time before I brought in any other pets, two weeks after her death I found myself with two five month old rescue kittens.

Lest you think they have suddenly cured my grief, let me assure you that in many ways they have made it worse.  They are not Ellie.  They are super different than her.  They are brothers, and they are crazy.  They poop a lot and it smells.  They require much more attention and effort to manage than she did.  They are amazing and adorable and funny, and they bring life back to my apartment.  But they are not her.

I’ve had a couple of moments of buyer’s remorse since bringing them home, through no fault of their own.  Mostly, it’s times when they are doing something that makes it so evident that Ellie isn’t here.  But I’ve also found myself struggling to attach to them.  It’s not because something is wrong with them.  It’s because I am afraid of feeling this way again.  The pain of Ellie is still so great, and let’s be honest – it’s not really something I’m jumping at the chance to experience anytime soon.  And if I attach to these guys, I open myself up to the possibility of more loss and grief and pain.

I can’t speak to anyone’s journey but my own, and granted, in these eleven years, I have gone through a demanding master’s program to get my counseling degree and spent years in therapy.  But I am beginning to slowly grasp this piece of understanding: we will find the truest parts of ourselves when we face our grief. 

I didn’t know that ten years ago, but I hope I’m a little wiser this time around.  I am discovering all over again that accepting and feeling my grief allows me to tap into all the parts of who I am.  I cannot know joy without pain.  And the sad parts don’t have to be scary to face.  They are me too.  They mean something or someone matters.  They mean I care.  I love.  I am capable of much.  I have deep feelings and the expression of those is important.  The things I care about – including a simple cat – are okay.  It is okay to be me.  I am awesome. 😊

Grief also reminds us that life is fleeting.  When I took Ellie to the vet the first time, I had no idea she would be dead five days later.  It happened unexpectedly.  I didn’t know I was experiencing “lasts” with her until it was all over.  I think so often we try to avoid the vulnerability of opening ourselves up and truly loving another because we don’t want to feel how I feel now.  But I wouldn’t trade my pain for any of the 13 ½ years of memories that I have.  Even though I struggle now to allow myself to open back up, the desire is still there to connect.  To know and be known.  To love.  Because I know once again that love is worth the pain of loss.

I’ve told you who my new kitties are not, but let me tell you about who they are.  Even after spending less than 2 weeks with them so far, their little personalities are coming out strong.

Charlie was the runt of the litter.  He is a fun mixture of standing on the sidelines and trying to prove he’s just as strong as anyone else.  He eats his wet cat food at night like someone is going to take it from him.  He is more tentative.  He looks like it hurts his feelings when I play with his brother and not him.  He loves to carry toy mice around in his mouth.  He snuggles – on his terms – and purrs super loud.  He listens and wants to please and when he can finally relax and know he’s loved without having to prove anything, he will have a great kitty life.

Rizzo is the explorer, and he is not afraid to look for adventures.  He loves playing with all of his toys and racing around rooms and leaping off furniture.  He also really loves to get on the kitchen counter, even though he knows he is not supposed to be there.  He is deliberate, he likes attention, and he wants to be in the middle of all the things.  He also purrs super loud, and he loves to snuggle.  He likes to knead his paws on everything, and he licks his brother and cares for him when he is not attacking him.

This is a tough season.  I am sad, I really and truly miss my cat, I am depressed, everything feels heavy, and it’s hard to be around people and be engaged.  But by allowing myself the space to feel all of those things, my broken parts have a place to mend.  I am meeting myself in a deeper way.  I want to live 2018 with more intention and to be the most myself I’ve ever been.  I want to love deeper and not live in fear of the losses that will at some point come.

For now, I ride the waves of grief as they rise.  In each moment, I let myself experience what is needed.  I cry if necessary.  I reflect.  I hold.  I remember.  I feel.  I am me.  And then as the wave recedes for a time, I look up.  There are kitties waiting to play.  They need me.  I need them.  And the circle of life and love begins again.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Greece Day 3

Hello everyone!  Today has been a long day with much walking and sweating! :)  It is sooo hot here right now!  It's bearable because there is almost no humidity, but even with no humidity, 90+ degrees is hot.  There isn't a lot of shade here and the sun is very bright.  I have to wear sunscreen anytime I go outside so that I won't burn.

Anyway, today we took the guests into Athens so they could learn how to ride the bus and subway so they can go back on their own if they would like.  We got off the metro at the Acropolis station, and there is just something so amazing about coming up out of the subway into modern day Athens and seeing the ancient ruins of the Acropolis in the background.

After we got off the subway, we walked to see the original entrance into old Athens.  This is the gate where Paul would have walked through as he entered Athens and went to the Acropolis and Mars Hill where he preached.  You can see the Acropolis in the background through the gate.

There were a bunch of temples that Paul would have walked past on his way to the gate, and this is part of the ruins of one of those.

After this, we walked through some of the shopping areas and went to a really cool wine place.  They have wine tastings and all sorts of stuff with their store, but I thought it was one of the most beautiful stores I've ever seen.  The way they had the lighting and all the different colors of wine.  It almost looked like potions! :)

We had to head back to school for the lunch they had provided for us, so we headed back to the subway and bus and made our way there.  The traffic was really bad because in Greece, they have a siesta/quiet hour time from 3-5, and they all go home and then go back to work for a few more hours when it's over.  Such an interesting concept.

Today was also about delicious Greek food!  I may have skipped the lunch at the school and had my first gyro instead! :)  It was fabulous!  And then after dinner, we walked and had our second ice cream. I love the food here.  So fresh and yummy!

We went this afternoon to buy the tickets to take the ferry to Andros Island on Tuesday.  Here's a picture of the port.  The water is so pretty here!

Now it's time for relaxation and hopefully good sleeps.  Today and tomorrow should be the worst feeling days for jet lag and then it should be much better.  Tomorrow we are taking the guests to a special ruin and a beach for some relaxation.  Should be very nice.  More to come!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Greece Day 1

Hello everyone!

Yesterday was our first full day in Greece.  It was a crazy day!!  We had just landed the night before, so jet lag was in full swing.  However, the way to get on track in the new time zone is to get out in the sun and eat 3 meals at the normal time, so it was actually helpful to have a busy day.  Today the jet lag is much better.

We started by going to the Corinth canal.  It's a pretty amazing canal that was built, and there is a bridge that you stand on to look down on it.  It was fun to watch everyone see it for the first time.

Then we went from there to Old Corinth, which is one of my favorite places we visit.  It's so amazing to walk in the same places that Paul walked.  And to know that some of these ruins have been around for thousands of years.  Beautiful!

We had lunch overlooking Old Corinth, which was amazing and then we stopped by Cenchrea, which is the dock where Paul took the Nazarene vow and left Greece.  There are still some of the old ruins there.

Finally we went to Epidaurus, which is an ancient Greek theater that has perfect acoustics.  It's one of my favorite places!  It's amazing to me that with all of the technology we have now, there are ruins that were buried under an earthquake, uncovered and still have perfect acoustics!

A great first day!  I am putting more pictures on Facebook than I put here, so feel free to look there if you want to see more.  Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Pictures of Greece

Hi everyone!  Well I know in my last entry I said that I might be done with my blog.  And the length of time that it continues is still up in the air.  However, I have the opportunity to return to Greece this summer, and I am leaving in just a few days!  I am VERY excited to go back there, as this year I will be in a much different role.  When I went as a student, I had to take a class along with the sightseeing portion of the trip.  Now I have been done with school for a year-and-a-half so NO MORE CLASSES FOR ME!  This year, I am going as the trip admin/liaison person to help coordinate all that will be taking place while we are there.  So I definitely have a job to do, but this is also a vacation for me.    And I am SO READY!!  Breaks are good for anyone, but it is especially necessary when you work in this field.  I always know I have hit my wall when I reach the point with my clients that I want them to stop talking and get out of my office.  That's when I know I need to go recharge so I can come back fresh.  And let's just say it's about that time. :)

So I am bringing my blog back into existence at least for this trip.  I have realized again lately how much I see the world in pictures and how important pictures are for me to both express deep parts of myself and remember important places, experiences and people in my life.  My goal is to post at least a picture a day while I am in Greece that will be a reminder for me of what that day represented or is something I don't ever want to forget.  You're welcome to follow along on this journey.  I have great anticipation for all that God has in store for all of us going on this trip.  We leave Monday.

For now, enjoy a few of my favorite pictures from my last trip.  Until next time, much love to you all!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Catchin' Up

So I haven't written a blog post in almost a year.  That is somewhat crazy to me because I used to write so often.  When I started this over six years ago, I was moving to a new city, trying to recover from traumatic circumstances, and I needed a place to process and keep family and friends updated since I was so far away.  Life changes though, and I have found other outlets for processing.  I have not yet decided if this will be my last blog post or if I will continue to occasionally post.  I like having the record of life to go back and read, but who knows if this will maintain any sort of priority for me since it clearly hasn't in the last year. :)  But for now, an update!

I have entered into my fifth year of living in Florida.  That is crazy!  I actually really love it here.  I love that I can go outside all year long, Disney is here, the Braves spring training is here...and I have some great friends and family here. :)

Anyway, when I wrote my last post I was graduating from graduate school, and here we are almost a year later.  I think this has been one of the harder years of my life.  Actually, I think this year should just have the title "all the things they don't tell you about how your life will change when you become a counselor".  Because I had to do a year of internship for school where I saw clients, I am actually completing my second year of counseling clients.  There is something different about doing it as your job and not just for school, and while it's been AMAZING and I LOVE it, it's been really tough too.  I am in the process of helping start a counseling center through my church, and it's so very exciting (check out our website at, but it is also challenging and scary as I continuously pray that I will be able to pay my bills each month. :)  So much of what I do has to remain confidential, so what I will share with you this evening is what I have learned about how my life will never be the same.

• "You do WHAT??"  It's actually greatly amusing to me when people ask me what I do for my job.  I love telling them I'm a therapist.  You get some hilarious and classic responses and faces.  There are two typical responses - you can see the fear cross their face and they don't want to talk to you at all for fear you are analyzing their every move OR they want to tell you their whole life story and all the traumas they have endured.  It's always fun!

• "Are you analyzing me?  Do you analyze everyone?"  This is a common question.  After going through intense training in my master's program, of course I can't help but look at people differently.  We are taught to study body language and nuances and you learn to interact with people on a deeper level.  But that does not mean that I am constantly analyzing everyone either.  When I walk into my office, I put a certain hat on.  I don't have that hat on all of the time - it would be completely exhausting!  When I am in social settings, I like to enjoy myself and relax and just be with people.  So could I analyze you?  Sure.  But am I?  Probably not. :)

• Relationships will never be the same.  Now....I am not constantly in therapist mode.  But going into this profession completely changes how you relate to and see other people.  I am constantly working with people on their pain and trying to get them to go deeper and process very personal things.  You can't do that and not deepen yourself or wish for relationships that exist on deeper levels.  Our society is very shallow.  I've never liked shallow relationships or friendships, but now I really don't.  And that makes it interesting at times because while I have changed a lot and gone through lots of training, most people in my life have not.  Learning how to relate in new ways can be challenging!  (**Disclaimer.  Not saying that all my friends and family are shallow.  Just that they haven't walked this same journey.)

• This is a very lonely profession.  I spend my days pouring into other people like I would my closest friends.  But the people I am pouring into are not pouring back into me.  That's not what therapy is all about.  And that's totally fine.  But it takes a lot of emotional energy to sit with people like that and then to have to come home and try to still find energy to connect with people who I really can be friends with in the same way.  I am learning balance and trying to still figure out how to make all of that work. Additionally, to be a great therapist, you have to constantly be processing and evaluating and deepening yourself and dealing with your own crap.  A lot of people don't spend lots of time thinking that way or processing, so they think you're a little crazy sometimes.  Although let's be honest - we're all a little crazy. :)

• I was made for this.  Despite the painful moments and the loneliness and the wondering if I've ruined my life for good by doing this as a profession, I love it.  God has gifted me for this, and I am so honored to sit with people in their most vulnerable moments and walk with them on their journey.  It's a privilege and one I do not take lightly.  Having moments where people "get it" or seeing them find freedom from something that has kept them's one of the most amazing things ever.

So....pray for me!  I'm on the front lines with people as they fight for their lives and freedom and healing.  And this is a great time of transition as well.  Nikki is engaged (YAY!!!!), and while we are happily anticipating a wedding in a few months, that means that all of life is also dramatically changing in a very short time.  There are many details to work out, including where I might live, and it's just a lot to decide.  And while I am so excited for her as much of her story is being redeemed, there are also tough moments when I wonder if God has totally forgotten about me in this area of life.

Steven Curtis Chapman recently came out with a new CD, and I've always been a big fan of his music.  I love how his lyrics speak truth.  This is part of one of the songs...

"But God will, He will finish what He started
No thread will be left unwoven
Nothing will be left undone
Every plan and every purpose
That He has will be accomplished
And God will finish what He's begun
And it may feel like 40 long days in a hard driving rain
Or 40 years in a dry desert sand
But when He's finished we will see
A beautiful tapestry
And know that nothing has been wasted in the end"

I'm not gonna lie...there are some days when this is hard to believe.  But I'm holding on to the truth that God will finish what He started in me.  And no matter what that looks like - married again someday or single forever, kids or no kids, I belong to Him and I have a significant place in His story.

Whether or not this is my last blog entry, thank you for sharing my journey with me over these last 7 years.  I truly have seen the faithfulness of God, and I have seen Him heal me in ways I could not have imagined.  I know that will continue happening, no matter what the external circumstances may look like or how much I might struggle at times with doubt.  Thank you for the ways you have supported me and loved me, and thank you that you will continue to do so!  Much love!

Friday, December 14, 2012

On The Eve Of Graduation

Hello everyone!  As we all know, there are times in our lives when change happens unexpectedly...we are going about our day and suddenly something happens and we are never the same.  And then there are times when change creeps up...we know it's coming, and we're aware that it's here, but one chapter must first close before the new one begins.  It is in this particular part of change that I find myself sitting today.  Two-and-a-half years ago, I began a journey that would change my life in ways I never could have imagined.  At times, the days and weeks seemed to drag.  Yet suddenly, I find myself on the eve of graduation - about to receive my Master's Degree in counseling psychology - and it seems as if time has flown by.  Today feels a little like the day before your wedding.  You know that all you've worked for, planned for and prepared for is culminating in a ceremony tomorrow.  And you know that while the ceremony is really just a tiny moment in life, it represents a transition from one journey to the next.  So while I sit here waiting to go pick my family up from the airport, as I ponder the change that awaits me as a new chapter starts, I would like to take the time to thank some people.  Because I would have never made it through these last 2 1/2 years without the support, encouragement, and love of so many of you...

To begin, thanks be to God!  Only He knew that I was ready for this, that I would be finding my sweet spot, learning how He has made me on deep levels.  He knew what I would encounter, what I would work through, and He gave me new friends to give me what I needed to survive.  He remains patient and gracious with me, and I am in awe that He has trusted me with the holy ground that is another person's story.

Thank you to my parents and my siblings!  They have supported me in sooo many ways, and I could not have done this apart from them.  I am who I am because of how I was shaped through my family, and I am a better counselor because of them.  I love you guys so much!

Thank you to my bestest friend and fabulous roommate Nikki!  She has lived through these years with me, known how difficult it was, and supported me through each moment.  I am sooo thankful God brought us together as friends and sisters all those years ago.  He knew what we would need, even when we had no clue what was in front of us.  Love you tons!

To my "big brother" - I would not be who I am personally or as a counselor without you in my life.  Thank you does not seem adequate, but I am forever changed.  Love you!

To the Freeman's - Thank you for your continued support during this time and always.  You hold such a special place in my heart, and I'm so glad we're family!  Love you all!

Thanks to my extended family and friends who have encouraged me in multiple ways - there are too many to even begin to count and name.  I stand here today because you have each been a part of my life and helped shape me into who I am and who I need to be for this next chapter.  I am soooo thankful to have such a community of support and encouragement and love.  You guys will be walking across the stage with me tomorrow and are very loved!

To my professors - Dr. Lawson, Dr. Carson, Dr. Shyers, Dr. Casado.... I have learned much from each of you.  I have the skills and techniques that I need to be a counselor, but more than that, you have taught me how to be embrace who God has made me to be, to realize that I am the greatest tool I have in a counseling room, and that I can trust my gut, even if my style looks a little different.  Thank you for your wisdom, for the countless ways you pour into the lives of your students, and for forever being a part of the fabric of my life.  Love you guys!

Cyndi - You came into my life before this whole adventure started and because of our work together, I was able to do this.  I don't know what would have happened if I had not met you.  Thank you for the grace you have shown me, your patience, and your encouragement in every way.  I am sooo thankful for you.  Love you!

To Liz & Tony B. - Thank you for your faithful support of me through this journey.  You allowed me to eat and pay rent at times, and I will forever be grateful.  You have been a shining example to me of God's faithfulness and His graciousness.  Beauty out of ashes.  Always.  Love you both!

To Jason W. & Chick-fil-A - Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a living while going to school.  This journey would not have been possible without you and the flexibility and support you gave me.  I will always be grateful for all the ways you poured into my life that allowed me to be here today!  Much love to you!

There are so many of you that have been a part of this, and I hope I have not left anyone out - it was not intentional if so!  Just know that I understand that I couldn't have done this on my own.  It is with the community of support God has given me that I will be able to receive my diploma tomorrow and with that same community that I move forward into the next chapter of life.  Thank you feels small, but thank you to each of you.  Now let's celebrate!! :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lessons From My Cat

Greetings, dear adoring public whom I have neglected for so many months now! :)  And yet with good reason....I graduate with my Master's degree  FIVE WEEKS from Saturday!!!!  May I just say that the end that is in sight has never looked so good?  It has been quite the journey over the last 2 1/2 years.  I had no idea what I was in store for on that first night of class - how much I would learn about myself and have to confront my own pain in the process of helping others.  I know it is a journey that will continue for a lifetime, and as painful as it sometimes is, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I don't have a lot of time to write a blog today, so I will put up a post in the somewhat near future (hopefully!) about what my plans are after graduation.  Do not fear - I do have some plans, and I am excited to see all that is in store.  For now, I am just concentrating on finishing up my last two classes, completing my internship hours, and not losing my mind in the process!

Anyway, on to the purpose of today's blog.  Many of you know my famous cat Ellie.  Here she is in case you have forgotten or perhaps never met her...

Over the last year, Ellie has developed an odd and terrible habit of ripping out her fur in select places along her back.  Most likely it is due to an allergy of some kind, and her skin itches, so she licks it and then pulls the fur out.  She has had a striped back a lot lately from where she has patches of fur missing.  So in the latest attempt to cure her ailments, the vet gave me flea meds for her - just in case - and oral steriods to give her over a month time period.  If I had a video of some of my attempts to feed my cat her meds over these last weeks, I could win some awards.  She has not been a fan.  At all.  I've done all the things you're supposed to do to help calm a cat and render them helpless so you can do what you have to do.  But whoever thought you could subdue a determined cat has never met my cat.  As I've held her by the scruff of the neck to syringe feed her the meds, she has clenched her jaw shut.  I have never ever seen a cat do that.  I have had to literally try to force her mouth to open with the syringe so I could get the meds in.  I have talked calmly to her.  I have told her how much this was going to help her stop itching and feel better.  I even fed her treats after so she would associate good with it.  And only now, after being near the end has it gotten much better.

As dumb as it might sound, one morning when I was on the floor with my cat mashed to the ground trying to force her jaw open, I had the sudden realization that I am a lot like her.  How often do I fight what God is trying to give me because I don't like the taste of it or it hurts or is painful?  And how often does He stand over me telling me that in the end, the meds I don't like now are ultimately going to make me so much better?

I sit with so many clients each week, and I think it is human nature and very common to fight against the pain we are in.  We do whatever we can to ignore it and numb it.  After all, feeling pain sucks.  It isn't fun.  There is really nothing pleasant about it at all.  But at the end of the day, I am learning that the only way to truly find freedom and healing is to first confront our pain, feeling it and processing it so that it can then be let go.  For it is our surrender to the process - not the fight against it - that brings peace.  And rest.  Maybe my cat is finally learning this?  Or maybe she just got tired of fighting. :)

More updates to come soon.  Love you guys!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One Year Ago...

Hello friends!  I guess I need to quit apologizing each time I write a blog for the amount of time that has gone by since my last blog.  I have great intentions about posting more often, but at this time in my life, that just isn't happening.  Anyway, I had a few moments today and thought I'd try to post an update and catch you up a bit on what's happening these days.  To begin with, one year ago on this date, I had surgery to have my thyroid removed!  I cannot believe it has now been a full year since that took place. I will say that this has been a very difficult year for me.  Our thyroids are our primary mood stabilizers in our body.  So remove one, and you have to figure out how much medication to take to regulate your hormones and moods.  Add to that a person who has always been very drug sensitive, and you pretty much get a recipe for a year from hell, at least physically.  When your levels are too low, your body physically mimics the symptoms of depression.  When the levels are too high, you display symptoms of anxiety or mania.  This has been a year of up, down and all around for me as I have swung from low to high and back again on a repeated basis.  I will say this - one year later I am doing better.  My cycles between high and low are much less frequent, not as strong, and do not last as long.  I am recognizing the signs in my body much quicker and am learning what to do to prevent drastic swings.  Even so, it can still be tough.  I am currently coming down from a too high level and haven't been sleeping much and am constantly hungry.  Good times!  But while it has not been pleasant, I am grateful to all of you who have been kind to me over this past year, despite the mood swings and craziness!

Of course on top of these physical issues, I have been completing the craziest time of school as well.  It's absolutely miraculous that I have been able to stay in school and get done what needed to get done. And here I am, in the midst of my internship, with graduation looming a mere 5 months away!!!  I am SOOO excited and so ready to be done!  When I started this school journey 2 years ago, I knew time would go by quickly, but it seemed like it would be forever before I would be done.  Now I am winding things down - only 2 classes plus my internship remain, and I can't believe the end is in sight!

I am LOVING counseling!  It is a challenge to be sure, but it has taught me so much about God, myself and people in general.  So far I have seen 40 different individuals this year.  The amount of pain and sadness represented in those 40 stories is at times unfathomable, but I have also seen miracles take place in so many of their lives, and it is such a gift and honor to be able to share another's story as they journey towards healing.

Nikki and I just moved into a new townhouse that she bought, and we love it!  It is so nice to have a place that is a real home, where we can paint and plant flowers and create a space that is...well, home.  Ellie loves it too.  She runs up and down the stairs many times during the day, and family members will be delighted to know that this is helping her lose weight so she looks less like an ottoman. :)  There are lots of changes ahead as chapters end and new ones begin, but I am excited about what God is up to and what He is doing in my life.

For now, your continued prayers are appreciated as I wind up school and try to maintain focus for this last stretch.  Pray for the people God brings across my path.  Pray for wisdom as I sit with others and share their pain.  And pray that my levels will stabilize further and that I will be able to find the exact right dosage that will keep me mostly in the middle more often than not!  For now, I need to go eat some more food! :)  Happy Thursday!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Twitty Tweets, Life & Being Brave

Hey everybody. Lots going on as usual and I thought it might be about time for an update. First of all, I have joined the masses of people who tweet or are twits or however you want to describe it, and I now have a Twitter account. I figure my life is crazy and I have funny and insane things that happen that could make for fun tweets, and it could help people keep up with me some. So feel free to follow me - my username is TiffLynne45 and hopefully soon I'll figure out how to use it and twitty tweets will follow!

On the thyroid front, it's been an interesting month or so. My surgery was last July and my levels are still all over the place. A little over a month ago, my levels tested really really low. So the doctor put me on a higher dose of synthroid, and after taking that for about 3 weeks or so, my levels spiked really high. I didn't sleep for four or five straight nights, I felt like I was on speed, and my hands literally started shaking. It was crazy. Obviously the dosage was too high, so we've settled on the dose in the middle of the previous two. It's been a couple of weeks now on that dose, and things are better. My body is slowly recovering, but in coming down off the high levels, I have had some struggles with feeling really depressed. Some days I'm up, some days I'm down....each morning when I wake up, I'm not sure how I'll feel. It's amazing. :) It has not helped to be dealing with all of this physical stuff in the midst of the madness that is currently my life. However, God is also using it to teach me lots because there are times when my coping skills don't work at all, which is forcing me to confront and deal with even deeper levels of healing. I would appreciate prayer though for my levels to balance out and us to be able to find a dosage that works with my body.

Tomorrow is the last day of March, and this means multiple things to me. First of all, I only have about 4 weeks of this semester left to go, and I have a TON of work to do. But wait - I only have about 4 weeks left in this semester!!! That means that I have survived the first three months of this working/school attending/internship madness. It also means that only summer and fall semesters stand in the way of graduation. The light at the end of the tunnel grows ever brighter, even when I'm not sure sometimes how I'll survive. Time is flying by though, even in the madness, and while I can't wait to be done with school, I also want to make sure I don't miss all of the opportunities I have to learn as much as possible.

Speaking of learning....since I started my internship in January, I have learned soooo much about people and myself and life and God. Sometimes it can be very overwhelming because there are so many things happening that I feel like I don't have time to process it all. I mentioned in a previous post that my word for this year was "brave". Sometimes I'm sorry I chose that word, but God knew I needed to. :) Already in three months, there have been ample opportunities to practice being brave, and I'm sure more will follow. In my last post, I talked about hitting a wall as I was being confronted with people's pain and feeling very overwhelmed. That stage of my journey has pretty much passed. Don't get me wrong - there are still days when I feel completely overwhelmed, like I have no idea what I'm doing and don't know what to say to the person sitting in front of me. But I know with more certainty now that I am exactly where God wants me to be and that this is the career for me. Instead, the stage I currently find myself in on this journey towards becoming a counselor is one of humility. I cannot tell you how humbling it is for another person to sit across from you and share things about themselves that they've never told another soul. Do you know what kind of courage that takes? I have found myself processing so much about this - what does it mean to share our stories? What does it mean to live authentically with others, being open, vulnerable, trusting? Why do we hide? What are we afraid of? As I've sat with my clients, I've realized that as they share their stories, they are speaking my fears out loud. They're saying things I'm afraid to say. They're telling me things or answering questions I ask them that I might not ever say in my own counseling. Why is that?

Granted, it's easier to share parts of our stories with strangers. After all, there's no emotional connection, and we can just walk away and never see the person again if we don't want to. But watching this process play out has forced me to confront my own lack of bravery. Because I have been hurt by others, I'm afraid to be that open - even with the people that I know love me the most. And yet how much am I missing because I don't allow people to prove that they're different? What does being brave look like for me?

Nikki and I watched the movie The Help not too long ago. Amazing movie. I loved what the character at the end of the movie said... "No one had ever asked me what it felt like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free." And that is what I have witnessed so far in my internship journey. As people share what it's like to be them - as they are honest about who they are and confront what they've walked through and struggle with, freedom begins to grow. Hope blooms. Isn't that what we all want? Isn't that what God has created us for? So while I had an idea of what being brave meant and how that might play out in my life in 2012, that idea is being transformed. As I sit with others and experience their courage, I am being challenged to express the same courage in my own journey/story. The question is will I? Will you? May our desire for true freedom and connection with God and others be greater than our fears of being known, of being rejected or abandoned. Love wins. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Hi everyone. I have officially made it through six weeks of counseling real people as a student intern. And it has only taken me until this sixth week to absolutely hit a wall. Due to confidentiality and lots of important laws and rules, I cannot share specific stories with you. You wouldn't want me to anyway. I have learned a few things in this time that I thought I'd share with you. First of all, it's one thing to go to class and hear professors teach and have a few role plays and read stories in a book. But real people are just that - absolutely real. And their stories and pain and heartbreak and trauma are real. When those people sit across from you and share their pain with you, there are two things that come to mind - absolute honor that they would somehow trust you enough, even though they don't know you, to share their story with you AND complete thankfulness that I am not God, nor do I have to be. Because here is the reality - counselors can't fix it. Only God can ultimately transform, redeem and heal. I can't make another person choose well. I can't fix their life or make their problems go away. I can't carry their burden for them. All I can do is walk with them as they take the journey to their healing and freedom.

I think this is one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm exhausted in every way. I feel completely inadequate and like perhaps I should choose a different career. And yet I also believe God has called me to this and equipped me for it. But wow....sometimes there are just really no words.

I'm sharing this with you all for this specific reason - I would covet your prayers at this time in my life. While people might think to pray for pastors, we don't often think of counselors as being on the front lines. But trust me - we are. I am coming face to face with evil and the consequences of sin. And it's tough. Sad. Heartbreaking. Please pray that God will give me wisdom, that I will know when to speak and when to be silent, that I will be able to sit with another person in their pain and be present with them but leave it behind when they leave the office. Pray for energy and hope and that I will remember that God really does redeem and restore and bring beauty from ashes. Thank you for sharing this journey with me!