Listening Ears

dog listening

I consider myself a pretty good listener. I try to cultivate a slow tongue and hear what you have to say. I make a conscious effort to allow you to speak, to allow you to communicate your point of view your side. I would like to think I make rational decisions after having weighed all the facts and heard all that needs to be heard.

Granted, I’m not always like this. Ronda will tell you I am an interrupter. And I am… at times. There are moments when I don’t want to listen. When I don’t feel like I need to listen. I honestly don’t believe those times dominate my ears. In my judgment, I listen pretty well.

The other morning, I was having a conversation with a professional who was not a good listener. She interrupted me multiple times and would not stop until I closed my mouth and heard what she was saying. This didn’t stop throughout the entire conversation, even after the second time I said, ‘as I was trying to say’.

This was very frustrating to me. I felt as though this lady would not allow me to get a word in edgewise. Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever feel as though people are some consumed with getting their voice heard, that they don’t hear yours? It almost doesn’t matter what you have to say, because they don’t want to hear it. They are sure what you have to say doesn’t matter. I find it annoying when I encounter people like this.

I have been reading through the book of James a lot lately. At my church, we are going through series of sermons in the book so I have taken this opportunity to study the book as well. This morning I read from James chapter 1, where James encourages us to be ‘quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger’. These are great words of advice for several reasons. I think our interactions with others would be improved if we would make a reasonable attempt to live this out… not just because the Bible says so. Here are three reasons why it is a good idea to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger:

  1. When we don’t listen to others, we dismiss them. Not only do we risk dismissing a potentially good idea from them, but we are dismissing them. Not just their ideas or thoughts, but them as well. When we are dismissive of others, it communicates they don’t matter. We communicate to them they are important, their voice isn’t worth hearing. We communicate t them they have nothing to add or say of value. Nothing that could be important or beneficial to hear. When we are slow to hear, we are dismissive of others and being dismissive doesn’t build relationship it tears it down.
  2. When aren’t slow to speak, we often end up putting our foots in our mouths. We’ve all been there haven’t we? We open our big mouths and say something we think to be informed by the truth, only to find out we don’t have all the information and we were wrong… and we look like fools, idiots really. I always think about the apostle Peter when I think about putting my foot in my mouth. On one occasion, Jesus was telling his disciples he was going to have to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders. When Peter heard this he was, “There’s no way I’m going to let that happen to you! I will take them out! I will introduce them to my little friend!” Jesus responds with the classic, “Get behind me, Satan!” Open Peter’s mouth, insert foot. Peter didn’t fully comprehend what was going on, opened his mouth and Jesus likened him to Satan because to stop the imminent suffer would have been akin to stopping God’s perfect plan. Being slow to speak allows us to gather enough information to speak with wisdom when we do speak.
  3. When are are quick to anger, it has a tendency to be unrighteous anger. Ephesians 4:26 reminds us to not sin in our anger. For me, this is a prescription to not be angry… because I don’t seem to be able to be angry and not sin. I’m a work in progress to be sure. Either way, if we easily anger there’s a pretty good chance we aren’t being angry in a sinless layabout things we should be angry about. Short fuses rarely lead to righteous anger. Again, it is a matter of having enough information to know whether our anger is justified or not, whether it is something ‘worth’ getting angry about. I suppose we need to understand what would qualify as ‘worth’. In my mind, righteous anger is warranted when the issue at hand would also anger God. If it is an injustice or situation where God would be angry, then we can be angry as well. Too many times we et angry quickly, when choosing grace and mercy would have been better choices. If we are slow to anger, consider and think rationally through the feelings of anger we are feeling we will better equipped to be angry at the right time about the right things.

We should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger… essentially because it promotes the most healthy and best relationships with others. It is the best way to interact with others. I don’t always get it right. I miss the mark, often. James encourages us to slow down and make more of an effort to get it right.

Victimology

colbycriminaljustice.wikidot.com/criminal-profiling-2012

colbycriminaljustice.wikidot.com/criminal-profiling-2012

victimology |ˌviktəˈmäləjē|
the possession of an outlook, arising from real or imagined victimization, that seems to glorify and indulge the state of being a victim.
I want to share with you a mindset or approach to life that has crippled me more than anything else other than being a sinful, fallen human being.
Being a victim. I should clarify, I don’t mean I have been crippled by an actual victimization that has occurred. That is different than this. Some of us have experience trauma and abuse and are victims of tragedy. I mean another kind of victim.
I mean the kind of victim that can best be described as passivity. This kind of victim revels in being a victim. This kind of victim using their victim-ness as an excuse to not move forward. This kind of victim is crippled and unable, dare I say unwilling, to make any changes or adjustments to their live in order to grow and move on from whatever circumstance they find themselves in.
This kind of victim is passive. They allow life to happen around them, to them… without taking any stand or trying to effect or impact what is going on around them. This kind of victim assumes they aren’t able to change anything so they don’t try. They passively watch as life passes them by, thinking to themselves how unfair it is that everyone else has everything they want and how good stuff happens to everyone else but me, I’m stuck here in the mud with crap just happening to me.
I am a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern (fancy way to say Licensed Mental Health Counselor in training) and have suffered my share of mental health related difficulties. I am aware of the intricacies of mental health struggles and how difficult it can be to take responsibility and action in our lives. I know how easy it can be to allow life to happen without trying to engage and impact the direction of life. Please understand that when I say, we can’t afford to passively approach our lives.
I only took seven years to complete my Master’s degree, which gave me plenty of time to think through and mull over how I approach mental health. I have realized a couple things about how I approach mental health issues. First, we all have a backstory. Each one of us has a history that helps to explain who we are and where we have come from. For many of us, in that backstory are clues to why we are using the particular coping strategy to manage life. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize our coping strategies are maladaptive or unhealthy… they are the only ones we know.
Secondly, in that backstory is the root issue we must face and overcome if we are to move on with our lives. For each of us this is different. It may be trauma or abuse. It may be our perception of experiences we had growing up. It may be unresolved guilt or anger. Whatever the root issue is, it will eventually have to be overcome.
Thirdly, I know we are responsible for our actions, thoughts and behaviors. We have to be. We aren’t machines or robots. There are at times circumstances making it more difficult for us to act, think or behave in certain ways… but that doesn’t give us a pass to sit back and stop acting, thinking or behaving in rational healthy ways. If we want things to be different in our lives, we are the catalyst to make that happen.
We can no longer accept passivity and victimology. Can’t continue to live life from the sidelines expecting for it to somehow get better or be different if we aren’t willing to get in the game and make an effort to make it different and better. You are responsible for the way you approach life. You are responsible for your victim mindset.
And so am I.
I have come to understand when we approach life and mental health circumstances we have to uncover the root issue in life causing us problems. We have to learn better ways to cope or manage our behaviors. We have to restructure the way we think each day. We have to adjust our behavior patterns to healthier ones, to ones utilizing healthy coping strategies to combat life. We have to take responsibility for ourselves, our actions and the place in life we find ourselves.
I am no longer content playing a passive role in my life, allowing someone else other than me or God to have the spotlight in my life. Are you? Are you ready to actively engage in your life? Let’s and together and overcome passivity and victimology.

I’m Reacting to Myself

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​In my internship we had to complete two papers where we reacted to a particular therapy session we offered to our clients. This is the second one I turned in this term. This photo is my professor’s comments on my paper.

I am trying to think through a session I have had where I was caused a disturbance or caused me to feel or think in a particular way, which stands out to me as something I need to process or think through. And in all honesty, I am having difficulty. So rather than try to find something that may not be there, I would like to react to this program, and my involvement in it.

I can’t believe it! I am here! I am finally at the end of this program. When I started it years ago, I am not even really sure why I chose this program. When I lived in Gainesville and worked for DCF as a caseworker, I applied to and got into FSU’s MSW program (they offer it in Gainesville every three years or so). So for me, beginning the road to be a counselor was not what I envisioned myself doing. I always viewed myself as more of a social worker than a counselor. But here I am, or there I was… in the program now.

I have often described me begin in this program as ‘by default’. I said this because I am not sure how I ended up here. I don’t know exactly why. Over the last 6 years, I have struggled with some of the main concepts or tenets of what makes a person a counselor. Viewing myself as a social worker, I have found it hard to learn to not fix people. When someone comes to counseling, it is not my role to tell them what is wrong and how to fix it. This is very hard for me. I am a practical kind of guy who wants things to be fixed and moved on from. I have come to learn and appreciate the value of assisting others on their own journey of discovery. What makes the answer so poignant to us, is when we come to it on our own. I have grown much in this respect I believe or the course of this program. I have better listening skills. I am more apt to listen first, and second before I offer advice to someone. I am willing to journey alongside people as they come to the conclusions of what they need to do and where they need to go in life. This is very refreshing! It relieves the pressure of me having to fix everyone… which obviously is impossible to do.

I have also struggled with trying to find my theoretical approach to counseling. Again, I have always viewed myself as a practical kind of guy who wanted to fix things and then move on. Because of this, I tried to fit myself into the mold of begin solution-focused. This fits sometimes, but is not the overarching fit for me. It may be my upbringing or it may be the way I am wired, but I have an intense desire to understand why people think and act they way they do. I want to know the underlying reasons for their behaviors. What is happening in their unconscious mind leading them to think and act the way they do? When I was in middle school and high school, my father completed an MSW program. I remember the family joke around the dinner table was we were going to ‘psychoanalyze people’ to understand why they were doing what they were doing. This became the running joke for us. But, there is much truth to it for me because learning this psychological motivation for why people do what they do is fascinating to me. I have seen how in my own life, this is the only real way to learn how to overcome the various struggles we have in our life. In my own journey of counseling, I tried to learn ways to manage attitudes, behaviors and thoughts; but it wasn’t until I uncovered the root cause that I was able to overcome it. I certainly don’t know all there is to know on this subject, but this program has assisted me in defining who I am as a counselor and what I want to know about my clients so I am able to help them.

While I can’t answer with certainty why I ended up in this program, I can say with certainty this program is the right one for me. I entered this program at a critical time in my life and it has been one of very few constants in my life over the last six and a half years. I have learned a great deal about myself. I have learned a great deal about how to manage myself. I have learned a great deal about how to assist other people who are facing similar circumstances in their lives. After much thought and consideration, I believe I am in this program because it fits well with who I am and how I desire to help people. I am glad I am on the verge of graduation. These last six years have been some of the most difficult years of my life and it has been the years where I have grown the most. This program has allowed me to realize the person I can be. I am thankful for being in the program and being able to complete this milestone.

I'm Reacting to Myself

20140307-103150.jpg

​In my internship we had to complete two papers where we reacted to a particular therapy session we offered to our clients. This is the second one I turned in this term. This photo is my professor’s comments on my paper.

I am trying to think through a session I have had where I was caused a disturbance or caused me to feel or think in a particular way, which stands out to me as something I need to process or think through. And in all honesty, I am having difficulty. So rather than try to find something that may not be there, I would like to react to this program, and my involvement in it.

I can’t believe it! I am here! I am finally at the end of this program. When I started it years ago, I am not even really sure why I chose this program. When I lived in Gainesville and worked for DCF as a caseworker, I applied to and got into FSU’s MSW program (they offer it in Gainesville every three years or so). So for me, beginning the road to be a counselor was not what I envisioned myself doing. I always viewed myself as more of a social worker than a counselor. But here I am, or there I was… in the program now.

I have often described me begin in this program as ‘by default’. I said this because I am not sure how I ended up here. I don’t know exactly why. Over the last 6 years, I have struggled with some of the main concepts or tenets of what makes a person a counselor. Viewing myself as a social worker, I have found it hard to learn to not fix people. When someone comes to counseling, it is not my role to tell them what is wrong and how to fix it. This is very hard for me. I am a practical kind of guy who wants things to be fixed and moved on from. I have come to learn and appreciate the value of assisting others on their own journey of discovery. What makes the answer so poignant to us, is when we come to it on our own. I have grown much in this respect I believe or the course of this program. I have better listening skills. I am more apt to listen first, and second before I offer advice to someone. I am willing to journey alongside people as they come to the conclusions of what they need to do and where they need to go in life. This is very refreshing! It relieves the pressure of me having to fix everyone… which obviously is impossible to do.

I have also struggled with trying to find my theoretical approach to counseling. Again, I have always viewed myself as a practical kind of guy who wanted to fix things and then move on. Because of this, I tried to fit myself into the mold of begin solution-focused. This fits sometimes, but is not the overarching fit for me. It may be my upbringing or it may be the way I am wired, but I have an intense desire to understand why people think and act they way they do. I want to know the underlying reasons for their behaviors. What is happening in their unconscious mind leading them to think and act the way they do? When I was in middle school and high school, my father completed an MSW program. I remember the family joke around the dinner table was we were going to ‘psychoanalyze people’ to understand why they were doing what they were doing. This became the running joke for us. But, there is much truth to it for me because learning this psychological motivation for why people do what they do is fascinating to me. I have seen how in my own life, this is the only real way to learn how to overcome the various struggles we have in our life. In my own journey of counseling, I tried to learn ways to manage attitudes, behaviors and thoughts; but it wasn’t until I uncovered the root cause that I was able to overcome it. I certainly don’t know all there is to know on this subject, but this program has assisted me in defining who I am as a counselor and what I want to know about my clients so I am able to help them.

While I can’t answer with certainty why I ended up in this program, I can say with certainty this program is the right one for me. I entered this program at a critical time in my life and it has been one of very few constants in my life over the last six and a half years. I have learned a great deal about myself. I have learned a great deal about how to manage myself. I have learned a great deal about how to assist other people who are facing similar circumstances in their lives. After much thought and consideration, I believe I am in this program because it fits well with who I am and how I desire to help people. I am glad I am on the verge of graduation. These last six years have been some of the most difficult years of my life and it has been the years where I have grown the most. This program has allowed me to realize the person I can be. I am thankful for being in the program and being able to complete this milestone.

Empathy

Several sessions with clients at Sequel have caused me to think through a wide range of feelings, emotions and thoughts I experienced. Most of the time they don’t create in me a particular disturbance. Admittedly, early on in my internship last term, I had to work through some issues of working with this population. I have come to grips with the realization they need the assistance we are offering them. I have also realized some of them are here because they have made huge mistakes and deeply regret what they have done and are learning from the treatment how to ensure this never happens again. Some of the clients here will not have happy endings.

6613_6613_5There are several sessions that will always stick out to me and be a constant reminder of my time here. One of those sessions was with a client who had been here about a year. His charge is for molesting his younger sister. During a session we were discussing what he thought was appropriate punishment for various individuals who had committed sex crimes against others. The questions in the workbook asked the following (and his answers): If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who raped your mother? Client responded they should get the death penalty. If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who raped your wife? Client responded they should get the death penalty. If it were up to you, what would the punishment be for someone who sexually abused your child? Client responded they should get the death penalty. I then asked him, how he thought his parents felt about the offense he committed? He thought about it long for a time and then responded with ‘that’s probably what my parents think should happen to me.’ It was at this moment the client had a realization of the gravity of his offense.

One of the coping strategies I have noticed the clients at Sequel employ often is one of disassociation. They disassociate themselves from their sex offense. It’s like they conceptualize it as something that someone else has done, but not them. They think of it in terms and don’t truly connect the dots for them. They objectify it and separate themselves from it. This is very difficult for me to process through internally. I am not sure that i am able to understand how it is they are able to separate out like this. When we talk about the details of their offense it is as though they are recounting something they saw in a movies or on t.v.

I suppose this is an effective way to cope with the awful things they have endured in their lives both as victims and as perpetrators. This doesn’t create any particular disturbances in me, what it does it makes a little more difficult for to me understand where they are coming from. Makes it harder for me to be empathetic towards them.

I overcome these feelings inside of me by remembering they were victims too. I learned that very quickly at Sequel. They have all been victimized in some way. This doesn’t change the fact they have victimized someone, but it does humanize them. Remembering they are also victims, provides a setting for empathy to be offered because they have been hurt and are still healing from their own hurt. We have all been victimized in some way and we all need some one who is willing to listen to our story and offer some understanding and assistance in unpacking the bags we have brought with us. That’s why I like being a counselor. Offering understanding and assistance. Offering empathy.

By default

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As I have shared several times in the last week or so, I am wrapping up a masters in counseling. I have been in this program for a long time. When I initially started it I though I might want to be a counselor, then I decided I didn’t want to be. Then I did. Then I didn’t. Many items over the course of this program I have said I ended up in this program by default. I’m not really sure what that means or why I would say it, but I did. I think I was trying to justify why I wasn’t in an MSW (Masters of Social Work) program. As though I needed to justify it. I don’t. But I felt as though I did. Again, not sure why that is.

I don’t think I am in this program by default. I think I am in this program because it is what I needed at the time for my own redemption and salvation. Thanks to what was coming next in my life after I entered this program, I feel I am better equipped to serve people as a counselor than I could have ever imagined myself to be. It is said, the best substance abuse counselor a are addicts. They get it. They understand it. I wouldn’t necessarily hang my hat on that, but I can understand where the thinking comes from. Once you have descended into the depths, you are better equipped to assist others as they are walking there themselves.

I have descended into the depths of the pit of despair.

Strangely,this degree program was in many ways he therapy I desperately needed during some of the most critical times of my life. I will in fact make (and currently am) a wise and very efficient counselor. I am not here by default or because I couldn’t get in anywhere else. I could and did. I am here because it was what was best for me. For my growth. For my redemption.

I am not ashamed of wanting to be a counselor. It is a good job. Helping people who desperately need help. It is in reality so closely tied to what interested me about bible college too. If I am honest, being a counselor probably lines up the best with what I feel to be my God ordained and called purpose.

I don’t want to let that cat out of the bag tonight, but suffice it to say, I am in the right field. Servings he right kinds of people. I am being used where talents, gifts, abilities, passions, desires, skills and calling are best used.

I have not sold myself short. I have in fact found what may in reality be the real me. The me I was made to be. The me is who more at home here than anywhere else. These are not words I would have said at any time in the history of this program.

I am a counselor. I am not out of place.

and there you have it… I’m a MH geek.

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I am taking a break from doing some homework to take a minute and share with you why I have realized that I am a nerd, a geek of sorts. The homework I was working on was writing a progress note for my internship class tomorrow. Many of you know, I am wrapping up (in my last term!!) of a master’s in mental health counseling. I am taking my final class, internship, and we have to turn in progress notes similar to what we would have to keep in our client files while in real practice as a counselor. You may or may not be aware recently the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was updated to its fifth edition, the DSM 5. I have spent my entire counseling educational career learning the fourth edition.

Now I am learning the DSM 5.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining. At first, I thought this would suck… but as I get into it I think exactly the opposite. I am reading it… from the beginning and not just turning the ‘relevant’ pages I need at the moment. I started reading it for fun the other day. Yep, I’m that guy.

Back to my homework, which took longer than it should because I was just reading and reading regarding some of the disorders that were updated in the DSM 5. This is where my neediness or meekness comes out. Who reads the DSM 5 for fun?

No one.

It would be like reading a dictionary or encyclopedia because there wasn’t much else to do with your time. Well, not quite that bad, but close. I’m reading it for a couple of reasons. First, I have to know the DSM 5 in and out in order to be able to take a state licensure exam and pass it. Secondly, I would like to understand the edits made to improve the usefulness of the DSM 5. What better way to understand it than to read it?

From what I can tell (this is in no way an assessment or review of the DSM 5) efforts were made to streamline the DSM 5 and makes its implementation in clinical practice easier and more efficient. It would appear as though I have already drank the kool aid and decided I like it and want more. Lots more.

That’s ok. There is nothing wrong with embracing or accepting the changes that have come our way in the mental health community. The DSM 5 is here to stay whether we like it or not. Change is always hard, even when the change is very good, needed and necessary. I have concluded I am going to keep an open mind regarding the usefulness of the DSM 5 and read it to learn it. Does this make me a mental health geek/ nerd? Maybe. Frankly, I don’t know of any of classmates who are reading the DSM 5 for the sheer pleasure and enjoyment of it.

What can I say? I stand out from the crowd. I do things differently than others.

And that I am very ok with.

and there you have it… I'm a MH geek.

20140115-231540.jpg

I am taking a break from doing some homework to take a minute and share with you why I have realized that I am a nerd, a geek of sorts. The homework I was working on was writing a progress note for my internship class tomorrow. Many of you know, I am wrapping up (in my last term!!) of a master’s in mental health counseling. I am taking my final class, internship, and we have to turn in progress notes similar to what we would have to keep in our client files while in real practice as a counselor. You may or may not be aware recently the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was updated to its fifth edition, the DSM 5. I have spent my entire counseling educational career learning the fourth edition.

Now I am learning the DSM 5.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining. At first, I thought this would suck… but as I get into it I think exactly the opposite. I am reading it… from the beginning and not just turning the ‘relevant’ pages I need at the moment. I started reading it for fun the other day. Yep, I’m that guy.

Back to my homework, which took longer than it should because I was just reading and reading regarding some of the disorders that were updated in the DSM 5. This is where my neediness or meekness comes out. Who reads the DSM 5 for fun?

No one.

It would be like reading a dictionary or encyclopedia because there wasn’t much else to do with your time. Well, not quite that bad, but close. I’m reading it for a couple of reasons. First, I have to know the DSM 5 in and out in order to be able to take a state licensure exam and pass it. Secondly, I would like to understand the edits made to improve the usefulness of the DSM 5. What better way to understand it than to read it?

From what I can tell (this is in no way an assessment or review of the DSM 5) efforts were made to streamline the DSM 5 and makes its implementation in clinical practice easier and more efficient. It would appear as though I have already drank the kool aid and decided I like it and want more. Lots more.

That’s ok. There is nothing wrong with embracing or accepting the changes that have come our way in the mental health community. The DSM 5 is here to stay whether we like it or not. Change is always hard, even when the change is very good, needed and necessary. I have concluded I am going to keep an open mind regarding the usefulness of the DSM 5 and read it to learn it. Does this make me a mental health geek/ nerd? Maybe. Frankly, I don’t know of any of classmates who are reading the DSM 5 for the sheer pleasure and enjoyment of it.

What can I say? I stand out from the crowd. I do things differently than others.

And that I am very ok with.

Why do we Act the way we do?

PsychodynamicTherapy
I have been fascinated with human behavior and the reasoning for why they act and behave the way they do. This has been helpful to me a range of work environments. I use it regularly to make assessments regarding people and their motives. This is acutely helpful as a counselor, being able to understand people’s motives based on their background or history. Trying to understand them or get inside their heads to see things from their perspective.

This aspect of humanity, the why for our actions, really intrigues me. I mean it really intrigues me. I find myself constantly asking myself questions, trying to understand why they act the way they do.

Why?

What happened in their history, motivating them to act in a specific way. The trick is, sometimes these motives are hidden inside us and we don’t even recognize them for what they are – motivations.

There is a mother of some kids at my boys’ school I see sometimes when I go and pick the boys up from school. She is always yelling and putting her kids down. She always has a scowl on her face. Every time I see her, I want to ask her ‘why are you so mad?’

Why?

What happened to make her so mad? What in her past history set her on the course leading her to the place of anger? Where has she come from to get to this place? Does she even know she is angry? Does she know why she is angry? Is she aware of how she is treating her kids? Does she know how it makes her look to those around her?

These are the questions I ask myself about other people regularly.

I suppose human behavior doesn’t fascinate me as much as what motivates the human behavior.

The motivation.

What motivates us? This is a complex question with diverse and varied answers depending on who you ask and how self-aware they are. Many times we don’t realize or recognize what our motivations are because we don’t take the time to think them through and figure it out. It is much easier to plow through life responding to the stimuli not thinking about why we are acting the way we are.

It is easier and safer.

Knowing the why behind our actions forces us to deal with the why of the why. When we poke around inside our own minds trying to understand why we are so angry, we are going to be forced to deal with the source of the anger. Or ignore after we find it. But, once we know the cause it is harder to ignore than to just unpack it and figure it out.

Ignorance truly is bliss. It’s kinda like Neo in the Matrix, once you go down the rabbit hole, there is no turning back. You can’t un-know what you know. If we never ask the question of why or search for the answers we will never have to confront the root cause.

I am fascinated by what motivates us to act the way we do.

I love trying to get inside your mind.

Why don’t you lay down on the couch and let’s chat for a bit.

The Beginning of the End

Tunnel
I started this journey in October of 2007… that’s over six years ago.

Six years ago.

Today is the beginning of the end. This is the first day of class of my last term in my masters in counseling. In 9 weeks I will graduate and complete this degree. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

These last six years have been some of the hardest years of my life. Not because of this education… this education was one of the very few constants in my life over these years.

I have learned much about myself, my wife, the resiliency of my children, what authentic community feels like, the pain of losing jobs, the difficulty of financial ruin, the anguish of mental breakdown, and most importantly the unending love of my savior for me.

I also learned about the healing of restoration, the excitement of redemption and the joy of emerging on the other side of intense pain & difficulty.

By the grace of God I have emerged victorious against my foes.

There is a sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting to this place in my life… but honestly, it isn’t the kind of feeling of accomplishment you might expect. I am proud of myself, but more than anything I am proud of the God who has gotten me through.

When I began this journey, this masters degree, I honestly wasn’t sure why I started it. I didn’t really want to be a counselor. I would have rathered an MSW (Master’s of Social Work)… I felt as though this was more up my alley and have continued to profess that over the course of 6 years. Each time reassuring myself when I complete this degree it will certainly help me in ministry. I no longer feel this way exclusively. It will help in ministry, but it also fits me very well. I enjoy counseling (actually I enjoy being on both sides of the couch, but that’s for another time) and believe I make a good counselor. I listen well. I have good insight. I offer sound, wise advice. I certainly have experienced my own pain in a way that is meaningful to others and in a way that resonates with them. I can help others because of what I have experienced. I am a better father and husband because of what I have experienced. I am more humble because of what I have experienced.

I have learned more than I can put into words about myself. One thing I have certainly learned is I am able to accomplish something. Over the last six years, more times than I care to recount, I have felt like a failure. I am not a failure.

Quite the opposite is true.

I am a Champion.

Today, I lift the head of the giant and celebrate my defiance. But the Lord is with me like a dread champion; Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, With an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 20:11 NASB)

Today is the beginning of the end.