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?

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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.

Where does the Pavement lead from here?

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This is the question I find I’m asking myself as I begin 2014 and I’m planning what it will bring for me and running. 2013 saw me make vast improvements in my running game and saw me take on challenges I wasn’t sure I was able to overcome. Here are a few of the milestones I hit last year:
Set my fastest half marathon time
Beat my fastest half marathon time… twice.
Ran over one hundred miles in a month… twice. I ran 125 in November and 116 in December.
Ran in my first half marathon race (setting my current personal record)
Began training for a marathon
Ran the farthest I ever have in one run – 20 miles.
Ended the year with over 750 miles ran
In January (next Sunday actually) I will run my first marathon.

Where do I go from here? Where else is there? Run 1000 miles in 2014. This is the golden egg I have been chasing for eight years. To run 1000 miles in a year. I came very close in 2013, less than 200 away from it.

How will I get there? What is my strategy? Run. A lot. Just kidding! Well, that is my strategy, but I have it more defined than just running a lot. The race is next Sunday. Step one, run the race and finish it. Step 2, take a slow week or 12 days to recover… take it easy until the end of January. Step 3, begin anew the marathon training schedule on February 1st and complete the cycle two times through the month of September. Step 4, finish out the year.

So as not to leave anything to chance, how many miles is that exactly. I wasn’t sure, so I did a little math. The 16 week marathon training schedule calls for 586 miles. If I complete that twice, it’ll be 1172 miles for 32 weeks of running. Those numbers don’t account for any running I do in January or anything in October through December.

Feels ambitious to me. Very ambitious.

One of the things I have learned as I have run on this training schedule for the last two and a half months – I have paid almost no attention to the end result of month, because I was so focused on each run of the week. I got to the end of November and December and was like, ‘I ran how far this month? Are you kidding me?’ I was focused enough on the short term, I didn’t see the long term.

This could be the way for me to push past the magical 1000 miles I desperately crave. I now know I am actually capable of running more Thani could have imagined in any given month. Capable by more than an additional 50% more. Crazy talk!

What this says to me is my goals for 2014 are very audacious. But very achievable if I stay focused and keep my eye on the prize.

Go big or go home.

The Battle Hymn of Parenting

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I have three awesome boys. They really are great. Most of the time they are the light of my days.

Some days they are not. Today is one of those days.

Today is a day where everything is a battle, especially with our oldest son. He is fighting us on everything. Everything. For no reason at all.

I suppose I have come to accept the reality there are some days that are going to be battles. All day long. All day long.

It continues all day today. He is fighting about everything and accepting no responsibility for his actions at all. I don’t expect him to accept responsibility like an adult, but he is old enough he can accept responsibility for his actions. Nothing is his fault. We are the bad guys.

Again, some of this comes with the territory of being parent and I accept that. But this is going beyond what is to be expected as normal.

I accept I am not the world’s greatest parent, but I know I am not the world’s worst either. I’m somewhere in the middle, nestled in mediocrity as a dad who does good sometimes but also drops the ball sometimes.

My wife and I have tried tough love today, we have tried cuddly love today, we have tried ignoring, we have time out, we have tried spanking, we have tried restriction, we have tried it all to no avail.

It’s days like these that cause even mediocre parents to question themselves and wonder whether they really are bad parents. I’m not a bad parent, but I sometimes wonder what am I doing wrong. The question “why do they hate me so much?” does come to mind sometimes. Gentle reminders and encouraging words between each other parents help to keep us on track remembering we are good parents.

Honestly, these battle days are the days I realize I am a good parent. Despite all the frustration, I did not beat or abuse my child. No matter how he acted or responded to me, he was treated with respect and dignity. I never humiliated or made fun of him. I did not cut him down or degrade him.

He is still my child. He is still my son and I love him more than he will ever know. He has captured a place in my heart that can never be taken away. From the first moment I laid eyes on him (and all my boys for that matter) he nestled his way into my heart and can never leave it… no matter what he does. He will always be my son. He will always have my love.

He may push the limits and test to see how far my love extends, but what he will find is he can never reach the end of my love. He will never push beyond its limits.

I love him without measure, beyond comparison.

I have the greatest boys a dad could ever hope for.

Even on days like today, where everything is a battle.

Being sick could be worse

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I’m sick.

I hate being sick. It is the worst thing.

Ronda was sick for the entire Christmas break. It sucked. And now I am sick. I hate being sick. Ronda is out of town until tomorrow afternoon. She’s been gone since Wednesday evening. I came over to my in laws house because my boys are really annoying me. I can’t believe how loud they are. And their farts really stink.

I want to do nothing other than sleep… or maybe die. Either would be fine. I almost didn’t get the boys from school today. I woke up 3 minutes after their school let out. Luckily we live close.

I realize I’m sorta rambling & not really discussing much, but I want to keep my commitment/challenge to write 500 words everyday for 30 days. I can do this.

In reality, being sick right now most frustrates me because it is keeping me from running. I have a race in nine days. A marathon. I need to make sure I am ready and taking a couple of unplanned days off from running doesn’t help my anxiety level when it comes to ensuring I am prepared. I’m sure I will be fine, but I still am a little perturbed I couldn’t run eight miles today. Just makes the next few days busier with miles.

I am very excited about the race, it’s going to be awesome.

But being sick really sucks.

I ache from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. I’m coughing, sneezing and wishing I was dead. No fun.

I am glad I have family living close enough to me they can help in a situation like this. If we lived away from family and Ronda was gone it would be all out lord of the flies at my house with my boys. There is literally no telling what they would do. I would wake from a medicine induced coma to find rodents and small woodland animals in various states of consumption and taxonomy in my living room. The dogs would have war paint on them. The whole house would be a giant fort. They would be hopped up on Mountain Dew and donuts. It would be epic levels of awesome manliness by three young men. Awesome.

I can see Ronda now, she comes home and wonders why the house looks like a warzone. She’ll wonder why the dogs have war paint. The boys would probably have war paint too. How do you explain that? Uhh, honey I have absolutely no idea what happened… that would work about as well as if you admitted you knew exactly what was happening. You’re screwed either way. Nice.

Lucky for me, this isn’t the case because I have family close. Family I can run to for help. Family who can handle the boys while I sleep in the next room. Family who will tame the savage beasts and choke on the farts that smell like dead wildebeest.

Turns out being sick could be far worse than it is.

The Beginning of the End

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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.