Christian Life

Craving For Love

Blog_Craving for Love-2In her book, Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis writes about a conference she attended that impacted her life in a profound way. The insight she had about herself was realized when a speaker asked the audience two questions, “Which parent did you crave love from more?” and “Who did you have to be for them?” Upon reading that second question, my chest began to tighten, emotions began to well up, and I sat silently, thinking about my childhood. Growing up, I lived with my mother and two older sisters. I craved my mother’s love on a daily basis and tried to get her attention by misbehaving. Subconsciously I thought, maybe if I was mean to the dog, talked frequently, was overly expressive, or an all-star athlete she would pay attention to me. Then my mind wandered to my father. I never lived with him yet I always longed for his love and attention, on the rare occasion when I was able to visit.

As I continued to sit in silence, pondering my answers, these questions gripped my heart. Without a doubt, I knew I longed for my father’s love more than my mother’s. I knew this because of a memory that came to my mind of a time when I visited my father sometime during middle school. Shortly before this trip, I was in a production of Beauty and the Beast in a theater outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I wasn’t just a part of the production, I starred as Belle in this theater’s academy program. In my 12-year-old mind, this role made me special… it made me important… it made me somebody. I was so excited to show my dad the VHS recording of the performance so he could share in my glory and affirm that I was talented and special. However, after my father watched that tape, he remarked that it would be a “bigger deal” if I starred in a musical at a real theater. It did not matter that he was wrong about it not being a theater production. What mattered to me was his lack of affirmation. All I really wanted was a daddy who loved and affirmed me. I don’t think he intentionally tried to hurt me with that comment but the damage was done.

That was the last extended stay visit I would ever have at my father’s home during my childhood years. I was done trying to become the daughter he would be proud of. I was done trying to earn my parents love. The next few years would be spent searching for love through dating relationships that left me feeling empty and hurt. The only thing that could mend my broken and hardened heart was the love of Father God. This realization began when I was 15 and has continued to strengthen over the last 18 years. Therapy, pastors, mentors, books, and relationships have been instrumental in my growth but what transformed me the most was when I stopped believing the lies I told myself; lies that I was worthless, unlovable, damaged, and unintelligent. Ultimately, I could not have done this without replacing those lies with the truth. The real truth is, the word of God is the most powerful source of truth that speaks value and worth to each and every person. God’s love is unconditional and no amount of performing could make him love us more. Scriptures tell us that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), greater than all other created beings (Genesis 1:28), adopted as his children (Ephesians 4:1-5), created with a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11), gifted (1 Corinthians 12:8-11), and the list goes on.

When you read those two questions, what came to your mind? Whose love did you crave as a child? Do you have a story like mine? Whose love do you still crave? Who are you trying to be in order to be loved? I encourage you to take some time to ponder these questions and think about lies you have been believing about yourself: lies that say you are less than; lies that say you will never amount to anything; lies that say you need to be someone else in order to be loved and accepted.

Mental Health

Root Canals and Mental Health… Who Knew They Were Connected?

Blog_root problemsAt the age of 12, I began to feel shooting pain in one of my right bottom molars whenever I chewed. After visiting my dentist, he was not able to identify the source of pain and assumed there was a small crack. He placed a filling in the tooth and sent me on my way. A few months after that procedure, I landed myself back into the dentist’s chair and received a larger filling to replace the first one. Neither procedure did anything to resolve the pain and I resorted to chewing on the opposite side of my mouth for the next 11 years.

At the age of 23, I decided to go to a new dentist, hoping he could fix my tooth. That dentist informed me that the old filling was too large to replace and my tooth really needed a crown. Can you guess what happened? I got a crown on that pesky tooth and once again, it did nothing to resolve my pain. Five years later, I found a new dentist who told me that I needed a root canal. He performed the procedure and for the first time in almost 16 years, I was able to chew on the right side of my mouth. The root canal cleaned out the pulp, disinfected the tooth and root system, and removed the source of pain.

For the past 10 years I have been able to chew on both sides of my mouth, pain free. In fact, I forgot all about this tooth problem until I was in a recent session with a client. The memory of my tooth helped me explain how, much like a tooth needing a root canal, people live for years with emotional and mental pain, without cleaning out the root from where the pain originates. Many people even spend a lot of money on things to relieve the pain, to no avail.

Anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, addiction, fear, relationship issues and many other mental health problems all have a root source. Experts in the field of trauma will tell you that even auto-immune diseases can be linked to unprocessed traumas.

Many people live for years with daily anxiety and have no idea where it comes from and how to get rid of it. Many seek therapy, learn techniques to replace thoughts and behaviors, and find ways to cope but somehow, they always cycle back with similar struggles. I believe the reason why this happens is that people fail to address the root of their problems in order to live pain-free in the present.

Hebrews 12:15 talks about a bitter root growing up and defiling many. When the Apostle Paul wrote this to the Hebrews, he was referring to a person being idolatrous and his sin affecting more than just himself. This same concept can be used for any person who has an unaddressed root issue. A person may have constant anxiety around a boss or authority because he or she had a parent that expected perfection or was explosive when the child made mistakes. Another person may have an unhealthy relationship with food because she was called “thunder thighs” in the seventh grade. Another person tries to control everything his spouse does because he was abandoned by a parent at the age of seven.

Maybe you identify with one of these examples or maybe your story is a little different. The point is, sometime in your life, something embedded into your brain’s memory network which now tells your body, mind and emotions how to react and function. If this is you, I encourage you to examine what that might be, ask God to reveal it to you, find a therapist or a pastor who knows how to help, and clean it out so you can experience a full life in the present and future.

If you are serious about therapy for your issue, I highly recommend EMDR therapy. It is an empirically established modality that is perfect for overcoming small and big traumas. I am trained in EMDR and use it with my own clients.

Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about this topic or therapy.

Christian Life, Mental Health

Six Biblical Principles for Eating Disorders & Unhealthy Food Relationships

vectorstock_3710686We live in a nation that is obsessed with image. Unless you live in a remote area without television, internet or places to shop, you are bombarded every day with images of photoshopped people that society pressures you to look like. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health disorder in the United States and every 62 minutes one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder (ANAD). Even those of us without a diagnosed eating disorder struggle with an unhealthy view of food and our bodies. I honestly cannot think of a time when I did not think about losing weight before taking a beach vacation…okay, maybe when I was pregnant.

There are many excellent therapies for eating disorders but I believe true success cannot happen without spiritual integration. Many people with eating disorders struggle with poor self-image and a negative view of God. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or a poor relationship with food and self-image, here are some helpful biblical principles to help transform thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

  1. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). The word of God has the ability to create positive thoughts and a healthy identity, which is countercultural to a world that stresses the importance of perfection.
  2. Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (NIV). Having faith in God and hope that life can be different is an important part of creating change. Scripture has the ability to develop one’s faith and provide hope for the future.
  3. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (NIV). This is a difficult concept for many people who have felt rejected by their parents. Joshua 1:5 says, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (NIV). God is a loving father who will never reject us or abandon us like people do.
  4. Isaiah 55:8-9 teaches that people’s thoughts are not God’s thoughts and that his thoughts are higher than ours. People with an unhealthy relationship with food always have poor views of themselves. God’s thoughts of us are opposite of the lies we believe about ourselves. In fact, each day that God created something in the universe, he used the words “it was good” or “it was so” to describe that particular creation (Genesis 1:3-25). It wasn’t until God created mankind that he used the words “it was VERY good” to describe his creation (Genesis 1:31). We are God’s delight and were specifically made so that he could love us.
  5. Feelings of shame and dishonest behavior are common in those with eating disorders. Both of these are displayed in the book of Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned for the first time (Genesis 3). The first thing Adam and Eve felt was shame. This feeling caused them to cover their bodies and fear God. When God asked what they did, both were dishonest and shifted blame to someone else. Knowing that people in the bible had the same struggles we do can help normalize the feelings and behaviors of those with eating disorders.
  6. Lastly, recovery from eating disorders should involve recognizing one’s gravity of sin and the need for atonement (McRay et al., 2016). Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (NIV). This truth allows people to understand that when they acknowledge their sin, God removes it and brings them back into relationship with him. When people begin to see themselves as forgiven and accepted, they can let go of shame and be confident in their spiritual connection to the Father. That loving connection is essential for true recovery.

References

ANAD Your Future is Worth Fighting For. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Retrieved from http://anad.org

McRay, B.W., Yarhouse, M.A. & Butman, R. (2016). Modern psychologies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal(2ndEd.). Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Christian Life, Mental Health

Choose Peace Over Progress

peaceoverprogressLast summer, I decided to expedite the process of finishing my master’s degree by taking three classes in eight weeks. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but it ruined me! I used the excuse that I could recover during the last month of summer. During those eight weeks, I lived with chronic anxiety and fought back tears on a daily basis. I’m embarrassed to admit how crazy I was… I mean, I’m working on a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Shouldn’t I have it together?

Thinking back over the years, I have a habit of trying to accomplish things at an unhealthy pace, without the proper rest required to maintain sanity. I have also seen many clients who struggle with anxiety and the common theme in their lives is that they don’t know how to rest. When challenged to take a day off or even a couple hours, they can’t even think of what they enjoy doing for pleasure. Many of those people struggle with negative thoughts like, people will think I’m lazy or I need to be productive to be accepted. That couldn’t be any further from the truth.

The truth is, everyone is worthy of investing in themselves through pleasurable activities, being pampered, going on an adventure, taking a vacation, and simply resting. Research shows how detrimental constant multitasking is to our mental and emotional health. Resting and investing in yourself can improve memory, heart health, reduce stress, and keep you at a healthy weight…who doesn’t want that (Seballo, 2014)?

In her book, Breathing Room, Sandra Stanely penned the words, “choose peace over progress.” That’s a powerful statement for a driven person but it’s even more powerful when that person chooses to live by its principle. I know I’m not the only one who needs this reminder. What is it that you need to lay down or quit in order to live a life of peace? When was the last time you rested from work and invested in YOU?

 

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-4, NLT).

 

Reference

Seballo, A. (2014, February 12). Health Benefits of Rest. State of Health: Florida Hospital. Retrieved from https://www.floridahospital.com/blog/health-benefits-of-rest

 

Book Reviews

Nowhere But Up: The Story of Justin Bieber’s Mom

Nowhere But Up: The Story of Justin Bieber’s Mom http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13789037-nowhere-but-up

This book was okay. I read it because I am a believer and wanted to learn about Pattie’s story. I did enjoy learning her powerful testimony. It’s a story about a girl from a broken family, who was sexually abused. She writes about her encounter with God and his faithfulness to her throughout her life. Her attention to detail about her sex partners as a teen and fighting with Justin’s dad was a bit too lengthy for me. I also couldn’t finish the last fourth of the book. She dedicates the last third of the book to Justin. I stopped reading after a story about losing Justin in the shopping mall for 10 minutes. Doesn’t that happen to almost every mother? I know it happened with my son twice, my nieces and nephews have done it to my sisters, and I’m pretty sure I did it to my mom. I just had a hard time reading about a mom doting on her son for 50+ pages about normal mother-child life and events. It just didn’t appeal to me. I do hope and pray that many people who have or are currently struggling with family issues, abandonment and sexual abuse find hope through her story. She has a great testimony that shows a very real dynamic of the ups and downs that most have with faith, as well as examples of God’s faithfulness and her journey of trusting him.

Christian Life

Loving and Forgiving When It Seems Impossible

How many of us have been hurt badly by someone else? Sometimes it seems impossible to get over, doesn’t it? I’d like to share a personal message that I recently preached at my church on this very subject. The message consists of personal examples from my life and things I have learned over the years from the Word of God, along with three of my favorite authors and speakers; Jerry Cook, John Bevere and Beth Moore.

SCRIPTURE FROM THE MESSAGE

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven — if there was anything to forgive — I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:11-12

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city. Proverbs 18:19

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. Matthew 24:12

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24

Books I have read over the years that inspired this message:

The Bait of Satan by John Bevere
Get Out of that Pit by Beth Moore
Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness by Jerry Cook