Posted on

The Power of Healing Conversations

The other day I shut my laptop after the final Telehealth session of that day, closed up the office, and stepped into my car with a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I cannot find any other words to describe what I was feeling. Sure, I knew where that feeling was coming from, and I won’t get into the details because of client confidentiality, but it was a heavy conversation for me to now have to carry alone. I drove home feeling some of my personal struggles rise to the surface as I processed what my client had unknowingly spoken about. I knew I had two options at that moment: to continue about my evening and place my mind on the million other distractions that I could so easily bother myself with or reach out and speak to someone.

“Can I talk to you?”

This is the text message I sent a friend of mine.

Now as a therapist, it could be very easy for me to hide behind the façade of the “counselor mask” and present as everything is peachy. But in what ways would that benefit me? Or anyone else, for that matter?

What disillusioned mask do you find comfort behind? The perfect mother who cherishes every waking moment with her children? The Christian woman who never struggles with gossip, negativity, doubt, or fear? The wife whose husband is always loving and uplifting? The working woman who always lives a life of balance and calmness?

Why do we sometimes NOT admit that we are hurting and decide to struggle alone? (Pause and really think about what your answer would be for why, in some moments, you decide to not be transparent and open? Insecurities? Trust issues? Fear of appearing weak? Maybe those are the things that you need to address intentionally, rather than have them drive your decisions and behaviors.)

Ready to take it a step further? When was the last time someone in your personal circle approached you asking to talk and needing support? A friend? Spouse? Child? Coworker? Family member?

We are all struggling with something. Always. Why aren’t we talking about those things though? You might say, “But Natalie, I have conversations with my loved ones all of the time. If anyone needed to talk about something, they know they can talk to me.” But can they really?

Conversations and healing conversations are two very different things. We are having simple conversations on a daily basis. You speak. She speaks. While she is speaking, you are thinking about what you are going to say next. You speak. She thinks of a question to ask but decides to share her personal experience instead. You agree. You laugh. You both move on.

Who asked meaningful questions?

Did you think about what they really meant by what they said?

What was left unsaid?

When was the last time you allowed someone to do those things for you?

I want to take some time to go over a few things that come to mind when I think about how I try to extend myself to those around me and provide a space for healing conversations to blossom.

  • Am I a safe place for someone? I am constantly evaluating my words, actions, and interactions, scanning for behaviors or language that might lead someone to not feel safe speaking with me. Do I show judgement or extend understanding? Am I quick to respond with an opinion or do I offer silence and listening? Am I trying to bring down defensive walls when loved ones speak with me or am I more concerned with being right? I want you to practice being more focused on your verbal and nonverbal language as you engage with others over these next few days. Do you have any habits that tend to close people off rather than send the message that it’s okay to be vulnerable?
  • Am I scared to “go there”? There have been times that I know a family member or a friend is about to talk about a sensitive topic and I have been afraid of not having the right words to comfort or extend calmness. So innstead I avoid going deeper with them in conversation. Have you ever allowed yourself to be driven by the fear of possibly not knowing what to say to a loved one as they open up? I challenge you to recognize this as a semi-selfish act. In those moments, we are more concerned with our feelings rather than meeting the needs of the person in front of us. What message do you think you send when you don’t carve out the space to talk about whatever that loved one or friend is wanting to open up about? They walk away from those conversations thinking that either their situations aren’t significant, or you don’t care about their pain. It’s time that we place our own fears and personal comfort aside and be a comforting presence for those we love.
  • Am I comfortable with emotions and vulnerability?  I have found over the last 11 or 12 years of counseling that there are so many people who are simply not comfortable with their emotions and, therefore, not comfortable with the emotions and vulnerability of those around them. How do you feel when you begin to cry in front of others? How do you handle those moments when you have been hurt by someone close to you? Can you initiate a conversation that might be hard to have but is necessary in order to work through an issue? The only way to be comfortable with other people’s emotions is to learn how to be comfortable expressing yours.  
  • Do I recognize the power of my words? I think it’s so sad that we raise our kids thinking that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words would never hurt me.” That’s one of the biggest lies that we were told growing up and it inevitably sets us up for failure within relationships – over and over and over. I can’t tell you how many people sit in front of me in my office and will say, “Well I didn’t mean it” or “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal when I said that” or “I can’t get what he said to me out of my mind.” We underestimate the power of our words. The thing with words is that once they are spoken, they can sometimes become a part of our inner dialogue – repeating to us that same message again and again. So you can imagine that when hurtful or negative words are spoken, they can really have an impact on a person’s beliefs and ultimately their actions. The positive side to this process is that when uplifting and encouraging words are shared, they can have just as lasting of an effect. Do you recognize the power of your words when you speak to loved ones?
  • Am I compassionate? I’ve had many people share with me that they just aren’t empathetic and compassionate people. “I’m just not wired that way.” And I lovingly challenge anyone who says that because compassion is simply showing concern for another human being. I don’t know anyone who would say no to that definition! (At least I hope not!) Now the difficulty is that we sometimes don’t know how to SHOW compassion towards our loved ones, and that would bring you back to point #3 above. One of the biggest lessons that my graduate professors instilled in me and my cohort was that our relationship with our clients was the number one indicator of the success rate of the counseling process; meaning, what mattered most in that counseling room was how clients felt with us, as people. Did they feel like we cared about them and their circumstances?  Do your loved ones feel like you care?

I was listening to a podcast the other day and the guest speaker said something powerful. He said, “People heal in the presence of other human beings.” Take a second to let that soak in. Strength for positive change is generated when we come together, ready and willing to listen, care, and support. We are living in a time when healing is needed more than ever: individually, communally, and systemically. But it begins with you, and it begins with me. Take some time over these next few days to think about the nature of the conversations that you have been having lately. Are your conversations carving out space for healing or are they blocking potential moments of intimacy, connection, and relief? You are ultimately the one in control. 💜

Posted on

It’s That Time Again…

You take me in
You lead me out
You take me in
You lead me out
You take me in
You lead me out
Such a journey walking with you now (x3)

…the lyrics to a song that appear to have been written specifically for my life.
Some have asked where I’ve been, and so as I sit here and prepare my mind for sharing, the only words that come to mind are the lyrics to this Housefires song – “Mountain to Valley”. I think about all that has changed since I’ve last written – work, ministry, home – and am amazed at how life is. Everything happens in seasons.

You take me in
You lead me out

Over the last 10 months I have been in a season where God was leading me out – sending me out into this world to minister, lead, influence, help and I’ve done just that. I’ve stood back in awe of the way that the Lord has used my life to bring change to the culture of today’s ministry. It has, in turn, been a blessing in my life because I’ve had a taste of the goodness of God when I think of the ways that He’s called me to speak healing and restoration into the lives of the women that I’ve shepherded, but I’m pleased to know that He’s now taking me into a new season. This season is a season of rest, as I prepare to “just be”…to simply abide in Him.

In this season God is calling me to press into His presence. I look forward to sharing all that He shows me in this season as He takes me in.

You take me in
You lead me out
You take me in
You lead me out
You take me in
You lead me out
Such a journey walking with you now x3

Mountain to Valley – Housefires

Posted on

But, Why?

I was recently asked why I chose to title this blog: Life’s Uncertainties.

The quality of life lies in your perspective of it, I strongly believe. I love Walgreen’s motto: at the corner of happy and healthy – a place many of us want to arrive at, but only a few find. And I’ve asked myself why that is, after hearing my internal GPS scream, one too many times, “rerouting” as I’ve sought to find that corner in my own life.

See because the quality of life lies in your perspective of it.

I also love the show Big Brother and it’s motto: expect the unexpected. (Which has also always left me a bit confused because if you expect the unexpected, then that would, in turn, mean the unexpected is no longer unexpected…) But see for a person like me, the unexpected occurrences of life were anything but happy and healthy – instead they were moments that would leave me feeling unhappy and ill.

See because the quality of life lies in your perspective of it.

Brene Brown beautifully brings you to the corner of faith and unexpectedness when she says “faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” This left me then wondering how could one who proclaims to have faith in God fight so strongly to hold onto control over her life’s circumstances and occurrences? If I was to be honest with myself, I had to figure out what has brought me comfort over the years: the desire for certainty in life or the faith in a God who is constant and good.

See because the quality of life lies in your perspective of it.

I was recently asked why I chose to title this blog: Life’s Uncertainties. I’ve learned to use how I handle life’s uncertainties as a way to gauge the strength of my spiritual walk. I find that those times I choose to embrace the beauty in the uncertainties of life are the times that my focus is fixated on my faithful God.

See because the quality of life lies in your perspective of it.

Posted on

Moving Onto Better Things

I’m so happy to have found this outlet. I’ve often lived life ruminating on my thoughts and feelings, afraid to share them with people who may not be all that interested in the ebbs and flows of my mind and heart.

For as long as I can remember, I would struggle with what came naturally for me – a drive to always improve, move up, or move on. Work. College. Relationships. Hobbies. Cars. Physical Shape. Even hair color.

Religious, legalistic, people would always quote me Paul, who in the book of Philippians, was imprisoned and writing to the church at Philippi about being content no matter the circumstances. I’d often feel guilty striving for betterment and improvement, for I was left feeling that striving “for more” equated to dissatisfaction for the present day with which God has blessed me.

But don’t be fooled. The love for materialism, along with the love for self-deprivation, both lead to idolatry.

We serve a God who wants His children to live an abundant life, as long as it is Him who we remain serving. God Himself instructed Moses in Exodus to “go up to the land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 33:3). Abundant life.

It’s quite possible that Paul was doing what we are all called to do. To speak into our circumstances. To declare victory. To call forth what isn’t as if it is. To verbalize to the Enemy, who wants nothing more than to imprison you through passivity and insecurity, that we will not be kept down. To stand face-to-face with your Enemy and say “I’m not moved by your manipulation of my circumstances, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” That’s very different than accepting the belief that life is what it is, and not deciding to actively strive for the great, abundant life waiting for you on the other side of your steps of faith.

Live life. Move on to better things with boldness.

Posted on

Some Call it Science. I Call it A Miracle.

It’s amazing how much we have complicated life as a people. We hear stories of miraculous things occurring and we try our best to use the finite human mind to come up with practical explanations – because of course there can’t be a supernatural explanation for some of these occurrences, right? I mean, surely probability, logic, and science hold the keys to all things real. [Sarcasm]

I recently watched an episode of The View talk show and listened intently as a man recounted a moment in time that forever changed the lives of two individuals: his and a teenage boy. Meet Kevin.

One afternoon, Kevin agreed to attend the local fair with a few friends. As he walked by a few of the food and game stands, someone who asked him if he would like to be a bone marrow transplant donor approached him. He thoughtlessly agreed, as he recalls the story.

Two years later, he receives a call during which he is informed that there is a teenage boy in need of a transplant and he was a perfect marrow match. Kevin shares during the show segment that he could not even recall signing up as a marrow donor, but felt compelled to say yes to the request.

The transplant was a successful one, and the boy lived. He is now 20 years old and forever grateful.

What is it that you long for? Desire to have? Pray without ceasing about? Petition for daily? Find yourself fluctuating between faith and despair constantly?

God knew exactly what this young boy would need one day, and had a plan all along for his life. There was an appointed time in history for Kevin to be the answer for someone’s prayer. God orchestrated that boy’s blessing and He hears your cries today. He collects your tears. As your Creator, He knows you intimately.

This same God who saved this young boy’s life, is your Savior as well. I hope you find comfort today in knowing that He is the God of miracles.

Posted on Leave a comment

Wrestling with Weariness?

Tired?

As I sit here I’m confused. How can someone who has experienced so much in the last week stare at a blank page and not be able to think of anything to write about. Let me assure you, it is not because I don’t have any content: I could easily write about the 5k run I have this Sunday, one that I haven’t properly prepared for, and could use this as an example of how people often do what I’ve done with this race…not properly preparing spiritually for life’s obstacle course, finding themselves struggling the day life is suddenly upon us. Or I could begin to share how my dog loves to stand on my knee while I drive and look out the window as if he is on the highest peak of the largest mountaintop, and equate that to how we sometimes think our obstacles are the largest of mountains but yet to God are the small knees of Life.

So I ask myself once again, how is it that I feel like I’m aimlessly searching for a story to tell or a question to ask, as if nothing has transpired all week? I believe it’s because I feel tired. So today this will serve more as a lesson to share.

In today’s life, we all live full-throttled lives. Yes, although some people’s plates may be larger than others, all of our plates are full – full of endless demands, unrealistic expectations, imperfect relationships, the stretches marks of personal growth, and the constant evolution of purpose and passion. Tiredness is usually the warning sign that more attention is being given to completing, accomplishing, and “crossing off of the list” than enjoying this day, hour, and moment.

God could’ve easily completed all creation and then sat back to admire it all upon completion, but instead He created in intervals, and marveled in intervals. After creating the light “God saw that the light was good.” After creating the land and the seas He “saw that it was good.” And so on…

Tired?

Take the time today to stand back, admiring life as it is, and see that it is good.

Posted on Leave a comment

“Where Are You God?”

Is it just me or do you also not trust anyone who says they’ve lived lives free of struggle, hurt, or discouragement? Individuals who claim to have lived perfect lives receive, from me, the same response received by couples that say they never argue – a rolling of the eyes. So this post is only for those who have some battle scars left from scuffles with Life, herself.

One of my favorite books growing up was “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” but it’s not until adulthood that I think back to my teen years, when I read this book, that I’ve realized I did not quite understand what just happens to be one of the largest similarities to cross racial, religious, political, and gender lines – the questioning of God’s existence.

“Are you there God? Why do I waste my breath on what appear to be unanswered prayers?”

When I started out as a Christian counselor I found myself fearing that moment when my clients, people who would find themselves broken and struggling to pick up the pieces, would ask me THE dreaded question: “Where is God in all of this mess?”

“My daughter is hurting and filling her void with men who are just using her. Where is God?”

“My husband is detached from the family and prefers to work late hours to spending time with our kids. Where is God?”

“I was taken advantage of night after night by my stepfather. Where was God?”

“She just walked out on me with no explanation. Where is God?”

“My mother was the godliest woman I know. Why didn’t he heal her? Where was God?”

“I’ve faithfully tithed week after week. How could He have allowed me to get laid off? Where is God?”

And see if I was to be completely honest, I feared that question because it was one that’d remained unanswered for me. When asked that question by a client, family member, or a non-believer, I’d automatically play back my mental footage of all of those moments I’d asked the same thing – unsure of the answer to the question “Where is God in all of this chaos?”

And my question for you today is, “Where are you?”

“Where are you in your unwavering faith?” Matthew 21:21

“Where are you in your steadfast belief in a loving God?” Romans 8:37-39

“Where are you in your hope for God’s promises for your life?” Isaiah 41:13

But see where are you when life happens? We expect God to be consistent, reliable, and stable (which He is), but then don’t act consistently, reliably, and stable ourselves when trials collide with our day to day lives. How is it that, with an attitude of entitlement, we expect God to be faithful, yet we are so quick to doubt His faithfulness when we don’t receive the answer to our prayers in the exact packaging that we’d hoped for?

We often ask, “Where are you God?” while He is simultaneously asking us, “Where are you?”

Posted on Leave a comment

Walk Through Your Open Door

The visualization of walking up to a wall and knocking on it, no matter how gentle or how incessantly, seems quite ridiculous. I imagine myself even just standing off to the side of Publix’s entrance, facing the cement wall and hoping that it automatically slides open, allowing me to enter and complete my shopping. No matter how long I stood there facing the wall or tried my hardest to think positive thoughts and remain hopeful, the wall off to the side of Publix’s main entrance would never budge. Now, literally speaking, I know none of us would ever do such a thing (or we have a bigger issue on our hands!), but figuratively speaking, I’m sure we do this all of the time.

Have you ever wondered why life didn’t quite turn out how you had hoped it would? See many times we have great intentions, big plans for our lives, and the drive to accomplish a ton, but yet find ourselves frustrated at time lost, disappointed with what seemed like missed opportunities, and hopeless at what appeared to be closed doors.

Are you confident they were closed doors though, and not walls?

For those who know me personally, they would agree that I love for everything to be organized and for things to be in their proper places. At my center recently, I so desperately wanted to move a large bookshelf from one side of the office to another side. (It made perfect sense, in my mind, to have all of the resources in one main location!) As I attempted to move the large bookshelf on my own (emphasis on large!), it quickly became apparent that either I would have to settle on it staying where it had always been or asking for some assistance. See a job that size was impossible to complete, in my own strength. And isn’t that how life can be sometimes? Trying to mend a broken family, move up in your company, or start that small business you’ve been dying to launch, can often feel like we are up against a large wall that won’t budge – an impossible feat.

Remember, though, that with God, all things are possible. Surrender it to Him and wait expectantly for your door to open.