A Counselor’s Prayer

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This prayer (I believe was written by Lea Ann; found at http://leaannsgarden.blogspot.com/2011/01/counselors-prayer.html) is AMAZING!  As a person on the journey to becoming a Pastoral Counselor, with dreams of working with “aging out” foster care youth, I can see myself praying this daily. 

We are so fortunate that God IS.

Oh God, remind me why I’m doing this.

Why me? What do I know about anything?

They sit across from me, broken dolls whose dull eyes beg me to offer hope that they no longer believe exists. Hope is a four-letter word that belongs to someone else. They’ve given up because they are out of options. They can see nothing in the future but more pain.

And I’m IT? I’m all that stands between desperation and hope? Sometimes, life and death? What were you thinking, Lord?

Who am I to tell a young rape victim that God loves her?

Who am I to advise a wronged wife to stay with the man who tore her heart out?

Who am I to offer understanding in situations I have no ability to understand?

How can I make a woman believe in a loving Heavenly Father when all she knows is fatherly abuse?

How do I gather the scraps of a shattered life and put them together again?

How do I convince a woman consumed by rage that it is safe to leave that anger with You? She’s mad at You too.

How do I pretend to believe that this round of sobriety will be different for the lifetime drug addict? The last eight times didn’t work, but this one will? Because now he faces ME? I’m not sure I believe that myself.

I feel so inadequate. So unworthy. Who am I to be trusted with this great responsibility? Who am I to meddle deep inside the private recesses of a human heart, to hold it in my hands, twist it, turn it, hurt it so that it can finally struggle free from its prison.

It’s scary, Lord. Sometimes, right in the middle of a session, I don’t want to do this anymore. Why am I doing this?

But now I’m remembering something.

I’m doing this because You asked me to. You promised that you would do it through me if I would just stay out of the way.

And now that I think about it, You have every time.

You put a smile on the lips of that rape victim.

The young couple is holding hands again.

The ones who knew only hate are experiencing love for the first time. It’s hard for them. They don’t know what to do with it, but You’re showing them a little at a time.

And as I watch, I know it isn’t me at all. It never was.

You always seem to enjoy choosing as your tools the least likely people: the frightened Gideon, the obstinate Jonah, the renegade Moses. And look at that ragtag band of disciples Jesus chose. What an unlikely group to be entrusted with Your plan of salvation for the entire world! Frankly, I would have chosen some better candidates, if I’d been given the opportunity.

So I guess I’m in good company, huh? Is that what You’re telling me? My inadequacy fits the profile?

Is this what you meant by “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness”?

I’m glad to know that, because if I wasn’t sure You were doing this through me, I would quit. The burden is too great. The price of failure too high.

But You’re right. I have seen You work. I’ve sat there and watched Your Spirit open a closed heart, purify a perverted soul, cleanse a dirty conscience, heal a damaged spirit. And I just sit there. You’re doing all the work.

If You called me, You will enable me. I’m just a warm body for Your Spirit to flow through. Healing is not my job, it’s Yours.

I panic when I forget that. Help me never to forget again.

Top 10 80s songs to embarrass your kids!

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It is back to school time and it is time to pay back for all of the annoying, whining, and embarrassing this THEY did to US this summer.

I am thinking about blaring my “80s faves” at the bus stop, or when dropping them off at a friends house.  I wanted to come up with a list of the Top 10 most embarrassing 80s songs.

PLEASE feel free to add your own!  btw, if you can’t remember the song, click the link!

10. Cars That Go Boom by L’Trimm (ESPECIALLY if you drive a “grocery getter”!)

9. Hot Hot Hot by Buster Poindexter

8. Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.

7. We Built This City by Jefferson Starship

6. Bang Your Head by Quiet Riot

5. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by Wham (I am still waiting for George to go straight and marry me!)

4. Mickey by Toni Basil

3. Like a Virgin by Madonna

2. Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice

1. Da Butt by E.U. (and notably one of my favorite songs of ALL TIME)

So, come on Mamas and Daddys, SHOW THEM WHO IS BOSS!!!  :D

How I work…

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I took an online survey (a sidebar from the Career Development I am reading in preparation for my grad class in September) and found the following:

Your Assessment

    You excel at working independently and need little guidance when completing projects. Managers love that you are able to take a set of project guidelines and hit the ground running with little input from other team members. Like other introverts, you prefer working in a private space to spending time in a conference room or other group environment. Working alone gives you the energy to power through tough assignments and get things done quickly, making you a valuable asset to any employer. E-mail is your preferred method of communication, as it lets you think about what you are going to say before you send a message.

    You thrive on collaboration and love to exchange ideas with your colleagues. A noisy office area or crowded conference room is the best place for you to get creative and find solutions to challenges. Your colleagues love the fact that you are able to approach just about anyone, so you may find yourself representing your team at meetings or off-site events where social skills are just as important as business skills. You’ll have no problem succeeding at these events, as networking with others is a breeze for an extravert like you. Working with others gives you the energy you need to produce top results.

    When it’s time for you to make a decision, you’re the type to “believe it when you see it.” Rather than relying on your imagination, you rely on concrete facts and statistics. Supervisors love your rational approach to problem-solving, which helps you identify the potential pitfalls of business deals before your colleagues do. Rather than make on-the-spot decisions, you prefer to gather as much information as possible. This approach to your work makes you a reliable team member who others count on when it’s time to make tough decisions. You thrive in careers that require excellent analytical skills and strong problem-solving abilities.

    Your approach to problem-solving allows you to thrive in careers that require creativity and imagination. Rather than filling your mind with statistics and facts, you prefer to rely on your own imagination to come up with solutions and innovative ideas for new products or services. While some people prefer a step-by-step approach to problem-solving, you prefer to make imaginative leaps from one point to another. Your colleagues benefit from this approach, as it helps you come to conclusions that step-by-step thinkers would not come up with on their own. Managers especially appreciate your ability to come up with unique ways to solve problems.

    As a rational thinker, you prefer to rely on concrete information rather than emotions or instinct. Colleagues value your logical approach to problem-solving, especially when critical decisions need to be made. Managers rely on your use of logic to solve complex problems, so you are a valued team member in any environment. Although you prefer to use logic when making decisions, you still have the ability to “go with your gut” when necessary. The ability to use logic even under the toughest of circumstances will help you succeed in careers involving technology and scientific processes.

    While some people prefer to deal with concrete information when making decisions, you rely on your instincts to guide you. Emotions and feelings play an important role in your decision-making process, so you are used to dealing with some level of uncertainty on the job. Your ability to roll with the punches helps you succeed in the toughest work environments, and colleagues rely on your gut feelings to guide them in making their own decisions. You have a high level of emotional intelligence, so you excel in careers that require the ability to read other people and use the information you gather to make decisions.

    How you perform your job tasks is more important to you than the tasks themselves. This is a good thing, as focusing on these processes helps you learn and grow as a person. You place a high level of importance on learning new things and understanding exactly why things work as they do. This emphasis on learning helps you develop new skills that will increase your worth as an employee and help you qualify for special projects or promotions. You do best when performing clearly-defined tasks and participating in work activities that have a clear agenda.

    Results-oriented people like yourself thrive in challenging environments where the end result is more important than the process used to achieve a task. When you are assigned a new project, you picture the end result in your mind and work to achieve that result as quickly as possible. Managers rely on you to make quick decisions that will help the entire team get the best result possible, and colleagues value your ability to get things done. Your results-oriented approach motivates other people to act quickly, so you may excel as a team leader, supervisor, or manager.

    Having an opportunity to move around during the workday isn’t something that is important to you. Instead, you love to spend time sitting at your desk and powering through everything from routine tasks to unexpected challenges. As someone who prefers a stationary career, a desk job will actually cause you less stress than a job that has you moving constantly. Spending a lot of time at your desk also gives you the time you need to think about your work and make good decisions. Managers appreciate that you are usually available for impromptu meetings or telephone calls.

    You prefer to be on the go most of the time, whether you are attending a meeting across town or escorting clients on a tour of your city. Jobs that require a lot of desk time do not appeal to your sense of adventure. You excel in jobs that require a great deal of flexibility, as you are more than willing to drop what you are doing and start a new task in a new location. You may also enjoy jobs that require athletic prowess or physical stamina, as they make use of your natural tendency to move around while making decisions.

    You thrive in careers that require frequent contact with your clients and colleagues. Although you have the ability to work independently, you do not value independence above face time with those who need you most. Your supervisors love the fact that they never have to wonder where you are, and colleagues appreciate that you make yourself available to assist them with projects and listen to their ideas. You are perfectly content to spend most of your time in the office, so a traditional 9-to-5 job would appeal to you more than a job that required telecommuting.

    When it comes to interacting with colleagues, supervisors, and clients, you prefer e-mail and telephone conversations to actual face time. You thrive when you are able to work off-site, especially if you are able to make your own schedule. Freelance jobs and non-traditional jobs appeal to you because they give you the freedom to set your own hours and work when you are at your peak performance. Clients and managers don’t mind giving you a lot of flexibility, as you achieve the best results when you are allowed to set your own pace and decide when and where you will work.

    While some people avoid distractions during work hours, you thrive on them. You love when colleagues stop by your office to discuss upcoming projects or ask for your input in solving a work-related problem. Instead of being annoyed by ringing telephones and clicking computer keys, you find it almost impossible to work without some sort of background noise. It is actually easier for you to meet deadlines when you have a few distractions, as you prefer breaking work sessions into small chunks of time rather than working straight through without any interruptions.

    You excel in careers that require a great deal of concentration, especially when you are able to work in a quiet environment that does not have a lot of distractions. Colleagues and supervisors rely on you to buckle down and focus on the details, as your personality makes it easy for you to get through marathon work sessions that would get the best of other employees. Your ideal work environment is one that has very little foot traffic, as you do not like to be disturbed by visitors or people who have to walk past your work area to get to other parts of the office.

    You are somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to your work methods. Rather than use the same process for every task, you love to explore new ways of doing things. Increasing efficiency and improving the quality of your work are always at the front of your mind. You excel in careers that give you plenty of opportunities for finding new ways to solve problems or perfect processes. What works for others may not work for you, so colleagues and supervisors think of you as an innovative person who will settle for nothing less than the best when it comes to getting things done.

    While some people are never content with their work processes, you are happy to stick with the status quo. You are one of those people who find a way to automate every task possible, so your colleagues think of you as someone who is efficient and committed to maintaining a high level of productivity. Computers, smart phones, and other gadgets are your most trusted tools, as you use them to automate routine tasks that require very little in the way of concentration. Because you are content with routine, you do not get bored as easily as people who enjoy finding new ways to complete tasks.

    Because you are naturally averse to taking financial risks, you prefer to receive a fixed salary or hourly wage. You shy away from positions that involve incentive plans or commissions, as they do not offer you the financial stability you desire. Receiving a fixed income helps you budget for expenses and determine how much money you need to save to meet your financial goals. If you have family members who rely on you for their basic needs, choosing a guaranteed salary over a base salary plus performance-based commissions helps you meet your obligations and put away money for the future.

    When it comes to your compensation, you are willing to take a risk if it means that you will make more money than you would if you accepted a fixed salary. You jump at the chance to take jobs that pay a base salary plus commissions, bonuses, or incentive payments. Because your performance affects how much money you make, you strive to do your best at every task. Colleagues and managers alike think of you as a go-getter who refuses to accept anything less than a first-place finish. This drive helps you earn as much income as possible while enjoying the personal satisfaction of achieving your goals.

Attitude Extravert 100.00%
Information Imagination 100.00%
Processing Emotional 100.00%
Action Process 100.00%
Endurance Stationary 100.00%
Presence Present 100.00%
Concentration Focused 100.00%
Patterns Discover 100.00%
Compensation Fixed 100.00%

Well, I suppose it makes me sound like I have a bipolar work style…well, I do now that I think about it.  There are times when I want to be locked away from distraction to focus on minute details of a big project, and there are times when socializing helps me to loosen up and get ideas and creativity flowing.  When I am disrupted by coworkers seeking advice or “someone to talk to” just the very thought that I have helped them in some way inspires and motivates me.  It can make the rest of my day brilliant and I am able to improve my productivity.
Hmmm…what does yours say:

Work in Progress

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Work in progressYes, Lord, I am a work in progress…YOUR work in progress.

I don’t believe I have ever claimed to be perfect, but I work every day to be a better person to myself and those around me.

I try to let God’s love shine through me by expressing to others:

  • love
  • patience
  • kindness
  • compassion
  • understanding
  • grace
  • mercy

This is how I believe God works on me each day.  When I am able to focus graciously on the people around me, somehow, God ends up enriching my existence.  I am proud to be a work in progress, because I know that no matter how bad today might seem, I will always be a little better tomorrow.

Praise His name!

This is what I mean about helping others…Dalai Lama has it right!

To be contented human beings we need trust and friendship, which tends to develop much better once we realise that all beings have a right to happiness, just as we do. Taking others’ interests into account not only helps them, it also helps us. Warm-heartedness and concern for others are a part of human nature and are at the core of positive human values.

When Your Friend’s Child Dies

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The death of a child is ALWAYS traumatic.  No parent ever dreams of the day when they will have to bury their own child.  Our culture deems that we as children will eventually have to plan the funerals for our parents.  Never, do we expect to purchase a miniature casket.

What happens when you friend loses a child?  Being there for them, emotionally, can be so very difficult.  You don’t know what to say or how to act.  Do you mention the child, or do you avoid the issue?

A dear friend of mine lost her son and began the J.O.S.H. Foundation (Joining Others Seeking Healing) to be able to help families with the horrible tragic loss of a child. One of the projects completed by the J.O.S.H. Foundation was an Angel of Hope Memorial Garden in Eldersburg, MD.  The memorial garden is a place where parents and family members can go to grieve.  The actual Angel of Hope was born from the book The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans (who does a great deal of philanthropic work) and is one of over 100 Angel of Hope memorial gardens in the US dedicated to children.

When talking to my friend, years after the tragic event, one of the things she said to me, that has really stuck through the years, is that she so very much appreciates when her friends send a card to her on the anniversary of her son’s death. No matter how many years go by, she relives the crisis on that day…just knowing that her friends and family members are thinking of her gives her a great deal of comfort.

However, not everyone would appreciate the reminder each year. One thing we know for sure is that all people are different. Below is a presentation of some very basic do’s and don’ts for how you CAN help.

Making Myself Pray

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Making Myself Pray

It is not that I won’t…or that I don’t want to.  But my brain is always in so many other places.  The only successful way I have been able to pray is in sporatic little spurt bursts throughout my day, literally as the moment hits.

IMG_20130605_210510When someone asks me to pray for them, or when they are stuggling and I offer prayer, I have made it a habit to stop and pray right then for them.  (Because I used to forget altogether!)  And there is nothing worse then saying that you will pray for someone, and then not taking a moment to connect your heart with theirs and offer the energy and love only God can provide.

I have been struggling to try and strengthen my prayer life.  I have always admired people who could sit in silence and contemplation.  I am simply not that person…but I want a piece of that inaction!

I think I have found a solution!

My son gave me a journal with our family’s favorite verse, Jeremiah 29:11 on it.  I already have a journal and wanted to find a unique and special way to use this one.  Then one day, God whispered an idea…use it as a prayer book.  Instead of just making a list of people or causes to pray for, write out my prayers.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declared the Lord.  “Plans to prosper you…plans to give you hope and a future.” 
~Jeremiah 29:11

Each night, I sit and take a few deep contemplative breaths to calm my body and soul.  And I begin praying.  I write my prayers in the journal and am very specific.  I call by name my brothers and sisters and ask God to walk with them, heal them, or soften their hearts…whatever His will to be done.  The simple act of writing keeps my focus on His grace.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
~James 5:16

My youngest son made me a bookmark for Mother’s Day.  I have decided to use this special artistic creation to keep track of what day I am on in my prayer journal.  Each night when I open the journal, I pray for my oldest son.  When I remove the bookmark, I pray for my youngest son.  What blessings they both are in my life.

TIMG_20130605_210519he bookmark says:

My Mom is better than your Mom because she lets me have so much fun my head almost explodes.  My Mom is so nice when we go to Shoppers she lets me buy all the cookies they have.  She’s so cool she can bust out a rap anywhere anytime.  My Mom can produce a TV show faster than you can say onomatopoeia. My Mom’s so nice she bakes cakes every day for charity.  When my Mom walks outside the sun starts to shine and the birds start to chirp.  My Mom’s so smart she knows everything in the world.

Do you have an empty journal book sitting at home?  An old spiral notebook?  Make it a habit to spend time each day with God…I am sure there are people in your life who need your prayers.  <3

Raw Faith

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Raw Faith

This week I watched a really heartfelt documentary called Raw Faith.  Marilyn (read below) made some amazing statements that I think describe the kind of woman I am and want to be.  She is very insightful, and has learned to turn the struggles of her life into love and help for others.

raw faithRaw Faith is an intimate and revealing documentary that follows two years in the private life of Marilyn Sewell, an outspoken and socially progressive Unitarian minister who has re-energized her Portland community.
While serving a community that relies on her for wisdom and advice (on both personal and ethical issues), Marilyn struggles quietly with decisions about her own future. As she seeks to reconcile the commitments of her profession with a longing for intimacy and love, childhood memories of mental illness and alcoholism come back to the surface – and must be dealt with before she can move forward.

As Marilyn’s life unfolds in front of the camera (in real time), she shares her journey with remarkable candor, humor and increasing wisdom, ultimately leading her to an unexpected revelation of faith and love in all of its guises.

Some of the quotes from Marilyn Sewell, former Unitarian Minister:

I’m not there to fix him; I’m not there to help him in any way.  I’m not a doctor or social worker.  I’m there to be with – to provide an opening for him to be precisely who he is and to be accepted for precisely who he is.  That’s very powerful

The most powerful thing we can bring to anyone in any situation is our full presence.

Sometimes when people come in with very terrible, sad stories, and they do, I sometimes find myself smiling.  Sometimes people will be taken aback and they’ll say “Well I just said something that seems to me pretty sad, so why are you smiling?” And sometimes I’ve had to say, “Because I find you so beautiful right now.  Because I know we all suffer and that we all are going to go through hard times.  And right now you’re going through your very hard time but all of us do that and you’re doing that so honestly and so beautifully and so truthfully. So when I see truth and honesty the way I see in your face and in your tears, it really makes me happy.

Check her out for yourself

What is the happiest age?

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Tonight was the first night of my Human Development class (I am working for a MS in Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland) and we had some interesting conversation.

wb051432Our professor had us break up into groups to answer some questions.  The first of these questions was, “Which age do you think is the ‘best’ and why?”  She said she was purposefully ambiguous with this particular question, as we technically have an emotional age, a physical age, a birth age, etc.

One of my team members began the conversation saying she thought the mid-20s was the best, because people are still enjoying their youth, but are really beginning to find themselves.  Another stated that he had heard the 30s through the 40s were the least happy age.  We discussed how that could be because it is a large transition into “real” adulthood.

To me, looking back over my own life span, I felt like all of the ages were good.  All stages in my life had been met with struggle and with triumph…with tears and with laughter.

I figured if she was going to be ambiguous with her question, I was going to be ambiguous with my answer.  The “best” age, in my opinion, was NOW.  After all, I am smarter now than I have ever been, and I have a future to look forward to.

If we live in our past, thinking any of those times were the best or the worst, perhaps we are living with regrets, or living with the mindset that we are failing.  If we live in our dreams of the future (i.e. when I finally finish this degree, then  I will be happy, or when I finally win the lottery then I will be happy), then me miss so much of our lives.

Philosophically speaking, the past and the future do not exist.  Only the present does.  The past is the past and that is all it can ever be.  The future is not much more than a figment of our own imaginations, as there is no guarantee of a future for any of us.

Living in the present, in the NOW, is the greatest gift we can achieve, and it is the only way to find true happiness, no matter what circumstance envelops us in the now.  It is the greatest and happiest age, so enjoy it!

This is Our Time

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this is our timeI  watched a really good movie last night. Actually, the movie was okay, but I picked up a message in it. Movie is called “This is Our Time” and it is a Spiritual movie on Netflix. The message was about God having purpose for each of us…

It was about 5 friends who graduate college. 4 go off and begin their lives in big ways, 2 of which become missionaries to lepars in India.
 
The 5th guy, who stays behind to work in his Dad’s restaurant because he was not accepted into Grad school, feels like God has forgotten him. When he consults with a former college professor, the professor explains to him that God’s plan is not about DOING…it is about BEING. 
 
Being?  Somehow, that really sat with me for awhile.  In my own life, I have been so worried about not “doing” enough lately.  In fact, our family is planning a new ministry project, because I felt like God was calling me to “do” more (I still feel he is, but in my mind it was because I am not doing enough).  Doing…it is a noble effort, but in the end, God has a plan for who we are to BE.  Think of all of the people who go to church each week, but never BEcome children of His word and receivers of His great love.  They spend their life doing, without ever being who God truly wants them to be.
 
We are to BE the beacon of God’s light for those in trouble to see.  We are to be loving, caring, and patient followers of His word and truth.  We are to be gentle and kind to those in need.  God simply wants us to be His child. 
 
Ultimately, this “throwaway guy” ends up being the one who holds everyone together when one of the 5 friends dies.  He was the friend who could always bring them all back together…because that is the person he was, not because it was something he felt he had to “do”.
 
He is reminded that God’s purpose is not for us to do. I mean, yes, we do things to help people, etc. But even when we do not feel active in His ministry, we are still living His purpose.  If you want to know what it is to BE God’s child, email me.