Divorce is a perplexing way of life…

By:  Lianne Johnson, LPC

Today is Sunday and its just before 10AM.  10AM is when my church starts yet I am still at home.  It is safe for you to assume that I have chosen to play “hooky” from church.  I fear that I have succumbed to many enticing realities that staying home has to offer to me on this Sunday morning.  In St. Louis its raining and overcast, my house is quiet because today is a “dad” day, and to be honest I’m exhausted from my youngest son refusing to sleep well for 3 nights in a row.  So I am staying home from church to enjoy the peace of my home, to allow my mind and heart to rest, and to prepare myself for yet another week of chaos.  And while the choice to stay home is good for me, I sit here aching in my heart with the reality that my choice to stay home means I will not see my sons today, and I will not see many friends today, and I will not corporately sing out to the Lord and worship Him.

You see I am divorced.  Its true.  I am a divorced christian woman with 2 young boys who finds myself in the continuous perplexing state of not really ever feeling content with my decisions.  To be honest, since being divorced (which is a recent reality for me) there are not many days where I do not feel split within my being.  Take my decision to stay home today as an example.  While I am glad that I allowed myself to make a choice that cares for my needs, at the very same time I want to scream at myself for making it.  The internal tape in my head sounds something like this: “How could you choose to rest over seeing your boys?  What is wrong with you?  You see, you are not a good mom.  A good mom would not choose rest over seeing her kids.”  The raging thoughts continue…and continue…and continue.

Then I begin to rage within my being about having a morning where I could choose to rest.  Having a morning where my kids aren’t here with me, because if I weren’t divorced then they would always be with me.  Extreme sadness begins to set in as I miss my kids terribly and the reality of my new life is in my face and I cannot escape it.

Divorce is perplexing on many levels and here I have only shared one level of the many.

The reality of my current season of life is this:  It is good (and okay) for me to choose to rest today, yet this means I will miss seeing my kids today.  If I had chosen do to the opposite then the reality would have been not resting but getting to see my kids.  The first allows me to care for myself.  The second allows for me to care for my kids (and not feel mommy guilt) but not for myself.  Either decision leaves someone desiring something different.

Divorce is perplexing.

Will your routines in life sustain you when chaos hit?

By:  Lianne Johnson, LPC

Happy day to you!  Today is Halloween, which is perhaps my least favorite holiday.  Not sure I should even call it a holiday.  I think its my least favorite because I have to walk around the neighborhood with my 3 and 6 year old in the COLD weather.  If you know me, you know that I get cold easily.  You also know that I loathe being cold.  But alas, I shall walk around this evening with my boys, in the cold, and watch them enjoy being kids.  For now, I have planted myself in my favorite chair at home which sits in front of my big window.  I am enjoying the sun, the trees, the quiet, and the warmth as my little guy naps.  

I have been prompted to think about the word “routine” by my pastor’s sermon this past Sunday (listen here), which I found amazing and helpful.  While we can have many routines addressing different areas of our lives, whether it be exercise, eating, sleeping, or work, my pastor focused on the importance of our routine with God.  Specifically, the importance of having a routine with God so that when the pains and chaos of life enter our day-to-day living we have the fruit of our routine to fall back on.  

I have to say, from personal experience, my pastor is right.  Just about 2 years ago my life changed.  Confusion and chaos entered and my life changed.  Today, my life looks different on many levels and I am still healing from the changes of 2 years ago.  But my point is this:  2 years ago I had routine with the Lord.  I spent time with him daily, both reading and praying.  I was, at one point, working in the church and then began what is known today as Avenues Counseling.  My relationship with God was thriving.  I was learning about His love for me, His steadfastness, His faithfulness to me and my life, His commitment to me, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness, His Goodness (the list could seriously go on and on).  As I spent time with Him daily He shaped me to know Him better.  I am forever thankful to Him for His ways with me.  Now let’s focus on my routine with God the past two years since confusion and chaos entered my life.  I cry out to him in prayer, asking Him to make sense of life.  I remember verses from the Bible and Bible stories throughout the 2 years.  I go to church, but not as often as I used to.  I haven’t been in a formal Bible study.  I can’t even remember the last time I opened my Bible and read it, and as a matter of fact, at this moment I have no idea where it is.  

I am not proud to share these things with you.  In fact I’m a little nervous about it.  But really, all I’m doing is being honest.  The honest truth is that as I have lived in these 2 years of confusion and chaos my routine with God (and many other areas of my life) has changed.  I have been unable to maintain my same routines as my life has changed.  

Yet I love God.  He still loves me and I miss Him terribly.  I miss our daily times together – He is my father and friend.  I am okay that my routine has changed, but I know it won’t stay this way forever.  I also know that I have been able to maintain over these 2 years because of the routine I had with God.  I am currently living on the fruit of my prior routine with God.  

What are your routines in life, whether it be with God, exercising, food, managing life stress and anxiety? Will the routines you currently have in place sustain you during the times in your life when confusion and chaos reigns?  

Why do we place time limits on grief?

By Lianne Johnson, LPC

Over the last two years my life has traveled through several seasons of grief caused by a crisis.  Have you ever experienced grief?  If you have, then you are keenly aware of how those around you try to place a time limit on your grief.  Why do people place a time limit on how long another is to deal with grief?

Grief is not clean.  It is dirty.  It comes and it goes and then comes and goes again.  Why is it so hard for us to let people be sad or tired or be in pain emotionally?

I have found that most of those who have struggled with my grief struggle because of how it impacts them, and to be fair, they also miss the “me” before my season of grief.  The result of this is that they do not accept the “different” me – the me covered in grief.  They want to “normal” me – the me they have known far longer than the me in grief.

Perfectionism: A Book Suggestion

by: Courtney Hollingsworth, PLPC

Perfecting Ourselves to Death: The Pursuit of Excellence and the Perils of Perfectionism by Richard Winter 

          In an age in which perfect performance is highly regarded as the means to a successful and thereby happy life, Perfecting Ourselves to Deathspeaks biblical truth into an often-overlooked epidemic. The effects of a performance driven culture have permeated the Christian culture as working for Christ and performing for him has become a standard measure of spiritual maturity. Dr. Winter diagnoses and dissects this perspective as unbiblical.

            The spectrum of perfectionism varies from normal, healthy perfectionism, to neurotic, unhealthy perfectionism, to non-perfectionism. Healthy perfectionism is realistic and enthusiastic as it is driven by positive motivation to achieve. Unhealthy perfectionism sets unrealistic standards and bases self-worth on performance; it is motivated by a negative motivation of fear of failure. Non-perfectionism is relaxed and undemanding, sometimes to the point of unreliability and laziness. Defeated perfectionism is a covert form that says, “Why even try when perfect is unattainable?” It has already been defeated before any attempts have been made; success is unlikely or an impossibly, so failure is viewed as a choice to be desired over disappointment.

            All perfectionism is centered on the tension of the gap between “who I am” and “who I should be”:

  •   driven perfectionism: works harder to close the gap
  •    defeated perfectionist: gives up the fight
  •    healthy perfectionist: able to live in the tension

           The healthiness of perfectionism is determined in our motivation to achieve success, and our view of the failure to do so. The ways it can manifest itself are through performance, appearance, interpersonal interaction, morals, and all-around perfectionism. There are also different types of perfectionism such as self-oriented or other-oriented. Other-oriented perfectionism projects the demands and expectations of perfectionism onto those around you. Each of these can manifest in healthy forms and unhealthy forms, at times affecting mental health and personal relationships. Depression, anger, suicidal intentions, eating disorders, worry, and anxiety can all find their foundations in perfectionism.

      So what is your view of yourself or others when success is not achieved? How do you interact when you or someone around you is less than perfect? What drives your desires and demands for perfection, or your fears of even trying? What is your heart like towards who you “should” be? What is your heart like towards who your spouse, friend, child, boss, sister, brother, pastor, co-worker, neighbor “should” be?


Already and Not Yet

The Already and the Not Yet

By:  Lianne Johnson, LPC

I was out walking one day when I saw this tree.  I was immediately struck by how the tree appeared to be both alive and flourishing, as well as dead.  Half alive and half dead.  Can you see it?  The left side of the tree is green, while the right side is dark and displaying what I am calling deadness.

“Wow,” I thought to myself, “this is how I feel.  Regularly.”

As you can see, the caption I wrote under the picture is – The Already and the Not Yet.  For those of you who are Christians reading this, you may be familiar with this phrase.  The Already:  We are made alive by Christ’s death (His act to save us from ourselves), which gives us our aliveness, our life.  The Not Yet:  We live in a broken world where we see and experience suffering. We live in the “in between time” from Christ’s death on the cross and until his return when everything will be made right.

This tree is displaying our internal reality as well.  We are alive in Christ, yet daily we live and struggle with the pain and toil of our day.

It was good for me to see this tree.  It was good for my heart and mind to be reminded that Christ has made me ALIVE.  It was good for me to remember that while the “dead” part (the pain and heartache of today) will remain a part of my daily reality until Christ returns, I am also ALIVE.  It was good for me to remember that Christ has conquered death.

Merry Christmas? Or just Christmas?

By: Katy Martin, LPC
As a parent you suddenly realize you have this responsibility of teaching your kid(s) things.  Important things.  Things concerning faith, forgiveness, how to love/care for other people, manners, etc.  These little people who have been entrusted to us are looking for guidance as they grow and learn.  Yikes.
This time of year is no different: the holidays.  For most, it’s probably the busiest, craziest time of year.  We get to decide to prepare for Santa, celebrate Jesus’ birth, or both.  We decorate, go to parties, sit on Santa’s lap, bake Jesus a birthday cake, look at Christmas lights, and visit with family.  (Just to name a few things.)
These decisions are based on our own convictions and desires.  But where do they come from?  Have you stopped to really think about that?  How does faith, family, and your experience affect how you approach this time of year?  
Are the holidays a letdown to you?  Or are they everything you want them to be?
As we approach this influential time with our kids, we also have the opportunity to engage in the traditions we deem important and create the memories we desire for ourselves.  How can you truly make this a MERRY Christmas, and not just Christmas? 

Our Missional Vision

All too often it seems that a counseling center will exist as its own entity.  Avenues Counseling desires to partner with churches and para-church organizations throughout the St. Louis area to help encourage and support them as they carry out their vision.

Check out our website for more information about this distinctive way Avenues is impacting the community.