Today I wanted to talk about our first category of the wellness wheel (family and friends) and how strengthening relationships in this area of life can contribute to overall wellness. I talked quite a bit in the introductory blog about family, so my goal in today’s writing is to keep it short, and to offer some practical ways to thrive in this category.
Let me begin by discussing balance. I think we all struggle to find balance to a certain degree (especially with our busy lifestyles) however, it is important to find balance in life amongst family, friends, and work. When I was younger, I often struggled to balance family and friends. I’ve said before that I’m far from a perfect person, and certainly I have made many mistakes in this area.
When I was first married, my focus was probably more on going out and partying with friends than on strengthening my marriage. Over time, I learned that if my marriage was going to last, I was going to have to shift my priorities. Through the grace of God, and much humility, I was able to turn towards my wife (and young children) and away from the excuses that “allowed” me to turn away. I’m sure most guys have used them: “I need some me time,” “I just worked all day and need to relax,” etc. If we’re not careful, we can fool ourselves into turning away from our spouses and towards things of this world that do not last.
Unfortunately, the next phases of life can give birth to a marital enemy that is much more insidious – WORK. Jesus said “you cannot serve both God and money,” yet this is precisely where I found myself. The truth is, the pattern was the same as the one discussed above – I was looking for excuses to not focus on the hard work of pouring into my family because it was easier to be gone all the time. So, using the excuse of needing to pay the bills, I took a job that valued time and commitment to the organization, over what I believe would be God’s will: time and commitment to marriage and family.
This is how I found myself at Grace Wellness Center: an organization that believes that family is vital to overall wellness in life! In the last few months I have strengthened my family relationships and have been able to get to know my children again. So if you’re thinking lucky you, I can’t just up and change jobs, my challenge is this: find small ways to turn towards your spouse and your family.
Perhaps finding new employment is the only way to save your marriage or family, but that would be something to prayerfully consider. Instead, my belief is that if you put these steps into action in your life, you will hopefully find healing in your dearest relationships:
Step 1: find one on one “date” time with your spouse at least once a week.
Step 2: do one activity as a whole family at least once a week.
Step 3: find time to get together with friends (as a couple or family) at least once a month
I know many people probably feel that they would not have time or space to do the steps listed above, and so part of this challenge is to make it your own. Sit and talk with your spouse and modify the steps to what works for your family and then stick to them! My wife and I are rarely able to go out on dates, but sometimes will get together after the kids go to bed – and stay up just talking to each other. As a family, we might have family game night once a week – or go out for ice cream in the summer. As far as time with friends, we generally get together with others that have kids, as opposed to finding a sitter.
The important thing is that you are carving out time and being intentional about spending that time together. If you can take small steps in these directions, I know your family can thrive!
• Jonathan Held, LCSW
As always if you are interested in meeting with me or another counselor, either face to face or online you can email me at email@example.com or call our intake at 724.863.7223
Are you a “Man’s Man” or a “Man of God”?
Many men are concerned about being what is called a “Man’s Man”. This often consists of descriptions such as being tough, good at “picking up” women, unrealistically physically fit, emotionally shut down, and not requiring help from anyone. We see this image of what men are supposed to be everywhere on television, in movies, in advertisements, even from some of our friends and family. How are we supposed to know what it means to be a man when we consistently get so many differentand often conflicting messages about who and what we are supposed to be?
The issue with the image of men described above is that it does not always match up with what the Bible teaches us about God’s design for men. It usually isn’t even what we value about the important men in our own lives! Working with men in counseling I almost always see that the qualities that they value in their male role models contradict what they believe they are supposed to act like themselves. They believe that men are supposed to have these unrealistic character traits as I’ve listed above, however, they value the fact that the men in their lives are caring, compassionate, good listeners, self-sacrificing, and (the big one) PRESENT. Unfortunately it appears to be a growing trend for many men to leave their families, be involved in affairs, pornography, and other idols that cause them and their families to self-destruct. But the good news is that you did not fall too far from God’s grace and mercy! Christ can take you right where you are, and mold you to become a “Man of God”.
There are many ways to look at how the Bible teaches us to be men, but I would like to start at the beginning. How did God originally design us to be men when He created us? The short answer to that question is that He created us in His image.
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26, ESV)
We were made in the image of a perfect Creator and I believe He showed us several characteristics through His creation that can help us to do a better job at being more like Him.
1. Working and creating- God worked during creation making everything. He made us to work and create! Working and creating are essential to what it means to be a man made in the image of God. Sometimes we may get lazy, but that is something we need to fight off. Many times this is the source of much of our conflict in our relationships. We simply are just not working hard enough or may have just given up. We are made to go to bed tired from the day!
2. Resting- God rested on the seventh day not because he was tired but to complete his creation. God created rest so that we can stop and take in His Grace and Mercy. Meditate upon His word and rest in Christ! Some of the time our conflicts are not coming from not working hard enough but from being too busy to rest in the peace that Christ promised us in His Grace. Take some time and focus on the Grace and Mercy of Christ and allow that to renew your mind!
3. Caring- Many times we are shown that a “man’s man” doesn’t care or show that he cares. All throughout the account of Creation in Genesis God shows that He cares about His creation even before He created man! It does not make a man weak to care and sometimes that is all others in our lives want. Sometimes we need to show or tell others that we care about them.
Pray today that God guides you and helps you to become the man that He wants you to be. There is hope for all of us. No matter how far we fall, God and OUR FATHER LOVES TO WORK AND CREATE IN YOU, HIS FAVORITE CREATION!
Hi, my name is Jonathan Held, LCSW. Today I wanted to talk about my personal struggles, and successes with wellness and how family and/or couples therapy can fit into overall wellness.
First allow me to share with you some of the ways I have learned to bring wellness into my own life. I should start by saying that if you’re thinking why would I listen to this guy he thinks he has it all together, I can assure you that is not the case. Like most people, I struggle to maintain balance in my life. As a teenager I was probably about 100 pounds overweight. One of my greatest accomplishments was losing this weight; however, through most of my life I was rarely able to motivate myself to exercise. About one year ago (at 32 years of age) I discovered Beachbody and set a goal for myself that I would exercise six days a week for a year. I am happy to say that I achieved this goal and still continue to have daily exercise in my life. (I also – through Beachbody – have been turned onto Shakeology, which is what I am about to enjoy in this picture!). Like most accomplishments that stick, I did not try to do anything extreme, but instead attempted to bring balance by exercising 20 to 30 minutes a day and often modifying so as to not injure myself. You’re probably thinking wait a minute, I thought you were going to talk about family therapy – the tie in is this: setting small goals each day can sometimes produce the greatest results!
Other areas of life in which it is important to set (and maintain) small goals include family life, parenting, and romantic relationships/marriage. Generally speaking, I attempt to maintain a positive outlook on life and work towards maintaining positive relationships with all of those in my circle of influence – especially my immediate family. One of the best ways that I have found to do this is by making sure that each of my children – and my spouse – has a small amount of individualized attention each day, I will also attempt to have significant family time daily and weekly. Sometimes this can just be as simple as sitting down at the dinner table together, or going for a family walk/bike ride. The important goal is to maintain connection through family rituals.
In my practice, I often focus on relationships and the building of effective communication. I find that this can be a great step to maintaining overall wellness (I’m sure most of us can attest to the fact that we just don’t feel well – or make healthy choices – when we are not getting along well with our loved ones). The areas I am most passionate about in practice are marriage and family. It surprises me how often couples and families state that they do not spend quality time together. I believe that part of the barrier to this is that we get stuck in negative patterns and ultimately avoid communication – which I believe is one of the magic pills to getting un-stuck in families (perhaps I should have said effective communication).
EFFECTIVE communication is where family therapy comes in. Through family work, I help others to communicate more effectively with each other, and help families to restructure in a way that children can thrive through an appropriate balance of structure and bonding/nurturing. One of the keys to this is helping parents discuss areas where they can more effectively align/work together to parent and to help talk with their children about emotional needs.
Of course family therapy is not the only focus – even in individual therapy, relationships (and wellness!) often become a part of the focus. Through assessment we will work together to determine areas of emotional stuckness in past/current relationships, work through ways to heal these hurts, and plan for ways to build and continue to maintain healthy relationships in the future.
One of the most important parts of therapy is YOU. Through counseling we will work together to help you come up with goals that make sense for your life (or your family) and establish a pace that works for you with an appropriate balance of pacing and challenging/meeting achievable goals. If you are ready to begin a journey towards healing and integrated wellness please call us at 724.863.7223 or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are children of the most high God and we were called to THRIVE! This calling is undeniable when one reads the scripture. We are to have abundant life, be overcomers, be free, walk in love and bear much fruit. This gospel of just enduring until we can reap our benefits in heaven is toxic and it’s time we as Christians but it to death once and for all. Don’t get me wrong, we have rewards in heaven but we are to Thrive here on earth as well. Thriving in this life is not about being rich and successful by the world’s standards although some will. Thriving means that we walk in the power God provides and we have abundant life regardless of our circumstances; even when the world strikes a blow. Jesus was being questioned after his arrest when the following scene took place.
22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded.
23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” John 18:22, 23
When I read these verses today I pictured a little insignificant ant striking a mighty worrier. The official acted as though he had authority, superiority and power but does he? Look at Jesus’ response. He is unmoved by this attack; it had no power over him. Why? Because he had the truth; He already had the victory. You see, Christ’s victory was already accomplished in Genesis 3:15 where it says “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The outcome has never been in question. However, we often live as though it is.
What if we lived as though we already had the victory? What if we stopped living on the defensive and started living victoriously? What if when the world strikes a blow, we saw it as Christ did, as insignificant compared to the love and power of our heavenly father? What if we recognized that we live with the same power Christ lived with, the Holy Spirit within us?
We would live victorious lives! We would thrive no matter what our circumstances were. Are you ready to do that?
I was once asked if, as Christians, we should be plan makers or order followers. How are we suppose to Thrive as Christians? Do we create visions, make plans, or wait for orders? As I thought about this and what scripture says, it was clear that we are to be both plan makers and order followers. We need to find our calling, create visions and be obedient even when we feel ill equipped.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22
God desires our partnership in carrying out his work. He wants us to rely on Him and do extraordinary things in his name.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. John 14:12
Ok so how does this work? How do I THRIVE as a believer?
When people hear that my wife and I have 13 kids, many of whom have been severely abused and neglected before they came to us, we get very interesting reaction. Most are very affirming and encouraging but usually somewhere in the discussion they say that it is great that God has equipped us for that calling but they know they haven’t been equipped for something like that. Ok so let’s first look at the calling. God calls us to be more than conquerors, to overcome and to have abundant life. He calls believers to do the works that He did and in fact to do “greater works.” How about this? In James 1:27 God calls us to take care of widows and orphans. So all believers are called to do God sized things; extraordinary things. Every believer has been called to THRIVE!
Ok so now let’s look at this idea of equipping. Every time I have taken in another abused child I have felt ill equipped; because I am. We recently had two children placed with us temporarily and the option to make it permanent came up. Initially I said “absolutely not, we can’t handle any more kids.” Well one day I was sitting next to one of the kids and felt an undeniable call from God that this was my child. That was it. I wasn’t equipped but God called me. I can either be obedient and trust Him to do it through me or I can be disobedient because I don’t feel equipped.
So I believe the process of Thriving, of taking on God sized challenges, looks like this. First we have the vision. We look at how God has designed us and what passions He has placed in our hearts and we allow ourselves to dream BIG. We wake up every day and, like Isaiah, say “here I am God, send me.” Then we EXPECT him to do big things because he is a big God. After seeking God’s direction with these visions, we then make a decision. We decide whether we are going to be obedient and trust God or not. If we decide to wait until we are equipped, we are deciding to not trust God. Then once we trust Him, He gives us the provisions to carry out the vision. If we wait to be equipped we miss it. Dream big, decide to follow God and then watch Him equip you and do it through you.
God is calling you to THRIVE! We are here to come along side you, meet you right where you are and help you get there.
Are you thriving in your life? Do you believe you can or have you settled for just surviving? Have you wondered if there is hope or is this all there is? Let’s take a look at this.
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37
Are you overcoming? Yeah, me neither. But check it out, God is! Too often we think we have to do it on our own and get overwhelmed and depleted. We conclude we can’t do it….and we are right. But God doesn’t want us to do it; he wants to do it through us. Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t that make you excited? The God of the universe wants to give you abundant life and help you thrive in your life despite your circumstances. He wants to move you past the limitations and lies that the world has given you. They are nothing to him! What does God want to do in your life that He isn’t because you won’t get out of the way?
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
In case you are wondering, this doesn’t mean you won’t have suffering or bad things happen to you. What it means is that God has already overcome those circumstances. Read the above verse again. “I HAVE overcome the world.” He has done it, we just have to accept it and let Him live through us. Are you ready?
Redefine the Problem with Parent Coaching
“My Kids” Therapeutic Parent Coaching Program
When you look at it the way you have always looked at it, you will see what you have always seen. We have been programmed by our culture to think in behavioral terms.
“My child is defiant…manipulative…controlling…dishonest.”
“I can’t let them get away with this.”
“If I don’t make him feel bad, I am a bad parent.”
“I have to give a consequence (even thought they aren’t working)…maybe something more severe will work.”
“This time the sticker chart will work, they will want to earn TV.”
If you are cool with that way of thinking about things and don’t want to see things differently, you probably should stop reading now. For the rest of you, open your minds to a better way to connect to your kids!
We are human beings, not Human doings!
We treat our children as if they are human doings instead of human beings. Why is this? It’s because our world has programmed us to look at behaviors and not at the individual. Think about it…insurance companies won’t pay for treatment if behaviors can’t be measured…many parenting books see kids, from new born to adolescents, as manipulative brats…If you walk into Target with a screaming kid under your arm while smiling and wave to people who are staring at you, they talk about you behind your back (or am I the only one who does that?). Anyways, our world is about compliance not connection. God created us to connect and for compliance to come out of those connections. Neurologically, the executive functioning part of our brain (the prefrontal cortex) is designed to make decisions based 90% on our understanding of relationships, and based 10% on rewards and consequences.
“What you do does not determine who you are, who you are determines what you do.” Neil Anderson
If this is true, traditional parenting approaches are very inadequate! We need to redefine how we see the problem if we are going to change how we parent. What would I do if I didn’t see my child as defiant, manipulative, or controlling? I’m glad you asked! At the root of all negative behavior, your child’s and yours, is insecurity. When I am insecure I react out of fear. Why do many parents give consequences? Because they are afraid of what will happen if they don’t or that their child with think they “got away with it.” Why do children act up? They are stressed and become insecure because they don’t know how to manage it. They haven’t developed the connections necessary to help them regulate their stress.
When I am stressed, or when one of my kids is stressed, we chose either the green (secure) path, or we chose the red (insecure) path. If I see my child’s behavior as defiant or manipulative I am more likely to go down the red path which means I react with the same consequence (maybe more severe this time) that has never worked (If it worked you wouldn’t still have to do it). This reaction leads to disconnection with my child, failure and limitations in our relationship. If I redefine the problem and see my child as stressed and insecure instead of defiant and manipulative, I am more likely to move down the green path. I stay regulated and connect with my child. This gives them the opportunity to connect with me and regulate their stress. This leads to success (you are successful even if your child doesn’t comply right way because you have stayed regulated and changed the pattern…eventually your child will regulate and connect to you and begin to change his behavior). This path also leads to more possibilities to connect as the relationship grows and behavioral patterns start to change.
Are you ready to go on this journey or do you want to stay stuck in old patterns that haven’t worked? If you are ready to transform your family, our parent coaching program is for you!
To get there you have to begin the journey, let’s get started!
By Stephen Luther
Executive Director of Grace Wellness Center
Licensed Professional Counselor and Therapeutic Parent Coach
My Kid’s Therapeutic parent coaching group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/890155804375744/
Grace Wellness Center on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gracewellnesscenter
As Christian Life Coaches, we begin by pointing people to the scriptures to see that we were clearly not made for ordinary lives, we were created for so much more.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37
Why do many Christians settle for the ordinary? Why do so few even seek “abundant life?” Why are most Christians not even conquerors let alone “more than conquerors?” Why do so few think it is even possible? While there are likely many reasons or variations on why, I believe that it boils down to two related issues…unbelief and fear. Living in fear leads to foolish decisions and ultimately failure. Repeat this cycle long enough and you begin to believe it is all you can do. At this point you are thinking “but I’m not afraid of anything.” Some men are even insulted by the thought they might be afraid…well sorry guys but like it or not we all have fear at the root of our failures.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. I John 4:18
When I step outside of God’s love I step right into fear. I am not talking about the “fear of the Lord,” that is the only fear that is rooted in love. All other fears are rooted in self love. Does that make sense? If I am walking in God’s love it casts our all other fears but if I am walking in the flesh, pride, self love, I live in fear of things not being how I want them to be and act foolishly based on those fears.
Let’s look at this a little closer. Why do I get angry at my wife? Because things aren’t the way “I” want them to be. In my pride, I lash out at her because I am fearful I won’t get what I feel I need. I act foolishly and end up with a worse mess than I had to begin with. I don’t find peace until I begin to walk in love. This love casts out my fears and I can see clearly to make better decisions. In my fear and anger I have torment as described in I John 4:18. When I walk in love I find answers and greater success. In fear there are problems, in love there are solutions.
Let me put this in a different context. I started Grace Wellness Center a little over 5 years ago. I had no idea what I was doing but believed God lead me to begin this ministry. I followed his leading but then quickly fear took over. I feared failure so I acted in desperation in a number of pursuits. One of those was investing $15,000 in radio ads that didn’t work. When they weren’t working I just kept acting in fear and stubbornly kept trying. I couldn’t accept the loss of $5000 dollars and felt I needed to make it work, so I kept listening to my sales rep that “it just takes time.” Then I couldn’t accept losing $10,000 dollars and felt I had to make it work or the money would just be wasted. I kept convincing myself foolishly that “I” could make this work and recoup my money. I felt “I” had to do this. Then one day I got to the end of myself and got on my knees and asked God what I needed to do. God didn’t meet me with the judgment or disgust I had for myself. He met me with love and I felt him physically lift me up off my knees and heard him tell me “it’s not your job to pay the bills, that’s my job.” I realized at that point that my role in this was to be faithful and to abide in him. With this new contentment and walking in his love, I began to make wise choices and the business began to take off. Five years later we have 15 counseling and coaching centers throughout western PA and offer Biblical Counseling and Biblical Life Coaching to anywhere in the nation via phone or skype.
Whether you are experiencing failure in your relationships, career, health, parenting or any other area of life, Biblical Life Coaching can help you turn those failures into successes. We have several highly qualified coaches with specialties in every area of life waiting to help you find success. Will you partner with us and let us come along side you on your journey towards abundant life?
A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, Proverbs 1:5
By Stephen Luther
Executive Director of Grace Wellness Center
Licensed Professional Counselor and Biblical Life Coach
What does Christian counseling and life coaching have to do with chickens? I’m glad you asked! Let me begin with a story about my chickens. When we first got our chickens we had them in an area enclosed by a 4 foot fence. It didn’t take long before the chickens figured out that they could get over the fence. What did they do when they got out? They crossed the road! So I raised the fence and they couldn’t get over it. However, it didn’t take long before they found a gap under one area of the fence and, you guessed it, they got out and crossed the road. I was left pondering a very real question about why the chickens crossed the road. It seemed as though they had a singular focus of getting to the other side and nothing else mattered.
As I pondered this, I began to think about how we are much like that. We often put the blinders on and pursue our goal without really thinking it through. We react and often get run over by life. Or, alternatively, we don’t pursue our goals because of fear of what we cannot see. A wise chicken keeps his goal, the other side of the road, in focus but broadens his view to consider other important information such as whether a car is coming. He acts wisely. Do you often get run over by life circumstances? Or do you stand on the side of the road afraid to cross because of uncertainty of what lies ahead? If you are like me, most times, you can’t see those cars coming at you. Often I need someone to come along side me and help me see where I am about to get run over. So let’s look at the process.
He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20
Life is full of stress. Often we see stress as the enemy, but stress is good if it is kept under control. It helps us know that we need to act in some way, keeps us sharp and builds our resources for not just coping with life, but living the extraordinary and victorious life God calls us to. When we are stressed, we will proceed down one of two paths, the path of the wise chicken or the path of the unwise chicken. These two paths are routed in one of two primary emotional states, love/security or fear/insecurity. If I can stay on the wise path, I will act in love and security. I don’t act hastily but I do act. I think things through and seek wise counsel. If I stay on this path I will find success and possibilities will unfold before my eyes. This is the green path on the diagram below. If however, I chose the path of the unwise chicken, I will react either by proceeding without considering the potential problems that will run me over, or I stand paralyzed. Both options are motivated by fear and insecurity. This WILL end in some failure in life and will bog me down with limitations and problems. This is the red path on the diagram below.
At Grace Wellness Center our Christian counselors and life coaches specialize in helping you be a wise chicken. What areas of life are you struggling in? Where are you getting run over by the circumstances of life? What areas are you stuck in and can’t see past the limitations before you? Our counselors and coaches would love to come along side you and help you be a wise chicken…are you ready to live the extraordinary life God designed for you to have?
To get there you have to begin the journey, let’s get started!
By Stephen Luther
Executive Director of Grace Wellness Center
Licensed Professional Counselor and Biblical Life Coach