Let’s Talk

More Letting Go . . .

Q. Could you please share more about letting go?

A. Let’s Talk! Do you have a file folder of “document treasures” you want to see again? One of my docs is about Letting Go, and I’d love to share it with you. Get out the tissues.

To let go doesn’t mean to stop caring,

It means I can’t do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off,

It’s the realization that I can’t control another.

To let go is not to enable,

But to allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another;

I can only change myself.

To let go is not to care for, but to care about.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own outcomes.

To let go is not to be protective; it is to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny, but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue, but search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes.

To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone, but to try to become what dream I can be. . . .

To let go is to fear less and love more!

Note: I would give credit to the author of this if I could but the author is unknown. Let me know your thoughts on these letting go points.

For Deeper Reflection

Ephesians 4:31-32 and Isaiah 43:18-19

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Let’s Talk

Back to School Issues

Q. Could you please share some of the issues facing families as children are now starting school?

A. Let’s Talk! Both the adults AND the children have numerous issues that move to front-row status as school starts. There are criers in the kindergarten hallways . . . and criers in Starbucks!

I have shared before about grief being a result of changes and losses, and certainly this is a major issue when adjusting to children being in school. There are big changes for kids and big losses for the grownups to both identify and to process.

My favorite kid story about the shock of change is this one: After the first morning in pre-K, a student was both sad and mad as he said, “Who in the h— signed me up for this?” We explained there was still lunch, a nap, and playtime (sounds delightful and harmless, right?!) – but he was not to be consoled. The next day I paired him with a new friend and he was happy! Early in life support systems help with loss and connecting with a new friend is good medicine. The book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn was also a great resource for the separation issues.

I found support as well when I had a meltdown years ago as my firstborn went to college. I cried WAY outside the normal range! It was God who whispered what was gone: It was not only my child that was absent but also my parenting as I knew it. Once I grieved that loss and the changes — and could reframe those losses and changes — I was ok. Remember our conversation in my last post about where true joy is? I always need His Truth for my wounds. Joy really is a function of the Spirit.

For Deeper Reflection

Zechariah 4:6 “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Let’s Talk

Mother’s Day Blues

A. Could you please share some thoughts about mothering? Mother’s Day was hard on some of my friends.

Q. Let’s Talk! There are few topics more fraught with emotion – good and bad – than mothering. It is a highly sensitive topic for most and a land mine for many. But let’s dive in!

Maybe you are one of the few who have or have had a good relationship with your mother. Maybe you didn’t have a good relationship with your mother. Maybe she is deceased and there is no way to ever make things better. Maybe you wish you could be a mother and it hasn’t worked out. Maybe mothering is too hard. Maybe your mother wounds seem just too big to overcome.

For all of us there is a deep place in our hearts to be mothered well, but if that didn’t happen, the key question is: how do we recover? As a counselor, I do recommend counseling for a season of time to process the grief and regrets in your heart and mind.

The big picture is to take the steps with a helping professional to gain new insights, but the bottom line and goal is, at an appropriate time, to move past the past. Then, looking into the future, what might you need to do to change things? Can you let go? Can you forgive? Is there more understanding? The ball is in your court now.

You don’t have to stay in a broken dream of mothering. I have been told countless stories of how God filled in the gaps and mended many a wounded heart. Would you ask Him to come into your broken places?

For Deeper Reflection

Psalm 27:10 “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Let’s Talk

Good Grief

Q. Would you please share some ways I can be okay during a period of grief?

A. Let’s Talk! Grief swells and recedes like ocean waves in the seasons of our lives, but we don’t really get the closure we need until we name and calculate our losses and changes.

Grief is so emotional that we sometimes don’t remember to get help cognitively, but therein is our help. When we can mentally process the depth of each loss and the many changes brought as a result, our heaviness of heart is validated in a very special way.

Many have said after listing all of the losses and changes after the death of a loved one, “I had no idea how one death could bring so much loss.” Others have said they never dreamed there were so many losses and changes from a divorce, the death of a pet, or even a move to another home.

We tend to minimize losses, so we can “feel” better—but we lose closure in doing that. We also tend to silence those grieving because we don’t want them to hurt. But what is the message we are giving? I think the message sounds like, “Don’t feel.” This is NOT a healthy message for any of us.

Over this past year we sure have talked a lot about stuffing feelings, and how unhealthy this is. Today we need to choose to not stuff our grief. Being a visual learner, I find it helpful to list all of my losses and changes that I am swimming in. The sheer listing of the items brings some real Aha revelations, as well as validation.

It is a good thing to be brave, but brave doesn’t mean stuffing our grief. Brave is taking our grief and handling it with care as we take inventory and process all the losses and changes our heart is experiencing.

Write us your thoughts on your ways through grief.

For Deeper Reflection

Psalm 22:24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.”

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. . . .”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Let‘s Talk

Your Waiting Room

Q. Why is it so hard to wait on people. . . ?

A. Let’s Talk! A Waiting Room at a doctor’s office or a business office is quite a feast if you are a people watcher, but most people are miserable, waiting. Perhaps waiting on people to act, or change, or move forward is one of the hardest kinds of waiting because it is completely out of our control.

We don’t even like yellow traffic lights, much less red ones. It’s an exposure of our true nature. Two-year-olds show us we don’t like to wait! As we age we learn to cover up our impatience more, but our annoyance with waiting is there. Especially waiting on people.

The remedy? There are a number of truths we can choose to embrace as we wait that do help ease the anxiousness. One is a line I have heard a bunch from author and speaker John Eldredge, “You may be in a bad chapter of your life, but it’s not the whole story.” We need perspective, just like last week’s tapestry story.

An important truth as we wait on people is to use that time to “die” to a desire to control others in our lives. The discomfort of waiting on someone reflects our not having control, but the truth is: It is so unhealthy to try to change or control others. Can you let it go? In past posts we have talked about how control issues kill relationships.

Another truth is that we resist being still (waiting), but that calm is the perfect place to reset, to hear from God, to get clarity, and truth. Dogs wait at the feet of their master, but we resist waiting with every fiber of our being. Could this time of waiting on others to make healthy choices and positive changes even be a gift?

For Deeper Reflection

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God . . .” (KJV).

Psalm 46:10 “Cease striving and know that I am God . . .” (NASB).

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Let’s Talk

Changing Seasons of Our Lives

Q. What about the changes of new seasons of our lives – how do I navigate that?

A. Let’s Talk! Change is in the air, literally! With the arrival of fall, we are reminded of the four seasonal changes AND the seasons of our own lives. Are you in the spring of your life or somewhere between fall and winter? One of our readers left a comment about trying to help an elderly friend cope with her season of life. There is a lot to process “to be okay” in the season of life you in which you find yourself. Every season has its challenges. Those raising young children find their challenges exhausting and overwhelming in our culture. Senior citizens face failing health, financial uncertainty, and losses including the death of their spouse, friends, and even their own death. Those in a season in between these two have mammoth challenges for finding meaning in their work world and relationships, their mark, their place, their identity.

A small percent of the population even experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. But, a bottom line is: Are you going to choose to let the season of your year or the season of your years dictate your mood? Your mental health? Your joy?

I wanted someone in the spring season of life to share a bit – and thought of my daughter, Blythe Daniel (http://www.facebook.com/momstogether). She is a mom of three small children and she is in her early 40’s. Overwhelming. When I talked to her today she was in between caring for her children and herself with some things that could slow her down with her own body and needs. I thought it was time for her to share!  Blythe, tell us a little about your “season”:

“Thanks, Mom. I think the word I feel about the season is perseverance. Persevering when I don’t see the results I’d like to see some days. Trusting that God holds us close even when we feel like he’s far away and we have more “to do” than we have hours in the day. There are days when I feel like all I do is pick up toys, face piles of laundry, dishes, meals, and more. But I know that this “season” I’m in is very short-lived. Soon the kids will be preparing their own meals, doing their own laundry, and out with their friends and I will be wishing these moments back in my life. Why can’t we be content in the season we’re in?

We seem to always want to peek around the corner to see if it looks better over there, and step our toes into it and catch a breath of fresh air. But what if God is reminding us that he hasn’t put us there yet? If we skip ahead, we will miss what is in this season. The smiles, the giggles, the hugs. If you look up persevere in the dictionary, you find: “continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.” That’s it! We are supposed to stay on the course even if we think it’s not going to lead to success or reward or anything that would signify glorious. Have patience and know that God will be with you in all seasons and he will use your current season in your life in ways you never thought possible. Like a child, don’t we usually run to have our needs met when we’re in pain, uncomfortable, or don’t know how to do something? Oh, that we would be this type of person who is patient and pursues others so that they would find someone who truly wants to be “in season” with them. This is my favorite song right now that I listen to several times a day. From Matt Maher’s song “Lord I Need You,” comes this: “Where grace is found is where you are, Where you are, Lord, I am free, Holiness is Christ in me.”

For Deeper Reflection

2 Timothy 4: 2 “. . . be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Please share your season of life with us in the Comments section and we’ll post!

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk

Being Stuck Between Pastures

Q. Last week you spoke about moving sidewalks and changing pastures. What if you feel stuck between pastures, with NO change happening?

 A. Let’s talk! Aren’t we funny sheep?!? We resist change with all our might, but we also bleat like sheep when we aren’t moving . . . when we are stuck between pastures. Then there’s that fickleness in our heart of wanting another pasture when we are in one nearby. BAAA! Let’s chew on this:

Last week we talked about how hard it is when change comes. Whether your change of direction feels like a moving sidewalk or a change of pasture – we talked about the key being the direction of your focus. In Martha Wolfe’s picture of changing pastures on her website, www.ChangingPasture.com only the sheep looking at the shepherd were not in distress. Sheep are easily panicked if they are not with four or five other sheep and without the shepherd. They need fresh water and fresh pasture, but won’t go to another pasture unless they can follow another sheep. They get in ruts! Sound familiar? I have asked Martha to weigh in again, as we are still talking pastures. Here is what she has offered us about being stuck between pastures:

One way people can get stuck between pastures is by being stuck in the past. In the Changing Pasture picture, two of the most obvious sheep are the two looking back at the old pasture. They may be stuck in grief due to a loss. They may be used to how life has always been and they want no part of moving out of their comfort zone. Ever meet people who want you to listen to their tale of woe  . . . . over and over again? I call this phenomenon, “being stuck in your story.” Some people camp here for years and it is a lonely place to be.

What should we do? First of all, let’s own where we are and what we are doing. For instance, if we’re stuck in the past, we may speak the same old tale of woe ad infinitum.

Secondly, let’s put ourselves back into the position of totally looking to the Great Shepherd for all we need. When tempted to get back into that old tale of woe and staying in the past, choose His leadership and guidance.

Finally, be expectant about the new pastures He will be leading you to. You can trust Him.”

For Deeper Reflection

Read John 10 and Psalm 23   

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

Let’s Talk

Moving Sidewalks

 

Q. I struggle with so many changes in my daily life . . . I don’t adjust well when they happen.

A.  Let’s talk! Yes, change is VERY hard! It is so daily and feels so out of control, like one is on a moving sidewalk. Most humans resist every change with every fiber of their being. Therein is the battle: it’s daily and feels terrible! Additionally, with every change comes that feeling of unfamiliarity, so feelings of fear, discouragement, disappointment, and control issues stick their ugly heads in the mix as well.

We think we want new and fresh experiences, but that default button of ours always returns to the familiar. Experiencing even one day of unexpected changes is tough. We’ll talk about what it takes to process change, so you can better adjust to the moving sidewalk.

When change comes, it does feel as if the earth is moving, doesn’t it? Our footing becomes unsettled. In the last two months, I have had more changes happen in my world than in a year’s time. I have been tested daily, hourly. But, guess what? Somewhere on the moving sidewalk I realized how some GOOD things have happened as a result. The best part is that I am learning to seek God’s viewpoint on these earth-moving situations. He does long to be invited into the cracks where we are walking and enable us to walk well. So, today, let’s ask God for the courage to aggressively, fearlessly, and assertively jump on that moving sidewalk.

I know of no one who understands this subject better than my dear friend, Martha Wolfe, of Atlanta. I highly recommend visiting her website, www.ChangingPasture.com. Go there for a blessing and a look at a painting of three shepherds crossing a lake with a boat full of sheep – changing pastures!

Martha asks often, “Is the Lord changing your pasture?” Is your life topsy-turvy? Are you trying to make something in your life fit . . . and it’s just not fitting? Do you have the suspicion that God may want to change your vocation? Are you burnt out, tired, and lifeless? Are you looking for God’s direction and can’t seem to find it? Does your business look as though it is failing? Does it feel like the bottom is falling out from under you?

The key to successfully changing pastures actually lies within the picture itself. The sheep are looking at the shepherd. The other sheep are in distress. “Which sheep are you?,” she often asks. In the introduction of her CD, Martha explains, “Not only may you be changing pasture, but something much bigger is going on. America, and indeed our globe, is shifting and changing pasture. This is why you feel so much insecurity in the world. But believers are never without hope.”

If God is your Shepherd, the change of pastures (or sidewalk!) may be a good thing. Ask Him! Look up!

 

For Deeper Reflection

Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. . . .”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

Let’s Talk

Harmony vs. Discord

Q. How can we get along better in our families and close friendships regardless of differences? I long for harmony, but discord is more prevalent because of our differences.

 

 A. Let’s Talk! Our hearts were built to love harmony, but we do live among others with great diversity of thought and life choices. Let’s explore how we can navigate that kind of music playing in our immediate surroundings!

Of course, we want people to think like we think. It’s undeniably more comfortable, but it is not realistic. What if differences among family members and friends help prepare us to love those outside our circle? If we can live well with those we know well—we can handle bigger differences at work, school, in our neighborhoods, etc.

So, how can we be okay with differences in our family or close circle? First, let’s go back a few columns. Remember we talked about how we can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. If we try to change others, it is called control. Ugh. It’s an awful feeling to be either the controller or the controlled one. You can only control your side of a difference of opinion. With that out of the way, you are then in a neutral place to ask for clarification, just so you know for sure the other person’s stand on issues. Then you can ask if you can share your views, not to change your loved one’s views, but just so your position is heard and understood.

Next you are in the classic place where you can ask if you can “agree to disagree.” It is even helpful to say, “I am sharing my beliefs so you will know where I stand, but my purpose is not to persuade you to share my position.” That eases the control tension. “Healthy” families should be able to disagree and be okay. If we can’t disagree openly, then we are stuffing and that is unhealthy. Many families even have family meetings deciding on language to use to respectfully disagree.

Unconditional love is choosing to love someone REGARDLESS of differences or blemishes others may have. Jesus is about the only example of this in its truest form, but He compels us to choose it as a way to live among imperfect humans. Isn’t it totally refreshing when we know that someone cares for us whether we mess up or not? It is a great gift one can give to one’s children, spouse, friends, or world.

I can hear you asking, “But what if I am ‘right?’” My answer is: So, you believe that being right is bigger or more important than the relationship? Is that the message you believe and are sending to your family or, is the relationship more important? Can we love them anyway, even if we believe they are “wrong?” Are you miserable because of these people in your life? A peaceful heart has everything to do with choosing harmony in spite of differences. Does it mean we have given up our principles? No, it means we are choosing to be gracious. Do you hear a new harmony possibly? I sure welcome your thoughts on this discord vs. harmony topic.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

 

For Deeper Reflection

 Proverbs 15: 16-17 “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and turmoil with it. Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, than a fattened ox and hatred with it.”

Proverbs 17:1 “Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife.”

Proverbs 25:24 “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

 

 

Let’s Talk

How Are You Walking?

 — by Dr. Helen McIntosh

Q. I’ve been noticing how I excuse or use blame messages to justify my poor choices. What are other pitfalls as I walk more aware of my choices?

A. Let’s Talk! Last week we talked about the fact that we really do have a choice about our actions. Remember the example about holding up the left hand/right hand? But somewhere along the line, when wounds of the heart come, we have pitfalls in the path. Choices blur and we make excuses and do blaming of ourselves and others. Our culture is overloaded with the blame game! I mentioned personal responsibility last week as the antidote for that trail. I heard a saying today by Brit Hume: “Winners own their responsibility, and losers blame others.” Good stuff!

Here’s another pitfall on the trail as you walk: It is possible to develop a victim mentality, which leads to self-pity, bitterness, resentments, and even a feeling of false entitlement. You need to guard against that with great fierceness. If you really, really want mental/emotional/spiritual wholeness, you will nail those thoughts. Remember, thoughts lead to actions. So, if you are going south on a woe is me path, you CAN turn around. You can walk a different way in a different direction. Look up!

For Deeper Reflection

You can ask your heavenly Father to download His answers for your path. Ask Him to help you find the missing pieces of the puzzle and to solve the problem(s). Ask Him to put your feet in a better path—His path!

Jeremiah 6: 16 Thus says the Lord, stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.”

Isaiah 65: 2 “I have spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts . . . .”

Isaiah 58: 11 “And the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail . . . .”

Your questions and grappling with challenges in your own life are important to us. I’d love to address your specific questions, so confidentially contact me at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.