My Struggle With Mental Health

These Are My Confessions

I am a pastor, husband, father, and a writer. I love Jesus and I am excited about what He is doing through me and in me. Yet, there are two issues that I have dealt with my whole life: ADD and anxiety. I became aware of them pretty early on in life. The anxiety manifested itself in two ways, especially:
  1. Public speaking
  2. Dark, lonely places
I’ve always said God has a sense of humor because he called me to be a pastor: a job that requires a lot of public speaking and also a lot of traveling and staying in dark places alone. And truthfully I must confess, traveling was very difficult for me for the longest time. The anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t fall asleep. And I will never forget how my anxiety took over when I preached my first sermon. I was so overwhelmed that even though I had 10 pages of written material I only spoke for 5 minutes. My girlfriend at the time was so unimpressed with my sermon she broke up with me soon after.

You Are Not Alone

The reason I’m sharing my experience is because I find so many leaders and members alike struggle with mental health issues. And to make matters worse they’re getting terrible counsel. Unfortunately, many of us are dealing with everything from anxiety and depression to bipolar disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by ourselves. Anyone facing these issues alone knows that isolation only exasperates the problem.

Get Counseling

You know what helped me? Counseling helped. At some point we have to be honest and admit that sometimes you can’t just pray depression away, or anxiety, or _______________ (fill your mental health challenge here). “Pray harder” may not be the best solution.
In fact, when you pray and the problem continues it can create a false sense of guilt and shame. Many begin to believe that either God doesn’t want to heal them, or that they don’t deserve to be healed. And neither of these things are true. The fact of the matter is, mental health issues are not exclusively spiritual issues. They are illnesses that require medical attention in the same way a broken arm or a heart attack requires a physician. So if you’re struggling with mental health go see a counselor.

Prayer Really Works

But in addition to the counseling, prayer really did help a lot. There is a calming effect to prayer. This calming effect is really why I believe talking to God is such a blessing. I can truly say that through prayer i’ve experienced the promise of Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Work With the Weight

I also found that doing my job regardless of how I felt helped. In spite of the anxiety, I continue to speak and travel. I’ve taken God’s instruction to Joshua to “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). It’s verses like these that teach me to trust in God’s calling more than in my issues.

Talk Through It

And finally, I learned that talking to people also helped. Because there is a stigma attached to mental health issues it is oftentimes hard to open up. But when we share our stories with others it allows people to feel comfortable saying “that is my story too!” Vulnerability breeds community.
I want to invite you to seek help. The Father says, you are worthy. Jesus says, you are loved. And the Spirit say, you are special.

 




Single Elegance: Hope That Shines After The Hurt

“My beloved spake, and said…Rise up, my love…and come away,” (Song of Solomon 2:10).
I didn’t want to be single again, but I am. It’s just me again. How do you walk in a phase of your life you weren’t prepared to re-enter? How do you honor God in a consequence that feels so unfair, so painful so undeserved? But here I am, years later, still single; yet, in spite of the losses, disappointments, readjustments and sense of failure, experiencing God’s joy, peace, hope, ability to forgive and accept His ministry of reconciliation.

The empty spaces are filled with Him and I feel free and complete and continue to be amazed at how He is transforming my life and using me in ways that He never could have, had my life not been interrupted. Changed. Transitioned and Transformed.

It was a process, however, a process of experiencing deeper levels of love and forgiveness. I began owning what was mine to own, and letting go of what was not. I started surrounding myself with positive Christian family and friends. Then, I saturated my life in Bible study, prayer and service (2 Cor. 1:4). I learned to be still, I mean really still and quiet, and as I did, I could hear God speaking to me. He was leading and guiding me. Above that, He was my Counselor who has deposited joy and strength into my very soul (Nehemiah 8:10). He holds my hand (Psalms 73:23,24), and He has a surprise in store for me (Isaiah 43:19)! These promises give me encouragement and remind me that there is hope on the other side of hurt.

Rejecting The Sense of Rejection

But there’s a real enemy in the struggle, and the warfare is real! Our enemy wants to distract us away from our focus on God and His promises. In times of difficulty he wants us to believe his lies that we’re unlovable, unworthy and unwanted. But he is a liar and God is greater (1 John 4:4)!

We look like God, and were created in His image. In my painful journey back to singleness, God revealed to me just how He has used me. In a recent conversation with my former pastor, he confessed to me that he and his wife had been talking about me. I was immediately curious about the details. Instead of speaking though, I paused and listened to what he had to say.

My Pastor then explained how amazed he and his wife were at the courage, grace and strength I have shown in dealing with my intense trial. Perhaps God had allowed me to face my struggle to show him how to face his! He and his wife called me the epitome of “Christian elegance.”

Of course, I was overwhelmed and humbled. All I know is that God has allowed certain things to happen in my life because He trusted me to steward those trials well. He wanted to work out His purpose in my life through a painful process to grow/mature me so that He would be glorified in how I responded. I understand that what I experience here on earth is just a small sample of the ultimate spiritual warfare being played out over my life in a realm I cannot see. I feel somewhat privileged to be somehow trusted by God to represent Him and stand as His ambassador.

Stella’s Second Act

I remember having a difficult time and crying out to God for help. He impressed upon my heart to spend time with a special couple who are like family to me. As I entered their home, I was immediately surrounded by love, acceptance and support. The home cooked meal filled my heart with memories of South Carolina days as a little girl, and the safety of their home provided emotional sheltering for my wounded soul. The spiritual counsel made an indelible impression upon my heart.
As we stood in a circle to pray before I headed home, my pastor-friend gave me three life principles that I continue to treasure:

Stay close to God-increase your Bible study and prayer time.
Never give up-always believe that God can!
Always look good!-When people see you they should know that you’re a daughter of the King so eat well, rest and exercise.

These three principles carried me through, when I felt lonely because the house was just too quiet. Or, when I was concerned about my future and my finances, when feelings of sadness would overwhelm me and my tears seemed to have no end, I would read the Word and pray! I would pray scriptures and sing scriptures and as I did, I began to heal!

Weary One, Rise Up!

What is moving me forward is the knowledge that I am loved (Zeph. 3: 17, John 3:16). Let me shout it out: I am loved! I am valued! (Psalm 8:5, Genesis 1:27). My God speaks to me and has told me to rise up! Everything that I have experienced is not wasted and is working together for my good (Rom. 8:28), and has been allowed by my beloved (Genesis 50:20).

He loves me too much to be solely concerned with my comfort, so He has Divinely Ordained an alteration to assist in my transformation process (2 Corinthians 3:18). My latter will be greater than my beginning (Job 42:12) and he has told me that I will rise to new heights in Him. He has also told me to come away and as I have spent more time with Him I have gained a new perspective which has altered my mind and responses.

The definition of elegance is: Style, good taste, gracefulness, refinement, class, taste, chic and sophistication. Initially I looked at this definition and could not see any aspects of myself in the description, but I realize that all of us who have chosen to become new creatures in Christ will display Christian graces which, in essence, are the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23)! I am standing on the strength of Jesus Christ and by his power I am able to stand in silent strength and confidence.

Are you a Christian of elegance and grace in spite of your circumstances? Whether single or married, ask God to give you power to please him in the midst of difficult times.




Drama Files: Too Late to Break Up?

Too long and too wrong, this wife walked away with nothing.

Belinda and John met at a neighborhood party store. John noticed Belinda and was attracted to her, but Belinda was not attracted to him at all. John walked out of the store but waited patiently for Belinda to come out.  When she saw John waiting for her, he approached and offered her his cell phone number. They talked, became friends, dated and later she moved into his home. Three months later Belinda discovered that John was a drug dealer. This frightened her and she wanted no part of his lifestyle. 

Belinda wanted out of the relationship but John  pleaded with her to stay and promised Belinda he would leave this illegal profession alone.  Six months later, John was still selling drugs and Belinda was now expecting their first child. She did not want to separate the family and had no means to provide for herself and their son. Therefore, she remained in the relationship.

This is Not How I Was Raised

Belinda began to feel guilty because she was not raised to live in sin, but to live as man and wife. When speaking to John about her feelings, he expressed that he had not given any thought to marrying, but if that is want she wanted he would marry her. “But,” he said, “I am a man who cannot be faithful. ” Though she was certain at that point that she should have left, she stayed because of her child. She feared she had no resources of her own, so she married John. 

Belinda knew that John had extra marital relationships over the years, but never confronted him because he provided for her and their son. John, finally after many years, left the drug life behind and secured a job working  for the post office. One afternoon he left his cell phone at home and Belinda discovered several women that he was having an affair with. When she confronted him, he told her “ You knew the type of man that I was then and I had several women in my life.”

“We are man and wife,” Belinda countered. “Does that mean anything to you?”

“ No,” John replied.

No Options on the Table

Belinda sat in the room alone and cried. At the moment she bowed down on her knees and prayed to the Lord for  help. A few days later Belinda was referred to me for assistance. We met and discussed her options.

Belinda stated her husband refused to seek counseling and would continue to have sex with other women because she no longer satisfies him. John wanted a wife to cater to his every whim and Belinda said she would not do this.  She is now preparing to divorce John, at the age of 45.  She has to start her life over again, still with no resources. The house, car and her real estate business all belong to him. John told Belinda she will leave the way she came into his home, with nothing. 

After her first therapy session Belinda willingly returned to church, and is not afraid to start again. “ I never signed up for this type of life and I deserve better”. 

During the therapy session I shared several scriptures and suggestions to assist Belinda on her new journey. 

Scriptures and Suggestions for Guidance 

“He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself” Proverbs 6:32.

 “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners,” 1 Corinthians 15:33. 

  1. Pray first and be connected to God.  
  2. Don’t be totally dependent on the other person. 
  3. Seek counseling and a safe exit plan. 
  4. Have yourself checked by a physician for a STD. 
  5. Don’t compromise with your life. 
  6. Redirect your thoughts and action 180 degrees. 

When an individual decides to become involved with another person who is openly living a life of lies and corruption, you must be strong enough to separate yourself and dissolve the relationship, immediately. 




Damaged by an Emotional Affair 

Tara and William have been married for 12 years. They met while attending graduate school in Detroit, Michigan. They both secured excellent employment in Detroit  and decided to remain in the area. Tara was an account executive and William was a certified public accountant. The couple had one son who was eight years-old. 

The couple contacted my office to schedule an appointment to address a martial issue. William and Tara arrived in a timely manner and were very polite. The couple was escorted  to my private office where William began to share their concerns with me.

William stated that he found out that Tara was having an emotional affair with a man she met on a dating site. William asked his wife ” Why were you on a dating site in the first place?”

Crossing the Line

Tara sat there in shock because she had no idea that William knew she was on the site. William shared in the session that a client for whom he was preparing taxes showed him the site.  He told William that he had met a wonderful woman and had been talking to her for five months. They had not be physical but he was anticipating them crossing that line.

William never told his client that the woman in his pictures was his own wife.  Nor did William even let on that anything was wrong. He finished the taxes, left his office and sat in his car crying and trying  to pray.

Tara and William were both Christians and faithful followers of Christ. William would have never suspected that his wife could do this because of their love for God and for one another.

Tip of the Ice Burg

During the session Tara was asked to take down her profile page from the dating site, but she was not just on that site, she revealed she was on four other sites. William lowered his head and cried.

Tara tried to extend herself to him but William stood up to pull himself together and stood there looking at her with so much hurt. He finally returned to his seat, but could barely control his emotions. William stated that he felt Tara always had barriers between them and he felt her lack of commitment within their relationship. However, he focused on caring and loving for her hoping that his concerns would soon pass. 

Tara shared that her father was an emotional cheater. When her mother found out, she decided to remain in the marriage though it caused such pain.  She didn’t want to separate her family. Therefore, she tolerated his behavior for 45 years, praying for his life to change. He finally gave his life to Christ, Tara said.  “My mother’s prayers were answered,” she said, and my parents are still married and doing well.” 

William asked  Tara “Why didn’t you ever tell me about your father?” Tara explained she was ashamed and it was their past hurt and now this negative behavior had become her present situation. She apologized to William and promised him that she would never do anything to undermine God’s will for their marriage again. William told her he didn’t trust her and needed more time and counseling. 

Passed Down

Tara’s family origin and her father’s negative behavior had transferred to her development, and her pattern of thinking. It made a lasting impression on her life, and led her to experiment with his former lifestyle.

I explained to the couple that Tara may be experiencing Attachment  Disorder in her life. Attachment Disorder is defined as the condition in which individuals have difficulty forming lasting relationships. They often show nearly a complete lack of ability to be genuinely affectionate with others. They typically fail to develop a conscience and do not learn to trust.

An emotional affair is sometimes referred to as an affair of the heart. An emotional affair may emerge from a friendship and progress toward greater levels of personal intimacy and attachment. What distinguishes an emotional affair from a friendship is the assumption of emotional roles between the two participants that mimic of those of an actual relationship – with regards to confiding personal information, and turning to the other person during moments of vulnerability or need. 

Four main styles of attachment have been identified in adults:

* secure

* anxious–preoccupied

* dismissive–avoidant

* fearful–avoidant

Tara exhibits all four attachment styles. She feels secure within her relationship with William, but feels overwhelmed and anxious if he becomes to close to her. Unfortunately, she avoided and dismissed her husband’s concerns about her behavior when he confronted her, and therefore would become fearful and avoid him. She seeks other attention from other men from whom she is already detached. As long as she is not committed she feels safe within her own space. As the therapist it is important that the treatment plan address attachment disorder, trust, rebuilding the levels of communication with God and with one another. 

Being the Bigger Person

Before the session concluded, William shared that he understands what his wife was going through. He reminded Tara that when he was a child, his mother was unfaithful to his father. But, William said, he wanted to be a man that would hold his relationship with God and his family in high regards. 

He turned to Tara and said “Just a reminder that I personally choose not to entertain or consider any female offers, invitations, or wallow in flirtatious or ego-stroking actions.  I am confident and at peace with who I am, how God has wondrously and uniquely made me. [I am confident in] the joy and happiness that I can bring into your life, physically, emotionally and romantically. My life is what it is, hopefully to only get better. My heart, feelings and love is to you and you alone. I am totally committed in my efforts–and with God on my side–to winning your heart, your love, your trust, your attraction to me and your friendship. This is what I want to do, trusting the outcome to God. Love always finds a way. “He who finds a wife, he finds a good thing” (Proverbs  18:22). 

William told Tara that he loved  her and is willing to trust God and move forward. He looked her in her eyes, kissed her as she was crying and said, “I forgive you, now forgive yourself.”

Tara and William continue their counseling and Tara has not engaged with any outside interests and they both continue to hold themselves accountable to God and one another. 




Truth About Sexual Harassment

Are you tired? I know I’m tired! Every time I turn on my radio I hear another report of a woman alleging sexual harassment!

Counseling the Traumatized

As a counselor I’ve been dealing with this now for a long time—more than twenty years.  I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a recovering sex, pornography, and food addict.

I specialize in forensic child maltreatment, and the diagnosis and treatment of sex and pornography addictions. So, every day I have a front-row seat to all the pain, sorrow, loss, despair, depression, and destruction that sexual sin causes my clients. Their families suffer too. Yet, they’re all valuable people, created in the image of God.

The Real Problem Is

But the problem is that we, as a culture, have for far too long turned our backs on God, and how He perceives the humanity He created. We have acted as if we can think, say, and do anything we want to, and expect there to be no adverse consequences.

The recent spike in sexual harassment allegations is a good thing. For far too long women shouldered the weight of this. Most knew that they wouldn’t be supported, believed, respected. Some would bear blame for something that wasn’t their fault. But I’m sad to say that I suspect that these allegations will get much worse before they get any better, and ultimately, it won’t really get any better.

Trading God In

Let me explain. Sexual harassment is not the problem—it’s the symptom; the symptom of a much larger problem. If we as a culture really want to put a stop to this issue of harassment, we need to stop acting as if we can wield our sexuality any way we choose.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Rome addressed this very same issue. He was writing to Christians living in a sexually promiscuous culture, very much like our own; a culture that worshipped a great many idols and perceived Christians as morally uptight, prudish, and judgmental.

In Romans 1:18-32, Paul forcefully and logically lays out his argument and the bottom line is this: choices have consequences. Take a minute to read it for yourself. Paul basically says that when humanity refuses to recognize God as, well, God, we devolve.

Choices have consequences—both good and bad. This specific passage of scripture is very telling in that Paul, almost prophetically, listed what a culture that had turned their collective backs on God would resemble.

Do you recognize that today every and anything goes sexually? If that’s the case—and it is—why does an epidemic of sexual harassment surprise us? Isn’t sexual harassment just another iteration of humanity’s insatiable appetite for more, and weirder, and freakier?

Problem Solved?

So what’s the solution? Sexual harassment sensitivity training, more stringent penalties and laws? How about public shaming, firings, fines, and imprisonments? All of those things are only human measures to decrease this problem, simply external motivators that ultimately won’t stop sexual harassment.

No. We remove the scourge of sexual harassment in our culture through a heart transplant. And this operation isn’t one you can get from any human surgeon; only God performs this intervention!

God’s message through the prophet Ezekiel, to stubborn, exiled Israel, uses this figurative language: “And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God” (11:19-20, NLT).

A Potent And Powerful Gift

Sex and sexuality are wonderful gifts of God. But, when we as individuals and as a culture decide we want to turn our backs on God, and His specific plans for how we should use this powerful and potent gift, we are only inviting trouble.

Embed from Getty Images

As a culture, we shouldn’t be surprised that these allegations of sexual harassment have, and will continue to increasingly surface. We, as a culture, have become like Cain, who was jealous and angry that God accepted his brother’s sacrifices to God, but rejected his—but stubbornly refusing to change his actions. Why should we be surprised that this is what we are sowing?

If we don’t like the consequences, then we must change our behaviors. If we don’t, I fear that “ . . . sin is crouching at the door, eager to control [us]” (Genesis 4:7, NLT). And it, and not God, will be our master.

Respect for women—for all of humanity, really—begins and ends with ultimate and consistent respect and recognition of who God is in each of our lives. King Solomon, spent almost all of his life living without God, and near the end of his life, wisely wrote in his journal, turned Old Testament book of the Bible, Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty” (NLT).




Drama Files: Bye-Bye Jamal. You Can’t Have it All.

 

 

Paris sought  counseling with me while going through a divorce. The problem: she always had concerns about her husband working around women, and not setting boundaries with his students.

Paris and Jamal had been married  for only two years. She was a high school teacher and Jamal was a college professor. They loved  each other very much.

Tell-Tale Texts

Jamal had been receiving text messages on his phone consistently. Paris noticed he would turn his phone over, or just ignore the text. One afternoon, she received a text that her husband was involved with one of his former graduate students and that she needed to go immediately to his office.

Paris was off work on that day so she went right over to Jamal’s office. She opened the door and there he was kissing another woman, and she was pregnant. Jamal was in shock and all Paris could do was stand there and cry. She calmly walked out of his office and waited for him to come home.

She never saw any signs of the unfaithfulness in their marriage. She tried to play it over and over in her head, but she would become more frustrated. Finally, Jamal came home and told her everything. He also stated that the child was his and that the affair had been going on from day one of their marriage. On the day of their marriage, he had sex with her, yet and he claimed he loved them both. Jamal had tried to keep it a secret, but he knew it would eventually come out. He was to afraid of loosing Paris and being away from his girlfriend and his new baby.

“You lost me the moment I walked through that door today” Paris told him.

Too Late to Apologize

Jamal’s pleadings of  “Please  don’t do this to us, and I love you Paris,” made no headway with Paris. He was selfish and only cared about himself.

Paris had been trying to conceive and Jamal kept making excuses why they should not have a child. That evening Jamal packed his bags and moved out. Paris filed for divorce and never had any further contact with Jamal until three years later.

Paris was the keynote speaker at an educational conference, and after she finished greeting people, Jamal stepped up.  She was taken a little off-guard, but not totally surprised that he would possibly attend. After they exchanged greetings Jamal plunged right in with an apology.  His relationship with the other woman broke off shortly after his divorce, and she had a miscarriage.  He lost everything over his own pride and selfishness, he admitted.

For Paris, Jamal’s admissions and apologies now brought closure to their dramatic and painful divorce.  It was still over, however, and Paris made that very clear. She forgave him, but would not reconcile with him.

Choice At the Heart of the Matter

“But, you never gave me an opportunity to choose you,” Jamal countered.

” You chose the day you brought a another woman into our marriage,” Paris wisely observed. Their conversation ended, and Paris walked away never looking back. She continues to flourish and is focusing on her life with Christ and family.

I shared with Paris something my father told me. “If someone you have trusted can’t make  a decision for the betterment of your life, then you need to make it for yourself.”  Paris will continue her counseling with me me, is looking forward to a wonderful future and trusting God for her outcomes.

 

 




“I Gave My Child Away 11 Years Ago”

When through guilt and shame Sharon surrendered her child, she never realized God would give her a second chance at being her mother.

Drama Files Title TileSean and Sharon contacted us about their marriage and  requested  counseling sessions. Sharon had given birth to a child prior to meeting her husband and never told him about it. 

The child was born when Sharon was twenty years old in her third year of college. She took a semester off from school, had the child and returned to complete her education without telling her family.  She decided to allow the father of the child to have full custody, but she would have no contact with the child, ever.  Her parents never knew the child existed nor did her family or friends.

Sharon moved ahead automatically for more than ten years afterwards. One day a letter notified her that the child’s father had become very ill. He wanted her take custody of their child, had scheduled a court hearing, and hoped to relinquish full custody to Sharon.

The Court Date

Sharon became very fearful. This child was now 11 and it looked as if her old secret could destroy her marriage, she thought. Further, her entire family could reject her.

In spite of her anxiety, Sharon agreed to meet with her child’s father, but first she had to tell her husband about the situation.  Sean was  in total unbelief. “How do you keep a secret like this from your husband?”

As the history unraveled, Sharon explained that she did not want to have an abortion or give the child away for adoption to strangers. The right thing to do, as she thought at the time, was to let the father know and give him an opportunity to raise the baby in a good and spiritual environment.

“The condition of not seeing her was mine not Kevin’s,” she said. “He never wanted me out of her life.  I did not have room in my life for a child. Call me selfish or heartless but I felt it was the right thing to do for her.” 

Sean got up and left the room, hurt and frustrated. Sharon sat there, crying alone. She composed herself  and then called her parents and asked to meet with them immediately. As she prepared to pull out of the driveway Sean jumped in the car with her.  “I’ll be in court with you and I look forward to bringing her home,” he said

Sean had no reservations about this situation and he knew God was working things out.  He knew something stood in the way whenever he would discuss having  a child with Sharon. Sharon became so emotional that Sean had to drive. 

 ” What kind  of mother gives her child away?” Sharon asked sobbing.  “I just could  not bear the shame or guilt, so it was easier to avoid it at all cost.”

When You Hold The Family Secret

While walking into her parents’ home Sharon realized that her two brothers and three sisters were all there. Sharon’s parents called them to come over right away and they all thought that the couple was either expecting or adopting a child. All the other siblings had children except for Sharon.

Tears of shame began to sneak down Sharon’s face. The sight of everyone overwhelmed her and she just didn’t have the courage to tell them all so she asked to speak to her parents privately and they agreed. Her parents had always been supportive towards her and all their other children. Sean with her as she told her parents the truth. 

“We have a granddaughter and you never told us?” her father asked.

“You had sacrificed so much for me to attend college” Sharon explained. “I was so ashamed and I made a decision to have the child alone.”

“I remember you taking a semester  off  and you couldn’t come home,” her father said. “Now I know why.”  Sharon’s mother reached out and held her, asking for no explanation. She only told her that she loved her and she wanted to meet her grandchild.

When after an hour  Sharon went back into the other room and told her siblings, they held her with unconditional love and laughed. “We have a new addition to the family!

Instant Family

"We have a new addition to the family!" Sharon's family instantly "blended" to surround Elise with love.
“We have a new addition to the family!” Sharon’s family instantly “blended” to surround Elise with love.

Three days later the entire family attended the custody hearing. Sharon had not spoken to Kevin in 11 years but when they greeted each other she knew everything would be fine.

Sharon and Sean signed the papers and promised Kevin that they would be good parents to Elise. Sharon shot a glance at Kevin when he said the child’s name.

“Is something wrong?” Sean asked her.

“No, it’s just that Elise was my grandmother’s name,” Sharon said.

” I knew how much you loved your grandmother and I prayed someday you would meet your daughter,” Kevin said. He had only one request for them: “please raise her continually in the will of God.”

They all agreed.

Two days later Sharon, Sean, Kevin, and Elise met for dinner. Elise was the reflection of Sharon they could have been twins. Sharon extended her hand to greet Elise and after a few silent moments Elise said “I have waited eleven years to meet you and my father gave me a picture of you and I prayed to meet you and God answered my prayers”. 

She then  gave her mother a huge hug and kiss and there was not a dry eye in the group, especially not Sharon’s.  They spent the next few hours and many days ahead getting acquainted.

Kevin’s House Was In Order

Elise was made aware of her father’s illness two years prior to this. Doctors diagnosed Kevin with leukemia and his prognosis wasn’t good. He knew he had to find Sharon and reconnect Elise with her. Kevin had a very successful law practice and he made wise choices regarding Elise’s financial stability and future education requirements. He also knew of Sharon’s and Sean’s success and knew his daughter would continue to excel.

Sharon’s parents gave Elise a welcome home party and she met all her mother’s family and Sean’s family also. Kevin had always told Elise that her mother loved her very much but needed him to care for her until the day came they would be reunited as mother and daughter.

Kevin made sure,  through God’s guidance,  to secure a safe  and godly environment  for their child. Elise had moved in with Sean and Sharon and they began a new journey together. The couple repeatedly thanked Kevin for his kindness and love for God that showed them that God never stops loving or forgiving us and they helped him in his final months until he passed away. Elise was by her father’s bedside the evening he died when she told him, “I’ll  see you in the morning; rest daddy, just rest.” 

Restoration Eased the Guilt and Shame

The family was so moved by her love for her father and God. Kevin had raised his daughter to  fear and love God as he was raised by his parents who had passed away several years ago. That witness lead Sean and Sharon to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. 

Today, Sean, Sharon and Elise attend  family counseling with Arthur and me and they are blending, adjusting, and growing  well together.

Sharon has said that she allowed fear, selfishness and disappointment to interfere with God’s plan for her life. She had to work through her personal pain–the knowledge that she missed eleven years of her daughter’s life. But, overriding that was the unselfish, forgiving love of  her child’s father, a dear friend, who restored a mother and daughter together once again.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.




All Lies

Drama Files Title TileEdward  and  Natalie met through a mutual friend while attending a graduation celebration. They dated for two years and have been married for 13 years. During that time they traveled and built a wonderful life together, so it seemed.

Edward works as an executive for a major company and Natalie is a dentist in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Together they worked very hard to  save their finances for their agreed-upon future endeavors.

woman disgusted at monthly statement on white background
Beginning of lies: Edward secreted $10,000 from the family’s bank account, but where he spent the money caused even more alarm.

One day as Natalie reviewed the transactions in one of their accounts she noted expenditures that were not clearly justified. She decided that before calling Edward, she would go to the bank herself.  The banker told her $10,000 had been withdrawn from their joint account. When he showed her a printout of the debit card usage she thought there had to be an error. The card number belonged to Edward, but they could not determine where the money had gone.  

That evening Natalie waited up  for Edward to come home, but decided to go to bed when he didn’t show.  When he tried to leave the house early the next morning, Natalie was already awake. She asked him what he had been doing and what happened to the $10,000 from the joint bank account. Edward, furious with her for questioning him, walked out slamming the door.

After a few days of avoiding Natalie, Edward told  her that he had been gambling for a long time and was taking  money out of the account over the  months, just a  little at time. She trusted his version of events and told him that she would go to counseling with him to work through his problem. Although he was very reluctant to attend he agreed.

Unfortunately, the storm lurked just ahead, threatening to sink and destroy their entire relationship because Edward was still lying regarding his true addiction.  After three months in counseling and all appeared to be mending between Edward and Natalie the real truth came to light.

Open Up, In the Name of the Law

One afternoon a probation officer came to meet with Edward for his monthly visit. Usually, Edward visited his probation officer in his office in downtown Detroit. On this day, however, the PO visited and Natalie happened to have take the day off from work. 

It turned out that Edward was serving three years probation for soliciting an undercover female police officer for sex. He had been going to strip clubs and soliciting prostitutes for five years and in addition to probation, he had to pay fines and lawyer fees.

While she was meeting with the probation officer Edward walked in on their meeting and was stunned. He finally admitted that he had an addiction to pornography for more than twenty years, managed to stop after they were married, but went off the rails at his new job. His colleagues there routinely patronized strip clubs during lunch and after work.

At first, Edward said, no one missed a few dollars from the account, but one day he noticed that almost all the money was gone. He got comfortable in his lies when no one detected that the money was gone, and Natalie didn’t know. He convinced himself that there would be no consequences.  His lies covered his whereabouts when she tried to reach him at his office or on his cell phone. Edward convinced himself that as a habitual liar, he was pretty good.

Help For the Habitual Liar

Edward and Natalie attend counseling with Arthur and me to work through and understand the consequences of his lies. Compulsive  lying disorder affects the sufferer and those that care about them tremendously. She has forgiven her husband and he has worked diligently to repay the money to their account. He also attends sex addiction therapy, meets regularly with his probation officer and attends church services with Natalie.

Treatment options for this disorder can only be effective if the person with the compulsive lying disorder agrees to treatment. In most cases, friends and family have to learn to adapt in order to maintain the relationship. Therapy addresses the addictive aspect of the disorder and helps the individual understand his or her behavior and how it impacts others. Later, we introduce measures to help change the way of thinking. Some psychiatrists prescribe antidepressants to treat underlying depression and self-esteem. Further, they may prescribe anti-anxiety medications to decrease the feelings of anxiety that may unconsciously prompt the individual to lie.

Hiding and Lying versus Openness and Honesty

A lie that one has told over and over can become one’s  reality, at least in that person’s mind.  We know our clients who have habitual lying disorder carry a heavy burden on a daily basis. They accrue very damaging and long-range effects too. One lie turns into many lies and the well gets deeper and deeper until there is no way out.  When Edward hid from his inner demons, he trapped himself, a factor that reminds us all to meet issues head on rather than running and hiding. Throughout the recovery period, individuals with habitual lying disorder need help setting boundaries and maintaining them. Every part of recovery must be based on not reliving the past but learning from the past. 

One must stop looking  for the happiness in lust and through a sinful nature and find inner peace in Christ and within yourself. During the treatment process Edward  re-dedicated  his life to God, his wife and to himself.

We changed the names to protect the innocent.




Doormat No More

After 26 years, Maya was worn out and determined to find her personhood.

Drama Files Title TileMaya is in her early 40s and came for counseling because she is in a long-standing, verbally abusive relationship. She has been living with her son’s father, Eric, off and on for the past 26 years. They would break up for years, then reconcile and this pattern continues into the present. 

Emotions overwhelmed May her story unfurled.  Eric berated her both in private and in public. It did not matter who was in his presence; he couldn’t control his temper with her.  He has never taken responsibility for his actions, but blames her for everything wrong with their relationship. He has never apologized for his behavior towards her because he assigns all the fault to her. It was Eric who told Maya that she needed counseling for her behavior and not his.

Turning Point

When Maya told their sons that she never wants them to treat women the same way they asked her, “Why do you let dad treat you this way?” “I don’t know,” she responded. As they reached out to hug and comfort her, she wept. She knew that day she was going to look for help.

 “Why do I do this to myself?” she asked through tears at her first session.

We had not interrupted her or pushed during this meeting. We wanted her to feel safe and not under attack. But, with this question, it was time for some therapeutic input.

I asked her if he ever had been unfaithful and she said yes. I asked her if the abuse was ever displayed in front of her sons and she responded yes. Then I asked her if she was tired of it. She responded “I’m  simply warn out.”

I then began to share with her four components of nurturing herself and they begin with God.

God First

Maya admitted during the first hour of the session, that she had left the church and stopped obeying God. She loved her boyfriend more than God, she admitted, and she could not and did not want to live without him. She asked ” How did  I allow this to happen?” It’s not difficult when you lose sight of the most important Person in your life–Jesus Christ, I told her.

Goal-Oriented

We shared with her that the second component calls for realistic goal-setting and an idea of what a positive outcome in their relationship would look like. Maya now expects to be treated the way she always treated Eric–with kindness and respect. She hopes for a relationship in which Eric demonstrates respect towards her. She also wants him to be equipped with skills to care for his family in a proactive manner. And, very importantly, she decided she never wanted a repeat of this abusive ordeal.

Having realistic goals for her family began with her respecting and loving herself. To be able to make those goals, she also had to accept responsibility for allowing  disrespect to continue as long as it had. And, she had to forgive herself. That issue will be addressed further in future sessions with her.

Refuse To Be A Doormat

So, quite naturally, the third component involves respect for one’s personhood. Maya has to learn to be completely honest with her feelings and the need to express herself openly to Eric regarding the abuse within their relationship. She must be willing to say no to anyone who feels that they can use her as a doormat because of their own insecurities. She must also find within herself the ability to reconstruct the framework that has fostered this negative lifestyle.

Paradigm Shift

The fourth component is to adapt to a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. Maya’s thinking and actions did not produce healthy characteristics for her family or herself. She already knew that Eric was the abuser, and that she was the codependent. She knew that the household structure was falling apart, but didn’t know how to rebuild it alone. Counseling opened her eyes and motivated Maya to make a change.

What Happens Next?

Maya hopes to have a home that reflects a sense of balance, respect and love. It is out of hope that things could be better that she recognized that she needed change. Maya’s counseling is in the initial stages but she is making progress.

Eric should attend a few sessions with her because he is unwilling to address the problem on his own. However, if he is not willing to attend, it is time for Maya to leave. That prospect will be difficult for her because she truly loves him. As her therapist, however, I had to remind her this is a very unhealthy type of “love.” Ending the relationship will be hard, but it is better to end the relationship than for her to continue in a long-term, unhappy relationship that could destroy her life.

Maya made a decision right then to give her life back to Christ and asked us for a bible study. She is ready to take a good look at herself and make some significant changes in her  life. She no  longer desires to be Eric’s doormat and settle for less than excellence.  She is looking forward to counseling and becoming a better woman and mother.

The name has been changed to protect the innocent.




The Grandparent Assistance Plan

And other tips for overworked and under-rested parents

Drama Files Title TilePaul and Katlin have been been married for ten years. Katlin reached out to our office because Paul has a very demanding profession. He is a truck driver and is required to be away from home five days a week. Katlin is a stay at home parent. She feels that his schedule is causing conflict and continues to place a great amount of pressure on her.

The couple has three small children and Katlin is overwhelmed by the care of their home and children. Another concern is that when Paul is home on the weekend he is asleep and offers no support. Katlin is at a point where she feels she is in a role of being a single parent and she is becoming very angry. She has made several attempts to express her concerns to Paul, but he is too tired to even listen to Katlin. Further, as the major financial contributor of the home, he wonders why there should not be any problems between them anyway.

Come To The Table

We asked Katlin to write down three concerns that she would be comfortable presenting to Paul during the therapy session.
1. Do you realize Paul that I am the primary caregiver for the home and children?
2. I would like to work on a schedule so when you return home I can have some time for me.
3. Please share with me how we can incorporate quality time for us and as a family?
At the onset of therapy Paul was hesitant. Sessions were scheduled on one of the only two days off and he needed to sleep. We were very sensitive to that fact, but if the concerns of the marriage were not met, it could cause more problems. The silence of not addressing the problems within the family structure does not make them disappear it is only on hold and unspoken. Paul was able to relax and listen to Katlin and her concerns during the session. She was very understanding regarding his needs for sleep and wanting to be with his family. But the question of “how” continued to be raised by Paul.

Katlin stated “it cannot be business as usual and we need a shift or we won’t make it.” Paul hung his head and didn’t know what to say.

We recommended that they utilize the grandparents once a month so that it would give them some quality time together, if possible. Also, Katlin needed to become little more organized with the home structure to help her reduce the stress levels in her life.

Compromise Is The Key

In marriage you have to be willing to compromise to save your relationship. It is vital that you pay attention to the small details and implement wisdom in family life. The couple has implemented the “Grandparent assistance program” once a month, rotating between the two sets of grandparents. It has proven to be a wonderful plan and the grandparents are enjoying the children. Also, Katlin has taken the time to organize the home and when Paul recognized Katlin’s efforts, he took her out on a date and brought her flowers and perfume. She was speechless and hugged Paul and thanked him.

Paul stated he did not realize the responsibilities Katlin had with three small children and he had taken that for granted. They are both pleased with the progress in their counseling process and they want to continue counseling and strive towards being one unit and a support to each other and their children.
We are happy to report from Kaitlin that “it is no longer business as usual but a marriage and home filled with forgiveness, prayer, and positive transformation.”

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.