Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Transform Your Life

We have all been on a journey this year, no different from the past. When we started the journey, the grass was green and the trees had leaves and now in some regions there is snow on the roadways and our whole community is transforming as it gets ready for Christmas - for the coming of the new year and for winter. As we look back today the question is “what have we learned this year?” And, “did we accomplish our plan?” Each year I sit down and plan out the next year, particularly the summer, and work to figure out what the family is going to do on holidays, and where are we going to go. Once a decision is made we then have to make reservations and we have to make plans because otherwise it just remains a conversation and we never get there until we take that next step to make it happen. It's kind of like the old Walter Gretzky quote that says “you miss 100% of the shots you don't take”. You actually have to decide to step out, to move forward and that happens in all aspects of your life. You may have heard people say that they got a lot out of counseling when they went - and though you might give it a try yourself someday, every time you consider it you think, “you know… I should, I should take that step”, but then you hold back for one reason or another, you go around the mountain another year and that change you hoped to accomplish in your life remains… unchanged. We fail to accept the invitation when it presents itself and it's kind of like we're left sitting in the station when the train pulls away or we're still in the stands, when we could be on the field.

The Choice To Transform
The choice to take a step and work to experience a better life is Here, and we say to you today, before next year begins, “Let this be a reminder to you of our invitation to help you move forward.” You still need to know where you're going, the destination, the path to take and the plan but it always starts with a first step and with a connection to someone else.

Our Mission
Our mission statement here is simply to ‘Help Others’. To serve where we can to make life more fulfilling for someone else. We all recognize that as we walk through life’s journey it can often be challenging and often when we counsel others, we find ourselves impatiently asking if this applies to our mission, and when will we see results – and so today we are talking about the end of that journey when our mission statement is finally fulfilled. The final destination that makes all journeys go somewhere. So, whether you are out on a hike, doing a road trip, walking the dog or overcoming a mental health issue you are going somewhere. Every trip starts somewhere and ends somewhere and the journey we find ourselves continually engaging in, is one of transformation. It's about the difference between the beginning and the end and about actually becoming something else - the dictionary defines transformation as a dramatic change in appearance or character so that a person is improved.

Improve Radically
The transformation we often seek is radical where the old is gone and the new is now here. And in our families and our community this is something we want to experience together. We want to see transformation when we look at the brokenness in people's lives and in family life. As we look across our community, we have become convinced that we don't just need a face lift, we don't just need some slight modification, the answer isn’t a few tweaks here or there - these will not bring about the healing that is required. What is needed is significant transformation. Imagine that you live in home that has a lot of needs and requires a rebuild, so you hire an expert to ‘transform it’ – at first you understand what he's doing, he's getting the drains right, stopping the leaks in the roof and you knew those jobs needed to be done so you're not surprised but then he starts knocking about the house in a way that hurts abdominally and seems not to make any sense at all, what on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house than the one you thought. Throwing up a new wing here, putting another floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were getting a decent little cottage but he's building a palace. And pretty soon you start to realize that the darkness of the old house has been eradicated by the light streaming in through the new windows. The broken home and hate that used to persist have been melted away by love and healing, time and care.

Self-Discipline Does Not Work
When we're at funerals we cry because we think this is not the way it should be and you're right. What you're feeling is grief and you want it to change and go away but there's so many obstacles that stand in the way -- but rest assured that this isn't the end of the story because transformation is possible. You might say to yourself, “I want to change, I want to be different, I want to do this different in my life and I'm just going to get enough self-discipline and suck-it-up and do it myself”. Unfortunately, the reality is that, self-discipline won't even get you down to breakfast tomorrow. No doubt you'll try hard and if you're really self-disciplined you'll make it a day, maybe you'll make it a week but eventually self-discipline will fail because we can't do it on our own. It’s something that needs to be done through connection with others because there's so many obstacles like our own stubbornness and apathy and comfort and fear and a lack of power and resources - they all war against us! And we never see the transformation possible in our life, and in our community that we need. Authentic transformation is only possible through connection and creating new and starting new.

And that's why the counselors, coaches and therapists at TeleCounsel Group do what they do. To heal relationships, to overcome grief, to prioritize ADHD thoughts, to recover from depression and anxious thought patterns, to simply Talk with Someone. Sometimes it's  such a small thing but it's about something so much bigger, its about something so much greater that we want people to experience - we want to see our communities transformed and that's why we get up in the morning. Authentic transformation is a process, you don't just get there overnight, we wish that weren’t true but often it's a process that takes time. The best example in nature is the caterpillar who goes through a process of metamorphosis, hidden away in a cocoon over winter and you assume that nothing is happening, that nothing is changing, meanwhile transformation is taking place and a butterfly is about to emerge.

Often, we kind of expect our problems to just go away and when we’ve accomplished the allotted average-time of working through it, things will be all better - but it’s never that easy. Yes, there may be setbacks, there may be disappointments, and discouragement but over time as we surrender ourselves to the journey we see the transformation happen and suddenly you look at where you are now and you think I have so much more patience than I had a year ago or that issue no longer trips me up the way it used to or I'm filled with joy or I've stepped out in serving and it used to terrify me but now it delights me. We need to grow together and to step out and experience things together. We have been at this for a while now and plan to continue to assist in the transformation of people like you and others even when there are struggles and difficulties and things that are not the way we wish them to be. We will remain patient until the metamorphosis and the transformation is complete. Broken people, broken families and broken communities - even when it looks like not much is happening, there is transformation and we faithfully serve to see the caterpillar one day emerge as a beautiful butterfly.

Progress Is Impossible Without Change
Also realize - We will never experience frantic transformation by hanging on to what got us here. It comes only by grabbing a hold of what will get us there, because often we are tempted to hold back and resist change; George Bernard Shaw once said famously, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Our temptation is often to turn back to what we know when there is uncertainty ahead because when we turn back it produces a feeling of security. But unfortunately turning back never brings about real change. Authentic transformation happens when we let go of our security and we make a connection and we grab hold of a hand and say “I don't know where this story leads, I don't know how it all turns out, but I'm holding on and I'm going to follow.” People that are willing to let go and embrace transformation are courageous. All people improve but only brave people truly transform. Over the last year our counselors have spent a whole bunch of time listening - listening to people, to each other, in meetings, on Saturday’s talking, walking, listening, looking for the next step, to better understand what we can take hold of and how we can help more people transform. This is the season for all of us to get started if we haven’t and there are many opportunities to step up and impact the future in your own community. Right now, here in our community, there's some awesome privileges where we can be involved. Even though it might be rainy and cold and I think I don't want to go to be part of that, I plan to show up anyway and be part of it.  And more often than not when you get home after and you have had the chance to warm up and sit and think for little bit you’ll think, “Oh man there's nothing else I would have rather done with my night” – and that's the reward of serving and helping in transformation. It doesn't always have to be outdoors, it could be serving anyone, anywhere or volunteering or being part of something empowering. We want to help transform our community and every community and so are asking, this holiday season, for you to step up and apply the work of transformation in someone else’s life. Be a transforming agent in your family and in our community and in-turn transform yourself.
A TeleCounsel Group counselor can effectively partner and guide you in this journey. We all need help getting there, and the short time spent transforming your life will not only impact you for the better but also the people around you as well. We look forward to working with you to achieve this end. Please call us at 1-855-257-9444 to Get Started.

References: Andrew Gordon (Speaker). (2017, November). Messages [Audio]. Retrieved from https://www.thisiscompass.com/

Friday, November 9, 2018

Time for Marriage or Couples Counseling?

hourglass with sand running through it

When is it time for Counseling?

Focus and Attention are required for anything and everything to flourish and grow. So checking-in with a counselor, even when things are great, is never a bad idea - it simply serves to strengthen and reaffirm your commitment to serve one another. Unfortunately, however, most people wait too long to get help. Months or years can be spent in turmoil, when a few easy counseling sessions could have mitigated the downward spiral that life has slowly slipped into.  Once the relationship breaks down and the fear of being alone sets in - we get a call.

Below are a few sure fire ways to know that your relationship could benefit from a counseling tune-up or an all out overhaul:
  • Constant negative communication, causing withdrawal or no conversation at all
  • Verbal and/or Physical abuse
  • An affair has occurred
  • Financial unfaithfulness
  • If you are just sharing space
  • Antagonistic, negative, mind games
  • Just staying together for the kids sake
  • Recurring arguments over same little things

Salvaging Your Marriage

person pours one cup of liquid into another forcing the cup to overflow
Often people feel anger and hopelessness about saving their marriage. The good news is that these feelings are great indicators to start the healing process and build solutions. When trying to salvage your marriage you need to turn the focus off your partner and place it onto yourself. Those things that made you angry - how could you better resolve them yourself? Stop being negative and instead force yourself to be positive in your conversations - patient effort and service are the keys. When you pour what's left from your cup into your partners, their cup overflows and the difference will be remarkable. When it comes to affairs, addiction and anger issues - deeper relational counseling is necessary and should be committed to as soon as possible in order to mend these fences.

The reality with relationship counseling is that it does take 3 things:
  1. an investment of time, 
  2. money, and 
  3. effort.  

Don't get caught in programs that promise quick, cheap, feel good fixes -- they Don't Last and you will find yourselves back in similar scenarios quickly.  Also, don't get caught trusting your partner if, after relational failure,  they attempt to get back into your good graces by suggesting counseling sessions  however, aren't willing to step-up and commit themselves individually to a rebuilding process.  If they don't truly recognize that they need help and are willing to make a personal investment in "me" then ultimately they are not willing to make the required investment in "us".

At TeleCounsel Group our counselors are trained to assist you in this journey and, in the midst of whatever trials you are facing, help you figure out the next steps. Call us today at 1.855.257.9444 or visit us at telecounselgroup.com

Monday, November 5, 2018

Handling Disappointment

This past summer the boys and I went to the Hockey Hall of Fame because I wanted to expose them to a little hockey greatness only to discover that there was a little too much Montreal Canadiens memorabilia for my particular liking, but it was a good day nevertheless. We've also been to St. Mary's to the Baseball Hall of Fame and I'm telling you it is so worth the drive there to check out the baseball history. There are other great halls of fame that you may have been to: there's the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Canadian Walk of Fame in Kingston and there's a few Walk of Fame’s that you probably haven't heard about or you might not have visited such as the POCA Hall of Fame in Euclid Ohio - never heard of it, never been there but you can make that a stop on your next family road trip and I'm sure your teenagers will thank you for it. There's the circus Hall of Fame in Peru Indiana and my favorite one, is the hard-core Hall of Fame in South Philly that pays tribute to the most influential pro wrestlers to ever come out of the city of Philadelphia. Their inductees include “Rocco Rock”, “the Sandman”, the tag team duo “The Pit Bulls”, and “Greg the Excellent”. He's not just good, he is Excellent. So, when you go, pay attention to that. It goes to show you that we love to honor those who achieve greatness or perhaps in some great way, or in any capacity, the Halls of Fame really celebrate people who have achieved something great or who have overcome adversity, or disappointment and have gone beyond that which is simply average. And when you go to a hall of fame you're really being introduced to stories of greatness, stories that you want to emulate and stories that inspire.

In terms of overcoming adversity and disappointment, the story to emulate and apply in your life, that will distinguish you from everyone else, is one of character, faith and obedience. Take care of your affairs, be clean and full of integrity so that slowly one person and then another will take notice that you act and operate differently, despite even the hardest circumstances. There will be a time when nothing appears to be changing. Time will march on and each and every day it will become harder and harder to emulate this story and display your difference. Others will sabotage you, try and take you down, and many people will disappoint you along the way and force you to face into many trials and tribulations. You will face many disappointments in your life – the question is, How will you respond?

We all face many disappointments and times in our lives where nothing appears to be changing. Typically, in those valleys, is the place in which you will further forge your character and where who you are is being continually crafted. Today’s blog is about what to do when life disappoints and how to respond in a manner which will build your character and integrity and not destroy it. It’s about how you take that next step forward instead of getting stuck at a stop or moving backwards. How do you handle disappointments when they come into your life? One thing for sure is that there will be a lot of them.

How we respond to trials and disappointments is one of the greatest tests of your life and in the midst of those hurts and frustrations there is a real opportunity for you to forge and shape real character. Character that others will take notice of. All people that are greatly used, first need to be greatly prepared. If you are willing to endure the greatness of preparation then the greatness you can achieve in your life and the lives of others is unstoppable.

So here you are reading along: no hope, no future to look forward to, nothing on the horizon. Maybe you’ve lost your family, maybe your freedom and yet despite these trials you find yourself at a crossroads. Decisions and choices that will impact your character and the world of those around you are in-front of you. Boy how you’d like to let-off some steam and let the world around you have it! They deserve it in fact. You’ve been unfairly treated, made to look silly and you just want to scream!
It’s in these circumstance, you need to master your mind, your tongue, your emotion and react. Here’s a hint how:
  1. Focus on others more than on yourself - man is this ever a hard. You may know that you are on your way, walking towards your own death. You are going to be beaten up, abandoned by those closest to you, and falsely accused. You need to know and understand that in these moments this is all a part of the process that is going to forge who you are and what you are in your life. These are pivotal points in your life and you need to recognize them. In these times of your life, there are always other people involved, who will be waiting and watching for your response. Whether you speak a word to them or not – you will open up your life for a moment and make a connection with them. What kind of connection will it be?
I don't know what exactly is going on in your life today and what's preoccupying your mind even now. Maybe it's good news and new opportunities, maybe it's real challenges and some deep disappointments. I don't know if it's financial, relational, family, housework, health concerns or maybe you're just really busy and a little overwhelmed but I do know that how you connect with the world around you will make the biggest impact on whether you take that next step forward.
In the midst of all that's going on in the world be focused on others and what's going on in their life, in their circumstance and come to others with the compassion, love and an invitation to trust. You also need to understand that there are others around you who are also suffering. Who are struggling. Who need your empathy, who need you to focus on them. There are other people around you right now who are struggling and dealing with big things. Are you willing to take notice of them?
Let me be clear – the response I’m talking about isn't just the oh I'll pray for you kind of response, this is a roll up your sleeves and get involved, tell me about your life and let's tackle it together response. Which leads me to hint #2…
  1. When you're dealing with life's disappointments strive not to honor yourself - This is a big one. So often when life knocks us down or we get embarrassed or we fail, we so much just want to pick ourselves back up, grab whatever dignity we have left and “move on” is the expression guys typically use.
A number of years ago there was a commercial where it showed guys in a whole bunch of different scenes getting whacked with golf clubs and banged and knocked down and they just keep popping back up from whatever just hit them, saying “I'm good”, “I'm all good”, “yeah no problem here” and then someone else gets whacked, “I'm good”. Inherently, we don't want to to confess the fact that we struggle and that we suffer when life knocks us down. We naturally just want to pop up and kind of take care of ourselves and say, “I’m good”.

So often, to feel better we think, I just need to buy something, do something, go somewhere and I’ll feel better. Or, I need to take control of the situation and maybe I can force it through. But the focus is all on me and on my ability to take care of it. People always end up hating others that lord their own success, or their ability to take care of things and their accomplishments over them. Truly, when dealing with life’s disappointments you need to approach them from an incredible position of humility. What I’m trying to say here is that the purpose in doing all this, isn't that others will look at you and say wow you're a really good guy, you got things figured out, you handled that incredibly well. The purpose instead is that when they look at you, they see no pride and acknowledge your grace. It’s at this time when your own anxiety will disappear.

Get the focus off you and the fact that you can suck it up or figure it out or manage it and instead get yourself into a position of humility. I need someone to come through for me, so I'm going to give you mine and I'm not going worry if don't you give me yours. I'm going to trust that in due time I will be lifted up. Get rid of any and all pride.

Here's a real challenging question - is the goal of your life that things will work out for you by helping others. Or is the goal of your life that you would be able to help others around you? There is a major difference. I'll help you but you need to come through for me vs. I'll help you and I'll point the attention to you. The warning to you is this. Follow this path and you may land in a prison, your dreams may not come true, you may suffer and not know why. But here's the promise - you will be used for a purpose, prepared for greatness, and when all is said and done you will be lifted up once it becomes not about you. Set your eyes on the finish line, not on the barriers that happen between here and there.

To simplify these thoughts and make them as practical as possible – here are a few things that definitely need to be missing from the story you are about to create:
  1. Complaining
  2. Bitterness
  3. Whining
When you find yourself in that place where everything is an absolute mess and yet you decide to be content and serve in the midst of it all, completely committed to others, despite your circumstances – that’s the story you’re creating. But let’s be real for a moment. I’m sure most of these things that I’m talking about here strike you as all ‘well and good’, but realistically, super-hard to perform consistently. The practical lesson, however, doesn’t stop at simply being content with getting beaten up - But it’s to then, Do Something! This isn't about sitting back and saying it's all good, I hope it works out, life will take care of itself and not do anything at all - just kind of waiting for some miracle from the sky. You need to be active. You need to be preparing for what’s coming up down the line, planning how you will interact. Trying to push open doors that come your way so that you can get out of the position your in. In short, you need to be continually looking for opportunity, and working relationships but all while serving others. Yes, I may be in a pickle today, and yes I want out of it, and yes I’m going to serve others in the midst of it while I try and get out. This isn't passive, it’s active.  Don't wallow in your misery and tell everybody how hard it is. Don't declare to everyone “I've been done wrong” or “if I was in charge, I'll tell you how I’d run this place”. Instead, be a model of character and integrity; still serving while waiting for circumstances to improve. It is so much easier to steer a car that is moving than one that is parked. It's the action and the ‘do something’ that will get you through it faster. What are you doing while you're waiting to be lifted out of your struggle? Are you trusting that your brain will get you where you need to go or are you serving, learning and growing in addition to waiting? Is there something more that you can do as you wait?

Many of us live in emotional and spiritual prisons and despite our best efforts there are still roots of pain and unhealthy thoughts and destructive habits that remain. Think about it: do you find yourself regularly angry with others, critical of yourself, deflecting of praise, caught in habits that you wish weren't there, always needing to be in control or have the last word. Those emotions, those actions are really like shackles that hold you back and keep you from moving forward in your relationships and they are the very thing that you need to be set free from.

These shackles show up in all kinds of different ways. Maybe in your life it shows up with you arguing with your spouse in anger. Or maybe you're being tempted to over eat or over exercise or a dozen other little secret struggles but I'm telling you that beneath all of those symptoms you will find a wounded empty heart, filled with shame, looking for hope and freedom. As you serve others the unhealthy destructive ways will begin to lose their power and they will become less and less attractive. They will lose their hold on you, and so will shame. You're not meant to live in shame, you're meant to live in victory and shame will lose its grip and its control over you as the new truth of who you are becomes a reality.

In its simplest form, the freedom comes as you rewrite your story. We're all called to do something while we wait and maybe the thing you're to do in this season of your life - is to get things right on the inside and get free from some of the hurts and the habits that you have become sick of dealing with.

For some of us, creating these new habits takes a long time. But every journey starts with its first step and boy what an amazing ending once you realize how to accomplish this in your life and set yourself free. Free to demonstrate a full life to others, confident, principled and able to speak the truth even when it's hard. Even in the toughest times not to have to water it down or rationalize it away. To be able to speak it out even when it makes you unpopular, and even if its something this guy doesn't want to hear. In those moments you will either take another step forward or continue to be infants tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind.  Love without truth is just sentiment. It's mush and it has no lasting value. But truth spoken with grace and lavished with love becomes a fact because it really reassures, secures, and leads us to victory over the lies – it helps us grow to become the men and the women with a story of character and integrity.

We can all be Hall of Fame'rs and we can achieve that by learning how to handle life’s disappointments. In the midst of disappointment focus on others more than yourself. In humility, strive to honor others and trust and wait in the midst of that, to do something and get involved to always speak the truth in love - even when it's hard. If you do these things then you will have a life story that is about character and perseverance and a story that's about adventure and adversity and a story that is grounded in hope despite all that you are facing.

At TeleCounsel Group our counselors are trained to assist you in this journey and in the midst of whatever trial you are facing and help you figure out that next step to take in service while you wait. Call us today at 1.855.257.9444 or visit us at telecounselgroup.com

References: Andrew Gordon (Speaker). (2017, September). Messages [Audio]. Retrieved from https://www.thisiscompass.com/

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