Essentials for Marriage Resilience

by Donna Gibbs, LPCS

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It’s unbelievable how quickly time flies! Seriously! I was just a teenager yesterday, right?


A monumental anniversary is a great time to reflect on the highs and lows of life. It’s also a time to reflect on marriage survival skills, because marriage is tough, and often may feel like it is really just survival of the fittest!


You’ve heard me say before that I have learned my most valuable skills from my clients. (Over two decades of working as a professional counselor teaches remarkable lessons!) I think God knew I’d need to see the harsh realities of marriage gone bad in order to really have a serious drive to protect and nurture my own. I am going to share with you just a handful of the primary tools that I’ve learned from countless remarkable people on the couch in my office – people in the midst of terrible crisis, who were trusting enough to welcome me into their journey. Sure, these are basic essentials, and there is certainly a lot more to marriage survival than what fits within the confines of a blog. But as long as Mark and I live, we’ll be seeking to continue to put these essential skills into place. I’ll welcome you to do the same.


*Warning – these marital suggestions are considered radical! But they are honest, with no sugar-coating whatsoever. Why? Because, “An honest answer is a like a kiss on the lips.” (Proverbs 24:26, New International Version)

1) Commit to First Things First. Two individuals who each have a genuine relationship with God is crucial! I’m not talking about religion, routine, or tradition. I’m talking about a sincere, life-altering relationship with Jesus. If you have that authentic relationship, as does your spouse, you will be able to maneuver the most challenging trials of marriage. Together, you will find refuge in the One who unifies you. It won’t be easy. But it will be doable. Seek Him. Seek Him desperately! Connect with God, and then seek to connect with your spouse.

2) Maintain Appropriate Boundaries. Nothing threatens a marriage more than poor boundaries, and nothing secures a marriage like healthy boundaries. Boundaries are just a proactive fence of protection. Vigilance in protecting yourself from pornography or an inappropriate relationship is crucial. Don’t be naïve. I’ve seen some remarkable people fall. Anyone is vulnerable. If you find yourself tempted to have private, non-business conversations or contacts with someone of the opposite sex, then you are already vulnerable. If you are having to erase your search history on your devices, you are already in trouble. The necessity of healthy boundaries applies in other various areas as well (protection against the threat of addictions like drugs, gaming, or gambling, protecting marriage from controlling in-laws, maintaining healthy balance of work and church commitments, etc…)

3) Live Under Your Means. Because finances are the most common argument among couples, it’s worth a radical approach. If you routinely live underneath your means, then stress is reduced, you have an emergency plan in place for the unexpected and un-welcomed events of life, and you have wiggle room for giving and dating. Your marriage will thank you for this radical, low-stress approach!

4) Radical Honesty. Deception kills a marriage because it creates doubt. Honesty provides a foundation of safety and trust. Trust that has been compromised, to any degree, regarding any topic, leaves a wound. Assure the safety of your marriage by committing to radical honesty. No white lies. No omissions of truth. Even if you have to err on the side of over-communicating, maintain the health of the relationship through transparency.

5) Learn to Regroup, and Keep Pressing on!
As hard as you may try, your marriage will not be perfect. You will not be perfect, and your spouse will not be perfect. You will disagree. You will say and do things that you regret. You will wound, and you will be wounded. Learning how to regroup (unless you are in an abusive situation) is essential. This regrouping requires crucial conversations, taking the risk of speaking your heart (without attacking), and listening (without interruption or judgement). Before you regroup, I’ll encourage you to ask yourself this powerful question: “What am I doing to contribute to our problem?” If you ask yourself that question with a humble heart, God will likely reveal some truth (that may or may not be difficult to accept!) Forgive, seek forgiveness, and don’t give up! Too many couples give up on a marriage when they could be regrouping.  Instead of having the “Can we talk?” conversation, they are throwing around threats of divorce. In fact, what we used to refer to as the “seven-year itch” could now be better identified as the “three -year itch”. Too many couples give up after three years, because things start to get real! Regrouping allows you to bounce back, prevents you from being stuck, and is a necessary ingredient to marital resilience! Marriage is hard, and requires hard work! Unfortunately, we live in a quick-fix world, and we like doing things the easy way. There is no easy way with marriage. Unless you are in an abusive or unfaithful marriage, I encourage you to keep pressing in and pressing on! The grass probably isn’t greener anywhere else!

After 25 years of marriage, Mark and I have had lots of practice in regrouping! Why? Because just like everyone else, we are sinful, selfish people! We’ve said unkind words, and we’ve done incredibly inconsiderate and disrespectful things to one another. But I also look back on 25 years with gratitude. I have a spouse that will regroup with me, and will take the radical steps necessary to preserve and protect our marriage.  And above all, he sincerely wants to honor God. We join in that goal, as imperfect as we may be.


If you are also an imperfect married couple (that includes all married couples!), I urge you to join with us in the journey of marriage, seeking to honor God as we honor our marriages. It will be messy at times. It will be rewarding at other times. A resilient marriage is one that avoids the unnecessary and catastrophic hurts and betrayals, and can remain stable in the inevitable highs and lows of life. Be as radical as the calling to marriage requires (which is incredibly radical relative to our world’s current standards), and don’t ever give up.


Many of you reading this are deep in a marital pit, and you don’t know how to get out. If you know these basic essentials don’t skim the surface of the issues in your marriage, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Confide in a trusted pastor or friend. If you realize your situation requires a higher level of care, our team of professionals is here to help, with years of experience in the trenches.  We’d be honored to join you in your journey as you learn to regroup, survive, and thrive!


Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Donna Gibbs, LPCS

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

10 Tips for Caregiver Self-Care

By Lori Heagney, LPC

“…Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12: 31 English Standard Version)

Trials in life often come without warning, and one of the most stressful has proven to be caring for a loved one or family member who becomes ill or afflicted by an accident. Often these situations come on suddenly and without a training course in how to take care of that person. Although showing selfless acts of kindness comes with its own rewards, it can be exhausting and take a toll on one’s own physical and mental health. 

All too often we are programmed to believe that selflessness means not focusing on our own needs. This belief can lead to unhealthiness in spirit, mind, and body. The impact of not caring for yourself can result in physical symptoms of headaches, body aches, lowered immune system, frequent colds, fatigue, sleep problems, unwanted weight gain or weight loss, or abuse of substances. It can also impact one’s mood with bouts of irritability, sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, and can even impact the brain with lack of focus and memory loss (CaringBridge.org).  There is also a spiritual impact that can lead to questioning one’s faith, becoming angry with God or distancing oneself from Him when the questions of “Why?” seem to go unanswered. 

If you have ever been on an airplane, you have heard the familiar pre-flight instruction that tells you, “In the event of a loss in cabin pressure, oxygen masks will deploy from the ceiling compartment located above you. Please secure your own mask before assisting others around you.” Similarly, taking care of yourself while you care for someone else puts you in a position to offer them your best help. 

Here are 10 TIPS to help you stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit

  1. Get Enough Sleep. We all become grumpy and don’t function well when we don’t get enough sleep. We all need time to restore and re-energize and  a consistent bedtime with 7-9 hours of rest will help you stay well. 
  2. Maintain a healthy diet. Being on the go, running to and from doctor appointments and having a disrupted schedule can throw off even the most health-conscious; however maintaining nutrition is one of the most important things you can do for your body. Food is fuel and you cannot survive and thrive on a diet of junk and fast-food. Strive for consistent breaks throughout the day to take in a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. Accept help from friends that offer to cook you a meal. Prep food over the weekend and freeze it, making dinner less time-consuming after an exhausting day.
  3. Remain active. Take time out to exercise. Even a ten-minute walk can clear your mind, relieve stress, and restore energy levels. 
  4. Breath. We tend to hold our breath when we are stressed, depriving our body of oxygen and setting off the “Fight, Flight, or Freeze” alarm. This leads to anxiety and sometimes panic attacks. Focus on learning this breathing technique even before you feel stressed in order to develop this amazingly effective skill. Try this: Take a deep breath in through your nose to the count of 4, hold your breath to the count of 2, then exhale through your mouth to the count of 6. Now repeat 3-5 times. You should feel the relaxing effects immediately!
  5. Pray. Prayer may not instantly change your circumstances, but God certainly uses your prayer as an instrument to obtain peace and growth in the midst of them. Maintaining communication with the One who is sovereign and in control, when we feel no control, can bring a “…peace that surpasses all understanding…” (Philippians 4:7) in the midst of the storm.
  6. Connect. It may seem difficult to stay connected with the outside world while caregiving, but it is super important to do so. Even when you can’t leave the house for extended periods of time, online users can find community through social media and caregiver support groups. Stay connected with friends and other family members by phone, or take someone up on their offer to watch your loved one while you attend your weekly connect/support group. Don’t refuse that invitation to go out for coffee to meet with a friend. Remember to laugh. Your mental health will welcome these nurturing opportunities.
  7. Write out your thoughts/feelings. There is something quite amazing about getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Journaling can be an excellent companion during trying times. Do so without worrying about grammar or sentence structure, and see how God can use this tool to bring clarity to your mind and peace to your spirit. 
  8. Set boundaries and ask for help. It’s OK to say “No” sometimes. It doesn’t make you unloving or uncaring. It’s important to know your limits and ask for help when you need it. No one person can do it all and asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Reach out to friends or organizations that can assist with things that become overwhelming. 
  9. Tend to your own health. Often caregivers will neglect their own health while trying to keep someone else healthy. It’s important to stay up to date with your own doctor appointments and medical needs. Seeing a counselor can also help you talk out thoughts and feelings you may tend to keep inside or believe you cannot burden your loved one with.
  10. Remember who you are. A caregiving role can sometimes uproot you from your job and the purpose you’ve gained from it. It can sometimes come with a reversal of roles when an adult child has to take care of their aging parents. This can be confusing and leave you feeling overwhelmed and displaced. It’s important to remember who you are and what you enjoy doing. Take breaks to read a book, listen to music, go outside and enjoy nature. Remember who you are in Christ as well. Through Him we are “…more than a conquerors…” (Romans 8:37)

In Jeremiah 29:11 God reminds us that “…I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (New International Version) Regardless of your circumstances, He cares for you and your loved one, and will provide for your every need in Him.

Sources: https://www.caringbridge.org/resources/techniques-to-relieve-caregiver-stress

Lori Heagney, LPC

Feeling Overwhelmed?

by Ashleigh Beason, LPCA

Feeling overwhelmed can be an understatement this time of year. Coming off of a restful summer laying out by the pool, knocking out to do lists, spending some quality time with family, or perhaps just going from place to place visiting friends and vacationing.

Now summer is over and the school year has begun. This might bring a sense of relief because kids are now in school and you can get back into a routine. But perhaps the return to school comes with more busyness leaving you feeling overwhelmed and anxious. 

Perhaps you feel overwhelmed because you got some difficult news about your health, perhaps you’re overwhelmed because you just got laid off, perhaps you’re overwhelmed because there are difficult things piling up on you and you cannot seem to get a break. Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed because you have too many emotions to deal with and you don’t know what to do with those emotions.

Feeling overwhelmed can feel much like anxiety which often can leave you paralyzed and not knowing what to do next. It can feel like a weight on your shoulders that you just can’t seem to shake.

When feeling overwhelmed take a deep breath. That may sound simplistic, but it’s the best place to begin. Take a deep breath, pray, and reset.

In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat has a great army coming to overwhelm him. His immediate response is fear but then he prays. He acknowledges to God that “we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us.” (2 Chron. 20:12, English Standard Version) Then at the end of his prayer he says,

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” ( 2 Chron. 20:12)

Many times when we are overwhelmed we have the potential to get stuck-we let that burden keep weighing us down, we numb ourselves with distractions and staying busy, or we pretend it’s just the way things are and it will all go away soon.

But what if instead we acknowledge our powerlessness against these overwhelming situations. We might not know what to do next or what is coming around the corner, but keeping our eyes on our powerful God is the only thing we can do and the only thing that keeps us moving forward.

Jehoshaphat reminds his people that “…the battle is not yours but God’s” (2 Chron. 20:15) and this makes all the difference. Sometimes all we have to do is keep our eyes on Him and be reminded that there is nothing we can do because this is not our battle to fight but the Lord is fighting it for us.

Then before Jehoshaphat and his people knew what was going to happen with the army coming against them, “…he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him…”  (2 Chron. 20: 21) Sometimes the only remedy to that overwhelming feeling is to battle back with gratitude and praise—even when it is difficult to find things to be thankful for. Gratitude is a survival mechanism. This is what destroys the enemy.

God might not change this overwhelming circumstance but He is going to change you through thanksgiving.

So when we are feeling overwhelmed, remember to breathe, reset, and keep your eyes on Him, the provider of all things who fights our battles for us. Then sing praise and give thanks with expectation knowing that God is working it for our good and His glory.  

All the hard things are not going to overwhelm you if you let the goodness of God, through thanksgiving, overtake you.

Ashleigh Beason, LPCA

Mental Illness: Can We Change the Terminology?

by Donna Gibbs

Following the recent discussions in media regarding the state of mental health in America, I’ve had the privilege of having some private discussions with clients about their thoughts. An over-riding theme among them is their difficulty with the phrase “mental illness”. The terminology carries a stigma that was likely never intended, and causes many to fear the word, or anything/anyone associated with the word. 

Mental illness is considered a health condition impacting thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors. Unfortunately, the terminology covers a vast amount of territory, leaving it rather confusing to understand. ADHD, Adjustment Disorders, Trauma-related Disorders, Depression, Anxiety, Eating Disorders, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Sexual Dysfunction, Addictions. These are just some examples of the everyday struggles of many. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. The kids in your classroom. Perhaps yourself. However, the same term, “mental illness”, also includes Personality Disorders, Psychotic Disorders, and Conduct/Anti-social Disorders. These are less common, and also more serious. These less common disorders also require a higher level of specialized care. 

I can assure you, someone who shoots up a classroom of innocent children is not someone who struggles with the everyday forms of “mental illness”. These violent offenders are not people who simply struggle with bouts of anxiety, or moderate episodes of depression (considered the most common forms of mental illness). You can imagine the additional shame brought upon someone who struggles with a common condition like depression or anxiety, who feels that they are placed in the same category as someone who would massacre groups of indefensible young people. My fear is that in our effort to address the obvious brokenness of mental health care, we would drive away hurting people who don’t want others to ever think they would be capable of the unthinkable. Because the average person truly isn’t capable of the unthinkable! 

Let’s shift our terminology. First of all, let’s think more in terms of wellness vs illness (because a person who struggles with the everyday issues just wants to be well). Let’s think of the everyday mental health struggles as just that – everyday mental health or brain health struggles. These are the people we see in counseling every day. Yes, their symptoms impact their functioning. Yes, they need some assistance in facilitating wellness. But, in general, they are not a danger to society. 

Likewise, let’s separate out the more serious, potentially threatening, types of mental illnesses as mental illness disorders. And let’s strategize our efforts according to this distinction, clearly communicating to our churches, our schools, our workplaces, and society in general, that not all mental illness is equal. Mental health professionals clearly know the distinction between these groups of patients. But we have done a poor job educating the general public in this distinction, and this failure, I fear, has fueled a very challenging stigma. 

Partner with me, my friends. Let’s change the culture, break the stigmas, provide thorough and accessible opportunities for wellness for those who hurt, and a higher level of care and intensive prevention efforts for those whose mental illness disorders are left untreated and unaddressed. Without change… we’ll see no change. 

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Domestic Violence: A Word For the Church

by Donna Gibbs

Domestic Violence: Two. Intimidating. Words. I’ve been working as a professional Christian Counselor for over two decades, and these two words still haunt me. No matter how much experience I have with this issue, no matter how many encounters with violence, I still have a healthy respect for the unpredictable nature of this often silent struggle. One thing is for sure, domestic violence is a real thing. And, this side of heaven, it’s not going away. It’s in my church. And, it’s in yours. 

I’ve seen the bruises, the cuts, the broken bones, and the broken spirits. I’ve seen the long-lasting trauma in a child who has witnessed a chronic form of terror. I’ve sat across from more than one female who narrowly escaped death at the hands of the husband who committed to love, nurture and protect her for life. Certainly, domestic violence doesn’t always involve a male offender, though over 75% of domestic abuse events do involve a male offender. The point is domestic violence is real. And it’s scary. 

So what is the appropriate response for a pastor or ministry leader? I genuinely believe that a pastor, and their church leadership, can be the most effective tool available to a community in educating families and breaking the silence and chains of abuse. On the other hand, pastors and church leaders can also be the very tools used to create the silence, and continue the horror. The responsibility of the ministry leader is huge, and intimidating. When do I encourage her to stay? When do I encourage her to get out? Will I be held accountable for advising in the wrong direction? What if she leaves and these patterns really could have been addressed? What if she doesn’t leave…and she doesn’t survive? When is it reasonable to intervene in a situation…and which situations are just too dangerous to address? 

I have been involved with cases in which the church provided firm intervention, loving support, godly instruction, as well as a way out if necessary. I have great confidence in the outcome of those situations. I have also witnessed unfortunate cases in which a pastor or leadership abandoned a wife whose life was clearly jeopardized if she didn’t leave. This abandoning has been based on the belief that the husband is to have all authority and that the wife is not fulfilling the role of a scriptural, submissive wife in her efforts to take a stand against abuse. These cases represent the wide dilemma of the church at large, and the dilemma of you in particular, as a pastor or ministry leader. With that said, let’s learn a little more about domestic violence, and the role of an effective church. 

Domestic Violence facts: 

1. Domestic violence rarely starts with actual physical violence. More times than not, it begins with name calling and criticism, intimidation, isolation from family and friends, anger outbursts, jealousy, control of finances and whereabouts, threats, sexual aggression, and misuse of scripture to guilt, manipulate, and control. 

2. Domestic violence escalates in intensity and frequency. When the patterns above begin to develop, they rarely improve without specific confrontation and intervention. 

3. The abuser may minimize their behavior, or blame their victim. They may not feel that they are abusive at all, or they may feel that the victim is deserving of their abusive acts. The offender is sometimes genuinely sorry for their outbursts. They may express remorse, buy gifts, shower with attention or fulfill previous promises. This is the honeymoon phase following a tense domestic crisis. The honeymoon period varies in duration from a few hours to a year or more, but is characterized by an absence of abuse, and a return to routine functioning, as if the abuse never occurred. However, without specific intervention the cycle of abuse will likely repeat. The offended, and the offender, need help in breaking the cycle. 

4. The victim often becomes so tolerant of the familiar, abusive behavior that they don’t objectively recognize the urgency of their situation. They may struggle with low self-esteem, and sometimes feel they are trapped, or are deserving of the abuse they encounter. They are typically isolated from supports and have legitimate fears regarding leaving their situation. Victims of domestic abuse are at risk for mental illness, depression, eating disorders, substance use, self-harm, attempts at suicide, and death. 

5. 25-30% of women have experienced physical violence, rape, or stalking from an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. That means that in all likelihood violence is directly or indirectly impacting the families in the pews in your church. 

Your role as a Pastor or Church leader: 

1. Insist on premarital counseling with a professional counselor prior to performing a wedding ceremony. Trained counselors are often able to discern and prevent destructive relationship and generational patterns before they fully develop. This may also prevent a tragic marital situation if patterns have already developed in courtship.

2. Interact with local law enforcement and domestic violence shelters. Learn from them, and partner with them in addressing abuse in your community. You are likely their most significant and influential resource. 

3. Educate your congregation about domestic violence. In an informal poll with 30 pastors a few years ago, not one of them had taught about domestic violence in the five years prior. The enemy has an alternative to God’s design for marriage. Our tendency in church leadership is to focus on teaching God’s truths and instructions for marriage, while not fully addressing the alternative reality that many in the pews are already living. 

4. Address spiritual abuse, or the use of incomplete pieces of scripture to guilt, manipulate, and ultimately control. Remember that marriage is to be a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church: He was servant to all who followed Him. He never ordered, threatened, hit, bit, shoved, or frightened….rather He loved with a sacrificial love. 

5. Be present with those who come forward as victims of domestic violence. Listen. Believe that abuse could happen. Then, be patient… it will take time and significant planning for her to make a change. 

6. Place boundaries on how you intervene. Because of the risk of violence after sessions, conjoint counseling should never be done with a couple until the abuse has ceased completely. Refer couples to a professional counselor who can assist in managing sessions individually until such time that it is assessed that the situation is safe enough to engage in conjoint counseling. There are some situations in which this time never comes. 

Ultimately, the Fall created a cycle of sin that has created a hostile and dangerous world. In addressing the issue of domestic violence, we are addressing a very serious spiritual battle. Abuse is one of the prime strategies of evil and it will be a battle until the Lord returns. The strategy of evil is to strip the victim of faith, hope and love…the strategy is to destroy. I’ll leave you with the inspiring words of Paul, as recorded in Ephesians, chapter 6. 

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  (New International Version)

So…let us be strong in the Lord. Let us be willing to take a stand against evil. Let us stand firm. Let us pray. Let us be alert…and let us pray some more! 

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Communication Tools

By Pam Nettles, LPC

One of the most frequent goals in couple’s counseling is to improve communication skills.  Partners desire to be heard, understood, and validated; this leads to greater emotional intimacy and relationship satisfaction.  The following are some strategies for improved communication.  

Remove distractions and optimize the timing for discussions.  Technology related distractions are some of the most common barriers to communication including cell phone use, tablet/computer, television, and auditory distractions.  Have conversations in environments where you can see and hear each other.  (BTW, Texting is NOT a conversation!)

Create a dialogue in which one person is the speaker and the other is the listener; then switch roles so that each person is contributing to the conversation.

The person who is speaking should use assertive language, expressing their thoughts and feelings and/or being able to ask for what they want in the relationship.  Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements; make requests rather than demands.  The ‘You’ statements and demands often lead to defensiveness or withdrawal on behalf of the listening partner.  Additionally, as the speaker, be cautious not to overwhelm your partner by giving too much information before giving your partner time to use active listening skills, seek clarification, provide their thoughts and feelings, or process the information, if necessary.

The person who is the listener should use active listening skills.  Active listening requires careful attention to both the content of what your partner is saying and the nonverbal information you are observing.  When the speaker has finished communicating (without interruption), paraphrase your understanding of their communication and ask for clarification.  Too often, we listen to others while processing our own response rather than fully attending to what the other is saying.  Be cautious not to assume/presume what the other is saying.  Remember, that when both partners are respectful, each will get the chance to speak and listen. Using these strategies will promote more satisfying communication and greater intimacy in your relationship.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29 New International Version

Pam Nettles, LPC

Shadows

by Kevin Wimbish, MS, LMFT

I was in my Sophomore Psychology class when the intercom called my brother and I to come to the office. Every time the beep of the speaker sounded I took a breath because of the looming cloud that was over us all. We had been walking with my mother through her cancer, pneumonia, collapsed lung.

I remember walking into the hospital room. She was unconscious and seemed to be unaware of our presence. Remnants of her birthday from two days prior lined the room. It wasn’t long before the pastor entered the room. “Hold on boys,” he said, as he left to get a nurse. And like that, she was gone.

Eleven years later my wife and I received a call about my father. “Your dad has fallen, and something is very wrong. He is being airlifted to the hospital…” Through multiple procedures they discovered his brain cancer. It wasn’t long before I watched a man who could work all day as a mason lifting 12 inch block, need help walking across the room.

Since then we have walked through the various pains that come from living this side of Heaven as the hair turns grey or non existent and Ibuprofen is a regular companion.

There are many shadows that will cast on us in this life. Much darkness. There is also much light. Sometimes the light comes into our minds when we realize from where the dark comes.

The Psalms give us insight into the shadows in which we are to live. We are not to live in shadows of fear and hopelessness, though I have been there many times. Maybe you have as well.

What if we started living in the realization of being in the shadows of The Lord’s wings? What if we realized there can be no shadow cast if there is not a light behind it all?

Consider the scriptures below.

“Keep me as the apple of the eye; 

Hide me in the shadow of Your Wings…” (Psalm 17:8 New American Standard Bible)

“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!  

And the children of men take refuge in the Shadow of Your wings.” (Psalm 36:7)

“For You have been my help, 

And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.” (Psalm 63:7)

“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,

For my soul takes refuge in You;

And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge

Until destruction passes by.” (Psalm 57:1 )

If a shadow is upon you today. Take heart. Reorient yourself. If you are a follower of Christ, don’t be afraid of the shadows. Even in the shadows of this world, we are covered. We are covered by the shadow of His wings.


This song has brought me much encouragement in the midst of shadows of life:

Shadows – David Crowder Band, featuring Lecrae



Kevin Wimbish, MS, LMFT
Co -owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC

Wounded… But Learning to Dream Again!

by Donna Gibbs

Do you remember playing dress-up as a little kid? What did you dress-up to be? Did you dream of being a football player? A teacher? A mother? A politician? A doctor? A law enforcement officer?

As a very young girl, I wanted to grow up to become a veterinarian. I loved the many cats in our home, and I also loved NCSU (which has a great Vet school, by the way!), so that’s what I dreamed of doing. It was that simple, until I realized that being a vet had a whole lot more to do with medicine than it did cuddling cute, furry cats.

My son, Jacob, used to keep me laughing about this topic when he was a little guy. If you asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he’d enthusiastically tell you, “A firetruck!” If anyone questioned him, “Do you mean you want to be a fireman?” he’d quickly clarify and reiterate once more, “No, I mean I want to be the truck”. He thought that the truck itself was so cool that he couldn’t imagine being anything else, and as a young toddler that’s exactly what he aspired to become in life.

The dreams of a young, healthy child know no limits. They fully expect to become the next great NBA player, the president of the US, an historic inventor…or even a firetruck. In an ideal situation, as we develop in life, we discover some of our strengths, and some of our weaknesses, and we allow God access to direct our ambitions.

But a child who has experienced significant trauma and pain doesn’t dream the same way. They don’t see themselves as worthy of anything great, so they stuff their ambitions. People and circumstances have told them that they won’t amount to anything. That they are trash. Useless, and without purpose. Without anything to contribute to others. Their life has been so challenging that they find it difficult to look into the future. Dreaming about the future seems risky, or even futile. Sometimes, dreaming has caused them to hurt even more, so stuffing aspirations often becomes a tragic coping skill.

Healing involves learning to dream again. Not in a naïve manner, like a young boy who aspires to be a firetruck, but as one who fully accepts their weaknesses, wounds…and strengths, and embraces God’s desire for a holy and purposeful ambition. If you’ve been hurt, it’s time to begin healing. You are worthy, and with purpose. Not because of anything that you’ve done, or anything that has happened to you, but simply because of Who God is! He indeed has plans and purposes, and it is time to align your dreams with His desires. Pray that God would get you started, and reach out for help if needed. Allow God to rescue you from your wounds, and reignite your aspirations, your dreams, and your ambitions.

My favorite scripture is Isaiah 43:18-19. If you are learning to dream again, this verse will speak truth and encouragement to you!

“Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

and streams in the wasteland.”

Yes, God can do the impossible, even with a wounded life. Even with a life scarred by self-inflicted wounds, or friendly-fire. God is the maker of the impossible!

Donna Gibbs

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Decision Making

by Donna Gibbs


Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.

Warp and Weft

by Lori Heagney, MS, LPC

One of our family traditions is to attend the NC Mountain State Fair every fall. My kids love to enter in the various competitions and have done quite well over the years. Despite their enthusiasm to find out their winnings, they always stop at the first booth upon entering the room to practice weaving on the fiber looms. 

While watching and waiting on one such occasion, the Lord reminded me that He desires a relationship that is as tight and dependent on Him as one thread is on the other in a tapestry. This lead me to do some research on the weaving process. 

In the weaving operation there are two fibers; one is called the warp and the other is referred to as the weft. According to Wikipedia, “The warp is the set of yarns or other elements stretched in place on a loom before the weft is introduced during the weaving process. The warp must be strong to be held under high tension during the weaving process, unlike the weft which carries almost no tension (Wikipedia.org)“.

It occurred to me that without the strength that comes from the “warp,” the “weft” would fall apart. I have found this is also true in our relationship with God. When we are in constant communication regarding our decisions and direction just as the threads are connected with each other at each crossfiber, then we are held together by His strength and the end result is a beautiful symphony of color and creativity that only He could weave together. 

Additionally, just as the weft is designed to carry little tension, so we are meant to unburden ourselves of the things in our lives that we alone cannot carry. If we take God out of the equation and attempt to do things on sheer self-reliance what we get is the equivalent of a loose thread striving to do a job that is impossible to accomplish alone. 

I love that God gave us visual pictures to help us understand His principles. The next time you put on your favorite shirt or dry the dishes with a sturdy dish towel, I hope you remember that the Lord desires our dependence on Him just as the weft fiber of the material relies on the strength of the warp to hold them together. It is His strength that holds our lives together, yet He invites us in and makes something beautiful when we allow Him to weave as He would, the events and situations that create the beautiful masterpiece of our lives. 


Lori Heagney, MS, LPC

Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay