Unmet Expectations

But if  you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

Galations 5:15

What a “friend” she was! I was always there for her, but where was she when I needed her?

“This is marriage? I had stars in my eyes on our wedding day. Things were going to be so different than our parents’ marriages. But he certainly has not kept his part of the bargain.”

“Our children are such a pain to us. We look forward to the day they will leave.”

We’ve all heard these or similar stories throughout our lives. Such unmet  expectations are a primary cause  of discouragement. Often we base our expectations on unrealistic and unfair standards and then expect others to read our minds and live up to those standards. We put ourselves and our loved ones into a pit that’s difficult, if not impossible to get out of. Who could be a good enough friend, a devoted enough husband, a lovable enough child?

We  can avoid a lot of our discouragement by taking our long list of expectations and burning it! Let’s give our loved ones the freedom to become the people God wants them to be, not the people we expect them to be.

Thought:  I will let go of unrealistic expectations.


Complete Forgiveness

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Psalms 103:12

Sometimes I ask women if they think they’re smarter than God. They always answer, “Of course not.” I then proceed to explain that if they asked God to forgive them but still feel guilty, they obviously haven’t forgiven themselves. If God has forgiven, but we can’t, we must think we know better than God. Because  we live in a sin-filled world that accepts us very conditionally, we tend to accept ourselves very conditionally too. Most of us find it very difficult to imagine how a just God can forgive us completely when mortals seem to keep score of our every wrong. For forgiveness to go from head knowledge to heart knowledge takes a lot of practice.

The Lord’s Prayer tells us that our sins will be forgiven as we forgive others. This is another important point. I see clients who hold grudges toward themselves because they are holding so many  toward God and others. They think that our unforgiveness will somehow result in vengeance on those who have hurt us. But it is more likely to make them sick, depressed, and miserable. Forgiveness is absolutely necessary for joy for the journey.

Prayer:  Lord, help me choose today to release my grudges toward myself, You, or others. Lord, help me to grasp the reality of your forgiveness.

Guarding Ourselves

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.

Proverbs 21:2

I recently read an interesting article containing interviews with people who had robbed houses. None of the criminals were sorry about their deeds, and they all had excuses: “Their door was unlocked; they deserved to be robbed.” They had too much stuff anyway; they didn’t miss the things I took.” The criminals showed no signs of guilt, only anger that they had been caught.

When I encounter patients with no guilt, I know the chances of them getting better are slight. Rarely does  a sociopath, a person who feels that other people are put on earth for them to use and abuse, seek counseling of their own free will. A sociopath usually enters therapy to manipulate either a family member or the court system.

What can we, as women on the journey, do about the sociopath in our lives? To the best of our ability, we must refuse to let ourselves be sexually, physically, or verbally abused.  Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so as God’s daughters we have the duty to protect ourselves.

Prayer:  Lord, help me guard my heart and my body from all kinds of abuse today.

Anger Under the Surface

Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.

Proverbs 21:19

Anger is a natural and normal reaction to physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. It is also the second stage of grief. When anger seems to lurk just below the surface in a woman’s life, we usually assume it is mixed with the first stage of grief which is denial.

Anger  mixed with denial is a deadly twosome. It may result in a person who goes around like a bomb ready to explode over trivial provocations.

If you have a tendency to “blow up” over small matters, you may need to look for the true source of your anger. Are you really furious that the paper boy didn’t throw the paper on the porch, or was he just a safe outlet for underlining anger you haven’t acknowledged? Your outbursts may be a signal that you have anger just “under the surface” that you need to process.

Thought:  Anger is like a toothache. If I don’t get to the root cause, it won’t go away.

Making Room For Quiet

That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.

I Timothy 2:2

Quiet, please! We live in a noisy and busy world. We rush continually from one important meeting to another. As wives, mothers, workers, homemakers, and housekeepers, we sometimes feel led by our schedules. We long for solitude, yet few of us are willing to make room for a quiet time in our lives.

Christ was only on earth for thirty-three years and spent only three years in active ministry. He had an immense mission to fulfill. Yet  He considered His quiet time with His Father a necessary part of His mission.

What happens when we find the time to be quiet and listen? God’s wisdom looms larger and our problems shrink. Silence changes our perspective and forces us to look within ourselves. It helps us to understand our hidden motives and see our relationships more clearly. We gain more meaningful knowledge of what is really going on inside our heads, and we become more accepting of others.

Although quiet times are not a cure-all, they are a start. But I find I must decide daily to get away to a quiet place where I can talk with God and meditate on His Word.

Thought:  My quiet time today is not wasted time.

Love Happens

And now abide faith, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13:13

In the presence of fear, paralysis happens.

In the presence of guilt, negativity happens.

In the presence of compulsiveness, stress happens.

In the presence of insecurity, imitation happens.

In the presence of selfishness, conflict happens.

In the presence of worry, procrastination happens.

In the presence of anger, attacks happen.

In the presence of arrogance, intimidation happens.

In the presence of criticism, insecurity happens.

In the presence of God, love happens.

In the presence of love, forgiveness happens.

In the presence of forgiveness, acceptance happens.

In the presence of acceptance, faith happens.

In the presence of faith, hope is restored.

In the presence of hope, love is renewed.

In the presence of love, miracles happen.

Prayer:  Help me to see the daily miracles that your love brings into my life, Lord.


Working Through Grief

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

Psalms 46:1

Whenever we experience a loss, big or small, grief and healing proceed in recognizable stages. Knowing what these stages are can help us understand ourselves  and be patient with ourselves as we process our pain.

When Linda first expected that her husband of twenty-two years was having an affair, she immediately went into the first stage, shock and denial. She convinced herself that nothing was going on. And since the affair was short-lived, she managed to stay in denial until her husband confessed. Then came the anger. For almost two months, Linda spewed fury on everyone around her. As the  anger began to subside, she began bargaining with God, asking Him to kill her husband and send her a fine, faithful Christian man.

When depression set in, Linda entered counseling. Her therapist helped her sort through the events of the preceding months, separating lies from truth. Then Linda, armed with a healthier self-concept, proceeded to the last stage of grief-acceptance and adjustment. She chose to stay with her husband, but to continue in therapy for awhile. They have now renewed their commitment to God and to each other.

Thought:  When I experience loss, I will patiently work through my grief with the help of God and, if possible, another person.

Out Of Hot Water

There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Proverbs 14:12

Someone once put a frog in a pan of cold water and turned on a fire under it. The water slowly heated and the frog, who could easily have jumped out, sat still. The increase in temperature was so gradual that he didn’t notice it. By the time the water boiled, it was too late; the frog was dead. Had he been thrown into a pot of boiling water, he would have jumped out right away.

The principle that killed the frog is called erosion, and it has ruined  the lives of many people. It’s the process of gradually adjusting to evil. We may gradually start  to accept dangerous practices we rejected before. We may begin to accept abusive actions from others that we didn’t tolerate before or give in to addictive tendencies. We may also slowly change our standard to be more self-centered, or else we may become more masochistic. If we become successful, we may gradually begin thinking we are the exception to rules we used to follow.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, went from a humble man, full of wisdom, to a compromising fool in his later years. If the wisest man who ever lived died a fool, we certainly should take note and learn.

Thought:  I will stay out of hot water today, even if it only feels lukewarm.

Forests and Trees

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.


Don’t miss the forest for the trees. We as therapists can learn a lesson from that well known statement. We are often guilty of dwelling on one “tree” and missing the beauty and majesty of the entire forest of our clients’ lives.

I often tell my clients that I can’t assess how sick they are until I know how well they are. I encourage them to tell me all the things that are going right in their lives as well as the things that are going wrong. Many times we find that one or two trees of bitterness and sin are spoiling their perspective. Once those  trees are removed, they begin to see the forest for what it is.

Sometimes there is a fire in the forest. Burning trees must be tended quickly and carefully. We must prune away the branches that are burned and not functional to save the strength and fruitfulness of the surviving tree and surrounding trees. After putting out a fire in a specific area, we may even clear away the damage and plant new trees. Then, if all goes well, the client can take on the primary  job of tending the forest.

Thought: My life is a beautiful forest, so I will enjoy it even while pruning an occasional tree.

Living With Fear

Wait on the Lord;  be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait I say, on the Lord.

Psalms 27:14

Fear is a basic fact of life, not a barrier to success.  Many people in the Bible were acquainted with the emotion of fear. When God asked Moses to represent His people to Pharaoh, Moses began to shake, saying, “I’m not a good speaker.” God’s reply was “I will help you to speak well, and I will tell you what to say” [see Exodus 4:10-12].

God also talked to Jeremiah, and Jeremiah’s  response was, “I’m  too young.” God promised Jeremiah that He would be with him and would see him through [Jeremiah 1:7-8].

Nothing breathes fresh air into our lives like doing something we didn’t think we could do. If God’s love is strengthening  our heart, then we know that God loves and accepts us whether we succeed or fail. Our value doesn’t change. Forgiveness is always available to us. When God’s love is the source of our security, fear is not a signal to stop or retreat, but a sign that there is adventure ahead.

Prayer:  Lord, help me forge ahead even though I feel the fear.