Victory Lap by Doug Linville

Doug and Mariah at the finish line.
Doug and Mariah at the finish line

By now most of us have given some thought about our holiday plans.  Some of you have it completely mapped out: who is visiting whom, on which day, at what location and the menu is assigned.  In our house, we must plan travel time because neither of our extended families lives in town and we have young adult children with commitments. Scheduling can be a nightmare.

Wait, did I just use the word “nightmare” when I am talking about the holiday season!? Yes I did and it fits better than your pants will fit Thanksgiving evening.  Often an unwanted guest arrives at our family holiday celebrations and I am not talking about your crazy uncle. The guest’s name is “High Expectations” and he usually brings an unannounced friend named “Stress”.

I love using true stories to help make a point.  I had an awesome experience this year to share as an illustration. In May my daughter, Mariah, was facing a very difficult time. She had watched some of her classmates withdraw from life when they experienced similar struggles.  Mariah decided to lean into life and build something into her life instead of withdrawing. Mariah decided to train for a half marathon in October. She asked me to be her running partner.  This would be her first half and she wanted to train and run it with someone who had completed the 13.1 mile challenge.  I said, “Yes”, not because I needed a scheduled race to keep me running but to simply have one-on-one time with my daughter.  So we entered into the training for different reasons.  Finishing the race became our secondary goal.

We came together on the weekends to run our long runs at Mounds State Park because the trails were hilly much like the race course. We completed individual shorter runs throughout the week.  We practiced taking our Power Goo at mile 7. We planned out our pace, our water/Gatorade intake strategy, our wardrobe and the attitude in which we would approach the race.  When the day of the race came we were ready.  We had a game plan and I told Mariah, “This is going to be our victory lap”. Because our primary goals were bigger than the race itself, we had won even before the race had started.  Both of us had achieved our primary goals.  The race was going to be a celebration of all the hard work we had accomplished.  We worked our plan and we enjoyed the race.  We often heard comments from the volunteers. They said, “You guys are making this look easy” and “Love your smiles”.  We worked our plan.  More than once I was feeling so good that I wanted to speed up. Mariah would calmly ask, “Dad, what are you doing?” and I would fall back into our pace.  Accountability is always a good piece of any solid plan.

I am asking that you step into the holidays with a clear understanding and plan of your primary goal.  Please don’t miss your primary goal by only focusing on your commitments and busy schedules. The holidays can be difficult and if we do not plan for them we will miss what God has in store for us this holiday season.  Identify which situations bring you stress.  Where are you putting your expectations?  How can you take care of your emotional needs while celebrating and completing the commitments of this season?

If our goal is to have the perfect Thanksgiving meal, or to buy presents for everyone we know then we could miss the primary goals of being thankful and celebrating the birth of Jesus.  Sometimes we take our primary goal for granted and assume it will happen without being intentional.  It will not.  While Mariah and I trained I looked for opportunities to spend time with her, to always be available when she had time in her schedule to run.  If we are not intentional then we are opening the door for High Expectations and Stress to walk in.  So take a moment to name your primary goal for the holidays and make a plan.

I would like to suggest one action step for your plan. Do things you know will build joy. Joy means that we are glad to be together.  Joy will chase Stress and High Expectations out the door.  You can build joy by smiling at the people you are with and praying for them. Acknowledge the characteristics you appreciate about them. You can build joy with God by talking to him and praising him. You could choose a Bible verse for this season to meditate on daily. Listening to music and singing songs in the car can build joy. Deep breathing (smell the flower-blow out the candle) can restore calm when Stress tries to get in.  If you are a person who gets recharged by being alone, then create moments to be alone and if you get recharged by being with people then create moments where you are with “your people”.

It’s time for your victory lap.

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Pre-marital Counseling Class

10.24.14. Prepare Enrich slide

The Prepare-Enrich program is Linville Services’ chosen program for our Pre-Marital Counseling Class. We enjoy the group interaction of couples anticipating marriage. The couples who attend class together seem to enjoy each other, too.  The Prepare-Enrich assessment is customized for first time marriages, re- marriages, marriages where kids are already present and marriages for those who are over age 50.

The computerized assessment is based on 30 years of research and refinement. National studies have demonstrated that the program is effective in helping couples develop their strengths and improve their problem areas.

Ten relationship strength and growth areas are measured. They are: Communication, Conflict Resolution, Partner Style and Habits, Financial Management, Leisure Activities, Sexual Expectations, Family and Friends, Relationship Roles and Spiritual Beliefs. The assessment identifies which of these areas are strengths and which ones are growth areas. The class teaches exercises to maintain strengths and improve growth areas. Marriage takes work and just because a strength is identified now, does not automatically ensure that it will remain a strength. Couples must feed and nurture their relationship. This class gives the tools needed to do so.

Prepare-Enrich assesses four more areas of your relationship. The first is called Relationship Dynamics and assertiveness is an example of a relationship dynamic. The second area is a Personal Stress Profile for both members of the couple. The third area is about how Closeness and Flexibility interact in the couple relationship and how Closeness and Flexibility interacted in each member’s family of origin.  The fourth area that Prepare-Enrich explores is personality.  The SCOPE personality scale is used to demonstrate similarities and differences in personality.

So many factors affect the formation of the couple relationship. We hope you will join us in one of our classes. The next class will meet on October 24/25.  You can enroll by calling Robin at 765-642-1853.

Some Thoughts on Forgiveness

Have you been skeptical about the wisdom of forgiveness?  Here are some benefits that may change your mind.  Forgiveness has emotional and mental benefits as well as spiritual benefits. Forgiveness is cancelling or letting go of a debt that is owed to you.  It is one way of dealing with the mental and emotional damage that is done when another person harms you. Other options for dealing with harm include: retaliation, grudge-holding, passivity, and numbing-out.

Forgiveness is not the same as Reconciliation. Reconciliation is what happens when the person who harmed you admits she was wrong and wants to take steps to repair the relationship.  You then have a choice about whether to enter that process with her.  Reconciliation takes at least two people; forgiveness only requires one.

Forgiveness is not excusing bad behavior by saying, “he didn’t mean it,” or, “She had a bad childhood,” or some other excuse.  Forgiveness is acknowledging that harm was done to you and that it was wrong.  You now have to figure out what to do about this situation.

Forgiveness releases that other person from the debt that is owed to you and lets them be responsible for their own actions.  You don’t hold what he did against him. It is like saying, “This person hurt me and what he did was wrong. I release the debt and he is now responsible to himself and to God for his actions.” In a sense it is like letting go of holding hands with the person who harmed you.  Forgiveness frees you.  You can then ask God to clean out the wounds that were left in your emotions and mind such as resentment, anger, pain, sadness. You can also ask God to comfort your mind, emotions and spirit.

Forgiveness is not the same as trusting the person again. This is one of the reasons people choose not to forgive….for fear that forgiveness will mean they will be unprotected from the person who caused harm. You can both forgive someone and wish her well as well as choose whether to get involved with her again. Over time you can observe the person to see if the harmful behavior was an exception to the rule of how she treats others or if it is a pattern.

Forgiveness is an effective tool for dealing with bad things that happen in life and keeping your mind, heart and spirit clean and feeling light.

Better Together Meeting. April 2014

I attended the monthly lunch meeting for Better Together today in Fishers, IN. I enjoy these luncheons because I have a chance to gather with others who are interested in building and strengthening marriages. I always come away refreshed from hearing how others are working with couples and inspiration for feeding my own marriage. There’s a segment called “Tools, Tips and Tidbits” at the beginning of each meeting. This segment teaches practical information that can be applied to your marriage. This is followed by a featured speaker who shares about a topic in-depth. We meet from 11:45 to 1:00 on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. You can follow the link to see upcoming presenters and the address of the meeting place in Fishers here: http://www.bettertogether.us.

The meetings are free and open to the public. I’ve met other therapists; couples who are marriage mentors at their church; pastors; people who are gaining information to feed their marriages; and people who are volunteer support group leaders. There are single people, married couples–sometimes only 1 spouse can attend lunch and that is fine. Registering for the class is free and done through Eventbrite (link is on Better Together’s “Monthly Lunch” web page) Attendees can bring their own lunch or order and pay for a lunch that will be waiting for them at the door. I hope you will check it out!

Today’s featured speaker was Susie Howard, Director of Member Care & Development at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis. Her topic was “Your Money & Marriage; It’s Not About the Money”. Susie has worked with many couples at her church who are in financial crisis. She shared The Path: From Panic to Peace, which is a roadmap she walks couples through to help them get to a better place financially. One tip I especially liked and want to try, is using Post-It notes and a poster board to help couples have a conversation about how they will prioritize their financial needs and wants. After walking through an exercise where they identify all spending areas (rent, car insurance, food, out-to-eat, phone bill, cable bill, kids’ sport leagues, etc.) she gives each spouse a stack of post-it notes that have one spending category on each note. She uses a poster board or a white board and divides the page into 2 columns: Husband ———– Wife. Then she has each spouse prioritize the importance of spending categories so they can start to have a conversation about where they are and where they want to be. This tool helps the couple hear each others’ opinions and begin to have an idea of what they will identify as needs vs. wants. They can also use this tool to decide where necessary choices and cuts will be made to take them to their financial goal. I like the visual effect of this exercise because it clearly identifies each spouse’s position and is changeable as they compare notes and develop of Couples’ list of priorities. Money is one of the top 4 things couples argue about, so couples are wise when they tackle this subject or reach out to a third party to start having the hard conversations.

Doug Linville and I (April Linville) were privileged to be featured speakers in December 2013. In fact, if you want to hear what we said you can visit the “Previous Luncheon Speakers” page at http://www.bettertogether.us You will find a link there to an iTunes recording of our presentation.
We enjoyed presenting on “Constructive Conflict” and would be glad to talk with you about presenting this talk at your event. You may contact us for more information at http://www.alinville@madisonparkchurch.org .
Joy and Peace to you,
April Linville, MSW, LCSW

http://www.linvilleservices.com

http://www.bettertogether.us

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Grace, Truth, Time

Personal change is hard work. The hard work is worth the effort because in the end you have something that lasts. One of our influences for how we practice therapy is the psychologist team of Henry Cloud, Phd and John Townsend, PhD. They have a wonderful website filled with many resources for change and growth.  Many of our clients at Linville Services have read or watched their material and then come to counseling here to apply what they are learning to their specific situation.

In the book, Changes That Heal, Dr. Cloud writes about the ingredients necessary for change.  They are Grace, Truth and Time. Here is where you can see or order the book: http://store.cloudtownsend.com/changes-that-heal-workbook.html. 

I often make this “speech” in my office when someone says that “time heals all wounds”. Time is a part of the formula, but time alone will not do it. People need Grace and Truth from other people and from God (and especially from their counselor). Grace is being accepted right where you are in whatever circumstances you are facing. When a client is given Grace they have a safe place to tell their story instead of hiding it or putting on a mask and pretending that everything is okay. Grace does not shame or judge. Grace says it is okay to be imperfect and to be real.

Truth is necessary for change and by this I mean the client is honest about what they are facing and honest about what they are doing that works and what they are doing that halts the desired change. The therapist speaks truth about what he or she sees that may contribute to the problem and truth about ideas to try and feedback on how the growth process is going.

Time is necessary because you must practice new behaviors and grieve losses and try and fail and learn and try again. An analogy to illustrate this is a garden.  I prepare the soil by removing weeds and breaking up the soil. I plant seeds. I cover them up and water them. Then it takes a while before I see the seedling poke its head through the soil. Growth is occurring but it is not always visible. By the same token, just because there is a green seedling does not mean I can cut flowers for a bouquet the next day.  Being impatient about growth can cause frustration, but if people can see that they are in the process and to stay the course they will see flowers eventually (with enough light and warmth and water).  The Bible says it this way: Galatians 6:9

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)
 
The combination of all 3 ingredients are necessary because if you have only Truth it can sound like judgement and condemnation.  If you have only Grace the growth seeker feels accepted right where they are with no need to change (for example giving Grace with no truth for a rage problem or a drug problem that is wreaking havoc in the client’s life and in the life of people the client is in relationship with). So if there is only Grace there is no accountability to stop destructive behaviors to the self or others and no motivation to do the hard work of change.
 
The three ingredients for change work well in the counseling office and they work well in relationships. I hope you will give this a try with the people you love.
 
Joy and Peace to you,     April Linville, MSW, LCSW
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My Life Verse by Doug Linville

My Life Verse by Doug Linville

Good morning.  One of our therapists at Linville Services Professional Counseling was invited to write an article for Madison Park Church of God’s newsletter.  The newsletter’s name is Threads.  How about you?  Do you have a Life Verse?

Blog for Linville Services, Professional Counseling

Hello, Everyone!

I decided to name this blog “A Safe Place To Grow” because this phrase is a comment we hear often from our clients.  We enjoy providing a caring and kind atmosphere where it is safe to be real. People grow, change and heal best in a setting that  treats them with grace and truth. Grace means we treat you with kindness and respect. Grace means we honor you as a person and believe that you can make the needed changes. Truth means we want to know how you really feel and think.  Truth means we take a realistic look at what is working and what is not working in your life.   When you work with us in this environment you will gain the courage it takes to map out a strategy for change and to begin.

“A Safe Place To Grow” fits our counseling center whether clients are developing a new skill or repairing a broken area of life.  Chances are you have an area you want to develop in life or a broken place that is holding you back from a full life.  We love having a front row seat to watch our clients develop their emotional, relational and mental health potential. We would love to help you with your goals.

If you want to know more about how to get started you can follow this link for more information. http://www.linvilleservices.com

Embracing Life with you,

April