“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The importance of friendships

Hey, folks! I'm getting ready for a big comprehensive exam this weekend so, I haven't had time to write-all I've been doing is reading the "The Encyclopedia of Counseling." Fun! (read: sarcasm).  

Anyway, since my friends have been showing me so much love and support, I thought it would be good to share with you some reasons why friends are important (besides the obvious reasons).  I found this article on the Mayo Clinic website and thought I'd share an excerpt (to read the whole article click here).  In the future, I'd like to tell you more about the importance of friendships or social capital as researchers call it. 

Why friendships are so important

Good friends are good for your health. Talking with a friend over a cup of coffee, going to a ballgame together, chatting while your kids check out the playground, or hitting the links for a round of golf can offer simple but powerful ways to connect. The connections of friendship increase your sense of belonging, purpose and self-worth, promoting positive mental health.
Friendships can help you weather the trauma of a divorce, a job loss or the death of a loved one. Your friends may encourage you to change unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking. Or they may urge you to visit your doctor when you feel overly anxious, sad or hopeless. Friends can also share in your good times — a new baby, a new job, a new house.
They can celebrate the good times with you or offer comfort during the bad. Just knowing that friends are there for you can help you avoid unhealthy reactions to stressful situations.

Ways to actively seek out friendships

Some people benefit from large and diverse networks of friends, while others prefer a smaller circle of friends and acquaintances. You may have certain very close friends you rely on for deeply personal conversations, and more casual friendships for movies, a pickup game of basketball or backyard cookouts.
But many adults, especially men, find it hard to develop new friendships or keep up existing friendships. For one thing, time may be short, and friendships may take a back seat to your other priorities, such as long days on the job, tiling the kitchen floor or caring for aging parents. Or maybe you've moved to a new community and haven't yet found a way to meet people.
Developing friendships does take some work. But because friendships are so important to your overall sense of well-being, it's worth the time and effort.
Here are some ways you can develop new friendships:
  • Get out with your pet. Seek out a popular dog park, make conversation with those who stop to talk on your daily neighborhood jaunts, or make pet play dates.
  • Work out. Join a class through a local gym, senior center or community fitness facility. Or start a lunchtime walking group at work.
  • Do lunch. Invite an acquaintance to join you for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Accept invites. When someone invites you to a party, dinner or social gathering, say yes. Resist the urge to say no just because you may not know everyone there or you may initially feel awkward. You can always leave if you get too uncomfortable.
  • Volunteer. Hospitals, places of worship, museums, community centers and other organizations often need volunteers. You can form strong connections when you work with people who share a mutual interest.
  • Join a cause. Get together with a group of people working toward a goal you believe in, such as an election or the cleanup of a natural area.
  • Join a hobby group. Find a nearby group with similar interests in such things as auto racing, music, gardening, books or crafts.
  • Go back to school. Take a college or community education course to meet people with similar interests.
  • Hang out on your porch. Front porches used to be social centers for the neighborhood. If you don't have a front porch, you can still sit out front with a cup of coffee or a good book. Making yourself visible shows that you are friendly and open.
You may not become instant friends the first time you meet someone. But the seeds of lasting friendships can be sown with a friendly wave as you're mowing the lawn or bringing in the newspaper.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Pursuit of Self-Esteem

Pursuit of Self-esteem
Crocker and Park (2004) caution that pursuing self-esteem has a cost. The pursuit of self-esteem usually only has a short-lived emotional benefit. But, when the person fails, the cost is big (Crocker & Park, 2004). Crocker and Knight (2005) further explain that high self-esteem is not the answer, either. They suggest the “importance of self-esteem lies less in whether it is high or low, and more in what people believe they need to be or do to have value and worth as a person— what we call contingencies of self-worth” (Crocker & Knight, 2005, p. 200).
Causes of Low Self-esteem
Although research has looked at social economic status, race, gender, and ethnicity as causes of low self-esteem, the most important influence is how you were raised by your parents (Emler, 2001). Emler (2001) admits social economic status, race, gender, and ethnicity play a part, but it is a modest one. Parenting style is key. Abuse, whether it be physical or sexual, is the worst thing parents can do to harm positive self-esteem (Emler, 2001). Quarreling families are another source. Genetics also play are part in self-esteem. Caring and loving relationships as an adult can affect self-esteem, but Emler (2001) explains forming successful relationships like these are more likely when a person already has higher self-esteem.
Biblical View of Self-esteem
Self-esteem in Christian circles is a controversial subject. Opponents of self-esteem teaching state, scripture is twisted and distorted to support a biblical view of self-esteem (i.e. Adams, 1986). On the other side are proponents who say, “God wants us to have good self-esteem so we can do his work” (Schuller, 1982). These are two sides of the conundrum. The problem with the first debate is it doesn’t consider that a person who has been abused (which is one of the possible causes of low self-esteem) has a distorted view of him or herself. On the other hand, the latter view doesn’t recognize that God usually uses the weak to show His glory (2 Corinthians 12:10 and 1 Corinthians 1:27). Here are examples of weak people God used in the Bible, Gideon, Peter, David, and Abraham. So, what is a more balanced perspective? We do have value; we are called his children. 1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are” (NIV)! Ask any loving parent if his or her children are of value and I would predict a hardy, “Yes!” Jesus also told us in Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (NIV). Our worth, therefore, is accepting our dependence on God. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).

Adams, J. (1986). The biblical view of self-esteem, self-love, self-image. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.

Crocker, J. & Knight, K. M. (2005). Contingencies of self-worth. Current directions in psychological science, 14(4), 200-203.
Crocker, J., & Park, L. E. (2004). The costly pursuit of self-esteem. Psychological bulletin, 130(3), 392-414.
Emler, N. (2001, November). The costs and causes of low self-esteem. Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Retrieved June 27, 2010 from http://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/files/jrf/n71.pdf
Schuller, R. H. (1984). Self-esteem: The new reformation. Waco, TX: World Books.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Are you co-dependent?

What is codependency? It’s a term that was coined in the 80’s and is still popular today. Hemfelt, Mirnirth and Meier (1998) define codependency "as an addiction to people, behaviors, or things. Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control interior feelings by controlling people, things, and events on the outside. To the codependent, control or lack of it is central to every aspect of life. The codependent may be addicted to another person. In this interpersonal codependency, the codependent has become so elaborately enmeshed in the other person that the sense of self - personal identity - is severely restricted, crowded out by that other person’s identity and problems" (p. 11). I have had several clients come in and readily admit, “I’m co-dependent.” In the Counseling Women class I’m currently taking, one of lectures was on codependency. Here’s some of the characteristics of codependency shared in the lecture. A codependent person usually-

· Lacks objectivity, that is the person is unable to see reality clearly
· Views life in black and white; it is either good or bad
· Feels responsible for other people’s happiness
· Easily controlled by the desires of others
· Is a master manipulator in order to maintain control
· Has layers of defense mechanisms to block pain
· Makes excuses for the offender and may often blame his or herself

In working with the self-professed co-dependents (and those who don't realize it), I recommend the book, Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. In their book, they address the need to define who we are and who we are not. It is a great book for those who are co-dependent. It is likely because of past pain and hurt the person has never learned to delineate healthy boundaries. The co-dependent person is likely unwilling to say no and accommodates others needs before his or her own. With good personal boundaries, a person is free to see reality, take ownership and responsibility of oneself, and not manipulate.

Sound like something you’d like to work on? You can pick up the book on Amazon.com for under $5 used. Click here to buy the book on Amazon

You may also be interested reading the book, Love Is a Choice: Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Hemfelt, R., Mirnirth, F., and Meier, P. 1998. Love is a choice. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Nutrition and Anxiety

I am a believer that good nutrition has an affect on us in all areas of our lives including our mental health.  You may have wondered why on earth does a blog called "Hope and a Future Ministries" share recipes?  Well, it's because what we eat affects us and how we are feeling influences what we eat! Have you ever had a bad day or felt stressed out and go for the junk food? I've had to learn to stop myself and ask "Why am I eating right now?" If I'm not hungry, I realize I'm using the food to cope with my anxiety. Unfortunately, those foods we go to when we are anxious or stressed are often the foods that make the anxiety worse!  A healthy diet can relieve stress symptoms (along with getting enough sleep and exercise). A poor diet can actually affect your brains chemistry. Hall-Flavin (2009) recommends these steps:

  • Eat frequent small meals. This will help stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day.
  • Increase your intake of carbohydrates (starches).Carbohydrate-rich meals and snacks are thought to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect. Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains), and eat fewer simple carbohydrates (sugars). (I think he means no donuts, pancakes, or Starbuck's pastries, etc.)
  • Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. The immediate effect of alcohol may be calming for most people. But as alcohol is metabolized by your body, it can cause anxiety-like symptoms.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can make you feel jittery and nervous and interfere with sleep. (If you decide to cut back like I have, try going half decaf half regular until you wean yourself off. It's a lot better than a migraine).
  • Pay attention to food sensitivities. In some people, certain foods or food additives can cause adverse reactions, including moodiness — which can lead to irritability or anxiety. Foods that commonly cause reactions include wheat, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, nuts and shellfish. (I recently found out that gluten allergies can affect Irritable bowel Syndrome, which is often connected with anxiety disorders).
  • Eat some foods that contain tryptophan. Tryptophan helps your brain produce chemicals that improve mood and have a relaxing effect. Milk, bananas, oats, soy, poultry, cheese, nuts, peanut butter and sesame seeds are good sources of tryptophan.
Hall-Flavin, D. K. (2009) Generalized anxiety disorder: Expert answers. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Retrieved July 10, 2010 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/coping-with-anxiety/AN01589

The Great Divorce Book Club

Can't join us at Panera Bread in Jacksonville, FL for the Great Divorce book club?  No worries.  Join us online.  I'll include the questions online and you can study with us.  Here's this weeks handouts:

The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce was originally published as a serial in The Guardian from November 10, 1944 to April 13, 1945. 


A busload of inhabitants from the Grey Town (or Hell) has the opportunity to visit the outskirts of Heaven.  Because of their semi-transparent appearance, the passengers are referred to as ghosts, while the citizens of Heaven have solid bodies. A representative of Heaven greets each visitor and a conversation ensues during which the solid person tries to persuade the ghost to stay.


Each ghost has taken a virtue or natural impulse and elevated it above all else to the point of becoming distorted and destructive. In pride, they cling to self-righteousness, mother love, artistic talent, and doing one's duty, rather than grasp the joy and grace offered in Heaven. Only one ghost decides to stay and surrender the obstacle that separates him from God. Who will it be?

In the preface, Lewis explains how he arrived at the title. William Blake wrote "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"; Lewis would write of their divorce. Lewis believed that life presented some either/or choices. The attempt to embrace both alternatives and somehow transform evil into good, Lewis saw as error. "If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.” 


This book offers insight into the human condition and the seemingly innocent things that can separate us from God. We also get a taste of Lewis's view of Heaven and Hell. In Beyond the Shadowlands: C. S. Lewis on Heaven and Hell, Wayne Martindale traces the theme of the afterlife throughout Lewis's works, including The Great Divorce. He summarizes Lewis's thoughts as follows:

*  Heaven is being in the presence of God and enjoying all good things that flow from his character and creativity.

*  Heaven is utter reality; Hell is nearly nothing.

*  Although Heaven is a definite place, it is more relationship than place (not unlike the experience we have in our homes)

*  All our desires are, at bottom, for Heaven.

*  Heaven is the fulfillment of human potential; Hell is the drying up of human potential.

*  We choose Heaven or Hell, daily becoming someone more suited for Heaven or someone who wouldn't like the place even if it were offered.

*  Hell is receiving our just dessert; Heaven is all undeserved gift.
Wayne Martindale, Beyond the Shadowlands (2005), p. 18

Question for the entire book

1.   Lewis makes reference to scripture passages periodically throughout the book. For example, in ch. 9, the Teacher explains how the solid people try to save some of the ghosts, concluding, "And it would be no use come further even if it were possible.” This is similar to a parable Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:31. What other biblical allusions do you find?

Questions for chapters 1-4

2.   What do we learn about the narrator? 

3.   Describe time and distance (spatial relationships) in the grey town. What causes people to live so far apart? 

4.   Lewis employs several metaphors throughout the book in contrasting heaven and hell. E.g. light v. dark; solid people v. ghosts. What others do you find? How do these metaphors underscore the differences between heaven and hell? 

  1. Do you think the Big Man deserved to be in heaven more than Len, the murderer? Why or why not? Did the Big Man "get his rights"? Did Len?

 © 2009 by Allyson Wieland 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Club Tomorrow! The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

You're invited to join us at the Regency Panera Bread located at 9301 Atlantic Boulevard Jacksonville, FL for Book Club at 9:30 AM. We're reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
(This event is through Arlington Assembly of God).
Here's more information about the book:
The Great Divorce: A Dream is a work of fantasy by C. S. Lewis. Although less renowned than Narnia and the Space Trilogy, it is considered one of his finest works of fiction by many Lewis fans. Every chapter builds into an introspective story, which guides readers into thoughts of heavenly rumination. In provoking one into thoughts of heaven, Lewis raises all the questions that have ever come into man’s mind about paradise. With his imagination and descriptive language, Lewis begins to enthrall and invite us into this volume.

To RSVP leave a comment or go follow this link: Facebook Event

You can also get more information by watching this video: Video explanation of the book

Monday, July 5, 2010

White Chili--Yum!

I found some ground chicken at Publix the other day. I've always wanted to make white chili and thought the ground chicken would be a good choice. I adapted this recipe from Paula Deen's...she called for pieces of chicken and soaking beans. I didn't want to hassle with soaking the beans so I used canned instead. It cut the time down from 1 1/2 hours to 30 minutes. This version could easily be made after work. It was easy and tasted great. I forgot to take a picture but might tomorrow with my leftovers. I put a dollop of table cream on each serving with some monterey jack cheese. You can find the table cream in the mexican food aisle. It comes in a small can. Hope you enjoy the chili!

White Chili
4 16 oz cans of white beans
2 T. butter
½ of a medium onion, diced
1 small can green chilies
1 T. minced garlic
1-pound ground chicken
1-2 T. ground cumin (add one and see if you want more then add the second)
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. ground white pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried cilantro (or use ½ bunch fresh)

In a Dutch oven or big pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes until soft (may need to turn down to medium heat. Do not let the onion brown). Add garlic and green chilies; cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add the ground chicken plus the spices and cook until there is no more pink in the chicken. Add the beans and cook for 30 minutes at a low simmer.

Serve with shredded monterey jack cheese, table cream (or sour cream) and corn muffins.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Are you a perfectionist? Don't answer too quickly...

Have you ever thought of yourself as a perfectionist? According Paul Hewitt, a Psychologist from Vancouver, BC, there are three kinds of perfectionists (CNN, 2000):
·      Self-oriented perfectionists, who believe they must be perfect.
·      Other-oriented perfectionists, who want others to be flawless.
·      Socially prescribed perfectionists, who feel they must be perfect because someone might be watching.
Hewitt and Flett (1993) explain that self-oriented “perfectionists tend to equate self-worth with performance, any interruptions in meeting the standards may be interpreted as a failure with implications for the self-concept” (p. 62).

From my experience, since many people equate worth with performance they tell themselves one of two things: “I must perform to a certain standard to have worth and value” or “I must be liked and have approval to have self worth.” So, as a result, the perfectionist keeps on working and meeting everyone else’s needs until he or she is bitter and resentful or just burned out and tired. “The emotional distress that is experienced by the perfectionist may be magnified by distorted thinking, ruminations with perfectionist themes, and active processing of information about the ideal self” (Hewitt & Flett, 1993, p. 62).

To “recover” from perfectionism, first you need to recognize there is a problem! I know it sounds like a 12 step-program…but seriously, many people don’t think their perfectionist ways are a problem or they don’t think they are perfectionists. So, let me stop and give you a list of some “symptoms”:
·      thinks it is all or nothing (I’m all in or won’t even try if I can’t do it right)
·      sets unrealistic goals
·      breaks promises
·      forgets about past success
·      lives by “I should or must”
·      worries about losing control

Do you identify with any of these symptoms?

If you said yes to any of these, keep reading…

Now, that you are ready to say, “Hi! My name is_______and I’m a perfectionist” we can move on to the next step, which is acknowledging the cause. Usually there are one of two roots, a fear of failure or a fear of rejection. To try to reduce the fear, there is desire to stay in control. The problem is that the more you try to control the more tied up you get. Instead, you need to develop an accurate picture of God’s love and acceptance of yourself and develop a relationship with him. Romans 5:1 & 2 says, since by faith we’ve been made right in God’s eyes, we should have peace with God because of Christ’s work on the cross. Our faith in Christ has brought us into a place where we can stand confidently and look forward joyfully to sharing God’s glory. We should now find our self worth in a quiet acceptance of ourselves in Christ. Acts 17:25 says, Christ gives life and breath to everything, and He will satisfy all of our needs.

So, now that you know the cause, take the next step and challenge those beliefs! Once you are able to recognize your perfectionist thoughts, you can move to refusing them. When you hear yourself start to say, “I should…” say “NO! Stop it!” ( Click here to learn more about stopping) Then, take a deep breath, relax, and start telling yourself the truth. Look at the chart below. It gives you a great example of pursuing excellence vs. perfectionism. You can use the excellence side as the truth you want to live by! 

CNN. (2000). What price perfection? Study aims to find out. Retrieved July 1, 2010 from http://www.cnn.com/TECH/science/9901/21/t_t/perfectionists/.

Hewitt, P. L. & Flett, G. L. (1993). Dimensions of perfectionism, daily stress, and depression: A test of the specific vulnerability hypothesis. Journal of abnormal psychology, 102(1), 58-65.