Giving Back – I Dare You


Let’s face it – this time of year can get a bit frenzied.  Going here and there, trying to find the best deals, and often times buying gifts for those who really don’t need anything with money we cannot afford to spend.  The holidays can also bring stress when there is pressure to visit with family and extended family as well as business dinners, church programs, and various Christmas parties.  I can remember when my children were small.  By the time Christmas night rolled around I was frazzled, my kids were frazzled and suffering from sugar and sensory overload which left us all ready for a break (mentally, emotionally, and physically).

For others this time of the year is extremely difficult because the loss of a loved one is intensified.  No amount of decorations or gifts seems to soften the pain of the loss.  It feels like it would be easier to isolate and hibernate until the holidays are over.

Whether we need to reconnect with the spiritual aspect of Christmas and the holidays or whether we are in the healing process of reconciling the loss of a loved one, giving back can be that missing element that “hits the spot” so to speak.  The beauty about giving back is it can be done with no expectations and no strings attached.  We can do it in the line at the drive thru, in the aisle at the grocery store, by volunteering in the community, or visiting a senior life care center.  Giving back has no price tag and can look so many different ways.  However, the by-product and outcome in the heart and spirit of the giver tends to be the same.  When we give back it does something in us at the spirit level.  Ministering to others can often minster to us; touching and healing something in us that nothing else can.

Why does this phenomenon occur?  Because we were created to operate this way.  Because in giving back we are operating in the nature of God.  Christ’s birth is one of the most beautiful examples of giving. Take a moment during this holiday season and find a way to give back.  It does not have to be big, time consuming, or expensive.  It is about the heart of giving. Try it and see what happens.  I dare you!

Written by Jessica Owen, MSMFCT
Covenant Counseling Center


Younger Me


The familiar saying “if I knew then what I know now” is not new. For generations, people have looked back on their life and thought about decisions they would have made differently if they had the knowledge they have now. The song “Younger Me” by Mercy Me speaks to our human desire for these kinds of hindsight corrections in our life.

Learning from past decisions is a part of our development as humans and as Christians. So, we must remember the past, but not fixate on it.  While we sometimes wish we could go back and change a decision, we obviously can’t do that. We would never be able to look forward if we were always going back to change previous decisions.  Scripture tells us to forget what is behind and press on toward what is ahead (Philippians 3:13-14).

As we look back, we learn the lessons to apply in the future. No matter what decisions we made in life, good or bad, the ultimate message is that our heartache, our pain, our mistakes, our sufferings at the hands of other people and their bad choices, ALL of it – we were not meant to carry it around – we were meant to lay it at the cross. In our human state, we may lay it at the cross numerous times, but every time we lay it down we look forward to the future and press on toward the goal.

Part of pressing forward is seeing who we are in Christ. Our value, our worth is not in the decisions we have made in life. Our value and worth is found in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. Through Jesus, we are holy, righteous, redeemed, new, and free! What if instead of looking back and saying, “I would change…”, “I wish I had not…”, “Why did that happen to me?”, etc., we look back and say to ourselves the words of this song:

“Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
Dear younger me

You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed”

What freedom we would find as we lay the burdens of the past at the cross and live in the glory and peace that Christ gives us. How different would we view who we are if we see ourselves through Christ! How different we would feel about life when our value is not based on this world, but based on Christ! Our value is found in Him! We are God’s creation, fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)!

Our prayer for you is to find your value in Christ and the freedom that comes with giving your burdens to Him!

By Beth Kitzmiller, PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMFT
Director, Covenant Counseling Center



The Four Tasks of Mourning for Job Loss


Accept the Reality of the Loss

When we experience job loss, there is a sense that it hasn’t happened.  The first task of grieving is to face the reality that the employment with that company is over, that the job is gone and will not return, that to work there again and share those relationships with other co-workers is impossible. Denying the facts of the loss, the meaning of the loss, or the irreversibility of the loss only serves to prolong the grief process.  Though denial and hope for rehire in the company is normal immediately after the loss, this illusion is usually short-lived.

Experience the Pain of Grief

Many people try to avoid the painful feelings by various ways such as “being strong”, moving away, avoiding painful thoughts, “keeping busy”, etc.  There is no adaptive way of avoiding it.  You must allow yourself to experience and express your feelings.  Anger, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, and depression are among the feelings and experiences that are normal during this time. Recall and relate both pleasant and unpleasant memories of the employment you had and the organization and the relationship it provided.  Ask for the support of friends.  Tell them what you need from them, because people often misunderstand the needs of grieving.  The pain will lessen in time and will finally disappear.

Adjust to an Environment Without the Job You Loved

This means different things to different people.  It depends on the former relationship with the organization.  Many who experience job loss resent and/or fear having to develop new skills.  It can be overwhelming to take on revamping resumes and re-evaluating skill sets as you search for new employment.  There may be practical advice you need help with, yet there will be a great sense of pride in being able to master these challenges.  The emotions involved in letting go are painful, but necessary to experience.  By not doing so, you will remain stuck in the grief process and unable to resolve your loss.

Withdraw Emotional Energy and Reinvest it in Other Employment and Relationships

The final task is to affect an emotional withdrawal from your previous employment so that this emotional energy can be used in continuing a productive life.  This does not necessarily mean finding new work immediately.  It does mean re-entering the stream of life without your previous employer and the identity it provided you.  You must rebuild your own ways of satisfying your vocational needs by developing new or changed activities and relationships.  It recognizes that there is other work and another vocation that you are capable of and will enjoy.

Adapted from:  Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy by J. William Worden, PH.D

What to Say in a Crisis


Rosalynn Carter, former First Lady, reminds us that there are only four kinds of people in the world:

  • Those who have been caregivers
  • Those who are currently caregivers
  • Those who will be caregivers
  • Those who will need caregivers

Whether that caregiving role is to the aged, bereaved, or survivor victims of major trauma or death, we ALL need more genuine compassion and better skills in these challenging situations.

Glenn Davis, D.Min. is chaplain for Community Crisis Response at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, NC.  He offers some examples of things to say that may be helpful, although the list is incomplete given all the circumstances we might encounter.

“I’m sorry it happened.”

“I cannot know or understand what you are feeling, but I care.”

“This must be awful for you.”

“Will you let me help you?” (Remember all victims are not incapacitated and have the right to make informed choices to empower themselves.)

“You are safe now.”  (You can say this if this is, in fact, true.)

“How are you doing NOW?”  (Not: “How are you doing?”)

“It’s OK to cry.” (Timing is important. Saying this prematurely can shutdown emotions, especially for males.)

“It’s normal to be angry.”

“You must have loved _______ so much.” (Mention the loved one’s name.)

“Tell me about him/her.” (This can be an opportunity to share history and invite trust and also invites story-telling.)

“He/She meant so much to me.” (You can say this if you knew the deceased and have been personally impacted by the death.)

“It wasn’t your fault.” (You can say this if you know this to be true.)

“Your reactions are normal; the event is abnormal.” (This is important to hear because many survivors have no point of reference.)

“You are not crazy.” (Remember that many survivors will fear the loss of control.)

“It’s OK. You don’t have to talk.” (Be an advocate if others try to make survivors talk.)

“It will never be the same, but you can get better.” (This is an affirmative response to the survivor’s anxiety and fears about the future.)

“I want to be with you through this.”  (Fears of abandonment and exploitation are paramount with many survivors. Vulnerability is high.)

“I am praying for you.”

“Let’s stay in contact and do it soon.” (Say this when your physical presence is no longer needed or when other support has arrived.)

Victims are more apt to forgive our transgressions and missteps as caregivers when they know our compassion is genuine.

Do You Know?

Senior man (60s) and grandson (9 years) holding hands, walking in the park.

A friend of mine recently shared with me about a road trip he took “down memory lane.”  He and his son and the two grandsons drove through several towns where my friend once lived.  He pointed out to them the houses where he lived, schools he attended, playgrounds he enjoyed, churches he attended where his father served as pastor, along with other special memory spots he wanted them to see.  The trip was meaningful for all of them, but in different ways.

His trip reminded me of an article I read last year (Christian Century, p.21, September 30, 2015).  The article told about Marshall and Sara Duke, both psychologists, who have studied the relationship between young people’s knowledge of family stories and their resilience.  They found that knowing even simple things about your own family can improve your chances of successfully facing life’s challenges, especially disappointments and trauma.

Marshal Duke and another colleague developed a “Do You Know?” scale based on a series of questions:

  • Do you know where your grandparents grew up?
  • Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school?
  • Do you know where your parents met?
  • Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family?
  • Do you know the story of your birth?

According to Bruce Feiler, who wrote about this research in a 2013 New York Times article, “The ‘Do You Know?’ scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”

Perhaps a good road trip down memory lane, or some old-fashioned sit-down conversation, would help our kids and/or grandkids know more of their family history.  Such stories may even contribute to healthier and happier living.

By Ron Davis, DMin, MDiv, LMFT
Covenant Counseling Center

Communicating to Relate or to Control?


Most of us want to be loved for who we are.  But for that to happen, we must reveal ourselves.  That can be uncomfortable, even scary at times.  Self-disclosure takes practice with intentionality.  Learning to relate more openly and to control less is vital to healthy relationships.

There are important distinctions between communicating to control and communicating to relate.  Control communication values getting a predictable outcome that does not challenge the ego’s defense system.  The goal is to look good, act more in control than we feel, and try to avoid emotional discomfort.  Such communication is pretty automatic and reflects what we do most of the time.

Communicating to relate, however, values sharing authentic feelings and risks transparency.  We let go of the need to control even if it feels uncomfortable.  This type of communication encourages knowing and being known; understanding and being understood.

Susan Campbell and John Grey address this important subject and offer some differences between controlling and relating communication in their book:  Five-Minute Relationship Repair, 2015, New World Library. Here are some examples: 


  • Seeks to know the other person and to be known
  • Values being real, unique, and open to surprise
  • Uses “I” messages and self-disclosure
  • Listens openly, with curiosity and empathy, showing an ability to hold and wait
  • Is responsive to the other person’s pain or fear—with empathy and reassurance
  • Collaborates to find an outcome that takes both partners’ needs into account


  • Seeks comfort, looking good, and appearing in control
  • Values being right, knowing what will happen, having things all figured out
  • Uses “you” messages, sales pitches, power tactics, and manipulation
  • Makes assumptions and generalizations about the other and believes these are right
  • Ignores the other person’s feelings and focuses on own needs
  • Assumes that being open to a partner’s needs means giving up one’s own

Relating involves two-way communication.  The goal is to know and be known by our partner at the deepest level—not to win, be right, or stay out of trouble. It affords an opportunity to grow and deepen a cherished relationship.

Campbell, S. and Grey, J. (2015). Five-minute relationship repair: Quickly heal upsets, deepen intimacy, and use differences to strengthen love. HJ Kramer/New World Library.

How to Talk to Children When Tragedy Strikes

father comforting young son

As parents, we often want to shelter our children from the news of tragic events.  Unfortunately, it seems that every time we watch the news, we hear of another shooting or bombing.  It can be very scary for anyone to watch the news and wonder if it will happen in our hometown, our office building, or our children’s school.  Talking to children about tragedy is difficult.  Figuring out what to say and what not to say can be complicated.  Here are some suggestions on navigating the difficult questions children will inevitably ask.

Be honest, but consider the child’s age and find out what the child knows first.  If the child asks you a question about the event, respond first by asking the child what he/she has heard.  You don’t want to provide more information than necessary.  Younger children do not need detailed information about the event nor will they understand much of what actually happened.  Older children may have more specific questions and are looking to you for an honest answer to their concerns.

Assure them they are safe.  A child may exhibit fear and anxiety out of concern for their own safety.  Children are looking to you to help them feel secure.  Reassure them that they are currently in no danger.  Talk with them about the safety measures in their school and community.

Turn off the TV and news and avoid social media. Watching a tragic event over and over may increase anxiety and fear.  We often stay glued to the TV when something tragic happens.  To avoid increased anxiety, turn off the news and social media and do something together as a family or watch something inspiring and uplifting.

Be careful what you say and how you act.  Children are very observant and will model your behavior.  Don’t avoid reacting to the news of the tragedy, but be aware of how your reactions affect your children.  You want to create an environment in which you react appropriately to the tragic news, while being sensitive to your children’s needs.  Balance is key.  Let them know that it is okay to be sad or scared and direct them to accept their feelings as a normal reaction to a difficult situation.  Showing your child extra physical affection can help them feel more secure, so make time for extra hugs and cuddling.

Be okay with “I don’t know.”  Perhaps one of the most daunting questions we all ask, and children are no exception, is “Why?”  Do not be afraid to tell them “I don’t know.”  We don’t always have the answer, and sometimes a child just needs a listening ear.

Give them the opportunity to pray for the victims and their families.  Show your children that they can help by praying.  Pray with your children, pray for them, and teach them to pray for others.

Find the helpers.  As our childhood icon Mr. Rogers so eloquently said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially, in time of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers- so many caring people in this world” (Rogers, 2002).  It is easy to focus on the “bad guy” and lose sight of all the heroes in the event.  Point your children to find those heroes.

Get involved and show your appreciation to your local emergency personnel.  Encourage your children to write a thank you note to a police officer, firefighter, or paramedic.  Grab some sweet treats at the store and take them to your local police department, fire department, or rescue squad.  Not only will your children get to see the police cars and maybe honk the horn of the fire truck, they will get to meet and talk with their local heroes.  Teach your children that these are the people who respond to tragic events and they are the ones who keep us safe.  This will give children a sense of security each time they see an emergency vehicle with its lights and sirens.

Seek professional help if needed.  If you feel your child has developed more anxiety and fear than normal, do not hesitate to seek help from a professional.  If your child begins to have behavior changes, sleep problems, eating issues, and trouble concentrating, it may be time to talk with a professional.  Counseling can be beneficial in helping your children learn essential coping skills when faced with tragedy.

Rogers, F. (2002). The Mister Rogers Parenting Book: Helping to understand your young child. Philadelphia,      PA: Running Press

By Heather Braddock, MA
Covenant Counseling Center